Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The power of words

I'm ashamed to say I'd never heard of Dina Rabinovitch until I read the news of her death on someone else's blog earlier today. I followed the link they posted to The Guardian where Dina wrote a column about her battle with breast cancer.

Deeply moved by the first column I read, I went back and read through the archives. By the time I'd finished reading I felt shellshocked and heart-broken. I felt like I had to do something so I donated some money to the cause Dina was raising money for. It feels like such a small, empty gesture and, like so many things you do after someone has died, it felt like it came too late but I hope it will go some way towards the £100,000 Dina was trying to raise for clinical trials into breast cancer.

It is Dina's legacy that her story, and her words, were so powerful they inspired a total stranger to try and help, even after her death.

You can read Dina's story here:

and donate here:

Thank you to the blogger who posted about Dina. Maybe if we all blog about this, if we all raise awareness in the blogging community, maybe that £100,000 total can be reached, or exceeded. If enough money is raised maybe the clinical trials that Dina cared so desperately about can prevent other women from dying of this terrible disease.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I'm back!

What do you get if you cross a musty-smelling 60s style chalet (complete with matching 60s crockery) on the Isle of Wight with a sunny/windy/rainy week in October?

A damned good holiday that's what*

And I really, really, really didn't want to come back to real life. My week was a mixture of luxurious slovenliness (sofa+ chocolate + dvd player + loads of great TV shows (The 4400 and Jericho) and lots of films = bliss) and day trips to the seaside, the pier, the amusement arcades, the zoo, the bowling alley, cafes with sea views and the occasional trip to the pub.

I promised myself I wouldn't do any writing or editing and I didn't. Unfortunately the books I lugged all the way there...and all the way back... remained unread too but I don't feel too guilty. I just wanted to do what I wanted, when I wanted, for a whole week. And I did! My b'day was lovely - a trip to the Isle of Wight Zoo in the afternoon and to the cinema to see Stardust in the evening. Can't recommend the film enough. If you loved films like Labyrinth and The Never Ending Story when you were a kid you'll love Stardust. And you can take your kids to see it too ;o)

Now it's back to work, back on with the writing and editing and I've also got a ton of websites to design for friends. So busy, busy, busy once again. Oh how I miss last weeks late nights and later mornings.

Two good bits of news to come back to to raise my writing spirits...

1) My flash "Six Uses for a Hedgehog" is going to be published v.v.soon by Tall Tales and Modern Fables - a Lottery-funded free quarterly print magazine to be distributed in pubs and cafes in Brighton & Hove. And all the contributing writers are from Brighton and Hove too so that's nice.

2) To Be Read Aloud got in touch to tell me my story "Slipping Down the Sky" has been published in their latest anthology for 'oral interpreters' (that's people who compete in reading competitions to you and me) and it's winging its way to me from the States as we speak. Oh, and a very welcome $100 has been deposited in my PayPal account. V nice.

So... what are my plans now? Well my novel still needs to be edited, my children's book still needs to be written and I've got a short story that needs a bit of work.

On top of that I've also signed up for Slingink's Eurofiction competition. Starting on 1st November a series of 3 prompts will be released. I'll then have 2 weeks to write a story to one of those prompts and send it in. The judges will then rate the received stories in a Eurofiction marking style - 20 points for 1st place, 18 for second, 17 for third, down to one point and then nil. The competition takes place over 20 weeks so, by the end of it, I'll have written 10 new short stories. There's a cash prize for the person who comes top of the leader board at the end of the twenty weeks but that's not why I'm entering. I've entered to give myself a short story kick up the bum and get me writing more regularly.

What else? Oh yes. And I'll be flashing for Children in Need in the middle of November. That's not as rude as it sounds - I'll be writing a piece of flash fiction every hour from 6pm on Thursday 15th November to about 2am Friday 16th November (to a series of prompts). Last year, and the year before, I flashed from 6pm through to midnight on Friday with only a couple of hours break (and some sleep time) but this year I wasn't able to get time off work so I'll just be doing a bit. Every little helps and all that.

God, just typing all that out makes me feel knackered. Time for a lie down!

* Copious rose-scented joss sticks partially masked the musky smell

Friday, October 19, 2007

One final post... say HOORAH! I set myself a target last month to write and sub two short stories to themed comps before 31st October. One I wrote in September and sent at the end of the month and the second I finished today and will be sending off tomorrow. I normally let a short story 'rest' for a week before I edit it and send it out but, because time is short, I had to resort to plan B. So, I wrote it tonight, then changed the font and size (to fool my brain into thinking I'm reading someone else's work) printed it out, read it aloud and edited it several times before I popped it into an envelope.

