Libraries have always been an integral part of my life. They are about so much more than books. They provide knowledge, ideas, creativity, space to think, time to breath and so much more. They are free to all, which is a rarity.
Today sees the start of ‘The Big Share‘, and I would encourage you, if you can, to participate.
Little Free Library is a non for profit organisation that inspires a love of reading. It is known that children growing up in homes without access to books are generally 3 years behind children in homes with lots of books , but Little Free Library is not just for children, it is for everyone. The free book exchange libraries help to build better access to books for everyone.
This weekend ( May 17th – May 19th) is a celebration of the organisations 10th anniversary.’The Big Share‘ is an invitation to book lovers everywhere to participate. Here’s how:
Stop by a Little Free Library (they are in over 90+ countries)
Take a photo of your visit
Share on social media with #LFL10
You’ll be entered into a prize draw for a $20 e gift card for the LFL store
Spread the word!
There is a map on the website of where the LFL’s are. If you can’t find one you can start your own!
Now more than ever I feel we need to find ways to encourage reading for all. Little Free Libraries are one way to improve social equity – in my book (pardon the pun), that is a very good thing indeed!
With The Brits oh, I mean The Bryts (I’m so old school…) held last night, I got to thinking about how powerful and inspiring music can be.
Music connects with me in a way not much else can… except…books!
Music reaches into my soul and shines a light into places that are often left in shadow. Maybe it evokes a memory or a feeling. It plays around with parts of me that don’t surface as often as they should.
Recently I set myself a challenge to create a soundtrack for each piece of writing I either completed myself or read. It has been an entertaining and enlightening experience! My musical taste is eclectic to say the least, and I have spent hours pondering whether a character in one of my short stories is more into rock than jazz! If truth be told I would probably want all of my characters to like jazz, but that’s a whole other blog post!
So, what pieces of wisdom did I manage to garner from my quasi experiment? Above and beyond the obvious fact that both mediums tell stories and the sheer good fun of it all?
I’ve learnt that in order to be brave you must be vulnerable. It could I suppose apply to any art form, but my drugs of choice are books and music. They are as interconnected in me as blood and DNA. They exist to compliment each other not to compete. Buried within the words of both is a truth, shared just with me. The wordsmiths have been brave. They have laid out their vulnerability for all to see. The least I can do is try to hear and understand.
When I was young I desperately wanted a doll for Christmas. Not just any doll, a special Tiny Tears doll. It’s quite profound to think the doll I was taken with was a doll that cried.
We never had much money, and the doll was expensive. I prayed Santa would make it happen. I didn’t hold out much hope, I had not been the perfect child!
Christmas came, and low and behold, the baby was born – I had obviously behaved better than I gave myself credit for! Alongside my treasured Tiny Tears, I was given books by my grandfather – Ant and Bee, and The Cat in the Hat. I was 5 years old. I named my doll Trudy. I washed her, played with her and read her bedtime stories. I was in Christmas heaven.
My euphoria lasted all of about 3 days. My naughty little sister decided it was time for dolly to have a ‘makeover’. She poked out her eye and gave her a nasty red pen rash! It was time to take dolly to the hospital – the prognosis was not good. After my initial hysteria, I grew accustomed to my unsightly doll, who was now rocking a funky eye patch, and freshly cut hair. I would sit for hours reading books to her. I even took her to the library! Over the years my love of reading increased – my doll playing not so much!
I loved that doll, but I loved reading more. It was the year my love affair with books began.
I couldn’t tell you what happened to Trudy, but the books are safely here with me and always will be.
Giving a book for Christmas is so much more than giving a present. Books have staying power, you don’t discard them for the next best something or other – they are the best. Sometimes you re-read them, sometimes you pass them on. Books hold so much power, sometimes I think we forget just how amazing they can be. They have the power to change our opinions, the power to make us feel, the power to open up new worlds, the power to teach, they can make us laugh and cry… I could go on and on, but you get the idea – books are powerful!
