Thursday, 30 June 2016

Life... (dramatic pause) finds a way.

Or, an "empty" shell you've had on the side of the bath for months finds a way UP THE BATHROOM WALL one night and delights and frights and delights you in equal measure when you wake up to see this:

My other half: "Do you think it was always in there or has another thing moved into it?"

I was tempted to leave it, just to see how far it might travel over the next few nights, but thoughts of it being hungry and probably not wanting to live on a bathroom tile took over. Also we're not allowed pets in out flat.

So we gently removed it from the wall to see the creature had retreated back in the depths of the shell, but some kind of special glue had kept it aloft all the other stones, a la Karen Jones' brilliant interpretation of the pic on Facebook: A leader emerges. The stone people - and two potatoes - gather around and await their orders. The battle plan will be put into action soon. Death to the captors!

But we quickly silenced the shell creature and transported it back into the wilderness, well - a nearby posh garden.

Bon chance, petit escargot.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

So, lately

Hello blog – it’s been a while.

April and May were busy writing months where I worked simultaneously on two ghostwriting projects (both autobiographies) and a few other bits of freelance work in between. Since things have wound down and one of the projects has been signed off (the other is almost completed) I’ve been able to take some time to look over all those half written stories and sprouts of ideas that have been laying low while my writing brain has been engaged in writing for others.

Since September I’ve written over 100,000 words as if I am someone else… I’ve captained a ship, been in the Falklands, lived in a country hall, been married 8 times, lived in London through the 60s and 70s, and travelled the world several times over.

And when I’ve written about these experiences, I’ve done so with a deadline, usually composing 5000 words in two days. A brilliant lesson in getting the words out, onto the page, so when I have had time to write as me – the words seem to come faster, and easier, than before. It’s certainly teaching me to be less of a perfectionist in those early drafting days.

But it hasn’t all been work the past few months. There has been nature too.

It rained while we were in nature 

There was a family wedding, which was quite restorative for me – catching up with the cousins I grew up with and seeing my mum’s sister (the bride) happy and looking so lovely. I missed my mum, but it’s ok to cry at weddings so I shed a few tears when I could.

The church (moody - it brightened up later)
Just married

"I'm in a hotel!"

And some wonderful writing news – I have a story in the final 64 out of the 1439 who entered the Bath Short StoryCompetition. The shortlist will be announced on Friday so here’s hoping I’ll go further, but if not – wow, what a result already – I’m delighted.

Hm, putting a full stop after saying ‘I’m delighted’ makes it sound like you’re not. But if I do an exclamation mark it’ll sound a bit manic.

I’m delighted!

See? But I am. Delighted.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Where I am... and OVERHEARD

So I haven't blogged well and properly for quite some time. I am still here, writing, but not for myself at the moment - I'm deep in the process of ghost-writing two autobiographies. I've composed a few blog posts in my head - a really good one in fact about how I'm noticing the way ghost-writing affects my 'regular' creativity (in a mostly good way) and all the lessons I'm learning as I meet and write for some wonderful people, but there's hardly time for regular creativity at the moment let alone a blog about it. But I hope to share some thoughts with you soon.

HOWEVER there is always time to share an EXCELLENT overheard conversation. And this one is pretty special. As I sat in my local coffee shop today, working on someone else's story, this one infiltrated my ears.

Context: A man, perhaps 50 years old, is speaking to/at his friend 'Pam'. He is incensed.

Man: "I’m as good as Jean Michel Jarre and Kraftwerk. I play synthesiser, Pam. Fucking synthesiser! I know a thousand key combinations! Thank god I come from a musical background or I’d be up shit creek. I said to my dad, ‘I want world wide dominance with my synthesiser playing’. ‘You’ll get it, son,’ he said. But when will I get it, Pam? He said my playing would blow people’s minds!"

Pam, on her phone: "Ooh - fish shop opens at 4."

and..... SCENE.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Catching up part 2: Stop fighting... now.

Here's what I tried to say on 2nd March, from my blog drafts folder.

2nd March:

Ah. Okay. So. I could write a long post (actually I could create an entire new blog - have considered this) about body image, the wider societal issues, my own personal experience. But I stopped there when I wrote this draft because it is such a big subject, broad, wide, deep, easy, difficult, interesting, boring, essential all at the same time. All I will say then is that it's true - I am so tired of fighting with my body. 

