Tuesday, 13 May 2014
Sunday, 9 February 2014
I thought it must have been a scam of some sort. As a very lazy blogger, receiving a blog award nomination seemed rather improbable, but I looked into anyway, just to be sure. It does have the whiff of a chain letter about it, something as a rule I would steadfastly ignore, but it also seemed like a fun thing to do. Maybe it caught me at the right time for a bit of distraction. The last time I got involved with anything chain-letter like it involved pants – knickers I suppose I should say. I can’t exactly remember what you had to do but it involved sending a certain number of girlfriends a pair of knickers (new ones!) – somehow you knew what size and style they wanted - and at some point you would end up with very many more knickers pouring through your own letter-box. Needless to say the numbers were exaggerated and my bottom wasn’t adorned with an endless supply of fancy pants. The Liebster-blog-chain-letter-award thing asks for a lot more involvement than putting a couple of pairs of pants in the post (see the RULES at the end of this post), but that’s also what’s quite nice about it – engaging with bloggers. It’s a good way of catching up on what people are blogging about. There’s so much stuff out there, but there never seems to be enough time in the day to read it so making an effort to stop and look has been rather nice.
So, thank you Karen Heidi Rees for the nomination. I have engaged and now I am passing on nominations, in no particular order, to:
These are the questions set by Karen with my answers:
1) What inspired you to create your blog?
I can blame my daughter – ‘Sign up to Twitter Mum, then you can follow me’. Oh, okay. It seemed totally pointless, but then I realised I could follow other people apart from my offspring. Writers! So many of them out there. Tweeting writers, with blogs. It wasn’t long before I had been sucked into the vortex. All those generous, funny writers who write about their experiences and offer advice. All for free! Then came my daughter again, a blogger herself at the time, ‘Start a blog of your own Mum, it’ll be good for your writing.’ Oh, okay. Reluctantly I dipped my toe in the bloggy waters where I stayed undisturbed until Karen fished me out.
2) What do you enjoy most about blogging?
I still can’t work out if I enjoy or not. The introvert in me despises talking about myself.
3) What is your favourite book?
There are way too many to narrow it down to one. I have my old classics - Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, Albert Camus’ Outsider and more up to date favourites include any of Kate Atkinson’s Crime novels, Emma Donohue’s Room. A more recent delight was Peggy Riley’s Amity & Sorrow.
4) First film you saw at the cinema?
Dumbo – not on its first release though! I still remember the tears I shed very clearly.
5) Do you have a favourite place that inspires your writing?
Nice idea, but writing is squeezed into whatever nook and cranny I can find for me and my laptop – in terms of time and location.
6) If you were whisked off on an all expenses paid holiday for 2 weeks, where would you go & why?
I’d be off to Peru – because Paddington Bear made it sound so mysterious. I’d spend a week exploring the deepest darkest part and maybe do some adventure-type activities that don’t involve great heights, followed by a week staying in the most amazing beach house.
7) Describe your ideal Saturday night.
Depends what I’ve been up to on Friday night. If I’ve been out on the town the night before there’s nothing I like more than having a cosy night in in front of the TV – some crappy family shows followed by a film and some wine. Dinner with friends would be the alternative.
8) If you could be any fictional character, who would it be & why?
I’d be Mary Poppins because in real life I can’t sing and I’m not really that good with kids. I also quite fancy chimney sweeps.
9) What would be the one dream job you would do if you could?
A detective who only takes on really interesting and well paid jobs.
10) What is your favourite post you’ve posted on your blog?
My literary shame and glory confession.
11) How do you want to be remembered?
As quiet but deadly. Not so much the fart version as the assassin.
And 11 (11! Really?) random facts about myself – as if you need to know anything else about me after I’ve answered all the questions above.
1. I’ve always lived in houses with the number 9 in the address.
2. I hate the word titivate.
3. I love mowing the lawn.
4. I find it really hard to think of random facts about myself.
5. I’m scared of bovine animals.
6. I am prone to cycle rage.
7. I saved my twin brother’s life when we were 2 years old.
8. It took me 3 attempts to get my maths O’level
9. It took me 3 attempts to pass my driving test
10. My 3 kids were born in 3 different decades.
11. My favourite number isn’t 3.
1. How often do you manage to write and how long for?
2. What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?
3. How much research do you do before starting a new writing project?
4. What little things do you get really cross about?
5. What are you reading for pleasure at the moment?
6. Do you ever give up on a novel you’re reading or do you have to stick with it to the end, however bad it is?
7. What was your New Year resolution and are you keeping to it?
8. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
9. Who are your favourite writers?
10. What has been the biggest adventure in your life so far?
11. When was the last time you got the uncontrollable giggles?
So here are the official rules, for those nominated please copy & paste as a means of forwarding instructions to your own nominees, so they aren’t left totally confused:
- Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.
- Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)
- Answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.
- Provide 11 random facts about yourself.
- Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers. (Note that you can always ask the blog owner this since not all blogs display a widget that lets the readers know this information!)
- Create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.
- List these rules in your post (You can copy and paste from here.) Once you have written and published it, you then have to:
- Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)
Thursday, 6 February 2014
I sat at the desk in my room.
I looked at the view. It was stunning. I drank it in for a very long time. What you can’t see in this picture is the mini festival going on in the garden - the traveller vans and caravans belonging to the volunteers constructing the eco tutorial studio just below my window. Their gentle hammering and the hazy sunshine soon worked their soporific magic and every now and then I had to succumb to the tantalisingly close bed (it was a very small room) and take a nap. Between naps I wandered downstairs for a coffee and a scone and a bit of sun on my face and a chat with whoever else was around. I read through the writing I’d already done and I tinkered with it. I thought about the premise of my novel (as advised by Kevin) and let my mind wander off to possibilities of how far to expand the protagonist’s broken familial relations. I didn’t write a single new word until day four. I was stymied by the worry that what I had done so far was good, but that I needed to plan what was to come, to make sure it carried on being good. On top of this, my worry about the reading ceilidh on the final night suddenly kicked in. A traditional Scottish dinner of haggis & neeps: Great! Walking in with a piper: Great! Drinking whisky: Great! Me doing a reading: Terrible!
A few people had done their readings the night before. They were the ones relaxing back into the sofas, slowly supping their drams of whisky. I was the one knocking it back even though I can’t stand the stuff. I had negotiated being one of the first readers on this evening, desperate to get it out of the way. I had that stepping on to a plane feeling again. It sounds ridiculous, but I actually didn’t think I could do it. I was going to nose-dive and fall flat on my face. The words wouldn’t come out. My heart would beat so fast I would explode. Thanks to my roomie, Mairi (we didn’t share an actual room but the walls were very thin and our rooms were very close) I had been put through my paces in a practise reading with her earlier in the day. I very rarely let anyone read my writing. I never speak in public. Put these two things together and it’s like having two bullocks in my path. That practise session really helped but even so, the crippling fear never left me. But I’m a grown up, I can’t just run away. I’d enjoyed listening to my fellow writers sharing their work after getting to know them during the week. I had to do this.
So I did. I read the first very short chapter of my crime novel and an even shorter flash fiction story. And then we moved on to the next reading and the next. I didn’t pass out and I didn’t get trampled.
So, to the ghosts of the many bullocks that sheltered in the barn before it was converted into Monicak Mhor’s wonderful living room and where the readings took place, I raise my whisky glass to you.
Monday, 16 September 2013
|The table set for dinner|
After dinner we made ourselves comfortable on the squashy sofas, the sun still streaming through the windows. Fourteen people – twelve participants and two tutors – Kevin MacNeil and Suchen Christine Lim – did introductions. I was almost the last to go. During that agony of waiting, while my fellow writers told of exciting lives and equally exciting writing projects, I still failed hopelessly to think of anything interesting to say about myself or my writing. ‘It’s a crime thing. New direction. Mumble, mumble.’ There followed general writing chat and a balmy night with little sleep – the heat-wave really had made it to Scotland. A strange bed in a strange house.
|One of the sheds|
I had a breather, thinking about what Kevin had said as I looked out into the beautiful landscape around me, and then stepped into Suchen’s shed. Wow. She gave me and my writing quite a welcome. While Kevin had given me an overall opinion and then focussed on choices of verbs, commas and dialogue - and emphasised the need to make a plan for the rest of the story, Suchen reached inside my protagonist’s heart and drew out her pain and conflicts. I was almost in tears. She said to let the story come to me and develop over a few years. It went from micro to macro, from Yin to Yang. I came out glowing inside and thought for the first time, this is something I can really do. This was quickly tempered by the fact that if I was going to get anywhere with it, I needed to follow through and deliver on the promises I had made in the early chapters; all those questions raised, all those mysteries to be solved.I was on the cooking roster for that day and reported for duty shortly afterwards. Kevin and Suchen’s comments swirled around in my head as I chopped and grated and layered, and then had to de-layer and layer again in the correct order, while also chatting to Ivor and Christian, my cooking buddies. That’s the other great thing about a writing retreat – all the lovely writers you meet. Fourteen people, all very different and from all over the globe and all walks of life - and amazingly, all writing about very different things.
So, day one was action packed. That left four more days of the retreat and the only structured activities I thought I had left to worry about were eating and drinking. Plenty of time to do what I came there to do...