Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Writing on Wednesday: A round of applause

As this is the last post of 2010 I thought I would reflect on what I have achieved this year.

  1. I finally picked up a pen and wrote something, instead of just thinking about it. 
  2. I wrote about 15,000 words of A Fish's Tale.
  3. The Trelawney Funerals came back to haunt me. No idea how much I wrote there, it was all in pen, in a notebook I had to wrestle back off the bubba who was enjoying scribbling all over every page.
  4. I resurrected the ole blog.
  5. I read: The Children's Book by AS Byatt, Saturday by Ian McEwan, The Book of Lost Things by John Connelly, Mortlock by Jon Mayhew, On Love by Alain de Botton, Superior Saturday by Garth Nix, The Bandini Quartet by John Fante, A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbry, Mr. Toppit by Charles Elton, One Day by David Nicholls, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick and The Other Hand by Chris Cleave. There may have been some others, and on the whole I've read really good books this year. As I was writing the list I kept thinking: Oh great read. Oh yeah, I really enjoyed that. Oh, brilliant that. The last few were the duds unfortunately. 
  6. I signed up to do NaNoWriMo in October.
  7. I spent October planning A Twist in the Tail down to the nth degree (or so I thought).
  8. In November I wrote like a demon. 
  9. I organised four write-ins and met some chatty writers!
  10. I was introduced to the program Scrivener. Although it is bugging like crazy at the mo, in its current Beta 4 version, it's still brilliant. 
  11. I wrote 50,000 words and became a NaNo winner.
  12. Incidentally that was also the first draft of A Twist in the Tail.
  13. The revision is now at just over 5,000 words. I wrote four new chapters for the revision and cut three and a half of them!
  14. I got back into the critique group. 
  15. I have a name written in a notebook. She sounds like a pretty amazing character, but she's real and I'm not sure what I want to do with her, because I've never done faction before, nor do I know whether I want to do faction.
  16. I started scribbling down yet another first chapter for the Sands of Time. There are ideas kicking around there, but this will definitely be a 2011 project. 
  17. When I first sat in front of my computer in the summer, terrified at the thought of writing again, I couldn't do it. I could not frame a single good sentence. Not one word came. So I started to write a dancy/play/Japanese type thing. This thing has filled my head for years and years. This music is kind of like my muse, so I will leave you with a little bit of it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Itsy bitsy little practice run

The last time we were in the UK I bought Silly Billy by Anthony Browne. In it, the main character Billy worries about all kinds of things:

He worries about hats,
     He worries about shoes,
          He worries about clouds.

Lately, I've been worrying about the British Book Challenge that I've signed up to do.

I worry that my reviews will not be up to the mark,
     I worry that the books I read will be better than anything I can write,
          I worry that I won't like the books I read.

I suppose on the 'let's worry about more important things' front, I should worry about choosing the books. Who would have thought that in the 9-12 year old, fantasy genre there would be so many Australian writers? Or such a large number of books about dragons? Or books only available in hardback at the moment (such as the Ogre of Oglefort!) But after a little bit of research, I think I have chosen three books to get me started. I'm only starting with three because a) I'm not hugely convinced that I am writing for the 9-12 age range yet, but I can't find a 'tween section on Amazon. b) Because I can't commit myself to twelve straight away, so I'm going to do it in groups of three.

Next there is the how to write the review. In my blog travels I have seen that there there seems to be a certain format for reviewing books, whereas I tend to wibble on endlessly and kind of decide on the spot whether I like it or not. But in the spirit of trying to improve my reviews, and as the title of this post suggests, here is a wee practise run about a book I've just finished.

Title: The Other Hand
Author: Chris Cleave
Published: Sceptre, 2009

Synopsis:   On a sunny Nigerian beach two years ago, successful Sarah Summers and Little Bee fleeing from the men who have attacked her village meet. What happens on that beach profoundly changes both their lives. Two years later; the two meet again in England, Little Bee is now an illegal immigrant and Sarah has just lost her husband and is coming to terms with being a single parent. As their story unfolds we learn where the women have come from and how their lives became entwined. The story goes back and forth from Little Bee's and Sarah's point of view.

Star parts: The story starts from the moment where Little Bee is in the queue to leave the Immigration detention centre. Cleave does a fantastic job of weaving the story backwards and forwards in such a seamless fashion, that we never get lost in the story.

