Attempting to make it as a writer

Stirred and Shaken

swanwick 2014I cannot believe how quickly a year has gone by.  As the weekend neared, the excitement laced with large drops of trepidation intoxicated my every movement.  It was never about not holidaying with the family, but rather more joining my other family; my very special Swanwick family.

A year on and I was still a fraudster in some eyes particularly those of my  children, who cannot understand how I could legitimately join a writers school,having not had my novel published.   The few magazine articles I had sold were at most luck; at least an embarrassment so they could not count towards my job title WRITER.  Let’s face it, my children had not seen sight of any profits from my articles. Why would they?  My promise to myself was to put them towards my next Swanwick trip and so I had.

It was my eyes and my feelings that counted.  I was returning to Swanwick School of Writers, and I could not wait.

The journey proved longer this year, being held up in a traffic jam and on my own for the whole trip.   Excitement escalating with each excruciatingly slow mile. Was I nearly there yet?

Again (2013 Swanwick) I paused at the entrance, savouring the cocktail of emotions that coursed through my being.  I admit a certain fear and apprehension as I drove up the drive; would they remember me, would it be the same if I was not a white badger, nobody was going to offer guidance or assistance.   Maybe my followers and friends from last year will have realised in the intervening months just how flimsy my writing career is.

It was strangely reassuring to arrive at my room and realise I had stayed in this one last time.  A small task of individualising my name card reminded me that I was back in the world of writers, authors and poets with learning and fun to be had for a whole six days.   Taking a large gulp of self-assurance I made my way to the bar where I found welcoming arms and hugs from old and soon to be new friends.

So began my very special week of workshops, speakers, competition, laughter and welcome. (Swanwick 2013 part 2)

I began with David Hough’s Novel Editing.  He poured out sound advice, breaking it down into bite size re-edits.  In a nutshell; read it for me – is it what I wanted to read.  Read it from my main characters point of view – does she see things she shouldn’t or know things she hasn’t been party to yet?  Read it from my reader’s point of view – does it entertain them?

Then comes the grammar and spelling edits; this could be where I might fall down.  Back to the drawing board with Memories I realise now that  I am further back than I thought –  I may get away with missing step 1 as I am pretty sure it has all the bits in I wanted to add.

Short stories with Della Galton proved entertaining, challenging as she set the task of writing our opening paragraph and insightful with her simple plan; A character has a problem, which is resolved in an unexpected but in a satisfactory way.  The character is changed along the way.   With lots of tips and advice available to help craft my stories and make them marketable; we ended the week looking at short story markets.

Joining a workshop with Shirley Blair, the very lady who has the power to reject/ accept my stories, telling me to keep sending and her rejections are not personal.  With her mix of stringent guidelines spiked with pushing the boundaries she has thrown down the gauntlet to get a published story in People’s Friend.

Then the TV Detective himself arrived into my week.   The man who made me cry with laughter with his after dinner speaking- I will never think of otters again in the same light.  Simon Hall was dispensing in his first workshop about the media.  How to sell myself to become an item of newsworthiness even before the book has been published.

He drizzled into conversation facts like; agents check out web sites and look at tweets to gain insight into my personality and writing styles. He added to the brew suggestions like offer to write the article for the local paper and how to impassion that interview.

A short workshop earlier in the week on the luck and skill involved in forensics had left me wanting more.  Simon Hall again stirred the emotions of anticipation, fear and excitement with his rapid crime writing workshops. Mystery, suspense and keep your reader wanting was how he kept me enthralled.  Introducing the five Ps of writing a good novel: Premièring, place, people, plots and persistence.  Blending these five ingredients together should give me the recipe for a successful novel be it crime related or other genre.

There were other workshops, other inspirational speakers, the emotive and sometimes harrowing pictures that accompanied music, poems and letters in Remembering WW1.  The writer’s quiz that proved to me how wide and diverse this writing subject is and how little I know.   The poignancy of singing the final rendition of Auld Lang Syne as we promised not to forget each other amid tears and hugs of laughter.   No matter how many sessions I managed to attend there were many many others I could not make.

Before I knew it the week was over and I was waving off good friends and promising to keep in touch and see you next year.  Alone I gathered my belongings and packed the car.  Procrastinating long enough to take in the quiet and the gentle ripple of the lake I said my farewell vowing to return again.

