Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Thinking Things Over

A few weeks ago I finally visited the Kadampa Meditation Centre in Glasgow (I'm saying finally as I've been saying for months I was going to go!). I went along to a thirty minute lunchtime meditation class with a friend and it was a really uplifting and relaxing experience. As soon as I stepped inside the centre I felt a sense of calm- a welcome contrast to the rush of the city outside. It was the first time I’d ever been to a meditation class so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

This particular centre offers guided Buddhist meditation, so the session was led by a Buddhist. He had a very calming voice and manner which helped me to focus on the breathing techniques. (once I’d tuned out the distraction of the woman near me who kept moving around in her squeaky chair!). I was able to sink into a deep state of relaxation but wasn't completely successful with silencing my mind....although by the second breathing exercise I was definitely getting there.

During the session our facilitator talked about confidence and how most of us will struggle with low self-esteem at times, due to holding onto a false sense of confidence where we place too much focus on external things- like our looks, our intelligence, our talents or relationships. If any of these things change or are threatened, our self-esteem suffers. He talked about how we should aim to seek confidence within ourselves and recognise that our feelings and thoughts dictate a lot. If we learn to control our mind and rid it of negativity it gives us control of any situation.
His message that we can’t control external things which happen, but ultimately have the power to change our feelings and our minds, (and how we approach situations), was very simple but powerful. He articulated it in a much better way than I’m attempting here, and he also illustrated what he was saying with a couple of stories. The whole experience was rather uplifting and a nice time out from the 'every day'. One of the tasks on that old Fifty Things list of mine , (you can find info on that in my blog archives!), was to sign up to a class – this will be my ‘class’ and I plan to return to more regular sessions in the new year.

For a while I’ve been thinking about the power of our thoughts. Last year I subscribed to something called Notes from the Universe (Truly Unique Thoughts at www.tut.com). I get a daily email with a motivating or insightful message along the lines of, ‘It’s not knowing what the answer or solution is…but simply knowing that there is one, which brings it forth.’ The tagline of the site is ‘Thoughts Become Things’. It might sound really cheesy, and I signed up mostly for a bit of fun, but it does sometimes take me by surprise how applicable a message can be on certain days!

A few weeks after the mediation session a couple of people on separate occasions asked me if I’d ever read the book ‘The Secret’. I’d read about it, and had a good understanding of parts of it thanks to magazine articles, but had never read the whole book. I started to get curious, so downloaded it to my kindle and read it in two days on my commute to and from work.
The book talks about ‘The Law of Attraction’ and the power of positive thought attracting good things into your life. I agree with a lot of the concepts in the book, (the power of positive thought and positive visualisation), but for me there was a lack of recognition that to take true control of your life you also need to take action, put some work in, and plan things…not just sit back and visualise, hoping the universe will bring things to you.
On dark winter days it’s also quite a challenge to maintain a sunny disposition… but it has sparked off a lot of thinking about future goals. Some of my favourite parts of the book were the references to Einstein – I need to sit down and read his theories properly one day because every time I read snippets of them I want to know more. Like his theory that time is an illusion and everything is happening simultaneously, leads the author of the book to speculate: ‘If everything is happening at the one time, then the parallel version of you with what you want already exists’. So whatever you want in the future already exists…

All of this is getting a bit too deep for a Tuesday night so I’m going to sign off with a link to a really interesting Japanese Positive Thinking experiment, (The Rice Experiment), conducted by a researcher and alternative healer from Japan, Masaru Emoto. His experiments demonstrate that human thoughts and intentions can actually alter physical reality. The results of the Rice Experiment are fascinating!! Read about it here

Monday, 10 November 2014

Creative Doodles

A lot of people in my life love Winter and rejoice at the disappearance of sunlight (perhaps I'm friends with too many vampires?). I was determined to embrace the darknesss this year and convinced myself the rainy nights would motivate me to double my creative output... Then October and the pitch black mornings arrived, along with an unpleasant sickness bug, and me and Winter were once again not such great friends. My motivation had been zapped and I was missing being able to SEE my surroundings on my commute to and from work.

Then this morning Winter showed me her beautiful side. On an early walk to the station I was blinded by a blood red sun which slowly disappeared behind the gothic spires of a distant church. As the sky dissolved into shades of pink and orange I thought okay, maybe this is the season to be jolly after all...

I've been thinking about all of the people who are taking part in NaNoWriMo this month (I applaud your discipline and wish you well). The thought of rushing a novel doesn't appeal to me, but the challenge of upping my creative output does...So for the rest of November I'm setting myself a challenge of producing something creative, (no matter how small), every day to kickstart my motivation.

Yesterday I'd hoped to write a 4,000 word story but probably produced about 100 words I was actually happy with. I was having trouble switching off that pesky logical 'left hand' side of my brain and then I remembered a tip in my Mslexia writing diary (taken from the book  'Drawing on the Right Hand Side of the Brain') which suggested you start drawing, listening to music, do some gardening or meditate, in order to force a cognitive shift and send the left hand side into shutdown.

