Sticking my head in the sand…

I mentioned earlier that I submitted my script for critiquing but never followed up with an update. The reason being, is that I received constructive criticism (like I asked for!) about my main character and I didn’t know how to process the information. So like an ostrich, I stuck my head in the sand, simply because I didn’t know how to move forward with my writing.

The last few weeks I have been in a bit of a writer’s funk. My thoughts swinging from one extreme to another. Add being a mother to two small children to the mix, and functioning on limited sleep has my head swirling. Some might see the ostrich sticking its head in the sand as a negative but for me I’ve utilised the time to collect my thoughts. When I finally resurfaced this week I saw one of the most inspiring posts on my Instagram feed by Cherise Lily Nana. The act of balancing life and achieving all our goals is fairly idealistic, especially when life is just one big juggling act. One is bound to drop a ball, but that’s fine – don’t beat yourself up about it. Rather than spreading yourself so thinly you inadvertently neglect aspects of your life, Nana discusses the act of tilting. Tilting is where you tilt your energy into one part of your life and frequently rotate, helping your goals and life in general receive equal amounts of your energy. This resonated so deeply and helped spring me into action, so here I am writing.

Nana has also kindly offered a free eBook titled ‘Muse – a journey in creative self-discovery through the muses’. I wasn’t in a position to take up her mentoring services but this book just ignites so much of my passion for my creative side. I started reading last night and already getting so much from her words. I also really appreciate the mini tasks after each chapter, again helping me to focus on my dream and to hone my craft. Thank you Cherise. Your act of kindness has helped so much!

Getting back to my writer’s funk. I find that it helps when I write a bit of poetry, some self-expression really gets my creative juices flowing and helps put me back in the right frame of mind. Earlier this week I wrote a very short poem, a poem about sentimental value. It was very simplistic, but writing down how I feel is such a relief. By reliving my memories also triggers my emotions which is great for writing, in my opinion.

To help me overcome my writer’s funk I’ve finally found a way to help me process the criticism given to me about my character. It has been such a tumbling block having my character unpeeled, I had built him up to be perfect when there were glaringly obvious flaws. I just felt so motionless but remembered I have an amazing friend in my life that can help me authenticate my character. My friend is a child psychiatrist and see’s the type of traits that I was trying to portray in my character. I know her insight will cement my thoughts with my character and it will help me get back on track to submitting to publishers. Yes, yes I know that deadline is well overdue, I’m now attempting tilting 🙂

For anyone reading that may be struggling with an aspect of their life and they are accused of sticking their head in the sand. It’s ok, everyone is different. Some look beautiful on the surface, but are kicking relentlessly to not spoil the facade of their perfection (swan) whilst there are people like me, that happily show all their flaws, head in sand, bum in air (ostrich) as long as we all achieve what we set out to do it doesn’t really matter how we got there. Focus on yourself and what you’re doing and don’t mind others, admire their beauty and work on your own.

I’ll update you next week about my character building exercise.

Stay tuned,

Janique x

Photocredit: sateenmuru_travels of Instagram

 

Retelling Tales

Over the last few weeks I’ve been binge borrowing Children’s books from the Library in an attempt to keep the creative juices flowing and to keep me writing! Some of the books have sparked a memory for me, a familiarity in the story that I’ve heard before. I am picking up on this more and more, and it’s not just in children’s books I see stories re-told. It is clear which story inspired an author to write a modern piece of adult literature. For example:

Adult literature

On Beauty (my old time favourite!) by Zadie Smith

Smith’s  tale of the Belsey and Kipps families shares plenty with Forster’s original work, It’s about a pair of families with very different ideals that become irrevocably linked over the years.  A lot of similarities with slight adjustments in Smith’s tale.

Back to the topic at hand….

Children Literature

Angelica Sproket’s Pockets by Quentin Blake:

The lady with many pockets, that holds all kinds of items. Socks, furniture, umbrella’s! It is very reminiscent of Mary Poppins.