So the magic of Swanwick (Swanwick 2013 part 3) lives on; as I drove down the long drive  the sudden strong sense of my own identity overwhelmed me.  I knew who I was and I knew where I was going.  The journey would be longer than I hoped but I had all the elements to quench the thirst to advance my writing career.  Icy trepidation diluted the fiery fervour as I realise  returning to real life will get in the way, work will inhibit both time and creativity as I head back to a world of people who do not understand but, I know I  am on the path and heading in the direction I want to be going.

 

Tiggy

 

All Inclusive

DSC_0347From the moment we touched down and probably before;  we were under the emphatic but subtle officialdom of the holiday company.  We stepped off the Magaluf Express straight into the pre-prescribed formulaic world of many a TV sitcom.

A final tussle with my controlling streak, do I follow the crowd or do I take command.  The battle was already fought and lost as I realised I had come on holiday to let others take the hassle from me.  Meekly I fell into line and sheep like followed; retaining only some small semblance of rebelliousness as I herded my family to fall in.

The doors of the airport opened onto an array of about 30 coaches mainly in groups of same colours relating to which tour operator you happened to be travelling with.  Which hotel we were booked into dictated which coach we were directed to.  The island was not really that big was it?  Added to the fact it was 2o’clock in the morning; local time, we were at the mercy of the tour company.

The sheer numbers involved were mind blowing.  We had travelled with one particular holiday company, although at the airport it was evident other companies were also collecting their parties.  Other planes full of holiday makers came in from Cardiff, Amsterdam and Manchester there may have been others.

The coaches filled with factory line precision; although left to our own devices, once aboard meant people sat wherever they could.  The family was split up, but conversation was the last thing on people’s minds at that time in the morning.  When the final flights had arrived and spat out their passengers and luggage, the coaches were full.  A convoy of them left the airport in an explosion of engine noise, skidding and screeching tyres; amid the back drop of a spectacular lightening show.

The young lads from  Majorca become coach drivers for the vast array of holiday companies taking over the island.  Their thrills comprise an unspoken competition and joy racing each other along the rudimentary roads they call motorway, with a coach filled with unsuspecting invaders.

Our destination hotel determined which coach we travelled on; but as the journey continued having driven for an hour or so (I didn’t think the island that big) the coach began dropping at different resorts pointing further and further from our destination, alternate hotels seemingly run by other well-known holiday conglomerates.  Doubt crept in; had we been directed to the wrong coach, was my Spanish that rusty that I had given misleading information; how many hotels can this island actually have.

We reached our final destination at 5 in the morning where a lone Spanish speaking hotel receptionist struggled to explain in broken English and mucho Spanish hand waving what had to be filled in on the form and where our rooms were amid the three hotel complex.   We were all tagged as our details were taken in a scene reminiscent of the futuristic dominance of many a sci fi film.   A feeling of big brother pervaded as the security guard secured the band around our willingly volunteered wrists.

We finally tumbled into bed just managing to take note of breakfast times and the time and place of our welcome meeting.

The well-orchestrated organisation of the hotel and its inhabitants now finely tuned to such a fine art that any one daring to step outside the pre-determined formula would be either ignored or I imagine removed before any calamitous consequences could arise.

All inclusive; we had decided this was the best way of travelling with three continually hungry growing boys.   We entered the dining room to a cacophony of noise and smells and colours.   The room was heaving with people, only one of three hotel dining rooms offering a huge assortment of differing foods.

Without time constraints and without anywhere to be it surely would have been rude not to try and sample a little of everything.   Buffet style stations dotted all around the room offering cereals, toast, yoghurt, fruit, bacon, English sausage and frankfurter.   Scrambled, fried or boiled along with pancake eggs.  Tables, laden with cheeses, cold hams and continental sausages offered a genuine smorgasbord in recognition to the many Scandinavian visitors.   Croissants, pain au chocolate and a vast plateau of pastries challenged the skill of any patisserie French chef.

Lunch was served just two hours later and dinner two hours after lunch was cleared away.   There were of course as many different themes as there were breakfast displays combining the adventurous with the fussy eater.  Tea and coffee was on tap for breakfast with fruit juices leading to beer, sangria and wine later on in the day.  So many choices proved too great, creating the need to test each and every dish.

