Waving, not drowning

Autumn’s properly here, isn’t it? Outside the sky is a lightening blue (it’s 7.30am), and there’s a nip in the air that’s making it awkward to type because I have the circulation of a stone – the sort that people try to get blood out of – and can’t really feel my fingers. Yesterday at work we looked out of the window and realised that the leaves on the trees in the little garden had apparently overnight gone very orange. I would have taken a photo, but all the building work happening behind the trees ruins the shot slightly. Continue reading

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The Story of Finding a Literary Agent

Because I am the Mistress of Procrastination and have run out of house to clean, and because I have also done some editing and am feeling quite smug about it (even if, strictly speaking, it was the circle-and-cross-out-and-write-notes stage of editing, so not actually the tough part where the words have to be reordered to sound good), and because there’s been quite a lot* going on over the past couple of months, it is time for your Intermittent Blog Entry, persistent and loyal and inexplicably still-reading readers.

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For the birds

Day three of relentless sunshine, and I have taken to hiding indoors. I’m a cold-weather person. I like blue skies and light, but I also like the temperature to be cold. And dry. I’m actually (it turns out) ever so slightly allergic to sunlight. I wear a lot of suncream but will still get little ‘aaaaargh UV LIGHT!’ welts on my forearms after a day doing stuff outside. Continue reading

Warning: accidental pep talk

Saturday, April 1st – and the local council’s April Fool is to set workmen going with a jackhammer right outside the house, uprooting lampposts. Again, it’s Saturday. It’s the weekend. Everyone’s home trying to have a little lie-in and then do some household chores – at least, they are at this time in the morning. When the noise started up, I went to the window to snoop and scowl, and it seemed all the people in our little cul-de-sac had moved as one. We scowled at each other across the tarmac and then at the poor workmen who, let’s face it, probably don’t want to be working on a Saturday any more than we want them to be. I imagine in a short while there will be a mass exodus just to get away from the rattling.

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Chorus

Four months, according to WordPress, since I posted here saying I would not be posting regularly anymore, if at all. Two months since the post I stand by, the one that some people told me was scaremongering and over-reacting while I fervently hoped they were right – only so far nothing I’ve read in the news (and I mean verified facts) is making me feel that they might be.

So, in the new tradition of a post every two months, here’s one that is not about global news. Back to the good old days of updates about life, home life, projects, the little bubble that I live in. That sort of thing.

I’m musicking, these days. I’m musicking the fuck out of my life, in a way I haven’t since I was many many years younger. There are songs written and being written, and I am working with a lovely producer (though that title really stretches to collaborator) and recording songs. There’s one song out. It’s even had airplay on BBC Introducing, which is nice. And on local interweb radio show The Grind. It hasn’t had airplay anywhere else, but then I haven’t sent it anywhere else. It has a pretty video and a couple of fans. I have a Facebook page and perform under the name that I’ve used for the internet since I was about twelve.

coming-soon-2

There’s an EP on the way, too, which basically means I’m recording a little cluster of songs and sending them out into the world together next year. Truly, if I never do music again after this, I’ll be pleased that I did this much.

Hell, I’m doing a gig at the end of January. Yep, this is the woman who had ‘play an open mic’ on her to do list for something in the region of 15 years. I haven’t figured out the logistics of gigging and instruments, but I will. I have to, because I already said I’d do it. The biggest upside to putting the fucking fear of whatever into myself by saying yes is that open mics seem even less scary by comparison.

I don’t think I’ll ever be a person for whom the world and the unknown isn’t scary as hell. I’m just a lot better at throwing myself at the scary stuff and not worrying too much about landing on my face. Speaking of said face, I think I’m going to have to get over my general dislike of mine and start putting it out there a bit as well. I’ve been meaning to get a couple of reasonable photos done for the writing side of things for the past few months. I think I probably need a couple of the music side of things as well. I wonder if I can get away with the same photo for both?

God, but asking for portraits is weird though, isn’t it? ‘Please do not make me look like me. A more musical version, please. A more writerly one. And also unrecognisable. Can I wear a mask?’ There are some rather brilliant pictures of my sister-poet that were taken last week. We look slightly similar. I’m toying with the idea of just stealing those and pretending it’s me.

Anyway. Photographer suggestions welcome. The whole art and marketing side of things continues to baffle me, but again, I’ll figure them out. I know what I don’t want, and that’s a start.

