Meeting deadlines

Throughout my career I have had to meet deadlines. I can’t ever remember missing a deadline but I can’t ever recall meeting a deadline with days to spare. If you’re like me, you’ll know that last minute is not fun! It awakens the adrenalin and the creative juices flow but it also means the rest of life goes on hold, sleep has to wait in the wings until the writing stops and, worst of all, I often feel that if only I’d had more time … well if I’d had more time it would’ve been better, more polished and just perfect wouldn’t it?

Well would it? I think that, without a deadline, I’ve been writing my novel for far too long. The parts of my novel that I’ve gone back and changed time and time again don’t read any better than the parts that I’ve edited and then left alone. I’ve come to the conclusion that we can polish our own work only so much and then it needs a fresh pair of eyes to read it and comment and give us a more objective opinion.

With that new thought in mind, I have decided that I’m giving myself a deadline of finishing this novel by the end of July and letting fresh eyes read it. I can already predict that the last week of July will consist of takeaways, an overflowing washing basket, no social life and little sleep but it will be worth it to be done with the MS. I know it will not ready for publication but, it will be ready to be aired and reviewed. Scary!

What am I scared of? I’ve shared my writing on a daily basis all of my working life and yet I’m keeping this novel to myself and the main point of writing is to share with others. I think it is the thought of sharing something that is so important to me. It is the fact that it is fiction that has come from me, not a factual or opinion piece. I’m going to have to dig up some bravery and persuade my sensitive side to come out of hiding.

A deadline I DID make this month was my ‘one man show’ publication. ‘The Old Edwardian’ is the newsletter for old boys and girls of my secondary school that I was persuaded to edit a few issues ago. In spite of many requests for news or articles, it is all written by Chrissie the editor with a few suggestions from the committee. I now understand why the last editor jumped ship! I can’t say I love doing it, but it does exercise my writing and publishing skills and it is something that gets read by a large readership ( or gets thrown into the recycling after a swift glance at the headlines and pics).I also do it because I love all the folk on the Old Eds’ committee and wouldn’t want to let them down. They’ll be part of a novel of mine one day because they’re a diverse, weird and wonderful bunch.

I’m feeling happy because now I’ve met another deadline of writing at least one blog a month- and it is only 18th!. I feel a halo glowing as I type the last full stop.

Hunting down an Agent

My novel is not finished, but stories about how hard it is to find an agent and to become a published writer have ensured that I am realistic about the chances of being published straight away – or even at all! Right now, having my novel in print is a dream and a very pleasant one that I hope will come true.

Where can a new writer like me submit their manuscript? Who will take an unpublished author on? What I need is a simple, speedy way to find out up-to-date information about publishers, agencies and agents. It can be confusing when you’re deciding where you should submit your MS. A website to provide current details of which agents are looking for new talent, which agencies deal with your genre and what publishers are looking for is an ideal starting point for a new author. You might be thinking, dream on, but now that website exists.

Writers’ Workshop has helped me to improve my writing with conferences and courses and its done it again with ‘Agent Hunter’. This innovative tool makes researching publishers, agents and agencies so easy. I’ve been trying it out and it is really user friendly. What seems like a minefield now seems more straightforward. I’ve picked out potential agents for my novel already. What I really need to do is to knuckle down and finish this labour of love and frustration before I can submit.

I’m adding a link to ‘ Agent Hunter’ for anyone who wants to give it a try. Let me know how you get on with it and what you think of the site.

Blogs are like buses…

Blogs are like buses…

No blogs for months and then two at once. This week, after submitting my first blog in months, I felt ready to go back onto ‘The Word cloud’ – a forum for writers to make friends, to discuss their work or procrastinate a while.
I experienced a bit of serendipity because that very day there were posts revealing that ‘The Writers’ Workshop Festival of Writing, York 2012′ ( in which I was a contributor)was published and had reached no 14 on Amazon!
I have now downloaded it onto my kindle and it is a great reminder of all that went on during the 2012 festival.
I’m feeling so pleased to have a published piece of writing in an e-book. It feels rather like having your work put on display at school!
if you want to take a look, here it is!
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Writers-Workshop-FESTIVAL-WRITING-ebook

I’m freshly determined to finish the WIP and have some fiction on there soon. I ‘ve got my health back and I can make the time to do this in the next few months. Wish me luck and I’ll make my own luck too.

Febulicious month

February has been a Febulicious month for this hen. I’m writing again!

I have been through a very dark and murky tunnel and I found out that I couldn’t write about those tough times. I look back at October and I can’t believe I managed that brief offering! I admire people who can share their worst times and some, such as Lisa Donaldson’s inspiring blog ( see link) and the wonderful young Alice Pyne, have been a great support to me.

