A Weekend in London

I went to London for the weekend and I had a busy but brilliant time.

Friday I met up with a good friend of mine who moved to London a couple of years ago.  We went over to the Tower of London to see the poppies.  I wanted to see them again and she hadn’t seen them.  It was strange because in so many places there were more than there were when Mum and I went in September but they were very definitely taking them down and there were gazebos and boxes and people in places doing that.  It was also completely and utterly rammed with people looking at them.  Nice to see them again but definitely a shame that they literally put the last ones down and started pulling them down the next day.

We mooched around a bit as well and went to a couple of other places but mostly it was just a lot of fun and to get he chance to see her and catch up properly because every other time I’ve seen her in the last six or so months it’s been in a big group and not a lot of time to really chat just us.

Saturday was the real reason why I went to London.  I went to a Creative Writing Masterclass put on by Books and the City (a part of Simon and Schuster).  And I was very very very nervous before I got there but I’m extremely glad that I went.

I had a blast, all of the talks were useful (plus the panelists were good at presenting which really helps) and I got a ton of freebies – I think I counted 12 books when I got back to my hotel.  Plus, we had Prosecco to wind the day down.

I loved hearing Milly Johnson talk about writing and her path to where she is now.  It was encouraging to hear that all the struggling and difficulties of writing and the publishing process are worth it.  She was funny and engaging whilst being very honest and telling us what we needed to know.  I enjoyed speaking to her during the drinks afterwards too. Quite a few of the free books  I picked up are hers and she signed one for me.  It’s pretty fair to say I’ve going to be reading very little but her books over the next few weeks.  And if the books I’ve read by her previously are anything to go by it’s going to be very enjoyable.

Lizzy Kremer’s talk about the role of an agent was also eye opening as I didn’t realise they did quite so much.  As a part of her talk she mentioned a couple of books coming out next year that she worked with the authors of and I quickly scribbled down the titles because she’s clearly very passionate them and they sound incredible.  I’ve since seen that one of them is already on NetGalley so I’ve put in a request for a review copy.

The biggest things that came out of all the talks for me were

  • At some point during the writing process you’re going to hate your work and this is normal and happens to everyone. Keep going.
  • That the process is more involved than I had thought and people’s jobs involve more than I would have expected.
  • It’s important to have a team of people that are passionate about your writing during the publication process because it makes a huge difference.
  • Networking with other writers is key and social media (particularly Twitter) was mentioned several times as a big part by various people

I also had a one to one session with the editorial director about my writing.  I’d submitted it in advance and that was the bit that I was most nervous about.  I’m not sure why I was so nervous (now) because she was very friendly and easy to talk to.  Plus she was positive about my writing and the idea behind my novel.  And although I have a lot of work to do on my novel following the feedback the biggest negative thing she said (about my setting not working) was something I’d already been thinking myself and had mentioned to a couple of people.  So it crystallised my thinking if you will and made me think I need to have more confidence in myself and my writing.

I’m really glad I went and I enjoyed meeting all the other writers there.  I feel much more energised about writing now and am looking forward to getting back to my novel.

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.

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(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…

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(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.

>101 in 1001 – Item 28…

>

Make a continued effort to become a writer

…has been completed!

OK so this is one I could probably have ticked off some weeks ago when my Disability Now article was published but I wanted that to have it’s own entry.  So I decided to work on NaNoWriMo this year and then tick it off after that.  It’s also an apt time to do because my creative writing course has finished and I’ve decided not to continue it (for now at least).

I think becoming a writer or being a writer isn’t something you ever stop but more of an ongoing process.  Writing is definitely more about the journey than the destination – although we do all want to get published, you don’t stop being a writer once you are published once but continue on the journey to write other things, get better at writing and get other work out there for all to see.

I’m definitely spending more time and writing more consistently than I used to though and that’s definitely worth ticking this off as an achievement before.  Blogging has suffered lately but is something I’ll be diving back into full force in the next few weeks as I have several things I want to blog about.

>A Reading

>The Arts Centre where I do my creative writing class (amongst other things!) held a literary day on Saturday.  Basically they held a second hand book sale for charity and they had readings from “local writers” AKA the creative writing class.  It was actually described in the e-mail that went round promoting it as “readings from local writers” and I thought, oh cool I’d like to know who’ve got for local writers.  Then I realised, oh shit, that’s me!!

