What’s So Special About 12 May?

This is SO exciting. I can hardly wait to see my first published piece of writing. An actual print version to hold in my hand and show my mum. If you are an agent or publisher who hasn’t received an invitation to the Litmus 2015 launch and would like to come, please let me know – I have contacts!

Litmus 2015

save-the-date-calendar-may-12-2012If you checked Wikipedia to find your answer you might say that it is the 132nd day of the year (except in a leap year when it becomes the 133rd day) or Edward Lear’s birthday.  You might tell me that it is International Nurses’ Day or, raising a lace hankie to your eye, inform me that it is the date on which Perry Como died.  If Wikipedia is to be believed, you would be correct on every point.

There is a small group of people in Hampshire who would not need to go to the internet to check the significance of 12 May.  It is emblazoned across our minds in a fiery, fifty foot high font.  We are students on the MA Writing for Children and MA Creative & Critical Writing courses at the University of Winchester and 12 May is the day we launch Litmus 2015, an anthology of our writing, into the world.

The last…

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Why EVERYONE should have a pair of welly boots.

Dog and wellie boot in puddle It’s definitely been wellie boot weather just recently. There’s something very satisfying about splashing through puddles, feet safely encased in their rubber shields.

Scout loves puddles, too. She sticks her snout into them, up to the eyebrows for preference, and roots out interesting things from the bottom. They get unceremoniously dragged to the surface and killed, terrier style, by a jolly good shaking.  If I kick at something floating on the surface or flick water at her she pounces and bounces, yipping and growling with happy excitement.  I feel sorry for the children being walked through the park by adults who carefully steer them around the puddles.  What fun they are missing!

Book coverI’ve been thinking about the story I’m going to write for my dissertation and reading other people’s stories on similar themes. As part of my story takes place on a river, I read Minnow on the Say by Philippa Pearce.  It was written in 1955 – 4 years before I was born – and feels like a different world.  Eleven year old children earning money from a paper round; travelling the countryside by bicycle and canoe without adult supervision, but not until after they’ve finished their household chores.  Taking packed lunches wrapped in sheets of paper and bringing home treasures in their handkerchiefs.

I’m not saying that was necessarily a better way of life, but sometimes I feel like modern children are missing something special.  I understand that parents feel protective, but are the pictures on television as thrilling as those we see for ourselves?  Can finding out about flora and fauna on the internet ever compare to finding a bird’s nest or watching a newt slip into a pond at first hand?  What about climbing trees, padding in streams, building dens. They miss so much … and then I saw this.

Temporary shelter made from roughly assembled sticksAfter the dogs had finished investigating the den, we left the park and headed home.  I had a huge grin on my face.  For all those parents steering their offspring around the ‘dangerous, dirty’ puddles, there are still children who are out exploring and creating their own adventures.  Am I foolish to find hope in this this small thing?

Blogging 101

Head shot of Kim A Howard

This is me!

If you have read any of my previous posts you will know that I am not an experienced blogger.  Nor am I confident in my ability to maintain a steady flow of reasonable content without (a) losing interest — mine and my followers, and (b) finding myself spending so much time on this and other social media that my writing and home life get pushed to one side.  Now add to that list of real and imagined shortcomings one hard fact – I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!

The timing of an invitation from WordPress to join Blogging 101 couldn’t have come at a better time.  As far as I can see it is formed of a week of supported challenges which will teach me many of the basics of blogging whilst also giving some suggestions for content – so here I am on Day 1.  It’s actually Day 2, but I was busy yesterday so I’m only just getting round to taking up the challenge, which was to write a “who am I and why am I here” blog.  That sounded very deep and philosophical and a bit beyond my capabilities.  Fortunately, further down the email, there were some suggestions as to the sort of thing we might include.

1. Why are you blogging publicly rather than keeping a personal journal?

Well, that’s easy  – if I did it privately no-one would know when I wimped out and abandoned the project.  I’m studying for an MA in Writing for Children with the hope that I will, one day, become a published author.  We have been told by tutors, agents, editors and publishers that a strong on-line presence is an important tool in promoting our books and ourselves as a brand, so I’m starting early.

2. What topics do you think you’ll write about?

Anything and everything that takes my fancy, but probably with a bias towards reading and writing – and possibly pets, food, and people who have been to the moon.

