Thursday, 31 October 2013

Book 4 - Nanowrimo

Tomorrow, one of my favourite months of the year begins.

November.  Or, as it's more aptly known, "Nanowrimo month".  That is, for the uneducated, "National Novel Writing Month".

I first took part in 2006.  I'd just graduated university and had just started my first "grown up" job at the DVLA.  A job I knew, within about 3 days, was clearly not going to be my "forever job".

I can't really remember how I first stumbled across the idea for Nanowrimo.  I can only imagine that it was mentioned on a blog, or on LiveJournal.  But straightaway, I knew that is was something I'd want to do.  Something I could be good at.  And something creative (there was a supreme lack of creativity in my existence in those few years - things like neurochemistry, the biology of the eye and vehicle taxation do not lend themselves to creative endeavour)

So, that first year, I plucked a vague idea out of nowhere and went with it.  And so wrote 'The Marbles Of Flamaingo'.  Let's just say that I had an original idea that was quite good, but then zero idea of how the plot should develop.  But I blabbed on for 50,000 words to claim my first Winner!status.  I've barely looked at what I wrote since the day I finished the 50k.

Now, 50k is a LOT of words.  It really is.  It's about the length of 'Catcher In The Rye' or 'Brave New World'.  Strictly speaking, more a novella than a full-length novel.  But a book nonetheless.

I then skipped out on Nano for a few years.  I made vague attempts in 2007 and 2008, but couldn't get it to happen.  Then didn't try at all until 2011.

That year I got an outline idea of a book from dad.  It was a fun idea in the sci-fi genre - a genre I like to write in, but not read personally.  Because I had the basis of a plot, it took the bulk of the idea generation away.  And so was, in it's own way, a nice step-up back into the world of Nanowrimo.

I ended up winning Nano again with the novel I named 'Chain Of Command', but after the 50k were done, I didn't really know what to do with it next.  There were some good bits there, but not enough to make me do more.

In 2012 I did it again with my own idea and wrote 'Ten Steps Behind' (later renamed to 'The Drugs I Choose', but I still really think of it as T.S.B).  I had another easy win (I think I was done by the 18th of November) and it was the one I enjoyed most so far.  As the story unfolded, I knew exactly what I was doing with it, and, for the first time ever, was able to write "The End' at 51k.  The first time I'd managed to produce a whole story arc.

At the end I knew what edits I'd like to do and even decided on a new direction for the story.  But I've never gotten around to it.  It's the first one I've written that I think has scope to continue into something more, should I ever be so inclined to do so.  I'm really quite proud of that book.

This year I'm writing 'River Road Hotel', which is roughly about people smuggling and illegal migrant workers.  Basically a modern day slave trade. 
This will be my first "real world" book.  My previous 3 being based in mostly sci-fi/futuristic worlds.  To be writing about something that could be happening today is a new one for me.

People have asked me "why do you do it?"  Or "what's the point?"
To which I don't really have an answer for either.  For the first question, my answer is usually something like "because it's fun and it's a challenge."  For the second, it's usually just "fun".  But there is So Much More To It Than That.  I do think that until you commit to Nano'ing yourself, people just don't understand how fulfilling it is.  It is impossible to put into words.  Indescribable.

I'd have to rely on people far more eloquent than me to explain it.  All I can do is say that you marinate in a sea of creativity for a month.  People who enjoy creative pursuits will understand how much fun it is to be creative.  Well, in Nano month, you just get to bathe in that sea of fun for a solid month.  It's really quite incredible. 

People always put a barrier up when Nano is suggested to them.  But honestly, if you enjoy creative writing, then try it.  Because at the moment You Are Missing Out.  Believe me, it will really be one of the best things you ever do.

As someone cleverer than me said - "... I remember how swept away I felt when I was writing it..."

And if that isn't enough to get you to at least try...  Well, just go away.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Just so sleeeeepy!

Saturday day time, I think I was the most tired person in the world.  I went out for lunch with Hazel and Brian (a little new job celebration), and when I got home, the tiredness hit.  Then I went to bed as soon as I thought it was okay to do so.  ie: 8:30.

I'm finding the past few days that I'm okay in the morning, but in the afternoon, an absurd tiredness takes over.