So I kept listening to music and started doodling (the result of which is at the top of this post). It seemed to work  - maybe a bit too well as I found myself wide awake at 3am this morning with new ideas for stories whirring around my head...

Here's to the dark and rainy nights where we get to lock ourselves indoors without the guilt of feeling like we should be enjoying the sunshine outside... Happy writing!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Flash Fiction Publications

In the past wee while I've had some success with my flash fiction appearing in online journals. I love the challenge of telling a story in as few words as possible, and I think short works can sometimes have the most impact. This form has taught me a lot about character development and the senses.

Here are links to some of my stories:

Ghosts is published in Issue III of the Scottish Journal The Grind. My story is in Part B and you can download the journal by clicking here 

My story Once Ours is published at Word Bohemia. You can read this here

My story Baby appeared at FlashFlood journal on National Flash Fiction day back in June. You can read that here  

And this techincally can't be called a flash fiction story (or can it?!) as it's only 50 words. My story Into the Woods can be read here at Fifty Word stories

 The Scottish Book Trust run monthly 50 word story competitions. If you're up for the challenge check out details of that here

Monday, 22 September 2014

Radio Waves

A couple of months ago a friend sent me a link to an essay titled 'The Opposite of Loneliness', written by a Yale student, Marina Keegan, who was approaching graduation. The essay appeared in the graduation issue of the Yale Daily News back in 2012. In the essay Marina speculated about life after university. She described campus as a place where she felt like she was part of something, and where she felt the 'opposite of loneliness.' In the essay she expressed some fear and uncertainty about what lay beyond the security of university. But her tone was optimistic with lines such as, 'We can't, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it's all we have.'
It wasn't until I'd finished reading the article that I noticed the byline along the top stating that Marina Keegan died in a car accident five days after graduation, at the age of 22. Goosebumps darted up my arms as a line from her essay jumped out at me: 'We're so young. We're so young. We're twenty-two years old. We have so much time.'

Recently I was on holiday on a Riviera cruise for a family celebration. I could easily have lived on the ship. It even had a library. I visited the library the first afternoon I was on the ship but couldn't really find anything. I was determined to find something good, and something which I could finish in the eight days I'd be there. On my second visit I walked straight up to a book titled, 'The Opposite of Loneliness'. Pulling it out of the bookcase I recognised a photo of Marina Keegan on the front. The book was a post-humous collection of her short stories and non fiction articles, named after the aforementioned essay. So of course this became my reading matieral during my holiday.

I was in awe that she had managed to produce so much polished writing whilst studying what had to be an intense academic degree (she was at Yale after all). She approached her writing in a very disciplined manner (which made me think I should become a lot more disciplined with my writing). She talked of her disappointment at not being asked to join some university secret society club and instead of wallowing she decided to dedicate the Thursday night when the group met to writing instead (giving her three solid hours or so). Her fiction was very insightful and mature for a twenty two year old, but it was her non fiction I enjoyed the most, as it revealed more about her inner thoughts and personality.

In some of her works she had a bit of a preoccupation with death, not in a depressive way, more in a philosophical way. I wonder if her family draw comfort from reading some of her musings. In the Introduction her parents write that the car crash occured due to her boyfriend falling asleep at the wheel, on a journey to their house. Her parents refused to let him take any blame and attended court to ensure all charges were dropped because they knew it would have been what Marina wanted. This tells you a lot about Marina I think, and her parents. Through putting together this book it was clear they realised the importance of allowing her voice to be heard, of allowing her words to be read, and creating something positive from a tragic situation.

In a foreward, her tutor talked of her passion for writing and the way in which she challenged an author who was being negative about the future of the industry. Her passion and enthusiam came across in many ways throughout this body of work, and her determination to write fuelled a new determination in me. It's easy to start doubting your work if doors are shut and this flipped a switch in me not to give up. Maybe it's self indulgent to think I was supposed to find her book on this holiday, but I love moments of synchronicity as I believe it's the world's way of saying PAY ATTENTION - someone, somewhere is trying to tell you something. In one of her stories she refers to a poem 'Ode On A Grecian Urn'. This poem features in the book I'm still trying to get published and I took this as another nudge, keep going, get it back out there.

I smiled when I came to the line in her non fiction essay, Song for the Special 'I want what I think and who I am captured in an anthology of indulgence I can comfortingly tuck in some labyrinthine library.' In her closing paragraph the goosebumps returned at her words:
'I read somewhere that radio waves just keep travelling outward, flying into the Universe with eternal vibrations. Sometime before I die I think I'll find a microphone and climb to the top of a radio tower...Hello, I'll say to outer space, this is my card.'

Saturday, 30 August 2014


As I once again fill my suitcase with far too many clothes in preparation for another trip away, I've taken some time out to update my blog as I feel it's been far too long since I've sat down to write anything more than a few scribbled lines or ideas. The good thing about travelling to lots of new places and being busy is that it does make new ideas pop into my head, and I know once things slow down again I'll at least have some fresh material which I'll then attempt to shape into something coherent.

