Motive, Means and Opportunity for a Mindful & Meaningful Year

Fireworks #1
Fireworks #1 (Photo credit: Camera Slayer)

So, it’s onwards and upwards in 2013. I have the motive, means and opportunity – as the cops say of criminal masterminds –to succeed. Only in my case, I don’t plan to commit a crime – but to commit myself to what really matters in life – and especially to my writing.

The blog pause is over and I promise I put my time away to good use.

I did get some writing done but, with the small matter of Christmas to organise, perhaps not as much as I’d hoped. However, I’m not going to be too hard on myself. Last year’s mantra was ‘now’ but this year’s is ‘mind/don’t mind.’ By that I mean I’m only going to be mindful of the important stuff – the stuff that is worth paying attention to. The other stuff – guilt, pointless worrying, and other unimportant wastes of time – I’m not going to pay any heed to them.

So, on that positive note, I’m not going to mind too much that a lot of time in 2012 had to be given over to family matters, health matters and moving house as well as to the ever-increasing demands of my fulltime teaching job. That was all as it should be.

And in spite of all that stuff I did get a reasonable amount of writing done last year. I made progress with both novels-in-progress – my second adult one and my first one for children. I submitted my bi-monthly articles to the writers’ magazine ‘Words with Jam’. I also blogged almost every week. I made a new personal best, record number of sales for my novel ‘Change of Life’ and made it into Amazon’s women’s fiction bestsellers list – albeit briefly.

Other good things from last year – I read some great books – many of them reviewed on here. I spent a lot of quality time with my wee granddaughter during her first year. In July I made my third visit to Israel and had an amazing time there – also recorded here on the blog. And the visit provided some valuable research for the grown-up novel.

Edinburgh, Scotland's capital and second-large...
Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital and second-largest city (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And 2013 has got off to a good start. I spent a few days at New Year in my home city of Edinburgh. It was a lovely break made up of family, fun and fireworks.

Edinburgh: New Year fireworks 2013
Edinburgh: New Year fireworks 2013 (Photo credit: kaysgeog)

The city’s Hogmanay fireworks, which I viewed from the street outside my son’s flat, were an awesome and a fitting start for ‘WriteEnough’s’ year of living mindfully. I stayed with my son and his lovely partner and was thoroughly spoiled by them. I met with my sisters for a good catch up and spent some time with  my elderly father and auntie.

2012-12-31 12.35.55

I spent a magical morning in Edinburgh’s Botanical Gardens, one of my favourite places in this city of many magical locations.  I said hallo to the grand old Figus Sylvatica – one of three specimens of this magnificent silver-barked tree situated at the top of the Gardens. It is under this tree, looking out over the town that I would like my ashes to be scattered – but not for many years yet! I spent some quiet time in the Chinese garden section, enjoying the sight and sound of the gentle waterfalls . And I sat on the bench where I used to go and sit when I was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer and needed to get my head round the fact that I was mortal after all.

2012-12-31 12.38.09

Another highlight of my visit to the capital was going to the John Bellany exhibition at the National Gallery of Scotland. Wow! What an amazing artist he is. Three of my favourite paintings were ‘Eyemouth Boatyard’ because it reminded me of childhood holidays spent near there, ‘My Father’ because it was so alive with the artist’s father’s character and ‘The Obsession’ which was subtitled ‘Whence do we come? Who are we? Whither do we go?’ in which Bellany’s desire to know the meaning of life is grippingly portrayed. And there were so many other incredible pictures, from gorgeous Tuscan landscapes to gruesome Holocaust evocations – and some truly amazing ones done while the artist was recovering from a liver transplant and contemplating his mortality. Fabulous!

English: The National Gallery of Scotland on t...
English: The National Gallery of Scotland on the Mound in Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo taken by Finlay McWalter on 7th August 2004 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And now, I’m back at school and enjoying seeing all the children and hearing about their Christmases. Some have had lovely stories to tell about their near misses almost meeting Santa Claus, hearing him on the landing outside their bedroom door or being certain they saw him cross the bedroom floor. Magic!

