I have a new cyber love.

Having lately discovered Pinterest, and raved about it on twitter (as much as you can rave in 140 characters) I thought I should devote an ENTIRE blog post to the subject. I’d also refer you to this post by Jane Alexander.

First off, I DON’T think it’s yet another social networking thing. Well, it is of course, but I’m not using it for that really. You can use it for social networking if you’re really crafty and arty and have lots of pretty work to show off and sell; it’s a great showcase for that.

I like it for two reasons though. First, it’s BRILLIANT if you need to procrastinate and you’ve been pressing refresh on twitter for the last ten minutes. Get stuck into Pinterest and you could easily fritter away an hour or so without even breaking a sweat. Take your pick of cute kittens in funny poses, inspirational posters prettified up, a FABULOUS collection of forgotten houses which are very atmospheric, dream up a house of fantastic staircases and massive rooms (a stair case that has you going up stairs but down a slide! WANT!) and drool over the most amazing libraries and bookshops in the world. Fashion, craft, DIY projects, hairstyles, etc etc etc. Seriously easy to lose time without even noticing.

The other reason I love it, a slightly less frivolous reason, is for inspiration. As a writer, you can find photos of people to match your characters or settings which can both motivate you to keep going and spark something new off. I know lots of people like to have that visual cue and I do at times, though it’s not my particular ‘thing’. And those abandoned houses I mentioned earlier? Fabulous story prompts! It’s not just writers who can find inspiration, either. Designers, crafters, artists – ┬áthere are a million ways to use Pinterest to get project ideas, share tips, make mood boards or pin colour combinations for future reference. You organise your pictures into boards – imagine you have a series of corkboards that you’re sticking these pictures too, each with your own focus. As far as I know you can have as many boards as you like which means you can organise your pictures whichever way suits you. I have 21 boards at the minute but I’m sure I’ll add to this continually. I also have my twitter and Facebook accounts linked in so I can, every now and then, post a particularly good picture to my usual networks too.

In case you’re a particularly conscientious person, the owners of the images do not lose out, as the ‘pin’ is only a link to the original work. It’s not removing the original image or copying it but bookmarking it. Which, by the way, means you can very often find new blogs to read or artists to follow. And there the link back into social networking; even if you’re not using it to extend your network it’s still very social and another way of linking up with people who like the same things you do. This is, in my opinion, why it’s not a tool like google+. I tried Google+ and yeah, it was cool, it was a mix of twitter and Facebook and I could see why people liked it. But I stopped using it, because at the end of the day it didn’t really do anything that twitter and Facebook weren’t already doing. Pinterest is different because I’m not using it to network, I’m not trying to gain followers or get more people to listen to me, and it is adding a new, visual dimension to my online activity that wasn’t there before. Whether I need to use Pinterest or not is a different matter, but I like it and as long as I continue to like it I’ll keep using it.

Here’s me on Pinterest, if you fancy seeing what sort of things I like and the boards that I’ve made. If you don’t have a Pinterest account or invitation then leave a comment and I’ll send an invite to your email address. Because I’m THAT nice… ­čśë


Tweet Right

I’m going to tell you something astonishing, that you didn’t know before. Ready?

I love twitter.

What do you mean, was that it? What do you want, blood?

Anyway, I personally think twitter is one of the best reasons for the internet. It’s connected me with so many different people, and given me confidence to do things like keep writing, keep blogging and start my own podcast. BUT I know that not everyone ‘gets’ twitter yet. I had at one stage considered doing my own little ebook guide to twitter. But someone beat me to it.

Nicola Morgan, whose book Wasted I reviewed here a while ago, has just launched Tweet Right;┬áher introduction to twitter for, as she puts it, ‘nice, sensible people’ (yes I know there were a million commas there). It does exactly what it says on the tin (sorry, comma hell followed by cliche hell. Get over it), and cuts through all the rubbish that people say about twitter. People, generally, that don’t use it by the way.

If you know someone who is intrigued by twitter but doesn’t know how to start, or who wants to use it but is struggling, I highly recommend ┬áTweet Right. Or if you have somehow come to this blog NOT via twitter because you don’t use it and don’t get it (hello mum).┬áNicola holds your hand through the first steps on the social network from getting registered to using a twitter client. There’s even a list of people you could follow, helpfully broken down into categories. Followers, etiquette, Follow Fridays, DMs, hashtags, games (from a worldwide trendsetter, by the way) are all explained in a clear and accessible style with helpful tips along the way. I would imagine that few people using or thinking of using twitter will not find something helpful and interesting here.

Nicola’s launch blogpost on┬áHelp! I need a publisher also mentions the concept of #TwitterAngels – someone to welcome and guide a complete beginner through the first stages of tweeting. I think this is a brilliant idea – wouldn’t the world be a nicer place if everyone offered to be an Angel for someone and hold their hands through something new? – and I’ve volunteered myself. ┬áCheck Nicola’s blog for more information on this (I’d also keep a close eye on Nicola’s blog in the near future as I suspect the Crabbit One has grand plans afoot).

In short, if someone needs an introduction to twitter, they couldn’t do better than to read this.

Tweet Right is available from amazon in kindle format (remember you don’t need a kindle to read kindle format books – there are apps for smartphones, pc’s and macs) for ┬ú2.74.



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?


