Third Annual Bloggers Bash

This is rather a self-indulgent post as I re-live the Bloggers Bash. I can’t believe it’s already a week since I was in London meeting up with bloggers, some of whom I met last year, some of whom I only knew online and others whose blogs were new to me.

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Here I am with two of the organisers, Geoff le Pard and Ali Isaac

The Bash, now in its third year, is organised by Sacha Black and her minions, Geoff le Pard, Hugh Roberts and Ali Isaac. This year, as well as the presentation of blogging awards in a wide range of categories, the day included presentations and a panel debate – as well as much hugging, socialising, eating cake and a huge amount of chatter and laughter.

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Sally Cronin and I have shared many virtual hugs so it was lovely to meet her and enjoy a real hug at the Bash. Here she is with author and blogger Noelle Granger from the USA

I experienced my usual ‘country bumpkin goes to the big city wobble’ a couple of days before. What if I was left sitting in a corner all by myself? What if I got lost and never made it to the Bash? I dread getting lost in London by jumping on the wrong train on the underground (Glasgow’s underground is so simple. It goes round in a circle so if you miss your stop you sit tight until it comes round again – there’s none of this changing to join other lines) or taking a wrong turning because often I confuse my left with my right.

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Willow and Ruth in the front row with Ellen, who won the inaugural short story competition, sitting behind with Shelley who was second in the Inspirational Blogger category

Anyway, armed with numerous bits of paper with step by step instructions I made it from Euston to Victoria – paying for the tube ticket with a contactless debit card made life easier than queuing. At Victoria I had a bit of a panic when I couldn’t find the exit named on one of my bits of paper – neither could three rail staff. As I approached three police officers coming out of their office, they backed off in a very unfriendly manner. Two of them vanished but I trapped the third between me and a wall as I brandished bits of paper and asked where the particular exit was. He demanded to know where I was going which, at first, I thought was none of his business really but realised when I reluctantly told him that he then knew in which direction to send me.I checked into my overnight accommodation and did a recce with my instructions to find the venue so I’d know where I was going and how long it would take. It was a nice evening so I didn’t mind that I’d walked an extra two miles because I missed a turning. Nice young man in reception looked confused when I asked if this was the venue for tomorrow’s Bloggers Bash. His colleague informed me it was the venue for an International Bloggers Conference.

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Elena, Bash orgnaiser Sacha and Ellen – sorry I practically decapitated you but the smiles are great.

Jessica Norrie and I actually met on the way and introduced ourselves and then we were there being offered welcome hugs by Hugh. Any worries about not finding people to talk to me vanished: despite the fact that the majority of us are complete introverts and usually run a mile from large gatherings the buzz bloggers generate when they get together is quite incredible.

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Sherri, Marjorie and Sally

The awards, for which there were 6,561 votes this year, were announced at intervals during the day – for a full list of winners see Sacha’s blog here.

The presentations by Suzie on how to make money from your blog and Elena on Pinterest were fascinating. Elena made it all sound so easy for a few giddy moments I was convinced I’d reactivate my Pinterest account as soon as I came home. Hmm! A lively debate took place with the panel of Suzie, Elena and Christoph Fischer.

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Adam Dixon and Christoph Fischer in earnest conversation

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Ritu, Steve, both of whom I met last year and Sue. I’ve followed Sue’s wonderful blog for at least two years – and she follows my Goldfish blog – so I was delighted to actually meet her in real life this year.

 

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Thanks to Sally Cronin for sharing this photo of Marjorie, Sherri and me

 

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Another of Sally’s photos showing Willow, Ritu, Sue and Noelle.

Check out the blogs of those who attended (apologies if I missed any) and see what an extraordinary range of topics people blog about.

Ritu – But I Smile Anyway

Shelley – Shelley Wilson

Jessica – Jessica Norrie

Willow – Willowdot21

Graeme – Graeme Cumming Dot Net

Rebecca – If Only I Could Read Faster

Marje – M J Mallon Author (Kyrosmagica)

Lucy – BlondeWriteMore

Sheila – SC Skillman

Noelle – SaylingAway

Sherrie – A View From My Summerhouse

Allie – Allie Potts Writes

Helen – Journey To Ambeth

Mary – My Dad Is A Goldfish

Christoph – Writer Christoph Fischer

Eloise – E. De Sousa

Julie – Julie Lawford

Steve – Sun In Gemini

Alex – Alex Raphael

Ellen – Ellenbest24

Elena – Elena Peters

Davy – Inside The Mind Of Davy D

Lance – Lance Greenfield

Sally – Smorgasbord – Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Icy – Icy Sedgwick

Matt – The Gay Stepdad

Susie – Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride

Adam – Adam Dixon Fiction

Lucia – Rereading Jane Eyre

Alexina – BOOKSTORMER

Ruth – Image & Word

Melanie – Melanie Roussel

Sue – Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo

Suzie – Suzie Speaks

Jo – My Chestnut Reading Tree

Donna – Jot to Jot

Sacha – Sacha Black

Geoff – TanGental

Ali – Ali Isaac Storyteller

Hugh – Hugh’s Views And News

If you are interested in attending next year’s Bash put the date in your diary now – June 09, 2018 and I think you can sign up on Sacha’s blog to receive email notifications regarding the Bash.

