Archive for the ‘not writing’ Category


Thursday, August 18th, 2011

I went with the Mr yesterday to the Liverpool Tate to see The Pleasure Principle, the current exhibition of Magritte’s work. It was brilliant. Especially ace was the chance to see in real life my favourite picture of his.

That’s it. It’s called The Night Owl. The man is supposed to be a sleepwalker and he turns up in other Magritte paintings too. I’ve been trying to write exactly what it is I like so much about this picture. I think it boils down to the fact that I can’t tell if the man is looking at the lamp-post or the painting on the wall. What do you think? If I could afford this, I’d hang it over my desk and stare at it for a very long time every day.

I like the famous pictures less. Apples and pipes and cheese. Maybe I’ve seen them so often they have become just like adverts to me and I can’t look at them properly. I think Magritte liked adverts anyway so he probably wouldn’t mind me saying that.

In a little navy curtained room off the main exhibition was a series of drawings that ‘some viewers might find challenging’. Seeing as there were plenty of naked ladies in the main exhibition (on the walls, not wandering about) I don’t see what the coyness was about a few erect penises (done in fine, squiggly ink lines that looked like pubic hair) but I’d never seen these drawings before so that was interesting too.

I’m not much of an art critic. I realise this.

The other good thing I saw was a shoal of jelly fish. Tiny baby’s-palm sized ones, fluttering their way through Liverpool Dock. I tried to get a picture but my phone wasn’t up to it.

After a nice day out with no writing at all I was very ready to get back to it this morning. I am making good progress, I think. On schedule and under budget.


Thursday, August 4th, 2011

I’m away. Not here. Absent.


The best bit about taking a trip away is choosing the books I’m going to take with me. Well maybe not the entire bestest best thing. I also like buying tiny versions of toothpaste and finding the right pocket in my bag to put everything in.

I’ve been reading lots recently so it’s been tricky to whittle the choice down. Even though I have a kindle and could take a million books if I wanted to. I’ve just finished Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me and watched (through my fingers) the film last night. Then I devoured Dispensation, an anthology of modern LDS fiction. And followed it up by listening to the original cast recording of The Book Of Mormon: The Musical while I put all the guff that has gathered on my desk over the past few months away where it is supposed to go. And found loads of fluff and an unused book of stamps (first class). Result!

I finally decided to take Mrs Dalloway, Pale Fire, The Great Gatsby and The Good Soldier. If there’s a theme there, I can’t see it.

In case you were thinking about missing me, Sarah Hymas and I, with our Writing Smithy hats on (mine has a feather in it) have been busy scheduling blog posts over at Andrew Oldham publishing. We’re writing about poets and novelists working together, setting up a creative business, making time for writing and other interesting things to do with our work at the Smithy. We’ll be there until the 12th August.


Where the Trees Were

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

Avenham Park had an old and famous avenue of trees chopped down a few months ago because they all had Bleeding Canker (it sounds medieval enough, but people can’t get it).

I remember going to this park where I played and rolled my eggs when I was little, skulked and sulked in as a teenager, drank and laid about reading in pre-babies and pushed prams in post-babies and I remember seeing these huge trees laid on the river bank, the smell of broken wood and sap in the air. Very sad. Small Fry cried about it.

I thought about one of the prisoners in the creative writing group that met in the library I used to work in – he’d written and worked and reworked a poem set in this Avenham park about this avenue of trees – the way they frame the path that hugs the north bank of the Ribble and in the summer turn it into a green tunnel with the veined shadows of the leaves beneath your feet. His favourite place for thinking about his children and women and the first place he was going to go when he was out.

And those trees – hundreds of years to grow so this park will not be the same in our life-times. And I’ve been walking there again recently and the thick, toilet-freshener smell of the sap has gone and they’ve carved away the stumps from the bank – either to stop the disease from hiding in the soil or to make room for the new saplings or so we won’t be reminded of what was once there.

And the bare places are covered up now – pink fireweed and curly Japanese knotweed with the white trumpet flowers. Bees, and a crap attempt to fill in the sides of the path with flags and pebbles, and I got used to the bareness and realised you could see along the river much better now, and for the first time it felt okay again.

I was house-bound and missed most of the late Spring and summer so I didn’t see it happen, but I feel better now and it all grew back while I wasn’t there.

So that is one of the things I’ve been doing while I haven’t been writing.

