Attempting to make it as a writer

Archive for May, 2011

Generation Gap

It is half term holiday and we are away on a very family orientated holiday in the Lake District.  It isn’t the holiday of my choice but we are celebrating Grandad’s significant birthday which occurs at the end of the week.   We have managed to assemble three generations of family to a holiday park on the edge of Lake Windermere where we have a cottage, a lodge, a boat and a B&B for a fluid party of approximately 20 people.  There are friends and extended family passing through for a couple of days here or there and the odd acquaintance picked up as they pass through.

Having spent months planning and working out beds, we were slightly thrown when no 1 Son’s slightly older equivalent cousin announced he was bringing a young lady with him and they would not sleep on the boat and wanted a bed.   It was an even bigger surprise when I greeted their arrival at the cottage with Grandad only to discover Mad Aussie Aunt had flown over as a surprise for her brother’s party and also needed a bed.

The allocated boat beds are popular with the youngsters but the responsible adults are not as forthcoming in their enthusiasm.  Having decided on the adult for the night that leaves their bed space free but limited to who can utilise the shared half.

Four days in and the generation gap is widening into a large crack.   It was always going to be treading on broken glass difficult with the different characters confined under a few roofs but it was not the younger generation I thought would be so far apart.  Is this a reflection on my increasing years or the teenagers of today?  Sexy Sporty Dad and his brother El Capitan arrived laden down with goodies and food for the week.  Grandad and lady friend arrived with food and goodies, whilst Mad Aussie Aunt has bought food and lots of duty free to keep us going.

Our children cannot be expected to contribute to the food or costs as they are not working but it has been a wake-up call to hear what they expect out of this holiday.  They expect to have the best bedroom with the ensuite bathroom.  They are first at the table to help themselves to the prime cuts and treats on offer, plates piled high with as much as their wide eyes can picture, never mind those coming behind and there might not be enough.    They want their infernal noise (can I hear an echo of my mother) on all the time.  They insist on daytime TV, night time TV and every other time TV and what is so frightening, they know all the programs inside out, is this all they do!  Not one of them has picked up a book or initiated a conversation.

A collective tantrum of teenagers took place at the pub we took them all too for a meal when there was no ice cream included in their meal.     Stamping around, challenging the staff as it was on the old menu card left on one of our tables and demanding with menaces (if you don’t give in we won’t talk to you ever again – oh the temptation!)

When I was growing up; the one or two rare occasions I was taken to any kind of eating house I would have been so grateful for the treat and in awe at all around me, I would never have dreamed of answering my parents back let alone in such a disrespectful way.   Grandad’s generation didn’t have pubs or restaurants to visit and having lived through the austerity of war rationing are still thankful for what is now available and they can afford.

We had a BBQ for 26 people yesterday.  It was a sight to see the parents and the ancients sharing a kitchen and producing a veritable spread for all to enjoy.   The equipment might have been lacking but combining what was available with a lot of make-do and imagination we got there.   The youngest generation watched telly, a couple of them got up to play football.   When asked to help carry something out or clear something away you would have thought we’d asked them to go on a suicide mission into the underworld.

It must be nice to live in a time when you put no effort in but expect all the time, where if something is not right it is always someone else’s mistake and problem to fix and most of all to live in a world that surrounds me and only me.   The problem with this modern world, I feel, is when do you get to experience that wonderful warm inner glow that comes with doing something for someone else, or the achievement of watching someone else do well and benefit from your hard input.  I worry about the future if we all revolve around ourselves can the earth survive?

It would be nice if the youngsters in our party remember whose party it is, instead of the ancients having to make all the sacrifices.  All their lives they have made do, haven’t they now earned the right to a little help and respect.

Happy Birthday Grandad


Ps  if you check out Readers Digest  and look for Tuesday 31 May – Go Middle Son Go!

Pipped to the Post

“I don’t believe it”

My eyes were drawn to an email in my inbox yesterday from Reader’s Digest.  It was not spam and as I have sent in articles to them in the past it was not a name I was unfamiliar with.  However this one stood out as it had FAO Middle Son – 100 Word Story as its subject.

Some months ago I entered the Readers Digest 100 word competition.  The story had to be sharp and to the point but only 100 words; no more: no less.   I worked hard at this, I would struggle normally to write so few words.  Each word had to impart a mountain of information and each word was carefully constructed to try to convey the essence of a whole different world to the reader.

