Note Number 69…Writing Conference Weekend…New Friends… New Inspiration…

Well, like the old saying about waiting for buses I don’t blog for ages now two come in less than a week, and there might be another on the way!

From Thursday 11th until Monday 15th July I became a student again…well kind of…I went to Lancaster University for the Romantic Novelists Association Conference. A long, long drive, but it was worth it I think. It was full-on, with workshops, lectures and one-to-one appointments with industry specialists. I met a publisher, agent and an editor. All three had different ideas about my novel, but the agent and editor showed enough enthusiasm for me to keep at it! Significant changes will be made over the next few months, and I feel inspired to continue with the story but make some massive cuts and re-writes. I have decided that the protagonist in my novel is a bit weak. She’s one dimensional and lacking in spirit. I’m going to give her a makeover and make her more exciting, someone that the reader will get right behind and will on to achieve her goals.

My room and the view (if I leant right out of the window) 

A great deal of food and wine was consumed, new acquaintances made, and old ones rekindled. I had a great time, although I came home exhausted. I slept in student accommodation, which was fine, but the single bed with springs and a thin mattress left much to be desired. Although everything was modern and it was an ensuite room, (one of about 8) with a shared kitchen, I could understand why some students feel a bit isolated when they first go to university. Thrown together with others they don’t know, and some may not have been away from home before. I said this to a few people who didn’t agree, but then on BBC Radio 4, just the other day, I listened to two students talking about how difficult it can be making friends at Uni. Many students hideaway and chat on Facebook, Twitter Instagram etc., to friends they’ve left behind. You can listen here 

Like I said, I made some new friends, one of them has an uncanny resemblance to me! Or is it just the hair? We’re all hoping to meet up at other writing events or just socially during the year. We sat together at the Gala Dinner. Wonderful.

ladies copy

My new friends from left, Suzanne, Louise, Me, Helen (my lookalike) and Jan.

Great to meet up with you lovely ladies…see you soon I hope! 

Note Number 68…Barcelona (or Barca as The Man calls it!)

The poor dog has been in and out of the kennels over the last few weeks because The Man and I have been busy, busy busy. He went off cycling in the Pyrenees (I think I told you that) and I went to meet him in Barcelona. I should, of course, have posted about this before now but, life got in the way, as it does.

Barcelona. . . I loved it and cannot wait to go back. Apart from all the beautiful architecture — Gaudi — and the fantastic food — tapas. I loved our hotel which had a roof terrace with a swimming pool — well more of a plunge pool really, but it was fandabulous!

Hotel Roof Terrace and View of Cathedral

We visited Gaudi’s house, and it was much smaller than I’d imagined and internally quite understated, which is surprising considering the decorative nature of most of his work. The furniture was ergonomic and modern. What a man! The gardens were beautiful but swarming with tourists — Yes, I know we were tourists too! We took a taxi to the house, which was just as well because it was all uphill and several kilometres. But, we walked back to the Sagrada Famiglia.

Click on Picture to see Caption

It was a hot, long walk and I needed a drink and something to eat. I ordered a Sangria as I thought I should try one but, I didn’t specify the size. Big mistake.

I assumed it would be a wine glass full. How wrong I was. I did my best but gave some away to the chap on the next table and left a quarter in the bottom. It cost 18euro as well!

Sangria

SANGRIA…ahh

I previously booked tickets, for the Sagrada Famiglia, which was a good idea — the place was packed with tourists, but that didn’t detract from the splendour of the building. I have visited many churches and cathedrals, and often it’s pretty much, same old, same old, but the Sagrada was a new experience. The light entering the nave through the stained glass windows was breathtaking. The shape of the roof, the sheer individuality of the architecture — unbelievable.

On one day, we took the tourist bus — what a good idea. Sitting on the top of a bus, with our earphones plugged in, able to relax and take in all the sights. By far the best way to see a city. Past La Pedrera Apartment block. World-famous, need I say more, except that apparently, it’s impossible to have bookshelves in them because of the ‘wobbly’ walls.

la pedera

La Pedrera (from the bus) 

The bus tour took a couple of hours and went out of the city to the Olympic Village from 1992. Around the Port and through the main city areas. I didn’t take many photos because I was too busy looking.

Bus Trip Views (I’ll try harder next time) 

We visited the Boqueria Market, which was impressive by size, the vast amount and the diversity of food, but we weren’t impressed with the restaurants and bars there. However, we discovered the Santa Caterina market quite close to the Cathedral. It wasn’t as big as Boqueria but on the side of it was a great tapas bar, Cuines. Can’t wait to go back!

