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2015 – A Bit Of A Year

As far as years go, 2015 was A Bit Of A Year. While I didn’t quite achieve the whole top ten in the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, I think I made a pretty good job of creating my own!

So what happened?

I moved to Dartmouth

Peter and I had talked about moving to Dartmouth for years. In fact, probably since we first met. If you’ve seen my Facebook timeline or Twitter feed, you’ll know that most of our holidays and free time have been in Dartmouth. Mostly in Kendrick’s and the Dartmouth Arms.

Dartmouth has always been a special place for us and finally the timing was right to make that move. As Peter said “I want to get there to enjoy it, not get there when I retire and can’t do everything I want to do”.

The house we originally wanted fell through, but determined to make it work, we booked a week’s holiday starting on Boxing Day 2014 and vowed not to leave until we had found a place we loved as much as the first one.

Which we did. And in May 2015 we made that move. It’s a total change of lifestyle but one we can both truly say we have taken to very easily! And it’s also amazing how many more visitors we get now than we did when we lived in Reading!

I wrote a lot of words!

Okay, well, I didn’t write a whole book this year, but with the help of the wonderful Charlie and Amie who run the Six Month Novel Programme (http://sixmonthnovel.com) I went from a few hundred scrappy words to an 86,500 first draft of a novel that was finished in March. And I then spent the next seven and a half months editing it.

I’ve been on three writing retreats this year at Stickwick Manor in Devon (also run by Charlie). There, I met some wonderful, inspiring, determined writers who have helped me to focus and cheered me on as I worked towards my first submissions (five agent submissions, one digital publisher submissions and only two rejections so far!).

Here’s to more words in 2016, helped in part by my lovely new writing desk!

I became a mother again!

Cat mother that is… After losing Harry Archer in March 2014, we decided we wouldn’t get another cat until we were settled in our new house. That took approximately five weeks when we decided to hightail it back to Blue Cross in Torbay (https://www.bluecross.org.uk/devon-torbay-rehoming-centre) the day after Download Festival.

Having seen two lovely cats on the website, we were sure that one of them would be the cat for us. However, when neither of them showed the slightest bit of interest, it was back to the drawing board. It was then that we saw brother and sister Corey (named after Mr Taylor of Slipknot and formerly known as Zeppelin) and Elsa, who kind of adopted us that day and we fell in love with these two bundles of ginger and white and tortoiseshell shaped kitten.

It’s wonderful watching them playing, chasing each other all over the house and basically being mental. Oh, and Corey likes to suck on my ears…bless!

I got a portfolio career

Even before we moved, I knew it would be pretty unlikely that I could continue doing the same job I was doing in Reading. After all, there aren’t many companies in Dartmouth and the surrounding area that need a full time recruitment manager! So it was time to do something else.

In the first week we moved, I stumbled across an advert for Just B (somewhere we had stayed many times on our previous trips to Dartmouth) and after a 45 minute “interview” over a coffee a few days later, I had a new job! Check out www.justbdartmouth.com for a great place to stay…

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In addition, I also negotiated a freelance role with my previous company carrying out internal training and delivering their graduate programme. It’s definitely true that down here you have to have a variety of jobs to keep going. I’ve spotted the waitress in Kendrick’s as a Sales Assistant in Joules and also serving in Pasty Presto…

I lost my Mum

Over the past year, my Mum became increasingly unwell with a heart condition and sadly, she passed away on the last day of July.

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Having never really had to deal with anything like this before, and being an only child, the next few weeks were some of the hardest I’ve ever had to deal with and I truly thank my Dad for all the help and support he gave me, even though he and Mum had been apart for almost twenty years.

I forget that she’s not around and think I’ve been a bad daughter because I haven’t called her for ages. I know she would have enjoyed Andy Murray helping GB to the Davis Cup win and she would have cheered on Anton Du Beke in the final of Strictly. She would have liked Iwan Thomas to stay in longer, but she wouldn’t have liked Kirsty Gallagher (oh, wait, that’s me!). There’s a sort of empty feeling that was made worse at Christmas as the finality of it all seems to have hit home.

So that’s it! 2015 has been a rollercoaster, I think I’d like 2016 to be a bit more Magic Teacups!

Writing

Book Ends – from Book Camp to Urban Writers Retreat in less than 12 months

You might remember that the monkey was borne from a trip to a writer’s retreat around this time last year. And the sporadic posts that followed.

This past week, I have been on another writer’s retreat and a lot has happened in those 361 days.

At the start of 2014 I vowed to Do More Writing and that was one of the reasons that I signed up for Book Camp. I met some amazing, talented, knowledgable people. It made me want to write again and for a while, I did. Every so often, when the mood took me, when I felt like it. Nothing new there.

Over the summer, I read tweets of my fellow Book Camp chums who had been published, published again, shortlisted for various prizes, highly praised for this and that and got very deflated by the whole writing thing. My writing motivation and mojo was low.

Then, in September, I chanced upon a concept called the Six Month Novel. The opportunity to write a whole first draft in just six months. By writing every day. Surely I couldn’t be good enough to be accepted for that with my idea?

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When I got the acceptance email from Charlie and Amie, I have to admit that I did a little happy dance across the living room. And I couldn’t stop smiling! Someone thought that my synopsis was kind of okay and could work.

A month of Plotting Bootcamp, followed by four months of writing (with targets, accountability and regular reader reviews) and a month of Editing Bootcamp. All with help, support and cheerleading along the way.

The idea that I took to Book Camp (which I discarded about three quarters of the way through that week and chose to work on something else) is now a fully formed first draft of a novel. The structure of the programme really worked for me and made me write. I hadn’t realised I was so motivated by a word target! There is now over 80,000 words, which now need editing and that’s where the hard work really begins.

