The End of NaNo

So it’s the end of November and Nanowrimo ends at midnight.

I’m a nano winner in that I’ve written over 50,000 words this month.

I’ve not written a book. I’ve not even written anything vaguely like a first draft of a book. Some of my friends are talking about submitting for publication pretty much straight away. They are either much better writers than I am or totally insane. Or both.

What I’ve written is a mess. It’s a variety of scenes from the idea I had. Some I planned and some I didn’t. Some work and some make me cringe just to think of them. I suspect when I look back some of the ones I thought worked probably won’t and some that made me cringe will turn out to be better than I remembered. I hope so anyway.

I’ve also come away with the feeling that the idea I had is actually for two stories rather than two arcs in the same book. And that very possibly I’m using the wrong perspective and the wrong main character. I wrote a bit using the new main character on Thursday and again yesterday and I like it a lot. It feels like better writing. But I think I’ll miss the person I thought was the main character. Which is why I’m thinking this is two stories not the one I thought it was.

More importantly being able to lose myself in my writing has helped me deal with a very difficult month with major wheelchair problems, several very sad happenings and lots of stress.

Taking part in NaNo has got me back into the habit of writing regularly once again. And it’s reawakened my love of writing. I needed that.

NaNo for me isn’t about writing a book, or finishing a book or anything like that it’s about writing and the fact it makes me do it. And tomorrow I get to go drink cocktails with a couple of very good friends (one I met through NaNo and one I got to know better through NaNo but knew before) and a bunch of new friends to celebrate that fact.

Surrounded by Sadness

After I wrote the things that make me happy post on Saturday I’d planned to write some more on the subject. I will write more on the subject I’m sure but tonight sees me writing about the opposite of happiness.

Because there is a hell of a lot of sadness around me lately.

I heard of the death of a friend of mine and my parents yesterday.

It was I think the sixth death I’ve heard of in the past seven weeks. Plus my Dad was saying he and my mum know of two others who have died recently.

Two distant family members. For one she was in her nineties and I think it wasn’t unexpected. The second was unexpected and frankly in shocking circumstances.
A very vague acquaintance I’d not seen in years and who probably didn’t remember me
Two people within the wider challenger sailing community, one of whom I’d met briefly once or maybe twice but mostly exchanged a few emails with. The second I don’t think I’d met or at least his name didn’t ring a bell. But he was sailing when he died and I do know the person who was on the boat with him at the time which got me a bit…
And now our family friend.

Funnily enough mum and I used to quite often see him and his wife at the arts centre. We were there three times last week and I’d commented to mum that we’d not seen them for ages and I was surprised they weren’t at the talk on the power station. Then we went to Gyles Brandreth on Saturday and we saw his wife (we know them because she was my carer when I was tiny before I went to school and they used to visit us at least every Christmas until I was well into my teens) with who I assume to be one of her granddaughters. She was telling us about her husband. How he was poorly and in hospital but it sounded like he was in good spirits. We said “send him our love” or words to that extent. And then we went into the show.

And afterwards I was by the merchandise table waiting to get my book signed. She came by and looked at the books. Picked one up saying she’d get it signed for her husband because he’d been meant to come to the show with her. Joined the queue behind me.

Then mid morning yesterday my phone rang.

When my mum rings in the middle of the day in the week it’s usually something wrong or some sort of specific question that needs an immediate answer, often tech support for her computer. And I could tell it wasn’t going to be one of those situations where I’m on the end of the phone trying to tell her how to find something on her laptop and getting annoyed because it’s so obvious if she’d just look properly and she’s at the other end getting even more annoyed and declaring “stupid computer!” In the tone of voice she gets when she’s about ready to chuck it out the window.

And it wasn’t.

She was ringing to tell me of a trip to Tesco, of hearing that our friend had died and a long hug in the middle of the supermarket.

Yet more sadness. Like a bolt from the blue.

I’ve been dealing with a lot of problems lately. Wheelchair issues with both my manual and powerchairs, anaemia, the hospital transport disaster last week. I’ve been feeling crap. I’m run down I think and pretty stressed.

But at the same time all I keep hearing lately is about sad things. People struggling and so many deaths. I don’t remember ever hearing of so many deaths in such a short period before. And in a way that scares me.

It’s like I’m surrounded in the periphery at least by sadness and people struggling.

Am I sad? Yes and no. I’m sad about our friend who just died. I had a drink at the arts centre at lunch with some other friends. It was weird to think he’ll never make me jump again by appearing behind me in there to say hello. I was sad to hear of the other deaths too. But most of all I’m sad for all the people around me who are struggling because of that.

