Friday, 20 October 2017

Celebrating the small things again

Today I'm celebrating the end of my pastels course. Not because I'm glad it's over: just the contrary. I'm celebrating that I managed to stick with it and produce something reasonable. I'm planning to keep going at home and try to refine my skills.

Seeking inspiration
The other thing I'm celebrating is learning a new way of working. The choreographer we've been working with at the dance-theatre group sessions has introduced us to the idea of moving, then writing, then moving again. To explain: we visited a disused church, which we explored in our own time and plotted a route around, connecting elements that struck a  chord. Later, we re-created our route in the school hall where we rehearse. Next we had to write down a list of words that came to mind when we followed that route, then we took some of those key words and turned them back into movement. Honestly: I've never felt such a luvvie!

My task for the weekend is to review the proofs for Nine Lives. What are you up to? I'd love to hear from you.

If you would like to join this bloghop, send your details to laura.6eg@gmail.com  and she will do the necessary.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Small isn't always beautiful


The first of two workshops I went to on Saturday as part of Birmingham Lit Fest was hosted by Mslexia's editor Debbie Taylor, who I'm afraid didn't make a very good impression on me. She wanted to postpone the start in case anyone arrived late (a suggestion that was firmly quashed by the organisers!); she had rushed to get there and told us she hadn't had time to read through her notes: and when she did start talking she realised she was using the wrong notes! And she didn't know how long the session was supposed to last. Most unprofessional, I thought.

Anyway, the theme was: Meet the editors - specifically, the brains behind a selection of small press publishers. The panel comprised:
What was clear was that running a small press is a labour of love. All the speakers were keen to point out that they don't make any money. In particular, Carlotta said that despite not taking any advertising and not charging for the online edition, she still pays her contributors. OK, only a fiver a time, but still. That's just crazy!

Nor should you think that you stand a better chance of being accepted by a small publisher. Each was oversubscribed, whether operating a submissions window or an open-door policy.

Certainly the books on show were lovely, but I came away thinking that if you can't get a deal with a mainstream publisher, why not simply self-publish?

Does anyone have any experience of these or other small press publishers?

Friday, 13 October 2017

Celebrations for Friday The Thirteenth

Actually, I'm not superstitious about the date. It's just another day, (she says with her fingers crossed).

After the flurry of booty last week there have been no prizes or surprises this week. I've worked hard to clear the decks, though, because tomorrow I'm off to Birmingham Literature Festival for a couple of workshops in the Library.

Coming soon!
One of the main jobs today has been to deliver a manuscript to the printers. After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and coming painfully close to getting a short story collection accepted by a conventional publisher, I have decided to go it alone. You can be sure I'll let you know when it's available.

Right, that's it. I'm off for an evening of mindless TV. Have a good weekend, folks.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

This should have been posted on Friday...

... but time got away from me. I've had several reasons to celebrate in the last week or so. First off, it was number two son's birthday, which we celebrated with champagne and apple crumble. Odd, do you think?

I am Star Letter in the November issue of Writing Magazine, for which I am to receive a copy of the WAYB, which is definitely worth having.

I was highly commended in the Birmingham Lit Fest flash fiction comp, for which I receive nothing, but my story will be online in due course. I'm going to the festival on Saturday, as it happens.

Most astonishing of all, those of you who have been following my staggering steps as a fledgling artist will be as surprised as I was to learn that my Pollock piece (details here) was judged to be the best in the exhibition. I know! I went along to the Rooftop Gallery on Thursday for tea and cake, where I was given a potted rose and a certificate. I'm that chuffed!

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Distance lends enchantment to the view - sometimes

Talent takes time to develop
At art class yesterday, we were pondering about meaning in pictures and whether the artist had in mind all those subtleties that we pick up on. Was he really thinking about eternity, say, or did he just want to paint a nice view? Was the symbolism intentional or is it just our interpretation, based on learned responses? What does it all mean, if anything?

We wondered if any of the greats ever looked at their old sketchbooks and thought, 'Wow, I really couldn't draw hands back then!' Or at some of their finished works and couldn't remember what inspired them, or why they'd felt so gloomy that day.

I've been looking over some of the stories and articles I've written over the years with the idea of reusing them in a couple of books and other projects. Some have stood the test of time and will need little attention. Others have made me think, 'That's better than I remember it.' Others still, 'What was I thinking!'

Growing up isn't about getting older, it's about learning and developing.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Celebrating the small things: goodbye, September

Despite the dire warnings from the weatherman, today has been a lovely autumn day with light winds and bright sunshine - what you'd call a 'good drying day' if you were a proper housewife.

