Saturday, 19 December 2009

Christmas is coming

Christmas is coming and Jean is getting fat. I've been enjoying going out for Christmas meals, and sod the diet.

It's snowing today. Brrr!! But I'm happily ensconed in front of the fire, making occasional trips to the window to enjoy the sight of it. It does look nice, I must admit. I could quite enjoy snow if it wasn't cold and wet and prone to turn to slippery ice.

Well, I've at last got all my cards sent and presents wrapped. Very few people are getting presents from me this year because I've made a donation instead to a children's hospice. I think now I've got everything done that needed doing today, I've no excuse but to get on with some writing. I wonder why I've started to put writing at the bottom of my list of priorities. Once I start writing, it's usually OK, but somehow it takes me a lot of time and effort to clear the decks and make a start on the writing.

If anyone happens to be reading this, HAPPY CHRISTMAS, AND BEST WISHES FOR THE NEW YEAR 2010.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Forty years on

Today I went back to the deteriorating former mental institution where I spent some time as a patient forty years ago. This picture shows that they cleaned up the stonework about a year ago, but not the clock tower. It still has an eerily, Gothic appearance to me.

As mentioned in an earlier blog posting, I did go back there recently to be filmed in the grounds for a documentary which goes out on BBC4 in the New Year and is to be used by the Open University. This documentary has been given the (purposely provocative) title of 'Mental: A History of the Madhouse'.

The filming today, however, was for another (unrelated) BBC documentary, one which will be shown on the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Inside Out programme, and this time we actually went inside the building.

The West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum (as it used to be called until the name changed to High Royds Hospital) was once a magnificent building (from an architectural standpoint) with intricate mosaic floors, stained glass windows and elaborate archways. It is now in a dismal state of disrepair. At first we were told we wouldn't be allowed to go inside without wearing tin hats (health and safety rules) and boots, but this was later waived. I met up with reporter Charlotte Leeming, two camera men, and a site construction official who let us in.

With a camera man in front of us, Charlotte and I wandered along freezing cold, dim corridors with peeling walls and muddy water on the floor, while I reminisced about this place in the late-sixties and early-seventies. I remembered seeing institutionalised long-stay inmates shuffling along these corridors, some chuntering to themselves, and looking dejected. I was a teenager then, who felt I'd somehow strayed into a different world.

We went into the ballroom. Yes, among the labyrinth of corridors in this house of horrors, there had been a huge and grandiose ballroom. My mind travelled back to the teenage me at a Christmas dance there, and I could picture again the sad-eyed patients in paper hats doing a largactil shuffle around the floor to the sound of a band playing 'White Christmas'. It seemed strange to be there inside that same place forty years on, and the memories were so vivid.

Look back, accept, and then let go. Time to move on.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Damn it!!!

It all started when a magazine editor contacted me to ask if I could email a photo of myself. This was to go with an article I'd written ages ago and had almost forgotten about. Of course she needed it straight away. I hadn't got a suitable one. Husband to the rescue with his digital camera. 'It'll be best taking it outside to get more light,' he said. So out we went.

I closed the front door after us, not realising that when Ian opened it, he'd left the key on the inside. Closing the door locked us out! I'd gone outside with no coat and wearing a thin T-shirt and flip-flop slippers, as I'd expected to be only a few seconds. It was a freezing cold day.

After a heated squabble on the doorstep about whose fault it was that we were locked out, we decided we'd be best channelling our energy into thinking about what to do. We wandered around the house and decided it was burglar-proof. Meanwhile, I was slowly freezing to death. Ian, too, was only wearing a T-shirt, but he belongs to the strange species who go out jogging like that in all weathers, so I figured it was worse for me.

Our neighbours are usually out at work during the day, so what a relief it was to see our neighbour's car. It turned out she was off work sick. A few months ago she would have had our spare key for the back door, but we'd lent it to a workman who had fitted our new kitchen, and never given it back to her. Anyway, we rang a locksmith from her house, who arrived about an hour later.

The locksmith couldn't open our front door, so he had to drill into our back door and then fit a new lock. This cost us £132. Damn it!!!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Christmas is coming

I'm not a Christmas person. This is something my husband keeps saying about himself, but it does apply to me, too. I really don't like Christmas; the commercialism, the false glitter, the excuses (who needs one anyway?) for over-indulgence. And then there's the wondering what to get people who don't really need anything. They might end up with the 'hideous tie so kindly meant' (quote from a John Betjeman poem, I think).

So here we are again. Stores are already displaying their Christmas wares, and pestering me with the sound of carols. Soon the shops will be too crowded to move in. And let's stick paper hats on the heads of the homeless, the downtrodden, the oppressed, and get them to sing something about dreaming of a white Christmas. White? Oh, no, not snow as well. The car won't start, pavements will turn into ice rinks and I'll slide on my bottom down the steep part of our street. Sod all that. I'd love to hibernate until it's all over.

Bah! Humbug!

Friday, 6 November 2009

What next and what now?

