Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Updated! You Aren't a Proper Writer, Then?

Fatboy Slim had a song, "Praise You" https://youtu.be/ruAi4VBoBSM (1998/99), with a video by Spike Jonze that always brings on happy-tears. The song features a sample of Camille Yarbrough performing her song, "Take Yo' Praise" https://youtu.be/sGQbtyctPmE (1975). The lyrics - in case you had forgotten them - go:

"We've come a long, long way together,

Through the hard times and the good,

I have to celebrate you, baby,

I have to praise you like I should."

And, it's pretty damn easy to praise and celebrate others, isn't it? Just takes a little courage and good manners. Praising your own triumphs though? celebrating what you've done? Waaaaaay harder!

I thought I'd compile a list of all my writing wins, and celebrate myself here. I was pleasantly surprised there were so many, and all available online either to read for free (though a donation to one of the sites (Makarelle) would be appreciated) or to buy, outright. The purpose of this post isn't to boast, but just to say to myself that I'm doing good! It isn't necessary to write a novel to be a proper writer (short-form writing is just as hard, and fulfilling, thank you very much), it's just necessary to keep on writing well. That's it. So, here's my list of output from the last year, well done me!


Makarelle Independent Literary and Creative Arts Journal @makarelle1

Issue 1: Spring 21 “Coming Unravelled” Makarelle Spring 2021 "Coming Unravelled" (flippingbook.com)

Those Who Can

Issue 2: Summer 21 “Tattoo” Makarelle Summer 2021: 'Tattoo' (flippingbook.com)

Happy Birthday

The Ballad of Dove and Nate

Issue 3: Autumn 21 “Twisted Tales” Makarelle Autumn 2021: 'Twisted Tales' (flippingbook.com)

The Mirror at Midnight

Issue 4: Winter 21/22 “Love is Love” Makarelle Winter 2021/22: 'Love is Love' (flippingbook.com)

I’ll Still Bring Flowers

Issue 5: Spring 22 “Landmarks” Makarelle Spring 2022: 'Landmarks' (flippingbook.com)

Beside Myself with Glee

Successio Eirian

 

Via Amazon.co.uk

Makarelle Anthology One ISBN 979-8499762516 Anthology ONE: Amazon.co.uk: Makarelle: 9798499762516: Books £8.00

Those Who Can

Happy Birthday

The Ballad of Dove and Nate

The Mirror at Midnight

 

Crossing The Tees Flash! Mob: We Hope This Finds You Well ISBN 9781005952624 Crossing The Tees Flash!Mob: We Hope This Finds You Well: A Collection of Tiny Stories Written and Published in a Week eBook : The Tees, Crossing: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store £free (Also available at Smashwords – Crossing the Tees Flash!Mob: We Hope This Finds You Well – a book by Crossing The Tees )

Red-eyes

PTA Fancy-dress Fundraiser 7pm-10pm, Refreshments Provided

Future Endeavours


Dipping Your Toes: An Anthology of Life at the Lido ISBN 9781739886752 Dipping Your Toes: An Anthology of Life at the Lido: Amazon.co.uk: Lido, Brightlingsea, Loten, R. E.: 9781739886752: Books £5.00

The Brightlingsea Harpy


Secret Attic 

Secret Attic Booklet #22 (lulu.com) £7.00

Not Moths, Just Dust

https://www.lulu.com/en/gb/shop/various-contributors/secret-attic-booklet-23/paperback/product-rq57g5.html £7.00

Take Heart, Anne  

Secret Attic Booklet #24 (lulu.com) £7.00

Tightrope Walking  

Secret Attic Booklet #25 (lulu.com) £6.00 ISSN 2755-161X

Ghosts Aren’t Real

Secret Attic Booklet #26 (lulu.com) ISSN 2755-161X £7.00

The Things we do for Love

Here be Monsters

Fifty-fifty Split

Secret Attic Booklet #27 (lulu.com) ISSN 2755-161X £5.00

The Crux of it All

Holy Smoke

One Saturday in Kilburn

Secret Attic Booklet #28 (lulu.com) ISSN 2755-161X £7.00

Don’t Smoke

Violent Nylon

Secret Attic Issue #30 (lulu.com) ISSN 2755-161X £10.00

Wall of Moon

They Say You Don’t Dream in Colour

Room at the Inn

 

