ABOUT ME

My photo
Morecambe, Lancashire, United Kingdom
In the mornings I’m a Nursery Cook, the rest of the time a Writer. Been writing for decades: short stories, plays, poems, a sitcom and more recently flash fiction, Creative Writing MA at Lancaster Uni and now several novels. Been placed in competitions (Woman’s Own, Greenacre Writers and flashtagmanchester) and shortlisted in others (Fish, Calderdale, Short Fiction Journal). I won the Calderdale Prize 2011, was runner-up in the Ink Tears Flash Fiction Comp & won the Greenacre Writer Short Story Comp 2013. I have stories in Jawbreakers, Eating My Words, Flash Dogs Anthologies 1 & 2 (Solstice : Light and Dark)100 RPM and the Stories for Homes anthology. My work’s often described as ‘sweet’ but there’s usually something darker and more sinister beneath the sweetness. I love magical realism and a comedy-tragedy combination. My first novel, Queen of the World, is about a woman who believes she can influence the weather. I’m currently looking for an agent with my 2nd novel, Fast Talking and working on a 3rd and 4th (Curls and Kite Children). Originally from the West Midlands, I love living by the sea in Morecambe, theatre, books, food, weather, sitcoms and LBBNML … SQUEEZE!

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

THE IMPOSSIBLE THING: SAL’S TIPS PART 1


Can’t believe I’m doing this but … I’ve lost 61 pounds … I’m entitled.

Why Now?

We all need a good reason. I’ve tried to work out what mine were.

a) Turning fifty. Yes, I’ve also turned thirty (too busy to have a crisis!) and forty (trying to stay sane in a horrible, horrible job) so here I am. In a good place. Morecambe! I find myself living a mile and a half from a sea view pool and with nine miles of promenade and a designated cycle path to Lancaster (where I work in a much less horrible job). When I moved here I had no plans for swimming/cycling. Is this the universe speaking?

b) Having a friend - my fitness guru extraordinaire - who's shown me (NB. NOT told me, would’ve been a big mistake, SHOWN me) how she does lots of exercise in order to be able to eat more and stay slim. That day after the Squeeze concert in October ’15 when I was swimming, I could see her from the pool, running three and a half miles on a treadmill because she’d eaten that big pizza. (I had a big pizza too!) That was the moment. Coupled with thinking ‘I LOVE swimming. Why on earth don’t I do it more often?’

c) I practiced acceptance for decades. Then, through two things I achieved earlier that year – giving up my Coke drinking to reduce my headaches & making an effort to look after my ‘kitchen hands’ better by use of gloves and copious amounts of Savlon – I realised I don’t have to suffer stuff like that so began to think ‘what next?’

d) The realisation that I've used my determination, stubbornness and, dare I say it?, intelligence to do a variety of things over the years (Eg. Two degrees, being good at my job (& leaving the horrible, horrible one), moving to a different part of the country, buying a flat ... go on, have a think, look back and acknowledge your own!) so WHY NOT THIS ONE?

 Your Own Rules

We’re all different. We all have advantages and disadvantages. We could all make excuses or say someone else has it easier. Stop all that right now. How you decide to do it is dependent on you. Make your plan (a vague one to start with is fine) based on your job, lifestyle, home situation, what exercise you can do, favourite foods, best times to eat, etc …

 Start

Beginning anything is hard. Do it gradually. Don’t launch yourself into a strict diet and gruelling fitness regime straight away. Or even at all. What are the foods you eat loads of that are high fat or high sugar? Make some rules about rationing them. (I began with Sal’s Crisps Rule) Don’t give them up altogether. If you have a lot to lose don’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s pointless because what difference does one more of anything make? You’re starting and you can build on that. Don’t change to lots of foods you wouldn’t normally eat. You’re starting something you want to be able to carry on. Choose smaller. Choose less. Choose to stop when you feel full. Choose to wait until later. Choose that but not that and that as well.

