Studying and writing success

It’s been a while, as expected.  I’m in week 4 of the third term of my Masters. Global ethics and human rights,  and strategy, change and leadership are my modules.  I’m particularly enjoying the first one, especially as there is a good group dynamic.  This is something that is lacking when studying by distance learning but the discussion board is much more popular than usual!

I am currently lying on the sofa with a poorly sleepy Charlie who I had to pick up from nursery. He had a long nap but since waking up he has just wanted to cuddle and go back to sleep.  I’ve already disturbed him once to check my chickpeas aren’t boiling dry.

It seems I am going to have a productive week study wise, especially as I’m already ahead of schedule. Good thing too as we’re away this weekend and it makes up for the craziness of last week when I was doing extra long days ad staff were off sick, which also ate into my study time.  As Charlie was sick he (and therefore I) is off the rest of the week so I  hoping to tick off everything on my list for once and do more than just study!

In particular I would like to write another short story or two. I had some success at the end of last week which has boosted my confidence but mostly it is telling me I need to get my arse in gear. The problem is that writing is the thing I want to do most of all but it is – for various reasons – the bottom of my priority list.

Anyway I finally have some writing officially published! One of my short stories – Last Train to Somewhere – is in this quarter’s edition of e – magazine Kishboo :-). Also released on the same day was the long list for a flash fiction competition that I entered and for which I made said long list so an exciting day all around!

You can find Last Train to Somewhere here. It is number 12 in the 2015 winter edition along with 14 other great short stories.

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Weekend Box

I’m a little bit box mad. It’s not my fault. It seems to be the ‘in’ thing at the moment, so I can’t be the only one. I get my weekly shop delivered by Abel & Cole. I get a Simply Cook box monthly, a Love Lula beauty box monthly, the occasional Graze box (including for Harry) and coffee box (previously Kopi but have recently been trying Pact). I’m sure there are more that I have tried, but my latest discovery is the Weekend Box which is aimed at kids. I stumbled upon a promotional ad on Facebook which enabled me to get the first box free. It arrived on Thursday amid a pile of post that was – amazingly – ALL addressed to Harry. Wasn’t it his lucky day?

There are four activities in the box and it can be ordered fortnightly or monthly for £7.50 a month (including P&P). I have selected monthly which means Harry will have one activity each weekend. For us, this is a much better option than fortnightly as we don’t struggle for ideas of things to do, but at the same time it is nice to try new things. And Harry gets just as excited about boxes as I do (see I’m not the only one).

2015-08-18 08.10.16Someone else likes them too!

What I didn’t realise about the boxes until it arrived was that each one has a theme. This one was Africa and the activities include making a Massai necklace, an elephant mask, a game of mancala and a fruit-loaded meringue (I believe each box includes a recipes, which obviously requires additional ingredients, but the craft activities provide all the bits and bobs – all we needed was scissors, pencil, paintbrush, that sort of thing). The activity cards have various facts about Africa and the thing that the child is making and when they have finished they can put a sticker on it. Then, when they have completed all four there is a certificate on the box that they can colour in and write their name on.

2015-09-05 13.25.21Opening the first activity!

2015-09-05 13.45.39 Another budding artist!

Harry’s choice today was the mancala, which I was quite excited about as we always played a variation of this game as children called awari. It was 2/5 for difficulty which was possibly a bit low, especially as the boxes are aimed at 3 to 6 year olds.

2015-09-05 13.48.49

Harry struggled painting the cupcake cases (although this might have been because I mixed the paint too thin and he was in a pain-in-the-bum mood today) and he is at that age where he likes making up his own rules to games although he is starting to understand more when you explain the rules of games to him – then when he does understand, boy do you have to stick to them! Of course, I was showing him how to play it the awari way – mancala is slightly different but instructions are provided so we will have to give that a go tomorrow! I think he wants to do the elephant mask next! Definitely worth signing up to a free one to see what it was like and something tells me we will be getting more in the future (box obsessed child).

