Category Archives: Me

What Happens When You Give Up On Facebook

Flower alone

I gave up Facebook for Lent when I discovered that I was frantically checking it to see who would wish my son a happy birthday, and getting upset when there weren’t enough ‘likes’ for my birthday-related post.

That was when I realized I was losing my mind. My FB use was unhealthy. It was Ash Wednesday. So FB had to go.

At first it was…weird not to know what was going on with all my neighbors and friends.

Then, people started sending me personal emails when they needed me. That was glorious.

Next, I discovered that pushing towards a hard deadline without the distraction of FB was a joy and a privilege.

Now that my deadline has passed along with four weeks of Lent, I’ll admit I’m feeling a little isolated.

The phrase I hear most often these days (from people who don’t live in my house), is “Oh, that’s right! You’re not on Facebook” before they fill me in on something that happened that everyone else knows about.

Yes, we’ve become so reliant of FB that no-one hardly anyone contacts friends directly to talk about stuff anymore.

I’ll admit it’s partly my own fault. I’ve come to loathe the telephone. But one nice friend did text me directly to ask if I’d heard the news about Terry Pratchett. The fact that she texted me (just me, not a random blast of friends on her wall) told me that she had thought about me and conversations we’ve had in the past. It meant a lot, and highlighted just how little we (I?) do this kind of thing anymore.

I have another friend who sends me things she thinks I’ll like *through the mail*. Not expensive things. Articles, fliers, books-she’s-finished-with. But things she knows I’ll like. Me, not some random subset of her audience of social media.

It seems very odd to be saying all this, given that I am the queen of the blog/social media network/text message. But I think my Lenten sacrifice is teaching me something. One-to-one interactions are meaningful. I shouldn’t assume that ‘putting something out there’ is enough. Sometimes a tailored, personal contact is exactly what someone needs.

I will stay strong. I will stay off FB. I will try to be better at taking the narrower path.

Writing-Adjacent

So far today I haven’t got very far with the actual *writing* stuff.
Lots of stuff that is “writing-adjacent”, not to mention booking tickets to see a touring Broadway show in June (that was surprisingly stressful. The tickets went on sale this morning and we had to get into an electronic queue and be alerted — by email — that our number had come up. Then K had a meeting to go to and IM-ed me the information, but I couldn’t take over his spot int the electronic queue of course, and had to wait for my own number to come up. When it did, the system told me it had expired, in spite of its only havng been up for 10 minutes not the much-vaunted 20 minutes they said I’d have. Aargh! So then I had to get into another queue and wait for that number to come up and all the while I was thinking ‘but what if all the good seats are gone?’ even though this is a pre-sale and only certain bona fide theater goers — as evidenced by previous ticket purchases — were allowed to be in this queue. Agree! So mumuch stress for 10:30 in the morning.

Now I’m faced with the eternal problem: lunch? Nap? Work?

Let’s have a look at what I achieved yesterday. Hmmm. I think it’s clear that the answer to the above question needs to be ‘work’, with a lunch chaser.

I spent some fun time after the stressful-ticket-buying experience, creating (templates for) graphics of inspirational quotes that will work well on Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest, because everyone seems to like images these days. People allegedly are all about video now, online too, but I surveyed “my” people and it turns out they, like me, do not like everything to happen by video. So that’s good. I can forget about veering off into distracting video-producing territories and stick to the writing.

Ah, yes, the writing…

Current projects/priorities/progress:

  1. Finish draft of the novel (so I can revise it for the critique group) – No progress. Boo
  2. Post weekly Write On Wednesday prompts to StoryADay – Yes! Posted three of these as well as five Reading Room Tuesday reviews of short stories I have read.
  3. Start prepping for April’s build-up to StoryADay – Some social media stuff. Lots of lists made. Reminders put in Evernote.
  4. Non-fiction book proposal – No progress
  5. Reading –  Read 1 short story
  6. Regular column for other site – No Progress

Writing Amidst Life

Life is happening around here.

Biohazard

It’s interesting stuff. There’s been serious illness, hospital visits and rehab. Not to mention international travel insurance, car hire, and the whole Christmas and New Year stuff.