Yes, it’s another post about the wonder that is Twitter. Thinking about it lately, I’ve decided to list a few of the things you can use it for:

  1. Networking. Well, dur.
  2. Chat and conversation. When you follow a few people who regularly to chat to each other you a) get to join in and have a good old natter yourself and b) get treated to real entertainment. Some of the conversations that crop up are actually hilarious.
  3. Search. Want an opinion on something? Want news updates? Chances are you will find it on Twitter. Either search for a phrase / name / product to find out people’s opinions on it or just ask the question. Within a few minutes you’ll have a range of answers.
  4. REsearch. You can connect with so many different people, you can talk to someone in any country. For a writer this opens up huge possibilities ┬á– check if a local idiom is right, what would x profession do in y case, etc etc etc.
  5. Professional support and knowledge base. There is always someone blogging about whatever sphere you’re working in and the Twitterverse share those links liberally. Excellent way to find blogs you didn’t know existed. Chances are that’s how you got here, so that’s my point proven.

But my personal favourite is for folks like me who are crippled by shyness – in real life that is. I don’t know about other shy people, but my biggest problem is communicating verbally in social situations. Either I freeze and can’t think of anything to say (and the moment is gone) or I trip over words as they stumble out, coming across as inept and inarticulate.

Twitter removes those barriers. In the first instance, the moment doesn’t generally go. Someone posts a status; you want to respond; you think of a response. Unlike a verbal exchange, which has to be pretty much instant, you can take your time. The original post is there if readers forget what you’re responding to so there isn’t the need for an immediate answer. You can select your words, and almost do away with that horrible feeling of “I wish I’d said that…”. You can even leave a conversation and come back in a while later. You give the excuse that you had to do something when really you were thinking of your witty and intelligent response. ­čśë

The other way Twitter helps people to overcome or at least manage shyness is a certain degree of anonymity. On the one hand you could be a raving axe-wielding lunatic for all your followers know, but on the other you can be more yourself than you can in real life. Without the problems of verbal diarrhoea, for instance, making you self-conscious, you relax and just say what you think. You form relationships based on shared interests, and know that people are talking to you because they genuinely want to hear what you have to say – there is very little comparable for a confidence boost.

I have twice met up with people I’ve met on Twitter (it would be more but poverty prevents trips to London or Edinburgh!) and I can honestly say I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do that and have such lovely times without the rapport and conversation I found on Twitter first. I blogged a couple of times last year about how happy I felt going into my thirties, and how much more relaxed I felt about who I am – I hold Twitter directly responsible for a great deal of that.

Beggar at the Feast

So, to continue my current love affair with Les Miserables, I’m borrowing the title of a song for this blog post although the link is extremely tenuous. Towards the end, the villainous Th├ęnardiers gatecrash the wedding of Marius and Cosette and enjoy the experience of being at a posh do.

Ain’t it a laugh? Ain’t it a treat?

Hobnobbing here among the elite?

…Here’s me breaking bread with the upper crust!

I love Twitter. One of the reasons I do is the way you can ‘meet’ so many different people, from all sorts of backgrounds. When I first joined (and still to an extent) one of the big things was to follow Stephen Fry. Throughout the day you could get to know little bits of how a real celebrity spent his day and how he felt about random topics; now, he has so many followers it’s highly unlikely you’d get a reply from him, but many celebrities are using Twitter and do interact. If you follow the lovely Maria Duffy, you can read her blog for Hello! magazine in which she interviews celebrities on that exact topic. Now, pay attention, as it’s my chance to drop a few names. I’ve had replies from Paula Abdul and Hugh Bonneville, Steve Balsamo (who plays Jesus on the most recent recording of Jesus Christ Superstar – now that was a jawdropper. How many people have had private messages from Jesus?!) and some literary celebs like Katie Fforde and Joanne Harris. Once I tweeted about a rejection that particularly stung, and got a lovely encouraging message from Katie Fforde. The next day we were in Waterstones and I spent about ten minutes showing my husband the shelf full of Katie’s books and repeating the tweet I’d received. A couple of days ago I was thrilled to be followed by Joanne Harris and have had a few exchanges with her, especially about Les Miserables. To be honest, this to me is like being the beggar at a feast full of A-list movie stars.

I’m also very happy to have frequent chats with Real Authors. When I say chats, I usually mean trading friendly insults. One of my favourite books is by Gillian Philip, and I love chatting to her, both on Twitter and facebook. You know what though? It’s good for me. Especially Twitter – I’m learning to communicate concisely and (hopefully) wittily with intelligent, witty people, some famous, some not. My confidence is developing by leaps and bounds as a result. Someone said to me the other day that I don’t come across as shy online – I think perhaps a year ago I would have done. I would never have had the confidence to suggest to Joanne Harris that I insult her (I mean, come on! The woman has written a book that’s a Johnny Depp film, for crying out loud) or argue with a Carnegie Medal-shortlisted author about the banking crisis or ask the author of one of my all-time favourite books how her new hamster is settling in. And I’m learning that Real Authors are, like, y’know, normal people with regular lives and highs and lows. And they don’t have two heads. Who knew?

I’ve blogged before about some of the amazingly good friends I’ve made on Twitter – you know who you are, Jane, Nettie, Ciara, et al. But this is an aspect of Twitter that has taken me totally by surprise and I love it. And maybe one day, some complete unknown will be blogging (or whatever, I’m sure technology will have moved on somewhat by then!) about how they’ve had a message from a Real Author, Rebecca Brown.