Writing can be a lonely profession – all that sitting at the desk – alone with your own thoughts. So it’s good to get away from time to time – and it’s even better to be able to combine that with talking about your work and getting to meet readers and prospective readers.
So I was delighted recently to get an invitation to do just that.
I was invited to do an author talk to the Primary 5, 6 and 7 children on the 5th November at Broadford Primary School on the Scottish Isle of Skye. And not only that I was also invited to deliver a writing workshop to the Primary 7 children later on the same day. And of course I would be appearing as my children’s author alter-ego, Anne McAlpine – author of The Silver Locket (for 9 to 12 year-olds), rather than Anne Stormont writer of adult fiction.
I lived and worked as a teacher on the island for many years and the invitation came from a friend who is also a former colleague.
And it was lovely to have a reason to go back. I miss Skye so much that I hadn’t felt able to return during the (almost) three years since I left. But this offer to talk about my work as a writer and to share TheSilver Locket with some of its intended readership, was the perfect opportunity to get over myself and return to the place where I left a big part of my heart.
The children listened so well during my talk about the background to The Silver Locket, how I got the idea for it and how I went about putting the story together. And the questions afterwards were brilliant and some of the suggestions for sequels were amazingly clever.
And the writing workshop with the Primary 7s (age 11) was great fun and highly productive. We began with several warm-up exercises, and then the children went on to make a start on writing their own 3 or 5 chapter novels – to be adapted/completed at a later date. Some opted for a timeslip story like The Silver Locket, others went for adventure/thriller or crime or mystery. Two of the girls even started to explore doing a manga style graphic novel. But the most rewarding thing was that not one of the pupils said they couldn’t do it or had no idea what to write. They all just went for it.
As for my adult author identity it was also wonderful to be back where I got the inspiration for my Skye set series of romantic fiction novels Displacement, Settlement and the soon to be published Fulfilment. I half-expected to meet Jack or Rachel, from the books, going round Portree Co-Op.
So, all in all, a successful and hugely enjoyable time away from the desk for me. And it came with the added bonus of an extra few days seeing old friends and soaking up the autumn sunshine as I reacquainted myself with all my favourite places on the most beautiful island in the world.
It’s that time of the month – rant and rave week here on the blog – as well as time for my BLOG OF THE MONTH nomination.
I’m going to get the rants off my chest first and then we can end on a happy note.
First off –it’s buying clothes – specifically blouses. Now, me and clothes buying don’t normally get along. I’m very little – only four foot ten and a half in my socks – so trousers, skirts, dresses and coats can be a bit on the long side. But you’d think blouses wouldn’t be problematic and usually they aren’t.
I need some new blouses for work. Nothing fancy – just plain or stripey – cotton – in white or blue – or maybe even pink or green. A three quarter length sleeve is better for my wee short arms, but full length is fine as they can be turned back. Can I find anything remotely fitting the above description? No, I can’t. It’s not size that’s the problem. They just don’t seem to exist. There are plenty sleeveless, or little puff sleeved creations in flimsy, floaty material but no sensible work blouses. Apparently it’s not the season for such garments. Okay – so how come men’s work shirts are available all year round? I rest this case here.
Next up it’s blunders. Firstly, John Lewis – oh dear – they’re normally so reliable. Living relatively remotely, I do a lot of shopping online. And I often buy from John Lewis. Until recently they’d never let me down. So it was disappointing and frustrating when, having ordered a garden table and chairs, the chairs arrived promptly – but no table. I did get a text saying the table was coming and to expect it the next day. And the courier did arrive with a delivery. However, I could tell as the delivery men unloaded an enormous box from the van that it probably wasn’t my small, folding, round table. It was in fact a big, plastic, outdoor Wendy house. It was reloaded and taken back to the warehouse. It took many phone calls, two re-orders and three promised, but non-arriving, deliveries before I finally got my table. I did get a 20% goodwill repayment afterwards, but it’s left me truly hacked off with the company. I had to do all the phoning (at 40p a minute on my mobile – as I can’t make personal landline calls at work) and all the chasing up and spent a lot of time on hold. To rub salt in the wound, whilst on hold, I had to listen to an impossibly cheery wifie burbling on about how to get free next day delivery. Argh!!!
Second blunder – I had to go to hospital recently to have an investigative procedure carried out. The consultant, though competent at carrying out the procedure, was a bit of a numpty. He didn’t introduce himself when he came into the theatre. I wasn’t having anaesthetic, just sedation, so at that point I was wide awake. He dumped my notes on top of me, stood behind me where I couldn’t see him and talked to the nurse. He referred to me as the possible (sinister) diagnosis that the procedure might uncover, rather than by name. And then, after it was all over he didn’t, as I’d been promised he would, discuss what he’d found. I endured a week of worry waiting to be contacted by letter at the very least. In the end I had to contact my GP and ask her to find out the outcome. She said that she’d received notification the day after the procedure that the tests were clear and that the notification said I’d received this information. So I’m relieved but also annoyed. My GP has since received an apology from the great man to relay to me.
