Life cycle of a writer – Lucie’s hectic juggling act

 

Well, what a crazy few months it has been for me. I haven’t done an update for the Life Cycle series for ages and there is a reason for that. I had been waiting to do mine until I was able to share some incredibly exciting news with everyone, however, that time hasn’t come yet and I cannot put it off any longer so I am doing my update now.

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Just be aware that a VERY big announcement is coming up VERY soon… I do love a little tease! (sorry!)

So, what have I been doing with my time recently?

 

As some of you know, I am juggling studying for a degree alongside my wrting journey. Over the summer I completed my first year and passed (hoorah!) and have since begun my second year of study. I am studying Early Childhood Professional Studies at Anglia Ruskin University and totally loving it. Being at university is a lot harder and a million times more stressful than I ever thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong, I was aware that I had signed up to a degree course so I knew it would be challenging, but as a mature student (yes, I know, at the ripe age of…30?!) I not only had to study for my degree, but I felt I had to learn how to learn again – how to retain information after being out of education for 11 years and not using that aspect of my brain. It was hard. But in my second year I feel I am slowly getting there. I am loving using my creativity for my projects – although academic writing is SO hard compared to creative writing and I don’t think I will ever get to the stage where that style of writing comes as natural to me as writing a fictional story. I have a great year group too which makes the journey that much more enjoyable.

20161121_173140I also ran for Course Representative for my year group and was elected by my peers which was a huge achievement and a very emotional moment, knowing I had the full support of my classmates – so a huge thank you to them. Throw in some committee meetings etc and I have managed to make my university experience much busier (but ten times more rewarding).

Alongside university, I am also writing my books and attending writing related events and experiences. I have recently enjoyed author events meeting some fab writers and catching up with my writing buddies at things such as the RNA Conference back in July.

 

 

 

I have been spending some time rooting for my fantastically talented friends on their writing achievements and helping to spread the word about their amazing books – although I have had to start trying to allocate time for social media for such tasks as I am very easily distracted and can pop onto  social media for a quick browse and lose two hours of my life in an instant! I know I am not alone in this…

I have also been writing some little notes and drafts of some children’s book ideas that I have been thinking about. Studying within this sector has made me realise that I would also love to write within this genre and I hope that one day I will get the chance to write for children as well as adults. I’ll add it to my ever growing ‘to-do’ list, because I don’t have enough to do…

Lastly, I feel I should acknowledge the fact that I did sign up to NaNoWriMo this year with the view to getting the first draft of my next book idea down.

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The finished room make over

How I thought I could fit in 50,000 words of novel writing in a month which saw my daughter turn 10 (with two sleepover parties and a bedroom make over to do) and at a time of the year where I had TWO presentation exams to prepare for and present at university. I love a challenge, but I think this was one step too far and I had to admit defeat and say that it was not going to be achievable. In life, it is good to set yourself challenging goals, but sometimes, the best thing to do is to know when to say enough is enough and take it back a step. Saying this, I finish university for Christmas in just a couple of weeks and I have the whole of January off so I have a clear 6 weeks of full time writing to settle down with – with a little writing retreat thrown in too – so I just had to juggle a few tasks to that time instead of running myself into the ground. Sometimes life just needs to have a jiggle round – everyone loves a jiggle from time to time!

 

So there you have it. Whilst it may seem like, at times, I am quiet on the writing front, it is most definitely not the case. And once I can reveal more, all will become clear.

Until then…

Lucie

xx

Life Cycle Of A Writer: NaNoWriMo – Sinking, Swimming or Soaring?

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Erm…I’m not too sure about this. It’s my first time. Be gentle with me, NaNo. I’ve wanted to get to know you better for a long time, but…well…life got in the way before. Can we stop if I don’t like it? Will it hurt?