Giving a book is as personal as it gets. You are giving over a piece of yourself and saying ‘this speaks to me, I hope you enjoy it.’
This Christmas I challenge you to think about a book you wished more people knew about, then gift it to a friend. It is the season for giving after all.
If you’ve read a book you wished more people knew about, please pop a comment in the box below and share the love…
When Gail Aldwin and I met on Twitter we were keen to share the experience of living and writing in the South West of England. I am pleased to welcome Gail to my blog. She answers our shared questions below, followed by mine. First, let me introduce Gail.
Gail Aldwin lives and writes in Dorchester. She is Chair of the Dorset Writers’ Network and works as a visiting tutor to creative writing students at Arts University Bournemouth.
1. Have you always lived in South West England?
Dorchester in Dorset became my home in 2007. At the beginning, I wasn’t particularly pleased to be moving from my lovely life in south London but my children and me had to up sticks when my husband got a job in the county town. I soon came to appreciate the benefits of living in a county area and it certainly extended the childhood experiences of my son. He spent his summers building camps and swimming in the river where his London friends thought a good day out was visiting Chessington World of Adventures.
Although I was brought up in London, I spent several years travelling overseas and have lived and worked in Australia, Papua New Guinea and Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. I do like a remote and beautiful location but living in one is not always easy. There are stories set in Australia and Papua New Guinea in Paisley Shirt, my recently published collection of short fiction. Something of a place remains with me from all the different locations I’ve experienced.
2. Is there one particular place in the South West that is special to you, if so why?
My husband is from Cornwall and we spent many summers on the north coast when my children were little. Our favourite beach is Chapel Porth near St Agnes where a river meets the sea. Out of season, my husband and son spent many hours damming the river in order to flood the beach but that wouldn’t make them popular in the summer when it gets packed with visitors. My novel The String Games draws from my experience of losing my son when he was three years old on a crowded beach. While I was busy smothering my daughter in sunscreen, he wandered off. I started searching for him by heading in the wrong direction. In spite of a tannoy announcement, he was lost for forty minutes then I eventually found him way down the beach jumping over the ways and completely oblivious to the panic he had caused.
Closer to home in Dorchester, it’s possible to walk across the water meadows and experience Thomas Hardy country. I love going to the cottage that is the place of his birth in Higher Bockhampton. I usually take a detour to visit the great writer’s gravestone in the churchyard at Stinsford. Although it was Hardy’s dying wish to be buried there with his parents, the executor of his will had other ideas and Hardy’s body ended up in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey while his heart was buried in Dorset. Along the shaded riverside walk, I imagine how this place sparked ideas for Hardy and try to generate a few myself!
3. What’s it like to be a writer in the South West?
Dorset has a thriving writing community with literary events scheduled across the county. I am Chair of the Dorset Writers’ Network and work with the steering group to inspire writers and connect creative communities. We do this by putting on workshops and talks to support writers at different stages of their writing journey. The South West is full of creative people and I love to link up with writers in different counties. I have taken steps to achieve this by joining activities in Devon. I delivered a spoken word performance at the Sandford Y Festival book event and participated in the Chudleigh Dragons pitching competition as part of their annual festival. I would love to see better links for writers across the South West so that we can celebrate the creativity of the region.
The short answer is no! I started my journey towards living in the West Country as a ‘grockle’ (tourist). The children were small back then and we would set off at the crack of sparrows and head west. Like many who’d travelled before us, we would wind our way slowly down the A303 for two glorious weeks in North Devon come rain or shine! We promised ourselves that if we ever got the opportunity to relocate we would grab it with both hands. Well, that’s what happened. In 2010 we relocated because of my husband’s work. It was a big decision. I am so proud of the way our kids adapted. It was a big shock initially, but within a few months they were taking everything in their stride – even school lessons delivered on the beach – now that was a first!
Until our move to Devon I had lived mainly in big cities such as London and New York. My work in international PR and marketing took me all over the world, and I know I draw on a lot of those experiences when I write.
