Wednesday, 31 August 2011

NAWG looming

I’m going to the NAWG festival of writing on Friday so spent quite a lot of time today sorting things out and deciding what to take with me. I’m going under my own steam for a change so a small case is essential. It’s only two nights so I shouldn’t need to take that much. The problem is, how warm, cool, freezing, wet or dry is it likely to be?????
My first task today was to finish the 2 stories I’d been working on and print them out ready to send to Take a Break. When I came home from Swanwick, I decided to write 5 stories then switch to something else for a change. I’ve actually managed six, which is good. The problem now is to decide what to do next so that I can set to work as soon as I get back from NAWG. I’d like to try more radio plays to see if I can crack the BBC, but I’ve also been promising myself that I’d give my novel a rewrite. Then there’s the book I started months ago, plus I need a story for my writers’ club short story competition.
I also want to put together the next in my series of writers guides which will either be on generating ideas or writing fillers.
Decisions, decisions. Shame I can’t write 2 things at once.
Tonight I’m going to the local working men’s club for a fashion show being put on by the local PDSA, using clothes from their charity shop. I tried to drum up interest from various neighbours but drew a blank so I’m having to go by myself. I’m going to ask my lodger to pick me up afterwards as I don’t fancy walking home by myself.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

CBT, a stately home and an AGM.

I had another day off today. It was that time of the week again when I had to go and see my CBT counsellor, which is always emotional, so after that I decided to use a coupon I found in the local paper. It gave 2 for 1 entry to Temple Newsam House which is about a mile from where I live. I’ve been to the rare breeds farm, and walked round the grounds plenty of times with various dogs, but I’d never ventured inside the house. I didn’t expect there to be so much to see. Even if I’d paid full price it would have been a bargain. The paintings must be worth tens of millions alone and almost every room had a piece of furniture made by Chippendale. Sadly, for me the place didn’t come alive like some other stately homes. My favourite is probably Llanhydrock (I’ve forgotten how to spell that, sorry) which is in Cornwall. There you can see the kitchen and the other rooms where the work was done and the servants lived. That said, I’m glad I took the time to go round. After that I had to take another nap! I thought the post Swanwick sleeping sickness had gone, but it came back with a vengeance this afternoon. Now I’ve got to force myself to go out again, this time to that most thrilling of annual events, the local Neighbourhood Watch AGM. I just hope I can stay awake.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Back to work but still dreaming of Swanwick

I’ve been busy today working on two short stories. They’re both ‘getting there’ but haven’t quite arrived yet.
I had a sale, which is great, to That’s Life in Australia.
I’ve also been trying to make up my mind how to get to Nottingham on Friday. The coach is cheapest, but gets there way too early so it looks like I’m going to have to plump for the train. I’d hoped to find somebody wiling to give me a lift but so far that hasn’t happened. Maybe I’ll be able to get a lift back. Sometimes it’s hard not being able to drive.
I thought it was time to post some photos from my time at Swanwick. It’s impossible to capture the atmosphere with a camera, but it might give people an idea of how wonderful it was for me. I’m only just starting to recover. It was so intensive.

The pictures show Simon Hall, the crime writer we all fell for.
Part of the Leeds Writers Circle party.
A man enjoying a stroll in the grounds of the conference centre.

Sunday, 28 August 2011


As it’s a Bank Holiday weekend, I decided to take the day off and work tomorrow. Louis goes home this evening so I wanted to make the most of having him here which meant a long walk and giving him lots of cuddles.
Last night, I went to a BBQ at a friend’s house, down the road. All the talk was about the people living next door to them and their long running dispute with their neighbours. It sounded like a fuss about nothing very much. Matters had escalated and the police were involved. I could see how the anger and stress were eating away at the people concerned. It’s such a waste of energy and so sad.
I’ve just been watching the Grand Prix, more asleep than awake thanks to the warmth of Louis beside me, now I need to sort through my pile of papers and find some more stories to write next week. That means it’s time to switch off the pc and escape the attractions of facebook and email and get some words on the page (and maybe have a quick look at Saturday’s cryptic Xword in the Telegraph!)

