Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Granny complex

It seems I have an affinity with old folk. In a rejection from a magazine yesterday, I was told that I "write well for a mature audience." My theme was a little familiar, but they'd like to see more of my writing.

When the initial glow wore off, I felt a bit miffed. I mean, for heaven's sake. My writing appeals to Elderlies. I'd guessed this already to a certain extent as I have a story with Yours magazine, awaiting publication. And thrilled to bits I am too!! (In the unlikely event the editor's reading this.)

Then I realised that there is a theme in my writing. My First-Ever Novel involved a mad, ageing mother-in-law and hi-jinks in an old folks home. My current one features a funny grandma. I've also written stories over the years about winsome children reaching out to grumpy grandparents, and elderly folk having a final shot at Happiness. Hmmmmmmm. (Strokes chin thoughtfully.) What's going on here? Admittedly, I was closer to my grandma than anyone else, growing up. I also used to run errands for the old lady who lived round the corner. Old people liked me, goddammit. People used to say things like, "ooh, she's got an old head on young shoulders has that one," about me, and to this day I clean one morning a week for my friend's elderly mum. I even like Werther's Originals.

This is such a depressing realisation. There's me, thinking I'm firmly in touch with my inner sex kitten/domestic goddess/music guru/teenager/yummmy mummy, when in fact I'm channelling a bloody pensioner.

It's not fair.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Eliminate the negative?

I was having a declutter today, with a view to moving Stuff back into the room with the shiny new floorboards and almost completed fireplace. I didn't mean to. I was searching for an orthodontic appointment letter and got carried away.

In the midst of a ton of paperwork I came across some rejection letters from my First-Ever Novel. Curious, I read through them thinking, bloody hell, I don't even remember some of these. They were oddly positive. One agent wrote a good two pages suggesting possible changes and suggested I re-submit when I'd done them. Trouble was, at the time (nearly five years ago) all I saw in those letters was Get Lost, You're Not Good Enough. I wasn't experienced enough to know that receiving anything but a standard reply-slip from an agent was a Good Thing. I simply thought bloody charming that is, had a cry, went all negative, deleted (yes, deleted) the manuscript from my PC, stuck the letters in a drawer and didn't do much else for a while.

Honest to god! I could kick myself in the teeth. What was I (not)thinking?? It also struck me like a boxing glove that those agents/publishers thought I was on to 'something' and, try as I have since then, it's a something I can't seem to replicate. What was it? I enjoyed writing it, that's for sure. I also wrote it at the speed of light because I stupidly sent out the first three chapters before I'd written the rest and got 2 requests for the full ms. I didn't even edit the damn thing.

There's a lesson in there somewhere. I didn't find what I was looking for, but I found something.

I'm hoping someone can tell me what it was.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Out in the Sticks

No car today. That's okay, I thought. I'll get bus to work. Bus service not running during week any more. Live out in sticks. 'S'alright, I thought. I'll walk.

Set off at brisk pace. Lots of up-and-downy, winding roads. No pavements. Teeming with boy-racers. (Note to self: will adhere rigidly to 30ph limit in future). Start panting.

Half hour in. Thought I'd be there by now. Only takes ten minutes in car. Can feel blisters hatching. Face takes on unattractive sheen. Cheeks glowing like beacons. Lorry full of builder-types pass shouting 'Oy-oy!' Give me lift, I plead silently. Won't mention bum-cracks and Language.

Have to keep weaving to avoid being flung in ditch.

An hour in, try to phone ahead. No signal. Live in sticks. Try to phone taxi. No signal. Live in sticks. Plod on. Consider hitchhiking in seventies-retro style - tugging skirt up, revealing toned, tanned leg. Reconsider. Legs not tanned or toned. Plus, wearing trousers. Also, Psycho Jim probably choose today for killing spree. Feel blisters burst. Tearful.

Ten minutes later. Will anyone take pity on me? Respectable looking lady. Got my cardi on. Try appealing to drivers with eyes. Sweaty, shiny look probably not respectable. Reach Golf Club. Why aren't I there yet? Sodding miles to go. Got phone signal at last. Give in. Ring taxi. Only got £4 in purse, costs £4.40. Nice lady driver senses pain. Lets me off.

Stumble into library, wild of hair and eye. Only several hours late. Ready for cup of tea and lie-down, but have to do work. Colleagues take mickey. Bloody cheek of it. Nice colleague offers lift home. Normally polite, say no don't worry. This time, fell on her weeping with gratitude. Will not be walking Molly-dog far today.

