Thursday, 26 November 2009

Putting it about...

Running a magazine I tend to forget that I can send my own work off to other publications. In fact, I've not really thought about my own work for a little while but this week I've had confirmation that two photographs plus a piece of writing will be in thegreendog (ok, I know the editor but she's pretty fussy, in fact she rejected my first idea so I had to completely rewrite my submission! But it's another notch on the literary bedpost and the rewrite did give a better result but don't tell her I said that!) and I've had a request from another online magazine about submitting a selection of photos to them for consideration. It feels good!

Check out:
www.wix.com/thegreendog/mag
http://tomlit.webs.com/

I'm also thinking about entering the BWA unpublished competition 2010 - I have the idea (which I think could be very good) but dare I start to put myself out there? Online magazines are all well and good, it's the opinion of one or two people whether they like my work or not but going for something big? I don't know what the rejection would feel like...

www.britwriters.co.uk

Monday, 2 November 2009

Albion To Arcadia - finally published!

It's finally complete! Albion To Arcadia is online at http://www.albiontoarcadia.com/

I was so consumed with getting the magazine finished and online that I didn't realise quite how scary it would be once it was up. Announcing to the online world that it was ready, was exciting but as people started clicking and downloading, I was overcome with fear!

I couldn't help thinking that I preferred it being offline, so only my eyes could see it and it wouldn't be scrutinised by other readers. I didn't want to hear negative feedback about something that has taken so long to pull together and essentially has my soul amongst its pages - it's not just the magazine on show, I feel like I am waiting to be downloaded and judged.

Two days after the publication and I'm a happy girl. Had great feedback from all kinds of people - people who have work in the magazine, people who just wanted to read it and people who now want to help with future issues. I'm still prepared for some bad comments, I guess you can't cater for everybody's taste but the good will definitely outweigh the bad!

Having slaved away for months and breaking through difficult barriers, the whole process now starts again! This time, from start to finish, it will be two months which means more work but seeing and reaping the success of issue 1, I'm committed to making issue 2 even bigger and better than before... wish me luck!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

A reason to watch (and love) the X Factor...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YWUgl2cqk0

One of my favourite songs of all time was given an X Factor make over and boy, did it work!

A beautiful voice, a beautiful arrangement. A winner?

Friday, 2 October 2009

Angels of Anarchy: A bit of surreal fun

The Manchester Art Gallery is currently home to the Angels of Anarchy, Women Artists and Surrealism exhibition. I know very little about art but this exhibition caught my eye.

As it happens, as part of the Manchester Literature Festival, a weekend writing course at the gallery is using the exhibition as a focus point. I wasn't lucky enough to get one of the 15 tickets but the website invites you to create your own line of surrealism poetry. Your line is then mixed with 7 or 8 other lines until a poem is created (the other lines are all hidden until the poem is published so you could end up with a poem about flying fish, a broken heart and a teaspoon... a future idea there maybe?)

This was my first attempt: (my lines subtly highlighted in red!)


Submerging with sediment
shaddows playing on the rain dirtied glass
your only mission is intuition, be still it will
i had a dream of a glistening stream
I escape to reality, to flee from my imagination.
death like a sunflower always opposite me
Speak, no words are heard, my thoughts fly free,
the plains of mercy disappear, drowning her in sin
he said he couldn't find me but i was always there

I was impressed! I'm not a poet and don't often 'get' poetry but I liked the whole thing and how it worked together... However, I wasn't so keen on the next attempt, mainly because the person who had contributed the first five lines obviously had a set idea of what she wanted the poem to be like...


the skys are within your eyes
the streams are within your dreams
the flow is within your bow
the flight is within your might
the earth is within your myrth
The emperor monkeys fill the chalices with poison
A fantasy unmasked, a magnified lie
cold earth no sun will warm my face
Fade away bitter memories, sail away hidden lies

The website with this funky little exercise can be found here: http://www.manchestergalleries.org/angelsofanarchy/

I'm going to the exhibition on Monday and hoping for a surge of surreal inspiration to hit me, if it does, I'm sure I'll be on here blogging about it.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Blog block...

I haven't put pen to paper for a some time, of late I've had a line of reasons (or excuses) to help myself feel better for being a writer who doesn't write.

I am a writer. I need to write.

