Wednesday, 29 June 2016

No time to stand and stare

Ivory Yardsale at NMF Pic T Jackson
Headless chicken? Fly with a blue bottom? Yes, that's been me for the last month, which is why I haven't posted anything here for three weeks. I just hope you haven't all deserted me. I've been ridiculously busy with work, which is great, of course. I've had lots of extra jobs on top of all the usual stuff. Two-thousand words on beetroot by the end of the week? Certainly. Cast my eye over that training document? No problem. Proofread that novel? Leave it with me. Cover some extra yoga classes at short  notice? Absolutely. Organise two yoga workshops? Sure thing.

It's not been all work, though. I've been lucky enough to have quite a lot of evenings out and contact with friends. Then there's the small matter of a poorly mother 80 miles away (thank heavens for my two brothers on her doorstep); and my current husband being away for two out of three weekends, leaving me alone and palely loitering.

Here, then is a quick, Reader's Digest version of what I've been up to. Lunch with friends in the WWII-themed Blitz Cafe; creativity workshop with Lindsey Watson of Chandra Yoga (turns out I'm useless with scissors and glue); The Pantaloons performance of Gulliver's Travels (hilarious); wellbeing festival at local mental health charity Johnny's Happy Place; joining a second ukulele group to play folk music; Mitch Benn at Kettering Arts Centre; lunch with my good friend Will (we used to call these working lunches, but we're not fooling anyone)' Northampton Music Festival with my little brother to see son Joe and his band play (Ivory Yardsale); meditation session at Not Just Words bookshop; launch of Kettering's new folk club with the excellent Jess Morgan Trio; yoga workshop on the Peaceful Workshop, with the lovely Atim Arden; open gardens in the nearby village of Arthingworth.

Then there's been all the turmoil going on in the real world (nuff said).

And breathe.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

I should get out more!

Most of my editorial clients are people that I never see in real life. They email their words to me, I do my thing, and then I email them back. There are exceptions, of course - I had a cuppa with a lovely author one day last week - but I don't often have any cause to leave my home office.

Last Friday, though, I actually went to a Proper Meeting in an Office with a Formal Agenda And Everything. I know! It was to discuss editorial policy on one of the journals I work on, and it was very useful, not least because I finally met the long-suffering designer I've been working with for about nine years.

In a pre-meeting chat, I learned that one of the other people there was a fiction writer (as well as what she does in her day job). Not only that, but she also runs a local writing group. Details were exchanged. She writes urban fantasy, horror and Gothic romance - safe to say we're not competing in the same markets! You can check her out here:

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Walking the walk

Project 'Walk the Jurassic Way' is closer to completion, thanks to a weekend stomping around the Northamptonshire/
Oxfordshire border. It's not far from home, I know, but we decided to stay overnight, so we could do some of the footpath on the way down and some on the way back. We booked a room at the Brasenose Arms in Cropredy, which was, shall we say, adequate. No, it was fine, really, but I'm glad we hadn't booked in for a week.

The weather was perfect - dry and warm, but not hot - and we ticked off several villages and points of interest on our itinerary. One place we called in for a packet of crisps and a half of something cooling was Braunston, where we sat outside the  Admiral Nelson pub, right on the towpath of the Grand Union Canal, watching in awe as participants of a Birmingham to London race jogged past. Rather them than us, we thought.

The footpath, which connects Stamford to Banbury, is called the Jurassic Way because of the geology beneath it. If you plan to do this walk in the company of a geosciences degree-holder, as I did, be prepared for lots of stops to look at fossils that are just lying around. The samples in the picture were picked up in a field. Aren't they lovely?

We've only got about 8 miles left to do. Then what? I quite fancy the Limestone Way, which runs from Castleton in Derbyshire to Rocester in Staffordshire, finishing about 5 miles from where I was brought up in Uttoxeter. Let me know if you've walked this route.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

'Death the Bride'

I've just spent rather too long following a trail started by a visit to the Alfred East Art Gallery in Kettering last weekend.