2015-09-05 19.08.07

New beginnings

There is something about September that brings me back to blogging. That ‘new year’ feel, I suppose, that I get far more at the start of the academic year than I do each January. This is natural to me. Harry is at school now, James and I both work at universities, and I am studying again. Until my phone took over my diaries would always run from September to August. There is also something about the autumnal days setting in that brings the anticipation of NaNoWriMo and the motivation to write.

So I am giving this blog another chance. This may be a bad idea, what with my Masters resuming in a few weeks time, but right now I am feeling psyched. I put the boys to bed, ate my dinner while watching James’ flight to New York on FlightRadar24 and suddenly within an hour I had written 500 words and submitted it to a flash fiction competition. Last week I submitted a short story to another competition. This needs to continue. I have only entered short story competitions on a few occasions – last year I vowed to do one a month but I got caught up in other things. Stupid of me really as one story was long-listed and the other short-listed, which was obviously a big boost with regard to my confidence and my ability but not, it seems, to my motivation.

I have so many ideas at the moment and my brain seems so much more open to inspiration than it has been in a long time. Writing short stories is allowing me to get outside my comfort zone (fantasy) and explore different genres and writing styles. One big idea I had when reading last month’s Writing Magazine (this month’s arrived today and thank goodness for six hours on a train next weekend because I still haven’t finished last month’s) I think I will adapt to be my NaNo project, partly because it ties in with my Masters so might, theoretically, make it easier to work on both at the same time. Basically, an article in the magazine made me question why I never write about what I know. I’m not sure my stories have ever been set in a hotel or a cafe, or if any of the characters have worked in those places like I have. I certainly have never covered issues of sustainability and social responsibility, even though this is what my Masters is all about. And it is not like any of these topics, settings, and characters are boring! So this year’s goal is to write a story encompassing what I know. Let the planning commence!

I often read advice to new writers that a good starting point is to write about what you know. If you write, do you find it easier to write about what you know or to explore other avenues? If you don’t write, which way would you be more inclined to take?

Goals for 2015

Last night was the induction for my MSc. As it is an online course it was in the form of a webinar.  Good to get it over with! That first ‘day’ is always so nerve wracking but I’m excited for Monday now. I have two modules to take me up to Easter – Corporate Governance Regulations and Policy, and Green Information and Operations Management.

Still a little daunting. I’m struggling to get things done some days as it is. In part, motivation, but mainly because of the demands of others on my time. But I’ll be fine.  I just need to prioritise and make sure others are aware of what I have to do. That is always the hardest part but I must remember that all my goals and ambitions are just as important as anyone else’s.

So on top of my studies, children and starting back at work at the end of February what other things will be filling my time this year? Well, writing goals include finding an agent, entering a short story competition each month, and also begin researching my grandmother.  Out side of that I will continue making soaps and candles  (and whatever else takes my fancy!) With the aim of maybe possibly selling at craft fairs and/or online.

So phew… let’s see if I can get through 2015 without going crazy!

Wrapping solutions

I can’t stand  waste. It is one of my biggest pet peeves. I grew up in a creative  household  where we learnt to  sew at a young age by making doll’s clothes from scrap material, and did arts and crafts  projects  using rubbish and things we found through beach combing and the like. A large family, mum always  cooked enough to feed an army and there was always at least one meal a week that was a random assortment of leftovers. And use by dates? So long as it looked, smelled and tasted alright then what was the problem? Working  in catering  was quite a shock to the  system  in the beginning.

Detesting waste has led to  me becoming  something of a hoarder. Having young children  I have become  more selective about what I keep because I am  more restricted ad to where I can keep  things and they certainly  have enough of their own  stuff! But I still have  one of those magic cupboards. You know, one of those ones you could reach  into  and pull out a giraffe. It gets a good sort out at least twice a year – when the weather  turns nice and I am after the  gardening  box, and at this time of year when I’m digging  out the Christmas  decorations.

This year when I  pulled everything out I discovered an excessive amount of wrapping paper. Half rolls from the last three Christmas’ in fact. Not to mention  a varied collection  of  tissue paper, ribbon, labels and Christmas  cards.  We get a bit enthusiastic about present  wrapping  in our family. I’ve never thought I’m that bad but I have found myself longingly scouring the aisles of paper and ribbon this year while knowing I can’t buy any.