It has been an uneventful week. It's always worth acknowledging it when nothing has gone wrong! I ventured back to a dance fitness class on Monday for the first time in many, many weeks. Same teacher, but a new venue and a new style. Goodbye, Zumba: hello, SOSA! Have you come across this? It loosely means solo samba, but I'd describe it more as Zumba Lite. It's got all the lovely Latin beats, but it's low impact. To be honest, it was a bit tame, but it no doubt did me more good than sitting on the settee.

I went for a routine midlife MOT with the practice nurse this morning, where I was pleased to learn  that my BMI, waist measurement and blood pressure are spot on. I might celebrate this evening with a glass of wine, which I'm sure is beneficial to my wellbeing.

As always, I'd love it if you could leave me a comment. Have a great weekend, folks.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

We can't be good at everything - or can we?

Today, I posted on Facebook:

Well, I've just had my second art class and can say with confidence that I can't draw roses. On the plus side, though, the teacher has put me in charge of the tea and coffee, so I shall have to go back next week.

I was immediately chastised by my artist friend Lorraine for saying can't, to which I replied that what I should have said was that I haven't managed to draw one yet. I've also had some supportive comments about hanging on in there, and I shall stick it out - it's only a five-week course - but it's a real challenge. You know that place in the distance, that place so far away you can hardly see it? Well, just beyond that is my comfort zone.

Why do I put myself through these things? Because I can, that's why. Because unless I try, I'll never know. Do think my timid eight-year-old self struggling to play 'Home Sweet Home' on the piano would have thought it possible that she'd one day play Chopin's 'Raindrop Prelude', with its five-flats key signature? Hell, no! And yet, eventually, she did - and still can.

Theodore Roosevelt said, 'It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.' I'm still not going to post a picture of my rose, though! These are Van Gogh's - but I bet he couldn't play in D-flat.

Pic: National Gallery of Art, Washington
 




Sunday, 24 September 2017

A question of art

For as long as I can remember, my mother has owned a print of a picture called 'After Marriage' by Edouard Debat Ponsan. It shows a young couple strolling down a country lane while behind them walk two cattle, yoked together. The symbolism slaps you in the face, but it is a pleasant enough image.

We have always thought there must be a companion picture and, sure enough, an internet trawl revealed that Ponsan did indeed paint another picture called, 'Before Marriage'. It would be lovely to have a copy of this picture so the pair could be displayed together.

The problem, though, is that there is none to be had, not even for ready money. There are plenty of his other prints on sale, but not the one I want, which is most frustrating. The best I've been able to do it right-click and save an image* of it, but this doesn't really suffice.



So, if you see it for sale anywhere at a rummage sale or if you happen upon it on eBay or some such, be a dear and let me know. Thank you.

*Obviously I have reproduced this image without the permission of the copyright holder. If that is you, forgive me.

Friday, 22 September 2017

CTST, 22 September

Well, that was an odd week. I don't know how many emotions there are, but I'm pretty sure I've touched on most of them during the last seven days. However, I'm finishing the working week with the satisfaction that all my deadlines were met and I've made a decent start at catching up with my boring admin tasks.

One specific celebration is that I went to my first ever art class (that is, the first I've done since leaving school). At 'Pastels For Beginners' I was surprised to learn that the other five people enrolled were not beginners. I was a bit put out at first. Oh no! They'll all be better than me.

On reflection, though, I've decided this gives me an advantage, because I have low expectations and nothing to prove! I got very grubby, but it was good fun and the teacher, Gerald, was very kind to me. My first attempt is here:

Have a good weekend, folks, whatever you're up to.

If you would like to join this bloghop, send your details to laura.6eg@gmail.com  and she will do the necessary.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Celebrate the small things, 15.9

Well, this is easy today: Happy Birthday, Mum! I shall be heading to Staffordshire for birthday tea and cake on Sunday.

I'm also celebrating the breakthrough of a friend who, after some difficult times, was able to say out loud 'I am an artist'. So proud of her.

I'm also quite proud of myself, because I've come runner-up in the Senior Travel Expert website's latest competition, and have won the Association of Freelance Writers flash fiction comp. *blushing modestly* I'm taking part in a quiz tonight - will the winning streak continue?

Have a good weekend, folks.

If you would like to join this bloghop, send your details to laura.6eg@gmail.com  and she will do the necessary.


Tuesday, 12 September 2017

A song in my heart

There's been a fair bit of music around recently. Last weekend I was at the Bingley Live festival, where my friend's son's band Your Illuminations were playing. Oh, and the Manic Street Preachers, Pete Doherty and the Kaiser Chiefs, among others.