Third blunder – that recent budget – granny tax, pasty pickle, the rich reprieved – no don’t get me started…
So let’s move on to more pleasant rave-worthy stuff. First off it’s the weather. Our island seems to have had the best April weather of the whole UK. Lots of warm sunshine and, most unusually, for here, very little rain. Nature is bursting out all over. There’s a local cuckoo cuckooing – as they do – and I spotted my first two swifts of the season whilst out walking yesterday. Skye is at its stunning best at the moment and it’s still pre-midgie time.
Secondly, I’m delighted to have secured tickets for Bill Bailey’s show at the end of the month. He’s coming to our small and humble community centre – as he did last year. It was so brilliant to have such a famous and talented entertainer come to us. Normally we have to travel to Glasgow or Edinburgh to see such a big name, but he has said how much he likes playing small venues and how he appreciated the welcome he was given last year. So he’s returning. Can’t wait!
AND NOW – BLOG OF THE MONTH AWARD goes to Mr London Street – I’m guessing this is not his real name. I ‘met’ Mr L. S. on Twitter and have followed his blog for a while. He recently took a month’s sabbatical from Twitter in order to concentrate on writing. And he didn’t waste his time. The month’s posts are WONDERFUL. It’s terrific, honest, moving, thought-provoking stuff. Well worth a look. You’ll find his blog here http://mrlondonstreet.blogspot.co.uk/
And a wee PS – a shoutout for another Twitter friend, Alison Wells, whose new book, ‘Housewife with a Half-Life’ is available on Kindle from today and as a paperback from June. See blurb below –
A Housewife’s answer to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy! In this lively space comedy, Susan Strong and her spaceman guide Fairly Dave dodge entropy hoovers, Geezers with Freezers, the Super Gnome and the Spinner’s cataclysmic converter on a mission to retrieve the lost pieces of the housewife’s disintegrating self across parallel universes. Can they save us all from Universal Devastation?
I got to read a preview of chapter one – it’s brilliant, funny and clever.
No regrets. Me and Mr Anne lived in a lovely, spacious and
comfortable house. We’d spent a fair bit of money getting it up to 21st
century standards and put in hours of work creating a wonderful, wildlife
First time visitors often panicked as they drove ever
northwards to try and find us. They’d arrive grumbling about us living in the
back of the back of beyond. And then they’d walk into the living room and see
the view from the large window. Then, silence. We learned not to expect any
sensible conversation from our first-timers for quite a few minutes as they
just stood and gawped. Then they’d say, “Now I understand why you live here.”
The utter beauty of our location really defied description. The crofting
township where we lived is small. Around thirty houses sitting on the
characteristic long narrow strips of land known as crofts. Each croft providing
the ground for subsistence farming. Our crofting neighbours kept sheep, goats,
highland cattle and hens.
Sea eagles, golden eagles, and hen harriers could all
be spotted soaring above the loch and dolphins, porpoises and minkes regularly
swam in its waters. Roe deer would run along the bottom of the crofts as dusk
fell – making light work of the deer fencing.
And the winter skies – were big
and bright with stars. No street lighting meant the Milky Way, the
constellations and the planets were clearly visible. What’s not to like?
Being there wasn’t a problem. It was at times idyllic and, even
in the worst of Atlantic gales and storms, it could be exhilarating. No, being
there was fine – but the trouble was we couldn’t always be there. We work in
the main town (population 2500) which is a 30 mile drive – 10 of them on single
track road – from where we lived. The nearest supermarket is in the town along
with all the other necessities of modern life. The winter drive on unlit,
ungritted, narrow twisty roads was a challenge – especially when tired after a
long day at work. And the monthly petrol bill was around £250.
So we’ve moved to town. And we’re loving it. We can walk to
the shops, to work, to the pub. I have a social life. I can relax at work and
not fret about what the weather’s going to be like for the journey home.
No, we don’t have a house yet. We’ve moved 4 times in 4
months – short let to short let – lived with the minimum of stuff and lived out
of bags and boxes. And you know what – it wasn’t as stressful as it sounds.
I was quite proud of myself – that I could make a home out
of only the most basic stuff – and live in relatively small spaces – and be
perfectly happy. In some ways it was quite liberating to realise that if some
catastrophe took away everything I owned, I’m capable of surviving – even without
But, yes, now it is nice to be in a bigger rental place, to
know we’re settled for six months and to have some of our stuff out of storage.
And yes, it would be nice to once more have a place of our own. But in the
meantime I know I can cope.
I love being here. The decision to move was difficult – but it
was right. I’m not missing the old place at all – much as I loved it at times.
But woman cannot live by view alone. So no – no regrets.