Those were my ponderings in early October, still buzzing with the prospect of no work commitments this autumn; no planning or marking, no Christmas play to create – just writing, writing writing. Or so I thought…

Within a week, we’d had a sudden death in the family meaning trips up north and lots of sadness and my beloved firstborn was in difficulties health-wise. Add to the mixture a close friend needing lots of help and poorly in laws, and things lurched from tricky to downright worrying. Was it unreasonable to try to carry on and do NaNoWriMo anyway, whatever else was happening?

I decided to plunge in and have a go. If nothing else, starting something brand new would be a distraction, and I’d be bound to get at least some words down on paper. But 50K? Hmmm. Maybe if I launched myself into a children’s book, I could get the whole thing finished by November 30th?

So Arthur Angel and the Nine Lives was born – the tale of a disgraced Guardian Angel forced to come down to earth to complete his missions in cat form.

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To start with, the story seemed to tell itself. I went back into school and worked with my favourite class of nine year olds to get their junior NaNo going and to have feedback straight from the ones who count. The first chapters flooded out.

Then the first trip up to Northumberland knocked the ground from under my feet. I’d become seriously addicted to the little graph that appears on your personal NaNo dashboard, and I was flatlining! There was snow on them there hills, not just in Arthur’s story, my nose and toes were freezing and my brain absolutely refused to cooperate.

But better progress was just around the corner. Back home again, the tide turned in the right direction and although life is still very turbulent to say the least, the words are flowing again. By the end of today, I might be back on track, but even if not, I’m loving the challenge, and it’s very hard to bite your nails when you’re typing. I’m having to miss the RNA meetings and party this time but the writing…let’s hope it carries on, if only for distraction purposes.

Here’s the first chapter if you’re interested. Wish me luck. I’ll see you on the other side…

 

Arthur Angel and the Nine Lives

Chapter One: Getting In

 

Yuck. I hate snow. I pick my way along the track through the woods to the cottage and stop by the door to shake the worst of the slush off my fur. Disgusting stuff. It gets in your paws and sticks to your dangly underneath bits in lumps. And the trouble with being mostly white is that if you get lost in a snow storm, nobody can see you.

To be honest, getting lost in the snow comes a long way down the list of problems of being a cat. Number one’s got to be the D word. Why do dogs have to chase us? Why? Who tells them it’s a good idea?

The flea thing’s not great either.  Don’t look at me like that, I didn’t ask them to come, okay? They just seem to like me. And don’t get me started on catching mice.

Someone’s just opening the door – that’s my first lucky break for years. Have you ever tried ringing a doorbell when you’re on four short legs? Now, watch and learn. This is one of the trickier bits. Here’s what you need to do if you ever need to find yourself a cushy fireside and a kipper.

1) Fluff up the fur

2) Put your head on one side

3) Open your eyes really wide.

4) Miaaaaaaaow in the most pathetic way you can manage.

5) Be ready to roll over on your back at the first sign of them cracking – that one never fails

Right, here goes. The door’s wide open and now someone’s shouting from inside about not letting the cold in. Pah! He should try being me. It’s a GirlKid on the step. They’re usually the easiest of all. Wish me luck.

‘Dad. DAAAAAAAD!’

‘Rosie? Is that you bellowing again? Are you going to shut that door or have I got to come and do it for you?’

Heavy footsteps…coming closer. Great, now I’m going to have two of the human creatures staring down at me. The shorter one – the GirlKid – is quite nice to look at, if you like that sort of thing. She’s got curly ginger hair, nearly as good a colour as the bits of me that aren’t white, and she’s smiling. That should help.

‘Look, Dad. There’s a cute little kitten on the step. I think he’s hungry. Can I let him in? It’s so cold out there tonight.’

Kitten? What’s all that about? I’m a fully qualified Guardian Angel, I’ll have you know, GirlKid, and I’m at least three hundred years old, give or take a few months. Is it my fault if I’ve been sent down here as a smallish white cat? No, it isn’t.

‘Let him in? Aren’t four mouths enough for us to feed? I thought you’d have learned your lesson after last time.’

The big one isn’t smiling. He starts to shut the door but she stops him.

‘No! We can’t leave him outside. Look at his little face. He’s so sad.’

