Monday, 28 June 2010

Helpful July: Your Thoughts and A Chance To Win

As you can see, I have been using this blog as a chance to showcase some of my writing and to get feedback about various styles that I have been experimenting with. I find getting feedback from readers to be the most useful way of telling if a piece works.

Now I'm asking for a favour. There are links to some of my short stories on the right, and all I am looking for is a reply to this post, saying which of these is your favourite so far, and why.

Every comment will be gratefully received, and as a token of my thanks, I will be selecting one person at random to win an Amazon voucher worth £15.

Thank you in advance for your help.

x x x x

Only comments left below this post will count.
Anyone who leaves a comment up until 31 July 2010 will qualify.
Only one entry per person.
The decision of the random selecting software thingy will be final.
The 'prize'' will be 15 British Pounds or equivalent in local currency when converted.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Parenting: The Highs, The Lows, The Exhaustion and The Guilt

When my husband and I discussed the options for us and our family when we were expecting Eldest, we both felt lucky that we could actually chose, and that I could stay at home with our children when they were small. We talked about it from the point of view of what we considered was right for our child.

During my pregnancy, the company that I worked for announced that it was closing, and that everyone would be made redundant that December. The baby was due in September. My role at the company was to be entirely responsible for purchasing, payroll, and office management. My boss was The Best Boss Ever. I loved that job, as it was the only job I had where I felt fully appreciated and valued. In all honesty, it was an eye opener after the previous job that I had, in publishing (think Bridget Jones, but without the pleasure of Hugh (or Colin)). I left on Maternity Leave in June, and carried on processing the payroll (and receiving a bonus) until the company closed.

As soon as I was on maternity leave I knew I needed something to focus on. I started to trawl charity shops to buy things, and resell them on EBay for a profit. It felt good to be supporting charities and making some money at the same time. Especially when one video (yes, video) I bought for 50p, sold for £42. Sale of the decade! Some months I would make £400 clear profit. I had the sense of achievement that I need, with that.

Baby arrived, and I became 'Mummy'. It was a straightforward pregnancy and I was lucky to have a water birth. In fact this happened three times for us. I am eternally grateful for this, and to my Midwife who is an absolute superstar. I was determined to avoid drugs. Water soothes me, and gas and air was enough to make me imagine conspiracy theories so I only had a few drags of that. In my mind, I didn't want any drugs because the baby was the one that counted. I'd take the pain.

With hindsight, I wish I had realised that being a martyr at all times is not a good thing. When, a couple of months later, my health visitor asked me to fill in the survey about Post Natal Depression, I put on my cheery smile and said I didn't need to do that, I was alright. She agreed. The reality was I didn't want tablets as I was breastfeeding. I didn't want to admit that some days I sat there and wished that someone, anyone, would take the baby away and just let me sleep. I didn't want to go out or see anyone. I felt like the worst mother in the world. If I had filled in that form, I knew I would have had a prescription in my hand before I could get out of that room. I didn't want my little one having traces of that to drink. So again, baby came first. Unfortunately I am so good at covering up my feelings that no-one was aware of how I was feeling. Just me. (Luckily this sense of utter hopelessness cleared up before Eldest was a year old, and I have not felt as low since.)

Here I am now, typing this all out to assuage my guilt. I still have days when I wish I could have some peace and some sleep. It is now nearly eight years later and I have had very few days in the past eight years where I have felt fully rested. It has taken it's toll on me physically, as I have comfort eaten myself up to a size 16, developed IBS, and seen an increase in severity and frequency of attacks of migraine and psoriasis. Basically, I was in a bit of a state.

It's only recently that I have grasped firmly onto a lifeline and dragged myself up from feeling constantly unfulfilled and vaguely pissed off. I feel guilty even typing that, as my children are everything to me. But I have finally realised that being a Mother and being an individual are a different part of the same person. It all started when my husband was between contracts, and I got a temping job. I *loved* this job as my brain was being challenged again, and people would actually *thank* me for doing what I did. This was a revelation. I ended up staying in this role for four months and they wanted me to stay on permanently, but once my husband got a contract again, we reversed rolls and I was, once again, at home full time. It was shortly after this that I discovered Twitter. I've gushed all about this in an earlier post, but I don't think I would be typing this if it wasn't for Twitter, as I didn't have a blog until a few months after that. I also wasn't writing much at that stage either.

