Friday, 28 December 2012

Year End

I'm following a bit of a tradition here and using my last blog post of the year to provide an overview of some of my favourite things from the past year (in relation to films, books, music). If I tried to write all of my favourite things from the past year I'd be here forever... Overall I really enjoyed 2012. I visited some interesting places, met inspiring and interesting new people (top of that list being my gorgeous niece) and it turned out to be quite a creative year.

A while back I wrote that I felt like there was a sense of ‘change’ taking place in 2012. Nothing major changed for me (no matter how much I maybe tried to instigate that – a lot of it was unfortunately outwith my control!) but I feel like this year has set a platform for hopefully greater things appearing over the horizon...

I received some great Christmas presents this year - one of which is the necklace in the photo above (thanks Lorna for selecting such perfect charms!). I really like the quote 'She believed she could, so she did'. I think I'm going to use that as my 2013 mantra.
After completing my sketchbook project a few weeks ago I've been feeling a bit sad as it was a great creative focus...but thanks to another great present (thanks Leona!) I've acquired something called 'This is not a book' which has pages of creative tasks, some of which I am sure will pop up on my blog throughout the year...
Hours of fun!

So here's some of my 2012 highlights:

Top Films

Cafe de Flore
I wrote a bit about this earlier in the year after seeing it at the cinema. I’ve now seen it twice more and still love it. It’s such a clever story, with the interconnecting parallels of two different families and times playing out in a dramatic and sensitive way. I love the acting; love the way it’s shot and love the soundtrack. Watch it!

Inside I’m Dancing
This film has been out for years but just got round to watching it this year and cried probably for a good ten minutes after the credits had rolled. Engaging and real characters with superb acting. If you don’t already love James McAvoy you will after watching this- guaranteed!

(This was out in 2011 but I just saw it this year). If you’re female and reading this you may have heard other females refer to the ‘Ryan Gosling effect’ and wonder what they’re going on about. It’s taken me a while to get there, but once you do, you’ll understand and this film might help you on your way... He is the king of broody coolness (that’s the best way I can think to describe him for now) and plays 'the driver' character perfectly. 'The driver' in some ways is like an old fashioned hero, doing anything to protect the woman he loves and her catch yourself at the extreme acts of violence and wonder why you’re finding his heroics so god damn attractive. It left me feeling very confused about my reaction to it, which I think it probably set out to do. True tenderness, mixed with such extreme violence must have been such a hard story to capture but the director did it well...and to a really perfect soundtrack.

The Hunger Games

Loved reading this trilogy and I thought the first of the films was a really great adaptation, though was surprised with the casting of Peeta - good acting, but visually is nothing like what I had pictured the character to look like in my head which is slightly annoying. The rest were cast really well.

Breaking Dawn Part 2
I’m a proud Twilight fan (you can slag me all you like) and this year marked the finale of the films. Awww. The first one still remains my favourite (due to the understated indie style) but this one comes in a close second. Lots of drama and a perfect little ‘Edward/Bella’ montage at the end. Which I might have cried at...

I’ve realised this section could go on forever so I’m going to stop there

Top Books

Just a few::
Two amazingly imaginative and quirky stories: The Boy with the Cuckoo Clock Heart and The Night Circus

Room took me a while to get into but once I did it was totally gripping. The author did an amazing job of capturing the ‘voice’ of the young protagonist.

Before I go to Sleep This was a really great psychological suspense novel – really cleverly written

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
I just read this recently and loved the way it was written - it seemed so simple and yet so full of depth. It reminded me a lot of Cather in the Rye, one of my favourite books.

I've just started to read Beautiful Creatures, before the film adaptation appears on screen in February. Loving it so far...

And finally I really loved reading my Mum's children's book Summer of the Eagles, published earlier in the year. It was a really sensitive, uplifting story and you can download a copy here
(and her Victorian Novella 'Mischief at Mulberry Manor' is out now so check that out too!)

Favourite Music

Once again been listening to a lot of Evanescence this year - I find it helps me draw so I had their latest album on a constant loop when I was working on my sketchbook.

Other music I've loved a lot this year are Bat For Lashes, The Civil Wars (their cover of 'Disarm' gives me serious goosebumps) and Christina Perri.

I'm going to sign off with my favourite Christina Perri song. Hope 2013 is an amazing one for you all X

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

I'm writing two blog posts in one week (a record) thanks to my Mum, Rosemary, who has passed on the Very Inspiring Blogger award to me(she writes an inspiring blog herself here)

Accepting this award means I have to tell you 7 random things about myself. Had to think about this for a while and I'm sure I could have come up with better things but here you go:

1. A palm reader once told me that I'm psychic (she should know, right?) and that I've got the ability to communicate on the astral plane in my dreams. So if you have a dream about me and I'm telling you something important; listen!

