Monthly Archives: September 2015

A change of perspective


So. Back to the novel.

I’m trying not to think about quite how long it’s been since I’ve done any proper work on it, and am consoling myself instead with the fact that, in the midst of all the not-writing I’ve been doing this summer, I might just have had a teensy bit of a breakthrough.

There’s been something niggling away at me ever since I wrote the first draft – ever since, even, I came up with the concept. It’s the thing that, I think, has led to the inability of my agent to be entirely enthusiastic through all the various rewrites in the months and months that followed, and has led to me clamming up when asked to explain exactly what my novel is about.

Because it turns out that it might not be about what I thought it was at all.

The lightbulb began to flicker into life on a sunny afternoon in my garden when I was sat with a writer friend who had come to visit, discussing what she thought of my manuscript. She was effusively positive, loved the concept, was won over by its uniqueness and its potential for adaptation for the screen. I basked in the glow of her admiration until suddenly it became very apparent that she just hadn’t ‘got’ it. She had totally misinterpreted my main character, and as a result had completely missed the point of the novel I had written.

Or so I thought.

Over the course of the few days we spent together, as I reluctantly let go of the message I’d been trying to communicate and my friend convinced me that actually her reading had way more potential from both a literary and commercial standpoint, I realised that I had inadvertently told a completely different story from the one I thought I had. And actually the one I was left with might just have been what I was looking for all along.

I apologise if this is all coming across as excessively cryptic. I’d love to be able to fill you in on exactly what it is that’s been turned on its head to make me suddenly see the way forward. Unfortunately, though, it would completely spoil the story for you. And I very much hope that you will get to read it, one day.

I have been desperate to get on with editing since this little revelation, but things have been way too hectic. Even now I have a couple more weeks of adventuring before I can properly hunker down and set my story straight – but I do have a plan about what I’m going to do in the meantime.

Firstly, I am writing a synopsis. I started yesterday, and I am really, really hating the process, but it’s pretty essential that I get it done. I need to be able to express, confidently, what the novel I’m working on is all about – to myself, and anyone else who might be interested.

Secondly, I have a pile of inspirational reading that I need to make a bit of a dent in. The final phase of this summer’s adventures involves pootling around in a campervan, and I’m hoping that might go rather well with making my way through a book or five.

Then when we’re back I am diving straight on in to (yet) another edit. This time, though, I’m feeling much more confident about where it’s all going.

Just remember to remind me of that in a month or so!


Writing Bubble

Words in print

It is safe to say that this summer didn’t quite end up to be the hotbed of productivity I had hoped it might. I began with grand plans, a vision of being able to juggle family time, a multitude of adventures, refocusing my blog, working on short story ideas and getting stuck in to major edits of both my novels.

I’m not sure who I was kidding, but it didn’t quite work out that way…

There has been lots of thinking, dreaming, talking, planning but very few actual words have made it onto the page, virtual or otherwise. However in the midst of all this there was one tiny writing milestone which should not go unnoticed: I became a published author.


It feels like forever ago that I entered the Cloudcuckooland Flash Fiction competition. I was very excited at the time to be shortlisted, especially as there was the promise of an anthology being released. But days turned into months and nothing seemed to come of it – and after a while I put that pride and anticipation back into the box of unrealised ambition along with the rejection emails and unpublished manuscripts. Such is the life of the aspiring novelist.

And then one day in August a package came through the door. In it were five slim volumes of short stories, pre-ordered enthusiastically when I had initially heard the news. And in each of those volumes were five hundred words written by me.

It is a very small step, but it is very much in the right direction.

And now that autumn’s here there are no more excuses not to get on with all those plans to get (many) more of my words into the world. Because that’s what writer’s do, right? They write.


Muddled Manuscript

Why doing nothing is not an option

Like many people I know, my sense of reality was jolted when the image of three year old Aylan Kurdi, dead on a Turkish beach, began to wash across my social media feeds.

I have not been oblivious to the growing refugee crisis, nor the politics which has caused it, but it was that image that really made me sit up and take notice. The innocence, the helplessness, the sense of vanquished hope. And, more than a little bit, the way in which that poor boy’s lifeless body resembled that of my son as he sleeps.


There has been scepticism of course: why should this image suddenly trigger such an outpouring of emotion when 10,000 Syrian children have died in this conflict so far? Why should the sinking of this boat be any different to the hundreds of others that have met the same fate? But for whatever reason, it touched a chord – as powerful images so often do. And the real galvanising moment for me – more than the image itself – was our government’s response to it. That Cameron could stand his ground and insist that we, as a country, would not be offering asylum to any more refugees was the thing that made me realise that we, as a country, needed to take a stand.

I’ve been thinking about it, and it’s only really the second time in my life that I have been moved to really engage with politics on a grassroots level. The first was with the Stop the War Coalition back in the early 2000s. It feels like a lifetime ago, but of course the atrocities we were campaigning against then have directly influenced the state the world finds itself in now.

It feels like there is a similar sense of camaraderie emerging, a belief that we as individuals can have some influence on the power of the state. And this time we have an incredible bank of ammunition at our fingertips that we didn’t have before: that of social media.

Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, I have found a home for a collection of musical instruments I’d been tasked with distributing in the wonderful Music Against Borders group. I have discovered that there are numerous people in my little town who care just as much as I do, and am working to put together relief packages to give to those of them who are willing to coordinate the delivery of goods to Calais and further afield. And I am preparing to take my two year old son on his first political March in London on the 12th of September, linking up with like-minded friends who I otherwise may not have even known were planning on going too.

And then there’s my blog. It’s been languishing for a little while whilst I work out what to do with it. The blogosphere can, at times, feel so filled with flim flam that adding your own contribution to the mix really doesn’t seem so worthwhile. But then I was asked to be involved in the Save Syria’s Children campaign and everything began to fall into place.

Whatever the politics, whatever the fears of the Western world for their own comforts and security, there are hundreds of thousands of people who are simply desperate to find a better life – no, scratch that, a LIFE for their children.

I thought about those children, about Aylan and Galip and the thousands more like them, as I tried to persuade Arthur to sit still for long enough for me to take his picture for this campaign. As his little spirit fought against everything I asked of him, I tried to imagine what it could possibly be like to cajole a toddler to sit calmly through an endless ocean crossing, crammed into a tiny boat and surrounded by terror. I can only imagine that the terror must be contagious, that those tiny children are just paralysed by the fear emanating from all of the brave and wonderful adults around them who are doing everything they can to find a place of safety.

I think we need to help those adults, those parents and uncles and aunts and grandparents. We need to help them keep their children safe.

This campaign is just a tiny part of the colossal efforts being undertaken by Save the Children to find some way of compensating for the despicable hand the world has dealt the children of Syria.

You can help in so many different ways, but here are just two of them:

  • Share an image of a child who is important to you to bring home the message that those 10,000 dead Syrian children, and the millions more at risk, are first and foremost children, and human beings.
  • Text 70008 and the word SYRIA to donate £5 to the Save the Children campaign.

Do something to help.


Whatever you decide, don’t choose apathy.