Thursday, 4 December 2014

Lifted from the Day Job

Working with the general public (especially in a clothes shop where opinions are sought, and life stories told) is fuel for writing - with names and identifying characteristics changed, of course! This week, an almost-request shocked me so much it HAS to go into a book (!) somewhere, sometime - and it'll do just fine to amp up the tension in the scene I'm about to work on...

We'd just opened the shop and I answered the phone to a distressed lady, who explained that she'd lost, though wasn't sure where, a very special ring the day before, and wondered if it had been handed in. The ring had been designed by her husband for a particular wedding anniversary and it meant so very much to her... I looked around the tills and the desk drawers, and checked the Lost Property box - and found nothing. Having been working the night before, I told her that I'd not heard of anything that had been handed in.

This set her off on another round of explaining how important the ring was, how upset she was (and rightly so: we all have possessions that mean a lot to us), and which particular fitting room she'd been in. Double-checking, I scoured all of the cubicles, looking under the stools and in the corners, but with no success.

I said I'd take her name and number just in case, later in the day when tidying and cleaning, we came across it...and then she said, "Do you clean every night?" I replied that we do, but that my colleague hadn't mentioned finding anything (I'd been working on the other floor and so hadn't been there when the fitting rooms were vacuumed, but, trust me, my colleague-in-question is a thorough cleaner...!). And then it came...

"What if it went up the vacuum?"

You can hear the unsaid question just as loudly as I could, can't you?!

Now, I must be clear and fair: the lady did NOT ask me to go through the vacuum bag.

But I sensed that she was about to... (Or is this just the writer in me, filling in the blanks in the most imaginative, most conflict-ridden way?!)

I don't know about you, but searching by hand through a filthy vacuum bag in the hope of finding something you cannot be sure was lost in that very place borders on the unreasonable... Or maybe it doesn't, if you're that person; maybe you'd be happy to trawl through it, maybe the dirt and dust of hundreds of customers passing through one shop during all the days since we last changed the bag would be nothing if you could just grasp the certainty that the item was there...or not? And if this is true, maybe it should be you, not me, doing the going-through?

But how can I, the sales assistant who knows the customer is always right, suggest that?

And this sense of unreasonableness countered by it being inappropriate to refuse is EXACTLY what my writer's mind loves...and is going to put in my scene!

Back to real life now: I managed to steer the conversation away from the vacuum, assuring the customer that we'd notice something like a ring on the floor before the vacuum got to it (which is true - especially as we're always picking size cubes off the floor so they don't clog up the vacuum...!). I took the lady's name and number...

...and, during shift-change later in the day, was glad to discover that the ring had indeed been found by a colleague, and that the message had simply missed me. Phew! Once I'd collected it from the manager's desk and ascertained it was the same as the description the lady had given me, I was able to call her back and, a few hours later, reunite her with her ring. She was so pleased it had been picked up and not pocketed, she brought my colleague a bottle of wine and box of chocolates as a thank you - which was lovely of her.

So, all's well that ends well - and that gives me inspiration to increase the tension in my scene, with the not-nice character making life hard, horrible and mucky for the main character...

~ ttfn ~

Sunday, 9 November 2014


I'm loving my new light-bulb lamp, just ready to shine with bright ideas!

I'm probably a lot luckier than most writers, because I have got a dedicated writing room (okay, so it used to be the cupboard-under-the-stairs, but beggars can't be choosers, can they?) - except I haven't been using it recently. Most of this is to do with our new cat (I know, I know, but bear with me!), because, having been a farm kitten and therefore not socialised, she is the definition of a scaredy-cat: she's only been able to make her territory the lounge and kitchen, and hasn't shown any interest in what lies behind the doorways... Suffice to say, she is an indoor cat until she can get up the courage to explore the rest of the house, let alone our garden...and that's why I've not been writing in my writing room: because I haven't wanted to leave her on her own. There, I've said it: I'm a soppy softie!

So, for the last 6 months (yes, really!), I've been bringing my laptop into the lounge and trying to write while ignoring the noise box (a.k.a. the TV) playing its nonsense...with mixed results! After a difficult month where I wrote very little, I've now started my week off work and I'm determined to WRITE. So, soppiness has to take a back seat...and that's where my storyboard comes in.