There were moments of the day and late into the evening when maybe the restaurants were not open but drinks flowed freely.  All inclusive was just that, beer, sangria, cocktails, fanta and coke were available from mid morning through midnight with coffee and tea machines dotted round the complex where ever you might have need of yet more sustenance.  Snack bars served burger and chips and continual supplies of ice cream just in case you could not last till the next cornucopia of meals was served.

No holiday would be complete without a few excursions and to give you an opportunity to part with that well-earned holiday spending money you had taken with you.  We chose the boat trip aboard Costa’s Catamaran to a quiet bay where other boat excursions met us and we dived blissfully into the deep warm waters of the Mediterranean, kyacking and clambering and falling from the air filled lilo that floated behind the boat.   The crew turned their talents to cooking the BBQ served with the now habitual wine and beer.  The remnants of which, chicken, pork , sausage and pasta salad, when we could manage no more was thrown overboard to the suddenly shoaling fish, who had surrounded the boats.

We took the opportunity to join the beautiful Captain Scarlet in her fishnets and high heels in her quest along with Francis Drake, Barbosa and Blackbeard for their swashbuckling adventure to save their boat from the evil pirate Lafitte.  Food and drink supplied and consumed the lights went down and we were treated to a spectacular show of fire, gymnastics and high flying acrobatics.

Off course all holidays need an opportunity to spend any remaining money you may have taken and the opportunity to pass a cash point to withdraw a little bit more.  We joined the trip to the Inca market to barter for goods you would not look twice at home but had an allure that drew you in to spend spend and spend.

Keeping the holiday running to plan and all the holiday makers smiling are the cheery recognizable reps who assured us they were there to make our holiday as enjoyable as possible and they certainly were always available with a smile and and pre prescribed answer to any little niggle that may cross your mind.   They join in and deliver shows and performances to keep us entertained through the late evening with their almost in tune singing, dubious acting skills and hilarious comedy routines.

Behind the very visible reps was an army of locals who kept their heads down and made the whole place function.   Rarely did they stop, or even look up from their tasks but when you took the time to stop and say “gracias” they would greet you with a broad smile and even engage in pidgin discussion, my Spanish as rusty as their English.

With any good thing all too soon it has to end and with heavy heart we waved farewell to the hotel, to the dining room, to the on tap Sangria and the swimming pools and retraced our journey of only a week before.  Waking up in my own bed, my own things around me I pause to consider was it all just a wonderful dream.  My bank balance and the cases of washing proved otherwise and if I just close my eyes for a moment I can almost hear the noise, smell the sun tan lotion and feel the fullness of yet another meal.  Just for that moment I am still on holiday; I can still relax enough to forget the washing, the cooking, the shopping and enjoy for a moment longer letting someone else take control.

Wherever you are holidaying this summer enjoy the moment, too soon it is all over and just a memory.

Tiggy

 

 

 

Magaluf Express

DSC_0242The decision to take a family holiday was a non-event this year.  The older boys not even sure if they wanted to join us unless of course we are going somewhere hot, abroad and within close proximity of Magaluf or Ayia Napa. One thing was assured by the summer the whole family would  need a break and a get-away to enjoy maybe a hint of guaranteed sunshine.  Deciding where to go to suit a whole family of individuals with needs and desires of their own can be a long and onerous task and the more people inputting requests would mean a long and arduous battle of wills resulting most likely in another year without a holiday, if we could not agree.  I knew what everyone wanted so  I alone trawled the internet for something to fulfil my stringent list of criteria.  Sexy Sporty Dad cast an agreeing look over the 5 shortlisted destinations and then unprompted selected my preferred choice.  Booked and paid for before he or anyone had second thoughts.

So I find myself surrounded by the excited hub-bub of the check in queue at Gatwick Airport; already hot, stressed and tense.   Note to oneself – do not fly on a busy Friday evening in the summer.  The world’s largest car-park; the M25, lives up to its fictional name.  Having done the same journey up and down for work two days earlier, I could not believe it took us over double the time to reach the airport this evening.