I was feeling quite good about myself, getting in some writing here and there, while waiting for a scheduled 3-week family visit to wind down, whereupon I would plunge back into the writing.

But then…life.

And it’s fine. Because it’s important stuff. And I am thrilled that things are now going well. And that I have all these new experiences to draw upon.
I do, however, have to figure out how to write amidst it all. It’s a challenge, but one I’m kind of enjoying.

Because I’ve finally realized that life will continue to happen (at least until it doesn’t, and I certainly won’t be writing after that!).

Summer vacations will be part of my life for the next 8 years and probably longer. I have to figure out how to not put my writing on hold during them. Busy times with the kids will happen. Jobs might come and go. And I have to figure out how to write during them.

Listened to a WritingExcuses podcast yesterday where the hosts were talking about what they and people they know do, to keep writing amidst life. It was eye-opening and thought-provoking. Still not sure I could write during a foreign-language lecture, like Neil Gaiman apparently did, but you never know: there have been times when I’ve been in the middle of a story AND in the middle of the family, with the TV going in the background, and still able to write because the writing was flowing.

So.

Life.

And writing.

Watch this space.

Current projects/priorities:

  1. Finish draft of the novel (so I can revise it for the critique group)
  2. Post weekly Write On Wednesday prompts to StoryADay
  3. Start prepping for April’s build-up to StoryADay (choose projects, pare down projects, write and produce stuff e.g. this year’s prompt book)
  4. Non-fiction book proposal
  5. Reading
  6. Regular column for other site.

Blue Riband

So, I’m gearing up to write this big climactic series of scenes in my novel. They’re set at a country faire, the kind where people enter jams and cakes and flower arrangements and knitted layettes into contests and are judged under tents by ladies in hats and men in clerical frocks.

Apparently I’m a little bit Method in my writing because I’ve been obsessively doing this for the past few days:

Cake

Cake, sliced

After a few false starts, I now honestly think I could give Mrs Pattmore a run for her money….

images

Rote, Routine, Rout

I don’t do routine.

Luckily, my lovely husband does.

Coffee in the morning

He has imposed a routine on our mornings that ensures everyone is up, clean, caffeinated-where-appropriate, clothed, fed and out the door on a timeline that does not require panic, screaming, name-calling and/or recriminations. It’s like voodoo.

This morning I woke up at the appointed time, told Lovely Husband about my dream (Céline Dion? Really?) and then—in flagrant disregard of The Routine, he suggested maybe I’d make the coffee this morning. (That should have been a clue.) It was not an unreasonable request, so I began to lever myself out of my nice warm bed.

At which point…I woke up. Told Lovely Husband about the dream I’d just had. He handed me my coffee, as usual.

###

My conscious brain loves our morning routine and the benefits it brings.

I strongly suspect my subconscious of planning a prison break.

 

A Love Letter To My Library

Posted as part of The Guardian‘s Love Letters To Libraries campaign

Dear Troon Library,

Troon Library

I’ll be honest: I’ve been in a lot of libraries that are prettier than you.

But you were my library.

Your ugly, low-ceilinged children’s room was inviting, on my scale and stuffed with books for me to devour. I have no idea what happened to my parents whenever we visited, because all I remember is hunkering down with my new friends: Flicka, Ann Shirley, Emily of New Moon Farm, the folks in Narnia…and when I discovered your audio book section? Well, that was the start of a love affair I’ve now been able to pass on to my own children.

Now that I can afford to buy books, I still use the library. Otherwise my reading would become an echo-chamber of careful investments chosen because the reviewers made them sound like something I’d agree with. There would be no casual stumblings-upon, no cost-free I’ll-give-it-a-trys, no delightful discoveries.

Thank you for giving me companions, new worlds and all my best dreams.

Love,

Julie

Me and The Nobel Prize Winner

I don’t know for sure how I’d vote if I still lived in Scotland, but this is a very interesting article, quoting Nobel economics Prize winner (and former Us Govt adviser) Joseph Stiglitz.

I wholeheartedly agree with these statements:

“One of the things as an outsider I’ve looked at the debate, particularly from the No side, I’ve been a little bit shocked how much of it is based on fear, trying to get anxiety levels up and how little of it has been based on vision.

“There is a vision on the Yes side that I see – what would an independent Scotland be like, what could it do that it can’t do now.”

