The Joys of Sisterhood

Photo by Parée

Photo by Parée

I’ve been thinking about the beauty of same sex friendships. For me, there is an emotional security – the German word is ‘Geborgenheit’ and describes this more accurately – about friendships between members of the same sex.

I don’t have any sisters though I always wanted one. The bond between sisters seems a magical one, be it in literature – take Jane Austen novels, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women or Angela Carter’s Wise Children – or in real life. My mum is one of six siblings, only one of whom is a boy. My husband, an only child, went to a sports school where the fellow pupils became like brothers for him. I’m glad, looking back, that my parents decided to send my brother and me to single sex schools. Along with the rivalries and hurts that go hand in hand with school years, I formed lasting relationships there.

I was spoilt by intimacy growing up. My family on both sides is boisterous. They talk incessantly, a noisy battle of stories and jocularity, of stormy, steadfast affection. Then there was school and the strong friendships built through my parents’ insistence we attend Friday prayers. I was both anonymous and part of the fold. Looking back those relationships were a gift. The boys and girls used to hang out by the radiators at the back of the mosque after prayers, each on their own side of the room until we became old enough for the members of the opposite sex to become interesting.

As I grew and with the advent of mobile technology, my friendships began to develop independently of my parents. I’d spend hours on the phone talking to female friends using the free talk plans that were so generous in the early days of mobile phone companies. Even today I take huge pleasure from throwing on shoes and a coat and heading over to a friend’s for a cup of tea. No frills, no huge planning, just a few minutes of conversation shared over a mug of Tetley or Twinings.

Photo by Neil Krug

Photo by Neil Krug

It’s different here in Geneva, partly because we’ve only been here six months, and well, friendships develop over time. There is a large population turnover here. Ex-pats invariably arrive to take up jobs with international organisations and their cycles seem to be 3-5 years before moving on. So far I have made few good friends, but in a way this is a blessing for my writing. And there’s always visitors, loved faces that Skype does not do justice to. Even so, when the visitors are gone, I struggle with the need to put on my game face for acquaintances, to reply without frustration when asked daily:

“How are you?”
“Well, thanks. You?”
“Yeah, fine.”
“Good weekend.”
“Can’t complain.”

What a polite dance. I get that time is often short, or you don’t fancy delving into your life troubles with strangers at the school gates. I’m just not very good at repeating this script time and again. It is what irks me when I go to the mosque nowadays. The prayers bring me comfort. But afterwards it is like getting through a rugby scrum. Everywhere there is someone making a beeline for you, catching your eye and asking those same stock questions.

What I really want to say is:

Are you seeing the real me?

I love that when good female friends come together, the default mode of conversation is intimate. I thrive on intimate. It’s one of the reasons I like to read and write fiction. I like being catapulted inside a character’s head. It must have been over a decade ago, but I still remember being enthralled by a performance of The Vagina Monologues. The staging was bare, the lights were dimmed and the performers sat on high stools, a spotlight focused on them, as they told their stories in turn. Their stories, yet we were all on the same page.

There’s a strength to friendship between women. Relationships between women past a certain age are often judged to be secondary to heterosexual ones. Too often they are dismissed as gossipy or opportunistic, or recast to be competitive in nature. To me they have a beauty all of their own. The truth is that female friendships are often profound love stories and they can last a lifetime, accompanying us through puberty and into adulthood, through career choices, various relationships, ill health, the birth of children, the breakdown of marriages, the death of parents and the ageing process.

Of course, there are times when friendships between women falter. Sometimes we grow in different directions. Harder still are the times when previously harmonious relationships suddenly jar for no apparent reason. In my own past, two female friendships suddenly combusted without warning. These ones leave behind sadness, a common his(her)story erased over a perceived slight or out of sync expectations. Worst of all is trashing. I’ve never been able to understand why women disparage each other. Personal attacks borne out of petty jealousies, competition and hatred poison everyone involved. There is room for more than one woman at the top, and there is room for differing viewpoints and personalities.

Happily there is no shortage of women (and men) who are able to celebrate other people, who are there with words of encouragement or a funny story, who are successful and not afraid to pay it forward, to share their time and skills with others. I’ve been blown away by the energy and sharing in writing communities on Twitter (#MondayBlogs, @A_WritersStudio, #wwwblogs, #FridayPhrases, #MyWANA) and on Facebook (Write Better Stories, Writers Soapbox, not all encompassing lists).