I'd like to say my absence from blogging for a while has been because I'm working hard on writing my novel. But, unfortunately, I seem to be spending more time trying to decide what to do than actually doing it. I have three unfinished novel manuscripts in my drawer and I can't make my mind up which (if any) of them I should be concentrating on next.

Meanwhile, there is still 'The Dark Threads' to publicise. There's not much point in having a book 'out there' if few people know about it, hence I've been forcing myself to take centre stage and jump through hoops. Here's what I've done so far which, if nothing else, has been a learning experience.

First, I had promotional postcards printed to distribute to anyone who might be remotely interested, depicting my book cover on the front and details about it on the back. I included my phone number on the cards, which (for reasons I'll leave you to ponder) might have been a mistake. Looking back, I suppose I should have first set up a website (my next task), with a means of contacting me through that, to put on the cards. But then, not everyone uses a computer.

I joined a speakers club and practised until I could stand up and talk without looking and sounding like a timid little mouse. It worked. I've done three book-talks so far: one to a university group, the second at a bookshop and the third at a library. OK, three talks aren't many, but more opportunities to talk at libraries will be coming my way soon, I am told. I also did two radio interviews.

Local newspaper reporters interviewed me, and I got extensive coverage in several regional papers. I was interviewed in London for the Sunday Times, but guess what? They lost the interview tape. I've recently been re-interviewed over the phone. Will the feature eventually appear? I do hope so, as I desperately need more national coverage if my book is to sell successfully.

I've written articles for magazines, the latest of which should soon be appearing in the HCPJ (Healthcare, Counselling and Psychotherapy Journal). Dorothy Rowe reviewed my book in Openmind, and on her website (Articles-Openmind-Two Books). I got a good review recently in 'Therapy Today'. However, I need features and reviews in magazines other than just the specialist mental health ones. I'm awaiting the next issue of my favourite literary short story magazine, 'The Yellow Room', with even more eagerness than usual, as it will contain a review of my book.

I contacted Mark Davis, and he has featured me on his increasingly popular High Royds Hospital website (scroll down and click onto 'Dark Threads'). One thing leads to another, and a BBC TV reporter has just emailed me after reading about me on that website and she'll be talking to me shortly; I'm not sure where (if anywhere) that will lead, but watch this space . . .

I have taken part in a BBC TV documentary, funded by the Open University, about the history of mental health care, which will appear on BBC4 early in the New Year. This involved filming me as I wandered the grounds of the now closed-down hospital on a bleak, blustery evening, looking pensive as I remembered the horrible time I spent there back in the sixties and seventies. I'd been hanging around in the 'gives-me-the-creeps' derelict hospital grounds for ages waiting for the filming to start. I was cold and hungry and wanted my tea, so when they told me not to smile on camera, that was dead easy! Three of the pics taken are on the hospital website (click into 'Blakeways Productions' and then scroll down to click the thumbnails on the left).

The following day the documentary crew filmed and interviewed me at a house in Ilkley. I got hit in the face with the edge of a box (as you do) the night before, leaving an ugly scar on my face (I'd been trying to reach for a box on top of the wardrobe). I arrived late (got well and truly lost on the way) so didn't even have time to comb my hair before starting. My confidence diminished further with all the interruptions during the interview; a noisy lorry outside, fridge-freezer attention seeking, someone's mobile, sunlight in wrong position, my hair sticking up at one side (the camera man informed me about half-way through) and, finally, the house owner's cat repeatedly meowing to come indoors and join in the fun. With all the retakes, I fear I'll either look flustered or bored on film.

Is getting a book published worth it all in the end? Yes, I think so. Well, nothing beats going into Waterstones and Borders and seeing it up there on the shelves.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Writing as therapy

Writing about painful experiences that have a strong bearing on the author's life may be seen as writing as therapy. People often say that a therapeutic act of writing should be kept private. Whilst I agree that writing purely for therapy is quite different from writing for publication, I do believe that sometimes the raw material of therapeutic writing can be transformed into a creative act and crafted for publication.

When I was young, I kept detailed diaries and, although I didn't see it as such at the time, I suppose what I was doing in them was writing for therapy. As teenagers often do, I pored out my thoughts and feelings, filling my diaries with teenage angst. Writing things down helped me to make sense of what was happening in my life. These diaries were never intended to be made public, and rightly so. They were for my own benefit. It didn't matter that they weren't well-crafted, edited, or proof-read to iron out any grammatical errors or sloppily-written parts. It also didn't matter if the content would bore other people to death. For me, the diaries served their purpose as catharsis.

My diaries also served another purpose later. They helped me to gather together material for my memoir 'The Dark Threads'. Perhaps when I began writing my memoir I was writing it as therapy, but then I decided I wanted to share my experience with others. No longer just writing for myself, I began to write with the aim of publication. It was a tentative dream at first. I knew that the odds of getting it published were stacked against me, but what I aimed to do was write a book to the best of my ability, and aim for a publishable standard.

By the time I'd nearly finished my manuscript, 'misery memoirs' were popular. If, by this term, we mean a sensationalised account that piles misery upon misery, without analytic reflection, then I definitely did not want my book to be categorised as such. It is not a misery memoir, but perhaps I need another posting to discuss this, so I'll leave the topic for later. And no, no, no, it is not ghost-written!

