Monday, 19 June 2017

Fitting into corners ~ A Story of Priorities and a Jar

Before I sat down to type this post I was making my bed, a task I loathe as I always seem to take a ridiculous amount of time trying to tuck the sheet in trying to smooth out the wrinkles, and usually lose patience half way through trying to fit the quilt into the corners of the cover. But then it’s kind of worth the hassle as nothing beats that feeling of climbing into a clean, crisp bed…

And then I got to thinking, when it comes to fitting into other corners, is it always worth it? 

It’s easy to find yourself in a corner, wondering how you got there if you spend too much time listening to the expectations of others, listening to their perception of you and thinking, ‘You’re right, I am like that, so this is a really good idea, following this path, because really it’s the only sensible option at this stage of my life and won’t I be a bit of disappointment to you and to myself if I don’t try it?

And it’s easy to forget to listen to another voice, the one that’s echoing in the perimeters of your brain, that’s demanding you listen to the creative dreamer. The dreamer sometimes gives you a good kick deep inside when you listen to a haunting song, and the goosebumps erupt up your arms, waking up your imagination, pulling you back into another part of your world you sometimes forget to spend adequate time in. Maybe that world got a bit real, when your words were released into a forum you didn’t quite understand, so you hid for a while wandering along another path of expectation that has more clear cut rules that you know how to follow…

But then you remember that day, when you were a few weeks into following the path with more rules, you found yourself sitting in a meeting and you were shown a video called, ‘A Story of Priorities and a Jar’. The smart professor on the video explained that if you fill the jar with sand first, then there will be no room for the rocks or the pebbles, which are the important bits. And you couldn’t quite shake the thought I’ve just gone and put a whole heap of sand in first and now I have to spend a lot of time sinking into the sand, when really there’s rocks and stones I need to collect to build something else…

So this is the start of me going back to building something else. Remembering to listen to the dreamer, and the dreamer is so happy as I type these words, that I can feel a little tingle dancing up and down my spine.

P.s The photo at the top is of a beautiful ‘Small Stones’ booklet that my friend Rebecca made me for my birthday a few months ago. You should check out her creative website here 

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Small Stones

Last month I decided to repeat a writing challenge I tried many years ago called 'Small Stones' to kick start some creativity. When I completed this exercise the first time around it showed me how much detail you can see in every day observations if you look closely enough.

The idea behind the Small Stones challenge is to:
~ Notice one thing each day
~ Give your whole awareness to it
~ Write it down

I attempted to capture observations in a poetic and creative way. Here's a selection of my January observations below: 

Misread subway advertisement on the morning commute: Think of your perfect hell. This is it, right here - Monday morning where the grind begins again, a row of weary eyes reflecting mirrored emotion, a glimmer of who we want to be burning beneath restless hands turning the pages of today's news, lost under the city in a rattle of repeated loops. 

A teenage boy, vulnerable face, dark shadows under nervous eyes, a sigh of relief flooding his body as he walks into the comfort of a group who understand: with no questions, no judgement. They speak his language of technological puzzles, navigating night monsters into oblivion, so he can live another victorious day.

A montage from a photography class displayed above a robot with printed across his chest. A photo of a girl - one green eye, one red. Startled by a flash of realisation that she is being looked at, examined, seen - not judged - captured and suspended in a beautiful light, expressed through colour.

Red Glove: child sized, waving hello from a puddle on a dark January morning. The puddles pulled her under and this is a sign -Help, come and find me...

Girl in stilettos, walking comfortably in new shoes, head held high. Her friends are running alongside still trying to catch up with who they are.

Wooden heart laced with fake red berries, tied to a fence. A cheap remembrance of a love so rich. 

Pink hair, pink trainers, black nails and fierce eyes. Sweet and sour: Do not underestimate my power.

In January I also had a nice surprise of being a runner up in the Weegie Wednesday Shorts competition. (Weegie Wednesday is a writing networking group I have attended for years).
My short story, Only You, was broadcast on the Glasgow Hosptial Broadcasting service and was read aloud by an actress, with sound effects and music. They captured the atmosphere of Paris within the story perfectly and it was quite special to hear it 'brought to life'. 