The Wee Book Hoose

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The telephone box transformed into a 24-hour library. Photo credit: Allan Wright http://www.allanwrightphoto.com

If you’ve ever wondered what can be done with an unloved and unused phone box just look at what the community in a small village near me have done with theirs.

Crossmichael Community Council bought the village’s BT telephone box for the princely sum of £1 and turned it into a 24-hour library, now known as the Wee Book Hoose. For non-Scots speakers that translates into The Small Book House.

It’s been a very successful community project in which adults in the village and school pupils have all been involved. I was delighted to be invited to attend the opening ceremony and watch Crossmichael resident, Jean Galloway cut the ribbon and declare what may be the smallest public library in the country open for business.

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Crossmichael resident Jean Galloway cuts the ribbon to open The Wee Book Hoose. Photo credit Allan Wright.  http://www.allanwrightphoto.com

She was then supposed to enter the library but the heavy door proved problematic – I’d forgotten how heavy old phone box doors are – until John Nelson, chair of the Crossmichael Community Council came to the rescue. Jean then entered the library to choose a book and I was particularly impressed by how she homed in on not only one but two of my books!

Both I and another author and publisher, Jayne Baldwin, had been invited to say a few words about reading and we were highly amused when John Nelson in his opening speech mentioned several times how delighted everyone was to welcome two famous authors to the event.

He stopped us from becoming too swollen-headed by telling the assembled company about how his granddaughter quizzed him beforehand on the identity of famous author. She asked: “Is it J K Rowling?”

“Nope.”

“Roald Dahl? Oh, no, he’s dead, can’t be him. Julia Donaldson?”

“Nope.”

At least Jayne writes for children and has more chance of being recognised as a real writer amongst primary pupils than I have. It is as well to keep one’s feet planted in the earth.

The project received lots of support both locally and from further afield from authors who have donated books and sent letters of support. Local bookshops gifted books as well as shops in Wigtown, Scotland’s Book Town. Tesco provided prizes for the winners of a children’s competition.

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Great choice of books, Jean! Photo courtesy of Allan Wright http://www.allanwrightphoto.com

Four competitions were run in the village prior to the opening of the Wee Book Hoose. Young primary children drew pictures of the Wee Book Hoose while older children were asked to think about 101 uses for a phone box and submit a poem, story or art work. Members of the youth club were invited to enter the competition by imagining they have only one phone call to make:  who would they call and what would they say?

Adults were given the opportunity to reminisce about the first phone call they made or received. Community councillor Alexandra Monlaur, one of the main project organisers, judged the adult competition and said some of the entries brought a tear to her eye. She is planning to collect them into a wee booklet.

pb6I’d asked several local authors to donate a book to the library and was delighted by the response. In my brief talk, I told of how reading had taken me from adventures with Enid Blyton’s Famous Five to visiting countries I’ll never see, from solving crimes along with fictional detectives (or never quite solving them before the end) to enjoying the tears and smiles of countless ‘happy ever afters’. I ended by saying (particularly directed at the pupils – who were probably still wondering who I was) that any writer will say they were avid readers before they ever wrote a word.pb3

Home baking is elevated to an art form – and I intend to pile my plate as soon as the photographer disappears. Photo courtesy of Allan Wright http://www.allanwrightphoto.com

The church bakers had been busy and an array of wonderful home baking awaited the guests in the village hall. All the competition entries were displayed around the walls and Jayne and I handed over the prizes to the winners.

It’s a fantastic project, which has really captured everyone’s imagination. Next time you walk by a little-used telephone box think about what a wonderful library it would make.

And a wee plug for the photographer Allan Wright http://www.allanwrightphoto.com who has recently published a superb book of landscape photos in homage to Dumfries & Galloway.

Clichés

As writers we know we must avoid clichés ‘like the plague’ and make sure we come up with exciting new ways to describe the heroine’s ‘peaches and cream’ complexion and the hero’s ‘rugged good looks’.

It was ‘the longest journey starts with a single step’ which set me off. It was how someone had begun his memoir. He had asked me to read and critique it. What he really meant was for me to read his work and tell him it was wonderful but by the time I’d underlined a dozen clichéd expressions in the first few pages I couldn’t oblige. He had had some amazing and exciting life experiences, which would make for a terrific memoir but he’d somehow reduced most of it to clichés and stereotyped descriptions. Every time he referred to his mother, he called her ‘me dear ol’ mum’. Every single time.

When we discussed his manuscript a couple of things became clear. One, he didn’t understand the concept of a cliché and two, even after I had explained, he was still not going to change that opening line for anyone – it said exactly what he wanted to say. That’s the thing about clichés, isn’t it? What once was an original, clever, telling expression becomes a kind of shorthand, the meaning of which everyone understands having heard it or read it countless times.

