Author Archives: Maddy

onwards!

track“February! Great to see you! Thank God you’re here – did you not hear me calling you last week?And the week before? I could have done with your intervention really…

See, some bad shit went down last month, I’m afraid. I know, I know, you heard the same about January last year, but seriously, my dear February, seriously, that was nothing compared to what this January threw at us. And me. Yes, personally, nationally and internationally it wasn’t a good month.

Do you think when you’re finished here you could perhaps have a little word in the ear of January 2018? We’d like thirty-one days of loveliness please – world harmony, kittens, that sort of thing.

Impossible? Oh ok, just a few weeks of semi-loveliness…

Too much to ask? Ok, I’d settle for some garden-variety mundanity. Nothing at all showy just the sort of month that doesn’t leave me gazing at the news in horror or at social media with my head in my hands… can you do that?

Yes? Good. We’re all set then.

Ok, I’ve finished talking to February now ;)

It’s been nearly a month since my last post and, yes, it was a bad month but – imaginary conversations aside – the arrival of February has given me pause to reflect and find some good things to focus on. Like the fact that I’ve completed another assignment for my illustration course and am now working on a whole new module. And, even better, I’ve just finished another illustration commission – a book cover this time – which is very exciting! I’m also planning to design a website for my illustration soon which is a project I’m looking forward to. AND there’s this business idea I’ve been working on which both my friend and I are keen to get our teeth into.

And then, while I was eyeball deep in January, an email plopped into my inbox  (I didn’t even spot it until February had arrived) saying I was one of Feedspot’s ‘Top 20 Creative Writing Blogs And Websites on the Web. Chuck Wendig is in the list – Chuck Wendig! I love his blog so much! To be in the same list is… well, a bit baffling if I’m honest but just amazingly fabulous at the same time. I really have loved how – through the #WhatImWriting linky – this blog has become a little hive of writerly connection… or that’s how I like to think of it anyway! Good stuff.

Of course, ‘What I’m Writing’ itself is something that makes me very happy indeed. The community of writers is wonderful and the mutual support has made a difference, I think, to all of us over the past few years. I have realised though that it’s time for some (only some!) changes in this area. Having had time to think since my new year post, I’ve decided to stop running the linky. It’s been going for well over two years and during that time masses of different writers from different countries have linked up hundreds (and hundreds) of posts. I’ve loved it all but I’m finding myself continually more stretched time-wise to the point where it’s not viable to run it any more.

BUT (and here’s the crucial bit) the most important aspect of the linky for me has always been the community – to create and nurture one was the original and vital aim and, on that count, ‘What I’m Writing’ has far exceeded my hopes. And our community is still very much thriving and will continue to do so. We have a Facebook group where we share posts and ponderings and we continue to organise meet ups too for those who fancy it. I’ll be updating the linky page soon to explain things more clearly but basically, if you’re a writer at any stage of your career – published, unpublished, wondering if you dare pursue your dream, or already jumping in with both feet – you’re welcome to join us. Drop me an email and I can add you to the group. It’s a place of friendship and support – just what the doctor ordered at the moment!

So, this was really just me touching base because it felt weird not to blog for so long… and also to let you know things are ok in Writing Bubble land. January may have been awful (and I think this year has more to throw at us yet) but there’s lots to look forward to as well. I’m determined to pour energy into writing and drawing and family and friends in order to squeeze every drop of happiness out of 2017.

Let’s do this.

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art and the broken heart

sunset-skyI just watched Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes speech. It’s fantastic. The way she exposed the awfulness of the US president-elect’s behaviour without even mentioning his name…

But what struck a chord most was her final sentence where she quoted something the late Carrie Fisher said to her:

“Take your broken heart, make it into art.”

I love that. It totally sums up where I am at the moment. So much bad stuff happened last year – horrible stuff, sad stuff, stuff that we know is going to cause problems for years to come.  It broke my heart. It broke many people’s hearts.

But it’s made me resolve to throw my passion and my energy more into the people I love and into art – in all its forms. I want to write and draw and illustrate. I want to learn and explore new creative skills. I want to experience art created by other people, to read and watch and see and feel and listen and devour art in all its glorious forms.

“Take your broken heart. Make it into art.”

That. Just, that.

New year, new something.

sunset-2016It’s 2017! Happy New year!

I like to start each year with a reflective blog post looking back at the year that was, and thinking about the promise that the new year holds. I spent hours yesterday writing such a post. It was hard to write because it was really honest – a kind of ‘I can’t gloss over 2016′ type exploration. Last year brought us some harsh realties and taught us some difficult lessons and I think it’s important to address that in order to find a way forward. I really don’t think there’s a scenic route – we have to go into difficult territory to really move on with hope.