As you can see in the photo, my desk faces the wall and the wall is covered with pictures... You see, I love art and photography and the way they spark my imagination (which is why I lose hours of my life on Pinterest!) - and I have used image-upon-image to inspire the writing and development of Novel Number Two. While covering the small wall of a small room in pictures might be a clutter-chuck-up for some, it's not for me - because each image is a trigger; a scene-in-waiting. They're my storyboard. Obviously, I don't have walls enough to have the book storyboarded from beginning to I get bored easily! So, I change the pics every few months or so, and this particular storyboard charts the...wait for it! sections of the book...

There's probably 7, maybe 8 scenes represented here - and I've begun work on 3 of them, but need to get my words on... So that's what I'm going to be doing this week, in my dedicated space with my dedicated time. Let's see how far across the storyboard I get...

~ ttfn ~ 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

On an unseasonably warm day...

(picture found on Pinterest - I am unaware of the photographer but would be glad to credit them)

...I paused while eating lunch outside, listening to the sounds I heard overhead, then wrote:

Seagulls squabble
as they order noisily 
from a lunchtime menu
I haven't yet seen.

~ ttfn ~

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Catch Up

It's been a while since I've been in blog-land, so I thought it was time for us to have a catch up. What have I been up to these last few months? Well...

*I coped with my second rejection from the WoMentoring Project - and though I was disappointed, the calm realisation came quicker this time: it isn't just about me - it's about what the mentor believes they can help with. And that made me consider once again (I do need a bit of revision every now and then!) that the help I need is when Novel Number Two is finished. And it still isn't. Oops. (It is on track to be finished by the end of this year - but more on this in a mo!). So, I've decided that I will reapply for the WoMentoring Project in the New Year (it is open till April 2015), when I have indeed finished the book. That way I'll be asking for help when I really need it, and hopefully a mentor will believe they can give me that help.

*I have continued to write up a storm...though I've discovered I'm not very good at keeping to writing 350 words every day! I have still achieved over 7, 000 each month (which is what my calculator told me that the 350 every day would total) - it's just that I'm better doing it on my days off when I'm not tired and drained and needing to just zone out after a day's work.

*Being on track to finish Novel Number Two by the end of December means that I need to reset my original target of approaching agents in January - I need to leave the First Draft for a couple of months at least, and then begin redrafting the book as a whole. I am (perhaps stupidly?!) quite confident that the redrafting will only need one or two passes, as I write clean copy and edit each scene as I go - however, I am slapping a disclaimer in place right now: who knows what the book'll need till I get there, so who knows what I'll have to do or how long it'll take me! A realistic agent-target, then, is to submit in spring/summer - so watch this space!

*I finally got round to visiting the Sand Sculpture Festival at Weston-super-Mare - it had been on my to-do list for most of this year - and loved it! I could go on for ages about how artistic and astounding it is and how I want to see it in-the-making as well as the-finished-festival next year - but I'll just say this: the theme was 'Once Upon a Time' and featured fairytale and story characters - and when we got to the Aladdin sculpture, I was touched:

To me (though I don't know for sure), this is an artist's tribute to Robin Williams - the Genie sketched in beside the boy he helped, just as Robin Williams helped many of us to smile and laugh.

*After sadly losing our beloved cat Gizmo in January, we warmly welcomed our new cat Ebony in April...only it took her a while to settle in! She was a farm kitten, you see, completely un-socialised and brought in to the animal shelter at 3 months old; they worked with her for another 7 months, and tried to find her a home, but each time she was overlooked. It could have been that she was nervous and shy, or it could have been that she is black (yes, people don't want black cats, apparently) - or it could have been that she was waiting for me :0) When I first met her, she was 10 months old and had never played with a toy before (not through want of trying from the shelter staff, mind!). It took half an hour of encouragement, but eventually Ebony made her first ever paw-swipe at a wand-toy, and that was it. She was mine, and I was hers. Yet when we brought her home, she hid for the first couple of weeks...oh dear!

However, we are now just over five months on, and she has well and truly settled down and settled in. She does not hide any more, though she will always be a run-scared not a stand-your-ground kind of cat. She comes when I call her, loves to be smoothed and fussed, and has the loudest, yummiest purr. Now that she has made our house her home, I felt it was time to introduce her properly:

 Ebony waiting for her Sunday lunch - yes, really! This was taken on a Sunday, 
while my step-mum was cooking...

She sat down and the after-eating snooze took her by surprise...

"Are you lookin' at me?"