If you have a moment where you want to eat everything in sight, stop & think. Can I ride this out? I’ve done this a few times and it really does reinforce the belief that you can and will do it again … AND your kitchen cupboards get a good tidy out. I have to confess I cried twice last year. Once when Victoria Wood died and again when I really wanted a big tube of Texas BBQ Pringles but didn’t want to break my crisps rule (No, I wasn’t in the shop!) Or, if I can’t ride it out, do I give into it in a planned way? Then, congratulate yourself for not going as far as you might once have done. Calmly stick to your rules and they will become habits. Unbreakable, possible, sustainable habits.

 Slow

I made the decision to aim to lose a pound a week. So what if someone with over eight stone to lose should be losing more. My rules. Besides, if you lose a pound a week for a year you’ll have lost 3 stone 10lb and that’s a noticeable amount on anyone. In my first year I lost 3 stone 4lb. Good enough. I decided to do this because, having stayed the same weight for decades, I realised I just needed to tip the balance slightly; bit more exercise, bit less of certain foods.

I remember at the slimming club all those years ago hearing the words ‘only a pound this week’ over and over. So what? It adds up. This not a quick fix, it’s a sustainable lifestyle change. I really wanted to avoid the ups and downs. Putting on weight you’ve already lost then trying to lose it again is very disheartening and some say it messes up your metabolism, making it harder and harder to lose. It took me till the age of fifty to realise it but a calm relaxed approach is good. And my plan for when I get closer to my target is not to go much stricter food-wise but to take longer for each pound. So what if I take two, three, even four weeks for each one? My rules. Slow.

 Exercise

I like eating too much to be able to do this without exercise and I’m lucky to have chosen something I actually enjoy. I don’t want to do classes or have a programme. I hate being told what to do. I like to be on my own, doing my own thing.

Just keep doing a bit extra. Push yourself. Walk up hills, marvelling at how it’s getting easier. And exercise isn’t just to burn calories. You’re making your heart and lungs healthier, building muscle, lifting your mood, feeling in control and getting out and about for fresh air and vitamin D. One other thing I didn’t for foresee; swimming and cycling have made me feel better about taking my place. I used to walk on the prom or be in town and think I was in the way of more important folk. But now … I need this lane because I have to swim a hundred lengths and … ding-ding, I need you to get out of my way because I’m cycling and your walking. This is the done thing on the promenade and when they turn you can smile and say thank you and feel rather important in the process.

I’m now getting up at 5.30am weekdays and doing ten minutes of weights/floor exercises. If you are losing a lot you need to get some muscle under your skin. Clothes that feel the part (no one will see me in that sports bra and leggings!) and the ipod shuffling help me. I hated it to begin with but now think it’s a good way to wake up.

And, after yet another swim, cycle or exercise session I say to myself ‘You did it. You said you were going to and you did it’, reinforcing the belief I’ll do it again. And again … And again ... And again …
 
That’s it for now. Look out for part 2 coming soon, which includes 'Noticing Change' so I'll just put these photos here ...

July 2015
Photo by Stella Turner

July 2016
After losing two & a half stone
Photo by Stella Turner
 
 
...
 
 
July 2017
'Stella! Will you take my picture?' (five stone off???)

 

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

TWO TON TESSIE AND THE IMPOSSIBLE THING: HALFWAY


The Impossible Thing is ‘to find out what it’s like to not be fat’, something that, as an adult, I’ve no experience of. I didn’t want, nearly 18 months ago, to say ‘I’m going to lose 8 stone & 8 pounds’. It would’ve been, for those who’ve not met me in real life, a big fat arrow above my head with ‘And that’s how fat I am!’ emblazoned across it in embarrassingly sparkly letters. And a lot of pressure.

I worked out this amount based on a target of one pound under the top of the ideal weight range for my height/age. The pound under is to make it a grand total of 120 lbs, an easy figure to divide into stages.

So I’m halfway. Sixty pounds lost and - strange new meaning of the word - ‘only’ another sixty to lose. They’ll be harder of course. Impossible? Only time will tell.

I've been eating less but I'm not on a diet. I've learnt over the years I can't stick to them and when you stop you go a bit mad. I refuse to go to bed hungry. I've eaten a lot less of certain things over the past year & a half though. Less crisps, chips, cheese, chocolate ... & maybe some other things that don't begin with a C.