I do my best poor little me expression and start to wash my whiskers with a paw. That usually goes down well. I tell you, after three times of being sent down here as a cat instead of a human-looking angel, I’m getting to know all the tricks.

‘Aaaaaw, look at him. Dad, he’s soooo sweet. And anyway…I bet Jake’d like him, wouldn’t he?’

They look at each other and I can tell she’s won the first round.

‘Oh, go on then. At least we can shut the door. Your Gran’s already under two blankets.’

Result! I’m in before they can say kippers, down the hallway and into the living room, and I’m heading for the old lady with the rugs over her knees. She must be the brains around here – fast asleep and snoring, right in front of a roaring log fire.

She wakes up with a jump and closes her mouth just in time to stop her teeth dropping out. I take a big gamble and leap straight up onto her knee. Have I got it right? Is she a cat lover or one of those loopy humans who flap their arms at us and make a big fuss.

The old one reaches out a wrinkly hand and starts stroking me even before I’ve settled down properly. ‘Oh, what a beauty,’ she wheezes, ‘Where did you come from, my fine fellow? You remind me of my Charlie. He was handsome just like you.’

Time for my best move. I roll over on her lap and stretch out, revealing a very fine furry tummy, if I say so myself.  I start to purr deep in my throat to show her I’m a big fan of all this fuss.

The GirlKid’s on her knees next to the old lady’s chair now, looking up at the Dad person.

‘Look, he likes us already. Can we keep him? Please? You know Jake loves cats…well, he used to, anyway…’

As she says this, all three heads turn to look over to the far wall. My eyes swivel to follow them. I don’t want to stop all this attention, but there’s someone else there. It’s a BoyKid with the same curly red hair as the girl version, but he’s nothing like her in any other way. For one thing, he’s not making a sound. For another, he’s sitting in a chair with wheels on it. His face is much paler than hers and he’s all dressed in black, whereas she’s like a walking rainbow.

He’s not looking at me, or at any of the others. It’s as if he’s trying to pretend he’s somewhere else. The fur on the back of my neck stands up, just like it always does when I realise why I’m down here. This BoyKid needs the services of Arthur Angel.

 

 

 

LCOAW: A tribute to Carole Blake

In our Life Cycle of A Writer posts, we hope to expose the reality of being a writer. We try to show the sides of writing you perhaps don’t hear about. It is somehow fitting then to include a tribute to Carole Blake, agent extraordinaire, here. Carole truly shared with the world all aspects of what being an agent involves: everything from her book, ‘From Pitch To Publication,’ to the Facebook posts she shared. Here Catherine shares one of those moments:

Catherine: I have lots of snippets of memories of Carole. From the time I flaked out on a sofa next to her in the early stages of pregnancy and she was gracious enough to not think me strange and included me in the conversation, to more recently chatting to her at the RNA conference about Hattie, her assistant, who has gone on to become my agent. I think this video and the following interaction from Carole is my all time favourite personal FB comment from Carole and perhaps sums up why she is so missed.

I put the video of my twins up with the caption: My editor and agent hard at work.

Carole responded saying: Yep that’s exactly how I spend my day. But she’s better dressed.

Me: Does your office attire not include sparkly star tops and Easter bonnets, Carole?

Carole: I now have a role model & shall aspire to sparkly tops. It’s good to have a goal in life.

I’m not sure if her wardrobe ever did feature a sparkly top, but there was that gorgeous pearl necklace. And as for role models, they don’t come any better than Carole. She will be missed by so many, but her major tribute will be in the future generations she has inspired.

Life Cycle of a Writer: When School Holidays Hit.

Life Cycle of a Writer: When School Holidays Hit.

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For many parents and children in the UK it’s the half term holiday – the first week off since the new school year, and for many, a welcome break. It’s been a busy month-and-a-half rising at the crack of dawn Monday to Friday, attending lessons and completing homework.

A less frantic schedule comes with a sigh of relief in our household – we enjoy the occasional lazy day, and since my children are old enough to occupy themselves, fitting in writing time is not a problem. But that wasn’t always the case.