Will not be walking to work ever again.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Teething troubles

It's safe to say that, so far, the new library system has gone down like a lead balloon.
Actually, it's not safe to say. The Powers That Be would be very angry if they knew I was dissing it. Weirdly, I was very positive initially. Apart from the demise of the date-stamp of course. I could see how the catalogue was going to look better (like Amazon) and that sending emails to let customers know their books were in, and being able to easily re-new and make reservations online at home was a great idea.

And it is. In theory. In an office, or in the computer-based Study Centre upstairs, the new system is Grand. Trouble is, a large portion of our customers are elderly and don't have a computer. They don't like the new receipt system. I'm not being ageist. I know lots of elderlies CAN work computers perfectly well -I'm just relating my experience on Saturday.

Customers couldn't understand why we had to change things. They got cross. The system seems much slower than before. We have to keep staring at the screen, and waiting and pressing buttons. Someone shouted at us. We got hot and bothered and had to take our cardigans off. A customer asked why we'd spent thousands of pounds of tax-payers money unnecessarily, then got fed-up half-way through the explanation and walked out. Somebody asked why we were producing more bits of paper when there's a worldwide hoo-ha about recycling. I found myself sympathising and got told off. Like a schoolgirl slagging off a new teacher. 'You haven't given it a chance!' Sigh.

We will get used to it. We'll have to. And so will the customers. But right now, things are a Little Bit Awkward at the library.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Has anybody else joined HarperCollins' new community for readers, writers and publishers? They're not fully launched yet, but if you signed up to their newsletter months ago you'll have received a Special Invitation today. The idea is to set up your profile, build a page for your manuscript or book, and start showcasing your work. You get to read other members' chapters online and leave your opinion, search out the best of the books on the site and use space on your personal 'bookshelf' to tip them for success. The idea is that writers should be judged on the quality of the work they produce, not on their ability to pitch, market or publicise themselves and that personal recommendations are the most effective way of building support for a book.

It sounds interesting, and a good way to get your novel noticed by a reputable publisher, but in the blog section comments Lee makes a good point when he says :-

"...long-term I'm not sure whether this sort of approach to crticism and editing is truly helpful, unless the writer is appealing to mass taste.

If your work isn't published conventionally, most people seem to think it's a work-in-progress - and that they know how to fix it. I'm rather skeptical about the criticism of those who are 'writers first, readers second' - the sort of thing you're likely to find at such sites. Everyone is looking to make themselves feel better about their own work..."

There were plenty of follow-up comments along the lines of, yes, but at least it's another chance to get noticed, and an opportunity to see what the other unpublished writers are doing.

There's a good section on copywriting your work and overall it sounds rather interesting, but I wonder what everyone else thinks? Waste of time? Good Idea? Couldn't care less? I'd rather take the conventional route to publication?

I don't like to have thoughts on my own, damn you! I need Feedback.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Busy, busy

It's funny how, now I'm working overtime at the library, as well as doing my weekly book review and writing a story a fortnight for my other blog -set up by the lovely Calistro - I'm actually doing more writing than when I had less to do. If that makes sense, which it doesn't. Actually, it does. If that makes sense. Which it doesn't. Etc.

When I have lots of time to write, I seem to fill it with fluff. Washing, faffing, baking, gardening, cleaning fluff. Expecially cleaning fluff. Literally. There's tons of the stuff. I blame Molly. She sheds fur like we need it to live on.

I suppose having less time focuses the mind. I've had two more novel ideas for a start, this week. One is another romantic comedy and the other a psychological thriller, and I've made a start on both while they were fresh in my mind. I miss writing when I'm at work and figure if I don't make time, I'll never get anything finished. Dur - as the Teens would say. When I have time I always think, well there's plenty of it - I'll start writing as soon as I've finished...fluff cleaning. Except I don't, always.

What's that saying? If you want something doing, ask a busy person. Or in my case - if you want me to write a novel, give me a full-time job. Not that I'd take it. I'm too busy writing.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

RIP datestamp

Yesterday was the last day we shall ever use the datestamp in the library. Oh little datestamp, how I love thee. T'is the end of an era. I tried to save you, my friend.

"What will we do if the Brand New System goes off-line?" I said.
"It won't," they said. (Yeah, right).
"There might be a power-cut," I said.
"We'll write it down," they said. Quite heartlessly, I thought.
"We can put one in a drawer," I said. "Just in case."
"We'll be chucking them away," they said. With a hint of glee.