Possible reasons -
An 8 week long term is hard work.
I've had a bug.  I had a cold which didn't amount to much, and currently have conjunctivitis.
Or my body is just going "aaaaaaaannnnnd.  DONE."  After a short period of not insignificant stress with regard to the process of getting the next job.  I think that perhaps we react in strange ways to a sudden and dramatic lifting of a stress point.

In other news - I got myself a new mobile phone, courtesy of Brian for my birthday.  It's a Sony Xperia M.  It's quite fancy-pants and does all sorts of tremendously complex and clever things that I'll probably never need.  I'm just waiting for a case for it to arrive from Amazon in the next few days, as I'm reluctant to take it out in its naked form.  All that delicate glass is just asking to get broken otherwise.

Tomorrow, weather-dependent, I have an exciting outing planned...  To IKEA!  For some reason, I didn't know there was one in Milton Keynes until very recently.  And I am in the market for some sort of side-table type thing.  Wildness in me knows no bounds.

And on Wednesday, much excitement!  Adele and I are off on our annual jaunt to Ragdale Hall for some day spa action!  I seriously can not wait for that back massage. :D  And that's just reminded me that I need to go and dig out my swimsuit...  I sort of know where it is...

That is all.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Time Has Come...

Well, as some of you might have known, I have officially come to the end of my contract at SF School.  And I was sad.

I must say that it took me a bit longer than usual to settle in.  I was with a year group that I was a little out of practise with, who had some moderately serious behavioural issues due to staffing changes and a not-strict-enough student teacher for a term.  Also, I was in a town that I didn't know AT ALL.  I'd never been to this town in my entire life and it felt strange.

Anyway, I did settle and got the class whipped into shape.  Mostly thanks to a lovely website called DojoClass, which worked wonders with their behaviour.  Oh, and bribery.  By July, they became one of my favourite classes I'd ever had.  Most other members of staff who came into contact with them didn't have a single positive thing to say about them.  But I liked them.  I really did.

At the end of July, I went in to see the Head who said that parents sung my praises and that I'd done really well with the class.  Hello there, ego massage.  They were a job well done.

And now, after 3 interviews (my best success rate yet), I've been offered a post to teach Year 1 again at UM School, just 10 minutes drive from home.  It's not a school I know, but my Head at SF says it's a lovely school.

When the Head from UM called, she said how fantastic I'd been with the children during my observed lesson.  And when I fed this back to a member of senior management at SF, who I don't know all that well, she took hold of my arm and rather thoughtfully said, "Yes, I've heard that about you."

Well, let me tell you.  Right at that moment, I wished I had a direct line to the (now ex) Head at a previous previous previous school.  A person who ripped my confidence to shreds and left me with issues and doubts that I am still dealing with some 3/4 years later.  I just wanted to wave this conversation under her nose and say, "You know what?  FUCK YOU."  Those of you who know me well, will know that I'm not really an angry person, but she still makes my blood boil.  And the fact that she still angers me after all this time, just makes me angrier still.

What has happened over the past few days has just provided more evidence to the fact that she was wrong.

For what it's worth, karma got her recently.  And man, it was one of the sweetest moments of my life.  You really do get what you give.  Maybe not straight away, but it'll come.

It'll come.

Anyway, I'm feeling good right now. :)

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Summer Project Review - Part 2

The wooden cupboard -

When I moved into my house in Newbury, the bedroom had some furniture left by a previous tenant.  There was this cupboard, a sort-off dressing table with mirror, and a wardrobe straight out of Narnia.

Being a little short of furniture, I adopted it, but it's all solid wood and heavy as...  So when I came to move away from Newbury I decided to take only the wooden cupboard, as the most practical and the only thing I thought we had any chance of moving without significant trauma.

(As an aside, when my landlord came to inspect the property as I moved out, with the furniture already gone, he asked about the bedroom furniture.  I said that the wooden cupboard hadn't been there when I'd moved in...  And glossed over the fact that it was, by now, safely stored in the parentals house in Shropshire. 
I completely bluffed over the obvious grooves in the carpet where the cupboard had quite obviously stood until fairly recently, and I fixed Mr landlord with my most polite and innocent smile.
I also failed to mention that the front of the oven was no longer attached to the oven, but balanced against the wall above it.  The landlord didn't spot it, and I didn't mention it.  The thing fell apart in my hands, honest gov.  What a shit-heap that house was.)