We reach the front of the queue and a check-in desk becomes available.  The girl checks the clock behind her before calling us over.  The downcast shock flashes across her face as she realises I am not alone and that there are five of us to be checked in; she glances swiftly at the clock again.  She begins to rush us through asking questions in her heavily accented pidgin English.  I am not sure I understand so despite the scowl I ask her to repeat herself on several occasions.   We are so close; the very last case is being weighed and sorted when her system goes down.

She taps repetitively becoming more and more insistent – the system ignores her aggravation, then we notice other check in operators are having the same issue.   The whole of Gatwick’s check in system has hiccoughed.  The operators not programmed to deal with stoppages are baffled and look at each other blankly.  One or other tried to get back in intermittently with no luck.   No one came along to guide these youngsters, or even to explain to them or us what was going on.  It didn’t occur to her or any of her colleagues to walk over and find a supervisor or even to explain to the ever growing queue.  We luckily were at the desk we knew what was happening but anyone in the ever building emotional and stressful queue could just see all these young operators shrugging shoulders and blankly staring at screens or jabbering quickly in a multitude of differing languages.

With nothing better to do now was the time of polite conversation, I mentioned how busy the airport already was, she agreed with me saying there were a lot of flights this evening.  What time did she work till?  About 20 minutes ago – she was now late leaving but could not go having started checking us in she had to see us all through.

With the same silent swiftness it went down, 10 minutes or so later it came back up; no explanation, no apparent issues.  Having to log back in again she offered slight concern that the baggage already loaded would be separated but hoped it all reached the same destination eventually.  As did I, pondering what essentials were packed in the separated case.  It crossed my mind that it could be the other cases that could go astray and that would be just as catastrophic.

Heat and noise within the airport rose in direct competition with the excitement of boarding the Magaluf express.  Parties of already celebrating girls adorned with shorts or mini skirts revealing previously tanned long legs; some in tops so skimpy some not going that far and just in slithers of so called bikini tops. Groups of young lads staring; eyes out on stalks, not sure if they were the luckiest people in the world or terror they were about to be drawn into a web spun entrapping  the more powerful drug of lust.

The groups of lads were not the only ones harbouring contrasting feelings; as a mother I tussled with tug of war emotions – lots of older teenagers for my boys to be entertained with their own ages.  Against the predatory knowledge and memory of girls released from the confines of their stringent home rules to the freedom of being on holiday.  Further memories of the programme Sun, Sex and Suspicious parents flashed through my mind as I watched the groups circling each other.  I offered a silent prayer of thanks that although we may be travelling across with them we were passing Magaluf for the North of the Island.

We touched down amidst a powerful and spectacular lightning storm.  I suspect the thunder was there but the noise of jet engines and tired emotional children at a local time of 2am overshadowed any rolling or clapping the thunder could muster.   Another note to myself;  am I getting too old and tired for this night-time travel?

A flood of endorphins re-entered my system knowing the family had all survived the flight; mainly asleep so were unaware of the chaos of the battle raging outside.  Our luggage arrived in fits and starts but was all there and with relieve we retrieved it and found our way to the car park; to start our few days of sun, Sangria and sleep.

 

Tiggy

There is never enough time.  This is a continual grumble of mine.  In an ideal world I would have time to do everything I want to in each passing day.  They say if you want something done then you must ask a busy woman, but even busy women run out of time eventually.

I class myself as fairly disciplined; you have to be when you are self-employed or working from home otherwise it just doesn’t happen.timer

It is so easy to become distracted as you sit at your desk; the phone rings or someone pops in for coffee.  The dishwasher suddenly needs emptying just as you reach that difficult piece of work.  Face the screen, determined to finish that awkward section of production that you need to really concentrate on, firstly you need a clear focused mind so make a cup of coffee; only the third this morning as your favourite tune heralds the morning quiz on the radio.   While here just peel some potatoes in readiness for the meal tonight.

Suddenly it is lunchtime and you have to go for a lunch meeting.  Despite it being work you realise it will be nice to speak to someone having been working alone; well having been alone all morning.  You hang on to the meeting, dragging it on longer than necessary for the company or to put off the moment of finishing that section of work.

The children arrive home almost as you step in the door, time to concentrate on them.  Listen to their days trials and tribulations, find them a snack to keep them going, get the meal on, help with homework I am sure we didn’t learn it like this when I was at school.  Hubby arrives home expecting his meal which you all sit round and discuss your various days. Having cleared the plates and seen them all disappear to watch the TV you realise there is still that item of work that you have managed to avoid all day waiting for you.  Again you will miss all the soaps and the 9pm drama because this just has to be finished and there is no-one now in the office to ask.