Then I was all ‘oh no, that’s too intense, I need to write about the good stuff that happened in 2016!’ Because there really was some good stuff, most of which, for me, revolved around creativity and around the people I love… of which there were substantially more at the end of the year than at the start – how lovely is that? :) That post took a while to write too.

So then it was really late at night and I had these two posts, neither of which were even finished, and I realised that all the time I’d meant to spend on my illustration course that day had been used up on blog posts that weren’t even ready to be published. And I thought of all the stuff I needed to do the next day and I felt this jolt of anxiety that I didn’t have time for that either (and some of it is really flipping important too). And I realised that right there was my new year message to myself. Something has to give… and it has to be my blog.

I blogged less in the latter part of last year – cut back massively in fact – but running my linky meant I still wrote two posts a week and did a fair bit of reading and commenting. I’m fond of my blog and I love, love, love my writing community but I do not have enough time to dedicate to blogging and hosting a weekly linky any more.

One message that really came through to me loud and clear amidst all the horrible stuff last year was the importance of art, in all its forms. I wrote here about its ability to build understanding and unite us, to lift the spirit and to help fight the demons. I truly believe it’s more important than we might ever imagine so, in trying to figure out a way forward for myself this year, it’s become obvious to me that art, alongside friends and family are where it’s at. That means my priority is going to be my illustration course and setting up an artistic project with a friend. Hopefully some creative writing too. I don’t want to stop blogging altogether but I can’t keep up the pace I have been.

I haven’t figured out what to do about my linky yet. I’m hoping to find a co-host to remove the weekly pressure, but, quite honestly, I’m not even sure a fortnightly post isn’t too much. Part of the problem is I’m a really slow writer but it’s the headspace that blogging takes up as much as anything. I need to not be thinking about what I might blog about and how many blogs I need to read and how much commenting I have to do. Time is so tight!

So that’s about it. The boys are back at school today and I have a to do list reaching over the hills and far away. Enough blogging for now.

Happy 2017 everyone.

Happy Christmas!

It’s Christmas Eve! What a week it’s been since school broke up! We’ve baked and crafted and partied, drawn pictures, done jigsaws and spent days building a big festive lego scene. We’ve been to the cinema (Moana – best disney film in years! – and It’s a Wonderful Life), seen The Snowman with a live orchestra (amazing), been for bracing walks and watched a zillion Christmas films. And incase that makes us sound like the Smug Family from Planet Unbelievable, I can assure you that all of this delightful family harmony has been sprinkled liberally with arguments, tears, shouting and the downing of festive booze. Christmas to a T.

Anyway, I’ve also squeezed a bit of drawing in here and there (most of it’s on Instagram which seems to be the only social media I use at the moment) and I thought I’d share this little piece with you here. An illustrated poem should probably be created words first, but I drew the snowflakes a few nights ago then decided to add a poem (it started life as a haiku) in around it today. It’s how I feel when I wake up to an overnight snowfall – I love that feeling! Am hoping 2017 starts with snow…

sparkly-snowflake-poem

Wishing you all a wonderful, restful Christmas and a joyful new year!

What I’m Writing – Week 101

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Welcome to week 101 of What I’m Writing! School term here ends this Friday so this is going to be the last link up of 2016 – let’s make it a good one shall we?

There were fabulous posts on the linky last week with Johanne celebrating her first ever Nano win (Go, Jo!), Cara sharing a poem and a fear overcome, and Tara pondering whether she writes like a reader… do you? Meanwhile Reneé shared a post about being a ‘bleeding heart liberal‘ – powerful stuff! For more great posts take a look at last week’s linky!

If you’re new here (welcome!) you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short(er) version is I’m a writer who loves blogging about my writing process and reading about those of others. This linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through.

I’ve also set up a private group on Facebook that all linkers are welcome to join. It’s somewhere we can share work and have a chat about all things writerly (and whatever else we fancy really). It’s a ‘secret group’ which means you’ll need an invitation to join so once you’ve linked up just let me know if you want me to send an invite.

If you’d like to join in you’re very welcome! There are just a few suggestions for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use my badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to my blog. I will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet me a link to your post @writingbubble then I will RT.

Please link up below – just click on the blue button that says ‘add your link’ and follow the instructions. I look forward to reading your posts. :)

Wishing all my lovely linkers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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getting by with a little help

snowflake-baubleSince early this year I’ve been doing an illustration course with the London Art College (this isn’t remotely a sponsored post though, just an honest shout-out). I’ve been really enjoying it and my tutor, Spencer Hill, has been great – really understanding and supportive despite my rather slow progress through the course! His comments on my last assignment were really helpful –a careful balance of confidence-boosting and constructive that left me motivated and with lots of new ideas. All in all, just what you need in a correspondence course tutor.

