Found poetry, procrastination and top tweeting.

I met the omni-talented Uschi Gatward when we both wrote prize-winning short stories for the Writeidea Festival in 2012. Judged by Jill Dawson, no less.

And this post has just peaked for me. Uschi won second place to my third and has gone on to shortlist after shortlist, adorned with well-earned praise, with a prize in the bag yet to be announced. I on the other hand am still working on it.

Uschi’s written some highly entertaining blog posts for wonderful women’s writing magazine Mslexia on her contest submissions over the past three months: you can see the first of these  linked to her name above. One of her submissions was to the very entertaining Verbatim Poetry: publishing poems written by adding spacing and punctuation to found text.

This can be from adverts, online comments, manuals: you name it. So I spent a few happy hours yesterday distracted by the idea and putting together a poem for submission. I’ll let you know. This, however, is when I was meant to be editing the Work in Progress.

As I’ve said on here before, I am a martyr to procrastination. Scrap that: I am its patron saint. If it can be put off, left until another day, overlooked for a few hours or generally hidden for a bit: I’ll do it.

WIP apart, recent procrastination means I’ve failed to get tickets for a brilliant weekend ahead of amazing authors and other fascinating folk at the UK’s first Young Adult Literature Conference at London Film and Comic Con. Though, thanks to the magic of Twitter, I have now got my grubby mitts on a short day pass for Sunday via sainted agent Gemma Cooper *we are not worthy etc*

I have one very disappointed daughter. As a kind and caring parent, I am passing on this lesson in procrastination for her edification (but she is NOT having my lovely ticket.)

I meant to write my weekly blog post last night as I had an evening comparatively free. Instead, I got caught up in a Twitter chat on Middle Grade – age 9 to 12 – fiction. A couple of hard-working women writers put this together: @miriamhcraig and @authorontheedge The next is 8-9pm on Wednesday 23 July. Look out for #ukmgchat

No, it is not procrastination to spend time discussing the definition of fantasy in kids’ books with the likes of SF Said, awesome author of Varjak Paw and epic space tale Phoenix. It is time supremely and enjoyably well-spent.

And just look at the result: pictured above. Obviously Twitter can pack up and go home, as I have won it. But where would I procrastinate then?





Happy 50th Birthday Charlie Bucket

My reading spot

I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators earlier this year, as part of my continuing efforts to Be A Writer.

The British Isles’ section has a wonderful online magazine: Words and Pictures. I was delighted to write a post for them this week on the 50th anniversary of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl:

Happy 50th Birthday Charlie Bucket.

Once More, With Feeling

‘Once More with Feeling’ pic from Den of Geek


“She needs back up.”

Those of you who also worship at the shrines of St Buffy and St Joss will recognise those words with no further ado. You will also note the clever play on words in that last sentence (‘ado’: geddit?). For anyone else: I’m sorry for you but it is not too late.

Life’s never too short for catching up with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I read an academic book  recently, full of textual analysis of Buffy, that stripped all the life out of Joss Whedon’s sharp humour and observation, so brilliantly terse and witty and wise. Those last five words in turn are an homage to E.F. Benson’s Lucia. It’s an homage-y sort of day.

‘Once More, with Feeling’ epitomises for me everything that is awe-inspiring about Joss Whedon. He risks a hugely-successful series to include a musical: one that he has written and directed. It does everything imaginable: moves on the plot, defines and explains characters and their actions, is technically accomplished and manages to be moving and utterly hilarious at the same time. This one episode alone earns him the title of writing genius as far as I’m concerned.

So: to back up. I’m rubbish at it:  the singing, the watching the back of the person who saves the world (A Lot) and, even more importantly, the IT variety. At the bottom of the living room cupboard by the window, there is a laptop that maybe, just maybe, still contains every existing photograph of my honeymoon. I watched the screen catch fire a year or so ago and have never dared to check that what seems like a very dead machine is in fact deceased.

I’d rather hold on to the little hope that it might not be. Those photos aren’t backed up anywhere.

