Sunday, 11 April 2021

Motivation, Motivation, Motivation

Hi everyone.

What motivates you?

One thing I've discovered through the long, weary months of lockdown is what doesn't motivate me. 

For example, looking like the Wild Woman of Borneo because I haven't had my hair cut for over 12 months isn't going to motivate me to make a hair appointment any time soon, even though (thanks to the government's "road map") hairdressers are allowed to open in England from tomorrow.

Following the Government's Road Map

And being able to trace not just my name but my entire family history in the dust on top of the piano is not going to persuade me to switch off Netflix and get jiggy with a J-cloth and a bowl of warm water.

But if I analyse those examples, I know immediately what it is that is standing in the way of me accomplishing two things which actually I'd really like to get done. 

Anxiety about catching Covid, despite being vaccinated, is definitely one of them and a perceived lack of energy as in "What's the point? No one but me is going to see it anyway." is another.

Still Anxious About Covid

Maybe it's a lockdown thing, maybe it's a menopause thing (don't get me started on the "M" word) or maybe it's just a getting older thing but wanting and even needing to do something doesn't seem to work for me as a motivator any more.

So it will be interesting to see, when two out of those three things hopefully come to an end, whether or not I'm motivated to do things again even if I'm not motivated, if you know what I mean.

But for the time being, I'm going to try not to be too hard on myself and accept that these are strange and not very wonderful times. I really hope you are motivated to do the same.





Saturday, 27 February 2021

The Mail On Sunday v Meghan Markle

There comes a time in the life of a writer, unless you are JK Rowling of course, when you have to accept that the book you’ve been working on for a really long time and which you were counting on for both personal and financial gain, might not actually get published.

It’s a really unpleasant moment and it happened to me a few weeks ago while I was still basking in the euphoria of having finally finished writing My Dear Elsie, the non-fiction book I’ve been writing on and off since 2012.

The book is based on a collection of old letters and postcards I found in the back of my late mother’s wardrobe and they are not just any old letters and postcards. They were written to my maternal grandmother by a friend of hers called Ethel North who was employed as lady’s maid to Lady Winifred Burghclere, the sister of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, from 1919 to 1933.

George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon (Public Domain)

Ethel travelled all over the world with Lady Burghclere, including to Egypt where they were shown around the tomb of Tutankhamun by Howard Carter who, along with the 5th Earl, had discovered the tomb of the boy Pharaoh in 1922.  

The letters are full of fascinating stories about life as a domestic servant, foreign travel in the heyday of the steamship and gossip about “celebrities” of the period such as King Edward VIII and Sir Winston Churchill. You can find out more about them here:

https://ladyburghclereandethel.com

As soon as I discovered Ethel’s letters and started reading them, I knew I had discovered something really special. My intention was to get them published in book form as I felt strongly that I wanted to share Ethel’s fascinating story with the rest of the world and this seemed to be the best way of doing it.

Unfortunately, I was already several years into the project when I found out that the law on copyright infringement applies to old, unpublished letters in exactly the same way as it does to other “creative” work such as art, literature or music. In other words, although I own the actual physical letters and postcards, I don’t own the copyright or “intellectual property” on them. That still belongs to Ethel, the original writer of the letters and as she has only been dead since 1960, she retains the copyright, or at least her estate does, until 70 years after her death. That means they won’t be in “the public domain” until after 2030.

Ethel in Egypt

However, there are some exceptions to this law and until very recently, I was under the assumption that I was covered by one of these exceptions. This is something referred to as “criticism, review and new reporting” and allows for relevant sections of copyrighted works to be reprinted for comment.

Unfortunately, the key word here is “reprinted” as I have now discovered that the exemption does not apply to unpublished works (such as personal letters) and is also not intended to cover use of a whole work, only extracts, and I am using at least 90 per cent of Ethel’s letters in my book.

Ironically, it was the reporter who wrote a feature on Ethel’s letters for The Mail on Sunday newspaper who convinced me that I was covered by this exemption. The paper recently lost a high court privacy case concerning publication in the paper of extracts of a “personal and private” unpublished letter that the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, had written to her estranged father.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/feb/11/meghan-markle-father-duchess-sussex-mail-on-sunday-wins

Although the judge’s decision was mainly concerned with the alleged breach of privacy, he also ruled that the paper had infringed Meghan’s copyright having “copied a large and important proportion of the work’s original literary content”. In other words, he did not accept that the publication of the letter was covered by the “criticism, review and new reporting” exemption.

One of Ethel's letters to my grandmother

Of course, I am well aware that publishing Ethel’s letters is a very different proposition from publishing a personal letter from a prominent member of the Royal Family. Nevertheless, I’ve decided I can’t go ahead with publishing the book until I have done all I can to obtain permission from the copyright holders.

