Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Out of the Loop

Last year I started out with every determination that 2017 would be my most productive writing year yet. Sadly it turned out to be the worst. My only two writing achievements were that I managed to edit a book I had written and submitted it to the RNA New Writers Scheme, and I attended my first ever RNA event - an afternoon tea in York which was thoroughly enjoyable and truly inspirational.

But throughout 2017 on top of normal work and family responsibilities, I was plagued by illness, both my own and that of family members. In June after lots of tests, I found out that I was suffering from a form of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Not only does this affect the joints, but the immune system as a whole, and it meant that I was constantly tired as my body was fighting infections which didn't exist. Being diagnosed was a bit of a life changer. On the one hand I was pleased that I finally knew what was wrong with me, but on the other I was faced with taking heavy duty medication for the rest of my life. It took a while for the medication to start to work and sometimes I was just so exhausted that I would come home from work and go to bed. Hence the writing took a bit of back seat.

Then, on 20th December, after a long and debilitating illness my mother-in-law passed away. It was sad to lose her so close to Christmas but she had been suffering for such a long time, in fact we had all been on high alert since early November, thinking every day could be her last. But 2017 hadn't done with me yet. The next day my Mum went into hospital to have knee replacement surgery and on the same day my Dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He had been a little unwell but none of us were prepared for that, or the fact that his health deteriorated very quickly and he too died, only ten days later on 30th December.

So at the beginning of 2018 instead of reviewing my goals for the previous year and planning for the next, I was organising funerals and overwhelmed in grief.  The funerals took place in January, both within a week of each other. Funerals are funny things, a juxtaposition of sadness and happiness. We celebrated both their lives with friends and family and had the satisfaction of doing both them proud even though our hearts were breaking. 

And then came the time of getting used to life without them. Some days would be fine and at others I could burst out crying at the drop of the hat. I guess that's just the grieving process, but I suppose one good thing was that both my husband and I were grieving at the same time and if anything it brought us closer together. 

The suddenness of Dad's death made me realise more than ever that this life is not a dress rehearsal. I had signed up to RNA New Writers scheme in January to give myself a deadline so I decided to crack on with my novel, work on my ambitions and make my Dad proud. And so February began with us all getting used to our new normal.

And then in the middle of February without any warning whatsoever I suffered a brain haemorrhage. At first I though it was a really bad and sudden headache.  I took some paracetamol and went to bed. Thankfully I woke up the next day but was in agony and phoned 111 ending up in an ambulance and on my way to A&E. One CT scan later and I was transferred by another ambulance to Walton Hospital a hospital which specialises in neurology. It turned out I had an aneurism which had burst and which could have killed me. Scary stuff. But the hospital were brilliant and after surgery I spent 10 days in hospital. That was 8 weeks ago and although the road to recovery seems to have gone on forever, life is getting back to normal. I'm still only working part time and from home (DVLA haven't signed me off to drive again yet) and I still get very tired, but compared to how I was, or how I could have been, I am so lucky.

So I'm getting back to writing again, but this time with a little more focus. Life is what you make it and I intend to make the most of mine!

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Here I Go!

I’ve been a member of the RNA New Writer’s scheme a few times now and have found the critique service invaluable.  I’ve always wanted to attend one of the many events which are held throughout the year but so far the dates have always clashed with other commitments.

However, this year I seized the opportunity of attending an afternoon tea party in York on 30 September. I love afternoon tea, to be greeted with a glass of prosecco won’t be a hardship, and am especially looking forward to hearing the guest speaker, Milly Johnson.

I booked this ages ago yet I can hardly believe that next Saturday I will be getting on the train to attend the event. I could drive myself by car and it would be a much shorter journey, but to be honest I don’t want to pass up the opportunity of reading and writing time on the train.  After the stresses and strains of the last few months it will be really nice to have some me time and most importantly to be surrounded by fellow writers.

Of course I won’t know any one there but I’ve heard that RNA members are a friendly bunch, so if you see a women looking a bit lost, please do come and say hello.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Autumn Days

Autumn always brings mixed feelings for me.  On the one hand it’s a season of inspiration.  The start of a new academic year and the time to learn something new or at least be a bit more studious. The season of opportunity where you can reassess your goals for the year and start again.  And there’s the peace and quiet of the kids being back at school after weeks of lolling on the sofa playing on the x-box or watching incredibly stupid American sit-coms - the kids not me, I've worked through the whole thing) and the chance to get back into a routine. 