And as to my writing motives, means and opportunities – well – I have the means – I have my little writing den back as the granddaughter and her parents have their own home once more; I have the opportunities – as long as I choose to take them and make time for them and I have the motives – two novels almost complete and ready for editing AND –

AND – what could be more motivating for an insecure writer who sometimes wonders if she’s kidding herself about being a writer at all – than to hear (today) that I was shortlisted in the story competition jointly run by the National Library of Scotland, the Scotsman newspaper and Scottish Ballet. The brief was to rework the Hansel and Gretel story for an adult audience and to end it at the part where Hansel and Gretel go into the forest. It seems the judges liked my version. I am smugly but quietly proud.

So here’s to 2013, thank you for reading my blog and happy new year to you all.

Slainte Mhath!

Reading, Writing and the Rhythm of Life

 

The clocks have gone back and it’s early dark, but rather than going into hibernation I seem to be nicely busy.

There’s been reading, writing and several coffee and cake dates with friends. And I’m really looking forward to attending the latest of the Atlas Arts talks this coming Saturday. I’ve enjoyed all of the Atlas talks I’ve been to this year. It’s a great local organisation that promotes the work of artists from all over the UK. This week it will be Nicky Bird talking about her work with photography and new media. You can read more about Atlas at http://www.facebook.com/atlasartpeopleplace  or on twitter at @skyeatlas

And it’s a collage of a post this week – a book review, a round-up of how my writing’s going and a general witter on my life as a busy old bat.

First, the book review. It’s been a while since I read a proper page-turner of a novel – a book that keeps me from getting to sleep at a sensible hour. So it was lovely to discover Louise Douglas’s ‘The Secrets Between Us’. Having previously read and greatly enjoyed two other novels by this author – ‘The Love of my Life’ and ‘Missing You’, I was hoping for an equally enjoyable experience this time. I wasn’t disappointed.

With its shades of Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ this contemporary, romantic, thriller is gripping right from the start. Even although I worked out whodunnit quite a while before the end, I was still in suspense to see how it all played out. My only gripe – and it’s a small one was that the ending was a little rushed and underplayed. But I do recommend the book to fans of Du Maurier and Douglas.

As for my own writing, I seem to have got my mojo back. The creative flow has been a bit interrupted  – and even blocked –  of late, with both work and family stuff having to take priority. But I resolved during my half-term holiday from school to get back to the desk. Or, rather, to set up a new desk.

Family circumstances have meant that my little granddaughter currently has my study as a bedroom. So, I bought a laptop with a nice big screen, a set of good earphones in order to listen to music while I work and block out the noise of the TV, and I’ve set up my office on the dining-room table. And so far so good.

I’ve entered my children’s novel in the ‘Myslexia’ magazine children’s book competition. I’ve entered a reworking of the Hansel and Gretel tale in the competition being run jointly by the National Library of Scotland, Scottish Ballet and the Scotsman newspaper. I’ve written my contribution to the December issue of writing magazine, ‘Words with Jam’.

But the thing I’m most chuffed about is getting back to my partly written, second ‘grown-up’ novel. Yesterday evening, I began re-reading the 80,000 words I’ve written so far. I haven’t looked at it for a few months and I was pleasantly surprised (she says modestly). It was great to be back with the characters and get re-involved in their lives. Now I’m really looking forward to spending my evenings in the company of these people and completing the telling of their story.

I’ve also put three more competitions into my writing diary for early in the new year.

And it won’t be long before 2013 is here. I know everyone of my age finds that time whizzes past, but I suspect that living by the termly rhythm of the school year, makes the passage of time go even faster. At school we’ve just had the excitement of Halloween and bonfire night and this Friday will see staff and pupils all wearing red in honour of armistice day. Then it’s our mega fundraising day for ‘Children in Need’ with lots of Pudsey related activities –  before we career towards the Christmas concert, parties and Santa’s arrival.

Autumn is well and truly ensconced on Skye  – and winter has already run some preview trailers. The crunch and smell of fallen leaves, the woodsmoke and the early morning mists have been trumped by icy roads and pavements. Even the fireworks display had to compete with a heavy snowfall on Saturday evening to win the wow-factor contest.

I’m bracing myself for the short days and very long nights that you get this far north in December and January. But the long evenings mean plenty of time to write. There’s also the granddaughter’s first birthday to look forward to –  as well as the magic that is Christmas. And then the holidays should provide an opportunity to get engrossed in a good book – or two…

Bring it on!

 

May the force of the darling buds be with you

Another month has ended. My real life, my writing life and my working life have all been very busy throughout April and May doesn’t look as if it will be any quieter.