After October, my writing just stopped and survival kicked in. Maybe, in hindsight, I may be able to write about and use my experience of the last few months in the future , but now it is too raw and I’m just glad it is over. OK no one died and I’m finding ‘me’ again but, I definitely lost a lot of myself during my last sessions of chemo and the radiotherapy follow up.

The funny thing is that I managed to get up, keep active, apply the makeup and look well. I appeared positive but it was a front to fool
even myself because I couldn’t write, dream or think creatively and I knew that I couldn’t. It was all that I could do to get up and show my family that I was well – but I wasn’t. Looking back, I think this might have been a sort of hidden depression rather like post baby blues or a depressive dip caused by the shock of being ill and going through chemotherapy but I don ‘t want to look back or think about it too
much yet. I’m just glad that the fog has started to lift and I am getting some of me back. I’m writing and I’m reading a lot and I am positive most of the time ( late night / early morning doom n gloom thoughts are still around)

That is why February is turning out to be so Febulicious! I have got to the end of invasive treatments, my brain and ideas are emerging from the chemical fog and I’m ready to write and blog and put the past few months behind me.
…..and my hair is growing!

Achetober

I’ve had a miserable month of aches and niggles and feeling under the weather. Chemo sessions and a flu jab are to blame. You might think that it’s a perfect time to settle in with my laptop and finish writing that novel. I thought that too, but no – I’ve written everything but the bloody novel!

The fact is, I just can’t face my novel. I can’t make my characters suffer like they need to! It’s as if I know I’m not ready, not tough enough to write it properly.

So what have I done instead? I’ve written and edited another edition of that famous international old school newspaper, ‘The Edwardian’ – circulation 200 – (see ‘Readers all over the World’) and I’ve managed a few scribbles in a notebook. Oh, and A fair few tweets!

One lovely piece of news. I wrote an article about the writing festival at York and it’s going to be included in a Festival of Writing 2012 book.

So….. Nothing moving with my novel, but two published pieces this month. Hmmm, I wonder if the Festival book has a bigger circulation than the old Ed’s newspaper? My readership may grow!

Festival of Writing 2012 -York

Well I made it and FoW2012 was even better than I imagined.

It was a sunny weekend and York campus is a pretty place with water and ducks and lovely open air spaces to relax in after being indoors for long sessions. I met writers whose books I loved, twitter friends- it was great to see them in person and I attended some really interesting workshops.

It took a bit of courage to travel and meet people with my new addition, the wig. I took the short one as it feels ‘safer’ and I was going to be in it ALL the time. I compared wig shopping to shoe shopping last blog and I’ve discovered that wig wearing is like shoe wearing too. Wig goes on and feels comfy; I could wear it all day. Half way through the day wig feels hot and less comfy, a bit scratchy but OK.  Back to room and the chance to slip it off, oh the bliss of removing hot, scratchy stupid wig. The advantage is no hair washing, blow-drying or bed-head. Give it a shake and it’s back on and feels quite comfy again.

It was a wonderful relief to be with a whole group of people who didn’t know I’d been ill and didn’t ask how I was. I love my friends and family but they never let me forget I need to take it easy etc. No one stared at my head either so I think wig passed the test or people were polite.

Time to show? Here is my short look:

Anyway back to writing. My Friday evening workshop was on e-publishing. A great introduction to this by the lovely, talented Talli Roland, I have all her novels on my kindle, and a very knowledgeable e-published author, David Gaughran.  I will add links to their websites.

Talli mentioned two things about blogs that had me biting my nails. The first thing was to stick to your name because you’re easier to find. Should I be changing New Hen on the Blog to Chrissie Bradshaw’s blog? I wonder what others think. She has a point, but now I’ve started as this, should I stay with it a while? Let me know if you have a view on the naming of blogs.

Her second warning has led me to believe that it might be a good idea to keep my current blog name for a while. She talked about your author persona and keeping it true, but in keeping with your novels – a brand, if you like. My blog is writing, hen friends and me and is intended to be upbeat but my trials of illness have crept in because it is a big part of me right now. I hope my overcoming the adversity of wig-wearing etc. is coming across as the peculiar things we face in life and doesn’t sound like bleating. Please post to me if it does!

Perhaps I’ll keep Chrissie Bradshaw’s blog for when she is healthy, published and has her own flowing locks again ….long wait!

Other festival highlights were JoJo Moyes keynote speech about her journey as a writer. Going with your gut, writing your best story and how disasters can be turned around were all messages that struck home. She didn’t gloss over failure, her three unpublished novels in a drawer stage, and that was encouraging. I just have to write two more for the drawer then I’m on my way!

