Monday, 30 December 2013

Looking back at 2013

Wow. What a year. I realised the other day I hadn't posted in nearly a month, and although I meant to write a Christmas post, it seems to have passed me by and so instead I'll write a looking back post. When I first started to look back on the year, I thought, in many ways, well that sucked. But then, after reading the lovely Laura's post, and really thinking about this year, I began to think, well actually, a hell of a lot happened and SO much of it was good. I've had a wonderful year really.

In the more immediate past though, Christmas was certainly different this year. We woke up on Christmas Eve morning to find we had no power, and remained this way until Boxing Day evening. Luckily we have the wonderful AGA and we had a small generator so we weren't completely in the dark, but it certainly created tensions. I've never been more grateful for power.

But now heading back to the beginning of this year, there have been many wonderful things:

In Februrary, I met John and Hank Green, and my lovely wonderful CP Laura in London (FINALLY!!).

In March, I met JK Rowling (!) and joined SCBWI, which has been an awesome experience. There was another wonderful trip to Fowey too.

May, I saw Mcfly, ventured down to Fowey by myself for a camping trip and visit to the Fowey Festival, and tried Windsurfing. I also met Emilya Hall and other lovely authors at the festival. I also started Treading Water.

June, I saw Neil Gaiman talk about his new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

July, Murray won Wimbledon, and I found out that one of my short stories, Tide, was going to be published in an ebook by Mardibooks and IdeasTap. It was also a wonderfully hot, perfect summer. Did a windsurfing course.

September, I spent a week in Fowey, which was perfect. I also went to Mcfly's 10th Anniversary Concerts at the Royal Albert Hall.

October, I joined the MuggleNet team as a News Intern.

December, I was promoted to a full staff member and News Writer (!), which has been one of the best and most awesome experiences I've ever had. I love it and am so grateful to be there! I also had a lovely day trip to Fowey.

I have also been very lucky to read lots of wonderful drafts by my amazing writer friends, and I've managed to write plenty of drafts and words myself.

I'm sure I've missed something out, but it's been an amazing year!

I never really like New Year - it always makes me nostalgic and strange, but this year I think I have plenty of good things to look back on! Bring on 2014.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

'It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...'

I'm sure I've used that title before, but somehow it seemed right again today. I can't believe it's nearly the end of NOVEMBER! I haven't posted since the beginning of the month, I'm sorry - it seems to have FLOWN by, so quickly. In fact, I can't believe that it's only two weeks until the end of term now, and under a month until Christmas itself. Where have the weeks gone?

It's noticeably winter now though, here in the UK. It's cold, and all the layers have come out. The cold just makes me miserable and grumpy, like a bear trying to hibernate, and I already miss the summer like crazy. The summer and Fowey. Of course there are high points of winter (grimaced as I typed that) - I mean sure, I love Christmas and when things are all magical and Christmassy, and I love Christmassy things, but it's the cold I hate. I miss wearing shorts and flipflops and tshirts. And suncream. I miss suncream. That's kind of weird I know.

But I suppose got to look positively at everything, and right now I'm beginning to look forward to Christmas. It's always a slightly stressful time, but ultimately enjoyable. Just a lot to do beforehand! Things have got kind of crazy recently, with lots of academic work to do, as well as other things. I've been busy working, writing, volunteering, and windsurfing among other things. Yes, still windsurfing even in this weather - I think the fact that I'm able to get out and do that (in my winter wetsuit, gloves and shoes) is helping me get through the horribleness of winter. It's nice having something outside to do regularly. I'm still swimming too, and that's helping to stop me be so miserable.

Otherwise, I've been busy writing, and trying to keep on top of several different projects. As I told you before, I haven't done NaNo this month (and it's felt very freeing. I haven't missed it at all. Not one minute. That's kind of telling I guess!), but I've been busy writing. I finished that draft I was half way through when NaNo started, and I've put it aside for now so I can come back to it with fresh eyes. It's a mess, but I think there's a story in there somewhere and I'm looking forward to editing it and teasing it out. Fingers crossed it will work, because it's a story that could be very important to me. Treading Water is still being edited, although it's taken a back seat. I'm hoping to start querying it sometime next year. I started something new too, because the story crept up on me and grabbed me, and made me want to start writing it, so I'm ten chapters into that and loving it. It's more NA I think than YA because the characters are older, but I'm just going with it and seeing where it takes me. For my course at the moment I've got to write a film treatment, so I'm also engrossed in that, trying to keep all the elements of the different stories separate - phew! Confusing at times. Luckily the stories are quite different enough. I'm also lucky enough to have been picked to be a MuggleNet Intern, writing news stories, so I've been busy with that too, and it's been tremendous fun. As I mentioned before, I've been taking part in PiBoIdMo too, so I've been scribbling down lots of ideas and it's been very productive, just for coming up with ideas. So that's me all caught up, sort of, for now!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends - I'm going to a Thanksgiving dinner tonight and I'm VERY excited about it! I was asked to make Cornbread for it, something I've never made or tasted before, so I hope I've made it right. Fingers crossed!

Friday, 1 November 2013

On Not Doing NaNoWriMo

Hey, so for the first time in eight years November isn't all about doing NaNo. And weirdly, it doesn't feel strange. All the talk about it on twitter and facebook is kinda strange, but I haven't felt any sort of twinge of regret at not doing it. I am so entrenched in other projects and with so much else on, I haven't even had a chance to think about it. September and October are normally full of it, but I haven't even visited the website. What is this? What has happened to me?

It's strange. Like a release from something I was obliged (?) to do before. But this year I'm doing it in my own way. I'm half way through one project, so I'm going to try and finish that, and then I might start something new. And this is better for me. I won't be racing to hit 50,000 words, but I will be writing. And this is the best way for me. There's all the excitement, the huge integrated network of people joining together just to WRITE (which is amazing. I love it). And I can still have the fun of that - I even did care packages with one of my good friends, because that's what we always do. So not much has changed. And it's a bit of a relief really. If there had been something I was itching to write and I had finished my current project, I might have gone for it, but no.

