Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

New Year, same me.

Friday, January 5th, 2018

I shall be 36 in two weeks and it’s taken me this long to realise that New Year’s resolutions aren’t compulsory. Sure, there’s stuff I want to change and habits I’d like to alter, but it’s yet to be a truth universally acknowledged that these things are not intrinsically linked to January 1st. Or a random Monday in April. Or in the hour after the full moon has risen. However, just to show willing, I’m going to list a few of my ‘resolutions’ in no particular order:

  1. Make sure that the empty wine bottles are hidden/recycled before the cleaners come. It’s unfortunate that they come, post-weekend, on Monday morning – spectacularly bad planning by me. Not once did I consider that evidence of the weekend’s drinking would be laid bare in the kitchen, the bottles all lined up ready to be cast into the darkness that is the bottle bank. And we do get through quite a few bottles of wine. They never comment, but on more than one occasion I have felt compelled to explain (lie) about why there are so many of them neatly waiting on the side.
  2. I will open the FitBit box and make use of my Christmas present (circa 2014). Just that, really. Like many other post-Christmas souls, I’d like to up my exercise and I have an idea that if a device is actually logging what I do, and how many steps I’ve taken, then I’ll feel obliged not to let it down.
  3. I will un-glue myself from social media. I waste toooooo many hours scrolling needlessly through Facebook, and don’t even get me started on Mumsnet. I have become scarily hooked on following the lives of people that I don’t know and will never meet. It’s a truly ridiculous waste of time, but I do love it. It’s the ‘peering in through front windows’ behaviour for the modern generation.
  4. I will drag my slightly unfinished manuscript up from its crypt and send it to my agent. It will be like a teenager slinking quietly into the house at 4am and hoping that your parents haven’t noticed your unauthorised absence.

And with my personality, that small collection is quite enough things for me to resolve to do.

I’m going to miss the Christmas holidays. My girls are old enough now that we all have enough space, peace and sleep to really get on quite nicely. Well, unless you’re a 16 year old teenager revising for mock GCSE exams that begin next week. The entire kitchen table has been taken over as a revision zone. Or ‘theatre of conflict’ as I like to call it. Did you know that teenagers can snarl? Each time I attempt to do something in the kitchen, like unreasonably make a cup of tea, hide empty wine bottles before the cleaners arrive, unload the dishwasher, those sorts of things, I am met with a death stare and: “Do you HAVE to do that now?”

“Tidy up the kitchen? I do a bit, yes,” I say apologetically and tiptoe even more quietly around the volatility that is being fuelled by nutrition and Christianity, (the topics she’s been revising, just for clarity). And woe betide you if you don’t acquiesce to a request:

“Mother, I need a new fountain pen in the next five minutes.”

“We can’t – ”

“Do you WANT me to FAIL my exams?”

And mornings. I’m not looking forward to waking up for the school run again. Left to my own devices, my natural sleeping pattern is 1-10am. But I’m pretty sure that the children’s educational establishments can’t accommodate those hours. To be honest, waking the younger girl up at 7am is like waking the dead. And a very cross dead person at that. You know when you light a firework and run away quickly before it explodes? This = youngest daughter in the morning. Sigh.

Happy New Year, all.

S xxx

  

You Should Have Worn Blue.

Friday, June 9th, 2017

As my facebook status so coherently says (typed in an entirely rational state of mind this morning, obviously) – what fresh hell is this??? We’ve been plunged into a Trump-stained, red-coloured nightmare of epic proportions. It’s like a comedy of errors being played out in a political life support unit. The press are going to have a field day with this; the whole WORLD is going to have a field day. We’ve watched from across the pond as Trump blunders through life, political opponents and foreign relations with some of the most unstable countries in the world, feeling reasonably smug about our own politics. It may not have been the most sophisticated helm in the world – but at least we had one. Well, not any more. The snap election has certainly snapped those critical bolts holding our metaphorical keel on.

Theresa May took a gamble, and not an entirely unreasonable one as we sailed towards the tumultuous Brexit, but the gamble has not paid off and our entire political structure will suffer as a consequence. Jeremy Corbyn may look like a gleeful cat poised over a bowl of cream right now, but folks – this is the man who couldn’t get his own core cabinet together the DAY BEFORE an historic general election. He allowed that poor woman to stumble and trip over herself during critical interview after critical interview. We all laughed at the time, but the fact is that a leader in control of his party should never have allowed that to happen. I’ve had the dubious pleasure of reading the Labour manifesto and it reads like a list to Father Christmas.

-          Free schools for everyone and lots of them!

-          Free school meals for every single state pupil in primary school!

-          Secure homes for everyone!

-          Safer communities!

-          Oh, and a magically resuscitated NHS with reinforced capacity for the sick and the aged, please.