2. I met the Krankies years ago at some 'celebrity' golf event and got their autograph

3. I was banned from being in the running for my high school Dux due to dropping Higher Maths (HATE maths)

4. When I was a wee girl I was really scared of dolls (my Mum had to remove any from my room and hide them due to my over active imagination when I thought they were coming alive during the night)

5. Apparently I've got a doppelganger out there due to several reports from friends (and this might explain why total strangers sometimes smile and greet me like they know me in the street)

6. Ewan McGregor's Mum once helped me clear away dishes

7. I don't really like following instructions; choosing to make up my own recipes when I was a kid (not great) and gave up piano lessons as I preferred playing by ear rather than reading music

I'm now going to pass this award on to Rebecca who has a fabulous website and blog showcasing her artwork, musings about writing and other great creativity (click on her name to see the site!)

and Charlotte, another writer, who has set out to achieve 40 interesting things before reaching 40, blogging about her experiences here

Monday, 17 December 2012


A couple of blog posts ago I wrote about setting myself two creative goals - writing 15,000 words of my new book by the end of November and completing my Sketchbook Project.

I managed to write 10,000 words of my novel (when I realised the competition I was entering it for only required that amount to be completed I stopped there so I could get on with the sketcbbook content!). I'm happy to report that I finished my sketchbook on Saturday and it should now (hopefully) be on its way to New York...

The sketchbook took four weeks to arrive so I wanted to get it sent back a good few weeks before the January deadline which meant an intense creative past couple of weeks and I have to say it was the best thing I could have signed up for. Even when I wasn't working on it I was thinking about it, excited to have the chance to get on with some sketching. It reminded me of creative projects I used to spend hours on as a child (like building a house for a collection of ornament frogs I had and illustrating 'novels' in jotters and blank notebooks).

When it did arrive my first thoughts were 'Eek, it's so small, how can I fit in what I want to do in this?' and then 'Eek, there's 32 blank pages...where do I start??' As soon as I silenced my inner perfectionist critic the enjoyment began!

The title of my sketchbook is 'Getting Lost' (divided into three sections, Getting Lost in Words, Getting Lost in Paris and Getting Lost in Art & Beauty). I chose this title to represent the feeling I get when I 'get lost' in drawing or art. I stop thinking and just 'do'. I found it really freeing working on a creative project that was just for me, one that wasn't for a competition or a submission for a specific publication. My day job also hasn't been the most enjoyable the past couple of months so this also helped keep me sane.

Working on this reminded me of the reasons I engage in creative things. It's because I love the process and even if the results don't turn out 100% perfect it makes me happy to have given it a go.

With this sketchbook project I also love the idea that complete strangers from a different part of the world will get to connect with my work - they might hate it but who cares; at least my writing will be getting read and my art work will be getting viewed rather than hiding in a drawer somewhere.

The image at the top of my post is a sneak preview of one of my drawings. As my blog is called 'Through the Looking Glass' I thought it was appropriate to include an Alice themed one! You'll need to wait to see the rest when it's digitised online sometime next year.

In amongst completing my goals I found out I won 3rd prize in a flash fiction competition. My story Stolen can be read at

All in all the past couple of months have been a happy end to 2012:) And now I can't wait to get back to writing the rest of my novel...

Monday, 12 November 2012


In a nice continuation from my last 'Getting Creative' post, this Saturday was all about viewing some creativity. One of my friends had tweeted about the new A. Gallery in the Saltmarket area of Glasgow so we went along to check it out. It's located just around the corner from the Tron Theatre...a good excuse to stop at the bar for some lunch on the way. (Also recommend stopping in at Trans-europe cafe for some hot chocolate and fudge I've tried!!).

A.Gallery is a funky little place - it's fresh and welcoming with an eye catching assortment of unique contemporary art and jewellery (featuring some of the biggest, wackiest rings I've ever seen!) The gallery is run by the chocolate-providing super friendly Jennifer Fergie (whose awesome work is also on display). The image above provides a taster of some of the work you'll find there (see the website here for more details on the exhibiting artists). There's a tempting £99 and under sale in the run up to Christmas.
I'm also intrigued by the sound of the 'lock in' evening event due to take place on the 30th which apparently will feature a Carol singing transvestite...
You should go and visit the gallery and support some talented local artists!

The visit motivated me to continue with my creative ventures. Managed to write 2,000 words of my new book on Sunday and have been preparing lots of cut-out poems and images for my sketchbook project (the sketchbook still hasn't arrived yet from America. Trying not to panic and reminding myself I always work better with an impending deadline...) And on that note I'm off to get busy...

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Getting Creative

It's that time of year where the darkness descends and my body goes into hibernation mode. This year I've decided to embrace the benefits of Winter and focus on the fact I tend to find it easier to retreat into a world of creativity during the dark nights. Motivation can be a problem - but having some work published online in the past couple of months (work related articles and flash fiction) has helped!
In order to sustain that motivation I've decided to set myself two major creative goals to be completed over the next few months...