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

The toy rabbit scared that he will be replaced one day. A toy with feelings? Toy Story comes to mind.

Blue Chameleon by Emily Gravett

The blue chameleon looking for a mate, searches high and low. A similar story was written 40 years ago by Lionni

Is anything original anymore? As an aspiring author, how can I keep my story unique? I’ve been battling with this question, hence why this blog has taken me a while to publish. I’ve come to the conclusion that not one story is completely unique. It might be told slightly differently but generally, in my experience authors are basing their stories on old tales/experiences.

We generally have the same life experiences, upbringing, values and have read the same stories. In my opinion, this is what inspires us to write so of course we are going to read stories that sound familiar. So how can I, an aspiring author stand out from the crowd? After all, having read tons of books and poems, they have all to a certain extent inspired me to write and find a way of weaving themselves into my own storytelling.

My theory is that no story is completely unique but our voice is, only I (you) can produce that unique tone, style of writing that sets me apart from others. A tone I instantly recognise when reading a story is Julia Donaldson, she has a very distinctive style that I am striving to create for my own readers. That would be the ultimate achievement, being able to convey my snytax in such a way that reader’s would recognise my ‘voice’.

I’m practicing conveying my ‘voice’ by writing poems too, check them out on instagram @typeupjanique.

Love,

Janique

Literature; The Perfect Teacher

‘I think it is important for children to read different things to find out about their emotions and other people’s emotions. it is an enormous source of education and culture.’Quentin Blake

I previously wrote about how I reconnected with my inner child; whilst doing this I recollected some of my favourite children’s literature and sought them out at the library, I have a stack of Quentin Blake (who inspired this blog with his famous quote, see above), Roald Dahl, Rudyard Kipling and Lewis Carrol to name a few. It was really interesting re-reading and interpreting the stories as an adult, I certainly picked up on some of the veiled humour (and even the darkness) but as a child I wondered what emotions were provoked in me – other than happiness (and sometimes fear from said darkness!) I can’t really remember but I’m sure they helped shape me in some way.

Reading to our children and giving them the tools to read is crucial to their cognitive skills. I’m not a professional on the matter of child development but I strongly believe that reading is one of the fundamental tools in enabling them how to learn and express themselves. These little people are blank canvases and as parents, teachers, care providers and last but not least, children’s authors, we have a duty to help nurture these seeds with knowledge.  Encouraging them to develop their own personalities, to discover emotions and how we respond to them, giving them values and being socially aware. All of these skills are on some degree taught in children’s literature, there is always a moral to the story, teaching the child values that they can carry into adulthood.

Even in picture books, early learners are able to stimulate their minds by creating their own story (or how they interpret it) by simple visuals and then conversing with their care provider which then encourages language development. This early cognitive development helps children process information, holding their attention spans and creating memories. This gives them the building blocks for progressive learning, which I believe is a gentle and condusive way of teaching our children (but that’s just my personal opinion, I am no child psychologist!).

Of course, once we have developed these early cognitive skills we take this forward in adult hood. Are we still learning? Of course! Seeking out all kinds of literature as an adult is still just as important, I still need mental stimulation whether that is through a scholarly article, self-help book or a novel. The latter being my favourite to escape the reality of life but even then on some level I sometimes relate to a character and perhaps learn how to manage emotions/a situation. Literature never ceases to amaze and inspire me, it is an abundant source of knowledge which should never be underestimated.

Reading is so therapeutic too, lets not forget that!

Love,

Janique

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks, Halibut!

Hey people, are you still there? I wouldn’t be surprised if you are not as I’ve been a little slow with updates of late. I guess that’s because there is nothing to update on the main event, my book! This process is long and I’ve not heard anything back yet.

However I remembered that I said I would be sharing my musings, so here goes. In our children’s book collection we have, in my opinion, the underrated classic Halibut Jackson, by David Lucas. Seriously, this book is beautiful in every way. From the illustrations to the sentiment, we love it and I would highly recommend it. It’s about a little man that is extremely shy and likes to blend into the background, that’s all I will say. Go and borrow, beg or find to read to your children, it’ll put a smile on your face.