How it is Done

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

I have been enjoying reading Kim’s posts about the evolution of her short story The Shoes from an idea into a Loomidob (technical term).

Here’s the first post and here’s the second one. Both well worth reading for an insight into what happens when you are drafting, editing and reading-like-a-writer all at the same time. I am curious about it because it shows a writer very aware of her own process and I’m not sure if that’s the effect of writing something inside the confines of an academic course, of because that’s the way this particular writer is.

I think I’d like to write something like that for the way I worked on Cold Light but it would be all lies in retrospect and my process is so messy and trial and error that, like the insides of my cupboards, I’d be ashamed to let anyone see it. I would dearly love to know what I am doing when it goes well so that I can do it again, but it hasn’t worked out like that so far. Although it has improved slightly.

Last week when I was fretting over the impossibility of writing another novel, I remembered things about lists and diaries and time off and CALM and resting and ‘we don’t get paid much, so it’s okay to have lies in and take afternoons off when you need to’ which are all things I learned when I was being mentored, and help a lot still.

Yesterday afternoon I did CALM typed up all my notes about number three (need to call it something – I called Cold Light number two for ages, but only because that was comedy gold) and arranged them into a rough synopsis. I’m challenging myself to develop a structure – to decide about things like point of view and tense and time-scale first rather than let it evolve on it’s own. That’s because I want to do something a little bit more complicated and challenging this time and I have an idea for the sort of thing I would like to try. I have not done it before. I don’t know if I can.


I also made a list of things that I need to research. Lists are excellent.

I will spend what time I have to read and work over the summer finding out about:

Crufts. The various categories, how you enter, how much you win, what the day is like.
My two settings: Salt Lake City, Utah and Chorley, Lancashire.
Being a Post Man. Secrets and tricks of the trade.
Long term faecal incontinence caused by unresolved birth injuries.*
Heathrow Airport.

That’s about it for now. My agent needed to see my plan and hear about the next book. When I told him about it he said it sounded ‘fab’ and very ‘Ashworthian’ which is I think a good sign.

It is no wonder I am not working very well. I am a cocktail of gestation hormones. I can’t sit at my desk without a person head-butting me in the ribs. I had a bad dream last night that the Mr had touched, moved or otherwise disturbed my ludicrous pile of cot-blankets (it will be summer, and McTiny will be sleeping with me anyway… pointless blankets) and woke up so angry I had to poke him awake, shout at him and then check the blankets.

No-one can produce the great British novel under these circumstances.

*note to self – do not google this until Later This Year.

Second Thoughts

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Maybe I shouldn’t be taking pictures every day. Maybe I should be practising my writing instead. I need to get better than I am for me to be happy with my work, and sitting reading and doing other kinds of work might not be as good a way to get better at writing as writing would be.

Oh, but I do need a rest. I know what I want to write for the next one, but I don’t want to be sitting on my own and typing all the time just now.

I think I’m feeling a little worried because my friends are being very prolific all of a sudden. I’ve got word-count envy. Here’s a new magazine called Other by the novelist and blogger Socrates Adams. I think it’s going to be good. Bookmark it now.

Here’s an interview my friend Kim did with my other friend Tom about his new novel, The Leaping. It’s good too.

I’ve also been sorting through old interviews, short stories published on-line, guest blogs etc and deciding what I’m going to feature on my new website and what I’m going to let disappear. Reading through some of the stories linked to in the side-bar I am not so happy. I could do better now. I think I could have done better then if I’d have rested more and not been in such a rush to be a real writer.

The new website is going to be good. I’ve seen some ‘mock-ups’ so far and it looks very exciting. I will be blogging at the new website too, so soon people who read this blog will have to change their bookmarks or point their feed-readers somewhere else. Don’t worry. I will give ample and frequent warning.

I should be doing some magazines or new stories or the first draft of book three. I should be typing furiously. I feel racked with guilt.

Writing Tips #8

Monday, April 19th, 2010

This isn’t mine, but one stolen from Nik Perring’s blog interview with Andy Devine.

The rest of the tips are worth reading too (although I take issue with #2 – which isn’t, can’t be and shouldn’t be true for every single writer in the world) but the one I quote from below is my favourite, has made me feel better today and made me wonder about ways I can find to ‘manage my incompetence’*

Every work of fiction can be improved. The fiction writer must find a way to manage their incompetence if they are to continue writing fiction. The conception of the fiction is always greater than the execution of the fiction.

