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Sunday, 19 October 2014

Almost there?

It has been a slightly more productive week on the writing front, thank goodness. I skived off for lunch out with some ex-teaching colleagues on Wednesday, had to have a filling at the dentist on Tuesday and did some manic kitchen cleaning on Thursday in preparation for my aunt's visit in a week's time.

I started a new story with Woman's Weekly in mind, tweaked another one and entered it in The Word Hut Competition. I was also shortlisted in last week's Write Invite, but the results still aren't out, so I'm still crossing my fingers for a win (the story was inspired by the funeral I attended last Friday). Yesterday I did Write Invite again and I'm quite pleased with the story, which is a bit womaggy and so another potential submission.

Since I started regularly submitting to the womags again in early September, the first rejection has come in. It was from Alison Cook at The People's Friend. This is one market I haven't yet managed to crack. Alison emailed me to say:

Many thanks for sending us your short story “The Blacksmith’s Apprentice.” We are always pleased to receive new submissions for consideration and although this isn’t one for us, we feel that your writing shows a great deal of promise and I’d like to explain more about this story and why it didn’t quite make the grade.

The storyline is pleasant but it’s too predictable. Also, the style of writing makes it a story which lacks warmth and emotion. The reader needs to feel involvement in the characters’ emotions throughout – they are merely told the story from a rather distant viewpoint.

I’m sorry that this isn’t one for us, Jo, but we would very much like to encourage you to send us fiction, period and modern, in the near future and would be delighted to hear from you again.

'Lacks warmth and emotion' hurt a little, but I am renowned for my gritty, edgy style of writing, which does well in competitions, but obviously isn't for the womags. I thought I'd injected a fair bit of emotion and warmth, but obviously not enough. I didn't think the viewpoint was distant, but I must look at the story again to check. As for predictable..... yes, well.....  I'm very encouraged by this rejection and have been re-reading my recent copies of The People's Friend in an attempt to get into their mindset. I want to fire one back out to them this week, if I can.

I should maybe change my usual reading matter for a while, if I'm going to channel The People's Friend readers. I'm currently reading Long Way Home, a crime novel by Eva Dolan, whom I was lucky enough to meet and chat to at the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate this year. The novel sees DI Zigic and DS Ferreira called in to investigate a hate crime in the Peterborough area. The victim is a migrant worker, and both a far-right arsonist and a slum landlord soon come into the mix as suspects. Do you see what I mean? Hardly The People's Friend! I shall choose my next book very carefully.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Call Myself A Writer?

It has been a difficult week and I've hardly done any writing. I am so easily distracted by life and events that I get really cross with myself. I have very little self-discipline these days.

On Monday my husband had the day off and took me out for a pub lunch. I had wine. When we got back, we watched TV for the rest of the afternoon. So lazy!

On Tuesday I did a longish bike ride, then called on my ex-mother-in-law for a coffee and a chat. Then I had to make a trip to the florists to pay the bill and take in the cards for the family flowers ready for the funeral on Friday. In the afternoon I read several short stories and threw a tantrum when the bathroom fitter shouted, 'See you tomorrow!'. I had hoped he'd have finished so that I could get on with the big clearing up operation. I sulked, listened to some new CDs and drank wine. Oh dear.

On Wednesday I managed another bike ride. The bathroom fitter was late arriving, as his van broke down. I decided to start blitzing the kids' bedrooms and accomplished a massive amount. I managed to throw about 8 bags of rubbish into the skip and fill 6 ready for the charity shop. The bathroom was finally finished, so a cause for celebration. I didn't achieve anything vaguely writerly unless you count checking the Write Invite email to see my story 'came close' in last Saturday's competition. At least Nancy won Great British Bake Off.

The day got off to a bad start when I noticed my bike had a puncture. Not to be deterred, I took Megan's bike out, but my knees were up by my chin somewhere and it was too uncomfortable to ride further than round the block. I felt emotionally wobbly all day and burst into tears when my usual charity shop said they weren't taking any more donations for the time being. Thankfully, the lady in the Oxfam shop was incredibly grateful for the 6 bags of items from Megan's room. I then went to The Range to stock up on new bathroom accessories. At least that was the idea. They had very little in stock and I ended up with just a new bath mat and a new wine glass. I then forced myself to type up an old Write Invite entry with a view to tweaking it for one of the womags, except I didn't actually get round to the tweaking bit (call myself a writer!!). Nige and I managed to lug the solid pine chest of drawers down the stairs from Megan's room for the people who were collecting it. Isn't freecycle a wonderful thing? Nige attempted to mend my puncture.

So... Friday and the day of my ex-father-in-law, Ralph's funeral. Nige's puncture repair hadn't worked, but he did raise the seat on Megan's bike so that I was at least able to go for a therapeutic bike ride before getting ready for the funeral. I was very proud of my son who performed a couple of songs on his acoustic guitar as a tribute to his grandad. My nephew, Ryan read the most beautiful and fitting tribute entitled, Such a Lovely Man. It was so well written. Perfect. Lovely as it was to see family and friends, it was a very sad day (made me miss my late husband so much) and when I returned home from the wake, I was fit for nothing.

