Friday, 29 August 2014

Arting it up in St Ives

Here I am again.
It's not fully light yet and I'm propped up on pillows with my laptop on my knees and an old-lady-crocheted-shawl-type-of-thing around me. I've been doing this for the last few weeks in order to keep going with my editing/rewriting - whichever.
Can't do it this morning, though.
Because I've just reached a scene that isn't there. Aaargh! I can remember writing it. In fact, it gets better (and cleverer and funnier and everythinger) the more I remember it. I just can't remember it well enough to recreate it. Damn! Damn! Damn!
I've been doing a lot of chapter reorganisation - cutting and pasting...deleting. (Why deleting? Why would I ever delete anything? When will I learn this bloody lesson?) If I think about it hard enough, I can almost see myself deleting the scene in question. It's gone.
And I know that I will write it again. And I will view its disappearance as an opportunity to write it better. But today is not that day. Today, I feel like throwing my laptop and my crocheted-shawl-thing down a well.
So I'm going to blog about my holiday instead.

It was lovely. Definitely one of our best holidays. We stayed in Carbis Bay near St Ives - and that (above) was the view from my window on the first morning. Because St Ives has all the blueness!

My sister, who is an artist, lives there now. So we got to meet lots of artists, see some amazing work in progress and nose around the awesome Porthmeor studios.

That's self and Eleven-year-old up there attempting to look like we might be artists planning a new masterpiece. My sister and her friends even invited us to a party in that studio, so we got to stand there, drinking wine and watching the beach disappear into the darkness.

This is an inside view, featuring a famous artist getting the room ready for the party (i.e. moving all the art and opening the window). The studios were wonderfully studio-y - there were canvases, walls and floors that had been painted over a zillion times, there were rolls of paper, jars of brushes, scrumpled paint-tubes and sponges, and of course painty step ladders leading up to high shelves. And it all smelled of paint and turpentine and the seaside. I wanted to stay there and be an artist too!

What-is-that-you-say? You want one of my marvellous collages, you-say? How about this gallery collage with Joy Wolfenden Brown at Millennium, Nick Bodimeade at the Porthminster and some old nonsense at the Tate (with their camera police in every room - grrr! - you only make me more determined to sneak photos, Tate-police!)

Those artists really do drink a lot, though...and husband was lured in. He's recovering from pleurisy, so he hasn't had any alcohol for ages. The pain is still eye-watering when he coughs or sneezes, so the hangover was suffering-like-I've-never-seen! Still, knowing husband, I suppose it had to happen sooner or later...

The holiday was made up of art and beaches and wine and food.
The only moment that wasn't lovely, was when we stopped at the harbour to watch a little girl and her slightly-older brother return the crabs they'd caught to the sea. They emptied their crabbing bucket on the slipway and a crowd gathered to watch thirty or forty crabs crawl down to the water. Some crabs scurried, some crept, lots just sat there stunned. But none of them were fast enough to escape the seagulls who came to see what we were all looking at. It was like a moving sushi bar for birds and the little girl wailed! Her brother started picking up the crabs and flinging them into the sea as fast as he could, but this only gave the seagulls the chance to show off their circus skills - they swooped and caught the crabs before they hit the water. The little girl filled her bucket and tried to wash the crabs down the slipway at top speed, but it turned out that the gulls could simply dip down under the water and scoop them up like they were at a pick n mix counter. Sometimes nature is hard to watch.
Well, it was for that little girl anyway, we just shrugged it off and went for ice-cream.

A writing-friend landed herself an agent while I was away. Actually, she was away too - she landed an agent over the phone! Shouldn't there be more schlepping to London and grovelling than that?
There'll be a big fat contract waiting for her when she comes back from Italy. And there is talk of 'getting the edits done in time for Frankfurt' and all the rest of it. It's brilliant to hear someone so excited and thrilled - especially when they've worked as hard as she has.
On the last day of term, another writing friend received her first ever proof copy of her book - it had a real cover with swirly writing on it and everything. A few of us met her at the pub so we could stroke it and sniff it and making cooing noises over it. And again, I know how hard she's worked, so it was lovely to see her looking proud and beamy with her book.
The route to publication always feels like a race. The market's crowded and there are writers in front of me and writers coming up behind me. And what if they're better than I am? What if they want it more? It's terrifying. Both my friend's successes have kicked me onwards with my editing/rewriting. They kicked me awake early in order to work at it every morning of my holiday and the same kick is still nudging my arse toward the laptop whenever there's a break in my boys' remaining holiday plans.
Get on with it! Get on with it! It's nearly September! It's nearly Frankfurt! And judging by the horse chestnut tree outside my window it's autumn!