I was at an accoustic music night midweek at the art gallery were I did my Pollock shoe painting recently and was delighted to see my efforts are now up on the wall. That's a first!

Saturday saw me taking part in a Strum Like A Pirate day, with the two ukulele groups I belong to. Related to that, my drummer son and I have used each other as an excuse to go halves on a baritone uke, which is very pretty, as you can see, and much bigger than my trusty soprano one, which is lying on the floor in front of it.

I have done some writing, too, honest! More of that anon.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Mixing with the best

We had a particularly fine session at Weaving Words yesterday. Whether it was because we were all feeling refreshed after our summer break or were celebrating the start of a new term I couldn't say, but the ideas were flowing and the energy high.

One of the many things we discussed was the benefits of associating with other writers and artists. There's something about mixing with creative souls that brings out the best in us, so if you want to write, hang out with writers; if you want to sing, hang out with singers; if you want to paint - well, you get the idea. I'm not talking about gatecrashing preview nights or making a nuisance of yourself outside the stage door, but I'm convinced that my increased writing output over the last year is due in no small part to the connection I have made with Kezzabelle and the other Word Weavers. 

I don't know if we pick up creative thoughts by osmosis or energy transfer, but I am quite sure that there is nothing like a session with writers, musicians, actors and so on to set my senses tingling and my pen twitching. It goes without saying that you must never pinch another person's ideas, but an image or a snatch of conversation can be the catalyst for something wonderful.

As always, I'd welcome your comments.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Changing gear

While rumours of my retirement have been greatly exaggerated - I wish! - it is true to say that I've passed two of my yoga classes on to another teacher, the lovely Angela, who is taking over from next week. I've taught the last session today and was overwhelmed by the kind comments, cards and generous present. My Tuesday group was my first 'proper' class after I qualified, and I shall miss them all.

However, I'm not retiring, just making space. I shall now have more time to concentrate on editing and writing jobs, and perhaps my WIP books will finally get finished. (Pause for laughter here!) I've said before that I think that September feels more like New Year than January ever does, so I've just started a week early. Mind you, there was a lovely autumnal feel to the air this morning, so perhaps the seasons have started to change. My little conker trees are starting to go orange and my tomatoes are well and truly over.

So it's onwards and upwards. I wonder what other positive changes lie in store.

Friday, 25 August 2017

CTST for the last time in August

I joined in someone else's celebrations yesterday, when I went to Waterstones in Market Harborough for the launch of the paperback edition of The Sister by local author Louise Jensen. Have you come across this book? It's a publishing phenomenon and a cracking good read to boot. I urge you to get your hands on a copy. 

Louise had a non-fiction book in mind to write, so she went to an event on self-publishing to learn more. While she was there she ended up in a creative writing session where she was given three words and ten minutes to write a piece of flash fiction. The words were: forest; spade; secret. What would you have come up with?

What Louise wrote turned out to be the foundations of chapter 1 of her first novel, The Sister. Now with digital sales with Bookouture of 500,000 - yes, half a million - and a three-book contract under her belt. The Sister l has been published in paperback by Sphere/LlittleBrown. Isn't that amazing? The second novel, The Gift, is to be followed later this month by The Surrogate.

Congratulations, Louise.

If you would like to join this bloghop, send your details to laura.6eg@gmail.com  and she will do the necessary.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Five things I didn't know this time last week

  1. If you break down on a motorway slip road, you will be in a live lane and should call the police before you call your rescue service (I didn't learn this from personal experience - it happened to a friend).
  2. Donkey's years is a play on words from donkey's ears, i.e. something very long.
  3. Mistletoe injections can be used as part of cancer treatment (again, not me).
  4. Musician Moby is descended from Herman Melville.
  5. Venus spins backwards compared to the other planets in our solar system.
I'm happy to be corrected.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Celebrate the small things 18.8.17

The new central heating boiler is in and with remarkably little drama. There was a tricky moment right at the start of the job - much male muttering about condensers and pumps - but it was resolved and now the device is sitting happily in the corner of the kitchen, humming every so often just to remind me it's there.

Naturally, health and safety reared its head. The young chap who came to do the fitting said he knew it was a bit OTT, but he had to put up this sign:

so in theory I had to ask permission to go in to put the kettle on. Dafter still were the precautions taken outside to protect anyone venturing up my driveway from the dangers of the world's smallest hosepipe:


Hey ho. I'm off to Kelmarsh Buddhist Centre this evening for a relaxation weekend. Whatever you have planned, have a good one.

