Friday, 22 July 2016

Something to celebrate (up to a point)

It seems that the harvest has begun in earnest. This is obviously a cause for celebration, but it is also a signal to roll up my sleeves and pretend I'm a housewife. Back in early spring, I was allowed to help put the netting over our fruit bushes. We've had too many seasons when they've gone from 'nearly ready' to 'ravaged by the birds' overnight. I don't know, then, why I was surprised when Himself fetched up in the kitchen on  Sunday afternoon with pounds and pounds of blackcurrants and redcurrants. 

'Lovely,' I said. 'I was wondering what to do this week.'

Since life is too short to take off all the nibbly little stalks to make proper jam, I've opted for jelly, which took care of about 6lb of fruit. That's plenty, given that while clearing a space for the jars I discovered some of last year's preserves that we still haven't eaten. 

We've eaten some of the new crop just as they were, cooked down and stirred into Greek yoghurt (and, yes, served with ice-cream, too). The rest are now bubbling away enthusiastically in demijohns on their way to becoming wine. They are in the corner of my 'office', making a reassuring bloop-bloop-bloop.
Cherry tomatoes are on their way

We've started digging up potatoes, as well, and onions and garlic are hanging in the shed to dry. Any minute now we shall be gathering courgettes and beans, and the tomatoes won't be far behind. Lovely stuff!

Have a great 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, 21 July 2016

Could you be Birmingham's next Poet Laureate?

Writing West Midlands 
Well, no, I couldn't - but could you? I've received the following from Writing West Midlands.

We’re working with Library of Birmingham to find two talented poets to become Birmingham’s next Poet Laureate and Young Poet Laureate. No formal qualifications are required. If you have the gift of poetry, share it with us. If you live, work or study in Birmingham, you can apply for these honorary posts. You have until 12 August 2016 to submit your application.
The two-year role has a small budget to commission poems and fund activities. This might include writing poems to commission, performing poetry, running workshops, getting involved in cultural events and working with the city’s many poets and poetry groups.
To apply, candidates must submit two poems – including one about Birmingham - along with a personal statement outlining what they would like to achieve with the role.

There is more information at:

Sunday, 17 July 2016

National Writers' Conference

I had an excellent day out yesterday when I went to Birmingham for the National Writers' Conference organised by Writing West Midlands. I joined about 100 other delegates for speeches and panels and networking and mingling. I took reams and reams of notes and came home with my head buzzing with ideas - so many plans! I can't tell you everything that went on (some things we were told to keep secret!), but here is a brief taster.

Keynote speaker Rosie Goldsmith, award-winning journalist specialising in arts and current affairs (Front Row, Crossing Continents, etc), said 'read something in translation . . . become a literary activist . . .  keep the windows of your mind open.'

Take a listen to Trev & Simon's podcast
Writing for broadcast was a four-person panel: Helen Cross, Radio 4; William Gallagher, Writers Guild; writer, performer and producer Simon Hickson (remember Trev and Simon from Saturday morning TV? Yes, that Simon Hickson); and Clare Eden, producer. From this I learned that there's no money in podcasting for most people, and there's no point in submitting topical or anniversary-based dramas to the Beeb, because they will have it covered by commissions ages before the event.

In Taking the plunge - career change for writers novelists Kit de Waal and Nadim Safdar told us how they had given up their day jobs (she a lawyer, he a dentist) to focus full time on writing. What struck me about both of them was that despite their protestations to the contrary, they seem to have found the transition easy because they had a plump financial cushion beneath them. Not so the rest of us!

In complete contrast, the first thing novelist Paul McVeigh told us in A writer's career - keeping your options open, was 'Don't give up your day job.' This session alone justified the entrance fee for me. He was fabulous - lively, refreshing, charming, and a bit brutal. Did you know that the average advance for a first-time novel is £1,000? That's the average: most people get less. Take out the agent's commission and tax, and you can see you're not going to get fat on what's left. He did, however, have some tips on how to make the most of your time to boost your earnings - e.g. raising your profile now so you'll be ready when your (next) book comes out.

Final keynote speaker was children's author Bali Rai, who spoke passionately about the lack of diversity in the British publishing industry. Thought-provoking stuff, especially as I'm one of the white middle-class people he railed against.

All in all, a very good day. Next up in the region is the Birmingham Literature Festival, which runs 6-16 October. See you there?

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The spice of life

Mixing things up a bit this week. Monday was a mixture of yoga and editing, as usual, but then in the evening I went to the Friends Meeting House in town for a fundraising event for the Tibet Relief Fund organised by the Northants Buddhists (multi-faith indeed!). We did some Tai Chi and Qi-Gong (which was VERY strange - in a good way) and a little yoga. Then we had a talk followed by meditation. It was a peaceful evening.

In complete contrast, I went to visit an engeering firm this morning to glean some information so that I can write some website copy. It was a proper grimy place and the desk in the 'office' was littered with peculiar-looking lumps of metal. I was quite happy - I love the smell of workmen - and I now know what it means to spark erode broken taps, which I'm sure will come in useful one day. The premises are tucked away in the far corner of one of Corby's industrial estates, where all sorts of businesses make a living: there's a crisp factory, a breakfast cereral manufacturer, body shops, workshops, IT businesses, kitchen-makers: you name, there's probably one there. Hm. I smell a sitcom!

Tomorrow I'm going to the launch of 'Our Woods', a festival of events to celebrate the woodlands of Corby through song, dance and light that will run from September to next May. Then I'll be dashing off to ukulele practice.

It's all go. I might find time to get a bit of writing done, too, if I'm lucky. 

Friday, 8 July 2016

Celebrate the small things - back under control

I'm finally starting to feel as though things are coming back under control. My workload has eased off a bit, so I'm no longer running just to stand still. My mood was lifted considerably on Monday by a fabulous Indian head massage by Sarah of Rainbow Butterfly Wings. Bliss!

Still get a buzz out of seeing my name in print
Tuesday was super-busy, because I taught three yoga classes and somehow forgot to eat, so I was a bit wobbly towards the end of the day; but a good talking to by a friend put me right and I was back on an even keel on Wednesday. The rest of the week has gone pretty well. I've done lots of work, including another article for Smallholder, and set up a meeting with a chap to talk about my writing some copy for his website; and there's been plenty of editing and proofreading, too.

I don't know what the weekend will bring, but I hope to spend some time outside to clear away more cobwebs.

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.  

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Just a quick word

I'm still up to my neck in stuff, but I wanted to drop you all a quick line in case I disappear again.

I sent a book submission to a publisher last week and was pleased to get a reply almost straight away; so often submissions seem simply to disappear into the ether. It wasn't good news insofar as my book wasn't what they were looking for. However, they did offer me the chance to join their team of freelance editors. Result!

Elsewhere, I have had a story accepted by Ireland's Own, which is pleasing.

It has been KettFest this weekend, the appalling name for a burgeoning arts festival here in Kettering (and if you don't know where that is, ask Lindsay Lohan). I bumped into a local author who has recently launched a small publishing company and we are going to get together to talk about future projects. Watch this space.

Naturally, one of the venues for events was our lovely independent bookshop Not Just Words. The shop is on the first floor of a  little complex of outlets and the risers on the stairs have been painted (by customers) to look like book spines. My picture doesn't do them justice, but aren't they lovely?

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.