Over the last few weeks though, Spencer’s gone above and beyond what I would have expected and I just wanted to share that here because, y’know, it’s Christmas and he’s a bit of a shining star really!

In my post last week I mentioned I’d been working on an illustration commission – my first ever, which was very exciting! I was offered the work without much notice though (sometimes that’s just the way things go) and that, combined with my lack of experience, had made me wonder if it was really wise to take it on (yes, the self-doubt demon came a-calling). I contacted Spencer for advice and he got back to me really quickly saying he thought I was totally capable but that only I knew if I could do it in the required timeframe. He gave me lots of suggestions about what to charge and other stuff and said to contact him if I needed anything more.

As you know, I decided to go ahead with the commission. I also took Spencer up on his offer of further advice and over the following week, a fair few emails flew back and forth between us. It made a massive difference to my confidence knowing that he believed in me and that I had someone to turn to with all those issues that you never consider till you’re actually working on a proper commission. I won’t go into them now, but let’s just say it was good to feel someone – a professional illustrator, no less – had my back, and I am extremely grateful.

Another person I turned to for advice was the lovely Teika from Mother’s Milk Books who was also full of useful information and suggestions. I definitely felt lucky to know someone who worked in the publishing industry and was willing to help me out that way.

And the end of the story is that I got the commission done bang on schedule (having learned masses in the process), the author loves the illustrations and I’m so looking forward to seeing my work in a real, actual book in the spring! I’ve had a little look on my kindle (not that the book’s been formatted properly yet) and that was exciting enough!

There’s probably some kind of moral in this little tale somewhere… ‘don’t doubt your own abilities and be willing to ask for help because people are lovely’, perhaps? Anyway, the whole thing has definitely made me feel full of the goodwill of the season.

I’ll finish with a sneak peek at one of my illustrations!kindle-illustration
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What I’m Writing – Week one hundred!

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Welcome to week one hundred of What I’m Writing! Wow, a whole hundred weeks of fabulous writing posts! Thank you so much to everyone who has supported this linky along the way – I’m so happy to have helped create our supportive community.

There were fabulous posts on the linky last week (have a read of them all!) and, with 2016 being the year its been, there was a definite theme amongst them about the positive power of creativity. Kamsin wondered whether stories could help us build a better world, Dana wrote about art helping us to see light when the world is dark, and Sophie had been experiencing the strength of having a ‘tribe’ of writers- and I knew exactly how she felt!

If you’re new here (welcome!) you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short(er) version is I’m a writer who loves blogging about my writing process and reading about those of others. This linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through.

I’ve also set up a private group on Facebook that all linkers are welcome to join. It’s somewhere we can share work and have a chat about all things writerly (and whatever else we fancy really). It’s a ‘secret group’ which means you’ll need an invitation to join so once you’ve linked up just let me know if you want me to send an invite.

If you’d like to join in you’re very welcome! There are just a few suggestions for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use my badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to my blog. I will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet me a link to your post @writingbubble then I will RT.

Please link up below – just click on the blue button that says ‘add your link’ and follow the instructions. I look forward to reading your posts. :)

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costume chaos and illustration news

frosty-fieldOk, so it’s really late and I’m really tired and I have about thirty seconds to write a post for ‘What I’m Writing’ tomorrow. Not that I have to write a post for my linky I suppose, but tomorrow it’s the one hundredth week of ‘What I’m Writing’ so I don’t want to miss linking up when it’s such a nice, round figure!

So… It’s late because I’ve been really busy this week. I’ve been writing stuff for work, I’ve been doing an illustration commission and, given it’s December and I’ve got three kids, I’ve been running around in a kind of Christmas frenzy trying not to drop the ball on nativity costumes, social events, presents, parties and end of term thingymabobs. This morning I was frantically trying to assemble a snowflake costume for my three-year-old for the dress-rehearsal of his school play. He ended up in a thermal vest and a cellular blanket. “It will do, it will have to do!” I chimed until I got to the classroom and realised the other kids were all adorned in flashing lights, glitter, home-made wings, amazing headwear, baubles, tinsel and perfectly carved ice sculptures. Ok, I made that last one up but blimey, it took all my powers of ‘cool, parent-of-a-third-child zen’ not to rush home and construct an elaborate walk-in ice cave for him to wear for the performance tomorrow (shhh but I’m still thinking there might be time in the morning… )

So, did you notice that bit just up there at the top of the previous paragraph? The bit where I said I was working on an illustration commission? I have been and it’s my first ever! Well, strictly speaking it’s the second I’ve been asked to do, but I’m not due to start the first one till the new year so the one I’ve been working on this week is the first I’ve actually done, if that makes sense? Probably not. It’s even later at night now. Anyway, I’ve just finished the commission and sent it off to the writer this evening. It’s illustrations for her middle grade book which is coming out next year… more info to follow… I’m dead excited, truth be told!