If you would like to join this bloghop, send your details to laura.6eg@gmail.com  and she will do the necessary.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

How honest evaluation can lead to success

Following my recent blogpost about the value of feedback, author Gill Arthey shares the story of how her first book came to be published - and how it nearly didn't happen. Gill and I would both value your comments, if you have a moment. 

"I had reached that magic age, 50, which for some reason seemed to be a very significant milestone for me. My four children had all but left home, give or take a few weeks here and there when the need arose, so life for me had changed significantly. Twenty-five years of mothering four boys had been all consuming and looking after their animals, mainly horses, had taken up pretty much all of my time. With the boys gone and the horses reduced, I suddenly had time to spare – but what could I do with it? For some reason I had a really strong urge to create something I could be proud of. After musings about making bespoke dog beds, trendy horse rugs and posh perches for chickens (all of which required skills I didn't have), I decided to have a go at something I had always loved doing: writing.

"My first fumbled attempts were some pretty dreadful children's stories, using some of the characters my husband had invented at story time. Well, J K Rowling had done it, so why not me? I failed miserably! Then a close friend suggested I write about my first three babies, who were a set of natural triplets – not something everyone can write about. (Their baby brother arrived three years later.)

"Once the book was finished, an author friend advised me to use a literary consultancy for an honest evaluation. The report arrived four weeks later and I have to say it wasn't quite what I wanted to read: my punctuation was poor – no surprise there, as I had been moved to many different schools, even living in Africa for a time, so my education was sadly lacking; at no point did I make it clear how old the boys; nowhere was there a description of how they looked. My spirits fell, until I read the very last page: ‘However, having said all of this, I really love your style of writing and your sense of humour. You have some lovely stories to tell and I really think if you can face the challenge of rewriting it, and addressing the punctuation issues with a good editor, this book will lend itself to an autobiographical novel written a la James Herriot style, with your words painting the picture.' 

"At that point I thought probably not. But later, walking past the British Heart Foundation shop I saw a tome balanced at the pinnacle of a book display: The Works of James Herriot. Could this be a sign? Of course I had to buy it, and after reading the first chapter I started to see how it could be done. A year and 300 more pages later, my novel was ready for the publisher."

 A Masters in Motherhood is available from Amazon here.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Is it possible that my house is cross with me?

Morguefile.com
I don't really believe that the answer could be yes, but there's been some oddness at home of late.

First, we lost our garden keys: specifically two for the shed and one for the back gate. Annoying, but not noteworthy. A week later my spare car keys disappeared - the last time I definitely had them was to drive to Staffordshire last weekend. We found a dead frog just hanging in the pond, which my nature-savvy friends tell me is unusual. The birds have stopped coming to the feeders. There has been a strange smell coming and going. The washing-machine is making funny noises. There has definitely been a kind of oppression in the house: a sort of pre-headache malaise that lifts when I go out. Like I say, it's as though I've annoyed the house.

Clearly there is a rational explanation for this. The shed keys have been engulfed by the Flymo; I've simply forgotten where my car keys are; the neighbours' cat has done for the frog and seen off the birds; my dustbin needs sanitising. I need a new washing-machine,  and I've simply had a headache (and perhaps I should check the carbon monoxide levels coming out of the boiler).

I have a lot of friends who reckon to have contacts in the spirit world, friendly ghosts at their beck and call and all sorts of similar malarkey. Just for fun this morning I asked them for their help via Facebook. Could they possibly twirl their pendulums and ask for aid on my behalf?

Back came the answer, so feeling extremely stupid, I got myself comfy and then held out my hands, palms upwards (obviously) and said out loud that I was sorry if I had offended the house, but could it please reveal where it had hidden my keys? Answer came there none. I went off for a shower.

All of a sudden I had the strangest feeling that my keys were in my green rucksack. Sure enough, there they were. How forgetful am I! The thing is, though, that I haven't used that particular bag for nearly a month. Oo-er!

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Pollocks!

What is art? Yes, I know that's a big question, but do you have an answer?

When we were in Northumberland a few weeks ago, we happened upon The Gymnasium Gallery, which is part of Berwick Barracks. The signs outside were advertising 'Bethan Huws: Singing for the Sea', described as an 'Installation' a word that can be intriguing or terrifying, depending on your point of view.

The place was in almost complete darkness. We were the only people there, apart from a little man behind a desk who was wearing earplugs. 'Take a seat,' he said. It's just about to start.' We fumbled our way towards a sofa, which seemed the only option, and waited. The installation was a film made in 1993 featuring eight female Bulgarian singers performing traditional songs on Sugar Sands on the coast off the North Sea. I can't say we enjoyed it, but it was extraordinary, and we both kept mentioning it for the rest of the day. Was it art? Well, Berwick Visual Arts certainly thought so.