Little Bee's life and her reflections are eye opening. In fact the way he builds characters are amazing. Each of the women in the queue come to life before our eyes as we read the pages. The way he gets us to know each character through the see through plastic bags they carry is impressive.

Cleave has an ability to build the tension to such a point that he gets the reader to feel the exact emotions the characters are feeling. When Little Bee describes what ultimately happens to her sister as she is under the upturned boat, it is almost as if you can feel the heat and smell the sand and salt in the sea. There are parts of this story that will stay with the reader for a long time.

Black clouds: But - and I think in retrospect that this may be intentional - Sarah was awful. I found that with every page I turned I grew to dislike her more and more. I had no sympathy for her character and for someone who was meant to be intelligent, she was incredibly stupid, selfish and just downright odious. Towards the end of the book when she turns up on the plane you just know that the simple fact of her being there is an omen of catastrophes to come. That's Sarah's role in the book, to monumentally screw things up.

Another  black cloud was that although on the whole I liked the Little Bee character , I thought she was  older. I was never very clear about her age and it was only halfway through the book when Sarah's character clears up this issue that I realised how very young she was. It then made me think about whether Little Bee would act the way she did. 

Do I recommend it: Personally, I think  hearing an immigrant's story is important, and I think Chris Cleave does too, that's why he wrote the book, but unfortunately, as I close the book this is the overwhelming feeling that I am left with: Cleave wanted to write a book about immigration. Maybe it was the hokey : 'We don't want to tell you about what happens in this book.' blurb on the back or the 'notes' the author felt compelled to include, or the senior editors effusive: 'I hope you love this book as much as I do', but the alarm bells began ringing . If the book is so great why does Cleave feel the need to apologise for not being a Nigerian woman? Why won't he tell us about the book? And of course the senior editor loves the book. So my recommendation is that I half recommend it. If you do choose to read the book, skip those bits and read the book on the basis that it is a story and that Cleave is a halfway decent storyteller. Then tell me what you think.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Sunday Roast: A Christmas Feast

Having abandoned the kitchen during November, it continued to be a little scorned through December, and as for the Good Food site; well, I could be accused of neglect there. However, starting Christmas Eve and ending today, there has been a bit of a cooking frenzy going on.

From left to right, starting at the top: putting together the prawn chowder, the surprise winner - braised sea bass with green beans, the little glasses of prawn chowder for the apero, just cooked braised sea bass, pear and cranberry pies, roast beef (french style - e.g. raw!), roast veggies and lentil roast, smoked salmon platter with green salad and prawns and finally mushroom wellington

We decided to have fish on Christmas day, but when I went to buy the trout there wasn't any left. I took a risk and bought some bar, which google translate told me was bass. I don't know whether it was the 2002 Masburel that went into the sauce, but I think that this dish was definitely the overall winner as it was a complete surprise and well yummy. Everything else was also really nice, and I think I'll try the pies again, but this time make the pastry too. They are not as sweet as mince pies and there is a lovely mixture of sweet and bitter. The chowder is great as an apero and I might do it again for New Year's as it looks good and is so easy.

I hope you all had a good Christmas. And if you are all full up and can't eat another thing, maybe take a look at the Action against Hunger site, the charity we chose to support this year.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Writing on Wednesday: Lipstick and Beta

One of the benefits of wasting many hours playing games on Facebook is that I have well and truly learnt the meaning of beta. So, I suppose it wasn't a complete waste of time as you won't find the definition in a dictionary. Did you look? Mine says, as I already knew it would, that it is the second letter of the Greek alphabet. I found a closer definition under beta-test:
n 1 a test of a new or modified piece of computer software by customers who volunteer to do so. *
A beta-reader is slightly different in that they are:
a) not testing a piece of software;
b) not volunteers.

Instead your beta-reader is reading your lovingly brought to life baby.  And in my case my beta-reader was chosen partly because he wouldn't let me open a bottle of champagne when I finished my first draft. But in retrospect it wasn't the only reason. During the month of November my beta-reader was abandoned every Sunday and for many hours in the week. Giving him the job of being the first person to read the whole thing all the way through is a kind of repayment in kind: Look, this is what I was doing when I wasn't with you. The last reason the Frog is my beta-reader is because he isn't going to beat around the bush and be kind just because he's my friend. On the bottom of chapter 2 was written:

Pas d’action, pas de suspense, pas d’émotion,
 He can get away with that, even though it went on for another line. The Frog aka my beta-reader is also taking the time to explain what he meant by the above. He liked reading it enough, it just lacked the punch of the opening chapter.

