Thursday, November 29, 2007

Write, write, write

Today I have tarted up my Start Writing Plays assignment (to send tomorrow) and written an assignment for the other course I am doing. Written it from scratch and already sent it via the automated submissions system!

Then this evening I have written my 300 word flash for Your Messages. Last day tomorrow and I will have posted for the whole 30 days. I feel almost as proud as if I had completed NaNoWriMo!

Image by

Three notable things:

1. Heat Magazine have published an apology on their website for their sticker faux pas. Too little, too late, in my opinion.

2. The keyboard on my laptop is complaining about being used too much this week. The 'N' key refuses to work half the time, which makes for a lot of editing...

3. The bus which takes son 2 to school has had to have both clutch and starter motor repaired in the last week. Doesn't fill me with much confidence really...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sick joke

This morning I had to pop out to the supermarket and, as usual, son 1 asked me to pick up a copy of Heat magazine for him. I've just had a quick look through it myself and came across the free stickers being given away inside. Amongst them is a picture of the oldest child of Katie Price (aka Jordan), along with the words Harvey wants to eat me.

For those who don't know of Katie Price, or her son Harvey, 5, he has considerable physical and developmental disabilities, including being blind and on the autistic spectrum. He also has a medical condition which causes a growth disorder, making him very big for his age and no doubt very difficult to care for.

Now there are a lot of things about Katie Price that I'm not so keen on, but I have to admit that I have always admired her for the way she has been so up front about Harvey's issues and the fact that, despite their celebrity status, she and her new husband Peter Andre do care well for him at home (albeit with some help, I'm sure, but they do have two other very small children). It can't be easy for them.

So I have to say I found this sticker to be the lowest of the low. Harvey is a very disabled child whose size is the result of a medical problem, not over-eating. As a parent I feel for Katie and Peter, because son 1 has been on medication which has also made him put on a lot of weight. A known side effect of a medicine which helped to save his life. How would I feel if he were to be lampooned in this way?

Heat have really sunk to the depths this time. I'm glad to say I'm not the only blogger who thinks India Knight here and Caitlin Moran here for a start. You can also see the sticker on their posts, I'm not going to give Heat any more publicity by putting it on here.

Three notable things:

1. Son 1 had his medication reviewed yesterday and has been taken off one of them (see above).

2. I have written my Three Little Pigs play (yes really!) for my OU Start Writing Plays course. Phew. I'll leave it for a couple of days and take another look later in the week.

3. We keep getting post delivered here which was intended for a family in a similarly named road and with a surname not unlike ours ( well the first two letters are the same...) I wonder how much of our post they are getting?

Sunday, November 25, 2007


When I first started this blog I wasn't sure how often to post or how to find an audience. I would read other blogs out there and wonder how they had built up their readership. So, since I am feeling totally uninspired today, here are my blogging tips, for what they are worth.

Try to post regularly. It doesn't need to be every day but I aim for at least four times a week if possible.

Have a theme to your blog. You don't have to stick to it all the time of course, but it will help to find the right audience.

Try to regularly put pictures and links on your blog to add extra interest. Don't forget the sidebar too...explore available gadgets.

A free hit counter wil give you all sorts of interesting visitor statistics. I have two, though they aren't consistent with each other!

Just remember that if your blog is open for anyone to read, you need to exercise some caution in what you write. Think before posting.

Be aware of copyright issues and what is deemed to be web publication, if you are posting your actual creative writing on your blog.

Comment often on other blogs you find interesting. Look at who else is commenting there and click through to their blogs if there is a link, as they may well do the same to yours.

Build up a blogroll of your favourite reads and you might even get reciprocal links.

By joining groups of other bloggers, such as Novel Racers, you will find a ready made audience.

If you are happy for your blog to be very public, put the URL on your emails, Facebook or MySpace pages, forum postings etc and join a blog directory.

Three notable things:

1. Beverley is out of the X Factor. A shame, as she seemed a lovely lady. At least they seem to have taken note of what we all said last week!