Life is so much nicer with a pet to come home to, don't you think? :0)

*And after so many years of just eating cakes rather than baking them (!), I'm finally getting this cupcake thing down (thanks to Mary Berry's simple, anyone-can-do-it recipe!):

~ ttfn ~ 

Monday, 1 September 2014

Sunday, 10 August 2014

4 a.m. Scribbles

They say the real writing is in the re-writing, and I'd agree - but I'd add that it's also in the pre-writing: the thinking about things; asking what if this happened, what if they did this...and - omg! - then this could happen next...

I daydream. A. Lot. I'm in each scene with my characters, seeing what they see and reacting to it, speaking dialogue that sometimes makes it to the page - it's a proper little film going on in my mind!

Sometimes this daydreaming happens at night (like normal people, I hear you cry!). For me, it's less that I dream something and then transcribe it, it's that in the transition from deep to light sleep, I have a good think and start imagining. Often slumber sneaks in, but sometimes I'm aware enough to realise I need to write these thoughts down. Now.

However, I'm not a quick-drop-off-er; it takes me ages to drift off to sleep (and takes me equally as long to come to in the mornings!) - so what to do when you don't want to turn on the lamp and 40 watt yourself into wakefulness?

Write in the dark, that's what (writers keep notebooks everywhere. Yes, they do - so watch out next time you're in their house!). And that's what I did at 4 a.m. this morning:

Surprisingly, the top of both pages is legible (at least to me; I know my writing is large and loopy in both senses of the word for the uninitiated!) - but ten hours later and I'm still trying to translate what's at the bottom...!

~ ttfn ~ 

Friday, 1 August 2014

Novel Update

So, how has Novel Number Two been coming on, I hear you ask?

Well, I’ve written 43, 188 words so far this year, compared to 48, 267 for the whole of 2013 – so I’ve been more productive and driven the story further on...

...but these words are all First Draft (or thereabouts – I can’t deny myself a tweak or two as I go! Once the current scene is finished, I print it out, leave it for several days/a week while getting on with the next one, then edit the paper copy and transcribe this into a new draft on the I guess you could technically say each that scene is actually either Second or Third Draft.) The novel as a whole, with scenes integrated as chapters, the chapters having cliffhangers, and the hooks and pace controlled throughout the breadth of the book so that the Reader stays intrigued and rewarded and intrigued again...all of that is most definitely still First Draft.

The scenes are still separate, the cliffhangers not constructed. The mother’s POV scenes (deliberately fewer than the daughter’s) have not been placed, tested and placed again so that they’re just right as they appear throughout the narrative.

And most of these 43, 188 words will inevitably be deleted and rewritten or cut completely as redrafting takes place... And, though it might sound a mess or an annoying fiddle-about to some, I’m really looking forward to putting the whole thing together – it’ll satisfy my puzzle-solving brain (!) and it’ll be great to see the book taking shape as a whole.

Yet this has been the hiccup of the last month: I’ve had a redrafting itch. I’ve wanted to go back and start knitting the scenes together, moving the beginning of the book up and slotting in some later-written but earlier-needed paragraphs, rather than writing through a bit of a stall to the following scene and the one after that...

...BUT I have resisted scratching! Instead, I did indeed keep on writing, so that the next scene was done and the narrative nudged forward one more step. This method – of writing the First Draft straight through without going back to fiddle or redraft in any way – is the opposite to how I wrote Book One, and it is a good method for me; it stops me scribing away at the unnecessary details/events that the Reader can be relied upon to fill in.

Okay, okay, so I have dithered a bit. I had to stop writing and plan out the arc of upcoming scenes, and I needed to redraft a previous scene which would have caused characterisation issues and much more redrafting later if I didn’t put a stop to it now (!) – but I have continued to think about the next scene and the one after that, and made a start on the writing...

Now, there’s still eight or ten scenes still to come, but the end of the First Draft is in I’d better get back to it!

~ ttfn ~

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

It's Paperback Book Day :0)

Storytelling is blood to people like me - but it requires a teller and a listener, a reader. The way we live our lives is changing due to technology, but the vital thing is that people read - whether this is a continuation of established habits, or converting to new ones via e-readers (especially if it recruits reluctant readers and gets them turning pages, even if they are virtual ones...).

