Friday, 29 April 2016

Word of the Week - Silence

Well hello digital world! Did you miss me?

Last week I started a week of No Media - that's right, nothing, zip, nada. Now I know that some people will come out in a cold sweat at the thought and I was worried that I'd miss Twitter far too much. But I'm here to report that I survived the experience, obviously!

So why did I choose silence as my WotW? Well one of the most startling things I noticed about turning off the media was how quiet things can be in my house without the TV on all the time. I heard lots of birdsong, plenty of cars going down the road and, most importantly, I could hear my own thoughts. I didn't really think about how intrusive the TV is in my life. I tend to have it on all the time as a background noise to my life. That was just the way it was; enter a room, turn the TV on. So a week with very limited TV viewing was always going to test my resolve.

However, it was really wonderful. The first couple of days I had to remind myself not to turn it on as I walked into the lounge but now it's almost second nature. In fact I turned it off when I'd watched the news headlines this morning! So maybe I've broken that habit? Who knows.

Back to the silence. The sound of nothing takes some getting used to if, like me, you're used to always having sound around you. Some sounds that were muffled by it are striking in their volume - I never realised how may cars go up and down the road all day. The best part for me has been the freeing of my mind from distraction. It hadn't occured to me that with all the sounds around me that I was failing to listen to myself. At the risk of sounding all New Age Hippy I really tuned into my own mind. I decided to keep a journal of the week so I could blog about how it was accurately. I have never been much of a diary keeper, apart from a spell as a teenager when I wrote an embarrassing catalogue of moony diary posts about a selection of boys I fancied. Before you ask, no, it doesn't still exist so you can't read it! This past week has been a revelation in that respect. I really enjoyed writing journal entries about all sorts of things that were running through my head. So much so that I've decided to keep going with it, turning it into a general journal/writers notebook, somewhere to record and store all the things in my head.

Silence has been liberating and I hope that I can keep enjoying it by not turning the TV on at every opportunity. Let's hope I can continue to be selective about what I watch so I can enjoy the programmes and the silence more. 

Friday, 22 April 2016

Word of the Week - Anticipation

As anyone who follows my blog regularly will know (hello! *waves madly*) I've decided to take a media break. A whole 7 days without any media in my life, or very little anyway. Needless to say I've been full of anticipation about this, both in a good way and a not so good way.

I know I can last a week without Twitter and Facebook, I do it every time I go on holiday. I don't use my phone for social media and hardly look at it most of the time anyway so I have experience of being Twitter-free. It's not really that scary after all but as I'm at home for this week I may find it harder. The laptop is just sitting there after all and how bad would it be to switch it on for a moment?  But I'm determined to manage - my son will keep me on track I'm sure, he loves any excuse to boss me about!

I'm more concerned about the no reading clause. I've always got a book on the go and I love losing myself in to a story so I think this may prove to be harder. I finished my book on Wednesday and it felt odd not to start a new one straight away. I may allow myself a little browse to choose the next book; how indulgent to have a whole week to pick a book!

So it's with a sense of anticipation that I enter my week of media free life. Next week's WotW may reflect what has happened to me during it ...   

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Media Blackout

I've decided to join Becky Smith this week and do a media blackout. She blogged about a previous experience of going media free and how empowering she found it to unlock her creativity without distractions You can read what she has to say over at

I know I can manage a week without social media and email, I do it ever time I go on holiday. In fact last year my phone stayed in airplane mode and never came out of my bag! I guess I'm luckier than most in that I don't use my phone for email and social media. It's not buzzing away beside me to remind me of incoming messages and I certainly don't check it obsessively ever few minutes like some young folk seem to. Also the fact that I don't go out to work is a help - no work emails to check, no Internet that I can't avoid. However, being at home all day gives me far too many opportunities to waste time watching day time TV (yes, I'm looking at you Jeremy Kyle!)

