Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for October, 2012

If you happen to be free next weekend, Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 October, and you’re in reach of the Birnam Hotel in Perthshire, you might like to pop along to the “Meet the Makers” fayre being held there from 10am to 5pm on both days.

It’s hosted by Exclusively Highlands, who are advertising it on their Facebook page.

The reason I mention it is because I’m going to have a stall there, flogging my little book,

some lovely vintage china (not the best of photos, the china looks much better in real life – come and see for yourself),

my sister’s handmade teacosies,

and her cushion covers.

I attended the fayre (I don’t know why they’ve adopted this spelling of the word) last year, the very first time it had been held there, and this year when I found myself with things to sell I thought it might be nice to take a stall and see if I could do a bit of business.

I’ve attended a couple of craft fairs elsewhere in the last few days and noticed that, although there were plenty of punters milling around showing an interest, there was a distinct lack of money changing hands. I’ve spoken to stall holders and other retailers, and they’ve all reported sluggish sales this year.

Quite understandable of course, I myself haven’t bought anything from any of the fairs I’ve been to this year, and in previous years I would almost certainly have shelled out for something.

I watched an interesting series of TV documentaries recently about economics (that might sound a tad dull, but they were enthusiastically presented and well researched), in which the point was made that in order for an economy to work money has to change hands frequently. The problem at the moment seems to be that most of us don’t feel inclined to let go of what we have.

photo courtesy of http://www.telegraph.co.uk

Part of what makes us feel a bit nervous about spending, even if we have a regular income, is that our money doesn’t seem to be worth as much as it used to be. Only a few years ago my savings account yielded twice as much interest as it gives now, and the media is full of doom and gloom about how things are only going to get worse. Not surprisingly, all of this makes the ordinary chap in the street feel a little protective of the money he’s got.

My dad made the point this morning that, in terms of starting up in business, I’ve picked just about the worst time to do it, which is quite true. I also chose the worst time possible to leave a secure, well-paid, job in 2008, just when the recession struck and companies put a freeze on hiring new staff. However, when you get yourself into a bit of a hole like that, it forces you to use your resourcefulness and challenges you to find new ways of staying optimistic. I can’t say that I always manage to do either of these things, and I confess to spending far too much time worrying about it and feeling somewhat demoralised, but learning to count your blessings is a very useful tool in life, and one that can be equally valuable whether you’re living on the breadline or lounging on your megayacht shovelling away the caviar.

From what I remember of the Birnam Fayre last year, crafts on sale included photographs, sculpture, jewellery, handmade chocolates, children’s books, tweed handbags, glassware, biscuits and wood carvings. I can’t remember how many stalls there were but I would guess at 30+ and most of them were housed in the hotel’s rather grand and very spacious hall upstairs.

I don’t think my stall will be in that room, which is a pity, so if you do call in be sure to have a peek into the other little areas dotted about. I might even give you something for a knock-down price. In fact, if you quote ‘Lorna’s little bargain’ I’ll guarantee you a quid off any item you buy. Can’t say fairer than that in these straitened times.

Read Full Post »

A week ago I published a post entitled How to write a novel, which wasn’t so much a set of instructions as an update on my progress with writing one. I was pleased with myself for having hit my first 10,000 words. In the week since then I have added absolutely nothing to it.

This morning I began re-reading the first page of what I’ve written, and discovered that it’s so mindbogglingly tedious that I can’t even reach the bottom of the page without yawning my head off and wishing I was watching paint dry. Is this because I’ve read it so often, or is it because it genuinely is mind-bogglingly tedious?

I’m not sure, but it puts me in the sticky situation of not knowing what to do next. I could put the first 10,000 words to the back of my mind, pick up where I left off and keep writing regardless, or I could completely start again, rehashing the whole thing from scratch, or I could give up on it altogether, and accept that I will never write a novel.

Just at this moment, giving up seems a) the most sensible, and b) impossible. Even if every word I write is utter drivel, I don’t think I can stop myself from having a go at bashing out chapters of the stuff. Although I do think most of what I’ve written so far is excruciatingly dull, something inside me can’t seem to give it up on it.

