Sunday, 27 February 2011

Horses and Poo

The darling Aspie loves Science and animals. He wants a job. Science technician in a vet's lab would be ideal. BUT he doesn't do poo. Perhaps this is why his preferred, as in totally adored, choice of animal is the cat. (Takes its poo away somewhere else).
So, with a few negotiations he is now doing a bit of volunteering at a nearby equine centre and apparently poo is a lot less awful if it's on the end of a long shovel. And if the happy horse is nudging you with love.
Small steps. Smiling son.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Take yourself seriously as an author: Join the Brit Writers

‘So why did you move to Somerset?’ a friendly woman asked over a glass of red wine at the charity ‘do’ to which I’d been invited. ‘Quality of life.’ She answered her own question. It’s not what I was about to say at all, being on the verge of a tedious explanation of the needs of stepchildren and adult responsibilities. I was quite satisfied with my quality of life in Brighton, thank you very much. There may have been financial struggles (that’s no news these days) and a balcony instead of a garden, but there were friends, and groups and organisations that constituted the fabric of my life. I was surrounded by writers and actors and artists of all sorts who fed my creative soul. I could go to any number of theatres, shows and workshops drawing on all the right influences to pursue my dream of becoming a writer.

I prayed that I would be able to continue that dream in the Somerset countryside. Now married, with my very own study and nothing to distract me from my writing, I could get on with it, finish the novel, do big things. I started projects willingly enough, but without the bouncing conversations I usually had with my friends and ‘colleagues’, it was hard to stay motivated.

The answer was to do a tour of all the theatres and performance spaces in a twenty mile radius, everything from full scale playhouses to village halls. One of these stops was the Bridgwater Arts Centre- the oldest in the country. At a strange little concert, I got talking to another woman and a mention of writing was made. ‘Then you must come to our writing group.’ A start. The group meet every couple of months and write to a theme, sharing their work. It’s very sociable and a lot of fun, but I needed more. One of the group who has more serious designs for her writing invited me to join another group where we all contribute funds to engage a tutor. Everyone in the room is working on a project that matters to them. Now there were people to share ideas with and to whom pieces can be read and feedback received. Progress.

I still wanted more. I wanted to access the creative community and didn’t really know how. So on my next jaunt to Brighton I arranged to meet Chris Taylor to pick her brains. Over tea and strawberries in the park we talked about the different ways people get started and organisations grow. The idea was not to wait for an opportunity to arise within a ‘structure’, but to create a space of one’s own by sneaking in the back way, so to speak. With plenty of time to ruminate on my drive home again, I came up with a plan: I would approach the director of the Arts Centre and offer to be their ‘Writer in Residence’ on a set day every week. It took me another five months to muster the courage to do it.

On the morning of the appointment I felt inadequate and almost cancelled. I’m not published, except for a factual article in an online magazine. I had no proof of skill or talent beyond the Arts Council funded one woman show I wrote and performed. I was a sham and about to embarrass myself terribly! (I certainly have no problems with my imagination!)

Well, guess where I am as I write this? Indeed. Charlie Dearden, the director of the Arts Centre was delighted with my proposal. She also wanted to know what other projects I might have in mind. Since last January I have been in attendance at the Centre every Thursday as Writer in Residence. I work on whichever piece is foremost in my mind and read and discuss what I’m doing with whoever is around during the day. It is great motivation for me. in April I presented a performed reading of one of my short stories at a Fringe event. My one-woman show went on in September.
In December I took a leap of faith when the BritWriters Publishing Programme came up. I was fed up with the silence of the slush pile and felt it was time to take matters into new hands. Now I feel like I'm on a behind-the scenes tour of the publishing world and the information is enlightening. I am very excited about where this all will lead and I have the motivation and self-belief to be on my next novel.
In the Bridgwater Arts Centre there is now a little Sinéad-shaped space. In the world of cyber-media, there is a growing Sinead shaped space and I'm hoping by the end of the year, there'll be a novel shaped space on the bookshelves of the shops.
So don't waste your energy on resentment and frustration and get out and make your space. And if you want my advice, get someone amazing behind you, like the BritWriters. 