2. I've tackled some of the towering ironing pile this afternoon. It was a good excuse not to work on my OU assignments...

3. We are into the last week of the Your Messages blog project. I'm still on target to post a piece of writing every day of the month. Today's piece is here.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Thanks to Tia for finding this one. On top of everything else going on here, I've been trying to write an Open University assignment today and the cartoon says it all!

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Three notable things:

1. Yesterday's football disaster.

2. Buying 16 videos for son 2 for £4 in a charity shop this morning. How long will it be before he has destroyed them all?

3. Finally registering for that next Open University course as the Tesco vouchers arrived. £320 off the course!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Well, it is very reassuring to learn that personal details of myself and my children and almost certainly also of my bank account have been 'lost' by the government....along with 25 million others.

I've only very recently started using internet banking, but at least having that facility will enable me to obsessively check my current account every day for unexplained withdrawals.

Ho hum.

Three notable things:

1. I saw the family counsellor for the last time today. She thinks we are doing a great job with son 1 and not overprotecting him, which would be a natural response but detrimental to his recovery.

2. I have finally decided to sign up for another Open University course to start in January and have sent off for my Tesco Clubcard deal vouchers today which will help considerably with the cost!

3. You have probably already heard about this elsewhere...I'm a bit slow here...anyway, the Freerice website is not only fun but by taking part you donate to charity. Go along and test your wordpower!

Monday, November 19, 2007

A grand day out...

(with apologies to Aardman Animations and Olga who have already used this title...)

So yesterday was the special outing and what fun it was! Fifteen writers (including two very brave men), who have previously taken the Open University A215 Creative Writing course, hit London's West End and a certain restaurant on The Strand will probably take a long while to recover...

So, the plan was to meet on the steps of the National Gallery at 11.30am. I had the great idea of trying to get down there by 10am when the gallery opens, in order to spend some time looking at the Impressionist paintings, which I love. Needless to say at 10am I was only just leaving the house. I actually got to Trafalgar Square at 11am and getting my priorities right I visited the loo and the gallery shop before looking at a temporary exhibition of Renaissance German stained glass (exhibited in many cases alonside the artwork it was based on.) Before you start yawning, I should just remind you that I have a degree in German and have studied the art and literature of the period, so it was interesting for me!

Anyway, we then all started to congregate on the steps. As most people had never met outside of cyberspace it was a constant round of hugs and introductions. Amazingly some people had travelled from as far as Scotland, Northern Ireland, Liverpool, Dorset and Wiltshire to be there as well as many of the usual suspects from the South East.

Once we had all arrived there was a spare half hour before the restaurant was ready for us, so we retreated to the bar of a nearby hotel. We then spent the rest of the afternoon over a very long lunch in a theatrical restaurant, just chatting nonstop.

Food, wine, chocolate and great company, what more could you ask?

On the way home I diverted very slightly via Paddington station to see one of the visitors onto her train and I couldn't help going into the little Paperchase shop and buying myself a beautiful new notebook for writing. I had obviously been inspired after being in the company of so many talented writers, many of whom, like me have work on WikidWords!

It was a great day out and I hope we can all do it again. Soon.

Three notable things:

1. I had a phone tutorial at 9.30am today so was frantically trying to get up to date after son 2 went off to school.

2. I have written a life writing piece on autism on the Your Messages blog today. Read it here and check out any previous days you might have missed!.

3. This morning son 1 and I went to Waitrose because he has developed a craving for fish fingers and we had run out...

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Leafing through the catalogue in an Argos shop this morning, my attention was drawn to the young man standing alongside me. He was holding a most angelic looking little daughter, aged about two.

He was chatting about what they could buy for family Christmas presents. As he finished writing down the numbers of items to purchase, he turned to her.

'And what would you like?' he asked.

'Spaghetti,' she replied with a toss of her blonde curls.

Three notable things:

1. As I write I am watching the X Factor. I think that this year they may be concentrating too much on the staging and dancing, to the detriment of the vocals and song choices.