Given this sorry state of affairs, having a bit of a whinge on my blog seemed like a refreshing balm for the soul. In fact, I feel better already, and would like to now make up for my moaning with pictures of a nice lunch I had last month in the utterly splendid bookshop and cafe, ReadingLasses (it specialises in books by women writers – rather a clever name, don’t you think?), in the small town of Wigtown.

I’ve written before about this place (here), and my most recent visit – while on holiday in Galloway with the delightful assistants – was as pleasing as ever.

It was exceptionally busy the day we popped in for luncheon, there being a busload of about 30 American tourists just having shipped in, shortly to be followed by a second busload. Each of them wanted to pay for their own meal, which led to a great deal of queueing and till-side confusion when it came to settling the bills. The way the shop is laid out, there’s not much space at the till area, indeed if you have more than one punter standing there it feels a tad cramped. We were seated near the till and the spectacle of politely shuffling tourists, peering at their strange currency and trying to remember what they’d eaten and therefore wanted to pay for, afforded us great entertainment. A small dog, that I think lives in the shop, added to the hullabaloo by getting in amongst the feet of punters and waitresses, and was clearly much excited by the sociable atmosphere.

I had been hoping for the shepherdess pie I had on my last visit here, but it wasn’t on the menu, so I plumped for a delicious sounding three bean chilli (vegan, to boot) instead. It came with crisp French bread, tortilla chips and some lettuce. The chilli was extremely hot, but the side items and a lovely glass of cool tap water helped to cool down my burning mouth. It was tasty and satisfying:

Thanks to it being, although quite substantial, also fairly light, I had room for a pudding. The puddings here are as good as the main courses, and I was tempted by the rice pud I had enjoyed previously, but then I remembered the chocolate brownie.

On the whole, I’m not much of a one for brownies, being suspicious of the sort of uncooked texture of the middle, but I had tasted one here before and recalled how exquisite it was. I took the plunge. It was served hot with ice cream, and I paired it rather decadently with an excellent decaf cappuccino:

I don’t know if that appeals to you or not, but I wish I could let you taste it. It exceeded my expectations, and even now I can lapse into a state of bliss just thinking of how the chocolate melted on the tongue and how the texture and warmth seemed to nourish my blood and make me fitter, stronger, and almost invincible. (This might be stretching things a bit, but it did make me feel magnificent, despite its artery-clogging potential.)

I can’t resist another picture of it, to emphasise the pleasure:

Delightful assistant no.1 also indulged in a dessert, and the rice pudding called to her. It was, to be truthful, more a plate of cream with some rice in it, which exactly suited her tastes:

And so, when I feel useless and unable to achieve what I’ve set out to do in the novel-writing department, at least I know I still have the ability to consume and enjoy delicious fare. Not perhaps the world’s greatest ever achievement, but eminently satisfying for me all the same.

Read Full Post »

The title of this post might lead you to think I’ve got something clever to say about how to write a novel. I don’t really, but I thought I’d take a break from my attempt at writing one to write a post about it.

I started writing my first novel a few weeks ago, thanks to the 2012 Olympics, which inspired me to follow my dreams (there’s a post about it here). When I checked the date of that post, I was amazed to find that it was only about 7 weeks ago, because it feels as if I’ve been slogging away at this novel for much longer than that.

Every now and then, when I get stuck and don’t know what to write next, I wonder if I’m doing it the right way, or even if there is a right way to write a novel. Certainly, in terms of knowing the storyline, it would seem that despite being the author myself, I’m pretty much in the dark. The initial idea I had about it when I began writing has completely fallen by the wayside now because it’s turned into something entirely different. Is this normal, I wonder?