I did enter Write Invite last night, but wasn't feeling the love. I wasn't at all happy with my story, but I guess it can be reworked at a later date. That's what I love about Write Invite. It forces you to write for half an hour even if you're not remotely in the mood.

So..... onwards and upwards. I really need to get more writing done this week and tackle that mountain of housework.


Sunday, 5 October 2014

Sadness and Joy


It’s been a very busy week. You may remember in my last post I mentioned my late husband’s father, Ralph was very ill? Unfortunately, he passed away last Saturday evening. His family were with him at the end. I was able to say goodbye to him when I visited on Saturday afternoon and helped make him comfortable by giving him sips of tea, adjusting his pillow etc. The funeral is next Friday.

So.... I’ve spent a fair bit of time this week discussing funeral arrangements and running little errands for the family while my ex-sister-in-law was at work. I also had to take my mother-in-law to the hospital to register the death. A great new pilot scheme is in operation there where the registrar comes in to the hospital once a week so that relatives don’t have to go elsewhere. I even found out that registrars use ink specially made for the Registry Office. There’s possibly a good story there.

Our downstairs bathroom still isn’t finished and there’s dust everywhere! The workman has been cutting the tiles in the room itself, so it’s gone all through the house. I am resisting doing the housework until he’s finished. Again, it’s not very conducive to writing, as my office is right next door! However, I have achieved a few writerly things this week. I submitted two Flash pieces to Flash 500 on Tuesday and sent off an entry to the Henshaw Prize. These were older pieces that needed work, so a fair bit of tweaking took place at the eleventh hour on Tuesday. I managed to submit a story to Take A Break Fiction Feast on Thursday. I haven’t had any success with them for a long time, so fingers crossed. Again, it was a story that has been out before, but needed work. I like to think I’ve improved it now. I also submitted two pieces to Firewords for their autumn themed third issue. I don’t hold out much hope, as I think the pieces may be a little too ‘distasteful’ for their tastes. 

I think the highlight of my week was going to see Andy Kershaw at the Bridge Theatre in Warwick. My friend, Sarah, treated me to the ticket as a belated birthday present and even volunteered to drive. We had a fantastic night. I first came across Andy when he was the Ents Sec at Leeds University. I was a First Year Student and he gave us all a talk about how brilliant the Ents Soc was and how we should join. If only I had! During the 70s and 80s Leeds Uni Ents Soc booked some of the best bands in the world, including The Who (Live at Leeds), The Rolling Stones, The Pink Floyd, U2, The Clash, and Ian Drury and the Blockheads). I was lucky enough to see a few famous bands in the refectory at Leeds, including The Boomtown Rats, featuring Bob Geldof with his flies undone throughout the first half of the set. Andy was asked by Harvey Goldsmith, no less, to organise the UK concert for the Rolling Stones ‘come back’ tour in 1982 at Roundhay Park, Leeds. He wanted Andy and his stage crew, made up of Leeds Uni students, to be involved. The stage was the biggest ever built for a rock concert in the world at the time. You have to read Andy’s autobiography No Off Switch for the full account of this particular adventure. I just want to say, ‘I was there!’. I actually went on my own and at the age of just nineteen, it was a very heady experience and the biggest concert I’d ever been to. How I didn’t get lost, I don’t know. I just remember having to walk miles to find my car at the end of the gig.



Andy brought his gorgeous Schnauzer dog, Buster onto the stage with him. Buster roamed around the audience for treats and took the odd nap throughout the evening. Andy, too, did a fair bit of roaming around the stage, never keeping still for a second and taking time out only to sip from a bottle of Coke or tear off a piece of loo roll on which to blow his nose. Classy. Or should I say ‘rock n’ roll’?

I must say Andy was thoroughly entertaining. He’s a great raconteur and some of my favourite bits were when he talked about sharing an office with Radio 1 producer John Walters and DJ John Peel. He said they were ‘a radio station within a radio station’. His impressions of the great John Walters were brilliant and I wish the two Johns were still alive to regale us with stories in a similar manner on an arts centre stage in the middle of Warwickshire.

The wow factor of this show for me was the music. Andy chose some of his all time favourite songs (including those he wishes he’d have chosen for his Desert Island Discs) and with the aid of Richard, the technician, blasted them out for the audience’s enjoyment. Did you know Chuck Berry wrote Promised Land in prison? He asked the guards for a map of the Southern States of the USA, chose a route and wrote about it. Andy recited all the lyrics to the song before playing it to us. Certainly had my foot tapping and it was joyous. Oh, and Andy pointed out that Chuck Berry is a despicable man, but can write great songs. I was also blown away by James Carr’s voice. He was a little known soul singer (considered to be better than Otis Redding) who made a few records in the 1960s, but died destitute. Very sad. 

Andy Kershaw truly does have ‘No Off Switch’ and the show overran by an hour! He was still good enough to sign everyone’s books at the end, despite the fact he had to drive all the way down to Portsmouth afterwards. If you get chance to see him at a venue near you, I highly recommend the show.