Blogging Award

sister-hood-awardIt’s been a while since I did a blogging award. They can be time-consuming, but on the upside they are fun and supportive. A big thanks to Jess West for nominating me for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award. I first met Jess on Twitter. She is fearless and inspiring. We have rubbed elbows at Flash! Friday, Prose Before Ho Hos and recently did a story collaboration together. Jess lives in the States; I wish she lived closer. I sent her Maltesers; she sent me a handwritten letter. Now that’s love.

To accept Jess’s nomination, I have to answer ten questions she has devised, nominate seven female bloggers and ask them my own ten questions. So come on into my living room, I’ll turn the lights down, you can tuck your feet up under you and I’ll whisper random somethings into your ear.

Jess’s Questions

▪ Of the five senses, if you absolutely had to lose one, which would you prefer to be without?

My sense of smell is the weakest of all my senses I think. There are men in my life who let off some pretty rotten smells but thankfully I tend to get the hit quite late, just before it evaporates. Powerful scents tend to give me a headache. Some writers I know would balk at not being able to smell their coffee, but I’ve always been more of a tea drinker anyway. I’d miss the smell of the sea and freshly baked cakes. I’d miss the smell of my mum’s home cooking and knowing when my son needs a nappy change. Still, if I had to choose it would still be scent. I’d struggle more losing one of the others.

▪ Which is your favourite meal, breakfast, lunch, or supper?

Lunch is out, that’s usually rushed for me. I try and maximise writing time while the kids are at school and nursery and often skip it. There’s nothing quite like soggy Cornflakes for breakfast and slurping the remaining milk from the bowl afterwards. But my favourite meal of the day is supper. It’s cooked leisurely with my favourite tracks or BBC Radio 4 on in the background. When it’s time to eat, we take turns telling each other about what has happened that day and playing silly games with the kids. At the moment it’s animal noises. I do a pretty mean eagle.

▪ When is the best time of day to get something accomplished?

First thing in the morning straight after a shower. I find that if I start early, I can keep up my motivation. If I dawdle or get waylaid by chores, then I just don’t end up hitting fifth gear. Last thing at night works well too, when everyone is asleep and the house is quiet. That was my favourite time of day to write when I was still working in regional government.

▪ What’s your stance on tattoos located on the lower back, just above the tailbone?

I thought about getting one when I was seventeen. Back then in Croydon it was all about black cherry lipstick, poker straight hair and lower back tattoos. I thought they were sexy. Now I think that stretch of skin is beautiful bare. I never managed the poker straight hair (thank you Dad) and in the end I went for a tattoo on my left hip. It’s a butterfly – rock and roll! – and when I was pregnant one of its wings stretched out towards my belly. After the children were born it returned to its usual place. I still like it and sometimes think about getting another.

▪ If you could stop time and become a fictional character for the duration of a book, who would you be and from which book?

That’s a toughie. My favourite characters have been put through the mill. I might admire them, but would I want to go through their trials? I’ve always wanted to do magic though, so possibly Molly Weasley from Harry Potter. She has integrity, passion and is made of love. It pours from her. And that is one hell of a moment when she duels with Bellatrix Lestrange in the final book. Although her son dies, doesn’t he? I think it might mean something that I identified with the mum figure and not Hermione Granger. It just occurred to me I’m no longer a spring chicken. But I have depth, baby.

▪ With regard to the previous question, how would your time as that fictional character change how you live your life when you get back?

I’d get more frustrated with housework. Molly uses a fair amount of magic shortcuts in the home. I’d be fiercer in my courage and love, and be more comfortable in my own skin. I would hold my children close.

▪ What’s your favourite TV show and why?

I’m loyal to books but I am flighty with TV. At the moment I’m really enjoying Broadchurch. Great performances and beautiful landscape shots in romantic hues that contrast with the difficult subject matter. But then equally I love the cleverness and directing of Sherlock, the chemistry between the central characters there, and Strikeback, for its dialogue and crowd-pleasing action scenes. Past favourites have been Spooks, Merlin and The Sopranos. There was a time when only Friends could make me laugh out loud at the screen. Any or all of the above hit the spot depending on my mood.

▪ If money were of no concern and you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I’d go to Belize for the Maya architecture, caves and beaches. Australia and New Zealand would be a close second, for the landscape, wildlife and because growing up watching Neighbours and Home and Away make me think it’d be a lot of fun. In third place would be Russia for its literary and political history. I can imagine it so well. I’d love to see how my constructions match up to reality.