Soooooooo nice to actually achieve something on my 'to do' list. Now I can enjoy my week off feeling all self-satisfied (instead of guilty). Hoorah again.

Back on 30th October.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Creeping along with the editing...

I really, really, really didn't want to type up my hard copy edits this evening but I forced myself and managed a measley 2.9% before the teensy bit of motivation I had gasped and died.

I've realised it's not the editing per se that I don't like - it's the typing it up afterwards - it's just so tedious. If I were rich I could mark all my changes on the hard copy and give it to someone to correct the electronic version. But I'm not rich so on I go! Well, I'll continue typing up the edits tomorrow but after that I'm going on a blogging/writing/editing hiatus until about 30th October. It's my birthday next week and I'm giving myself the week off. I also have a busy weekend this weekend. So, the chances of me blogging between now and 30th October are pretty slim. Just a heads up in case you wonder where I've gone.

Okay, am squinting at the screen now. Time for bed I think.

p.s. If you haven't visited Sally's blog recently I suggest you get yourself there forthwith. She's doing a fantastically useful series of writing-related posts called "Ask Sally". Go along and ask her the writing question you've always wanted to ask.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

An amusing take on editing...

George Saunders (short story writer) was asked how he tackles editing. This is what he said...

"I start off with a sentence, say...'Frank sat on the couch that fateful afternoon'. I ask myself, does it matter when Frank was on the couch?

No. So the sentence becomes: 'Frank sat on the couch'.

Then I ask, does it matter where he was sitting?

No. So we now have: 'Frank sat'.

Then I might ask, does it matter was Frank was doing?

No, it doesn't. Which leaves: 'Frank'.

Then I ask myself, is Frank relevant?

No, he isn't."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Publishing opportunity

Fragile Publishing (who published Neil J Hart's book "Spritz") have released a call for submissions for their new online magazine (which will be delivered as a pdf from their website).

They're looking for short stories, flashes and novel extracts. There's no payment as they're a small publisher but, particularly if you haven't had anything published before, it would be a great start to your writing CV (it's always good to include brief details of your writing accomplishments in your covering letter to an agent).

Stories should be no longer than 3,000 words.
Flash fiction should be no longer than 1,000 words.
If you want to submit a novel extract send them a 200 word synopsis and an extract no longer than 3,000 words.

For more details go here:

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Finally, some editing...

I put it off and put it off but I finally pulled my finger out this afternoon, turned off the laptop and went out to the balcony with my novel print-out, a pen and the radio. Several hours later I returned to the warmth of the living room with 44 edited pages!

I'm not going to transfer the edits to the Word doc tonight (I think I've done enough for one day) so I'll save that for next week. Then I've just got to edit the final 50 pages and the first edit will be done.

My plan for the second edit is to read aloud each chapter and see how it sounds. Anything that sounds clunky or I stumble over will get re-written. But I'm not going to progress straight from the first edit to the second. I'm going to take a bit a time off from the novel and write a few short stories and plough on with my children's book. I'm definitely a writer rather than an editor!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

More weirdness for your enjoyment

Keep staring at it until you're told to stop, even if you get bored (although, if you suffer from epilepsy you should probably give this a miss). Seriously strange.

Friday, October 12, 2007


If you're finding it hard to keep up with everyone's blogs I really recommend:

You input all your favourite blogs and it lists them on a page so you can just click the link and read the blog. When you've read the most recent entry you simply click the "Mark All as Read" button. The next time you login you'll be shown all the blogs that have published new posts since you last logged in so you don't have to finish a blog several times a week to see if they've updated or not - because Google Reader will tell you at a glance!

The only thing you can't do in Google Reader (as far as I know) is comment and read comments but, if you want to comment, you just click on the title of the post and it'll open in a new window so you can comment.

After three days... which I did no writing or editing of any sort (and really enjoyed the time off), I've finally got back in the writing saddle (so to speak) and have just finished a short story.

The story was originally 1,500 words but I realised tonight that I'd only told half the story and the ending was far too abrupt. I wrote another 800 words tonight and have my first draft finished, but there are still a few pace problems with the story that I need to fix before it's ready to sub. Anyway, it's good to get the first draft done and I've got that lovely "Ah" feeling I always get when I finish a short story.