It's still weird though. It doesn't really feel like November yet. But at the same time, I don't feel like I'm missing out. Not yet anyway. I'm still writing anyway. And I've done this thing seven times! 

NaNo, I am so over you. (I'll be back next year probably).

Everyone who IS doing NaNo this year GOOD LUCK!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Reading 'Fangirl' and Fanfiction

If you know me well, or not at all to be honest, then you will know there are certain things that I am a HUGE fangirl for. So you won't be surprised to learn that when I heard about Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell I knew I had to read this book as soon as possible. I don't usually write book reviews on here, but every now and again there comes a book I just have to talk about, and with this one I wanted to talk about more than just the book.

This was one of those books I got and couldn't put down. It made me emotional and nostalgic,  and tearful - really it made me into a blooming mess for days. When I finished I wanted to hold it to me FOREVER. This was the book I've always wanted to read and always wanted to write.There was just so much in this book that I got and identified with, regarding fandom and fanfiction and just so many of Cath's experiences were relatable. It was almost as if I was being written about, and I know a lot of people will have thought the same thing. It didn't help either that the world of Simon Snow was clearly so inspired by the Harry Potter world and fandom. Although I was never a part exactly of Harry Potter fanfic, I did read some, and have been a part of other fanfic worlds. Which leads me onto another reason for this post - fanfiction.

I wrote recently about NaNoWriMo and the HUGE influence that it has had on my writing and writing journey, cheesy as that sounds. One of the other big influneces on my writing is fanfiction. Yes, I know, it doesn't always have a good reputation, and certainly in the book Cath comes up against a writing professor who is snooty about it (that whole thing - I was just like GIRL what are you DOING? That did annoy me, but I guess it was to illustrate a point). Anyway, people are dismissive of fanfiction, but that's often becasue they don't understand it.  I totally get the professor's point in Fangirl that she needs to start developing her own characters and voice - yes of COURSE she does. But any writing is good, surely. It's a wonderful place to start and pratice, because that's the key to writing, practice pratice pratice. Didn't somebody say you neeeded a certain number of hours of pratice and experience, in for example, writing?

BUT, for me writing fanfiction gave me several things:

Firstly, ready made characters to develop into your own. This helped me learn how to develop settings and worlds and having all that in place meant I was able to experiment with writing LONG pieces and I was able to write longer stories because of it.

 A ready made support network and instant feedback. This is important. I was so lucky to have a wonderful group of the best friends ever around me and we all wrote and shared things with one another, gave feedback - even wrote stories together. The best experience ever. And then there is the thrill of just posting something and being able to get replies straight away. You're out there. This is like twenty first century Dickens. We shared installments as we wrote them, got instant feedback and response, and people who wanted to read on (most of the time). Of course there were times I should have edited more and more, but you learn. Writing fanfic is like the best learning curve in the world. 

Most importantly, it gave me the desire and inspiration to keep writing. It was the best writing pratice in the world. Where else are you able to just keep writing like that and be a part of a writing community that also happens to be huge fans of the thing you love? Without the fanfiction community, I would probably be hundreds of steps behind where I am now with my writing. It helped me develop my voice, character, plotting, settings, structure - EVERYTHING. You make mistakes, but you learn from them. You learn what works, what doesn't. All in all, it's good practice.

Writing fanfiction is exciting, and thrilling, and I spent many many hours reading and writing fanfic - obsesesing over it. Of course it all tied in with being a part of a fandom - and for me that fandom was Mcfly.  I read a bit of Harry Potter fanfic, but never got it in the same way. I guess you get used to a certain thing. One of my friends was addicted to Potter fanfic and just couldn't understand how I could read and write things about people who were real. But that seemed more 'real' to me I suppose.

Between NaNo and Fanfic, I have clocked up HOURS and hundreds of thousands of words of writing practice for which I am thankful. I have a huge 'fic' file on my computer, and it's hilarious and also very embarassing to look back at old writing - especially my first ever fanfiction, written in 2005 (it's AWFUL) but it's also wonderful just to see how far I've come since then.

Writing fanfic is the best fun in the world, and it gives you that extra time in the world you love and with the people you adore. And it's the best learning curve ever. I know some people don't agree, but fanfiction will always have a HUGE place in my heart. I used to spend hours at school scribbling ideas and writing fanfic - I was always writing and that was the best thing ever. I dont' feel like I've said everything I wanted to, or expressed it very well, but this book brought all these memories back and made me nostalgic. But I'm not ashamsed to admit how important fanfiction has been to me. I don't think I would be where I am now without it.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

'Editing Alchemy' with Lil Chase

Last Saturday I attended a SCBWI South West Editing Workshop with Lil Chase (of Working Partners Ltd and author). It was lovely to see lots of familiar faces again and catch us, as well as meet lots of new people. The workshop itself, which I was a little bit nervous about, was fantastic. I learnt so much, and the way that Lil spoke and phrased everything was inspiring. It made everything really clear for me, and put things in a way that I had never considered before. Being surrounded by other people doing similar things to you as well, and all of them enthusiastic and completely dedicated to their writing - and some of them published! -  is also inspiring. I love the atmosphere that surrounds SCBWI and I am so glad I joined.

Editing is something I always struggle with. I always tempted to just go, oh it'll do, but this workshop made me look at things differently, even if they are things deep down I knew, it's brilliant to have them reinforced and phrased in such a way that makes them click. I am now furiously writing chapter summaries, looking for change in every scene and chapter, writing and rewriting hooks and considering 'inciting incidents', escalating stakes and conclusions. Lil stressed that change is fundamental to a story, and the main character must be presented with a difficult conflict that they cannot ignore. As the story goes on, the stakes must increase until the story comes to a climax and then conclusion. Every chapter and scene too, must contain a change to keep the story moving.  Lil suggested too that 10% of a first draft can and should be cut - an interesting idea, particuarly for me because I find I write a bare outline of things, THEN go back and add things, and THEN cut.

