Giving Thanks for the Good Days

Digital image of snowdropsIt’s easy to let the doubts, the dark days and anxieties live in the front of your head.  Some days they seem so much stronger than the positive things in our lives.  The last three days have been really good and I’ve decided to celebrate them; to actively appreciate them in the hope that, by doing so, I will remember this feeling when the grim comes knocking again.

On Friday I worked two different jobs.  In the morning I led a workshop at a large local library.  The session was entitled Kickstart Your Creative Writing and I had a lovely group of seven learners.  It’s not intended to be a ‘how to’ course, more an opportunity to try different types of writing prompts and talk about creative writing as a process.  To share ideas, get a little inspiration and have fun with writing – something that so many people have had beaten out of them through their work or school lives.  The feedback at the end of the session as very positive and I felt that the learners enjoyed themselves as much as I did.  For me, though, there was an added bonus.  I realised that I actually know a lot about writing.

Now, maybe that shouldn’t have come as a surprise.  In the four or five years since I started to take my writing seriously I have undertaken a masters course in writing for children, attended dozens of talks by authors, illustrators, publishers, editors and agents, been part of several writing and critique groups and been involved with several writers festivals.  However, I still think of myself as someone who is a beginner on their writing journey – an enthusiastic amateur rather than a professional.  That changed on Friday morning.  Here were people who were at an earlier stage in their writing – most of them didn’t even know what sort of writing the were hoping to do – and they were asking me questions.  They trusted that not only would I give them answers and suggestions, but that they would be good and accurate.  And, for the most part, I found I could do that.  When I didn’t know for sure I was still able to signpost them to organisations, books, magazines and web sites where they could get the help the wanted.

Friday afternoon was the same – but very different.  This time I was working as a library assistant at a smaller library that plays an active role in the life of the local community.  They have run a Chatterbooks club for some time and, when children grew too old for that group, set up something similar for teenage readers.  I spent a very happy hour with some lively children; we talked about books for children and teenagers; I listened to them talk about the idiocy of some of the grownups in their lives; I lead them on some writing adventures using story dice.  In this group I was acknowledged (and tested) as the grownup in charge, but also welcomed as an equal when it came to creating stories and sharing book recommendations.  The time flew by and I can’t wait to work with them again next month.

Saturday was glorious for totally different reasons.  For a start, I woke early.  At the weekend this would normally mean a groggy trip to the loo before either going back to sleep or snuggling down under the duvet with my storybook of the moment.  Yesterday, however, I was wide awake and full of fizz.  The dogs were startled to find themselves in the park before 7:00 am, watching a scarlet sun rise above the trees and smelling the multitude of scents rising into the air as the frosty ground steamed in the early morning light.  We walked for over an hour then came home for our breakfasts.  The dogs and cats ate in the kitchen, but I brought my coffee and marmalade sandwich straight upstairs to the computer and got on with editing my current WIP.  By the time my OH was up I had polished and printed nine chapters and was ready for elevenses.  Having accomplished so much so early I felt justified in idling away the rest of the day, snuggling on the sofa with my family.  A sense of achievement and of contentment should never be underestimated.

The Song from Somewhere Else, Paperback BookSo now you are nearly up to date with my positive few days.  This morning has been just as good.  It started with three out of the four furry family cosying on the bed while I read a few pages of The Song From Somewhere Else by A F Harrold and stunningly illustrated by Levi Pinfold (I’ve not finished it yet, but so far can heartily recommend it).  Then another long, frosty walk with the dogs and straight to the computer on our return.  I have been falling behind my self-imposed writing/task schedule recently.  Today I have done enough to bring me almost up to date.  Just one task to do before I can get back to my WIP.

I have had a happy grin on my face for the past few days and can recommend a cheerful and positive outlook for promoting productivity and a sense of inner peace.  Grasp the good days and hug them close.  The light CAN drive the darkness away.

 

Never Do Today What You Can Put Off Until Tomorrow

Clock FaceThis week I have been wondering why I avoid doing some things and leave others to the very last-minute.  It’s not a new phenomenon.  My homework was usually handed in on time, but had often been completed early in the morning of the day it was due.  When we go on holiday I can still be found wandering the house in my underwear, putting bits and pieces into the cases, five minutes before we are due to leave home.