Thanks to a friend (thanks Rebecca!) I came across a really interesting Art Project called The Sketchbook Project. To participate you 'order' a blank sketchbook from the arts project in Brooklyn, then you fill it with whatever creative things you fancy (sketches, words, photos) and then post it back. They then take your sketchbook 'on the road' across America as part of a travelling library for people to view. At the end of the road trip all sketchbooks are then placed in a permanent collection at Brooklyn Library. I decided to sign up and am now awaiting my blank sketchbook. The deadline is 15th January so that doesn't really give me long and my mind is already ticking over with things I want to include. I love the idea and I was too impatient to wait around for a 2014 project. Plus New York is on my list of 'must see places' to visit so what better excuse than to go there to view my own work?! I've also opted to have my sketchbook professionally digitised by the project which means anyone anywhere in the world will be able to view it. No pressure then.

My other goal is to complete the first 15,000 words of my new novel by mid November. (I've only written 3,500 so far...). I'm not going to be undertaking NANO as I enjoy a longer drawn out process of writing and not always on a daily baiss. I'm more likely to go through stages of writing 3,000 words in one sitting.

So if you don't hear from me for a while during the last few months of 2012 don't take it personally - I'm just evading reality more than usual. (And if you see me on facebook too much please tell me to get off and back to work!)

Sunday, 16 September 2012

York and Writing

Last Friday I travelled to York to attend the Writers' Workshop Festival of Writing. It was thanks to a brief conversation I'd had with Nicola Morgan, the childrens author, at the SAW Writing conference in March, that I found out about this event. The Festival offers a fantastic range of workshops/panels and talks led by leading publishers, agents and established authors but probably the real selling point for me was the fact you could submit the first part of your book and synopsis to two agents (or book doctors) and then get to meet with them for 10 minutes to disuss your work. Kind of daunting...but such a worthwhile, valuable (and, for me, encouraging!) experience.

After a train journey of sub zero temperatures and screaming kids invading my 'quiet zone' coach I was relieved to step out into the sunshine of York. Fifteen minutes later I arrived at York University Campus, feeling a little nervous but excited at the prospect of what lay ahead. Once I had figured out how to enter my building (I really hope no one was watching my ten attempts at using the key card to open the door!) I setttled into my room and read the comments on the board beside my bed penned by past students: Epic Fail, Fail to prepare...prepare to fail, Bad times, Fun Times. I was hoping for the latter...

Any nerves I'd had about being there alone soon disappeared as I got chatting to people (from all over the world) who were also there for the first time, alone. I was amazed that people had travelled from as far as Australia, France and Canada and soon realised that I was in the company of really serious writers (I mean serious about their craft, not that they were lacking in humour!). It's always great at these types of events to talk to like minded people and spend a whole weekend particpating in creative workshops and soaking up valuable advice (more than once I had that 'ting' moment of, of course, that's what I need to do...)

As I know a lot of writers read this I thought it may be helpful to try and summarise some insightful, helpful information I gleaned from people in the industry.

From the Agents: (my focus was on children's/YA so most of this is taken from those panel discussions):
* Younger children may be more receptive to Series Fiction
* Don't mention in your cover letter that the age group you're targeting has loved your book (it's the agents' judgement that matters)
* There's a surge in popularity for 'Safe', old fashioned types of children's stories
* Publishers are becoming more risk averse as Sales people are always focused on the next big money spinner
* Big message coming across that they don't care about your web presence (blogs, twittering etc). It's the manuscript that lands on their desk they pay attention to
* For 9+ fiction they like a maximum of 80,000 words and for picutre books a max of 500 words (this is all related to translations. They want to be able to sell your book to various countries and English tends to be the 'shortest' language!)
* In your cover letter they like to see that you're serious about your writing
* Why get an Agent? They can talk money for you. They also ensure you maintain a good relationship which your editor as they deal with the rubbish business stuff (and it came across just how much they really know their stuff and the industry!)
* Most encouraged the practice of sending out your manuscript to more than one agent at a time as they understand the long wait we endure...
* If one Agent in a company rejects your manuscript then don't send it to another Agent in the same company
* A lot will work with you on edits before submitting to Publishers (I think this is a good thing)
* After my one to one meetings I realised the importance of choosing the right agent. (i.e. you will want to work with someone who is on your wavelength, and 'gets' your book and characters!)

From all in the Industry:
* Changes to Waterstones Buying and Stock Turn Around policies has had a big impact on fiction (they tend not to bulk buy fiction now which makes it harder for publishers to sell books)

From Authors:
* JoJo Moyes opened the Festival on Saturday morning with a very inspiring and honest account of her road to publication. A big message that came across was that she was grateful for any 'failures' along the way as they just encouraged her to write better and on one occasion 'freed' her writing, allowing her to tackle a more controversial subject.

* Julie Cohen delivered a fantastic workshop on the importance of Pace. 'Nothing should be wasted - each scene should have two or more purposes'. It was full of simple statements such as this and reminders about the importance of conflict which really clicked with me.

I attended other valuable workshops about creativity and going deep into your characters emotions (A good point was made; that sometimes we tend to stick in the safe 'middle ground', not going deep enough).

An overall message I took away with me: you need to work hard at your writing to make it the absolute best it can be (and then an agent/editor/copy editor etc. will come along and make you write and re-write again until it is even MORE perfect!).
And persevere. So many authors seemed to have one thing in common; they didn't give up.