The funny thing is, and I guess I shouldn't be surprised at all, but the reading I'm doing for my module at the moment is covering the same sort of things. Weird how things collide like that. It's kinda nice though, it reinforces the ideas and principles. I came home on Saturday utterly inspired to get editing and able to look at my novel once again with fresh eyes. This lead to a creative high on Sunday and Monday morning, which was a completely wonderful feeling. I'm hoping the inspiration and enthusiasm will last a little longer - and it should all help with future projects.

Thanks Lesley for organising and Lil for the workshop - I'm looking forward to the next workshop already.



Thursday, 10 October 2013

Why I will not be taking part in NaNoWriMo this year

It's that time of year. If you know me, you will know that I have taken part in NaNo for the last seven years (yes I had to check that, just to make sure, because wow - really?!). THe emails are being sent out, everywhere around hte interwebs there are people announcing what they are writing, and whether they are winging it or planning it. But this year I am not going to take part.

Why?

I'm not entirely sure, but I'll try to explain. I mean, I have done this for SEVEN years. I owe a lot to NaNo and I think it's FANTASTIC. I still think it's fantastic. Without it, I probably would still be writing fanfic or starting projects that I never finish. True, I probably would have eventually got round to writing a novel and finishing it., but probably not so soon - I wouldn't have proved to myself that I could do it. I could write that many words. It taught me a lot - about plotting and the need for a routine and writing everyday, and just getting the words down - and about first drafts and the way that anything goes. Editing comes later - the important thing is to get the words down. And I write all of my fiction like that. Get the words down and then go back to edit. It taught me a lot. It's been important to me - it's magical. The challenge and the community and just the writing that 1667 words every day has always thrilled me. I've met lovely people too through it and I have many fond memories of NaNo and the forums and the community. The thrill of those first 2,000 words, breaking through the second week barrier, and updating word counts, hitting half way, and then finally clicking validate novel at the end with hours or days to spare.

So I owe a lot to NaNo. It's something that draws me back every year- last year I didn't even mean to do it, but come mid October with all my friends prepping for it, I did it.

Yet, it doesn't feel right this year. I mean I'm editing one novel, and am half way through other projects that I want to focus on, and I don't want to drop it all to write something else that, I'll be honest, I won't edit and won't do anything with. I haven't really done anything with the projects I've written in the last few years - I've had good intentions to do so, but I've always focused on other projects throughout the rest of the year and not gone back to them. Which just seems a waste. I mean, if I had some burning ideas to write and nothing else on the go, I probably would do it. But I'm always so fed up with the story at the end, and it just doesn't seem worth it so much anymore. So I'm taking a break from it this year.

(Of course I may be retracting this statement on the 31st October at 11.58pm or something).

Also - I just saw a post about 'PiBoIdMo' - Picture Book Idea Month.... I might try this out instead as something different! Find out more here.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Happy National Poetry Day!

Happy National Poetry day everyone!

One of my everlasting memories of National Poetry Day, which I've probably written about before and I've tweeted about, is the head of English at my prep school reading out the lunchtime notices every year in rhyme, which was always fantastic. I remember it so clearly.

This weekend is also the Exeter Poetry Festival, and there are lots of fantastic events going on - tonight Jo Shapcott and Sean O'Brian are reading, and then tomorrow night there is a MA poets reading, followed by a discussion and reading on poetry called Beyond Borders. Should be good! Looking forward to it. Right now I am debating what I am doing tonight, as I have three things I could be doing... dilema!

Anyway, in honour of National Poetry day I am going to post a couple of my favourite poems:

The Way Through the Woods by Rudyard Kipling

They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.
Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate,
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few.)
You will hear the beat of a horse's feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods ...
But there is no road through the woods.

source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/poetryseason/poems/the_way_through_the_woods.shtml

Sea Fever, By John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking,
 
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
 
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
 
source: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/242552
 
T.S Eliot, extract from The Four Quartets, 1. Burnt Norton
 
At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.
The inner freedom from the practical desire,
The release from action and suffering, release from the inner
And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving,
Erhebung without motion, concentration
Without elimination, both a new world
And the old made explicit, understood
In the completion of its partial ecstasy,
The resolution of its partial horror.
Yet the enchainment of past and future
Woven in the weakness of the changing body,
Protects mankind from heaven and damnation
Which flesh cannot endure.
                                          Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.
 
source: http://poetry.poetryx.com/poems/755/

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Happy Tenth Birthday Boys

Ten years - where have they gone? I honestly can't believe that Mcfly are now celebrating ten years of having been a band - that just seems insane. Ten years of this crazy road and we're all still here, still around and still going. Amazing. And my boys mean just as much to me as they did back then, and even more probably. Amazing to be able to celebrate ten years with them, and wonderful other people, at the Royal Albert Hall (!!)  and to be still be here with them all.

It makes me feel so proud and emotional and escatically happy to be a part of all of this, and to have been a part of it over the last ten years. Amazing really. My Mcfly boys have probably been one of hte few constants in my life when lots of other things have changed, and they've always been a huge comfort and support to have around, when other things have been changing.

When they launched their supercity and that stage of their career, I posted a blog post on another blog (I've been through several over the years), reflecting on how much they mean to me. Even though I wrote then that they would be around forever, and that they would always be around, I never really thought this far ahead - never thought ahead to their tenth anniversary and that they might celebrate it like this. And we've all been through a lot.