Last night, while watching another genius at work – Graham Linehan’s final IT Crowd on 4OD – the screen of the machine on which I’m writing went black. We switched it off for an hour and you probably heard my sigh of relief as it rebooted.

So today, I’ve been backing up the 70K of my novel that was backed up by Scrivener – but only on this machine where the software’s also downloaded. All my writing eggs in one basket. Now it’s also safely in the interwebs on My Writing Spot; twee name but great service for writers by Google. And breathe. I just have to remember to do so every day.

This week I have mostly discovered that out of every hundred words of my prose, at least 50 will be ‘that’. I ‘m trying to stop my teen protagonist sounding either like a middle-aged academic studying mythology or a foot-stamping toddler. I’m getting better at varying sentence beginnings so they don’t all start ‘I’ (get lost, Freud) and not every single sentence still has someone frowning, sighing, turning or gasping.

Whedon-don is unattainable, I know. But the writing’s getting better and it’s still great fun.





lyra's_bench_oxford_botanic_gardenBlog writing has taken a back seat to hospital visits over the last two weeks. We’ve also undergone a settling Sixth Former into new school procedure that has been lengthy and worrying. All done now.

I’ve been keeping up with scraps of writing and thinking about my novel from time to time. Now I’ve decided it’s time to cut the prevaricating and procrastinating.

It’s Reservoir Dogs time: let’s go to work. Of course, that ended really well for them. Maybe I need a new slogan. #amwriting is always a good thing to write on Twitter. Though Twitter itself is one of many diversions that need to be set aside for a while, I think.

I’ve written 73,703 words, which the wonderful writing tool Scrivener tells me is 211 paperback pages. Much of that was done during last November’s National Novel Writing Month. I scrapped about half of the 50K I wrote then when I picked it up again in the spring. I suspect the other half needs to be started from scratch again too.

But rather than confront that, to date I’ve rewritten a couple of scenes until all the life has gone out of them. A few others are just lines of conversation, in an attempt to try something new and fill in the gaps later. I should know by now that later doesn’t happen.

So: public commitment time. I have six months left of paid employment. I’ve written the first draft of a novel for young adults. The second draft will be finished by the end of October.

There’ll be fortnightly progress reports here. That started off as ‘weekly’ but I have no doubt that various daughter/cats/rants will intervene.

The photo is inspiration, from a literary pilgrimage to Oxford Botanic Garden. I’m sure you know what that means …

All offers of kicking me off Twitter, beta reading or coffee-making will be welcome.

Amanda Palmer’s ‘Dear Daily Mail Song’ and how history is written


A shorter-than-it-should-be post this week, with a lesson to me on curation, how history is written and the dangers of cat litter tray-cleaning.

Back in the spring, my smartphone met a watery death. I can’t go into details because I will cry but it involves the bathroom and a cat litter tray. I can’t afford to replace it.

My ever-wonderful husband bought me a Kindle for my birthday so I could load up books without the usual ensuing sprained wrist for carrying a portable library. And it takes photos: what a joy. If you can deal with the misery of a front-facing screen with all its slowness and visibility problems, that is. There also needs to be blockbuster film set lighting to get a decent shot.

So now I have many pictures of fingers and thumbs over staged scenes that would put a Victorian family death photograph to shame for the time taken to set up.

I’ve had an amazing couple of weeks, starting with a concert that a lot people know about, thanks to Amanda Palmer’s phenomenal Dear Daily Mail song. If you haven’t yet heard this most charming and target-hitting of ripostes to the constant deriding and shaming of women that is the Mail’s stock in trade, you’re in for a treat. If you have, read her post and listen again. You deserve it.

It’s the fourth time I’ve seen her live, including one of her Kickstarter small gigs which was incredible. The recent concert was amazing in different ways, not least due to the terrific array of guests she introduced. Her blog post lists them all: please check them out.