I took a while to allow myself a beta-reader. Even this time round, I thought to myself I'll just do a wee little polish and shine before I let the Frog read it. I tweaked and tweaked. Rearranged words, commas etc. and then hit send. And boy, the mistakes that were in it. Sometimes you need a beta, gamma, delta all the way to omega reader because you just can't see any more. You're so close that you either have to shut it away in a drawer until you forget about it, or you need your beta-reader who can see for you.

On the subject of the unopened bottle of champagne, Nicola Morgan suggested that we reward ourselves for all we have achieved this year. At the time I wasn't sure what I could reward myself with, but while the Frog was buying his mother some face cream or other I chose myself a new ... LIPSTICK. I then worked out that it has been a very long time since I bought one, an embarrassingly long time.

* definition from my Collins English Dictionary

Sunday, December 19, 2010

My Fair Lady

Picture from here
I don't know if it was the fact that I was born in the 70's, or the fact that my parents were musical buffs, but basically every public holiday The Sound of Music was on. My dad has an old reel to reel tape of my brother and I singing along. Mum's favourite musical was My Fair Lady and she even bought a cassette and would sing along while she was doing the cleaning. My dad's favourite scene was obviously the: 'Come on Dover, come on Dover, move your bloomin' arse Dover.'

For many years My Fair Lady was not my favourite musical (maybe because it was linked to my pathological hatred of cleaning). And for many more years my love of musicals was almost a kind of dirty secret. I went; grudgingly, to all those high school productions, fully recognising that a teenager of that age must be really motivated to get past the humilation of getting on stage in the first place, but still it bugged me if they couldn't sing or there was some terrible miscasting.

Finally, some years back I could resist no longer. I was living in a foreign country where the chance of seeing a musical at Christmas was nil. A list was drawn up and for birthdays and Christmases DVDs were bought.

I managed to hold off for almost two years before the bubba's indoctrination began, but when I woke up with a bout of sinusitis and the bubba was recovering from yet another ear infection recently, The Wizard of Oz had to come out. Mary Poppins has since made its appearance and last night we watched only the songs of My Fair Lady to get us into the mood.

Yes, for last night we braved the slush and snow (excluding the metro part of it, for a whole three minutes) to go to the Teatre de Chatelet to see My Fair Lady. To be honest I think it would have had to be absolutely terrible for me not to enjoy it, but rest assured IT WAS FANTASTIC!!!!*

The set was made up of white and grey reliefs, which were brought to life by the sumptuous colours of the theatre goers leaving the Covent Garden Opera  under the snow (which mirrored the scene outside the doors of our theatre). The flower sellers and stall holders were dressed in drab browns and greys, and the moment Eliza Doolittle opened her mouth, Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison were forgotten as the definitive Eliza and Professor Higgins.

I've always liked Alfie Doolittle's numbers, but in this production they were outstanding. This is where the whole cast came out and recreated market London, and it was a credit to the musicians that they could do this kind of drunken roll of music and then pick up the song.

The scene at the races was a bath of colour; carefully choreographed to show the stiffness of the upper-class to a tee, and a big laugh was raised when the spectators dropped their champagne glasses simultaneously. For the ballroom scene, Eliza had this amazing dress and tiara on that even I the least girly girl admired. Again, the choreography of Zultan Karpathy weaving around the ballroom to try and get to Eliza was brilliant.

Photo from here
I loved the way Eliza's change was mirrored in her costume change from ragged and dark layers to dowdy greens and lace up shoes, to this fabulous red dress and heels that (in my opinion) were impossible to walk in.

The Frog and I loved every minute of it and were still singing as we got off the metro. In fact we still keep breaking into song now.

* Apologies for  gratuitous overuse of exclamation marks.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Writing on Wednesday: The Tea Room

I haven't been doing as much writing this week. That's because I've been doing some other stuff. This week I've been reading. I've been reading other people's writing. 