Once I had decided on writing a memoir, truth, of course, remained paramount (truth in memoir will make a good subject for another blog posting at a later date), but now I had to stand back and try to view the quality of my writing objectively. I had to discipline myself, hone my writing skills and work hard to learn and apply the craft of writing, so that I could take my raw material and turn it into something creative, something that would, hopefully, grab hold of and maintain the interest of others: something publishable.

Have I succeeded? Well, I did succeed in getting published. Others are actually paying to read my book! I went into Waterstones and Borders the other day, and there it was on the shelf. But have I succeeded in writing a book that others, people who don't know me, will find worth their while paying for and reading? That has to be left up to readers to decide.

My book is reviewed in the latest edition of 'Therapy Today', along with two novels about patients in psychiatric hospitals: 'The Secret Scripture' by Sebastian Barry, and 'House of Bread' by Amanda Nicol. The reviewer describes me as 'a powerful representative of that disenfranchised group - psychiatric survivors. But what about the silenced? What about their stories? We, and they, must hope that Davison will continue to use her compassion and talent to tell their stories too.' I like reading nice things about me like this (of course I do), though I don't really see myself as a spokesperson. I would much prefer that people were empowered to tell their own stories than have someone speak for them, though I know that, for many people who were silenced by the mental health system, speaking for themselves is sometimes, sadly, never going to be possible.

The review in 'Therapy Today' concludes with words that are relevant to what I've been discussing in this posting. If I have done what the reviewer says in the last two sentences, then I am well satisfied that I have achieved my aim for my memoir: 'The characters in "The Secret Scripture" find writing therapeutic; the telling of their stories is the restoration of narratives ruptured by their histories. The authors of "House of Bread" and "The Dark Threads" also restore the ruptured narratives of their lives in the writing of these books, making them therapeutic acts. But these are also works skilfully crafted from the raw material of personal experience and stand as books in their own right. These three books demonstrate that writing is both a therapeutic and a creative act.'

Friday, 2 October 2009

Do as I say . . .

I've just read something that tickled me and thought I'd share it:


1. About those sentence fragments.
2. Always pick on the correct idiom.
3. And avoid all asinine alliteration.
4. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
5. Avoice cliches like the plague.
6. Between you and I, case is important.
7. Correct spelling is esential.
8. Do not put statements in the negative form.
9. Don't overuse exclamation marks!!
10. Don't use commas, which aren't necessary.
11. Don't use no double negatives.
12. It's important to use apostrophe's correctly.
13. Never use a preposition to end a sentence with.
14. Proofread carefully to see if you words out.
15. Remember to never split an infinitive.
16. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
17. The adverb always follows the verb.
18. The passive voice should never be used.
19. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
20. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.

WILLIAM SAFIRE (Journalist, speechwriter for Pres. Richard Nixon and author of Before the Fall: An Inside View of the Pre-Watergate White House, 1975), drawn from several sources. Safire died 27th September at 79.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Catching Up Day

I've got a day 'free' today to catch up on things, but it's already midday and what have I done so far? I' m still in my dressing gown. I've checked my emails several times (must be due for an interesting one), messed about browsing facebook, and looked at my book page on Amazon to see if anyone has reviewed 'The Dark Threads' on there (hey, yes, I've got two reviews now).

I've done no writing this week, except writing a long letter to a friend last night. I did a talk at the speakers club on Monday about writing tools and how they've changed over the years. It seems easier to talk about them than use one at the moment.

Oh well, I'm going to stop beating myself up for being lazy. I was busy last week and it looks like I'll be busy next week. I'll make today as relaxing as I please. Big decision to make now. Shall I get dressed before or after I get something to eat?

Friday, 11 September 2009

Bookshop Talk

I did my first bookshop talk last night. It was at the Saltaire Bookshop, an independent bookshop. At first I was worried at the thought that maybe nobody would turn up. I'd been on Radio Leeds earlier in the day, where I'd been allowed to advertise my talk at the end of the interview, plus publicity material had gone out in the local paper and other locations. But still (typical unconfident me) thought that nobody would want to bother coming.

As it happened, the place was packed! By the time half-past six came and I was about to begin, there was no room for everyone to sit down. My fears that nobody would come had quickly turned into, Eeeek! There are PEOPLE! I was bothered about the ones at the back who couldn't sit down and possibly couldn't hear me properly, though I did try to keep speaking loud enough, particularly as they had all paid £2.50 for a ticket (included glass of wine and entry to raffle).

I had from 6.30 - 8.00 in which to 'do as you want'. I tried to get a good balance of talking and reading for the first part of the evening, then we had a break (sold lots of books!) and then we had questions and discussion. There was a good mix in the audience of mental health workers, service users, and people just interested in books and perhaps wanting a 'general' read of a human interest story. I tried to make my points without being 'preachy' and to include things that would hopefully interest everyone.

The best thing for me was that once I got started, I stopped feeling nervous and I really enjoyed it. Perhaps this was largely due to the practises at giving talks I've had at my local speakers club.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Back to blogging.