Via Drakethebookshop.co.uk @drakethebookshop

Crossing the Tees: 5th Short Story Anthology ISBN 978-1914170270 Crossing The Tees – 5th Short Story Anthology – 26-27 Silver Street, Stockton on Tees (drakethebookshop.co.uk) £10.00

Lexi’s Cone of Love

 

New Welsh Review @newwelshreview

New Welsh Writing Awards 22: Rheidol Prize for Prose with a Welsh Theme or Setting (Highly Commended) 2022 Shortlist - Rheidol Prize for Prose with a Welsh Theme or Setting - New Welsh Review

Blinks and Shards

 

MS Society blog @mssocietyuk

“In Praise of Valentine’s Day and Being Kind to Yourself” In praise of Valentine’s Day and being kind to yourself | Multiple Sclerosis Society UK (mssociety.org.uk)

“What Mothering Sunday Means to Me” What Mothering Sunday means to me | Multiple Sclerosis Society UK (mssociety.org.uk)



Saturday, 26 March 2022

Happy Mother's Day, Whoever You Are

A few weeks ago, the MS Society asked me to write a blog for their website about MS and Mother's Day. I found it incredibly hard to work out what was required of me, and my first attempt didn't quite hit their brief. It focussed more on what a f*cking minefield of an occasion this can be, both for those without a traditional version of a mum in their life, and those struggling with motherhood themselves. I redid my post for the MS society (you can read that here: https://www.mssociety.org.uk/care-and-support/online-community/community-blog/what-mothering-sunday-means-me  ), and thought I would share the original post here.

In Praise of… Mother’s Day

 

Happy Mother’s Day, one and all! I pray you grew up feeling loved, nurtured, and cheered on, no matter what life threw at you. If that came from a traditional mother figure, then great – Mother’s Day is pretty easy to navigate! But that’s not everyone, is it?

 

‘To mother’

For those missing that mother-figure, perhaps the definition of the action, ‘to mother’ may prove enlightening. ‘To mother’ is to bring up, to care for, to look after kindly, and affectionately, to protect. Maybe that role was filled by your father, a grandparent, aunt or uncle, a teacher, neighbour, even a boss. Were they your mother? No, they did that job just as well as they could. Card companies are doing better with their choice of greetings cards now. I had a quick look online, and saw Mother’s Day cards to female figures, like-a-mothers, and dads, so the realisation not everyone has that typical mother is getting better. So far, so good. If you have anyone like this that helped raise and guide you, don’t be embarrassed to send them a card for Mother’s Day. Can’t find a card you like? Buy or make a beautiful blank card, and thank them for the role they played in making you you.

 

Giving thanks

If your mother, or the mother of a loved one, has passed away, then something as simple as taking some quiet time to remember them, and giving thanks for all the good things they did is never time wasted. Is there a special place you can visit to reconnect with them? Again, it’s never a wasted trip if it brings you peace and happiness. We all have someone, all of us. Worst case scenario, give thanks to Mother Earth! The air we breathe, the light playing against the wall, the sound of birds chirping, the soft fur of a pet; all act to remind us of the beauty in life, no matter our own challenges and limitations.

 

What of being a mother?

Being a mother isn’t for everyone. If you have made a decision to be perfectly happy childless, then I truly applaud you. Happiness and contentment should never be sacrificed in order to try and please others, particularly when it comes to parenthood. Wonderful as being a mother is, it’s also scary, exhausting, confusing, isolating; the hardest unpaid job in history. But it’s a gift, and Mother’s Day can be absolute agony for those trying desperately to have a child, or those who have tragically lost one. Nothing brings more agony than seeing people celebrated by their children when parenthood is eluding you, or has been taken from you. The eleven years it took me to have my daughter, my wonderful husband always bought me a Mother’s Day card from our cats (many shops sell cards from the pets), and made me breakfast in bed (tea, biscuits, and the Sunday papers) so I didn’t feel left out. Still, Mother’s Day was always incredibly hard. For those mourning a child, well, I simply cannot imagine how hard it must be.