A highlight of one trip was stumbling across a private members club in Perth (Scotland). On the walk back to our hotel one evening my friend and I noticed some lamps shining in the window of an old building and we made jokes about it looking like a Vampire hang out. Then a man appeared out of the side door asking if we would like to come in for a look around. And in we went. The main room was decorated with ornate furniture and elaborate paintings and a bar was set up at the side. The owners - a male and female - enthusiastically told us about their 'private club', how they didn't like to advertise and preferred to choose who attended. The woman kept going on about the 'girls' who came to drink and party; how they liked the quiet and safe environment. As we got taken on a 'tour' and were offered a drink my writers imagination went into overdrive and part of me wondered if we were both going to be taken hostage and join other unsuspecting 'girls' in some old attic. That didn't happen obviously. My photos of the main room don't do it justice.

During the same break, I came across love padlocks on a bridge in Pitlochry. I never imagined to see this tradition in such a rural part of Scotland. It made me think back to my trip to Paris in April (where part of their bridge has now fallen apart under the weight of the padlocks!). This bridge looks very sturdy and robust. I'm sure it could handle a few more declarations of love (so long as the keys aren't being thrown in the river as that pollutes the water).

The other weekend I was in Cardiff catching up with a friend I'd not seen for ages. The stunning castle is just a stones throw away from the busy high street which makes the city feel like a strange contrast of modern and old. There was a medieval festival taking place, so it was enjoyable to walk around the castle grounds pretending I had stepped back in time for a while. There was even a battle re-enactment but I was more interested in the amazing gothic architecture.

Au revoir for now as I head off on my next adventure!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Everything, everywhere

Sometimes when life gets busy the writing has to take a back seat for a while. And a conversation today got me to thinking about the importance of fitting in some creativity into the every day, even when time is limited. That then got me thinking about what creativity actually is, and I think it can be as simple as how you view things and situations in every day life- you know in those boring moments when you're caught in the rat race of travelling to work on the same route, following the same routine. If you keep your eyes open, there's usually something a bit out of the ordinary waiting to be noticed and turned into a story or an interesting photograph.

Sometimes I'll find inspiration in the most unexpected of places - like on a quiet afternoon walking down my local dreary high street I'll spot someone who makes me look up and wonder, 'What is their story?'.  An old man pushing an empty wheelchair intrigued me enough to get filed away in one of my many notebooks and later became a character in a story which is currently awaiting publication. (The only thing my character had in common with him was the empty wheelchair - I never spoke to the real man and visually I created someone else).

Other times I'll see an image of something and experience that 'light bulb' moment of inspiration. I was going through photos on an old mobile phone the other week and I came across the picture at the head of this post which inspired my whole blog. The photo is of a window display at a great little shop called 'Urban Empire' on Commercial Drive in Vancouver. As I caught sight of my reflection in the glass, whilst looking at Alice in Wonderland paraphernalia, I thought about how Through the Looking Glass would be a great name for a blog about observations of life (and the computer screen would be a metaphor of sorts for the glass). This was a good few years ago and my Mum had often suggested I start a blog, but I had put it off, not knowing what on earth I would write about. The trip was a good starting point to my posts, and having a name for the blog gave it some kind of a purpose...

The other night I was at a gig, (Owen Pallet - who was amazing live), and something about that evening inspired a whole set of scenes for a novel I've been thinking about for a while. Even although I've barely put any of this book down on paper my mind was working in overdrive that night -presenting the opening scenes and playing out key moments of the book in my head like I was watching stills from a movie of the characters' lives. When I got home I frantically scribbled down as much as I could remember. I don't think the book is ready to be written yet, but at least I feel like I've made some progress, even if my word count is practically non existent.
You can click here to listen to one of my favourite songs from the gig, The Passions.

I sometimes think taking time out from actually putting words and pictures down on paper is as valuable as when you do finally get around to finishing the final piece.

And on that note I'll leave you with a paraphrase of a Burton Rascoe quote: '...a writer is working when (s)he is staring out the window.'

Monday, 9 June 2014


Over a 12 week period from March to May I had Mondays off from my day job to devote to writing. Unsurprisingly it became my favourite day of the week.I treated it like a work day, getting up early, making sure I had a some words down before lunch. Never before had I looked forward to working so much on a Monday! Any creative person who works full time I’m sure can identify with the frustration of having to go into the office on days where all you want to do is lose yourself in words or art. 

Knowing I only had this luxury for 12 weeks really helped me focus and I completed at least one or two new stories, (sometimes spending some of the time editing old ones), every Monday. Some I’m really happy with, some I’m not, but the important thing is I got words down on paper.
My original aim had been to complete my second YA novel but I realised I wanted to use the time to focus on a different type of writing and experiment a bit.

There were moments where I started to overthink and panic, thinking I might waste the whole day staring at a blank computer screen. If lines weren’t flowing for one story, I would simply abandon it and move onto something else.

