Friday, December 14, 2012

What does success mean?

I've heard a lot of talk lately about what it is like to feel a failure. Most people understand that concept but I've been thinking what does success actually mean? According to the dictionary:

suc·cess (sk-ss)
1. The achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted: attributed their success in business to hard work.
a. The gaining of fame or prosperity: an artist spoiled by success.
b. The extent of such gain.
3. One that is successful: The plan was a success.
4. Obsolete A result or an outcome.
[Latin successus, from past participle of succdere, to succeed; see succeed.]

When did success become synonymous with wealth?

What about the hundreds of personal successes an individual can have in a day? Finding the location when you're no sense of direction. Finishing that short story or novel. Taking joy in a finished project or a cake that looks just right. Why is it that if there is no finical gain, it doesn't count? Or unless someone else calls you a success you aren't allowed to feel that way?

Thursday, December 6, 2012


I am woefully aware that I have shamefully neglected my blog over the last few weeks.

I completed the NaNoWriMo project and managed to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. I have not printed it out or read it yet. NaNo is about quantity not quality and I'm scared of what I might find. I pushed myself to enter the Mumsnet/Walkers Books children's fiction competition and I sent an enquiry to a publisher, but if I'm honest l've neglected my writing.

I feel over stretched and I am behind on so many projects, which for a shameless swot like me who use to do homework on the same night it was set, causes a weird feeling. I simply haven't enough hours in the day. Plus my mind keeps straying to personal problems.

Never mind, I will find focus from somewhere.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Next Big Thing!

I was so excited when I found out that I had been tagged as ‘the next big thing’ by Zella Compton. This means that I have to answer the following questions (which I have) and then nominate five other people who I think are ‘the next big thing’ (see the bottom!).

So here goes . . . .

What is the working title of your book?

I'm really unhappy with my working title of 'Holes' especially as its the same name as a successful book and film. I keep hoping the real title will emerge as I write!

Where did the idea come from for the book?

When I was a child I use to love the Road Runner cartoons and the products Wile E. Coyote would by from the Acme company. Also, a bible story I studied about Daniel, when the angel came 24 days after he prayed because he was delayed fighting demons.

What genre does your book fall under?

This book is aimed at the young adult market.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I have a character called Edmund who has his own agenda, definitely a good role for Alan Rickman. I'm not sure who would play the teenage characters.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

It's not fun cleaning up a mess you have caused, in fact sometimes it can be hell.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I will probably try traditional routes before I self publish.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I'm currently on what I call a zero draft thanks to NaNoWriMo, so the whole thing is stretched out during the month of November.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I think it would fit alongside the Darren Shan novels.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

It's a story that has been bouncing around my head for decades so I have decided to sit down and write the thing so I can free up a bit of my imagination.

My five authors who are going to be the next big thing:

Rik Atherton
Rik Atherton sometimes turns up at my writers group, The Writers @ Lovedean, I'm not a massive crime fiction fan but the guy tells a good story.

Barry William Doughty
Barry William Doughty is all story, he writes some great page turners, and is a master of tales that end in a sting.

David Swann
Brian Evans Jones
It always amazes me how many poets don't read poetry! My favourite poets at the moment are David Swann, he has this zen thing going on but I couldn't find his blog or web page.

However, my latest poetry crush is the words of Brian Evan Jones, with his fabulous use of imagery. The words just leap of the page.

Callum Kerr
For Flash Fiction it's got to be Callum Kerr, I loved his book Flash 365, if you can hear this guy read.

Sue Hampton
Lastly a very nice lady author who understands how to get everything out of every sentence.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Exciting Times

A very exciting week! First surprise was an email from Zella Compton nominating me as The Next Big Thing, so look out for my post next Wednesday.

Can't wait that long? Check out Zella's site on:

I loved reading at Wordsouth last night and there is a chance of me performing some poetry on the radio! Exciting.

So half way through NaNoWriMo and I'm at 27,000 words and very pleased with myself. Not with the novel, I have discovered some major flaws with the plot. But I feel so upbeat and energised at writing everyday. I literally do not have another hours to combine work and writing. My mind is full of creative ideas. I'm trying my hand at poetry again, something I haven't done since 2002. Definitely full of beans.

The secret?

Not to read what you have written, it's great.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Throwing myself into work...again

I don't know if its because it was my late Dad's birthday yesterday, or the raging toothache or my increasing regret that I committed myself to doing NaNoWriMo but I'm feeling extremely unloved and in a very self pitying mood.

I walked the dog in the autumn sunshine but the frost managed to set my tooth alive with pain. So after having words with my other half and a couple of verses of 'no body loves me.' I have once again decided to throw myself into work to take my mind of things. So here are a couple of things I want to enter:

Local Poem Competition
United Press are inviting poems about your local area or people. Deadline is 31 December and there is more info at

The Writer’s Prize
The BBC are inviting submissions, by 3 December, of new writing for Radio 3 or Radio 4. More info

Friday, November 9, 2012

By the skin of my teeth

It is a few minutes to midnight. The house is quiet, I'm tired and I totally didn't feel like writing tonight. Once again I questioned why I wanted to NaNoWriMo.

At seven thirty I walked the dog in the park with a torch searching for inspiration. It was quite creepy and I realised that no one said you had to write your novel in the correct order so I jumped ahead a bit to write a scary chapter. Then I finished the chapter I started yesterday. I managed to finish 1,726 words minutes before twelve. When not doing NaNoWriMo I tend to write about 1200 a day and its surprising how those extra 550 words are so difficult. So thankfully I managed to finish before turning into a pumpkin. Unfortunately, I'm now tired but not sleepy.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Feeling like throwing the towel!

I was pleased to see the poem I wrote at the Brian Evans Jones workshop on the Poetry Map website

It's a fun site with lots of pins on a map, red for adults and blue for under sixteens. I hadn't heard anything after I submitted my work but I had an appointment at Winchester Council, and on reaching the car park that inspired the poem I decided to go on the site to check. It's always a lovely feeling to see your work out there and the feeling of joy increased to see another member had their work on to.

It's NaNoWriMo day eight and I want to chuck in the towel. I'm already seeing reasons why it will never be published and fundamental flaws with the plot. The idea for the story came many, many years ago when I supposed I didn't get an answer to my prayers and the story of Daniel. (Basically he prayed hard for twenty one days and then on day twenty four an angel came along and said, hey we heard you on day one but well we were busy fighting this demon sorry I'm late.) I suppose being self employed and spending huge amounts of time praying for work it resurfaced in my mind. Not that I'm writing a religious text, it's a horror story with monsters but I have a nagging feeling that maybe the premise I basing my novel is wrong.

I worked this morning, appointments with potential clients and procrastinated this afternoon by cutting the grass. Unfortunately or fortunately which ever way you look at it, I have a strong work ethic which makes it nearly impossible to quit. So back at it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Why bother with NaNoWriMo?

Why are you doing NaNoWriMo I was asked today? At the time I gave a really stupid answer - why not? Then later I kicked myself as I thought of better reasons. What else is there to do in November except save up for Christmas and then when December comes its hard to find time to think never mind write.

What I really love about NaNoWriMo is that it gives you permission not to try and rewrite before you have finished. Its good to sprint sometimes and just focus on getting the words down on paper. I understand why editors and publishers hate NaNoWriMo, the amount of unedited trash they receive in December and January must be scary. But if you know that this first run at a novel is far from perfection it is great to be able to write without the internal editor. How often does something come along and says hey we are okay with a third class piece of work as long as its finished, a nice change from all those polished first three chapters not finished manuscripts.