I’m not a thriller writer but I enjoy them and I made a written confession explaining why I murdered Mary in Claire McGowan’s  session.  I created a fiesty character in an interesting new way who could feature for a future novel , in Julie Cohen’s workshop. There was more writing while I was ‘Breaking the Rules’ with the fascinating Sam Mills: I owned up to being the needle that sent Sleeping Beauty to sleep.

 It was a weekend of learning the ropes, meeting agents and publishers and, best of all, writing fun that  ended all too soon. I slept very well Sunday night.

New Shopping Experiences – September

Oscar has settled in with us and has opened me up to the world of doggy shopping. He has needed more than my darling daughter needed as a baby.Travel crate, home crate, puppy gate, pet insurance, basket, collars ( several as they were all too big) dog gate,microchip, toys, food and the list goes on; Luckily I love to shop!

He is cute and energetic and a real ankle snapper at the moment. Please allow me to show you our new addition:

Oscar This is Oscar just about to go home with us. Now we can’t imagine being without him. There will be an Oscar pup in a story one day.

My other new shopping experience has been to venture into the wig shop. It can only be compared to shoe shopping. All colours, all styles, lots unsuitable, lots don’t fit but great fun to try on. In fact it is too much like shoe shopping, who ever just bought one pair? Not me, so I left with two; one for everyday and a ‘best’ that was long and more like my own.

The hair had fallen out you see, very rapidly over two days in long strands and I was left with a fine, blonde downy coating like baby hair. My shock was that it hurt! I felt like I had left my hair in a too-tight ponytail for a month and that my head was sunburnt. It was a relief it all went so quickly and I didn’t have aching follicles anymore. My pleasant surprise was that I have a nicely-shaped skull that I didn’t know about and the baby hair is definitely blonde not grey, for now.  I’d been eyeing up bald men and seeing some frightening skull shapes. What if I had one of those fat rolls at the back of my neck? I’ve spent ages admiring my neck and skull and sighing with relief.

As you can see, I was feeling  rather OK that my new head wasn’t the nightmare I’d imagined and asked OH whether he thought it was similar to  Sinead O’Connor or more Annie Lenox. He looked at me and with a genuine smile said, ‘I think it is more Jo Brand.’  Jo Brand! I like Jo brand, I really do, but she isn’t bald and that wasn’t the look I was going for! A hasty trip to the wig shop was planned.

 OH really did think he was giving me a complement, but then he often likens me to Alison Steadman who he dotes on and who I admire  as an actress but can’t see any resemblance. Funnily enough, he never mentions my resemblance to his other ‘female fancy’ Elle – the body – McPherson. I wonder about that!  I also learned long ago never to ask the ‘does my bum?’ question to OH.

I’m going to try to go to a long awaited Festival of Writing next week. I need to have chemo 2 and see if I’m OK and to test try my wig out and about to see if I have the confidence to venture alone into the company of strangers, but I booked so long ago and need a writing boost.

I am writing lots, but I’ve stalled with self-editing my WIP. I just can’t face the novel. This novel was started over a year ago and one of my favourite main characters is facing terminal cancer. Now, while editing, I have a less dramatic cancer, but I still can’t put my character through the mill. I’ll have to leave it and get back to it later or I’ll have to give her a better prognosis. It is far too close to home. What would other writers do? I’d love any opinions on this.

A full on August -and new hat on the blog

August has been a month of many experiences; all good for the writing but very exhausting.

It started with a fun female day at the races, but that was really the last weekend of July so we started early. My daughter celebrated her the ending of her ‘single status’ on ladies’ day at Newcastle, with friends aunts and cousins. It wasn’t a ‘hen do’ because she didn’t want that but it was as near as damn it and we had a wonderful time with flowing bubbly and sunny weather.

My first chemo session loomed after this and, due to the fanatastic staff and modern medicine, it was fine. I had that wedding ten days later and looked anxiously in the mirror at my hair day after day. My consolation was that I had already chosen a real ‘mother of the bride hat’ She is my only daughter and I love a hat!

A happy day

The hat!
As you can see, my hair was good enough to stay with me  for the wedding and I was grateful to it for that. It isn’t a major thing in the scheme of things, but having baldness thrust upon you is something that takes a bit of getting used to.

The other August happening was planned, but didn’t seem the greatest of planning by the time it happened. Months ago, we decided to have a puppy. We wanted a pup after our holiday and while we could take it out over the summer and we found a Welsh terrier having pups that would be ready in August. The timing seemed fine but then I got breast cancer and our summer got busier!

