Tag Archives: blog writing

A snotty nose ends in a short-story award…

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

I’ve gone and got myself a cold. Well, not ‘got’ one necessarily but rather ‘acquired’ one from my daughter who’s been sniffing and coughing her way around the house for the past week. ‘Blow your nose,’ I say to her, sniffing and handing her a hankie. My husband looks at me. ‘Err, honey?’ I look up, my mouth hanging open because I have lost all ability to breathe through my nose. ‘You’ve got a little something streaming down your face.’ I touch my chin and realise that my daughter is not the only one requiring a tissue. ‘Oh damn it,’ I mutter to myself, to which the youngest hollers from her bedroom, ‘Whoohoo! 50 pence in the swear jar for mum!’  I stumble into the bathroom wondering why they only tell me about the swear jar and not my husband, when I promptly slip on a sock and land face first in the laundry basket. My husband walks in and points. ‘Look at mum, girls!’ They come running in. ‘You’ve got pants on your head!’ they yell, clearly delighted. I sigh and, after a few choice words to my husband and a further declaration of the swear jar by my youngest, I haul my snotty self from the smelly socks and PE kit, I wonder if I can go to Barbados and maybe stay there.

And so, this is pretty much how it has been all week, perhaps minus the head pants. Come Friday, I am sat at my laptop checking my emails and deliberating whether to have a crumpet with jam or Marmite for my snack (you can’t say I don’t make ground making decisions here…) when up pings a message in my inbox. Seeing the sender’s email, I happily click it open and read. At this point I have to tell you that I am rubbish at taking bad news. Utterly bobbins. Depending on what time of day it is, I can either a) go quiet, b) stomp or c) cry. I can also perform all three at once – it is a skill us ladies have honed over many a year, and a skill which on this particular Friday I display, with may I say, a special finesse. The email in question is unexpected. It is also not intended for me. It’s funny when you receive an email about you, but not for you – a bit like eavesdropping on a conversation at a smoky party. The good news is that I really don’t mind the comment in question that the email raises – but it perhaps just would have been handy if I had been told directly by the sender as opposed to through a crack in the door. But, such as things are, you’ve got to make the most of it and I think I’m pretty right in saying that, thankfully, give me a bit of bad news and, once I’ve dried my face, I’ll grab it by the legs like a snappy Jack Russell and not let go until I’ve sorted it out. 

And so, it is during this ‘Jack Russell’ period that, feeling low, I get a call from my good friend to remind me that in the evening we are due to attend the local literature festival short story night. Naturally, I had completely forgotten. ‘What are you going to wear?’ I ask her. I hear the phone drop. ‘You okay?’ I ask. ‘Jesus,’ she says,  returning, ‘the washing machine’s flooded the garage. Got to go.’ I put down the phone and wonder if perhaps Bali is nice at this time of year.

That evening, my friend and I attend the Wotton-Under-Edge Arts Festival literary evening. As I am normally a bag of nerves at these things to which my default position is to babble on like a  kiss on Blarney Stone, I was very grateful my buddy could be with me as an antidote to my waffle. Her default position in such nervous circumstances is to completely clam up, so between us we make quite a pair. We sit down, a bit late, and look around. The average age is about 65. ‘I’m sorry,’ I whisper to her, uncertain what is ahead. ‘It’s fine,’ she says, smiling and swigging red wine, ‘this is making me feel young! I love it!’ And do you know what? The evening is great. The two ladies hosting the event are the writer Sue Limb and Dr.Rosemary Bailey – and they are hilarious (think The Golden Girls meets Ab Fab and you’re about there). As the short stories are read out, everyone listens, laughs and applauds what are, without doubt, some well-crafted tales, particularly from the junior entry group.  Come the interval, my friend turns to me and asks what the name of my short story is. ‘The woman who walked to school,’ I whisper. And, just as I say this, they announce the next story to be read out – and, yup, it is mine. Like a man in a Zumba class, having your story read out loud is strange. ‘My heart’s banging,’ my friend whispers. ‘Poker face,’ I reply, ‘keep your poker face on.’ I say this because what I don’t want to do is reveal what I really feel – namely I might cry (seems my reaction to happiness is the same as to bad news – no wonder my hubbie gets confused.) To my relief, not only do they read it, but they like it too, commenting on how well constructed it is, how observant and how true. By the time the winners are announced I am breathing hard, and when my name is given as third prize runner-up, my friend can hardly sit down. ‘Yay!’ she mouths as I go up to shake hands and receive my prize. Yay! Afterwards, several people come up to me to comment on how much they enjoyed my story. I am so touched, it is very humbling. Indeed, one lady asks me if I can send the story to her daughter in France as she thinks it may help her adjust to life in a new country with a new baby. What can I say – I am honoured. It is all I can do to not cry there and then like a jelly mound of hormones.

