Modesty and Joy

Simple Joy

 

It was the practical low heeled brown boots

that first caught my eye

my glance cast sideways so not to embarrass

the subject of my attention.

Secretly I studied her slender legs

leading up to the hem of a brown floral dress

and the crocheted cuffs of a sensible beige cardigan.

The modesty of attire surprised me.

Authors on their book launch night

are lavish and elegant

coiffured, polished and primed

but not so this lady.

I liked the understated look,

the quiet confidence of a writer

who had no need of a façade.

Her body of writing shining on its own merit

with no false vanity.

I adored this lady before she spoke a word

Davidson, Rowland, b.1942; Lady Reading a Book by Lamplight

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I feel immortal

Yes, I feel immortal… this morning I opened Twitter and there staring back at me was a quotation from an interview I gave a year ago, and underneath was my name Nicola Hulme…  I had to read it twice to make sure it was really me..it also carried the hashtag #wednedsaywisdom

I ask for no more, I am immortal, I have a quote as had Ghandi, Martin Luther King,  Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Gilbert, Oprah Winfrey, CS Lewis, Terry Pratchett…

I feel complete. My job here is done.

How bizarre!

OK so I’m not a superhero, but it just shows that wonderful things do happen and can happen for everyone. It’s something I believe in very strongly.

PS. I my job as writer will never be done, I have opened the gateway, I have let in the light, I will write until I have no more words. It isn’t a job, it’s a passion, perhaps an addiction.

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No, thank-you

It looks like I am such a fibber

or a “half a job,”

someone who can’t keep commitments,

perhaps someone without stamina..

I am of course referring to my promise to publish terrible poetry every day for the month of April, to complete the Napowrimo challenge.

I didn’t fib. Initially, I wanted to take on the challenge, so at the time of publishing that goal, it was true.

It’s also true that I did not do “half a job” but actually did less. I only published two poems. I didn’t keep the commitment, but this doesn’t represent my stamina or character. After consideration, I changed my mind and made a new decision; a new commitment; one that superseded my first intention.

I decided to take April off.

I decided to politely turn down requests for appearances at events, for contributions to written collections, for attendance at groups, meetings, gatherings etc.

I honoured any promises I had previously made for example running the Stockport Writers Session and attending Write Out Loud Poetry night, but I didn’t agree to take on anything new.

I also stopped booking or actively seeking workshops. I gave myself permission to stop, for a whole month.

I actually picked up a book to read for pleasure, not to study technique or research writing styles, but to read for the pure joy in reading.

I feel balanced again. I feel better. I feel my equilibrium has benefitted. I feel my priorities are restored.

I recommend it.  Take May off! Give yourself the gift of saying “no, thank-you” for 31 days and see how healing it is.

I may publish dodgy poetry in future, but for now, and the remaining 6 days of April I won’t.

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Why do I believe in Vision Boards?

First let me explain what a vision board is and does;

A vision board is one of the most simple but effective tools to use to help focus on your goals. It can also be used in conjunction with the Law of Attraction which attracts those things that you love into your life.

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In practical terms it couldn’t be easier, you gather images, photographs, prints or pictures from magazines which make you smile and make you feel happy. You add them to a noticeboard, creating a collage of happiness. It’s completely unique to you and reflects what brings you joy.

Display your board in a place that you can look at daily, ideally morning and night, and you have an instant mood lifter to start your day and a prompt to be grateful for what makes you happy at the end of the day.

If you add images that reflect or represent your goals, it serves as a daily reminder of what you intend to achieve. The visual format has a high impact and keeps the image at the front of your mind so when opportunities arise; you are already in the right state of mind to take advantage of them.

I started my own vision board about 8 years ago, when I read the book “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne.  The book introduced me to The Law of Attraction and how thoughts attract things into your life. The theory is that your thoughts are sent out on a frequency that attracts similar things into your life. You act like a magnet. What you focus on most appears in your life. Your thoughts become things.

The beauty of a vision board is you don’t have to believe in the Law of Attraction, you can use your board in a practical sense to keep your goals fresh in your mind. To organise your thoughts and be clear on what you want in your life. However, if you choose to practice the techniques of the Law of Attraction, you can optimise your board by attracting things into your life a lot quicker, achieve your goals quicker and spot opportunities and be ready to exploit them.