So I need to establish my own ground rules. After all I still have to function in my family while doing this.
  • No social media. So no Twitter, no Facebook at all. Not even a tiny, sneaky peek!
  • No obsessive checking of email. So I don't miss anything important I will check email once a day and respond to anything urgent or important.
  • No TV during the day. As a member of a family I can't dictate what everyone else watches so I will watch the news and weather which my husband likes to see; I will watch Masterchef with my son as we're a bit obsessed by it and we've watched the series so far. Apart from that I will do my best to avoid the TV and all the rubbish that I get sucked into.
  • I will listen to Radio 4 in the morning because it is our alarm clock. I will not substitute obsessive TV watching for obsessive radio listening.
  • I won't read magazines or newspapers. I may allow myself to do the crossword but I'm going to try to avoid that too.
  • I won't read any fiction or non fiction. I hope to have finished my current book by Friday but I won't start a new one until the media blackout is over. 
So there you have it, my week of switching off and engaging with life. Assuming I make it to the other side I'll blog about my experiences when it's over. I think I may need to start a diary/journal about how it goes - time to break out another notebook I think.

So from Friday 9am until bedtime on Thursday I will be away from the media and hopefully more gainfully employed - or I may be tearing my hair out and crying for my Jeremy Kyle fix! 

Monday, 18 April 2016

Book Review - The Forgotten and The Fantastical 2

I found this book though an online friendship with a bunch of lovely writerly women including Teika Bellamy the editor of this book and driving force behind Mother's Milk Books. My one regret is that I didn't find this publisher earlier as I've missed the chance to read volume 1 (it's all sold out.)

This collection of fairy tales retold is truely wonderful and inspiring. The reimagining of traditional fairy tales is a device that I hadn't thought of until I read this book but having devoured it in a single day I was left wondering what I'd do to write something similar.

Most of the fairy tales in the book are familiar ones from childhood but there were some new ones to me including the story of Seal Women and the Lambton Worm. It was really empowering to read about so many strong, resourceful women in the collection, mostly written by strong, empowered women too. The illustrations by Emma Howitt at the beginning of each tale are lovely - my favourite is the holly crown at the beginning of Solstice.

Rumplestiltskin makes a couple of appearances, in Trash Into Cash by Becky Tipper and Rumplestiltskin by Rebecca Ann Smith. I loved Rebecca's take on creativity and female empwerment in her story. I enjoyed the modern setting in Becky's version and how the bond between a mother and child can heal all ills.

Lindsey Watkins tells a bleak and harrowing version of Hansel and Gretel; Ana Salote made me smile with her tale of two intertwined fairy tales; Jane Wright made me weep in Fox Fires with a lovely tale of love, loss and hope; Laura Kayne gave Snow White and the Wicked Stepmother real depth; Marija Smits made me think about the nature of humanity; and Ronne Randall scared me with a dark tale of motherhood and enduring love. 

I can only recommend this collection whole heartedly. The writing is excellent and the retelling of traditional fairy tales proved to be thought provoking and uplifting in equal measure.

Friday, 15 April 2016

The Prompt - Jump

I return once again to my college years. So many of my strongest memories seem to flow from those 4 years, so allow me to indulge myself once more as I take you back to the mid 1970s...

Film club films were a real mixed bunch. Some blockbusters, some art house, some foreign with subtitles.
But the best, the biggest, the baddest film they ever showed was The Rocky Horror Picture Show. To say my world was rocked is an understatement, I was completely blown away by it. I had a proper crush on Tim Curry for years after seeing him in corset and suspenders.

I saw the film on every possible occasion after that and really got into the spirit of the film - taking a water pistol to spray around when Brad and Janet get caught in the rain, holding up my lighter when they sing There's a Light. I didn't go as far as dressing up - too shy back then, I so would now! - but I did rock the whole Glam Rock eye make up once or twice.   

I still love it now and will sing loudly and quote the dialogue, much to the horror of anyone sitting on the sofa next to me. There's a part of me that would love to be caught in a rainstorm and stumble into the mad world of Frank-N-Furter, Riff Raff and Magenta.

So when I saw that the prompt this week was 'Jump' there was just one song that sprang to mind...

It's just a jump to the left.
And then a step to the right.
With your hands on your hips.
You bring your knees in tight.
But it's the pelvic thrust
They really drive you insane.
Let's do the Time Warp again.

Friday, 8 April 2016

The Prompt - Broken

Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?
On and on and on
Like a broken record.

Why did I listen to you?
Why did I jump from so high?
The plaster cast itches
On my broken arm.

What did I do?
Why am I not enough?
How can you leave me
With a broken heart?

Why did it finish so suddenly?
Did you anything you said?
Serves me right for trusting
Your broken promises.