That night, arriving home after my friend gives me a well done hug that could have squeezed the life out of a boulder, shrieking, ‘You won an award! For something you wrote!’, my husband pours me a large glass of red by way of celebration. I tell him all about the evening as well as the eves drop email early that day. ‘Are you cross about the email?’ he asks. I shake my head and sigh. ‘No. It’s okay. It’s good to get feedback – they know their stuff. I’ll make the most of it, and hopefully things will be even better.’ He narrows his eyes at me. ‘You cried about it, didn’t you?’ I nod. ‘And stomped?’ ‘Hmmm.’ I pull a blanket over my legs and peer at the TV. ‘Is that Stephen Fry?’ My husband nods. ‘It’s QI.’ I am about to reply when I promptly sneeze all over the couch. ‘Bloody hell, honey!’ says my husband. ‘Aha! 50 pence in the swear jar for you!’ I’m telling the girls. Take that, daddy!’ He tuts, leans to the side and hands me a tissue. ‘You’ve got a little something on your nose.’ I take the tissue and sniff. Maybe Crete is nice at this time of year.

**Out on Thursday “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about shopping locally…**

How a nice cup of tea helped my will to win. Sort of…

Welcome to “Wednesday Wafflings” a bit of a well, waffle, where I post the latest in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…

I need a cup of tea. Last week I was clumsy, this week I’m tired. For the past few months I’ve been getting up at 5 a.m. again to write –  and I think it’s taking its toll. Writing in the morning helps reassure me for the day because if other work takes over later on, at least I know that I’ve put an hour’s worth of writing on to the page. The thing is, I am now absolutely shattered. ‘You look tired,’ says my friend one evening as we go for a fast walk in the late sunshine. ‘I know,’ I yawn, ‘but it will be worth it.’ She narrows her eyes at me and stops walking. ‘Look,’ she says, her serious teacher face on, ‘you don’t need to push yourself quite so hard. Maybe move your deadlines back a bit.’ I rub my eyes and nod before we resume our exercise in the fading light.

When I get home later, I slump on to the sofa and realise that my friend is right. I am pushing myself a little hard. I have given myself a deadline for my second novel to be complete, and it’s quite a tight one. Thing is, I’m over half way through it now and I’m at that stage where I can get an idea of what the finishing line will look like. Trouble is, I am frying myself in the process, but isn’t that what we all do when we work towards something we so badly want and love? There’s a free e-book I downloaded the other day by Karen Brady. If you watch TV, you may know her as the advisor to Lord Alan Sugar on the BBC show The Apprentice; if you’re a footie (aka soccer) fan, you may know her as the Vice-Chairman of West Ham United. The book’s entitled Karen Brady’s 10 Rules for Success, and in it, amongst other things, she cites how hard work is essential if we want to get to where we want to be.  Sat on the sofa one night, iPad on, I quote this to my hubbie. ‘Honey,’ he says, ‘she’s right. You do need to work hard. But right now, if you keep getting hardly any sleep like you are, you’re going to make yourself sick.’ I blow my nose. ‘I’m not sick,’ I croak. He rolls his eyes. ‘Do you want some paracetemol?’ I pull the blanket on to my lap. ‘Mmm, I’d better. Maybe some hot water and lemon, too.’