▪ If you won a million dollars tomorrow, how would you spend it?

I’d pay off the outstanding mortgage on our house and put aside money for the children’s education. I’d buy a flat and split the rental income between my gran and our parents. I’d take a holiday (I lost a bet a long time ago and am supposed to be taking my husband to Budapest) and if there was still enough in the pot I’d buy a Mini Cooper: five doors, in a bright colour, leather seats and wooden finishing inside. The rest I’d save for a rainy day.

▪ What are your plans for 2015?

To keep writing and learning; to try my hand at poetry more often; to learn to play a few songs on the guitar, which is gathering dust in the corner of our living room; to pay 100% attention to the people and things that matter, without a phone in my hand or my thoughts elsewhere. To find a yoga or a zumba class somewhere (I miss my old ones in London and have yet to find somewhere in Geneva). They’re not big plans, just small steps, repeated every day. It’s the repetition that matters I think.

***

We are all trying to steal pockets of writing time for ourselves. If I’ve nominated you for this award and you are unable to accept, just take this as a public declaration of appreciation for your words and your support for other writers. My nominees are:

My questions are:

  • What was the first book you got lost in?
  • Which animal would you like to be and why?
  • What and where is your favourite restaurant?
  • Where is your safe place?
  • Describe a moment from your childhood which makes you smile.
  • Which of your own creations has meant the most to you and why?
  • If you could spend the day with anyone from history, who would you choose and what would you do?
  • Name a song which would get you on the dance floor or which you sing to lift your mood.
  • Which one book would you recommend to your friends and why?
  • Which three places in the world have you really enjoyed being?

Write on, sisters.

Versatile Blogger Award

versatile-bloggerA big thank you to @amicgood and @willowbecker, who have nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award. For those of you who have yet to meet Amy, she is an American writer currently living in Ireland. Her website is home to her blogs, short fiction and is a great resource for writers. She is also author of Rooted and founder of @FridayPhrases, a weekly micro-fiction Twitter meme, where you tweet and retweet stories and poems of 140 characters. I’ve archived my own here. It’s a great way to meet fellow writers, marvel at their creativity and share yours. It is also where I met @willowbecker, short story and flash fiction writer extraordinaire, who built the brand spanking new #FridayPhrases website and who can also be found at her online home Weird Little Worlds.

The Versatile Blogger Award is given to writers who bring something special into your lives, whose love of words comes across on the page and who have a unique perspective. It’s wonderful to be chosen to receive the award, especially alongside fellow nominees, whose work I admire. Must buy you a pint of Guinness next time I’m up your way, Amy, and Willow, that house is ours ;).

To accept the award, I have been asked to nominate 10-15 fellow bloggers and to tell you seven things about myself.

The nominees

@DrewChial for blazing with creativity in his choice of blog subjects, his short stories and his artwork, and for using different media when I’m still trying to get my head around the basics.

@SiofraWrites I’m new to Siofra’s writing, but I have already fallen head over heels for her and her beautiful website. She writes fantasy and you can find stories and poems on her blog, in addition to recollections from her dreams.

@TheGrahamMilne for his website Graham’s Crackers. He’s currently on a schedule working through his memory bank of songs that have made their mark on him. Whatever Graham writes about, it’s unpredictable and an eye opener.

Visit @magicandmarvels’ blog for stories, poems and great photos. Carrie also writes great micro fiction for #FridayPhrases.

The guys from @proseb4hohos (@wryson, @jedwardpaul, @johnweeast @Reckoner67 @alexnaderwrites) Enter the man cave, where facial hair and no pants are the norm. A mixture of wisdom and bare faced cheek in the most charming fashion, this blog will make you laugh out loud and scratch your chin. You’ll find short fiction, advice and reviews here.

@NatashaA_Author has a wonderful site, full of thoughtful entries and a function where you can pose ‘Dear Rumi’ questions to the protagonist from her recently published romance novella Butterfly Season, which is on my reading list.

On her website My Train of Thoughts On…, @okiewashere provides book reviews, musings and quotes. My favourite thing about Karen’s blog is the diversity of topics and the microscope into the lives of writers in her ’10 Statements’ series.