You know what, I think they will be around forever - in whatever way. They will be. They'll always be there and they'll always be a huge part of my life. I will never stop being a fan, even if I'm not that crazy obsessed fan anyway (probably a good thing anyway, that was exhausting!). 

All of this too, has made me think back over the last ten years, and everything I've done because of them - all the friends I've made, all the fics and things I've written, all the things I've done that I wouldn't have done otherwise. It's been awesome. The best. And I've met peope who have been SO important to me over the years. They're the best people. All of them. I've been so lucky.

And I've been so lucky to have Mcfly. They changed my world, and no matter how many times I say it, I can never express quite how thankful I am to them and their music and everything they've done. <3

Now, this is getting a bit soppy so I'm going to end it here - Happy Birthday Boys, you deserve it! <3

'Another year over and we're still together. It's not always easy, but Mcfly's here forever'  
The Heart Never Lies

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Return to Exeter Again...

Back in Exeter again, for last year (??!) of uni, and all moved into new flat, finally with internet working! Took a few days to sort things out, and there are still things to sort out, but getting settled in again and getting going with everything again - seeing old friends, meeting new people, getting back to work, seminars and enjoying being back in Exeter again! It's good to get going with everything again. Some things have changed, and that's sad, but there we go. Good to get back to familiar places (BTP!).

Strange to get back though after a week's holiday in Fowey, which was of course amazing - with lots of walking, paddling, boating and just wonderful Fowey-ness. Love it so much, and was super sad to leave. Really didn't want to. Much as I love Exeter, it doesn't even compare to Fowey (of course). Kept a scrapbook while I was there, with lots of notes and drawings, so that consumed my writing time, and of course I was super absorbed in Daphne and visiting familiar places and rereading things, and reading new things and visiting places I'd never had the chance to visit. All in all, it was wonderful. Can't wait to go back again and get my Fowey fix again.

Sad too to get out of shorts and flipflops. Stayed determinedly in shorts until Sunday, and flipflops until today, but the cold really is settling in and Autumn seems to be here, which makes me sad. I miss the summer already and am super sad to see it over - both leaving Fowey, coupled with the summer being over is tough! I hate that it is getting darker already, and it's just depressing. On the plus side, however, autumn is better for windsurfing, so..... Hopefully joining the windsurf society, and can't wait to get out there again. After four years, crazy to think I'm finally joining an AU club! Madness.

Writing wise, I am working on a new story - having started it, I have almost completely changed what I want to do with and am writing lots of new bits and typing some of it up, trying to make sense of it! Hoping to crack on with some more editing sometime too - as well as get going on the new course this term! Should be doing a screenwriting one, which is rather nerve racking and intimidating, and will be a huge challenge.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Everyone to Platform 9 3/4...

The Hogwarts Express is about to leave.

I've opened blogger several times int he last couple of weeks to write a new post, started writng something and then been distracted by SUNSHINE and summer things. I was going to write about the fact that I felt like I hadn't done all the reading I wanted to do this summer, and how it has just zoomed by, and then I had another idea for a post yesterday, but of course I can't remember at all what I wanted to post about.

But now, as it is the beginning of September, and summer is gradually fading away (I refuse to let that happen yet, I mean we're not going on holiday till next week and it's still SUNNY AND NICE and there are still summery things to do, 'kay?), I figure it is time to reflect and consider that whole going back to school thing. Today, as twitter, tumblr and probably facebook are aware is the day the Hogwart's express traditionally leaves (don't tell me it's ficitional, OKAY?!) and it is back to school season. Even though I left school ages ago now, September still brings the back to school feelings and thoughts always turn to school. Although this year the summer just seems to have absolutely flown by, I don't know where it has gone and I still feel like there are so many things I meant to do this summer - trips and baking and writing and reading. I have read quite a lot, but somehow I don't feel like I read everything I wanted to. I hate that feeling. It's the same with writing. All summer I have been torn between editing, writing my new story, writing short stories, and poems, and therefore I probably haven't done enough of either, becuase I have been so unfocused. Typical. As always of course there are previous summers to compare to, previous months and that's not good. It's always when you have more time to do things that they don't really happen, right? Always happens. It's the kind of things I should be used to by now, but I'm not.

I still feel like there are things that should happen summerwise, and I suppose because we're not going away until next week (FOWEY!) that doesn't help. Yet, I have been swimming, windsurfing, on trips, done lots of cooking and eating courgettes (and trying to come up with inventive ways to use them!) and watched and played lots of tennis and other summery things like that. I have done lots of writing and lots of reading too, despite what I think. It has been a wondefully hot summer too, which has been amazing. And the harvest has been happening this week, one of my favourite times of the year, and that is always very nostalgic with the strawbales and everything, and I suppose that is tinged too with the expectation of going back to school. It's a strange feeling really. There is that thought of summer beginning to come to an end, and the looking forward to the next academic year, and all that. It's a strange time.

It is blackberry picking time too, something that is so associated with going back to school.

The end of summer is always sad for me. I love the summer, and all that it entails, but at the same time I am looking forward to getting back to Exeter and getting on with things again.  

For now, I refuse to believe that it is the end of summer, quite yet. Even if the Hogwarts Express is leaving today....

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Summer is disappearing....

Time really is flying between these posts, and I mean to post more regularly, but somehow time just disappears. I can't believe it's half way through August already - this summer just seems to have flown by! And as always, there are so many things that I men at to do, which I haven't - isn't it always the way?!

Writing wise, I have started writing a new story, which is very exciting, but am still doing some editing too. Think (hope!) I'm nearly there with that though for now, although I still love those characters and that story SO much. Am definitely ready to start something new though. Lots of ideas buzzing around (you know how it is) and not enough time! Isn't it always the way that you think the summer will be the time when you are just able to read and write as much as you want? NEVER WORKS THAT WAY!

Still lots of books to read as well - as always.