I find critiquing other people's work really hard. It's easy to spot a clumsy sentence, a spelling mistake, some poor punctuation. The rest is hard. For a start I'm not that positive. I worry that I'm too direct and don't highlight the good stuff enough. If I like something, great, but then I find it hard to focus on what could be better. If I think something is not good, I find it really hard to find something good in it and I find it really hard to put my finger on what it is that isn't working. 

So for my return to the critique group there were five pieces to work on from a picture book to an adult short story. Now, my experience of picture books is limited to what I read to my two year old. Faced with these five hundred odd words I felt myself beginning to enter a blind panic. And then I realised that actually my experience was exactly what I needed. What are the things that annoy me when I'm reading to the bubba and what do I like?  I managed to add a few comments that I hope are useful.

The ones that were OK or I really liked, made me realise that one reading was not enough, you miss stuff. So I printed it out really small and shoved it in my bag to read on the bus. The distance between the beginning of the day and the end meant I gave each piece a different reading and I hope some useful critique.

Now the piece that was not so good also sent me into a bit of a tailspin. Something was not working, something was making an otherwise intriguing story a bit wrong, but I could not for the life of me put my finger on it. What was it? What wasn't working? I did a bit of an internet search and found Jody Hedlund's blog. I find myself guilty of a couple of the crimes she names, but I am thankful that she gave me a couple of pointers and there I was, able to put some relevant comments onto the document.

To ease me back into the group, I got the Frog to check my first chapter so I knew what worked and didn't. The Frog was pretty spot on, but the thing he didn't have a problem with was the shifting points of view, but I think I know how to fix it now.

Which brings me neatly to the last thing I want to talk about tonight. After NaNo I had a plan. The wip grant? Does that ring a bell? And have you noticed how I'm not exactly mentioning it lately. Well, you see, it seems that the act of writing a synopsis and a query letter is just as difficult as writing a book. Not to mention the fact that that first chapter needs to be mind blowingly brilliant. And I just can't see it all happening before February, but by next February, maybe. So to new goals. Writer Unboxed lists seven tasks to get you from the first to the second draft. I have to confess that out of the seven tasks I am focussing on only one of the them. The goal setting one. I've always been a goal setting kind of girl, so that one speaks to me above the others right now. So, here are the new goals:
  • I'm looking at NaNo as a half draft rather than a first draft. Usually I do a quick edit straight away and I didn't do that in November, so this is the quick edit.
  • The Frog is my beta reader for EVERY chapter. 
  • The critique group will get whatever chapter I am working on when we next meet. 
  • When first/revised draft is ready I will ask ONE person to read and critique it.
  • Then I will stick it into a drawer and write the first draft of the millionth version of Sands of Time (which was always a naff title). In fact I've been kind of writing it already, while I've been on the bus on the way to work... I had to.
* The photo is where the opening scene of my first chapter takes place.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

No roast this Sunday

I signed up for Twitter on Friday night before going to bed. I stuck in my e mail, chose a password, added a photo, picked ten people to follow, thought: is this it then? and went to bed.

Yesterday my membership for scribblerati came through and I got to read Lia Keyes article on why every writer should tweet. It seems to be about asking advice, promoting yourself and making connections. In the past the blog did that. I can't quite remember how, but I vaguely remember trawling through writer blogs until I found one I liked, leaving comments, going through her blogroll to find more blogs I liked and gradually I built up a readership. Which all but vanished in 2008, when the enormous time, milk and brain eater came along. It's been a bit sad realising that I had to start from scratch again, and I'm not very good at putting myself out there, but well people are dropping by, and things have changed so much in two years.

For a start there's Facebook. I get a fair amount of traffic through networked blogs. Plus, networked blogs made it easy to go through my friends blog roll and find a couple of new blogs I like. I've not been very big on the leaving comments front this time, but we'll see.