One weekend in amongst my Mondays when I was feeling a bit demotivated and uninspired, (and probably having a bit of a week where I was doubting my writing, amongst other things), I sat in a café reading through a helpful little booklet which was free with Writing Magazine, called ‘Just Write’ (7 days of inspiration to unlock your creativity). I liked the NO RULES in bold at the top of the booklet, because really when you start setting yourself strict rules in writing that’s when your words stop flowing…

I paid particular attention to the Neil Gaiman quote in the book: ‘Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art.’ (taken from Neil Gaiman's commencement speech 'Make Good Art' delivered to the University of Arts in 2012).

On leaving the café I stopped in at Waterstones in search of a book I’ve always meant to read called ‘The Artists’ Way.’ As soon as I walked to the art section a different book caught my eye. It was called ‘Make Good Art’. Yup- it was Neil Gaiman’s whole speech in a creative book form! So I sat and read the whole speech (you should look it up - you can hear/see him speak it on youtube). Some very encouraging and inspiring words for artists everywhere.

The weekend after this I met up with a friend for a late birthday get together. The photo at the top of this blog post is part of her present to me. The ‘Create Happiness’ pencils and the blank journal seemed like another sign that I should continue with the making and the creating!

So now my Mondays off are over that’s the challenge – to keep making good art and figure out a schedule which works for me to make sure I give myself time to do this.

A friend recently recommended an interesting book called ‘Daily Rituals: How Artists Work’ by Mason Currey, which documents over one hundred famous writers'/artists’/musicians' working routines. I envy the writers who can get up at 5.30am (some as early as 4am) and function.

I've come to the conclusion that it's probably best I don't try to think too much about a writing 'routine' and instead focus on getting words down anytime, anywhere that I can, and worry about the sentence structure during moments of calm.

So that said, I think it's time we all got off the internet to go and make some good art!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Lost in Paris ~ Part 2

On a walk along the famous Pont des Arts bridge, I stumbled across a tour party and listened with interest to the guide's stories about the famous 'Love Padlocks' (pictured above). Apparently the Love Locks started to appear in 2008 as a result of the famous scene in the last episode of Sex and the City, where Carrie and Big kiss on this bridge. Romantics from all over the world came to share a kiss on the bridge, leaving a mark of their eternal love by writing their names on a padlock and fastening it to the bridge, then throwing away the key into the Seine. The guide joked that if you look close enough you'll see three names on some padlocks, as the French are fond of the Menage a trois. He also said that local boys tend to buy combination padlocks if their love is insincere.
The trend has become so popular that Pont des Arts is now overflowing with padlocks, and the trend has extended to other bridges across the city.

Locals have started a protest to get them removed, and the government is taking steps towards this (the day I was on the bridge a panel had already been taken away). They believe the padlocks are ruining beautiful historical structures as the weight of the padlocks is damaging the bridge, as well as altering it visually. Environmentalists have also been leading protests, as the keys being thrown into the Seine are polluting the water. I like the quirky trend, but I can understand why the locals want to preserve the beauty of their city. I love the fact some couples have now resorted to clipping their padlocks onto the lamp posts...

I love walking around the St Germaine part of Paris - this is where a lot of famous artists and literary types used to hang out back in the day, and I think it has a really magical atmosphere. As soon as I stepped inside Jardin de Luxembourg I felt the same sense of calm I experienced on my last visit. I enjoyed watching children sailing old fashioned boats on the pond - there's a sense of stepping back in time in this park and this image only added to that. The photo I captured of the boats is one of my favourites from this trip.

One of my favourite discoveries on this trip was the Stravinksy Fountain, which is outside the Pompidou Centre. The whole surrounding area is like a Surrealist exhibition, with interesting grafitti on the walls and steps, and the bizarre sculptures in the fountain itself look like something from a Tim Burton film set. I spent a lot of time walking around the fountain, taking photos of the sculptures from different angles. The more I looked at it, the more bizarre it became!

What added to the whole scene was when a gang of young men arrived, and sat at the edge of the fountain, dressed in black and purple studded clothes, with spiked or dreadlock hair. They looked like futuristic rebels from a dystopian film and had quite an intimidating air about them. They kept laughing amongst themselves as if they knew a secret about the fountain none of us ignorant tourists had any clue about. I was too scared to take a photograph of them! Wish I hadn't been such a chicken now.

A peaceful moment was sitting in Park Jean XIII, which overlooks the back section of Notre Dame. You can see so much gothic detail on the building from this angle, that it's a nice place to sit. A local Parisian man sat down beside me and chatted for a while, telling me that the Illes St Louis part of Paris has become so expensive only rich Americans and Italians can afford to buy apartments there. He told me that the leaves of the trees in this park are magic, and that if you leave them in water for 6 months and then pour it into your plants they bloom within days.