I left with the feeling of I REALLY WANT THIS! I WANT TO BE A WRITER! So guess what, now I'm away to write...

Sunday, 2 September 2012


A few weeks ago I went on an amazing trip, cruising along the Med, visiting interesting ports in Italy, Croatia and Greece.

I've been thinking about what I could write about the trip to try and capture the experience, so I've come up with a snapshot summary of what has stuck in my head at each port (and on the ship), below::

Venice: Like walking into a film, across ornate bridges, gondolas sweeping past, creepy trees climbing across a midnight blue sky, 'chewing gum' boards strung across fences keeping the streets clean, narrow streets with echoes of ghosts round every corner dressed in capes and masquerade masks, violins playing a haunting melody, luring you deeper into the town where you could easily lose yourself and never return.

Dubrovnik: Like stepping back in time, walking along a wall overlooking rows and rows of houses, a blazing sun piercing blue waters, an overheard conversation reminding me of home (an American girl complaining about the effect Glasgow is having on her sinuses), seeing what looked like Hells Angels bikers sitting in a row on a wall outside an ancient church in the square - like some kind of ironic joke.

Corfu: Blistering heat on walk into town, battered cars lining the street with visors taped to windscreens, small beaches offering an escape to the cool sea, shaded cafe overlooking the sea, a park with an old fashioned bandstand, a modern looking town with crazy looking, laughing mannequins, female beggars pressing their foreheads against pavements in some kind of tortured prayer

Argostoli: Local shops selling oils, wine and spices, fishermen tending their nets, turtles ducking under the boats to eat the small fish, palm trees blowing along the zig zag patterened promenade, a small white church with a staircase winding up to the roof- inside ornate chandeliers, gold and red patterns on the walls and old ladies holding up their hands to their God, swaying and lighting candles, in celebration or in grief?

Santorini: Dazzling white buildings topped with blue, creeping up the steep hillside in a 'cable car', watching poor donkeys carrying fat tourists up break-neck heights, narrow lanes with rows of white clothes and jewellery, a shop keeper enticing me in to taste local fruity wine, sitting in a dazzling white washed cafe overlooking the sea, Greek music playing

Taormina: An hour long drive in a taxi with no air conditioning, driven by a non English speaking, smiley and messy Columbo type - arm permanently hanging out the window who overtakes on the motorway by nearly ramming into the backs of cars; Beautiful little town, art creeping around every corner, paintings and sculptures lining sweeping staircases, hanging flowers, chequered main square, ancient outdoor theatre with breathtaking views over the sea, The Clock tower chimes as we navigate narrow streets and romantic music plays from a shop as we pass a statue of Juliet peering over her baclony

Naples - Capri: Litter and graffiti line the town, escape on a high speed boat to the rich island of Capri, A crowded Fenicular train transports us to the top of the island to winding streets, pretty shops selling local perfume, sit in a shaded cafe where a lizard creeps slowly along the wall

Rome: Crazy busy and hot, beautiful ruins contrast with the modern choas, pizza cooked to perfection, , chased down the street by a man trying to sell me a parasol, another man thrusts a rose in my hand at the spanish steps, crazy beggar at the station trying to direct us to the wrong train

Livorno: Like a poor imitation of Venice, canals flowing through the town centre, an old woman dressed all in white with a painted white face begs for money - touching her tummy trying to fool us into thinking she is 'with child' (miraculous conception), outdoor markets lining the streets with abundant fresh fruit and vegetables (fresher and greener than you'll ever find here), crazy devil-like statue

The ship: late afternoons spent lying on the promenade deck listening to music and reading,running up on deck after dinner to watch the sun set over the sea, peeking out my cabin window at night watching the white froth of the waves crash into the black sea, sampling the best food I've ever tasted, sitting listening to a string quartet play in one of the bars, watching a scuplture of the New York skyline flash pink, green, yellow, purple and red as the song 'New York, New York' played in a bar; sitting in the show room listening to an award winning pianist make his piano 'sing' (his description and I've never heard a piano sound so good). Tempted to stow away (in the dessert cabinet) and never return home...

Monday, 16 July 2012


Since the start of 2012 I've felt there's restlessness and change in the air; or at least people expressing the desire to change; to do something new... Maybe it’s just because of my age (thirty two – how did that happen?), but I seem to know a large proportion of people having babies this year, moving on, moving away, getting married, changing jobs, returning to education...

I’ve definitely experienced a sense of restlessness, with a bigger desire to try new things and step out of my comfort zone. As a ‘fixed’ Taurean, (if you believe in all that astrology nonsense), I think I do sometimes have the tendency to cling onto security and bury my head in sameness for a bit too long, before I realise that I need a kick up the bum and that it’s time to shake things up a bit. As I’m sitting typing this, a quote on a bag across from me just caught my eye: ‘Do one thing a day that SCARES YOU.’ I also just recently read a quote someone had posted on Facebook that resonated with me; ‘Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and start being positive about what could go right.’

How many times have you stayed in a situation that you know is no longer right for you, or not grabbed an opportunity, because your fear manages to persuade you that the change will be a disaster? Sometimes it might be, but most of the time if you have a nagging feeling (usually your intuition) telling you to go or it, no matter how difficult that ‘different’ might be, it’s probably the right thing to do.