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Hello Again

Yesterday I logged back into this blog and couldn't quite believe it when I saw that my last post was in December 2015. I re-read the post, where I talked about how fast paced life had been during 2015. 2016 followed a similar vein and I had a year of purposely 'stepping outside of my comfort zone' and seeing where that took me. It took me to good places: a perfect new house, a promoted post in my day job and some romantic adventures. Throughout 2016 I was also really lucky to take part in a lot of fun book related events, engaging with lots of enthusiastic and passionate teenagers, some of whom took the time to contact me afterwards to tell me I had inspired them to read more and write more. (You can read about these adventures on my author website here).
Every time I leave one of those events I feel a renewed energy and enthusiasm for the power of creativity, but also a sense of guilt as I've been really bad at disciplining myself with my own creativity, of creating enough space to silence my mind. But then I kept telling myself if you want to write something of true depth, with emotion and meaning, isn't it also important to make sure you live a full life? That's what I feel has been important for me the past year or so, as I had been so immersed in my writing and day dreaming for a good couple of years I felt I'd let my 'real life' plod along without much change.

Now that I've thoroughly shaken up my life (in a good way) I feel it's time to get serious again about re-connecting with the creative side of my brain. I have still been working on my new book and I'm happy to say it's over the half way mark now, but I want to be typing THE END really soon.

The past year I've stopped myself from writing anything which isn't the book, because I feel guilty when I use (my very limited) spare time to play around with words in other ways. But after reading over this blog again yesterday I realised how much I've missed using it as a way of expressing myself creatively and documenting anything interesting I see, or using it as a way of expressing thoughts which pop into my head from time to time into something more meaningful. This blog was a fantastic way to keep me connected to the creative part of my brain.

One of my favourite exercises I documented on here was the Small Stones challenge so I'm going to put a notebook in my work bag this evening so that I can start to doing this every day during my commute. I'm going to re-train my brain to edge aside work things and some life things, and make more room for my imagination to take flight.

Watch this space!

Monday, 14 December 2015

Through the Looking Glass

It wasn't until I logged into Blogger today that I realised it has been nearly two months since I posted on here. This is partly because I sometimes now post short updates on my author website here, but also because I use this blog for more personal introspection, and I feel like this year has flown by at such a break-neck exhilarating speed, that I've not always had much time to just sit and reflect on things...which I miss, as I feel one essential ingredient to achieving creativity and letting your imagination flourish, is to ensure you have time to reflect and daydream.

During the last Christmas holidays and start of 2015 I let my imagination run wild, and got thoroughly lost in daydreams as I composed a secret 'Future Dreams' board on Pinterest. I love the visual worlds you can create on Pinterest and have read a lot about the power of positive visualisation, so instead of writing a list of goals for the new year, I decided to post pictures, relating to things I wanted to achieve. One of the images had the words; 'Achieve your publishing dreams: Ready to make your dreams come true? It's Time!' And four months later that time did indeed arrive! 

I also started to post pictures of nice houses, and things relating to a new home, as I knew I was going to put my flat on the market. I just moved out of my flat last week - it was on the market for most of the year, and even although I've temporarily moved back in with my parents until I find a new place, I've taken a big step in the right direction. I'm going to enjoy adding new images to my board during the holidays and it's an enjoyable way to keep focus. 
Over a year ago I also created a 'mood board' for my book Follow Me, which made the story and characters stay present and real in my head throughout the whole submission process, and it was very useful to be able to transfer some of these images onto a new board for my cover artist to access. I printed out and laminated my 'mood boards' to show pupils during a school workshop  showing them how it can help to build on atmosphere and character when you write. 

So many new, exciting, and sometimes overwhelming, things have happened to me this year that I think it's going to take me some 'downtime' to actually absorb everything. I've called this post Through the Looking Glass because a turning point for me in my writing career was when I went through quite a transformational time in my life, and when I named this blog. I've mentioned this before in a previous post, but the name for this blog came to me when I was on a trip to Vancouver, and was standing looking in the window of a shop with lots of Alice in Wonderland paraphernalia. 