Writing – I’ve levelled up. I’ve been shortlisted for Bristol and Bridport this year, which feels like a breakthrough though I also haven’t managed to complete a short story since. But then I also haven’t completed a blog entry (duh), a letter, or a poem. I’ve managed a song. I’ve managed articles I had to write. Writing’s been tough, is what I’m saying. It seems like a selfish act in a world that needs loud voices and less selfishness, and less hot-takes and more action. So it’s not been happening. Except for right now, because I am sat in a café waiting to catch a train.

Shit, guys, I feel as though I should be making this more of a call to arms or something. Or some sort of perky lifestyle inspiration. But neither of those things is my bag (honest to god, the aforementioned portraits should be of me looking slightly tired in slightly dusty dim surroundings, if they’re going to be at all honest. Just please – reduce chin. Add cheekbones.)

Reading over this with my editor eyes on (and Editor Me is sniffing and saying that this really isn’t good enough – but traditionally I have just thrown words on to the screen when blogging. I’m nothing If not giving the honest-to-god thoughts from my brain) and here’s the thing tying all of this rambling together. Some point in the last year, my voice kicked in. Writing, singing, speaking up. Turns out I have one after all. I mean, obviously I always did, but it was kind of squeaky and deferential. These days, it does better. It can hold the tone and hold the note, and it’s got power coming from the core and it is very much all my own work – and it has taken work. Feels kind of good to use it.

A shambles of thoughticles

Today my hands were blue with cold and I wore a heavy winter scarf for the journey to work. Seasons are not real.


I’ve always been pretty good at fading into the background – I have a face that manages to be both politely vaguely familiar and completely unmemorable. It suits my wallflower tendencies. It’s also something that comes in handy on trains where, I’ve discovered, if I don’t move to get my ticket when the ticket inspector comes by, they assume they’ve ticketed me before and don’t bother me. (I am not avoiding buying train tickets – I have a month pass that doesn’t need stamping.) Now, though, I wonder if they’ve seen me often enough that they do recognise me, and know that I’ll have a pass and it’s not worth asking me. A train regular. Can’t decide if I like the idea of being invisible or often visible better. Continue reading

Stormy Monday

Does anyone else get to the Monday of a bank holiday weekend and find themselves feeling down about how little they accomplished over the previous two days? And about how much they have to cram into the Monday because they did all the fun stuff already but also wasted quite a lot of time playing stupid fecking Facebook games and can’t seem to just start the things they ought to be getting on with? And then procrastinate further by writing a pointless blog entry?

Ok, not totally pointless, but I’m not going to actually report on anything. Just mumble quietly about life. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.

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GETTING OLD

This applies to everything. Everything. In the past week we’ve had one of our dogs down the vet being checked for what is, in all likelihood, just middle age rearing its head. I’m not going into the full details of what’s actually been up with her, but there’s a combination of relief that she’s not got a terrible disease combined with sheer sadness that our beloved idiot pooch is actually starting to show her age. And then it’s a really easy hop-skip-jump to everyone’s getting so bloomin’ old.

My parents (who read this, actually: HI MUM AND DAD (and also sorry for this bit and also a joke near the end that you’ll hate) are now, to me, reaching the age and level of health difficulties where I’m wondering if living so far away is selfish of me; I should be closer. Not something I’ve actually discussed with the Coffee Monster, btw. But it’s on my mind. And it’s not just them – we are on a stroke count of 4 in adults of that generation that I know and love. Heart attack count: 3. And no more grandparents. My parents are the grandparents now. It’s terrifying.

Also, not entirely unrelated, it’s my birthday in a couple of weeks, and we all know that I’m totally calm about the getting older thing. I bought hanging baskets on Saturday. Hanging baskets, for outside the house. With little flowers in them. Shut up.

NOT GETTING STUFF FINISHED

For probably the first weekend ever (or at least in a long time) I did not write a To Do list this weekend. Because I never do everything on the damn list, and that makes me feel worse. And I find it overwhelming to read. And I just had enough of having things to do all the time.

CM said yesterday that ‘I know I take forever to get things done, but then at least I know if something is really niggling at me, I really do want to do it’. Which is one way to look at it, and there’s nothing quite like the relief of having scratched that itch after months of itching, I guess (I’m awaiting this feeling on a few fronts at the moment). Not sure the relief is worth the torture, mind. I think I’ve had a few too many of these things on my mind for too many months. Partly for work. Partly just me – which means I ought to just be able to forget them, but I can’t.

calamine lotion

Or just use this.

