Friday, 26 February 2010

Swimming and Writing

I love to swim. I really do. When I was small I swam every single day. Most of my early childhood memories involve swimming with the hot sun on my back.

I didn’t swim for a long time. For more than ten years I pretended that I didn’t swim, that I couldn’t swim. I somehow forgot how much I loved it. Then one day, I needed to swim again. It was all I wanted to do. I couldn’t think about anything else. I was too scared to swim in a crowded pool so joined a fancy health club. It was the kind of place where they give you a pile of fluffy white towels when you walk through the door. I really couldn’t afford it. I didn’t even have a job but I had a beautiful swimming pool. I swam and swam and swam and kept on swimming.

Now, as I swim, I make up stories in my head. I try out new ideas. I close my eyes and all the sticky bits in my writing come unstuck. It’s a kind of magic that happens under that electric blue water.

It is important to find those places that help you write or the routines that get your mind whirring. You don’t even need to do any writing. It might be that you always get your best ideas by going for a run or on a particular walk or by sitting in a certain cafe. You might already know your secret thinking-about-writing place but if you haven’t then you should go and hunt it down. Try different approaches, go to new places and see what happens. You might stumble across your best writing yet.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

I Learned...

5. I have too many books.

I never believed that you could have too many books. I thought that was just something people said. But I have recently got into a lovely habit of buying at least a book a week. Before that I worked in a bookshop for years and slowly tried to buy every book I thought I might need in the future using my staff discount. If books got damaged then we could have them for free so I ended up with loads of sad torn paperbacks. I used to write book reviews so all those free proof copies got added to the piles. 

Now, I think I finally have reached the point of having too many books. They are piling up around me. I looked round my study this afternoon and they are everywhere. All the bookshelves are full and there are books stacked on top of other books. There are stacks on my desk and piles on the floor. I need more bookshelves but I have run out of space. 

So, yes I learned this afternoon that I do have too many books but I also know that I can't get rid of any of them.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

I Learned ...

5. I was accepted onto an amazing mentoring programme for writers.

This is some great news that I learned today. There are only ten places on the programme and I am really excited about getting in. It is a new programme set up by a university to work with professional writers. It will be 18 months of support while I finish my novel-in-progress. I believe in finding the best support you can for your writing and I think this will be perfect for me. Days like this make me want to write even more than ever.

Monday, 22 February 2010

I Learned...

4. It is easier to do something than worrying about about not doing it.

When I am about to start a piece of writing I start to worry. I worry about finishing it and realising it is terrible. I worry about what would happen if I didn't write it at all. Then I start writing and all the ideas swimming around in my head start to some together. The writing begins to take shape and I wonder what I was so scared of in the first place. 

So, today I learned to just write it and stop worrying so much. It can't be as bad as you think it will be.

I Learned ...

3. Sometimes the only way to get any work done is by hiding in a library in an unfamiliar part of town.

This is what I do. Alot. I get much more work done when I exile myself away from my comfortable chair in my study with the happy yellow walls and spend all day in a library. I prefer an obscure library, somewhere I would never usually go. I have just found one in a suburb a few miles from my house. I don't know anyone there so I can spend hours in silence, thinking and working. It sounds dull but really it is wonderful.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Giveaway on WishStudio

We have a giveaway going on right now at WishStudio. It's for a place on the upcoming Handmade Writer course (starts 12th April.) The giveaway ends Saturday 27th February. Hurry, hurry, don't miss it.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

I Learned...

Friday, 19 February 2010

I Learned...

Yep, I learned that it is hard to eat soup from a huge silver spoon in a ladylike manner. Yep, tricky.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Learn Something

This my new blog project. Since launching the first Bring Yourself e-course, I have been thinking more and more about teaching. Learning is a huge part of teaching and I want to learn more. Admittedly, I do already fit a huge amount of learning into my days. I surround myself by stacks of books in academic libraries, read novels, research obscure subjects and spend an unimaginable amount of time on the Internet. But I am hungry to learn more.

This project is about learning in a different way. I want to learn different things. Instead of big, earth shattering things, I want to learn things that are important to me. I want to find things out about myself and the places I go. I want to explore and investigate the world. Even if that is just by taking my dogs for a walk in the woods or having a conversation with someone I don't know.