Despite wanting to get down as many words as possible it is surprisingly free of padding, waffle or beautiful descriptive paragraphs. I am getting down the skeleton frame of my novel.

Words so far: 12,640 but today 140 words short today.

Day five NaNoWriMo

I'm looking at my writing so far as a zero draft. Day five I've done 11,113 words. I sort of cheated by plotting down ideas for my novel before I started, worryingly I have already used all my ideas and I haven't got to the 15,000 word mark.

I usually write about 800 words an hour. So I have been spending around two hours on NaNoWriMo each day. Already I'm itching to read what I've written so far but I know that will be a nail in the coffin. All I can do is press onwards and focus on that word count.

However, it cuts down on what I call my dreaming time, were I can gently let the story unfold in my mind.

Tonight is the first night that I'm going to bed with no idea what to write tomorrow.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

20 x 12 Portsmouth Book Fest 2012

I had a great time with the 20 x 12 project. It was so nice to meet other local authors, learn about the Reauthoring Project and have an opportunity to read our work out loud in the community. I have met so many writers in my life who have turned their noses up at opportunities like this but I have found that the more you say yes to new experiences the more opportunities come your way.

The project meant that not only did I get to meet and hear the work of some great authors such as Annie Kirby, James Law, Maggie Sawkins and Andrew Prior. I met some shining personalities such as Matt Wingett and Joanne Mallon. I was sorry when the project started to come to an end and expected maybe a drink in the pub and another entry on my writers bio. So imagine my pleasant surprise when I found out that there is the possibility of a collection of the writings that featured in 20x12 being published.

The book will be a not-for-profit venture, with all proceeds from sales going to a fund designed to promote Portsmouth writers - either in the form of future presentations, or a to promote additional books in the future. The book would go on sale around Portsmouth and would also be handed out to visiting luminaries involved in culture.

I do hope the project goes ahead. Since I produce an anthology every year for The Writers @ Lovedean I appreciate the hard work ahead for Mart Wingett and Dom Kippin especially as in their email they are hoping to have it out before Christmas.

Obviously I have already sent my submission, never let it be said that I sat back and missed an opportunity to see the name in print!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What is NaNoWriMo?

What is NaNoWriMo?

Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month’s time.

'National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. This approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.'

So why am I doing it?

I work well to deadlines. It forces you to get the full story down and not to edit. It also pushing you over that barrier when you lose the plot of the novel and just give up!

And today I have made a start and I'm feel good!

1st November current word count 2,375

Families, Ghosts and New Projects

I've had a very emotionally charged weekend. It was my little sisters wedding, she looked beautiful but even though its twelve years since my parents died I really felt their absence this weekend. I know my father would have been so proud to walk her down the aisle and my mother would have been in her element. We spent the rest of our time in the North visiting relatives. But I couldn't help grieving over the fact that my own children never met their grandparents on my side.

Before the trip home I visited Bolton Town Centre a favourite shopping haunt of me and my Mum. The first time I went to Bolton on my own I took my little sister to buy her a birthday present - a game she desperately wanted called 'Pig Pong'. It was something my parents thought was silly and a waste of money. However, my little sister had seen it on television and wanted it with a passion. I was fourteen and had my first job and I was so proud that I could buy it for her. It was strange walking around a town centre that seemed to have changed so little lost in thoughts of my past.

I wasn't able to write a word while I was away. I couldn't even focus on the rewrite of my non fiction book. This is very worrying as I'm going to have to write a lot of words tomorrow because the 1st of November and the start of NaNoWriMo - AKA write a novel in a month!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Confessions of a Portsmouth Book Fest 20 x 12 Reader

So after all the practice and work with the ReAuthoring Project it was my turn to give my 12 minute performance in Portsmouth City Library. I went through the exercises I learnt from Greg at the workshop while walking the dog this morning and I was feeling pretty good. I'd looked around the space earlier in the month and I'd decided to use the cafe. I thought people would already be sitting, some alone and most may be killing time. But when I got to the library a fellow 20 x 12 told me that a group of people were using the cafe to have an around the table discussion about politics. Crikey - I realised I didn't have a plan B.

The library staff were lovely, they had put out a table and one chair and wished me luck. They assured me I could use any part of the library, but there was no chairs to put out for an audience, what to do? I'd planned for time for a quick re read but instead I had to think fast. What would Greg do? There were lots of toddlers in the kids section, no good. The quiet area at the back? Of course no one would know you I was there. Then it hit me. Suppose I broke fire regulations and blocked the entrance and exit. People coming into the library and going out would be forced to stand for a few minutes. By this time other kind 20 x 12 authors who will be reading soon had popped along and we pulled some chairs out that would hopefully stop traffic. I do feel a little bad at putting the brakes on a passer by in a wheel chair, but when you need an audience what can you do?

I must admit I felt self conscious of being in my 'work' clothes but it was a case of nipping to Portsmouth in my lunch hour. No choice when you are self employed and looking for business? It helped and made me feel nervous having friendly faces in the audience. I decided to do it from memory and 'unaccustomed as I am to public speaking' lost my thread a little. Never the less I did it!

It was definitely a great experience. And now I am able to relax and enjoy the rest of the Portsmouth Book Fest without pressure.

After having my first go I would definitely do it completely different if I had to do it again. I think I would put up a few signs and maybe borrow the church's tea urn and offer free cups of tea in the quiet area at the back. Then maybe I could have jollied a few people along into being an audience. It would have worked so much better for the piece I was performing.

One thing for sure I don't think I would go back to traditional reading. And I'm much stronger after the experience.

I'd like to had a big thanks to all the people who came out to support me, I will be coming to see as many as I can.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Weald & Downland Open Air Museum

Searching for a peaceful oasis of calm, beautiful scenery and places to write in the autumn sun The Writers @ Lovedean had its last Write Out Day at Weald & Downland Open Air Museum. It rained. However, grey skies and damp trousers could not crumple a wonderful and informative trip. We had planned to separate, write and then regroup. That way we could have a little word tour of the buildings that inspired us. However, and I am tempted to gain credit for this, we were lucky enough to have a guided tour by curator Julian Bell. He pointed out things we would have easily missed. It was fascinating to see how these buildings have lovingly been rebuilt in the beauty of the South Downs. For me the highlight was the watermill. I have been fascinated by them since childhood. Maybe it was Windy Miller in Camberwick Green that started my love of flour mills, even those which use water instead of sails.

I think the group as a whole enjoyed Weald & Downland jewel in its crown the impressive Bayleaf House. It was certainly nice to be out soaking up the autumn colours.

I was hoping to get an idea for another poem to submit to Writing Hampshire. I would love to put Weald & Downland on the poetry map. However, I found myself taken up with ideas for the young adult book I'm planning to write in November. I think I might try and find time to sneak off and visit again alone. Despite having a wonderful time with a great set of writers I was itching for some writing time.

I would definitely recommend a visit :

Monday, October 15, 2012

Submitting to the Poetry Map

Inspired by Fridays workshop with Brian Evans-Jones I edited my poem dedicated to a council car park in Winchester and submitted it to:
Writing Hampshire - Mapping the County through Poetry

I think it is such a beautiful idea, a map of poems about what Hampshire means to the people who live, work, study, play or visit here.

It's worth checking out the site to see which areas have already been bagged although I don't think it would matter if two people wrote about the same place. All the pins represent where poems are written and they seem to cling to the motorway. A tad strange perhaps but seeing that I neglected all of Hampshire's beauty spots for a parking space, I feel unable to comment.

Then while I was on the site I stumbled on a writing competition:

'Celebrating Charlotte - A Writing Competition
Charlotte Mary Yonge was the best selling Victorian novelist who also named Eastleigh in Hampshire. She will be celebrated through a series of paving artworks and we are looking for writers to be involved.