My lack of motivation and 'if I say I'm a writer, I am one' attitude needed to change so today I've enquired about two writing groups in Manchester and a part time creative writing course but the best part of my day was sitting on my sofa and writing in my journal. The work itself may never see the light of day again but I did it, I ignored the broken lap top, the dirty dishes, the tv, the shops, the dog, the cats and the mountain of rubbish excuses that I've been coming up with and I wrote.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Red Nose Recession?

Every two years, some time in mid March, I'll be sat in front of the TV on a Friday night watching Comic Relief. I'll be laughing at the comedy, shedding a tear at the short documentaries and parting with some of my hard earned wages.

Those who followed my MySpace blogs a few years back or know me personally, will know I'm a softie when it comes to poverty in Africa but this blog isn't about that.

This year, on the night alone, Comic Relief raised over £50 million for those who need it in Africa and the UK. This has of course brought on the inevitable comments of 'aren't we supposed to be in a recession', 'who has the money to spare' etc etc.

Well it seems some people do have the money to spare and perhaps while the good British public are curbing their spending in high street stores preferring to buy cheaper alternatives online, people are still willing to help those worse off. Perhaps people are simply sick of being ripped off, overcharged and under valued.

I think I'm quite lucky that this recession obsession hasn't affected me and even if it had, the choice of parting with £10 for a worthy cause or popping into HMV to buy an overpriced CD would be an easy one.

Recession? Maybe so when it comes to materialistic items but people still care about the things that matter.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Cheryl Cole... Singer, Judge, Author?

Cheryl Cole has reportedly signed a £5 million book deal with HarperCollins and is set to become the new Marian Keyes in the world of 'chick lit'.

Oh how I wish I didn’t love Cheryl as it would make it much easier to be annoyed that her and the other celebrities-cum-novelists such as Jordan and Kerry Katona are given multi million pound book deals on the basis of their name and not writing talent.

Call me cynical but I can’t quite picture Kerry Katona writing late in the night, manically editing her first drafts and checking her grammar? The woman can barely string a sentence together on live TV let alone write 80,000 words in a coherent structure.

Jordan, or Katie Price when she’s being all literary, has quite the little library to her name. Between 2005 and 2008, the clever model has written three fiction books and three autobiographies, not bad for someone who has also designed various clothing ranges and perfumes, had her own TV shows, spent a few weeks in a jungle and has three kids. I think it’s certainly a case of Jordan: Brand Extraordinaire rather than Katie Price: Literary Genius and all round superwoman.

I’ve found it quite easy to scoff at the thought of Jordan and Kerry writing anything at all, let alone it being any good but when it comes to Dear Miss Cole, I just can’t fault her. It’s the downside of being a true Cherylette – the woman can do no wrong and if she needs a proof-reader, ghost writer or tea girl then I’m available at a very reasonable cost.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Get me to the finish line

On the 17th May this year, I’m forgetting all good sense and taking part in the Great Manchester Run.

For the athletes out there, 10K might not seem that gut busting but for someone who last exercised circa 1999 and likes to divulge in the odd bar (or three) of Galaxy Caramel it’s going to be a struggle, though thankfully a struggle on an even surface. No hills for me please.

My training started on the 2nd January and so far, bar a few minor hiccups, I’ve stuck to it day by day. Having only being able to run pretty slowly with nicely interspaced spurts of walking, my first major test came this Sunday when I ran my first ever mile in one go. And in just 12 minutes. Was I Proud? I was so happy I treated myself to a Big Mac. (Though I nearly choked after checking the calorie content.)

I have just less than 5 months left until the big day and the training is beginning to get progressively harder though with all the money I raise going to Oxfam, I’m determined to get to that finish line even if I’m crawling over it and gasping for water.

www.justgiving.com/getmetothefinishline

Sunday, 18 January 2009

The trouble with tourists... A short Tunisian tale.

Driving up a mountain with Celine Dion playing on the radio wasn’t quite how I’d imagine my trip to the Sahara to be, but it’s certainly made a lasting impression! Now every time I hear the warbling of the Canadian diva, I’m reminded of the driver who couldn’t speak a word of English, the camel guide who was not happy with his tip and the typically British tourists who I shared a bus with for nearly two whole days.

As a first time traveller, I wasn’t quite brave enough to set out on my own and discover the vast land of Tunisia so there I was, with the other half in tow and 400 Dinar signing up for a two day Sahara experience.

It seemed impressive enough. Travel 60% of Tunisia in two days, a night in five star hotel on the edge of the Sahara, visit tribes, old coliseums, villages and ride a camel at sunset.