I really, really do not subscribe to the more spiritual conversations about being a writer. They downright irritate me, actually: ‘I just have to write. My soul pours out on the page etc etc.’ Usually in more flowery language than that, but I can’t bring myself to go there. Annoyingly though, stories really are an irritating bloody thing. They really do squat in my brain pan and witter on at me in the background all day. And I’ve got two long projects which will not shut up ‘til they’re done. I know that, and it’s making me miserable. I’d feel better if I just finished the first draft of one of them. I really would. Expectations for myself of things I’d like to do are just as bad – those things ranging from actually performing some music to actually buying a car. There’s like a big mental freeze on it all, and there really shouldn’t be.

FIGURING OUT HOW TO FINISH STUFF

So I’ve sort of belatedly realised that if I can scratch that story(&ors) itch first thing, with just a few words of some sort, any sort, then I can focus on the more boring work I need to get done far more easily. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to figure out why I freeze in the face of a lot to do, and how to break that freeze (NEARLY 34 YEARS). I think I subscribed to a sort of dinner-time approach to work. Like, ‘If you eat all the vegetable jobs first, then you can have the ice cream writing afterwards’. But I’m a backwards-eater in To Do lists as well as in food, it seems. This was the nicer analogy, by the way. I nearly went with the one about wanking before going on a date.

THE STUFF

I suppose I should just go and get on with it.

  • Currently reading: Erm. Nothing, actually. For shame.

The Circle of Day-to-Day Life

The problem with this blog, I’m discovering as I get more and more lax about updating, is that the longer I put off writing anything for it the more there’s a jumble of things to write about. And then I can’t find a solid topic for a post – or even any kind of hub for the mess to revolve around – and it becomes bitty and a rubbish read, and that puts me off writing, and the cycle perpetuates.

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Erase and rewind

The decision to do interviews on this blog was the right one, I think.
The interview with Emily Macaulay that I posted earlier this week is already the second most viewed thing I’ve ever posted. First place goes to a film/event review/critique that was retweeted by the director and one of the actors, and actually the interview is rapidly gaining on that! This is nice not so much because of view numbers (if I truly cared about those I would have stopped blathering into the ether a long time ago) but because I sincerely think it’s a good review and that Emily is worth reading about. So I’ll be doing more interviews – a couple of people have already agreed to be the next victims subjects.

Still, I thought, since we’re nearing the end of the first month of 2016 already, I should probably put a nod in as well – a bit unwillingly, but then once I’ve done this entry, I can’t use it as an excuse not to work on everything else. (Yes, this is how I get through To Do lists – I deliberately don’t list things so that I can use them as procrastination for items that are on the list. Then I write them in and tick them off afterwards. Makes me feel productive, and the warm glow of productivity is my drug of choice.)


So. 2016.
Yep.
That’s happening.

It started with various global disasters/massacres, deaths of beloved public figures (typing away to Hunky Dory right now) and has continued with a rolling programme of bad news closer to home. It has, briefly put, been shit so far. The only saving grace is that things that would ordinarily stress me out in life are now no worse than being kicked by a gnat: bothersome, but there’s no strength behind them and they’re easy enough to swat. The good things are worth celebrating, of course, always. So day to day it’s a zen life – I’m drifting in the anti-grav atmosphere around those solid ice-cold fucking twin planets called Worry and Grief. And please, please don’t message asking if I’m all right. That concern should be directed to people who aren’t me. I’m a moon in this particular scenario, a faraway one. And this metaphor has died on its feet.
Sorry-not-sorry for the swearing.

Things that are happening: I’m attempting my first writing grant applications this month, with a view to attempting some more, because why not? Fingers crossed for those. I’m braced (or not, because I don’t care right now) for a slew of rejections. I’m slogging through a manuscript, determined to get to the end of Zero Draft so I can focus on absolutely anything else. I’m clearing out a lot of my belongings (I have a couple of hundred, I think, books up for grabs. Will be giving them away or selling them. If you might be interested is some pre-loved literature, please speak up.) I’m going to Newcastle Literary Salon tomorrow night. I’m developing what is positively a streak of silver in my hair. I’ve been drawing a lot of pictures (not so much this week, but I was) and putting said pictures up on a new Instagram account. I’m sort-of-learning electric guitar. It’s kind of fun to be so so so bad at an instrument.

Right now I’m on a train heading for my second singing lesson of the year. I managed to cut myself just above my right tonsil at some point last night (dinner? weird dream? spider in mouth?) which is painful and a bit odd. I have a sore throat on one side, that doesn’t affect my voice at all but makes eating a bit of a chore. I have no idea how singing will go. Wish me luck.

Now reading: The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen. I’m reading this slowly so that I don’t run out of it too soon. That’s how good it is.

(No picture for this entry – too awkward to sort out on train wifi).