You are invited to write a short story inspired by Charlotte or one of her novels - maybe one turns up when clearing a relative's house or perhaps you could imagine Charlotte teaching, or writing one of her books.

You could win a £50 Waterstones giftcard and have your story reproduced for countless readers to enjoy.

Stories should be a maximum of 1000 words.

Two prize categories: under 16 and 16+

Open to all - you don't have to be a Hampshire resident to enter

Entries should be sent to the Literature Development Officer, Hampshire County Council, Castle Avenue, Winchester, SO23 8UL

or to stating full name, address and date of birth.

Closing date: 12 December 2012'

Very interesting! I'm hoping that something will bubble subconsciously on this while I work.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Brian Evans-Jones visits The Writers @ Lovedean

Brian Evans-Jones Hampshire Poet Laureate 2012 came to give a workshop at The Writers @ Lovedean this morning. It was a truly awesome activity on 'poetry and place'. He asked us to think of five locations to write about and stressed that they didn't have to be natural beauty spots.

I choose Winchester Council Car Park. I don't mind driving but I do have a phobia of parking, in fact I don't think I do park, but merely abandon my car as close as possible to the location I want to visit. However, I don't mind circling Winchester's small short stay car park. It may be because it backs on to the Cathedral but I find it a small oasis of calm. I have never thought about immortalising this experience in the form of a poem until I met Brian.

Next we looked at how to make comparisons in our writing and learnt a little on how to structure the poems.

I've been a little apprehensive about this weeks session, mainly about the turn out of the group. I shouldn't have worried and I would like to thank all the members for a great show of numbers and support. I knew I needed to charge more for a speaker and since the workshop was about poetry, a term that strikes fear into most short story and novel writers, I worried that some would back out at the last minute. Oh me of little faith, how could I forget what a great group of people The Writers @ Lovedean are?

I think we collectively as a group were unsure what to expect. But Brian quietly guided us through the process of writing a poem. Lynne Stone a long term member said to me later, 'I'm would never describe myself as a poet, but I enjoyed the session. I managed to write something I was pleased with even though I was desperate to write the story behind the idea. And I understand more about how to approach poetry now.'

And I completely agreed with her sentiments. This workshop came at the right time for me after the discussion on poetry on Monday. I would definitely recommend Brian as a tutor, he listened carefully to our writing and gave excellent feedback. Best of all he let us know about the 'Writing Hampshire' Project. Writers can submit their poems to the Writing Hampshire website: http://www3. and (council money permitting) if your poem makes it on to the website it may be considered for the printed anthology.

Brian is also running some courses for National Novel Writing Month - NaNoWriMo in October and December at The Winchester Discovery Centre.

If you are interested in learning more you can find more details

Thursday, October 11, 2012

60+ Festival Portsmouth

Portsmouth City Council were running a 60+ festival during the first two weeks of October. On Wednesday 10th I ran a creative writing workshop focusing on the senses through the written word.

When I got to the central library I was unnerved to find that the library had no clue to the fact I was booked. I must admit to feeling anxious when I was wondering round from one member of staff to the other trying to find out where I was located. Luckily I was early and once I found a catalogue of events I eventually found my room.

Remembering The Hitch Hikers Guide of the Galaxy and Arthur's attempts to find building plans at his local council? I was sure no one would turn up and I was pleasantly surprised by ten 60+ people with pens and papers.

It was a great afternoon. Everyone was so enthusiastic about the exercises. When we had a tea break I insisted we all bring our cups back to the classroom and enjoyed a chat. In a group of ten seniors, four had spent most of their working lives abroad in places like Singapore and Australia.

I was leading an exercise challenging the way you interact with the world and I had a lesson to learn myself about first impressions. I certainly wouldn't have guessed the adventures these ladies had experienced if I I had bumped into them in the queue at Tesco's.

They were pleased with the improvements they had made to their fictional characters and I came away with a few ideas for new characters of my own. Definitely a win win situation.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tell me why I don't like editing?

Why do I hate editing? Because if you edit properly it's hard work. Yesterday I benefited from an editing session with some other talented writers. So I decided to look at my editing checklist and revamp it.

If I asked a non creative writer what editing is I would expect them to come up with the following list:

sentence structure
subject/verb agreement
consistent verb tense
word usage

Of course I look out for spelling mistakes and common errors but recently I found an article by William Faulkner. He pointed out that we teach ourselves through our own mistakes. People learn only by error, he wrote. However, it's not always easy to spot errors at first. We're too close to our own writing. We love what we write, especially directly after we write it.

Most of the writers I know that never finish a piece of writing are those obsessed with the quest for perfection. But why worry about perfection in your first or second draft? No one else expects your first attempt to be perfect. Why not enjoy the free writing of trying to capture your idea on the page?

Now once I have that all important first draft then it's the time to refine the plot and structure.

After I have removed all the typos and repetition I try to get more focused. Stephen King wrote a great book on creative writing and described adverbs as dandelions, I liked the idea of them being weeds because once you start using them you can't stop. Do a search for "ly" and edit as many adverbs as possible. The strongest, most powerful writing uses few adverbs because adverbs assist weak verbs. These should be replaced with stronger, more accurate verbs.

Characters should not "begin to" do things. Have them take direct action. Similarly instead of having characters to decide to do things, they should just do it. No 'after Jake had left she decided to check his phone.'

Cliches are hard to spot sometimes because they are ingrained into our culture. When you do find them take them out.

Next is dialogue, I have my own special dialogue checklist:

short sentences
use contractions
forgo pleasantries
compress your dialogue
edit dialogue to its essentials
don't overuse names.

I always have to remember to create a new paragraph when dialogue changes from one character to another. You can add the character's thoughts and actions after their dialogue without beginning a new paragraph.

One of my bad habits are the use of intensifiers. These are the words placed before adjectives and adverbs in an attempt to intensify an effect. Words such as very, so, quite, extremely, really, and absolutely. We're very tired. Thank you so much. The book was extremely good, etc. Removing them tends to improves sentences. Unfortunately I use them a lot in my speech so they overflow into my writing.

One of my pet hates in other peoples writing is 'it'. Be specific and name the "it" wherever possible.

Too many passive verbs slow down and weaken a narrative with wordiness—tighten and strengthen your sentences by naming who did what.

My passive verb checklist:

There are lots of other things that you need to look for. This list has been developed by listening to the criticism that I have received from others which I have then taken on board.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Red Pens and Poetry

An excellent morning. I met some fellow members for a Red Pen Posse in Waterlooville Library for some focused editing.

Now I like AND read poetry. I'm often amazed by how many poets never read it. Recently I've rediscovered my love of poetry after a David Swann lecture at Portsmouth Writing Hub and I often wish I could express myself in that way. If there is something wrong with a piece I can usually spot where it jars but I'm often at a loss how to rectify it.

Today I was lucky to be working with three poets (two of them have got an MA in Creative Writing). And in a few minutes I learnt a lot.

We discussed punctuation in poetry and how the end of the line can naturally provide that punctuation without the comma people feel the need to put there. I vaguely remembered terms like enjambment and of course Joyce Kilmer use of it in Trees. Not to mention Alexander Pope, An Essay on Men for a famous example of caesura from the far distant past. But it was only this morning that the penny dropped and it finally made sense.

Pace in poetry is influenced by the rhythm of the words of course BUT it is also influenced by the amount and kind of punctuation used.

