Category Archives: writing

A Walk In the Woods

Having lived in Texas for the past six years I must confess to having forgotten what chilly weather feels like. In the summer my family and I relocated to New Jersey. This is our first winter here and here’s what I’ve learned so far…

1) The trees make strange noises when they freeze.

2) To go outside with no gloves and hat is utter madness.

3) It’s hard to walk briskly when your thighs are numb with cold.

4) My adorable dog, Chloe, does not appear feel the cold and will happily walk in it for hours… my children however are not so keen.

5) It is incredibly exhilarating to walk in almost freezing temperatures and oddly fun to find one can no longer feel one’s chin!

We are expecting snow this week.I say: “Bring. It. On!”

 

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Filed under countryside, creative writing, health, relocation, self discovery, Uncategorized, weather, writing

A Blogtastic New Year!

Oh so good to be back on the blogosphere! My last post was in April 2012 just before a massive relocation took my family and I to New Jersey. Much as I planned to continue writing, tweeting and all that good stuff, I found I just couldn’t do it. I like to think I’m a multi-tasker but the reality was, that settling my family into a new home, new schools and new area was completely all-consuming. In the end I stopped trying to squeeze it all in and put my personal writing goals on hold.

But now we’re at the beginning of a New Year and it’s impossible to resist the lure of New Year’s Resolutions. Not that I’m making any. I mean the last time I made an official New Year’s resolutions list it consisted of something like: 1) Get fit 2) Get good grades and 3) Get a boyfriend.  So yeah it was a long time ago! 

However,now in the lull after Christmas and before the onslaught of Everything Spring, I am catching my breath, taking stock and planning ahead.

2012 whizzed by and shall hearby be known as The Year of Admin; it was all about change of address stickers, making new friends, organising and reorganising cupboards. But 2013 will The Year of Action, The Year of Not-Putting-Things-Off, The Year of Personal Fullfillment! Oh and also the year of watching as many Oscar nominated movies as possible (hmm… must keep looking for a good babysitter!)

What I like about these sorts of resolutions is that they are suitably vague yet vaguely inspiring.  And also sort of fail-proof; after all if I manage to keep the house stocked up on loo roll all year who’s to say that’s not personally fullfilling?  No-one has to know I set a personal goal of completing my second novel by March. (Eek! Did I just say that out loud?)

Or if I take my car for an oil change well before the warning light flashes isn’t that in fact an indication that I am not putting things off? You see where I’m going with this… I think the key is to keep your expectations (and everybody else’s) low.

So come on…what were your New Year’s Resolutions? It’s a safe place and no one will judge you…I promise!

 

 

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Filed under Chick Lit, creative writing, life journey, life lessons, living abroad, motherhood, parenting, relocation, self discovery, travel, Uncategorized, writing

Stay-At-Home Mom Confession: I Want A Job!

I’ve been a stay-at-home Mom for twelve years. When I read that sentence back it absolutely shocks me to the core because it was never my plan. Before I had children, before I met my husband, I had always believed that it was important for a woman to keep working alongside starting a family. I had a theory that working part-time was ideal because that way a mother was keeping her own identity while also being there to nurture her children. To add to this the children would benefit from socializing with others. 

So when I became pregnant with my first child, I made plans to redirect my career. I managed to secure a part-time job and began scouting around child-care options in London (pricey but essential). Then everything changed: my husband got a job transfer to Belgium and before I knew it, we were moving house to live in another country and all of a sudden…I no longer had a job.

Six years in Belgium were spent settling in and having another child. We were speaking another language and adapting to a new community. These, I believed, were good reasons not to go back to work and I became a full-time Mom. 

Then we moved to the States. And until recently, when we got the illusive Green Card, I couldn’t work because my visa wouldn’t allow it.  I was officially just “a spouse.” We had another child.

I love my kids. They amaze me, I look at them and am in disbelief that these three wonderful human beings are my children.  I’m not going to admit to your face (obviously that would be rude and tactless) but secretly I think, no I know, my children are the best in the world! 😉

But … I want a job. I still feel the way I did years ago when I was single and childless. In fact I believe it even more strongly. I meet women like me who are happy to be full-time mothers, they thrive on it and they are fullfilled.  And I’m jealous.  Because no matter how hard I try, I can’t make myself feel that way. Somehow it’s not enough. And in the back of my mind I feel that it would be healthier for me and my children if I went back to work.

I don’t want to live through my children, I want to live alongside my children. (Almost thought I’d be struck down by lightening for saying that but no … I’m still here.)

Does that make me selfish? What do you think? Are you a stay-at-home Mom who yearns to go back to work? Or did you give up work so that you could be a full-time Mom?  Maybe you’re a working Mom who has to work and would prefer not to? Or a Mom who never considered giving up her career to have children?  

