Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Writers' Forum feature - and an event last night

The December edition of 'Writers' Forum' has just landed on my doormat - and I'm pleased to say it contains the feature I wrote back in the spring, about novelists who start off as short story writers. I found it a really interesting piece of research to do - and many of you helped me by telling me about your own experiences. So if you want to read my findings ... get your copy of the magazine as soon as you see it in the shops! And thanks again of course, to all those who helped with this project.
The various ways we arrive at our destination as published novelists is always one of the topics discussed when I'm part of an author panel at a writing event. I took part in one such event last night at Gants Hill Library, near Ilford - with fellow authors Sue Moorcroft, Jean Fullerton, Juliet Archer and Heidi Rice (in that order in the picture). Believe it or not, the colour co-ordination of our outfits was completely accidental: great minds must think alike, or we were all in purple moods last night!
It was a really nice evening, although sadly the attendance was depleted by absolutely horrible weather. As always, though, 'the show must go on', and I think those who braved the rain and wind to turn up were interested and appreciative. Those of us on the panel always enjoy ourselves, and for me it was a great opportunity to meet, and chat with, those of the group who I'd only known by name before.
In between my writing projects at the moment, I'm spending a bit of time going through the hundreds of photos that Himself and I took on our trip to China. I'm trying to make a photo-book from the best pictures, and as you can probably imagine it's quite a lengthy job, editing, choosing, deleting, arranging - but it's enjoyable too, especially as it's helping to keep the memories sharp in the ageing brain! I haven't forgotten that I promised to post some more about China on the blog, and I'll be doing that, together with a few more pics, when I've finally finished going through them all.
But for now - back to editing a new short story for People's Friend - the editor likes this one and just wanted a small change made to the ending, so fingers crossed it's a happy ending for me too!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

China ... and life in general!

SO! Here we are, back from a very special holiday, planned to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. Well, it had to be special, didn't it - I think we both deserved a bit of a treat for putting up with each other for all these years! The destination was China. I don't quite know how that happened. I'd professed an interest in Canada, and when Himself came back from the travel agent with China brochures I presumed he'd suffered some momentary dyslexia or bad eyesight.
'I've always fancied China,' he explained with a pleading look.

Me? I hadn't, particularly. But then I started looking at those brochures, and I was hooked. So much to see, so many different and exciting places. We swiftly booked a 3-week tour, which we both agreed was great value for money as it included 4 internal flights, two river cruises, all 4-star hotels, 3 meals every day and all admissions to the sights and attractions. We'd never have been able to afford it if we'd done the trip independently.
OK, so I don't like flying (I get horribly air-sick unless I take drugs that make me even dozier than usual), but I just have to get on with it, otherwise we'd never go anywhere. And we'd never done a tour-group type of holiday before (apart from a week on the Nile, which we loved so much we did it twice!) - and we weren't sure whether we'd actually like it. Also I was a little bit worried about what I'd eat and the effects on my digestion (I'm a vegetarian and I - correctly, as it happens! - imagined three weeks on a diet of rice and vegetables). But nothing ventured, nothing gained! (Oh, and I lost half a stone so it wasn't all bad!)

Well, the result was an amazing holiday - and yes, the sights were spectacular. Everyone's asking us what were our favourite places, and it's so hard to choose. I think I particularly enjoyed the scenery on the Li River - very atmospheric, especially as it was misty. The Terracotta Warriors were an awe-inspiring sight. And I just loved seeing the baby pandas at the panda breeding centre. Oh, and the Great Wall, of course!

Our group of 28 people - mostly (ahem) round about our own age-group - were great company. The group was about two-thirds Aussies, one New Zealander and the rest Brits. But I must admit, although a tour is definitely the only way to do a trip like this, it's not the sort of holiday I'd want to do every year. It was a very busy tour, moving on from place to place with a lot of long journeys by coach as well as the flights - and I suppose I missed not having any time to ourselves.

Also, (and obviously), everywhere in China is very crowded!! - the traffic in Beijing, for instance, is the busiest we've ever seen, anywhere in the world. Makes the M25 look like a country lane! And the crowds in Shanghai, especially when they all have their umbrellas up, are actually quite frightening! It was definitely one of the most interesting countries we've visited, but the one I'd least like to live in!! I'd never have the courage to cross a road, for a start! But everywhere was spotlessly clean, with no graffiti or litter to be seen. In fact our tour guide was astonished when we asked about graffiti - we had to explain what it was.

Unfortunately, about 25 of the 28 of us fell victim to a virus that swept through the group like wildfire, affecting some worse than others - and leaving us all with a hacking cough. It didn't spoil the holiday for us: I only felt ill for one day but because I'm asthmatic the cough has really taken a hold - especially as the pollution in China is bad for asthma anyway. Himself didn't go down with the virus till the last day - he rarely gets ill so naturally he thinks it's the end of the world that he's still got a cough, but I think he'll survive!

I'd definitely recommend the trip, and the company we went with (Wendy Wu). It was a very different way of celebrating a special occasion - and we took full advantage by upgrading our cabin on the Yangtse River cruise, as we were on the river for both our anniversary and my birthday! We were treated to cards from all of our 'gang', and a cake, which provided a welcome addition to the rice & veg! (Seriously, the food was actually very good, and it wasn't till the third week that I began to fantasise about cheese sandwiches!).

Sadly, we came home to a horrible shock ... our middle daughter had been admitted to hospital while we were away, and has since been recovering from major surgery. I fully understand why the other daughters didn't tell us: I'd have tried to get a flight straight home. But the upset of this kind-of wiped out all thoughts of the holiday for a while, as you can imagine. I'm only now, two weeks after our return, looking through my photos and remembering it all. Pleased to report she is on the mend, although it's been a horrible time for her and her little family - especially for little Noah who at only 13 months has had to cope with mummy being away in hospital, and since then not being able to pick him up. Luckily his daddy is a great dad, and I know his two aunties did lots to help too, while we were away.

Writing has taken a back seat, needless to say ... but there isn't much to report, apart from the fact that the editor of 'Yours' was frantically trying to get in touch with me while I was away, to accept a Christmas story - which I'm really pleased about as it was a favourite of mine. Meanwhile still waiting to hear back from an agent who requested the whole of my new novel some months back ... trying not to think too much about that.

Tonight we're getting together with our group of close friends - two of whom have also done a tour of China so we'll have a lot to discuss and compare! And tomorrow we're having a quiet lunch in a local pub-restaurant with the immediate family as a delayed Ruby anniversary celebration. We're so lucky to have such a lovely family - they're more important to me than anything in the world. We don't tend to come out and say it. But we all know it's true!