Just wish I hadn't deleted that scene, though...

Tuesday, 5 August 2014


I'm blogging secretly and guiltily in the half-light this morning. It feels more secret if I do it before anyone else in the house is up - and I'm not supposed to be here at the moment. My no-blogging-rule was self-imposed, though, so like all my self-imposed rules, deadlines, diets and exercise routines I suppose it was always going to be ignored.

(Oh brilliant - a yappy dog has just woken up somewhere down the street and decided that we must all be roused by a continuous yapping noise. Grr, I hate yappy dogs. Even more than I hate all the other kinds of dogs.)

Editing is what I ought to be doing. It's the fun kind of editing where I have to add extra scenes, think up character profiles and alter my character's um - characters. But I'm already panicking about finding the time to get it done during the summer holidays.

(It's okay now - someone has shot the yappy dog. Hopefully.)

So far, my editor has not given me a deadline, but this hasn't stopped me from making up my own deadlines and then worrying as they go whizzing past. Whenever I feel a burst of worry, I start working on the simpler, more technical edits (I have to make one character fall in love with a different person - which mostly means switching two character's names throughout the story. And I have to change one of my narrators from third person to first person.) But before I get too far with this, I feel another burst of worry that I'm not doing the more important editing. I suspect my editor is more interested in the extra scenes and the insights into the characters' motivations - even if some of it doesn't end up in the finished book. (I've read so many internet comments from editors about how they want their authors to work on the spirit of their edits rather completing each specific edit they've mentioned - like a check-list - and then going no further.) But - of course - it's the dreaming up of new scenes and character traits that uses up All The Time.
So now I'm blogging instead.

The end of term was also the end of primary school for Eleven-year-old and so, very emotional. He cried a lot. All his friends cried. Most of their parents cried too. I, however, did not cry.
No. My stubborn streak rose up and rebelled at this mass-hysteria-style weeping. I was determined not to be manipulated - as if by a Disney film or a John Green novel.
I watched the Leaver's Assembly, during which the headmaster described them all as 'a brilliant bunch of children with an extraordinary sense of fun.' And I did not crack.
I watched them put on a play about the importance of teamwork and friendship during which, a couple of the eleven year olds broke down live on the stage. Not me, though.
The play ended with linked-arm-swaying and a song about friendship. The girls with the X-factor-iest voices had to sing a high-pitched warbly harmony with the lyric, "I'll be your frie-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-end," which broke into high-pitched warbly sobbing every time. Tears were running down most of their little faces by this point and they started hugging and trying to comfort each other. This set off the parents in the audience, whose faces made the children on the stage cry harder than ever. It was a riveting thing to watch!
I got through it with slightly more blinking than necessary and a tight throat. No tears, though.
Then there were flowers and chocolates for all the teachers who were leaving - many of whom also cried as the headmaster read out little quotes about how loved they were (In one or two cases it was even true - Hello, Mrs Windsor!).  After that it was time for the dads in their work-suits to start making those shuffly time-I-was-getting-back-to-work type movements, when the headmaster held up his hand and said, "Before you go, we have an award to give out..."

So...yeah...I couldn't withstand that one.
He called my own personal eleven-year-old up to the front of the stage and presented him with the Miss Phillips Award...and I had to be passed great handfuls of tissues all along the rows of parents  Dammit!

Miss Phillips lost her battle with cancer two years ago and endowed an award to be presented at the end of the school year to the child 'who had grown during their journey through school displaying Knowledge and Perseverance through developing confidence in imagination and creative thinking.'  
'And this description somehow put you in mind of my eleven-year-old?' I asked the headmaster incredulously.
(I didn't really, but it must've shown in my face, because the he told me the teachers had named my son unanimously.)

While presenting the award, the headmaster said "Although (Eleven-year-old) is a quiet character, he has huge determination and refuses to be defeated. He throws himself into everything and meets new challenges with enthusiasm. He will try anything, even if it seems scary or worrying at first. His artistic skills are exceptional yet he is very modest about his ability. He has a natural talent for creating beautiful images, patterns and designs in any medium."