I can recall many times when my son waltzed into the kitchen, where my desk is situated, asking if I was planning on making dinner. The answer was always yes, but the time varied, as did the number of times my son had to remind me. These days, he and my daughter will see to themselves if I’m in the writing zone or the edits cave, and will send care packages to my desk consisting of coffee, biscuits, crisps and passing hugs and kisses.

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This half term holiday I’m enjoying spending a few days with them as I’m not racing to hit a deadline. Activities include bedroom tidying, going to the cinema, or having friends over to the house. I intend making the most of this time as I’m aware I may be exceptionally busy come the Christmas holidays, but that’s all part of the life cycle of a writer.

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How do you manage the holidays? What tips can you share? We’d love to know.

 

LCOAW: Six Years At The Bus Stop (Avoiding the slush pile)

Strictly speaking six years at the bus stop is an underestimation. My quest for a literary agent started when I was about twenty-one and didn’t have a clue what I was up to. So, to be absolutely accurate, and for anyone good at math you can work out my age, it’s really been fourteen years at the bus stop.

In my first, very naive attempts to get an agent, I sent the first three chapters of a book called Child Y?. I wrote it at university and it was way too short and proved how much I didn’t know. Friends read it and enthused and I had one handwritten response, but every other submission was followed up with standard rejections. I left University as a qualified physiotherapist and was soon too busy to even tinker with writing until ill-health caused me to consider a career change.

This time I didn’t want to find a literary agent through the more traditional route of searching through the Writers and Artists Yearbook and sending off submissions. In my earlier attempt I’d found it a bit disheartening and faceless. Those six years at the bus stop were spent making contacts, having one-to-ones, gaining feedback, making friends, and learning where to source up-to-date information. It might have been a longer route, but it was a way of avoiding the slush pile. In the end, I had two offers of representation and I’m delighted to say I’ve signed with Hattie Grunewald of Blake Friedmann Literary Agency. 

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In no particular order, these are the ways I found to approach agents without being part of the slush pile:

  • Entering competitions – sometimes literary agents are judges and it’s a way for them to potentially read your work or even meet them. I entered the London Book Fair Write Stuff competition and ended up on the stage pitching to a Dragon Den style panel of agents.
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    I’m the pink dot on the stage

  • Online events like #PitchCB – This is a monthly event that takes place where you can pitch your book and potentially get invited to submit your work.
  • Open submission periods – There are occasions when publishing houses and agencies will have a featured submission period. For example, United Agents held an open house across August.
  • Friends recommendations – Often writers will know when agents are looking to add to their list and in what particular genre.
  • One-to-ones – Conferences often offer the opportunity to have one-to-ones with agents and publishers. It was as a result of a one-to-one that I ended up signing with Carina.

I’m lucky enough to have had success with all the above in one way or another in a close space of time, but it’s important to remember that it was the result of sitting at the bus stop for years and years. And for every bus that flew by, spraying water on me as it went by, I never stopped tapping at the keyboard or believing that one day, if I worked hard enough, the buses would start stopping for me.

If you’re on the quest for an agent, the secret isn’t in never giving up, the real secret is to never stop typing.

Catherine x

Roving Romaniac – Lucie’s loose in London!

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Last month when my friend, Leanne, tweeted me  saying ‘this looks good, we can go after uni!’, it was the start of a very exciting conversation. She is fantastic and is sometimes an extra pair of eyes on Twitter for things exactly like this event. Because I spend a lot of my time either writing books, writing university papers or reading textbooks, my time on social media comes about in fits and starts, so I sometimes miss these great announcements of events and by the time I see them, they are sold out! This is where it is handy, as a lover of books and writing, to have a friend like Leanne to scout these events and tweet me about them! She did the same about the Paige Toon event I went to last month which I shall blog about next week as I totally forgot to at the time! (I blame university/book brain!)

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Arriving at the News Building, ready to join the queue!