What else? Oh yes, I had a bit of a subbing spree earlier this week. I haven't had a 'hit' since July and realised it was because I hadn't subbed much in June and July. It normally takes several months after you sub a short story or piece of flash fiction before you hear something back and, because I only subbed five or six stories/flashes in June and July (because I was writing my novel) the hits haven't exactly been flowing (in fact, there haven't been any!). I normally sub between 12-20 short stories and flashes a month and I need to get back to that if I'm ever going to have another hit. Since 1st October I've subbed 10 stories and flashes which is much better. If I can get that up to 20 by 31st October I'll be a very happy woman.

Anyway, no more short stories this weekend. I need to get on with editing my novel and writing my children's book.

Oh, and here's a clip from one of my favourite programmes, QI. It was just shown on TV and made me laugh A LOT. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

What drives you to write?

Interesting article in The Times about what drives different writers to write.

I nodded vigorously to this comment by Rose Heiney:

"It’s weird, when I’m not writing I get very miserable and think, what’s the point of me, now? Obviously when I am writing I whinge about it incessantly"

Full article here:

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Good Things / Bad Things

Good Things

  • I did LOADS of editing last night and novel #1 is now over 70% edited

  • I wrote some more of my children's book and, with a small push, I'll hit 10% written very soon (am loving how quickly the percentage on my counter goes up when the finished book is only 30,000 words long!)

  • Just as I was falling asleep last night I got an idea for a themed short story competition so reached for my mobile phone and tapped the idea into the notes section (keeping my mobile by my bed works better for me than a notepad and paper because, as soon as I touch a button it lights up. No need to turn the light on)

  • Every day I receive an emailed 'daily digest' from freecycle containing things people in my local area want or are offering to others for free (as long as they collect). Basically it's a great way to declutter and recycle without adding to the landfill (I've got landfill guilt now after seeing a crappy reality show called "Dump" or something similar).

    Anyway, I've used freecycle a couple of times. The first time I wandered across town to pick up a bath end panel someone was giving away (when I refitted my bathroom five years ago my bath arrived without an end panel and I didn't have a car to go and sort it out so my plumber fitted a piece of wood in its place instead and glossed it white. I know, classy. Sssh!) and discovered, when I got home, that it was too wide for my bath. Ooops!

    The second time I used it I chucked my broken down, good-for-no one cooker on the tip and went to pick up one someone was offering was HIDEOUS. Rusty, ancient and several of the rings didn't work. Luckily I realised that immediately and didn't ferry it home (although I did spend the best part of 3 months with no cooker before my kitchen was re-fitted).

    The third time I used freecyle I put together a box of suitable books and games I didn't need for an old people's home after a request was posted.

    And yesterday I used freecycle for a fourth time and gave a huge bag of books and a cardboard box full of bric-a-brac to a scout fete that was being held in one of the city's council estates. That made me feel good for two reasons 1) My stuff will hopefully help them to make money so they can stop kids throwing stones at passing buses and offer them something more constructive to do instead continue to do good work and 2) I now have less crap in my flat!

  • I started writing down a few notes for my themed short story on the train this morning and, before I knew it, I'd written the beginning and the first few paragraphs.

  • I FINALLY wrote a letter to my friend in Australia after promising her one for months and months and MONTHS (Hi Kel! x)

  • Oh yes and, over the weekend, I re-wrote a short story and subbed 4 piece of flash fiction (written a while ago but they deserve homes) to various ezines and print magazines.

Bad Things

  • I still have loads of crap in my flat (particularly clothes) and am going to have to scrabble around in the wardrobe, various cupboards, the attic and under the bed to sort through it.

  • I am exhausted from lack of sleep. After I wrote a note in my mobile about my short story idea I was buzzing so much I couldn't go back to sleep for another hour. Total amount of sleep last night? About 4.5 hours. Even for a night owl like me that's a pitiful amount

  • The postal strike is going to go on forever so Kel will have to wait EVEN LONGER for her letter

  • Last night I picked up my digital camera and thought I'd look through the saved pictures and see how much space I had left in the memory...but the little LCD screen didn't light up at all. It stayed black. I tried everything to get it to work, including changing the batteries and pressing all kinds of buttons. In desperation I emailed a camera repair shop telling them the make of camera and the problem and asked for a quote. This morning I received a reply - £122 PLUS VAT. That's half what I paid for the camera in the first place! Me thinks I won't be getting the camera repaired. Maybe I can sell it on ebay for parts or something?

Okay, so overall the good news out-weighs the bad. Not a bad day then.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Making progress

I made some good progress on the novel this weekend and have now edited a little over 63%. I've got just over a third left to do and am about to start Chapter 23 (of 32).