Market Food 

More Market Food

Cuines at Santa Caterina Market 

We did visit the famous old Els Qatre Gats where Picasso, Gaudi, Hemmingway and probably many other artists, writers and musicians took their refreshment in their day. It is easy to imagine them all meeting and discussing various art fomrs, from the décor and arty atmosphere of the place. But the food? The service? Not impressed. Expensive and the meat was tough. The piano player was little better than Less Dawson and he wasn’t trying to be funny! We won’t go there again but we can tick the box.

Els Quatro Gats…sadly no photo of the piano player. 

Our favourite eating place was Alcoba Azul – we went twice. (I knew it was going to be good because my daugher recommended it and honestly she it very particular about restaurants. Thanks Emily.) A fantastic, crowded, buzzy atmosphere with locals and tourists together. Excellent service even though the place was busy. The tapas food delicious — we couldn’t decide what to eat so ordered far too much. The waitress from Italy couldn’t do enough for us…Sara. You could also eat out in the small square. It’s a tucked away place, not easy to find but worth it.

Alcoba Azul and Sara (We’ll be Back)

Next blog post — RNA Conference… watch this space.

Note Number 67…Messing About with Sewing…

Last week I bought a sewing machine. I’ve had one before, in fact, I had the last one for well over thirty years, but then the house got flooded and the old machine took a battering that couldn’t be repaired. Anyway, got a new one, more modern but not too sophisticated a basic Brother model. It does forwards and backwards, zig-zag, zip foot, buttonhole foot etc., and best of all tada…*drum roll* it has a gadget that threads the needle. Beats me how it does it. I do what I’m supposed to do and hey presto…the cotton is through the eye of the needle, but I’ve no idea how!

So the first garment I made was a mop-cap. Success. I need it for a little performance that I’m doing with my local writing group, Story Traders, some of us have written short stories or poems using William Turner as our inspiration. The Bridport Museum are having a Turner exhibition featuring one of his paintings of West Bay. He visited the area don’t you know? The piece I’ve written is a little creative story about Turner on the beach meeting some young people while he’s painting and trying to join in the music, playing his flute. They (whoever they are) do say that he played the flute, albeit usually in private. They found one in his home after he died. We’re performing on Wednesday 3rd Julyin Bridport library, 2.30 – 3.15 and in the museum on the 10th July (I think…not sure of details yet).

mop capMop Cap

Hope I look a bit brighter than this chap when I’m wearing it! 

Back to the sewing. I have a wonderful jacket that I bought in New York several years ago and it is one of my most favourite items. I wear it all the time. I decided I would like to make a copy but of course I didn’t have a pattern. The result was not exactly disastrous but the teacher would definitely say, ‘could do better’. I never realised how difficult making a pattern from an article of clothing would be.

Jacket 1

First attempt at a jacket…I won’t show you the original…tut tut 

Next morning, I took myself off to the wonderful Livingstone Textile shop in Bridport, bought a pattern for a kimono jacket and some fab material…second attempt was a lot better but I need lessons on how to do a collar and also how to measure myself – I chose extra-large…big mistake as it’s about two sizes too big. It will do for Barcelona though,(*see below).

kimono 1

Better effort this time

(didn’t make the black t-shirt underneath, just thought it looked better in the photo) 

Practice makes perfect, but of course practicing costs material and time. In comparison, writing is easier,  because it doesn’t matter how many mistakes you make you can put them right, improving the end product all the time, but, with sewing? Well, once you’ve made a mistake, you’re done for…unless you are very clever and can make a silk purse out of a sow’sear.

CLICHE ALERT!! 

*The Man is off cycling in th Pyranees at the moment (hence I can sew all day on the kitchen table), good luck to him! He finishes in Collioure and will be dropped off in Barcelona. so I’m off to meet him next Thursday for a fabulous five night in a city that I have always wanted to visit. Looking forward to it and will let you know how I get on. Plus, I now have a lovely kimono jacket to wear in the evenings! Wonder what else I can make tomorrow? Better do some writing I think.

Note Number 66. . . A Quick update of Some Good Things that are Happening. . .