He’s not saying “vote yes”, but rather pointing out the more positive approach of the “yes” campaign.

And on the issues, I agree again:

“The main issues here are not currency, they’re probably not even North Sea oil. I think the main issue again as an outsider, and not wanting to intervene in any other country’s politics, the question is the vision of society, what do you want to do.”

I particularly liked his point (following on from the second quote) that, by following the American model in education (higher fees), England has become a society of greater inequality, like the US. Scotland has gone the opposite way (no cost to the student for tuition), and it is illustrative of the differences in priorities in the two societies. Likewise the differences in funding the NHS (the govt picks up prescription costs in Scotland).

I don’t see how you can have two such different approaches being governed and funded from the same pot. Surely it will lead to massive resentment from the English about how many benefits the Scots get, and from the Scots that their priorities are being hamstrung by the fact that political decisions on finance are shackled to the contrary English approach to public money and social justice.

Looked at from that perspective I think that, in answer to the question, yes, I think Scotland should be an independent nation.

An amicable split, then? Maybe the Scotland and the rUK would be like one of those divorced couples who get along much better once they remove the stress of trying to live together and constantly comprise their individual needs and values.

“There are risks always in any economic course, there’s risks of doing something and risks of not doing something.”

Further reading:
Canon Kenyon Wright on the The Scottish claim to self-governance and the Road of Fear
– What our UK compatriots will ask for if we stay

Forgetown Episode 1.08 – Don Dismisses The Movers

ForgeTown Cover“You guys are good,” Don Morris made an exaggerated show of checking his left wrist, even though he had long since stopped wearing a watch, then of looking up at the sky as if to gauge the time by the sun’s position like the rugged outdoorsman he was not. Finally he whipped his iPhone out of a side pocket of his grey cargo shorts. “11:49. You said you’d be done by noon!”
Evan-Devon-maybe-Ethan, chief moving guy whose name neither Don nor Kath had caught properly, grinned with all the boyish charm that had been making Kath lose her train of thought all morning. Don had come across her four or five times, staring into the space recently vacated by Evan-Devon-maybe-Ethan. He grinned. He had no illusions. He knew his wife was particularly susceptible to a cute smile and a bit of charm. He thanked God for it, daily. It was, after the best tool in his belt for getting around her when he’d done something to set her off. This guy though? He couldn’t be more than 22.
“Summer job?” he asked. The boy nodded.
“Where d’you go to school?”
“Penn State.” He had said the words with a reverence that Don noted and filed. He had learned young to spot these signals, local intelligence he called it, and use it to start making himself a ‘local’ as soon as possible. A useful skill in a gypsy childhood like his had been.
Now he took the clipboard from Evan-Devon-Ethan and scanned the paperwork, not really seeing it. Instead he was running through a mental list of college mascots. Penn State. Penn State. Ah, there it was.
“Nittany Lions!” he flashed a grin at the boy, who beamed. What else? Oh. Best not to mention the football team, after it’s recent “troubles”. That’d be a sore spot and this kid looks like he might have been hoping to play on a Championship team. Oh well. What then? In a last, heroic lunge, Don plucked the school fight song from some unused corner of his mind.
“Fight on, State,” he said knowingly and received an approving,
“Roar, Lions Roar,” from the proud collegian. Not that it mattered, impressing this boy he’d likely never see again, but he was a good test run for how to charm his new colleagues.
“Well,” he said, handing the clipboard back and shaking Evan-Devon-maybe-Ethan firmly by the hand. In one smooth move, he transferred a stack of folded bills from his pocket to the boy’s free hand. “Be sure and tell your crew we appreciate all their hard work.”
Even-Devon-maybe-Ethan looked down at the money with his big wide-open face.
“Well, thank you, sir,” he said. “And I hope you’re happy in your new home.”
It was probably line he was contractually obliged to delivery but he did it with such sincerity that even Don wanted to believe he meant it. It was…sweet. That was the only word for it. Don had been living in the scrappy Boston suburb of Waterville for so long (and spending his working day amongst the Boston intelligentsia, too) that he’d forgotten what it was like to be this close to the south. People were…different here. He wondered how Kath, Waterville born and bred, was going to adjust to all this unfiltered sweetness.
“Are they all set?”
And here she came now, through the screen door, dark hair pulled back into a ponytail, all except for that one strand that she always missed which looped enticingly over her collar bone and down into the neck of her t-shirt. Don enjoyed the moment. Kath brushed the stray hair away and stared at him.
“What?”
Don, suddenly, horribly aware that he was far from 22 years old these days, gave her his best smoldering look. At first, he thought it wasn’t going to have any effect.
“I should go and say thank you,” Kath was saying, looking at the boys piling into the cab of the moving truck.
Don grabbed his wife around the waist and held her beside him, feeling the warmth of her body through his thin t-shirt.
“They don’t need you,” he said, low and slow.
“Oh,”
Kath turned to him, her cheeks reddening just a little. She leaned into him and wiggled just a little.
Don pushed her away with a playful,
“Yup. Still got it.”
The smack she administered to the back of the head was, he reflected, both justified and worth it.
“So hey,” he said, looking around. “Now that they’re gone, how about I wander down to that Pizza place we saw on the way in and pick us up some cheesesteaks for lunch.”
Kath screwed up her face, but Don carried right on.
“Don’t give me that face. Those things they served you on the Cape were nothing like Philly cheesesteaks. Trust me, I know. If you’re going to live here, you’re going to have to learn to be a connoisseur of the fine local cuisine.”
Kath groaned and he knew he’d won. Not least because it meant she didn’t have to figure out where to get food.
“And don’t forget I’ve got that appointment with the parish priest at 2,” Don said.
Kath groaned again.
“Yeah, I still don’t understand why you have to do that today.”
Don spread his hands wide.
“I told you. It’s what my mom always did: first day in a new home, you get the priest to come over and bless it.”
‘But surely you don’t need that kind of..” she faltered. ‘Nonsense’ was the word that hung in the air between them.
“You know I’m not superstitious,” Don said. “And I promise I’m not going to fill the garden with statues and wreath the whole house in palm fronds, but there are some things I just can’t fight. This seems right.” He gave her his best big-eyed look. “It’s important to me, love.”
He watched as she fought a valiant battle not to roll her eyes and almost won.
“Fine.” She said. “Just as long as I don’t have to come.”
“Never a question, my love.”
“And don’t sign me up for fourteen different committees.”
“Would I?”