So I am working with it instead. I am being kind, loving and encouraging to it. That might sound funny but who cares - it's necessary and it's necessary for EVERYONE. I only have one of these things, and it's fucking good, better than I give it credit for. It gets me around, it digests my food, all kinds of behind-the-scenes stuff. And what have I been doing - I've been catching sight of it in the mirror and going, 'Oh god, really, you're doing THAT are you? With the skin and the lump there and the corned beef effect there?' 

I'm not doing it anymore! It's bullshit. I know I'm being all sweary to make my points but I think it's helping. 

If this at all resonates with you, try it. It won't be new information to you, of course - you've heard this kind of thing before, how you should pay yourself a daily compliment, love yourself etc. If that feels too far away from you, too ridiculous then fine - but really, let's stop with the fighting our bodies as a start. 

Catching up part 1: Lost time

Two months since my last post and two 'draft' blogs have been sitting on my dashboard waiting to be finished and published. Here's the first (I'll string this out by posting them separately):

22nd February:

This was about how I use time, or don't use time (but I guess that is still a use of time?) 

I was pissed off with myself for spending an hour before work surfing the internet (if people still say that) instead of writing, as I had set out to do. I got sucked and hooked into Facebook / Twitter / Buzzfeed quizzes to see how Northern I am (87%) what age I am according to my colour perception (18) what my name would be if I was born now (Caden). 

I stayed pissed off at myself for just the right amount of time: enough time to realise I needed to not do that again, at least for a bit (am human). I reduced how much I go online rapidly for about a week and have since then, pretty much, gone by these guidelines:

- Don't check the internet first thing in the morning (eat breakfast with no distractions, write in notebook before going online)
- Don't check it last thing at night (most nights have a 'cut off' around 6pm) 
- Be more mindful of social media use throughout the day (just gerroff it, luv)

It's not the first time I've curbed my use of FB etc, and I feel like a bit of a fool for even having / needing these 'rules', but I console myself with the thought that we are living in an era no one expected (there was that one guy though, wasn't there, he knew it was coming), we're overloaded with information, connections, opportunities all just a click away. My brain hasn't adapted yet. And I'm just really nosey.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

This week I am...

Reading... Margaret Atwood's 'The Stone Mattress', a collection of 9 short fantastical stories - or 'tales' (the term Atwood prefers for these particular works) about revenge, mortality, ageing and looking back.

Listening... to David Bowie, of course.

Working... as a biographer on a life story project. The book is almost done and will finish around the 45,000 word mark. I'm in an interesting and privileged position to be listening to the stories and experiences of someone I never meet, and turning those spoken stories into something that works on the page. The next few months will bring more life writing projects, some of which I'll be having more creative freedom and space with, actually meeting and speaking with clients, building books in a more collaborative way. An exciting time.

Walking... at speed on a daily basis to try to undo all the food of Christmas and New Year. Might take a while.

Preparing... an application for the role of editor with the journal The A3 Review. I ordered a bundle of issues to read in preparation, and they're wonderful.

Holding... a hot water bottle, pretty much full time.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Why I've been away a while

A week after my last post we lost a close family member. I will hold back a little here in the specifics of what I say because this loss is not just my own, but my partner’s. It was a sudden and intense experience, and the swells of that loss, and those left behind, are still felt now.

November and December were spent collected together with my partner’s family, mostly indoors but sometimes out in open spaces where we tried to breathe, make sense, and feel the person still with us. We lit fireworks and Chinese lanterns. We have become very keen on candles. We’ve dug out old lamps and bought fairy lights and even some of those pretend battery powered candles for when we’re asleep. I’m not sure if there’s something in this seeking of light (it’s not that we’re avoiding the dark) but it seems to bring comfort.

It is hard when faced with such a sudden absence of life to not expect more of it to occur. So in and amongst processing this we hold on to each other a little tighter, and feel gratitude for what we have. We remember and contemplate on the person we knew and loved, and what they brought to us.

Cawthorne Park, Barnsley

Saturday, 24 October 2015

ten thoughts on a Saturday evening

(Inspired by Josephine Corcoran's post 'Ten thoughts on a Friday evening'. The first thought here is a direct reference to Josephine's.)

1. After a day of work, sipping a glass of wine whilst not cooking (beyond warming up some pitta bread) is a great pleasure. But I do like drinking wine and cooking. Tomorrow night I'll have a glass while I make a lentil dhal, which is one of my favourite things to make. But tonight it was nice to warm up some bread, throw some hummus and falafel onto a plate and wonder if I'd get lynched if I went back to the place I grew up for having such a poncey tea.