Last weekend we were at a more conventional art event, the private view evening of the Fellowship of  Professional & Amateur Artists Annual Art Exhibition held at a local museum, where the fare was not only more traditional, but also to my mind more accessible. If part of the function of art is to communicate, I'd say this wins hands down over wailing women (no disrespect intended).

Last night it was my turn to be the artist, when I went to a Paint Like Pollock event at Corby Rooftop Arts Centre. I was so far out of my comfort zone it was but a distant memory. Nevertheless, armed with a plastic pinny and a generous supply of paint, I went for it with gusto, and d'you know what? It was great fun!

The whole floor in the working area had been covered with plastic sheets and we had to take our shoes off, so we didn't paddle paint on to the unprotected carpet in the rest of the gallery. We had been instructed to take along a pair of old shoes to paint - I'd taken some silk wedding shoes I'd picked up at a charity shop  - and we put them on a canvas and just splattered away! The result of my efforts is pictured at the top of this post.

Then we had a go at painting shoes with a brush, in a more conventional style. These are mine:


And these are my feet by the end of the evening.


So, did I create a work of art?

Monday, 7 August 2017

Phew!

Let's give a big round of applause to the customer service team at Amazon who have managed to sort out my problem, sanitise my account (whatever that means) and put a stop to any potential damage. Access has been restored.

I thought it was fixed yesterday, but when I went to my Kindle account it was saying I didn't have anything published, which was a bit worrying. I've only got two things there, but even so... I had a long conversation with an operative, who was very patient and, well, I don't know what she did behind the scenes, but everything is now back as it should be.

It's a bit of an odd day today. I have stopped teaching yoga on a Monday morning and this is the first week when I didn't have to rise at the crack of dawn in order to eat and digest my breakfast before class. I still woke up very early, though, so I've already written an article for Smallholder, broken the back of a monthly subbing job for the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, and polished and posted a competition entry - and it's barely lunchtime. I may have peaked too soon.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Accepting feedback

I sent a selection of stories that I've written to two of my friends for their opinion. They are both keen readers and they have each been a source of advice and inspiration in their own way over the years. I trust them and value their honesty. Even so, it was a bit of  a 'gulp - here goes' moment when I posted the envelopes.

Well, the results are in and I know what I have to do to improve what I've written. What I found interesting was that while Reader 1 gave me some honest feedback on the actual writing from a technical perspective, Reader 2 had a much more emotional response. As a result, while there was a clear favourite with both of them (the same story), the ones they didn't like so much were different. On these grounds it gives me comfort that the reason I have varied success in competitions is not always because what I'd submitted wasn't any good: it could just be that it wasn't to the judge's taste.

This week's task is to rework as necessary. I was going to publish on Kindle again. However, I had an email from Amazon this afternoon informing me that the email address linked to my account has been changed. Not by me it hasn't! Amazon has frozen my account while this is investigated, which is reassuring, but not a little annoying. I just hope the rogue who has invaded hasn't ordered anything embarrassing in my name.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Places and pareidolia

I was delighted to hear on the Beeb yesterday that the village of Dull in Perthshire is to be twinned with Boring in Oregon. There is also a place in Australia called Bland. Now, this is a nice story in its own right: but it also gives me the opportunity to share this picture with you, taken last week in Northumberland.

Can you actually take a footpath to Tiptoe? Can Twizel be real? And isn't Grindon a character in Harry Potter? I suspect these might be fake names put up by the natives to confuse we visitors.

Mind you, I know that Duddo is real, because I've been there. It has a circle of standing stones that local tourism information leaflets describe as 'North Northumberland's equivalent to Stonehenge'. That might be over-egging it a bit, but on the day we went it was very misty-murky, and not a little spooky. There are five stones and geophys has revealed the sockets for two more.


 
The stones have been carbon dated at 4,200 years old and they are made of sandstone, so time and erosion have created some amazing images. Can you see the face - or even the face within the face?


Back to place names. Here in Northants we have Cogenhoe, which is pronounced 'cook-no' and the always amusing Tittyho. Can you do better?

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Sensory overload

While number two son and his girlfriend and her extended family are lounging round the pool in Tenerife, and hundreds of strangers endure horrific delays at Britain's airport, Mr Thorley and I have returned, smug faced, from a glorious week in - well, if I tell you, do you promise to keep it a secret? I don't really want anyone else to know how peaceful and spacious and crowd free it is in - Northumberland. Pictured is the view from Dunstanburgh Castle: can there be a finer one anywhere?