And then everyone seemed to be talking about Twitter. I wasn't at all sure about it and although Lia Keyes article made sense in terms of the why, it wasn't that easy in terms of the how. I read her article at least three times thinking:
  • What are hashtags?
  • What's RT?
  • So how do you get people to follow you?
Thankfully, Lia's article had a bunch of links, which was a bit like following breadcrumbs in the deep, dark forest, but eventually I landed on : Help! I need a publisher, which is written by Nicola Morgan, try the link and then you can find out about her all by yourself. Alternatively, you could follow her on Twitter and see what happens. What happened to me, was that I wrote an effusive comment on Part I saying thank you for writing the idiot's guide to Twitter and by the time I was on Part II, I was being given fags, vodka and all sorts! OK, it was all virtual and that was about the moment when the Frog arched an eyebrow and said the words: waste of time, but the point is that after a little bit of research, it wasn't that hard to dip my toe in. I shall be tentatively working my way through the rest of Part II to VI, but for now, I'm going to go and write a little bit. See the thing is I have a critique group meeting on Wednesday and as the Frog has uttered those words, I have to prove to him I'm not wasting time. I've decided that he will be my Beta reader. He read a chapter in the summer and as he's French I figure he's got the reading ability of an 9-10 year old, plus he made some very pertinent points.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A few changes

What with the bubba having a throat infection and the Frog being in Germany I've had a couple of days to concentrate on writing this week and do writerly stuff. I wrote a few chapters on the wip. I'm not altogether happy with them, but it did make me think: 'What is the purpose of these chapters?' and I think I've got that pretty clear in my head now.

I had a wee chat with Gary Smailes over at BubbleCow. I'm finding this blog ever so useful at the moment. There is a wealth of advice about how to get published on the site. Plus you can sign up for the writing gang and get a weekly newsletter, and every now and again this little box pops up where you can type in a question and Gary really answers. I can say that now, because I typed in a question and got an answer, a couple of recommendations of books to read and got a sneak peek at the soon to be revealed question and answer page.

At the mo, Gary is doing a regular feature of Great Writer Links across the web. I had a good read, which inspired a few changes on this blog. Go on have a look, see if you can spot them. No, oh OK I'll tell you then. For a start I've put Miss V to bed. She was useful when the blog started out, but I want to concentrate on the writing now. Anyone who has been around since 2006 knows who I am. I'm not going to publish a book as Verilion, so I'm just going to be me from now on.

I also added a photo to my profile, rewrote the home page so that it's a little more interesting (I hope) and wiggled some of the widgets around. According to what I've read tonight, I need to concentrate on content, not the frame, so although I was thinking about farting about with the page design I've now decided not to do that. I also need to decide who my audience is. I'm fairly convinced the blog is for writers and people interested in books and all things writerly. All through November I was thinking about ending the Sunday Roast posts, it served its purpose in getting me back into the blog, but I'm not sure I want to give it up for good. And as for the photos, I'm sure people who are interested in all things bookish can put up with a photo once a week, hey?

While the Frog joined some the thousands of snow blocked drivers around Ile-de-France on Wednesday night and took four hours to get home, I thought I'd use the time to go through the Writers and Artists Yearbook for prospective agents. It was a bit of a depressing thing to do as it seems no one is accepting new clients, but it was a start. I think I only got to the letter B in my search, but I found loads of other resources while I was at it, so I now have a folder labelled agents on my web browser toolbar.

I can't quite remember how I came across Scribblerati, whether it was through Lia Keyes or Nicky Schmidt, but I decided to join, my membership is pending approval. One of the articles on it is: Why Every Writer should Tweet. That made me laugh out loud, because my current status on Facebook is: To tweet or not to tweet? That is the question. The jury is still out on Twitter, it took me a while to get into Facebook and then it took me a while longer to stop playing Scrabble and Treasure Madness on it! So, we'll see, we'll see. Meanwhile, I think I'll get me to bed.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Writing on Wednesday: A New Challenge

I have to say that after NaNoWriMo I wasn't really looking for another challenge. After all, I do have my wip grant challenge, but that is getting a bit lost in the rewrite. I realised (skip this bit if I've mentioned it before) that I quite like action, but by starting with the action there was no build up of the friendship between Ella and Morgane. Also, a part of Ella's character that I deemed important was completely ignored in the first draft. In building up the friendship and putting the swimming back in, the story is now wandering off (over dramatic off stage horror scream).

So, as I was saying I wasn't looking for another challenge, but this one just jumped out at me. I was reading Lucy Coates blog over at Scribble City Central and she mentioned casually that she was going to take part in a book challenge. Oooh, I thought. She introduced new readers to Becky of the The Bookette blog and the concept of the challenge. So, then I tootled over to The Bookette blog to have a look and this is what I found...