Thankfully I am very much more disciplined than this.  I have my office as a physical room which I go into and fall right into work focus.  Unfortunately for my family the dishwasher awaits their return and the meal is a rushed affair after we are all home.    I do go into the office regularly where I probably have more distractions catching up with the others.  At home though I do have the ability to filter out the white noise, the call of the x-box even day time telly holds no allure for me as I concentrate on work.

So if I am this disciplined why can I not find time to write, that is what I claim to want to do?  It is where my passion lies, where I want to be so why?

Maybe that is the problem, I feel guilty taking the time out to pursue my passion when there is so much to do.   I often blame writer’s block; that blankness when faced with a clear piece of paper or screen, but when I am out and about I see stories, scenes and scoops around every corner.  I invent back stories, and make up questions and answers to every person I walk past.  I can even put it to paper (screen) and create a workable draft to a short story or longer.  What I can’t do is re-visit and find the time around the working week and the family to edit.

I have a catalogue of stories all finished in my mind ready to be sent off but they need careful editing and sending.  So is it just editing or is it the fear of rejection.  If I finish this, I must send it and then it may not make the grade.   What if they don’t like it? What if someone critiques my work unfavourably?

Writing is a part of you, your creation, your conception, your invention so when someone disagrees how do you distance yourself from the criticism?  How do you extract the positivity, instead of tossing yet another virtually ready draft onto the every growing trash can of could have beens? How can you build on what you started and use those comments to develop and finalise my work?

I am still editing memories, I still haven’t sent off my story to People’s Friend, I have two or three stories I was going to look at to send to competitions but they are still filed neatly on the computer.

This week is yet another busy week at work, at home and I will be spending some time writing but can I convert some time developing and maybe looking at sending or even at least post  a blog…….

 

Tiggy

Monday Blog Tour

DSC_0085It was a surprise and delight to be asked to join in this tour of blogs from some very successful writers.  I hope I can do them justice.  Many thanks to Veronica for her tag to join the Monday Blog tour, you can read her blog here.

What am I working on at the moment?

Editing is the most obvious comment I would answer here.  I have my novel “Memories” which is still work in progress but out with a beta reader and awaiting a final red pen edit before taking a deep breath and sending out to some agents.

As part of my writing group, we took on the challenge to produce a story for People’s Friend which is not my normal style of writing.  The challenge to me is writing outside my comfort zone and of course the possibility of being published in such a popular well-read magazine.  I have now finished a possible story but it still requires some serious red pen editing before I feel brave enough to send it off.

I also have my monthly mini blogs I provide for the local community magazine.   This is probably one of the hardest things to do – I have about 250 -300 words to create a whole story for a wide audience who need to be drawn in and hooked.  The time pressure as well as the inevitable writers block are my main stumbling blocks.

Finally I am doing an Open University module on “Start Writing Fiction”.  Although already behind with the assignments I am learning from this and some of the short paragraphs I have to produce I already have ideas for short stories or even longer.

You have to remember that all of this is outside my normal life of being a mother, wife, daughter and full time worker.

How does my work differ from others in the genre?

I still have questions of my own regarding which genre I mainly fall into.   Memories is definitely for women, mothers who will identify with the main character.  But there are elements to some of my short stories that cross the genres such as horror and crime.  I tend to write from the heart so I create characters made up of me.

This sometimes does not work as readers identify too much with a character and then get upset when the character does something unexpected.  Crime writing is particularly prone to this.   A normal everyday situation faced with an everyday dilemma and in a moment of distraction rather than premeditation the character takes the wrong path and becomes my antagonist.

Why do I write what I do?

This is hard to give an answer to as I probably do not know.  I have always loved writing and creating stories and even real life always has an alternative story going on in my head; that ‘what if?’    I have always felt that I had a novel inside of me but it has taken many years of convincing to have the confidence to actually do something about it.

