Tuesday 28 May 2013

Clumsy Oaf Award ... would be more apt

Three cups of tea, a handful of mixed almonds, a banana and a 5am start and I *think* I may have my grateful response to the lovely, Amanda Saint’s Liebster Award. It’s taken me a short while to ponder the important things in life – milk, white or dark chocolate, she asks, is it acceptable to answer, ‘all’? - and wince at old memories but I’ve had fun. Thanks so much Amanda!

Amanda isn’t just a great fiction and copywriter but she also runs writers’ retreats, principally in the South of England. And… I think we’ve managed to persuade her to venture up to the Yorkshire Dales in 2014 – I’ll keep you posted. You can find out more about Amanda and her work here Amanda Saint  

The Liebster award asks for the answer to eleven questions, a list of eleven random facts and eleven bloggers whom I’d fervently recommend.
So, let’s go:

What do you do to relax when you suffer from insomnia?
Well, insomnia isn’t really something I know. Give me a flat surface and permission to shut my eyes and sleep will generally follow within a nanosecond or two. However, if it takes any longer than that, I deduce that I’m simply not tired enough, get up, run a bath and read a book. It’s as if someone’s given me a spare hour in the day so I have no problem with it. I do realise that this might be a bit galling for the insomniacs I know and love out there and you have my utter sympathy. Falling asleep is one of life’s simple pleasures and I cannot begin to imagine how awful it must be not to be able to sleep on demand.

What’s the worst holiday you ever had?
Hmm, I’ve had a few which could have been better in parts – usually weather and canvas related - but none that I’d like to erase from memory. The worst couple of days on holiday, however? That’s simple.  May I refer you to Plant Pots and Holiday Nightmares and the screaming two year old on a campsite with an undiagnosed dislocated elbow. Can you imagine? Not a soul got any sleep that night.

Oh, and that screaming toddler was ours.

I spent the night worrying about the reason for the screaming and worrying about being lynched by sleep-deprived holiday-makers and the next day worrying about unhappy campers realising that we were the parents of the child at the root of the sleep carnage induced the night before.

Where’s your favourite place to write?
This is simple. It’s ‘in my feet’ and I’d like to refer you to A writing Place  where I, hopefully, explain it better.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
Tofino in Canada. But I’d pick up the whole of Canada, and its wonderful people, and plop it right next to Britain because leaving friends and family is the only thing which stops me moving there tomorrow. That and a visa.

White , dark or milk chocolate?

What’s your favourite thing to have on toast?
Bananas and honey.

Which book do you wish you’d written and why?
Brave New World because the world and its obsession with technology with total disregard for human jobs (personal impact on a family aside for a moment, does anyone every think about the fact that machines can’t pay taxes?) upsets me on a daily basis. But whenever I think I should write a book about where we’re headed, I remember Mr Huxley’s beaten me to it. Meanwhile, I’m fighting my own crusade: I will not use automatic tills in shops. Nobody’s noticed, of course, but it makes me feel better.

Film adaptations of novels – love them or hate them?
Good question! I don’t rush to see a film of a book I’ve loved. In fact, I’m more likely to want to watch the adaptation of a book I haven’t enjoyed too much to see if I can find in the film version, what I missed in print. If the film is based on a favourite book of mine, I can watch but it’s with a bit of a squinty eye. Sebastian Faulks’ Bird Song is right up there in my top 10 reads, for example, but, and massive apologies to Eddie Redmayne whom I adore in other films, particularly Les Mis, was one TV adaptation I couldn’t bear. I found it turgid and one dimensional. However, The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay is my favourite book of all time and also one of my favourite films.

Do you think Al Pacino is overrated as an actor?
Overrated? Give the man a knighthood!

Coffee or tea?
Tea. Unless I’m out with friends and then it’s an extra-hot cappuccino, please.

Would you ever do a sky dive?
No! I like sport where either one foot or a wheel is touching the ground at any time. I think I’m far too accident prone to consider anything else.

11 random facts? Some you may already know…
  1. I have an inability to watch TV, drink wine or eat chocolate on my own.
  2. I like rain (sorry!) - you can get all your jobs done and write a novel, without distraction.
  3. I was reprimanded for dropping a burger from the grill in a well-known fast food eatery where I was working because I went to put it in the bin.
  4. My hair only went curly when I was 14.
  5. My Eustachian tubes are too narrow.
  6. I have three sisters, a half-sister, half-brother, three step-sisters, six nephews, five nieces and one step-niece and two daughters who yes, get a lot of birthday presents.
  7. When I was ten I broke my arm twice in five minutes.
  8. I had the most horrendous hallucinations waking up from a general anaesthetic that had me clinging on to the arm of the anaesthetist until the poor man could finally convince me that they weren’t real.
  9. I told him (the anaesthetist) I loved him but then I always fall in love with the anaesthetist when I have a GA – with varying degrees of embarrassment.
  10. I have a massive phobia of swimming in the sea. The trouble is, I only tend to remember this when I’ve already swum out a little way…
  11. Utter Clumsy Carnage
  12. I am a clumsy oaf. This month I have managed to prang my car (for which I am deeply embarrassed), drop a weight on the glass hob and smash it (for which I am deeply sorry) and spill an entire cup of tea on our beige carpet (for which I am cross as I’m sick of scrubbing at it with ‘spot’ cleaner – try ‘flood’ cleaner and I might have more success). Even chanting the no crying over spilt milk mantra does wear a little thin when the amount of milk you’ve spilt could fill a small tanker.

