Friday, 28 April 2017

Fancy a Social Media Workshop for Writers in Mallorca?

Since moving to Mallorca I've been a bit in the shadows. Not literally but literary-ly.

In London, I attended literary festivals and writing events. I was a regular speaker and ran my own blogging and social media workshops for writers and other creatives.

I gave it all up when I moved, choosing to dedicate my time to fiction and journalism. But recently I've started to wonder about doing workshops again, here.   

On Tuesday I went to the 5th anniversary of a local book shop, Universal Bookshop. I was invited by the very welcoming and enthusiastic owner, Kay Halley, who called the event An Audience with Authors.  

Anna Nicholas launching A Chorus of Cockerels
last year at Universal Bookshop
It was really great to meet other writers and catch up with Anna Nicholas, who has written a series of books about life on the island. We'd talked about setting up writing workshops months ago over lunch but hadn't progressed further than scribbles on a page.

The idea of running social media workshops reared its head again, as I talked to other writers. One author was impressed that I had a traditional publisher.

"Ah, you're lucky," she said. "They do all the marketing for you."

This is definitely a common misconception. Perhaps once upon a time, authors were expected to just write the books and leave the marketing to the publishers. But gone is that time, if it did really exist. 

Whether traditionally published or self-published, writers must promote their books if they want to sell more than a couple of copies to family members.

"Tell me about blogging," she said, when I told her that in fact, that wasn't the case.  

Where to start? If only I had a couple of hours and my slides with me. I really should do a workshop, I thought.

"Do a workshop!" another writer urged, as I tried to impart everything I'd ever learned and she scribbled furiously into her notebok.

Giving advice to lovely Laura Provost,
who has written a children's book!
It struck me that there might be a good handful of writers and creatives out there who might be interested in a workshop about setting up an online presence and growing their audience.

SO:

If you are interested in workshops on social media and marketing for creatives, based in Mallorca, don't hesitate to get in touch at emily@emilybenet.com 

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Wednesday, 12 April 2017

On Not Believing Everything You Read (Or: Finding Out You Were A Call Girl!)

You'll never guess what I've just found out. 

Before I tell you, I want you to know the source is bona fide.  I did an internet search and it popped up in Google. Not only that, the information was in a book. 

Not just an e-book either. I'm talking paperback. A proper published paperback. Judging by the reviews, it's probably sold quite a few thousand copies too. Basically, it can't be wrong.

Here goes the news:

"In England, Salt Publishing offered Emily Benet, who originally wrote under the name Belle du Jour,  a contract for her blog, Shop Girl Blog, about a twenty-eight year old call girl's sexual exploits. Shop Girl Diaries won a Guardian award, and rumors have it she landed a six-figure deal" - Extract from How to Blog a Book

Here it is:





To be fair, now that I read it again, it doesn't sound quite right.

A couple of things are off. The paragraph is completely accurate except for these teeny, weeny details:

1. I've never written under the name Belle Du Jour
2. I've never been a Call Girl
3. I've never written about my sexual exploits
3. I was not 28 years old when I wrote my blog
4. Shop Girl Diaries didn't win a Guardian Award 
5. I did not land a 6-figure* deal (A friend wondered if they meant I'd been paid with a Russian Doll. Another,  @Grays85 made the point that £0100.00 was still 6-figures) 

Apart from those minor details, the info was totally correct. The author even spelt my name right. Usually people can't resist doubling those 'n' and 't's.

Jokes aside, this is a good lesson on not believing everything you read!

The Author has since emailed me and is feeling very sorry. The information is going to be corrected. It's not much consolation to all the people who have come to my blog over the years looking for sizzling, sexy entries though, is it?

That's why I've decided to show you a bit of leg...



Enjoy.


For more thrills like this, you can read my book Shop Girl Diaries. Not much sex in it. No sex actually. But if you buy it, it will help me towards that six-figure deal I didn't get! 

Thanks for reading! 


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Friday, 24 March 2017

Lifestyle Change: Experiences, not things!

