Monday, 30 December 2013

My 5 New Year Visualisations (better than resolutions!)

Once upon a time my husband interviewed the Mexican gold medallist, Maria Espinoza. She told him that she always visualised her goals. Back home after her victory, she stuck up the newspaper cutout which read Maria Espinoza Gold Medallist Beijing 2008. She crossed out Beijing 2008 and wrote London 2012.

I've always been a firm believer of defining your goals and writing them down. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, 'Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen'. Maria didn't get a gold at London, she got a bronze, but that's proof enough for me that a bit of visualisation goes a long way. So instead of resolutions for 2014, I've opted for visualising a few of what I'm sure you'll agree are very reasonable and attainable goals.  
1. The Seven Figure Publishing Deal

2. The Dream Home
3. The Driving License
4. The Film Contract
5. The Epic Adventure

As I said, just a few entirely reasonable hopes for 2014. Now, over to you, what will you be visualising on New Year's Eve?
Happy New Year to all my wonderful readers
and may your visualisations be most effective!

Friday, 20 December 2013

Shopgirl Blog at The London Short Film Festival

It seems incredible that we filmed Shopgirl Blog all the way back in June 2009. I sound so young and excited in my post Take 1, Camera, Action!  It has been a long process and despite positive feedback, I had stopped expecting anything to come out of it. It was a real surprise when the director, Chloe Thomas, told me it had been selected for The London Short Film Festival. Now I can't wait to see it on the big screen!
Shopgirl Blog is in the #FunnyShit category, which includes 16 other short films.
It will be shown on Friday 10th January, at 9pm
at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall
Book your tickets soon! I really hope you can make it!

On set at Mum's lighting shop -
Annette Badland as 'Mum', The Real Mum, Me, and Katy Wix as 'Shopgirl'

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

A Chicken goes to Copenhagen (and crosses the road with ease)

I'm ashamed to think I almost said no to my husband's invitation to go to Copenhagen for the weekend. He was there recording interviews for a documentary on Noma but said he would have free time to meet me in between. In fact, I did say no at first, my pathetic excuse being, won't it just be another cold city? Well, I'm writing this blog on the plane back, feeling utterly invigorated after my trip.
The truth is I've always been such a chicken. I have never travelled alone or have ever wanted to. I have never roamed across a foreign city by myself, at least not for very long. Half the reason I went travelling around South America with my friend in 2007 was because I knew if I got into any problems, at least I could speak Spanish.
My first approach of panic came after my first couple of hours alone. I'd been searching for the National Gallery, but my map reading skills were so poor I'd managed to walk in a huge circle and had ended up back at the Botanical Gardens. I didn't want to see plants, I wanted history and art. Mostly, I wanted to find the place I'd set out to find so I wouldn't feel this lump of failure in my chest. Not knowing what to do, I walked a little way into the gardens, but I didn't get far before a woman stopped me.
"Is that the exit up there?" she said, in an American accent. I said it was. I also said I was lost and did she know where the National Gallery was. It turned out she wanted to go there too. Both her map and map reading skills were superior to mine and five minutes later we'd found it. The woman was from Chicago and one of those open, friendly people who laugh easily. We had a great afternoon and ended up drinking wine together inside a lively foodie market. I met my husband later that evening, happy that I had not retreated to our apartment early.
On Day 2  my map reading was more successful. I walked until my legs ached and felt triumphant every time I found what I had been looking for. It was like a huge treasure hunt! I had never thought about visiting Denmark before and here I was alone with my map, in its beautiful clean capital city full of vibrant red brick, tiled roofs, pointed church spires and people riding about on bicycles.
I got lost again on Day 3 and felt the return of panic. A walk to the little mermaid, which should have taken twenty minutes, took me over an hour. At one point, I thought I might hit Sweden. I found her in the end. She's actually very small and doesn't really have a face, but the satisfaction for me, was in locating her.
The bonus of taking an hour instead of twenty minutes was that I arrived for the changing of the guards, where a band played some beautiful music. I felt a surge of positivity. It occurred to me I didn't have to spend my whole life being a bad map reader, that I could and was getting better!
This is the first time I've ever gone to a country where my husband has been working on a job. I'd always imagined it was going to be like that film, Lost in Translation, me hanging about in a hotel too intimidated to go out. What a boring chicken I've been!
After this weekend I feel really excited about life and all the countries there are to visit. Of course, Copenhagen is a great place to start if you're a scaredy cat like me. Everyone speaks brilliant English and there's a green man at every crossing. But with a bit more map reading practice, I'll soon be ready for the next difficulty level. I just wonder where he'll be called to next...