So why do I believe so fervently? 8 years ago I was in a marriage which had long since ran its course.  I felt I was drifting aimlessly through life and even when I achieved goals at work or lost weight and bought the latest fashions, I wasn’t excited about it as I should be. I’d lost my spark, my joy.

After starting my board I began to remember what made me happy. When I saw an image of something I used to love I’d put it on the board. Over time I had a full board of things that made me smile. A board with a few aims, like read more, get into the fresh air more, join a yoga class etc. The more I represented the life I wanted, the more it contrasted with my actual life.  The contrasts became very strong and obvious. I had to make a change.

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The board reminded me of my authentic self. It wasn’t long after that I left my marriage. Happily I can look back and say it was the right decision and what followed next was more than I had dreamed of. I moved house, began a new relationship, had my second child and started a brand new life. My new partner was supportive of my dreams and encouraged me to go after them. I started writing, sent off a manuscript to a publisher and am now the author of a Children’s Picture Book. I visit schools and hold assemblies, I’m invited to National Trust Park events, I’ve even taken part in open mic poetry sessions and led workshops on spell making for Harry Potter days. In the process I’ve met some wonderful people and made some amazing friends. I don’t feel carried along by the tide, my confidence has soared and I take full accountability of everything I do, the good choices and the not so good.

I have no doubt at all that the vision board played a huge role in my transformation. I started with small goals, like a picture of a yoga class, children smiling, holiday pictures. I had images on there saying “I’m a writer” “I am officially published” “meet the author” and I’ve met many over the last year. I put images on there of sunny days on the beach, and walks in the countryside, friends laughing, each time they happen. Is it just that I choose to go out and find them, probably, but I don’t sit in my couch waiting as the world passes by. It works, it works for me. When you know something like that, you just can’t keep it to yourself. I want to shout it from the rooftops, I want to give pins and blu tack to everyone and say stick pictures on a board – only they think I’m a crazy lady when I do, so instead, I run workshops to spread the word. If you live in Cheshire and can make it, come along and find out for yourself. Otherwise Google, research, read The Secret, find a workshop in your town. This is an opportunity right now for you… what are you going to do about it?

My next workshop is at The Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery Saturday 24th March 2-4pm Tickets available through the following Eventbrite link

Workshop booking

or message me via my Facebook Page Nicola Hulme Author

Happy visioning!

 

 

How Portia The Pear Found Her Publisher

A friend I met at a writing workshop, asked me recently, how I became published after writing my book. This is a question I’m asked frequently and if this interests you, put the kettle on, get comfortable and I’ll tell you the story of… Portia The Pear. I have to tell you the whole story, because there is an element of luck, fate, or maybe serendipity to this, or perhaps I was ready and willing when the opportunity arose? I’ll let you decide.

I had rediscovered my passion for writing, and fell in love with the craft all over again. I’d also discovered a new level of proactivity, which I’ll discuss in a future blog. With this new energy, I sought out and found a local writing group, Stockport Writers who meet at The Hatworks once a month. I also joined a local poetry group, Write Out Loud, who meet at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery once a month. With the support and encouragement I found discussing writing with like-minded people, my confidence grew and so did my level of passion for the subject.

With this confidence, and heightened awareness of all things literary, I spotted a postcard on a noticeboard at Bredbury Library. It advertised a writing group which met in Marple, every Thursday night called The Storytellers Place. I went along. I was cramming in as much writing, reading and group work as I could, enjoying every minute.

As any woman knows, you share everything with your hairdresser; it’s the law. At each appointment I was babbling on about the writing groups and how fascinating it was and how I wanted to write bedtime stories for children. It was at this point where the magic started to manifest. At one of my appointments my hairdresser gave me a leaflet from Tatton Park advertising their 100 years celebration of the work of Roald Dahl, saying “I saw this and thought of you”. As part of the events taking place, there was a creative writing workshop to be held, called “How To Write Like Roald Dahl”, run by a lady called Joy Winkler. It went on to describe how Joy was Cheshire’s Poet Laureate in 2015. A poet discussing children’s books, it sounded perfect for my master plan of writing a bedtime story. When I looked into the event in more detail I found it was affordable but would mean I needed to book a day’s holiday from work. Up until this time I had always booked days to be off with my children, covering school holidays. However, I was so intrigued, I book the day off and booked myself onto the course whilst feeling like a naughty school girl playing truant!