What made this trip, was the quirky hotel I stayed in, Hotel Notre Dame.  My friend Rebecca had blogged about it after her stay there last year and I loved the unique/arty style of the rooms. The real selling point was the prospect of having a room overlooking Notre Dame and the Seine, which I got. Nothing quite beats the sound of the bells of Notre Dame ringing in the early morning.

Paris, I look forward to a part 3 sometime.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Lost in Paris ~ Part 1

A couple of weeks ago I returned to Paris for a short visit, retracing some old steps from a trip I made two years ago, but also venturing further afield and braving the Metro system (which was actually really straight forward after studying maps and tips on how it worked).

My biggest fear when travelling alone is that I'll get spectacularly lost in a strange city and attract unwanted attention. I had a brief taste of this my first evening when I managed to walk round in a circle for around an hour and a half because I couldn't figure out if the Seine was in front of me or behind me. And when I sat down to look at a map a Japanese French man tried to persuade me to be his 'amie' and accompany him around Paris. Needless to say I declined his offer, legged it, and got even more lost...

I finally did find my way back to my hotel (with the help of some locals). Taking the more complicated route back also meant I came across a Carousel I otherwise wouldn't have seen. I've got a thing for Carousels and have been dying to get a photograph of an old fashioned one for ages, so I was delighted to come across not just one, but three on this trip, photos of which are below:

Sacre Coeur Carousel
Carousel at Eiffel Tower

Carousel at Hotel De Ville

I had a big sense of 'being in the right place, at the right time', on this trip. When I went on the Batobus after dinner one evening, the boat arrrived at the Eiffel Tower stop just before the first light show of the evening. The lights only sparkle for five minutes on the hour, and we were right underneath the Tower when it lit up. It was quite something being on a boat on the Seine, just as the skies were darkening, and witnessing what looked like a thousand stars explode inside the tower.

My hotel was just a few minutes away from the Shakespeare and Co. bookshop and I made a couple of visits here, enjoying browsing around the books and exploring the nooks and crannies. There's a space dowstairs, like a hole in the wall, where you can sit at an old typewriter. Hundreds of notes from visitors were pinned up on the walls around the typewriter and I left my own note in amongst them. On my previous visit to this bookshop I had hidden a note inside a Shakespeare book (which one, I don't even remember). It was never found, or if it was, the recipient didn't bother to send me an email!

I was lucky enough to be there on an evening where the staff were celebrating the birthday and 450 years of Shakespeare. I joined a crowd outside (as hundreds were already packed inside), listening to the staff perform poetry and songs through the large speakers set up. I could see some staff members standing at the upstairs open window, dressed in Shakespearean costumes, sipping on wine. It must be an amazing bookshop to work in. From the second hand book stand outside, I bought a copy of Morvern Callar (I saw the film years ago and have always wanted to read the book). Not very French, as it's by a Scottish author, but I loved the fact it had cherry blossom petals from the trees pressed into the pages and the girl serving me also stamped it with a Shakespeare and Co. logo.

Upstairs in the bookshop there's a room called 'The Cave' with wall to wall shelves of books, a make-shift bed where some writers have slept when doing talks at the shop, and a piano which the public are welcome to play. I sat in here with some others listening to a teenage girl play a very French sounding waltz. Her friend took over for a while, and played another beautiful melody. That was definitely one of those moments where I felt I was in the right place at the right time, as it just added to the atmosphere of the visit.

Another highlight of the trip was visiting Montmartre, as I wanted to photograph an image of the famous steps with the old fashioned lampposts. It took a few attempts as there was so many people walking around, but I was quite happy with the result (below). The walk up to Sacre Coeur was also a favourite moment, seeing such a beautiful dazzling white building come into view, under a pale blue sky, with a spinning carousel underneath.

I was going to attempt to capture everything I wanted to write in one blog post, but it's never much fun reading really long posts, so I'll leave part 2 till another time...

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Natural Phenomena

As I mentioned in my previous '50 Things' post, one of the instructions on my list was to, 'Research Natural Phenomenons'. So what is a natural phenomena? It's basically a non-artificial event; something which occurs in nature and is not man made. Some obvious examples are earthquakes, lightning, volcano erruptions, and so on.

I always like to use my own photos as headers for my posts and I thought it was appropriate to share my 'heart shaped moon' picture, though the grainy quality unfortunately distorts the shape a bit. It's also a bit misleading as I'm not actually going to be talking about heart shaped moons in this post, although I do talk about a moonbow...
So that I'm not breaching any copyrights, I've inserted links which will take you to fantastic images of each of the phenomenas I've listed below.

Here's a selection of some of my favourite discoveries:

A moonbow

A moonbow is like a rainbow, but much fainter, and is created when light reflects off the surface of the moon, reacting with moisture in the air. Moonbows can be seen when moonlight shines on the droplets of water and mists created from a waterfall. This provides the perfect environment for the phenomena to occur.
I came across this great blog post where the writer was lucky enough to witness and photograph a Moonbow at Cumberland Falls, Kentucky. See here for a great photograph.
An alternative name for this phenomenon is Lunar Bow, which I think has a lovely ring to it.