Seven things about me

1. I met my husband at university where we both did the same MA. At the beginning of the year, I was dancing in my room with a friend at our halls of residence when I dropped red wine on my rug. I decided to run the bath and soak the rug. I left the tap on and forgot all about it. The next thing I know, there was a hammering at the door, and there stood my future husband asking ‘why is it raining downstairs?’

2. I have a butterfly tattoo on my hip from when I was 17. Thankfully it wasn’t a Chinese symbol that was all the rage when I was at school, along with blackberry lipstick and poker straight hair. It was a small act of rebellion that felt delightful. I showed everyone I could think of apart from my parents and when there was no one else to show, I told my lovely mum about it. Her response: ‘But Allah wants us to return to him as we came.’

3. I have a four year old daughter and a one year old son. I saw another little girl in my dreams. She even has a name. I am torn between the little girl I may have and the writer’s life I am only just beginning to have again.

4. If I could upload information into my brain, like Neo ‘I Know Kung Fu’ does in The Matrix, I’d ask for drawing, painting, guitar, saxophone, Japanese and Kung Fu, in that order. Since that’s not going to happen anytime soon, I am having to make do with stick drawings and learning my chords painfully slowly.

5. I often have an image in my head that I link to people I know. I see my brother with his super flexible toe dangling oddly, my daughter eating strawberries in the summer, my son cheekily sticking his tongue out of the corner of his mouth, my friend L spinning around the dance floor with her hair crimped at university, my work colleague D down on one knee singing karaoke. The images stick, and they come into my head each time I think of that person. They are rarely replaced by newer ones, like I have stored away a business card that never changes.

6. There are certain movies – Amelie and Point Break – and certain tracks – Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’, Juli’s ‘Die Perfekte Welle’ and Muse’s ‘Starlight’ – that will always take me somewhere special.

7. I work best under pressure. If I’m up against a deadline, I morph into a Hindu goddess with four arms, existing in a zen-like state while I race through my to do list with apparent ease. It’s accomplishing things when there is more time that comes less easily, which is why setting small writing goals is the difference between me feeling happy and productive or lazy and full of doubt.

That’s it for the Versatile Blog Award. Thanks again Amy and Willow. For my nominees, writing time is scarce so if you are unable to accept, I completely understand. Just know that your words comfort and inspire me, and make me think. Keep writing, and I’ll keep reading.

How Relevant are Book Awards and Writing Competitions?

The Booker, Arthur C. Clarke Award, Nobel Prize for Literature, Franz Kafka Prize, Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, Iowa Short Fiction Award, Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Award, Goethe Prize, Wole Soyinka Prize, Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis, Nebula Award, Guardian First Book Award, Costa Book Awards… How much attention do those outside literary circles pay to book awards? When you are browsing the shelves of your favourite book shop or want to buy a e-book, does the sticker marking out a novel as a prize winner make you more likely to part with your money? Or do you rely on word of mouth, random browsing or print/ online reviews to help you make your reading choices?

When shortlists for awards are announced, I write up novels in a memo which have a premise that interest me, particularly if they are by female writers, but I wonder how many other readers do the same. It’s only been about six months since I’ve had a e-reader (I’m a reformed paper snob) and already instead of looking at my list of award nominees to decide my next read, I tend to download e-books by authors I have interacted with on Twitter (latest great reads @akmakansi’s The Sowing, @CollettMeg’s End of Days series and @RachelintheOC’s Broken Pieces. Next up @petersamet’s Zero Echo Shadow Prime).

What are then the advantages of major book awards in a world where everyday readers have the technology to post their own reviews and access hundreds of others in a matter of minutes? Literary awards still open us up to authors we may never have discovered and books we might never have read, much like a book club. They are also a form of patronage, giving authors additional exposure and a boost to their future earnings in a profession where it can be difficult to earn a living wage. When nominees and winners of major literary awards are announced, fiction gets more attention in the media, it comes up more in everyday conversation, resulting in more people buying, borrowing and reading books. That can only be a good thing.

So how about the negatives then? How we receive art is a matter of taste, and for most awards, we rely on judging panels to tell us which books are worthy of acclaim. The judges on the panels work within set criteria and are supremely qualified to pick star novels from amongst a year’s publications, for example, and their tastes have been refined through exposure and experience. Even so, choosing an ultimate winner from a diverse range of books is to a large extent like comparing apples with oranges, an arbitrary decision. Some awards can also give the impression that they are for a certain kind of ‘well-read’ reader, which is unfortunate when fiction can bring such joy but is passed over in favour of other forms of entertainment such as television, cinema and computer games, because can appear inaccessible. I wonder if the opposite is true in literary circles, and whether there is a pressure to keep up with reading nominated books. How tedious. I did a dual literature degree at university and while I enjoyed much of it, extensive reading lists near drained me of my love of reading. I’m a firm believer in reading what you want when you fancy it, whether it’s a comic, a quick and dirty Mills & Boon or a Steinbeck.