The general rule: the more punctuation, the slower the poem will read. Punctuation is not the only factor influencing a reader’s pace, but it is an important influence. When punctuation occurs at the end of a line, it is called an end-stopped line. A run-on line, also known as an enjambment, occurs if there is no punctuation at the end of the line, or if the idea expressed in one line is continued on in the next.

Today I was really able to step back and focus on the punctuation. Enjambment definitely urges the reader to move to the next line without pausing.

A mark of punctuation that comes within the line itself is called a caesura. Caesuras cause the reader to pause or stop in the middle of a line. This is a way of providing a clear break in thought or slowing the pace of the poem. I've played around with this before and I've never been happy with the final result. For some reason today I realised the punctuation marks were all pauses in pace. It's strange when you finally 'get' a concept.

I received some great criticism on a story I'm working on for a complete different genre - adult fiction. And I discovered that a new member was hiding outstanding editing skills, she found something on nearly every other line. So I have decided to take an envelope with a cash gift in to my next Writers at Lovedean meeting at Friday with some work I want to self publish in the hope that I can bribe her to give it a bit of a going over with the red pen!

Afterwards we even had time for a coffee and a cake. So chilled and inspired I'm hoping to get 45 minutes to make the changes in my manuscript.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

RESILIENCE by Jessica Comley aged 10

My Mum, Charlotte, has asked me to be the first guest blogger for her blog. What I'm going to talk about is Resilience.

On Monday a few weeks ago in September, I was elected House Captain of Emeralds. In my school we are split into 4 groups, Emeralds, Sapphires, Rubies and Topaz. Since Year 1 I have tried out for various voted elections such as school council, green team and other school offices. In Year 6, this year, I tried out for School Council... I lost. It was one of my friends, Elisha. Then I tried for Eco Council I lost. It was a boy, called Harry. Then I tried out for House Captains. I won!

Each time I have tried out I have been desperate to win. I have tried lots of different campaign strategies such as making posters, leaflets, bookmarks and things. I have brought in sweets and cakes. I spent time thinking about my speeches and practicing them. There have been occasions where I have believed things haven't been fair such as last minute rule changes. I have had friends promise they will vote for me and then I have had to put up with the painful hurt of them then voting for someone else.

When I have lost I am bitterly disappointed and I have cried and been very sad. If you are serious about trying out for something and you are serious about success you have to care about winning more than anything.

I am writing this blog after having a chat to my Mum about the comments made by other grown up writers. I wrote the first draft of this while watching my Mum try out for The Pint Pot of Fire. The writers at Alton are the same as writers in Lovedean.

What is the point of sitting around and whining about how hard it is to get your book accepted by a publisher? If you grown up writers don't get picked you can publish the book yourself.

If a primary school child wants to be elected and isn't chosen, that's it! Why did I succeed? RESILIENCE!

You may also want to think about what happens if you moan at school about not being elected. You get told off by your teacher, your friends think you are a bad loser and the person who won feels smug that you are jealous. This then reduces your chance of winning the next election.

So remember only cry at home to your Mum and sister. Make sure people can't see jealousy on your face. And if you are serious about get published, be serious about it. Try your best and try again!


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pint Pot of Fire 3rd Place!

On Monday I entered a great storytelling contest called 'The Pint Pot of Fire' inspired of course by Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire. I was pleased that hubby and kids were determined to come a long to watch the activities. It was a truly memorable evening and not just because I ditched the jeans for a dress, which caused a moments panic with the sound man. Luckily I was wearing the fat knickers which claim to make you drop a dress size, they held the heavy battery without any problems. I was touched at how many people turned up from the writing group to offer support and in a way it added to the nerves.

A fellow member and extremely talent writer Margaret Jennings was hoping to read but I misread the rules and thought no paper was allowed. So bravely I memorised my story and went ahead. The stories must last as close as possible to 10 minutes. There are time penalties for finishing more than 15 seconds early or late. Unfortunately mine was 40 seconds too short and I had a 12.5 % penalty. Every one was issued with six little washers and they were able to vote which story they liked best by posting the washers into their favourites coloured pot, mine was green. I was pleased how well I did with the audience, coming in second with the public. Unfortunately I was hammered by the judges and came in fifth place with them. However, I'm incredibly grateful to judge Bryan Harrison who took the time to give me some words of encouragement after the votes came in. With the penalty I ended up coming 3rd place. So I feel I haven't let The Writers @ Lovedean down on our first visit.

The evening and web page is run by Elliott Manly, he seems a thoroughly nice chap. But I was concerned he was going to collapse during the evening. Like we say in the North ''I didn't like his colour!" I'm telling you that guy looked like he had a soaring temperature, but give him his due he never once faulted and was focused on making sure everything went smoothly.

What did strike me was how welcoming the volunteers were. From the nice sound guy; the lovely lady with the camera, the girls weighing the washers and people on the doors. Everyone was friendly offering words of encouragement and it did a lot to ease the nerves and make it a wonderful evening.

The competition was amazing, I'm so glad that I didn't go last year or I may not have had the guts to complete. I read second and my one regret is that I was so nervous I didn't manage to listen to John Taylor's story properly. Once I had done my turn I was able to kick back and enjoy the amazing talent on show.

Alison Moulden won with her excellent story, Deep Fried Mars Bars at the Jungle Food Café, but I was forced to check that she hadn't stolen the characters from our writer's group. The portrayal of an older person in the writing group penning sexy stories reminded our group of a certain member who writes should I say it....passion!

I definitely hope The Writers @ Lovedean return next year!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bag of nerves

I'm a bag of nerves today, and not just because we all overslept this morning. Today is the day of the Pint Pot of Fire. I have learnt my story, but I'm worried about timing. Pint Pot deducts marks for being too short or over running. I have to say that the idea of standing in front of an audience and telling them a story is a lot less frightening that tomorrow morning plan.

Hubby and I decided to give everything to the business this year and if things still don't look up in the New Year we will have to have a rethink. The part of the business we both loath is those dreaded sales calls. So my partner made a deal with himself, he would invest in his body and bodybuilding dreams as a reward for making those calls. It was an excellent plan, the gym is something he loves doing, it makes him feel better about himself, which in turn will give him more confidence to make those calls. And for a short while it worked well.

What's happened in reality? I'm stuck with the job of phoning prospect clients to invited them to a business lunch despite feeling pretty low down on the old mood and confidence scale. The resentment is of course back, because despite how crap I'm feeling if a job needs doing, I need to at least try. It's in my nature. And I think it's a character trait others don't like.

Rationally I think what is it I'm scared off? The worse thing that can happen is no one will come and no new business. Of course the real fear is making things worse. But selling like everything else is a skill. I'm concerned and worried because I haven't had much experience in this area. If I made the calls my technique would get better with practice and the fear WILL get smaller.

I've have made a sales plan, I've researched how to do it. Now it's just a matter of finding the right restaurant and picking up the phone tomorrow morning. I'm confident about our product and I know it's a great deal.

Hopefully this will get hubby in the mood to do some of the things on my dreaded job list, like formatting my non fiction book so I can self publish on kindle. Plus finishing a web page and helping me with an application letter. But if not, I'm sure I will work it out for myself.

Unfortunately, I have unsettling little thoughts. And I think this is what is the real reason for the anxiety. I have a long history of jumping in and helping or saving people. The problem is that it never ever works out in the long term. At first friends and family are always amazingly grateful that you stepped in. I have learnt to my cost that this will probably come back to bite me. Who was it that said 'no good turn goes unpunished?' I honestly don't why it turns sour, maybe by stepping in I'm not letting them get over their fear and then in turn feel better about themselves. But if the last few weeks have taught me anything, it's that no matter how good intentioned you were stepping in to and sorting out other people problems, even when they have asked or begged for help, doesn't end well.