Why do words hurt so badly?
How will I ever survive?
Down trodden, forgotten, alone,
My broken spirit aches each day.

Phoenix like I will rise,
Stronger, smarter, wiser.
You will never break me.
I am the woman
Who broke back.

Teeth Gnashing, Hair Tearing, Table Thumping ...

Oh for goodness sake!

Planning? Check.
Time set aside to write? Check.
NaNo Camp in place? Check.
Laptop plugged in? Check.
Writing progress? Now don't ask, just don't ...

I'm in a frustrating place right now. There is nothing to stop me getting on and writing this blooming book, nothing at all. So why is it proving to be so hard?

I've written the opening scene and I hate it. It's not well written, it's stilted, it's just so awful. I know that the process of getting on and writing is the important thing but the words are being so difficult. Everything I wrote seems to be forced, unnatural and not really 'me'. I know that all this can be fixed in the editing but the way I feel at the moment it will all be edited away and I'll be left with a flashing cursor and a blank page!

Nobody told me it would be this tough. Having overcome my reticence and announced to the world that I'm a writer I now find I'm struggling to write! How ironic. I guess this is a regular feature of writing but it's frustrating the heck out of me!

I lay in bed last night wondering what I could do about it and I've decided that I'm going to change the format of the book. It's not working as it is so it needs to change. Thankfully I'm not too far into the darn thing but it is annoying that I hadn't thought out the format before I started. That's a lesson learned for next time - Oh God, does there have to be a next time?!?

So consider me frustrated, annoyed and wiser. Nothing about this writing a book lark is turning out to be how I imagined it. Guess that means I'm a proper writer, eh?

Friday, 1 April 2016

The Prompt - Renewal

Imagine it's the mid 1970s. Glam rock is making way for Two Tone and Punk, platform shoes and Oxford Bags are still in and I'm still rocking leg warmers and clogs. College life is good and we're coming to the end of a drama module on European theatre.

One group has studied Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco, a wonderful romp through the Theatre of the Absurd which involved them pretending to be rhinoceros' and knocking scenery over (that was unplanned to be honest but worked in the context of the play). Another group took on Six Characters in Search of an Author by Pirandello, a play which looked at the reality of characters created by writers (spooky given I'm about to start creating some). My group studied The Insect Play by the Capek brothers which looked at life in Czechoslovakia between the wars. A cheery play as you can imagine!

Everyone was given a part and I rather fancied being the butterfly, a vain and flighty character with, in my mind, some great opportunities to dress up flamboyantly. But the drama gods were no kind and I was cast as the chrysalis.

Now things didn't work out quite how I'd imagined. For a costume I was given a green sleeping bag with brown blotched painted on it, this was my 'shell'. I had to lie on the stage, fully zipped until only my face was on show. I had some lovely green face paint on which added to the attractive effect. I can't say I felt glamorous as I sweated in a sleeping bag on the stage as my green face slowly drizzled down onto the edge of the nylon, quilted sleeping bag.

My lines were all about the momentous thing that was about to happen to me - I was to turn into a moth - and what a glorious new day was about to dawn - see where I'm going with this? I didn't feel particularly glorious and any sense of renewal was lost on me at that moment as I melted under the stage lights. I looked on with envy at my fellow students as they enjoyed being beetles and butterflies, stomping or flitting across the stage as I lolled on the floor being the best darn chrysalis the college had ever seen.

Eventually of course I was  reborn (unzipped) and I struggled out of my sweaty cocoon to emerge as a moth, the process of renewal complete. I'm no expert but I doubt the first words out of a moth's mouth (do they have mouths?) when they are reborn are 'Bloody hell that was hot!' but it was the only laugh the whole play raised! I forget what we were all supposed to learn from the play, something about the march of the mechanised society I think but I certainly learned a few things.

I learned that it's tough being a chrysalis.
I learned that I'm a rubbish actor and my ad libs are the best part of my performance - ask me about my Oedipus Rex!
And I learned that it's hard work renewing yourself, even if only for one night.

I know that compared to the lovely inspiring things I'll read through this link my post is a bit trivial. However as April begins and I start to write my first full length, properly planned book I feel that I am undergoing a personal renewal as a writer, something I've long wanted to be/do. It's not as sweaty as being a chrysalis but I hope it turns out to be as transformative as the change from chrysalis to moth.