It won't surprise you to know that I am unashamedly a Paper Girl, with hundreds and hundreds (I now feel the need to count them!) of actual, real books and an aversion to technology in many of its forms (!!)...and as it is Paperback Book Day, I wanted to share this quote:

"One paperback is better than a dozen Kindles. Two paperbacks are better still."
~ Dame Stephanie Shirley

Right on, Dame Shirley! Now, please excuse me while I go and count my books and get lost in the wonderful world of paper...!

~ ttfn ~

Monday, 7 July 2014

It's All About the (Healthy) Sevens

This past week has legged it, leaving me to bring up the rear – and as I thought about what to post on this seventh day of this seventh month, I realised that it is seven years since I graduated in 2007. (Gosh. Where have those years gone?! I’m starting to feel old now...) I’d been in retail management for several years before going back to university to read English Literature with Creative Writing, and so I was twenty-seven when I graduated from Bath Spa University.

I have many good memories of university (as well as some not-so good ones...crit lit, anyone?!) and can honestly say that the Creative Writing half of my degree helped me find my Voice as a writer. One of the highlights was earning my place on a group exchange to Columbia College Chicago, where we studied, devised an anthology of student writings and solicited submissions from both universities, and eventually published it.

Inspired by a guest speaker in a poetry seminar, I’d already written Healthy, the poem that I submitted for the anthology, which was then critiqued and decided upon by the...yep, you’ve guessed other editors in our exchange group. I felt then and still feel now that Healthy is one of my best pieces; I’m proud of it and wish to share it with as many people as would like to read it.

So, being, okay, kicked-up-the-bum...I performed Healthy to an audience of about seventy people at an open-mic session during Columbia College’s Story Week (this was a big thing for me – and still would be! – as I’m not a lime-light seeker and am shy about reading to a large group, worrying that my West Country accent sounds way too Zummerzet!).

Well-chuffed was I that my poem had a good reception from this reading and then earned its place in the anthology; and well-chuffed were we with the final printed edition*...but, ironically, it is this that stops me seeing how much further this poem can go, because pretty much every competition or submission guidelines I’ve seen state that work must be unpublished...

However, on this anniversary of sevens, I can share the poem here on my blog, because I still own the copyright (and being posted on a blog also counts as being in for a penny, in for a pound!).
So, here’s to Bath Spa University’s graduating class of 2007, the experience of Columbia College, Chicago, and actually creating our very own anthology: I hope we are all still as healthy as we can be.


you mass-media, advertising-junkie, money-making
rat-race culture, with your skinny white women and your
products to make beautiful more beautiful, and the rest-
of-us well, maybe, pretty. Your cosmetic surgery
creates a plastic reality. Your fashions change each
season, mid-season; if I have that look, that image, I will
be beautiful how dare you, you image-addicted fallacy.

you demand, you desire, you pimp; more more
more we prostitute style, our beauty sold. You will kill
us with the gloss of your magazines, acid that corrodes
what is truly beautiful about all of us. I want
to throw my blood at you, to make you see, make you
think; make you taste me and know what you have
created. I will be cleansed. You will be taught.

you dare to presume to possess me with your
conformity. I possess me, my choices, my life, my beauty.
Take it all, take it in and know we are all beautiful,
know beauty has many faces. Yet you need to reduce
it to one why?  Beauty is genuine, innate. Who do you
think you are God?  Is this healthy, are you healthy?
Tell me you are and I will tell you, you are beautiful.

you disgust me. I will not make it easy for you.
I will breathe, shout, love, dance, naked around
the fire under a bright full moon; my freckled skin
will glisten with sweat, and you will watch and want me,
you fucked-up 21st Century Western World. I wanted
what you want once but now I am beautiful. 

*eds Corboy, Crentsil, Frogley, Henley, Hyatt, Melling, Morrison, Young; Open to Interpretation (Gateshead: Bath Spa University Press, 2008)

[There isn’t an ISBN number, and who knows if it’s even still for sale at our alumni?! Though there might be a box or two propping up a desk in an office somewhere...]

~ ttfn ~

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Pick me, pick me... Please?

You remember the feeling – the group dwindling down as each team captain choose their players, your desperate hope that you’ll be next, then pushing down your panic as your name is not called... I was absolutely rubbish at sports at school, so I got used to (quite rightly!) being one of the last couple to be picked – and that was okay.

It’s been a long time but here I am again, shouting (internally if not aloud) “Pick me, pick me... Please?”