In the end, for me, individual reader reviews and word of mouth recommendations are the most reliable form of judging the quality of a book. Even then, there is no guarantee that a particular work will resonate with you. How we respond to the art we experience is entirely personal. Sometimes an author’s vision touches a particular chord within us due to his/her choice of themes, episodes, character traits, form of expression, and there is no magic quite like it. When you find books like that, they remain dear to you. I bet there are a few award winners which have had that impact on you, but there also some on a publisher’s slush pile somewhere, waiting to be discovered.

Let’s move away from literary awards for a moment and talk about the small fish comparison: writing competitions. Just as a major literary award can substantially increase the profile and future earnings of an author, winning a respected competition can win you the attention of agents and publishers and put you on the road to traditional publication. Do you submit to writing competitions? I’ve not been inclined to submit my fiction to either competitions or magazines until a friend recently encouraged me to. I reworked my piece to ensure it met the competition criteria and reluctantly parted with my entry money, feeling a tiny glimmer of hope that my work might be good enough to make the short list (it wasn’t).

I’ve had a bit more time now to think about whether I would submit my work again to competitions and while I am not sure I would regularly want to pay an entry fee, learning to meet criteria such as deadlines, themes and specific word counts is good training for our craft. Just like blogging, competitions are a way of interacting with the external world. Your stories live when they are read, not when they languish in your drawer. By submitting your work, you are stepping into the void. It doesn’t matter if someone is there to catch you or if you fall. What matters is that with every story you grow. If your entry is short-listed or you win, what a weapon you’ll have to chase away those writerly doubts the next time you’re in a self-flagellating mood. And you never know, it may be the first step on the way to you featuring on the Granta List or winning the Booker.

Liebster Award

liebster2I am honoured to have recently been nominated by Norah Colvin for a Liebster Award, given to up and coming bloggers with fewer than 200 followers. For those of you who have yet to come across Norah’s wonderful blog, where she posts about education and books, take a look here. One reason I have made blogging a regular part of my life since I begun a year ago is because of the fantastic people you get to meet along the way. Thanks Norah for your support and friendship.

To accept the Liebster Award, I have been asked to answer ten questions that Norah has asked, nominate ten other bloggers for the award with a following of under 200 and to devise my own set of questions for them to answer. Here goes:

Ten questions answered

1. What do you value most in life?

I value the ability to choose how I live my life. There are many people who by accident of birth are born into societies, where because of religious beliefs, political systems, social norms or poverty, do not enjoy the freedoms I have. I try not to forget how lucky I am that I could determine who to spend my life with myself, that I could choose my education path and my own career, that who I spend my time with or what I say is entirely my choice. Freedom is everything.

2. What activities do you enjoy and why?

I love lazy afternoons in the park with my family. We have young children and it’s a joy to see them running around and squealing at the pure joy of having a kick about or spread-eagling on the grass under a clear blue sky. I enjoy sinking into a bubble bath with a good book, until I get irritated by wrinkly toes and fingers that comes with soaking for too long. I love singing when nobody is listening and dancing when nobody is watching. The best gig I went to was a Pixies concert in Berlin, on this fantastic outdoor stage in the middle of a forest. The location and music were incredible, but what really moved me was compared to the English, Germans don’t care one jot about how they look when they are dancing. It is about letting yourself go and feeling the beat and the melody.

3. What is something you wish you had more time for?

There is never enough time for reading and writing. That goes without saying. I wish I had more time for other creative pursuits besides that. There is a guitar leaning against the wall in our living room that is begging to be played. I bought it last year with the intention of learning how to play. Then there’s drawing. How I would love to be able to learn to draw. I’ll find the time one day.

4. What is one change you would like to make in the world?

I’d like us to have more understanding for each other, first within our own countries and then across country boundaries. In the UK, I feel that we have become very self-centred about our individual progress. Individual progress is important of course, but what moves me is when families work together, or wider communities find the time to connect, to talk to each other’s kids, to recognise that everyone has potential but some people may not have been lucky enough to have the best start in life. It’s a myth that the individual can exist in a vacuum and propel himself forward. I’d like to see more generosity towards others. On second thoughts what I really should have said is clean water for all!