Tree Spiders

During the 2010 floods in Pakistan, millions of spiders spun webs in trees, transforming them into cocoons, allowing them to escape the rising waters. The spider web cocoons gave the trees the appearance of a weird grey candyfloss. You can see images of this amazing phenomenon here
Imagine getting stuck up that tree? Eek.

Light Pillars

In very cold weather, when ice crystals are suspended in the atmosphere, light pillars may form in the sky. They form around natural light sources, such as sunlight or moonlight, but also sometimes around streetlights. The ice crystals reflect light back at us, but as we can't detect the crystals, we are tricked into believing there is a pillar of light in the sky. You can see a beautiful photo here of light pillars in Wyoming.
According to some sources, a lot of people who see light pillars report them as UFO sightings.

The Taos Hum

There is a strange phenomena in Taos, New Mexico, where a small proportion of the population report frequently hearing a low frequency humming noise. This was first reported in the 1990s and no one has ever found the source of the hum. The sound is often intensified and much louder in buildings. Here's a video about it here:
There have been similar stories reported in the 1970s in Britsol (referred to as the Bristol Hum) and apparently in Largs in the 1980s!
Are some people gifted with being able to detect higher frequency noises? And what are they; some weird government experiments that no one is supposd to hear? Intriguing...

Green Lake, Austria

This is amazing; the park which becomes a lake! This lake sits at the foot of the Hochschwab Mountains in Austria and in Winter the area is almost completely dry so is used as a park. When the seasons get warmer the ice and snow from the mountains melt, and the basin of land (the park) fills with water, rising to as much as 10 metres in the height of summer. Divers are able to go underwater during this time to discover a floor covered in grass and benches, with fish swimming through the brances of trees. There's some beautiful photographs of this area in both the Winter and Summer, here

The Migration of the Monarch Butterfly 

Monarch Butterflies are unable to survive the colder winters in North America, so migrate to warmer climates in Central Mexico. Apparently Monarch Butterflies are the only insect to migrate to a warmer climate 2,500 miles away every year. Millions of them cluster together on trees. Here's a beautiful video of them here:

It was this striking image of the butterflies together in the forest which inspired me to write a poem, 'Flight of the Butterfly', which won 3rd place at the Scottish Association Writers poetry competition the other weekend.

This was one of my favourite 50 things tasks so far as I've come across interesting things I wouldn't normally have learned about.

And lastly, a wee reminder to check out Charlotte and Catherine's websites tomorrow, in order to read about their Writing Process!

Monday, 31 March 2014

Blog Tour ~ My Writing Process

There's a blog tour occuring in the world of writers just now, and today it's my turn to tell you a bit more about my writing process (so my natural phenomenon post will need to wait a bit...)

I was handed the 'blog tour baton' by my writer friend, Rebecca, who blogged about her own creative process last Monday here at her lovely new website The Magpie Diaries, which is overflowing with creative thoughts and inspirations.

So here's the answers to the questions I was set, offering some insight into my writing world:

What am I working on?

The project I want to devote most of my time to is my second young adult novel, but I think I've tried to overcomplicate the plot in parts, so this really needs to be stripped back a bit before I get it back on track.  Lately I've been writing a lot of short stories, flash fiction and have recently returned to some poetry. I like the fact I can experiment with my style in shorter pieces and I feel it's a way of trying to teach myself how to improve on the flaws of my longer pieces (such as learning to add in a bit more narrative drive and description). I've also started work on a novellla, but my heart is definitely pulling me back to that young adult novel...

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

For my young adult novels I'd like to think the mystery elements are tackled in a fairly original way, and I like to have a subtle danger and doubt tied up in the main romances as I think that makes it a bit more interesting. A strong female protagonist is important to me, so the challenge is to balance that strength with the vulnerability I think every seventeen year old girl feels.

Why do I write what I do?

My novel length ideas and writing style developed naturally into a young adult focus - I don't think it was something I necessarily consciously woke up and decided to do, although the fact I love reading YA books probably was a big influence! The idea for my first YA novel had brewing for a while and then one day my main character started to fully form in my head and she started to piece it all together for me. I really like writing for this age group as I think there's scope to tackle interesting issues.

I love the freedom of writing shorter pieces and these are for a different audience. I think I sometimes tap into a more experimental part of my creative brain when I tackle the short stuff -probably because it feels safer taking a risk on a piece you're not investing quite so much time in.

How does my writing process work?

With my short stories a glimmer of an idea/situation can pop into my head and I'll just sit down and start writing and see what happens. This can be the way a novel starts too, but at some point I have to try and structure a bit more of a plan. It does amaze me how much your subconscious can work things out before you do. I'm a fast typer which means I like to type everything, though I have lots of notes/ideas/extracts jotted down in various notebooks across my flat. Often if I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea I'll type it quickly in my phone.