And hubby hasn't asked me directly to make the calls, he's just procrastinated making them himself for the last five weeks. Then he's got moodier and moodier about it, because he knows he isn't sticking to the deal. And he's made everyone suffer for his feelings of guilt. He's a head in the sand kind of guy were I'm all for jumping out of frying pans kind of girl.

The real irony of this is that when we first started the business I wanted to turn take the horrid jobs. But hubby got all 'I want to do this myself and prove something' on me.

Never mind, by tomorrow evening the Pint Pot and sales calls will be over and I will be feeling the after effects but a whole lot less nervous! And if things do come back to bite me? Well, there's nothing I can do about it.

I need to think of the best outcome. There's a possibility of me having a Pint Pot on my mantelpiece and money in the account from new business.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Writing at Fishbourne Roman Palace

Writing is often a solitary occupation. You sit at a laptop or with a pen and paper and try to focus on story and character. However, in reality most areas have great writing communities either on line or in the form of groups and clubs.

I personally like to mix with fellow writers who are up beat and positive, not just to share ideas or tips but for fun. It's really motivating to have a deadline to produce some writing to read at a writing group. And doing writing exercises together is great, but I love to wander for inspiration.

Today I arranged for The Writers @ Lovedean to visit Fishbourne Roman Palace near Chichester. It's great to get the opportunity to sit with a coffee and have a relaxed chat with other writers who understand if you suddenly drift off alone, pull out paper and pen and start to jot down notes furiously. Or perhaps listen while someone mentions how they would like to include a dolphin and a hare in a poem, but are not quite sure how or why. Most of all I think sharing a laugh with other people who share your hobbies and outlook on life a great source of inspiration.

Best of all is when you share the work you have written, and are shocked and surprised at how differently everyone's work is from the same starting point. I went to Fishbourne with preconceived ideas, but once there it all went out of the window. Why? Because I visited it with others discussing holidays, work and pointing out things I didn't notice.

Often these trips are viewed with the pessimistic belief that it won't provide any kind of inspiration, yet every member of the group jotted down a few ideas or was struck with that magic little brain itch that could be a new story.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Energy Vampires

Way back in the eighties when I was laboriously photocopying my notes for a 'friend' who had missed another lecture because she had lost a contact lens I was warned by another student about what he called psychic vampires. I had scoffed at the time. But amethyst necklace dangling he went on to warn me to be on my guard, as a 'will help anyone out sort of person' I was she warned 'a juicy meal to those who just feed off you and do nothing back.'

I started this blog to keep me focused on my own private goal of writing and hopefully one day getting some fiction in print. It's been a valuable tool. I have been shocked to realise how much time I have wasted 'helping others' who don't actually want or need to be helped. For those unfamiliar with the term 'energy vampire' let me explain. Unfortunately, they don't go around under the cover of night or sparkle in direct sunlight. And they can be incredibly hard to spot.

They suck you in using a variety of methods, you may be curious about their gossip or stories, or you may get sucked into the drama that follows them around, or (and this is my Hercules heel) their hard luck stories pull you in.

It is hard to connect the dots of spending time with or 'helping' that person with physical reactions. If you find yourself experiencing muscle tension, loss of energy, headaches, irritability, sadness, mental confusion, or negativity, focusing on events in the past, you likely have an energy vampire in your midst.

Recently I've been limiting contact and followed the advice a friend from the writing group gave me from the

At first I noticed those who are intrusive or overly dramatic and end up consuming a lot of my time with their tales of woe or displays of theatrics, that their behaviour was worse. However, I've started each conversation with the truth, "I currently feel drained dry and unable to support myself, let alone anyone else." And it is true, I am on a very low ebb at the moment. I've realised that I have nothing left, I can't do the tea and sympathy. I'm unable to plaster a smile on my face and list the bright side of someone else's life. I don't have the energy to sit and tell someone else how wonderful or special they are, or that they really should try to reach their goals, or agree that it wasn't their fault something bad happen. Have they then said, 'is there anything I can do to help you?' or 'lets do an activity which will either take your mind of things or give you enjoyment.' No, they may play at helping but the truth is when they are no longer able to feed off you they drop you like a stone. The conversation may start with out are you feeling but quickly went back yo how bad things are in their lives. And this helped me most of all. It's stopped me from feeling selfish.

So I will give the same warning that I foolishly ignored at 18. Don't get pulled in. No matter how much you might like to think or hope you will be able to fix their problems, you won't. Negative people will either resist your interventions or create new crises in their lives for you to "fix." The truth is that for some people even the best therapists in the world have difficulty helping these people. In short, their problems are beyond your ability to "fix."

Currently I'm trying a strategy is to protect myself by setting clear and firm limits. For example, for those who are very needy or insecure and constantly want my guidance, I'm resisting offering solutions and sympathy. It is amazingly difficult.

So this week I have done very little writing. Anyone suffering from anxiety related problems understands the mine field of triggers before you reach it and I knew this was going to be a particularly hard week. So I set myself very specific goals, I finally sorted that wardrobe at the weekend, Monday got up early and mowed the lawn, Tuesday mowed the back garden and sorted things for the tip. It sounds mad but I have set myself achievable targets that will help my writing and life, it is hard to write when surrounded by chaos. I'm a little worried about my goal of sorting out the companies books because I need to rely on another to do that.

When I've received an email from someone upset about malicious rumours circulating about them I immediately told them to go to the police and that I couldn't help. Another worried about their health I told them to go to the doctor I can't help. Another worried that they wasted their life I got off the phone. When my partner started to complain about feeling really down and tired I got him to take me home and did physical exercise instead of engaging in the 'how can I help routine.' When he started to complain that work wasn't going his way I offered to help and when I realised he didn't want that I got out of the way fast.

More than one therapist has told me that I'm a good friend and mother to others but a sergeant major to myself. It's true. If I ask myself what I am feeling at this very moment it is sad because I want someone else to make me feel better. I want someone to give me a pep talk, someone else to do something nice, to tell me everything will be okay in the end. But you can't rely on others for your own happiness.

I can tell myself that I did good. I did not just curl up under that duvet. I got up, got my work done and put things into practice to fight my own depression and demons. I'm going to be a friend to myself. The well is dry and it needs to be filled up. I've got my reauthoring event to look forward to on Saturday. I'm hoping to take a creative writing course in the library this September and another at Southampton University in the New Year. These feelings are like bubbles they will burst and go away.

I have also realised and I'm quite proud of the way that yes I might suffer from PTS, anxiety and depression but by God I put up a fight. I'm definitely a survivor so why the hell should I get pulled down with 'life's victims?' I have nothing in common with that mind set.

According to Dr. Bourg Carter
'In the times we live in today, energy, especially the positive kind, is a precious commodity. It's not something you should willingly give up to the negative power of those who want to steal your energy. Instead, keep a positive attitude and surround yourself with positive people who leave you feeling upbeat and energized. In the words of Helen Keller, "Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow."'

Monday, September 10, 2012

Our Writers Group Etiquette

Last week I posted a blog about the difficulty in explaining to someone interesting in coming to our writers that I didn't think it was the right group for them. This sparked a debate with other writer friends and also members of The Writers @ Lovedean. At our last session I handed members a piece of paper to jot down what they thought would help a writing group keep on track. A sort of nice manners list really. I was surprised by the same comments and suggestions on everyone's list. The sheet below is what most of the members contributed to and feedback from other writer friends. In future I intend to hand it out to new and interested members.

Welcome sheet

The Writers @ Lovedean aims to be a mixed ability, all welcome group. Here is a little information about the group with the aim that you settle in and feel comfortable with us as soon as possible.