In real life, the Easter holidays were enjoyable and fun. The husband recovered from his lurgy and we got over the disappointment of our cancelled holiday. This was made easier when our daughter, son-in-law and our gorgeous granddaughter, Eva, came to stay. The wee one is four months old now and smiles and babbles away at anyone who pays her any attention. She also developed a liking for one of our floor-lamps and it got the most enthusiastic chatter of any of us – especially when lit.

And then it was back to school. It was lovely comparing notes with the granny colleagues as several of us had been able to spend time with our grandbabies during the break. It’s hard to believe that it’s term four already and that the school year will end in eight weeks time. We’re already preparing for the new intake of five-year-olds in August and it only feels like yesterday that our present Primary Ones arrived. The school is already going Olympics crazy and there is an absolute extravaganza of stuff planned for the next few weeks – all related to the Games.

As for the writing – it can be hard going after a busy day at school but I usually make it to my desk after dinner – and I always get a bit done at the weekends. Novel number two is coming along nicely. I’m two-thirds of the way through the first draft and I’m at that stage where the characters are always with me – and I half expect to meet them at the co-op they are so real to me.

I was very chuffed to be mentioned on the cover of April’s issue of Words with Jam, http://www.wordswithjam.co.uk/  the writers’ magazine that I’m a ‘staffer’ on. I’ve been with the magazine from the start but never had billing on the front page before. The founding editor, Jane Dixon-Smith, is amazing and has taken WWJ from solely free online editions to e-format and print versions. It is now a well-established, high circulation and entertaining and informative journal. The staff is even getting paid now!

I was also very pleased with the results of offering my novel ‘Change of Life’ as a free download for Kindle on one weekend in April. Hundreds of copies were downloaded and paid sales also experienced a boost afterwards. The book made it to number 3 on the Kindle paid Women’s Fiction chart on Amazon and to number 63 in the paid general fiction Kindle chart. I did enjoy my fifteen minutes of fame.

And still on the subject of writing I have also joined The Alliance of Independent Authors http://allianceindependentauthors.org/ . This is a new body started by Orna Ross and it aims to support, represent and advise independent authors and looks well worth being a member of if you’re a ‘struggling’ indie author.

As for island life – well – lambing is over. The weather has been amazingly good and the lambing snow has been confined to the hilltops. Foxes are proving to be a pest as always and a colleague lost a lamb the other night to Mr Fox. I know they have to eat but it’s the way they just take the head that gives me the shivers – and they leave behind these wee headless corpses. On a happier note, there’s already a healthy number of tourists enjoying our beautiful surroundings.

The days are lengthening and the beautiful sunny days are ending with spectacular sunsets and magnificent displays of the Northern Lights. For some amazing photos of the Aurora over Skye go here: http://www.glendaleskye.com/sightings.htm#aurora .  Skye is truly Hebridean heaven at the moment.

Slainte Mhath to all my readers and tioraidh for now.

Out Like A Frisky Lamb

And so March is coming to an end and it seems set to live up to its old reputation for coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb. In common with most of the rest of the United Kingdom our little island has been having the most gorgeous weather for the last week. Apparently the Hebrides were hotter than the Balearics at the weekend. Daffodils are out in their hosts and my walk to work is scented by the coconut waft of yellow gorse flowers from the hedgerows and verges.

We’re trying not to get too comfortable without our vests and our cardis though. April often sees a fall of ‘lambing snow’ – but for now we’re soaking up the full spectrum light and giving the central heating a rest.

As for my end of month round up of my March reading and writing – well – it was tough but I’ve now got properly back into the writing groove. My second novel is back on track and I aim to have the first draft complete by mid July. Then after a bit of a break I intend to get on with the rewriting and redrafting of my novel for children.

I’ve always found that listening to music helps me get in the writing zone. All three of my books are associated with particular playlists. And playing the ‘Novel 2’ tunes definitely retuned my brain to the correct writing frequency.

My current read is the book I received as a Mothers’ Day present. It’s Mary Quant’s autobiography. I dropped heavy hints about it – i.e. said to the husband that I’d like it and to tell the kids if they asked for ideas of what to give me.