The Urban Writers Retreat at the end of March coincided with the end of the Six Month Novel process; it was fate and destiny that I should go. I have just returned from the most wonderful, relaxing, inspiring six days away in the beautiful Devon countryside. Full of food and full of drive to get this done and get it out there, be that to an agent or the world of self publishing.

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Thanks to Charlie and the rest of my retreat family for making this a week to remember. I will be back, particularly as it will be a mere hour’s journey from my new Devon home!

http://www.urbanwritersretreat.co.uk/a-residential-writing-retreat/

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Writing

Why The End is just the beginning

Today I wrote two words: The End.

The End

Which, in conjunction with the other 81,448 words makes up the first draft of the novel I’ve written during the course of the Six Month Novel Programme.

“Imagine yourself looking smugly at a big sheaf of paper on your desk. It’s six months from now, and that’s your finished draft.”

Yep. That’s now me.

When I was accepted onto this programme at the end of September last year, it was hard to imagine that it would actually work. For one thing, how is it possible to write that much in such a short space of time? One thing is to break it down into chunks. 500 words a day for six months is the equivalent to a first draft. And 500 words doesn’t sound that daunting.

I’d done courses before and came away feeling less than satisfied, so wasn’t sure what to expect.

First of all, Charlie and Amie are amazing! Their weekly emails are truly motivational and the support and cheerleading they provide throughout the process is fabulous. Their drive and encouragement makes you WANT to write, makes you WANT to get to the end and makes you WANT to achieve that goal.

Not to mention the encouragement, the sharing and the consoling that comes from the rest of the community.

Big thanks also to my fellow novellers: Lynsey, Lauren, Jeannie, Yvonne, Alice and others along the way. Your words of reassurance and inspiration along the way have really helped me through, particularly when I wobbled a couple of weeks ago. And I’m here with my pom poms for you guys too!

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Being able to write The End is really only the beginning. Now begins the process of editing, rewriting, shaping and creating something polished that can either go to an agent or be self published. This is where the hard work begins!

But without the ongoing boosts from this programme, I doubt that I would ever have been in this position.

For more information on the Six Month Novel go to: http://sixmonthnovel.com

Music

In Recovery after Frank Turner @ Bath Pavilion

Love a venue like Bath Pavilion. Like a sweaty, but glorified, school hall – with a massive glitter ball.

And the venue for show number 1615 for Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, part of a tour that is taking in venues, towns and cities that a big tour wouldn’t usually play.

During a tightly packed set there are songs both old (so old that lyrics had to be Googled before the show!) and brand, shiny and new. And so new that the audience is politely requested not to video or record them because they’re not quite perfected yet.

It’s a beautifully eclectic crowd: tattooed skinheads who are probably more familiar with Million Dead or Mongol Horde; middle-aged couples; beardy scensters and a collection of youngsters with their parents. In fact, the guy next to me is rocking out more than his daughter.

I hail from the same part of Hampshire as Frank (him from Meonstoke, me from Four Marks). Growing up, Winchester was also my hometown and I can truly identify with the lyrics in Wessex Boy and, as ever, it reduced me to a mass of poignant tears.

All too soon, curfew is upon us and an evening that started with the rainbow coloured Koo Koo Kanga Roo (really, you need to find them on You Tube) and ended with crowd surfing is sadly over.

This was my first Frank Turner gig, but without a doubt, definitely won’t be my last – Download again next year, perhaps?

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Dartmouth Every Time

I’ve been coming to Dartmouth for the past ten years; my husband longer.

Over that period of time we’ve batted around the idea of moving there permanently but something always got in the way: children; parents; work; it wasn’t the right time.

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There’s a comforting familiarity about the place. Sure, there’s the occasionally changing shops and restaurants, prompting the inevitable “what happened to?” questions. But the pace of life, the people, “boats, Peter, boats” and the overwhelming sense of belonging that descends is now too much of a lure.

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This summer, the house has gone on the market (with fingers crossed for interest and offers – hey, one offer will be fine!) and we can finally pursue our Devon Dream.

So get that Billecart Salmon Rose on ice please, Kendricks. We’re on our way!

#dartmoutheverytime

Football

There’s only one Hotspur

I love this time of year.

The delicious anticipation of what is to come. And knowing that you are only third from bottom in the league table by virtue of alphabetical order and not because of a horrible string of results.

It’s been a quietly impressive pre-season with an unbeaten set of results, but none of that counts. It’s what happens after the final whistle next Saturday at Upton Park that matters.

Last seasons results against West Ham are definitely nothing to boast about.

Three matches. Three defeats.

If that streak can change, particularly at the start of the season, then it sets a marker. And create a positive mindset for the rest of the season.

After The Bale Saga of last summer, it’s been much more low-key in transfer terms. Shoring up in a few key positions and adding the depth we’ll need for another season in the Europa League has been well handled so far. But we all know Mr Levy loves some deadline day drama.

If you didn’t already know, I’m a Tottenham Hotspur fan. And have been since the 1987 FA Cup Final (which we lost to Coventry City). I felt sorry for Gary Mabbutt scoring an own goal and that’s how it all started. Not exactly a glory hunter or a team I started supporting because I quite fancied Gary Lineker (okay, okay, that last bit is true, but he wasn’t playing for them then!).

What are my hopes for the 2014-2015 season?

A top four finish would be nice. And some silverware. But most of all, I’d like to keep a manager for a whole season with no theatre and string together a consistent set of results without capitulating against the Big Four.

That’s not too much to ask, is it?

COYS