He said this out loud and everything. Not just on the inside of my head. Although part of me still suspects I might've hallucinated the whole thing. Even husband was teary - a definite first for a man who'd just sat through a school play.
All through that last day, other parents and teachers who'd taught my son in the past came up and congratulated me - as if I'd done anything other than shout grumpily at my son for the last eleven years. #Ihaven't.

I'll stop now, since I'm making myself feel shuddery from too much boasting. I'm still feeling uncomfortable about my last blog post because it was all about me spending money. It was an awkward one to write, but I made myself do it (the writing not the spending) because it's the thing I particularly want to read about whenever I'm following the blogs of other authors. I want to see evidence of advances! I want to see pretty things that have been paid for with actual writing! It just never occurred to me how bad-mannered and show-offish it would feel from the other side of the fence.

Anyway, nothing boast-worthy has occurred since the end of term. We're halfway through the summer holidays now and they haven't been much fun. Mostly because husband developed pleurisy over the last few weeks. Definitely the ill-est he's ever been. And not in a Beastie Boys kind of way. He's been lying on the sofa every day, struggling to breathe, clutching his chest and pulling faces like he's trying not to cry. A few times, I've wondered whether I'd have to summon paramedics or try out some actual resuscitation techniques, but then he always managed to gasp some air back into his agonised lungs...and I went back to my panic-editing. Phew!

The boys, of course, have been totally unbothered by the distractedness of both parents. They've been dividing their time between art projects, iPads and the park next to our house. This seems to be the Summer of Studio Ghibli for them - so much beautiful art! They've been watching Up On Poppy Hill, Howl's Moving Castle and Spirited Away endlessly. Then - by way of a change - they'll put Ni no Kuni on the X-box and sketch the characters...

That's Pea by Eight-year-old and Oliver by Eleven-year-old.
Yesterday, I heard the rumours that Studio Ghibli are struggling financially and taking a break from film-making, so we're all really hoping it's not the end.

We're off to the seaside in a couple of weeks and I already know the editing will have to accompany me, but that hasn't stopped me buying some holiday reading...

Read this one already - and loved it! I bought it because not only did it win a YA prize, it's also historical like my own book. Although I'm pretty sure it's aimed at and marketed for girls, I read the beginning to my two boys - and they insisted I read them the whole thing. The Eight-year-old even clutched my arm during the scary bits!

I'm halfway through reading 'Wonder' to the boys at the moment and we're all enjoying it. Brilliantly written with lots of ten-year-old-boy-pop-culture-references - both my boys were nodding knowledgeably at mentions of Darth Sidious and the Cheese Touch. In spite of the number of times it's made us laugh, it's heart-rending stuff overall - and I suspect someone will have to pass me tissues again at some point.

I haven't read anything at all by Patrick Ness yet, but he's won every prize going and is fab on Twitter - so I picked up his latest one.

Bought this one in a hurry, having spotted a cover for the sequel and realised I was getting left behind!
Although I don't know much about Elizabeth Bathory, I'm intrigued by her story - and inclined to feel a bit sorry for her. Not if she really did murder 600 people obviously - if that's the case, I disapprove of her even more than I disapprove of those yappy dogs. But she couldn't have killed that many people. Not even if she teamed up with a whole gang of serial killers. And all the witnesses were tortured horribly...because 1500s. So, I'm looking forward to Rebecca Alexander's version of events. I suspect there's going to be grisly gruesomeness ahead...maybe not one to read to the boys... 

LM Montgomery's Emily books have been given these beautiful new covers and I bought them on a sudden rush of nostalgia. I always preferred Emily to Anne of Green Gables because she wanted so much to be a writer. And mean Aunt Elizabeth kept burning all her stories and poems. On the back cover for the last one, it says "Emily throws herself into finishing her novel. When it is rejected, though, her confidence is shattered. Emily agrees to marry a man she doesn't love and give up on her dreams forever. But can she really have been so wrong about everything?" 


I've been meaning to read something by Maggie Stiefvater for ages. Like Patrick Ness, she's a YA name that keeps cropping up (and being recommended) wherever I go. And her website is super-cool. Yet another site that makes me go 'I-want-to-be-Maggie-Stiefvater! I-want-to-be-Maggie-Stiefvater! I-want-to-be-Maggie-Stiefvater!' Until I remember that I'm 42 - and really ought to stop wanting to be people all the time!