Tag Archives: creative 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

Your parenting legacy

Growing up, on the rare occasions we would go out for dinner, my family and I would invariably encounter a surly waitress. You know the sort: plonks the menu on the table with a sigh, takes your order as if it’s the most boring thing in the world and practically thumps you one when you ask for extra cutlery! I exaggerate but you get the idea. 

When this situation arose, my Dad would say something like: “A prize for the person who can crack a smile from the grumpy waitress!” At which point my sister and I would groan, sinking further into our chairs. 

Next time the waitress would appear at the table, my Dad would make a comment along the lines of: “Bit busy in here tonight.” Often this would be all it took and we’d watch the waitress relax, her face softening with a small smile.

If she was a tough nut to crack he’d try again. Maybe put a fake snake on the table next time she came around. (You need to know that it’s usual for my father to carry props like this around with him – he has been known to put a glass eyeball on his plate in the hopes of successfully rising a squeal or two!) Or maybe he’d balance a fork on his glass, anything out of the ordinary to get a smile.

If all this failed and our waitress was particularly dour, he would say, with a twinkle in his eye and a cheeky grin: “Are you having a horrible day?” I don’t think I’ve ever seen this technique fail! A comment like this would completely disarm our server and from then on she’d be putty in our hands…and full of smiles!

My Mum was the same. She’d often strike up a quick chat with people here and there as we did our shopping along the high-street. An old man waiting to cross the road for example or the woman in front of us in the check-out queue.  She was always, and still is, ready with a smile or a nod. Especially with elderly people. “You should always say hello,” she’d say to me. “You might be the only person they speak to all day.”

As a kid I would find the whole thing hugely embarrassing. I would roll my eyes at both my parents and wish I was invisible.  It was mortifying. I didn’t get the point at all.

But as an adult I do get the point and I find myself doing exactly the same thing as my parents. What’s more I do it in front of my children who find it just as insanely embarrassing as I did. “Why do you always talk to the check-out girl!” My daughter will hiss as we leave the supermarket. “Do you know that man at the gas-station?” My son will ask. “I’m just trying to be friendly!” is my reply. Because what harm is it to smile at someone or pass the time of day? It costs nothing but gives so much more. 

So as I happily watch my children writhe in humiliation (an unexpected joy of parenting I find) I realise that this is part of my parents’ parenting legacy. As a mother of children still pre-teen, I tend to think of parenting as a relatively short period of time, while my children are living at home and need me to wipe their noses or buy their shoes, but it runs much deeper than that. It’s in everything we do, every decision we make and it lasts a lifetime. 

So why not teach them the value of a smile or a friendly hello instead of how to argue over a parking space? Why not teach them the beauty of giving someone the benefit of the doubt instead of rushing to take offence? Why not teach them how to extend a hand to their fellow man rather than how to pick a fight?
What will your parenting legacy be? 🙂

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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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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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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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