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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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Am I qualified to be a parent?

Becoming a parent was one of the most overwhelming, life-changing things to happen to me. Surely it must be for most people? I’d like to meet the person who says parenting is a breeze. Really – so if that’s you, please get in touch!

As a new parent you transform, rather abruptly, from being an individual going about your own business, responsible for your own thoughts, actions and bodily functions, to a person intensely connected to someone else’s thoughts, actions and…bodily functions (not always pleasant)!

I will never forget the feeling of panic when my husband and I prepared to leave the hospital with our first son, a strapping 9lb infant with a red face. I remember fumbling with his babygrow and thinking: “Are they really going to let me walk of this place with this baby? How on earth do they know I’m qualified to take care of him?” I kept expecting someone in authority to walk in and hand me a sheet of paper: “You’ll need to pass this parenting test first.”  But no one came, there was no test apparently.  My husband and I gingerly drove home with a beautiful baby boy in the back-seat of the car.

From then on, the urge to protect my child from everything harmful was all-consuming. At first it was practical things like making sure he didn’t choke or bang his head. But as he got a bit older I wanted to protect him from emotional harm. Hoping he wasn’t picked on by the other children at nursery or making sure he wasn’t too upset when the lovable animal-elder died peacefully in a Disney movie. As a parent you want to make sure you’re there with a Band-aid or Kleenex right?

But the fact is we can’t protect our kids from the world, the good and the bad, they have to experience it all. Just like we did…and still do.

I don’t think I’ve ever truly felt qualified to be a parent. It’s a constant learning curve. But to be fair the moment you think you know it all about parenting you’re probably on dodgy ground. Every stage of my children’s lives is a new one, for every one in the family because no two children are the same. Even their births were all completely different; an early indication for us that they were all going to be unique! My children change as the years go on but so do I, so does my husband. Family life is full of variables; the moment you think you’ve nailed it, some other challenge comes along.

There are no answers. There is no parenting manual. Yes there are a lot of parenting books but it’s remiss to think they hold the answer. They can offer guidance certainly and after all isn’t that what we should be offering to our children? We’re not supposed to give them all the answers, we can’t possibly know them anyway. We can only offer them what we learned from our own experience. Are children are inviduals; they may need to take a completely different path, they may need to make completely different choices. Sometimes, as parents and as individuals, we have to hold up our hands and admit we made a mistake or that we just don’t know.

Healthy children aren’t raised by know-it-alls.

They’re raised by parents who are honest, tolerant and have intergity. (Most of the time anyway…after all nobody’s perfect!)

Or at least that’s what I think…but what do you think? Maybe you think that there’s too much tolerance going on in the parenting world, maybe you feel children are given too many choices or that too much honesty is a bad thing for our children today? All comments are welcome because, as I said, I’m still on the learning curve…

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Filed under children, creative writing, education, Inspiration, life journey, life lessons, motherhood, parenting, self discovery, Uncategorized

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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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

Too good to pass up…

I saw this quote a couple of days a go and it’s been on my mind ever since.  It’s just good to pass up so I thought I’d share it on my blog.

“Try and fail but do not fail to try.”

I love it because that’s exactly the theory I apply to my writing…or at least I try to anyway!  The fact is that when you’re working away alone on a computer, typing (or not, as is often the case) it’s hard to keep the negative thoughts from floating to the surface and getting in the way.  It’s far too easy to find a reason not to write, a distraction to keep you from sitting at your desk. 

I’ve been procrastinating recently.  It’s been an age since I had a good solid couple of hours to write.  And I’ve been getting frustrated but tomorrow is the day.  I will not answer the phone, I will not drive out in the car, go to the supermarket, write emails or do the washing.  I am going to hole up in front of my computer, make a pot of tea and eat toast all day. I don’t know if I’m going to produce anything worthwhile but I’m going to TRY! 🙂

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Book Blog Tours – an opportunity you should take advantage of!

When I published my book in the summer, I realised that I was going to have to take charge of marketing and getting it out there to the public.  It was a tad daunting to say the least! But thankfully there is someone out there who can help: Samantha Robey at CPL Blog Tours  – http://www.clpblogtours.com/.  For, what I thought was a very reasonable price, she will organise an online book tour for your book.  This means it will be reviewed and featured on several blogs.  High-Heels And Slippers! was featured on fifteen different blogs. You may even have the opportunity to write a guest blog piece or take part in an author Q&A.   All of this is fantastic exposure for your book and increases your profile as a writer.  Added to that, hopefully, if your book is well received, you will have some great reviews which may lead to more sales and you can use them for further advertising.