I remember years ago seeing a documentary about J K Rowling, in which she showed a plan of the Harry Potter stories. From what I remember, she had a large sheet of paper which looked sort of like a family tree. The names of all the main characters were on it and their stories and relationships to other characters were noted down. Her organisation of the whole thing was staggering. I believe it was a period of six years from when she had the idea about Harry Potter to when she finished writing the first book, so perhaps that’s why her storylines seem so well thought out.

She famously wrote quite a lot of the first book in a cafe in Edinburgh, using a pen and paper, and I’ve heard of other authors who do this, to great success. I began writing mine by typing directly into my laptop. I think I had thought that there was no point in trying to write it on paper and then type it up, as that would only lengthen the whole process, but when I tried writing by hand I discovered something quite interesting. Maybe it’s because my handwriting is slower than my typing, but I seem to write more concisely using paper and a pencil (I tried a pen but it didn’t cut the mustard, why, I’ve no idea).

Quite a lot of what I initially write, I then chop out when I read it over, and at the rate I’m going I should imagine I might have to write about three times as much as I actually need for one book. It’s tempting to get annoyed with myself for ‘wasting’ days writing things I subsequently discard, but I think it’s all part of the creative process and you don’t get better at anything without practice.

My first goal on the way to completing the book was to reach 10,000 words, which I did yesterday. I hit that point rather earlier than anticipated in my schedule (I’m giving myself 2 years to write the whole thing), but I’m not getting too excited by that because it could well be that the next 10,000 words take much longer to write. In fact, the first 6,000 or so were quite hard to come by, and then the last 4,000 appeared as if by magic. Mind you, it was at the 6,000 word mark that the the book completely changed direction and it worries me slightly that I might end up going back to that point and rewriting everything that follows it, because I’m not yet convinced that I’m going in the right direction.

The jist of all this is that although I have begun the task and am making some progress, I honestly don’t know if this is how you write a novel. I’ve been wanting to write a novel for as long as I can remember, but until now I’ve never made much of an effort to achieve the ambition.

I’m quite fond of quoting a certain piece of good advice to myself that comes from Agatha Christie: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started”. Quite right, if you don’t start something how can you expect to finish it? But it’s not only the starting that’s important, because if I give up now all I’ll have is 10,000 words of text with no middle and no ending. Right now, finishing it seems a long way off, but every journey begins with a single step, and each word I write takes me closer to the end result.

My personal attitude to achieving my goal is simply to crack on and write, even if it seems laboured and dreadful at times, which it does. However, with any luck there will be some gems amongst all the debris.

My mum used to take us shell collecting on beaches when we were small, and the aim was always to find some cowrie shells, which we prized highly because they were relatively rare where we were searching. Writing this novel is a bit like walking along a vast expanse of shelly beach. There are a number of nicely preserved shells of various types, amongst a lot of broken up pieces that have been smashed against rocks and eroded, and every now and then there’s a beautiful whole cowrie shell. A lot of what I write falls into the broken shells category, some into the nicely preserved but common shells department, and every now and then a cowrie, in the form of a neat little idea or a satisfyingly constructed sentence, pops up. These cowrie moments motivate me to keep walking along the beach.

Little white cowrie on the beack – photo courtesy of mbfullemptyquarter.blogspot.co.uk

It’s very easy to look at people who have succeeded at something you’re trying to do and assume that because you feel you can’t compete with them, there’s no point in trying. I’ve often thought like that about things in life, but I’ve gradually learned that there’s nothing to be gained from it, other than misery and a lack of self worth. J K Rowling was a struggling single mother living on benefits and suffering from clinical depression when she started writing about a young boy wizard. Her determination and drive to succeed are an inspiration. She had no idea her stories would bring her the fame and fortune that they have, she just wanted to write.

Regardless of her huge success, what inpsires me most about her is that she eventually did what she’d always wanted to do: write books. The only thing stopping me from completing a novel is myself, so if I don’t do it I will have only myself to blame. On the up side, if I do complete it, I’ll have a great sense of achievement. It’s a little early to say perhaps, but, after many years of doubting myself, I think I can in fact fulfil my dream.

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,726 other followers

%d bloggers like this: