Handmade and Proud!

37426758 - handmade stampI’ve been absent from this blog for quite a while, and my other writing has diminished to the point that it’s now almost non-existent. I had another letter published in the TV Times recently, but my short story, flash fiction and poetry submissions failed to hit the mark. And, to be honest, it has left me feeling battered and bruised. Despite hammering away at this writing lark for years, this is probably my worst year yet, in terms of measurable success. I understand all writers receive rejections, even those who are well established.  I also realise people will judge that my commitment has waned and I should just push on, but I feel like the proverbial couple trying to conceive: the harder they try, the less likely a positive outcome. In real life cases what often happens is once they relax and stop caring so much, they become pregnant. I need to reach that stage because in trying too hard I’ve stopped enjoying the process. My creative ovaries are as shrivelled as prunes left out in the Mediterranean sun. So, I’ve decided to take a break from writing in the hope that I can recapture my mojo. That’s not to say I’m giving up completely. To see my work in print is one of my greatest wishes. My approach is to pursue other creative projects, which may help to unleash my literary imagination and allow me to return to my writing endeavours with a renewed vigour.  Continue reading

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Joanne Cope

joanne-cope-exhibitionI realise I’ve been AWOL for weeks (for which I apologise to my regular readers), but my time hasn’t been idly spent. As well as a few creative projects, I submitted several more letters to magazines and short stories to writing competitions — I even applied for a paid writing job — none of which were successful. I can’t even say they were rejected; no feedback was received. Not to worry. I shall not be discouraged. I also went on an overnight leisure trip to Bristol and Bath this week, managing to avoid the usual Jane Austen mania. (Something for another time as not suitable for my travelling companions.) However, I did encounter an artist by the name of Joanne Cope displaying a selection of her work in a gallery on Bath’s high street.

Venturing in with my sister, I was bowled over by the hypnotic images of cattle, hares and stags. The detail in these paintings was superb, with the artist seemingly capturing the animals’ personalities on canvas, making them appear endearing and, dare I say, cute. You just wanted to reach out and stroke them. Unfortunately, the gallery was empty at that particular time, and I wasn’t certain whether the woman behind the desk, who started up a conversation with us, was the artist or not, until I spied the magazine reviewing her work accompanied by her photograph. By that time, I’d managed to summon up an artistic critique consisting of the words ‘nice’, ‘lovely’ and ‘feminine’ — don’t ask. The truth is I was overwhelmed by the magnificent paintings before me and felt quite intimidated to be in the presence of such a talented artist. This is no excuse — I am a writer, for goodness’ sake. So, if Joanne happens to read this, I would like to apologise to her for my inarticulacy and reticence, especially when I wanted to say how impressive I found her work. I did manage to ask her the way to the Roman Baths, though; she was very amenable and accommodating.

The exhibition finished today, so I was lucky to catch it, but if you’re interested, you can take a peek at her website and see for yourself.

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Old habits die hard!

The Artist's Way 2I’m considering taking up Morning Pages again, as a way to accelerate the word count of my current writing projects. I came across this last year at Blog About Writing — Helen Yendall being a real advocate of this practice and still is, last I heard — and kept it up for a while but, as usual, other things got in the way and my morning ritual dropped off. Looking back at these pages has been entertainingNotebook — a real social comment and reminder of my state of mind at that time — and pretty well written, despite being a stream of consciousness. (I’ve had to have a lie down to recover, following that uncharacteristic self-congratulatory remark.) It’s an excellent way of getting rid of the blockages and allowing the words to flow more easily, when it matters. I have a cute busy bee notebook that I’ve been itching to use, so I’ve no excuse but to make a start tomorrow. Continue reading

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Trove Café & Bakery

Trove Cafe & BakeryLast week, hubby and I visited an organic café in Levenshulme, a vibrant and multicultural area of Manchester that appears to be undergoing a period of much-needed regeneration from its impoverished roots.

Trove is an intimate space with a minimalist, Scandinavian feel. Its white walls, stripped floorboards and scrubbed wooden tables help to create a calm and trendy (but not pretentious) atmosphere. The staff are welcoming from the moment you cross the threshold, and the menu offers a more unusual take on your average café offerings and is reasonably priced. Artisan and organic bread, chutneys and jams are also available to buy over the counter and are supplied from their local bakery to many establishments, throughout the Manchester area.