I even managed to coax Sexy Sporty Dad to read a few of them and on one occasion drew out comments of real use which I used.  Finally happy that I could not refine them any more I took the plunge and sent 6 of them off to the Reader’s Digest.

Middle Son showed a flickering of teenage interest in what I was doing and when told he replied “I could do that – it’s easy”.

I went to great lengths to show him the web-site and tell him there was a children’s competition running at the same time.


The moment had gone, curiosity abandoned, I challenged him. If he thought he could do the same then go on.


Then I mentioned a prize.   The ears opened up; the hair flicked from the face; an imprint of possible interest flashed through his eyes.   What could he spend his money on?  When would he get it?  Could he use the vouchers for BMX shopping?

He disappeared and within moments typed and produced a succinct little story called Kiss; something way beyond his usual casual thrown together homework attempt on a subject I hoped he still had no experience of.   It was good.  I would go so far as to say it was brilliant.  A couple of grammatical changes and it was perfect. I sent it off under his name to the appropriate aged category.

Months passed and we heard nothing.   The latest copy of the magazine had the winning three stories in.  The adult one was good, very good but I think some of mine could give it a run for its money.  The 11 – 18 story was good, quite sad but well put together by a young 17 year-old. Middle Son’s was as good; in my opinion at least!

Then I get the email, out of the blue saying:

Many thanks for sending in your 100-word story to our recent competition. Unfortunately, you didn’t win one of our top prizes, but we loved your tale. We received over 8,000 entries, so have picked some of our favorites to post on the website, and were hoping to put your story online at the end of the month

Years of getting up early, reams and reams of unpublished stories, battles of self-confidence and is it good enough, yet not one of my six stories made it.  Looking at the web site they are publishing one story each day; some are adult stories and some are the children’s ones.  He is at 13 a published writer.   Something for his CV!


Bottle that Umph….

It has been a funny few days.  I have been organising the end of season meal for No 1’s rugby team.  A difficult enough job at the best of times but this year it has been a diplomatic nightmare trying to avoid toes to tread on.   Finding a date that all can make, organising the awards and hiding them from my own children not to mention organising the coaches and buying the gifts they have to present.   The meal did however go better than I expected, so we advance into their final youth year; a strong successful team of developing young men.

I went for an interview yesterday.  A job had come up at the school the older boys attend; in the reception office for longer hours and only for maternity cover.   Both boys insisted on a lift the mile to school, so on the proviso of no fighting and definitely no stressing of mum; I took them to school.   On reaching the school gates I indicated to turn in.

“Don’t drive into school with us Mum”

They would be mortified to be seen getting out of my car.  I parked outside the school on the road and they leapt from the car as if their lives depended on it.    I was escorted in by one of No 1’s friends who was only too delighted not to walk in with his older sister but to chat to me about the weekend.

There were seven of us being interviewed for the position; all in good jobs already but all prepared to leave and take a year long post at a low wage.  Is this a sign of the times?  Apparently there were over 50 applicants for this job and they had narrowed it down to seven.

I didn’t get the job.  They managed to whittle it down to four of us and then found it hard to decide but the lady who got the job will do a great job and I think she was probably the best.  Why wasn’t I the best?  I have honed my CV to catch the attention but I falter at this final step every time.  The feedback is always positive; I answered the questions correctly and said all that I should and it is always a close call but the other person always has something.  Whatever it is that other person has, I want some; to pull out in times of need.

I admit I felt  a lot of hesitancy; it was a lot more hours and childcare would become an issue.  The temporary nature was another big issue and in the current job market was a factor in my reluctance.  Maybe I did not portray my enthusiasm as well as I could.  They are going to keep me on file as they think other jobs may come up better suited to my experience.   I was not disappointed when the call came.  In some ways I was relieved I didn’t need to go through that wind down period of guilt while everybody blames you for leaving a sinking ship.

It now leaves me to concentrate on my writing.

I have not done much writing myself but I have developed my reviewing methods, which also give me an insight into reviewing of my own story.   I have also received 6 reviews on “Memories”, none of them as harsh or critical as Ericj’s original attempt.

