Saturday, 31 August 2013

My Champion!!!

Husband Steve recently suggested we change hobby rooms in our house.  His huge passion until fairly recently anyway, has been to collect Lledo vintage vehicles and he has thousands of them.  In fact an article I wrote about  them appeared a couple of years ago in DieCast Collector Magazine (October edition 2004, to be precise) entitled "I'm No Back Seat Driver" and  it appears that most of the South East has heard about his hobby (seriously - we get gas meter readers coming in saying 'Are you the guy with all the model cars?', this is absolutely true).  And when I was interviewed by one local paper following the publication of the first Yucketypoo book back in 2007, the photographer also knew about them and took dozens of photos of Steve with his car collection (and a couple of me with the children's book I had just had published!!).  Our modest (but lovely) semi-detached house in Addiscombe has three bedrooms (well to be honest, two bedrooms and a box room  about the size of a pocket handkerchief) and, once our youngest daughter had moved out, the second bedroom became Steve's hobby room, since by then I was already established in the pocket handkerchief.

But it became very clear not so very long ago that, since my writing career has started to regain some of its former momentum, my pocket handkerchief study just is not big enough.  Don't get me wrong.  I LOVE it to bits.  The desk is right by the window, there's a gorgeous redwood three-drawer filing cabinet, shelving from floor to ceiling all along the back wall, a book case and books, files and folders in teetering piles all around my comfortable, lumber supporting office chair.  There are three pin boards (one quite big where our map of the British Isles lives, complete with all its colour-headed pins showing everyone entering exactly where we have been on our beautiful islands), one medium sized on the wall behind the desk which features things like business cards, my Society of Authors leaflet, several inspirational photos of notebooks, pens and cappuccinos and various other odds and ends, and a small one featuring around half a dozen half-decent drawings I have managed to produce in all five plus decades of living.  On the window sill, there is a framed letter from The Prince of Wales wishing me luck with the Yucketypoo books, my Society of Authors Membership Certificate (I was elected in during July 2003) and a couple of framed inspirational poems (not by me, I hasten to add),  so I am very at home here, very much in my comfort zone.  But honestly there is not an inch of spare floor space to be seen and it just has not been working for me lately.

Anyway, Lledo cars are not being produced anymore.  You can still buy them from boot sales and vintage car shows, but no new ones have been issued for several years and Steve said to me the other day, "I think I might box up most of these and just keep my really specials one out, so how about we move your study into my room and I'll take yours?"  So now our plan is to start taking all the cars down and packing them into boxes until such times as we can find somewhere bigger to live when they will all go back on display.  It isn't going to happen overnight but we would like to get in done by the New Year.  And, the best things is that it can still house the futon and z-bed for when we have people to stay!

This is the unstinting love, support and belief my Steve has in my writing!  Am I lucky or what?

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Amazing ...

Something incredible happened yesterday!  I had my usual one hour coaching session with young Michael -  so far we have covered Ideas, Developing Ideas, Creating Characters, Planning, Drafting, Structure (to name but a few) - and he is doing really really well.  Yesterday, I gave him four titles and told him to choose one and then spend the rest of the session planning out the story he would write from that title in time for the next session, bearing in mind all the areas we have so far covered.

As usual, when the hour was almost up, I told him I was going down to update his mum on everything and he asked - no he begged and pleaded with me to stay for an extra half an hour.  He absolutely beseeched me!  I was totally gobsmacked.  Even his mum couldn't believe it when I told her.  This is how much this young man is enjoying these sessions; this is how much he gets out of each and every one!  And I opened that door for him.  Me.  And has it helped him? Yes - by God - I see incredible understanding and progress in him every time.  Has it built his confidence?  You better believe it!  But to be almost eleven and ask for more from a clapped-out old scribbler like me - well, that, my silent, invisible friends - is the single most gratifying experience of my entire writing life.  And that is the truth.

As I wandered back towards the bus stop (and no I didn't stay the extra half hour), I realized that I have something very special and unique that I can offer children like Michael and all my Young Writers - and that is (almost)  fifty years' worth of Writing Experience.    I was only seven when I started out.  There was nobody around to show me the way of Creative Writing so I had to learn it all for myself.  Maybe that's why I get such a thrill out of taking Creative Writing to the children?  After all it costs me absolutely zilch to share my passion.  And if I can have one ten year old like Michael begging me to stay for an extra half an hour, then I know I must be doing something right - or even something Write ...

Sunday, 18 August 2013


Was reading Writing Magazine yesterday (yes - the very issue that features my article Catching Them Young on pages 60 - 61, on sale now at W H Smith), when I came upon this article.  It was only a short piece, a couple of paragraphs long (and typically - glancing back through the magazine, I cannot now find it anywhere) but I am going to try it because it is so simple.  I don't know about you, but I have dabbled in some self-publishing.  It is now becoming more and more acceptable for authors to fund their own work (and actually, when you think of it, aspiring musicians have done so for years) and one of my early poetry collections sold so well it went to new print runs for three years running! 