I’m a child of the sixties so Mary Quant – fashion designer, trendsetter and  feminist was a role model, heroine and figurehead for lassies of my vintage. I’m whizzing through the book. Quant is no great writer, and the book might annoy some by being a bit haphazard in its organisation and a mite repetitive here and there, but i find that to be part of its charm. There’s no airbrushing or ghost-writing. It’s honest and I’m gripped by it. It’s really like sitting down and having a right good blether – or rather, listening to anecdote after anecdote – in no particular order – but all lively, interesting and full of insight. It shows Quant’s take on her life as a wife, mother and woman as well as a grounded and highly successful businesswoman. The book is an original and refreshingly female take on an amazing era. The hardback is available now and the paperback (cover above) will be out in September.

So the first quarter of 2012 is almost gone. I began the year with a new motto – ‘NOW’ – 2012 is to be, for me a year of ‘Carpe Diem’, of less procrastination, of feeling the fear and doing stuff anyway… And so far I’m doing not a bad job of sticking to it. My main focus is on the ‘now’ – only the odd glance backwards – and no worrying about futures that only exist in my over-anxious brain.

On that chilled note, I’m off on holiday on Saturday for a week. Yes – it’s the school holidays – yes again!  The husband and I are going to Ireland with the son and his lovely lass. And when we get back the daughter, her wonderful husband and our gorgeous wee granddaughter are coming to stay for a week. Totally gle mhath (very good)

Whatever your Spring festival of choice or conviction – Enjoy and be in the moment!

Tioraidh for now…

The Craic from Packing Cases to a Housewarming Turbot…

English: The North Cuillin ridge from Portree.
Image via Wikipedia

So, where was I? Ah, yes, moving house. It’s done. Hurrah! We’re exhausted, but it’s done. It was quite a bourrach for a while there. But now the boxes are unpacked and it’s good to be reunited with all our stuff that’s been in storage for the last seven months. It’s also good to bring our nomadic existence to an end. Once more we have a home of our own. There’s still all the pictures to put up and some new curtains to be made – but mostly everything is in place.

We have surplus furniture in the garage, but I’ve already managed to sell some of it by advertising on the local free ads page on Facebook. Still got a couple of wardrobes to go and then there will be space for the ‘Big Beamer’ – otherwise known as the husband’s motorbike. Needless to say there will never be space for the car to go inside.

We have had a great incentive to get on and get the house organised as our daughter, her husband and our gorgeous eleven-week-old granddaughter are coming to stay on Thursday for a long weekend. It’s hard being three hundred miles away from them, so I’ll be making the most of the visit.

I still can’t quite get over the fact that I’m a granny but I absolutely love this new status. The love you feel for a grandchild is as, if not more, intense as you feel for your child – but it’s also different – in an (for me) inexplicable way. We’re also very glad that my very dear father-in-law got to meet his wee great-granddaughter before he passed away so suddenly in January. His passing has left a large gap in our family life, but his children carried out a most poignant and fitting funeral service for him where we felt his presence more than his absence.

My new study is very comfy. I’ve commandeered the fourth and smallest bedroom as my lair. It looks south over the garden to the Portree hills and the Cuillin ridge beyond. I think I’ll be very content to write in this room and I’m so grateful to have a room of my own. My writing has been so disrupted over the last few months – with one thing and another – that it will be good to finally get back some rhythm and momentum. My children’s novel is ‘finished’ (first draft) and is fermenting quietly in the background. My second novel for adults is almost finished the first draft stage and that is my priority. Then it will be back to the children’s book to start the rewriting process.

I still write for Words with Jam – the bi-monthly writers’ mag – haven’t missed an issue and am so proud to be associated with Jane Dixon-Smith’s most marvellous creation. Next edition is out in April (available both in e-format and paper copy) and the theme is storytelling. After my visitors leave, I must get  on and write my next piece.

The island continues to be almost permanently swathed in grey. It’s hard for us Hebrideans to believe that there’s a drought in parts of England. We have had almost unrelenting rain, wind and dreichness for many weeks now. The bairns at the school are hardy though. We make sure they’re well wrapped up and out they go in all but the most foul of weathers. But the children – and the rest of us – desperately need to see some sun. It would be nice to go for a walk without all the waterproof gear on.

The current main concerns for many islanders are – lambing in a few weeks time, the Co-op’s plans for expansion in Portree, the possible arrival of one of the ‘big boy’ supermarkets, the continued practice of some companies to charge outrageously for delivery to the island – we have had a fixed road connection to the mainland, i.e. a bridge, for many years now – and the change over from the Crofters’ Commission to the Crofting Commission – yeah, spot the difference?! We can only hope the new governing body for crofting is less bureaucratic and more efficient and crofter friendly than its predecessor.