Saturday, 27 August 2011


On Wednesday, I had the most expensive lunch of my life.
I took my lodger (John) to the Yorke Arms in Nidderdale for lunch. £35 for three courses, plus £4 for coffee and £3 for apple juice. Grand total including tip, £88.
I’d seen the place reviewed in The Telegraph last year and thought how brilliant it sounded.
Friday was two years to the day since I moved from Paignton to Leeds. It was the excuse I needed to try it out.
Before the meal we were served with canapés in the lounge. They were wheat based so I let John eat those.
We then went through to the dining room. It reminded me of a restaurant in Josselin with its wooden panels and slightly old fashioned but comfortable feel.
My starter comprised cured salmon, sardine, red mullet, with chick peas and other bits and pieces. Before that we were served the most amazing selection of freshly cooked rolls, with herbs and cheese and all manner of flavours. Usually, I avoid anything with wheat in but those rolls were so inviting….. I had to have a couple of bites.
My main course was a mouth-watering chunk of herb crusted halibut which came with girolle, squid, pommes dauphine, with a red wine reduction. Like the starter, it was arranged like a work of art on the plate.
The best though, was yet to come. The dessert! Tarragon parfait, lemon sorbet, roast fig and pistachio brulee. Four completely different components which, somehow, worked. The sorbet was so strong, when it first hit the back of my throat it made me cough. The tarragon parfait comprised a three coloured slab of contrasting flavours and textures.
The figs were sublime and the pistachio was too good for words.
I would have licked the plate if I could have been sure nobody would see me.
So that’s my treat for the year. The most expensive lunch I’ve ever had and a worthy celebration of my first two years in Yorkshire.
I wonder what the next two years will bring?

Friday, 26 August 2011

Friday at Swanwick

It was up at the crack of dawn for an early breakfast. After that, I went for a quick walk round the lakes. Somebody told me that if you do that you will return to Swanwick which is something I definitely want to do.
At twenty past eight, people started gathering outside to wait for, and board, the coach to the station. There was much waving, hugging and a few tears.
I’d managed to find a lift home which meant I didn’t have to ask my lodger to come and pick me up. It was a bit daunting as I had no idea how good a driver Hilary was, but I needn’t have worried. She was fine. The lovely lady dropped me at my door too.
It felt really strange coming home to a quiet, empty house (my lodger was out).
I was left with a mix of emotions. Happy that I’d had such a wonderful time, sad that it was over. Happy that I’d learned a lot and had pages of notes to inspire me. Sad that I hadn’t been chatted up by anyone under seventy!
It wasn’t until I actually went there that I realised why people love Swanwick so much. It’s a magical place to escape to. I’m counting down the days until next year.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Last day at Swanwick


First a note to the person who asked for more info about the Accessing Creativity session, could you email me at then I can give you my phone number. It will be easier to explain that way.

Now for Thursday. Another packed day as usual. I was so worn out, I skipped breakfast in favour of an extra hour in bed.
At 9.30 it was time for part one of yet another short course, this time on Heroes And Villains. This was skilfully run by Roz Southey who obviously had plenty of teaching experience. The course was a good mix of discussion, exercises, and teaching. It emphasised the fact that to be real, good guys need faults and bad guys need virtues, otherwise they become cardboard cut outs.
It was then time to collect my unsold books from the book room. Amazingly, there were only 2 left, plus some copies of Diamonds and Pearls (the short story collection put together by Elaine Everest for a breast cancer charity).
After tea, it was the final part of the specialist course on Crime Writing. I went in early so that I could get some photos of Simon and ask him to sign one of his books for me.
In that last session, he spent quite a lot of time talking about misleading the reader, which is vital when writing crime. To prove how easy that can be, he went ahead and misled the class. Again, I won’t reveal his tricks as he may want to use them again. I have honestly never known a teacher to be so popular with his class. It was with great reluctance and sadness that we parted.
Lunch was followed by part two of heroes and villains, then after tea, it was time for the AGM. I expected a dry rather boring dull affair but the outgoing Chairman, Xanthe Wells, had other ideas. It was over in under an hour. Interestingly, there were 4 committee places up for grabs, but there were 7 candidates. That mean they had to stand up in front of everyone and do a sales pitch, then we all had to vote for the 4 we wanted. It just goes to show that Swanwick is a special place. There can’t be many organisations where they have TOO MANY people wanting to be on the committee.
At 6, it was time for the Dregs Party where people bring left over booze and nibbles, lay it out on tables and people tuck in. After that there was more food at dinner.
That evening, Kate Moss, of Labyrinth fame, was due to speak, but thanks to flooding and hold ups, she had to turn back. I wasn’t that bothered as I’d never read her books, but other people must have been very disappointed. She did send a message to say that she’d make it up to everyone next year, maybe even staying over at Swanwick which would be great.
With no speaker, I wondered what the committee would do. I needn’t have worried. They improvised. Joyce, the wonderfully funny and warm Chairman in waiting told daft jokes, somebody repeated their comic turn from Buskers Night and then Xanthe took the stage as Victoria Wood, performing two of her brilliant monologues. If you closed your eyes, you wouldn’t have known it wasn’t Victoria Wood. She was amazing!
The evening ended with songs round the piano. Sadly they weren’t my cup of tea as they seemed to date mainly from the 1930s so with my new found friend, Valerie, I drifted off to the disco. I would have stayed to the end but I needed to get up early for breakfast the next day. I didn’t want to miss the chance to say goodbye to people.
All I could think of as I climbed into bed was that Swanwick was almost over and I didn’t want it to end.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Wednesday at Swanwick