So as much as I planned to sit down tonight and write my follow post about things that make me happy, I can’t. Because happiness and sadness go hand in hand. And I needed to write about that sadness first.

Things that make me happy

Mum and I went to see Gyles Brandreth in his one man snow Looking for Happiness this evening. It wasn’t what I was expecting but it was was really good. The only reason it wasn’t what I was expecting was because I didn’t really know much about him in advance of the show tonight and was expecting something a little more stand up like. Some of his stories I’d not heard of the people he mentioned but unlike with some other acts when I’ve been too young to know some of the things or people they were talking about that didn’t matter.

I picked up a copy of his book after the show and he signed it for me. When I told him my name he said “Emma, they should write a book about you.” And I asked what it would be about, expecting him to say something which could only be categorised as inspiration porn. He said it would be “Emma: Her Story.”

During the show he asked a few people what made them happy. Most of them said family, children, husband, grandchildren. During the interval mum said her first thought had been cake.

My first thought for what makes me happy was sailing, because that’s the sort of thing you can tell people and it doesn’t require any explanation about what it is and people don’t look at you like you’re weird. Plus it does make me happy. Often I’ll go on the water and by the time I come in I’ll feel a lot calmer and better about things. I sometimes think a few people who know I sail but have never been there or seen me so it think it’s a much bigger part of my life than it is though. I may be selling it/myself short there though.

Then my next thought was that my wheelchair makes me happy. In many ways that’s probably the thing that makes me happiest. The manual and the power but in different ways. Because the manual gives me my mobility and my independence but my powerchair gives me my freedom.

So on my way home I was thinking of what makes me happy. Here is my not conclusive list in no particular order other than what they came to mind as I was typing this.

My family
My friends
My manual chair
My powerchair
Feeling that I’ve made a difference
Putting loud music on and singing along
Going to new places
Feeling I belong
Disability culture
Time to myself
Jacket potatoes done in the oven so they have crispy skins smothered in cheese
Dyeing my hair bright colours
Painting my nails
Watching live parasport
Learning new things

Random Bullet Points of Life

+ It’s been ridiculously long since I last finished a book. Too busy writing. I started a book at the hospital on Wednesday but couldn’t concentrate on it. It’s a good book I think just too distracted at the hospital.

+ I went to wheelchair services on Wednesday and got a new pommel put in my cushion. The OT also adjusted my footplates to what she thought would be a better position to me. She did one and I was all it’s too high, my knees feel like they’re up around my boobs. But I asked her to change the other just to see and once they were both set to the same height that feeling went. It’s different but it’s not bad. I really like the new pommel though so that’s good.

+ By the time I left the hospital on Wednesday night, several of the admin staff for that section of the hospital, the duty lead nurse for the entirety of the hospital, the duty manager of the ambulance service, several of the nurses and the ward clerk for the inpatient ward of the section of the hospital I go to were all aware of my existence and the fact I was having serious problems (transport got me there really late so I missed my slot to go home – I actually wasn’t at the hospital at the time I was meant to go home). Not to add the fact that I was already seeing the head of wheelchair services because of my previous appointment and those issues. What was really nice about that was they advocated for me so getting it sorted took loads of energy but I wasn’t constantly on them to do something which would have taken more energy. I’ve complained about this and wheelchair services have also reported an incident. As I said it’s really nice not to be fighting alone.

+ On Tuesday I went to a free talk about how they are going to demolish the power station. It was really interesting but I’ll be sad to see the power station go, it’s such a landmark locally. And as a child it was how we always knew we were home. Several of my local friends have similar stories. For us it was always “the holiday isn’t over until you can see the chimney pots.” They showed an animation of how they intend to take it down and what I took to be a sad “ooooh” went round the room each time one of the towers fell.

+ Yesterday I went to a warm up gig of Jon Richardson. I really enjoyed his set. The name of his warm up act escapes me but I didn’t enjoy him as much (but he still managed to be better than either Shappi Khorsandi or Andi Osho both of whom were terrible earlier this year and who mum and I use as a scale to judge comedians by. Shappi was the worst).

+ Tomorrow we have tickets to see Gyles Brandreth. I’m not sure what to expect.

+ And finally talking of gigs, a couple of weeks ago mum and I went to see Mark Thomas. He was absolutely brilliant. And mum liked him a lot too which I was really pleased by because I’d not been sure what she’d think as he’s quite political and it’s more satire than regular stand up.