So why now? Well, it’s thanks to spotting an opportunity on Writing While the Kids Sleep – a writing blog I've been reading for several months now. Thanks to Abigail for posting - she says she saw the opportunity on a online forum, and it's also on Twitter (which I don’t do – I chirrup enough in real life, so tweeting too would be overkill!) – the WoMentoring Project. Specifically for women writers (sorry, guys!) who are in need of a bit of free mentoring, you can apply (and reapply, if you don’t get picked first time) to the mentor of your choice. There are writers of all genres, literary agents and editors, just waiting to mentor you... 

And that’s where I perhaps (most probably...!) got a bit cocky, ’cause I applied to a literary agent...and then received a very warm and encouraging rejection. Yep, you read right – a rejection that is warm and encouraging. It does exist, and in the writing biz, that kind of rejection is a win of sorts...anyhoo, I digress.

For ten minutes, I was absolutely gutted, believing that I was the worst writer the world has ever seen... And then I got a grip. I realised that there might be various reasons why I hadn’t been picked, and none of them might be because I’m rubbish at the sport of writing (or, of course, it might. But I’m ignoring that possibility and cheerleading the others...!)

Just as in her day job, the literary agent in question might only have been interested in finished novels...and mine isn’t. Oops. She may also have had other submissions that are similar in style, theme or genre – and they might be finished. Double oops. She might feel the style, theme or genre I’ve chosen has been fully represented (I hope not!) and a fresh one is needed. Or she might have already made her selection, and I’m simply too late.

I’ll never know, but that’s okay. The fact that I can consider these other reasons and not die of the conviction that I’m the world’s worst writer is a HUGE step forward for me – several years ago, it would’ve taken me months to get over this and dredge up the confidence to apply again. 

But not now – now, I’ve taken the warm and encouraging literary agent’s advice and reapplied, this time choosing an author who is newly published. Perhaps my work isn’t quite ready for a literary agent yet; perhaps I need the advice and encouragement of a fellow writer first...

My application is sent, the acknowledgement email pinging immediately into my inbox. And now the wait...

Will she pick me? Please?

I’ll let you know what happens...

~ ttfn ~   

Monday, 5 May 2014

Look Up as Much as Down

My friends laugh at my lack of technological mores... I only turned to a laptop when my bulky behemoth of a PC exploded (yes really); I got the Internet at home about five years after everyone else; and I still don’t have a smartphone (just a £12 handset that does two things: calls and texts. Because that’s all I need it to do. Really).

It took a lot of convincing to get me on Facebook, and even more to set up this here blog. I like my photos to be printed so I can flick through them, old-skool stylee, in an actual album, though I do upload them onto my laptop (but only so I can change the wallpaper when it takes my fancy!). I like my music on CDs, though when the Walkman (yes, really) packed up several years ago, I had no choice but to invest in an MP3 player, so now I download tracks...but never albums, because that’s what CDs are for. And I can play them in the car, hah! (I do know that you can attach iphones etc to car stereos...I just don’t want to.) And don’t even get me started on ebooks...! You can guess what my personal preference is – but I do accept that we can’t stop the technological evolution!

As you can see, I dip in and out of today’s technological life as and when it suits me – and earlier today I almost didn’t look up. I almost didn’t stop scrolling. Statuses spooled and spooled up the screen, my eyes scanning for the ‘why’ – the why I’ll stop and read; why I’ll give someone my time. I almost didn’t take the second to click the link to read a particular shared status. I almost didn’t listen.

But I did. I listened to and loved Look Up by Gary Turk (click to listen or scroll down to read my transcription – because I can’t be without actual text, me!).

When I heard this, I heard Gary Turk telling us to find balance. To me, he isn’t telling us to ignore the technological world, he’s telling us not to be a slave to it. He’s telling us to live a real-time, real life. Now get out there and live it. I am.

Look Up - by Gary Turk 

I have four-hundred-and-twenty-two friends, yet I am lonely. I speak to all of them every day, yet none of them really know me.

The problem I have sits in the spaces between looking into their eyes or at a name on a screen. I took a step back and opened my eyes; I looked around and realised the media we call social is anything but.

When we open our computers, and it's our doors we shut. All this technology we have it's just an illusion. Community companionship, a sense of inclusion yet, when you step away from this device of delusion, you awaken to see a world of confusion.

A world where we're slaves to the technology we mastered, where information gets sold by some rich greedy bastard. A world of self interest, self image, self promotion. Where we all share our best bits but...leave out the emotion.

