My new Weekend column: Why do mums feel so guilty?

Welcome to Weekend Friday, a new post where I pop the link to my Weekend magazine column ‘The Last Word’ from the Gloucestershire Citizen and Echo…

In my Weekend column last week I said hi (hi!) and asked why us mum’s feel so blooming guilty all the time.

To read it, simply click here You can also catch my next column in the shops tomorrow via the Weekend Magazine in the Citizen and Echo.

Are you a mum? Do you feel guilty a lot? or are you a dad who feels the same way. Or is parental guilt just a whole load of bobbins?

**Look out for Wednesday Wafflings on, um, Wednesday, where I post my weekly entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author**

Gazette column: If you don’t want speed cameras, don’t speed

It’s “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my weekly Gazette newspaper column to my blog so you can have a read…

This week my column for the Gloucestershire Gazette is all about speed cameras and how drivers are responsible for their own actions.

To read it, simply click to my Column page.

What do you think? Are speed cameras essential or are they a monumental pain that should be gone?

**OUT THIS SATURDAY: My new column for  Gloucestershire Citizen and Echo newspaper. This week it’s all about clothes shopping and feeling old  Catch it on their website link here**

**Look out for  Wednesday Wafflings next, um, Wednesday, where I post the latest entry in My Diary of a Hopeful Author**

Diary of a hopeful author: How I write to episodes of 24…

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

How do you work? Or more’s the point – how do you write? It’s a subject of reasonably fevered discussion here and I’ll tell you why. Nine times out of ten, I can’t write in silence. It’s like time has stood still and my brain has frozen over. The reason I say all this is that the past week has seen me swimming in editing and writing. Sometimes it works out well, other, mah, not so much. But imagine my surprise when I realise that my best bouts of productivity come when I have 24 playing on my iPad in the background! It’s like having your cake and eating it. My friend thinks I’m nuts (don’t say it…) ‘Christ,’ she says, ‘how can you work with all that going on? If anyone so much as sneezes when I’m working at my desk, my mind implodes.’ Best not tell her then about the gun-shooting chase scenes in 24 then…

There is research out there that says that when a brain is multi-tasking, you know, lots of noise, activity, it can lock down on the task its owner needs to do.  Owner. It makes my brain sound like it’s a little puppy. Actually, that’s not a bad analogy…Anyway, of course, even though I am a woman, multi-tasking doesn’t always work out. I do find myself catching a scene of 24, for example, gauping at it then returning to my work and wondering what the hell I was writing about. And then it…Sorry, where was I?

It doesn’t just have to be episodes of 24 for me. In the past few months of writing and editing various projects I have got through: The entire series of My So Called Life (I learnt so much!); Series 1-4 of Prison Break (tattoos as maps – who knew?); over 10 films; 5 BBC documentaries; and one episode of Dennis the Menace (my daughter was off ill…). I’m like the hungry catapillar of box sets. Sometimes, when on the rare occasions TV and film on loop doesn’t boost my brain, I switch to music. We’re talking a bit of classical, jazz mainly. Sometimes only talking will do, so I go to BBC radio 5 or 4. If I’m feeling really with it, I’ll go to radio 1, but, as I am not below 25, this has literally only happened once.

As I shuffle through the rest of this week, I shall be watching 24 on loop. In fact, as I write this at, let’s see, 5.40 a.m., Episode 16 of Season 3 is playing on my iPad. It does make me feel quite sneaky, watching programmes when a) I am working and b) everyone else is still asleep. It’s like sneaking out of class at school without permission and going down the shops. Whether I’ll get a load of work done this week is still to be seen. But hey, at least I’ll know what’s happening to Jack Bauer and his team. Him and Denice the Menace.

So, how do you work or write? Which camp are you on: Is it total silence or a little bit of noise?

 Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about speed cameras…**

Gazette column: Should school playing fields be open to the community?

It’s “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my weekly Gazette newspaper column to my blog so you can have a read…

This week my column for the Gloucestershire Gazette is all about school playing fields and how, in some cases, opening them up to community use may help save them from closure.

To read it, simply click to my Column page.

What do you think? Should school playing fields be opened up for all to use? Or should they be kept private?

**OUT THIS SATURDAY: My new column for  Gloucestershire Citizen and Echo newspaper re-launch magazine. First new launch magazine issue out on Saturday 22nd September.  Catch it on their website link here**

**Look out for  Wednesday Wafflings next, um, Wednesday, where I post the latest entry in My Diary of a Hopeful Author**

Diary of a hopeful author: E.M.Forster is teaching me to write…

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

Sometimes your brain gets in a right old muddle. Do you ever get that feeling? When everything you do seems like your walking through a sludgy river and you’re hardly moving at all. Well this past week I’ve been editing my second novel and that is how it has been – walking through sludge. It’s not been all bad. I’ve had a great time procrastinating watching back to back episodes of 24 on Love, and I’m getting exceptionally skilled at making a pot of coffee in less than three minutes. I haven’t timed myself or anything. No, no… 