Anyway...  In Newbury it held mostly clothes.  But when I left Newb, I had a massive clothing purge and now had empty space.  In the move to Northampton it ended up holding a motley assortment of things.  My satnav, Christmas things, birthday cards, fancy dress stuff, amongst others.

During the summer, I purged the contents -
1:  I sorted out my extensive birthday/other occasion cards collection.  They are now sorted into 2 boxes.  "Birthday" and "Other".
2:  Fancy dress stuff is bagged up tight, along with Christmas stuff.
3:  Everything else in there now has its place.

The other plastic drawer unit -

It was purchased when I moved in, due to the need for more storage.  It's the ugliest thing, and my long term plan is to replace it with something better looking.  Probably a wooden drawer unit of some sort.  It mostly holds school stuff, cables for electronic things and all those little odds and sods that aren't kitchen things.  There's a lot of stationery stuff in there as well, as well as printer paper and my laminator.

During the summer I purged the stationery considerably.  Every pen was tested and judged on how easily it could be replaced/stolen from work, should I need another of its type.  I also came to the conclusion that I no longer needed 100 colouring pencils of assorted lengths and quality.

The current project -

For a while I had been internally debating this.

Getting rid of my DVD boxes and storing the discs elsewhere.

I'd seen pictures of other peoples systems of storage, and it appealed.
You see, my DVD collection was completely dominating an entire wall in my living room, as well as a small wooden bookcase that could be much more usefully used to store home office supplies.

So now, all my discs are in 2 storage boxes underneath the TV.  Neat, tidy and categorised into the following categories:

And the system has plenty of room to grow.  All the discs are kept in individual plastic wallets.  Discs of special features and the like have been moved to a carry case I already owned and used at university.

The only DVDs that are still in their boxes are my "24" boxsets, "Game Of Thrones", and the family home movie DVDs.
The rest of the DVD cases are currently cluttering up the second bedroom.  I've made a decision to keep them until Christmas, in case I have a change of heart about the system.  If I don't, I shall begin the process of throwing them out/recycling them.  Unless someone has a desire to take 200 DVD cases off my hands.
I'm rather pleased with the outcome!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Summer Project Review - Part One

This past summer holidays, I made it my mission to "sort out" my second bedroom.  Because the people who built these flats decided that "people don't need or want any cupboards outside of the kitchen" (not true), there is zero storage, apart from a very small coat cupboard.  Which is only big enough for storing coats and a hoover on the floor.

As a result, the 2nd bedroom became a dumping ground.  Because, like every household that's established for long enough (5 years now in my case), you accumulate "stuff".  Things like wrapping paper, Christmas decorations, sellotape, printer paper, mugs, envelopes.  All things that you need at certain points through the year, but all of which take up space and require storing.

And of course, my line of work comes with its own clutter.  Those puppets you use for circle times, those resources you spent time and £'s to produce can't be thrown away, those costumes you wear for World Book Day, those teacher manuals and children's books.  All have value and have to live "somewhere".  Not to mention all the day-to-day stuff that you carry to and from school every single day.  All that stuff takes up room.

So...  The summer holidays was going to be the summer of "sorting".

First I started with a 6-drawer unit that mostly held art resources and scrapbooking stuff.  I was big into scrapbooking 5/6 years ago.  But for a long time I didn't have anywhere to store it, and so got out of the habit.
Then when I did have room to store it, I thought "hurrah!  I'll use it!"  Then it sat, basically untouched for 2 years...  So I went through all the drawers and sorted everything into 3 piles:

1:  Things From The Past - Old birthday/Christmas/thank you cards with meaningful messages, old notebooks, things from secondary school eras.  Not things I particularly love, per-se, but things that tell a story from the past.  I'd feel like I was throwing away a piece of history if I got rid of these things.

2:  Things That Are Crap - Part-used sticker sheets, dried up pens, empty & unattractive notebooks, ugly things in general.  These all went into a bin bag to join the great landfill in the sky.

