Thursday, 17 December 2009

Christmas Wrapping

How's everyone feeling on the Bah Humbug > White Christmas scale? It was snowing here yesterday as we decorated the tree and hung the stockings, and two small people are beside themselves with excitement. For the grown ups, this Christmas is more difficult. The final kick in the pants from 2009 is the airline is laying off pilots. Lots of pilots. We've been in limbo for a couple of months now, and were expecting the news. I can't predict what will be happening in a few weeks let alone this time next year ... more news as it breaks.

This year you can forget diamonds and sables under the tree (Santa Baby), I'm simply praying for a Christmas miracle. In the meantime it's all about trying to make this a great, and happy, Christmas for the children. This has been a strange old year. I'm hoping this run of bad luck has all come at the same time, it's out of the way, and from 2010 things are going to get a whole lot better. Actually scratch 'hoping' - I'm going to make sure 2010 is the start of big changes, big improvement. I don't think I've spoken to a single person recently who's in a better position than they were a year ago, have you? Enough already. Let's make the next year, next decade a great one.

'Keep calm and carry on' has become my mantra this year. Keep going, keep writing, keep getting better at it. As well as learning on the MA course, I'm also teaching writing now (for Writer's News in the UK, and Winchester University) - one of you suggested I should (Tessa?), so thank you, I'm glad I took your advice. Sometimes you learn just as much from guiding others as you do from being taught yourself. Studying writing in an academic context has proven to be challenging and inspiring. One of the most interesting weekly exercises is writing a pastiche of the book we've studied - I really recommend it. Take a writer you admire, and write a short interpretation of their work. I just 'did' Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road' (bleak, post-apocalyptic, the last book in the world I thought I'd love). My tutor said: 'this is impressive, Kate. Now you must write the rest of the novel which goes around this passage'. Yes. That should keep me quiet over the holidays.

I won't have a chance to post again before the break, so wish you all a very Happy Christmas - and here's to a spectacular new decade. Thank you all for your continued support of WKDN - your comments make this blog what it is x

TODAY'S PROMPT: Santa has come early. Perhaps like us you've mailed off the kids' Christmas lists, but what about you? Maybe it's not material things you want to ask St Nick for, but why not write yourself a Christmas list of all the things you'd like to achieve, do or see this year? In five years? In ten years? The Magical Wish Granting Comments Box is listening :)

It's also time for the 2010 WKDN Calendar. Last year we had the ladies' requests - a year worth of inspirational writing quotes with lovely Ewan McGregor in his kilt for Mr December, Rufus Sewell, Gregory Peck, Viggo Mortenson ... so what do you fancy this year? I'm thinking of something along the lines of 'if life gives you lemons ...' but you may prefer writing quotes again? And what about the pictures? Boys? Girls? Great Lovers? Get your requests in now and the new calendar will be ready to email to you for the New Year x

Friday, 4 December 2009

As Time Goes By

Well the latest draft of the WW2 book I started writing in May is done, and I've just looked at my email, twitter, facebook etc for the first time in a month. With the kids home 24/7 it was the only way to get the new draft done - handwriting the edit while they were occupied (and the computer was taken up with really important things like Club Penguin and Moshi Monsters), then copy typing while they were asleep - and a marathon forty-eight hours when the pilot gallantly took them to Suffolk. Half way through my weekend of copying up 10,000 words a day (when my fingers went into spasm :), I took a break and watched 'The Pianist'. The pilot finds the films I watch to 'relax' endlessly amusing, but it's one of those films about the fragility of life and the strength of the human spirit that puts everything into perspective. If you haven't seen it, do. I also had a breakthrough watching it with my main male character - Thomas Kretschmann's performance as the German officer with a heart was intensely moving, and made me think in a new direction about my man.

So, now the latest draft is done, it's time to catch up on the backlog of everything else (cleaning, this morning - the glamour). There are some compensations to being up at first light - as I sipped the first of many coffees this morning, the village was silent, there was a hard frost on the ground and the most beautiful full moon in a rose sky. The pilot was off at 2.30am, I'm sleeping badly (again), and the four year old now has his sister's flu so rather than tossing and turning it made sense to get up and get ahead of the day.

They've just felled some huge old trees in the closed off part of our garden, and if the trees were still there I wouldn't have seen the moon. This cottage is the C14 gardener's cottage of the manor house up the road (where our landlady was born - tugs forelock). When she inherited this place and we moved in they cut off half an acre of garden at the back hoping to sell the plot to a housebuilder - yes, England is that crowded. This 'secret' garden is amazing - full of wild roses, shrubs - all the things the gardener planted over the years. And no one can enjoy its beauty.

Two things struck me this morning - that old saying 'can't see the wood for the trees', and how gardening is a lot like writing. You plant something, nurture it, and wait - maybe for years. But it's worth it because hopefully there will be something beautiful that brings joy to other people for years. When I was working in London I'd spend most lunchbreaks from the gallery at the Chelsea Gardener - the last garden I had of my own was full of jasmine, roses, lavender, an amazing old mallow tree that was a screen of cerise in the summer.

The only survivor of that garden is the little olive tree I've talked about before - its travelled with us in a pot for ten years, and the day I dig it into the ground is the day we've finally come home, literally put down roots. I thought it had died this year (which says a lot about this year) - the leaves dropped off, the hound dug it up and ate half the roots. I almost gave up on it. But, I cut it right back, repotted it ... and it's stronger (if smaller) than ever, with fresh green shoots.

It's rather how I feel looking back on this year. All the things that have happened - bereavement, betrayal, banks (and a few other things beginning with b) ... they cut you down to size, but you can come back stronger. At least, that's what I hope.

TODAY'S PROMPT: As those of you who've been reading WKDN for some time will know by now, I'm a romantic. I believe in the things I've been writing about, I believe in following your heart, sacrifice for love, redemption, forgiveness - all the things that have a neat, escapist, beginning, middle and end in fiction and can be so painful and messy in real life. The wonderful thing about writing is that nothing is wasted - there's enough raw emotional material in the last twelve months alone to write a book a year for the rest of my life. Someone asked me the other day what's my dream - beyond getting the day to day on an even keel, that's it. I want to write bestselling books. Right now its the only thing I know for sure. So, that's your prompt for today - what do you believe in? what's your dream? what do you know for sure?
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