The next morning, I take a quick look at Karen’s other top ten tips and try to see if I am already achieving some of them. ‘Know how to negotiate.’ Hmmm, I can get the eldest to have only one digestive biscuit instead of two, so, tick! ‘Have the courage to take a risk.’ Okay, so I did contact the Gloucestershire Gazette about writing a column, and I did try a raw scallop once, so yeah, I do risks, so, tick! ‘Plan to win.’ Hmmm…I stand and think. ‘Plan to win,’ I say out loud. My youngest must hear me as she rushes in shouting, ‘Who won? Who won? What did you win mum?’ When I tell her nothing, she drops her shoulders and sulks off. I flop into my seat. Planning to win is not something I normally do. Planning to juggle, yes. Planning to get my roots done one day soon, definitely. But win? It seems almost arrogant – and certainly alien – to think such a thing about myself. But I realise Karen’s advice is right. If I don’t plan to win, how will I ever, you know, win? Feeling a bit tired by all the thinking, I get up, get the kids to school and return to the house to find my mobile buzzing – it’s a direct message for me via Twitter. Clicking it open, I read it to see it’s from a radio presenter at BBC Radio Gloucestershire, Claire Carter – and she wants to do an interview…about my book The Boy Who Played Guitar.  Frozen to the spot, my heart bangs in my chest as Claire and I then proceed to send a string of messages to each other, the upshot of which is that she is coming to our house the next day to interview me. I immediately phone my husband. ‘Wow! Nice one, honey,’ he says. I let out a breath and say, ‘You do radio. Will you give me some pointers?’  He readily agrees and I am very grateful (he, the media tart, loves the radio, and does the BBC Radio Gloucestershire Business Briefing almost every week. He does TV interviews, too. Our kids now think he is famous. I know.) Next, I phone my mum. ‘Proud of you!’ she shouts. Then, finally, I phone my friend. ‘Jesus!’ she shrieks. ‘You’d better wash your hair.’ I nod. ‘And the kitchen sides,’ she says. ‘Wipe down the sides!’  I thank her – she is an oracle of advice.

While I am nervous to start with, the actual interview goes really well. Claire is lovely, so chatty and friendly, and we bond over talk of cuppas and fake tans.  The interview doesn’t just stop at the subject of The Boy Who Played Guitar, either. ‘Do you fancy doing the Thought for the Day slot, as well?’ she asks. I gulp. ‘Sure,’ I croak, but it’s all okay. Claire asks me five Gloucestershire-based questions and I answer them best I can. When we are done, she says each one of my thoughts will air every day on the Breakfast Show for a week. I am beyond chuffed.

‘The Breakfast Show?’ says my hubbie later that evening as we sip some merlot. ‘That gets the highest listening figures.’ I grin. ‘And she was so nice,’ I say. ‘She said she’d let me know when it was all going to be aired and tweet everyone, too.’

It gets to Friday, and as I turn to Twitter, I get a lovely #ff message from Claire Carter, saying kind things about me. It almost makes me cry. Smiling from ear to ear, I tweet back and then stick the kettle on. Switching on my iPad, I click on to Kindle and spot the Karen Brady book. ‘Plan to win,’ I say to myself. The kettle whistles, and I grab the tea bags. Whatever I plan to do, I’ll just make a nice cup of tea first.

Tired from writing or working? What helps you to keep going? Need tea or is coffee your thing? Pop on a comment and let me know. Thanks!

**Out tomorrow: my latest colulmn post for the Gloucestershire Gazette**

NEW Regular blog posts now announced

It’s out with the old and in with the new! This week saw a change to my blog posts – and now, thanks to you lovely folk, there are some new additions, which hopefully you will like…

All the advice is the same: make your posts regular and interesting so people will want to read them. While I can only keep my fingers crossed that you’ll find what I write interesting, at the very least I can come up with something a tad more regular. So, with the weekend underway and with it the time for me to have a wee think (with coffee!), I’ve come up with, what I hope, will be a regular little blog post timetable. Think of it as a scatty schedule of stuff – or just a bit of something to read. It’s a second draft, revamped from feedback from fine folk. I hope you like it. If you have any thoughts on improvements, I’d love to hear them.

So, drum roll, here’s me new blog post timetable…

MONDAY: “Media Monday” A short, sharp blast of the latest writing, book or fiction news…

WEDNESDAY: “Wednesday Wafflings” This is The Diary of a Hopeful Author bit, where I post the wafflings of my latest exploits in trying to make it as a mildly successful author…

THURSDAY: “Column Comment” Taken from my weekly writings for the Gloucestershire Gazette, this is a post of my column, appearing, funnily enough, on my Column page…

FRIDAY: “Friday Fact or Fiction” Every Friday I will post something about fact or fiction. This new post will kick off with a serial of a short story I have written.

So, that’s it. Whatcha think? Hope you like it. And in the meantime, have a great weekend.

First I lose my files, then I drop my oats…

Welcome to “Weekend Wafflings” my new regular Friday evening blog post full of, well, waffle about me trying to become a reasonably successful author. Think of it as a bit of a feet up read at the end of a busy week.  Glass of wine optional.