Working full time in quite a demanding job can make it hard to maintain proper focus on my writing projects. At the beginning of March I dropped a Monday at work for 12 weeks and the difference this has made already has been great. I'm treating my Mondays like a normal work day - getting up early but instead of rushing for my train, I switch on my computer and sit down and write. Even if I'm not entirely sure I have something I want to write about I force myself to let some words flow. It's been a big lesson in not waiting around for that elusive 'Muse' to strike, something which I have definitely been guilty of in the past.

And so now I pass the 'blog baton' on to two writer friends, Catherine and Charlotte, who will be blogging about their writing process on Monday 7th April. Here's a bit about them with a link to their sites so be sure to check them out next week!

I met Charlotte Bray a few years ago at the SAW writing conference. Here's a taster of what she likes to write about:

For as long as I can remember I've enjoyed writing stories. During my early years most featured my pet cat. 

In adult years, alongside my job as grant writer for charity, I've mainly focused on crime thriller novels especially involving interesting locations. 

The blog started as an excuse to tick off some of the activities I've wanted to do for years.

I've been following Catherine Noble's postings for a while now and enjoyed reading her story Wee Hammy in the Puffin Review (we appeared in the same issue)
Here's a bit about Catherine:

Catherine Noble is a fiction writer from Glasgow, Scotland. Shortlisted for the Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award 2012/13, she is currently working on her first novel. She is also a proud member of the Johnstone Writers Group. Catherine's website: www.catherinenoble.com

Monday, 24 March 2014

Another few 50 things...

It's been a while since I've posted about my '50 Things' list. I received my list of tasks at the end of March last year, and originally I thought I'd give myself a year to work my way through them (though there were no rules about a time frame when I signed up for the task). I'm going to extend the time , because the whole point of me signing up to it in the first place was to hopefully experience new things, maybe challenge myself a bit, and step outside my comfort zone. All of which I think I've achieved so far to some extent, and would like to continue working on.

I've obviously not dedicated a blog post to all of the tasks either, so here's a quick run down of some other things I've completed: (besides the ones I already blogged about, 10 Photos, Challenging my Creativity, Climbing a Mountain) -

~ Spend a night star gazing -  I had just visited the Observatory in Paisley a couple of weeks before the list came in so I guess I cheated a bit and ticked this off straight away. I think I should go back again sometime soon

 ~ Have a conversation with a stranger -I've attended quite a lot of events this year both at work and socially, and have probably managed to strike up a conversation with a stranger at each one. What tends to happen to me a lot is that we discover a mutual connection somewhere along the line. Strangers also often strike up conversation with me on public transport and in supermarket queues, so it makes a task like this farily easy to achieve.

~ Plan an overseas trip - since signing up for this list I've been to New York and Barcelona and am heading off to Paris in April

~ Do something spontaneous - All of the above trips turned out to be fairly spontaneous plans. As a whole, I think over the past several months I've been a lot more spontaneous than I usually am

~ Appreciate the small things - This was something I'd already been making a conscious effort to do in general and I think this gets easier the more of life you experience and you begin to realise what's really important.

~ Show your friends and family love and support - I hope this is something I've always done anyway, but it's always nice to have a reminder and I think even small gestures are important

~ Believe in yourself -What does that really mean? I think it's about having a strong enough sense of self that you can get to where you need to be, and even if you don't, then you can recognise that everything is still going to be okay. And I think it's about not being afraid of putting yourself out there - that last part is the challenge, but I'm getting better at it

~ Go to an art exhibition and talk to the artist - Last year I went to a celebration of a new artist's 1 year gallery anniversary and bought her art work. I find it's rare you get to speak to the artist at their exhibition, unless you're lucky enough to go to an opening night. I also emailed an artist whose work I had seen at the Lighthouse to let her know how much I enjoyed her exhibition.

~ Spend a morning people watching - I often go to cafes by myself and sit by the window watching the world go by. When I was completing my small stones task I became more conscious of watching people everywhere. It's amazing what you notice when you keep your eyes and ears open. Often I've been wondering, how much of the world do we miss because we're being told to focus on the wrong things?

~ Break your worst habit - This has to be snacking. I think I broke it for a couple of weeks last summer and then again after Christmas for a couple of weeks but it didn't last! Bad habits are hard to break...

~ Ask more questions -  I always ask lots of questions anyway. This is quite a vague one but I guess what I take from this is don't stop learning and reading and trying to find out about new things.

~ Write a list of 10 things you love about yourself - Not an easy task as we're so great in the West of Scotland at putting ourselves down. I'm not telling you what I wrote!!

~ Rid your life of the things you don't need - I'm gradually clearing out junk from my flat, I have no problem walking away from people who are only bringing negative things to my life, but I guess in a general sense I still hold on to far too many things I don't really need (like that bar of chocolate in the fridge...)

~ Watch the film 'The Edge of Heaven' - This relates to the task below as it was a foreign film, shot in Turkey and Germany.  I just watched this film today and I liked the element of interconnecting lives. It tackled some big issues of asylum seeking and freedom, but for me it didn't explore some characters enough.