We’re at our most with an experience we share, but is it the same if no one is there? Be there for your friends and they'll be there too, but no one will be if a group message will do.

We edit and exaggerate, crave adulation. We pretend not to notice the social isolation. We put our words into order and tint our lives a-glistening. We don't even know if anyone is listening!

Being alone isn't a problem, let me just emphasize: if you read a book, paint a picture, or do some exercise, you're being productive and present, not reserved and recluse. You're being awake and attentive and putting your time to good use.

So when you're in public, and you start to feel alone, put your hands behind your head, step away from the phone! You don't need to stare at your menu, or at your contact list. Just talk to one another, learn to coexist.

I can't stand to hear the silence of a busy commuter train when no one wants to talk for the fear of looking insane. We're becoming unsocial, it no longer satisfies to engage with one another, and look into someone's eyes. We're surrounded by children who, since they were born, have watched us living like robots, who think it's the norm.

It's not very likely you'll make world’s greatest dad if you can't entertain a child without using an iPad. When I was a child, I'd never be home. Be out with my friends, on our bikes we'd roam. I'd wear holes on my trainers, and graze up my knees. We'd build our own clubhouse, high up in the trees.

Now the parks are so quiet, it gives me a chill. See no children outside and the swings hanging still. There’s no skipping, no hopscotch, no church and no steeple. We're a generation of idiots, smart phones and dumb people.

So look up from your phone, shut down the display. Take in your surroundings, make the most of today. Just one real connection is all it can take, to show you the difference that being there can make.

Be there in the moment, when she gives you the look that you remember forever as 'when love overtook'. The time she first held your hand, or first kissed your lips, the time you first disagreed and still love her to bits.

The time you don't have to tell hundreds of what you've just done, because you want to share this moment with just this one. The time you sell you sell your computer, so you can buy a ring for the girl of your dreams, who is now the real thing.

The time you want to start a family, and the moment when you first hold your little girl, and get to love again. The time she keeps you up at night, and all you want is rest. And the time you wipe away the tears as your baby flees the nest.

The time your baby girl returns, with a boy for you to hold, and the time he calls you granddad and makes you feel real old. The time you've taken all you've made, just by giving life attention. And how you're glad you didn't waste it, by looking down at some invention.

The time you hold your wife's hand, sit down beside her bed, you tell her that you love her and lay a kiss upon her head. She then whispers to you quietly as her heart gives a final beat, that she's lucky she got stopped by that lost boy in the street.

But none of these times ever happened: you never had any of this. When you're too busy looking down, you don't see the chances you miss.

So look up from your phone, shut down those displays: we have a finite existence, a set number of days. Don't waste your life getting caught in the Net, because when the end comes there's nothing worse than regret. I'm guilty too of being part of this machine, this digital world, where we are here but not seen.

Where we type as we talk, and we read as we chat. Where we spend hours together without making eye-contact. So don't give into a life where you follow the hype. Give people your love, don't give them your 'like'. Disconnect from the need to be heard and defined; go out into the world leave distractions behind.

Look up from your phone. Shut down that display. Stop watching this video. Live life the real way. 

~ ttfn ~

Thursday, 1 May 2014

May Daze

I'm cheating this month, and in lieu of a proper me-post*, I've taken the below from Writers Write, a fab website which I look at every day (especially the 'Creative Writing Blog', where fab literary/writing quotes are posted...) :

* Blame the month of whole-house-decorating/rush to find a handyman to fit interior doors asap/cat-search and home check...which has resulted in a new cat, yay! Problem is, she's the nervous, non-human-socialised cat I didn't intend to come home with, and has been hiding under my sofa for the last week...but I couldn't leave her at the shelter, as she'd already been there for six months and no one had shown her any interest - ahhh! Her name is Ebony and she's ten months old, and when she finally stops hiding and I can take a photo, I'll share it with you! After a busy month, I've only managed 4, 899 words of Novel Number Two, which after last month's mega wordcount of 10, 725 is a tad poor! Still, I have the next four days off work so I intend to rectify the wordcount plummet...!

~ ttfn ~

Thursday, 3 April 2014

10, 725

[Oops, I'm two days late with this post - blame the migraine! Still, here we go...]