The remaining critiques all agree the story line is good and going somewhere although none seem sure where.  Each one of them has picked up on one or two of the critical clues fed in to lead the story, they comment these don’t seem right or in keeping with what they have read.   They are not meant to!  Unfortunately they seem confused by these bits.  It is difficult to know where a story is going when you have a maximum of 7000 words from an 80,000 word novel.  I think sometimes these critics need to remember you cannot reveal the whole plot in the first chapter or you might as well not finish the novel.

Onwards and upwards; there is work to be done on it, but the essence of the feedback is that the story has the potential to run.  Now I need to hone down my basic grammar and spelling.  Maybe No 1 son would help; as he has his second module for GCSE English in a couple of weeks.  I have agreed to read and help with his homework so just maybe………..


Critical Acclaim

A friend of mine from my writing group sent me a competition on the web site.  I load the first three chapters of my novel and it is put out for review by other budding authors.  For every review of other people’s work I do they will send it to someone to review.   The competition prize is that if your work gets enough good reviews it goes into a table and the publishers Bloomsbury will look at the story with a view to publishing.

Scary thoughts; firstly it is sent out into the public domain for other people to read: the general public and also terrifying that my copyright might be breached in some way.  Not to mention the weight of responsibility when I have to review somebody else’s painstaking work.

The website addresses both issues and assures me that I retain copyright of my work and they date stamp it so no-one can steal my work.    On the other issue they claim that is what they are supposed to be doing; opening it up for general review.  They leave the onus of review firmly on my shoulders.

I came up with all kinds of excuses why I shouldn’t upload it and none of them plausible so in the end I bit the bullet and pressed the proceed button.  Unfortunately having gone into great lengths to fluff out the bare bones of the story I now could not upload 3 chapters so 1½ was all I could fit into the 7000 word limit but I let it go anyway.  This of course does not take the story very far apart from introducing the main characters.

This morning I have had my first review and wonder now why I bothered.  EricJ has been very harsh in his comments and has missed the point completely with one scene he wants cut altogether.  Obviously from the short excerpt he has read he does not realise how the clues are being filtered in and how it is relevant to the plot.

To give EricJ his due he has suggested changes and links that might be of use to me and one day I hope I will look back and thank EricJ as my novel is printed.  He also does say sorry for not being more charitable.

I am currently on a roll and determined somehow to get more work out to the public.  I have sent some short stories back to the magazine that printed an earlier story as fillers.  I hope to have time to develop some more short stories for other magazines but then life gets in the way and without life my experiences are limited and I cannot write.


Lost Limb

It has been a strange weekend. I have lost a limb; metaphorically speaking.
Middle son has gone on a four day school trip to an outward bound centre, where hopefully he is enjoying the activities on offer to him. Mothers will relate to the weird feeling the absence of one child has on the dynamics of the family.
Don’t be deceived, I paid heavily for these days without him in monetary terms to the brave school teachers who have taken responsibility. It has been worth every penny to have the short-lived respite from his teenage mood swings, but I still feel I am missing a vital organ or necessary limb from my very being.
Friday I had to drop him and luggage at school, before getting myself to work. I’d had a productive morning’s writing in the company of the birds, before bodies began to emerge from their slumbers. Sexy Sporty Dad not known for his early mornings appeared down ahead of the 7am news (unheard of), clad in Lycra no less! He had challenged himself to cycle the 17 miles to and from work. There have been sporadic incidences of insanity when he has taken the bike in the car to cycle home returning the following morning but this was madness!
Middle son appeared showered and pleased to be out of the confines of his restrictive school uniform. He made his own lunch from whatever lurked in the fridge or cupboard. The fruit bowl untouched but the multi pack of mini cheddars and the last remaining slices of my home made chocolate cake have vanished!
No 1 Son appeared with a few teenage grunts and requesting a lift the whole mile to school. Mini Son up and dressed fed and drank his birds, brought in the milk, emptied his bit of the dishwasher; ok he gets pocket money for all these but so do the older boys, they prefer to forgo the money along with the effort.
Parking outside a shop on the way I trusted Middle Son to go and get the sweets he needed for the journey. No 1 Son having had a lift to the back gate and not wanting to be seen with his mother leapt out quickly and joined the throng.
Middle Son reappeared loaded down not with sweets as expected but with cans of stimulation drink. I don’t envy those teachers one bit.
We may not have had to bring him down off his high but the family have missed him albeit in their own little ways. No 1 Son struggling to find someone to fight with has resorted to hanging round with his brother’s friends. He turns his wind ups on the family using the same tactics; but to his disappointment it does not work so well.

