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 





Thursday, 3 October 2019

National Poetry Day 2019

Hi everyone.

It's National Poetry Day in the UK today and the theme this year is Truth. There are lots of poetry-related activities going on around the country and if you want to find out more, have a look at this link:

https://poetrysociety.org.uk/projects/national-poetry-day/

I must admit that I haven't been writing (or reading) much poetry lately but I recently got back in touch with a friend who is a very talented poet and after encouraging her to write a poem for National Poetry Day, I thought I should practise what I preach, especially as I always prefer writing when there is a theme and a deadline to work to. I was rather shocked to discover from my notebook that it is almost two years since I last wrote a poem and I must admit, I'd forgotten how hard it is.

After writing down lots of ideas (the easy bit!), then deciding that none of them were any good and tearing up the piece of paper, I was watching a TV programme about the rock star Suzi Quatro when a completely new idea suddenly came to me. As soon as the programme had finished, I went straight to my notebook, wrote the first draft in one sitting and then edited it on the computer over the next couple of days.

It may not be the greatest poem I've ever written but at least I have written one and more importantly, I've reminded myself of the process that works best for me when it comes to writing. Put the initial work in and then trust your subconscious to deliver.

Anyway, here it is.



If Truth Be Told

I could tell you I have a website.
I could tell you I have an email address.
I could tell you I made £600 worth of sales in my Etsy shop last week.

I could tell you I am in a relationship.
I could tell you we have just come back from Barbados.
I could tell you we have three beautiful children who never stop smiling.

I could tell you I have seven Porsches in the garage.
I could tell you I am a leather-clad rock star.
I could tell you I have been asked to stand for Congress.

Or I could tell you my truth.


Copyright Melissa Lawrence 2019


Credit: Jeanie Mackinder [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]








Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Is It A Bird? Is It A Plane? Is It A Hobby? Or Is It A Job?


Do you think of your writing as a hobby or a job? This is a question I have wrestled with a lot over the course of my writing life, although probably if I’d spent less time pondering which category to fit writing into and more time actually doing it, I might not need to be posing the question in the first place.

It’s taken me quite a long time to realise this, but I do seem to be someone who functions better when I have “compartments” for different areas of my life and I have recently “re-compartmentalised” (if there is such a word) my writing back into being a hobby again which is where it first started.

I need to compartmentalise my life


There were three reasons for this. First of all, I turned 60 last January and had a great desire to “retire” from something. Although I officially retired from teaching and received a small occupational pension on the day before my 60th birthday, I actually stopped teaching about thirty years ago, so that didn’t really seem to count. I had no desire to retire from my career as a creative designer as I only started that about four years ago and am still determined to make a success of what will probably be my final career, so that didn’t seem like an option either.

So that just left writing and crafting to choose from and this brings me to the second reason. Both of those activities had begun as hobbies but for all sorts of reasons, had become my job. I was happy with that decision most of the time but one big disadvantage of doing something you used to do for pleasure and are now doing to try and earn money, is that it can easily take all the pleasure out of it. Also, when most of your hobbies have become your job, as had happened with me, there isn’t a lot of enjoyable stuff left to do on your days off!

It took me a while to make the decision but at the beginning of April, I announced to myself, and anyone else who would listen, that I was now officially “retired” from writing and crafting and was concentrating solely on my (relatively) new career as a designer. In order to cement the decision, as I felt I could hardly throw myself a retirement party or present myself with a gold watch, I adjusted my Facebook bio, put Post-It-Notes into my account ledgers for writing and crafting to say that they were now officially closed, and moved everything off my desk that was writing or crafting related.

I could hardly present myself with  a gold watch


I also told myself, that rather like a footballer or cricketer who hangs up their boots at the age of 33 and then gets a very unexpected call to play for England when they are 35, I could come out of retirement at any time I liked, especially if someone suddenly offered me a lucrative publishing deal!

Although that may all sound rather bizarre (and possible a little bit OCD) it did help, and for the last three months or so, I have taken to retirement like a rather arthritic duck to water. What is interesting however, at least to me, is how much more productive I've been as a writer and, just as importantly, how much more I have enjoyed writing, since making that decision.

