Not Just for the Posh Kids



Do one thing everyday that scares you.

It’s ten years now since I came across a phrase that would change my outlook on life forever.

I’d just done a skydive in New Zealand. In the gift  shop afterwards, I stumbled upon a postcard featuring  what I now know to be a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: do one thing everyday that scares you.

It’s easy to try new things and to push the boundaries when you are travelling around the globe with a backpack. In the real world though, stepping out of your comfort zone isn’t  so easy. That quote however, has stuck with me. I think of it when ever I try to talk myself out of something because I feel uncomfortable. I remind myself that if I can jump out of a plane I can do anything.  I then embrace the fear and I get on with it.

It is because of that quote, I have just signed up to take part in a writing project with the Royal Philharmonic Society. Yes, you read that right, the Royal Philharmonic Society.

Now classical music doesn’t just scare me, it bewilders me too. At one time, I would rather have stuck needles in my eyes than sit through a two-hour recital. You see, classical concerts are not for  people like me. They are for people with big foreheads, who have a public school education, ride horses and who don’t think David Cameron is a tosser.

A dodgy and judgemental proposition,  you say? But you have to understand that I was brought up on Elvis and The Beatles and that kids in my school beat you up if you did anything remotely posh.

Consequently, for many years, I admittedly had a working class chip on my shoulders. I have gladly challenged many of my preconceptions about class, and indeed my own position in society. But when it comes to classical music, well like I said, it scares me.

So taking part in the Philharmonic’s  Notes Into Letters project is a brilliant opportunity to challenge my preconceptions, push the boundaries of what is possible in my writing and – well –  to see if concert goers really do have big foreheads.

It all starts with me attending a number of performances  by the Halle Orchestra. Along with other creative writing students, I will then produce a piece of writing that is inspired by my concert experience. The brief is simple: to attend, listen and see what happens. It’s a fabulous opportunity to explore where a different form of stimulus can take my writing.

And perhaps I can also be part of something bigger. The project recognises that for many, attending a classical concert is not something they’d choose to do. Through translating notes into words, it seeks to build a greater understanding of the genre and encourage  participation.

By  translating my own unique encounter, perhaps I can help to make the concert experience more tangible, more accessible to those kids like me. Kids afraid to challenge their own preconceptions and believe that it’s not  just for the posh kids.

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I am a Writer



I have an author photo, I must be a writer.

I did it. I shared my work in public.

And surprisingly, despite the sixty pint-sized people staring at me expectantly, I wasn’t even nervous. It just felt right.

The energy in the room was amazing; these children didn’t care that the book I was reading from wasn’t published.  I was a writer, they trusted me. And thanks to their generous enthusiasm, I learnt to trust myself.

I’d been feeling a little jaded. This term on my MA has been tough. There have been a lot of lows, as time after time, I was forced to look at my work through the eyes of the critic. To face the harsh reality that if I want to see this book  in a bookstore I need to do more.

It is pretty common for writing students to have doubts as they get further into their studies. That greater awareness of how you can improve your work is both a blessing and a curse. You have the technical knowledge to really perfect your writing, but you lose your spontaneity. You lose yourself.

Yesterday, when I shared my work with the children I had written it for, I found myself again. I heard my voice loud and clear. I also heard that this was a voice the children liked. They totally entered my world; a world I had created with words.

I am a writer.




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Time for Spring Break

Yep - this was spring. Got to love the North East coast.

Yep – this was spring. Got to love the North East coast.

Am I lazy? Simon Cowell tells me I am.

Okay, it wasn’t the Simon Cowell. It was the Simon Cowell equivalent in my writing class. Every class or critique group should have one: an individual who just doesn’t hold back. They don’t dress up their criticism, or apologise for the fact they hate your story. They simply tell you how it is.

This honesty is a good thing. If I am going to make it as a writer I need  thick skin. More importantly, I need to surround myself with people who will be honest. People who will challenge me. I never thought I’d say this out loud, but I need Simon Cowell.

And he’s right. I’m lazy.

My writing didn’t need to be torn apart by Simon’s brilliant white gnashers for me to know that I’d taken shortcuts. 

Yes, I’m lazy.

It’s not a sit on my bum and eat pies type of laziness. It’s more of a boredom induced lethargy.  I generally make the most of life and the opportunities that come my way. My glass is definitely half full. But to really thrive, I need variety: new adventures, new challenges, new things to get excited about. Currently I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day; I’m going through the motions.

I’ve spent so much time with my latest writing project, I’m sick of it.   Yes, most days, I’m still sat at my laptop. Yes, I’m still experimenting with my writing. And yes, I’m persistent in my pursuit to make my story stronger.  But nothing changes.

As a result, I can hardly bear to look at my characters anymore.  I still love them. I always will. We’ve been through a lot together and divorce is not an option. But, I need some space. I want to visit new places, meet new people, experience new things. It’s something I have to do.

So au revoir my imaginary friends. I’m going away for a bit – or rather you are. I hope you understand that time apart will make us stronger. Please don’t cry. We’ll get back together, I promise. And then, refreshed, I’ll do away with the lazy and give you the attention you deserve. But for now we must part ways for a while. Into the desk draw you go.

P.S. Pass me your false tan Simon –  it’s time for spring break.   

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