Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The reality is...

I enjoy reading Confessions of an Author because I think it gives some insight into the struggle of a writer's life, even for someone who has some publishing success in the past. Try reading her Confession 265 for a reality check!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Fun quiz

I'm feeling too tired to think of anything even remotely interesting today, so why not have a go at this quiz on 'What type of writer should you be?'. I came out as science fiction, which is very funny because I never ever read science fiction and wouldn't be the slightest bit interested in writing it....

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Creative genes

I have been wondering whether there is such a thing as a creative gene. After Kiran Desai recently won the Man Booker prize, it has been widely reported that her mother is Anita Desai who had been shortlisted for the same prize in the past. There are of course other authors who have writers as parents, Martin Amis being just one example, and children of musicians or artists who have inherited that gift.

Nobody in my family writes, but my mother used to paint well and my father is very musical. Both my sister and I are lacking these talents but we have dabbled in many creative crafts over the years. Maybe there is some sort of creativity gene which sometimes comes out differently from generation to generation?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Poetry prompts

Yesterday I was looking at a few websites which offer prompts for writers. I came across the Instant Muse Poetry Generator and pressed 'create'. It came up with the opening line 'In the eyrie of certainty the levers unfold'. I think I will give that prompt a miss!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Write a book in a month?

I first heard of NaNoWriMo a few years ago from a friend. It is an intriguing idea and one that I would love to have a go at one day. However it couldn't be held in a worse month for me. I always find that most of my spare time time in November is taken up with the planning of the festive season, not to mention shopping for three family birthdays falling before the end of the year, and of course all the other things that I normally do still have to be done. I am also starting my next OU course next week.

Quite a few people from the OU writing course have signed up this year, but I know I wouldn't have time to do it justice. Perhaps I will have to do my own private version in a quieter month one day. It would certainly be a good way of testing whether there is a novel in me somewhere!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Links I find interesting

I am continuing to add new links at the side of this page. It is a slightly eclectic mix but the majority of them are about books or writing. Of course one webpage can easily lead you to more (which is how I found many of these), so please do take time to explore them if you can. For even more 'lovely links' try Kate Harrison's blog.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My favourite blog

At the moment my favourite blog is 'petite anglaise', the blog of a thirtysomething Englishwoman living in Paris. I was unaware of this blog until the author hit the headlines earlier this year for being fired, on account of her blogging activity, by the stuffy accountancy firm at which she was a secretary. As a former accountant myself I found this amusing, especially as I think I may have once had an interview at the main London office of the same firm.

But I digress. This girl can really write. She has been called the Bridget Jones of Paris, but her anecdotes are far more absorbing than those of Helen Fielding's comic creation. I am going back to the blog on a regular basis to read the archives and the comments. She has recently been offered a book deal with Penguin and if she can maintain the same quality of writing for a whole book then it is well deserved.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Local drama

I was just about to take son 2 to playscheme this morning when I noticed a police car half blocking our drive, an ambulance opposite and neighbours, police and ambulance crew standing outside the front door of a frail, elderly lady across the road. Hubby was off work today so went to investigate. It appears she had fallen, possibly yesterday evening, and was lying at the foot of the stairs unable to move. Unfortunately she had not left a spare door key with anyone, so nobody could gain access to the house. Just as we left for playscheme a policeman was smashing in one of her front windows. By the time I returned she had been taken to hospital and the smashed window was being patched up with what looks like corrugated iron.

It made me think about the lack of community here in London. We have lived in our house for 18 years, yet I don't think we have ever spoken to this neighbour. We do leave a spare house key with friends in the next road, but not with immediate neighbours as we don't feel we know them well enough. We live in an ever changing multicultural community where people get along on a superficial level yet at the same time keep themselves to themselves. But at least someone noticed the lights on all night at this old lady's house and summoned help. I wonder if she will ever move back there?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Reading material

What sort of books do you like to read? I have come to the conclusion that I prefer books which are both well written and easy to read. I have never been particularly keen on the classics ( apart from Jane Austen) but at the same time I like to read something a little more challenging than chicklit. Writers such as Ian McEwan, Kate Atkinson, Anita Shreve and Maggie O'Farrell seem to suit my current needs well. I have nothing against literary fiction, but it has to be a good read too. Some of the more literary authors put me off by their attempts to be too cleverly intellectual with form or theme. That is fine if you are studying literature, but doesn't necessarily make a comfortable read for those of us who read to relax.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Thank you

I have been writing this blog for just over two weeks and already have just over 100 hits, so I thought I should thank you all for taking the time to read. Special thanks to those who make return visits, can I stop paying you now?? I suspect that many of my visitors are fellow students of the Open University, so hello everyone, especially A215 survivors.