Spring is in the air in Mallorca. The sun has been shining solidly for weeks and everywhere you look, flowers are in bloom. 

The bravest have been swimming in the sea. As for me, I put my foot in the water last weekend, felt the approach of frostbite and aborted the mission at once.

As the days grow longer and the weather warms, my husband and I agree that the season of Netflix is over and we must get out more. 

Inspired by Eventbrite's message of EXPERIENCES, NOT THINGS! I had a think about what I wanted to be DOING more of this year. 

After all having great stuff is good, but having great experiences is even better! Of course some stuff leads to great experiences, which brings me to number 1 on my list:

1. NAVIGATE A DINGHY - a quick wander around the prestigious Port Adriano confirms my suspicions that I'll need to write more than a few books before I can purchase a yacht. Even a crappy little one costs as much as a one bedroom flat and that doesn't include the mooring.

To be honest, the accumulated wealth in the ports make me feel slightly nauseous. However I love the sea and as we gave up our London life for an outdoor island lifestyle, it makes sense to invest in some sort of inflatable apparatus to take advantage of it. Therefore, for 150 euros (not 150,000€) very soon we might well be boat owners!

2. GO ON ADVENTURES OF THE IMAGINATION - just because we will soon be boat owners, doesn't mean we have cash flowing out of our ears! Fortunately there are exciting adventures to be had for the cost of a book. 

I recently popped to India with The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (I came across it in the local charity shop and thought, why not?) and have made several surprise trips with Joanne Harris's short story collection Jigs & Reels. When there's no money to go anywhere, pick up a book! 

3. LEARN STUFF! - I may no longer live in a thriving metropolis with thousands of courses taking place every evening, but that's no excuse not to keep learning. Having the internet means you can educate yourself from wherever you are in all sorts of things. 

For a few weeks I studied German on a free DuoLingo app. Mallorca has a huge German population and, as a writer, it's annoying not to be able to eavesdrop on conversations. Since using my app, I still haven't got a clue what anyone is saying, but I am starting to recognise individual words!

I realise that an educational app doesn't count as GOING OUT, but that's because I haven't got to the course I really want to do this year, which is of course *drum roll* MYCOLOGY. 

Yes, mushrooms. I want to learn about wild mushrooms, specifically what mushrooms will poison me and which will make a delicious meal. Now if that course doesn't get me up the mossy mountain, I don't know what will!

4. EAT AT FOOD FAIRS - Someone once said they wished breakfast, lunch and dinner was a pill so they could get on with their day. I am not that person. I am the person who is prepared to do a Mycology course to find out about mushrooms to then hike up a hill to spend an hour finding five mushrooms to then cook them... because aaaah, how delicious life is.

When the woman at the supermarket gives me a slice of Manchego cheese to try, and it turns out it's the best Manchego cheese I've ever eaten, actual happy tears well up in my eyes... So this year I want to go to lots of different food fairs that this island has to offer - olive oil, oranges, almonds, mushrooms.... mmmm

5. VISIT ALL THOSE COLD COUNTRIES - when we lived in London, the last thing I wanted to do was go on holiday to somewhere else with miserable weather. Now we have reliable sunshine, I suddenly have an urge to visit Iceland. I imagine being in a hot natural spring surrounded by snow-capped volcanoes. However, Iceland will have to wait. Our next stop is Berlin! 

I've never been to Germany so I'm very curious - apparently people eat white sausage and beer for breakfast... I'll find out and let you know how it goes!  

So there you have it - my top experiences planned for 2017 - boating (ha), reading, learning, eating and travelling! 

Oh, and if you want to share your experience, be it a course, talk, food fair, boating day out, eventbrite has free management software to set it up. I used to use it for my social media workshops and it worked really well!

And you? What experiences are you looking forward to this year? 

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Wednesday, 15 March 2017

No alcohol? Whatever you say Dr Google!


After reading my last blog, I think a few readers think I have a drinking problem! But just because I've downloaded a motivational Sober Time app on my phone doesn't mean I'm an alcoholic. I also have a period tracker app but no period - hahaha sob.

