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 After consideration, I changed my mind and made a new decision; a new commitment; one that superseded my first intention.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.

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Frazzled – the battle with adrenaline

I’ve been so far out of my comfort zone for so long, I’m not sure I know my way back.

In the last 6 months, I’ve been drawn away from the pleasure of writing, to be called upon for public speaking events. Moving away from the private relationship between writer and page into a pubic life of presenting the published book to unknown audiences. It’s uncomfortable. It sounds ungrateful, and sulky, but for those of you, who long for the label of published, let me give you an insight into what is then expected of you.

The book launch itself was a huge party. Surrounded by friends and family I was supported throughout the whole event and I loved every minute. A lot of hard work studying the craft had paid off, and seeing my name of the front cover of a picture book was a dream come true.

Beyond that, I was asked to travel to the other side of the country to read in a major bookshop in Essex, during the town’s first birthday celebrations. Packed with families with expectant faces, I read my book whilst learning to juggle the page turns and display the fabulous illustrations. It is a children’s picture book after all. From the gesticulating and arm waving of the publisher, at the back of the room, I was encouraged to project my voice more. After 5 hours storytelling, my voice had all but disappeared.

This was the beginning of experiencing the adrenaline roller coaster; the sleepless nights and anxiety before an appearance, the peak and blind spots during the performance and the crash that surely follows once safely home.

The intensity of focus whilst presenting creates a muffled bubble around me. I can’t process information or hear clearly when blood is pounding at a rate of knots in my ears. This leaves me unaware of how the reading actually went. Of course there is the immediate feedback given by those who invited you to attend, but is the praise genuine? I can’t tell.

Quickly after, library invitations were received. Smaller groups of families gathered, waiting to hear a story read to the children. It should have been more relaxed, but all eyes are focused on you, listening to every word – that’s the point obviously – the adrenaline returned.

A book festival held in Cumbria, on a freezing winter’s day saw a 10 hour day travelling, reading, engaging children in creating their own stories, hand shakes with a councillor and journalists. Thankfully, there was an unexpected perk on this trip. A child came over to me and asked if it was okay to give me a hug. “Of course,” I replied, “they are my favourite things”… a line of children formed, each and every one hugging me on their way out of the school library. I’ll never forget that memory. I didn’t need any feedback from adults that day. I floated back to Cheshire.

Carried along on the high, I felt immortal! I decided to take a further leap into the unknown and did something I’d wanted to do for years. I booked a Vision Board Workshop. I booked, planned and presented a 2 hour workshop to teach how to create and use a vision board to focus on your goals and move towards achieving them. 2 hours later, I was losing my voice yet again.

Why would I willingly book the workshop you may ask, if I’m uncomfortable in a public arena? After months of being pushed into the spotlight to promote my book, I wanted to use the experience I had gained for to achieve a personal goal. I believe so firmly in the power of vision boards, it was a message I wanted to share, and as a result I had great fun with the ladies who attended. So much so that the venue manager invited me to attend another public event there; Harry Potter Day.

One tweet about the day said “If you mention the word Harry Potter, you’d better book Wembley Arena”. The crowds who poured into the Art Gallery that day were queued around the building for hours in icy winds and snow. The buzz attracted the BBC film crew. Every child dressed in full Hogwarts attire. After teaching spell writing to 640 children. I ached from head to foot. An occupational therapist friend of mine explained, bending down to speak to a child at their level was the equivalent of “squatting”. I had performed a thousand squats that day and my thighs screamed their resentment to me.

In the last week, I’ve battled the Beast from the East on World Book Day, to get books and equipment to a local school, in time to hold two school assemblies, followed by over seventy book signings engaging each child individually in the process. This time the pain was felt in my swollen hand, signing so many books. I shan’t complain!

As I write, an email has popped up asking how I can be booked for another school event. I shall reply enthusiastically. No matter how uncomfortable, no matter how physically and mentally challenged, no matter how the adrenaline messes with my mind, the children are the stars. One smile from a child is enough reward. The sea of hands thrust into the air eager to answer questions and join in the story making, is enough.