That trip was really important to me because it was the first time I had flown anywhere alone, and as I was visiting a friend who was living and working there, I spent a bit of time travelling around the city solo. It was also the first big holiday I'd taken since the break-up of my longest relationship to date, (even although I was well over it by then, I still felt I was going through a period of re-adjustment and was at the positive stage of viewing life as being a bit of an adventure, full of unwritten possibilities). I had also just turned 30. I returned home from that trip with a sense of determination and focus, and probably entered one of the most fulfilling and creative periods of my life. A lot of people have described my writing in  Follow Me as assured, and when I think back to the frame of my mind I was in when I started to write the book I think I was probably the most centered and creatively free I've ever been, which maybe carried into my writing.

Now I feel I've entered the next stage of my writing journey, and I'm looking through the glass from another perspective.  With every stage of the writing process there are re-adjustments, challenges and learning curves. There is a big part of me that would love to hire a doppelganger to manage my social media, events (and to do my day job for me!), to allow the 'real' writer me to go back to my daydreams and get my next book finished. 

But really, I do love the interaction part too. In my 'day job' as a careers adviser the aspect I enjoy the most is my attempt to motivate and inspire teenagers. So it was very rewarding to step inside a school, this time as an author, and see the enthusiasm from some fourth years at a recent workshop who constructed some very imaginative flash fiction stories. Talking to them about some of my earliest writing attempts when I was at school reminded me of the fire which has always burned inside of me to construct imaginative worlds and attempt to create a little bit of magic. I'm looking forward to hiding away for a little while over the holidays to drift off into an alternative world where the characters from my imagination get to lead my story again for a while. 

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Blog Posts and a 5 * Review

Today I am featured on Patsy Collin's Words about writing and writing about words blog, providing an insiders guide to a book launch night. Thanks for having me on your blog, Patsy! You can read the post here

My friend Rebecca also did a lovely post about my book Follow Me on her creative blog The Magpie Diaries, with reference in particular to Ode on a Grecian Urn, a John Keats poem which is quoted in my novel. You can read her post here

And I was also delighted to see a lovely 5 star review popping up on Amazon yesterday for Follow Me. I really appreciate readers who take the time to leave thoughtful reviews as they can help sales on sites such as Amazon so much.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Launch Night

Hi all,

I'm conscious I haven't posted on here for a while. I had a brilliant time at the launch night for my YA debut Follow Me the other week at Waterstones in Argyle Street in Glasgow. I did a short post about this on my author website which you can see here. One of my work colleagues (and a few friends) took some great photos from the night so I managed to set up a slideshow of these on the homepage of my website. The photo at the top of my blog post was taken by my colleague, Derek Mooney. He put a great 'Pop Art' effect on some of the photos, to link in with the Pop Art/Andy Warhol theme in my book.

I was overwhelmed by all of the encouragement and support I received both on the night, and on the run-up. And some lovely emails and texts are now arriving from readers who have enjoyed the book (which is always a relief!). It's quite a strange feeling knowing Follow Me is now 'out there' in the world being read.

I was also asked to write a guest post on another writer's blog about my experience of having a book launch, with any tips, so I will be linking to that post when it goes live in a few days.

A new print-run was put in for Follow Me after the sell-out success on the launch night, A couple are still in stock on Amazon, so you buy a copy here

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Ready for Take Off

Tomorrow is the big launch for Follow Me and I am putting the final preparations together today for little things I want to take along. I've put together a montage photo (at the top) with some moments from my day yesterday. One big moment was getting to hold my book Follow Me for the first time in my hands - such a great feeling! And I also received a pop art card from one of my work colleagues - that's me, Andy Warhol style, which is just brilliant. All of my work colleagues have been so supportive and excited for me and it makes the whole run up to launch day even more exciting for me!
The coke bottles are a little extra thing I am taking along to my launch, keeping in with the Andy Warhol, pop art theme.

One of my biggest champions since I could read and write was my Mum, the writer Rosemary Gemmell, and I was delighted to be interviewed on her blog yesterday. You can read that here  I couldn't ask for a more inspiring and supportive Mum and it's brilliant being able to share a love of words and writing with her. I was so happy when she got her brilliant book, The Highland Lass published earlier this year (one of many), as I know this was a story close to her heart, and I think this is probably my favourite book of hers.

 I'm really lucky to have been brought up in a creative and supportive family (my Dad and brother were always very encouraging also, and I am lucky to now have an extended family in the form of a literature loving sister-in-law and an already creative little niece).  

And thanks to everyone who reads this who has offered me encouragement along the way!