2. I received a lovely floral arrangement yesterday...I thought I might have a secret admirer but no such luck. Son 2 has already shredded some of the flowers!

3. I am looking forward to a very special outing tomorrow...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Coffee break

I met a friend for coffee in Starbucks today. An old friend, whose children used to be in school with mine. A friend who I haven't seen for two or three years. We met there at 10.45 and finally left at 2.30 because we had so much to talk about.

Now if I think that we have a difficult few years, then this friend has had far worse. In fact, if I was to write the story of what she has experienced in a novel, it would probably be considered too far-fetched to be true. Sadly, it has been her reality.

But she is bouncing back. She is a strong, beautiful and intelligent woman who has been put through hell but is reinventing herself.

I admire her so much.

Three notable things:

1. Hubby has been off work sick for two days, but is going back tomorrow.

2. Son 2 got very upset about Indian dancing at school yesterday.

3. I've posted new pieces on the Your Messages blog. Check out each day!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Shopping on my mind

I'm starting to think about the dreaded Christmas shopping and am scouring the net for goodies.

I hope that a book will shortly be arriving from Susan Hill which will be my mother sorted (it's OK, she won't read this!)

I also have my eye on this book as a possibility for my father. He is not a great reader but is a keen gardener.

Son 1 seems to mainly want money. Son 2 is always a problem as there are so few things he enjoys, but a selection of videos/DVDs/CDs and some chocolate usually hits the mark.

Hubby will probably have his own ideas and as for me, I have ordered the two volumes of the Paris Review Interviews and I have my eye on a classic Penguin books mug, preferably the Virginia Woolf Room of One's Own mug which would match my purple themed writing accessories perfectly. I'll have to start dropping hints about that...

Three notable things:

1. A great coffee and catch up session with two friends yesterday...

2. Did I tell you I have started to knit a cardigan?

3. Doing the flash fiction on the Your Messages blog is increasing the hits to my own blog... and Sarah Salway has left a message here!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Never forget

Today is the day for wearing a poppy and remembering those who have lost their lives fighting for our country.

My paternal grandfather fought in World War One. He must have been quite young but I believe he met my grandmother through a pen pal scheme for soldiers. They finally married and had children relatively late in life. I never knew that grandfather, he died when my father was still a teenager.

My maternal grandfather was of the age group which could have been enlisted into the Second World War. As a bank manager, however, he was exempt from being called up, though he did work for the Home Guard in true Dad's Army fashion. I think he may have been an air raid warden. He later experienced some mental health problems during his life.

My parents have never talked much about the experiences which they, as children, had during the war or of how it affected their parents. I know that my father and his brother watched the Blitz over Exeter and that his family hosted young evacuees from London. Of my mother's experiences in the Midlands I know relatively little, though she is younger and perhaps remembers less. Or was it all just too traumatic for them to process and pass down? Are those memories perhaps still compartmentalised and locked away?

We, and our children, have of course known this country to be at war, but never anywhere near home territory. Even seeing the horrors that we do on television cannot begin to compare with what my parents might have seen and experienced and they were lucky enough not to lose a close relative. Those families who have lost loved ones, in any conflict, deserve our respect and remembrance as, of course, do all the survivors.

We must never forget.

Three notable things:

1. I'm quite pleased with my response piece on Your Messages today.

2. The X Factor is hotting up. Wasn't Rhydian class last night? Watch it here.

3. I've just manged to complete a brief piece for an OU tutorial...last minute stuff but at least I did it!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Virago books

I expect most female readers ( and many male) will at some time have read a book published by the Virago Press.

I was hopping around some blogs today and came across this picture, which suddenly made me wonder what current books by women will survive to be reissued decades hence in the way that Virago has traditionally resurrected little-known female writers? Of course Virago does also publish contemporary work by talented writers such as Margaret Atwood and Sarah Waters, but there must be many more current female authors who will deserve to be re-read in the future, long after their books might normally have gone out of print.

I have my personal favourites, of course, but I'd love to hear yours.