In her excellent book Stop Worrying; Start Writing (which I hope to review on this blog shortly), Sarah Painter talks about some of the mind games she plays to help get her writing work done. One of them is thinking of writing as “fun” and telling herself that she is fortunate to “get” to write every day, rather than thinking she “must” do it.

Sarah believes, as I do, that when you first start out as a writer, it’s important to think of writing as “work” and not just a hobby. However, as time goes on, (25 years in my case), writing, like any other job, can become such a drudge and a pressure that you get to the point, as I think I probably had, that you will do almost anything to avoid doing it.

So if you are getting to the stage where writing is becoming a bit like digging a never-ending ditch or giving birth without painkillers, maybe it's time to rethink your categories. After all, if it worked for Superman, it could work for you!


If it worked for Superman it could work for you

STOP PRESS: September 2019. It's back to being a job again!


Saturday, 15 December 2018

The Best Children's Poetry Books To Buy This Christmas


Hi everyone.




It’s official. After wandering around in the wilderness for a few years (not helped by National Curriculum!) poetry for children is cool again. This is great news if you have presents to buy for children at Christmas. It’s also great news for me as it has spurred me on to finally start the process of getting my first collection of poetry for children out under my new children’s books imprint Black Bunny Books. If all goes according to plan, I hope that this time next year I’ll be recommending that you put There’s A Gorilla In My Pyjamas by Melissa Lawrence on your Christmas list!

According to the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CPLE) there has been an almost 70% increase in submissions for their prestigious poetry award (CLiPPA) with 32 books from 19 different publishers submitted in 2018. So, in no particular order as they say on Strictly Come Dancing, here is my personal selection of five of the many good poetry books for children that are currently out there and which might even get your kids off their various devices for five minutes on Christmas Day.


1) Rhythm and Poetry by Karl Nova (Poetry Caboodle)

This was the 2018 winner of the CLiPPA award. The collection reflects on the poet's journey from childhood to adulthood through the medium of Hip Hop Culture. (That's RAP for those of us who think decent music ended with the death of Elvis.) Here is what one parent had to say about the book in a review on Amazon.

"Absolutely brilliant. I bought this for my 11 year old and he loves it. Highly recommended!"







2) Where Zebras Go by Sue Hardy-Dawson (Otter-Barry Books)

On the shortlist for the same award in 2018, Where Zebras Go is a “diverse and exciting” debut collection from up and coming poet Sue Hardy-Dawson who performs regularly in schools across the country. I love the first lines of her poem The Weaver of Words.

Wind, rattles clouds
carrying the song
of the weaver of words.
Coarse-fingered
nails, polished
to the points of needles.






Michael Rosen is one of the most tried and trusted poets writing for children today so any collection put together by him will be sure to delight and amuse even the most poetry detesting child. Here is a sample review from Amazon which says it all:


“My children love this book. They didn't look at much poetry so I thought I'd try them with it and they actually fight to read it out!”


 

4) The Humpback’s Wail by Chrissie Gittins (Rabbit Hole Publications)

I have this on my own bookshelf and I can definitely recommend it. There is humour, history, word play and wonderfully quirky subject matter such as in the poem Making Cream Cakes For Tina Turner. The delightful line drawings by Paul Bommer really add to the overall attraction of the book.

“Chrissie Gittins knows just what words can do. She makes them dance, sing, sit still for am moment and then leap across the page with joy!” Ian Macmillan


 

5) New And Collected Poems For Children by Carol Ann Duffy (Faber & Faber)

I’ve always really, really admired and enjoyed our current poet laureate’s poems for children and you may find yourself wanting to hang onto this anthology of Duffy’s poems for yourself. This book brings together some of the best poems from her four award-winning collections for children and there are new ones too. Here are the first lines from the poem The Words of Poems.

The words of poems are nails
which tack the wind to a page,
so that the gone hour
when your kite pulled you over the field
blows in your hair.





 

So here’s hoping that my small, personal selection of the many great poetry books for children that are out there might help you with your Christmas shopping and keep poetry for children “cool” into 2019 and beyond. All of the books I have mentioned were available on Amazon at the time of writing this blog (just click on the links above) and you could also check out the Waterstones list of children’s poetry books, many of which are under £5.00 and would make perfect stocking-fillers. 

https://www.waterstones.com/category/childrens-teenage/poetry-and-anthologies/poetry


Have a very happy Christmas! 

Melissa