 

Helping those who are hurting

The very worst thing you can say to someone is nothing at all. We have surely all experienced this with our health? People skirting around the subject, acting weird, even disappearing from our lives rather than face us. Not being sure what to say and avoiding the subject is always far worse than potentially putting your foot in it, and saying the wrong thing. If you know someone will be struggling around Mother’s Day, be a good friend, be brave, and let them know how much they mean to you. A beautiful verse, even a kind text, telling them they are loved, and you are there for them can make all the difference in the world. Remember their lost child, share memories with them, let them talk, or cry, or just be with them in a comfortable silence. Be the tower of strength and love for them that you hope they would be for you.

 

What of the ‘big day’?

My lovely daughter went through a phase of persuading her dad to let her chose my Mother’s Day present herself. A fine idea, I hear you cry! Well, one year my present was a very expensive rose-patterned silk dress – for her. Another year it was a Minions art set – which she insisted was kept in her room at all times. But the thought was there, I’m sure! My favourite present was a tiny scrap of writing paper on which she wrote ‘I luv yoo mum x’. I keep it safe (so safe, in fact, that I cannot remember where it is) as to me it is priceless. I hate surprises, booking meals out always seems to coincide with my fatigue being though the roof, or a bout of vertigo, and Mother’s Day bouquets are always overpriced and half-dead. No, a kind word, and tea and biscuits in bed (with the Sunday papers) are all that I desire – other than hoping that all of you have a happy Mother’s Day, too, in whichever way is right for you x


Friday, 25 February 2022

I Wish

 Do you remember that wicked song by Skee-Lo, ‘I Wish’? The one that went,

Hello
I wish I was little bit taller
I wish I was a baller
I wish I had a girl who looked good
I would call her
I wish I had a rabbit in a hat with a bat
And a six four Impala

Remember that? Here it is https://youtu.be/ryDOy3AosBw I remember it, and it dawned on me the other day, that me and Skee-Lo have something in common.


I too spend far too much time wishing for stuff, when my time would be far better served actually doing stuff instead!!! How obvious is that? It’s not like I’m thick, but really, this shouldn’t be the revelation it has been to my 44-year-old self ☹

I thought I’d quickly rewrite ‘I Wish’, and make it more me. I suspect the refrain will get a bit longer, as I am keen on wishes (having used eleven years of birthday wishes/ shooting stars/ wishing wells/etc on wishing for a baby), and also fairly greedy. Also, songs are like poems, and needn’t rhyme. This probably isn’t going to rhyme…

‘I Wish’, by Beck C.

Hello
I wish I was a little bit taller
I wish that I was stronger
I wish I had Reece Witherspoon/ Michael Sheen/ Charlie Brooker fighting to buy the film rights of my work (too long, sorry!)
I would call her/ him
I wish I had money that I earned from my words
And a publishing deal’a

The last line is a tad ropey, I know, but I mean it. I was going to write that I wished I was published – but I am. I am there, on various writing sites on the internet (and we all know once you end up on the internet you can’t ever erase it!) and in print. I am available to buy in a wonderful anthology on Amazon for fricks sake! A paper copy you can hold in your hand, and smell!!! Look here Anthology ONE: Amazon.co.uk: Makarelle: 9798499762516: Books



And my writing is good now, better than it’s ever been. I write more than ever, just not profitable stuff.
‘Oh, you’re a writer? Writing your great novel, eh?’
I’ve been asked this once or twice, and the answer is no. No, I’m not writing a novel. No. My brain, my wonderful, wacky brain will not allow me to write a novel. It works well on short stories, flash fiction, novella length stuff at a push. None of it profitable or attractive for a publishing house to take a punt on, what with me not being famous in the least. So, no, I’m not writing a novel. And that’s when I see people lose interest, and file me under A for amateur. Which is correct, I guess, but still a bit patronising no?

I should really blow my own trumpet more, tell the world about each little win, but unfortunately, I attended a school which only taught violin or recorder; and blowing my on recorder isn’t going to win anyone over anymore. If that’s not a tragic backstory, I don’t know what is.