2. I had some crisps with my wine as a kind of 'starter', which made me feel better about the poncey tea.

3. I watched Corrie as I ate my poncey tea which really helped me to feel more down to earth.

4. I love Corrie. Five times a week (and not restricted to the broadcast times, thank you modern technology) I get a really happy feeling as I sit or lie down for 22 minutes to enjoy an episode. It's funny and well scripted. It's genuinely funny. Mary is my favourite. If you watch it and if you know me well you might understand why I like her so much.

5. Every so often, someone will hear that I watch certain TV programs (I also watch Big Brother) and say something smart like, 'Oh I thought you were better than that!' Of all the judge-y snobby attitudes I dislike, this is in the top 5 worst ones. (I'm not sure what else is in there yet - another blog post? but I know that I'd put grammar snobs in number 1.)  Like what you like! Enjoy what you get pleasure from, for whatever reason. And please don't call the things you like 'guilty pleasures' - doing that just succumbs to and validates the judgements of others.

6. Happy Halloween! I bought these lights just a few hours ago. They're from Sainsbury's, they're battery powered, they cost £3.50 and they are ESSENTIAL. That's my head and eye at the top. Tilt your head to the right or it looks like my fringe is a beard.

7. I have a new job and it is a writing job. It's really nice to be able to say that! I'm working as a ghostwriter (that's even nicer to say) writing people's life stories from interviews they've given. It is really a fantastic job, interesting and rewarding - and hopefully it will lead onto and into other things... I'm doing it for an organisation at the moment, but am hoping, and planning, to be working for myself in the future. I want to help people tell their stories - it makes total sense for me to do that, for a variety of reasons. Maybe that is also another post. If you'd like help writing your story - get in touch - my email is in the 'about' tab up there.

8. I only have one story out being judged at the moment - and it's at the Costa Short Story Award. Six winners are due to be announced in November, which is very close. But 'Winners announced in November' is vague - that could mean the end of November. Which is a whole month away. It probably doesn't mean that, and I'm not saying this to elicit a 'Oh you never know!' response (I actually have that, naturally) but wouldn't it be amazing if writing competitions always kept their Twitter / website / blog up to date with news of how close they are to contacting the winners or shortlisters? They must know we check any kind of news resource daily (hourly) to see if anything has been announced. Just a snippet of news, an indication, would be excellent. And it would be respectful - then we can send our work elsewhere, with confidence, and not in a sneaky way.

9.  In a bit I'll watch another episode of Corrie, then retire to bed to listen to a radio program. This is where I should say something about being boring, or 'this is how I rock a Saturday night!' or something else that I don't really mean. I guess we're back to thought number 5. When possible I try to fill my time with things I love doing, and these are the things I really want to do right now. The radio program, as I'm sure you're eager to know, will be Word of Mouth with Michael Rosen. (Josephine mentioned Michael in her list too, so that's a nice bit of synchronicity.)

10.  This is probably the best video I've ever seen on the internet. (Yeah, even including all the cat ones.) (I KNOW!!!!) Thanks Vanessa Gebbie for sharing this on FB. This lady dancing, and the last line, and the timing of the last line and the song that comes on next... all comprise and make for one joyous, life-grabbing, life-affirming experience.

Be happy! Like what you like! Write your thoughts and share in the comments, or leave a link to your blog in the comments. Happy Saturday. (Or any of the other 6 days in the week when you could be reading this.)

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Excellent surprise

... to find myself on the back of this book. I knew I had a story in this collection, but I didn't know until my copy arrived that a quote from it would be gracing the back cover so beautifully.

Thanks, Hour of Writes.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Announcing the winner

... of the names-in-a-hat style competition to win a signed copy of Emma Pass' latest novel The Fearless.

Thanks to everyone who RT'd to help spread the word about Emma's letter to her teenage self which we posted here a few days ago as part of UKYA Extravaganza.

All of your names were put into hat  lovely porcelain pot (on account of being unable to find my hat this morning).

Here I have captured LIVE the moment of picking the name. Get ready...


SO - congratulations to Helen Grant. If you haven't already, please let me know your address by direct-messaging me on Twitter or email me (see contact tab up there).

Thanks y'all - and to Emma too.

Back soon with good writing news!