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On the day, I drove over to Tatton Park in glorious sunshine, arriving for a 10.30 am start. I then spent the morning with the inspirational Joy Winkler as she taught the techniques for writing for children and exploring how Dahl created his fabulous characters. At lunch time we were sent into the kitchen gardens with the instruction of spending two hours developing characters and writing a story that unfolds in the gardens themselves.

 

The first sight to greet me, as I walked outside was a beautiful row of pear trees trained into perfect lines with the most sumptuous fruit hanging neatly from the branches. I had a closer look and saw each tree had a different “name” and most names were female. A very knobbly pear then caught my eye. It was all scrunched up and had dark freckly skin unlike the rest of the fruit. The shape and twists made it look like a sad face, and I knew immediately that this was my character. I sat quietly and wrote and two hours later read out my story to the group. It was well received and Joy suggested I submit it to a publisher because it had a strong voice. I hope you are paying attention because this is the part that truly is magic.

The very next day, an email popped up telling me that a Children’s Publisher was coming to The Storytellers Place to talk about Independent Book Publishing in the following week. I quickly “Googled” the publisher and found their submission guidelines. I checked that my story was in the format they wanted, a word document. I checked and re-checked it for spelling mistakes and grammar, then drafted a cover email, attached Portia and pressed send. All I had in mind at that point was to ask for some feedback and pointers on what could be improved.

Two gentlemen from Tiny Tree Children’s Book Publishers delivered a presentation to my writing group and nervously I hung behind to speak to them after everyone had left. I then told them I had cheekily submitted my book and asked if they could tell me what they thought. The reply was that they hadn’t read it yet, they had been very busy. “That’s a ‘no’ then” I thought. I went home dejectedly and had a sulky early night.

The very next day, an email popped up this time from the publishers, telling me they loved the book and asking if I could call to the office to discuss it with them. After bouncing around my office like Tigger, I replied and agreed to the meeting.

For what happened next you can read my blog “Feedback and re-writes” dated March 6th 2017 followed by “Validation and Illustration” dated March 13th 2017.

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So what do you think? My hairdresser told me of a writing workshop, where I wrote a story and was encouraged to submit it. A writers group introduced me to a publisher, who said “yes”. Was it luck, serendipity or fate? Or was it the amount of work learning the techniques in the months before, that meant I was ready with an almost finished piece of writing when an opportunity arose? I am unsure. I worked hard and put in long hours, but surely the email arriving the day after writing my story announcing a publisher was coming to me, suggests more powerful forces were in play, doesn’t it?

Fate or luck, one thing is certain, to be published you must have first written. As Joy Winkler emphasises “you must sit and write” and who knows where it will lead you, if you do? A great quote from Stephen King sums this up “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

If anyone has any questions on creative writing, the process of being published or simply what to expect at writing groups, please ask. This is my passion and if I can help in anyway, I’d be glad to do so.

Good luck and happy writing.

magic quote

 

 

I’ve just got back from meeting my publisher…

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I like to say that.

I will take every opportunity to say that.

I do not apologise for being ecstatic that I can say that!

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During a very civilised conversation over a cup of tea at the fabulous Cloudberry Cafe, Marple, my publisher and I

(oops! I did it again) discussed the upcoming marketing strategy for my new book. 

 

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I am so excited I may spontaneously combust – stand well back!

Talking for 2 hours about all things bookish, is an absolute pleasure. 

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Watch this space over the coming weeks for details.

My face is literally aching from smiling so much.  

I will be ordering my own book from Amazon because I can.

I will be ordering my book from Waterstones because I can. 

Ouch! My cheeks hurt.

The Ham Sandwich Incident

I’m human. I confess. Not only did I miss yesterday’s Napowrimo challenge, but as my response will show, when trying to please everyone, I usually get it all wrong!

Please note, unusually for me, there are religious references, but please don’t misinterpret my jest as an intention to offend anyone… if I do, add it to my list of imperfections and please accept my deepest apologies. I merely make light of today’s struggles to keep the faith (particularly mine).

Please could I also ask anyone reading this who knows me personally, please don’t tell my Mother-In-Law I posted this across the entire world wide web, I’m in trouble enough!

Napowrimo Day 20 

The Prompt:

Write a poem that incorporates the vocabulary and imagery of a specific sport or game.