I’ve realised that I sometimes have a ‘fear’ of writing...that a project I’m working on can seem so daunting or ‘good’ in my head, that I’m afraid that if I start trying to put it down on paper it will fall apart. I think that’s probably the perfectionist control freak in me that is causing that doubt. I’m interested to know though if any other writers also feel this fear?

A writer I enjoy reading when I experience that block, is Jack Kerouac. There’s something about his free style of writing (and endless rambling sentences which seem to break the rules of all punctuation), that makes me realise I should just switch off my rational mind, and let the words flow...

In the past few weeks I’ve put myself forward for opportunities (one relating to writing, the other also sort of related to writing). Whether or not I get anywhere with them, the fact I’m attempting to put myself/my work out there, makes me feel like I’m taking a step towards a positive change. Yesterday I found out a story I entered for a competition got an honourable mention, so that was a tiny boost of encouragement.

Now I’m off to sign up for that sky diving lesson (That’s a joke, not quite ready for that yet, Lorna...)

Monday, 18 June 2012

Nine Lives

It’s been a while since I’ve written on here (you have no idea how appropriate a starting line that is today – SIX times I had to listen to various students murder the song ‘It’s been a while’ today at work - it was like being stuck in an X-factor audition.)

Anyway I’ve been immersing myself in other types of writing/editing which has taken me away from blogging for a bit. All of the sparks of genius I had for blog entries have now faded into fragmented thoughts so I’m rambling a bit... I was debating about doing a blog entry on that book everyone won’t shut up about – Fifty Shades of Grey- but my Mum reads this and it’s wrong to talk about sex in front of your Mum...For the record, although the book is trash, it’s the kind of trash you get drawn in to and can’t put down. A bit like tuning into an episode of Made in Chelsea when you know you should look away but you’re in awe at the ridiculousness of the characters. It’s pure mindless escapism... and when you tend to over analyse life in the manner in which I do I’m in need of that once in a while...

 So onto something more worthy of my time. Last month I saw one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time; Cafe de Flore. The title is in reference to the song, which connects central characters of the story. It’s a film about love; love between a mother and her down syndrome son and a DJ who leaves one ‘soul mate’ for another...The two separate stories run side by side and are set in different decades and it isn’t until the film nears the end the connections all become clear. I loved the story as it touched on the concept of soul mates and reincarnation. Reincarnation is something I’ve had a fascination with for years after reading the book Journey of Souls (which I referenced in an earlier blog post ‘Drown’). The idea that people come into your life who’ve you’ve maybe met before in another’s a thought that sometimes  niggles at the back of my mind when I meet people I feel inexplicable connections with, or have immediate reactions to (whether positive or negative). The film also has a beautiful soundtrack; when Sigur Ros came on I thought the air conditioning in the cinema had been turned on full blast I had so many goosebumps running up my arms.  I don’t want to ruin the story by saying any more so go and rent it on DVD when it comes out!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Paris, je t'aime

Writers, artists, creative people if you're feeling that your soul is being eroded by everyday life (i.e. by that thing called a day job that pays your mortgage or whatever) then I recommend a trip to Paris. Many a morning I've fantasised about hopping on a plane and flying off here so a few weeks ago that became a reality - I packed my case and took off alone. Halfway along the runway I did have a niggling feeling of; hmm I'm going to a city I've never been to, alone, me, of no sense of direction; is this a good plan? But I survived to tell the tale and I'm pleased to report I only got 'lost' once when I couldn't figure out how to get across the road to the other side of La Seine outside Musee D'Orsay. Trust me, it's more complicated than it looks...

The photo at the top is my vision of Paris - spindly trees and old fashioned lamp posts that evoke a sense of stepping back in time. I took that photo when I was on La Batobus sailing down La Seine (a very relaxing way to travel and it gives you good views).

One of the first places I headed to when I arrived was the Louvre and standing outside this place is amazing, never mind venturing inside to see the art. The architecture and sculptures outside are awe inspiring; the pyramid in the centre reminded me of a Dali painting; a futuristic structure in the middle of classic images.

I'm not sure if it was because I was too tired when I visited the Louvre, but I did get the sense that the art/sheer size of the place was too overwhelming for me and I had a much better time at Musee D'orsay. After my visit here I've become a big fan of Jean Francois Millet - I could have looked at the painting 'Le Printemps' for hours; See it here. This online image doesn't do it justice as the light shining from it was mesmerising. I also loved the Pictorialism Photography section (where the artists create an optical blur, mixing photography with engraving and drawing to create an ambigious, dreamy image). I particularly liked the dark and mysterious images of Edward Steichen.
The Art Nouveau section was also amazing - walking through living rooms and bedrooms furnished by great artists like Gaudi. I love the delicate and intricate Art Nouveau style and how it's embedded across the city. Even the metro signs in Paris are pretty...