Have a good look at where you live…a creative space may offer so much more than a desk and a warm room! You might just be able to create your future.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Are gay issues passe?

A criticism levied at my novel (But I love you) is that the gay issues raised gently therein are no longer relevant. "Everyone's cool with the gay thing now, aren't they?" The answer is probably yes in the metrosexual big cities, London, Manchester, Brighton. But cast your net a little wider, or a little tighter and you will find that homophobia is in the closet. Today's Observer magazine carries an article about Alan Downs book 'Velvet Rage' and addresses why so many gay taboos still need to be broken.  The stories from the men on 'coming out' are touching and painful as well as inspiring. Religious parents do still get upset. It is still a difficult personal journey to undertake.
And what about the couple who went to holiday in Cornwall, thoughtfully checking that their dog would be welcome, only to discover that as gay men they were not.
Only a couple of weeks ago, Jeremy Vine invited listeners to his Radio 2 show to share their coming out stories. Again, the reactions were varied, positive and negative.
It is still necessary in 2011 to stand up for our gay friends and share the stories so we may all keep learning.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

BritWriters CEO speaks about the Publishing Programme

 Hello to anyone interested in the BritWriters Publishing Programme.  I am one of the fifteen lucky auhtors on the first programme and very happy to be leading the way to change!

Friday, 18 February 2011

Context, or lack of it.

Oliver rushes in to his step-dad's office. "Do you have a meter?" Ian looks around his room, "Um, that table's a meter. A meter of string? Possibly. What for? I think I have a meter rule." Now on his feet trying to answer Oli's request.
"No. An electricity meter. The man's at the door."

Yes, the electricity man had come to read the meter and Oli didn't know where it was.
Life is all so very clear when we remember to put things in context. Or when you remember that someone else's neural pathways don't fire the same way as yours.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The tale of the Guinea Pigs

We hadn't long moved to Somerset and didn't know many of our neighbours when the unsettling appearance of a dead Guinea Pig occurred on the drive. It seemed our tomcat had taken advantage of someone's pet. We were mortified - not the way to make an impression on your neighbours! Having no idea who had children who might own said Guinea Pig, we kept quiet.
We might have got away with it if Tigger hadn't turned up with another GP a few days later...then another a few days after that.
The taxi driver was bringing Oliver back from college. He parked over by the gate, and came to the door - most unusual. His expression was tragic as he aplogised to me and explained that he had just run over my Guinea Pig. I answered, 'Not another one!' which confused him somewhat. As I rolled my eyes I saw another by the grass, and another by the car. This situation was out of hand. So we embarked on some discreet enquiries and ascertained that the Pigs belonged to our neighbour across the road, the one with the Ferrari flag at the gate, and that as he was most fond of his animals it might be wise to say nothing.
Ok, then.
But the GP body count continued to rise, and when we invited all the neighbours for getting-to-know-you drinks, we were in a dilemma. Was it time to fess up? Cautioned once more about the gentleman's love of his animals we were silent.
Until Oliver came into the room. Now, Oli isn't great at remembering faces - an Asperger's aversion to looking at them doesn't help. So when he meets new people I try to give him a verbal hook. Oli is standing in the middle of the room and I am introducing J 'who owns the garage', and N 'Ferrari flag man'. "Oh, Guinea Pig man?" Oliver announces clearly over the top of my head. N looks up with interest.
Have you ever had one of those moments where you are deluded enough to think you can still rescue a situation? Hmm. I stood in front of my son (to block his view - why?) and said, "No, Ferrari flag man."
Oliver ennunciated loudly, "You mean Guinea Pig man."
"No. Ferrari flag." I was pleading.
He gave me that Aspie look of absolute certainty and said, "Well I think we owe him the truth, don't you?"
Because Aspies can't lie.
So their mothers aren't allowed to either.
And that's our real any wonder I write stories?