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Planning for the Year Ahead

8 Jan

PicFrameI love beginnings. I love fresh starts. I love the feel of potential at the beginning of the year. Whether it be in January, or the beginning of a school year in September. They are useful times to collect your thoughts and think about what you’re doing, make a list if need be, and to crack on refreshed.

I don’t do resolutions anymore. Foolishly I thought I’d do a dry January but why put myself through the guilt when I inevitably crack. So. No resolutions that can be broken and that then lead to guilt and feelings of failure. Instead I have ambitions and dreams. And that is to be a published author. To get my book finished and in the best shape possible to send out to publishers. 2015 will be the perfect year in which to do this.

This blog is another one of my ambitions. I want to create great blog posts, to document and photograph my life with the trees, the chickens and, hopefully, come spring, some ducklings (eep!). I’ve just been looking back at some of the posts I wrote on my other blog, Hen Orchard, which I’ve now closed. I’ve imported the ones important to me onto this blog (they’re headed Let’s Go Outside) because not only did they bring back lots of memories (my lovely ducks! the number of trees we planted!) but it was lovely to see the record of what we have achieved since moving to the country. I’m going to continue to write these posts in addition to food in fiction, my own novel writing adventure and books in general. Along with cake. There will always be cake.

In addition, I’m thinking, thanks to this post by Sarah Painter, of taking this blog self-hosted. There are a number of reasons for this but mainly it is to have a more secure and professional place where I write my hopes, dreams, loves, recipes and post pictures of all the things that make me happy.

Blogging is such a lovely thing to do. I thoroughly enjoy it and have dipped my toe in and out of it over the years, creating different blogs for the different things that I enjoy. But now I’m bringing them altogether on one blog. For that is me.


Am Writing: Inspiration from a Vintage Cake Plate

10 Dec

vintage plate

When my main character, Eve, sees a photograph of a Victoria sponge, oozing with jam and cream and nestled contentedly on a vintage plate on the front cover of a food magazine, she is taken back to her childhood. Eve’s nana, a huge presence in her life whilst growing up, had that exact same plate. And would use it to serve that exact same cake.

Food, particularly cake I feel, is extremely evocative of the past. Just one smell, one glimpse, one bite and it takes you back to a particular point in time. For many this is their childhood. Fairy cakes sprinkled with coconut remind me of my mamma’s house, lemon cake reminds me of my nana’s. Apple cake reminds me of my teenage years. Cherry scones is my mum.

I saw this cake plate today in a vintage shop. And I knew it was the one to feature in my novel. It’s a little small, but back when Eve’s grandmother baked, cakes were smaller.

The word count this past week has been paltry. But now, thanks to this plate, I’ve been inspired.

Burnt Chocolate. Draft Two. Day 1.

19 Nov

The time has come. To stop the research, to stop the planning, to stop the post-its. It is now time to flex my fingers, turn my head from left to right to crick my neck, to make myself a fresh coffee. And start writing. Draft two of Burnt Chocolate.

It was just ten days ago when I arrived home from my first ever writing retreat. This writing retreat, held at Folly Farm in Bristol, was inspirational. It was enlightening. It was practical. And it contained a lovely bunch of writers, who, guess what, were going through similar anxieties to me. So it was also comforting.

The writing retreat, held by Julie Cohen and Rowan Coleman, has enabled me to map out my entire novel in my head. I know exactly how it will go now, give or take a few changes that will happen naturally as I write. I know its theme, I know its elevator pitch (thanks to a fantastically helpful workshop by Danuta Kean) and I have taken out a major plot point which wasn’t working. I have also, thanks to Julie’s brilliant advice in my one-to-one session with her, created actions and a proper plot – always helpful in a story – and I’ve also now got the confidence to tackle the hard bits. These are the emotional bits where I’m going to draw on my own experience, and experiences of others which remind me of my experience, and which upsets me. All a bit cryptic I know, but I’ve also learnt not to discuss the plot of my novel in detail because it will stop me from writing it all down. Fatal.

Julie has a fantastic method of working with post-its. So I’ve copied it. In my post-it layout I’ve got actions (green), emotions (yellow), illness symptoms (orange) and food (pink). Oh yes, there has to be food in my novel. Lots and lots of it.


I know I am going to do it this time. It helps having an agent waiting for my words to ping into her inbox. Well, when I say waiting I’m sure she’s not sat at her desk drumming her fingers, she has, after all got lots of lovely clients, but it helps knowing that someone is expecting to see something. It is like having a deadline.

Speaking of deadlines, myself and the other writers on the retreat have all promised to have a full draft written by May 2015. I would actually like my full draft written by the end of January but that seems rather tight – so lets say end of February and see where we are.

This blog has also been wiped clean. It is a new start to reflect my mission. It is now going to document my writing adventure, along with all the other things that are dear to me like books, the great outdoors and yes, cake.

In the meantime if you would like to find out about Julie or Rowan’s courses pop over to their websites. Both have different ways of writing but both are amazing and inspiring teachers. They are also extremely generous with their time and advice. They could be just the thing you’re looking for to take your novel to the next level.

But now it is time to take mine to the next level. I’ll just make myself a fresh coffee.