That's partly the reason why I've stopped drinking completely. Dr Google says alcohol could affect your cycle even if you drink within the limits. It increases levels of estrogen and testosterone apparently. I don't really know what any of this means but I'm going through a phase of doing whatever Dr Google suggests.

Dr Google: Drink parsley tea! 

Dr Google: Try ginger tea first thing in the morning!

Dr Google: herbsbherbsherbsherbsherbs


I googled the nearest herb shop and headed straight over. The woman sold me some evil tasting mixture for €12 and told me it would sort me out.  

Dr Google: Do exercise  (But not too much)

I went running a few times.

Dr Google: Give up alcohol

Giving up alcohol is the only thing I've done which has had any affect on my body. I've started getting mild headaches!

Could it possibly be withdrawals? It seems a little extreme to me. I used to drink a couple of beers or wine in the week, perhaps share a bottle on the weekend. I haven't had so much as a droplet of wine for almost two weeks

The positive affects of giving up alcohol have been the following:

1) I'm waking up earlier and getting out of bed more easily. I've been able to stick to a routine of yoga, meditation and morning pages every day. I even found myself eagerly performing this ritual on a Sunday morning at 8.30am.

2) I haven't experienced any anxiety... although it might be too early to say I won't in the future!

3) I'm feeling more clear headed and assertive. Assertive about my writing career, specifically.  

I've suddenly realised that it's time to take control.

Simply put, if my book doesn't land a traditional publisher in the next month, I shouldn't delay any longer. I will set about doing it myself. Properly of course. With an editor and book cover designer and the whole shebang.

I woke up at 4am this morning, wide awake, my head buzzing with ideas. I've been following self-publishing podcasts for years and have learnt so much. I know it's not an easy option, but I don't want to depend on other people for my success, so if needs be, I'll muster the money and double my efforts

It might not come to that. But if it does, I'll be ready for the challenge, and  if I keep this up, with a very clear head to boot.



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Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Westworld & Designing my own Narrative Loop!


Have you watched the HBO drama Westworld?

Every so often I read a book or watch a series that worms its way inside my head. Westworld is one of those creations that I find myself pondering over and missing now that season one has ended.

If you are planning on watching it, then don't read on. I don't want to spoil it for you.

The premise is this:

Westworld is an authentic Wild West amusement park populated by lifelike androids dubbed "hosts". It caters to high-paying visitors called "guests", who may indulge in whatever they wish within the park, without fear of retaliation from the hosts. The androids do not realise they are not 'real' and see the visiting humans as newcomers.

Got it?

Fake world populated by fake people who think they are real, visited by real people who know the fake people are fake and therefore think nothing of abusing them.

The androids are given a narrative loop they are programmed to perform, be it brothel owner, or naive country girl, or sheriff. A level of improvisation is programmed into them, so when they interact with the humans, they seem very real.

The humans in the show come off badly, living out their darkest desires. The androids experience pain and fear at the hands of the humans, but their memories are then erased so they can go through it all again the following day.

The androids are not conscious of these narrative loops at first, but as the plot thickens, memories arrive from past narratives, confusing them and making them question their reality.

After watching this show I found myself reflecting on these narrative loops. We aren't androids and yet don't we also get stuck in the same old patterns of behaviour?

It made me ponder: 

Do we actually have free will?
Are we any different from these androids if we aren't aware when we become trapped in a loop? 
And if we are aware and still can't do anything about them even when we aren't happy in them, what good is that?



After getting quite drunk on a Friday evening, I woke up on a Saturday feeling fed up of my narrative loop. It seemed that my loop had turned into trying to achieve something during the week, not quite achieving it, a boozy weekend, feeling tired until Tuesday, trying to achieve something again by Friday and so on...

It dawned on me that what I needed was A NEW NARRATIVE LOOP!

Perhaps I could have reduced this long blog post to one brilliant Einstein quote:


Because I wanted different results. I wanted a sharp mind which would come up with a great novel idea. I wanted my body to work as it should. I wanted a fulfilling social life which left me feeling upbeat.