Anyhoo, twas during one of my more productive days – namely one where I was writing my column and not editing my book – that I wandered into Stroud library on my way home. There upon I stumbled upon (just picked up) a book that, quite frankly, has cleared my waters, as it were, to the point where I can finally see my boots (stay with me). The book is called Aspects of the Novel, and its author is the late, great E.M.Forster.  The book is a transcript of a series of lectures he gave back in 1927 to Cambridge University about, as you may have guessed, the novel.  In the lectures, he breaks down and analyses what it is that makes a great novel – and as a writer it is the best thing I have ever read. Forster was ahead of his time. Describing stories, plots, he is witty but grounded, informative yet inquisitive. Basically, he knows his stuff. There are six main areas he covers:

  1. The Story
  2. People (two lectures)
  3. The Plot
  4. Fantasy
  5. Prophecy
  6. Pattern and Rhythm

Right now, I’m immersed in The Plot lecture, but I have learnt so much.  Forster’s lectures have given me my confidence back a little – and if I’m honest with you, I’ve been lacking this for the last few weeks.  Take the story. Forster says the novel must tell a story. We all know this, you may think. And you’d be right. But then he goes on to talk about the story aspect of a novel. He says the story is essential, without which, novels cannot exist. It’s like a huge dose of reminders all in one go. Reminders like: story is different to plot. Story is: ‘The wife died and then the husband died.’ Whereas Plot is: ‘The wife died and then the husband died of grief.’ See? Also, in a story, the reader says, ‘and then?’; in a plot the reader says, ‘why?’.  Handy reminder, right? It’s things like this I already knew, but, when clouded by an edit of a book I am close to, they are aspects I sometimes forget. And forget them at my peril, because without them, basically, my novel would suck. Not E.M Forster’s words, but I think he would wholeheartedly agree.

His ‘People’ lecture is another aspect that has helped. Forster talks about round characters and flat characters. Dickens used flat characters. Flats are one that are, effectively, like a forest stream, predictable. Stereotypical, if you will. Yet rounded characters – as used by Jane Austen – like the sea, surprise us. They do unexpected acts, thoughts. This in particular was an eye opener to me.  Forster discusses having both types in a novel. The reason Dickens uses just flat characters is because he bounces the reader from one aspect to the next so you do not mind the shiftings in viewpoint, the shape of the characters. So if you’re as good as Dickens, go for it, flat your characters right out. But which ever way you roll, the most important point is this: make your characters convincing.

Well now, get me and my pep talk on novel-writing. There is so much more Forster dishes out that I could talk about but I don’t want to drone on so I will sush. What I will say is that if you are writing a novel, then get your hands on his book. Mine is only a library copy, so the important points I would like to pencil I have had to instead post-it note. The book now resembles a ticker-tape parade. I shall be buying my own copy very soon.

So, that’s been my week. I am now gradually walking faster through the sludge and at some point hope to make it to clear water (how far can I push this analogy?) Editing a book is great and rubbish all in one go. But at least now I have Forster on my side. Him and more episodes of 24. May your waters be clear….

Links: Aspects of the Novel on Amazon, E M Forster on Wikipedia

**Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about the endangered school playing field…**

Gazette column: Wind turbines are beauties not blots

It’s “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my weekly Gazette newspaper column to my blog so you can have a read…

This week my column for the Gloucestershire Gazette is all about why wind turbines are essential to our landscape, not blots on it. It is also a piece in which I use the word ‘poppycock’. Really.

To read it, simply click to my Column page.

What do you think? Are wind turbines vital for our future? Or are they simply an eye sore? 

**STOP PRESS: I’m also now writing for the weekend Gloucestershire Citizen and Echo newspapers. It’s a brand new column. First new launch magazine issue out on Saturday 22nd September. **

**Look out for  Wednesday Wafflings next, um, Wednesday, where I post the latest entry in My Diary of a Hopeful Author**

Hillsborough: An open letter to journalists

Today, a Government paper was released. It finally revealed the long-awaited truth of what happened at Hillsborough 23 years ago where 96 people died attending a football match. Here, I write an open letter to all journalists on how we have a duty of care to ensure the appalling reporting carried out by The Sun newspaper of the disaster never happens again…

Journalism is a vital organ. When it works well, it can break down walls. It can change laws and it can bare the truth. But when it doesn’t work, it can cost lives.

23 years ago a football match was played. The ground was Hillsborough, the clubs were Nottingham Forest – and Liverpool. What happened that day will never be forgotten. 96 Liverpool football fans that day lost their lives watching a game they loved. They were crushed against fences, they fought for air. It was a scene no one wishes to ever see and one that, for its victims and their families, is seared onto their brains forever.

Immediately, journalists were on the scene reporting live, ensuring that the nation knew what was happening, which is as expected. But then a British newspaper – The Sun – subsequently wrote an article that blasted everything to pieces. The Sun printed an article that slated the victims. Its source, as it turned out, was the police. The Sun decided to run with the source and the result was a front page headline that blamed the Hillsborough disaster on the Liverpool fans. It said they were drunk. It said they were fighting. It was utterly and without question, appalling journalism.