Writing thoughts or tips

With it being November and NaNoWriMo I’ve been doing a lot of writing. I’ve also been thinking about writing a lot and I’ve spent some time with groups of writers. Some of these are published writers. Some write fiction, some write articles. Some are very experienced and have written novels for years but aren’t at the stage of submitting them yet. Some just write for fun, and some are just starting out.

Writing groups are interesting things. I’ve been part of several different versions of two very different writing groups over the years. One of those groups no longer exists. The other does but basically in name only because I am the only person still attending regularly from when I joined in 2007 and it’s set up is completely different. I like it but it no longer gives me what I would like in a writing group.

Anyway that’s a bit of a long winded way to say I’ve been thinking about what tips I’d give to people who are doing NaNo for the first time or who just want to get into writing.

Do it because you want to. Writing is not easy and it’s not going to make you masses of money. And certainly not anytime soon. At the last nano meet up I went to someone said Danielle Steel is quoted as saying it took her 15 years to become an overnight success. Most people think My Best Friend’s Girl is Dorothy Koomson’s first book. It’s not, it was just her first smash after being part of the Richard and Judy book club. Her first book was The Cupid Effect published several years before.

Pick the right people to talk to about your writing. I have several great friends I can talk to about writing in general. Tips, tricks, mechanics it’s all good. But with a couple of them I’ve learned not to talk about what I’m writing. One of them doesn’t like the sort of stuff I write and thinks it isn’t “proper writing”. The other does but if I say “I’ve started a story where XYZ happens” they immediately tell me everything that’s wrong with the idea. I’d happily show them a finished project for nitpicking (although probably not as my first beta reader) but not for new idea encouragement.

Read. Read lots. Read things that are like what you want to write and which aren’t. I’ve not been reading many books this month, I’ve mostly been reading fanfic. And I’ve been thinking there was something missing in what I’ve been writing. A few days ago I started listening to an audiobook and I twigged. It felt flat because it needed more descriptions of setting etc. I’m not sure my writing is much improved by that but it feels better.

50,000 words is not really a novel. It’s not long enough unless your writing kid lit or YA. Nor are you like to come out with a finished novel (hell I doubt I can ever call what I’ve got a first draft). Put it away and then go back to it fresh in a few days/weeks/months to finish it and give it a damn good edit. And for the love of god do not finish writing it in November for NaNoWriMo and submit it to publishers in December. Apparently that happens a lot. From what I’ve heard from a few publishing types they hate it and generally end up wanting to bitch slap people who do that for the sheer stupidity of it.

Once Upon A Time…

Once upon a time there was a girl called Emma.

She was the really impatient sort and really liked the sound of Christmas. So she decided she wanted to be born early and have herself an extra one. Instead of being born in early February 1982 she was born six weeks early on Christmas Day 1981. As a result she was what was called a preemie and developed a little something called CP. That meant she had to use a wheelchair but thankfully she happened to think wheelchairs were all sorts of cool.

Now Emma was the second baby born in that Oxford hospital that Christmas (although for years and years she’d thought she was the first and was a little disappointed to eventually learn she wasn’t). Later that day Father Christmas came to visit her. He brought her a little blue teddy bear she’d name Bobby and her dad who was fond of nicknames would call Sir Robert. Bobby would eventually travel the world with Emma and even go to university with her. She’d still have him when she was 31 and living in her own flat.

In later years she’d tell people that it was a fair trade off – she’d gotten the extra Christmas she’d wanted in 1981 and had paid for that by developing CP. CP wasn’t a big deal though and also CHRISTMAS! so it all worked out in the end. Most of the people she told that story to were never sure if she was joking or serious and she didn’t tell them.

And then one day in 2013 she saw posts all over Facebook and Twitter about how it was World Prematurity Day and celebrating that fact. For about two seconds Emma considered writing a post about it. But she decided she’d rather share her story of an extra Christmas. And so she did.

Then she went back to living her happy ever after.

The End

Support of a sort

Tonight is Children in Need.

I don’t like Children in Need. I think it’s inspiration porn and support for charity designed to make people feel better for all the excesses they have (or perhaps in the current climate used to have) by making them pity those who don’t have as much. Or who have disabilities or other so called disadvantages.

I wrote about that over on Bea this morning in Be a Hero

And I wrote about the same topic here on my blog last year: Inspiration Porn.

Random Bullet Points of Life

♥ I got my powerchair back yesterday and I took it out for a very long wander around this afternoon. I came back cold but with the cobwebs well and truly blown away and feeling happier.