I found Samantha to be professional, extremely efficient and great at communicating.  She’s also a writer herself, which means she understands her clients’ needs.

She has recently published her first novel, Destined To Fail.  You can buy a copy here: http://www.amazon.com/Destined-to-Fail-ebook/dp/B005XNI560   

Samantha was kind enough to take part in her own Q & A for me which you can read below.  You can also click on this link to find out more about her blog tours: http://www.clpblogtours.com/    

I would definitely use her services again and I urge you to consider doing the same!  Thank you Samantha! 🙂

Samantha Robey Q&A

As a book blog tour coordinator you must have read plenty of book reviews! What advice would you give someone about to write their first ever book review?

I am flashing back to when I wrote my first book review for Chick Lit Plus, which was for The Agency by Ally O’Brien on October 16, 2009. Wow, long time ago! My advice would be to try to just be you in your writing. When I first started reviews, I thought I had to sound really stuffy and knowledgeable and use industry words and have a dashing tagline at the end of each. That did not last very long. Now, my reviews reflect my personality and let me have more fun with each review that I write.

What do you think are the benefits for putting a book on an online book tour?

The exposure you receive. With CLP Blog Tours, I have had authors be found by national magazines through the tour site alone, which was super exciting to me – and her! But it’s also a chance for bloggers to meet you, and then their followers to meet you. The internet is one big hangout – you just have to join the party!

Has anyone ever submitted a review you felt you couldn’t publish?

Thankfully, no. I know the majority of my Fantastic Bloggers really well, and continue to get to know and enjoy working with the newbies to the group 🙂 I have read book reviews on other sites and even Amazon that just cut down the author and make me want to cry for them. I do let my bloggers know that if they don’t think they can give a positive review, they have the option of choosing a Novel Spotlight instead. That way, the author is still getting the exposure, but without an unfavorable review. I do think there is a difference though between a negative review and one that gives constructive criticism. As an author myself, it’s impossible not to expect an unfavorable review, and I think there can be helpful ones.

You have also recently published your own book, Destined To Fail.  Did you always know you were going to write a book? 

Yes. I knew from the time I was a little girl that writing was I wanted to do. In truth, I thought everyone wanted to be a writer. It took me years to figure out that not everyone can spin a story – and I don’t just mean fiction. I wrote killer essays in school and did it with barely a thought. I wasn’t just book smart, I had a way with words – or so I was constantly told. When I was in high school, I finally caught on that maybe I was talented at this thing called writing and should pursue it. I’m so happy I did.

Some writers are creatures of habit and follow the same writing routine every day; is this the way you work?

In a way, yes. I like to write in the mornings, and I always have a set goal each day. Sometimes it’s a word count, other times it’s finishing a section. And I wrote my first book in the same fashion that I am doing for my second. Write out the whole first draft, then come back and start slashing with my red pen. Some like to edit while they are writing, and I just can’t do it. I would get too caught up in the edits and miss the flow of writing.

What was it like to receive your first book review? 

Mind boggling. I was writing book reviews for two years when I got my first review. It was surreal to read what another person was saying about my characters. I never thought that way as “just” a book reviewer. I spoke about the characters, like and dislikes etc, but to read someone talking about my characters took me to a whole new level. It was very touching, and quite emotional. I cried, of course.

What advice could you give to other writers considering epublishing their work?

Take your time, make sure you have everything 110% before hitting publish.

Do you have a favorite writing-snack?

Ice cream! I think that’s just my favorite overall snack. I’ve been trying to get healthier, and lately I have been eating a lot of crackers and cheese when I take my breaks.

Which writer, alive or dead, do you most admire and why?

Always a tough one, but I have to go with my favorite of all favorite authors and say Ann M. Martin. She was such as inspiration to me since I was a young girl fascinated by the Baby-Sitters Club.

If it’s raining outside are you wearing a raincoat or carrying an umbrella?

Usually it’s just the raincoat. Or really, a sweatshirt with a hood. I did have a really cute black umbrella with pink polka dots, and the wind ruined it one day. So now it’s the sweatshirt!

If the presenters of the TV show What Not To Wear turned up at your place of work, with the $5000 gift card and offer of a style makeover, would you be outraged, mortified or relieved? 

Relieved! I would gladly welcome them in. My sense of style bores me, but I have no idea how to change it. Come on in!

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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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