I am already in contact with one of them and they have kindly agreed to try and get in touch with the others (there are about half a dozen altogether as far as I can work out) and in the meantime, I can only sit back and wait. The book is finished, the illustrations are more or less resourced and I am ready to go. But will I end up actually being able to publish it? Only time will tell.

  

 

 

 

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Happy New Year 2021

Hi everyone.

So I think it's fair to say that 2020 wasn't exactly the year that we'd all been expecting and as I type this, 2021 isn't showing too many signs of being all that great so far either.

But we must have hope! "Things can only get better" as the song says and with the Covid Vaccination Programme well underway and a much-needed changing of the guard in the USA, there is a chink of light at the end of the tunnel which is hopefully not yet another train coming.

Although it surprises most people when I say this, January is my favourite month and not just because it's my birth month. One of the reasons I like it so much is the "clean slate" feeling you get at the start of every new year. However challenging the previous year was and let's face it, last year was extraordinarily challenging, there is always the opportunity to press the "refresh" button and start again.


That's why we call the goals we often set at this time of year our "New Year Resolutions" and not our "Halfway Through The Year Resolutions". We use the impetus of another fresh start to motivate and inspire us, even if we don't always keep that motivation and inspiration up much beyond Valentine's Day. 

There's no doubt though, after all that has happened in 2020, my feelings this January are pretty mixed to say the least. That is why I have designed this slightly sardonic digital print for my Etsy shop, a parody of the famous Nina Simone song lyric. 


But "whatever" it is that you are feeling at the moment, I just want to take the opportunity to say that this is OK. We're all currently living through "unprecedented" times (to use the Word of the Year for 2020) and pretty much anything goes on the feelings front. Despite that, I do hope you manage to find some peace and joy in 2021 and I wish you all a very Happy New Year.

Stay safe and well.

Melissa x

Saturday, 7 November 2020

Lest We Forget

Hi everyone.

I'm sorry it has been so long since my last post. Back in April, I think we expected things to have improved by now in terms of the Coronavirus but sadly, things seem to have become very challenging again. 

My heart goes out to any of you that have lost loved ones, been separated from family and friends, been ill yourselves, lost your job or had your life turned upside down and inside out in any other awful way. And if you are a "key worker" or you have done anything at all to help make life a bit better for someone during the last few months, then thank you!

Of course, this is the time of year when we try to remember those who have served others in the most significant and poignant way. I know that Remembrance Day can't be acknowledged in quite the same way this year because of the virus but hopefully we can still find ways of remembering. 

Here are 5 things that might help with that. 


Poppies


Poppies are one of my favourite flowers and even if we can't physically visit a field of poppies at the moment, this photo might help you to appreciate their beauty and to remember how significant they are at this time of year especially.


Poetry

Even people who never normally read poetry often turn to it at times of great sadness or happiness such as funerals or weddings. Last year, 14 year old Josh Dyer from Leominster in the UK wrote a simple but incredibly evocative poem for Remembrance Day called 'One Thousand Men Are Walking'. His mum posted it on Facebook and it has since been read by hundreds of thousand of people online. 

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-hereford-worcester-50291048


People



Although many Remembrance Day commemorations will be severely curtailed this year due to the pandemic, the annual Remembrance Day Service at the Cenotaph in London will go ahead as a closed ceremony. It will be broadcast live on BBC One from 10.15am on Sunday 8 November and you can also watch a live stream of events from the Cenotaph on the Royal British Legion Facebook Page


Philanthropy

Defined as the act of performing charitable or benevolent actions, Remembrance Day is a good time of year to practice philanthropy. Even if you've not been able to buy a poppy because of Covid, you can still donate online to the British Legion's Poppy Appeal 2020 and even download a free poppy poster that you can display in your window to encourage others to give. There is also a poppy poster for the kids to colour in too.

https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/ways-to-give/donate


Printable



This is a printable poppy collage sheet that I designed recently and which is available to download from my Etsy shop. If you purchase it any time before midnight on 11 November 2020, I will donate the full retail price (£2.50) to the Royal British Legion.

You can instantly download the printable sheet here:

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/894516863/poppy-digital-collage-sheet-digital


I hope that whatever you do this year for Remembrance Day you are able to stay well and safe.

Take care,

Melissa x





Sunday, 26 April 2020

Rainbow Collage Craft

Hi everyone.

We need rainbows more than ever at the moment, don't we? There is something about their bright colours, their simple shape and their symbolism of hope which is perfect for these scary times. So it's no surprise really that the rainbow seems to have become the agreed artistic symbol of the fightback against the coronavirus pandemic and I've certainly enjoyed looking at the various rainbow artwork that has appeared in windows, doors and on driveways when I've been talking my regular walks around the area where I live.