At the end of October 2015, I joined the health club, committing to swim at least nine times a month. Nine is the magic get-my-monies-worth number. I’ve now been swimming for seventeen months. Nine thousand lengths in the first year alone. In July I started cycling. Buying Brenda, my bicycle, was the highlight of 2016 for me. I began the year with no clue I’d be cycling again after 30-plus years and I absolutely love it. It only really feels like exercise when I go uphill.

 
 
Brenda

 

 Welsh Chippies

At the age of 17/18, I lost 4 stone through a slimming club. The woman who ran it became obsessed with me being her ‘Slimmer of the Year’. She told me about someone my height who’d ended up a size eight. ‘She wasn’t big boned after all!’ What a thing to say to a 6 feet tall teenager who arrived at a size 24 and still had stones to go.

There was no such thing as an interim target or a suggestion it was fine to get partway and work out how to maintain. Just a lot of meat. As much as you wanted. (A decade later I stopped eating meat altogether.) I got to within 3 stone of my too-strict target, went on holiday to Wales and put on 11 lbs in 10 days. Not sure I could manage that now and don’t want to try. Those Welsh chippies are good. This is what happens if you deprive yourself too much. Falling off the wagon onto a massive greasy chip butty. What a way to go!

But that was all a long time ago. And this next bit is even further back.

 

Two Ton Tessie

Okay. This is hard but here goes.

A list of names I got called at senior school, 1977-82:

1)      Fatty

2)      Big Bertha

3)      Tank

4)      Two Ton Tessie

5)      (As I walked into a room) ‘There’s a total eclipse of the sun.’ Also an occasional mention of tidal waves as I got into the pool.

6)      Hey Fatty Boom Boom (Sung of course. Only that part of the song. The rest is too … er … affectionate?)

(It’s all right. Feel free to laugh at any time.)

7)      Explosion noises to accompany each step I walked. (Do you stop walking or walk away?)

8)      A reaction as if I was about to go for them, possibly hit them. Running off/protecting themselves from the wrath of the scary giant girl.

 
1979. Sierra Nevada, Spain. The giant scary girl.
(That figure in the background is a long way off ...)
 
But I wasn’t angry and I never wanted to hit anyone. I was … EMBARRASSED & ASHAMED.

This kind of thing happened regularly. I hated going from lesson to lesson, the time it mostly happened. All boys of course. Perfect boys. They weren’t greasy-haired, spotty, lanky or ugly in anyway. Oh no. They were perfect.

Now of course you can google stuff you don’t understand but I couldn’t possibly have asked my parents what numbers 2) & 4) meant. It had to be kept secret. I was deeply, deeply ashamed. I mean, who’s fault was it they were calling me these names? Mine of course. How embarrassing. At one stage, I can remember making a conscious decision, at break times, to find the quietest place I could and sit completely still. Try to be invisible.




 
 
1980. Rhine Valley. That scary giant girl again, bless her.
 

 

1982. At school with one short friend & one skinny one. Three flicks!

 
          I’ve recently – finally – googled. Big Bertha is a weapon. Nice. Did they know this? Where did they get their information? Why do I still know nothing? Perhaps their parents had a book of ‘Names to Call Fat Folk’? If there's a book full I guess I got off lightly. Should I google?

And I found clips of Tessie O’Shea. Not sure about the massive shiny dresses, the fact she gave herself that name (or did she?) and sang about her double chins but I think I’d rather be her. She’s just a large jolly singing lady. I like her!

Better than being something used in warfare.


 
Tessie O'Shea - 'Two Ton Tessie'

Clothes

I have to admit to having a bit of girly streak when it comes to clothes. In November '15 I was walking to the pool (Walking. BB. Before Brenda) on a cold dark Sunday at 6.30am entertaining a fantasy about buying size 20 jeans. Now, I'm not saying everything you imagine comes true (My first novel was never made into a TV drama starring Christopher Eccleston, for example.) but 11 months later, I got there. I’ve packed away many of my size 26’s (will I need them again?) and brought a few new things along the way. Going into Monsoon (a shop I could never buy clothes from before) and buying jeans and a top really shouldn’t be as thrilling as I found it.