(An Instagram I took as proof I went out and because I thought it looked nice. Road, trees, sky, cars going past and the power station in the distance)

♥ I can’t remember if I posted here that I was going to take the creative writing class again. It was going to be a five week class with the same tutor I had before. The first one was last week but the rest have been cancelled due to low numbers. Which didn’t surprise me. It’s a shame but I’m not as bothered as I was because I wanted to take it to help me find my writing mojo again and I’d already located it.

♥ my GP just called me (at 7:20 PM). My iron levels were back to normal when tested but my stores were still low. I may need to keep taking iron on a very low dose long term however. I feel this is a perfect time to declare “sometimes it’s hard to be a woman…” (Who sang that?) retest in December.

♥ it’s probably over a week and a half since I finished a book.

♥ I actually finished a craft project! Well a couple of weeks ago but the recipient has it now so…


(Pink crocheted baby blanket, crocheted in the round. Large bright pink stripes interspaced with a few narrower light pink ones)

♥ I have 26,437 words written for NaNo. They are mostly crap.


At the 11th minute
Of the 11th hour
Of the 11th day
Of the 11th month

We will remember them.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


(This is a photo of a field of poppies)

I found this picture via English With A Twist a blog I’d never seen before. That link takes you to a very good and informative Remembrance Day post.

A properly poorly powerchair (part two)

I wrote most of this Thursday and ran out of time to finish it and then forgot about it!

So I got a phone call from the powerchair technician earlier tonight.

He’d fixed both the problems he’d found on Monday, replaced my battered arm rests and fitted my new batteries. It was on track for me to have it back tomorrow.

All good. But you know when you can just hear in someone’s voice that there’s a but coming? I don’t really know him but was getting that feeling.

And unfortunately there was. A pretty big but too.

He’d fitted one of the new tyres I requested this afternoon and then gone to do the second one. At which point he’d discovered another problem.

A crack in the wheel. Which means it’s not safe to use and I can’t have it back.

I’ve had this chair less than two years. Probably 20 months in fact.

In that time I’ve

    Had to have the swing away joystick mechanism replaced after having an accident with the door. That was accidental damage and so wasn’t covered by the warranty but was by my insurance. I’ve never been convinced I actually hit the door hard enough to crack it and don’t think it should have done. But at the same time someone then grabbed the door to help and I think that actually worsened the situation.
    Had to have all four of the casters replaced due to what was described as expected wear and tear after only 14 months. And I mean the wheels not the tyres. Apparently according to the supplier you could say it was a little early but it wasn’t covered by the warranty.
    Worn out my tyres on the main drive wheels to such an extent they have no tread left. I have to pay for that and given how many hundreds of miles I must have done in it, don’t mind that.
    Ditto batteries. They are now not holding their charge anywhere near as much as they were. I’d say at the moment I could probably do less than two thirds of what I used to be able to between charges and I’ve struggled more on slopes and seen the low battery light rather a lot lately :-S usually I would expect to get between a year and 18 months out of a set so this is pretty good. But part of that will be because it was a brand new chair and I won’t get as much out of them next time. It was suggested by the technician that I could get another year out of them because average is three years (I know of at least three other wheelchair technicians who would read that and be all WTF. But I don’t think they read my blog) but I wouldn’t be able to go as far between charges. I said no because really what’s the point in that? And also, that struck me as dodgy advice (a pet peeve of mine, it’s the CAB adviser in me).

    Had problems with one of the front wheels keep bouncing off the ground leading to the discovery if a broken shock absorber and a cracked chassis which needed fully replacing. Both covered by the warranty.
    A cracked wheel. That was only found after my chair was in the workshop for several days when they took the wheel off to do the tyre. Apparently it’s lucky they decided to clean my wheel before putting the tyre on otherwise they wouldn’t have seen it. Sunrise Medical claim this is a general wear and tear item and not covered by the warranty. I was about ready to lose the fucking plot when the technician told me that. But then he told me he’d argued the point and Sunrise Medical are providing a new wheel for free as a gesture of goodwill. And yes calling it a gesture of goodwill really does take the piss.

Oh and I’ve now been told that that my wheelchair supplier knows of four people including me who he’s got or had a part in getting a
Quickie Salsa for only to have the chassis break.

Interesting times people.

I had an email from an old school friend Katherine earlier this week. She was talking about getting a new wheelchair. She’d been to try out new chairs that day and one of the ones she tried was the mid wheel drive version of the Salsa. I told her to avoid it at all costs.

Part of me wishes someone had told me that last year.

(Setting the categories for this post has made me think I should set up a “completely and utter bollocks” category. But I think I’ll wait until another day)