Things have been hectic, and I didn't realise how long it is that I've been neglecting my blog. The distribution problem seems sorted now. Highlight of my week was going into Borders and seeing two copies of 'The Dark Threads' on the shelf in their Biography section. The manager said all branches of Borders nationwide have got at least two copies! Waterstones lagged behind, but I think it's available in most of their branches now. Amazon uk are about to get some more stock.

Local publicity has been good, with much more interest than I expected from local papers and radio. I think it's because there's a lot of interest just now in High Royds, the hospital that I was in, which has now closed down along with the other Victorian-built institutions.

I've got two talks/readings arranged so far: Saltaire bookshop next Thursday, and Guiseley Library on 22nd October. Next week a BBC TV documentary producer is coming to see me about a documentary he's making on mental health care in the UK from the fifties onward. In and among all this, I'm busy at work interviewing new volunteers for the next lot of training sessions which will be starting soon. It's all go-go-go!

And when am I going to find time for what I really want to do? I want to sit alone in my 'office' (a corner of the living room with my computer on a desk) and get on with my writing. I don't want to write about mental health either (that's done now). I want to resume my novel, and perhaps have a go at writing short stories. I'm not even sure that I want to bother trying to get anything else published, at least that's how I feel right now. I just want to WRITE. It's funny how the less time I've got to write in, the more I want to do it, but when I've got plenty of time I'm a lazy sod.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

How? When? Where?

I don't understand this bookselling stuff. My publication date was two days ago. I thought everything was on track when last Thursday I received the small stock of my book which I'd ordered. Great! But, then...

On Monday, the publication date, sites such as Amazon continued to say it had not been released. But, OK, perhaps it takes time for them to get their web page updated.

Meanwhile, I continued to work hard getting the word out about my book to anyone I could think of who might be remotely interested.

On Tuesday, I found out from friends that are emailing customers to say that they don't know when my book will be in stock and offering to let them cancel if they wish. Eeeek!!! I also found customers I'd directed to buy from bookshops were getting different and conflicting info from different bookshops. I looked up on the website of Betrams wholesalers and found they'd got 'nil' stock and had moved the delivery date of stock on to end of August (???) .

Of course I got onto my publishers in a panic. They said they'd chased up their distributors, Macmillan, who had released the stock to their customers 'today' (that was yesterday). They said that, therefore, Amazon have no reason to be telling customers to cancel as their orders are being processed. Also, Bertrams get their stock from Macmillans, so they should have the books now.

Today Amazon and other online bookselling sites still show my book as 'not yet released'. (Oh, but it is. It is). I get great pleasure holding my book in my hand, but what good is that if potential customers can't get it? Hopefully, these hiccups will clear up in the next day or two (or preferably in the next hour or two). It's so exciting getting a book published, but it's also so damn frustrating every single step of the way.

Saturday, 8 August 2009


The telephone interview with the local paper went well on the whole. Only thing I'd fault them with is the emphasis on courage. I'm sure I didn't say those last eight words. I do NOT believe that others who remain in the system have less courage than me. But, anyway, think it's OK overall. You can read the web version here.

Got two more interviews next week. Scary!

Friday, 31 July 2009

Tomorrow it's August!

How can time pass so quickly? How can it be almost August when it seems no time since the start of the year? When my publication date was moved from February to August, it seemed ages away. And now there's just over a week to go! I can't wait to see the finalised version of the book. But I'm scared I'll find things that I missed, despite all the careful checking and re-checking I've done.

The owners of my local independent bookshop are being really encouraging and supportive. I'm looking forward to doing a talk/reading there. Like all indie bookshops, they're struggling to keep afloat. In future when I want to buy a book I'm going to first see if I can get it from them, even if it costs a bit more than from the chains or amazon. I hate the thought of wonderful, indie bookshops going out of business.

I've got two interviews for local papers coming up next week; one will be over the telephone. For some reason, it's the telephone one I feel more nervous about. Maybe it's something to do with the lack of body language. But I'm used to talking on a phone in my job as I work on a mental health telephone helpline. I can't figure out why the thought of giving an interview over the phone makes me feel more vulnerable than a face-to-face interview.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Flapping my flippers

I did make an attempt to keep up to a daily word count, but work-in-progress is back on hold again. I'm much too busy and excited about being less than four weeks away from publication of 'The Dark Threads'. I'm getting silly and going on to every two minutes to check my amazon ranking for pre-publication sales (figures which probably don't mean a thing).

I went to hear Clare Allan talk at the Hull Literature Festival. I don't think I could give as good a talk as she did.

I've just been doing the final check on the proofs before my book goes for printing. My article has appeared in Openmind, the national mental health magazine of Mind, and also a review by Dorothy Rowe in that issue. The Sunday Times will be running the feature soon from my interview with them. Meanwhile, my publishers are trying to get more national coverage. In a couple of weeks I've got an interview with a local paper. I need to sort out about doing some talks.

It's all go at the moment. I feel I've got too much to do and not enough time to do it. (So why, then, do I still keep messing about on facebook?).

