About Me

My photo
I've written stories ever since I could write, but somewhere along the way I seem to have lost the joy and natural desire to write for me. Churning out stories every other week for my degree course, and forcing non-existent brilliance out of myself has drained my natural spirit. So, I have created myself a blog in an attempt to find a way back to what made me fall in love with writing in the first place. Only you and I will discover if I fail or succeed...

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

In Which I Get My Work Out There


Before I went to Australia I suggested that I write an article about my experience for online magazine blog Her Uni upon my return. Two weeks ago I finally got off my derriere and wrote the article.[1] I was proud of myself for ‘accomplishing’ for five minutes and then settled down to ignoring my lengthy writing To-Do List.[2] Lo and behold, mere hours later I get an e-mail and, bish, bash, bosh, I’m suddenly managing editor of a travel blog project. So down to work I buckle.

Then, last week amid organising my project I get a call. They are trying to work with The Independent and asked me and four others to submit an article. The lowly unemployed MA graduate is finally needed – to write for the postgraduate section. Two hours, many fluxuated heartbeats and several hurried phone calls to fellow graduates later and I finish my article. Then the wait ensues.

Mid-way through work experience I discover a text from the boyfriend: “you didn’t tell me the independent published your story!” Hardly daring to open my e-mails I check to see if it is true.[3] It is! I am published (online) in a national newspaper![4] I whiz the link to everyone in the office and received many congratulations, grin beaming.

So, it goes to show, perseverance is promising and patience is pertinent![5]

Until next time. See ya xo










[1] Gap Travels – How to Prepare.
[2] Starting with ‘write’, something that rarely seems to get checked off, this excluded.
[3] The boyfriend is not one for cruel jokes, but I wanted to see for myself.
[4] Unemployed Graduates Should Keep Busy To Improve Job Prospects.
[5] Please excuse the prominent ‘p’s.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

In Which I Network ... Finally

Lately I’ve decided to buck up and go to publishing networking events. I know everyone says it’s the best way to get in, but I was afraid of spending the whole evening standing like a lemon in the middle of the room alone. Now, I have a networking buddy I’m a little less daunted by the idea.[1] I’d been spending the past week readying myself for a career speed dating evening, BookMachine publishing event and alternative graduation party.[2] Then, last week I was sprung with an invitation at work experience.[3]

They sponsored Undiscovered Voices, a collection of novel beginnings written by unagented and unpublished authors and illustrators and published by the SCBWI.[4] And they had 92 agents and publishers coming along to celebrate the collection and snap up the authors. The room was jam packed with strangers’ faces, so I clung to my colleagues’ sides like a toddler about to enter the playground for the first time.

An hour in, one of them came up and asked who I’d been talking to, which was when I decided I had to up my game.[5] I strode to the food table and asked two colleagues to introduce me to the people to which they were talking. A surprise attack of the “what advice would you give someone trying to get in” and I’d been introduced to another individual who introduced me to another.[6]

An hour and a half and a couple e-mail address requests later I declared my first networking event a success! The authors had a pretty good go at it too, especially as two have already been signed by agents.

Until next time. Ttfn xx




Share


[1] Plus, I can’t chicken out if I know someone’s relying on me.
[2] Yes, those are things! See http://www.thesyp.org and http://www.bookmachine.org for details.
[3] See – it’s already worked; work experience equals more networking.
[4] The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
[5] And that I was being a wimp.
[6] If you are reading; apologies for the attack.

Monday, 9 January 2012

In Which I Go Away To Find Myself


It’s been a while since I last wrote on here, but that’s what this post is about. The reason for my absence is that I’ve been in Australia! As the end of my course approached I realised that I would soon have to face the ‘real world’ and find a job.[1] So, to prolong the inevitable I decided I would take a gap-month.[2] Thanks to my handy hording of magazines and information ‘that-could-possibly-be-useful-sometime-in-the-future’ I discovered a project in Queensland where I could look after wallabies. [3] So, thanks to my chilhood savings account, very sensibly started by my mother as soon as each of her children were born, I secured my place, searched out equipment and booked flights. The Creative Writing student would be travelling to the other side of the world to clean animal pens and feed foreign creatures.