What can you expect?:

One week we read our work aloud and receive feedback. Depending on numbers you will tend to get between six and ten minutes to read. That's around 1000 to 2500 words, plus another five to ten minutes to receive the criticism. If there is time left after a reading week you may get the opportunity to read twice. The second week we tend to do a writing exercise, were you write on the day. We have competitions throughout the year, Write Out Days four times a year. Also, there is a bit of a tradition of the occasional lunch out to celebrate any success.

I'm always on the look out for places members can read, plus we produce a yearly non profit making souvenir anthology. Everyone can place five pieces of work into it but beware please don't submit something that you may want to submit elsewhere.

We have a cash book for people to sign as they put £4 in the tin - if you find you have left your wallet at home, please sign and put a dot next to your name so you can bring it next time.

We find that the group runs smoothly when we all remember that:

Criticism, when given is always constructive, honest and well meant. It's important to be able to GIVE and RECEIVE reasonable criticism.

Remember the usual manners at any writing group, phone on vibrate, keep to your six minutes, trying not to fidget when it's someone else's turn, not snore ...

Once you have read please allow others to have their reading time and not go off track on another conversation.

Try and be punctual, everyone is late sometimes or may need to go early another day. If that's the case please just come in and sit down, we try to leave the greetings or reasons we are late for after people have read or better still break time. If you need to leave early, just get up and go, don't worry about your cup or table.

If you are sharing a car with a member, please be considerate and offer to contribute to petrol and parking. It's been a bit of a sore point in the past as many people feel unable to ask for a contribution. We roughly follow a 25-30p a mile, most members are Mums or retired, on a fixed income or plain broke. Mums no matter how much you want to offer lifts during term time think - what happens to your passenger if school calls? Don't feel bad.

We tend to only read new work, reading something you produced before for the sake of reading can become a little trying for the rest of the group. Think about how you would feel to hear the same piece of writing time and time again.

HOWEVER if you are in the process of editing say the first three chapters of a piece of work to send away, and you are making changes of course we understand. In that case I recommend you print out copies which members can scan while you read to help you
check for silly mistakes.

New to writing?

We all remember how nerve racking it is to read aloud.

It is a depressing fact that someone will always read something better than you, which will leave you feeling despondent - stick with it.

All new writers want to apologise for their work before reading it aloud or try to explain its a first draft. It is a stage in the learning process. But try to just read from the page, most of us come with first drafts and bits we have written were we aren't sure where it is going. Remember if you do ever get to the point were you send your poem or story away - you will not be able to chat with the editor.

Have fun with your writing, experiment. There is no right or wrong way to express yourself on the page.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

It's Not Fair Friday Flash Fiction

Carol sat at the back of the church.

"Can you believe the turn out! I didn't get half this many for my special day. There's hardly a seat left."

"Yeah, well yours was on a Wednesday. It's a weird day Wednesday, lots of people were working." James said.

"What about Uncle Brian? He's retired, explain how he's here for my sister but couldn't be bothered to come when it was me."

"I don't know. Maybe he wasn't well, anyway be quiet I want to listen to the reading."

"That's another thing, on my day we were in and out. None of this - people standing up to share - nobody said anything nice about me."

"Carol, shut up."

Carol folded her arms and frowned, "I'm her sister I should be at the front."

James threw her a nasty look and she made do with the occasional tut. When Bethany started to cry quietly she rolled her eyes. "I'm not even mentioned."

"It's not your day, it's Janet's"

Uncle Brian leaned heavily on his stick, "I'd like to read psalm 15..."

"That's a nice choice," James said.

Carol didn't even try to hide her sulky face for the rest of the ceremony.

"Well that was beautiful," James said "are you coming down to the cemetery? I think they are burying her next to mother."

"How come she is being buried next to Mum when I'm at the other end of the cemetery? It's not fair."

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How do you prevent an antagonist from ruining your writers group?

I run a weekly writers group. No committee, I'm too much of a dictator for that, just me. One week writers read from their own work to get feedback. Depending on numbers they tend to get between six and ten minutes to read. That's around 1000 to 2500 words, plus another five to ten minutes to receive the criticism. The following week we have a go a writing exercise which always starts with big groans and then excitement as the creative juices start flowing. Across the year we run in house writing competitions, days out for inspiration and I'm always on the look out for places members can read, plus we produce a yearly anthology.

I run an all welcome, all abilities group.

When it comes to criticism I hold the view that once you have read your piece aloud you have lost ownership of it. If criticism upsets you - don't read. Maybe it's because of my own way of viewing criticism. I believe if you don't want people sticking their nose into your life offering solutions, don't tell them your problems. If you want everyone in a room to say wow your work is great, don't read it out at a writing group.

When a writing group works well it is a truly amazing place. You find that your writing ideas are flowing, your confidence growing, and you are learning about new opportunities, and finding different places to send your work.

The Writers @ Lovedean currently have eighteen regular members on the books but attendance is around 11 to 12 a week, with 10 members needed each week to cover all costs.

Occasionally you get a member who doesn't fit or changes the dynamics of the group, acid tongued, loves the sound of their own voice, lives for confrontation, jumps at any opportunity to argue about politics. 90% of the time you find that your membership drops as the person in question sucks the life out of a group until they don't get the emotional kick back they want, then they leave.

Recently, I received an enquiry email and phone call from someone interested in the group. Usually I'm all for saying come along and meet us, but for the first time ever I didn't. Something about the types of questions he was asking gave me the impression that ours wouldn't be the first writing group he tried. And then by one of those 'it's a small world consequences' I bump into someone from the writing community only to find out that another group is thinking about folding because of this individuals monthly diatribe and the feeling of being in a therapy group.

So how can my group reduce the risk of a malevolent new member spoiling what we have?

For the last couple of incidents I have solely relied on what I call my core 'sane members' for support. Anyone in a writing group can quickly realise when someone is there solely for the purpose of putting their own writing career first. Fair sensible individuals can provide a mountain of support.

I was asked today what are the biggest problems that can face a writing group, it took a lot of thought (and this is not just from running the Lovedean Group but my 20 years experience of writing groups and writing courses.) Anyway here is my list;

  • Those wishing to monopolise the discussion, you will find that they are quiet until they have read and then will change to subject to anything other than writing. Totally and selfishly unconcerned about those who are still waiting to read.
  • Someone who is producing a lot of writing and wish to have more reading time, they have more work therefore they MUST have more time. They will come late read and go early once they have read. They only turn up when they want something and they tend to believe no one else notices. I ask you this - do you notice when someone doesn't pay their round at the bar? Enough said.
  • Rude, dismissive or hurtful criticism can be a problem. But as I've mentioned before I usually have an idea of the people in any group who I trust to give a really honest informative feedback I ignore the rest. For everyone you find who likes your work you will find someone who doesn't like it. But criticism should be given in a fair constructive manner.
  • The oversensitive can be a real problem anywhere but in a writing group it can be very draining. Let's face it you go to a group for a couple of hours each week or month. You read, you get feedback, you decide whether or not to take it on board, you have a cup of tea a laugh and get on with your life. The oversensitive will make a general feedback comment a mountain of misery that can suck a group down. They flutter from one member to another complaining about this so called slight which no one else noticed, or cared about. Or which tended to be an unwise joke.
  • The negative. No one can ever get published unless they are famous or know someone. They are jealous of anyone else's success and wait for weeks to jab and hurtful personal comment in.
  • The drama king or queen, they burst in late instead of sneaking in and sitting down they don't care that someone else has waited thirty minutes to read, and was in the middle of their piece of work. They want to tell you all about that cow at ASDA who wouldn't give them cash back and this story is more important than someone who was reading, it was too important to wait until the tea break. And it is never a one off.