So, it's with a heavy heart little datestamp, that I bid you farewell. You gave me minutes of innocent fun. I enjoyed smashing your little head down. Especially when I was in a Mood. No offence.


Friday, May 9, 2008

Desert Island doings

"Our last phone call and you've renewed your
subscription to a writing magazine?"

The Terrifyingly Talented Tommo has tagged me for a Desert Island Discs-type extravaganza. Which is nice. Especially as the sun has disappeared this morning, so here goes...

"So my lovely castaways, as a treat YOU are being sent to that Desert Island. (An exciting prospect yes! or maybe no!) To add a quirky twist to the journey, before you leave you're going to be granted a final three course dinner to include drinks of your choice to be cooked by a world class chef.

So tell me what you want to have for your:

1. First course
I don't do first courses. They fill me up and leave me no room for pudding
2. Main Course Spam, cheesey mash and baked beans (no-one said it had to be classy)
3. Sweet Sticky-toffee pudding with custard (mmmmmmmmmmm...)
4. Drink Tonic water with a little bit of ice and lemon (bit 1970s, but I like it)

Whilst your dinner is being carefully prepared, all you now have to do is sit back in your comfy chair with your pre-dinner drink and chose the items you are going to take with you to the desert island:

1. One piece of music/song. I Can See Clearly Now by Johnny Nash (always cheers me up)
2. One book. Adrian Mole - he makes me laugh
3. One luxury item. A bed. Can't be doing with all that sand in m'pants.

Right...I'd better pack my bags go to work.

What would yours be? I won't tag anyone, but feel free to let me know down below.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I AM a writer, goddammit!

Now that things are back on track in the DIY department (thank you for asking) it's time to get back to the important stuff. Having barely touched a keyboard in three days, I realised how much I missed writing. Typing? Whatever. Maybe I really am a writer after all, I thought and promptly came up with the following list. Well, not promptly. I had some serious cake-eating to catch up on, plus half a day's work at the library and some blog visits, but THEN I came up with the list.

You know you're a writer, when...

you see a story in every situation - even cleaning up dog poo (or draining radiators)

you're still in your jim-jams when the children are due home from school

your Google searches include words like 'how to join the circus' and 'arable farming'

you dream about writing

you check film credits to see who the writer was

you devour 'how-to-write' books like they're about to be banned

you always see the 'angle' in family dramas

in conversation, you swap adjectives for ones that sound more meaningful (ooh, look at those clouds...they're so fluffy, er, I mean, they look like balls of cotton wool scudding across a picture perfect sky..)

you call your husband 'Jed' by mistake. Jed's the central character in your novel (not mine, I hasten to add. I would never call a character Jed)

you automatically tune in to media news of lucky bitches ladies landing book deals

your catch-phrase is 'I must write that down'

you can't stop reading blogs by other writers (and feeling jealous that they're far more talented than you are)

you're deaf to children pleading with you to Get The Dinner On

you come over all peculiar at the sight of a lovely notebook

the sight of your favourite writing magazine snaps you out of a foul mood

you mentally edit and correct everything you read

the children think you love the computer more than them

you can't imagine not doing it. Which is the most important one, of course.

I'm sure there are many more, but I really MUST go and get the dinner on now.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

I may be some time...

Deep in DIY mayhem. Sanding, painting and plastering like decorating drone. Tearing hair out, optional. No time for anything else. Not even cake.

If I'm not back soon, send search party...


Update - radiator has sprung several leaks. It's officially Not Going Well.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Title role

Every now and then I dream up what I imagine will be a SUPER title for a novel or short story, and write it down in a lovely notebook. It tends to happen after I've popped a paracetamol, oddly enough. For a headache or a cold. Or, if I have the remnants of a song swishing about in my brain. Which could explain things.

I was skimming through said notebook earlier, looking for the number of a handy-man (it's not all observations and whimsy you know. Sometimes I write shopping lists), and on various pages came across the following ...

Poss. novel title -

Marmalade Days
Whistling for Lettuce (??)
Elephant Moon
Truth for the Jellyfish
Radio Happy (ahem)
Harriet Gets a Life
Glitterballs and Gladrags (hangs head in shame)

Good SS Title (Short Story, not German combat unit)

Under the Gumbo Tree
Office Politics
Old Faithful
End of Season
Hats off to Harry
Over the Rainbow
Silly Season

As far as I know I haven't used any of them myself so, please. Feel free to help yourself...