However, if one thing is going to ruin the peace of driving through the desert it’s the fog horn voice of a woman who can only be described as hideous.

A 7am start was fine as unlike England the temperature was warm and we grabed seats at the front of the bus meaning we had the best views and were at least 7 rows away from the she devil and her gang of equally foul mouthed followers.

The tour guide and bus driver were two lovely men who made the trip all the more appealing due to their obvious love and passion for their country. While guided tours aren’t for everyone and can seem routine and banal, they made it interesting and worth the time and money.

Our first stop was at El Jem to visit the amphitheatre. We all left the bus and found our way to the impressive structure that was used in the Gladiator film. But despite the movie links, the history of the place is impressive enough. Walking through the underground cells where men were kept before fights was something pretty special and despite the 100 or so other tourists, there was room to walk about and do our own thing. An hour later and we’re back on the bus heading to our next destination.

Along with Gladiator, Tunisia has strong links with Star Wars and some of the film (I think it’s the Phantom Menace, I zone out at the mention of all things Darth Vadar) was filmed in Matmata where we stopped for lunch in an underground hotel. The Berber tribe of Matmata build their homes into the rock to keep them cool in the summer months as well as keeping them warm in the winter months. The hotel served a traditional Tunisian lunch of cous cous with lamb but this of course wasn’t good enough for the fellow passengers who moaned they’d rather be by the pool with a beer than sat underground or on a bus missing out on the sun. Using my polite British reserve, I kept my lips tight and smiled through their moans.

A look around the hotel and various photos with Star Wars poses followed lunch and we’re back on the bus waiting for our next stop.

Further into Matmata, we stop at the home of two Berber women. Welcomed into their home we got to watch as they ground grains used to make food and have a look around their house. The house is impressive, even the bed is made from the rock. Leaving a tip on the way out, we head back to the bus where we will spend the next few hours before finally reaching the desert itself.

We arrived at the Golden Yasmin hotel had a quick freshen
up, drop our bags off and we’re back on the bus heading
to the edge of the desert which only took 10 minutes or so. Once there and dressed head to toe in traditional Nomad gear, we’re lead to our camels.
And off we go, led by one man to four camels we’re trailing across the Sahara. Once the woman from the back of the bus had stopped the trip and headed back to the beginning of the desert on foot as she’d supposedly fallen off the camel twice without anyone else noticing, it was beautifully peaceful. The sun setting across the sand was unforgettable and luckily, a moment that was captured on camera.

A note to make here is that Tunisian’s tend to expect tips and if you find yourself sat on the back of a camel in an outfit with no pockets, stick a Dinar or two in your socks or your guide will not be happy with you as we found out when we had nothing but some spare coins to give him.
We had a 5am start the next day so back at the hotel, it’s time to eat, shower and sleep. Barely a moment after falling asleep and the phone rings with our wake up call, time to get ready and go for breakfast.

The bus was quiet as most people slept until we stopped just before 7am at a salt flat. When the sun hits the salt it looks as though it’s water and this is one of the main spots to see the mirage at the right time of year, which tends to be at the height of the summer about midday.
From there we watched as the sun rose over us and lit up the skies. I don’t think anyone moaned about this part of the trip.


Before heading back to Sousse, we stopped off at Douz which is known as ‘the gateway to the Sahara’ and bounded into 4x4s to see the spectacular Oasis’. Told we could split up and meet back in 45 minutes, we went the opposite way to the others and discovered the Oasis for ourselves. Beautiful greenery and streams intertwined through the rock until we came to the waterfall, small but lovely to see in a land of such dryness.

Even here though, we were pestered for money and the guys are on top form when it comes to chatting up the Brit women. Dodging the ones who’d harassed us on the way up, we headed back to our meeting point picking up small souvenirs on the way.

The main part of the second day was to get back to our hotel in Sousse but we stopped off at little villages and passed through some of the poorer parts of Tunisia. On first sight, it seemed as though a lot of Tunisia away from the coast, was living on the poverty line but on discussion with our guide he told us how the families sell the fruit (dates are lucrative source of income near the Sahara) and choose to live a simple life as opposed to being poor.

Four hours later and we’re back. The end of the journey. Certainly a trip I’d do again but from now on I’ll be making my own way there and back leaving the uncultured sun worshippers to their package holidays.