Thoughts from the tired

Thoughts from the tired

I don’t remember learning much at primary school other than reading, writing and how a mung bean grows. Today, my seven-year-old started up a conversation about the trials of finding a publisher. He’d been given JK Rowling’s struggle as an example. I was in my thirties before anyone told me this stuff.

After a hiatus, I’ve turned back to editing my second novel. It’s rough of course, but to my surprise, readable, at least up to page 60. One scene follows on from the next. Unlike my first novel at this stage, there are no scenes just there for the word count.

This time, I’m using third-person with its pitfalls and opportunities. Telling the same tale from different points of view is a lot of fun. But I miss my old narrator. Like any relationship, it took time to get to know her.

I’ve received word of a commission from a new client – a magazine I’ve wanted to work for, for some time. So I’m pleased if a little bogged down in new contributor paperwork.

 

 

 

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Clean feet, interviews and 100 years of the vote.

Clean feet, interviews and 100 years of the vote.

I have different kinds of love for each type of writing I do. Developing a novel is like parenting: you’re bringing something into being that wouldn’t otherwise exist, but there are moments of deep embarrassment and fear it’s going to turn out wrong. Whereas, feature writing offers the steady contentment of happy marriage.

One of the most rewarding parts of it is interviewing people. I’m always nervous beforehand, would always give the job to someone else if I could, but I always come away satisfied, feeling I understand a little more about life.

Today, I interviewed Rosemarie, someone who knows Bournemouth’s homeless better than most people.

She told me of a boy she’d first known when he was sixteen and had left home to get away from an abusive stepfather. He’d ended up a heroin addict, forced into male prostitution to feed his habit, get a shower and a bed for the night. Now twenty-five, he is “going rapidly downhill”, too weak to solicit anyone. “If he’d had access to shelter, he could be living a normal life now,” she said.

But she’s doing something about it. Every Monday night, she turns up to St Peter’s Church with the Sally Army to washes the feet of rough sleepers. This keeps infection at bay, helps people feel more presentable, and gives them a chance to open up.

Different subject, a feature I’ve written on British women’s fight for the vote has just been published in the new 2018 London Guide from BRITAIN magazine.

Whenever there’s an upcoming election, the conversation among my friends is pretty much the same: because of the “first past the post system”, Bournemouth East and West will probably return Conservative MPs; votes for any of the parties are highly unlikely to affect the results; however, we know other women fought tooth and nail for our rights, so we must make a choice and hope we’ve not helped usher in disaster.

Finally,  I understand, people didn’t fight so my candidate won the election, but so that my needs and opinions are considered equal to any man’s by the country’s decision makers. I need to continue voting to maintain that situation.

 

 

 

 

Index cards, school-runs and leaving an over-worked first page to rest.

Index cards, school-runs and leaving an over-worked first page to rest.

Happy New Year!

Two of my children went back to school yesterday, relatives left and my husband went back to work. I went straight to Office World to buy some index cards.

I’d call my relationship with routine “passionate”, rather than “happy”.  I rail against it when it’s here, but goodness! am I glad to see it after a long absence? School drop-offs that force me to start my day by half past seven. The sense of purpose I get just writing an invoice.  The freedom to catch up with my emails, rather than eating another mince pie.

And not having time to look at the first page of my novel, again!

Last month, I showed my first three chapters to my writing group. After two hours of critique, I was as grateful as I was exhausted.  They were supportive, encouraging, but rigorous and my first page received most of their rigour.

There’s so much it has to do: introduce a setting and two characters from one person’s POV; keep to the ground rules of grammar, and interest someone long enough to make them read on.

Whining won’t get it written, but I don’t think working on it at the moment will help either. Like cooks and elves after Christmas, it needs a rest.

 

 

 

The sweet spot

The sweet spot

Three hours of undiluted housework. It doesn’t matter how many hugs I give my children, how many times they’ve been in bed within half an hour of their bedtimes, that they start the day with clean school clothes, or that I’ve attended two parents’ evenings in a week, and come up with tech solutions for my son, if the house is in chaos (untidy is a given), I get crosser and crosser with myself, sure under those piles of papers there are permission slips I’ve not returned or incomplete homework sheets.

Work-life balance isn’t the issue. As a mum-freelancer hybrid, life is work and vice versa. I need to find the writing-housework sweet spot where I’m producing as many words and doing as little tidying-up as I can without any Nixon-like guilt.

Today, I have a sofa full of clean washing (albeit none of it in its right place) and clear surfaces in my kitchen. I’m just about to pick my children up from school feeling like Mother Theresa.

 

Pumpkin latte, crisp air and efficiency.

Pumpkin latte, crisp air and efficiency.

I’ve said this before, but it’s so much easier to blog when you’re having a good day.  It’s sunny, the air is clean, and I achieved almost unprecedented efficiency with my pitches this morning. So much so, I rewarded myself with a pumpkin latte. And just as I was sitting down, an email came in asking me to do an article I hadn’t pitched, but would really enjoy writing.

If it makes me any less obnoxious, Friday was a real stinker.

Anyway, onwards and upwards with a little more momentum than usual.

 

 

 

 

 

Poached eggs, cultural ‘Supermarket Sweep’ and my failure to multi-task.

Poached eggs, cultural ‘Supermarket Sweep’ and my failure to multi-task.

I should stop mulling over post ideas and just communicate. I really should.

We went to London this weekend for my birthday. It was possibly my best yet (at least a tie with last year’s where there were gluten-free pies.) We had the use of my husband’s boss’s very nice flat. So, on Sunday there were poached eggs and salmon on a rooftop looking out on the Shard and Walkie-Talkie buildings. Then we travelled around central London trying to find art. This was easier said than done, even once we were inside the Tate Modern. Eventually, we realised the speakers on the wall were an installation. We then legged it round the National Art Gallery, going for quantity rather than quality of experience- how many old masters could we appreciate before the children’s patience with culture finally wore out.

Anyway, I’m back, three days behind target on Camp Nanowrimo, but still hopeful the discipline of editing for an hour a day will push my new WIP forward.

I did hope I’d return to my laptop inspired with plenty of article ideas. However, it appears I am useless at creative multi-tasking. I can either concentrate on my novel or pitching features. Sometimes, there’s an overlap and wrestling with the novel suggests an article for Writing Magazine.

 

Productive ways to avoid your novel and Victorians at their best.

I have two articles out today. The first, ‘Productive Procrastination’, is in the June issue of Writing Magazine. I lay out twelve good excuses to avoid your novel. This didn’t require much research. I shouldn’t blow my own trumpet too much, but I’m an expert in this area. As usual, my mate Gary Dalkin provides market news.

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(I’m the ‘Don’t fret about downtime’.)

I own to a natural bias towards WM as the editor gave me my break into journalism. This makes the subscription that meant I had some idea of what he was looking for, quite literally, one of my best investments yet. But it would probably have been that anyway. It provides ideas and fresh perspectives, and if nothing else, injects a dose of encouragement every thirty days.

The second article, published in the June/July issue of Discover Britain, is about ‘model’ villages. These include Saltaire, Bournville, Trouse and Port Sunlight- self-contained communities created by industrialists to improve their workers’ lives. It was a lovely job throughout, straightforward and involving research on one of my favourite subjects- Victorian game changers.