So far I have tried to post something, however trivial, everyday. I can't guarantee to keep that up all the time but I will update regularly so please keep dropping by and if you have any comments or suggestions I would love to hear them.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

How to write a bestseller?

Feeling a bit lazy tonight, so thanks to a fellow OU student for this link to an article on CNN about how to become the next Dan Brown....

Friday, October 20, 2006


I like shopping, but I think there must be something wrong with my life when the highlight of my day was the weekly trip to Tesco.

In case you are wondering the toothache is a little better and the Harley Street practice phoned today so an appointment has been made for a consultation in mid November. In the meantime I continue with the antibiotics and ibuprofen and can't have any alcohol!

Thursday, October 19, 2006


As a parent I do sometimes get tired of family and friends sending me copies of newspaper cuttings about autism and the latest 'cure', which is inevitably evidenced by a miraculous success story. I know they mean well but I have usually already come across this exciting 'news scoop' elsewhere weeks before the article appears and anyway I know by now that there isn't a cure. There are lots of different approaches to autism, many of them will work for some people but not others, but none is going to actually take the autism away and it is unfair of journalists to suggest otherwise.

Its nice sometimes to read work by writers who can combine personal experience of special needs with the ability to write in a moving manner which doesn't oversensationalise the subject matter....Nick Hornby, India Knight and Charlotte Moore being recent examples. There is certainly a huge role for the use of writing not just to disseminate information but also as a healing tool for the writer or story-teller, however there needs be some caution used as to how the material is presented to the public. By all means 'tell it how it is' but with a realisation that everyone's experiences will be unique.

This is a subject I'm very interested in, it's one which has already impacted upon my own writing and will continue to do so I'm sure.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The dentist

Went to the dentist this morning and am now on strong antibiotics which are knocking me out. My dental history is unusual, due to a rare genetic condition which I won't bore you with. Earlier this year I had some root canal treatment but there have been complications, which I always knew was a risk. To sort it out is going to need an expert with specialist equipment and to make sure it gets done sometime this century I will go privately, so Harley Street, here I come. Better warn the kids that Christmas might have to be cancelled...

Last night I downloaded a demo of some writers software from Writers Cafe so am having a little play with it. I'm not sure whether this type of program is worth paying out for or not, but its good to be able to try before you buy.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

One day in history...

Do you fancy writing a blog entry but don't want to have to update your own blog regularly? Why not investigate the One Day in History campaign where they are trying to accumulate as many diary blog entries as possible for today, to be kept for posterity at the British Library as a snapshot of national life on October 17th 2006.

My own entry will read something like 'I had toothache...'

Monday, October 16, 2006

Half term

Today is the start of half term, two weeks (plus a staff training day) for son 2. Oh what joy and we have little planned!

On Saturday I received my stamped addressed postcard back from Woman's Weekly to acknowledge receipt of my story, so now it's just wait and see. I probably won't be able to get much written for the next two weeks, but perhaps I will have time to explore other potential markets and jot down a few ideas if inspiration should strike. During A215 I bookmarked lots of websites recommended by other students and am now trying to go back and look at them again and see what is most useful for me.

A couple of months ago a member of a forum I visit set up a daily quiz on Fun Trivia so I try to do it regularly. You have to answer 10 multiple choice questions as quickly as possible....it is an American site so some of the answers eg on American sports have to be pure guesswork but it only takes a minute and is a fun way to waste time. There are lots of different quizzes on the website but I haven't had a chance to explore it all yet!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Children with special needs

Our children both have special needs. There is no getting away from that fact. I don't want to write too much about them here, as they are entitled to privacy, but I do frequently reflect on how much this has impacted on our family life, our ability to travel and our financial position. My own life is very different to what I had expected, but had our circumstances not changed I would probably still be a full time number cruncher, I wouldn't have joined the OU and I wouldn't be writing. I have made some very good friends through my kids and now the internet also offers a whole new world of understanding. For anyone who has a child with special needs of any kind, or knows someone who does, Special Kids in the UK offers a fantastic forum community full of wisdom, information and moral support.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Charity shop books

This year I have become addicted to searching out books in charity shops. I have bought so many that they are piled up in boxes in the dining room and I probably have enough reading material to last for years. I have worked out which charity shop is cheapest (our local hospice one) and which part of the local area sells the most quality fiction, I've picked up poetry anthologies as well as novels and non-fiction, I've discovered new authors. I don't often go to the library anymore as my life and reading opportunities can be unpredictable and I kept having to pay fines when I forgot to take a book back in time!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Life and poetry