Reliving Wednesday at Swanwick and wishing it could have gone on for longer.

The day began with a 2 part course called – A lyrical challenge. I love music and know the lyrics of far too many songs, so using words from popular records ticked all the boxes for me. Maria played six songs, and handed out sheets with the lyrics on. After listening to the music, people contributed their ideas as to ways of developing the story lines. One of te most interesting was MY NAME IS LUCA where different people thought that the hero was either a child, a beaten wife, or a prostitute. The songs were all fairly depressing but as Maria pointed out, that meant they were full of emotional impact. Other tracks chosen were IN THE GHETTO, PIANO MAN, and LONG BLACK VEIL.
I went away buzzing with ideas. The afternoon session was going to be used to develop ideas and share them with the class. I didn’t want to do that as I’d banned myself from writing for the duration so I switched to Myth Legend and Folktale where we explored the Campbell Cycle – a formula used in all kidns of stories from The Odyssey to ET. Between those session was our third class with Simon, looking at Plot in crime novels. He emphasised the importance of misleading the reader then pulled a surprise out of the bag that had the whole class shocked. I won’t say what happened in case he wants to use it again but it was very effective.

After afternoon tea, the Chairman, Xanthe Wells, ran a session on Accessing Creativity. This centred on finding, and communicating with, your inner child. The results were, for me at least, surprising. My inner child came through as an eight year old called Fray, in the guise of a dog. We had to use our normal writing hand to ask questions of the ‘child’ then write the answers with the other hand. My replies came through looking as though an 8 year old had actually written them. More intriguingly still, Fray refused to answer some questions - the writing was impossible to read, but if the questions suited, the writing became clearer. I found it interesting, emotional and very revealing.. I’m thinking of framing the picture Fray drew of an island it’s so peculiarly childish.

Before dinner the book room was open for a last chance to buy people’s books. I was delighted to see that most of mine had been sold. People were still coming up to me to say how good my filler workshop had been. I had all kind of comments, including one suggestion that I should try stand up comedy. Needless to say, I don’t think I’ll be giving that a try just yet.
After dinner, the speaker was David crystal, a professor of linguistics. I wondered if he might be a bit dry, but he was witty, amusing and interesting. I could have done without his use of extremely bad language though. I’m not a prude, but for some reason I object to people using swear words out of context and for effect. I also didn’t feel it was appropriate given the mixed ages and backgrounds of the audience, but that’s just me. From 10 -11, members of the committee ably assisted by a few guests, put on an episode of Would I Lie to you? It was really good, with some surprising revelations. Chief among those was the fact that the lovely Diana Wimbs had been arrested for soliciting! (If you want to know more, you should have been there!).
After that, the fun STILL wasn’t over. The lady who ran the Lyrical Challenge course ran a session of Latin dancing. I got there late, thanks to Would I lie to You, but still picked up the basics of the Samba.
I was in bed before midnight, just.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

COMPETITION £250 prize. closing date 31st October.

The National Association of Writers Groups has launched a new open short story competition. There’s no theme and you don’t have to belong to NAWG to enter.
First prize is £250. The entry fee is £5. For an additional £3, entrants can receive a short critique. For details please see the web site
If you don’t want to enter this yourself, I would be very grateful for any help spreading the word. This is the first time they have run an open competition and (as it was my idea) I’d like it to be a success. The closing date is 31st October so there’s plenty of time to enter.

