Friday, 24 October 2008

Adolescent muse

Some days my writing is like a truculent teenager. I have to coax it out of its fetid den with promises of biscuits and cake.

Today was like that. I avoided looking it directly in the eye, just let it amble at its own pace across the page. I edited tentatively around it, made sure it was fed and watered, brushed the crumbs off its jumper, and resisted the urge to smooth down its hair. Kept my critical lip buttoned up.

And it worked. 2,000 words crept onto the page. Then it said "Can I go now?" and I let it slink back to its room taking the last of the chocolate hobnobs with it. Hope its in a better mood next time I knock on its door.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

It's That Time Again

Aaah eight o’clock on a Thursday night! My favourite time of the week.

I love being a Woodcraft Folk leader but I find preparing for and running the sessions a bit of a stress (especially as I have a day job doing something else and no child-wrangling training what-so-ever). Tonight was our Halloween party and it all went really well (Fancy dress, Zombie Games, a Pumpkin Assault course, Apple Bobbing (“You have to hold his face under” “No you don’t!”) and a Baba Yaga story at the end. Now I can relax with a glass of wine and not think about the darling little Woodies again ‘til after half-term.

This time last week I was still on a high from our writing group’s night of “public readings of our stuff” at a local wine bar. It was fab. A couple of hours before it started I was having big concerns - I knew that half the group weren’t actually that keen on doing it and I was worried that they either wouldn’t turn up or would have a horrible time. I was asking myself "Why are we doing this?” and couldn’t remember the answer.

In the end everyone turned up and did brilliantly. Having to read to an audience had really made us focus on our writing and the pieces were all polished to their shiniest best. We started with a couple of poems about pants then went on to ‘Duelling Haiku” - two men reading out alternate haiku - to great effect. We had stories, poems and excerpts from novels (one of which is to be published next year).

I read one of my SAF stories (about a woman dancing naked in her conservatory) and a micro-fiction piece published in a Leaf Books anthology last year, about a woman who gambles away her lover. I was also the compere and I was in my element. It was my birthday, I was wearing my favourite floaty green nylon vintage dress (how did they manage in the ‘70s with all that smoking in close proximity to flammable material?) and I had a microphone.

Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves and we had some wonderful feedback from the audience. We all ended up on a big high, feeling really confident about our writing. And that’s when I remembered why we had done it.

Friday, 17 October 2008

There are more questions than answers

Actually in this case that's not true, I have answered all the questions below as required. But I remember hearing a homeless man singing the above in a bus stop late one night - very poignant (and totally beside the point, get on with it girl).
Okay, thank you, thank you to Tam, Sally Q and Helen MH for this lovely award.

And in return here's a bit about me:

1) Where is your mobile phone? Downstairs, I just heard it go ping.

2)Where is your significant other? At work and possibly reading this

3)Your hair colour? Ask my hairdresser - I just known that it's a number not a name

4)Your mother? B&B landlady is her latest incarnation, which I can't wait to see

5) Your father? In Italy (and possibly reading this)

6) Your favorite thing? My daughter (is it alright to call her a thing?)

7) Your dream last night? Being exposed in a public toilet. A recurring theme, this time the walls collapsed around me one by one.

8) Your dream/goal? To have a novel published.

9) The room you're in? We call it 'the study, but its really a glorified landing that is also home to drying washing, stuff that needs to go up to the next floor and our harmonium

10)Your hobby? Writing, running, making stuff

11) Your fear? Illness (in me and in others)

12) Where do you want to be in 6 years? On the shelves in Waterstones

13) Where were you last night? Woodcraft Folk - We had an Australian themed night - Had a serious discussion about land rights and emigration, then painted our faces, made boomerangs, and told stories

Edited to add: This is a kids group that I help to run, just in case you were thinking it was some bizarre cult

14) What you're not? Patient

15) One of your wish-list items? A gadget that will give me (genuinely) free unlimited access to the internet and will fit in my pocket, yet will also magically have a (genuinely) usable keyboard for me to tip tap on.

16) Where you grew up? North Yorkshire and North East coast

17) The last thing you did? Coffee and chat with friends this morning after we'd dropped the kids at school

18) What are you wearing? My favourite stripey velevet skirt and a purple top and socks with holes in

19) Your TV? Very small

20) Your pets? Old saggy cat

21) Your computer? Temperamental

22) Your mood? Up. It's Friday. Enjoyed my coffee time this morning, looking forward to writing all day then people coming round this evening for supper

23) Missing someone? Often

24) Your car? Smells

25) Something you're not wearing? Sunglasses

26) Favorite store? Charity shop

27) Your summer? Gorgeous. Relaxed, fun, but too short

28) Love someone? Lots

29) Your favorite colour? Blue, unless it's food

30) When is the last time you laughed? This morning over coffee

31) Last time you cried? I'm prone to tears spilling over all sorts of stuff but I haven't had a full on bawling session for ages.

I need to pass this on and having had a look around realised that most of the blogs I read have already been awarded it. I love lots of blogs and could just give it to you all but I've narrowed it down to the five that I always read as soon as Google Reader tells me they've posted something new - Spiral Skies, Karen, Womag, Helen MH and Sally

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Oh Happy Day!