Waiting for my train home, I walked around Grand Central Station in Birmingham with my precious Monsoon bag and the words ‘size 20 jeans, size 20 jeans, size 20 jeans’ chanting in my head. Laughable when most women would think such a size was unheard-of-ly massive but for me an achievement. I have four items I’ve acquired, from charity shops or on sale, now hanging in my wardrobe that don’t fit but will. Impossible? We’ll see.
 
***

I plan to blog again soon with my tips. Ha! Me doing weight loss/fitness tips? How ridiculous!

Sal

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

'My Ladies' and the Poised Pen Another Place Competition


This is the flash I got a 'highly commended' for in the Poised Pen Another Place competition.
First, the picture prompt ...
 

Photo by AJ Walker
 
 
 
My Ladies
 
 
He watches himself at the water’s edge. The sky’s heavy, the grey blanket sea breathing at his feet. Standing upright feels like too much effort. It would be easy to sink beneath the damp sand or be swept out to sea on the tide.
Tim observes himself from a distance these days. It’s easier. Safer. It wasn’t worth going anywhere or talking to anyone. He always messed up. He lives mainly in his head. Free. Protected from embarrassment.
Mum says he made friends easily as a child. There’s a photo of him in her album. Early eighties. Three year old Tim on the promenade hand in hand with two teenaged girls. Sisters who stayed for a week.
‘They fell for my little Timmy. You called them ‘my ladies’. You cried when they went home.’
Of course Tim didn’t remember. He stares hard at the photo, willing himself there again. The girls are laughing. Big hair, leggings, fluorescent lime green and orange tops, fingerless gloves. Tim’s in shorts and stripy t-shirt, swinging between them with an expression of pure delight. Carefree and happy.
Within a decade he’d found himself unable to look at or talk to the guests. Mum would push him into the dining room with a teapot, a loaded toast rack and a prompt. He would mumble, making a fool of him
 
He watches a ship pass, experiencing a surge of anger towards the folk on board, folk who always said and did the right thing, who talked, laughed, lived, made love, did everything casually without thought.
There’s another vessel close by. A dingy with two women in. One of them gives a cheery wave. Tim sees himself turn.
No! What if they aren’t waving at him?
But there’s no one else on the beach.
They’re giggling and calling out words he can’t catch. He stares at them. They’re alike, mid-forties maybe.
They are waving at him.
Could they really be back after all these years? How did they recognise him?
He watches himself run into the water to greet them and, without giving it a moment’s thought, follows.
 
 


My certificate!
 
 
Me reading 'My Ladies' at the Poised Pen event on Friday 4th December. I also read 'Hot and Sweet', 'Tiswas' and 'To Do List' in the open mic. Thanks to judge Nik Perring for choosing my flash, to AJ Walker for the photos and to the Poised Pen Writers Group for the competition and the reading opportunity ...
 
Photo by AJ Walker
 

Monday, 7 December 2015

Sal’s One Off Just for Fun (with mystery prize) 50th Birthday Flash Competition : The Results


First of all, a massive thank you to all who entered. Never imagined I’d get as many as twenty-three entries.

More thanks go to Faith Cobaine, who supplied the photograph and the inspiration, and to Stella Turner for keeping me informed of progress, posting the flashes for those who couldn’t and for sending me them to judge.

The Masterpiece by Cathy Lennon has been removed from the competition, due to me being lucky enough to hear her read it on the 14th November at the Write Now story slam in Chorley. She won that competition, reading a slightly longer version of The Masterpiece in the final and receiving a cash prize.

It was hard to decide on my shortlist of seven – I found things to like and admire in all the entries - and even harder to pick the final order. All seven will be mentioned here.


Special mention for ‘Shakespearean Sonnet for a Seaside Statue’ by Sue Denim (No Twitter name. Who is this?)

 On the one hand, this is not a flash, on the other hand, I’ve tried and failed at writing a sonnet in the past so I take my hat off to the author. It looks and feels authentic, though I’m no Shakespeare expert. I like the Eric statue in a way I never did like Morecambe & Wise themselves (preferred The Two Ronnies). I see the statue as a separate character, the one who was left just as a foot when someone tried to steal him, the one folk ask for as a stop on the bus and the character I put in my story ‘Eric’s Grand Day Off’, seeing the light very soon.