Westworld got me thinking about escaping the same old patterns and taking steps to designing a new life.

First off, the alcohol can go.

I'm calling on technology to boost my efforts. There are two apps I've downloaded. DrinkControl, which is good for recording your intake if you don't want to give up completely. It shows you what moderate drinking should look like versus what you might think is moderate. Another app is SoberTime and it simply counts the days you've gone without drinking and has an encouraging piece of wisdom every time you open it. 

Next I'm choosing new morning habits which involve meditation, yoga, a big breakfast and morning pages. (Morning pages involves writing three pages of whatever comes to your head.) I apologise if I'm boring the pants off you. I hate it when people talk about detoxes and look at me now!

I'm not under any illusions that I'm heading for enlightenment with these steps. In the end it's just another narrative loop: Emily gets healthy in a quest to discover her full potential!

I want to see what this new loop will do for my mental clarity, sense of fulfillment and all around happiness. 

Lately my narrative has been sounding a bit grim:

Struggling writer uncertain of her fertility, brother being treated for cancer...etc etc  

So I'm choosing a new one. My new narrative will be this: 

Happy writer pursues career with gusto, gets into shape to prepare for future family and looks forward to plenty of good times with her brother, who is recovering speedily from an illness that won't defeat him.

Yes, I like the sound of that a lot more. 

Now what about you, does your narrative loop need a refresh?




*You can find me on facebook.com/EmilyBenetAuthor - I'd love to hear from you!*


Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Hello Writer's Block...


This is writer's block for me: it's when your ideas turn to sand and slip through your fingers over and over again. When you can't sustain a story for longer than a few pages before you get bored of it.  When this new reality makes your fingers freeze above the keyboard and a voice in your head whispers that you may never complete another book again.

I feel an urge to hide under the covers or walk until I can't walk any more. There are a couple of books I am tempted to write but they are so entwined in reality that I don't know if I have the heart to write them. Writing has to be fun. I need to enjoy myself or I won't make it to 100,000 words.

Professional writers turn up to their desks every day and write even if they write rubbish. As the saying goes, you can't edit a blank page. After two years without writing a single short story, I've started again. I even entered a 100-word short story competition the other day. I don't think you can get much shorter than that. It's an ongoing competition that's open to everyone.

It's very frustrating not having a project to work on but I have to trust the big idea will hit me in the face any minute now! If it doesn't, I'll go nuts!

I'm back in Mallorca. My brother is home and the doctor is confident the radiotherapy has been successful. He has been feeling pretty sick but hopefully he's over the worst. His journey has been pretty epic. I tell him it would make a great film. It has all the ingredients. Unexpected challenges and pain, unexpected love and joy. You can write it, he tells me. But even if I fictionalised the hell out of it, I don't know if I could...  



If you want to get in touch, you can find me Facebook/EmilyBenetAuthor. I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Plot Twist: The Unexpected Nature of Living


I'm flying to Barcelona tomorrow for an unexpected family reunion in hospital. After my brother's horrendous 9 hour surgery in March last year I thought that would be the end of it and we could put it all behind us. 

But during a checkup a couple of weeks ago they discovered sarcoma in his liver. I couldn't believe it. It was a shock to everyone. The old terror crept back into my chest. 

The good news is this time it's all moving much quicker. They will be doing radiotherapy on it tomorrow. Apparently he'll be able to feel the burning. Hopefully it will only require one session. He's being really upbeat and brave about it which puts the rest of us a little more at ease.

When I moved from London to Mallorca I was sure I'd see my brother more often but I didn't expect it would be because of illness. After this is all over I plan to visit him more often and to hang out with him far away from the hospital!

I had my own little shock this morning when the gynecologist declared it was time to consider inseminación artificial. If he'd been speaking English, I guess he would have said IVF. I was sure he must have misunderstood me and my life. I had certainly not planned to have any such thing. I was to have a baby easily and naturally with my wonderful husband as simple as that, thank you very much.