 

students

1.    BREAKING NEWS!

I have accepted an unconditional place at Exeter University to do an MA in Creative Writing beginning September 2019. I know it’s going to be a lot of hard work but I am so excited. I’m hoping it will take my writing to another level and I’m fully prepared and committed to putting in the effort needed to be successful. It will, of course mean, that The Man may have to produce a few meals and take the dog out for a walk now and I’m sure my organisational skills will be tested to the limit.  I have never ‘attended’ university. For my BA in Dance Education I worked on line with the Royal Academy of Dance and then went to Durham University to recieve my certificate, (the course was validated by Durham). I’m looking forward to being on campus and suspect that I won’t be the only mature student there. I’m not planning on going to Fresher’s Week, although at least one of my children thinks I should go and even suggested an outfit.

Freshers Outfit

Thanks Joe! 

I’m going to give regular updates on my MA as I go along to let you all know how I get on from month to month. I hope I won’t be too tired and you won’t find it too boring.

images copy

 

2.   RNA – Romantic Novelists’s Association

I have, at long last, sent in a complete manuscript of my novel for appraisal by this organisation of which I am on the New Writers’ Scheme. I’m not expecting great things, I know there is plenty wrong with it (a soggy middle for a start) but it is a wonderful feeling to have written 84,000 words and finish the story that I have been working on for some years.

 

my awesome book

 

 

Note Number 65. . . A Couple of Success Stories . . .

Looking at my blog I see I haven’t posted on here since February! This is not good enough.  I don’t think anything major has happened. . .or has it?

I am now published in a collection called Dorset Shorts along with some other County folk. We were all winning entries in the Dorset Writers’ Prize. It’s a great little hardback publication and I’m very pleased with it. I am going to be reading my story Perception and Reality and one other Ten Green Bottles by Karen Wright, during the Shaftesbury Fringe on Friday 5th July. Yeah!

My other sucess was coming third in a Bridport Story Slam with my Flash Fiction Hot Lips You can hear it over on my other blog www.shortstorypods.com

HotLips

On Thursday of this week I’m going on a short writing retreat to my favourite writing retreat place Retreats for You  By the end of it I hope to have finished the major edits on the first draft of my novel enough to send it off for an appraisal with the RNA (Romantic Novelists Association) of which I am a member under their New Writers Scheme.  I also need to finish some flash fiction stories for Retreat West (not to be confused with Retreats for You — which I often do!) There is much writing to be done over the next few weeks. The Man has just come back from a three week cycling extravaganza in Victoria, Australia. I meant to get LOADS done while he was away but what with the Bridport Film Festival , From Page to Screen, being on, babysitting and visitors etc., those three weeks went by very quickly and now he’s back. Thank goodness. I work better when he’s around.

GB Scratching Head

A lot of headscratching goin on here. . .Let’s hope nothing is broken and he can put it back together. . .

Note Number 64. . .I’ve Done It. . .

Lopesan Villa Del Conde – Day and Night

A long time since I wrote any blog but I haven’t been idle. Apart from a holiday between Christmas and New Year in Cornwall at St Michael’s Hotel Falmouth where the food and facilities were great but the staff and running  of the place left a little bit to be desired. Wouldn’t put me off going again though, but, I just don’t like being called ‘dear’ by the hotel reception staff. We did a quick trip to Gran Canaria in February to stay at the Lopesan Villa Del Conde. Both places were memorable in their own way, but the sun in Meloneras has to be the winner.

Walking the Coastal Path and Cream Tea at St Michael’s Resort

The Man did plenty of  cycling while  we were in Gran Canaria and I did plenty  of lazing about and sunning myself – I did do some writing, which leads me on to the next bit of news.

the end

I have finished the first draft of my novel! *drum roll* It’s only taken about four years! I am aware, that now the hard work really starts with editing., I do feel a great sense of achievement having been able to write the word, THE END. I’m going to a novel-writing retreat from 9-12 March, a bit late you might think but no,  there are people on there who have already written and published one or more books and I think the weekend will help me to move quickly onto the next phase.

Other news is Brexit? No, I’m not going to talk about that except to say that I’m waiting until after the 29th March before I begin to put the dog through any unnecessary blood tests for a planned holiday in France in September.

jpeg

Not Sure Jpeg wants to travel in the car to France…she’s ten years old now  

I’ve been to London to visit the Discover –  Children’s Story Centre and can recommend it to all you people out there with children or grandchildren who have a love of books or even if you’re not book obsessed it’s a wonderful day out with imaginative play  areas inside and out. The day we were there featured a story-time of The Tiger Who Came to Tea, by Judith Kerr. A lovely story (even if a little dated). We went with a child of two and a half and a five-year old and both were entertained admirably. There was a fabulous area containing several child size ‘sets’ of stories about  Mog the Forgetful Cat, also by Judith Carr. We had trouble dragging the children away from there, so many little rooms to play  in and props to  play with.  The centre also has a cafe and a book/toy shop and plenty of toilets placed on every floor!