Oh – just been interrupted by a knock at the door. Scuse me.

Windowpane flounder

Aw, our next door neighbour is a fisherman and he’s just handed in a humungous turbot. He told me there’ll be plenty more. The kitchen smells of the sea – incredibly fresh fare – Mr T was swimming in a loch this afternoon. Right must go – have to look up turbot recipes on interweb.

Oidhche Mhath/Night Night.

PS if you’ve spotted/been puzzled by the muckle amount o’ guid Scots words in this post – that’s because I watched a braw wee programme on BBC2 Scotland the nicht a’ aboot the Scots language. It was called Scots Scuil and followed six Scottish bairns who spent a week at a special residential Scots school and developed their abilities to talk, sing and write in the language. I was fair ta’en wi’ it, so I was.

 

Two-faced January

English: Bust of the god Janus, Vatican museum, .
Image via Wikipedia

As I said at the start of the year, my post on the last Tuesday of each month would be a look back at my month in terms of my reading, writing and other significant/trivial/funny/sad news. So let’s see…

At the beginning of the month, and indeed the year, I resolved to get on with my novel. It’s my second book and it’s two-thirds written. I planned my time and input, set my word count targets and was raring to go. Then as you’ll see below, to paraphrase John Lennon, while I was making my plans – life happened – and my newly gained momentum was stopped in its tracks. I did however manage to continue to take part in the ‘A River of Stones’ 2012 project and have posted a small piece of mindful and observational writing each day this month. All have been posted here on the blog. I also wrote my regular piece for the writers’ magazine ‘Words with Jam’.

My reading this month has included fiction and non-fiction. And, before I tell you about it, I want to share a cool quote from Annie Proulx with you that sums up how important I believe reading to be for all of us who call ourselves writers. ‘Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write. I read omnivorously – technical manuals, history, all sorts of things. it’s a relief to get away from your own stuff.’ I think that says it all.

I began with Sara Maitland‘s ‘Book of Silence‘. Maitland is a long time favourite fiction author of mine. But this was non-fiction – part account of her retreat into silence and part reflection on her own writing and creative processes. It was interesting and, in places, thought-provoking but it was a little slow and rather repetitive here and there. I guess a bit of a tighter edit would have resolved these problems in an otherwise fascinating book.

My fiction reading is a freebie – a pre-publication proof copy from the publisher of ‘Brighton Belle’ – the latest novel from Sara Sheridan. I’m almost finished it and it’s a thoroughly enjoyable crime thriller set in the 1950s. I’ll be doing a full review of it  soon.

And in other news – so, there was I, all organised – ready to go back to work after the festive break – writing plans in place for the evenings and weekends, house move imminent… Then wham! The house move went bosoms skyward, the car had a catastrophic breakdown, and my dear father-in-law passed away very suddenly. Yes, a bit of a stressful time – the muse fled.

However, things are resolved – the house move is back on track, the car is fixed – £700 later – all down to dirty fuel apparently. And although it was tough to say goodbye to ‘Grandpa’, his passing did bring the whole family together and gave us some unexpected time with our lovely, wee, seven-week old granddaughter. A true January scenario –  with our family looking to the past and to the future.

I hope that February will be a bit quieter – although there is the small matter of moving house mid-month – and that my muse will feel safe to come out of her cupboard…

 

 

 

 

New Year, New Look and a Brief Glance Back

“Another year over and what have I done?” – to sort-of-quote John Lennon? Don’t worry I’m not about to give a detailed round-up of my exciting life in 2011. Apart from anything else a lot of it’s been documented here on the blog already. Suffice to say we moved house several times, we coped with illness, hospitalisation and a redundancy, as well as enjoying a lovely spring time holiday in North Berwick, attending our daughter’s wedding in September and rejoicing in the birth of our first grandchild in December. 2012 will see us move into our long-term new home and we’ve already got another spring time holiday planned.

This is my first blog post of the new year (apart from the January stones that I’m putting up each day of course) and I’ve been having a think how I’m going to develop ‘Write Enough’ this year. And in the best tradition of New Year resolutions, I’m going to give it a bit of a makeover. A new up-to-date avatar of me is the most obvious change (should be showing soon). Also, as I work fulltime and have several other writing projects on the go – two novels to redraft and rewrite and get ready for editing, my bi-monthly column for the writers’ magazine ‘Words with Jam’, a couple of competitions to prepare for, and my already published book to promote – besides the blog, I want to give my posts a tighter structure and to do a bit of forward planning.

