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 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 41…Sober October and more…

nawineLining up the non-alcoholic wines…they’re not bad. Not too sweet. The two on the right I bought from Waitrose and the one on the left from the Co-op (yet to be tested)

I spent from the end of September until Saturday 4th November without a drop of alcohol. When you tell people this the first thing they ask is, ‘do you feel any better for it?’ The honest answer is that I’m not sure, because I think the autumn weather (wet and windy), and preparing myself for the clock change at the end of October…do not bode well for me. I like warm sunshine and dry fields and whilst I love sitting by the fire in the dark evenings, reading a book and watching a film on the telly I find myself feeling ‘wintry’ as in not inspired to do very much but hibernate. Is that a good way to feel? I think not. Something has to be done about it.

woodburner

I love the wood burning stove…a necessity for hibernating. 

Get out and about, visit Bridport, attend some writing workshops, go to the library, walk the dog and don’t succumb to the winter blues. So that’s what I’m planning and have already implemented as far as I can.

First workshop attended was at Waterstones, in Dorchester. Organised by the Dorset Writers’ Network and led by Rosanna Ley. A group of twelve writers of varying experience, spent two hours listening, creating and having fun on the subject of ‘Sense of Place’. Making sure that your writing gets a true picture of where your story is set and bringing reality to the internal and external scenes that you write. I came away feeling inspired and keen to get on with at least one of my half-written novels, so that has to be good. I began reading through a manuscript this morning…or should I say trudging…think I need to make some drastic changes! Open book with glasses

We are members of the Bridport Film Society (in fact I’m on the committee, not wanting to boast or anything) so every other Tuesday from now until March we can go and see an International film at the Bridport Arts Centre. This week is is Julietta ‘an exquisite study of a mother-daughter relationship tested though trying times…’ Sounds interesting eh? It’s a Spanish film with subtitles. I know some people hate subtitles but I love them because I love watching foreign films and I hate it when they’re dubbed.

Walking the dog has become something of a difficulty because of the muddy fields when it’s necessary to wear Wellington boots. These are hard to step out in and generally I end up with back ache at the end of even a half-hour walk. My decision is to put on the Wellies in the morning,  take the dog to the nearest field, let her run for 5k while I walk for 1.5k then bring her home. In the afternoon I will put on an ordinary pair of lightweight walking shoes, take to the roads and do another 3k. This is my plan but we all know about my plans and how they can change depending on my mood and the weather.

emily

My daughter striding out in the muddy fields last Saturday, complete with baby on her back! Oh to be young again….(she did get wet feet though) 

Going back to the alcohol thing, when I did drink that half glass of red wine on Saturday 4th November, it was Ciu Ciu Gotico (if you’re interested) which, usually I adore…I didn’t really enjoy it on this occasion so the other 5 bottles that I brought back from Italy will probably sit on the rack for some time to come. I have found a couple of reasonable alcohol free or de-alcoholised wines and I’m going to stick to them for a while. Although a gin and tonic does sound rather tempting at around 6pm in front of the wood burning stove while I contemplate my next day’s writing challenge.

Watch this space for some Christmas poetry come December or I might record them on my other blog www.shortstorypods.com

 

 

Note Number 15…Logs…Targets and Totals…

I have been trying to walk further with the dog, Jpeg (note number 16 will tell you why she’s called that) and The Man introduced me to Strava. It’s an App you can get on your phone and it’s really for people who run, cycle or swim but, he kept on at me, (as men do) because he uses it for cycling and he was convinced it would get me walking more. So I downloaded it to my smart phone. Strava logs your activity for you, making a little map, it gives you information such as the time you take to cover a kilometre or mile, how far you’ve travelled, etc., etc., Then you load it from your phone onto the Strava website and everyone can see what you’ve done. You get a little ‘personal best’ cup if you walk the same bit of road in a faster time and you can follow people and they can follow you, it’s a kind of Facebook for athletes. I feel a bit stupid on it really because I’m just walking the dog and others are swimming the channel, running 10k and cycling a 100k – sometimes all three in the same day! BUT, it has worked to a certain extent as I now think about how far I’m walking each week and trying out different places to go. So thumbs up to Strava…oh and other people can give you kudos so you feel good about yourself, which is always good for the self-esteem.

index

Please note the Running shoe on the Icon…I am invariably in wellies or walking boots. See below.

welliesI don’t think Jpeg cares about targets except how many birds she can chase

hill

One of the many, muddy hills I struggle up, fighting against the strava clock ….phew!

I have also been trying to lose weight and get fit after Christmas, along with The Man, who is wanting to do lots of long cycle rides in 2017, some of which will take him over the Alps so he has to be ‘superfit’. Making a note of how much you lose every other day, and writing down what you eat is so helpful. Checking calories – it’s amazing how they add up, 50 here 50 there, soon become 200 or 300.  I haven’t got an App for this but I know there are plenty around.  But, the diet is going well, I’m 6 pounds down and The Man is 11 pounds down, going on a stone…so happy bunnies all round.