I’m having a homemade Christmas this year so it is fitting that my wrapping solution  is to use stuff up. I’m currently down to one of those three rolls and only a few labels and ribbons. The actual packaging for my homemade offerings have been rescued from the recycling and I purposefully bought a shredder so I could make my own shredded paper from stuff that would have otherwise gone in recycling. To cover up brand names on the boxes I have cut up last year’s Christmas cards  (which I’d

actually kept back with the intention of  making labels).

I think all I have bought is sellophane for wrapping soaps and twine from Oxfam.

It’s been really easy, addictive even. Just like eating organic or buying  fairtrade, once you start you see ideas everywhere. My idea for next year, as I won’t have three year’s worth of wrapping paper, is to make my own paper. Sounds good in theory but might prove disastrous!

The thoughts in my head and the baby in my arms

An almost sleeping baby in my arms who will no doubt start to grizzle as soon as I move him. He is very cuddly today, mainly teething I think but in part because daddy has gone away. It always amazes me how perceptive children can be. For example Charlie gets so excited when we go to pick Harry up from school, he just knows that it is time to see his big brother. As for Harry he has always been so loving and sensitive to other people’s feelings and I certainly hope that never changes.

I’ve always found it hard to express my feelings. James will always tell me exactly what is going on his head but I could never be like that, not even with him. I think I just like to deal with things myself. Why let other people worry if I’m feeling worried? Or pass on my sadness to them? You see those poems about smiling being contagious (we had one up in the hotel that I worked at), in fact I saw a video on Facebook yesterday about making the world smile back – one of those social experiments where someone starts laughing at a train station and soon enough everyone is smiling.

And it’s true, smiling is contagious but so are feelings in general. We talk of sharing a person’s grief and I’ve always thought that sounds quite insincere and intrusive in a way but it’s not. I recall days at work where if one colleague came in in a bad mood that was it, it was going to be a day from hell. I like to think I’m a good listener but I think I’m rubbish at giving advice. Instead I’m the one who tries to rise above it. In truth I get a bit hyper with it but I hate seeing people down just like Harry does and I know I can’t fix things but if I can make someone smile, make them laugh, then I’ve made a difference.

Writing is my outlet. I don’t need to write that, I’m sure the majority of writers and bloggers feel like that, but sometimes even then I can’t really say what I feel. I don’t think that matters though, why should I tell the world my problems? They’re extremely minor in comparison to others.

I don’t even know what I’m trying to say here. This was supposed to be a post about charity shops and instead I’m waffling on about feelings. I often feel like such a contradiction but I’m just trying to find my place I  this world,  my purpose, and it’s a hard task when the people all around you are trying to shape it too.

In case anyone is concerned I am fine. There is something about a sleeping baby in my arms that makes me philosophical. And writing my book too, sometimes I feel like that is just one big metaphor for everything that whizzes round in my head.

Reaching 50k!

I’m so tired.  I suppose writing 50,000 words on top of daily life in 17 days does that to a person. Not that I’m ready to stop. I’m aiming for 75,000 now, hopefully more as what I really want is to finish the book. It is the last in the series and until it has reached its grand finale I don’t feel like I can focus on writing anything else. This whole epic world is dominating. The first book is currently doing the rounds with the agents. Whatever happens there is a different story. The sequels still feel very personal. The second book is still in its first draft as I did not see the point in editing until the whole story is complete. Imagine the plot holes!

NaNoWriMo aside, the tiredness is a sign I need to take it easy. I have managed – for the third time since having Charlie – to strain my stomach muscles. So it’s back to avoiding lifting and reaching, rolling out of bed, and lying down where possible. Not easy with children. And l am one of those people who always has something to do. Resting just means I think of more things.

Anyway it is finally that time of day. Once the boys are in bed I plan to have a bath, write another chapter and wrap the soaps I made today. Hopefully tomorrow will be a more productive day. I have had to categorise my to do list for possibly the first time ever.