I would love to hear from you! 🙂

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Filed under Chick Lit, children, creative writing, fiction, life journey, motherhood, novel, parenting, publishing, self discovery, self publishing, Uncategorized, writing

TOMS GIVEWAY – it’s here people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A while ago I had the opportunity to take part in the TOMS Blog Giveaway which was FAB because I love TOMS!  They sent me two copies of TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie’s book Start Something That Matters and my job was simply to read and keep one copy, review it on my blog and then give one copy away.  It sounded simple and it was…and I should have done it already but for some reason, whatever reason, life got in the way!  However as the old adage goes: better late than never!  And quite frankly the message in Start Something That Matters can never get old or out of date. So here goes…

I’m an advocate of TOMS model. I was desperate to get hold of a pair of TOMS shoes the moment I found out about them.  Mycoskie had me at “one for one!” 🙂   This way of giving back really appealed to me. Practical not only because it helps those in need and puts shoes on feet but also because TOMS is a successful business which gives back to our economy and creates jobs. Additionally the shoes look great so it was win/win really!

Start Something that Matters is easy to read, perfect for a cozy Sunday afternoon, curled up on the couch with a mug of coffee. It’s also pretty good for dipping in and out if you’re stuck on a commuter train somewhere because Mycoskie’s positivity and enthusiasm come through quite clearly in his writing.  And it’s surprisingly addictive and this is where I think Start Something That Matters really has some clout because you can’t stop thinking about it. 

This book has the power to change the way you think about giving and change the way we are living!  The TOMS one for one approach frees individuals from the burden of financial giving, which in a time of economic stress is tough on everyone.  Instead the premise is this: what can you give back to society for FREE? What skills do you have that you can offer to others for FREE?  I love that idea! It’s not just about money, it’s about using your skills and so it seems more personal, more genuine – to me anyway.  

As I finished the book I knew I wanted to find a way to give back like this too.  Eventually it dawned on me that I could put my acting training to use (finally) and get involved in reading books for free. I found a fantastic organisation locally called the Reading Resource which does just that. Here’s their link: http://www.readingresource.org/   They are responsible for producing hundreds of audio books a year which cover just about every subject and style you can think of! I was thrilled to get involved and chuffed to bits to be giving back in a way that wasn’t just handing over my credit card details.

The importance of this book is not how original it’s message is. In fact it’s not original at all really, philanthropy in business has been around for a long time.  The importance of this book really is the timing: Start Something That Matters serves as necessary reminder.  We’re a society which is being consumed by social media, we can make friends, purchases and even give online. Blake Mycoskie puts the “human” back into “humanitarian.” Giving is personal again and I think that’s a good thing.

Even if this book was useless and badly written (which is isn’t) everyone should buy a copy if only for the fact that with every purchase of Start Something That Matters, a children’s book will be provided to First Book and given to a child in need in the United States. So every home should have a copy gracing their bookshelves, virtual or otherwise!

And I have a copy to give away to one lucky person! 🙂 All you have to do is tell me who said this: “One person can make a difference and every person should try”  (clue: assassinated US President – I’m making this easy for you guys!) and share one way that you think you could give back in the one for one spirit! I would LOVE to hear your ideas – hopefully we can all inspire each other! 🙂

To find a random winner, I will probably ask my four year old son to pick a number (unless I can work out how to do that electronic random picker thing) and then happily mail Start Something That Matters to anywhere in the world! Yes ANYWHERE! So come on everyone let’s do this! 🙂

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The thing about writing…

Life is all about extending your comfort zones right? Well in December I plonked myself bang in the middle of a new comfort zone and it made me edgy and excited all at the same time!  In July I published my debut novel High-Heels And Slippers, first as an ebook and then in paperback too.  That  in itself was a huge learning curve but then in December I took part in a book blog tour during which my book was reviewed by fifteen people.  I had no idea what they would think of my book but whatever they thought was made public in blogosphere for all to see – eek!   I must have been crazy, I mean no one made me do it; I signed up for it voluntarily!

But that’s the thing about writing: it makes me want to push my personal boundaries.

I began to write consistently about five years ago when I had some ideas for children’s books. I joined the SBCWI, attended a regular critique group and went to a children’s writing conference inNew York. 

A couple of members of my writing group were writing YA novels.  They had reams and reams of work and I was completely in awe of their ability to produce such large amounts. How did they do that?  How did they have so much to say?  Their word counts were in the thousands and it was completely daunting to me. 

 I kept on revising my five hundred word picture book manuscripts, trying to perfect each line and all the time wondering what it must be like to write a full length novel.  I was tempted but lacked the confidence to give it a go. 