Things we’re not eating right now…

 

Things we are eating right now…note, no grapes The Man says, “They are sugar bombs!”

My other aim is to finish this novel ‘Oh, we’ve heard all that before!’ I hear you cry. But, honestly, I am getting down to it, aided by a programme that I have for writing called Scrivener. I love it and I can set my word target for the whole novel and a word count for each session that I type and watch it going up. I have it set for 2000 words a day, and when I’ve completed that number a message pings up on the screen – You have reached your target – which is a great feeling. Of course, half of what I’ve written is probably rubbish but, nevertheless I’m writing!

target

Whoops! Look at that…not a singe word yet today…and my deadline for 85,000 words is the end of March. Now you ALL know about it,  I will have to get on with it!

January, February…soon be March…soon be Easter!

My Map of Berlin in 1913, had to print it out in 9 sections and stick together. You of course can only see this tiny version

My Map of Berlin in 1913, had to print it out in 9 sections and stick together. You of course can only see this tiny version

Getting a bit behind with my posts this year and it’s only February!  It’s amazing how time flies when you’re doing nothing. Well, doing nothing isn’t strictly true, I am trying to write a novel and now wondering whatever made me start, but start I have and finish I must. It does take up a lot of my writing time though. It’s proving to be much harder than I thought, mainly because I’ve decided to start the story in Berlin at the beginning of 1914 and this means lots of research.  So every five sentences or so I have to look something up. ‘Why not look it all up before you start,’ I hear you say. Well, it’s not that easy because things pop up that you don’t expect to pop up and then you have to check out things and change things…It’s a learning curve. The Man is quite helpful, he does have a great deal of historical facts and information stored in his head which has come in pretty handy for me lately.

But, back to Italy and Le Marche.

In January we went from this….

The Man strolling in the warm Thai sunshine

The Man strolling in the warm Thai sunshine

To this….

icyroad

Snow and ice in Italy January 2015

We were welcomed home by the animals….

Jpeg now always waiting by the door in case there's a chance we might leave without her and pop off to Thailand again.

Jpeg now always waiting by the door in case there’s a chance we might leave without her and pop off to Thailand again.

Mickey the cat making himself comfortable...

Mickey the cat making himself comfortable… he missed The Man I think. 

Of course we have more than just animals in our family and my son Will joined us for a few days at the beginning of this year.  We took him for a day out…as you do with your kids. We first went to Porto Recanati, which was a little bit of a disappointment. Like any seaside resort, out of season it lacked a certain liveliness and colour. The restaurants were almost all closed and the sea front (lungomare) was cheerless. But we did find a place serving a 2 course lunch with wine for about 12 euro a head. Pasta followed by fried fish. I wish I could remember the name of the restaurant but I can’t… and it appears I didn’t take a photo…perhaps Will did. After lunch we went to Castelfidardo to the accordion museum, which was very interesting. I had thought that it would be a little boring but there were show cases housing many different types and styles of accordion. Paolo Soprani, a farmhand from Castelfidardo, early in the 1860s began what was the first industrial production of accordions and a model of his workshop is in the museum and a video showing the history of the instrument and clips of bands, orchestras and even the Beatles playing the accordion in many different styles of music.

Wills, who plays himself, was able to give a quick demo while in the museum, interesting because apparently he plays it upside down, but it didn’t seem to make any difference to the tune.

wills

After the museum we went to a shop selling accordion…not cheap.  Castefidardo is apparently THE place to buy an accordion if you are a professional player or know your stuff.  People come from all over the world to buy in this small town and probably in the very shop we were in – Victoria. We didn’t buy one, not on this occasion anyway.  We did however, get the change to play the biggest accordion in the world – well we posed for a photo anyway.

bigestpiano

We enjoyed ourselves so much that we decided, The Man and I, that we would go for an outing once each week… get out and about more, you know what I mean?  Needless to say that didn’t happen but we did manage lunch in January in Smerillo in a fab restaurant called  Le Logge. We dined in the typical Marche way, several courses including an unusual one of bacon and egg.

baconandegg

wine, coffee and vino cotto, plus a drop of mistra (very strong aniseed liqueur locally distilled) served in an edible chocolate cup! Fantastic.  We’ll be going there again in the summer when we’ll be able to sit outside.

liquerinchoc

Lovely waitress pouring my mistra into the chocolate cup!

Since then we’ve been pathetic in attempting our day out a week – well I AM writing a novel…we did manage to get to the White Bakery in San Benedetto last Friday (13th)  to enjoy  burger and chips.  Grand stuff.

burger2

finished

We didn’t enjoy that much!

Looking forward to some warmer weather in March and our next outing, which will be to Jesi….watch this space.