Monday, 30 July 2012

Children's Classics

One of my favourite parts of the day is snuggling the children and reading them a story. I still enjoy reading picture books like Harry and the Dinosaurs with the three year old, but I love, most of all, reading my own childhood favourites to the older two.

We finished Charlotte's Web last weekend, in a fog of disappointment. I remember it being moving; I remember crying. I remember loving it. Reading it to the children, it seemed a trifle slow, and I was tempted to skip parts. I didn't find the characters half so enchanting. I wonder how the children will remember it - perhaps it is only magical if you are the right age, and not some middle-aged woman attempting to fake it a seven year old's mindset.

We're reading  Eric Knight's Lassie Come Home now. If your only experience of Lassie is TV, you're missing out. This children's book, although sentimental in places, is fantastic and powerful and moving, and has lost none of its beauty.  I remember my mother reading this aloud to my sisters and I in front of the three-bar fire, struggling to read through her tears. I remember re-reading it (over and over again) as a child, and the way the hairs on my arms would lift when I got to the climax.

I'm enjoying it just as much this time, although I'm glad no-one is eavesdropping on my Yorkshire accent (which is quite good in comparison to the vague attempts I'm making at the Scottish accent). I clearly haven't missed a career on the stage.  A couple of times I've had to swallow hard to collect myself enough to read on...I'm loving it, and will have the tissues ready for the pay off moment at the end. Some books can bear endless re-reading, and this is one. Classic.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Read, digest, grow

I might not be writing as much as I'd like, but I've sneaked in a fair bit of reading - lately 'The Last Letter From Your Lover' by Jojo Moyes. Must confess to shedding a tear or two - was a really touching story, beautifully written.

Jojo Moyes is such a skilful writer in every way, but I was especially struck in this book by her delicate and exquisite writing of sex scenes - which she renders beautiful.

All these women raving about 50 Shades of Grey, with all those repetitive, cringe-worthy sex scenes that made me shudder - this is what they should be reading! This is the way to strike chords (sorry for the cliche). I put the book down hours ago, and am still thinking about the characters, and how real they seem. I need to learn so much... and now I need to go and buy a new book to read as I gobbled that one a bit fast.

Pirates and Puppies

This week isn't really going to plan, unless picking up children who have fallen downstairs and sunburning my ears on a beach on the East Coast (quite an achievement, let me tell you) count as being part of my writing plan.

There's really no room in my head or house for writing this week - a story I'm trying to complete for a comp is languishing untouched, because I'm too tired to dredge an original thought up when I come to it each evening. But the children are different this year to last. (They've changed since Whit Week, even).

The 3 year old might spoil some games, and the older two shout at him so often that the baby has begun to babble something that sounds unbelievably like his name; but they all play together. He isn't so bored as on a 'normal' day; he'll play in parallel with them, or if the 7 year old is in the grip of the right mood she will organise a game of pirates, captains, puppies or Octonauts and drag both boys along in the slip-stream of her imagination. (They have plenty of imagination of their own, to be fair, but lack the sustained focus to keep role-play going for long without her bossy input. When they have had enough, or don't play by her rules, she is heart-broken. I think I'm raising a control-freak).

 When they play like this, and occupy the 3 year old, I actually have more slices of time to write than usual, if only I can leap on each opportunity. Having appeased my guilty conscience this week by scrubbing the dining room to within an inch of its life and washing, washing, washing (who could waste that sunshine?) I'm going to prioritise writing. By this time tomorrow, I want to have that first draft pinned down in long as I'm not called in to fight pirates, build Lego cities or rescue a beached whale in the Gup-C.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Summer Holidays

The days have been accelerating fast as we've neared the end of the term, but today is the last day. I'm not sure how I feel about the summer - whether being out of routine will allow me time to recharge, and  whether the older children will amuse the three year old to give me more time to myself  - or whether I will be too cluttered up by children to write.

Either way, I will make the most of it. I'm going to have a delicious time enjoying the children, and when we go out, there will be fodder for the imagination all around. So if it turns out to be a fallow period for actual bum-on-seat writing, I'm going to be accepting.

Tomorrow we are off for a day to the seaside - hope  the sun shines, and when I get back, hope to write a story with a beachy setting.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Not my day

The governors of 'my school' have vetoed the idea of me writing a column in the local newspaper. I'm more crushed than I expected  - amongst the gruelling hours of parenting, my writing life is precious relief and escapism, and this dead-end was more overwhelming for me than recent rejections.

But this too shall pass. I'm going to go and work on a story for another competition now, in long hand for a treat.

Treading Water

The post brought a rejection....that story was submitted months ago, so I had hopes. I wonder what part of it wasn't right. I'm feeling glad that I've sent one to a competition with feedback, although the genre is different.
As always, I wonder if even trying to break into short story writing is the thing to do. I can tell myself all the practical reasons why, but it's not what I read most of, and I wonder if my heart is in it, and if editors can tell.
But then, I put my heart and soul into this poor little one that thudded to the mat. I suppose one day I'll look back and see more clearly; meanwhile I've a day of busy life with no writing time, and it looks as though the governors are going to say 'No' to my request to write a column, so I'm having a discouraging day. 
When I feel discouraged, I try to look back over a longer period. I think of the personal progress I've made (get me. I should be conducting professional development interviews) and the little nuggets of joy when something I've done has had the tiniest jot of recognition. I've done more writing in the last two years than the previous ten, I'm taking myself seriously, I'm daring to expose myself and my writing...what's a day of discouragement compared to that? 
Deep breath, relax shoulders, and prepare to move on.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Saying Yes

I'm so proud of myself. (It doesn't happen often - let me have my moment!)
I'm learning to say yes to opportunities, even if they scare me witless (not a difficult thing to do, as my wits have mostly deserted me since Baby 4 anyway). The people who achieve well, or seem 'lucky' are the people who are brave, and put themselves out there, and handle the knocks, aren't they? And that's not usually me. But I'm putting aside my fear of failure, and also my fear of success (because that's just as real) and marching on merrily.