As soon as I learn something, I am going to write it down on the nearest scrap of paper. I will photograph it there and then and share it with you. The sharing will be a part of the learning.

I am going to try and learn as much as possible. It will involve walking around with my eyes wide open looking for opportunities to learn. I think that's a good thing.

If you want to join me on my learning experiment/ mission/ whatever you want to call it, I would love to have you along for the ride. Please share what you learn. Maybe you could write it in the comments or post what you learn on your own blog. I would be thrilled to work on this with other people. That's when the fun stuff happens.

Friday, 12 February 2010


I often work teaching literacy skills to adults. Today, I was teaching a wonderful fifty-something year old woman to read. It was amazing to see the words she uses everyday begin to come alive for her on paper. She began to sound out the letters and understand how they could be put together. It made me realise that I take reading for granted. I expect it to be easy. But being able to understand all these little marks on a piece of paper or a screen is a kind of magic.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010


Today, it felt like Spring was just around the corner. The sun was shining and I noticed pink clusters of blossom on a couple of branches. I bought myself some early daffodils and put them on my desk so I could watch the yellow come bursting out. Then I looked out of the window and it had started snowing. Spring suddenly felt far away again.

Talking About the Internet

Yesterday, I put on my favourite old shoes for luck and drove for three hours to speak at an academic conference.

The conference was all about Transliteracy (defined as ‘the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks’ in case you were wondering.) It as all about how the way we interact with each other is changing due to new technologies, like the internet. I gave a talk about how the role of the author and the reader are beginning to blur and overlap. If everyone is encouraged to join in then how does this change the way we usually think about who write and who reads literature? I spend alot of time researching such things and get over excited by new possibilities for writing.

But oh it was nerve-racking. It is a terrifying business being on a stage with lights shining on you as you try to sound coherent. This was a pretty high-tech conference, so as I was speaking the main points were turned into tweets and posted live on twitter. Even people in the audience were encouraged to tweet about what they thought. There were people blogging about it live and it was being filmed. So clever but a little bit intimidating. In such situations, it is hard not to stare down at your shoes and hope for the best.

Monday, 8 February 2010


There is a chance to win a place on our new Handmade Writer e-course over on The Creative Mama. You have until Friday 12th February to enter and it is open to everyone worldwide. Go here for all the details. Good luck!

Monday, 1 February 2010

Joining In

I am usually more of a listener, an observer and a recorder. I save everything, store it in a notebook and write about it later. Blogging seems fast and furious, a rapid pace of thinking and writing. I read dozens of blogs everyday; craft blogs, creative blogs, book blogs, blogs written by people I haven't met who live in places I have never been.

It is daunting to join in the conversation. I want Bring Yourself to be a place where everyone can take part. I want it to be a place where all that listening, watching and reading gets turned into words and stories.

Handmade Writer

The first e-course offered by Bring Yourself is Handmade Writer. This 6-week course starts on 12th April and registration opens today.

Handmade Writer is all about taking a crafty approach to creative writing and using the fabric of your life to tell your own extraordinary stories. You will supported by me, Amy, to gather together material from every source imaginable. You will learn about the craft of writing and how to sew these fragments together to build your own pieces of writing. You will go on your own creative journey and document everything your discover along the way.

During the 8-week course, you will be set a writing exercise each week. You will also receive a variety of creative stimulus each week, including challenges and videos. With me as your guide, you will be encouraged to share your writing with a unique community of writers in our private online community space.

I hope you like the sound of it.

Bring Yourself

I am incredibly proud to launch Bring Yourself. There have been months of plotting and scheming, designing and writing and now we are ready to go. Special thanks to Michal William at Semi Square for all his wonderful designing.

Bring Yourself offers creative writing e-courses. Each course is an opportunity to try something new. This might be a new approach to writing, a fresh way of looking at things or a chance to experiment in a new genre. The e-courses are about building unique creative communities, online spaces where writers are able to share their writing in a supportive environment. Each course is lovingly designed by a experienced, published writer who will support you all the way.

Thanks for visiting. I can't wait to see what happens next.