If you look closely, you can see two people. Neither of these is me.

Now to find 11 original questions of my own. I apologise, this is more difficult than it looks…
  1. Cheese or chocolate?
  2. If you had to go on Britain’s Got Talent, what would you do? (Apart from run away …)
  3. What’s your best childhood memory?
  4. Favourite song lyric?
  5. If you could ask one question of your great-grandmother, what would it be?
  6. Have you ever lived abroad?
  7. What’s your dream job?
  8. What job couldn’t they pay you enough money to do?
  9. If you were prime minster, what would be your first priority?
  10. Twitter or Facebook?
  11. What would your perfect day look like?

My list of eleven. Difficult as ever but I’ve decided to go for five blogs I’ve discovered over the past few months and some old favourites. Please do go and take a look, they’re worth it!

Liebster Award Rules:
  • Thank the blogger who presented you with the Liebster Award, and link back to his or her blog. 
  • Answer the 11 questions from the nominator; list 11 random facts about yourself, and create 11 questions for your nominees. 
  • Present the Liebster Award to 11 bloggers, who have blogs with 200 followers or less, whom you feel deserve to be noticed.
  • Leave a comment on the blogs letting the owners know they have been chosen. (No tag backs.)
  • Upload the Liebster Award image to your blog. 

Friday 3 May 2013

Instructions Enclosed

I’ve been away, only upstairs in my study but nonetheless, cocooned in another world, immersed in words - some my own, most those of others - on the Writers' Workshop Self-editing Course. It was sent by those writing gods in the sky via a well-placed tweet, neatly packaged up with my name all over it.

I *may* have mentioned my excitement about the fantastic feedback I had from an agent who read my latest manuscript and thus motivated me to freeze work on my second novel, Misguidance, in favour of an editing frenzy of Glass Houses. We need more of Etta, the agent told me. So, me, my notebook and a good dose of Scrivener set to work writing more scenes and extending existing ones.

What I didn’t tell you, was that I was doing it wrong. Not all of it, I’d like to point out, but Etta, my lead supporting role, poor love, she was wrong.

We don’t just want more of Etta, my insightful course tutors and writing buddies told me, we want more: more love, more heart-string-tugging, more despair. We need to be thrown deep inside, allowed to delve around, pull out her heart and examine what makes it beat. We want her on display, we need to see her, really see her.

It’s obvious now. But sometimes you have to be slapped around the face with the full force of the 380 sheets of A4 manuscript before you really see it. 

But while my brain was being washing-machined with questions, ideas and more questions, something had to give - and that was life. Together with the bills which weren’t paid and the sheets which weren’t changed, my books lay forlorn, untouched, forgotten. Instructions for a Heatwave lay open at page 58 like the sails on the Mary Celeste which is staggering for a book that, like every other of the wonderful, Maggie O’Farrell’s, in any other time of my life, would be adjudged un-put-down-able. And my towering TBR pile stood stock still, save for the odd tremor caused by the vibrations as my head beat itself against the desk on its way to my great light bulb of a moment that we’ll just call, ‘More Etta’.

Six weeks on and I have been flung out of the end of the course and told to get re-writing. Normal life is starting to seep back in. At the last count I was on page 101 of Instructions for a Heatwave and I have moved my tutor, Debi Alper’s Trading Tatiana to the top of my TBR pile; it’s the least you can do when an author changes your editing life. And as a reminder of how reading for me is one of the best and most simple of life’s many pleasures, my reviews of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows as well as The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue are available to read in Chase Magazine, page 16.

I particularly adored these books, the first a recommendation and the second, because, like many others, I was blown away by Room. It came as a surprise to me that The Sealed Letter bears little resemblance to Room, save for the distinctive author’s voice. Personally? I think it’s even better. 

And finally, while I was away I wasn't completely forgotten by the lovely and talented, Amanda Saint who nominated me for her 'Liebster' award. I was truly touched and will dedicate my next post to a response. As my commitment to Celebrating the Small Things has also been a little neglected of late, it seems fitting to dedicate my Liebster award to the Small Things – even if getting any award is slightly bigger in my world than that :)