Reading this book again reminded me that I was painfully shy as a child and occasionally now as an adult. My mother would shout ‘what are you trying to do? Get back into the womb’ ‘Urrghhh, well yes I am actually, it’s bloody scary out here!!’. I was her shadow and could not bare ‘normal’ social interactions.  Anyway, I felt the urge to write about my experience of shyness and would like to share with you all. I’m no poet but I guess it is a form of poetry as it’s my self expression.

My shyness….

My shyness muddles my thoughts and mutes my self-assurance, it drowns my confidence in a sea of uncertainty. I feel hesitant.

My shyness has a vice like grip around extroverted me.

My shyness silences my voice, but allows the myriad of words to stumble clumsily from my lips. I feel flustered.

My shyness has a vice like grip around extroverted me.

My shyness isolates me from society, making me feel derelict within yet content with the familiarity of me. I feel safe.

My shyness has a vice like grip around extroverted me.

My shyness is the armour around my heart, the heart that yearns to be opened, to love and be loved. I feel detached.

My shyness has a vice like grip around extroverted me, like a veil over my eyes my shyness allows me to see objectively. I feel humbled.

All of my young life I have hated my shyness, it literally paralysed me at times. I could not speak up in what I believed in. I’ve been ‘doing’ adulthood for a while now, and whilst I do not do it perfectly, I have managed to work alongside my shyness (wine sometimes helps!) and I truly believe it keeps me grounded. The word humble has many negative connotations, I do not relate to any of them. I do not feel inferior to anyone but I am not arrogant and appreciate everyone and everything, no matter how small, insignificant, grand, almighty you might think you are. As Shakespeare famously said ‘All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players’ – If you know the quote you know what I’m trying to convey, we all play different parts but the reality is we are all the same.

So I’m humble (with an overlay of shyness).

Love,

Janique

I love deadlines – Not!

Some of you might be waiting on an update as I mentioned in my last blog that my deadline to submit to publishers was fast approaching. For those that don’t know, my deadline was 31st January. Yep, speaking in past tense as I have missed it. Arrrgghhhhhh, just when I thought I had this nailed, I go and fall at the first hurdle.

However not all is lost, I’ve missed it for a good reason (clearly in denial and blatantly still procrastinating) as I felt the manuscript really does need a professional’s eye to go over it. After all I’m an aspiring author with a lot to learn. Just because writing is my love does not mean I’ve got the structure correct or that the content is coherent. So  for the small fee of ÂŁ35 I will have the awesome Lou Treleaven look at my work.  Lou offers a critique service for a variety of work and the main thing I am looking forward to is receiving objective feedback. Once I have her response I will know where my strengths lay (and weakness) and can further improve before finally submitting to publishers.

The critique service takes roughly two weeks so in that time I will focus on getting back to exercising….the mind i.e reading! I’ve not had much time for reading in the final push to finishing the book so I look forward to getting stuck into pages. Does anyone else want to eat a book after they’ve smelt it? Or am I just really really weird? Any-hoo I’ve nearly finished the Celestine Prophecy (really enjoying it) and the next book on the list is Blink by Malcolm Gladwell but that seems to have very mixed reviews. Then I’d like to get back to good old fashion fiction with Swing Time by one of my all time favourites, Zadie Smith.

Whilst I’m waiting for my manuscript to be returned I’ll be nicely distracted with ‘The Writer’s Retreat Weekend’ course which was kindly offered by fellow instagramer (is this even a word?) and award winning, best-selling author Jacquelyn Eubanks!! This amazing lady has (for free!) given up her valuable time to help aspiring authors, like me to refine their craft. Today is day one and I am so excited to begin. It will help keep me focused on my main goal, getting published.