I have indulged here in a whine, wallowing in the hardships of public speaking, but I’ve vented, I feel better. Thank-you for listening, and if you do chase the dream of the label “published,” well, you’ve been informed of all it involves; aching feet, stiff back, hoarse voice and all. Now close this blog, ignore all I’ve said and go after that dream. I wish you every success x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fireside Tales and Folklore

Yesterday, I spent the day in heaven. I was surrounded by nature. I was in the company of creative writers with a passion for the written word. I was  taught by a master of the craft.

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Joy Winkler, the former Cheshire Poet Laureate, ran a masterclass in re-writing myths and legends with a modern twist, from the grounds of a beautiful National Trust Park. 

 

From the minute I entered the gates of Tatton Park, I was inspired. The tree-lined driveway leads past reindeer, quietly grazing in the morning haze. It continues on to the impressive architecture of the old hall, then on through farmland. I actually stopped the car on the drive to have a “moment” with an adult deer, which stopped eating, looked up and made eye contact, gently tipping his head to one side as he did. By the time I got to the car park, I was peaceful, relaxed and ready for a day’s writing.

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To add to my bliss, there is a very short walk through a tree canopied pathway, which is one of my favourite spots in the park.

As I turned onto the path, I was greeted by crowds of golden daffodils, with heads swaying in the breeze.

blog112.jpgPink and white blossom trees shed their petals as the wind rocked their branches. They fell like wedding confetti as I walked by.

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Turning in to the stable courtyard, deep purples and violets burst from the filled planters, vibrant crimson crept up the exterior walls of the kitchen gardens.

What a welcome.

Reluctant to leave the fresh air and sunshine but excited to join the writers; I entered the classroom, which for today was a converted barn. A few people had arrived. There was a lovely atmosphere as everyone greeted each other and settled themselves down with cups of tea and coffee. Joy is a wonderfully personable lady, who has the comforting presence of an old friend, from the first moment you meet her.

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She began her lesson in re-writing old myths and legends. She introduced the topic of our own family stories which had been handed down the generations, told and re-told perhaps by the fireside, perhaps as bedtime stories. Changing the time period, slowing the pace, embellishing with detailed descriptions were techniques discussed.

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Following a writing exercise the group read out their work. I always enjoy hearing how others have interpreted the prompt. Their personalities are revealed by glimpses of their passions and fears, it’s fascinating to hear and observe.

I very quickly realised I was in the midst of very accomplished writers, people who loved their craft and were passionate lovers of literacy. I learnt more than expected from the lively conversation as we shared our experiences and knowledge. It was a dream to spend the day with book lovers and creative minds.

After lunch, a walk around the gardens, more writing, readings, and discussions, the day came to a close. Everyone was reluctant to leave. It was a perfect day, in the most wonderful surroundings, with the best company.

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I’m very grateful to have been part of the magic and will treasure the memory – perhaps I may tell the tale to my children and grandchildren in years to come… with an added elf, monster, wizard and princess, of course.

May the ink never dry

The day came to sign the contract. The publishers treated me to a fabulous lunch. We had an excellent discussion on all aspects of writing, publishing, readers, and distribution before papers were signed and photographs taken.

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Onlookers from neighbouring tables stopped to see who the celebrity was.

 

 

 

 

 

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Elated I published my news on Facebook and amidst the warm wishes of friends and family, tried to let what had just happened sink in.

So what then?

Then, I waited.

 

Soon after, I received an email with sketches of the artwork which the illustrator had submitted. The thrill was intense. I studied each pencil line. As I turned through the pages, I saw my story come to life. I was introduced to the main characters. I marvelled at the detail.

TV personality Sarah Heaney Reads to kids in Edinbugh

 

I saw my story through the eyes of a child, wondrous and excited. I wanted to know what was on the next page.

What a gift.

 

And then…. I waited.