5. What is something you would like to change about yourself?

I’d like to care less about what other people think about me. That’s a difficult one to learn but I think it has a really positive impact on our own personal mental health and progress if we can be somewhat free of other people’s expectations of us. But then I guess we all need checks and balances too, and I would probably be a wilder, uncontrollable version of myself if I was able to block the expectations overnight…

6. What surprises you most about your life – something good in your life that you hadn’t expected, dreamed of or thought possible?

The ease of transition from single person to family life surprises me. I used to wonder growing up who I might fall in love with, what our children might look like. Do all little girls do that? I never could have imagined that I would marry a man from Germany, or that we would bring these mischievous little munchkins into the world, or how tiring and rewarding it would be.

It surprises me also that I have evolved from a child with a mass of insecurities to someone who is comfortable with herself. It’s easy to wonder growing up if you’ll ever find your place in the world, if you will feel valued. Fitting in is difficult, standing out is difficult, and then you realise, we all have our own struggles and that’s ok. It makes us who we are. It makes us more not less.

7. What sorts of things amuse you?

Slapstick comedy and Ally McBeal make me laugh. There are some Simon Pegg movies, which make me smile even when I’ve seen them over and over. Then there is innuendo. If I’m in the right environment and feel safe, innuendo can be fun. The children make me laugh too. There are moments when I know I must be the firm parent when they have done something mischievous but I take one look at my husband and both of us have to work hard to control the laughter bubbling up inside. My daughter says things that are so wonderful and funny that I have a memo in my phone so I don’t forget them, such as:

Me: I have my eye on your pizza. Can I have some please?

D: Yep, but where is your eye on my pizza?

8. If you could talk with anyone and ask them to explain their ideas and/or actions, who would it be, and why?

I’d talk to both my grandfathers, who have both sadly died. My paternal grandfather lived in Florida and we didn’t get to see him often. When we did, I was blinded by the lights of Disney Land. If I’d been older, I would have asked what it was like growing up in such as big family – there were nine children – and about the love story between him and my gran, how hard he worked and how he made such wonderful friendships despite not speaking English well.

My maternal grandfather came to the UK after Idi Amin chucked the East African Asians out of Uganda in the 1970s. I was in my twenties when he died, but the cancer still took him too soon, and I’d ask him about how he felt about leaving his business behind, the bond he shared with his brothers and how the burden of being head of the family in a time of such turmoil changed him.

9. What is something you can’t do without?

I can’t do without feeling connected. I feel empty if I haven’t had at least a few meaningful interactions a day. These can be in person, talking to my husband, my mum or a close friend, reading a blog post that resonates, or something imaginary, like getting under the skin of a character I am reading or writing. If you are talking about something more physical and concrete, then I guess I’d say my phone, Kindle and laptop in equal measure, as they all enable connecting to someone else, real or imagined.

10. What is your earliest memory?

Probably my gran singing ‘Nanu maru nak’ (my nose is small), a Gujarati nursery rhyme, to me, but I often question whether my memories are real or reconstructed, so I can’t be sure.

Blogging nominations 

Amongst the blogs I have nominated for the Liebster Award below, you will find prose that blazes with truth, drawings that enchant and inspire, and poetry that leaves an imprint on you long after you finish reading it. These are writers who enrich my life with their words and images, so if you haven’t discovered them yet, here’s your chance.

Callie Armstrong

The Crayon Parlour

Gunmetal Geisha

Paula Reed Nancarrow

Amnesia Soup

Writeaway 

Raishimi33

One Woman’s Thoughts

Jessica P. West

Changing Skin and Other Stories 

Questions for my nominated bloggers

1. Describe a happy memory to us.

2. Describe the setting in which you write.

3. What is the best book you have read recently?

4. Which is your go to song to lift your spirits if you are feeling low?

5. Which author or artist has influenced you the most?

6. What is your favourite item of clothing?

7. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

8. What would you change about the world if you had the power?

9. What are your favourite and least favourite characteristics?

10. If you could have any superpower, what would you choose?

I look forward to reading your answers, and thank you again Norah.