So what can readers expect? Well, first of all, I’m going to stick, as far as possible, to Tuesday postings. The first Tuesday of the month (from next month) I’m going to post pieces on island life – to give readers a flavour of what life is like on a Hebridean island. On the second Tuesday each month I’m going to do a Rant and a Rave – i.e. I’ll do my grumpy old woman/subversive old bat thing on an issue that’s bothering me (the Rant) as well as finding something to  praise, such as a blog  or read-of-the-month, (the Rave). Third Tuesday will be a book review and final Tuesday will take the form of a monthly gossip on ‘reading, writing and other news’. In a five Tuesday month, the fourth one will be a repost of a popular blog item from 2010 0r 2011.

But before I say a final farewell to 2011, I’d just like to name three favourite literary items from last year.

Fiction book of the year: ‘Kimi’s Secret’ by John Hudspith – I blogged here about this amazing book for readers 10-100 who enjoy a rattling good fantasy tale.

Non-fiction book of the year: ‘The Warmth of the Heart prevents your Body from Rusting’ by Marie de Hennezel – a wonderful and uplifting take on ageing.

Blog of the Year: Random Jottings of a Book and Opera Lover http://randomjottings.typepad.com Elaine Simpson-Long’s excellent, exemplary and entertaining blog.

Now bring on 2012!

Life is what happens while you’re away making plans…

Isle of Skye - 114
Image by jvhemert via Flickr

It’s been a while since my last post and for that I
apologise. I’m afraid life has rather got in the way of my writing since June.
However normal service has now been resumed.

There’s been a lot happening. For one thing, a quicker than
anticipated house sale resulted in me and the husband having to move four times
since early July. And then in September our daughter’s wedding took place. In
amongst all that the poor husband took ill and had to go into hospital. He’s
recovered now and started a new job. So I hope you get the picture – it’s been
a wee bit hectic.

Now, though, we’re settled in a lovely house – ours until at
least next spring. I’m loving living in the ‘big town’ – the main town on the
island, which is really a large village. But it has shops and restaurants and
pubs and a pool and all sorts… AND I can walk to work – no more 60 mile round
trip every day by car. Bliss! The old place was very beautiful – but also very
remote – and winters were difficult. So no regrets. Woman cannot live by view
alone.

Glamaig, Isle of Skye
Image via Wikipedia

So – writing – where am I at? Well – the children’s novel
requires only the last chapter to be written and that will be the first draft
ready to be left to simmer for a while. I must say on re-reading what I’ve
already written, I’m quietly chuffed with it. As for the second novel that I’m
writing for grown-ups, it’s two thirds written – first draft also. So that’s
the (very at this latitude) long winter evenings and gale-force, icy-blast
weekends taken care of until March.

As well as the above, I’ve got my eye on a couple of writing
competitions and I still write for the online magazine ‘Words with Jam’. The
magazine is doing amazingly well. It’s now available as a high quality paper
copy as well and carried a fabulous interview with JK Rowling a couple of
issues back. I basked in the reflected glory of that!

It’s funny – although I’ve not written for months, I still
feel like a writer. There’s been a mini-resurgence in interest around my first
novel ‘Change of Life’. Sales of both the paperback and Kindle versions have
experienced a bit of a flurry. And I’ve been getting positive feedback from new
readers. This is all very gratifying.

So you’ve been warned –
I’m back and so are the weekly posts.

Topics to look forward to include – ‘The Nomadic Life’,
‘Remote Living’, Northern Light’, ‘Status: Grandparent’, ‘Smartphones, Kindles
and 21st Century Social Networks’ and in December some written
flickers of light for the year’s darkest days.

It’s good to be back.

Scotland: Isle of Skye coast
Image by gato-gato-gato via Flickr

Writing as Sculpture – chiselling down

Sculpture

Life is a bit stressful at the moment – imminent house move
– to name but one pressure point.

However, through all the turmoil, I’m managing to keep
writing – thank the deities. It’s a most therapeutic activity and is keeping me
as close to sane as I can ever claim to be. I’ve kept this blog going, I’ve
written my ‘Words With Jam’ contributions. (I hope everyone’s seen the latest issue
with the JK interview – the magazine is now available in print as well as
online.)