Sometimes I’m so clumsy.  Once, a few years back (alright, 12) I was walking to work when I suddenly tripped up on my own feet. Seriously. There I was, spread out on a Manchester pavement, rain lashing down on my back, the contents of my work bag strewn all over the concrete, my Filofax and lippy blending in with the discarded Tennents cans and crisp packets. Pulling myself up, I glanced round to check no-one saw me, and when I was sure the coast was clear, I let out a long breath of relief. Only when I resumed walking did I feel a slight additional, shall we say, breeze to my left leg. Halting, I glanced down at my trousers to see an almighty rip at the knee, the material flapping on either side like sails on a boat. When I walked into the office 10 minutes later, my work pals let out the loudest laughs at the state of me, and even louder ones when they badgered out of me how I’d done it. Needless to say, I was mortified.

These days, while I trip up a touch less often, I’m still just as clumsy. Take this blogging lark. The other day I go to post a comment on the film blog, Fandango Groovers , and instead of starting my comment with an intended, “Aaah”, in my reminiscence about the 80s film, The Breakfast Club (aw, d’you remember those outfits?), I write “Saab”.  Before I know it, I am clicking ‘post’, and there I am, sounding like a numpty to the whole world. Like many a person, turns out it’s not just my feet that trip me up. It’s my fingers, too. You see, after a small run in a few months back with a corrupted memory stick from which crucial files could not be clawed back, I join the server cloud website Dropbox, on the advice of my husband. ‘You need to back up your files,’ he instructs. I nod, trying to remember what he’s saying. ‘A memory stick is not the most reliable place to store your manuscripts,’ he continues. ‘You’ve backed everything up, haven’t you?’ My silence speaks volumes. He shakes his head and leaves the room.  Praying for a miracle, I switch on my laptop and begin to register with Dropbox. Over the next few weeks, all goes well. I write my novel, save it to the cloud. I write my newspaper columns, save them to the cloud. I even email some crucial second drafts to myself as third back up. Save it to the fluffy cloud. Mighty pleased with myself, that night I tell my husband that I’ve rearranged my Dropbox link on laptop number two because there was a shortcut link icon type thingy that didn’t need to be there. Top Gear is on, so I don’t think he hears me, and, thinking nothing more of it, I resume typing away novel number two, making a mental note to get up at 5 am.m to do some writing.

‘Oh my God,’ I whimper. It is now 6 a.m. and I am sat at my laptop in shock. ‘What is it?’ says a sleepy husband, entering the room. ‘Oh my God,’ I repeat. Used to my warblings, my husband ignores me and inspects the screen. ‘Is that your Dropbox link?’ I nod. ‘Aren’t your files supposed to be there?’ he says. Again, I nod. It is all I can manage. Because he is right. The files are supposed to be there – but they have disappeared. ‘I think I deleted them by accident,’ I finally say.  Then: ‘I feel sick.’ My husband lets out a breath and pats my back. ‘I’ll go and put the kettle on,’ he says.

The next morning, by some miracle, I manage to retrieve all but a few of the files. My second novel is still all there, as is the original manuscript of the first, plus a whole host of other crucial items. Padding downstairs, I switch on the stove and make some porridge for me and the youngest – our favourite breakfast treat, figuring, after the morning’s events, I need it. My husband comes in, fixing his tie. ‘Did you manage to sort the computer files?’ he asks. I open the draw to get the porridge oats. ‘Yep,’ I say, ‘thank goodness. What a nightmare.’  Reaching for the porridge tub, I pick it up only for it to inexplicably slip from my hands, its entire contents tipping everywhere. I don’t move, instead choosing to just blink at the drawer and the floor, each now covered in oats. ‘Oh dear,’ says my husband. I say nothing and close the draw. ‘Weren’t you going to make some porridge?’ he asks. I look at him. ‘No,’ I say, deciding to reach for the bread bin. ‘I think I’ll make some toast.’  ‘Ah,’ he says, ‘you could if I hadn’t fused it the other night.’ I sigh and reach for a banana. I’ll be alright as long as I don’t slip on the skin.

Right. Done anything clumsy? Ooo, let’s hear it. Have a great weekend.

**New for next week: “Media Monday”.  A new blog post that gives you a short, sharp start to the week blast of stuff going on on a Monday in the media.**

Can you give up the Internet on holiday? Turns out, I can’t…


I’ve done this little poll to see if I’m not alone in having trouble switching off. Last week, the family Owen all took its self off to a holiday cottage in South Wales where the sky was clear, the fire hearth was open and the field for the kids to play in was, in their words, ‘massive’.  Being away was just the break we needed. Like many people, the run up to the holiday was littered with last minute deadlines, paperwork catch up and frantic email in box clearing. The good thing about it, mind, is that you can engage in a game of inbox Top Trumps. ‘I have over 400 emails in my junk box!’ yells my husband one evening. ‘Doh! I have only 300 hundred!’ ‘Yes!’ he shouts, somewhat loudly, ‘I win.’ I narrow my eyes, ‘Okay,’ I say, tapping my keyboard, ‘I have 200 Twitter followers!’ He throws his arms out and claps. ‘Terump! I have 650!’ I slump into the sofa. ‘Stupid game,’ I mutter, and resume decluttering my various email and social media things ready to go on holiday.