I said I'd got an opportunity in the pipeline, and I'm going to blog about it, even if it never happens. Our local newspaper advertised for columnists, and I responded, and they seem keen to have me. I'm fizzing with excitement - I already have several columns written or ready for editing in anticipation. There is a spanner in the works. Because of my work as a teacher, and the need to keep some professional distance, I had hoped to write anonymously, and that's not an option. So I'm waiting to hear from the head-teacher and governor about whether I can go ahead. Exciting times...and much more 'me' than the short stories I am trying to write.

Then today something else exciting happened. I've read two gorgeous, moving novels by Jojo Moyes lately  - Me Before You and The Horse Dancer. I only finished the latter yesterday, in a glorious scramble to the end before bed (I didn't want to put it down). I enjoyed them both immensely, and admired her style enormously - this is what I want to achieve. (If only. But it's good to dream...) It even crossed my mind that one day her agent might be a good one to approach, knowing that I want to aim for the same genre.

This morning, when I ought to have been writing (I did get to it eventually!) I looked at the satisfyingly full back catalogue of hers, and I know what I'll be buying on my Kindle next. It's such a thrill to find an author you've not read before, and discover you love her work, and there's lots of it to enjoy...instant gratification. I had a look at her impressive website, and blog and was lured on (is it called the web because it's so hard to escape?) until I read that she is offering mentoring through Marie Claire. I fought my natural inclination to say I don't have a hope, and applied. I know it probably won't come to anything, but I'm star-struck by the mere possibility. Someone, somewhere is going to be  lucky to be mentored by her...and at least, if it's not me, it won't be because I didn't bother trying.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012


After editing (and no, the gold wasn't too straw-like) I managed to cut 3000 words to 2543. A good edit, I feel. I must be learning!


I feel prolific today! I wrote a 3,000 word story yesterday, and then re-drafted it, once for sense and flow, then a second time to add in some punch. It is for a competition, and I'm really pleased with it, although, of course, how it does will depend on how strong the comp is. (Such a positive thinker...!)

The problem is, I'm sitting at my desk, intending to read a paper copy and mark mistakes/things that don't work and perhaps cut 10% or so on principle, and I daren't pick it up. That's why I'm procrastinating by blogging.

I have a reverse Rumplestiltskin in my life, and overnight he will have turned my gold to straw. (He keeps me supplied with babies to interfere with my work, too, instead of threatening to take them away.)  I wonder how to banish him...?

Saturday, 7 July 2012


Two more stories fired hopefully into the void... I suppose it hasn't been many, yet - only six, I think, so hoping for success might be a bit much.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Second pair of hands required

My head is buzzing with writing ideas today - far more than I have time to explore. It's too tantalising - I want to be working on some short opinion pieces, and a love story idea I've had for a competition....

The thing is, I know it's easy for me to go off half-cocked, caught up in the excitement of an idea.  When I don't spend lots of time getting into the character, and plotting a bit more tightly, that's when things go wrong and I run out of steam, or stop because I know it's all wrong. Then I have to go back and begin again.  So I'm trying to curb myself, and focus on making what I write the best I can. I'm afraid this blog doesn't count yet - I have no time to polish it with everything else I want to do to build a writing career.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

It's not going much better, yet. One of the short stories is complete, but the printer isn't working, so I can't submit it. Yet.

I haven't seen my neighbour, nor done any other writing, really, in the last few days. Somehow mothering has swallowed up all else, and yet I've not done a good job at that, either. My life (and perhaps the life of all mothers?) seems to vacillate between a/ me feeling I can handle anything, and consequently getting an hour's housework done, and an hour's writing, and still finding time to cook and play, and b/ me feeling that the world is caving in, and I don't have time for anything but gritting my teeth and hanging on. So sometimes I'm uber-productive (and this has a positive effect) and sometimes all the life seems to have been sucked from me by these adorable and exhausting children of mine and nothing gets done at all. It would be nice to find a middle road.

Perhaps a good night's sleep will make a difference, although, right now, two of the children are talking in their sleep, which will probably keep me awake!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

The Week Ahead

Stuff the housework; I've got writing to do. I've stayed up till gone midnight for the last two nights, working on something that is in the pipeline, but which will hopefully make me look and feel like a 'real' writer. I'm half excited and half terrified.

Meanwhile, there are the two stories I'd like to edit and send off this week, as well as a few other minor things.

I still also need to take time with my neighbour finding out about police procedure for my book. Last time I went round to pick his brain, he told me that another officer had had an email from someone very local asking for information, and he thought it was me. I was delighted that there's another aspiring writer within a stone's throw.

More worryingly, the longer my book stews, the more I am losing faith in the plot, and keep wondering if I need to change huge bits of it. I'm not sure if this if just cold feet, or if it really does still need major reworking.  However, I'm going to get the information I need from my neighbour, tweak all the parts I need to, then look at it again from the plotting point of view. I'm not sure I'm very good at this editing lark. I'm in a bit of a tangle.