So I recognise the references in this, which are built into our culture like words running through a stick of rock. It’s cleverly done. I particularly enjoyed the lines …

‘The notes that sounded when a tune thou played

Were all correct, thou said, but might belong

In some order more fittingly arrayed.’
 

Eric and Stella
 
 

Eric's Foot
 
 

 
Special mention for Mum by Ed Broom

For most original take on the prompt. Of course that’s a municipal Christmas tree! For being funny and for a character who's a very tall woman. Wondering what size feet she has. But she is ‘amazing’ and has totally shown Ryan’s doubting friends.
 
Honourable Mention for Soul Mates by @firdausp
 This is lovely. The idea of hearing your shadow’s smile as ‘a little swish of the lips’ and of it ‘pooling around my feet’. This shadow is perfect, ‘more fluid and graceful’ than its owner, if that’s the right word. The ending is very touching, the shadow ‘spooning me from behind, a reminder that I’m never alone’, and yet, it seems this character is.
  
Honourable Mention for Woman at Work by Liz Hedgecock
Not always keen on writers in stories but this works rather well. It uses the prompt so effectively and I love the idea of an umbrella being this woman’s – and everybody’s – work.
 
In Third Place … Squeeze Me I’m Yours by FE Clarke
 A flash made up of THIRTY TWO (tell me I’ve got that right!) Squeeze songs is really quite something. Talk about writing for the judge. Because I THINK I may have mentioned Squeeze on Twitter recently. Once or twice. This gets its placing for the research that's clearly been done, (though if I was being Miss Picky I’d say its Last Time Forever not Last Thing Forever), for the utter cheek of it (most of these words were written years ago by Chris Difford), and for ‘Where is my black coffee in bed, labelled with love; where is my slap and tickle?’, which is where I began to laugh out loud.
 
 
Me and Squeeze and Slap and Tickle and now a Squeeze flash ... who knew?
 
In Second Place … The Feel of Rain by Voima Oy
 Lovely take on the prompt, with the double meaning of the title. The character comes across brilliantly. Great idea to make her a private detective. The second person point of view works well, like an imaginary conversation with someone you’re watching but can’t show yourself to. Suggestions of backstory though we never find out why she left him.
 
In First Place … Me and My Shadow by Jacki Donnelan
 An original take on the prompt, beautifully written without a single wasted word. I love the concept of sending your ‘bold and poster-sized’ shadow out on a’ first date in real life’ then becoming jealous, changing your mind and lashing out at her and her ‘charcoal perfection’. The denouement is fantastic, as we are left wondering at the nature of that final gasp, pondering what happens next.
 

Thank you all once again. I am in awe of people who run a comp every week. I know I couldn’t and don’t want to. Just remember, without the three recently lost comps, you can all find flash (and short story and novel) fodder wherever you look. You can write it and submit or enter in any one of a number of comps, possibly winning money and the glory. Many of you can write in genres I cannot begin to understand. Speculative, fantasy, sci-fi and steam punk, whatever that is. Some of you have a miraculous ability to churn out a first draft of 50k in a single month, while doing all the other things you do. Most of you are there congratulating the moment anyone wins something, a thing I struggle to do. And one of you writes and performs very funny poetry, as I discovered recently.
I know it’s good to have short deadlines forced upon you and the instant gratification of comments and placings within a few days and I’ll be the first to admit I have been seduced by this myself in the past couple of years. But flash prompts are EVERYWHERE and YOU have the drive, commitment and ideas to go it alone whenever you have to.
 Good Luck and Enjoy!
 Sal
 

 

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Sal's One Off Just For Fun 50th Birthday Flash Comp


In honour of my birthday, and because my friend posted this photo on Facebook & I felt sure it would make a fantastic flash picture prompt. When I floated the idea, both she and Stella said ‘Do it!’ All the encouragement needed. Then fourteen of you said you’d join in and I was off …

 

Photo by Faith Cobaine
 

Rules

·         150 words max.

·         You have from now until till Midnight (GMT) 30th November (the big day!)

·         Post your flash in comments, along with twitter handle & word count. Enter as many times as you like.

·         All flashes will be judged anonymously by me. Stella will keep me informed of submission progress while I worry about getting no entries. I promise not to look and she will email me the nameless stories after the deadline. I’ve ensured no comments will appear in my inbox.