I have  taken part in NANOWRIMO three times, and succeeded twice. Memories originated here and although that year I didn’t finish in time the story has developed into a passable novel.  National Novel Writing Month, takes place every November and is 30 days to write  a 50,000 word novel.  The end product is raw but the achievement is incredible.   The challenge is certainly one of the reasons I write.

I find it cathartic to let the words tumble out having been given a kickstart.  Sometimes the words are not worth the paper they are written on but sometimes there is a spark of something that might work with development.

Finally how does my writing process work?

I start by writing early in the mornings before the rest of the family awakes.   This is my time and I can get quite emotional if disturbed.   7am is when the world is permitted to wake and I draw to a close whatever I am working on.  If I have not finished,  the story and characters will churn around all day in my mind and next day I begin again.

The words often fall out in a bit of a hurried jumble and often differ hugely from the original story line I started with.   I do very little editing at this stage and only later if I feel there is a market or place to develop this do I go back and edit.   I need space away from the story before I edit.

I do send things out and rely heavily on others to critique but still take everything they say to heart and personalise it.  I find critiquing other people’s work just as difficult.  Each stage, after the initial writing takes huge steps to build my confidence to allow others into my world of fiction and make believe.

 

I am tagging the lovely Elaine from http://www.starsandroses.co.uk/   and  hope to tag tone other who will  continue this exciting tour of blogs so keep checking back.

 

You can see Veronica’s  post at  http://www.veronicabright.co.uk/2014/05/05/monday-blog-tour

 

 

Tiggy

Have a look at what I am up to with my food blog at Tea Time Treats 

 

 

 

Spring Cleaning

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The sun has got his hat on and is coming out to play.  Have we finally got through all that bad weather and the continual flooding and misery?  Is the sun going to stay with us for a while?  Time to fling open the windows and let the fresh summery air cleanse through the house.

I too am going through the process of spring cleaning, unfortunately for Sexy Sporty Dad this does not necessarily mean he will return from work to a shiny new home.  My deep clean involves a deep reboot of my life.  It will hopefully reset my systems back on the track I started out with.

Those carefree childish days full of sun and aspirations cannot be revisited except through the power of memories.  Experience and emotion railroaded the innocent juvenile ambitions I held then to shape who I have become now.

So with this in mind where do I begin?

I have begun the process to turn my working life around returning back to where I started, relearning skills and techniques I thought were long forgotten.   Technology has developed leaps and bounds over the years but to my surprise the basics I learnt a whole lifetime ago are standing me in great stead now.  Some polishing and digging deep down into the stored memory banks is required to revive and renovate some of those old competencies.

I suspect that nothing I do will take away the years of child bearing and mid-life spread but I have found my way back to the gym if only twice a week and gingerly at the moment. The bike currently remains forlorn if not forgotten propped up against the garage wall.   A step at a time; a slow meandering step at a time is how it needs to be done.

A 5 day reboot on juicing as per Joe Cross’ book Reboot was not as traumatic as I had first anticipated. Although midway through the reboot, I unexpectedly attended a work meal for which I arrived full of good intentions but could not resist the wonderful menu I was confronted with, or the persuasive colleagues I was with.  The rest of the week, maybe boosted by my lapse in starvation or the guilt of having done so left me determined to finish and feeling much better than I had expected.  I have to admit that since then I have not juiced as often as I should but I am managing to maintain my 5 a day intake if not quite coping with the additional advisory 7 a day.

So the only thing still on the list to do is the filing.   That is the metaphysical filing, de-cluttering the  abstract pile of administrative drivel that rolls around my brain each day, tiring me out and leaving me like a horse running the grand national overnight.  My brain I notice mirrors the chaos on my desk so maybe Sexy Sporty Dad will see a change as I throw caution to the wind and throw out some of that clutter.  There is a definite correlation between physically throwing away and mentally de-muddling.

I do own a “to do book” which I write it all down in but I still struggle to curtail the new additions.  For each line I gloriously scribble out I still seem to add two new lines to the important and immediate list.

I still have some capacity for more streamlining with work.  There is still a fair (sounds more achievable than long) way to go to reach the sublime heights of Hollywood model figure.  In the meantime there is plenty to keep me busy de-stressing and re-ordering my mental capacity but isn’t that what they say “little and often”.

Tiggy

 

Have a look at what I am up to with my food blog at  Tea Time Treats 

 

 

 

One in a Million

I am nothing if not unconventional. 