Tuesday at swanwick

Tuesday at Swanwick (written one week after the event)

Tuesday represents a kind of half way point at Swanwick, when people take some time off to gather themselves in preparation for the rest of the week.
There were no courses which was, in some ways at least, a relief. After a breakfast of porridge with honey, the Writing Fiction Panel took questions from 9.30 – 12.15, with a break for tea. I skipped the second part in favour of a doze. Some of the people on the panel were a bit negative and I’d heard most of what they were saying before but I expect many people found it useful. I wondered why short stories weren’t represented on the panel.
After lunch, people could choose a guided walk, a coach trip to Calke Abbey, or a workshop on scriptwriting that would lead to a performance later that same evening. I was tempted by the workshop as I enjoy acting and don’t often get the chance, but in the end I decided to do my own thing. I got a taxi into Alfreton (£5 each way) and spent time browsing the shops coming home with a dress I found in a charity shop and some conditioner for my hair. When I got back to The Hayes, my heat rash was in full swing thanks to the taxi being like a sauna. Luckily nobody saw me because I was covered in lumps from head to toe, like some kind of mutant lizard.
I took a long shower then had a rest until it was time for the bar and book room to open at six. The Book Room is where delegates can display and, hopefully, sell their books. I was pleasantly surprised to find my book on why short stories are rejected had already sold out. Note to self – take more next time. My other books were selling too which was great.
After dinner, Meg Davis was the speaker. She’s an agent, but I don’t think I’d want her to represent me. I made the mistake before of being so desperate to have an agent that I didn’t think whether or not they would suit me. Next time, I want one I can relate to, not just the first one that comes along.
From 10 – 11, people performed the short screenplays they’d worked on earlier, but I missed that, because I wanted to go to the buskers evening. I’m glad I did. The talent on display was awesome, from comic songs to a woman singing her own songs whilst accompanying herself on the piano. Really, really good. Went to bed at about quarter past midnight. Tired but happy.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Monday at Swanwick

Monday at Swanwick

Monday was mad. I started off with Stella Whitelaw’s short story dialogue course. She’d arranged lots of pictures of people round the room to act as starting points for conversations. The best exercise she set us was to work in pairs and make up a dialogue comprising ten exchanges, with just one word in each.
I worked with the lovely Fay Wentworth. Ours came out like this.

Daft but very useful. So many writers have trouble with dialogue and paring things down to the bone is a great exercise in short snappy speech.

After that came part two of the crime writing course where we were looking at people. The lesson was a good mix of exercises, discussion and teaching concentrating on making characters memorable and distinctive. We talked about quirks, personality traits, and walking in somebody else’s shoes.
Simon (Hall) also revealed something about his own life which resonated with me and brought the lesson to life. As ‘homework’ he set us a conundrum to puzzle over. He’d done that on Monday too, but I’d solved it straightaway. I won’t say what they were in case he wants to use them for other classes.
After lunch it was time for part two of the dialogue course which again was great, then it was time to prepare for my workshop on fillers. When I agreed to do it, I had no idea what Swanwick was like. I was expecting classrooms with up to 30 people at the most. Instead I was faced with a large hall complete with stage and microphones.
As people began to file in, I kept count but gave up when I reached fifty!
I’ve been having therapy and trying various ways to boost my confidence. One of the things I’ve been taught to do is not to over prepare. The thinking behind this is simple. If I prepare too much and it goes well, the credit might go to the preparation. I’d be left thinking I have to plan plan and plan again before I can do anything BUT if I plan loosely, and it goes well, then the success of the workshop is down to me.
I began to regret choosing the second option after about twenty minutes. I began to wonder if I had enough material to cover the full hour. Panic rose, but I fought it down and, luckily, it disappeared. After that, it became easier as I was able to relax. And just talk to the class full of people as though they were my friends. There was a lot of laughter which was great. I wasn’t trying to be funny, but I’ve found out before that when I relax, the humour just spills out on its own.
The reaction to the workshop was really good with lots of people coming up afterwards, complimenting me and asking questions. I’d asked at the beginning for people to gibe me feedback as I’d never done a workshop with so many people before, and give me feedback they did. For the rest of the week, people kept stopping me and saying how much they enjoyed the workshop. It felt really good.
After dinner, Peter James was the guest speaker. Although I enjoyed listening to him – he was very professional and often very funny – I didn’t feel much of a connection. His talk felt more like a well honed act that he’d delivered many times before. We didn’t really find out much about him as a man.
At ten, it was the quiz. Madness! The questions were either ridiculously easy or impossibly hard, but none of that mattered because the woman in charge of proceedings was such a character. That went on until eleven when it was time for the Karaoke night. I’d been hoping to have a go, but it wasn’t proper karaoke, just the Wii game. Just as well as I don’t think I could have stayed up much longer. Finally collapsed into bed at half past eleven.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Sunday at Swanwick

Continuing my one week behind journal of Swanwick and wishing I was still there.