Subversive Children’s Literature

20140628-122905-44945753.jpg
E. Nesbit was a staple of the British children’s library section and I’m sure I must have read some of her books (as well as watching Jenny Aguter waving her petticoat at steam trains: another rite of passage for those of us of a certain age), all the while assuming that the “E” stood for something like Edgar or Edwin or something equally Victorian and male.

It was only a couple of weeks ago, while enjoying “Raising Steam” by Terry Pratchett, with it’s sly references to “The Railway Children” and the spirited “Edith”, that I twigged: E. Nesbit was a girl?! 1

But I don’t think I really appreciated how good E. Nesbit was, or how subversive.

She does a fabulous job of showing the world from a child’s perspective, by showing how clueless most adults are. In this exchange a small boy who has, unexpectedly, been made king, goes off to fight a battle against a dragon he has unleashed. It’s a pivotal point in the story, because the king has decided to face up to his mistake and try to correct it, no matter the cost. And his nanny responds just as you’d expect, if you think about it:

20140628-122138-44498172.jpg

Is it any wonder kids stop listening to us, eventually?

I also particularly liked this throwaway line:

20140628-122231-44551529.jpg

I’m not sure you could get away with that now. Not in the US, at least!

People used to think that writing for children was somehow a “lesser” pursuit, which probably has something to do with why women were “allowed” to do it. But this brilliant stuff!

When I read this (and T.H. White2)
I think it’s pretty clear which tradition Neil Gaiman comes from. He has that gift for seeing the world from a child’s perspective too. And for being clever without being pretentious.

Anyway, enough if this. I’m off to read the book I allegedly bought for my nine year old….

Thanks, Retold Tales, for bringing me this gem!


  1. I was also told recently that S.E.Hinton, of “The Outsiders” fame, was not only female but actually a girl, having published the novel at 16!
  2. Not, I’m fairly sure, a woman hiding behind her initials.