So I gave a reading on Saturday which was open to the public!  Scary!  There were 9 audience members and I think they were all people’s family or friends but still they were all people I don’t know as no one I asked could make it (which to be honest isn’t a bad thing!).  And there were seven of us from the class taking part (including the tutor).  So we had more of an audience than we had participants which is always good.  It took about an hour and a half and I think my bit lasted 10 mins (I didn’t time it then but I did when I was practising the night before)

We’d done a group anthology project where the tutor wrote the beginning of a story and we all used it as a jumping off point and wrote our own versions of what happened next with the rule – if you don’t know or can’t remember – make it up!  He then wrote bits linking it together and an end bit.  And that’s what we read out.  It did go really well and it was interesting seeing how we’d all started with the premise of a certified haunted house and the promise of £1 Million prize if you spend the night and went in completely different directions.  I think out of all 10 of us who wrote bits (3 couldn’t make it on Saturday) none of us had similar stories and none of us had a character winning the million – although my main character ended up in the money for another reason.

I’ve entered a slightly edited version of the bit that I wrote into a competition.  Which is a very good thing.  But it also brings me back to a very bad thing – I re-read the piece several times getting ready for this.  And I’ve spotted several mistakes that I know I didn’t edit out in the version I submitted to the competition (basically that version has a couple of extra sentences to explain the “haunted house, spend the night, win a million” premise)

I was a little bit nervous but not a lot.  And I only got really nervous when the person before me was reading.

>Compliments

>I’ve been meaning to post this since it happened because I don’t want to forget about it.  Especially today as I am a bit fed up about stupid things that shouldn’t bother me.  So here goes:

On Thursday one of the newer creative writers (there are several of us who have done the course more than once; he is one of the ones who was new this time round) and I were chatting.  We went out for a meal after the class as it was the last one of the course.

And he described me as a semi-professional writer what with all my reviewing and all that.

How very. very cool!  And definitely makes me realise that I am closer than I was to my goal.

Writing this out has made me feel a bit better now. Hopefully having it here will mean I can use it to remind me in the future if I need it.

>Been There, Done That

>I’ve been writing a piece about a woman in a wheelchair over the last week or so.  Basically, we’re doing a creative writing anthology in the class I go to. The tutor wrote an opening to a story, the premise of which is that this woman owns a haunted mansion and offers £1 Million to anyone who can last an entire night in there.  We’re all writing our own versions of what happens next.

And as soon as I heard about that idea my first thought was “that sort of place probably wouldn’t have wheelchair access”  I took that idea and ran with it for my part.  Writing it gave me fits but it’s pretty much finished now, just needs a decent edit and I might write a bit more of an ending.  I gave it the title of “Unreasonable Adjustments” which, as I mentioned before,  I absolutely love.  I might stick it online when it’s done or I might not.  Depends what I decide to do with it really.

Anyway at the class on Thursday we each got a couple of people’s opinions on our piece.  Three people read mine and I got some useful feedback.  Although strangely I’ve since reread it and picked up on a major mistake which none of them pointed out.  I did get comments about how it helped them to get into the head of a wheelchair user and see what it was like.  I also got told by one guy that he loved my humour and sarcasm and that it was “very Bridget Jones”

I didn’t write it to help people see what wheelchair users experience or anything like that. And I never set out to be funny, I rarely do deliberate humour in my writing.

I wrote about

Needing to ask pointed questions about whether you can get your wheelchair in the disabled loo and does it have grab rails – because I have found ones before where you can’t.  Or where you can but you can’t shut the door.  Been there, done that.  And later on in the story Claire my main character discovers things aren’t as they were described.  Been there, done that as well. Unfortunately.

About disabled loos being kept locked and staff not knowing where the key is. I haven’t had that one but I carry my radar key on my house keys and I have been asked in places to open it for them because they’ve lost theirs.

Looking for the loo before you’re desperate because it takes time to find it and all the other stress that can go with it.  Been there, done that.

Staff not knowing that they have a disabled loo despite others saying they do have one when you ask in advance.  Been there, done that. In fact at one of my schools a staff member once asked me where the disabled loo was because she had a visitor in a wheelchair and didn’t know.  What gets me about that was it was they knew in advance some of the people coming were in wheelchairs.

Wheelchair access being around the back, by the bins or otherwise out of sight.  Been there, done that.  Too many times to count!!

And about finding people having sex in disabled loos.  I just noticed that one of the people who did a crit for me has written “good humour, one hopes it isn’t based on personal experience” by that bit. And you guessed it, been there, done that.  Once.  And hopefully never, ever again.  Although I didn’t actually see anything thankfully…

Yes, a big plot point does revolve around disabled loos.

I can’t help thinking however that this might show them “what it’s like to be in a wheelchair” from their point of view.  But from mine it really doesn’t.  I don’t know what it would take to show that in a story and I’m not sure I want to try.  This piece might be fiction and it might be a lot of fun.  And I’m really pleased with how it’s come out and especially with the feedback.  It’s a huge part of my life that highlights however.  And a part of me does want to go “this is my life!!” and make them see the bigger picture.