Three notable things:

1. I'm free of the voluntary work!

2. As a leaving/thank you gift I received gift cards for Waterstone's and Marks & Spencer. I can feel some retail therapy coming on...

3. I'm still posting a piece of flash prose here every day. Wonder how long I can keep that up?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Oh so quiet...

It seems really quiet in the blogosphere at the moment, or at least on the blogs I regularly visit. Perhaps everyone is up to their necks in NaNoWriMo or just gone into autumn hibernation. Which, to be honest, I feel like doing myself. I am currently just keeping myself going with the challenge of my flash fiction pieces.

Three notable things:

1. Arranging to meet up next week with a friend who I haven't seen for a few years. We both have lots to catch up on.

2. Buying a fab cardigan/jacket on eBay which will be perfect worn with black trousers and top for the meeting I have to attend tomorrow evening. It is current season Per Una, but come via the factory shop, therefore I paid only a little more than half the retail price. I can't see anything wrong with it, other than the labels cut out, as they do. A bargain.

3. Getting all my paperwork sorted for this meeting tomorrow, which is when I am resigning as treasurer of the voluntary group. Woo hoo!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

And breathe...

On son 2's first day back at school after a holiday I always feel totally washed out. I have learnt to reserve that day for myself, to just allow a little me-time.

So, today was the day. I had a phone tutorial for one of my OU courses at 9.30am. That was not as arduous as it sounds, because the course has only just started so really it was just a quick chat, to find out if I had everything and how I was going to approach the course. No problems.

Later son 1 and I wandered up to the local shops to make a few purchases, collect his prescription and post a letter. After lunch I wrote another flash fiction piece for today's response at Your Messages and then soaked in a hot bath. I was much more relaxed by the time son 2 arrived home.

Three notable things:

1. Last night I finished knitting a scarf which is to be an Xmas present for a friend.

2. The cable TV has been off nearly all day but Virgin Media are aware of the problem. So that's all right then. No rush guys.

3. The Your Messages project is making me enjoy my writing again. I never expected to have written a piece every day so far, but I'm loving it!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Thoughts on the novel

I've written two more pieces of flash fiction for the Messages blog this weekend, which you can read here and here.

I'm treating this as a freewriting exercise, a way of loosening up my writing. It seems to be working, as so far the prompts have given rise to 300 words of writing very easily. This made me think. Why am I finding this so much easier than many of the other writing exercises I have undertaken and why are these short pieces so much easier to write than my novel?

Firstly I suppose it is the quality of the prompts, which are themselves 300 words of prose by accomplished writers. It would be very hard not to get some sort of ideas from what you read. The quality and variety of the responses the blog is receiving is testament to that.

Secondly, I think my sparse writing style is actually more suited to short fiction. I like to play around with the words and structure, making every word count. I am not the sort of writer who produces pages of flowery prose. This leaves me with a dilemma. Should I really be writing a novel at all or should I stick to short stories? But as we all know, the market for short stories is very limited.

Or should I be structuring my novel differently, breaking it down into smaller passages of prose which I would feel more comfortable writing? As it is, in the first section of the novel, which does not have a linear timeline, the chapters are tending to be shorter than I expected. But I don't want to end up with a novel which is not considered to be commercial.

Decisions, decisions...

Three notable things:

1. I am looking forward to hopefully meeting up soon with some other writers I have only 'met' online.

2. I found a nice Gap fleece hoodie for son 2 for £1.99 in a charity shop yesterday.

3. Son 1 has been offered the chance to do some ad hoc work experience at a charity and is actually keen to do it.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Flash fiction

So, I really haven't done much this week. But I have managed to do two pieces of 300 word flash fiction for the Your Messages project blog, which you can read by scrolling down the comments on the blogs for 1st and 2nd November.

Three notable things:

1. It is the weekend tomorrow. Hooray!

2. A new Starbucks is to open in a nearby 'suburban village' area very soon. I think it might just be a perfect place to write when I need a change.

3. I'm just starting to read some of Angela Carter's short stories for the first time.