~ Watch more foreign films - Recently I've watched 'Rust and Bone' and the Spanish film 'The Secret is in Their Eyes'. I enjoyed them both, particularly the Spanish one as a powerful a scene near the end really stuck in my head. Running through the film was the sense that the past had consumed and haunted many of the characters for years. I liked a quote from it, 'You'll have a thousand pasts and no future.' A warning to one character that he needed to stop letting his memories dominate his life. I really loved watching the French tv series 'The Returned' when it was on last year. There's something about listening to a story being told in a foreign language which makes the plot seem more philosophical and deep.

~ Embark on a creative project - I always have a couple of writing projects on the go, and I think I'm going to sign myself up to take part in the sketchbook project again this year. And putting together a Memory Book for a friend was a big creative project I completed too!

~ Give a friend a spontaneous gift - Thinking back over the past few months, I have achieved this a couple of times, without really consciously thinking about it

~ Set yourself 3 significant goals for the year - 1. Dedicate more time to writing 2. Send more work out 3. Don't sweat the small stuff  All on track, so far, with dips along the way

~ Go on a roadtrip - This depends on your definition of  a roadtrip. Can going on a trip somewhere in a car with friends, if you have snacks and fun, count as a roadtrip even if it's just to a writing event in Stirling for the day? All of my longer trips have involved trains and planes.

~ Try something off the menu you wouldn't usually order - At the weekend I tried Cranachan for dessert, not something I would usually go for. And I soon realised why...

~ Write a Dream Journal for a week - I'm not sure I've managed this for a full consistent week but I've certainly made an effort to record more dreams. I often have very detailed and vivid dreams, that play out like a long weird film, often leaving me feeling quite exhausted when I wake up.

~ Research Natural Phenomenons - I'm going to dedicate my next blog post around this as I came across a few interesting things, and it also sparked off a bit of creativity

Not a bad attempt so far I think. The ones I'm REALLY putting off are the baking/drink making related ones (they make up another 6 or 7 on the list), so I may enlist the help of friends for those. I am also going to have to really set aside the time to spend a day completely without technology and a day in complete silence (it would make sense to do those on the same day). Wish me luck!

Sunday, 9 February 2014


Following on from my previous post, I thought I'd let you know that my goal 'have self belief and keep submitting' is going well, as I've had two flash fiction stories published over the past week.

The first one, 'Empty Orchestra' was published by The Puffin Review and you can read it by clicking here

My other one, 'At The Fair', was just published today on Postcard Shorts. You can read that by clicking here

Small successes such as this really help spur me on and I hope I can keep up the momentum of writing and submitting for the rest of the year!

Sunday, 2 February 2014

A selection of 'small stones'

Last month you might remember I decided to try a January writing challenge, to write 'small stones' throughout the month. The idea being:
~ Notice one thing each day
~ Give your whole awareness to it
~ Write it down

Last year I already started to write an 'inspiration' type journal, capturing observations, snippets of everyday life, ideas, thoughts and so on. I used this challenge to form shorter, more poetic/creative type observations and it has definitely been a good way to kick start my creativity for the year.

In the past week I've written some new flash fiction pieces (or returned to old ones to edit). Something else which helped, was reading the opening pages of my Mslexia Writing Diary (which my Mum very kindly gave me - thanks Mum!). The article 'Your Creative Journey' encouraged me to consider my writing ambitions, reflect on what I accomplished last year, and set myself new goals for this year.

Goals can sometimes be restrictive if you make them too specific, so I decided to set quite broad ones such as 'Let go of the fear and just write' and 'Have self belief and keep submitting'. The first one was quite important as lately I've been over analysing my new book too much, worrying if it's good enough, where is it heading and so on. So the decision to return to writing shorter forms for a while, just freeing my mind and seeing what words landed on the page, has definitely banished that fear and allowed me to re-discover the fun of writing!

Here's a selection of my 'small stones' from January below. Did anyone else take up the challenge or set themselves writing goals for the year?

*Note - the first small stone was inspired by a film, just in case you're wondering what kinds of things I was 'noticing' throughout Jan! 

A tender caress soaked in ruby red; danger, scorpion sting, passion, blood. Tainting the innocent hope of love, trapped by destiny. 

Winter Trees: Spindly, rigid branches like old men frozen in time, reaching for the stars, waiting for the kiss of Spring to awaken their rotting frame.

A face which wears its worry. Every hurt, fear and disappointment her son inflicted, is etched into her lines, tarnishing her own forgotten youth.

Pink balloons tied to a red gate, blowing in the wind. The house looks deserted, lights out, silent, as if the balloons belong to a forgotten party.

Train flashes past yellow fields – a glimmer of light awakening this dark winter morning.

Heart shaped tangerine peel abandoned on the top step. Layers peeled back, the best bit consumed, now the rest…left to rot.

Local girl climbing a lamppost, one trainer clad foot balancing on the handlebars of her scooter. ‘Just try me,’ a look of defiance stretching across her face as she reigns above her ginger haired follower.