I still have days when I wish that someone would wave a magic wand and let me have more time to achieve something useful. I don't write as much as I want to, as I usually have a small child at home with me (or two, or three). But I have made some unbelievable contacts, many of which I consider friends even though we have yet to meet. I've also been offered some incredible encouragement for my writing, via comments on my blog (and on Facebook and Twitter). I will be eternally grateful for that.

I have finally given in to the fact that I am not actually designed for full time childcare. Someone asked me outside the school recently, what I would do when Youngest started school. She suggested that I could be a TA. I was incredulous. I must hide my true feelings really well, as to be honest, I could not see myself in that sort of role at all. Not even in my wildest nightmares.

I have also recently accepted the fact that I have to look after myself if I want to have any chance of being there for my children in a healthy and positive way. Hence the stubborn determination to lose weight and get fit that several people have commented on recently. It's making me feel so much better. The thing I still struggle with is getting enough sleep. It's a lack of sleep that leads to me getting my three-day migraines. I am also so much less productive when I am not rested, and that is 90% of the time right now. It is also the one thing that I can't really do much about as it is the other members of my family who are responsible for it. I am learning though, and am getting better at going to bed earlier in the evening. Most of the time!

I still think it's best for my children to have me with them when they are at home. Whether it's the best thing for me is debatable, but now that they are all getting a little older I can see that there is going to come a time when I can develop what I have started, and devote more time to my writing. I long for that time, but at the same time I don't want my children to grow up either. I'm so torn, in so many ways.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

One Month On

Exactly a month ago, I posted  Words From A Wise Man, and made some of my intentions public.

I thought I would post an update, just in case anyone is actually waiting to see where that led!

Writing wise, I have read through my WIP once, and edited 90% of it. I have a few plot holes to fill, and then a second edit, but it is all going well. I've also had another burst of enthusiasm for writing short stories, as you can see from the list on the right, which has been growing.

Health wise, I have joined Weight Watchers and lost 13lb in 4 weeks. I'm really excited about this. I've been going to Aqua Aerobics once a week, and doing a lot more walking, and after I've lost another 4.5 lb it's time to get my running shoes on. That was the target I set myself when I joined WW - or at least where I wanted to get to before I started running again.

So, all in all, it's been a *great* month! Here's to many more of the same!!!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Beautiful Blogger Award

There are some people who regularly bring sparkle to an otherwise ordinary day. Alison Wells is one of those lovely people, and she brought a smile to my face earlier this week when she included me in her list of people to receive a Beautiful Blogger Award.
You can find out more about Alison on her inspiring and thought provoking blog Head Above Water.

As the details of the award specify, I am now meant to write 7 facts about myself and nominate 7 other blogs for the award. Here goes:

Seven Random Facts About Me:

1. I am not related to the artist Tracey Emin, but if I had a pound for every time I have been asked if we are related, I would have my own private jet by now. The most bizarre question was early one morning when a man who I did not know called me. It was, in fact, a legitimate call from a company, but the first thing he said to me was, "Do you like messy beds then?" In my half-awake state, I thought I had a pervert on the line. My pause must have made him think as, just as I was about the find a horn to blast down the phone, he mentioned Tracey. I have, however, received a personal message from Tracey Emin after I put a "comedy" auction up on Ebay of my 18 month old (at the time) daughters' painting. This auction received a lot of viewings and pleasant comments, but I had a direct e-mail from Tracey Emin's office, saying that she had been searching for auctions of her own work and come across this one, and that she thought it was great that my daughter was being encouraged to paint at such a young age.

2. I am a kind of murky green, meaning that I do think of the environment a lot, but I admit that I fail to be eco-friendly in many ways. I have a degree in Human Environmental Science, which I chose because of my interest in science and the Environment. Despite having 3 children, I have never even considered reusable nappies, even though I helped with research on the effects of nappies in landfill as part of a summer job. I'm also ashamed to admit we are a two car family. However, I always recycle, and loath putting anything in the landfill bin. If I can't sell something on Ebay, I will Freecycle it, give it to a charity shop, or take it to the recycling centre.