We have the usual glut of courgettes (many of which have turned into marrows) and are trying desperately to think of new ways to use them - so far we've had quiche, soup, kebabs, pasta sauce. Who knows what will be next, I think we've got a few more things to try!

Hoping to head out windsurfing again soon. I have quickly become OBSESSED by the wind and weather and am often found sat in front of my computer staring at forecasts. Oh dear is all I can say!

Anyway, hoping to get a lot of writing done today, fingers crossed.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Jam.

No doubt if you follow me on twitter you will have seen my excitement and retweeting regarding a short story anthology entitled Jam. The anthology is one of two that has resulted from a competition run by IdeasTap and Mardibooks.... and one of my stories appears in it, hence my excitement and disbelief! Being published has always been a dream of mine and so to have a story in an ebook anthology that is actually on amazon and people can buy it and everything is amazing. Unbelievable. It would be an understatement to say I am excited about this! It's crazy to see my name up there on amazon and it's very surreal, but amazing. (Also just discovered if you search my name on amazon it comes up. AMAZING! As does another book which I definitely did not write, ha!)

Here's a paragraph about the book on their website, which can be found here along with a press release  about both Jam and Toast, the other anthology of winning entries, and all that exciting stuff:

Jam - An anthology of modern short fiction recounting the quirkiness of the everyday.

The 16 stories in Jam cover a wide variety of extreme human emotions where the trivial takes on exaggerated proportions and obsessive crimes and revolutionary thoughts push and compromise relationships and legacies.
Contributors: Ed Ballard, Eleanor Bennett, Jonathan Brown, Gavin Bryce, Constantine, Keith Dumble, VĂ©ronique Falconer, Anna Forsyth, Evan Guilford-Blake, Lorna Irvine, DJ Mac, Helen Raven, Sophie Reid, Fionn Shiner, Elly Strigner and Simon Thompson.




And you go can go buy both the anthologies here!


Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Things every summer must include


Strawberries and cream. Elderflowers. Courgettes. Wimbledon. Tennis. Pimms. Clambering on hay bales. Hay nests. Picnics. Feet in the sea. Swimming. Reading on the grass. Rain. Swimming in the rain. Tomatoes. Lazy evenings. Sunsets. Ice cream. Beach. Sandy feet. Eating outside. Lots of tea. National Trust trips. Singing. Laughter.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Well hello there.

Me again. It's been a while. In fact I didn't realise quite how long, until I realised this morning I hadn't blogged in a while. I seem to have got out of my regular routine, what with one thing or another - being home for the summer, WIMBLEDON (!), Murray WINNING (there could be a long excited ramble on that, but I will spare you all) and this somewhat amazing weather we've been having, I seem to have abandoned my computer (no bad thing AT ALL) for the great outdoors. That isn't to say that I haven't been doing lots of writing - I have been busy editing, editing, editing. Amazing myself by just focusing on this one story, although getting a little restless to just write something, anything, I don't care what, but when I try nothing really happens. Hmph. Hard to put stuff into perspective I suppose, because I am writing/editing, just getting restless for a new project. I still adore this one I'm working on however. I really do. Still adore the characters, the setting, the plot - all of it. And they're still so much in my head, which is wonderful.

Strange how things happen - the two projects I'd planned to write over the last few months have just not happened. But I'll get round to them one day. At the moment just going to focus on some editing, and you never know I might start something new. Do feel like need to make the most of the summer and the the chance just to write! Have stalled a little with books, seem to just be rereading things I have read tonnes before. I guess it's comforting. For instance in the last few days I have whizzed through Order of the Phoenix, Half Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows, making myself unnecessarily emotional. Silly. Nothing else seems to be gripping my attention at the moment - apart from the wonderful Laura's second draft of one of her stories, amazing - but I'll find something, I'm sure I will. What else?

Over the weekend I completed my 'Start Windsurfing' course and got a certificate (!) for it, which was awesome. The best weekend, and perfect weather! Learnt a lot, and although it was frustrating at times, it was the best fun ever. Quite a few bruises and aches and pains to show for it too! Looking forward to carrying on.

Fingers crossed too that we are off down to Fowey at the beginning of September, can't wait!

Anyway, that's enough silly nonsense from me for now. Off to edit in the sunshine!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Andy Murray Season

Well, it's been a while! I didn't mean to leave it so long, whoops. Anyway, the end of term has been and gone, and it was crazy as ever. Sad to leave, again, and I realised I've been doing this whole packing up for the summer thing for ten years, which is impressive really. Although I can pack very quickly now, it seems that I can't pack concisely however, which can be a little problematic. Also, the amount of books that I gain over one year is frankly impressive. Anyway, I overcame that and managed to say goodbyes (which I hate) and leave everyone, which was very sad. And I am now back home in Sussex, for the summer (which doesn't seem to have emerged yet). After a chaotic return, which included getting overly excited about the Queens final (Murray, whoop!) and the Rally Against Cancer organised by Ross Hutchins, which was fantastic and a brilliant cause, trying to unpack all the books I obtained during the year, swimming outside for the first time this year (yay!) and then getting a horrible summer cold... totally not related, I'm sure. Managed to catch up somewhat briefly with my school friends, which was wonderful.

Oh yeah, and seeing Neil Gaiman! Which was AMAZING. He talks so wonderfully, and he is so inspiring and just brilliant. And his new book is fantastic - The Ocean at the End of the Lane - you should read it if you haven't, because it is brilliant!

Went to the Eastbourne tennis too, and saw one of the women's doubles semi finals and the men's doubles final with Colin Fleming and Johnny Marray, which was fantastic. It's most definitely tennis season. Which brings me onto... Wimbledon, which starts tomorrow. I am SO excited! Totally ready for this, can't wait! Best two weeks of the year. Let's just hope the weather improves. Although a little saddened to think that last year this was the beginning of a fantastic summer of sport. Sigh. Anyway, we're heading to Wimbledon on Tuesday (eeeek!) so excited, it's going to be brilliant. And tomorrow Andy's campaign starts, and James Ward is playing too, and he's awesome. Well, there go the next two weeks!