Sunday 14th August 2011.

I was up at ten to eight.
Decided to risk a fried breakfast because it was there. Then it was time for the first (2 part) short course of the week – Re-seeing the right brain.
It was all about using the creative side of the brain to boost ideas and creativity but I got a bit bogged down with some of the terminology.
After that I went to the book room for my first quick browse. I’d put a pile of my own (lulu printed) books up for sale and it was quite a buzz to see my books more or less next door to Kate Moss’s.
After the tea break where cake and biscuits I couldn’t eat thanks to my wheat intolerance were served, it was time for part one of my main course. I chose Crime Writing from the list of five. Other subjects included Fiction for Children, Life writing, Building Your Novel and Contemporary and Literary Fiction.
Simon Hall, author of the TV detective series, was teaching the crime course. He was an instant hit with everyone in the class thanks to his personal approach to the subject It left you feeling you were learning from a friend, not being taught by a teacher.
After lunch it was time for part two of the short course. I switched to a session about writing for radio. I’d been torn between the two subjects so wanted to try both. That’s a big advantage of Swanwick - you don’t have to choose your courses beforehand, which means if one doesn’t suit, or you want to mix and match, you can. Helen Cross was in charge of the radio drama course and she was GREAT. Full of passion and energy for her subject.
After a short break for more tea and cake, I went to my first workshop called Untie That Gag. This was run by a lovely man called Roy York who I’d warmed to immediately when we met on Saturday. I didn’t learn very much, but it was fun.
I then had to dash to another building to prepare for my read, write relax session. These ran most days from 5.15 to 6. You could choose to read out your work for feedback, take part in a writing exercise, again with opportunities for feedback, or relax by listening to music and doing some gentle exercise. I was in charge of the one where people had to write. I’d chosen a picture of a man, with a backdrop of jars and pots of paint, explaining that stories written from a man’s point of view can be easer to sell to a woman’s magazine than those from a female POV.
By the end of that session my head was so full I had to take some time out so instead of going to listen to the speaker after dinner, I went for a walk round the lakes. Bad mistake. It was Helen Cross who’d run the radio drama session and apparently she was brilliant but I did see a rabbit a moorhen and a large grass carp which was some consolation. There’s so much going on at Swanwick, you’re bound to miss something!
My plan was to stay up late that night to see the lengths people went to for the A NIGHT AT THE MOVIES disco. The theme was, you guessed it, the movies. I’d racked my brains, trying to come up with a cheap, easy to put together costume and came up with zilch. It’s lucky I didn’t bother because some people had gone to an awful lot of trouble. There was everything from Marilyn Monroe to the Pink Ladies from Grease, Robin Hood and Maid Marian, to James Bond. I stayed at the disco long enough to take part in a daft game. We were given movie characters names and had to go round the room, finding our partner. Mine was Chewbacca so I was looking for Harrison Ford. When we found each other, my partner had to wrap me in loo roll. There was a prize for which person ended up looking the most like an Oscar. We didn’t win.
It was time to go to bed. It had been a long and exhausting day.

short story competition

Please circulate details of this competition being run by Write Place.
It has an open theme this time.


Entries close at the end of August so not long to go.

The judge is Linda Lewis (i.e. me).