Now, this blog is about writing, so I’ll get to that shortly. Australia has varied countryside, but my placement was in the bush. Electricity provided by large generators and the closest town had a total of four streets. I grew up visiting my grandmother in the Devon countryside, but this was truly rural. And, most importantly, technology-free.[4] What could I do in my spare time? There was no Gossip Girl or One Tree Hill. No Facebook! I brought some books with me, but the past four years of my life have seen me read very few novels other than those prescribed by my course. Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) I found myself looking forward to the hot afternoons alone so I could continue reading my books. I even borrowed some books from the family and shot through those. I loved them so much I’m currently reading the third in the series, which was released while I was away, on my Kindle.[5]

While I was reading my subconscious was working away and engaging in ‘creative mode’ once again. Ideas started forming and plots emerged. I began writing again. Not because I felt I had to, but because I wanted to. I found the ultimate removal of distractions let me start to think again. And I realised the reason I started writing in the first place. I want my writing touch people the way novels touch me. If I stop letting myself become involved in others’ work, I forget what it feels like. So now that I’m back I will try to turn off the TV once in a while, or unplug the internet. Or, like I’m doing right now, work on a library computer without my music, documents and personal distractions.

Until next time. G’day mate and goodbye xx



Share

 

[1] I’m facing it now and, trust me, it’s not pretty.
[2] Gap-month, noun: similar to the gap-year taken by young people pre- or post-degree, but lasting, as the phrase suggests, for a month.
[3] I have several hoards of this nature: further education (if I ever become crazy enough to go back), career (mainly Cosmo cut outs for work wardrobes and very old writing competitions), life (recipes and wedding articles left over from 2010’s duties as maid of honour), and of course travel (both holiday destinations and studenty tours). The only problem is I always forget when I have information so inevitably end up Googling it anyway...
[4] To me, at least – the family that ran the project had internet for the office, TV and essential kitchen items e.g. microwave, but they were generally (apart from the microwave) personal items. Also, I had a Nokia 3310 to assure loved ones I was okay, but that practically counts as negative technology.
[5] If you’re interested, the series starts with Tiger’s Curse by Coleen Houck. Sequels are Tiger’s Quest and Tiger’s Voyage. The fourth in the series is yet to be released.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

In Which I Lie In My Bed

Ever heard the phrase, ‘you’ve made your bed, now you have to lie in it’? Well, that’s me right now. I may be sitting in front of my netbook, but in the bed I made I am definitely lying. You see, I am in the throes of dissertation rush. I am also in the throes of marketing madness at work where we are about to launch a new product.

Now, the bed I am talking about is very full.[1] There are numerous things standing in the way of writing a successful dissertation:
  • Pressure at work (unfortunately timed, but not my fault)
  • A friend’s wedding (not directly my fault, but kind of; Item 0.5)[2]
  • One day a week work experience (Item 1 in my bed)
  • A very poorly planned holiday (Item 2)
  • Procrastination (Items 3, 4, 5...)
These things take up much time and mean I have very little space in which to lie. The last thing standing in my way is the main reason for this post. I decided I could have the weekend off to relax, but, low and behold, everything else got in the way. Work crept up on days I wasn’t supposed to be working, family ensued... And now I am left with even fewer days to complete a first draft of a 3,000 word essay, which I have not even started.

So, unless you want to start falling asleep in front of the telly like your parents at eight o’clock like me, cut the procrastination, lock yourself away, and work, as I will have to do for the next six (non-consecutive) days I have free before my first draft is due.

Until next time. Adieu xx

[1] i.e. I am very busy, so it’s quite difficult to lie in it.
[2] The wedding is there anyway, the fact I chose to spend the whole week at home with all its family distractions counts for the half item.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

In Which I Start Work Experience


I dedicated last summer to finding work experience in London. I designated two months to staying in my flat in Kingston and looking for work experience in publishing. I thought it would be great. I’d spend two weeks at one house, then onto the next and the next. What really happened was I sat around moaning about the heat and finally got around to apply to one publishing house, which I never heard from again.

Then I spent the last five weeks of summer at my parents’ house fulfilling maid of honour duties for a friend and I forgot all about it. When my masters’ degree began the discussion of work placements arose. I took the information they gave us, but decided I should be concentrating on my studies and needn’t worry.[1] I would be too busy working and concentrating on getting a good grade was more important.[2] The fact I picked up a charity admin volunteer role one day a week didn’t seem to come into the same category.