The UK Government report into the disaster today has finally outed the truth. The Sun newspaper has publicly apologised, citing its ‘deep sense of shame’ for it’s reporting of 23 years back.

As writers, we must learn from this. Journalists have a duty. That duty is to be fair. To report the truth. To not let prejudice blind our words. To not be coloured by what we perceive to be true  as opposed to what the real truth is. Because truth is what this all boils down to. The truth of what happened on that terrible day. The truth of what the police did, thought, acted upon. The truth that The Sun journalists decided to portray. The truth that the victims’ families always knew.

So, may journalists always do their duty. You must realise the responsibility that comes with your job. People’s lives are in your hands, at your fingertips. When you report, be fair. Be truthful. Be good human beings. Otherwise, please, do not be a journalist.

Diary of a hopeful author: My new column – it’s for the Citizen & Echo!

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

 Boy what a week.  It’s one where I’ve primarily been thinking about photographs. Sad, I know. Shallow – definitely. I cannot but apologise. You see, I can’t bear to have my photo taken. I really can’t because at heart, I think I may be a tad shy.  It’s one of those moments where a hundred and one things run through your head. Wrinkles. Double chin. Sagging jaw. Frizzy hair (or in this case, dyed hair and too blooming dark! Doh). Considerable dark eye circles. People seeing you in print. There’s nowhere to hide, and you can say what you want about me, but you can’t say I don’t like to bury my head in the sand.  It’s a pity really, because today I’m having my photo taken and it isn’t for my either a) stony face for passport or b) daft face for kid’s party. Nope. I’m having my photo taken for a new writing job.

Yup, from 22nd September I’ll be in the local Gloucestershire Citizen, Echo and Stroud Life newspapers with my new weekly column. I know! How did that one happen? It’s all been a while since I first had the meeting with the Editor, but since then things have moved on. And it does make me feel a bit sick. ‘Will you be famous?’ asks my youngest. My husband spits his drink out. I glare at him then turn to my daughter. ‘No, sweetie,’ I say. ‘Mum’s not going to be famous.’ She sighs. ‘Didn’t think so. You have to be in the Olympics and Paralympics for that.’ Well, either way, that’s me told. Quite right, too.

The first column is already written and with the Editor. It’s always a nerve wracking moment when the first piece is sent off for approval. It’s like waiting to find out your exam results, except I’m not 16 anymore. Or at school. I cannot tell you how many people the draft of the column has been through before it finally got to the editor. Being a somewhat self-critical writer, I thought it best to seek opinion. Step forward family and friends. They have read, re-read and re-re-re read the first piece until, I sadly suspect, they could recount it in their sleep. And I haven’t even paid them! What it has done for me though is to reassure me that it’s hitting the mark. Aside from the essential proofreading (which, you know by now, I suck at), they’ve looked at the content. The Editor, Ian Mean, wanted a human angle. ‘Make it human,’ he said in our meeting. I imagined him smoking a cigar and wearing a trilby. I nodded.

Back at home, I wasn’t sure what he meant.  It’s been decided that the column will have a female slant and focus on the fact I am a woman (why does it feel weird calling myself that…?), a parent/mum and, um, well, me. That’s when the penny dropped. The human bit, making it human. It means connecting with others. Being honest about who you are, flaws and all so when people will read it they will sit there, nod and say, ‘yeah, me, too’. Or not.  What I do know for certain is that I love writing it already. I am nervous, without a doubt. I have three months probationary on it, which is when I have to work hard, make it good.  I don’t know what people will say about it. I certainly have no idea about what is going to happen next once it goes live, but I’m going to gulp and see. In the whole scope of the world, it’s a little thing. No war for me to handle, no flood or famine.

The column will be appearing in the new, re-done, glossy weekend magazine supplement and, bizarrely, the first re-launched edition is out on 22ndSepetmber – the same day my mum arrives to visit. She is very excited. ‘I can get a copy to show everyone!’ she yelps. I nod. I am becoming good at nodding.

In the meantime, life is ticking on. I am having an utter nightmare with the edit of my second novel – it’s like trudging through mud at the moment. I will get there with it; I just have to be patient. Wish I was a patient woman (nope. Still weird.) The Gazette wants to keep me on as their weekly columnist and I had a great chat with the Editor, Skip, the other day. I’m really enjoying writing for them – and people where I live come up and talk to me about what I’ve written every week. That’s odd to get used to, but I’m really chuffed the column sparked something.

I grab the paper and my daughter comes up to me. ‘Are you famous from the Gazette, mum?’ she asks. I pick a fleck of muck from her hair. ‘No sweetie.’ She pauses. Then says, ‘Good. That means I can be.’ I smile as she runs off. If she wants to be famous, she can have her photo taken as well. I can’t stand having my photo taken. I need some more hair dye. Goddammit.

**Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about wind farms and why they are beautiful not a blot**