Saturday, 20 August 2011


I’m having trouble adjusting to real life after Swanwick. It was such a great week, I didn’t want it to end.
To stretch out the memory a bit longer, I’m going to type up my notes and a do a day by day journal of my week at Swanwick. Hopefully that will persuade a few people to give the summer school a go next year. For me it was worth every penny.
Saturday 13th August 2011
Arrived at the Hayes Conference Centre at 3.15, which was technically a quarter of an hour early. My first impressions were excellent. Te vast grounds were well cared for and nicely planted but the buildings weren’t spread over too large an area which would make finding my way around relatively easy (for someone with no sense of direction).
I checked in to the Alan Booth centre where I was given my white badge and my room key and greeted warmly.
Opening m room 17 I was pleasantly surprised to find a large room with two single beds, large windows that actually opened, and a modern bathroom with bath and shower. The first thing I did was make a hot drink. The first official event on the programme was the first year reception. Anyone who hasn’t been to Swanwick before is given a white badge to distinguish them from the old hands who have orange ones.
This is a fabulous idea. It means that you can ask for help, a dozen times or more and nobody minds. It also means that shy newcomers aren’t left to sit in a corner by themselves.
At the ‘white badgers’ reception all the newbies were given a glass of wine and encouraged to mingle. Next was dinner.
I was expecting a help yourself buffet. Instead, enormous dishes are served to each table and the people sitting at the head of the table serve the food out to everyone else. Needless to say I managed to avoid that end of the table most of the time!
After dinner it was time for the first speaker – Ian Banks, aka Ian M Banks. I’d never read his books, having been put off by an excerpt from the Wasp Factory so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the author was warm, funny and entertaining.
His talk took the time up to 9.30 p.m. After that I headed for the What are you writing Now? session. That turned out to be where people spend up to three minutes talking about their current writing projects and was quite informative. It was meant to end at eleven but was still in full flow at quarter past when I decide to retire to my bed.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Home again

Back from Swanwick (wonderful, brilliant, can’t wait for next year!), to a sale from My Weekly and 2 rejections from Woman’s Weekly.
More later!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Taking a Break

I’m temporarily suspending the blog while I get ready to go to Swanwick.
I’m away from Saturday for a week, so it’s goodbye until the 21st.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

not long now

I’m still struggling with my health. I have no idea what’s wrong. I just feel ‘off’. It could be stress. I’m going to Swanwick for the first time on Saturday and new places are always a bit scary, especially when you are going on your own. Hopefully I’ll be fine once I’m there. It will be great to get away.
A pile of stories came back from Take a Break to day which is always a blow. What I’d really like is for her to buy three of four before I go away as that will give me a real shot in the arm. There’s nothing like a few sales to make you feel better..
I‘ve been using Wii fit to try and improve my fitness and get my BMI down from an overweight reading to ideal and today I MADE IT AT LAST. It’s official. I am no longer tubby. All I have to do now is resist putting it back on. I’m told the food at Swanwick is good but my wheat allergy means that I won’t be able to tuck into the cakes, biscuits and other goodies, however tempting they may look.
There are still places left if anybody’s thinking of going. See www,
I won’t be writing my blog while I’m there. I haven’t invested in any mod cons like a Blackberry, a lap top or an Ipad so I’ll be incommunicado for a week.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

story in Take a Break Summer special.

I have a story in the latest Take a Break summer special (2).
It’s lucky I looked as the magazine never tells me.
I had to see Rachael this morning, then I was invited to the volunteers lunch at Good Neighbours, so I decided to count today as a day off and work tomorrow instead.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Recycling is hard

It’s been another, frustrating, energy sapping day. I’ve been working on rewriting stories so that I can send them to other markets. Most of the time I really don’t enjoy doing it. I sometimes wonder whether it wouldn’t be easier just to write some totally new stories. A couple of years ago, when I had lots more markets to choose from, it wasn’t so bad but now…..
Swanwick is fast approaching and I’m getting more worried about it as each day passes. I so want to have a good time, and make the best use of every day – it will be over soon enough. I went to Tesco’s earlier and bought some cans of booze so that I don’t have to pay expensive bar prices. Now I need to try and make up my mind which clothes to take and which to leave behind. I have no idea what people will be wearing. Will it be jeans and sweatshirts or posh frocks? Only one way to find out of course and that’s to just go.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Competitions and submissions

I started reading The girl who played with fire this morning. It’s very hard to put down but somehow I made myself do exactly that. I had a list of things I wanted to get done. First I had to rewrite a story that was rejected by Woman’s Weekly. I’d sent it to them first for a change and they gave me some feedback which, as I read it, I had to agree with. I’ve written quite a few stories this year that are, frankly, not good enough. It was when I was going through all the trauhma with my mother. I should have stopped writing as everything I did came out flat and dull.
Next I entered Writing Magazine’s crime short story competition, and, for a change, one of their poetry competitions on the theme of animals. Next I sent three stories off to , and send something off to Byker Books to try and get a story into Radgepacket 6. (google byker books for details)
Now I’m working on something for another competition, a love story this time. I’m going to leave it to stew overnight and turn off for now. Time to play some music loud enough to wake up the neighbours.