I'm also doing the second edit of some of the novel at the same time, which is a bit strange but do-able. My novel critique group have now seen five of my thirty-two chapters so I'm taking on board some of their comments and re-editing the text as I receive feedback.

I also wrote a fair bit of my children's book (for 8-12 year olds) this weekend and, you know what?, I loved it. I'm finding something very freeing about writing it. I can totally immerse myself in the characters and the action without worrying so much about language and I feel genuinely excited about this book. Unlike my other book I haven't plotted or outlined this one at all - I've just got a start, a twist and an end - and I'm just letting it take me where it takes me. If I get stuck somewhere along the line I'll probably pause and take stock but, for now, I'm just enjoying writing it.

p.s. Congrats to A.Writer for completing her first edit this weekend.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Oh God!

"Any self-respecting agent can visually tell within 20 or 30 seconds of looking at unsoliciated submissions, both the letter of submission and the manuscript, whether the book is any good or not."

Giles Gordon, Literary Agents, The Role of the Literary Agent (Artists and Writers YearBook 2008)

Now I'm going to start obsessing about the first page of my novel AGAIN!

I've worked on that page SO MANY times and listened to it using Natural Reader SO MANY TIMES that now, when I think about it, I can hear the half-human-half-computer voice reading it out word for word in my head!

Okay, time to shut the book and start editing (honest).

p.s. I thought the section "How to attract the attention of a literary agent" was very good.

Look what parcel force just delivered...

Hoorah - at last! Am just going to have a quick sit down and a flick through before I start editing.

Honest! It' ;o)

p.s. Another reason to be cheerful... Two fridges left home today. I am now mother to just the one fridge rather than THREE. Hooray!

And now for something completely different...

Get your own Dylan message here:

p.s. In my defence, Bob, I did write something last night. Not for this novel admittedly but I did get down the first 375 of my new children's book. Yeah, yeah, I know I said I'm not going to enter the Times competition (and I'm still not going to) but why not strike when the inspiration is hot? (you know what I mean!). It felt good to write something fresh.

Anyway, I am, AM going to do some editing on the novel tonight. Promise.

p.p.s. Love you Bob x

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Reason #1 why you shouldn't learn to touch type on a typewriter....

What kind of idiot...

...books a holiday in half term when she doesn't have any kids? The kind that has no idea when half terms and school holidays fall that's who.

Can I just say...

The prices! The PRICES!

Week before holiday - quite reasonable
Week after holiday - quite reasonable
Week of half term? - THROUGH THE BLOODY ROOF!

And I'm not even going abroad.



Just found this on t'interweb (I suspect my job is far too 'boring' to make for interesting TV but you might want to give it a go):

We make Richard & Judy for Channel 4 and as part of Channel 4’s Literacy week we are also making some specialist programmes. Four of these are for 3 Minute Wonders and we are looking for a selection of amateur writers to take part.


In the style of the parlour game ‘Consequences’, we will create four stories from scratch by asking writers, celebrities and children to write a paragraph each. We will follow each journey from start to finish. The story will be a complete and cohesive piece of work as contributors will read the story so far and add to it, incorporating their own style and personality.

Each of the four short films will be separate stories but with a similar format.

Each film with begin with a famous author starting the story off in their own style with an opening paragraph. Once the story has been on its journey it will arrive back with the author who will see what has happened to their idea, and will then finish the story off.

We are looking for some keen, amateur writers who have interesting day jobs to take on part of the story for us. We will film them reading and writing their contribution – which will be a short paragraph – and then pass the story on. We are looking for real characters who are enthusiastic and happy to appear on camera for a short moment.

Please contact Danielle Ellis ASAP if this sounds like something you are interested in outlining details of your occupation, age, location, preferred writing style/genre and whether you have ever been published. Filming will commence ASAP.
Contact email:

Monday, October 1, 2007

I have decided not to be a complete masochist/idiot...

I'm not going to try and write a children's book in 30 days to enter into the Times competition.

With a full time job, half a novel to edit and short stories to write and sub I'd be a total idiot if I tried to write a children's book aswell. Even if I dropped the novel editing and stories for a month, writing 30-40,000 words and editing them before 7th November would be a near impossible task (especially as I'll be on holiday for one of those weeks) and would possibly cause a nervous breakdown (mine and everyone around me).

One thing at a time Cally, one thing at a time...

I need to keep repeating that mantra to myself.