I had an old schoolfriend staying with me and I set about showing her the sights, which naturally included a trip to said gallery. There was an exhibition of the works of Thomas Cooper Gotch - Gotch is a big name locally - who was born in Kettering on 10 December 1854. He spent many years travelling and working abroad, but he and his wife Caroline Burland Yates, herself an art student, and his daughter were active members of the Newlyn colony in Cornwall. His first paintings were of natural, pastoral settings, but he went on to immerse himself in the romantic style of the Pre-Raphaelites, for which he is best known. His works have been exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Royal College of Art, the Paris Salon - and Kettering. He died in 1931.

Anyway, we were drawn to the work 'Death the Bride', which is part of the Alfred East collection. It is oil on canvas and is about 5ft x 4ft. There was only one other person in the gallery and he, too, was entranced by this picture. I bought a postcard from the gift shop and resolved to find out more. The title of the  painting comes from Shakespeare (naturally). It is from Measure for Measure, Act III, scene I, line 86, where Claudio says:

'If I must die, I will encounter darkness as a bride and hug it in my arms.'

Floral symbolism abounds in Pre-Raphaelite paintings, and poppies were used to represent the notion of death or eternal sleep. Gotch uses poppies here to show death personified as a beautiful, morbid bride ready to embrace the viewer for eternity. I wonder why the poppies in her hair are white: a symbol of purity, perhaps?

So that's how to turn an idle afternoon out into a research exercise!

Monday, 23 May 2016

Goodbye, 'Freelance Market News'

Many of my fellow writers will be sad to learn that Freelance Market News is to cease publication. Over the years, this newsletter has served me well, giving me lots of leads for markets and offering a free-to-enter competition each month that I have been lucky enough to win several times. Actually, I won its last competition with a 200-word FF called, appropriately, 'The Last Race'. I've also had a few how-to articles published in FMN and recently took advantage of its appraisal service.

My remaining subscription is being transferred to the Association of Freelance Writers, part of The Writers Bureau, but I shall miss the monthly FMN.

Friday, 20 May 2016

This week's 'Celebrate the small things'

Today I'm celebrating the support of everyone who has a downloaded my short story 'Scoring an Own Goal in Tennis' from Amazon's Kindle. Thank you; your support is much appreciated.

I'm also celebrating a very busy week, during which I've written and edited  lots and lots of words. It's a funny old game, this writing business. Sometimes the words flow really easily and I can churn out an article or story without too much wringing of hands. Other times, I struggle to write a picture caption.

I'll tell you what else can be challenging: people's response when I tell them what I do. They say:
'Have you written anything I might have read?' I don't know: what have you read?
'Do you write fiction or just non-fiction?' Both, but what makes you think facts are easier?
'Will you take a look at my book?' Well, that depends how long it is and why you want me to look.
And my particular favourite:
'Oh yes, I'm going to write, when I have the time.' So you think it's that easy, and it's something that can be slotted in between other, more important tasks? By all means, have a go.

Enjoy the weekend, folks.

Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop. Visit Lexa's Blog for the rules, and then post every Friday about something you're grateful  for that week. Originated by VikLit) and co-hosted by L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog.   


Thursday, 12 May 2016

Happy Limerick Day!

Have these on me, written for various competitions:


 Fame is a double-edged sword          
As stars find as they venture abroad.
For a wink and a nod
Shows a wannabe god
As a grasping and talentless fraud.

Sweet Seduction

With Galaxy, Mars and Starburst
We humans were gently coerced.
They came down from above
To make alien love
But fed us with Milky Way first.

Picture Perfect

Whatever you put in your case
When travelling from place to place,
Pack your camera, take stills
As you tramps o’er the hills;
Of your presence, please, don’t leave a trace.

A book that is pure electronic
Though some people find it a tonic, 
Is no match for paper.
Curse this e-printing caper!
It really is purely demonic!

Words’ Worth

Literature’s hard to define,
But it must have some class in each line.
So while Amis and Austen
Write books to get lost in,
There’s plenty I’ll have to decline.

Spoilt for Choice
The question is not what is worst,
But which deadly sin to try first. 
It's so hard to decide
Between Lust Greed and Pride
When in Sloth I'm already well versed.