Over the past couple of years, my poetry has taken something of a back seat, really.  I was checking tonight and there is no getting away from the fact that, over the years, I have had a fair amount published in various magazines and anthologies, some of which have won prizes and some of which  led to my being asked to do talks.  I have been very lucky.  I know that.  But then two years ago, I wrote The Book.  This was my first serious foray into books for some time (with the exception of the Yucketypoo books) and, because it is about what I love and know best in the whole wide world (ie. Writing), it became my focus.  Then,  the chance to run Addiscombe Young Writers presented itself and, apart from the odd poem here and there (like the ad-hoc  one I included in this very blog just a few months back, surprising myself as well as anyone reading it), I have not done much.  Most recently of course came The Article (did I tell you it is in the September issue of Writing Magazine on pages 60 and 61, on sale now at W H Smith?) and then The Epic - both of which demanded my full attention.

Now - and here's the rub - I have got notebooks and folders and box-files full of unpublished poetry, all of it tucked away and forgotten and dying from lack of sunshine like the orchid was in my kitchen.  But then I moved the orchid to the hallway and - guess what - it began re-flowering and has five heads this year, its most ever!  So - metaphorically, as I was giving my tiny study its annual clear out this evening - I took all those poems out of the dark and - guess what -they burst into colour again!  Then I remembered that short piece I read in WM just yesterday and the suggestion was this: design a document on the laptop where you can lay out a number of poems so they look interesting, then, when you are happy with it, print off copies yourself and give them to places like libraries and coffee shops so that people can read them at their leisure, free and gratis.  Not only does this give your work some valuable exposure, it gives you - the writer/poet - a huge a confidence boost.  okay - so you don't get paid.  But you get read and that is over half the battle won!  I have now got several dozen copies of a collection of haiku (entitled Breathing) just waiting to be distributed to a few carefully chosen local venues and SIMPLES!  I am a poet again.

So I am very grateful to the author of that short piece in the September WM (not the article on pages 60 and 61  - something about setting up a writing group somewhere) because that person spurred me on to start taking my destiny back into my own hands again.  And who know where it could lead this time ...!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Oh To Be A Writer ...

Sooo much stuff going on!  It is as if my entire Writing Career has woken up after a very long sleep.  And it is utterly amazing!

I have this little person living inside my Creative mind.  I have always just called her my writer and every so often she just resurfaces out of the blue - and suddenly all kind of doors start opening for me.  If I go through a torturous period of Writers Block, she skulks off and sulks in some dark cellar somewhere.  But she really doesn't like it there and I feel terrible leaving her there, so once in a while I invite her back into my writing life and she is all smiles and ideas and hugs me from somewhere deep inside myself! And that is usually when Things start happening! 

For example.  The Article (yes - the very one that first led me to you all those months ago) has just been published in Writing Magazine.  It appears on pages 60 and 61 and reads rather bloody brilliantly (even if I say so myself, which I do).  If just one person reading it decides to give it a go and start a group for local young writers, I will consider my work well done.  Also, my coaching sessions with young Michael are going unbelievably well.  His mum has even asked me to do an extra couple of sessions with him after the final one which was originally scheduled for late August.  What's more, he is getting so much out of it.  What a smart kid!  He is so eager and keen and he hangs on to my every word, absorbing it all like some literary sponge.  I am so proud of the progress he has already made.  Who would have thought something as simple as a one hour Creative Writing  session  on a one-to-one basis could go so well?

On top of all that I have finally - yes finally - got round to submitting the opening chapters and a synopsis of The Book to a fairly new company who spring from the loins of much larger publishing conglomerate.   AND the ideas have started just flowing in from everywhere - I entered a poetry competition the other day on the spur of the moment and wrote one of the best poems I ever have!  All without months of planning, re-drafting, jigging.  The poem came to me and I wrote it.  Job done.  I have been rediscovering long lost manuscripts which I know I can just re-draft and find markets for.  The Young Writers group (currently on summer holidays, rather like the government) is going to be re-launched in September.  And as for The Epic - well ...

Actually scratch that last bit because The Epic and I had a temporary falling out.  But you will be pleased to hear we have since kissed and made up and I am back on track with it (or rather it's back on track with me), so keep watching this space.

Remember that old movie where Jimmy Cagney (I thinks it was) says "Top o' the world, ma!" - well I think I am almost there with him and if any editors are reading this who need a writer get in touch - because right now my pen and I are completely invincible!!!!!!!