Writing wise, I have started editing my latest project, and I am so into this story - these characters dominate my thoughts a lot of the time, which is kinda awesome. At the same time, it's weird to be home, because it seems that a lot of the ideas and inspiration from the setting came from here, which is good for adding detail to the setting and everything, but at the same time, just bizarre. Like confronting my story. But so far, the editing is going well. I have added lots of details, and am also deleting things that aren't relevant, doing some rearranging and everything. I even had a moment a few weeks ago (I know, I should blog more, I don't know what happened) when I was talking with a friend and she was talking about something that was irritating in an acquaintance (I honestly can't remember the details) and I was there thinking, yeah I know someone just like that, and tried to think about who it was I was thinking of, only to realise it was one of my characters. Yeah. So there's that. These characters are taking over my life. Which is clearly a good thing and I am kinda in love with this story. It just feels right. So much editing to do, but it is kind of exciting, and I kind of love it. Despite plans to start other projects, think I might just focus on this one for now, and make plans for others for another time. That seems the best thing. Weird how things turn out - especially after swearing to myself I would focus on MG because YA stressed me out too much and didn't work. Of course then comes along a YA story that just clicks! Well, I'm not going to complain about that. Not at all!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

June and finished first drafts

How is it June already? The last few weeks have disappeared, and dare I say it, summer is here.

I mentioned a while ago I was working on a new project, and if you follow me on twitter you will have seen me tweet an awful lot about it. But I finally finished typing up the first draft from my very messy handwriting, which was a great relief. The lovely Laura,my wonderful CP, has been reading it as I type it up and has been an amazing encouragment and has been super supportive and just generally awesome! So thanks Laura! And now it's all typed up, I'm going to start reading it through again, make some editing notes, notes of scenes and details and all of that to add, as the first draft is at points rather skeleton. Phew! Lots to do! But I'm still rather in love with this story and its characters, which I reckon is a good sign and I'm looking forward to doing lots more work on it.

And I'm looking forward to the summer, with hopefully lots of swimming, tennis, reading and writing. And Queens starts next week - followed by Eastbourne, then Wimbledon! The best two weeks of the year. So excited!

Anyway, I'm off to go read and make some notes in the sunshine. Got to make the most of it!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Adventures and Being Brave

I got back from my adventure on Sunday, weary, with aching limbs, a wet tent, blisters and very muddy trainers and jeans, but triumphant. Utterly triumphant. In the four (was that all? It felt much longer, in a very good way. I could stay there forever) days I was away I met numerous challenges and overcame them. This was the biggest thing I'd ever done alone I think and it was amazing. Fowey is my favourite place in the world, and I could spend forever there. Seriously.
So, I camped, alone - and successfully pitched a tent! And packed it up too. Sorted taxis from the station to the camp site.


WENT WINDSURFING!!!!!! Which was amazing. Want to go again now please. And wore a wet suit, went in the sea, which I'm wary of. Proved that I could do it, and only fell in a couple of times!

Went to several du Maurier, or Fowey Festival events, chatted with amazing authors who were so friendly and awesome, wonderful du Maurier fans/experts and other writers, and people who I'd met the last time I was there for the festival and of course the wonderful people I know already in Fowey. I love the atmosphere of the festival, it's wonderful, with people who are all interested in the same thing (Daphne du Maurier!) and books and literature, and it is just so warm and welcoming.



Ate in restaurants alone (the best, and made friends with this adorable little girl) and saw lots of bluebells, which I hadn't managed to do yet this year. Made me very happy!

Basically had the best time, and the sun was shining, which was fantastic. It is such an inspiring place and I found myself constantly scribbling down notes and ideas. I was wonderfully cut off from the world for those few days and it was the perfect break away. I didn't really want to come back! But despite the weariness, definitely felt rested, reinspired, reinvigorated and energised from the whole trip. It was the best. Those are only the things that come to mind right now. But there were a whole load of challenges and things that I never thought I'd do or overcome, and hey I did it, without having to wait around for anyone else, which was amazing. Best feeling ever. And proves to me that I can do it all. Fabulous few days in my favourite place and it was wonderful. Bring on the next trip... I mean, now I know that I can do it....

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Things that Scare You

The wonderful Jamie blogged a couple of weeks ago about opening up and doing the things that scare you. It is a wonderfully honest and inspiring post that I totally relate to and one that you should read (she also blogged the other day about Mother's Day and losing her mother and this was another totally brave post and one I related to so much).

Jamie posts a list of things she wants to do even though they scare her, and I thought this was a wonderful idea.

There are so many things that scare me and so many things I want do. Some are more general, some are specific. 

1.Try windsurfing.
2. Go abroad again.
3. Paris.
4. Do more spontaneous things by myself. Like go to Fowey.
5.Start saying yes to things.
6. Start saying no to things I really don't want to do.
7. Step out of my comfort zone from time to time. Sure I love my routine, but there are many lost chances for things.
8. Start asking for what I want and don't be so damn scared to ask for things.

I am sure there are more things, but that's the start of my list. And I am jumping in with a couple of these this week - I am taking myself off to Fowey for the end of the du Maurier festival tomorrow, and camping (ah!) and I may even try windsurfing while I'm there. Hell yeah. I'm so excited, and wondering why I didn't do this years ago, you know? I hate being too scared to do anything, and part of it is feeling like I need other people's approval before I do anything. So excited!

I decided the other day that I will be one of those old women who goes on holiday alone, and sits in hotel lobbies/restaurants etc alone.. then I realised I am kind of there already!