An elderly friend tells me how in the past, authors weren't expected to do anything in the way of book promotion. It was their job to just write. How wonderful! Now it seems (as I remember once reading on Lorna's Literascribe blog) that authors are expected to "flap their flippers and balance a ball on their nose." Ooops! There goes my ball again.

Thursday, 25 June 2009


I'm not getting on with writing. Why? I suppose the truthful answer is I'm too lazy to be a PROPER writer. I don't keep up to doing a daily word count. I write loads when I feel like it. But what about the days when I don't? Often it takes me ages to get started. I sit at the computer, full of good intentions, but then I decide that first I'll check my emails, and then I start browsing facebook and reading blogs, then check my emails again. Hey, does writing this blog go towards my word count? But then, I've not even been keeping up to writing my blog lately.

For a long time I blamed my small daily writing output on having to go out to work. It wasn't my fault if I didn't get much writing done. I didn't have the time. What I can't understand is that now I only work part-time, and in theory I have much more time for writing, I do even less than when I worked full-time.

Anyway, enough of this moping. It's all got to change. Yesterday I went to an event at the Hull Literature Festival. Listening to author Clare Allan has fired me up with enthusiasm. I'm going to set myself a daily word count target (not yet decided what that will be), stop making excuses and just get on with it.

Monday, 15 June 2009

A Special Day

It's our Silver Wedding Anniversary today and I'm feeling all slushily sentimental and lovey dovey.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Catching Up

I'm behind with everything and doing a juggling act trying to catch up. I've been having those sort of days where you feel you're working hard, but end up wondering where the result is.

I started looking at my novel-in-'progress pending', in an attempt to get back on with it, but I soon got distracted with copy-editing 'The Dark Threads'. Again! Yes, I thought the copy-editing was long finished, as it's been 'done' both by myself and a good copy-editor. Needless to say, my 'one last look' showed up a few more things that needed amending in my book. So I decided I'd better read it again carefully from beginning to end (I'll be able to say every word on all 350 pages off by heart soon!).

I enjoyed going to London to be interviewed for the Sunday Times. There was an initial panic when I found at the last minute my train had been cancelled, but, thanks to mobiles, I was able to rearrange the appointment to half-an-hour later and catch the next train.

I was prepared for the questions. But still ... 'How long did it take you to write the book?' This was one I'd been dreading as there's no straightforward answer. The writing of it has been 'on and off' over many years. I started writing it forty years (!) ago when I wrote on scraps of toilet paper sitting on the floor with my feet up to chest, knees against the pot, and holding the door shut with my back, in the hospital. OK, I suppose that was writing 'purely for therapy', which isn't the same as writing to be published. I never intended anyone else to see my writing then, but it did turn out to be a gathering together of the material for my book.

I asked myself, when did I decide I wanted to share my experiences and actually write a book about them? Would it be sufficiently interesting to others? Might it do some good (oh, sorry if that sounds 'up my backside', but it was one of my hopes)? As well as just a 'human interest story' I felt I had something to say that needed to be said, but I didn't want to come over all 'preachy' (which I don't think I have). There were a lot of questions I needed to ask myself about my motives for writing this kind of book, but, meanwhile, I just got on with it, feeling I simply had to write it. I mean, I've always been interested in writing, but whenever I wrote anything else, this kept intruding. Perhaps soon, at last, I'll be able to concentrate fully on trying to write other books on other subjects. I hope so. I don't want to be able to sing from only one sheet.

Anyway, I divert. On the whole I think my interview in London went well. Afterwards I wandered around until my bunions (old age creeping on) made me stand in the middle of a street, unable to go any further. I managed to hobble into the bookstore that was only a few yards away and I recovered over a cup of coffee, with my shoes off under the table. Well, I never thought when I began this blog that I'd even be bringing my boring old bunions into it! I don't go on like this in my book - honest I don't!

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Getting there

Just found out from the President of our local branch of the Association of Speakers Clubs that I've been awarded the annual 'Most Improved Speaker of the Year' Award. It will be presented to me at a meeting on 22nd June. I've had problems all my life with shyness, so getting an award for (of all things!) Public Speaking is ... well, I'm speechless!

On the book promotion front, things are starting to take off now that some advance copies have been sent out. I'm going to London on 2nd June to be interviewed by a Sunday Times editor who read my book. I've also got some encouraging endorsements. The psychologist and writer, Dorothy Rowe, requested a copy, liked it, and now she has written about my book in her article for the next issue of Openmind magazine. Other things are in the pipeline. It does make me realise that if my book had come out in February, as originally planned, there would have been little publicity in place for it. I was so disappointed at the time when the release date was postponed, but now I feel it has definitely been for the best.

That's often the way with disappointments, isn't it? What we feel at the time is a bad thing sometimes turns out to be good in the end, so perhaps we should always be optimistic and look upon our disappointments as exciting possibilities for better things in the future. (OK, get off your soapbox, Jean. I'll probably remember these philosophical musings the next time I get a kick in the teeth, and think Grrrrr!).