Mmm pain au chocolat for breakfast, a pile of new books and DVDs, a beautiful silver ring, a bottle of homemade perfume that smells of bubble gum and something cake-shaped hidden in the cupboard for later - it must be my birthday!

I'm having a lovely time so far and I'm planning to spend the next couple of hours walking in the woods. I went for a run there yesterday morning with the idea of clearing my head and came back with it full of words. So I'm going back again today and this time I'm taking my notebook and pen.

In the heart of the woods is an old cotton mill, now belonging to the National Trust. It has a fascinating history, first as a working mill, then an 'entertainment emporium' with dining saloons, a dancing hall, a roller skating rink, refreshments kiosks and boating on the mill pond and now as a 'model of sustainable development', with working models of water power and other green technologies.

Standing in the mill yard on a cold damp day when there is nobody else around you can just about here the footsteps: the clogs ringing on the cobbles, the dancing shoes slipping across the wooden floor, the thunder of the wheels on the rink. All the lives that have passed through there, the long hours and hard labour of women and children, the links with the wider world as cotton was brought in and fabric sent out, the courtships and friendships of Sunday and Bank Holiday jollies by the river and the pond, and the stories that must have blossomed on the dance floor and in the tea rooms. In the still and the quiet the place seems noisy and bustling with the past.

A good place to spend a birthday day I think.

My birthday night will be spent firmly in the present. My writing group is having a 'showcase' at a local wine bar as part of a Readers' and Writers' festival. I enjoy reading out loud (I'm a performer at heart) and have chosen two pieces that I'm pretty confident with, so I'm really looking forward to it, although it will mean holding off on the birthday cocktails until I've finished.

And finally (you can tell it's my birthday, I just can't shut up!). Thank you to Tam for this lovely award which added an extra smile to my day.

There are conditions attached to it - ie a questionnaire to complete and blogs to nominate, but this post is long enough - I promise to do it tomorrow.

Monday, 13 October 2008

But that's not me!

A few years ago some friends from Uni that I thought knew me pretty well got all excited about me meeting up with another friend of theirs.

“She’s just like you,” they said. “It's uncanny, you just won’t believe it.”

I didn’t. She was the most annoying person I’ve ever met. An over the top loud mouth, whom I basically wanted to slap. I didn’t. But I also didn’t spend quite as much time with those friends anymore, and when I did, I was very quiet.

So, it was with some trepidation that I sat down to watch Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky last night. Three separate people had commented that the central character Poppy - “is just like you”. Given that I am not a primary school teacher and am about ten years older than she is, I knew they meant something a bit deeper.

At various points through the film hubby nudged me, raised his eyebrows and gave me a “you do that” look (When she piled all of her materials for her art and craft preparation on the living room floor, talked inanities to uninterested shop assistants, babbled hysterically to the commuters she was squashed with on the bus, fell backwards off a chair, seemed oblivious to the fact that not everyone was on her wavelength etc.).

“Am I really like that?” I had to ask at the end.

“Well,” said hubby, “You’re not quite so breathy and your laugh is less high pitched”

I waited for more.

“And you’re clothes aren’t quite as bright?” He was looking a bit desperate at this point so I let him off.

Of course no-one is ever 'just like' anyone else, but I decided that after all that there are worse things than being compared to an easy-come , easy-go optimist with a love of high heels. And at least I didn’t want to slap her.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Virtual Headpoppingness

At about 2pm last Friday I really did think my head was going to pop. Surrounded by books and paper and envelopes and a flashing email box and a hungry cat, a half packed suitcase and a pile of washing I'd forgotten to wash. I just wanted to throw my hands in the air and shout , "Ok, Ok, I give in . You're right I can't Do it All."

But I didn't because I would have been letting too many people down. So somehow, by five o'clock, I met all three work deadlines that had horribly coincided; I packed the daughter's rucksack for her weekend away in the Dales and my suitcase for my working weekend in Cardiff; I paid my credit card bills, fed the cat and sent out my CV to three prospective new employers. And. I finished the first draft of my novel.

It was only when I was standing on the train platform saying goodbye to hubby and daughter that it sank in. It was when the daughter said 'Mummy have you really written a whole novel?' just before waving goodbye. I sat on the train in shock. I'd done it. The one thing I have really wanted to do ever since I could first cobble together a sentence. I've written a novel. It's a first draft and it needs soooo much work. But I've done it. Milestone reached. Tick. I spent the rest of the five and a half hour journey in a bit of a daze.

I'm really keen to get get on with the rewrite but fortunately have an enforced time/space away from it, first the weekend in Cardiff and now a couple of days working in London. Next Monday should be just right for taking a fresh look. It's been months since I looked at the first chapters - I almost have no idea what I'm going to find!

Meanwhile I did have a sneaky peak this morning at the the chapters I hurriedly sent off to my mentor on Friday (just catching the last post) and was horrified by the number of typos, some of which made a couple of passages difficult to understand (gulp) - I have sent her an apologetic email. Looking forward to hearing what she has to say about 'The End' at our meeting on Wednesday.