I'm not going to jump to conclusions. There are tests to be had and anything could happen in the months ahead. I tell you what though, to anyone planning to have kids in the next few years, I recommend swapping the pill for an alternative contraceptive. It can take over a year to flush it out of your system. I wish I'd known that!

I think it helps to know what you want in life. I think it helps to have goals and dreams. But sometimes your plot will dole out a twist you didn't see coming and what matters is how you deal with it. Luckily, I feel I'm a stronger character than I was a few years ago. I'm determined to call on all the little lessons I've learned over the years to help me take on whatever comes my way. Thank you for letting me share them.


You have to have emptiness before you can be filled. 
You have to exhale before you can inhale - 
Tom Yeomans, spiritual director


Monday, 13 February 2017

F is for...




On Friday, after a game of rock, paper, scissors, it was decided I would  be the last person to take their driving test that morning. Expecting an hour wait, I headed to the nearest cafe. My instructor appeared after twenty minutes.

"One drove the wrong way down a street, the other couldn't park. You're up."

I hurriedly put on my coat and paid for my chamomile tea. Although I felt less nervous than the last time, my stomach was still in knots and I was trying to call on every technique I knew to calm down.

The examiner was still talking to the others when I got to the car. They weren't crying at least. Once they'd got out I slipped into the front seat, my instructor beside me, examiner in the backseat.

"When you're ready," the examiner said.

I turned the key, lowered the handbrake, changed to first and started to pull out of the car park. Beepbeepbeepbeep. I stopped to check the beep, which was showing I hadn't lowered the handbrake enough. Damn it. I pushed it down at once, before moving on, hoping the examiner wouldn't take it too seriously. It happens to everyone, doesn't it?

I thought my exam went smoothly. I didn't feel like there were any major problems. I stalled the car twice in my first exam, but this time I felt comfortable, despite the traffic on the motorway exit. After the allotted twenty-five minutes he told me to stop. I turned off the car, feeling nervous but pretty certain I'd passed.

And then he launched into his speech. He mentioned the handbrake...he mentioned I could have slowed down more at one of the zebra crossings.... he mentioned I had lost security distance at the motorway exit and he would have given me a point in my favour if I had not exited at all*. (*I don't believe this for a minute).

As he went on and on, I realised he couldn't look me in the eye. I thought, if he at least looks me in the eye, maybe I can do some Jedi mind trick! But no, he didn't. He droned on and on, while my instructor sat in stony silence in the passenger seat, looking like he planned to reverse over the examiner if he ever finished his lecture and got out of the car.

I don't think I really believed I had failed until he said the word. I stepped out of the car and swore loudly, before turning into a polite Brit and thanking the examiner.

I got home and I couldn't do a thing. I felt really miserable. Exhausted too. At some point I gave up trying to work and just went and lay in bed fully clothed until I fell asleep for two hours. I switched off my phone. Luckily I hadn't told hardly anyone so didn't have to deal with the chirpy, Sooo? messages. 


The next day I received an email from my agent. She said she didn't like my latest idea for a novel I'd sent her. An agent writing to you on a Saturday - that never happens! 

I hadn't recovered from my feelings of failure from the day before, so this just pushed me further into the ground. Not only could I still not drive, my writing career felt like it had stalled. Perhaps I should give it all up and focus on my kids, I thought bitterly. Oh, wait, I couldn't because I hadn't managed to make any yet! In that too, I was a complete failure!

I could observe these vicious thoughts, which meant I wasn't a complete slave to them. I have a lot to thank my parents for. They brought me up on an alternative diet of meditation and spirituality that was tedious at the time, but has come in handy over the years. I've got a lot of tools in my back pocket to deal with failure, I just need the strength to reach for them.

It's Monday now and I'm still trying to get my act together. My Dad told  me that after his own father failed his first driving test he never tried again. He said how you deal with failure shows your strength. I'm not going to give up learning to drive. Not just because it would be a huge waste of money. I'm not giving up because I know I'll get my license in the end. The same way I can't give up writing, because I know, if I keep going, eventually it will pay off.