One of my favourite 'parks' was Jardin de Luxembourg and on my walk to the entrance I had a strange feeling of de ja vu, like I'd been here in a past life. I like how seats are left out in the parks in Paris, inviting people to sit by the ponds and fountains and watch the world go by. I enjoyed watching two old men play chess on a bench, a little girl squeezing her head through the gap in the bench, studying them intently. I also noticed an old couple walking hand in hand through the park- they must have been in their late seventies- and the old man suddenly pulled her to him and kissed her passionately. It was such an unexpected gesture; it filled me with a sense of hope or something.

My hotel was two minutes from the Shakespeare and Co. bookshop. One of my favourite films of all time is 'Before Sunset' and the film opens with a scene inside this book shop. Sadly I didn't find Ethan Hawke inside but I loved this place so much! Wall to wall books; little nooks and crannies where you can sit and read, old fashioned typewriters hidden in corners. Upstairs takes you to the reading library, dedicated to Sylvia Beach, who owned the orginal shop (and used to let Hemingway borrow loads of books on credit according to his accounts of Paris in 'A Moveable Feast'). There were lots of people sitting reading in the 'library' and a table overlooking the window was set up with an old typewriter, giving the sense that some literary ghost was sitting there...Next door were two make-shift beds (which poor writers can apparently make use of) and an old piano (and of course more books...). A boy sat down at the piano and started to play music which added a nice atmosphere to the place. On my way out I'm sure he started to play what sounded like Nirvana's 'Smells like Teen Spirit'. Just outside this room a girl sat in a corner sketching images from a book. The wall above her head was covered with post-it notes, adorned with comments from visitors from all around the world. One had a passport photograph attached of a very dramatic and serious looking couple (I'm sure they must have been Italian).

If you ever visit the bookshop make sure you browse the Shakespeare shelves along the back wall downstairs. You might find a note hidden in amongst the books, penned by me. I'm hoping someone interesting finds it and follows my instructions to email me about what they love about Paris...

One of my favourite streets was just around the corner from Shakespeare and Co: 'Rue Galande'. You'll find quirky little shops, a great creperie and a small cinema along here.

I was lucky enough to visit Notre Dame Cathedral when a service had just started. Hearing the choir singing in such as magnificant building, watching as a cloud of incense snaked upwards towards the sunlight streaming in through the stain glass windows gave me goosebumps. As I wandered around the cathedral I also saw an outline of a man through the confessional screen, standing talking to a priest, gesturing in such a serious manner I wondered what sins he'd committed...

It's difficult to capture in words the effect Paris can have on your mind. Every corner you turn there's something which fires your imagination. Artists line La Seine; even set up home in the museums (one woman was painting a Pierre Bonnard picture in Musee d'orsay stroke by stroke- an eerily accurate replica).

One image which will stay with me was seeing a young Japanese woman walking along a winding street in Ile St- Louis, dressed in a black leather jacket, a white wedding dress underneath and the happiest smile on her face. I couldn't see anyone who might be her husband with her; she looked like she was in some sort of a trance and a part of me wondered if she had put on the dress and was wandering the streets of Paris, marrying the city. I told you; it's difficult to put into words the effect it has on your mind...

Monday, 2 April 2012


Recently I watched the film Perfect Sense. In the film the world is ending, with people across the globe catching a bizarre virus; sufferers firstly display an extreme emotion (sadness, rage, joy...) and then are depleted of a crucial sensory perception (sense of smell, taste, hearing and then sight). The leads, Michael (Ewan McGregor) and Susan (Eva Greene), fall in love as the world falls apart. The whole way through the film I couldn't decide if I was actually enjoying it, mainly because I couldn't decide if I liked the two main characters; Susan was very cold and unfeeling and something about Michael made my skin crawl a bit (I have the feeling it was Ewan McGregor that was making my skin crawl and I usually like him - but there was something shifty looking about him in this role). But that's getting off the point a bit...what I definitely did like was the idea and the sentiment behind it all (oh and I did love the closing scene and closing lines). It made me realise how scary the world would be if we found ourselves trapped alone inside our heads without any way of interacting with others and how even losing one sense would take away so much.

Co-incidently enough I had just started to read The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which for anyone who is not in the know, is a book dictated by the once editor-in-chief of French Elle , Jean-Dominique Bauby, who after suffering a massive stroke finds himself the victim of 'locked-in syndrome'. His mind is fully alert but he is completely paralysed, save for the ability to blink one eyelid. It is through his blinking and the use of his speech therapist's specially constructed alphabet that he dictates this book (such an amazing achievement as it is beautifully written). Throughout the book Bauby reminds us of the simple things in life, all with an admiral upbeat humour. In one chapter he recalls the best sausage he has ever eaten. He can no longer eat - food is transported into him via a tube. His memories are what now brings him some happiness. I loved the line, 'For pleasure I have to turn to the vivid memory of tastes and smells, an inexhaustable reservoir of sensations....Now I cultivate the art of simmering memories.'