But I don’t think I will.  Because that’s a route which often leads to pity and guess what? I’ve been there, done that.  I don’t want to do it again!!

>You know you’re a writer when…

>…you get lost in writing and forget to have dinner

or the long version:

You know you’re a writer when you have a great idea and a fantastic title for your part of a group anthology (that we’re doing in creative writing part).  You get stuck on the how, write the beginning (takes two weeks) and then spend a week trying to figure out how to make what comes next work.  Two hours before the class you figure it out and start trying to get it down.  You do get a rough first draft done but you get so lost in the writing you don’t eat dinner.  Instead you have a quick and very small snack while running out the door.  After the class you then go to the new restaurant in town for drinks and decide to order a small glass of rose and a more substantial snack.  Which turns into them bringing you a large glass of rose (twice as big as what you ordered) and a not as substantial as expected snack.  And as you rarely drink you end up feeling kinda buzzed despite drinking water as well as wine.

It was ALL very fun though!

And the title of my piece? Unreasonable Adjustments.  The anthology is basically a starting piece that our tutor wrote and we’re all doing our own version of what happened next with our own characters.  And I’ve thrown a wheelchair user into the mix, and a setting that isn’t very wheelchair friendly.  DDA requires businesses etc to make “reasonable adjustments” so I thought Unreasonable Adjustments was the way to go.

The tutor commented at one point that not everyone has given their bit a title.  I just went “I’m not getting rid of my title, my title rocks.”

>Two Creative Writing Prompts

>We were talking about setting the scene and establishing mood at my creative writing class tonight.  As a part of that we did two exercises.

The first was to describe a place you love or hate in two sentences without saying why you love or hate it.

Ducks, geese and swans as well as a sewage works, this is the noisy home to an eclectic mix.  You usually end up getting either sunburnt, really wet, or both and laughing as you watch spectacular sunsets whilst doing something you thought impossible.


That’s Oxford Sailing Club in case you hadn’t guessed I was talking about sailing.  The first thing my tutor said when I read it out is “are you talking about sailing?”

For the second exercise we as a group came up with the description of a bar.  Who was in it, what sounds there were, what the weather was like, what was in it, what it smelt like etc.  Then we were each given a short character description at random and had to write a description of that bar as though we were that person (in first person).  We had about 15 mins for that.  My prompt was a woman in mourning for her husband who has died suddenly.  This is typed up exactly as I wrote it and without any editing.

This really isn’t the sort of bar I’d usually go to.  And I don’t think I’ll be coming back.  We always used to go to nice quiet wine bars.  Or to old country pubs.  The type you find almost by accident and collapse into after a long walk.  Jess had insisted however.  Claimed I needed to get out.  “It’s Christmas” she’d said as though that explained it all.  I didn’t go out as often as I used to, hadn’t been out in months.


Zach had died suddenly one night.  An hour after we’d got home from our favourite pub.  I’d gone to make hot chocolate.  Celebratory hot chocolate we’d laughed.  After more than a year of trying we’d finally won the pub quiz.  Five minutes later I dropped the mugs on the floor when I found him.  He was dead, just like that.  I hadn’t had a night out since.  Nor had I managed to get the chocolate stain out of the carpet.


So, three months later I found myself in this crazy pub.  It’s full of children screaming as their mums sing Christmas Carols badly on the karaoke machine and their dads roar at something on the biggest TV I’ve ever seen.  Jess had said this was a nice place.  It had a fire I could sit by and we could chat.  Shout right in each others ears? Yes. Chat? No.  And as for the fire?  Tattooed bikers sit round it along with a menacing looking dog.  I wouldn’t dare go near it.  It’s so cold in here too.  Snow is coming down by the doors are propped wide open and I don’t dare go shut them.


I was really intrigued by the sound of the wine I’d chosen.  But now I don’t know why Jess thought I’d like this bar.  I didn’t like this sort of place when I was a teenager let alone now.  I just want to go back three months.  Back to “our” pub.  Back to Zach.

>Creative Writing Prompt – The Object

>At creative writing last night we each picked a random object (without looking) from a box our tutor bought with him.  Then we had about ten minutes to write something about the object’s owner, which included the object.  This is mine.  I might do something more with it, I’m sort of toying with the idea.

The Enigma

He is a bit of a mystery – and that’s the way he likes it.  He’s a bit different – a bit unusual.  That’s what people think about him or at least those that get close enough.  To everyone else he’s just a regular guy.  Friendly, helpful, unremarkable really.  He likes that view of him too but not as much as he likes being a mystery.  But then there aren’t many people who get close enough to notice the silver cufflinks shaped like question marks.  And fewer still who realise just what they mean.