I have been here before, many times. We all have, haven't we? I know this feeling of failure won't stick around forever. It will pass. It always passes. 


If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading. - Lao-Tzu (Chinese philosopher and writer)


_______________________________________________________________________________



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Tuesday, 7 February 2017

A Reality Check


I just caught myself about to text the following question to a nomadic friend currently travelling around Asia:

So, when are you coming back to reality?

I stopped before I'd finished the question and tossed my phone aside, disgusted. What was I implying? 

Did I think 'reality' meant a settled lifestyle? A stable job?... a mortgage? 

Had there not been a hint of disapproval in that question? 

Wasn't there an implication that travelling didn't count as reality and therefore not as valuable? As if stepping outside your country is something you must only do briefly before knuckling down to a nine to five job. 

I know people with huge salaries and yet they can't take more than a couple of weeks off a year. Did I consider their reality more sensible?

No, of course not.   

While researching travel writers I stumbled across dozens of websites by digital nomads roaming the world without any intention at all of going 'back home'. I felt impressed by their entrepreneurial spirit and their ability to live with uncertainty. It wasn't what I wanted necessarily, but it did present me with another version of reality.

I had surprised myself, I suppose, by that nearly formulated question. It appeared, despite my irregular writer lifestyle, I  still veered towards the standard  idea of what 'real life' should be.

Dream too big and people will tell you to 'get real' and want to give you a 'reality check'. But just because they are conditioned to think one way, doesn't mean you need to submit to their fears and limitations. It doesn't mean you have to submit to their version of reality.



Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray - Rumi



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Sunday, 29 January 2017

Addicted to bad news? Don't give up hope yet!

I'd planned to get a head's start for the week by plotting my new novel. But no sooner had I opened my computer I got sucked into social media and the dramatic executive orders being churned out in America. 

What's wrong with you? I snapped at myself, as I found myself clicking off course for the hundredth, nay, millionth time. Are you addicted to bad news?

I wasn't just scanning the tweets, I was clicking on every link and googling further sides to the story. I absorbed so much negativity I ended up with a headache and had to take a break from the novel I had forgotten to plot.

I spoke to a friend who suggested the world was being distracted on purpose so that other deals to do with our privacy rights could be made without us noticing. She suggested I disconnect and concentrate on my novel. 

But my novel seemed a bit pointless in the face of the impending world war. My mind flipped to Anne Frank and how many Muslims I could hide in my attic! 

I knew it was a mistake to continue absorbing any more rage and counter rage so I decided to distract myself by listening to people more intelligent than me. I turned to TED talks.

My first was: How the News distorts Our World View. It's an old video but I still think its relevant. In it, Alisa Miller shows a slide of a world map based on land mass...


and the world, how we see it, shaped by the news (in this example, US news 2008) 



Interesting perspective, isn't it?

I continued in my search feeling thirsty for knowledge perhaps, or guidance.    

I watched a video about why some people are more altruistic than others. It would seem that our brains have a lot to answer for. Apparently psychopaths have a smaller amygdala which makes it more difficult for them to recognise fear which in turn effects their capacity to empathise... 

Thankfully Abigail Marsh ends her talk on a positive note. She concludes that the world is getting more compassionate though it doesn't seem like it.

"There's a common perception that the world is becoming more cruel, but it's not" - Marsh says. "I think it may be because we know much more about the suffering of strangers in distant places so we now care much more about the suffering of those strangers in distant places."

Lastly, I watched a talk by former radical Jihadist, Manwar Ali

It was moving to hear Ali's story which gives hope that hearts can be changed. He makes a plea to his audience, and these are the words I'm going to end this day on:

Approach the world... life... with love. Learn to develop... to cultivate... your hearts to see goodness, beauty and truth in others and in the world. 

That way we matter more to ourselves, to each other, to our community and for me, to God.

That G word is a controversial one which I prefer to replace with Love. And I have to believe that we have more power acting from a place of love, than a place of hate.  


For a window into my writing life and occasional bad jokes, find me at Facebook/EmilyBenetAuthor