tiger

Bridport has not let us down this winter with so many films, plays, comedy nights etc., it’s impossible  to keep up. This week the Electric Palace has hosted a Mike Leigh Film Festival and The Man and I went to see Secrets and Lies. Brilliant film with some superb acting from Brenda Blethyn and Timothy Spall. Afterwards there was a Q&A session with Mike Leigh and Andrew Dickson (the musical composer). It was wonderful to hear them speak about film making and collaboration between composer and director. The music for Secrets and Lies is so good that you hardly notice it – which is how it should be. A member of the audience asked Mike Leigh how he chose his actors and he said that first and foremost they had  to be character actors and intelligent. He didn’t want anybody with a big ego. I loved watching the film but it made me feel a tad regretful. If I had my time again I would definitely have worked harder at my acting career. Maybe go to drama school, RADA if they’d have me. Oh, how I would absolutely love to be in a Mike Leigh film. *sigh*

Secrets and Lies…try and find it online or on a DVD such a brilliant film.

Can’t believe it’s nearly the end of February and March is looking very busy already. Must fit in more time to write my blog – I’m sure I have tons more to tell you but  hey, the sun is shining and it’s time for a cuppa!

cup of tea

 

Note Number 63. . . A Cowboy Story for Christmas.

christmasboot

Wayne Hollis Jackson was driving along the old Eagle Trail on his way back from the range. He was still a good fifteen mile away from home and the snow was hitting the windscreen of the truck like a hail of Lux soap flakes. The Jackson’s had always been cowboys, but he was sure glad not to be riding a horse in this weather. After a hard day, he was looking forward to getting back to a warm fire, and a fine bit of good Texan tucker that his momma would have ready for him at the house. His watch read six-thirty, and he had reckoned to be back before seven, but with the worsening weather, he began to doubt getting home at all.

A while later he was passing the McVale place, squinting to see where he was headed, he could just make out Mary-Lou McVale standing by the side of their station wagon flagging him down. He pulled over as close as he could, drew his hat down over his eyes and gathered his sheepskin coat around his body, opened the truck door and ran to Mary -Lou putting his arm around her.

‘What’s up Mrs McVale?’ he said.

The words came tumbling out, a torrent of panic.

‘The pick-up’s broke, the baby’s coming, the phone lines are down, there’s no mobile signal and Joe’s away working on the rigs. He was getting here for Christmas, but I think that ain’t possible now. The baby’s not due for another three weeks but the contractions are coming fast. I don’t see how I’m gonna make it to the hospital. Rightly I should have had my mother here but like I said, the baby’s not due for another three weeks.’

‘Well mam, I’ve delivered a fair few calves in my time, can’t see it’ll be that much different. Let’s get you inside, out of this blizzard.’

‘Won’t your mamma be worrying ’bout you?’

‘Guess she will but there’s nothing I can do ’bout that now. Anyways, she’ll likely think I’ve stayed up at the bunkhouse what with this weather and all.’

‘There’s some stew on the stove if you need a bite to eat.’

‘Why, that’s a mighty good idea, I could be here some time.’

For the next five hours Mary-Lou paced around the living room of the one storey house, moaning and groaning and Wayne comforted her between contractions. He tried to stay relaxed and not let on how nervous he felt about the imminent birth.

‘Do you think, with it being Christmas Eve an’ all, you might have a boy?’ he asked.

‘What, you mean, like a second coming?’ Mary-Lou kinda spat the words out.

‘I was just saying.’

‘I think it’s here,’ yelled Mary-Lou before dropping onto all fours and bellowing.

Wayne manoeuvred her onto the couch.

At just gone midnight, a beautiful little baby girl bawled her way into the world.

‘Oh my,’ said Wayne, ‘a new beginning. Aint that something? What are you gonna call her?’

‘Well, I don’t rightly fancy Waynette, but maybe Holly would be nice, a bit like your middle name? And it is Christmas day after all.’

Wayne stared at the little baby.

‘Imagine,’ he sighed, ‘if Jesus had been born a girl, the world might have been a whole different place.’

cowboy stork

This story was originally created from a prompt set as homework for a writing group that I have just joined, Story Traders, in Bridport. We had to take a character or two from a Christmas Carol or Song and write a story putting them in a modern setting. I chose the Cowboy Carol, which I love and I think my kids loved it too. If you don’t know it, you can listen to a version of it here.