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.

 

 

 

 

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Half-term, free writing sessions and Jane Austen.

Half-term, free writing sessions and Jane Austen.

It’s half term. In my humble opinion, I’m not doing too bad a job as a mother. The children have been outside in the garden more than they’ve watched telly. But I did turn a blind eye to an unauthorised water fight yesterday, which I lived to regret seeing mud on my newly cleaned floor, an extra storey of washing on the pile and hearing the misery of younger siblings. As I yelled at the instigator, even he admitted it had all gone a little too far.

If you’re local, Gary Dalkin, Steve Cox, John Pegg and I have been asked to run free creative writing sessions at Gateway Church’s ‘School of Life’ ( 128 Alder Road, Poole, Dorset). They’ll be at 7.30 pm on 21st and 28th June, then 12th and 19th July. We’re hoping they’ll provide aspiring writers with a mixture of inspiration and guidance. Unfortunately, there will only be eight spaces. Booking beforehand is essential, but I hope to post a sign-up link here later in the week.

And if that isn’t enough self-promotion, my latest article, ‘The Jane Game’ is out today in Writing Magazine- 10 reasons why Jane Austen might get overlooked by an agent or publisher today.

 

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.

Revising the Nanowrimo Novel

Revising the Nanowrimo Novel

Yesterday morning, I started revising my new novel, simply because I didn’t have the creative energy to pitch article ideas. And I’d run out of every other method of procrastination I could justify that early on in the day.

Printing the manuscript provided a major mood-lift. Whether e-books take off or not, there will always be something about seeing your work on paper.

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I remained cheerful, glancing through as I manually numbered the pages. (Learn from me, and do it in Word, before printing.) I wrote most of the novel during a prolonged November lie-in, focussed on word count rather than the Man Booker prize. But the story looks as if it’ll hold together without massive plot adjustments. My last book took three or four years to get to this stage.

Then, mid-print out, this month’s issue of Writing Magazine belly-flopped onto the door mat, cheering me up further, as my article, “Get Serious”, is inside.

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Blanket forts, flying Santas and parenting special needs

My ten-year old’s used all my useful single sheets, my chairs for the dining room and a broom, but this is a pretty good blanket fort. I made everyone stand up for dinner last night.

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Someday, I’m going to write a piece about den architecture. Meanwhile, my article about Beales’ Christmas marketing campaigns is in December’s Dorset Life. (Father Christmas flew over their Bournemouth store by plane in 1913. Top that Macy’s!)

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And I write about how the church can include children with special needs and their parents in the new Premier Youth and Children’s Work (actual link). I am very grateful to the three friends who allowed me to invade their lives and tell their stories.

 

The man who made Caesarean section safe

The man who made Caesarean section safe

 

For a small country, Scotland has produced more than its fair share of medical pioneers. My article on Murdoch Cameron was published earlier this month in the November/December issue of History Scotland.

Although the first Caesarean section had been carried out in Roman times, the procedure was hardly used anywhere when Cameron first arrived at Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital (the “Rottenrow”). The few women that survived the operating room usually died of infection or ‘ward fever’.

But Rottenrow served the East End of Glasgow, where Ricket’s disease was rife. Womens’ pelvises were often too deformed to deliver a baby safely. Doctors inserted instruments through the cervix to crush the baby and allow vaginal removal. Murdoch Cameron revolutionised childbirth by proving Caesarean section could be used safely in these cases,

The magazine have been kind enough to provide me with a PDF of the article for my portfolio, which is online here.

 

 

 

 

 

True Lies

My second article for Writing Magazine is published today in their August issue. ‘True Lies’ is about the difference between reality and realism. I rant about/ discuss equating misery with high art and speak in praise of the well written, yet domestic. And I reveal far too much about my own psyche, defending  happy endings.

Richard Curtis put it well. “If you write a story about a soldier going AWOL and kidnapping a pregnant woman and finally shooting her in the head, it’s called searingly realistic, even though it’s never happened in the history of mankind. Whereas if you write about two people falling in love, which happens about a million times a day all over the world, for some reason or another, you’re accused of writing something unrealistic and sentimental.”

The magazine is packed with plenty of stuff other than my opinions. I’m a subscriber and I’m finding it particularly helpful at the moment, not just for writing and business tips, but ideas and news of new markets

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