Thursday, October 29, 2009


Dithering is something writers should avoid but here am I doing exactly that. And I blame you lot in blogland. Everyone has been going on about NaNoWriMo and I was adamant that I wasn't going to do it. I've regular features to write, want to get some new stories out, have just completed a book proposal, am waiting to do a bit of rewriting on another book. Do I need NaNo?
When I work with new writers I tell them to never say no to writing opportunities. When I started off I didn't say no to anything. When my husband's boss asked if I would write some silly verse to go in his advertisements I said yes, and did it. When the freebie newspaper I worked part-time for asked if I could write a property column I said yes. Fortunately I also had a job at a Building Society so would just nip into the boss's office when he went for a liquid lunch and sift through his papers to come up with ideas and facts and figures.
At the start of this year Jane Wenham-Jones and I decided that perhaps, just maybe, sometimes, we could say no. So have we? Should we? Should writers say no to projects that don't excite them or to gigs they don't want to speak at? Well, I can't tell you that because so far I've not said no which is why there is a funny inflatable cushion in the porch waiting for me to write a report about it. (It's in the porch because it smells, nay, stinks, of fish glue.) I should have said no to that one!
The thing is, the harder you work the luckier you get (words attributed to Henry Ford) and finally work actually comes to you. Would you turn it down? No, I didn't think so. But NaNo isn't work, is it? But it could turn into something wonderful so perhaps...
Anyway, whatever I decide, good luck to all of you brave enough to tackle it. Just remember to enjoy the experience. And maybe I'll join you... or maybe not.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A friend like Betty

Every writer should have a friend like Betty. She is a writer too and has very funny stories published in Woman's Weekly (Elizabeth Moulder). We used to live close to each other and we will again, once this house is sold and I move 'back home'.
Why do you need a Betty? Because she is someone who understands rejections, acceptances, writing in general, but mostly because she is fun and you can swap stories with her.
If I had something that was a little too personal to write about I'd give Betty the idea and she'd write it up in her own inimitable way. We would swap stories, opening lines, bits of overheard dialogue and details of friends. Anything.
When my Mum was terminally ill and I went to visit her I would stay with Betty. After a day with Mum I'd arrive at Betty's door exhausted and she'd be there to offload to. We'd sit with a pizza and a bottle of wine and watch Judge Judy (Betty reckons JJ should rule the world). And then we'd discuss Mum and Betty would write about her as I didn't feel able. And I'd come back to West Wales with one of Betty's friends waiting to be put into one of my stories. A fair swap.
I'm lucky to have a Betty. I hope you can all find one too.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fancy living in Pembrokeshire?

Our house is for sale. If you're reading this then do let everyone you can think of know that there is a beautiful house on the market. Suitable for full-time living or as a holiday home. It's detached, about seven miles from the nearest beach, Poppit Sands, and well, if you want to know more take a look at my website and then go to House For Sale. It's at a bargain price of £199,950 now and it if was anywhere else in the country it would cost far more than that.
If you know of any reflexologists then this house comes with the option of continuing Colin's business. He has a list of almost 200 clients and he has never advertised so there is huge potential to expand.
This is a beautiful part of the world but I'm a townie at heart and it's time for us to move on. Can you help?

Friday, October 23, 2009


When I was little I'd sometimes forget how to go to sleep. I remember lying in bed wondering how to do it. How do you go to sleep? And, of course, the more I worried the less likely I was to nod off.
And now to apply the same thing to writing. I'd been going through a bad time. My Mum and my writing mentor had died within weeks of each other and I stopped writing. I couldn't write and eventually convinced myself that I'd forgotten how. Just as once I'd forgotten how to go to sleep. How had I finally managed to sleep? I'd dropped off from exhaustion. Well, that wasn't going to work when it came to writing. How do I get to sleep now? I relax. I look forward to enjoying a good night's sleep. So the key words were Relax and Enjoy.
For the first time in several months I sat down to my keyboard and Relaxed. I told myself I was going to Enjoy writing something. Anything. A story was too much to think about. I'd just write for ten minutes on any subject. Suddenly sugar came into my head. So that's what I wrote about. And when I dried up after a few lines I began again with the same word. Sugar.
Try it if you get stuck. Ask someone to give you a word and then write about it. Set yourself a short time and relax and enjoy.

Sugar. It sits in wobbly cubes in a round white dish. Wobbly cubes of matt white and sandy brown. Tempting. (Then I got stuck so I began again.)

Sugar. The smell of sugar beet drifted over Kidderminster - a sure sign of rain to come. When the sugar campaign was on during late Autumn the lorries loaded with beet would queue outside the factory. Large woody mis-shapes to be magically turned into fairy dust icing sugar, fine grains of sweetness. (And again!)

Sugar. The sticky sweetness filled the warm air in the factory. It coated, invisibly, everything it touched. It touched my brother's hair. He'd go to work with it combed down straight and arrive home curly.