Why is it that when I have had to do poetry for courses I have found it incredibly hard, but now I am free to write what I want I have the urge to write an autobiographical poem? On Wednesday I started one about our experiences when son 1 spent almost six weeks in special care after birth. I suppose that the inspiration came because I have been wondering how much his start in life may have contributed to his current health issues. When it was all happening I thought I should be writing it all in a diary but couldn't bring myself to do so. I can write prose about things that affect me deeply, but prefer to fictionalise my experiences rather than write autobiographically, I like that little bit of distance especially if the work is for others to read. So why then am I writing about my life in a blog?!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A London trip

Today I went into London for a meeting at The National Autistic Society in Islington. Afterwards I went to the nearby branch of Borders for a coffee and a browse, eventually buying a copy of a book called Room to Write.
Had a quick flick through in the tube on the way home, it seems interesting, full of writing hints and prompts as well as quotes from writers.

My books for my next OU course (K272) arrived today, so plenty to read over the next few days.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I've done it

This afternoon I printed out my story and covering letter then walked to the post office to post it before I could change my mind. Will I count as a real writer when the rejection slip arrives?

Its horrible weather today so perhaps we all need a little escapism. How about watching animals at African waterholes? Try the streaming from Nkorho in South Africa or Pete's Pond in Botswana.I spotted a fantastic herd of elephants there the other morning! Unfortunately the streaming does fade in and out...or perhaps it's just my wireless connection, but when there are animals to see it can be amazing, very Lion King and that is one of my favourite Disney Movies.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Editing a story

I am editing a story I wrote for my OU course and am going to send it off. Our assignment was to research and write for a specific publication. I chose to do a 'genre' piece for 'Woman's Weekly' so I'm going to be brave and send it off to the magazine. From reading their guidelines I know it can take a long time for them to reply so expect me to be announcing my first rejection letter in about 16 weeks! In the meantime I will get on and try to write some more.Yesterday was a big day here as son 1 took a huge step on his road to recovery and I had an important meeting to go to, so not much got done.

For those of you who like poetry and trivia about the Arts, try the Writers Almanac for a daily poem and other bits and bobs, including lots of archived material. I have just signed up for the daily email because I really want to improve my knowledge and understanding of poetry in the hope that it will rub off on my writing one day!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Excuses not to write?

Ever since we got broadband I have spent far too much time on the net. There is always something to distract me....ebay, forums, blogs and much, much more, but some of it has been useful for my writing.

I am gradually putting some of my favourite blogs and websites into the links section here. Some I like for the content and others for the amount of links to other sites they provide. I will also try to provide links to other things that have caught my attention. Some will be writing related, others not.

One of my current favourites is Oceangram which could also be good for writing prompts. Send and receive messages in a bottle...you won't get a reply to your own message but will get random thoughts from all over the world. Something might just trigger the imagination. Tip...it can take a while for a message to come through so leave the site open in a minimised window and check back regularly!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The inspiration to write....

Years ago, when I was at university, my good friend K and I had a plan that we would make our fortune writing Mills and Boon books! Well of course we never did, she went into the Civil Service and I became a Chartered Accountant, we both got married, had kids and no time to write. From time to time I would take a book on creative writing out of the library but never actually got round to putting anything on paper.

Two years ago K died of breast cancer, just a few days short of her 45th birthday. She had achieved a lot in her life, but never wrote. It made me realise that life is too short not to follow your dreams. Encouraged by a new friend, whose life was also touched by cancer in the past, I enrolled on my first OU writing course, enjoyed it so much that I did two more ( and a computer course on how to do research) and now I have a new aim of getting published and hopefully doing an MA one day.

I'm doing it for both of us, K....

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Meet the family

There are four of us.... me, hubby, son 1 and son 2. We live in London.

Son 1 is currently suffering from an extreme anxiety problem and is out of school having treatment at home. Son 2 is severely autistic. I have my hands full and my stress levels are high, but I have lots of potential material for future writing I hope!

Friday, October 06, 2006

A215 is over

Today I finished the Open University level 2 course in creative writing! It was the first year of the course with the inevitable teething problems of occasionally unclear assignment instructions etc but I enjoyed it very much. The success of these online courses depends very much on the quality of the tutor and having some good tutor group participation and I think I was lucky in both respects.

So what's next? Well I want to keep writing and am trying to pluck up the courage to submit work for publication. In this blog I hope to record my efforts as well as other observations on life. Keep reading.