·         Results – posted by Monday 7th December.

·         Please don’t refer specifically to your story on twitter. I read my feed & have a good memory. Why not mess with my head by writing like you don’t normally?

·         The Prize. Yeah, it’s no longer just for fun. The prize is a surprise. Worth about two hours of my day job ... so not much! It will be sent to the winner, wherever in the world they may be. I promise it will be a useful item that will make you smile. And not homemade. The winner just needs to promise to post a pic of it on Twitter.

·         As much as I hope to be stunned by the scope of takes on the prompt and amazed, amused and impressed by the quality of the writing, I really just want more than three people to enter so please tweet/retweet to your followers.

·         Go to it … you’re all FABULOUS!

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Liebster Award


Stella Turner has nominated me to do this Liebster Award thing, whatever that is …

Eleven random (yet very specific) facts about ME. Endlessly fascinating, eh? Then I answer her eleven questions. I won’t be nominating anyone. Why? See 8] in the first list and 2) in the second.

 
Me Randoms

 
1] I’ve only played Bingo once. I didn’t know what I was doing and my friend’s Dad helped me. I won a pair of scissors. They had orange handles like better quality ones but went rusty very fast.

2] As a seven year old on holiday in Italy, I was scared of a one-legged German man and when he got in the pool I got out.
 
 
The one-legged German man must have gone to the bar.
 
 
3] I was fat way before people started banging on about an obesity crisis. I’ll take the blame for the whole thing.  (Sorry for using the f-word, folks)

4] I’ve seen the band Squeeze nine times. I’ve loved them since 1978. Woman and girl …

5] I have a framed vodka advert (a drink I’ve only tasted once) featuring a young Woody Allen above the fireplace in my bedroom. I’ve had it over twenty years and it cost me thirty pounds from Portobello Market, which I thought very extravagant at the time.

6] I got an unclassified grade for O’level art. I still want to retake. It can’t have been that bad. Sir said I’d get a B no problem.

7] I own clothes I’ve had since the late eighties and still wear them sometimes.

8] I often think everyone hates me.
 
9] In 2004 I nearly fell off a cliff while walking in the fog in Cornwall. I came inland for my own safety then fell over in the road.

10] When everyone started tying their scarf that new way I vowed never to do so. Why follow the herd?

11] I left Coventry in 2009 and now live in Morecambe. I still can’t quite believe I’m here.





 
Stella’s questions

 
1) If you could have a super power what would it be?

I’d like the power to turn all guns, bombs and weapons in general, into cheese and crackers. Think about it. It could work.


2) What quality would you like to have in abundance?

Popularity. Though I doubt I could cope with it.


3) Favourite Actor/ Actress and why?

Christopher Eccleston!

Seen here in I am Kloot video. Now that's acting!

 

 

 Why? Full package. Great actor. Seems like a nice down-to-earth person. Beautiful.


4) What is your worst trait?

Pure laziness. I can spend hours achieving nothing. Lucky me!


5) Favourite TV programme?

In the early eighties I was working long hours and split shifts in a restaurant. My Dad had just got a video recorder and I could record things to watch when I got home often as late as midnight. I adored that moment of rewinding the tape and seeing the start of the latest episode of ITV comedy drama, Shine On Harvey Moon. I still love it.

 

 

 

Bubbling under in a how-the-hell-do-I-pick-just-one-Stella? way: Blackadder, Rik Mayall Presents, Citizen Smith, Shelley, Mapp and Lucia (80s version), Roseanne, Early Doors, The Smoking Room, dinnerladies and QI.


6) How would you like to be remembered?

As being funny. That’ll do me.


7) Why do you write and where?

Cos I enjoy it. Right here at my desk.
 

8)  Do you prefer to shop in supermarkets or local shops and why?

My local shop is great. Two minutes walk away and staff who greet you the moment you walk through the door. In the summer they prop the door open with a sack of spuds. That doesn’t happen in supermarkets, does it? I do go to them for all the stuff the local shops don’t do though. Decent coleslaw. Better choice of yogurts and cheese. Too much choice really. (Don't get me stared on that subject) Yeah, I’d have to say both.