Midway through the term I thought I’d have another bash and apply for experience in January.[3] I believe I actually managed two applications, one in London and one where my parents live. I heard nothing from the larger house and a kind rejection from the local press in Devon. I naturally assumed it was extremely difficult to find experience and I oughtn’t to even try.[4]

On rolled Christmas, out rolled the volunteering role and in rolled a paid role.[5] Another, more powerful, excuse to ignore the absent placement students at the beginning of the second semester. The summer, I told myself. There’ll be tons of free time in the summer.

Then came summer. And the dissertation. Another excuse. May trudged by. Then, as I looked towards my imminent trip to Australia[6] a future plagued with job rejection letters loomed. If I had no experience, I would be jobless forever! Out came the netbook and in went the cover letters. I worked hard at my letters, drawing out any tit-bits of advice I’d stored in my memories. I applied regularly, ignoring my secret fears that no one would take on a work experience applicant asking for one day a week.[7]

Then a friend recommended me to a website as a proof-reader. I nervously awaited a phone call and suddenly I was an editor. A from-home role using a few hours a week, but editor nonetheless. The next day, still high from my success I received a phone call from an unknown number. I tentatively answered.[8] My application had arrived on my caller’s desk just as his colleague had said she could really do with an extra hand in the rights department.

So now I have two lots of experience on the go. I persevered even though I thought it was futile. And then there was sheer luck. I guess the moral of this story is don’t give up.

Until next time. Ttfn xx





[1] The fact I was studying Publishing in joint honours with Creative Writing meant a work placement wasn’t a requirement of the course. Something I still feel ought to be altered.
[2] The ever striving school child inside me still wins out.
[3] Inter-semester breaks are the bomb.
[4] Yes, you are right to be shocked. But, alas, these are the thoughts of the lazy student.
[5] Roly poly roly poly, up up up soon to become roly poly roly poly crash bang whallop...
[6] My defining metaphorical line between student-hood and adulthood.
[7] Give or take; I was still writing a dissertation and working one day a week.
[8] I had also just moved and was still getting phone calls from various estate agents.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

In Which I Rush a Deadline


I’ve heard that deadlines are so called because the consequence of not meeting one meant death. It’s probably a false myth, but still a pertinent analogy.[1] Faced with impending doom what would you do? Fight and use every resource to prevent it? Well done; I applaud you. You are probably one of those types that have finished the assignment before it is set. Many of us do this ourselves; fear of failure usually does it for me.[2]

The other reaction is something you might call a state of inactivity or stalling. I like to call it ‘deer-stuck-in-the-headlights-syndrome’, or ‘hedgehogging’.[3] You probably know it; a deadline is looming, you want to avoid it so you pretend it doesn’t exist, then you open your diary to enter something fun and there it is; it pops out and points a gun at you and you’re paralyzed.[4] You have to think back and figure out how this happened: you were doing other work, then it was your mum’s birthday, and of course you had that lunch date and the party you’d booked months ago. You thought you had plenty of time, but each delay ate some of that time away.

I sympathise.[5] The exact thing happened to me last week. I was having fun deciding what to buy the boyfriend for his birthday when out of my diary jumped a sniper; one week until I hand in 5,000 words for review! 5,000 words? It normally takes me twelve weeks to write that much![6] I hadn’t done any research and no words had been written. Out came the plan of action: research for three days, write for three days, revise for one. And it was time for a lesson in cramming.

I had a few rules and I stuck to them:
1.       Do not work at home: it is full of food and TV and bed.[7] Libraries have far stronger work-inducing vibes
2.       Stick to the schedule: if you’re going to read a certain textbook on Wednesday, do it on Wednesday. Changing your mind and looking for new sources wastes precious time
3.       Bring lunch, or eat on the go. Some universities have areas within the library where you can work and eat (saves money too)
4.       Have a break. I know this may seem to contradict rule 3, but moving around stops you getting bored and losing attention. Plus, ordering and drinking a coffee takes a lot less time than a sit-down meal
5.       Don’t check the word count. I know this sounds strange, but it will only stress you out if you check it every five words.[8] Restrict yourself to once an hour, or twice a day if you can manage it

I followed my rules, more or less, and achieved, if not greatness, mediocrity of acceptable draft levels. I even surprised myself by writing 2,101 words on the last day even after resigning myself to submitting a few hundred less than required. I ended up with 5,426 words. The beginning is always tough, but persevere and you could be pleasantly surprised.