The BBC (hee hee) is a reading challenge where bloggers sign up to read books by British writers throughout 2011.

The books can be in print or out. Old or new titles. They can be from any genre and for any age.
The idea is for British bloggers to read 12 titles by 12 British authors over 2011 and to review one of the books each month. I will be an International Friend what with not living in Blighty any more and I choose to take part in the Royal Family challenge (the other option was Winston Churchill and 6 books, but that doesn't strike me as much of a challenge). There is also a chance to earn a crown if you read 50 books, but where I think I can do 12 easily, I think I may have to resort to cheating to achieve 50 (e.g. picture books of the sort: Is that Bunny Blue Ears? NO! Is that Bunny Blue Ears? NO!) 

The thing is that I can also use this challenge to help me. One piece of advice that Lynne Garner gave away for free the other day was: 
well [you] should research other books already published in the same genre, who has published them, why [your] book different?
So, I shall try to do that.Now what shall I read? Well, I will be looking to Becky's site for some recommendations for a start, followed by Celia Rees recommendation of the independent online magazine: Armadillo, which is full of children's book news, reviews and interviews. I found it very useful yesterday and may have picked my next class reader. In fact maybe that's what I will start with: The Ogre of Oglefort. I don't know if Eva counts as she was born in Vienna, before ending up in Devon, but there we go, tis my choice. Now I just need to get it before January!

Monday, December 06, 2010

What thinks you?

In case you're wondering where's the feedback on the SCBWI event I was going on about last week; here it is. I woke up on Thursday, possibly Friday feeling a bit ooh err. I tossed and turned for a bit and then thought I would go to the little girl's room and see if that made it better. So to cut to the chase it didn't and by Saturday, although I was on the mend, I was only up for getting from bed to the sofa and shuffling about a bit. I don't know what it is with SCBWI events, but every time I sign up I get sick. Maybe someone else should sign me up for them, so that my immune system doesn't know and can't let me down.

Anyway, I was wondering about something else. A few weeks ago I joined a writing gang. In fact that's what its called. It's run by Caroline and Gary Smailes and is a site full of top tips. There are round-ups of all things writerly on the web, they send you a loving and extremely in depth e mail every week, which is then supported by something even more in depth on the blog. In a way I am a little overwhelmed by all the information I am being bombarded with, but I am filing it away for future reference, because it will come in useful one day. I have yet to leave a writing gang comment, because frankly at the moment all I want to say is 'Thank you' and I have a feeling that that is a bit pants, but I am thankful, because the advice seems very good. And furthermore, all I had to do was enter my e mail address.

SCBWI is also full of good advice, I am sure, but I pay $70 a year for the priviledge and I have yet to profit from an event due to lurgy bugs and what not. It does give me access to forums and crit groups and directories, so all good. It also seems very well run and professional.

Then I came across a post by Lynne Garner  and I found myself wiggling my nose and screwing up my mouth in a questioning way. Lynne Garner is a professional published author who is running courses on how to get published and offering one-to-one coaching. She is plugging her courses on the post and saying that we would pay for a plumber, so why not her?

The thing is, that even before I finished reading it I thought, NO! NO! NO! I recognise that there is a paradox in my argument here and should Lynne Garner ever read my post I will be pissing her off for life, but here goes, I will try to explain.

Caroline and Gary Smailes are mostly offering their advice for free. They recognised that it was difficult to get published, they wanted to share an experience et voila. The mentoring and copy editing is a paid service (well paid), but you get the website and tons of resources first and if you are pleased as a customer you get to choose whether you want to pay for more. Call me naive, but it seems that they are spending a lot of their time sharing things they have found useful.

SCBWI is a paid service, but it's been going for years. Lots of its members are published and its recognised as a good society to be part of if you want to break into children's publishing. They run great conferences and the nice people of SCBWI put up youtube videos on Facebook for those of us unable to go. They have masterclasses on video, there is a magazine, they offer grants. You know, you get your money's worth.

So to go back to Lynne Garner's point of we pay for the plumber. Well, yes, unless the plumber is your lovely neighbour's brother and out of the kindness of his heart he fixes your tap for free. Or we pay for the plumber who comes with the highest recommendations of as many people as possible, because otherwise they're a bit renowned for ripping people off, aren't they?