To be honest, I do feel a little disappointed with myself for not sticking to my deadline but I’m trying to look at this as a learning opportunity. I did not really prepare my submission and like wise Benjamin Franklin said. ‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’. In hindsight I should have been more organised and thought ahead of how I wanted to submit – I was clueless about a covering letter and this is where Lou will hopefully help. By completing little bite sizes of my main goal it should help me get to where I want to be without feeling daunted. Then running and hiding under a rock! So lesson one of my literary journey? Be more organised! This is what I should do but my mind doesn’t work this way all the time, it likes to be free flowing. How do I allow my mind to be creative and a madam matrix of lists and life in general whilst I write? Anyone with tips will be paid in kind.

Love,

Janique

Children’s Book Publishers

My deadline for submitting my manuscript is fast approaching so I thought I better update myself on the big wide world of children’s book publishers. Especially as I have no agent, and without an agent you can’t get published and you can’t get an agent without being published, how ironic! I guess this is why some writers self publish, something I will keep in mind if need be.

The children’s book market is continuously changing which inevitably means the publishers do too. Some of their submission guidelines are comparative to the labyrinth of the Crystal Maze but without the gold tokens, and the harsh reality that you might just get some tumble weeds *please don’t let that be me*. I suspect there will be grammer police locking up all and sundry and binning the dross but I’ve got my rhino skin on and I am prepared as I will ever be.

In hindsight I perhaps should have invested the money in a professional editor. There are some authors out there offering their services and depending on how this first phase of sending my manuscript goes I might take up the opportunity to have a professional critique my work. After all they have been through the process and if they are happy to share their experiences and tips then I’m there, all ears!

For those that are following me and aspiring too, please check out John Fox. This kind soul has taken the time to research and has found 30 children’s publishing houses that are currently accepting unsolicited manuscripts, he’s even included the submission guidelines. What a gem! You can find the list here:

Unsolicited manuscripts – 30 Children’s Book Publishers

Hopefully I don’t commit any literacy crimes and ruin my chances. I’ll keep you all posted.

Love,

Janique

 

 

 

The Book Exchange

Today I visited one of Lewisham’s Micro Libraries, the one just off of Wickham Road. This phone box only stocks children’s books and whilst some of the books are a bit tired, you have to admire the project which was original founded by Sebastian Handley. He selflessly bought a telephone box for ÂŁ1 from the British Telecom and then spent ÂŁ500 of his own money renovating it for the community to enjoy. What a legend this man is! This kind gesture has now become a trend and you may spot a book or two in the next phone box you walk passed.

 

In 2015 Sebastian was named  on The Independent Sunday Happy list, he was one of 100 people listed for making Britain a happier place to live in. An extract from The Independent is here:

‘This artist created the capital’s smallest library inside a disused red phone box in Lewisham, south London. He spent ÂŁ500 of his own money on ceiling lights, carpet and seven shelves. It houses over 200 books, with a whole shelf dedicated to children’s literature, and is looked after by two librarians.’

The project is reliant on people’s honesty and generosity. If you take a book, you are expected to return it or replace it with a book you no longer want. Today I borrowed ‘A colour of his own’ By Leo Leonni. I promise I will return it!!!

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The child in me was originally drawn to the book because of its beautiful illustrations but on closer inspection, I was able to correlate the message of ‘A colour of his own’ to my book. Many of us can draw from childhood experiences of feeling alone and from my experience this stemmed from being different. The main character is a chameleon that constantly changes colour due to his environment or the seasons. For instance, he will find a green leaf and camouflage into the shade of green and feel content. Then autumn will come and he will have to change, this continuous changing makes him feel he has no one, that he does not belong, a nomad. The story eloquently educates children that we are all different and how friendship (togetherness) can eliminate this loneliness. The story is telling us that despite the chameleon continuously changing colour, he himself is the same on the inside.I felt very inspired reading the story, it is simple but the message is powerful and this is what I loved about it.

I’m looking forward to returning to replace ‘A colour of his own’ with something else at The Book Exchange.

Love,

Janique