Again, the book made me think about the importance our senses play in enriching our lives. Then I got to thinking how the more our lives are played out online (the irony is not lost on me, I am aware I am typing this on a blog) we are effectively destroying our memories; a smiley icon doesn't replace the sound of laughter; if I can only smell my own perfume as I interact with someone online then I'm not forming a memory of them- I'm forming a memory of myself. It's kind of a scary thought. So on that note I'm singing off...goodnight.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Feeling Lucky?

Finally that spark of motivation and positivity I felt when the clocks struck 2012 returned this weekend, thanks to being in the company of inspirational writers at the Scottish Association of Writers conference, and also due to spending most of my day off yesterday reading the wonderful book, 'The Luck Factor' written by (my new hero) Dr Richard Wiseman. This book has helped me make sense of training I've been delivering in my job the past few months and also reminded me not to give up on sending my novel out and to make the most of any opportunity placed in my way!

In 'The Luck Factor' Dr. Wiseman presents his results of eight years of scientific research into the concept of luck - ultimately trying to determine if there is more to luck than just chance...

I don't want to plagarise his book on here as you should really all go out and buy it (or I'll give you a loan of it.) I discovered this book in a round-about way. I never talk about my day job on here, so for those of you not in the know, I'm a careers adviser. For the past few months as part of my job I've been delivering training to my fellow careers adviser colleagues, focusing on a 'Coaching Approach to Guidance'. Part of the training involves revising career theories such as 'Planned Happenstance'.

Planned Happenstance theory recognises that a lot of people end up in a career due to chance encounters/opportunites, rather than giving a lot of logical thought to their career choice. When you delver deeper into the theory it explains that opportunities rarely happen by mere 'chance'- you have to be an active agent and remain open to them, get off the sofa and actually actively look for things... One of my fellow trainers then told us about Derren Brown's 'Experiment Series', recommending we watch 'The Secret of Luck'(which makes interesting viewing. If you find this post remotely interesting then you'll probably enjoy it too). This episode draws on the research of Dr Wiseman. When I mentioned this to a careers adviser I was delivering training to she said she had a copy of Wiseman's book, 'The Luck Factor' so she brought it in for me to read and very kindly told me to keep it. I now want to recommend all of my clients read this book as seriously if everyone adopted a 'lucky' attitude it would make my job so much easier... (on another note I am now convinced that Derren Brown is actually a tv persona of Dr. Wiseman himself as he seems to be borrowing a lot of his techniques/experiements/studies to display on his shows...)

Ok so I'm sure you're all dying to know what 'the secret of luck' is. This is a very basic summary of what Wiseman found (for a deeper understanding you will have to read the book for yourself! Or ask me about it the next time you see me)

Wiseman found that Luck is a State of Mind and there are four principles of Luck (with Twelve sub principles).

Lucky people tend to be more extrovert, less anxious, are good at listening to their intuition and acting upon it (also tend to notice and act upon opportunities), are open to new experiences, think postively about the future and have positive expecations of others...a lot of them also engage in positive visualisation.

The section talking about positive visualisation, or 'dream wishing' as one of his research particpants called it, reminded me a lot of the concept of 'Cosmic Ordering'; where you visualise something positive happening in some part of your life and then through positive thinking and visualisation you manifest it. I've read a lot of real life articles featuring people who have 'cosmic ordered' their perfect partner or their perfect house... but thinking back to those stories none of them were passive in their approaches - they actively placed themselves in situations/places which enhanced the possibility of the positive thing occuring. (so that relates to Wiseman's point about lucky people being open to new experiences and acting upon any opportunties placed in their way...)

Wiseman also found lucky people have the ability to find the good in bad situations. To quote: they will, 'find...a solution rather than fixate...on the problem.' (pg. 167).

In the closing sections of his book Wiseman introduces his 'Luck School' where he invites the reader to try out practical techniques he has devised to enhance luck. This is supposed to be conducted over a monthly period so starting from next week (seeing as we are now on Tuesday) I'm going to try this out. Once my month has ended I'll update you on here and let you know if my life has improved miraculously!! (I should point out that I don't necessarily consider myself to be an unlucky person but I'm sure there are lots of things I could be doing to become more lucky).

At the writing weekend, which I referred to at the start of this post, the fantastic children's author, Cathy MacPhail, talked about how she gets ideas for her books and again this ties in with the whole 'lucky' way of thinking as this is a lady who has her eyes and ears open to opportunities that come her way. One of her stories mirrors one of Wiseman's 'lucky' participants, in that they both pay close attention to radio broadcasts and have acted upon things they heard leading on to good things. Cathy mentioned how one radio broadcast led her to enter a short story competition which she won, then it got expanded into a radio series, and then was commissioned for a TV series. She said she often picks up ideas for stories from broadcasts, from newspapers, from people she meets, things she sees. She is a great example of someone being an active agent in creating and responding to chance opportunities.

I also got talking to another children's author, Nicola Morgan,at the weekend who told me to go to a writing festival which takes place down in York, one which looks fantastic (giving attendees one on one time with agents). I'd never heard of this before so I'm thinking this is a chance opportunity being flung my way that I should act upon...