I could wax lyrical about our adventures, but other people's holiday memories, like their dreams, aren't really that interesting. Indulge me, though, as I share a few snippets that made us smile and ponder while we were away:

  • Overheard: an oh-so-posh mother at The Alnwick Garden calling to her toddler son, 'Noah, sweetheart, come and see the water features!'
  • Overheard: 'He can't be a dwarf, he's eating a banana.'
  • Also overheard: 'Well, it doesn't bother me, I've got no sense of smell.'
  • At Ford and Etal, we learnt about the fighting at Flodden Field in 1513: 10,000 Scottish soldiers were killed in the two hours that the entire battle lasted. Their king, James IV, was among them.
  • Courtesy of performers Andy and Maggie Watchorn (great name), I now know that the Northumberland pipes are so much easier on the ears than Highland pipes.
  • The lanes on the approach to Holy Island smell of garden peas.
  • A northern Gay Pride event route mentioned on local radio was going down Percy Street.
  • Grace Darling was an amazing young woman. On 7 September 1838, aged 22, she risked her life to rescue the stranded survivors of the wrecked SS Forfarshire
  • It is impossible to enter a National Trust gift shop without buying either (a) a notebook or (b) a book mark.

Back to the grindstone tomorrow.

Friday, 7 July 2017

CTST 7 July

I'm celebrating friends today.

It's funny how things work out. Number two son vacated the premises some weeks ago, but his bedroom and the front sitting room that was largely his space remain vacant, pending a decision on what to do with them (man cave vs woman sanctuary - you can fill in the gaps, I'm sure). Anyway, the decision has been made for us, because our good friend Deb is about to become temporarily homeless while her house sale/purchase goes through. How slow the wheels of property transactions turn. Rather than her having to rent somewhere for a couple of months she is going to move in with us, which will be lovely.

I had coffee and a catchup with a good yoga friend today. We meet in Melton Mowbray, which is halfway between her home and mine, and we always go to the same cafe, Off The Beaten Path, which serves the best cheese scones in the world.  Jeanette always sends me home with my head full of ideas, and today was no exception.

I met new friends and old at a gathering at 3P Publishing this week, too, where writers and wordsmiths of many styles (some published, some not) congregated for nibbles and the sharing of support and inspiration.

There's sure to be more friends about over the weekend, when I go to a big ole Ukulele Jam at Stanwick Lakes tomorrow and then a festival at Corby Rooftop Arts Centre on Sunday - or possibly a summer fair at Johnny's Happy Place (or maybe both). Aren't I lucky?

Have a good weekend, folks.

Want to join in and celebrate with us? Hop over to Lexa's blog here and sign up.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

A lovely turn of phrase

Just a quickie, but I wanted to share this with folk I know will understand. Let me tell you why I'm devouring the Jack Reacher novels of Lee Child. It's because of writing like this:

They passed through the crossroads hamlet with the school and the gas station and the diner. It whipped backward through the headlight beams, three short seconds end to end.

Cracking stuff: so much better than saying, 'It took three seconds to drive down main street.' The boy from Coventry done good.

Friday, 23 June 2017

CTST 23 June

I fully intended to post something midweek, but I was away last weekend in Brancaster, Norfolk, for a quick fix of sun, sea and sand. I seem to have relaxed too much, because this week has felt very stodgy!

Today I'm celebrating the start of what looks as though it's going to be a good harvest up at the allotment. We've already had lots of spinach and strawberries, the first batch of broad beans is in the freezer and the second early spuds are delicious. I've just cooked the first beetroots. They look a bit odd because they're white (don't worry: they're supposed to be), so I hope they taste OK...

I'm also celebrating independent bookshops, because I've just been to one of ours: Harrowden Books of Finedon, where a very helpful woman showed me where to find some poetry books I was after.

We're having a belated Father's Day meal this evening, because we were away on Sunday. Gammon, for those who eat meat, with, of course, homegrown veg.
These are NOT turnips
Have a good weekend, folks.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Wild Words

morguefile.com
The first event of my splendid last weekend was a '"New" Nature Writing Workshop' on Friday with Bridget Holding from Wild Words. We gathered in the Kingfisher Cafe at Barnwell Country Park, a beautiful setting on a beautiful evening.

There is a new take on writing about the natural world that eschews the romantic view and instead connects with the grit of it - see, for example,  H is for Hawk by Helen McDonald, The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks or the work of Robert Macfarlane. This was the springboard for our two-hour workshop (which wasn't long enough - more please, Bridget!).