3. I have met many of my closest friends via the Internet. Before I had even been on the Internet, I met my husband via our University e-mail system and later on via e-mail. But that's another story altogether.

4. I love animals and I am a pescatarian, although I only eat a limited range of fish. I was a full vegetarian for a couple of years but then decided to add some salmon and tuna into my diet for nutritional reasons. However I only ever buy dolphin friendly tuna and wild salmon. My children are blissfully unaware of this, as I always cook meat for the rest of my family, although I will only buy free range meat or eggs. If they ask me any questions on a day when I have an alternative, I just say that I fancied chunky vegetables in my sauce and was sparing them that horror!

5. I am shy in a group, and have very low confidence in myself. I have found blogging and gathering comments on my writing has boosted my confidence no end.

6. I am almost at the point of having a first draft of a novel ready. I suspect it is fear of rejection that is holding me back from stamping on with this, but I am building up to that and hope to be approaching agents before the end of 2010.

7. I would do *anything* for my three children and my step-daughter.

Now I am meant to nominate 7 blogs which deserve to receive this award. However, I have decided to just include a list of some of my favourite ladies, and I hope that the people below will know that they obviously don't have to do a post if they have already (or for any other reason).

Catherine Ryan Howard: Catherine, Caffeinated
Claire Allan: Diary of a Mad Mammy
Cynthia Schuerr: The Heart of Writing
Glynis Smy: Author Blog: Glynis Smy
Jane Travers:  Jane Obsessed with Jane
Kate Boardman: Coffee With Kate
Kathryn Eastman: The Nut Press
Keris Stainton: Keris Stainton
Maria Duffy: Writenowmom's Blog
Sarah Franklin:  Never Goes Without Saying
Vicki Jeffels: Vegemitevix

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Short Story: The Journey

I was feeling really frustrated about my lack of time to write this morning. Then Youngest kindly decided to have a nap. I set myself the challenge to write a short story in an hour and this is the result:

The Journey

I sit, pretending to look out of the window, as the bus drifts forward. I feel beads of perspiration on the back of my neck. I can’t understand why no-one else on the bus has noticed the sound of my heart, as it is beating so loud. Thud, thud, thud, is all I can hear.

I smooth my skirt and feel my pulse quicken as the driver applies the brake. Today could be the day. I can barely breathe as the doors hiss open and a group of noisy people climb aboard. Chatting, knocking people with bags and apologising, then finding seats.

None of this registers on my radar as I am only focussing on you. I glance up as you approach. Your eyes burn me as you look my way and then you walk past. I exhale as the disappointment seeps through me, but I am certain that this is only because your friend wants to talk to you, and the back of the bus is empty. Perhaps you will sit next to me on the way home. A bittersweet smile crosses my lips as the warmth of your gaze stays with me for a while.

I think of my friend, Jenny. She is constantly talking about this boy that she likes at her swimming class. She is pathetic. She thinks that he will fall in love with her, and that they will live happily ever after, or something like that. It’s all a big dream, and maybe she will realise this one day, as I get so bored of hearing about him.

It’s not like that for us, is it Jack? We were born to be together. I cherish the times we do sit together. You lean towards the back of the bus and pretend to talk to your friends, while all along we both know that our time together is precious. The best times are when you read your book and lean towards me as we go around the corners. Subtle, but I know we both enjoy those times. I feel the pressure of your thigh, pressed tight against mine, long after we get off the bus. Sometimes you even drop your books, right near me. I pick them up and hand them to you, and the touch of you, as your fingers brush mine, sends electric shocks through me. We are so good together.

Today though, you are deep in conversation with Joe. I try and listen in, but the constant hubbub on the bus drowns you out. I gaze through the steamy window as the bus takes us to the inevitable reality of school.

As the bus stops at our final destination, we all pile off and walk towards the school gates. Maybe after school, the bus will be busy and you will sit near me. I hope so, as it’s been a while and you know how good we are together.

You walk off, without another look in my direction. I don’t know why you have to treat me like this in public. It’s stupid really, when I know we are meant to be.

I meet up with Jenny and we both simultaneously roll our eyes. “Nothing to report,” I say, and we sigh in unison. But soon, I am sure, there will be. I watch you disappear into the swarming mass of people, perfectly clueless.