I now live betwixt the villages of Iddesleigh and North Tawton. Iddesleigh is famously the home of author Michael Morpurgowhilst North Tawton was home to the late poet laureate Ted Hughes. It is a place of isolation, and I love it. There is something quite profound about my small hamlet which runs along the river Taw. Perhaps it is the ebb and flow of the river. I’m not sure, but I know it has worked its way into my bones. Living in a farming community the effects of late harvests, early harvests, failed crops, all subconsciously inform my thinking. I seem to draw on the landscape especially with my short stories.
2. Is there one particular place in the South West that is special to you, if so why?
I find myself drawn back to the River Taw time and time again. When we first arrived in Devon, it was the first place I discovered within walking distance of the house. We would spend many a happy hour skimming stones, swimming or sitting on ‘the beach’ (a patch of sandy shingle by the river’s edge). There are many ‘hidden’ parts of the river and every time I walk there I find something new.
Further afield I would say it would have to be the North Devon coastline. It is wild and structurally stunning. The rock formations you see are dramatic and magnificent. I have a story in mind for that coastline! Peppered in between the ancient stone cliffs are sandy coves and big expanses of golden beaches. My favourite beach is Westward Ho! The only place in the UK to have an exclamation mark as part of its name – fact!
3. What is it like to be a writer in the South West?
Devon is a superb place to write, and if someone were to do an audit or something clever like that I believe they would find a writer present in every village! There are a wealth of literary festivals and events across the county, which provide fantastic opportunities for support and collaboration year-round. It is such a positive community. I belong to a group called the Sakura Positive Press Writers Group; we hold open mic evenings in our local pub for storytelling. It’s great fun. It would be great if we could roll this out across the region. Stories were initially told that way, and it would be great to see this form reignited.
Now in its seventh year, National Flash Fiction Day is dedicated to the celebration of writing in one of its shortest forms (Flash). Flash fiction is usually considered to be a story under a 1000, 500 or 300 words. Anything less is regarded as ‘micro-fiction’ (100 words) or a ‘minisaga’ (50 words).
The roots of flash fiction go back (literally) centuries. In the 1920’s flash was known as ‘the short short story’.
Flash fiction sits perfectly with our crazy busy lifestyles. A 500-word piece can be easily read on the train, bus – in fact anywhere.
The nuts and bolts of what measures up as a piece of Flash Fiction are difficult to pin down, but I’ll give it a go. For me, the art of a good piece of flash fiction lies in what the author does not say. It’s down to you the reader to grasp the meaning and fill in those spaces between the words. It needs to grab you, keep you wondering.
This year I am lucky enough to have my flash fiction ‘Yellow’ feature on the Flash Flood Journal blog in celebration of Flash Fiction Day. Take a peak here
Tomorrow June 16th is National Flash Fiction Day. As part of the celebrations, I have been fortunate enough to have my flash fiction story ‘Yellow‘ selected for inclusion. I shall be featured alongside some fine authors each with a captivating story to tell. For 24 hours from midnight tonight you can read a myriad of fine tales all 500 words or below. My offering ‘Yellow‘ will be up at 05:00 BST. I would love it if you could set your alarm, give it a read and post a comment (I know a big ask but if you don’t ask and all that…). I am in good company, my friends and fellow authors Jane Lomas and Rosie Canning also have their flash pieces included. Rosie’s story ‘The Swimmer’ will be up sometime between 06:00 – 07:00 and Janes story ‘First Love’ will be up at approx.07:12. Whenever you tune in there will be a story to tickle your literary taste buds. Check out all of the wonderful stories from midnight tonight here
Here is an important post from my friend and fellow author Amy M. Reade. This is so heartbreaking but so important. Thanks for agreeing to share your blog post Amy. Over to you…
The post I originally wrote for today was about my summer reading wish list, but that will have to wait until next week.
Today my heart is broken for a family I’ve never met.