We discussed ways into writing - using the five senses; sensations in the body; emotion; movement; and rhythm - then we went off into the park to write. Back in the cafe there was more discussion, but no obligation to share. One of our group remarked on how much more relaxed we all were after our first stint outside, and it's true: we all started to unfurl. It's corny, I know, but it really was as though allowing ourselves to connect with nature opened up something inside us.

Anyway, I came away feeling inspired and with pages of notes that I shall 'do something with one day'. Do check out the Wild Words website here.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Still not convinced we've much to celebrate

Politics, eh? It's a funny old game. Well, I say funny, but I'm not laughing today. I was SO hoping for a change of MP. Hey ho. If you've found something in the election to celebrate, then good luck to you.

Moving on...

On the one dry day of the week, the Women's Tour came to town again on Wednesday, and the crowds turned out to watch the cyclists hurtle around the county and then finish here in Kettering. Amazing stuff.

This weekend it's KettFest, our annual drug-dealer convention - no, sorry, arts festival. You know how you hear yourself agree to something and then when you get home you think, 'Hang on a minute!'? Well, that happened to me last week, which is how come I shall be performing a monologue in the Market Street Mews tomorrow as part of the festival events. Scared? Me? What do you think?! There's so much going on in town this weekend, it will tough to know what to go to; but I'll definitely be dropping in on the comedy festival, where we have eight Edinburgh preview shows on.

I'm patronising a festival in nearby Oundle this evening, by going to something called a 'New Nature Writing Workshop'. I'm not sure what to expect, but we're meeting in a country park - and then I don't know what will happen. I'll let you know how it went.

'Till then, have a good weekend, folks.

Want to join in and celebrate with us? Hop over to Lexa's blog here and sign up.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Just saying

I don't post much on Facebook, but I put a couple of bits up last week that got quite a good response.

Number 1
"In the copy I've edited today was this gem: 'The evening’s presentation by xxx gave a fascinating insight into the application and calibration of electronic torque wrenches.' One can only imagine."

This got more comments/likes/reactions that almost anything else I've ever posted.

Number 2

"There is no excuse for the word 'mentee'."

This also got a reasonable response. When the world eventually comes to its senses and puts me in charge, I shall forbid this word. There is a perfectly fine word to describe someone who is mentored and that word is protege (with accents, but I couldn't get them to appear here). I also hate attendee. What's wrong with 'delegate', 'participant' or 'person who attended'?

What words would you like to banish?


Monday, 29 May 2017

Music and poetry

There have been mutterings in the ukulele ranks recently about the sort of music we should be playing. I'm not a fan of George Formby, but I don't mind playing the occasional down-up-down-up song as long as it's tempered with something modern. However, there are some in our group who steadfastly refuse to play anything written in the 21st century (I kid you not), so when 'House of Gold' by 21 Pilots was introduced to our set list they took umbrage. Some sit stony-faced and won't join in, and one man has actually left the group in protest! This notwithstanding that the song was written for the uke. Whatever: lots of potential story material, methinks.

***
On an entirely unrelated note, those of you who live, study or work in the West Midlands might like to have a go at Poetry On Loan's competition, where the prize for adults is a paid performance in a library. Details here. Good luck


Friday, 26 May 2017

Is it OK to celebrate today?

My principal celebration today isn't really mine, but I'm happy to cling to its coat tails. Some of you might recall that I had a piece of writing in a  local guide book about the Montagu Monuments in St Edmund's Church in Warkton, a village just outside Kettering. (Read more here.) Well, this lovely little publication has received a national award for the best church monument guidebook in the country, which I'll admit is quite niche but worth raising a glass of bubbly to. Sadly, I shan't be able to go the presentation do as I'll be away.

On the same weekend, I've also been invited to a writing competition prize-giving evening, because I'm on the shortlist, which is rather pleasing. I shan't be able to go to that either, not least but it's in Taunton, which is a tidy step from Northamptonshire. The organisers have said they'll let me know if I win: I'm not holding my breath.

Apart from playing my uke in a concert on Saturday night - a church fundraiser in aid of a new roof (aren't they always?) - I have nothing planned for the Bank Holiday weekend, so maybe I'll just sit about and do nothing. Yeah, right.

Have a good weekend, folks.

Want to join in and celebrate with us? Hop over to Lexa's blog here and sign up.

Footnote. I am, of course, mindful of the recent terrible events in Manchester, but have nothing fresh to add to the conversation, other than to say that if you heard the moving Pause for Thought by Remona Aly on the Chris Evans show and were wondering about the Shams of Tabriz quote she used, you can find it on Goodreads here.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Feeding the soul

A scene from 'Dreaming Our Woods'
I don't have much of a daily routine, because my work is different each day; I rise and retire at varying times, depending on what the day promises; and I eat when I'm hungry, not at set times. However, even I'm feeling out of kilter at the moment. The 'Dreaming Our Woods' performances were wonderful, although I say it as shouldn't, but the post-show comedown has been bleak. What on earth am I going to do with myself now it's all over?

