Thursday, 24 May 2018

We're in the money (not)

I have friends getting rich doing jobs they hate; I have other friends you live happily on next to nothing. Most of us, I suspect, are somewhere in between.

When I was at college, I worked in a cake shop every Saturday in the days when we had to add up in our heads and wrap crusty bread in tissue paper. (I am very old.) On Sundays I worked in a petrol station, which involved filling up customers' cars in the sub-zero temperatures of a Staffordshire winter. I used to get so cold it made my nose bleed. Then during the holidays I would also work in a factory, standing on a line packing biscuits. At least this was warm and we could eat as many custard creams as we wanted to, a novelty that wore off after a couple of days. I earned enough to keep me in eyeliner and concert tickets, but there were some very grim days amongst the good ones.

The latest newsletter from the ALCS includes a profile of author Peter May, who gives an honest account of how much he earns. He is a full-time writer and his annual income is - wait for it - £11,000. While the J K Rowlings of this world earn the big bucks, most of we jobbing wordsmiths are just bobbing along, poor but relatively happy.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Ow foot toe crate

I've just been sidetracked into listening to an episode of Tongue and Talk: the dialect poets on th'i-player. I'm supposed to be proofreading something about logistics, but when your mother sends you an intriguing email it would be rude not to follow it up.

Mum is a real poetry buff: she reads it, writes it and performs it, usually from memory, which always impresses me. It seems this gift extended to her Aunt Lucy, who Mum says was as deaf as a post but nonetheless partial to a little recitation.

One of her party pieces was a poem called 'Bowton's Yard', by Yorkshire born but Lancashire bred dialect poet Samuel Laycock (1826-93), 'Laureate of the Cotton Famine'. This gem was based on a real terrace in Stalybridge, where Laycock lived, called Bolton's Yard. It describes in turn the inhabitants of this row of houses and was, apparently, a huge influence on Tony Warren, creator of Coronation Street. It's not hard to see why. You can listen to it here.

I was brought up in Uttoxeter in Staffordshire (or, as we would say, Utcheter in Staffyshire) and still have a few dialect words in my vocabulary (nesh, mardy, two-double, plattin' em), but I haven't really got a Staffs accent - except when I get angry or have spent too long back home with the folks. If you want to know what it sounds like, say the title of this post. It means 'How to speak correctly.'

Ta-ra. Let thee sen art.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

I'm running a workshop

Not a bad place to be working
I hope you all enjoyed the Bank Holiday weekend. Is it too soon to start planning for the next one?

I hope not, because I'm excited to confirm that on Sunday 27 May, as part of the Festival Books at Delapre Abbey in Northampton, I'm running a workshop on 'Creating Fictional Characters'. Now, I appreciate that not all of you live within spitting distance of the county, but if you did happen to be free it would be lovely to see some friendly faces looking back at me.

The site is worth a visit for its own sake. There has been an abbey there for over 900 years, but it fell into a sad state during the 1990s. Now the building and the beautiful grounds have been restored and it is a venue for all sorts of activities.

Tickets can be booked here.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

You can't un-hear things

This is something I overheard in a local coffee shop recently - and I really wish I hadn't. The speaker was a shabby woman, 59. I know, because she'd been talking about her next 'big birthday bash' at some length. She had her back to me, which was probably just as well, so she couldn't see my reaction.

'There was a woman in Asda yesterday: looked like she'd just got off the boat. Great big woman, wearing all the gear - big, flowery scarf around her massive hair, full-length robes.'

Pause. Slurp.

'Mind you, she could speak English. Some of them can, can't they? I expect she was well-do-do. Perhaps her family had saved up and got her educated.'

Pause. Slurp.

'Eh, sometimes you don't recognise England any more.'

Pause. Slurp. Bite of cake. New topic, without any sense of contradiction.

'My brother's been over from Oz. He's lived there nearly ten years now and he loves it. Says he wouldn't come back here for anything.'

I despair.

Friday, 20 April 2018

A writer's week

I'm struggling to come up with a cover image for my new  yoga book, so I went over to see the publisher for a bit of a chat. While I was there, it was pointed out to me that I'm in the May issue of Writing Magazine (pictured), which was a nice surprise. I'm part of the Subscriber Spotlight and I hadn't noticed!

I'm also in the spotlight locally, because our new bookshop has a display of local authors' books, including mine. I'm in the window with Alan Moore!

I'm just waiting for Radio 4 to invite me on and I'll have a hat trick!

How's your week been?

Monday, 16 April 2018

Nose to the Grindstone

Many of you will already know about Grindstone. For a while now, I've been entering writing comps on its site, because they are reasonably priced, they don't go on for ever and the results are posted promptly. Best of all, though, everyone who enters gets feedback on what they submitted. I've yet to be a winner, but I have received some very useful comments on my submissions.

I'm mentioning this because Grindstone has had a face lift and has a new website that makes it easier to enter competitions and promises to offer all sorts of other useful stuff for writers. If you're interested, you can find the site here.

I have a story that's been sitting around for a while that I'm going to refresh and enter into Grindstone's next comp. It's a tale I'm rather fond of, but as yet I haven't been able to find a home for it. I hope there's nothing fundamentally wrong with it - but no doubt the team at Grindstone will tell me if there is.

How old is too old for a story, do you think? When is it time to accept that it's never going to appear in print and simply let go of it?

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Work and research

Where I'll be this afternoon
Mr Thorley was on holiday last week, so my normal routine was set aside in favour of lunches out and general skiving. The weather made it very easy to sit about. We both wondered, though: is this what life will be like when he retires? Ground rules will need to be set, or nothing will get done!

Back to work with gusto this week. I covered an extra class at the gym yesterday - 22 people in the group! It was interesting for me, because it was a fresh audience, and, I hope, for them, because they were expecting Pilates and I gave them yoga. Nobody left; I'll take that as a win.

Last night I made my debut as a speaker for the Northants Authors group, when I gave a talk on research for writers to a small but appreciative audience. My main tip was that you need to set a time limit or you could spend the whole day faffing about. Start looking for background information on scullery maids and before you know where you are you're watching Downton Abbey on YouTube.

There were two other speakers. One gave a chilling account of having his fingers burned twice by publishers going out of business; the other spoke about marketing. I thought I was pretty clued up about this, but it seems there are things I'm missing - for instance, I haven't linked this blog to Tumblr.

Today promises editing at home this morning, an in-house meeting with one of my long-term clients this afternoon, then teaching yoga this evening. Never a dull moment!