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Existential angst and the problem with freedom

Woody Allen 2 copyAs a fan of Woody Allen, his writing and his humour, I know exactly where he’s coming from when he relates many of his characters’ inner struggles to existential angst. Why are we here and what is our purpose? Could we live without the extra burden of knowing that existentialism claims we all have the freedom and responsibility to plan the course of our lives as we choose and only have ourselves to blame when this doesn’t live up to our expectations? It’s hardly surprising the effect this can have on your average human, be that emotionally crippling, motivated in to action, or simply left with a sense of feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. Continue reading

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I’m in the TV Times again …

TV Times 4The title says it all — yet another of my letters published in the new edition of the TV Times. Unfortunately, on this occasion my submission was shortened and reworded, which I found a little dispiriting, especially because I don’t think it reads as well. (When I re-examined the original, it was a little wordy, but this was a deliberate ploy on my part to try and secure the Star Letter position — backfired, methinks. Serves me right for trying to be clever.) Still, at least my work’s in print again.

And for those of you who missed it, I had a guest spot on Charlie Britten’s blog, Write on, recently after she graciously asked me to offer some tips on how to get your letters accepted for publication. If you’re interested, you can read the post here.

One last thing … a reminder for those planning on entering Helen Yendall’s Random Word Competition on her Blog About Writing that the deadline is midnight tonight, so hurry up and get those entries in, if you haven’t already done so. It’s free, with a 100 word limit (excluding title) and has to include five specific words. I’ve already submitted mine, with a topical theme, and now keeping my fingers crossed that I’ve done enough to make the shortlist. Good luck to all those participating!

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The Brave and the Bold

Somme 2Today is the centenary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme, and one of the ways it was marked was by actors donning the uniform of a WWI soldier and standing, ghostlike,  in train stations and public places around the country. They were mute, except for an occasional collective rendition of We’re Here Because We’re Here: a song dating back to the trenches in 1916. If a soldier was approached by a member of the public,WWI cards they were handed a card giving the name, battalion and age of one of the 19,240 men killed on that first day. My son witnessed it first hand as he walked through Victoria train station in Manchester. He described the scene as eerie and incredibly powerful and moving. (The photographs are courtesy of his girlfriend, taken at Piccadilly train Soome 1station, Manchester.) All this brings  home the sacrifice made by so many men of all ages to safeguard the safety of this country’s people against the tyranny of a dictatorship. They didn’t think about themselves, only the greater good. Which is more than can be said for SOME, not all, of today’s generation with their inflated sense of self-entitlement. Continue reading

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Hopes in Bloom

Like many writers, I battle constantly with crippling self-doubt and often wonder whether I should give up this writing lark and save myself the angst of worrying if I’ll ever be good enough to produce anything worthy of publication. This week, the universe gave me a sign that perseverance does pay off.Peony 1

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A Lovely Surprise!

p184689_b_h9_ahI miss Sex And The City. This unsolicited thought surprised me one day last week as I went about my daily routine. I realised its absence had left a void in my life that has yet to be filled. I missed its style, its glamour, its quirkiness. I missed the exploration of the relationship nuances between men and women, women and women, and men and men. Its sharp and sassy writing, full of humorous observations, was always uplifting, even after numerous repeats. But what I missed most was the four female characters who could be charming and irritating, paradoxically, in equal measure: Carrie and her neurotic ruminations; Samantha and her, often, gauche impropriety; Miranda, steely in her determination to try and control every aspect of her environment, and Charlotte with her innate ability to don rose-tinted glasses in an attempt to paper over the cracks of her life. And then, with a backdrop of sky scrapers standing tall and proud is the city of New York — a fifth character, if you like — bohemian and vibrant. I’m sure all of us can identify some facet of our own personality within this collection of character traits. Continue reading

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Walking Back to Happiness

Those of you who return regularly to read my blog — and bless you for that — must, by

national-walking-monthnow, be thinking that I’ve:

  1. Been abducted by aliens and as a result of the mandatory memory wipe have no idea of the time lapse between posts.
  2. Changed my name to Tica Conde and emigrated to Peru to avoid an unpaid catalogue bill from 1978.
  3. Fallen down a well without access to a mobile phone or possession of a GPS locator and had to wait until an unsuspecting dog walker stumbled across it, needing a drink for his thirsty hound.

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