Here's to doing things that scare you, even if they're only tiny.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Hashtag Am Writing...

So guys, guess what. I started writing a new YA contemporary. If you follow me on twitter, you may have seen all my #amwriting hashtags, with updates about chapters. I am handwriting it, which is very exciting, and have already filled one whole notebook! Onto the second one now, and still lots of story to write. I am very excited about this story. It just seems right, you know? And my lovely CP, Laura is reading chapters as I type them up and is being wonderfully supportive. She is wonderful, just so you all know and too kind to me.

I know, I know.

I promised I wouldn't. Or at least, I did to myself. I think I might have mentioned before that I decided to focus primarily on MG stories, as YA just didn't seem to click for me and was frustrating to write. But, an idea occurred to me the other week, and this character and her story appeared in my head, begging to be written down. Of course I had to obey. I had tonnes of notes written, and then somehow, the first chapter was being written. And now I'm on, what, the twelfth chapter? They're short chapters and I'm handwriting it all because that's how i like to do first drafts (maybe why I'm falling out with NaNo) and I'm loving it. SO many ideas and this story is just flowing.I've put my planned project for May back a bit, although will start planning it next week probably. It's an MG story, so will be very different.

YA, maybe this is just the beginning after all....

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Query and First 250 words of George

Posting my query and first 250 words of George's Garden here for a contest, The Writer's Voice, which I got into! Whoop! Very happy. Thanks to the lovely Heather for emailing me about it. (Find out more about the contest here). Anyway, here's my query and first 250:


George Thackery, aged eleven, hasn’t had the most exciting of summers. He has been banished to the garden due to his mum's illness, and so when he finds a girl at the bottom of his garden and stumbles into another world, he cannot be sure if it is real or not.  To be more precise, the girl is a bossy, ten year old princess, who demands if George likes birthday cake. 

A princess. Yeah right. What on earth is she doing in his garden?

GEORGE’S GARDEN is a children’s novel of princesses, adventure, forests, secret worlds and friendship, for ages 8+. George’s Garden was inspired by the time spent running around my grandparents’ house and garden when I was a child, and is influenced by classic and contemporary authors, including Lauren St John and Enid Blyton.


Chapter One: The Bottom of the Garden
The tatty old tennis ball flew over the hedge and disappeared with a thud. George Thackery stood in the middle of the lawn and stared at the place where the ball had disappeared. Paddy, his spaniel sped off after it.
Sitting down on the grass to wait for the dog, George stared up at the clear sky. He felt as if he was in the middle of a giant blue ball, with no clouds in sight, boxed in by hedges that surrounded the garden. The hedges loomed over the lawns, creating giant shadows, which betrayed monsters and creatures, roaming the garden.
His stomach rumbled as he tore at the grass, crumpling it and throwing it aside. He could think of nothing better to do than walk around the garden, counting his footsteps, in an attempt to devise a new game he could play alone. Of course it wasn’t a proper game. But after weeks and weeks of summer holiday, being told by his dad every day to ‘go play in the garden’, he was finding it hard to think of new ideas.
In the books he read the children were always going off on adventures without the adults, but he was alone. His only friends at school were all away on their summer holidays, and even if they were around, his dad wouldn’t have taken him to their houses or picked him up. Unlike the children in his story books, he just walked in circles round the garden, picking leaves off the trees and shredding them to pieces.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Films about Writers

I rewatched Miss Potter recently, the film about Beatrix Potter and how she got her books published.  The film portrays her as a forward thinking, modern woman, with a vivid imagination and strong principles and it is inspiring and encouraging to see how determined she was. She was truly an inspiration woman.

It led me to think about other films that are about the lives and careers of writers. 

Straight away I thought of Enid, the BBC film about Enid Blyton, which reveals the darker reality of her life.

Another one I quickly thought of was Finding Neverland, one of my favourite films, all about J.M. Barrie, a troubled man.

Here are some more I came up with:

The Waves. I've never seen this, but it's meant to be fantastic. All about Virginia Woolf. And a book as well.

Daphne. As a du Maurier fan I am ashamed to say I haven't seen this BBC film, but this was made to coincide with her centenary, all about her affairs with Ellen Doubleday and Gertrude Lawrence.

Becoming Jane. Another American actress takes on a very famous British woman (I know right) but Anne Hathaway does a great job as Jane Austen, charting her early years as an author and a love story.

Miss Austen Regrets. Another Austen film, this time about her at the end of her life as she looks back over her life.

Shadowlands. An emotional film about C.S. Lewis and his wife.

Shakespeare in Love. I'm sure everyone has seen this. It's been a while since I saw it, but I seem to remember it is about the writing of Romeo and Juliet (?) and plays around that time.

Of course these are all about real life writers.

There are ones about fictional writers too, like I Capture the Castle, with Cassandra's eccentric writer father who, since his first well renowned book has not written another word. And of course Cassandra is a budding writer too.

And that's where I got stuck.... Do you guys know any other films (or books - although of course there is a wealth of biography about many of these authors and more) about writers, real or fictional?

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Return

A return to normal blogging, a return to Exeter, and a return to... Spring! Yes, Spring is seems is finally here, which means summer is around the corner and as these are my favourite two seasons I am in heaven.

 And utterly obsessed with daffodils.

Although, my favourites are the bluebells and I am eagerly anticipating them coming out, and going to find a bluebell wood somewhere in Devon, as I am not at home for them this year (if anyone has any suggestions PLEASE let me know! Cheers!)

I love the longer evenings, now that it doesn't get dark until 8.30 or so.

I love that the sun is shining and it's warm enough to sit outside (when it's not windy) and that we can shed the winter layers (I do feel like I've come out of hibernation!).

I love that I can go outside in BARE FEET.

I love that there are so many summer plans and it is nearly tennis season in the UK and that the French Open and Wimbledon are around the corner.