So, one might ask, how is this miraculous revolution of daily life in Britain going to be funded? By taxing the wealthy. And what are they to be taxed on? Gardens. Yes, gardens. You read correctly. Jeremy Corbyn obviously had a ‘eureka!’ moment as he climbed out of the bath one morning and surveyed his not insubstantial lawn. People like gardens, people spend a lot of time in their gardens, he must have thought, rubbing his chin, and some people spend a lot of money and effort on making their garden exactly the way they like it. So good old Jeremy Hood thought “Brilliant! Let’s start charging people for the privilege of sitting in their own patch of land! Let’s call it a Land Value Tax.” Fool proof plan. And I’ve over-simplified it, but that is the bottom line and it shows a worrying mindset. In fact, it reminds me of the window tax of 1696 and therefore the lack of political evolution from the Labour Party.

And if we burrow down further into some of their policies, we start to see what they’re actually promising. The social security for everyone translates as ‘dignity for pensioners and ‘dignity for those who cannot work’. So we can’t support you in your hour of need like we suggested, BUT we’re going to do our damndest to make you feel good about it. Vague mentions of foreign ‘systems’ implies a borrowed construction of tried and tested policies – failsafe in other words. But Jeremy, you cannot just transport another nation’s modus operandi over here on a whim and expect it to slip easily into British culture. We have mention of the Australian system, Germany and the Nordic countries make an appearance and so, bizarrely, does the lone wolf BHS scandal. A cheap shot attempting to typify the instability of all long-term business growth plans. But not to worry, because we’re going to have a brand new National Investment Bank. Yes indeed! And this shiny new ‘public institution’ toy will bring in private capital finance to create £250 billion of lending power. Yeah, ok then, call me cynical but each new pledge from the Labour party comes across as little more than an untethered idea.

And Mrs May – you don’t escape either. You have demonstrably failed to lead your party to victory, and from someone who was confident enough in their own success and stability to voluntarily call a General Election, this is worrying. You refused to play by the rules, you wouldn’t enter debates with your political opponents, you rejected recorded interviews in favour of gadding about the country, meeting constituents. You forgot that you are not a film star, but a politician, and you had a duty to those people. A duty which has not been carried out. You should have reinforced your clear, calm strategies, you should have allayed fears and explained policies. You should have made it crystal clear that a Conservative government is the only one which can deliver on its promises by demonstrating recent successes. You probably shouldn’t have threatened to rip up the HRA, and frankly, you should have worn blue.

We are now in a chaotic, political hinterland of uncertainty as we move ever closer to Brexit. We have a shocked and shaken Theresa May who is facing calls to resign and a gleeful Corbyn who can’t believe his luck. What will happen next is anyone’s guess.

But as with most clouds, there is a silver lining to this if we look closely enough. Statistics have shown that voter turnout for 18-24 year olds was around 72% in this 2017 General Election. What this shambolic state of affairs has managed to secure is a renewed interest and enthusiasm from the young voters. These people are engaging with politics, they are showing that they care deeply and are listening to our political parties, they are forming their own views. And this shows us that even though we haven’t had the result that we hoped for, our prized, democratic process is alive and well, functioning against all the odds – and that is something to be truly proud of.

 

A light has gone out. Goodbye, Carole Blake.

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

For those not in the know, Carole was one of London’s fiercest literary agents. She wasn’t my agent (I never dared submit to her) but I met her quite a few times at RNA parties and the London Book Fair, where you would have a conversation with Carole that would take half an hour with most people but under five minutes with her, such was her speed of living. Sadly, this speed of living ultimately translated and she passed away very suddenly, and shockingly, on 26th October.

Finding a literary agent to represent your work is like looking for an elusive eyebrow hair in a haystack. You know what they look like, they’re terribly familiar, and yet you can never quite find one. Any author will be able to describe the work, the dedication, the intense commitment and frustration that go along with trying to get published. Many will eventually follow the diversion signs and trundle off into self-publishing, but for those that choose to battle on in traditional publishing – the fight is real. It’s hours and hours of your life. It’s hundreds upon hundreds of words. It’s your creativity, poured out and shaped on a page. And yet when you submit this precious work to a literary agent for their appraisal, and hopefully representation, it’s all too common to never hear back. We can’t blame the agents, we really can’t. They are all perpetually snowed under. The writing world has burst at its seams and literary agents are the first bastion of support. Nonetheless, it’s very demoralising to never hear a peep about your word-baby.

Carole Blake, co-founder of the Blake Friedmann Literary Agency, was in quite a different class to other agents. She was always interested and devastatingly honest about whatever it was you were discussing. I remember a conversation about ensuring that submissions are properly proof read before they’re sent off, “I love reading the manuscripts,” she told me, “but one wrong spelling and that’s it.” One wrong spelling?! That’s standards for you.

Though I didn’t know Carole, like many others I followed sections of her life through her effervescent use of social media and especially Twitter. In one day you could get photographs of her latest book purchases, what she was eating for lunch and details about her shoe and perfume collections. There wasn’t much that this lady didn’t bring to the table.

And that is why she will be so sorely missed by family, friends, clients and her Twitter followers. Carole had such a genuine enthusiasm for, and engagement with, life that it’s very hard to believe she won’t be ferociously representing her chosen authors any more, or posting thirty tweets a day.

I can’t claim more than a passing acquaintance with this great lady, but those over at Vulpes Libris can:

https://vulpeslibris.wordpress.com/2016/10/27/carole-blake/

 

Good night Carole, and God bless.