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Not much happening

Well, I had intended to report back on the Society of Authors Spring Meeting in Liverpool, but, before lazybones me got round to it, someone bet me to it and has done a good job of it. So, if anyone is interested, you can go over to Helen P's blog and scroll down to her 27th April posting.

This was my first SOA meeting and I was pleasantly surprised at how approachable and friendly everyone was. It was also my first time in Liverpool and I wish I'd given myself more time to stroll around after the meeting before I had to head for the train.

Publishers look at blogs, we were told at the meeting. Oh dear, I'll have to do better with mine than what I've been doing lately. Speaking of which, I can't tell how many (if anyone) looks at mine now since it seems the Google counter has been changed to only go up in tens. All I know is that less than ten people looked in the past week (no, less than eight, because I looked twice). Come to think of it, I don't suppose the title of this post is exactly right for enticing anyone to take a look, but I'm blowed if I can think of another just now.

I'm trying to get back to writing a novel that I started some time ago. I'd got the first rough draft finished before putting it aside. Now that I'm looking at it with fresh eyes I'm not happy with what I see. I knew it would need a lot of work doing on it, but now I'm wondering whether to scrap the lot and start afresh with something new. I've found before that putting a manuscript aside for a while is a big help in seeing what needs doing. But trouble with this one is I put it aside not just for a couple of weeks but for nearly a year! That's far too long. It's going to be very hard to get back into it now.

Meanwhile, as I'm trying to decide what to do, I'm not doing much at all. Realising I hadn't blogged for over a week made me spring into action. Ah, yes, said I, I'll blog from my notes to report back on the meeting, but first I'll just see what others are blogging about ...

I'm sitting here feeling cross with myself for being so wishy-washy, and I'm getting fat. Think I'll have a date & walnut flapjack to cheer me up and renew my energy. And then you won't see me for the sparks flying from my fingers.

Friday, 24 April 2009

An Enjoyable Week

Moans over, I'm really enjoying this week. It started off well when I met an old friend I hadn't seen for over 30 years (thanks to Friends Reunited). What a lot of catching-up talking we had to do!

Last night I went to a talk/reading at Waterstones to meet another Accent Press author, Kevin Chandler. His novel 'Listening In' has just come out. He did a really good talk, followed by interesting discussion. It was lovely to meet him.

Today my Yellow Room mag arrived in the post. I can't wait to curl up in front of the fire with a G & T to read it.

I'm looking forward to going to the SOA Authors North Spring Meeting in Liverpool tomorrow. Booking my train tickets online came close to spoiling my good mood (contradictory info about times and availability), but I think it's OK now.

On Monday it's my Speaker Club meeting, and I'm (almost!) getting confident enough to start enjoying these sessions. The editor of 'The Speaker' magazine emailed me a copy of my article as it will appear in the September issue, and I'm even pleased with my photo which they want to include.

And then on Tuesday I'll be back at work but (hey, aren't I lucky?) I love my job.

Friday, 10 April 2009

An annoying week

I've had an annoying week. First, I found I'd become unable to receive emails. Senders were getting a 'Delivery Failure' message. How did we manage in pre-email days? For some reason, not being able to receive emails really got to me. I mean, I might've been missing some really important ones, like the acceptances I'm waiting for about my articles/proposals sent to magazines. And then wot about emails from people telling me how much they like my book? The advance review copies have now been printed and (I think) already sent out to a few people, so I'm on those hook things called tenters. My publishers will be taking some (my books, not my tenterhooks) to the London Book Fair.

Anyway, back to my moans. I suddenly got a 'thing' in my eye that looked like a spider dangling from my eyelash, but no spider was to be seen. Now I am left with a big black floater prancing about in front of everything I look at. The optometrist who did various eye health checks can't find anything serious, and he explained that I will just have to put up with the floater. Yes, but it's driving me mad flitting back and forth across the page when I'm reading or writing. I've had floaters before but not a nasty big black one like this thing. I'm told that after a few months my brain will stop registering it and then it won't keep annoying me. Well, what do you know? Clever thing, your brain, isn't it? But a few months?

I'd better stop writing this blog post while I'm in such a crabby mood, or I'll be churning out a long list of my recent annoyances. Maybe I'll feel better when it stops raining.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Friends Reunited

It's weird, isn't it? Old friends suddenly poke out at you from the internet. People you haven't seen since when you 'were young, oh, so much younger than today.' (Is that plagiarism?). We were best friends (on and off, that is. We squabbled a lot) at junior school. She's back in this area for a while, and we're going to meet next week.

I'm looking forward to our meeting with interest, and (I don't know why) a kinda scared feeling. Ah, the joys of technology, and that Friends Reunited site.

Her email began, 'Do you remember me?' Yes, I do. (Oh God, she doesn't appear in my memoir, does she?).

Wednesday, 25 March 2009


I looked up 'The Dark Threads' on and had to smile to note the list of other items which Amazon tells us that purchasers of my book might be interested in. These were about sewing machines and sewing threads! Just out of interest I looked up 'Of Human Bondage'. But, no, they haven't linked Somerset Maughan's novel with erotica books.