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

The Magic Number

 


Thanks to De La Soul for reminding me how good number three can be (43) De La Soul - The Magic Number (HQ) - YouTube And here's another reason why three is good...

This week, three good things have happened regarding my writing:

1.      I got shortlisted by Cranked Anvil Press CRANKED ANVIL PRESS – Writing Competitions | Indie Press | Lit Mag | Resources | Podcasts | Est. 2012 in their July 2021 Short Story competition. Hurrah! Didn’t get top three, but it’s still a good achievement.

2.      I got a piece accepted for publication by Makarelle literary magazine Makarelle in their forthcoming Autumn 2021 edition: ‘Twisted Tales’. Hurrah again!

3.      And, most fulfilling of all, I got messaged on Instagram by someone who had read a piece I wrote for the MS Society (you can read it here  https://www.instagram.com/p/CPiIjpUKyH1/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link ), and actually found it helpful. Me, helpful! Amazing.

So, all in all, a good week from a creative slant. Which is handy, as I have hit the buffers a bit with my writing. We went on holiday at the very end of August, which was lovely, but beforehand it was all consuming – trying to get everything sorted. 

I took my writing book and pen with me, which remained closed throughout, as I was too busy resting my brain. Since getting back, it was rushing to get Eve ready for Year 4, ploughing through the mountain of washing, and catching up on sleep. 

My brain is still resting, though not hibernating (as with our squirrels, who NEVER EVER HIBERNATE). But I am still here, just wanted you to know that. And I’ll have something for you soon, I’m sure. In the meantime, I’ll gently wander along, eyes and ears half-open for inspiration to plop into them. 

And it will. Stay safe, stay happy x


Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Rejection (and how to not go mental from constantly experiencing it)

 I wrote a little story this morning, all about my literary offerings from 2021. To date, thirty-three have been sent out to competitions, journals, magazines, etc, and well, lets just say my success rate isn't 100%

                                                                                   ***

No Field of Wheat, Theresa

A farmer knows that much of their job is building (and maintaining) the fencing around their plot. Keep the animals in/ keep the predators out. God bless wire, or dry stone, or fencing panels.

This is a story about fencing panels. I know, how exciting! But these are no ordinary panels, you wouldn’t contemplate buying them in B&Q to block out the sight of your neighbour’s back garden. These panels serve a very specific purpose; they keep your ego in check.

 

Since January this year, farmer Beck has managed to install thirty-three panels on her plot. As with most fencing, they look similar. Not that they are that bright ginger wood that budget panels are made in, no, they are the nice muted – almost greenish – brown panels, the ones that can withstand a storm and don’t rot in six years.

Stretching down the oddly-angled slope of her plot, from a distance you can see that some just don’t match up at all. Look closely, run up and down as much as you like – this is no field of wheat, Theresa.



Some have writing on them, repeating the same word over and over again. True, they use different fonts, but still, it’s the same word: NO.

They aren’t the worst panels to erect though, not by a long way. Far worse (and far more abundant) are the blank panels, the ones that sit there, nailed to posts, looking awkwardly around. The ignored ones, who didn’t even warrant a NO. They are the black sheep. My, what a lot of black sheep you have, farmer Beck – all the better to practice taking rejection well, my dear.

But, oh, what are those gorgeous bejewelled panels I see dotted around? What are those three, encrusted with sapphires and emeralds and topazes? Why, they are the Makarelle panels! They are the ones that bring hope, that keep the farmer plugging away each day, in the hope that somebody else will like her work enough to publish it.

And what is this one, glowing brightest orange like it is radioactive, or made of cheesy Wotsits? What, this little thing? This is the CNF piece a charity shared via Instagram, read by folk who had never heard of the farmer before. And they liked it.

I see. So not all misery then? And, this last one, this doesn’t fit with any of the others. What is this one?

This is a very special NO. To be exact, this is a NO, but…

And as we all know, sometimes, that ‘but’ is as good as a yes for keeping us going. 

Now, if you will excuse farmer Beck, she has some animals to feed.