 *not now though. I’m still resting.

Okay, okay…

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

I knew I wasn’t really going to get away with not posting a picture… no shoe shots as yet, so this one will have to do for the time being. If you look really carefully, you can see a plastic cat. Carrot cake from the Co-Op in Whitby, and people by Playmobile. Lovingly decorated twenty minutes before lift-off by me and Small Fry.

The next time I get married, I’m going to have this cake though. Not to eat, just to hold on my knee and talk to. Look how completely Top Banana it is.


Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

I’m home again, with a bit of the anti-climatic feeling you always get after a very nice holiday which included kippers, Dracula, the Vampire Prawns, scrambling up a rock face in wellies and a wedding dress, and lots of lazing about reading.

I was so busy before the holiday: scrambling to finish the last chapter of Cold Light and rewrite the final scenes in the light of some last minute research I did about water cooled power stations and their effect on sea-temperature, that coming back from Whitby to my bomb-site desk with its row of mouldy mugs and keyboard decorated with orange peel feels a bit like waking up from a dream.

Here are some of the things I was too busy to tell you about before I went away.

An article in the Swedish Daily News about Annie and me.

Writing an introduction for the anthology ‘Mostly Truthful’ published by Flax, available to read on-line and featuring the work of North-West writers Katherine Woodfine, Jane Routh, Adrian Slatcher and Kate Feld.

Getting a sneak preview of the U.S book cover for A Kind of Intimacy – appearing on this blog very soon.

Being an on-line writer in residence and teaching creative writing workshops in libraries across Lancashire for the Learning Festival Revolution – including one workshop in Lancashire Record Office where we used old Wanted Posters as prompts and inspirations for writing. if you’re from Lancashire, you can join in. Click on the link and tell me a story.

Here are some of the things I’ll be doing during November:

Planning a creative writing project working with prisoners starting very soon. Can’t say more about this yet, but it is one of the most exciting things I’m doing with my time right now and I can’t wait to get going with it.

Planning, with my mentor, how I’m going to spend my time next year. Am I going to be a full-time writer forever? What kinds of things do I need to do to earn money? What sort of projects do I like doing best? How do I go about getting the kind of work that I want, and still being able to write and have time with the SmallFry? How much time do I want to spend writing novels and stories, and how much time do I want to spend working outside my house?

Since I left the prison in August, I’ve been saying yes to almost everything because I want the experience and I want to find out what sort of work I enjoy doing, and what I’m good at (and no good at). I’ve been very, very lucky in that I’ve had more work than I know what to do with and have still had to turn down a few things. Now I want to start choosing what I do more carefully.

And of course, I’ll be writing down all those post-sending-the-novel-to-be-looked-at niggles and too-late ideas for the next edit I’ll no doubt be doing very late this year or early next.

I’m kicking myself that I forgot to put the knitted dog into the last chapter.

The New Leaf (if not new shoes)

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Thanks to the miracle of blog scheduling, when you read this, I’ll be in the process of signing paperwork and getting married!

<-- those aren't my shoes and it certainly isn't my dress. At the time I'm writing, I don't have shoes. The Mr has said so long as my novel is finished it doesn't matter what kind of shoes I wear (possibly because he hasn't got any shoes either - and Small Fry... nope, she's wearing plastic high-heels or Pepper Pig Wellies, depending on the weather). I may have swapped a shopping trip for a last minute edit of the final chapter. It's Whitby Goth Weekend. Maybe I can pick something fetching up while I'm there. I'll let you know how I get on. This blog has turned into a boring list of the promotional engagements I’ll be doing, or have done. After I get back from Whitby I promise to be more interesting, in deeply interesting ways. Or I will lie a bit more about the things I get up to. I’m hoping to spend November reading books, watching films, catching up on the hoovering, putting receipts in date order, sleeping, waiting for feedback on Cold Light, teaching some workshops, sleeping some more, worrying about Cold Light and helping the cat to forgive me after leaving her for a week… I’m sure there’ll be some interesting blog-fodder in amongst that lot.

Failed Novels + Tiny Stories

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

I read this, this morning, and it got me out of a foul mood that has been simmering for about a week. I’ve also been enjoying the short short stories Emma Lannie has been writing during her September project.

I’m sick of my novel. SICK, I tell you. Oh well, back to the coal face. I don’t have a break scheduled in for another three weeks.

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