Getting Organised

First of all, I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who helped out with my appeal for stories for Willow Burn Hospice. I’ve had some great stories already but I’d love some more! Check out this post if you need a reminder and please keep spreading word around. I’m looking at around the end of March or beginning of April to bring the stories together and put them into something ebook-shaped; any questions just email me at Thank you!

Right, today’s post. Well, my last post on my Happiness Project brought some amazingly kind and supportive comments, and made me rethink things a little. While I still want to work on all the areas of my life that I listed in my post, I’m officially abandoning Happiness as a Project. So there. I’m just going to concentrate on making small changes, one day at a time, listening to what my messy mind is telling me I need to focus on at the time.

Right now the universe is sending me clear and frequent messages that it’s not just my mind that’s messy. If I had 50p for every blog post that’s cropped up, book that’s sprung out at me, etc etc, on organising, decluttering and spring cleaning, I’d be able to afford a cleaner. But no benevolent being was giving me those 50p’s (mutter, grumble) so I have to do it myself.

I’m no natural housewife but I acquired a tiny nesting instinct while I was pregnant with Emmy that has hung around and turned me into a vague resemblance of a homemaker. I have somehow gained a few habits that are helping to keep 13 years’ worth of accumulated STUFF at bay. Now however I’ve had enough.

I’m a perpetual learner – I can’t afford to be a perpetual student and pay for courses and things but I’m always picking up books and searching for new blogs and sites and learning about new things, new subjects. It stops my mind being permanently corroded by Spiderman and Peppa Pig (which is wonderful in its way but, y’know…). Now I’m turning my attention to home-making. I’m a bit fed up of not being able to find things, worrying if the house is clean enough for my in-laws to come around or fighting my way through the utility room which is stuffed full of boxes of things that “we’re going to sell at a car boot sale one day soon”. They’ve been there a year. ENOUGH ALREADY.

The last couple of days I’ve been searching out blogs and books and found some that have not only given me some ideas about where to start but actually fired me with enthusiasm. I’m thinking that if I can get on top of my house a bit, making it a pleasant place to live and not being constantly so weighed down by guilt over undone jobs that I never summon up the energy to do them, I will be happier, freer and have more time and energy to do the things I love like reading and writing. Win-win. Plus, a book that I’m reading has pointed out that housework done energetically can actually work as exercise so there’s another win for me.

If you want to know which blogs are firing me up, there’s Organizing Junkie (which is a TREASURE TROVE), A Bowl Full of Lemons, and Clean Mama for starters. And I highly recommend a flick through Pinterest – put organize or organise or any variation on the verb that you fancy and you’re spoiled for choice with people’s tips, solutions, blogs etc. Since I found these blogs I’ve started a housekeeping Bible file and a brain dump book, as well as sorting out a to-do app on my phone.

There’s a couple of cautionary caveats though. First of all, if the housework is my job (which it is – this isn’t feminism stepping back 50 years or anything, it’s just the way it is) then it happens on my terms. I set the schedule, I hold myself accountable. Therefore I officially give myself permission to throw away any comparisons to other people’s houses, standards, whatever. Not helpful, not necessary.

Second, I’m not trying to be a perfect housewife for the rest of my life. I’m trying to help myself get organised today so that life works more smoothly and easily for us all, most of all me. And I shall repeat that mantra every day. It’s taken me 31 years to learn the messy habits I have; the only way I’ll unlearn them is one day at a time.

Today, I shall do my best. Tomorrow doesn’t matter until it’s here.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?…Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:25-34



Reaching Authors

When I was little, I adored The Famous Five. I wrote a letter to Enid Blyton to tell her so. This was quite a big deal. I can’t remember if I actually found some sort of address or if I just sent it to “Enid Blyton, England” in the certain knowledge that she was so famous it was bound to find her but I wrote her a fan letter.

I gushed about how much I loved The Famous Five and how wonderful she was. I took time and wrote very neatly in my best writing and sent it off, shaking with excitement because I was writing to a real author and of course she would reply and I would treasure it for the rest of my life.

She never wrote back.

Of course, the fact that she’d been dead for about 20 years may have been some sort of excuse, but still. Anyway, although my love of her books remained and I went on to devour more for years, especially the St Clare’s series, I didn’t try to connect with any more authors. Maybe some little part of me decided that she hadn’t written back because authors just don’t do that – they are mystical creatures who must be kept on pedestals. I kind of equated authors with pop stars; in fact they were even more amazing because I wasn’t really ever into pop music but books were my best friends. I think my parents did try and tell me that Enid Blyton was dead but by then the damage was done; I was SCARRED for life (well, ok that might be a slight exaggeration. But only slight *sniff*).

Anyway, I was thinking about it all the other day. I was lucky enough to receive a proof copy of a fantastic book, which I’ll be reviewing soon (if you’re interested, it was Bloodstone by Gillian Philip, the sequel to Firebrand which I reviewed on here last year as well as interviewing Seth MacGregor, the main character). There were frequent occasions when I picked up my phone and tweeted a message to Gillian to say how much I’d enjoyed a particular part. I didn’t even think about it until one really heartstopping moment after which I sent her a private message telling her how that one passage had made me feel. Then out of nowhere I remembered my Enid Blyton debacle and the contrast really struck me.

It was nothing to send an author a quick message, not just about how much I liked her work overall, but about one particular passage of one particular book. And Gillian messaged me back. This was nothing unusual, we frequently chat on Twitter but that in itself is quite amazing when you stop to think about it. I think it is amazing, actually, on many levels. As an aspiring author myself now, I dream about fan mail, who doesn’t? And things like Twitter and Facebook Pages and this blog make it so much easier to get that fan mail and feedback quickly. I reckon if I get published feedback like this will keep me motivated and and reassured that people are enjoying my writing (hopefully anyway…). And for the reader, especially younger readers perhaps, that sense of authors being mystical beings who must be worshipped from afar might be broken down as they can reach them way more easily than I could. It’s another little endorsement for the Wonders of the Internet and a reminder that we are very lucky to have the technology that we do.

I do wonder what Enid Blyton would have made of it. Would she have been on Twitter? Not likely, from some of the things I’ve heard. Maybe she is an author best admired from afar, I don’t know. But it’d be great fun to think of what her twitter name would be. @gingerbeer maybe?

ABBA Lit Fest!

One of my favourite blogs is the Awfully Big Blog Adventure. It’s run by the Scattered Author Society, a group of very talented children’s authors who take turns writing some fascinating posts. If you’re interested in children’s writing, as a writer, reader or parent (or general busybody) it’s definitely a site to bookmark.

So imagine my excitement when I got a message to say that ABBA were running a literary festival – online! For 2 days these lovely people are going to be posting articles and interviews every half hour. I’m especially looking forward to the videos, of which Lucy Coats is definitely doing one, and the competitions. Oh rats, I didn’t mean to tell you about those. I want to win. Ah well.

One of the reasons I’m SO excited about this is because I just have this feeling that children’s literature is taking off in a major way. The children’s writers community is taking to the possibilities of the internet in the most motivating and inspirational way, and this festival is a big part of that. And it IS a community, make no mistake. As I’m finding my contacts online focus naturally on children’s writers as I become more confident in my potential to join their ranks, and as I have more ‘Real Life’ contact with children’s writers, I can say I have rarely found a group of people that support each other so much and that get excited by each other’s successes. I think writers in general seem to be this way (with the odd exception of course…) and children’s writers especially so.

So I will be joining in with the ABBA Lit Fest with enthusiasm and I highly recommend you join me!

Edited to add: D’oh! Forgot to mention the dates. 9 & 10 July 2011! 😉