Yesterday a student at the high school two of my children attend took his own life. I found out about it this morning through my church’s prayer chain. I have no words for the sorrow I feel for this boy’s family.
This is not the first time this has happened at the school. In fact, it’s at least the fourth time in as many years. There is something really, really wrong when a child feels there is no hope and no help.
Please, please, if you know anyone who is thinking of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline via chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/.
Whether you contact them by phone or online, someone is there to help 24/7 all across the United States. And because I know people from all over the world read this blog, click here for a list of suicide hotlines by country. Please note that Northern Ireland, Scotland, and England are listed under United Kingdom. If you know any information on that list to be incorrect, please let me know and I’ll post the correct information below in the comments.
If you know someone who is struggling emotionally or mentally, you could be the catalyst for getting that person the help he or she desperately needs. Please visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-someone-else/ to find out what you can do to help. There’s also great information about things you shouldn’t do.
Please keep struggling families in your prayers, and please remember to be kind–you never know what someone else is going through.
A few days ago I received some rather good news. One of my short stories has been shortlisted for a competition. After the initial ‘yes, it really is your story, no you are not dreaming’, came gasps of joy, disbelief and an overwhelming sense of all good things. Buried deep, almost hidden I found strength. Let me explain… Writing can be a lonely experience, the road is often filled with diversions. Great big signposts fill your head – ‘give up’, ‘you’re rubbish’, ‘not good enough’. Writing novels is a long experience and takes an awful amount of strength. As time goes by that strength can wane, as it does those ‘signs’ sitting on your shoulder grow bigger. Being shortlisted has refuelled me. It has given me strength, provided re-enforcement to keep going.
I do not know if I will win, but I do know that I am now superwoman and can conquer the world once more!
Today I’ve been ruminating… Yes, I am feeling quite well, thanks for asking!
A while ago I wrote a blog piece on the believability of character flaws. They are such a big part of a writers remit that I wanted to revisit them. Recently I’ve read a few books where the characters were not believable and it irked me. The books were well written, and the stories could have been so amazing. Yet the characters were not believable. Those books sadly were just words on a page, there was no life in them and I got bored!
Characters need to be equally at home eating a plate of pasta, as running for their lives. Buried deep within the pages they need to live, breathe and come to life.
As a reader, I need to understand them. If I don’t understand them, I don’t believe them. If I don’t believe them, I can’t connect with them and I hang up. I don’t have to agree with them or even like them, but I do need to have a level of understanding.
As I move forward to write book 4 my head is filled with people. Tall people, short people, fat people, thin people – all bouncing through my mind waiting for their moment to connect. Some I’ve already ditched, some I am curious about and some keep me awake at night!
They are ordinary people living ordinary lives…. until something extraordinary happens. How many ordinary lives do you know that are perfectly lived? Exactly!
We, as a species love nothing more than neat little boxes. We want labels on absolutely everything from gender to religion, to leftovers in the fridge (maybe that one’s just me…). We gain a level of security knowing where we are within the world and how everyone else fits into our model.
I, am a walking contradiction. I change my mind more often than not, tell white lies, debate, argue and cry. I laugh at things I shouldn’t and get myself into awkward and tricky situations. Am I perfect – er no! Am I believable? I would like to think so. And that’s the point. It is OK for me to change my mind – I am flawed, it’s part of who I am. It is the same for my characters. They can change their minds too but (you knew there was a ‘but’ coming), as writers, we get so focused on making sure our characters fit into the boxes we’ve created they can become ‘too perfect’. Characters with contradictions, some ‘why the hell did they do that?’ moments grab our attention. Crazy events work well if you understand them. You need events to move your story forward. People are peculiar- not perfect!
Usually, events are character driven, unless you’re a shark, a big great white shark with big teeth! Although, thinking about it, even shark based thrillers require the characters to get into the water!
So lovely people put your characters in the water and watch them swim for their lives! They can swim right?…Cue scary music…