I could go on, but today I won't.  Am busy at the minute writing and finishing off assignments due for the beginning of May, and then I'm free! Until September! But I am looking forward to starting many more projects over the summer (I have a couple I've been planning on focusing on) and getting them written, and my mind is buzzing with ideas at the minute, which is exciting. One character strolled into my mind this morning, making me want to write her story down, so I scribbled some notes, but now it's back to focusing on this essay!


Friday, 19 April 2013

Anna RAL Challenges #2 and #3

A little behind so I'm going to post both these challenges in one post.

The second challenge (and the first one in this post) was to share a story in your life when you identified with Anna.

Initially I thought that although I relate to Anna tonnes and love her as a character I didn't really have experiences that echo hers from school. But then I saw lots of you posting about 'home' and that's when it occurred to me. This is when I make a confession - I went to boarding school, for a good five years. It's not a confession really, but it seems like it to me. It's not a secret, just something I don't talk about much, but when I think about it, it's so much a part of me it's important - important to me as a person, how I am now, and how I changed - how I found out home wasn't just a place, but the people you're with, a lesson that I continued to learn at university and am still learning.Of course Anna finds herself moving away from home for the first time, and although it's only for her last year of school, there are things she is bewildered by. I recognise and get that bewilderment, the confusion, the wanting to do everything right and like Anna realises, it's there all the time. Non stop.

Yet, as I was writing this post I realised what I wanted to really write about in regards to Anna were her group of friends. The theme of home is one that continues to intrigue me. True I was at an all girl's boarding school so my group of friends were different, but we were, and still are, a close knit group. We shared everything, did everything together and those memories are still incredibly important to us. It occurred to me as I started writing this, that I have, or have had several groups of friends who have made me feel at home, who have been home for me. There are my lovely friends from home, who I feel incredibly comfortable and safe with, because we grew up together and have always known one another, there are my school friends and we know each inside out, as you do when you have lived with a group of people. And you find yourself growing closer to them, while things at home change. It is easy to assume that things will stay the same at home while you're away, but as Anna finds out, of course they don't. Then there were my online, Mcfly friends who I shared very important Mcfly moments with and I felt incredibly at home with them for a long time and they taught me so much. And then there are my uni friends, a group of people I haven't known so long, but feel equally at home with, as you do when you've all moved away from home, and share so many things. And So it turns out, I can relate to Anna more than I thought I could! But the important thing is that, she realises 'home' is the feeling of safety and contentment with people and and it is not necessarily about the place you are. Home is where they are.

Phew! That was longer than I thought.

Challenge #3 was to post a review of Anna. Compared to my babbling up above, this is just short and not much of a review, but it's something!

Anna and The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (2010)
Etienne St Clair. Three words that say it all about this book. Oh yeah, and PARIS and just amazing writing. This book has me hooked everytime I reread it, and each time I am thrilled by it, as if I have never read it before. The boy is just so swoon worth and Anna is a fantastic main character. This is one of my favourite YA books and one of the books that got me hooked on YA and in particular contemporary YA. This is so much more than a love story. It feels so real and Perkin's writing is funny, clever and so damn cute at the same time - you want to cry, laugh and swoon all at once, if that were possible (and with this book it is, believe me). The characters are brilliant and you feel like you know them all so well, and the setting is fantastic as well.

It's hard to express quite how I feel about this book and how perfectly wonderful it is. I almost didn't want to read this at first because of the hype, but believe the hype and go read it if you haven't already (and I don't know why you would not have read it. I mean come on).

Anna RAL Discussions Questions #3

Firstly I must apologise for the lack of regular blogging recently. I've been at home, with a poor internet connection and have been caught up in this RAL, which is taking up all my posts! I am back in Exeter (yay!) and back to normal (sort of), so I will return to normal(ish) posting (is there such a thing?) next week! 

Here is the third set of discussion questions. If you've not read it, there are definitely spoilers here! 


St Clair knows he needs to make a decision about his relationship with Anna, but his hesitation only hurts her. Do you sympathize with him?

Yes. As someone who hates making decisions and changes and hates that sort of thing, I totally sympathise. But at the same time HE’S SO STUPID. I MEAN REALLY. HE HAS ANNA, COME ONNNNNNNN. *ahem* I mean….

Anna is hurt by St Clair, and makes some bad decisions, relationship wise. Do you sympathize with her, or not?

Yes. I do. What’s a girl to do? I mean, he’s stupid. He acknowledges that. But she has to do something, this has been going on like all year. She is stupid, but people do impulsive things when they’re mad or upset. And I do sympathise with her.

How would you have reacted in the park if you were Meredith? How do you think Anna handles the fall out with Meredith?

She has a very appropriate reaction! I think I probably would have done the same to be fair. Or more likely, just pretend I didn’t care when I really did. But running away seems a good option, especially as everyone knew how she felt. It wasn’t like it was a secret.

I think Anna should have listed to Rash and not spoken to her that night, and left her to wallow for a bit. Although it’s good of her to try. But when she does patch things up, I think she handles that well.

Anna has a meltdown in chapter 42 – do you think this was a break-through for her? St Clair tells her that he isn’t the only one who is afraid of being alone. Do you think Anna ever realized this before now?

No. That’s such a hard thing to realize – especially if you’re denying it as much as you can (like she is!). And she doesn’t see that her thing with Toph and her hopes were the same as Ellie and Etienne, because she was never in a relationship with him in the same way. And she kept holding onto him because of Ellie, and argh! It’s so confused. But no, she didn’t realize.

Were you proud of Anna for the steps she takes to repair the relationships in her life?
Yes. She does all the right things. And although maybe she could have seen it sooner and done it sooner, when she does do it, it’s right and I am proud because everything works out so well.


These questions were hard! I can't believe that's the end either. Posting the other two challenges hopefully today!
 




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