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

How to Write that Novel Faster

Image from Kittybloger
A couple of months ago I felt like I had lost all self-discipline. I had a new novel to write but I wasn't getting the words down. Instead I was wasting far too much time online. In that unproductive month I must have signed over twenty online petitions, clicked on as many cute kittens and tweeted enough words for a few chapters.
Two things happened to get me back in gear. Firstly, I was at a party with Alix Christie, the wise and brilliant author of the upcoming Gutenburg's Apprentice, and she said to me:
"you must be careful you don't waste all your creative energy on social media and have nothing left for the book." That really woke me up. Social media is brilliant if you have great content to share, but it takes time and energy to create that. What would I prefer? A hundred thousand words worth of random tweets or a novel?
The second thing to happen was I asked my agent for a deadline. "Before the London Book Fair would be good," she said. "March?" Until I wrote Spray Painted Bananas I didn't think it was possible to write a decent draft of a novel in three months. I do now. I've found a way.
Writing fast isn't for everybody and some books need to be slow cooked for years. But I prefer to bash a draft out and edit later. If you wish you were writing faster, these tips might help: 
7 Tips for Writing Faster:  
1. Decide what is your writing goal for the week - this might be a word count, a number of chapters or to finish a particular section.
2. Set a realistic daily word count - it doesn't matter if it's only 100 words, what matter is that it's achievable so you won't be put off, and you will feel happy when you've completed them each day.
3. Don't go on social media until you've finished your daily word count - this one makes a huge difference! As soon as you go on Facebook, Twitter or your Email you're guaranteed to get distracted. When I'm feeling weak, I'll write half my word count goal, check my social networks, then switch off again for the second half.
4. Write DRAFT at the top of the page - it will make you feel less self-conscious. It's okay if your writing is terrible, at this point you just want to get the story down. Don't worry about editing until later.
5. Use post-its and a corkboard to track your chapters - useful for getting an overview of the novel and keeping on top of what you have and haven't written.
6. Leave the chores for your break time - put off the washing and hoovering until you need a break from writing. Doing something practical and physical will give your mind some space. Often a solution to my plot problems will come when I'm washing the dishes.
7. Plan what you need to write the night before - that way you're ready to get stuck in straight away the following day.


Friday, 6 December 2013

Common Folk Against Death by Plastic

Packaged Croissant spotted in a Supermarket
It was an ordinary winter's day in London.  Rain swept the streets and good British folk took comfort in mugs of tea and talked, justifiably, about the weather.
I was in the vegetable shop looking forward to getting home. Behind me, another customer was in a hurry and pressing into my personal space. The cashier turned to her, 'Do you need a bag?'
In her hand was a single red pepper. She didn't think twice. 'Yes,' she said.

A few months ago I might not have registered this interaction let alone reacted to it. But on that windy winter's day her request flicked a switch inside me, and in my head, a voice cried 'murderers!'            
It took me by surprise. I even worried I might have said it out loud but her expression reassured me I hadn't. I watched her putting her red pepper in the little transparent plastic bag the cashier had given her while I waited for my change. The bag hadn't solved her problem. Next she asked for a bigger plastic bag to put the little plastic bag in since the little plastic bag had no handle. Two plastic bags for one single vegetable.     
'Murderers!' the voice cried again. It was the voice of millions of ghosts; the ghosts of countless marine species poisoned and suffocated by plastic. It was the Sperm Whale washed up in Spain defeated by 17kg of the stuff in its stomach. It was also proof that the message of Common Folk had hit me.            
If you haven't heard of Common Folk yet, that's because it only launched last month. It's the brainchild of Tina Ziegler, a Californian girl living in Spain from the art industry, and a woman I'm proud to call my sister-in-law.
Struck by how much waste she was creating in her everyday life, Tina sought to raise awareness about plastic pollution and created CO/FO to draw attention to our daily habits that collectively form part of the global environmental problem. Less than 10% of plastic worldwide is recycled, the rest goes to landfill, is burned or will eventually make its way to the ocean. The catastrophic effect this is having on our eco-system is captured in this powerful and beautifully shot video.
Although I had finally got into the habit of bringing my own bag out shopping, up until now I'd found it hard to avoid using those little bags for fruit. Responding to this problem Tina set about creating attractive and affordable 100% organic cotton bag as an alternative, and there is a range on her website available to buy.            
No one likes being preached at and Gandhi really got it right with his catchy line: 'Be the change you want to see in the world'. If it wasn't for seeing the founder of Common Folk in action, living the change she wants to see in the world, then I wouldn't be writing this blog and five times out of ten I'd still be forgetting my bag for life. I don't feel overwhelmed by the problem, I feel grateful I've been woken up to it so I can help.
Plastic Tina found at a beach in Palma de Mallorca
Connect with Common Folk:

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Article in The Writing Platform: "My Wattpad Experience"

Extract from my article in The Writing Platform 'My Wattpad Experience'
"I was stuck in a rut. My blogging was sluggish and I’d been working on a novel for two years with no end in sight. I was moaning to my brother over Skype about the slow path my career was taking, when he said: “So write a novel on Wattpad.” He told me his girlfriend was reading a book on the online platform which had racked up millions of hits and the author had just secured a three book deal with a big publisher. According to him, Wattpad was the way forward." Read More.

Read my novel Spray Painted Bananas on Wattpad.