9)  What is your favourite colour and why?

Rainbow.


10) Do you approve of social media?

Er, what’s that then?


11) What are you reading right now?

Abide With Me by Elizabeth Strout.
 

With thanks to Stella for picking me as the person who inspires her. I do my best.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Seven Reasons why I’m not a Proper Writer

I struggle calling myself a writer. People say if you write you are a writer. I certainly write but am I a writer? In my Twitter bio I call myself a nursery cook & writer. Many people could call themselves a cook because they cook at home but they don’t get paid for it. But I can call myself a writer even though I rarely get paid for it? Every month, as a part time cook, I earn a little under my ‘grand’ total of money made from writing … since 1986! See my problem? I can’t deny the activity that brings in the regular money I need to live on. However, recently a work colleague said writing was ‘a nice hobby’ for me. Yeah, okay …

I don’t write every day. This is what we’re ‘supposed’ to do. There are SO many rules. Sometimes I write for hours, other times I don’t write for days or weeks but I’m still thinking about writing. When & how much you write is a personal thing, based on your own circumstances & the amount of time available. I’m beginning to think that, ironically, all these rules are for people who are failing to write but are just reading & talking about rules. Maybe this one should been called ‘I don’t follow rules.’
 
I don’t like coffee. One writer I follow on twitter only ever seems to tweet about coffee. It seems to be something a writer needs to function. I just don’t get it. I think coffee’s horrible. I have a theory that everyone else thinks it’s horrible too and that the Emperor’s wearing no clothes (while he’s drinking his coffee). Look, it’s just a theory. Oh, drink your coffee!  

I’m not cake obsessed. This is something else I’ve picked up on Twitter. The idea that if there’s cake involved in an event or activity the writer will turn up. Cake’s all right I guess if it involves chocolate. For me cake is work. I make a large quantity if it’s on the menu at the nursery. What I really like is crisps and/or anything cheesey. What WOULD make me turn up to anything is the chance to read. Getting to read will banish all thoughts of food from even my mind.   

 I have no desire to go to a writing retreat. When I got a small shed for outside storage in my garden I told Twitter and was asked if it I was going to write in it. How embarrassing. It wasn’t that sort of shed. I live on my own (can’t imagine anyone wanting to live with me) and my desk is in the bay window of my living room. What would be the point of me sitting in the shed?
Writing retreats look lovely. Beautiful surroundings in the form of a large old house or a sea view, and lovely food. You could have great chats about writing and nice walks but I’d think of it as a holiday and I doubt I’d do any writing. I discovered at uni that writing something there and then in front of others was hard, if not impossible. So maybe, apart from getting up at six in the morning to catch two buses across town to cook for about seventy people, my life IS a writing retreat.

I don’t understand what a muse is. I’ve never understoood what this muse that some people refer to is so I looked it up. The muse is ‘the true speaker for who the author is merely a mouthpiece’. Hmmm. No, I definitely haven’t got a muse. It’s just me and my brain. Yes, we sometimes wonder where stuff comes from. The subconscious is at work here. Many times I’ve realised later where I got a particular idea, event or concept from but often you never realise.

I’ll leave the rest to the words of a true genius …
‘We humans got it all. We perform the miracles’
 

 

I’m not suffering enough. Some writers seem to be suffering for their writing. Blood, sweat and tears? Oh yeah. But none from writing. From my thirty-plus years as a cook? Yes, all three. I worked at one place for four years till I ended up wanting to lie on the floor and weep. But that’s another story. A don’t-get-me-started story.
The thing is, I enjoy writing. The whole lot. Having ideas and thinking about them, writing notes and first drafts, reading, editing, polishing, submitting, being edited and even getting rejections. After years of not getting rejected because I wasn’t sending anything anywhere, it means I tried. I don’t want to be imagining where I might have got if I hadn’t given up. I won’t give up trying. Why should I? Even if everyone is better than me. Actually, I no longer think that.

 
As I write this, the full manuscript of my second novel Fast Talking is being read by an agent. A little nugget of hope to carry around again. Maybe there’s some suffering to come. I may even go mad and try coffee and cake.

And I’ve started the third novel …