My boys are at a difficult age, starting out from the cosseted world of education and trying to make it in the world of business and employment.   School has equipped them with knowledge about many things but not yet how to be The One; the one who stands out from the rest.   I am not sure where that will be learnt.  I suspect the same place as I learned; in the hard competitive university of life.

I have never really conformed to  being a normal person.  I struggle to follow the expected norm from childhood  and in my life since.  I have often felt alone working in a very male orientated world where I slowly erode the pre-conceptions of being a woman to becoming accepted and welcomed.   This is probably a hang up from not being able to study mechanical engineering at university when I was in a very antiquated convent school with my limited options of  nun, nurse, teacher or if I had to housewife.

Only this week I had to rely on my individuality to win a new contract.  Being self-employed and running my own businesses on and off over the years I have been on the receiving end of copious job applications and interviews.  Each time I look for that spark of individuality that says this person is different and I can work well with.   I hope my boys will realise they need to stand out from the norm and bring that extra something.

My first job interview was not what I expected at all.  We were only 16 when my best friend from school was persuaded by her mother to unwillingly apply for a Saturday job at a  well-known electrical retailers.   She was not happy about it and her mother asked me to accompany her to the interview.  If only to calm her down and make sure she got there ok.   I was happy to oblige grateful it was not me being pushed to get a job so young.

We sat in the waiting room, her quietly fuming at her mother and me trying to reassure her that it was just a meeting.   She got called in and I sat twiddling my fingers waiting, chatting to people who walked by, knowing we had enough money for a hot chocolate but with careful budgeting we could indulge in a cake before catching the bus home.   She came out and I stood to leave with her. The interviewer asked me to go in for chat.   Reluctant to be involved and really not wanting a job Saturday or otherwise I was adamant I did not want to.  My friend encouraged me and the lady suggested I came in and saw it as a learning experience in case I ever needed to attend an interview.

They were right of course it was all about learning and experiences.  I went in, chatted amiably telling them all about me and my plans for the future, left my phone number and off we went for the promised drink.   By the time I got home I was met by a very bemused mother who told me I had a job starting the following Saturday.   Why had I not told her that was I was going; simply because I had not planned to?

Needless to say I did take the job and worked for a couple of years till I went off to nursing college.  My friend and I remained close friends.  She found a Saturday job in a small textile shop which gave her much needed discounts to feed her dressmaking passion.   She left college to work full time in the shop and later moved into the management of the chain of shops developing the career she craved.   Her mother did not hold it against me, at least her daughter had gone for the interview and when the right job came along she had that experience to fall back on.

I had not known it then but that was going to be a template for my working life, none of my jobs have I got through formal methods.   A night in a London Wine bar meeting a complete stranger is probably not one I would advocate for the youth of today, but I had heard about it word of mouth and I loved the very unconventional secretarial job that followed that interview.

What was particularly unusual about this week was I wasn’t looking for the job but it all seemed to fall into place and I ended up with a new contract.   I asked him  why me.

“ there were so many applicants, but yours was different,  fast and efficient then you pushed me for a trial.  Your knowledge and understanding of the subject contractmeans that I don’t have to spend time explaining complicated terminology and you already have the equipment”.

To me it is obvious if I don’t understand the work, however lovely, however wonderful the job is, it will not work out.

When the next contract comes up for grabs will I use the same tactics.  Not exactly, I have no doubt I will approach it in the same unconventional way, however each contract is individual and the preliminary research could well lead me to a completely different point of commonality for us to work from. Some I might resort to basic knowledge, some I might have to resort to a touch of moral massaging and there will be some that I need to just be capable.   How do I impart my individuality and difference to my children?   How do I make them realise that being the same is sometimes not enough?  They will always be for me but how do I make them one in a million ready for the working world?

So to the business of writing, and again I am delighted to have a photo and caption in this week’s “that’s life” magazine helping me a little towards this years writing school experience.

Memories is out with a beta reader (someone going through looking for continuity, grammar and probably spelling) who I hope is going to use a gentle red pen as she reads and re-writes it.  It is such a complicated time line for the story that I need to be sure it works in real time and I am hoping that she will still enjoy the story.

Tiggy

Have a look at what I am up to with my food blog at Tea Time Treats.

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