Then one evening, I decided to try it.  I sat down with a blank Microsoft document and began to type. That’s when Josie Jenkins, the heroine of my novel, first came alive.  For the next few months her story just poured out of me.  I would stay up until three in the morning pounding away on the keys of my laptop.  Before I knew it I had written several chapters. 

I wanted to bring this new work to my critique group, after all I relied on their good sense and perceptive critiques, but I lacked the courage.  Meeting after meeting, I chickened out, and kept the printed sheets hidden in my bag. 

But although it’s tempting to hide away and succumb to one’s hermit tendencies, a writer cannot afford to be reclusive for long, because receiving and being receptive to feedback is essential for a writer’s growth and eventual success.  Or at least that’s what I’ve come to believe. For it seems to me, that all feedback, even the negative, hard-to-take stuff, is valuable.

Most people have a fear of rejection, and I’m certainly no exception, but the thing about writing is that makes me confront my fears.  So I drew a deep breath and finally took the papers out of my bag.  Before I began to read, I apologized: “This is probably going to be useless…” I muttered as I passed out copies to everyone.  “It’s just something I’m working on…so you know…it’s pretty rough…”  The group smiled knowingly back at me.  They knew the feeling of course, the feeling of putting your creative self on the line.

When I began to read my palms went clammy and my voice stuck in my dry mouth.  I was utterly nervous; it felt pretty much as if I had just stripped naked in the middle of Barnes & Noble. 

Yes it was nerve-wracking but it was also exhilarating.  And I have come to the conclusion that it was also addictive.  Because that was over three years ago and I have continued write and to learn so much since then. It has been a series of highs and lows which have been taken me to depths of despair one minute and soaring on a crest of a confidence-wave the next.  And I’m still learning and I’m still trying to navigate through the ups and downs.  The thing about writing is that it’s fluid; I never know where it’s going to take me and let’s face it, that’s part of the buzz!

In the beginning, I have to admit, I rejected the idea of self-publishing.  And when aNew Yorkagent showed an interest in my work I thought I was on the road to finding a publisher (and a guest spot on the Oprah show; well we writers do like to dream!) But after six months I still had no contract and I was struggling with an overwhelming sense of failure.  For a while I couldn’t bear to go near my manuscript, I couldn’t handle the thought of sending out more query letters and waiting again for another six months, time after time, only to find that years may pass and I could still be in the same situation.  Life’s too short to wait around, twiddling your thumbs.

There’s a latin proverb which goes something like this: “If the wind fails, take to the oars.” And that’s exactly what I decided to do.  There had been an explosion in epublishing, more and more authors were choosing to publish their work this way. I decided to have a rethink about self-publishing and give it a try because by doing that I could get Josie’s story out there, I could get the feedback I needed from the people that really mattered: the reading public.  I knew nothing about epublishing world and so I embarked on a massive fact finding mission.  And even though it was perplexing at times, I was happy to do it because the thing about writing is that it makes me want to take on a challenge.

Part of that challenge, for me, is accepting that High-Heels And Slippers isn’t perfect and not berating myself to bits for that.  I have tried and tried to make sure it was typo-free and well-edited but there’s always room for improvement.  And the thing about writing is that I want to get better and better. 

So I will take everything I have learned from this and feed it into my next book.  And while I’m working on that, I’m sure I will learn a whole bunch more because that’s the thing about writing: no matter how much you write and how long you do it for, there’s always more to learn.

I would love to learn from your writing experiences!  What are the things about writing that give you a buzz?  What challenges you?

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Filed under Chick Lit, creative writing, fiction, life journey, novel, publishing, self discovery, Uncategorized, writing

The Callum Interview!

Your chance to interview High-Heels And Slippers! heart-throb CALLUM DOHERTY  – post a question for him on Josie’s blog right now! http://highheelsandslippers.wordpress.com/  (I wonder if this is a good idea? Eek!)

Also check out my guest post on “The Thing About Writing” @ http://jerseygirlbookreviews.blogspot.com/ and thank you Kathleen for the FAB 4 STAR review: 

High-Heels & Slippers! was one hell of an entertaining book to read!”

YAY! 🙂

I hope you’re having a productive day everyone! Ella

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Filed under Chick Lit, creative writing, fiction, novel, publishing, Uncategorized, writing

Writing Retreats!

Thank you to Tea And Scribbles (FAB name for a blog btw!) for posting my guest post on writing retreats today: http://teaandscribblesbooks.blogspot.com/ 

If you have time please nip over to have a look and check out all the book reviews at the same time! 🙂

Cheers – Ella 🙂

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