After much thinking and discussion, those bottles of wine in France and the lovely dogs our hosts had helped soften OH, we decided to go ahead. What better reason to get up and get out, if’ you are feeling under the weather, than an energetic pup?

On the weekend before our anniversary we set off to a lovely hotel (it turned out to have its own Basil Fawlty!)  and collected Oscar – my best anniversary present by far. Returning home, on our actual anniversary, I had chemo 1. Luckily I’d had the champagne at the weekend 🙂

So August has ended. The wedding went without a hitch; except for the groom forgetting the rings, doing a mad dash home for them and giving the guests a disquietingly long wait before he arrived just before his bride. When there was a reqest for the groom’s mobile number, some whispering started up until he rushed in.

Lots of relatives stayed and two days later I was kept in emergency care for four days with an infection – white blood cells down and all the kissing and hugging that we Brits do nowadays. However, I lay back  and thought it was all worth it, August 2012 has been one to remember.

Reading,writing,relaxing in France-end of July

Yes we got here! The cottage is picturesque on the outside and modern inside and the grounds are big enought to explore but not big enough to get lost in (only once- I went for a gentle jog without the deatailed map that the owners had kindly given us and passed the same crossroads several times so the 20 minute jog was rather longer and I did have to walk some of it.)

It’s just what we needed; near to bustling Sarlat and a short drive to the Dordogne and all the beautiful castles in the region. The cottage  great retreat to return for a siexta – oops that was a slip, the s is too near the x,  it’s holiday time so I”ll leave it in!   We’ve had some delicious leisurely lunches so we’ve had lazy rustic suppers of French snacks, my favourite, or fired up the charcoal :-(,   OH’s favourite.

Evening after evening has been whiled away, whiling away time is such luxury these days and even sounds lovely on the tongue, scribbling in my holiday notebook,reading,  watching  box sets with some superb French wine  and talking late into the night. We are both recharging, getting tanned and eerm, plumping up!

This holiday is even sweeter than most because I know it is a brief reprieve. Next month I have to start chemotherapy and help organise my daughter’s wedding. Guess which I’m looking forward to.

I’m scribbling away about the scenery here, ideas for a new novel and every now and then adding to my ‘to do ‘ list for August – c’est formidable!

 

Bastille day was fun and we caught a flash of the Tour de France– well we have the Olympics next month. 

Life is never perfect – July

Last post ended with, ‘Life is never perfect …..living ‘in the meantime’ and enjoying what we can is the way forward.’ Since then, I have written my monthly blog but haven’t posted. Why? Because, until today, I wasn’t sure of what to leave in and what to keep out. My blog is about writing, my henfriends and me. There has been a lot going on with me and to leave it out of my blog feels like a big chunk of my life and how it affects my writing. It has take a while, but I’m going to admit to being ill. Feeling fit and fine but being bloody ill is annoying!

This month I had to have a lumpectomy for breast cancer. I found the lump last month, thought it would be nothing and got a shock – a massive shock! It has been action stations since then with a quick trip into hospital for the lumpectomy and a determined recovery so I can get to France at the end of the month.

Looking back, Lumpectomy day was more memorable than it should have been. The hospital is just 10 miles away and I was a day patient so it was meant to be a speedy trip in and out.  As I was in theatre the skies went black and the heavens opened and OH got the jitters – what sort of omen was this? -I was blissfully oblivious as the rains fell and we had the worst flash flooding of the year.

I left hospital at teatime and we set off for the half hour drive home. We would have been better with an ark! Every road we tried to take was closed through floods or gridlocked with diverted traffic. We were well and truly stuck and with plenty of water outside but no water inside to take my painkillers. We saw ambulances that were unable to move so, other than calling for a helicopter, (OH was frantically thinking of options!)we had to sit it out.

At 22.00, I was in need of the codeine I’d been given but my mouth was like sandpaper. Ever resourceful, I found a plastic lid and held it out of the window and then found a murray mint in the glove compartment. With a few drops of rainwater and the mint, I could swallow the 30 mg of bliss that left me in a peaceful snooze as OH finally found his way home by 5 minutes to midnight.

We got off lightly. Our house was flood free. The school uphill was flooded and closed for the rest of term, the houses downhill had carpet and furniture floating out of them but, by a lucky drainage quirk, we were totally dry!

After that, my recovery has been quick, I’ve done all of the exercises to pass physio and I have been given the green light to go to the cottage that we’ve rented in the beautiful countryside around Sarlat, France next month. Can’t wait – Life isn’t perfect but it’s good!

Enjoying a cuppa and unaware of the journey ahead.    The school at the top of our road

A cuppa then home        The school at the end of our street

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