The Alchemy

Anna Vaught

Foreword by Dr Chris Laoutaris

Renard Press



ISBN: 9781804470404


Publication date: 27 October 2023

Rights: UK & Commonwealth



The Alchemy is a robust, frank and loving guide to an often opaque industry. As well as offering tips on working in gentle increments and re-imagining what productivity and the work of writing look like, there is advice on sending out work and navigating the industry, looking after your mental health as you go.

Full of practical advice, strategies, comfort and the occasional entertaining essay, The Alchemy is about writing a book when you thought you could not. It is for all writers, but with a particular eye on those who are tired and lacking in confidence, and those who face significant challenges – perhaps you are chronically ill or care for a loved one. It is a book for beginners, but it is also for those of you who are stuck in your habits and practice – perhaps you just need a pal to guide you through the day to day with the book you wanted to write. That’s what The Alchemy is. Let’s do this together.

‘I was completely blown away by The Alchemy. Anna Vaught will liberate you from the trappings of perfection and teach you how to create incredible things from every single piece of you, including all those bits you believed were always holding you back. This is not just for writers: I think everyone should read this book.’ — Kat Ashton, Head of Courses, Jericho Writers

The Alchemy is the writing guide we all need: wise, funny, deeply compassionate, it meets us where we are and gently suggests that’s a place where wonderful things can happen. Do not despair – read this instead.’ — Shelley Harris, author, lecturer in English Literature and Director of MA Creative Writing Programme, University of Reading

‘This beautiful and empathetic book seeks to recover for writers the immense value of what Wordsworth calls ‘wise passiveness’ that ‘can feed this mind of ours’. It reminds us that not-writing is sometimes a kind of writing, and of the importance of downtime, productive failure and bubble baths. Anna Vaught’s unique writing guide is, above all, an act of kindness to authors everywhere.’ — Jonathan Taylor, author and Professor of Creative Writing, University of Leicester

‘LOVED The Alchemy: it’s what every writer and would-be writer needs; a friend who is at the same time knowledgeable, but also kind, funny, compassionate and wise; who knows what it’s like to feel insecure, but who has been through every kind of fire, and has come out indestructible.’ — Joanne Harris

Anna Vaught

Anna Vaught is an English teacher, mentor and author of several books, including the 2020 novel Saving Lucia (Bluemoose) and short-fiction collection, Famished. 2023 saw Saving Lucia published to national acclaim in Italy as Bang Bang Mussolini, as well as the publication of the memoir These Envoys of Beauty, the magical-realism novel The Zebra and Lord Jones, a teaching book, The Alchemy: A Guide to Gentle Productivity for Writers, and The Curae, an anthology of short prose from the winning entrants to the prize she established in 2023 for writer-carers (all three of which published by Renard Press). Next year sees her first essay collection, To Melt the Stars. Anna’s shorter and multi-genre works are widely published in journals, magazines and anthologies. She has been a columnist for Mslexia and the Bookseller. With a background in secondary English, mentoring with young people and community arts, Anna is now a guest university lecturer, tutor for Jericho Writers and teaches occasionally at secondary level. She works alongside chronic illness, and is a passionate campaigner for mental health provision and SEND support for young people. She is a PhD candidate at York St John from December 2023–24, undertaking a PhD by Published Works on Magical Realism and Trauma, foregrounding her own work. Her title begins with a quotation from her memoir: ‘Go there on a wing in your imagination: Magical Realism and imagination as therapeutic writing in Saving Lucia and These Envoys of Beauty.’ She is currently writing an extended nonfiction study, A Cultural and Emotional History of Lipstick, and completing a new novel, All the Days I did not Live.