I’ve learnt you need patience, a lot of patience. Work is happening behind the scenes and the writer needs to sit back and wait to be called upon.

I’m still waiting.

As I’ve said on a previous blog, I’m not one to sit around idle, so whilst I wait;

Too busy to stop

  • I attend Stockport Writers, a local writers group
  • I attend Write Out Loud, a local poetry group
  • I’ve written two more children’s picture book stories
  • I’ve attended a workshop on how to write about conflict
  • This week I am at a workshop about re-writing traditional myths in a modern and contemporary way
  • I continue to write the morning pages, again, as discussed in a previous blog
  • As April approaches, so does the poetry challenge of Napowrimo; a poem per day for each day of April

That should keep my mind busy, and if it doesn’t, I can always blog!

Burnout Schmurnout – let’s do this!

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The Balboa Steps

It was March 2016. As I drove through the bland town centre, my eye was caught by a big, bright, blousey banner, which was strung across the steps of the Art Gallery. It read  “…free poetry writing workshop…” and so I found myself one Saturday morning stood at the bottom of the Art Gallery’s imposing steps looking up.

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My legs shook, doubt screamed, my nerve faltered. I ran up a few steps, I walked down a few steps. In a rush of courage I ran like Rocky to the top and thrust myself through the door, so fear couldn’t catch me and make me turn back.

I was directed up a highly ornate and elaborate winding stone staircase, that opened up into vaulted ceilings. Through a heavy oak door, a long room filled with framed works of art faced me. At one end of the room, a few tables and chairs had been arranged. Two ladies were unpacking stationery onto the table as I nervously approached.

I will never forget the warm smile and twinkling eyes of Linda, who greeted me and guided me to take a seat. Something in her manner, her words and her gentleness made me feel welcomed and safe.

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I will never forget the amusement I found in watching more attendees arrive and unpack their poetry journals. Each book or pad that was produced was a little smaller than the preceding one. The last gentleman arrived with the smallest notepad, the stubbiest pencil and with the thickest rimmed glasses. 

I looked at my A4 pad. I need large paper, I’m a scrawler. My thoughts come thick and fast and I scrawl at speed to keep up with them. I remember how terrified I was. I hadn’t written poetry since school. Would I be able to write a single word today? Maybe I needed a smaller pad?

A year has now passed and I can happily say, I’m still attending a monthly poetry group in that same high vaulted gallery, only now I describe it as impressive, not oppressive. My poetry is still weaker than my prose, but I’m happy to learn at a steady pace. I’m hoping poetry will help improve my descriptive writing, only time will tell. In the meantime, I admit I’m no Shakespeare or Keats, but here’s a poem I wrote about my “Rocky” experience, which was delivered to Stockport’s Creative Sector Meeting last autumn.

The Steps

By Nicola Hulme

I stood at the bottom and looked up,

Willing my legs to move.

My dream was waiting, at the top of the steps,

There, the doorway to long lost love.

 

All I needed to do was walk up there.

Open the door and take a step in.

But my feet were glued to the pavement.

A cold sweat ran down my skin.

 

I gave myself a shaking.

“Come on girl, you’re almost there!”

I ran up five steps in a hurry,

Then paused, once again, on the stair.

 

“What am I doing?” The voice said

“Who do you think you are?”

“Are you clever enough to join them?”

“Quick! Get back into the car.”

 

I moved a painful step lower,

As doubt and fear crept in.

I could simply turn and leave now,

But I wanted so badly to go in.

 

A fiery burst of courage

Stopped the retreat in its tracks.

I ran all the way up to the top of the steps,

Never to ever look back.

 

What dream lay at the top of those stairs?

One of poetry, creativity and fun.

In a beautiful art gallery setting.

I am one of the lucky ones.

 

To be able to meet here monthly,

To read and discuss our lines.

To share our ideas and creations,

Amongst those of a similar mind.

 

If you ever want to experience

Laughter, passion, and sadness to boot.

Then do climb those stairs and join us

Our precious & priceless poetry group.