My Response: (with a very loose reference to a card game)

The Ham Sandwich Incident

It was Jack’s 5th birthday

I had everything;

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Bouncy castle, candles,  

balloons, ribbons and bows. 

Birthday cake and presents,  

a great big gazebo.

I had buns for hotdogs,  

pizzas and lots of treats,  

when I was reminded;

no-one will eat meat!

“Today is Good Friday,

everyone eats fish!”

“Your buffet looks lovely

but was fish on your list?”

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Fish finger sandwiches!

Yes, they will surely do.

I pre-heated the oven

and hurriedly set to.

I saw her pick the ham

off the pizza that I served.

Ate fish fingers, hungrily.

Was that a tiny burp?

The party in full swing.

The buffet went down well.

Hotdogs and ham sandwiches

devoured without hard sell.

Mum in law picked her food.

No meat touched her hands.

Eyes darted to the buns,

filled with freshly carved ham.

Yet she was adamant;

It was a day of fish!

Nothing would persuade her

to pass meat across her lips.

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At 5pm I walked in,

her mouth full of ham barm!

She hung her head in shame,

asked; would it do her harm?

“It was only one” she said

“I’m sure you’ll be forgiv’n”

I reassured her more,

that God will surely listen.

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The card game that evening;

she couldn’t win a hand.

She was sure of the cause

“Eating that damned ham!”

She was being punished

for lack of discipline.

Bad juju on her game.

She’d never win again.

As I was the tempter,

I suggested we atone.

Back into the kitchen,

Produced the hot x buns.

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This will surely fix it,

cancel wrong with a right?

She agreed and ate it

with one almighty bite.

I’m glad God in Heaven

was pleased with her once more,

but it was a reminder;

He’s always keeping score.

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“Next”

Anxiety, fear, uncertainty and the biological response, provided the subject matter for today’s poetic exploration. The techniques investigated were assonance and alliteration. 

The Prompt: Napowrimo Challenge, Day 12: 

Today, I’d like you to write a poem that explicitly incorporates alliteration (the use of repeated consonant sounds) and assonance (the use of repeated vowel sounds). This doesn’t mean necessarily limiting yourself to a few consonants or vowels, although it could. Even relatively restrained alliteration and assonance can help tighten a poem, with the sounds reinforcing the sense.

My response:

“Next”

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Waiting, pacing, anticipating.

Heart pitter patters.

Stomach flutters, stutters, churns, churns.

Nerves tingle, tangle, jangle.

Eyes wide.

Face flushed, cheeks blushed.

Tension taut in throat, choke.

Blood pounds round ears.

Teetering tears.

“Next”

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Validation and Illustration

In reply to my resubmitted manuscript, the publisher sent a brief email back, saying “Well done… we’ll go forward with that.”

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It may be the best email I have ever received. I printed it out and shared it with anyone I could find. If I was athletic and if I wasn’t sat in a very busy corporate office at the time, I would have done a lap of honour. As it was, I paced around a lot with a ridiculous grin across my face, pumped with adrenaline. Success!

It’s a strange experience when you receive an acknowledgement that what you have produced is good enough to print.

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It’s a validation that your work is viewed by at least one person as acceptable. The strangeness comes from the unfamiliarity with that approval. When it happens, it doesn’t quite seem real. It’s almost an out of body experience. I’d love to hear from other writers if this is how they felt, or if I’m alone in this!

So back to practicalities: The next step was to secure an illustrator.

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I submitted some samples a good friend of mine had created, and the publisher had requested samples from illustrators they had worked with previously.

After comparing all samples, a choice was made.

I opened an email one day, simply saying “What do you think of this?”  

When I opened the file, I saw my main character staring back at me on screen. Only this was the illustrator’s interpretation of my character, not the image I had been carrying around in my head for months.

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It was like meeting a friend for the very first time, combined with the surprise of opening a Christmas present.

I was thrilled. The colours were bright, the characters friendly and the overall feel fit perfectly with what you would expect from a children’s picture book.

I wanted to show the world, but knew I had to keep it to myself. The publisher had been very clear that they manage the release of information about the book, to maximise the impact of the marketing. So I kept the concept illustration close to me and just peeped at it every hour on the hour for a number of days. I smiled to myself each time. This was really happening.  

The next communication from the Publisher was “We need to talk contracts.”