Mini Son complains his brother takes over his friends but this weekend with no one to organise their games and look after the little ones he is wandering round the estate looking for someone to play with. With Middle Son away there isn’t even the usual gathering of BMXing teenagers to hang around with.

Sexy Sporty Dad had no-one to repair punctures for and was lost having the time to finally do a “toit”; something he has been meaning to get around to, for some time without the continual “Dad can you just….”
Quietness has descended on our house without the neighbourhood traipsing through for drinks, snacks and play station. Squash is left in the cupboard, bread and milk in the fridge and no half drunk glasses left over the kitchen, hall, garden and stairs.

I had a disturbed sleep the first night he was away, wondering how he was getting on and if he was able to sleep. Next morning I ventured into his teenage domain towel over my face and aired his room rescuing his bedding for washing. The second night I slept better. Only one more before he is sewn back into the fabric of his family and my body feels whole again, and then the family can get back to bickering like families do.


Welcome to my World

Who am I?

I am a writer in the early stages of what I hope will be a long and creative career.  I have always written but now I write focused articles and stories early in the mornings, my only companions the birds singing their dawn chorus.  May is already upon us and the sun has been up for some while even before I struggled out of my pit.  This is my time while the rest of the world sleeps.

I am now what the term middle-aged used to refer when I was in my youth although my life has already begun again and I am rushing towards another milestone birthday.  I have 3 children all boys who bring chaos and turmoil to my life. I work part time in the school office where Mini Son attends school.  I wear various hats at the local rugby club where the children play rugby, I am taxi service, cook, bottle washer, cash point and housekeeper, not that anyone would notice unless it doesn’t get done.

No 1 Son is now 15, taller than me and at school studying for and taking his modular GCSEs.  He is a rugby nerd and his whole life revolves around the sport.  His friends are all drawn from the pot of team players who join him every Sunday come rain or shine.  He has spent a year out of the game through injury which has been frustrating but he has used it  to develop  his refereeing skills and has helped me  report on the matches.

Middle Son is about to turn 14 and also now taller than me.  He lacks my fuller figure and takes after his father more, being willowy and skinny.  He has just taken his options for next year when he begins his GCSEs.  His passion in life is just as injury prone, but he prefers BMXing to rugby.  His talk is littered with “spine, 360s, the volcano” that is when he has something other than uggg to say.  A typical teenager with hair growing way down past his eyes and his boxers hanging out of his trousers in the most off putting way.

Mini Son is striding on to his 9th birthday.  One of the youngest in his class but one of the tallest.  He too is into his sports.  He will grow up, I am assured, into a famous footballer.  In the meantime he is dragged off to Rugby on a Sunday, football training on a Friday night followed by game on Saturday.  He swims midweek and goes to cubs on a Monday.   The rest of the time he plays out with any child older or younger and passes through the kitchen for drinks or snack as and when the need hits him.

Sexy Sporty Dad had a midlife crisis a few years ago.  Rather than run off with his secretary or taking up train spotting, he returned to a childhood activity of Dinghy sailing.  In a bid to pass on this sport to his sons we now have a mirror dinghy, a 420 and a topper.  We live near to Longleat and are trying to join their sailing club, Poole is only an hour away and we spend many summer weekends traipsing up and down dragging various boats behind.    After careful thought and another year or so to his battered body; he decided dinghy sailing did not take him away from the family sufficiently, so he took up Triathlons.  Not just one discipline to train for nightly but three; cycling, running and swimming.  We do still keep photos of him when, he was not just a shadow passing through.

My writing

I took up the challenge in November to write a novel of 50,000 words in a month,  NANOWRIMO.  I failed, by the end of the month, I was reaching about 32,000.  However another month in and I completed my first draft of 64,000 words.  Memories is now coming to the end of the second edit and I am very proud of the effort I have put in but not over the barrier of sending it to a publisher yet and it being rejected.

I hope you will enjoy reading my blog and please comment on the trials and tribulations that I hopefully will continue to overcome.


Tag Cloud