WordPress Family Award

wordpressfamilyaward_2Taylor Eaton of Little Write Lies has just nominated me for the WordPress Family Award, which is given to those who make other WordPress bloggers feel like part of the family. What a lovely way to start the new year! For those of you who haven’t checked out Taylor’s blog yet, please do. I’m in complete awe of Taylor’s energy, passion and her prose. Taylor is also co-founder of The Sprint Shack, a home for word sprint lovers and writing advice.

In order to accept the award, I must nominate six other bloggers who have made me feel at home here on WordPress. I’ve made some wonderful friendships since I started blogging last year, and what a wonderful way this is to say thank you to bloggers who have inspired me and been so welcoming and generous with their support. Here goes:

Rachael Spellman – CelenaGaia – Rach was the first blogger, who caught my eye when I joined WordPress. She blogs both articles and fiction, and has the courage to be personal in her writing. Her short story Terminal is a gem. Her writing wisdom is second to none and is full of useful examples.

Jessica P. West – Jessica blogs fiction and writing advice. She got me hooked on flash fiction. Her stories can be under 200 words and she can still move me to tears. Always supportive, always fun. I wish I had more of her drive.

Graham Milne – Graham’s Crackers – Graham blogs about a range of topics including writing and movies. He has a keen eye and a beautiful turn of phrase, and even better, writes perceptively about the the portrayal of women onscreen. I cannot wait to read his novel, a fantasy written in the first person about a woman with magic.

Amira Makansi – The Z-Axis – Co-author of The Sowing (which has a knock-out opening scene and a great cast of characters – seriously, go buy it) who blogs articles, writer interviews and book reviews.

Roger – An Ark Hive – Horror isn’t usually my thing, but Roger’s writing has changed my mind. He blogs short stories and micro-fiction.

Drew Chial –  Drew blogs poetry, lyrics, stories, audio-shorts and articles. There’s been times when I’ve read his blog and his words have crystallised what I had started to think but not arrived at yet.

If you haven’t checked out the work of these wonderful writers and bloggers, please do. Each of them has quirks and a unique voice. They inspire, make me smile and they don’t hold back on the truth.  Just what I like in my writers ;-)

Sunshine Award

sunshine-awardI won my first ever blogging award, the Sunshine Award :-). It’s given to bloggers who ‘positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.’

Did I just hear you say ‘speech!’? Well, ok then. Thanks first to @West1Jess for nominating and inspiring me.  Thanks also to my husband, my mum, my wonderfully efficient and strokeable Mac….kidding!

To accept the award, I’ve been asked to list ten things about myself and then nominate ten other bloggers for the award. Here goes!

Ten things about me

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  • When we were children, my brother used to wait until my parents were out of sight and do Bret Hitman Hart’s sharp shooter move on me. It hurt like hell.
  • My dad has an awesome moustache. It’s pretty big as ‘taches go. I’ve never seen him without one.
  • My favourite thing in the world is hearing people laugh. I love watching laughter too: the crinkling around the eyes, the freedom of it. One of my favourite laughs is my nani’s. She is in her 70s and sounds like a giggling school girl.  Then there’s my friend Sal, who has an infectious, dirty laugh. It’s wonderful.
  • If there is no other chocolate in the house I fetch the Nutella jar and a spoon. There is never any guilt. A woman and chocolate belong together.
  • Tracks certain to get me out of my armchair are Placebo’s The Bitter End and Muse’s Starlight.  If I’m really down and need a quick turn around, my go to album is Madonna’s Immaculate. Yes, I am that old. And I can be that cheesy.
  • I like the freedom that comes with forgetting my phone at home but if I’m without my laptop for more than a day, my fingers start to twitch.
  • I have become an expert frog catcher as a by-product of our cats’ crazy hunting abilities.  Frog in the kitchen. Frog in the living room. Frog under the sofa. If it happens to you, you know who to call. Any other ‘gifts’ and that’ll be me cowering in the bedroom.
  • Good writing days effect my body language: I stand taller. I also smile more.
  • My idea of heaven is taking a long candlelit bubble bath when it’s dark outside and reading a good book while I soak. That is until my fingers get wrinkly. Then I freak out.
  • Joining Twitter has boosted my writing productivity. I feel inspired and supported by my fellow nominees and the bloggers I am nominating for the award.

Ten nominees

Huma Munshi

Reh of Light

An Ark Hive

B.G. Bowers

The Crayon Parlour

Changing Skin and Other Stories

Dazzling & Evil Me

Magic and Marvels

Rubber Ducky Copywriter

The Write Shadow