Friday, 5 February 2016

Bagging a prize

Remember  how I said I'd been shortlisted in the H E Bates short story contest? Well, I went along to the awards do last night, and a good time was had by all in a very convivial atmosphere. This was the function for which I'd been rehearsing my public speaking skills - and big thanks to poet Kezzabelle for all her help - so I was a tad nervous, to say the least, but I managed to get through it without making an idiot of myself.

I'd been asked to go along and read out my entry: 'Scoring an own goal in tennis', and I had assumed that this was because I'm local, but no: I won a prize! No, not one of the main ones, but the award for the best Northamptonshire writer. (H E Bates was a local boy.)  I was amazed. I was presented with a certificate and a cheque, which latter has been turned into a lovely new bag.

Have a good 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.  

Monday, 1 February 2016

Taking advice from an expert

I'm reading one of my short stories at a function on Thursday and I'm a  tad nervous, so via Facebook I asked my poet friend Kerry (Kezzabelle) for some tips, because she is a seasoned performer at spoken word events and all sorts of places.

She advised: 'Practise in front of the mirror; if you're brave enough, record it to hear how you sound -  you'll hear your intonation, length of pauses etc; try to  keep your head up so your voice projects; most important of all, concentrate on slowing down, because when we're nervous we gallop through and the audience will miss the power of your piece.'

I also went round to meet her in person for a one-to-one crash course on how not to fall on my arse in public. This was an hour well spent, during which I learned the following:

  • Wear something with colour and shape, to stand out and be remembered for the right reasons. 
  • Put on a bit of lippy - and loosen those lips before you start to speak.
  • Plant your feet, then stand still.
  • Use a highlighter pen to emphasise key words, or the start of paragraphs (in case you lose your place).
  • If you have to give an introduction, write it on a sticky note - you might forget your own name if you're nervous! 
  • Start strong.
  • Turn the page in natural pauses - reprint, if necessary
  • Pause for laughs - or tears or whatever emotion you're trying to evoke.
She also had some useful advice about which words I should emphasise in my story and made some suggestions about when to look up, pause, etc.

I'll let you know how I get on.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Celebration time

Welcome to Friday's post and the opportunity to Celebrate the Small Things. It's been a busy but enjoyable week.
In addition to my usual yoga classes, I led another a meditation centre at the Not Just Words bookshop, which was lovely to do. We have another couple of dates pencilled in for later in the year.

On the editorial front, I went to Nottingham on Wednesday to meet the rest of the team of one of the magazines I'm subbing for. Highlight of the day was being introduced to the term 'speedbumps for the eyes' to describe unnecessary punctuation.

There's been success, too, on the creative writing front, with my entry to the Senior Travel Expert comp being announced as joint winner. It will be published on their website in due course.

And that's my week. How about you?

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.  

Monday, 25 January 2016

Another busy week ahead

As another Monday morning dawns, I'm pleased to note that my New Year enthusiasm shows no signs of fading. I have a head full of ideas for stories and projects. However, I'm also extremely busy with proper, paying work, so for now I'm having to content myself with jotting down some notes 'for later'. I've heard that I'm on another competition short list, which is exciting, so perhaps that's adding to the creative flow.

One opportunity that has caught my eye, courtesy of Writers Online, is a competition to write a 40-minute dramatic monologue. The winning entry will be performed at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton, with a professional cast (though a chunk of money would be nice, too!). I do love a monologue, so I might have a go at this: but how many words is 40 minutes' worth? I've just read out a 1200-word story in seven minutes, but this doesn't allow for dramatic pauses - and I do have a tendency to gabble. What do you reckon: about 6,000 words?

If you fancy having a go, details are here:

Sunday, 17 January 2016


OK, so the thing I nearly celebrated on Friday but then didn't in case I jinxed it is as follows.

Dermot O'Leary has a slot on his Saturday afternoon show on Radio 2 called 'Some Mothers Do Indie', during which proud mums can have a chat about their child's musical career and aspirations, and then he plays one of their songs. Well, yesterday I was that mum.

I was incredibly nervous, but had a lovely conversation with Dermot, during which he said some great things about my boy and his music. Then he played 'North Slightly East', which is the first track on their new EP. It's all been very exciting, and there's already been some great positive feedback.

My mate Dermot
I'd been briefed by the producer (my new best friend, Ben) that Dermot would ask me about my plans for the evening, which is how come I was ready with the details of my planned evening at Kettering Arts Centre's monthly comedy club, Rolling in the Aisles. Anyway, during the comedy show, the compere asked who it was who'd mentioned the club on the radio and people who knew pointed at me, so I had to fess up and raise my hand. He thanked me for promoting the arts centre on air, and reciprocated by giving Ivory Yardsale another plug, which was kind of him. Quite a day, one way or another.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Halfway through winter

I heard someone on the radio say that we are officially halfway through winter today, and this on the first day I've had to scrape the ice off my car. It was a tad slippy on the back roads this morning, but we've had no proper snow here, thank goodness. Definitely something to celebrate.

Main celebrations this week must be the life and works of Messrs Bowie and Rickman. It's all been said elsewhere.

Closer to home, I'm celebrating the release of my son's band's new EP called 'A Watch on Each Wrist'. I'm very proud of him (natch). If you have a moment, pop over to Soundcloud here and have a listen and if you like it click the appropriate button. (If you don't like it, please just leave quietly.) Better still, if you have £3 to spare, you can buy it from Bandcamp here.

There is some other exciting Ivory Yardsale news, too, but I'm scared to say what in case I jinx it. If it comes off, I'll tell you next week.
A Watch On Each Wrist EP cover art
A Watch on Each Wrist by Ivory Yardsale

And on that bombshell...

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. 

Monday, 11 January 2016

Who do you know who might be lonely?

Over the weekend, I turned to the trusty i-Player to watch Sue Bourne's fascinating documentary The Age of Loneliness. I heard an interview with Ms Bourne on Bernie Keith's show on BBC Northampton, else it's not really the sort of programme I would watch. I'm glad I tuned in.

I'm generally quite happy with my own company, but there is a world of difference between solitude (a good thing) and loneliness (most definitely not a good thing). There have been times when I've felt a touch isolated, such as when I first left home all those years ago, when I've started a new job or been somewhere everyone knows someone except me; but they have been fleeting and manageable, and I'm blessed in that I've never been properly lonely. However, if this programme is to be believed, it's only a matter of time.

It seems to me that one thing we can do to help ourselves is to be involved with as many different groups as possible. Some of the saddest stories in the programme were of those long-married couples where one spouse has died and the remaining partner has looked up to find she or he has no friends. Devotion is wonderful, but only doing things as a couple is always going to end badly. The same is true where a partnership breaks down and one person moves on. If friends have only ever been joint friends of the couple, rather than the individuals, it's bound to be tricky when the dynamic changes.

Obviously I'm no expert, but may I urge you all to embrace contacts and friendships wherever you find them? Spread your wings. I'm not saying everyone you meet will become a bosom buddy, but living a closed-off existence is storing up trouble. (That said, I appreciate that crippling shyness and mental illness bring their own issues, also touched on by Sue Bourne.)

The other point that came across is that busy people can still be lonely. So if you know someone who lives alone, even if they seem to be quite content, it can't hurt to ask them in for a cup of tea once in a while.