Thing is, while playing top trumps with our online comings and goings is fun and, let’s face it, a tad childish, it throws up a little point. Namely, our daily lives are ruled by internet technology. In the excellent blog, MWF seeking BFF, there is a post that talks about real friends versus social media ones and the fatigue that can come with Twitter, Facebook et al.  Once at our holiday cottage, not only did we have no TV, but we had no Internet connection either, which meant a whole week of no Twitter, no Facebook, no web surfing and no inbox.  The MWF blog post came to mind. ‘Are you bringing your Blackberry with you?’ asks my husband. I shake my head, thinking how he is real, face-to-face, not a twitter icon, and he needs my attention. ‘Nope, ‘ I say, decisively. ‘Well, yes, but no. I’ll stick it in my bag, but I’m going to switch it off. I need to get away from all that. Concentrate on us.’ He nods. ‘Mmm, good point, me too. I’ll just bring my iPhone in case of emergency.’ ‘Good idea,’ I reply, and with that I go in search of my charger.

 

Our week away goes wonderfully. While the weather veers between sunshine one day and, quite literally, snow the next, we all manage to have a relaxing time, reading books, playing Uno with the girls and generally spending quality time together, properly enjoying each other’s company. ‘Mum, we’re going on the rope swing,’ is the phrase that will stay with us from the trip, such was our girls’ obsession with the assembled rope swing dangling from the tree in the huge field that was our garden for the duration of our stay.  I manage to get through the final two books in The Hunger Games Trilogy, both of which I had downloaded on to my iPad before we left. I had also taken with me my laptop, the thought of finding tranquil time to get a few more chapters down in mind, but in the end, I just couldn’t muster the will to write. To be honest, it was just nice to have some time off, and I think my brain needed it.  And God knows I could do with a rest from social media. ‘But you love it, all that Twitter and stuff,’ says my husband one evening, lifting his head from the book as I stoke the fire. ‘Well, yes, but I can do without it for a while. TV, too.’ I want to have a chin wag with him about my latest novel writing, but when I close the door of the wood burner, he’s already returned to his book, and so I pad to the sofa, stick a blanket round me, and resume my reading of Katniss and her Hunger Game woes.

The final few days of our hols see some trips to the seaside, potters around quaint towns and villages, and a good cycle ride along the country lanes. All in all, we are feeling refreshed and happy. It gets to the late afternoon, and while the kids are outside attempting to feed the ponies grass, I sit on the bed and switch on my iPad to read a downloaded book. Scrolling the screen, my finger pauses, hovering over the BBC iPlayer app. Suddenly, I am taken over by an instant need to watch TV. But there is no Internet connection here, I tell myself. And yet still, I try it. Naturally, it flashes that there is no wireless. Undeterred, I try the next app, this time ITV Player, quickly followed by Twitter, Facebook and Tweetdeck. It is like I am gorging myself on a food I haven’t eaten in a long time.  So engrossed am I in the task that I jump when I hear my husband’s voice behind me. ‘Aaargh!’  I yelp. ‘Don’t do that!’ I scold. He laughs and peers at the screen. ‘Hang on a minute,’ he says, ‘are you…You are! You’re trying to connect to the Internet!’ I roll my eyes. ‘Yeah, but it doesn’t work,’ I sulk. He jumps up, mighty pleased with himself. ‘Ha! You broke first!’ ‘No, no,’ I try, ‘I was just going to do some…’ I scan my brain, ‘writing!’ He flops to the bed. ‘Yeah, right. Admit it, if this was Top Trumps, I’d win, hands down.’ I stare at the tablet screen. ‘’Suppose.’ Outside, the girls shriek with laughter. My husband goes to the window. ‘Hey, they’re on the rope swing. Do you want to come out with me and push them?’ I flip close my iPad and stand. ‘That would be great,’ I say. ‘Come on then,’ he says. ‘Race you!’ I run after him and try to forget work, writing and laptops at least just for one more day.

All poll votes will be posted next week. Thanks for voting!