At the moment, some of the things on my To Do / Should Have Been Done By Now list include:

  1. Housework: I’m not a fan.  I don’t usually clean until I reach the point where I would be embarrassed if a friend unexpectedly knocked on the door for a coffee.  I’m now at the ‘do I really want to walk around here barefoot?’ stage.  I know – disgusting!  There are two obvious answers as to why things have reached this state of affairs.  (a) Why would I dust a book when I could be reading it and (b) I’m bone idle.
  2. Putting the Christmas decorations into the loft.  Don’t get me wrong – Christmas was taken down in our house at the appropriate time, but it is all still sat in the front bedroom awaiting attention.  Do I not wish to go into the loft?  Am I trying to make the festive period last a bit longer?  I’ve no idea, but all those boxes and bags have got to go.  Also – see answers to point 1 above.
  3. This blog post.  According to my self-imposed schedule, it should have been on-line by Sunday at the latest.  I had several ideas in my head, but none of them had inspired me to leap to my keyboard.  Also – see answers to point 1 above.
  4. My current WIP.  I am so close to the end.  With a bit of concerted effort I could probably have it finished before the weekend.  I know where it’s going, I know what I want to happen, I even know the last line.  But, instead of writing, I’m editing what has gone before – polishing, cutting, tweaking, juggling.  I know that writing is rewriting but, seriously, shouldn’t I get to the end first?  And the answers to point 1 above may have something to do with it.

I was recently talking with a friend about my reluctance to get to the end of my story.  I said maybe I was afraid to send it out into the world because, all the while it stays with me, no one has rejected it.  A bit like the Lotto ticket you keep in your handbag for weeks because, until you check the numbers there is still the possibility that it’s a winner.  She is a psychologist and had a slightly different take on it.  She believes that often the thing we are most scared of is success: of getting the thing that we want more than anything else.  Because, what do we have to dream about if we get our heart’s desire?  Will we still be the same person if we reach our goal?  What will people expect of us once we are successful?

None of us like rejection, but I do think she may have a point.  There is a huge difference between being an unpublished, unagented writer and being a published author with a book to promote.  Is fear of taking that next step stopping me from writing?  That sounds really big-headed.  After all, statistically I’m far more likely to be rejected than accepted by an agent or publisher.

Perhaps the truth is a combination of fear of failure and fear of success.  And, then too,  there are just too many books for this bone-idle wannabe author to read before she puts pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and writes ‘The End’.

 

 

Being Brave

At the beginning of the year, one of my crit groups decided to write down some things we wanted to achieve this year. One of mine was to be braver and put my writing out in the public eye. I have started to enter more competitions and had some small successes, but I have decided to go a step further. There is now a new page on my blog where I will put up some of the pieces I submitted for competition. That feels VERY brave to me!

April 2017 Competition Results – Beverley Birch

I was absolutely delighted to receive a Highly Commended from Beverley Birch with my first entry into a Hampshire Writers Society competition. It’s the last story on the page, but please read all the others before you scroll down to my piece. There are some great stories here.  I have also added it to the Writing page of my blog, so you can look here if you would prefer.

Hampshire Writers' Society

Beverley Birch was shortlisted three times for the Branford Boase Award in recognition of the editor’s role in nurturing new talent and, as a prolific author, she was also nominated for the Carnegie medal. Hampshire Writers’ Society is most appreciative to Beverley, who graciously came to our rescue by agreeing to be our April adjudicator as well as our speaker. In return, our members managed to supply entries that made it difficult for her to choose the usual two highly commended places. The competition, ‘Write a children’s story, inspired by a well-known story for children’, meant that after choosing 1st, 2nd and 3rd place, Beverley was unable to decide and ended up choosing four additional pieces to praise.

1st Place: Cass Morgan – Mrs Bilious

2nd Place: Kristin Tridimas – A Koala Named Sydney

3rd Place: Matthew Cross – George and the Dragon

Highly Commended: Annie…

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I don’t like to complain, but …

Sleeping dog hanging out of basketI like a quiet life.  There – I’ve confessed.  I’m not much of an adventurer or a party animal.  I enjoy the occasional concert, movie or trip to the theatre.  I like going for walks, curling up with a book, eating nice food, listening to music, snuggling and cuddling.  I DO NOT LIKE FIREWORKS … OR BALLOONS … OR ANYTHING THAT GOES BANG.

My plan this evening was to sit at the dining room table with my laptop and catch up with some outstanding assignments on the Blogging 101 course I’m doing.  Instead I’m sat on the floor, tapping one-handed on the keyboard, trying to calm to dogs who are shaking and drooling with fear because some (insert your expletive of choice here) is setting off fireworks at 6:30 on a Saturday night.

My dogs are usually pretty chilled (check the picture of Tucker) but fireworks send them to pieces.  On the evenings when you usually expect fireworks (Bonfire Night, New Year) we make sure all the blinds and curtains are drawn, have the TV on extra loud and even give them some medication to try to help them relax.  I’ve not found anything that works totally, but it does take the edge off things for them.  Events like tonight when the bangs and flashes are unexpected and unannounced give me, other pet owners, parents of nervous children and anxious people who are spooked by loud noises no chance to prepare or protect ourselves or our loved ones.

Our Blogging 101 assignment was to include a ‘new to you’ element and to address it to your ideal audience.  In the ordinary scheme of things, my ideal audience would have been agents, editors and publishers of books for children but, today, my ideal audience is anyone who sends up fireworks and my ‘new’ thing is a plea to you to think twice before sending up a rocket or lighting a Catherine Wheel.  They look pretty, but to lots of people and creatures they can be terrifying.

Rant over.