AND I’ve made good
progress with my children’s novel.

So I thought I’d post a progress report.

The first draft is almost finished. I can’t believe how much
I’ve enjoyed writing it. I was very resistant to writing for children, despite
my profession as a primary school teacher. But while I was in the middle of
writing my second novel for adults, the idea for the children’s story appeared
unbidden. It wouldn’t go away. So I had to suspend the grown-up novel, get over
my resistance and get to work on the young folks’ book.

I’ve found it to be quite a different experience from
writing my first novel. I’ve gone from being a planner to a ‘pantster’ (as in,
flying by the seat of my pants). This time I began writing with only the seed
of an idea and no real notion of where I was heading. Whereas the first time
round I had detailed plans and a carefully worked out plot – although there
were surprises along the way – this time I just wrote. And, luckily the story flowed
and developed spontaneously.

I’m not saying that I have a crisp, coherent and captivating
read yet. It’s more like I have a lump of roughly chiselled stone and now the
really hard work of chipping away, shaping and smoothing begins. The process
for the first novel was more akin to that of a draughtsman/artist – building up
to the finished artefact from detailed plans and sketches with precision
brushwork. But this time it will be more of a paring down from a block of (I
hope) beautiful raw material.

The hammering stage will be finished this month and I will
take up the chisel later in the year. In between –  as well as moving house – I need to dust off
my brushes and get back to my older people’s novel.

Okay – I know when I’ve done a metaphor to death – so I’ll
take off my artist’s smock and go write another house move to-do list.

Lost Beauty

Sleeping Beauty
Image via Wikipedia of my modern fairytales collection

This is the last (for now) of my modern fairytales collection. This one is based on ‘Sleeping Beauty’. It’s intended for a slightly older readership than the previous one as it’s considerably darker.

Bonnie Dormant

It’s my party and I’ll die if I
want to. Yeah, yeah, they warned me about alcohol and drugs. Had all the talks
at school. But I know what I’m doing. I can handle it. And anyway, life sucks.

It’s not like the party was my idea. It was arranged ages ago. I
wouldn’t be surprised if my parents have been planning it since I was a baby.

And what’s with the guest list? All these ancient relatives – all twelve
aunties invited. I know the old dears have been good to me – the gifts, the
money, the trust fund, the endless advice. ‘We
love you Bonnie. You’re our little Princess.’
Hello, no – I’m not!

Between them and the parents I have no freedom at all. They just want to
fence me in. I can’t go anywhere or see anyone without them interfering. ‘Where have you been? You can’t go there.
You can’t do that.  You can’t wear that.
We just want to protect you.’
Yeah, right.

And what’s with the ban on Auntie Treiza? The way they talk about her –
like she’s some evil old witch. It all goes back to my christening. They say
they forgot to invite her and she got upset and they all fell out over it. But
I’m not stupid. I’ve heard them talking about her, about how she’s no good. She
got in touch on Facebook – wanted to meet me. And she’s really cool – not an
old witch at all. She’s got a great apartment and wicked stuff. She lets me
smoke and drink and she can get you any kind of gear – whatever drug you
want.  She got me to try some said they
were fun, made you feel good, said she wouldn’t
tell the parents. She’s even given me stuff for my mates – as long as
they pay me and I pay her – I can have mine for free. And they do make me feel
good – well they did – some of the time.

I just hope Mum hasn’t invited nerdy Neil to this party. Just because we
were friends in primary school – that was then. I wouldn’t be seen dead talking
to him now. If I’m not alone when he approaches I just blank him. None of my
mates know we used to be friends. God, I hope they come and he doesn’t and that
we can sneak away.

Neil knows about the drugs. He got me on my own. Told me I’d end up
dead, that I’d become like a zombie – as if I was asleep all the time. I got
really angry, told him to eff off. But no matter how much I try to avoid him,
no matter what barriers I put up, he finds a way through. He says he’s
determined to save me, knows people who can help. He says he’s my friend and I
do kinda miss him but… It’s too late now, isn’t it?

I can hear people starting to arrive downstairs. My mother calls up to
me. But I’m so tired and it all seems so pointless. I pick up the needle from
my bedside table. I lie on the bed, push the needle into a vein. As I fall
asleep, I hear Neil calling my name.