Well, I'm going to set to work today and write some more magazine articles that might help (at least indirectly) in publicising my memoir. The editor of the 'Healthcare Counselling and Psychotherapy Journal' phoned me to say they are going to publish my article. I'm now going to write a piece for 'The Speaker', the national magazine of the Association of Speakers Clubs, about my experiences of joining my local club. Meanwhile, I'm waiting to hear if Mslexia have accepted my 'How I did it' piece, and I'm wondering which other magazines to try.

I've had more success at getting non-fiction published than fiction. This worries me slightly as I wannabe a fiction writer and maybe I'm not good enough at that. Oh well, I can but try. Once I've finished the magazine articles I'm going to retrieve my novel-in-progress (what progress?) from the junk cupboard and see if I can get back into it (the novel I mean, not the junk cupboard).

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Catching Up

I seem to have got behind with everything, including my blog, but in a recent spurt of busyness I'm almost back on track.

On the writing front, not much has been happening, at least not with the stories I intended to write and the novel I intended to get back to working on. I've written an article for the 'Healthcare Counselling and Psychotherapy Journal' which is being 'considered'. I've now got to get on with the 'monthly' newsletter I write for the charity where I work, which didn't appear in February and it looks like the March issue is going to be a March/April one.

On the reading front, (erm, does reading other people's lovely blogs count? Yes, why not?). I've followed with interest the discussion about criticism from Sally Zigmond and Jo Derrick. Yes, criticism may not always be quite what we're wanting to hear about our darling babies, but I agree that we can learn such a lot from honest and constructive criticism. It can be confusing though, with one person seeing things one way and another seeing it quite the opposite. I suppose what we've got to do is try hard to stand back and decide if a particular piece of criticism makes us feel we should do some re-writing taking it into account.

Still on the subject of criticism, I once got an appraisal from a (well-known and highly respected) literary consultancy which did absolutely nothing but praise my writing! I was mad as hell. Why? Because I was not naive enough to think that my 100 pages of writing was so good that there was nothing wrong with it, and I had paid for the critique so that I could work on improving it. I complained to the consultancy and they said in all their years of business they'd had lots of complaints from people who weren't happy about the person doing the critique not seeing the writing as being as good as the writer felt it was. But never before, not once, had anyone ever complained about too much praise for their writing. (Yes, but...). I have since mellowed towards the person who did the critique as it later seemed to prove very helpful in getting me a foot in the door with publishers and persuading them to at least ask for the full manuscript. But I still feel sure that another person would have given me a much more critical critique that could have helped me focus on the (many) areas where there was a lot of room for improvement.

On the public speaking front, I'm still 'getting there'. I was invited to give a talk to The Mind Matters Society, which has been set up at Uni to raise mental health awareness. We went first to see the play 'The Hounding of David Oluwale', the true story about a Nigerian immigrant who spent time in the sixties in High Royds mental institution, where apparently he was treated horrendously. Eventually, as a homeless person, he was hounded to death by two local police officers. After the play we went to a room that Dom, the president of the Society, had hired, and I was Guest Speaker. Who, me? It was probably thanks to my gut-churning, teeth-pulling practising at the speakers club that this went really well. Afterwards we had interesting discussion. At the end of the evening Dom presented me with a big bouquet on behalf of the group. Oooh, wasn't that lovely of them?

On the publishing front, things are moving now. The advance review copies are in the process of being printed. I've been contacting editors of mental health magazines, and a few others, to see who might do a review of my book or give comments that can be used for quotes. I'm putting together a list of those who request a copy, which I'll give to my publisher for them to add to their list and send out. This seems to be going well so far.

As you might have guessed, some of this blog posting is rather self-indulgent as maybe what I'm trying to do is convince myself that I haven't been as lazy of late as what I think (know) I have been. And now I've written a long one to make up for missing postings, so I'll give myself another pat on the back. Time now to get out of my dressing gown and put some clothes on before the rest of the (ahem) afternoon disappears.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Got a virus (me, not computer)

Yesterday would have been my Book Publication Date. Perhaps it's a good job it wasn't, as I've been ill for the past few days with a flu-type virus. I wouldn't have felt a bit like celebrating.

I'm having a short break from blogging until I feel better.


Speaking of which, does anyone remember when telly programmes used to keep being interrupted with those words? (Now I'm really showing my age).

Monday, 16 February 2009

Snow fun anymore

I must be getting old. Snow is no fun anymore. As a child I always looked forward to the snow coming. It meant great fun sledging, snowballing, making slides and building snowmen. But now it means feeling cold, trying to buy boots and shoes with good grips on the soles (sod fashion) and inching my way along icy pavements.

Last week I slid down part of our steep street on my backside (not intentionally). A dog barking and children laughing at me added to my humiliation. I don't want to wish my life away, but, oh, how I'm looking forward to summer.

So now it's official. I've said it. Grumpy old woman I may fast be becoming, but I DON'T LIKE SNOW!