I'll leave you with a funny thing that happened yesterday. Every once in a while I check out the teenage fiction section of bookshops to see what's current and who's publishing what. A book I picked up yesterday was published by Chicken House; it looked like it had a bit of a darker edge, like my current YA novel which is doing the rounds, and I thought, bah, Chicken House are closed to unsolicited submissions so I can't submit to them. Before starting to write this blog post I tried to look up Wiseman's luck factor website (which is no longer at the address published in the 2003 edition of his book I've got) and in my search bar it brought up Chicken House's website instead as it was in my history (their website happens to be! haha). So I went on to their site and discovered that they are about to open their 2013 Children's Book Competition, asking for children's or teenage novel submissions. Needless to say I am going to enter. And I will be sure to do lots of 'Dream Wishing' along the way...

Here's a link to Wiseman's blog

Sunday, 4 March 2012


It's been a while since I've done any drawing or painting so I made sure I devoted some time to getting creative this weekend. Usually writing is given priority over any other creative activity but I think my head is too full of training lessons I've been delivering at work to make room for any other words just now. So then I got to thinking why not produce some pictues instead...and this was what I came up with (one of them was a picture I started about 4 years ago and is now finally complete! Even if it takes me a while, I always finish what I start...)

I'd forgotten how relaxing drawing can be - it's a good way for my mind to totally switch off and listening to music makes it an even more enjoyable experience. (my soundtrack for the pictures above was Evanescence in case you're curious). I also love the fact that all I need is a blank piece of paper and a black pen (it has to be a Visible M bic pen)to keep me entertained.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

All New People

Last Saturday I went to see 'All New People' at the Kings Theatre in Glasgow; a play written by and starring Zach Braff. I used to love him in Scrubs and loved his film Garden State so it was exciting to see him on stage.

There was a good buzz in the theatre as the play opened with River Dance type music... I half expected Mr Braff to paddy bar onto the stage dressed in a kilt but no, he swung out hanging from a rope instead. A powerful opening scene which was unfortunately ruined as soon as Eve Myles opened her mouth. She played a highly strung English woman, Emma, and for the first 40 minutes or so her voice was so high pitched and performance overplayed that I was worried she was going to ruin the whole play. It was a relief when Braff's character, Charlie, started to talk and when the other two arrived; Myron the fireman (Paul Hilton) and a high class prostitute, Kim (Susannah Fielding). For me the latter two provided the true comedy moments. I've read some mixed reviews of the play; some disappointed with it and others thinking it was hilarious. I thought the humour was a bit obvious at times but there were some good gags which provided a light contrast to Charlie's suicidal disposition. I liked the premise of a group of strangers being thrown together and finding comfort in random connections. And apart from Myles' shaky start I thought the acting was impressive. The insertion of screens playing out each of the characters' backstory throughout was a clever use of mixed media and added depth to the production.

However I did wonder if Braff had subconsciously tried to recreate his depressive charater in Garden State...I couldn't help draw comparisons and then got to thinking without a smart quirky female character like Sam to pull him out of himself, Charlie remained a bit half drawn. I still really liked it though and the fact Braff conducted a very charming, down to earth Q and A session afterwards made for a very pleasant theatre trip.(see rubbish quality photo at the top of the posting of him waving a microphone about). In case you're interested he tried a deep fried Mars Bar on his visit to Glasgow and he really likes Irish River Dance music...(but let's not hold that against him).

Thursday, 9 February 2012


Since the start of 2012 I've felt like the creative side of my brain stayed behind in 2011. I've been trying hard to write and it's just not been flowing so instead of trying to force a project I started working on at the end of 2011, I turned to a new challenge. Writing prose using only 5 letter words and then a snippet of a story (?) using only 4 letter words. I've discovered I can only complete these tasks by scribbling in a notebook which makes me wonder if that helps me access a different side of my creative brain as when I write longer prose I always type. If I ever attempt to write poetry I usually need to handwrite that too. Any other writers reading this have a similar experience? Writing these also made me realise how much I love language and words. But I guess all writers must be a bit in love with words...:)

So here's the results below, starting with the 5 letter prose:


Glass tears cried under night skies. Fears wound round hopes, kills dream. Arise lunar magic. Chase angst; grief given wings. Faded ghost flies where stars blaze; their light heals tired lives. Clock stops after final music plays.

Dead Soul

“Lola what?”
“Just Lola.”
Kurt knew this type: Fool.
Lola knew this type: Prat.
Kurt knew this town. Dump.
Lola said, “Dunn lost. Just like here.”
“Lost what?” said Kurt.
“ Lost soul make dead life.”
“Fine here. Life here good!” said Kurt.
“Eyes shut. Open them.”
“Wide open, girl.”
“Kurt deny?”
“Kurt think Lola real dumb girl.”
“Life have pain with lost love.”
“Find more love then.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that. Easy.” said Kurt.
“Kurt love?”
“Love none baby. Just f*** - stay free!”
“Sure, keep mind open. Mind free…then find love. That make long life.” said Lola.
“Okay, done here. Read over, print name, sign…”
“Take care, Kurt. Your eyes look dead. Feed soul.”
Then Lola left.
Dead eyes? Kurt felt fear.