A dictionary definition: A cliché is an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning, or effect, and even, to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel.

Salvador Dali said: “The first man to compare the cheeks of a young woman to a rose was obviously a poet; the first to repeat it was possibly an idiot.”  A clever statement – but not original. Dali swiped it (tweaking it slightly) from a French poet, Gérard de Nerval who said it first.

The expression, in its original form, ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’, is attributed to Lau Tzu, Chinese philosopher and father of Taoism. It would have been considered a clever analogy then, now in the context of my would-be memoirist’s beginning it seems lame and unoriginal. I wonder what Lau Tzu would think if he knew how his comment is used – overused – today.

I wonder if any of us will ‘coin a phrase’ so fresh and clever and original it will be used by other writers for years to come.

I discovered (Wikipedia and other online dictionaries) the word cliché comes from the French word for a printing plate cast from movable type – which is also called a stereotype. When letters were set one at a time, it made sense to cast a phrase used repeatedly, as a single slug of metal. Cliché came to mean such a ready-made phrase.

And have a look at this wonderful site which lists hundreds of clichés and over-used expressions. http://suspense.net/whitefish/cliche.htm I love the comment regarding clichés in the intro to the collection: ‘They make for great book titles, but lousy writing’.

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Image courtesy of Pixaby

Which ones ‘set your teeth on edge’?

 

Mary Smith – an update on a new book

My latest book, Castle Douglas Through Time, came out yesterday and I’m very grateful to Susan Toy of ReadingRecommendations for this lovely post.

Reading Recommendations

Mary Smith was previously featured on Reading Recommendations in March 2016. She’s back now to tell us of a non-fiction book, on which she collaborated with photographer Allan Devlin, that’s just been published.

Castle Douglas Through Time
by Mary Smith and Allan Devlin
Published by Amberley Publishing
Genre: Non-fiction, local history, photography

The market town of Castle Douglas, beside Carlingwark Loch in the southern Scottish region of Dumfries and Galloway, is relatively new, though the area has been inhabited from prehistoric times and the Romans had a military base close by. In the fourteenth century, Archibald the Grim, the 3rd Earl of Douglas, built Threave Castle nearby.

The town came into being thanks to fertiliser found in the loch and wealth merchant William Douglas, who laid out the present town in 1792. Though his dream of creating a cotton industry failed, Castle Douglas became a flourishing market town. The…

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Procrastination

My name is Mary and I am a procrastinator.

Procrastinate: vi to defer action; to put off what should be done immediately. n procrastination.

The way it goes is as follows. I sit at my desk to write. I check my emails, reply to anything urgent. I take a quick look at some of the blogs I follow. I leave a comment, like and share. It seems rude not to like and share and it only adds a few seconds to the time already spent reading and commenting. After another quick check of my emails I resolutely close down the programme.

I open the WIP file, realise I’ve finished my coffee and nip downstairs to make a fresh one. I notice the kitchen floor needs sweeping so do that while waiting for the kettle to boil – then realise it really needs to be properly mopped. And the load of washing is finished, which I should hang out.

Back at my desk I switch on Outlook just to check no urgent emails have come in, clear out the spam – seems to be an awful lot of invitations to subscribe to funeral plans which make wonder if someone knows something I don’t, in which case I should make the most of the time left to me. Resolutely close down email programme and, oh, look, it’s almost lunchtime and so it goes – and that’s without admitting to the time spent playing spider solitaire.

I’m glad to know I’m not alone in needing help with my procrastination problem. Recently my writers’ group had a session on this very topic – and almost everyone confessed. Various helpful strategies were described and advocated by those who had tried them and found they worked. They included the Pomodoro Technique, scheduling a fixed length of time each day or even a 500-word-a-day spreadsheet.

I decided on the spreadsheet with a target of 500 words a day. It was duly sent to me – a truly magnificent piece of work which added up each day’s words and showed how far ahead or target I was, or how far behind. I started off really well but began to feel a bit uneasy. I’m a freelance journalist – but did the commissioned 800-word article count? No, the group decided – that was cheating.  What about the words written for my blog? That was okay but definitely not words written for work.

Some days, I write a lot for work, usually after interviewing someone or carrying out research and struggle to fit in time to write another 500 words. Or, I might be working on a poem – definitely not 500 words. I was beginning to feel like a failure.

dscf0857Someone suggested setting a timer for 15 minutes. This idea is based on an ebook called The 15 Minute Writer, based on the premise that everyone can manage to find 15 minutes in which to write – it’s only a couple of games of spider solitaire, after all.

It has been wonderful. If, as usually happens, by the time the timer goes off, I’m immersed in what I’m doing, I can carry on. If it’s a struggle, at least I’ve done the 15 minutes – and earned a break.

The other thing which helps is that we all report back on our success or failure each time the group meets – that’s a huge incentive to get writing.

How about others? Do you sit at your work space and write without any procrastination? Or, do you find washing the kitchen floor suddenly holds great appeal, or walking the dog even though it’s raining? Did you find a way to overcome the problem?