Until next time. Ttfn xx




[1] Feel free to find out.
[2] I will admit I do this often; I am one of those people. Sneer if you will, but this blog is not about unhindered success. What interest is victory if there is no struggle?
[3] I just made this word up, but it is fun to say: ‘hedgehogging’. Try it.
[4] Normally accompanied by some dialogue like this: “Holy cow*! It’s a week until my assignment/presentation/wedding is due and I’ve done nothing!” and then you hide under the covers and hope the deadline erases itself from your diary. *curses removed for thinner skinned readers
[5] And hope you sympathise with me too. Family events are so time consuming.
[6] There are 12 teaching weeks each semester at Kingston.
[7] All of which can be multitasked: watch TV whilst lying in bed scoffing a tub of Oreos.
[8] It’s really, really difficult too; believe me.

Monday, 23 May 2011

In Which the Dissertation Begins


Back in January I made my final choice of dissertation, a safe five months away. Last week I was assigned a supervisor and crashed into reality. I was busy completing assignments for 45 credits of my degree when an e-mail popped into my inbox welcoming me for a meeting with my supervisor and asking for a summary of my planned work.

If you don’t already know, Kingston University’s creative writing dissertation consists of a 15,000 piece of creative writing and a 3,000 word essay. I’m not saying I can’t write that much in 5 months (watch this space), but I hadn’t realised I’d need to plan the whole thing in advance. I’m one of those writers who find out the story as she goes along (with the exception of two cases, which are still under construction)[1]. Suddenly being faced with 15,000 words of planning gave me that cold-blooded shock of adrenaline I like to narrate as ‘dawning apprehension’.[2]

Out came the unloved ‘started’ folder in my writing collection and there ensued frantic searching for some story or idea that could turn itself into a 15,000 word gem. No luck there, so I turned to my university writing folders for half-fledged stories I could continue writing into a masterpiece. All the while trying to work on my current ‘Special Study’[3] and get it up to scratch so I can offer it as a potential continuation for my real dissertation.

Eventually, after much chocolate and stress[4] I rediscovered two more pieces of work to suggest to my supervisor. Cue a quick touch-up then the meeting. I brought with me my current work, last semester’s ‘it’s-not-so-good-but-I-might-as-well-bring-it-along’ pirate story and my five-year in the making baby.[5] Shock and horror, by best piece (the current story – for seven year-olds and about an imp) was least desired by my supervisor, author of a ‘lurid vision of environmental degradation’.[6]

My baby and the pirate story were the main contenders. We considered my baby, but I was immediately torn between shaping her into a mature adult and the fact I knew I’d have to rip her apart to do it.[7] So became the ‘not-so-good-but-might-as-well-bring-it-along’ pirate story the premise for my dissertation. Apparently even intelligent literary types enjoy a good romp.

So, you should bring that wild card, submit the one that doesn’t quite satisfy your inner critic, allow the imperfect or black horse through. You might just find your imperfection is someone else’s perfection.[8] All I’ve got to do now is give it a bit of intelligence...

Until next time. Adieu xx


[1] And may have been for, oh, about two to five years (one being two, the other five – I’m not that bad at math).
[2] Or ‘it dawned on her with apprehension’, depending on word count and style. Coincidentally, I believe the shot that filmmakers use to demonstrate this feeling is called a ‘vertigo shot’. Much loved in forest scenes.
[3] A non-dissertation dissertation that likes to pretend it’s a dissertation in third year (just by another name) and then rear itself as a double-weighted module in second semester at Master’s level, which is the exact same as the first semester’s regular double-weighted module but with a fancier name.
[4] And several stressful runs (trying to beat your personal best distance is effectively motivating, but also rather stressful when you fail).
[5] See footnote 1.
[6] According to the Financial Times.
[7] Even I was aware of the plot chasms, but like any mother – oblivious to fault or guilt.
[8] I’m not saying it’s perfect – far from, but it’s a metaphor so it’s allowed.