Right, it’s really, REALLY late now so I’m definitely posting this and going to bed!

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What I’m Writing – Week ninety-nine

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Welcome to week ninety-nine of What I’m Writing! I have to admit, I’ve not been putting much (any) energy into promoting the linky recently and have even considered stopping it altogether, but the lovely writing friends who I saw this weekend convinced me not to so, here we are! I really do appreciate those of you who continue to link up when you can and last week’s posts were great – Chilli Regina shared a lovely poem that fitted perfectly with my post on art and healing, Mama Elsie wrote beautifully about the power of poetry and Sophie knocked my socks off with her post about ‘impartiality in our post-truth age‘.

If you’re new here (welcome!) you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short(er) version is I’m a writer who loves blogging about my writing process and reading about those of others. This linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through.

I’ve also set up a private group on Facebook that all linkers are welcome to join. It’s somewhere we can share work and have a chat about all things writerly (and whatever else we fancy really). It’s a ‘secret group’ which means you’ll need an invitation to join so once you’ve linked up just let me know if you want me to send an invite.

If you’d like to join in you’re very welcome! There are just a few suggestions for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use my badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to my blog. I will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet me a link to your post @writingbubble then I will RT.

Please link up below – just click on the blue button that says ‘add your link’ and follow the instructions. I look forward to reading your posts. :)

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a wonderful weekend

what-im-writing-meet-up

Some of my wonderful #WhatImWriting friends.

You know the sort of weekend that’s so good that regardless what Monday throws at you, you keep smiling all day long? I’ve just had one of those. And I don’t mean just smiling a little bit either, I mean like, huge cheshire cat grins often accompanied by little chuckles at random moments and even the odd guffaw (when passers-by least expect it). Oh yes, I’m talking a properly stonking good weekend.

It began with a plan of military precision involving leaving my eldest son with my husband up in Northumberland on Friday and my younger two with my parents in Yorkshire on Saturday and then leaping on a train all by myself (that is BY MYSELF, alone, no kids, on a train, on my own and did I say I was by myself?) and going down to London. I got there at 12.56 (a not entirely pointless detail) and immediately went to meet up with some of my wonderful #WhatImWriting gang.

And what a meet up it was! There were eight of us. We met for lunch. Lunch went on for eight hours. It was awesome: I can honestly say these women are soul food to me – proper, hearty, ‘eat as much as you like and you wont ever get sick because it’s too tasty’ soul-food. They are all intelligent and creative and strong and brave and brilliant and beautiful and being in their company made my spirits soar.

It also made me *rather* drunk. Oh yes. The sort of drunk where you text your husband from the loo to tell him how much you love him and how much you love everyone and then you realise later that what you sent looks more like ‘I higglibley fulsip ve’ than the message you were really aiming for but never mind because he knew what you meant. The best kind of drunk, then.

Anyway, we well and truly put the world to rights and then just to top it off, straight afterwards I went out for a meal with one of my friends from my university days who I don’t get to see nearly often enough. And he came and met me where we were having our epic lunch (The Parcel Yard at Kings Cross – this isn’t remotely a sponsored post but we had such a good time there, they deserve a mention) which somehow made it even more lovely because it was like a bit of my history (18 years of friendship and counting) intersecting with a much more recent part of my life. Not quite sure why that felt so lovely but it did.

And, AND just to top it off even more than it was already topped off, the next day I had brunch/lunch with one of my very oldest, bestest friends (39 years of friendship and counting – we met before I was born… ) by the end of which my spirits were in the stratosphere and my heart was bursting all over the place with love.

I then caught the 12.56 train (see – I like a bit of symmetry) back to Yorkshire, picked up my younger two boys (who’d had a brilliant time with my parents) and drove back home to Northumberland in time to babble joyfully and semi-coherently at my husband, find out that his time with our eldest boy was ‘pure joy’ (I shed a little tear at that description) and then collapse into bed to dream of… well, we decided that what happens in The Parcel Yard stays in The Parcel Yard so I couldn’t possibly divulge any more…

xxx

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