3. Who would you love to connect with via your blog?

People who are interested in similar things and can introduce me to books and ideas I’m not familiar with.  People who will comment on what I have to say.  Someone who will fall in love with my writing style and long to publish my writing.

4. If you blog successfully throughout the year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

A record that family, friends and future fans can look back at – a public memoir, if you like.  A habit of recording thoughts and events and an established daily writing routine. Maybe some new friends.

I think I’ve finished my first assignment on Blogging 101.  Time to go and find today’s assignment – and if there’s time before I go to work and then to college – to do some of my own writing.

 

Moon Magic – Send Help!

night-sky-with-moon-and-stars-1389117883KvAThe moon plays a big part in the life of our household.  Whenever we see it, we greet it like an old friend.  We have a small telescope in the kitchen so we can take a good look at it on clear nights.

We have met men who stood on the moon’s surface and people who worked to help get them there and bring them home.  We have met artists who recorded the events and writers who interviewed the participants.  We have photographs and ephemera, artefacts and autographs, books and DVDs.  You might say our house has been touched by moon madness.

I am now at that stage of my MA Writing for Children where we have to consider our dissertation.  I have a story in mind about a young girl and a magical transformation by (you’ve guessed it!) moonlight. To accompany the story I need to write a rationale and include a bibliography of children’s stories on a similar theme.  I know there are hundreds of children’s stories where the moon has magical qualities, but at the moment I am struggling to think of any titles, apart from The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge.

If you have a favourite children’s story where the moon has magical properties or influences, can you let me know?  My story will be for a ‘middle grade’ audience, but I’m interested in anything from picture books through to YA.  Please add your suggestions in the comments, or send me a Tweet.  In the meantime, I’m off to search the library catalogue.

Blogging with a Butterfly Brain

 

I was never very good at keeping a journal. As a child I would often ask for a shiny new diary for Christmas and at New Year I would resolve to write in it every day. I thought that, when I was an old lady, I’d be able to look back and marvel at all the wonderful things that happened to me. My resolutions seldom survived into February.  Now, as a middle-aged lady, I have a stack of diaries with dates and appointments and few weeks with comments and observations. Take my word for it, there is little of wonder or marvel to be found in those pages.

Butterfly on OreganoSo, given my history, why am I writing a blog? Believe me – I’m asking the same question.  It’s partly because the tutors on our course said it was good to have an on-line presence, but it is more to use as a training tool.  I’m a bit of a butterfly brain – I struggle to focus on one thing at a time – so I thought this would give me some discipline.  If I can flex my writing muscles on a blog and write something for publication every few days, maybe it will be easier to focus on my work(s) in progress.  That’s the plan, but something tells me it may end up as yet another means of procrastination.

Now – what on earth am I meant to write about.  Suggestions on a postcard, please.  I’m off to check out my Twitter feed!

 

Playing with the Grown-Ups

I had never been in a mixed critique group with people writing for both adults and children until this month. This was first posted on the Litmus 2015 blog page – you can click through to see the original posting.  Why not browse the rest of the blog whilst you are there?

Litmus 2015

Last week we were divided into groups to workshop some pieces of creative writing. Great! For me, this has been one of the best parts of the Writing for Children course. Receiving support, comments, criticism and suggestions from other people, who are as excited about stories for children as I am, is so helpful. The Publishing Project module, however, mixes children’s writers with Critical & Creative Writers – the grown-ups! I was apprehensive, to say the least.

I needn’t have worried. Of the three C&C writers in our group, one was dramatising a fairy tale and one was writing about dragons. Only one person was writing straight adult literature and her language was so atmospheric it felt almost like another world to me. It made me realise that the thing I love most about stories – any stories – is their ability to whisk you away to another time and place…

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About me as a writer – in eight questions

As part of the MA in Writing for Children I am undertaking at the University of Winchester we are working with the MA Critical & Creative Writing students to produce an anthology of our work.  The book will be called Litmus 2015 and is due for publication in May 2015. We are trying very hard to be professional in promoting ourselves as writers and have set up a blog which will, we hope, stir up some interest in our project.  As part of this we have all been presented with some questions about our writing.  I thought you might like to see what I had to say.  Just click on the link – it with take you to the Litmus 2015 blog (and saves me typing it out again).

Kim A Howard.