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Past and Present

I've been plodding on with the depressing task of telling people that my book publication date has been put back to August. I'm still receiving letters, mainly from those who got my flyer with their Christmas card, telling me they'll buy my book in February. I do hope they'll still be interested in it by August.

More time has caused me to do more tinkering with the manuscript. I've just sent my publisher what I now think (hope) are the final editing changes. The problem with editing is that it could go on for ever. But at some stage we have to say, STOP! Otherwise, we risk spoiling, instead of improving, our work. It's difficult sometimes knowing just when to stop.

I've been speaking to Mark today, a local photographer and historian, who set up a website detailing the history of the hospital where I was a patient (High Royds, formerly the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum). Interest in his website has snowballed, attracting a quarter of a million picture hits from all over the world. It's a massive site, full of fascinating details for anyone interested in the history of psychiatry, architecture, and/or human interest stories. It is well worth taking a look at:

What memories the site brings back. I found Derek Hutchinson's story of undergoing horrendous experimental brain surgery. I remember he was a patient, a friendly young man, at the day hospital the same time as I was there in the early-seventies. His operation took place shortly after I left. It reminds me of how I'm one of the lucky ones.

I must hasten to add that my book isn't all misery. There's a lot of humour in it, too. Even in such a place as that institution, there were uplifting incidents and humour. I've tried to be balanced and fair to staff and patients. But I'm glad these institutions have closed down. I'm also glad that many people are working to bring about a change in attitudes rather than just a change from one setting to another.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Onwards and Upwards

Now that I've had more time to get used to the disappointment of the publication date being put back to August, it doesn't seem as bad as it did. I feared that my publishers might have been trying to tell me gently that my book might not be published at all. But, after a phone conversation with them today, I find they are currently working at getting advance copies ready, and so on. It seems that not having some 'book form' copies ready to send out was hindering getting the necessary publicity. They feel that, with the extra time, they can take up more marketing opportunities.

Meanwhile, I'll use the extra time to promote my 'book-to-be' in any way I can. I mustn't just sit back and think, well, August is ages away. Since reaching the age of 21 (many moons ago) I've sometimes found that I've just blinked a few times, and months - even years - have whizzed by.

And maybe when I've put myself through the ritual humiliation of doing talks at my speakers club for another few months, I'll be brim-full of self-confidence by the time my book is launched. Last night I stood bravely in front of a room full of people and struggled through an impromptu talk on 'Would you like to be given a gift of stationery?' The previous week, my longer, planned talk called 'Washing Mice' (don't ask) seemed to go down well. My theory is that if I keep putting myself through this, I will, in time, come to enjoy public speaking more than I would enjoy pulling my teeth out with pliers.

Back to my book. I thought I'd finished all the editing, and now it is being suggested that I expand a section. I won't reject this suggestion out of hand (nor will I stick pins in an image of the editor who suggested it), but I'm not sure it's a good idea to do further 'tinkering' at this stage. I wonder: when does editing stop improving a manuscript and start spoiling it?

So that's it. It seems all is not lost. Onwards and upwards.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009


I've just had a phone call from my publishers to say that publication date of 'The Dark Threads' is to be postponed until (wait for it) August! It seems that in the current economic climate and the 'doom and gloom' in the publishing world, they don't feel that now is the best time to publish it. I can't say more at the moment as I'm still reeling from the blow. Nothing more to say anyway, I suppose.

There's no point me weeping and wailing (says she stoically) as there's nothing I can do about it. I'll just have to brush the dust off my novel and get on with that. (Oh, sod it, pass the tissues, please).

Friday, 16 January 2009

Not getting on with it.

Well, despite the good intentions I always start off a new year with, I don't seem to be doing enough to fulfil my aims. I'm brilliant at writing out 'Things To Do' lists, planning, dreaming, hoping, but I sometimes fall short on the most important task: actually 'doing'.

I've now left it too late to write a story for the Mslexia competition. My existing ones are far too long. In fact it's occurred to me that I've written very little for quite some time. My novel-in-progress is asleep in a drawer, growing whiskers.

I blame my diminishing writing output on my excitement about 'The Dark Threads' coming out next month. I've been so taken up with thoughts of publication, along with trying to help with publicity, that my writing has taken a back seat. Not good. I wannabe a writer. Writers must write.

I'm going to write stories, get on with my novel, and ... Oh dear, here I go again. If I stop blogging about what I'm going to do and tell you what I've actually done, I hope I will have something to blog about soon!

Monday, 5 January 2009


It's arrived! The typeset copy of 'The Dark Threads'. Ooh, it's exciting. Now I can visualise it as a PROPER book. I've got a week to proof-read it once more, and then off it goes to my publishers. And we're nearly there.

I'm back in panic mode (more than ever!). I didn't seek cover quotes earlier as there was no 'reading' copy ready to send. But now my publishers have emailed asking me if I've had any success getting quotes for my book jacket, telling me they need them urgently (next week!) and that they can send a PDF file of the final ms to me if they want to see it.

I'm thrilled to receive my typeset manuscript and I can't wait to hold my book in my hands. But ... (Well, yes, there's always a 'but', isn't there?).