Sunday, 30 May 2021

'You Need a Creative Outlet'

 


‘You need a creative outlet.’ How simple and straightforward a sentence. Five little words, delivered in a normal voice. Not accompanied by sweeping orchestral music, not delivered on a beach in a raging storm, waves crashing dramatically against the rocks. Not even said at midnight, under a full moon. It was around 12pm. In Bridgend. In a leisure centre. But, and here’s the point, those five words have stuck with me for years. They changed my life in a small way. They are the reason you are reading this post.

 

Back all those years ago, I was floundering. My head was in a spin, by this time a mum, but still pretty directionless. I was a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister. But who the fuck was I? The irony is that I had a similar conversation with a work friend, going back probably eighteen years. She sat crying in my office, as I gently pointed out that she was giving her all being things for others, and leaving nothing for herself. Who are you? I asked her. She cried even harder. Sorry.

 

I wasn’t crying in the leisure centre, that would be an appalling song title, wouldn’t it? Anyway, I wasn’t crying, but I was struck by the accuracy of those words. I’d like to tell you I raced home and acted upon them, that I bought a shed and turned it into a creative sanctuary, that I did ANYTHING WHATSOEVER. But I didn’t. Not then. But I did in 2017.


I finally plucked up the courage to do my master’s degree in Creative Writing with the OU (@theopenuniversity) and, thanks to their incredible efforts to find financial support assistance, went and got myself a first! Astonishing. I had amazing people along the way, reading my work, critiquing sentences over and over, until they were sparkly gems, and without them I wouldn’t have stuck it out. But, without the lady who spoketh the very first sentence of this post, I probably wouldn’t have got further than wanting to do my masters.

 

Her name is Francine Davies (@frantotalimprove), her work can be found here 👉 @francinedaviesart and here 👉 @theworldofogs and here 👉 www.francinedavies.art She is brilliant. And lovely. And, though I haven’t seen her properly for years, I think of her as a friend. What a gem 💎


Life is full of things that happen and affect you, that you have absolutely no control of. If you're living with health problems, you know that sometimes you can't even control your own body. It can feel so frightening to be out of control, but if you have a pen, or a brush, or a sewing needle, or ball of clay, or whatever, then you have something you are in complete control of. Magic.

 

What’s your creative outlet? You know you need one.

Monday, 10 May 2021

Shame

It's #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek but this is actually an overdue post from another awareness week. I won't say which, as that's kind of the point of the blog. Anyway, it applies equally to Mental Health problems of all kinds.

One of the very worst side-effects of a long-term illness/ disability/ condition is the stigma that comes along with it. And the very worst thing about that stigma is that it is another word for shame, and the person suffering is the one who causes it.



Imagine that a friend, relation, colleague, anyone really has found themselves ill. It most likely isn’t their fault, they didn’t do anything to cause it, they don’t deserve it. If they confided in you, you wouldn’t shun them, would you? You wouldn’t eradicate them from your life, make a disgusted face and shake your head, rush off and wash your hands, tell them they should, or, shouldn’t have done such and such. No, you would be sympathetic, even if you didn’t like them all that much. In no way would you tell them that they should be ashamed of themselves, and harangue them for burdening you with their problems. But they would. They do just that every single day.

Clearly, I’m talking about invisible illnesses, the ones people can exhaust themselves covering up almost all of the time. That pretence, that’s one of the most debilitating symptoms of any invisible illness worth its salt. Suffering already? Well, congratulations! Take this extra shit-shower and make everything worse. It's like permanently drowning. As with any pretence, any secret or subterfuge, the longer it goes on, the harder it is to own up to. And I’m not going to pretend that it’s easy, or tell you that you should be honest about it – it’s your dirty little secret after all, do with it as you wish – but know that it’s probably the only thing you are in control of, and the only bit of daily pain and horror that you can rid yourself of. Be brave today, be kind to yourself, see what happens.

One day I may tale my own advice. 

Updated! You Aren't a Proper Writer, Then?

Fatboy Slim had a song, "Praise You" https://youtu.be/ruAi4VBoBSM (1998/99), with a video by Spike Jonze that always brings on hap...