Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Mid Life Crisis

Hi everyone.

The summer seems to have gone on strike, doesn't it? I'm sitting here with the central heating on as there is a definite Autumnal nip in the air, possibly because it is the early hours of the morning. Actually, it was more like a Wintery nip when I opened the front door a few minutes ago to fetch the milk in. I'm surprised there wasn't a dash of snow on my red-top.

Maybe the summer is having a mid-life crisis, (if summers have lives) which is something I feel like I'm going through at the moment, especially with my writing. It's probably been going on for months but seemed to really kick in when I decided to start sorting out all my unpublished work, namely my large collection of short stories, my eight children's novels and my three collections of children's poetry.

I'm not sure what made me do it although worrying about the weight of the filing cabinet on my office floor was probably a factor. I don't think it was the best time to choose either as I was already feeling pretty down about the lack of positive response from agents to my latest book and going through all my old rejection letters, although interesting, was somewhat disheartening.

I don't know if other writers get to a point in their writing (and personal) lives where they wonder "Is this it?", or am I the only one? Part of the ageing process seems to me to be the need to reflect on what you've achieved so far, what you still want to achieve and whether you can realistically achieve it in the time you may have left. Is it right to let go of stuff that is probably never going to see the light of day or is it worth ploughing on with it? Is it better to concentrate on writing new material and stop trying to make further progress with work that has already been rejected so many times, it needs more rewrites than Harry Potter.

That probably sounds much more negative than I intended it to be and there was a definite plus side to my de-cluttering exercise apart from it being a great displacement activity to avoid doing any actual writing. As I said in a previous post, when you look back at work that you haven't seen for ages, you do read it with almost fresh eyes and it's probably the most objective you will ever be about your own work.  I was pleased to discover that I have written quite a number of poems for children that I still really like and which I do feel have merit, although that doesn't necessarily mean they will ever be published unless I opt for self-publishing, of course.

I've picked out a couple of short ones to share with you. The first comes from my second collection of poems for children entitled "Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Sprout?" The second one is from my collection for teens called "I Wandered Lonely As A Snog".



I am the confident kid.

The one who walks home alone.
The only child
in the crocodile,
who doesn't have a hand to hold.

Because I am bold,
I am strong.
I don't need no parent tagging along.
I walk with a swagger,
eyes fixed ahead.
If anyone messes with me,
they're dead.

All the other kids think I'm cool.

(Well, it helps that I live next door to the school.)


Kiss me slowly, kiss me quick,
Kiss me thinly, kiss me thick.

Kiss me softly, kiss me hard,
Kiss me in the classroom, kiss me in the yard.

Kiss me like a speeding train,
Kiss me in the sunshine, kiss me in the rain.

Kiss me while you still have the breath,
Kiss me forever, kiss me to death.

 Photo by Matlachu

Monday, 3 August 2015

The Carrot, Not The Stick

Hi everyone.

I hope you've had a good couple of weeks and managed to get lots of writing done.

I'm pleased to say that things have improved quite a bit since my last post Coping With Criticism in which I described how a "mauling" of the sample copy of my proposed non-fiction book with the strong link to Downton Abbey by a literary agent, had badly affected my confidence in the material.

Thanks to a surprising act of "serendipity" (obviously the Universe hasn't quite given up on the project yet), I was given the opportunity to send the proposal and sample copy to my writing colleague author Dr Sheila Glasbey who writes under the pen name of Rosalie Warren. Rosalie is an experienced editor and qualified proof-reader as well as the published author of several novels and scientific works. She runs her own editing, proofreading and critique service which you can find out about at http://www.affordable-editing.com/

Rosalie sent her comments back almost by return of email for which I was very grateful. Without going into too much detail, suffice to say they were considerably more helpful, encouraging and positive than the agent's had been. She was very emphatic that I should carry on with the book and certain that I am the person to write it. I was also particularly pleased that (unlike the agent who dismissed my very personal proposed introduction to the book in one short sentence), Rosalie felt it was something that many readers would empathise with.

Of course, I am well aware that this is only one person's opinion, in the same way that the agent's comments were only one person's opinion. However, because there was considerably more "carrot than stick" in Rosalie's comments than there was in those of the agent (even though the agent was obviously interested in the book), they did not have the effect of stopping me from working on it altogether, as the agent's had done. Quite the reverse in fact and I'm pleased to say that I now feel back on track with 'My Dear Elsie' once again.

One of Rosalie's suggestions was to exploit some of the "brilliant selling points" of the book, including setting up a website with info about Downton Abbey, my book etc. This was something I'd tentatively been thinking about doing and now feel it is definitely the way forward. I have spent quite a lot of time researching websites and blogs which were set up to promote both collections of personal letters (my book is based on letters and postcards I inherited from my grandmother) and books which were "looking" for publishers. It was interesting to discover that in the sites I looked at, publication seemed to follow as a result of the publicity generated by the website and/or blog.

So, as I've probably said before, "onwards and upwards", thanks to Rosalie. I'll keep you posted as to if and when the website gets off the ground. Meanwhile, keep writing. (And I'll try to do the same.)

Carrots For Sale By Paul Brennan