And as for my goals for the year – well they definitely need a kick up the you-know-where. I started off the year full of plans and determination but they soon fell by the wayside as you can tell from the lack of blog posts.

I’d decided to try using a bullet journal to help get myself organised. My friend introduced me to the concept and said you could buy them ready made, but after some research on You Tube, I decided that a plain ruled notebook would do just as well.  At the back of the book I split my goals for the year up into different parts of my life – home / work / writing and wrote down everything I wanted to achieve for the year.

Then at the front of the book I headed up the pages into months.  On the front of the page for January I wrote my goals for that month and on the other drew a calendar for the month and added in all appointments and events I needed to attend. The pages after then were filled with tasks that I wanted to achieve each day.

It worked in that it focussed my mind on what I needed to do each day  / month and it was handy to have the essentials for the entire month on one page (no more rushing around buying birthday cards and presents at the last minute because I’d forgotten!) but it turned out rather depressing to find several items being carried over from day to day and month to month because I just couldn’t find the time.  I still use it to a certain extent but like most of my resolutions, it seems to have petered out.

It’s been a challenging year family-wise, lots of illnesses and challenges to deal with, some short term but others longer term and more significant and for a while now I have struggling with my own health which impacts on my ability to find the motivation and energy to write.  In June I finally received a diagnosis, and whilst it was a relief to find out what is wrong with me (nothing life-threatening, thankfully) it does mean that I have had to make some adjustments to my life and will be on medication for the rest of it.

On the plus side so far I have survived all those challenges and in the midst of it managed to complete a submission for the RNA New Writers Scheme (not the one I intended but that’s another story) but something I have been working on for a while and am really pleased with.

So, with all that out of the way, its time to reassess my goals and make the most of the rest of my writing year.

The not so plus side of autumn is that is signifies the end of summer, the end of light (if not heat if most of this summer was anything to go by).  Cold, dark days lie in wait.  But I’m going to look on the bright side, batten down the hatches, snuggle up, and try and achieve some of those remaining writing goals for the year.  And hopefully I’ll be blogging a bit more too!

What are your goals for the rest of the year?

Wednesday, 8 February 2017


Time to Plan!

This is a rather belated post bearing in mind that it is already February but it’s all about my writing hopes for the year ahead.

I can honestly say that although last year was a busy year for me, it wasn’t productive writing-wise. My short stories consistently failed to hit the right spot and I lost my focus. On the plus side I did complete a freelance journalism correspondence course I had signed onto the previous year, through Writing Magazine.  I’ve always been interested in history and love the research but have never had the confidence before to write non-fiction for publication, but now, thanks to the course, and particularly Michelle Higgs, I have the confidence to do that.  Not only that, but I have a number of articles ready to be edited and sent out.  So, one of my hopes this year is to start to generate sales in non-fiction magazines.

The news just before Christmas that from now on Take A Break would only be accepting submissions from a list of approved authors was a blow to the UK womag market.  Although I’ve sent a number of short stories to Take A Break, I never quite got it right so naturally I wasn’t on that list.  And whilst I never might have hit the right note, it was something I had hoped for and was another market for my short stories.  I know some of my fellow writers who had had several stories published in the magazine in 2016 weren’t on the list and were disappointed by that.  I completely understand the magazine’s reasoning for doing what they have done.  They are running a business and it must take a considerable amount of time and effort to deal with the unsolicited submissions.  However, now I fear this will increase the burden on the remaining UK magazines who still accept unsolicited stories and wonder if they will, in the future, chose a similar option.

Some of my friends had significant success last year with the overseas womag market, so whilst I will continue to write and submit over here, I’m also going to do some research and see if I can start submitting aboard.

But what I really felt at the beginning of the year was that I needed to get my writing mojo back.  I dug out a first draft of a novel I have been working on for a while now and re-joined the Romantic Novelist’s New Writers’ scheme.  Now I have deadline of August to whip my novel into shape.

All in all it looks like I’ve set myself a lot of goals this year to fit in between a busy work and family life.  How am I going to do this?  Well, I have a plan which I’ll tell you about in my next post.