Wednesday, 8 July 2009

"Nuff said" is the appropriately crass terminology to sum up recent events that peaked with a catastrophic nosebleed in the school playground in front of very small children, but not mine thankfully. Tiredness and a retreating cold resulted in an impressive Hammer House of Horror fountain of blood that refused to be quelled.

Onto better and so much brighter things. I am writing a new story for my MA - and not because someone "didn't get it." It's a risk that has already earned me the accolade (in the eyes of my more youthful fellow students) of a formal warning; I prefer to see it as a gauntlet.

I'm enjoying the process - not that I've written much of it yet; I've spent the time planning, thinking and working out an outline. Today I met a lovely lady called Tiny who was a land girl in Cornwall during WWII. I have discovered in myself a genuine desire to find out about these (once) young women who worked so hard for so little reward or recognition - it was shocking to learn their efforts were only formally recognised last year, over 60 years after the war ended.

Anyway, notes on a maturing student. I've definitely aged over the last month, but not for the reasons I expected - I've felt myself out there and exposed. But with maturity comes perspective and from that vantage point I've found some truly great and lovely people in the fantastic students I have been lucky enough to learn alongside these past 10 months.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Notes on a maturing student? Thinking of re-naming it to those of one regressing...I have stopped in whatever tracks I may have been making and cannot find the motivation to continue with this whole being a student again when I should really be thinking about my future - pensions, rocking chairs and the like.

It all started with a presentation of my novel for the MA - I cannot present. That is what I have always told myself and so that is what I believed. Except this time I secretly whispered to myself that it would be different - I am a grown woman for goodness' sake with four children and a hefty mortgage; I can do this. I prepared, I thought a lot about it and made loads of notes, whittled them down and practiced saying my spiel out loud. I even enlisted the help of a talented friend from the Fine Art BA course to provide some beautiful pictures. But it just wasn't enough.

My hand shook when trying to double click on the tiniest of arrows magnified enormously on the screens behind me to progress my carefully crafted presentation. That was okay, because it was keeping my shaking voice company along with my quivering lips and forced cheeriness. Relieved to have finally finished I turned to the panel in the hope of a few gently probing but ultimately encouraging responses about my proposed story only to be met with: "I don't get it?"

Instead of responding maturely and calmly talking through the points that could have brought a knowing look of illumination and appreciation for such a fantastic idea, I recoiled, retracted and almost agreed that I didn't get it either!

Oh to have the maturity to match my years and my natural hair colour. Maybe the fact that I had decided to disguise it only days before, resulting in a less than attractive orange which then had to be severely cut short to minimise its impact had something to do with it. Sadly, the repercussions are ongoing - not with my hair, that will grow to be dyed another day. My confidence is snuffling around way below floor level as my poor show means I lose the chance to present my idea to an invited agent, but that's okay as I'll get to watch all the really good other less mature students do it instead.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Put your pens down

Time flies when you're busy not writing blogs. The sweetest words were said to me today - don't write anymore until I say so. First I claim to have sought permission to write and now I am looking for permission to stop. Just for a day at least. And I've made good use of the time - I made a dalek with Harry out of cardboard, plastic bottles and a whisk - the whisk was a nice touch. Harry loved that. Have you seen the gun on a dalek?

This is the same Harry that fell back onto the pavement at the weekend and cracked his skull. Shaking, the pair of us, he asked me sorrowfully if he was going to die. Not today darling, was as much as I could say. Once he had had Calpol and cuddles and a trip to casualty ruled out, he rallied enough to show disappointment that he wasn't actually able to see where his head was cracked open.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Fishing at the Book Fair

Go to the Book Fair, they said, found out about the market, they said, get a feel for what's out there, they said. Well, Books is what's out there. Piles and piles of them, none of which were being read by the hoards of people swimming around them, in tight shoals, making deals, shaking hands and then fencing themselves off after hours to drink on it. Great for reinforcing that small fish, big pond thing.

It was bewildering but saved for us fledgling writers by the mostly great seminars that took place on the periphery. The over-riding message I took home with me on the train this evening: "write the book that's inside you - stuff the market." It's good to be savvy, but if you try simply to fill a gap you'll be filling it with poor quality filler that won't weather the storm. Not sure I'm entirely confident that whatever brand of filler I eventually mix up, it won't crack at the first editorial hurdle.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Back from Narnia

Back to London for a week. Feel like we have all been to Narnia and had this great adventure but when we come back nothing has changed. Such a cliche but it is like we have never been away - I imagined people would be stopping me in the street asking me to share insightful gems on life outside the city and gush about what a great time I have been having for the past almost two years. Not a bit of it - nodding acquaintances of old are still nodding as if they saw me only last week. Obviously it is different with friends, but arrogantly I wanted my dramatic change of life to mean something to everyone!

How easily we have all slipped back into leafy south east London; we even had a Chinese takeaway! If that sounds lame you clearly don't know the scene in Truro. I've been given copy-writing work since arriving back and asked to come in for a meeting - I'm wondering if I should remind them that I have actually left to make a shiny new life in the south west. Best not, good work can only happen if you live and breath London; one couldn't possibly write something topical and incisive amongst all those pasties.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Blogging? Blog off!