Four weeks ago, I was shocked to discover that it was the start of the 3rd month of 2014, which meant I only had 9 months left if I wanted to finish
Novel Number Two by the end of the year...!
With this shock, I got feisty with myself: I had to set mini-targets to be able to achieve this, and I had to stick to them. I'm a lover of quotes and adages, and one of my favourites is:
Doing gets it done
(though I pretend I've never heard of this when the housework rears its ugly head!)
To do it, I set myself the mini-target of writing 350 words, 5 days a week. For me, 350 words is a squashable-enough target to exceed on a good day, but still a conquerable-enough target to scratch-out on a difficult one. 5 days a week, though...I knew this was going to be harder, as I'm not that good with routine (!). But my plan for the last 18 months or so has been to start submitting Novel Number Two in January of 2015, and I can't do that if the bloody book isn't written...

Eek, here's the Maths Bit:
350 words times 5 days = 1, 750 per week
1750 x 4 weeks = 7, 000
So, how did I do? Well, here is my March breakdown of words:
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
1, 392
1, 043
2, 273

A scientist would conclude a (probably not too flattering) theory about my productivity, I'm sure (and it would back up my earlier confession that I don't do routine well!. Having said that, though, my reversing is much worse...!), but it all adds up to a total of...
10, 725 words.*
And that, for 4 weeks' work, ain't too shabby at all. Happily, it smashes the 7, 000 target...and makes me a very smiley Deb indeed.
Now I just need to repeat it 9 more times...or 7, ideally (!), as I need a couple of months to edit and redraft, though this doesn't leave the recommended time away from the text...oops. Ah well, I've always known I was rubbish at numbers!

*= Admittedly, this is a count of First Draft words, so some (maybe lots...?) will be deleted and many more (definitely lots!) will be rewritten - but even so, 10, 725 words? Fab-u-lous, dahling!
~ ttfn ~

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Perusing Artists' Sketchbooks

This post is a tad retrospective, as I'm writing about an exhibition I visited last month - but it was interesting and enjoyable and I wanted to share it with you!
Place: Black Swan Arts Gallery, Frome
When: 7th February, the penultimate day of the touring exhibition
What: The SKETCH Open Sketchbook Drawing Prize Exhibition, a.k.a a chance to nose through artists' sketchbooks and see their process!
Being a writer, I'm all about the word-y process of building up that final, publishable draft that (hopefully!) will make a book-on-the-shelves, but often I think that we look at art and see it as just-a-picture-on-the-wall, and forget how much process has gone into getting to this frame-able, view-able point. So, for me, this exhibition was a fascinating glimpse into the process of an artist.
First, I must give a shout-out to how the exhibition was staged: I loved that it was simple, interactive and intimate. On the walls were small perspex shelves on which the notebooks were propped, encouraging you-the-viewer to interact; to pick them up and browse through, or leave them propped but flick through. There was even a bench seat or two if you wanted to sit and peruse, though I didn't; instead, I did my usual stand-there-with-a-notebook-and-write, ignoring any questioning I always do!

Admittedly, there were some sketchbooks whose language I just didn't speak or interpret, but that reminded me that art is subjective and people have varied tastes...and thank goodness for that, because it would be a boring world if we were all the same!

So, from my notebook, then:
  • on Robert Hames' sketchbook: Pencil sketches of people at mechanical/aeronautic work - for me it comes alive when the people are doing; just like in a piece of written work, the action breathes life into the scene. The studies of just things leave me cold.

  • on Samuel Lindup's sketchbook: Pen ink sketches in an A6 book. Such fine lines, fine details, such precision - how can it not be printed?! One picture, small and justified to the left like a poem, is of a house, side-on. There are windows and a door, yet the house is not grounded on anything. Out of the chimney comes the life of the house, all blown out like a big puff of smoke: TV, toaster, cooker, airer, dustpan, microwave, vase with flowers, and all the other tiny objects I couldn't make out! A little off to the the right, blown askew, is an open umbrella. Is it a metaphor for Mary Poppins/the metaphor she is; the rain of existence that we all must stand; or the shelter from this that we seek?

  • on Mike Middleton's sketchbook [who was shortlisted]: Small rectangular vignettes, often with a border/frame, in a warm colour palette. Is it my love of Italy that draws me to this sketchbook, or the chalky buildings caught in an Edward Hopper-like silence, their story to be spoken by the viewer?