Friday, 5 August 2011

A trip to York

I was up early working on my column for Writers Forum, then I caught the ten past ten train into Leeds to try and find some more dresses for Swanwick. Hours later, I had bought two one of which I will need to slim into (half an inch too tight) so I won’t be taking that. I tried loads of shops but most of the dresses I could find were either black or white. Most of the coloured ones were too bright, I prefer pale and pastel shades. Mpst of the ones I did find were a bit too short for me.
Then on the way home I managed to get on the wrong train. NOT MY FAULT. I was on the right platform at the right time but it was a direct to York train, not a stopper. I was worried I’d have to pay for my extra, unwanted, journey, but the guard on the train was nice enough to let it pass. Needless to say by the time I got home I was bushed, so what did I do? Did I collapse into a chair? No I went into the garden and picked three pounds of damsons which I then started to turn into puddings including a charlotte. Now, I’ve had enough of doing anything at all, so that’s it for today.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Magic of Fishkeeping (now available from Lulu)

My novel arrived, hot off the press from Lulu. Unfortunately, I’d somehow made an error over the size and it’s HUGE (A4 when it should have been A5). Hopefully, I will come across people looking for large print, otherwise, I’ll have to bin it.
I spent ages this morning trying to figure out what I’d done wrong then correcting it. Luckily I only ordered five! The cover looks good though. I used one of my fishy photos and it’s rather striking.
After all that fiddling about, I wasn’t in the mood for fiction so I got on with my column for Writers Forum. It’s hard to believe but this is number 36. It seems like no time at all since I started writing it.
I’d fallen behind a bit, so started work on number 37 as soon as I’d finished number 36. I hope to get that done tomorrow so that I don’t have to think about writing another until I get back from NAWG. There are still places available by the way (
Tonight, tow of the neighbours are coming over to watch The King’s Speech which I bought on DVD. I’ve already seen it but I don’t mind a second viewing.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


I’m not sure if I’ve got some kind of bug or whether it’s just the heat, but I ache from top to toe. The slightest thing feels like an enormous effort. I was meant to be going to the AGM of the Leeds Savages tonight but in the end I had to send my apologies. I feel as though I could fall asleep at the drop of a hat.
I’ve been working on a story rewrite that needs some more life injecting into it but had to give up. I then switched to my Writers Forum column which is almost there but not quite. I’ll get back to both of those tomorrow. After a break, it’s surprising how easily things start to slot together. I’m going to have a proper look through the Swanwick brochure. There are so many things going on, I need time to decide which courses to do and which to miss. It’s going to be hard choosing, that’s all I know.
Two pieces of good news today. Louis, the chocolate Labrador I looked after a month or so ago is coming back later thins month, it’s just for three days, but that’s better than nothing. Also, my photo agency (FLPA) sent me a statement. They’re going to make a payment into my bank next week. That’s all thanks to photos of fish I took back in the 1990s.
I love it when that happens as I haven’t had to do any work. I was going to into town and see if I can find some new dresses to take with me to Swanwick. Now I can buy shoes as well.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Missing them still

I am missing those two dogs so much I can’t say. It was dreadful coming down this morning to zero greeting. I wish I had some more bookings but there’s nothing until October and after that just nothing.
The heat drains me. After seeing Rachael this morning, I felt whacked, but that’s not going to get me where I want to go, so I worked on pitching courses, hoping I can get some more work next year. I really enjoyed Ripon yarns and could dearly love to do more of the same.
I’m going to switch off the computer now and put on my ideas cap. I need to draft a story or three so that I can get some more sent off before I go to Swanwick.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Bye Woody, Bye Snoopy. Come back soon.

I haven’t managed to do much today. One critique of a short story, then I read the three pumpkin stories submitted as a result of my column and emailed the winner offering a prize of one of my books. Then we took the dogs out for a last walk to Temple Newsam, through the woods and out again.
I'm so very very sad to see them go. They were such gentle, fun, crazy, affectionate dogs. I just hope their owners go away again, soon.
It’s very hot, so hot I feel uncomfortable. I really need to get to the Club tonight – it’s a social at O’Neill’s in town. I’ve hardly been to any evening meetings this year. I’m just no good in the heat so if it’s packed and crowded, I’ll just have to come home early. I’m so tempted to stay home, but that will only make me feel worse in my head. So, have a shower, grab some food, then out.