Thursday 28 November 2013

All I want for Christmas is an Rr

My nephew received a letter from Santa yesterday, reassuring him of his existence. He also received a certificate to prove he had made the NICE List.
"I am aware that you are now seven and other children might be telling you I'm not real..." Santa wrote. "But to keep the Christmas magic alive and help me get all the Christmas presents to everyone, YOU MUST BELIEVE... Christmas magic is like the wind, you can't see it, but it's real." At that moment, my nephew reported that a huge gust of wind had banged against the window, making the whole family jump. So there you are, proof that Santa exists.
My husband's nerd magazine (Focus) is a little more cynical. It says that to deliver presents to 200 million children in 800 million homes spread over 3x10¹³m² of land, Father Christmas would have to go at such a speed that the air resistance would vaporise him and all the presents with him.
Back to the magic! I say. Since magic is the only way I'm going to get what I want for Christmas. You'll never guess what it is, so I'll tell you. I want to be able to roll my Rs. Do you know how humiliating it is to be half Spanish and half Welsh, and be unable to roll one's Rs? I doubt it.
I want to be able to shout out: Rrrround the Rrrrugged Rrrrock a Rrragged Rrrascal Rrran! and Erre con erre cigarro, erre con erre barril, rapido ruedan los carros, por los rieles del ferrocarril!
All my life I've avoided talking about perros. DOGS. And burros. DONKEYS. It was hard because sometimes I really wanted to talk about these creatures. If I wanted yummy churros... well, I just pointed. It's not that people can't understand me, they can, but when I was little the other kids laughed at me. And they laughed into my teens too. "Say dog, Emily! Say dog, Emily!" I remember bursting into tears because I was SO frustrated. I tried, but I just couldn't roll them. Years later I watched a YouTube video with exercises for my tongue. But after my mother in law happened to talk to a therapist one day, who said that at my age it was unlikely I'd ever learn, I gave up.  
To be honest, I thought I'd stop caring, until a grown up laughed at me the other day. Then it brought it all up. I felt stupid. I also felt sure I sounded stupid to everyone too. Why else would they find it so funny? Was I destined to sound stupid all my life?
So that's what I want for Christmas please, Father Christmas. I'd like to roll my Rs so when your sleigh lifts off I can shout ARRRRRRRIBA! And if the magic bit isn't real and the nerd magazine is right, please can you slow down a bit so you don't get vaporised. Thank you!
Other posts you might enjoy:

Friday 22 November 2013

Blogging for Beginners eBook Launch

Blogging for Beginners is now available to download from and

About the Book

Whether you're an individual or a business, a blog is an extremely effective tool for developing your online presence and reaching a global audience.
It's a dynamic platform which you can use to share your creativity, advice, services and skills. You don't need to be technically-minded to have a blog. All you need is an internet connection and a couple of spare hours in your week. Anyone can blog. That said, you don’t want to settle for just any old blog that you'll get bored of!
Blogging for Beginners poses the questions you should ask before you begin and all the information you need to get started. The book is packed with tips on how to set up your blog, develop its identity, choose content, gain a readership and increase blog traffic. 

Extract from my article in The New Writer and my new e-book Blogging for Beginners:

"When I was 11 years old, I wrote in my diary, 'I've started a new novel today which I'm going to get published.' I believed that to get a book published all I had to do was write one. It was a shock to discover this was not the case.
I later learnt that the book had to be brilliant. Not only that but it had to land on an agent’s desk at the exact moment they were savouring a fresh cup of coffee, the sun was shining and they were feeling a profound love towards all humanity. Rejection was inevitable. If you were very lucky, you would receive a personal letter, and only then to tell you that your book was rubbish but your font had potential.
Patience is not my greatest virtue. By 24 I was fed up of waiting for someone to pluck my work out of the slush pile and bless it with their approval. All I wanted was to write and be read. So I began a blog about the only thing I really knew anything about; working in my Mum's eccentric chandelier shop. At first, my readership consisted of a few friends and relatives, but gradually my following grew. I took my weekly deadline very seriously and edited as ruthlessly as if it were to be printed in a national newspaper.
Six months after I began, Salt Publishing got in touch with me through Facebook and told me they loved the blog. More importantly, they commissioned the book Shop Girl Diaries. Since then I've contributed articles on social media to magazines and guidebooks and I run blog workshops in the UK.
My experience has been positive, however a successful blog doesn't happen overnight. Blogging takes time, perseverance and often won't pay a penny directly or for some time, yet, if you stick with it, it can reap wonderful rewards. Having a regular blog increases your chances of your work becoming visible while making you accessible to those who might be interested in it. You also become part of a huge interactive community which can stimulate and support you in whatever your blog mission is. Blogging for Beginners is not just aimed at writers. This is for anyone wanting to be pro-active and embrace the blogosphere."
My next Blogging and Social Networking Workshop will take place on Saturday 25th January in London, SE1.