I think our group does need to have a discussion about what is and what's not acceptable.

In one of my old writing groups the clock started the moment it was your turn. We never had a problem of someone wasting time looking for the correct sheet of paper, starting searching for their glasses while everyone else twiddled their thumbs, no one made those long dialogues of I don't know if I should read it, it's not that good, it's only a first draft. Or the one I really hate...I've brought two pieces of work you haven't heard either which should I read? Well obviously the one you want criticism on doh! Then there is my all time grating on the nerves, do you want me to read it? So you have to start massaging their ego before they even start.

What is needed to make a cracking good writing group is a grown up attitude? There are always going to be people who are a better writer than you. Someone is always going to read some magnificent piece of fiction just before you read you first draft, not sure where it's going bit of dribble. It is normal to feel jealous if someone swans in with a publishing deal.

As an organiser you must make sure everyone gets the opportunity to read or to join in with any opportunities you provide. The point of a group is to be kind and supportive of one another. To have fun. To learn. And currently we have a great group of folks at our groups.

Like the saying everyone is a fruit and nutcase. So if you are a fruit or a nut come along - but if you have some other agenda please just move along.

Monday, September 3, 2012

There's nowt so queer as folk - sock puppets

If you had asked me on Friday what a sock puppet was I would have told you something you made with your children during the school holidays. I would have also stressed the importance of losing the damn things straight after you made it so you don't have to waste hours watching the mindless ramblings of preschoolers.

My fellow writers have spent the weekend re-educating me. A sockpuppet is an online identity used for purposes of deception. Or using misleading online identities. In a complete panic my first thought went to horror stories of pedophiles pretending to be ten year olds, con men trying to get you to buy fake shares in a gold mine, online dating sites were men pretend they have hair.

Why else would someone go to the time and trouble to create a different identity?

I'm a writer with four unpublished novels under the bed. The list of things I wouldn't do to gain that all important publishing contract is pretty small. But even I felt the cringe of embarrassment when I found out that authors have been creating false identities to...fake reviews. Cringe worthy but I sort of get it. I actually felt sorry for crime novelist RJ Ellory who faked his own book reviews. Would he have got on the Richard and Judy book list if he hadn't given them a little nudge?

And according to

'It turns out all those fake-sounding reviews on probably are. Bing Liu, a data-mining expert tells the New York Times that about one in three online reviews are fake.
The reason: there's a lot of money in fake reviews, according to an excellent exposé by the New York Times's David Streitfield.
Take the case of Todd Rutherford, for example.
Rutherford used to write press release for authors hoping to get professional reviewers to read their books.
Eventually, Rutherford realised he could cut out the middleman. So he started charging money to write reviews. He would charge $99 for one review, $499 for 20 and $999 for 50. He eventually published 4,531 reviews and at one point pulled in 28,000 per month.
The business worked because it worked for Rutherford's clients. Authors who get a bunch of reviews on Amazon tend to sell more books than those who don't.'

Buying reviews? I sort of get it if reviews sells books.

What I can't understand is those amongst us who fake an identify to give nasty or hurtful reviews?

In a study it showed that reviews do affect sales on Amazon. A writer analysed sales immediately after a one-star review was posted – they went down. When a five-star review became the most recent, sales increased. The reason? We don't read reviews, we skim them looking for reasons to buy, or not buy, the book.

However, to me unless it is a personal vendetta against someone you know personally and there is a long history of bad blood, I can't understand how this disgusting practice is gaining momentum? Some writers have been exposed as ‘sock-puppeteering’ – creating false accounts to write rave reviews of their own work. This is dishonest enough but it gets really nasty when those sock puppets write one-star reviews of rival authors.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Five most important social media sites, explained by a non techie!

I am now in the middle of my social media course and I have listed what I think are the top five social media sites. I have only been able to successfully use three of them, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. I have only had one major embarrassing problem and that's been Pininterest, last on my list.

One of the biggest problems I have found is finding out what these sites are! Most people on the net seem to assume you know all about it.


This is the most respected and widely used site for business networking. LinkedIn is where you share ideas and get answers to questions from professionals that you'd never meet any other way. Industry specific professional groups help each other through advice, resources, referrals, and more. Plus, employers post jobs and recruit here.

LinkedIn isn't a fast-track to becoming an executive editor or a CEO but it is good exposure that can be focused on your specialty. People get to know you through discussions. They learn about you and your expertise when you answer questions for others by responding to a discussion. Again, it's about others and earning the respect of others in your network who can make referrals.

In addition, customers and employers can post public recommendations on your page, and you can see when people in your network change jobs or location, which helps you maintain a current network with viable contacts. Your network can be as wide or narrow as you want to work to make it. So obviously very popular during a recession.


The Twitter phenomenon has been around since 2008.

The purpose is to create awareness of your presence. Messages should provide helpful tips, entertain, or inform your target market. Yes, there are spammers and hookers here too. It's easy to block the undesirable element though. The big no-no is blatant self-promotion. Like all customer-oriented content, it's about them, not you.

The short message format is also the ultimate test of your ability to get to the point, which isn't a bad thing to practice. You build a following by offering information that people want, solving problems, and engaging in useful conversation, not by promoting your work constantly. There is an amazing amount of good research information available by doing simple searches too.



If you are looking to meet or find people MySpace is a good place to look. There are lots of people on MySpace so finding people there is easy. MySpace has music and videos you can add to your site for free.

It had advanced Editing: you can add all sorts of things to your MySpace profile. Since you can use HTML and JavaScript in your MySpace editor you are open to adding almost anything.

You can keep in touch: with email, blogs, IM, forums, bulletins and groups you can keep in touch with all your MySpace friends.


Anyone Can Contact You: There is a privacy setting for your MySpace profile but that means no one can see your profile. MySpace offers no way to allow people to see your profile but still keep them from emailing your and trying to add you to their own MySpace friend list. You may get a lot of people trying to add you to their MySpace friend list and if you don't want just anyone sending you messages then this can become a big bother.
Options Are Hard To Find: There are many things you can do on your MySpace profile that are not obvious. Creating a MySpace slideshow is one of those things. Adding HTML templates is another. Adding other HTML or JavaScripts is yet another. As you browse MySpace you will see some pretty amazing things on some of the MySpace profiles you come across and you may wonder how they are done because MySpace doesn't tell you.

Quite frankly this terrifies me. I'm worried that I don't have the technological skill to protect myself. Also it seems filled with younger teen like people.


I've seen an advertisement for this in the cinema and feel quite excited about it.

Basically, Google+ is an amalgamation of several services we already use. The idea, according to Google, is to do them better.

Circles are groups of friends you organise by topic: Friends, Family, College Buddies, Roommates, etc.
From your Circles page you drag and drop your contacts into each of these groups, which makes it easier to share what you want with them. Each topic (writing, dogs, whatever) will get its own "Spark" page and provide links to related articles, videos, photos, etc.

Hangouts are virtual rooms where you can video chat with people in your circles. For example, if you're not busy, you can start a talk with your pals.
So, basically, it's just video chat.
Huddles is a new group messaging app

Huddles is group messaging for people within your Circles. There's a mobile app available for Android now that lets you send messages from your phone. Select your group, and everyone can chat with each other.
Instant Upload shares your mobile photos

This one's simple. When you snap a photo on your phone, it's automatically uploaded to Google+.

But the word automatically worries me. If I take a shot of my dog when it rolls in something nasty to show my husband does everyone see it?

Pinterest is a Virtual Pinboard.