Try it now. Don't edit. Just relax, enjoy and write. Write down one of the following and keep at it for ten minutes. Pink. Custard. Roofs. Bear. Rock.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Be Inspired

I'm back at my desk after some time away in Malvern where the hills were the backdrop of the campsite we parked Win on. The skies were blue and the trees glowed with autumn reds and golds. Now I start my new-style blog and I'll begin with my favourite quote. It's from Moliere.

Writing is like prostitution,
First you do it for the love of it,
Then you do it for a few friends,
And finally you do it for the money.

So which line have you reached? And it's true, isn't it? Most of us start to write and keep it a secret, then perhaps we join a writing group and start sharing, or we pass our work to a loved one. And then some of us get the confidence or the urge to make a living, or at least some money, from writing. It's a natural progression.
The best thing is that we are then doing something we love. Just because we've reached the last line doesn't mean we've forgotten the second one. Aren't we the luckiest people? Our job, whether it be full or part-time as a writer, is something we love. How many workers can say that?
OK, I know it's hard to remember the love at times - when the going gets tough and rejections arrive, or we think we're blocked. But we get over it and we always go back to that love. A bit like marriage really! And I'll end with another quote. This one's mine from my Handy Little Book for Writers.
When the going gets tough, stop for chocolate - and then carry on.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Coming Soon - help for writers

Coming Soon - my brand new-style blog.
No longer will you hear stories about my personal life (well, maybe sometimes). Starting on Wednesday 21st October my blog will become a place of inspiration for writers. You will find tips, prompts, ideas, news, quotes and anything else I can think of to give writers and wannabes inspiration.
And if you have any questions about writing all you need to do is post a comment and I'll blog an answer within a few days.
I shall be blogging on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Make a note in your diary to join me. It's going to be fun.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Third Anniversary

It's three years today since Anita Loughrey wore red lipstick and sat holding hands with my husband!

The lipstick was courtesy of the lovely make-up ladies at the Dream Factory. Anita was there as my friend in the audience so, when it was my show - and none of us knew that it was going to be - they did her make-up for her.

I can't believe it's been three years since that day. Here is my official photo, taken after recording had stopped. If you think I look pretty manic it's because I was. Wouldn't you be after gambling between 10p and £75,000? And as I won the big money I'm allowed a silly grin.

People often ask if I have any regrets about not winning the quarter million. The only regret I have is wearing that awful sweater. Our clothes were handed out by wardrobe before each show. Well, you wouldn't want to be with eleven ladies all wailing, 'What am I going to wear?' I almost asked if I could change but thought no-one would notice me sat in the wings. And then my name was called out to play. That sweater went straight into a charity bag as soon as I got home.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

zest and verve and gusto

Yep! That's me. I'm overflowing with zest and verve this past week. The Muse has returned. I think she may have seen me reading, How To Keep and Feed A Muse. It's a chapter from Zen In the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury.
If I had to name a favourite author it would be Ray Bradbury. I love his fiction but this Zen book is on the shelf along with my other how-to-write books. This one, picked up ten days ago, reminded me to write with 'zest and gusto'. It got me going again. Inspired. Enthused.
I prefer verve to gusto. Verve sounds more feminine - like vivacious.
It must be wonderful to be able to write something like that first chapter, The Joy of Writing, which incidentally begins with the words - Zest. Gusto. The joy came off the page, hit me in the face, soaked into every pore of my being and I was reminded of just that - The Joy of Writing.
The enjoyment can be a fleeting thing. We get an acceptance or two and joy is there, in the same email or letter. We receive a rejection and it is joyless. Life gives us a kick, or several, and joy fades. Now, thanks to Ray, I am enjoying writing again.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Stick me to the seat

That's what writers need to do. Bum on seat and write. I need someone to force me onto that seat. The LSO does try but knows it's an impossible task. He'd sooner spin straw into gold. (I used that line in three stories which happened to come out in consecutive weeks and that was the first time I noticed the repetition. This is its first appearance on a blog.)
This week I have been stuck to my seat. Back pain meant I had to rest. My standing up time was only five minutes so there wasn't a lot I could do and leaving the house was out of the question. When I needed to sit, I really had to, whether it was bed, floor, stairs... Please don't feel sorry for me. I'm about to give my back a 40th anniversary. Part of my spine is in a jar in the living room and apart from a few years when I was cycling -non-load bearing exercise- I've been pretty idle in the exercise department.
This week has been brilliant. Unable to move about I've sat in my comfy chair at the keyboard and turned out four new stories and written up a couple of interviews. It reminded me of when I'd only had back problems for ten years and was complaining one day. My son, with 12 years of wisdom, said to me, 'Mum, if you didn't have a bad back, you wouldn't sit down long enough to write.'
That is so true. Perhaps, if my back pain goes sometime soon, I should pretend to the writer in me that it's still there and stick myself to this seat.