Thursday, 22 May 2014

Home-made colour

Finally - some summery weather! I was so excited when the sun appeared, I started taking pictures of the evening skies from my bedroom window. There have been lots of melting ice-lolly colours and drama-queen clouds. And the inevitable collage ensued...

I think that's 'Tall Trees Road' in the background...but I have only my husband's word for this. If he's asked any kind of question and he sees an obvious answer, he lies with a totally straight face. Once, when he couldn't be bothered to remember the names of all the other women in my ante-natal group, he simply made up names that he thought suited them. During conversations, he'd say stuff like, "What do you think of Cassandra's plan for a water-birth?" And I was really glad he'd learnt all their names because it freed up my memory for all the important pain-relief information I was trying to cope with. Of course there was always going to be a session (that he didn't come to) when I addressed everyone there by a totally made-up name. And when I asked him about it later -in utter bewilderment - he laughed so hard he rolled right off the bed and fell on the floor #bastard.

And here's the sunshine trying to squeeze in through the front door. I forget how much I like the stained glass during the grey winter weather. It's part of a lovely Arts and Crafts type of door and I chose it all myself. I bought a book full of stained glass designs and decided on birds and curling vines. My first sketches involved an elaborate tree filled with dozens of fluttering birds. When I took my drawings to the stained glass man, he burst out laughing and quoted me about eighteen thousand pounds. So I simplified. But even with only two birds and a handful of leaves, choosing little rectangles of glass - holding them up to the light or arranging the different colours side-by-side - was one of my favourite projects ever. Even better than paint charts!

Far less grand, is this heart of buttons threaded onto wire. I only made it because I was a bit bored with the film I was watching and wanted something to do with my hands. But I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. I have a button collection which I never use because - well, who does nowadays? I also have masses of florist's wire which I bought from Ebay because I love making cake-toppers like these...

(Although these are an example from Google because mine have all been eaten long ago!)

The boys have been busy too. This is Eleven-year-old's desk - due to the massive loom bands craze sweeping the school at the moment...

There's something quite heart-warming about watching a gang of boys earnestly selecting coloured bands and helping each other choose band styles (Eleven-year-old has mastered the fishtail, the chevron, the infinity and a slightly-raggedy kind of starburst).  Some of the more boyish boys opt for TeamGB colours or camouflage, but mostly the bands craze has united them with the girls. I love how they make them for each other as friendship bracelets - especially since this is Eleven's last year at primary school and he'll be saying goodbye to a few good friends in September.

And what about Seven-year-old?
Well, he was invited to a Paint-a-Pot party and returned with this splendid rainbow mug for me...

Like his brother, Seven is also good friends with the girls in his class. Which means that besides the Paint-a-Pot party, this year he has already attended a One-Direction-Karaoke-Disco *covers ears and runs away* and a Crafty-Miss-Sewing-Party where he made this rather splendid owl...

One final project which has been shared by both boys, has been the creation of a frankly magnificent poster for their school's summer fair. The reason they opted to share credit/blame is that one of them has given the clown in the corner a s-l-i-g-h-t-l-y similar face to that of their headteacher. I'm not convinced he's going to give them the prize this year!!!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014


Last week, a friend who runs a creative writing group invited myself (and another friend with a publishing deal) to visit her class, meet the students and attempt to explain the YA genre. I say she invited us, but I mean of course, that she nagged us until we gave in. 
We were terrified.
Quite early on, someone asked me what is probably one of the obvious questions: "So what's changed then?"
And I shrugged and shuffled and grinned and said: "I dunno...nuthin really."
Because I am crap at public speaking. But also because I haven't actually been published yet - and it doesn't feel as if anything has changed. 
My preparation for the above event had been all: "Shall I wear this skirt or this dress? Which one makes me look most authory?" And of course, "Should I take some of the diazepam my fellow speaker's back pocket is stuffed with or should we just get really drunk beforehand?" 

"Hello? Is this my Young Adult voice speaking?
(We have a new Banksy in Cheltenham!)
I really hadn't considered any of the questions I might be asked, obvious or otherwise. 
Before long, someone else said: "How do you find your voice?" And myself and fellow speaker looked at each other as if to say: "You'd better take this one, because I have nooo idea what the answer is..."
In the end, we went with: "If you write enough, it'll end up coming out in your voice." But I have a sneaking suspicion there's a far better answer out there somewhere...
(In fact, as I'm writing this post, I'm aware that my blog-voice is different to the two ((again slightly different)) voices that I wrote my two books in. But they are all still my voice. And it isn't a voice I ever searched for or created, because I wouldn't have been able to sustain anything else for the length of a novel. So I suppose it must be practise - like bloody everything!)

Anyway, I was reading back over my last post and I mentioned that feeling of excitement that now comes over me in bookshops - especially in the YA section. So that's one thing that's changed since I was offered a book deal. There have been changes. Maybe they're too small to have been worth mentioning in answer to the question I was asked at the creative writing class - and they're definitely occurring to me too late for that too. But here they are...                                                                                                                                                                

*I've been out to lunch with Rowan, my agent, at River Station in Bristol. Which was lovely. She said so many interesting things about books and publishing that I'm still turning them all over in my head a week later.

*I've started reading the Bookseller. Oh, I can't afford to buy the Bookseller, but I scrounge a friend's copy when she's finished with it and it makes me shout things like: "Where's the YA section in here? Why is YA so over-looked? And undervalued? Gahhhh!"

*Similarly, I've started picking up books in supermarkets and reading the acknowledgements before looking at the cover, the blurb or sample pages. All the gushy praise for Rowan Lawton or Rachel Leyshon makes me grin like an idiot. Subconsciously, I start to work on my own thank yous while I'm reading other people's. (Barry Cunningham even does his own letters inside each Chicken House book, explaining why he loves the story! Want one! Want one! Want one!)

*I have tentatively tweeted praise to authors whose books I've enjoyed. Amazon reviews too! Previously, I'd always thought: "Well, why would they care what I think?" But if I'm going to be an author one day, I know that I would absolutely not think that. No, I would think: "Thank you-thank you-thank you!"

*Here and there, in the many millions of notebooks I have all around the house, I've jotted down a few ideas for the story I might write after I've finished the current one. Or even the next-but-one. They may be indecipherable scribbles and they may never amount to anything, but they're a sign that my faith in my writing is growing - I really do believe that I can finish a 100,000 word story now. And maybe another one after that. Why not?

* My favourite of all the changes is that when my seven-year-old was given "My Favourite Author" homework...he chose me. (I made sure he included Neil Gaiman in his talk, since Coraline is his favourite story - and he's too young to have even read mine!)

*Also...I'm happier. It's far from obvious, since life's the same and I can be pretty grumpy, but it's true. I could never have said this one aloud, though - its the cheesiest of all!