Pinterest lets you organise and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pin boards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organise their favourite recipes.

Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.
I keep having a go but I had a very nasty experience with pininterest. I was trying to create a board and put a picture of a dog which looks like Spock on it, I tried a lot. And then I found out that I had done something with my settings which means I had posted that picture 17 times on my Facebook page - its affected my confidence!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

In The Balance - Friday Flash Fiction

She slipped off her shoes then stood on the scales. Biting her bottom lip she tried not to cry. She had attempted to lose at least two pounds this week and had gone to bed hungry every night. Perhaps it was he jeans, she peeled them off and avoided her reflection in the bathroom mirror. What was the point? Disillusion she retreated to the fridge.
The scales chucked.
'You're really mean do you know that,' the shower said in disgust.

Reading The Naked Lawyer with anorak on

I still feel out of time due to the bank holiday and I'm trying to prepare for tomorrow. You see in the morning, me hubby and kids are getting into the car and going to Strafford Upon Avon. It's not for a fun day out, it is hopefully going to be a lot more productive than that. Hubby and I are going to our third training seminar with Chrissie Lightfoot better know as The Entrepreneur Lawyer.

We're both read volumes 5 & 6 of her book The Naked Lawyer and are ready to go. But despite the sexy title of the text book, self employment and family life can put a little downer on all the excitement. Five days work is being squeezed into three. My great friend Lynne is opening The Writers @ Lovedean. My mother in law has kindly agreed to drive down from Cheshire to watch the children all day in Strafford while we are in the seminar. I've made packed lunches for my girls. Nintendos and PSPs are currently charging to entertain the children on the two hour drive. And the dog walker just emailed to say she is unable to pop in and see the dog, so it will be Walkies at the crack of dawn. Plus hubby is still not sure of his personal brand.

But we both believe it will be worth it. Love it or hate it social media is here to stay. We both feel strongly that it is a case of keep up or go extinct.

It is so refreshing to actual read something and talk to someone who is up beat and excited about business. I particularly enjoy the concept of actually having a strategy regarding social media. Although Chrissie is primarily concerned with the business of law she understands why no one likes those individuals who only tweet, put up a Facebook message or use Linked in to try and sell you something.

I'm still working and thinking about rebranding myself. I like my new name and I've bought the domain for it. Now it is just a matter of pulling everything together in a professional manner. I still have a lot to learn.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Feel the fear and doing it anyway.

It's the last week of the summer holiday and then my beautiful girls go back to school. I love the long summer holidays and I'll be sorry to see them go. But I thrive on a good routine and structure so I think the new term will be good for me. What I'm particularly thankful about at the moment is my husband.

He is very inspiring at the moment. He suffers a great deal from shyness, so I have great admiration for him when he does pick up that phone and tries to get work or business. For him the phone is his own personal nemesis, an adversary that he will never beat. I'm sure he will be disappointed if I agree with him. But he's right. Being shy he fears being the first to start the conversation and making those all important calls are difficult. I think to some degree it will always be difficult.

Overcoming your fear, or as the famous book says 'Feeling the fear and doing it anyway' doesn't stop you feeling anxious. Yet, doing something you don't like is powerful stuff. Doing anything new in life is scary — and no one is immune to it. The only way to get through it is to get stuck into the things that terrify you. Whether it’s public speaking, telling a friend how you feel or leaving the job you hate, you have to do the thing you are terrified of. Now! And then never look back.

I was so pleased when he decided it was time to stop avoiding unpleasant and frankly terrifying tasks and just get on with it. I've noticed that it's overflowing to his personal training goals to. Basically he's managed to do what he never got round to reading in the self help book I bought him years ago.


TRUTH ONE: The fear will never go away as long as I continue to grow.
TRUTH TWO: The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it.
TRUTH THREE: The only way to feel better about myself is to go out and do it.
TRUTH FOUR: Not only am I going to experience fear when I’m on unfamiliar territory, but so is everyone else.
TRUTH FIVE: Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.

The reason I loved Susan Jeffers book is that it was written by a woman telling other women to stop trying to be perfect and have the confidence to just go out there and do something, anything.

Most self-help books tell women how to find the perfect love, Jeffers tells you that there’s no such thing until you find your own happiness. I feel so much pleasure in seeing my lovely husband dismiss what he thinks he should be doing with his time and money and instead is discovering what he wants to do to make himself happy and fulfilled.

How can that be described as anything else other than an amazing success?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Not Writing But Typing

Not Waving but Drowning
Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

One of my favourite poems.

Unfortunately at the moment I'm not writing but typing! It's not that I have writers block. In fact I don't really believe in writers block. Once a fortnight I run a 'work' week for my writers group. Despite moans, groans and excuses when I put them on the spot, everyone manages to write something. I'm not saying that what you write will always be good, but you can always get something down.

Except I haven't. I've found myself procrastinating. I'm filling my time with other activities. I could use the fact that I'm still not completely over my stomach bug and I'm feeling run down as an excuse, but instead I took the dog out for an evening walk. All health gurus claim that this would be an instant fix to all ills. But I can't help noticing that I've come home and written a blog instead of my story...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The High Life Friday Flash Fiction

Cassie laid her head back on the tiles and waited for the bubbles to rise. She couldn't believe that she hadn't crashed the health club before. It hadn't been hard, she reported her membership card missing when she stole the purse. She'd come in and let them take a new photograph for the new membership card. The beauty of it was that the fat cow she stole it from had only been to the club four times.

At first she worried that one day she would turn up and the membership would be cancelled, but listening to the complaints from the members she wouldn't be able to cancel for another eight months if she tried. Imagine paying all that money and never coming, Cassie loved it. She was desperate to find somewhere to have a hot shower when she decided to try her luck. She raided the lost property and got a bag and gym wear. Then she took a class or two it was better then roaming the streets, next thing she was hooked. Today was the first time she braved the pool and jacuzzi, hers hadn't been the sort of childhood that contained swimming lessons.

The pickings were fabulous at a health club the things these rich morons left on offer was unbelievable. Even if they did bother to put something in a locker it wasn't a problem, they couldn't even tell she had broken in.

A handsome man smiled, 'do you mind if I join you?'

Cassie broke into a large grin, 'please do, I love the hot bubbles.'

It was hard to judge how wealthy the guy was just in a bathing suit, still if he could afford this place he couldn't a bad mark.

'Have you been a member long?'

He had a tan to die for, he probably wintered in the sun, 'a few months. You?'

'I've been coming here for years, but I must admit its not the same.'


'Same as everywhere, falling standards, I don't know it's just not the same, things are going missing, it use to be like one big happy family.'

'Stuff going missing?'

'Yeah, phones, wallets and now someone is even breaking into the lockers, a lot of the members think it must be the staff because the locks aren't broken.'

'Well it's probably the staff then. I wish the bubbles would come on.'

'Yeah but we haven't had any new members of staff for ages, and it isn't the same people on when things go missing and we've been searching the female members of staff when they leave.'

'I'm getting chilly I think I should go and have a shower now.'

'No I think you should come with me.'

Cassie stood up, 'look I'm going to have a shower now, I don't like they way you've been talking to me, I may even decide to speak to the manger about you. In fact I may even leave this stupid health club if the staff are thieves and your jacuzzi isn't even working.'

'Miss as manger I welcome every new platinum member personally, but I didn't greet you. My staff aren't thieves and I can assure you that our jacuzzi is working, it's over there, this is the children's paddling pool.

leftbrainwrite: COFFEE IN CHINATOWN (The Runaway--XI)

leftbrainwrite: COFFEE IN CHINATOWN (The Runaway--XI)