Coronavirus Rainbow, March 31 2020.
Photo Credit: CC (themostinept )

Here are three things you might not know about rainbows:

1. The word 'rainbow' comes from two Old English words 'regn' and 'boga' meaning 'rain' and 'bow'.


2. Although rainbows feature a lot in ancient literature and religious mythology, no one knew what they were until the 17th century.


3. Because rainbows don't actually exist (sorry!) and are just a "virtual image" of the sun, in theory we all see a different rainbow.


There are more fascinating facts and information about rainbows in this article if you are interested in finding out more about them.

https://www.seriousfacts.com/rainbow-facts/

Well, I've seen enough lovely rainbows recently, both in the sky and on the street, to feel inspired to create some rainbow artwork of my own and this is a piece of digital art that I designed from a greetings card I bought at my local shops just before lockdown.


Rainbow Wall Art
Final Image Design by Melissa Lawrence

I've also created a rainbow collage sheet which is now available to download from my Etsy shop. You can print it out as many times as you like and use it for cardmaking, collages, window art or whatever you fancy. It's great for crafting with kids, too.

                                                                              
Rainbow Collage Sheet
Final Image Design by Melissa Lawrence



And here are a couple of  sample cards I made using some of the elements from the collage sheet.

                                                                                    
Sample Rainbow Cards by Melissa Lawrence


Also, there are some great ideas online for doing rainbow collage art with kids if you are looking for things to keep them busy and creative at the moment. Here is just one example I found for you:

https://www.artycraftykids.com/art/rainbow-paper-collage-art-project/


Anyway, I do hope that you are managing to stay safe and well at the moment and please, don't give up on chasing your own metaphorical rainbows, however hard it seems the moment. We will get there in the end.


Stay creative!


Melissa x




Sunday, 5 April 2020

Free Easter Collage Sheet

Hi everyone.

It's hard to believe that less than three months after I last wrote a post for this blog, we would be in the middle of a global pandemic. But unfortunately we are, so I do sincerely hope that wherever you are and whatever you are doing you are managing to keep safe and well.

Like many "creatives" I have been wondering whether I should put my work on hold during the pandemic and of course, if I get sick, I shall have to. I think that many of us have probably contemplated giving up what may seem to us (and other people!) like "non-essential" jobs and doing something that seems more important. However, apart from the fact that I'd be about as useful as a wasp in a honey jar for most of these jobs, we probably need the pleasure, light relief and inspiration that creativity can bring, more than ever right now.


It's still OK to be creative

So a week or two ago I made a list of things I felt I could do through my creative work to help other people and sprinkle some "creative magic". I'm gradually working my way through my list although everything seems to be taking a lot longer than usual at the moment, doesn't it?

Anyway, one thing I have now done is to put a link on my designing website to a FREE Easter Collage Sheet that I have designed and which you are welcome to download, print out as many times as you like and use to craft with. Easter may not seem like all that much of a priority this year but if you do want to find some pretty Easter images for cardmaking, scrapbooking or home decor projects, please head over to my website. You could get the kids involved too. Ideal for keeping them busy during the "lockdown" period.


Easter Collage Sheet designed by Melissa Lawrence


Sorry, this collage sheet is no longer available as a free update but you can purchase it from my Etsy shop as an instant download instead.

And let's hope that next time I post there is a tiny speck of light at the end of this dark tunnel.

Please stay safe, stay well and stay indoors.


Melissa x


Saturday, 25 January 2020

New Year, New Blog!

Hi everyone.

It's a new year, a new decade and a new blog! Well, strictly speaking it's an old blog but it has had a bit of a makeover and instead of just posting about my writing career on here, now I'm combining it with designing and crafting posts too. Yes, it might have been easier to start afresh with a brand new blog but these days, recycling is the thing, isn't it?!

I've been feeling for quite a while now that I just have too much "stuff", both online and offline, so January has seen me having a bit of a declutter and making an attempt to streamline things more. I'm hoping that by having one blog instead of three, and only five social media accounts instead of eight (Yes, I know!), I might be able to post more and panic less. We shall see.

So please bear with me as I get used to the new format. Obviously if you look at all the posts before this one, they will all be related to writing but fear not. Designing and crafting posts will soon appear, I promise.

In the meantime, I've created a quick digital design for you using one of my favourite techniques which is "colouring in" vector graphics and digistamps on the computer. It's a bit time-consuming but I love doing it and I did promise myself that I'd do more of what I love this year.

Have a great 2020!

Melissa x