Blogging. Still not sure I am convinced of the merits - I email my friends and talk to them. That really is as much as they would like to know about my life, and as much as I would like to share. Blogging seems self indulgent, arrogant and weird. Who reads this really - anyone who doesn't know about me? Of course not, not unless they have stumbled on this by mistake. A publisher? I don't think so.

It's good writing practice, say the MA tutors, like playing the piano. Hmm..I write every day - I copy-write for a living, I try to write radio scripts (badly it seems at the moment) and more pages of my novel (hopefully less badly), I email friends and I am trying to get to grips with a website for me and my fellow students. I write all the time - if you don't believe me ask my children:
"Mummy? Will you...can you...please can I...?"
Stock answer: "Just a minute, Mummy's busy, writing..."

"Can I do some writing on your computer? Will you help me write a story about pirates?"
"No, go away." I used to be a nice Mummy.

I also used to go running beside creeks, taking our bonkers dog, loving the fresh air and beauty of it all. Now I sit and try to imagine and then write about other people doing exciting things with their lives while I scoff the kids sweets, drink too much tea and coffee and get lardy, pasty and irritable in the process. Blogging? I'm too busy writing.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Tough but exhilarating week last week; radio workshop, assignments deadlines crashing in and husband away with four kids to tend to in between gasps for air. Top moment - playing a sexy snake in the finished radio play and maybe raising a ripple of surprise from the younger students. So good to just be me (not that I ever saw myself as a sexy snake) rather than the mother of the above mentioned children - fantastic as they are. Such a cliche, but I have got lost over the years and feel as if I have begun to find myself again since beginning all this MA malarkey. Also had a line in a comedy sketch show that the very talented guys on the course have been putting together - have no aspirations to launch myself on the road to Edinburgh but shows how stepping out of my comfort zone can be a laugh.

Ponder of the moment - an MA based around novel writing or a radio play....

Monday, 9 March 2009

Night shift shelf filler

"I don't want to do work experience!" I wailed petulantly as I stamped my foot and glowered impressively. I'm over 40 years old for heaven's sake and I've done stuff. I've worked as a corporate fundraiser, a copy writer, a broker in the City (to my shame) and even stacked shelves in Sainsbusry's on the night shift (feel more proud of that one)!

I do not want to spend two weeks in a publishing office or similar shuffling papers and making the younger people in the staff wonder if I am a tax inspector. It was bad enough when interviewed for an "apprenticeship" for a writing agency. I was much older than the interviewers and I think far less nervous, in fact I could have been Alan Sugar in a dress. Needless to say I did not get the position.

Besides, I already have a job. I am a mother of four children and I copy write for charities and very significant businesses - but will it sell my novel...ah, so that's the point. Of course that's the point, but my life is so crowded I need any spare minute I have to write the novel before I can even contemplate selling it. That I will do when I have time - that will be when the children have left home then.

Friday, 27 February 2009

I went to pick up my mother from the station this Monday, only to find out I was a week early. Quite funny except I had cancelled all my childcare arrangements. Completely my fault, just seem to be living in another time zone to everyone else - my daughter told me all about her parents' evening but it was only the night before that I registered when it was and then had a huge hissy fit saying I had not realised it was tomorrow and how was I going to manage after a full day and late night at college and Daddy away? Once I calmed down, and apologised, obviously I managed. That's what I do. Manage - not always well, but we get through.

I also found out from my 7 year old son's teacher that he was being bullied by an older boy at school - has he said anything? No, seems a bit dark of late (obviously because he is getting his head kicked in on a daily basis). It took his little friend, who was so upset by what was happening to my son, to tell the teacher about it, who told me. He did suggest that maybe Thomas didn't realise he was being bullied as he probably "rough houses" at home - I think I was being insulted. The boys might rough and tumble a bit, but they don't slam each other's head on concrete steps. Even when Thomas said his head hurt, on both sides, when I was checking for our little creepy friends in his hair, did it register that something may be amiss.

Not a good week. 

Thursday, 29 January 2009

A cliched difference between my new Cornish life and my old London life - I am going up country tomorrow, as they say here (I used to go into town) for an interview and, fortuitously, a party. The party is an all girls 40th at a posh London address with, allegedly, naked waiters. Meanwhile, in Cornwall, I have had to decline a night out with the mums from 3T to go for a curry and clubbing....The truth is, I would enjoy them both just as much as the other, although I could live without the naked waiters (nibbles? I don't think so) and the clubbing.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Started script writing course and sat wondering what on earth I am doing. I was older than the oldest by at least 10, probably 15 years - despite wearing black and dying my hair to hide the grey, I felt very silly. I guess the crunch came when we were asked to discuss films we had recently enjoyed - Stanley Kubrick's name flew around and a list of great sounding films that I had never even heard of, let alone seen. I then had to admit the most recent film I had seen was Bedtime Stories - amusing, but not exactly cutting edge.

I held my own more solidly with TV, but again, I am less clear about life outside of Balamory than perhaps I should be.  Jane, the long suffering tutor slammed in the final nail when she said - "Oh yes, you've got kids - how many?"

I love being the mother of a big family, but I want to be just me sometimes. The question is who is that me?