A Memory: The crown

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Sunday, December 05, 2010

Where I grew up

This is where I grew up. It didn't look like this when I was little; then it was a rectangular red brick building with not as many windows and NO toilets. The children's section was separated from the adults section and I remember spending hours flicking through all the children's book, while my Mum was on the other side choosing her reading material for the week.

During the summer holidays, the library would dutifully show Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and my brother and I would dutifully troop off to see it... again. Another thing they would do during the holidays was have themed reads. I got well into The Worst Witch series one half term, because she had a lovely little cat and she just messed things up, a bit like me.

You could say I became a writer at the library, as I would come home and tell my brother and parents stories about all the imaginary friends I played with at the library. Those characters were probably some of the realest, roundest, well developed characters I ever made up.

When I came back from university a bit disillusioned with the way the British education was going and unemployed I lived in that library. I went through the directories there and found voluntary work. I went through the Times Ed every week until I found a job. And more importantly I read loads of trade paperbacks of all my favourite comics, and some that I just thought I would try. I also learnt to cook more than chilli, curry and lasagne. Once a week or maybe more, I would cook my parents dinner. My Mum was generally quite grateful as it meant she didn't have to cook and my Dad just hoped it was a week where I only cooked once and meat would be back, but all those recipes came from books from the library.

These are just some of the memories I have of my library. I no longer live in the UK, but some of the things I miss are a writing community, which is why I blog. I miss certain foods, which is why there is a Holland and Barrat's bag full of meat free sausage mix in my larder. And I miss the library, because I love books and I love the memories that go with my library.

I cannot imagine my childhood without Southfields library and I cannot imagine why the UK Government is planning on closing 250 libraries. Neither can all these people around the blogosphere :
Nicky Schmidt
Jon Mayhew
Lucy Coats
Jude Ensaff
Gillian Philip
Dave Cousins
If you cannot and would like to take action join this page on Facebook: Campaign for the Book official facebook site

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Writing on Wednesday: NaNoWriMo - It's all over!

What's going on?
Well, a little while ago I told the Frog that I was thinking of applying for a wip grant, but the only problem was that I needed to write the wip first. The Frog looked at me and asked me how I planned to do that when I couldn't even manage writing one day a week. The guy had a point, even if it did rather annoy me at the time.
So, when Lia Keyes who runs the Facebook SCBWI fan page mentioned that I was doing NaNo I thought to myself  'Mmm, why not? How hard can it be to write 1,667 words a day?' Well, let me tell you that after thirteen and a half hour days, the thought of sitting at the laptop and churning out two words was occasionally too much. In the end there was only three days when I didn't pen a word, today being one of them because I've FINISHED. Thankfully November in France is blessed with two national holidays, which helped enormously. The Frog and bubba also helped by braving the rain and tootling off for a weekend.

The Regional Advisor of the France chapter of SCBWI suggested that I organise some write-ins. In the end I was the only SCBWI member that attended the write-ins I organised. It was kind of weird meeting up with a bunch of strangers every week, but it was kind of sweet comparing word counts and sharing biscuits and tap tapping away. There was one week where the group was a little chatty, but on the whole I tended to churn out a good 2,000 words each Sunday, which kept me good for the light word days during the week,

So, now I have this thing in a red plastic folder and I've been reading it. I can see the bits where I was totally exhausted -lots of telling, not showing. I've done what I'm good at, the dialogue is pretty good, the story is pretty exciting, if I say so myself. But it's the skeleton of a book. I need to slow down, describe settings and build the characters a little before I launch into the action.

I think, I've also decided to cut a character, but I'm not sure. Well, I'm almost a 100% sure that I need to cut the character, but he's moved the plot along in ways that are important. The thing is that if I cut him, I need to try and work out how to move the plot along in the way I want to. Plus, the scenes he's in are quite good, I like them, but oooh.


Today Ella is on the Timaeus. She's skipped school (naughty girl), but she's pretty happy, unsure of how things are going to pan out, but pretty happy.
Leo is also on the Timaeus and he is like the cat that got the cream. He came, he saw and he did what he meant to do (with lots of help from his friends, of course).
And Will is ... we don't really need to know what he's doing, do we? Whatever it is, I assure you he's enjoying it.

My word count is at 50,454 words and I am a ...

Check me out here.


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