I’ve read so many terrific features and posts about the evening that it’s far too late in the day to do it in full now. I’ll just mention one/several of her guests here. Members of the cast of LIMBO were on stage for some brief sword swallowing and the ‘mind-bending manoeuvres’ for which they’re renowned.  So that’s where we went a couple of days later: off to the glorious Spiegeltent for acrobatics, music and cabaret. The show is one of the best arguments for live spectacle that I’ve ever seen.

We stayed on for the first of a pair of after-parties, featuring the  omni-talented Sxip Shirey who can do more with his voice, found and repurposed objects and instruments than most orchestras. There was marvellous soul singing, from Raff who kindly gave us a CD, intense tap dancing (I didn’t think that was possible either) and the best beatboxing. So we did it all again this Sunday …

This is where the historical lesson comes in. I couldn’t take any pictures of Amanda Palmer’s gig. I have a couple of photos from each of the LIMBO after-parties that aren’t really fit for a Twitter snapshot. I wouldn’t bring the glorious name of the Weekly Blog Club into disrepute with such bad pics.

Last week, we had a few days in Brockenhurst, in the New Forest: a lovely time of cycling and swimming and eating too much and writing in a sunny garden by a fountain. These donkeys chased us for our fish and chips on our first night there (had to barricade ourselves in a churchyard) and were lurking ready to attack as we left in this dark and scary alley …

They’re used to tourists and stay still long enough even for the dreaded Kindle frontfacing lens.

I wanted to write the full and detailed posts that the three concerts deserve but just don’t have the images and the weekly deadline is fast approaching. So donkeys and a brief mention it is.

I wonder how many historical accounts have been dictated by the facts and figures and illustrations available. There are theses out there and academic departments on the selection and curation of information, of course. It’s just that it struck me that anyone, a potential grandchild maybe, might see this when I’m not around to explain the whole wonder and joy of the music and people I saw over the last few days.

You’re great, donkeys. But you wouldn’t have been my first choice of post if it wasn’t for cleaning that cat litter tray.

My personal demons

My two devils aren’t that brilliant pair: Satan and Scumspawn from BBC Radio 4’s wonderful comedy Old Harry’s Game.

I’m cursed with Procrastination and Perfectionism. They’re out in force, hand in hand as usual, as I write this at 6.30am despite promising myself that this week I would post early. Today I’m going to try to give them a good kicking.

It’s not the best start. WordPress is playing up and won’t upload the picture I saved for this post. Perfectionism means that every fibre of my being shrieks: ‘Stop writing until that is in place. It’s utterly vital for illustrating your point.’ So Perfectionism can go to Hell.

I’ve gone back to that last sentence to rewrite its ending about ten times. I’m not going to tell you how many times I have rewritten this paragraph: you would either not believe me or call the appropriate emergency services. Despite my best efforts, I’ve also wasted more time trying to upload the picture. Kick me if I say that again.

Someone told me recently that they found it frustrating having to manage perfectionists at work. After feeling offended, I can see the point. I hit the ground running and make an awesome start of things. Completing them is different.  A deadline is pretty much the only way that I can ever finish any project and nothing that I do ever seems good enough.

My mother told me not so long ago that my parents decided not to praise me as a child. They were concerned that my brother, severely mentally ill from a young age, might feel upset by my doing well at school. He left education at about the age of eight. I wonder sometimes if that has contributed to those ‘should do better’ feelings: my constant striving to get more qualifications and take on new roles.

As a parent myself, these demons are a constant horror. The idea of being a ‘good enough’ mother is hard but something I try to bear in mind. I have had to take out the word ‘just’ before ‘good enough’ several times there.

Earlier this week I read a terrific blog piece on procrastination which crippled me into further inactivity: I was furious at not having written it myself. It’s by Morna Piper in women’s writing magazine  MsLexia. When I get round to it, I will leave a comment on her post as I can relate to almost every line.

I’ll do it later: really, I will. As I have a novel to complete and edit, this post has to go now *closes eyes to hit ‘publish’ button. Changes ‘shuts’ to ‘closes’.  Only a few times back and forth though.*