For more details and bookings, visit my Blog Workshops Page. Places are limited!

Thursday 7 November 2013

The Writing Platform - Authors, Alternatives, Books and Blog Tips #TWP13

On Monday I attended The Writing Platform mini fair and conference for writers. I think all writers should go to something like this once a year for an injection of energy and optimism and to be reminded of all the alternative ways of getting their projects off the ground. Alright, so Patrick Hussey did mention that crowd funding was a bit tricky... virtually impossible... don't embark on it lightly... but still, it's good to know it's an option! Just don't expect millions of pledges if you've only got 21 twitter followers. 22 should do it.
'My Writing Life' was the topic of the first panel and I was pleased to hear that discipline plays a key role in the authors' success. Better discipline than luck, right? I learnt that Philip Hensher writes between 6am - 10.30am to avoid interruptions, Nikesh Shukla scribes for two hours before his day job and Polly Courtney imposes a technical blackout in the afternoons to get her words down.

Can we learn to be disciplined? I think so, if we want it enough. It's just hard to know where to start sometimes. Personally I'm a big fan of lists and breaking everything down into manageable steps. Last week I made a timetable with a daily word count target and I wrote more than I'd done in ages without any extra stress. You could even use spreadsheets à la Polly Courtney. 
It makes so much sense to me that Polly uses spreadsheets. She's so productive and her drive is inspiring. She's mostly known for dumping Harper Collins over their 'girly covers' after working through a three book deal with them. What I didn't know until I met her at The Writing Platform is that her first novel Golden Handcuffs was self-published, and it was the success of this book that attracted Harper Collins in the first place. Polly's story is proof that it pays to be pro-active. These day publishers are much more likely to take a risk on a writer if they've already built a readership and gained credibility. For some writers, becoming their own publisher is a step worth taking.
The 'Get Noticed' panel was the last of the day. I was on it because the success I've had as a writer is the result of having a well-developed online presence. Shop Girl Diaries began as a blog, my online novel Spray Painted Bananas has racked up over a million hits on Wattpad and led to me signing with Laura Longrigg at MBA literary agency. I'm a big believer in putting your work out there and increasing your chances of getting lucky.
Nicola Barr, Anna Lewis, Emily Benet, Minna Salami and Donna Hancox
Our panel only lasted forty minutes but I could have gone on for hours, and I do in my Blogging and Social Networking Workshops! In fact, now that I'm not worried about hogging the microphone I thought I'd leave you with a few tips.
You might also want to read To Blog or Not To Blog, That is the question.

1. Decide on a clear concept for your blog -  just because you're a writer doesn't mean you have to write about writing!
2. Consider how your blog might add value to your readers - is it entertaining? informative? insightful?
3.  Be consistent - both in your theme and your voice!
4. Post regularly - once a week is great, once every two weeks might be more manageable.
5. Keep an eye on blogs you like - what do you like about them? what are they doing so well?
6. Visual appeal - use multi media, add relevant photographs, illustrations, videos  
7. Integrate your online presence -  make sure your blog link is on all your social networks and your social networks can be reached through your blog.
8. Spread the word - add your blog link to your email signature, mention new posts in your facebook status, tweet your posts using bite sized headlines and don't forgot word of mouth.

9. Don't spam - tell people about your blog but don't use social media solely for self-promotion. It won't work and you'll get on everyone's nerves. Engage, engage, engage!
My Blogging for Beginners e-book is coming out soon, sign up to my newsletter for updates and news of upcoming workshops.