So fast forward to yesterday, the day had finally come. We were off to London to the offices of Fabulous Magazine for their author event. Not one, not two, but THREE fantastic authors were there to chat to everyone and sign books. A-MAZ-ING, right?

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Lindsey Kelk

So, we had the very lovely and VERY funny Lindsey Kelk, author of the ‘I heart’ series alongside other novels. Her latest book, ‘We Were on a Break’ is OUT NOW and promises to be another incredibly funny and witty read.

 

Next we have the amazing Giovanna Fletcher, super talented author of books such as ‘Billy and Me’, ‘Dream a Little Dream’ and her most recent novel, ‘Always with Love’ is a great read. Mum to Buzz and Buddy and wife to Tom, Giovanna amazes me with how she manages to fit everything in and still manage to meet fans and

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Giovanna Fletcher

enjoy an evening out.

 

And last, but by no means least, the incredibly talented and super friendly Mhairi Mcfarlane. Mhairi is one of the nicest people I have met; easy to chat with, identifiable and  a total word wizard! Mhairi’s latest book ‘Who’s that Girl’ is OUT NOW. I am about a

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Mhairi Mcfarlane

third of the way through it and LOVING IT!

 

So, what do you get if you add three FABULOUS writers and a FABULOUS magazine – you got it, a FABULOUS evening! A free glass of wine – tick – a free book – BIG tick and a stunning view – phenomenal tick! The ladies chatted about their books, how they write, what they write, why they write. The topic went from cats with urine infections (don’t ask) to Tom Mcfly killing off Giovanna’s characters and using the lives of friends to help create the most craziest stories. There was laughter, lots of it, and great questions from audience members. The interview was filmed for a short while on Facebook Live which added a great dimension to the evening and the room in which the event took place was kitted out amazingly with lights, music from a DJ and a wonderful buzz of excitement that flew around and into every nook and cranny of the space. 14708104_517561595109091_4382367823175074922_n

I had the chance to meet all three wonderful ladies and have my books signed. We did have to queue for quite sometime (they are popular women) but when each and every person arrived at the front desk, it didn’t feel rushed or awkward and each person was given adequate time to chat and enjoy the company of their idols. I had some lovely conversations with each of the ladies, I almost wish I could have pulled up a pew and indulged in conversation all evening.

But unfortunately, as all good things, the evening had to come to an end. My friend and I left – with another friend of mine from back in high school who I recently have started to bump into at these book events (Hi Hannah!) – and we strolled back to London Liverpool Street station ready to embark on our journey back home.

But not before a quick snap on London Bridge to add to our souvenirs from another very enjoyable event.

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Selfie on London Bridge!

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Bumping into school friend, Hannah

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Fabulous Magazine for hosting a great event.

 

Thanks to Lindsey, Giovanna and Mhairi for providing many laughs and incredible books.

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And thanks to my friend, Leanne, for finding the event, accompanying me and providing yet more laughs on the journey home at the expense of her jacket!

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The Life Cycle of a Writer: Cobwebs

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I’m just back from a major spring cleaning of the brain. Sometimes a writing retreat in the wilds of Northumberland is just the thing to blow the cobwebs away and recharge your creative bits and bobs, but this time it was more of an escape from reality that was needed. Or maybe a step into an ideal world? One where phones don’t ring much because the signal’s pants, and the sun shines, and the tide always seems to be out. Where breakfast appears every day as if by magic bursting with calories and yummyness and you get to read whenever you like.

It sounds perfect, doesn’t it? And so it was, but now real life has kicked in. I’ve just given up the day job but instead of the wide expanse of writing time, swimming, walking, pilates, the odd bit of housework and loads of wine/cake/both, there seems to have been a big dollop of worry lurking in the wings. You can’t predict when the people you love will be taking a nose-dive and needing propping up, can you?

So, on to Plan B. I’m hoping to map out every day to have writing hours in it as well as doling-out-TLC-and-nourishing-soup time. The next chapter is going to be one where every hour counts. And that means ditching the panster tag and being…organised? Well, let’s just see how it goes…

Celia

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