  • on Michael Chance's sketchbook: A charcoal sketch of 'Ivan', showing a man with short, black curly hair cropped; a broad, broad nose; eyes looking down; mouth closed; Adam's Apple visible above his crew-neck sweater. One eyebrow seems slightly raised. There is a darker shadowing to the right of this eyebrow, as if melancholy or trouble awaits there. There is a pensive, resigned air to 'Ivan', as if he is preparing for the difficulty of what is coming. I am moved. On an earlier page is a seascape, with a lighthouse assailed by a frothy sea, which seems so luminous and lifted, as if it might assail me too.

Once back home, I Googled the artists whose work I liked and visited their websites/blogs. I pretty much couldn't find the pictures from the sketchbooks...but then, if they are part of the process, they probably won't be the exact finished work...
Still, I'll leave you to your own explorations with the links, and share with you the one pic I did find represented on a blog:


Michael Chance's 'Lighthouse', from:
~ ttfn ~


Saturday, 1 February 2014

Pleasingly Unusual Words

Being a writer and a word-collector, I would class myself as having an oft-used (!), rather large and wide vocabulary but even so, when I’m reading, I often come across words whose definition I don’t know. As you’d imagine, I’m a bit of a sad scholar when it comes to this (!), and jot them down; later, I’ll look up their definition and record this in a notebook.
When I was adding to the list the other day, I flipped back to the beginning and read through the collection of previously unknown words (and some were stubborn, being repeated as I’d clearly not learned/remembered what they meant after all!). There were quite a few that I smiled at – so I thought I’d share them with you, in the hope they make you smile too:
·         Petrichor = the pleasant smell of earth after rain [LOVE this smell!]
·         Palimpsest = a manuscript written over earlier ones [Which is what I do, as I use the rejected drafts of previous work to print on for Novel Number Two’s drafts...]
·         Dulcet = (esp. of sound) sweet; soothing
·         Ailurophile = a cat-lover [Definitely me!]
·         Esprit de l’escalier = to be unable to think of a witty retort in time (French; literally to have the
wit of the stair)
·         Maven = an expert; pundit
·         Amanuensis = a literary assistant, esp. one who writes dictation or copies from a manuscript
·         Rapprochement = drawing together; renewal of cordial relationships [I find the word to be almost onomatopoeic (= sounding like what it means), as I can almost hear the disgruntled sides agreeing to disagree and get on after all!]
·         Paucity = smallness of quantity; insufficiency
·         Froideur = coolness in personal relationships
·         Truculent = aggressive and discourteous; very fierce [Again, an onomatopoeic word for me, as I can hear the tone a truculent person would use in snapping out their conversation!]
·         Homily = a talk giving advice and encouragement [And encouragement is always welcome!]
·         Contretemps = something happening at the wrong time; embarrassing [Just by saying this word, I can picture the scene...]
·         Banjax = (Anglo-Irish) to ruin, destroy; thwart [I chuckled when I first read this word, as I’d never heard of it before, but now I rather like it – at work, I know I’ve been banjaxed by the odd customer or two, as you just can’t please everybody, no matter what you try!]
·         Comity = (mass noun) courtesy and considerate behaviour towards others [At work, a.k.a ‘customer service’ – expected even towards the belligerent, banjaxing customer!]
·         Rapacious = greedy for gain [I can just picture a rapacious person counting their coins and scheming for more money, can’t you?]
·         Farrago = a disordered mixture; a confusing mass of objects or people [Which was what this cupboard-under-the-stairs was, before I turned it into my Writing Room four years ago!]
·         Prolix = long and wordy [I do try not to be, but...!]
·         Vendeuse = a saleswoman [Oh, I am, at the shop I work in...and with words!]
·         Querulous = complaining in a petulant or whining manner
·         Pettifog = to quibble about petty points [I bet we have all encountered people who do this...and don’t we wish they would stop pettifogging!]
·         Alacrity = brisk and cheerful readiness
·         Overweening [and no, there isn’t a missing-letter typo...which is what I thought had happened when I first read it!] = showing excessive confidence or pride [And can’t you just picture these people preening like a peacock?!]
·         Encomium = a speech or piece of writing that praises something or someone highly
·         Loquacious = tending to talk a great deal; talkative [a.k.a. a photo of me under ‘chatterbox’ in the dictionary!]
and finally...
·         Ameliorate = (formal) to make something (bad or unsatisfactory) better
...which is just what lists of words do for me! Let me know if you enjoyed these, and if so, I’ll post some more another time.
~ ttfn ~