Well, one thing I've done today is to attend 'Continuum', the last event of the Our Woods festival, postponed from March when storm Doris was in town, so once again I found myself in the Corby woods thinking, 'I've never done this before!' A fabulous walk led by artists Carol Miles and Jo Dacome found me lying on my back looking at the tree canopy through a mirror-prism device to mesmerising kaleidoscopic effect; and making a show of human bluebells with sheets of Perspex. All great fun.

They say that if you want to be creative you should mix with other creative types, and I've certainly been doing that recently. Early fruits include a short story in the current issue of Ireland's Own magazine.

I really must get back to normal, though - or as normal as I ever am. This week I shall get more exercise, eat better and, as a result, I hope, sleep better. So much to do, so little time.

Monday, 1 May 2017

This week I shall be mostly trying to stay calm

I am about to embark on a week of full-on rehearsals for The Show on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (tech week, the professionals in the cast are calling it). I'm most concerned about the fact that we are in the theatre until 10pm each night and that is usually bedtime.

This means you probably won't hear much out of me until next Monday, apart from the occasional warbled song line and the soft shuffle of my shoes as I practise in the kitchen; so here is a book recommendation to keep you going.

I entered a competition recently for which Lauren Collins was judge. In the interests of research and as an excuse to go into Waterstones again, I bought her book When in French, subtitled 'Love in a second language'. I was expecting some kind of romance, with translation jokes and, yes, there is a bit of that: but this book is actually a love note to linguistics. As the jacket blurb says: '. . . sharp, funny tale of bilingual romance and learning to speak French. Part acerbic love letter to that language and part meditation on language itself, When in French is so charming it made me want to learn french, too.'

If you have any interest at all in how language works - and I know I'm preaching to the converted here - you need to read this book.

That is all.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Celebrate the small things 28.4.17

On Monday I promised myself to take things a little easier this week. The best laid plans...

It's been a good week, though. Lots of extra rehearsals for the show next week (eek!) and plenty of work to keep me busy. I even managed to put together a couple of competition entries.

Having had a bit of a mental breakdown on Sunday when out clothes shopping, I actually managed to buy some jeans this morning. When did that get to be such a complicated task? When did they start giving styles names? And are we really wearing high waistlines and tiny ankle cuffs? Anyhoo, I shall take them out for a test run this evening: I'm playing my uke at a ceilidh, and there will be dancing.

Also this week, I have a letter in Leisure Painter magazine titled 'Yoga for Creativity, as a reward for which I have been sent a copy of Places of the Mind, a beautiful art book that I would never have thought of buying, but that I can see I'm going to enjoy.

Have a good weekend, folks.

Want to join in and celebrate with us? Hop over to Lexa's blog here and sign up.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Taking things a little easier?

Good morning, world. It's only just starting to get light and it's so cold I've had to switch on my little radiator to take the chill off.I always have an early start on Mondays, because I teach a half-nine yoga class, so I have to be up, fed and digested in good time.

It's no hardship, really. My desk faces the window that overlooks my garden, so I've just been watching the birds having their breakfast while a visiting squirrel tried to join in. We have a family of blackbirds, and despite the fact that the babies are now quite chunky, it's still the parents that are running around chasing mealworms and other tasty morsels.

Last week was tough, but only in a first-world-problems kind of way. Am I now at the age when I must remind myself not to do too much? Surely not! And yet, by Friday teatime I was feeling quite trembly. This week I shall practise what I preach, and be kinder to myself.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

My first webinar

Call me old-fashioned ('You're old-fashioned!'), but I've only just taken part in my first webinar - and what a delightful portmanteau word that is. Despite by newbie status, the tech element was very straightforward and it was a pleasing way to spend an hour.

I was alerted to 'What Happened Next? Plotting a Story' by Helen Yendall on her excellent Blog About Writing. The free webinar was presented by Barbara Henderson of Penguin/Random House’s The Writers’ Academy, and while it didn't really tell me anything I hadn't heard before it was a useful reminder of the basics of story, plot and narrative. Of course, it was actually a taster for its forthcoming online course 'Constructing A Novel', also with Barbara Henderson, but at £799 that's a bit out of my reach.

There were a couple of writing books recommend: Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell and Writer With a Day Job by Aine Greaney, plus the novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. I'd be interested to know if any of you has these and whether they're worth buying.

And remember, folks: if there's no conflict, there's no story.