3:  Things That Someone Could Love - I filled a large supermarket fruit box with arts & crafts supplies.  Then donated the entire box to Adele's younger sister Louise, who loves all that sort of thing.  About 3 weeks later she gave me a sweet hand-made thank you card.
So, OUT:  A whole box of stuff I didn't want.
      IN:  One thank you card.

Already my burden on the floorboards is lighter.

Those 5 empty drawers are now used for excess food storage.
You see, when it comes to food, I have my hardcore favourites.  And not always the most expected of things.  Possibly one of my most favourite foods is a tinned chicken curry from Tesco.  It sounds many shades of awful, but is possibly one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten.  And now I have it at least once a week.  Sometimes more.  It takes 10 minutes to prepare (most of that is rice cooking time), so I eat it usually on a Thursday when I don't get home until nearly 7pm.  It's the ultimate in ease and tastiness.
But then I worry!  What if Tesco stop making it?!  My delicious and easy tea will be goooooone!
So now, quite often, when I eat one, next time I go to Tesco, I'll buy 2 to replace it.  Or if it comes up on special offer, I might buy 5 or 6.

So now, a whole drawer of this unit is devoted to tinned curry.  ;)

Another drawer has toilet paper in it (it was on special offer).  I have my favourite brand (Andrex Quilted if you're interested!  You're not, I know), so when I know I need more in the next month, I watch out for it being on offer.

Another 2 small drawers have Quavers in.  I love Quavers, have done for many a year.  I have flirtations with other brands, like Monster Munch, Walkers Hoops & Crosses, or Wotsits, but it's always Quavers I come back to.
Things like Quavers are MUCH cheaper to buy in bulk and have a decent shelf-life.  So when they are on offer, I stock up.  But those 40 bags of crisps have to live somewhere...  So now they have a home in a drawer unit.

Another drawer is mostly empty.  It only contains (I just went to look), 2 boxes of boil in the bag rice, and (randomly) some beef gravy granules.

And so, a drawer unit, filled with stuff I neither needed, nor wanted, is serving a useful purpose again.

This is such a nerdy post...

Join me tomorrow for part 2!  The Wooden Cupboard and the Other Plastic Drawer Unit.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

And so she emerges...

I'm alive!

Having been missing for the entire month of September, I'm back! 
My excuses are that September is notoriously busy for me.  It's "back to school", which comes with its own challenges and keeps me busy.  But as I settle into the routine again, I start to come out the other side once I'm in October.

Normally, weekends are my blogging time, but the past 3 weekends have been very busy with various significant commitments.  First up was my cousin Diane's wedding to Shane in Aberystwyth, Wales.  Now, Aberystwyth is a long way.  It's pretty much as far west as you can go on the mainland UK, without falling into the sea.  It would be a 4-hour drive, and not a very easy one.  Not so bad when still in England, but in Wales, they "don't do motorways", thus making a long and slow journey.

On the day itself, it rained, blew and was downright cold at times.  Only really cheering up when the wedding was drawing to a close.  Such is life.

After many long and boring hours on a train, I got home at midnight on Sunday.

The next weekend, I spent the best part of my Saturday at an open day at school.  Our attendance was expected.  I spent 3 hours with that stupid fixed smile that you have to give people when you want to create a good impression.  It was mind-numbing.  Then the visitors just Would Not Leave.  Even as I "tided up" around them, they continued their social chats.  In the end, I had to announce, in my best teacher voice, "so who's going to help me tidy everything away for home time?"  Give me strength.

Weekend 3 was my birthday weekend!  But it was mostly over-shadowed by my marathon walk for Shine!  I have raised £357 I think, which I'm pleased with.  Thank you to everyone who contributed!  It was a great atmosphere on the night!  Everyone was chatting and friendly, and there were LOADS of us! 
I did fine until mile 14, but from then on it was pure stubbornness.  My feet hurt, my upper legs felt strange, I felt light-headed and kind of queasy.  But I soldiered on!  Finishing shortly after 7am I think.  NEVER AGAIN!
I'd do the half-marathon again, no probs, but not the full 26.2.  So if anyone wants to do the half with me in the future, let me know!  It's a fab atmosphere and the bragging rights are good. :)

I will say though, it's taken me a while to recover.  I had 2 epic blisters on the backs of my heels, but they weren't really painful.  Monday my legs and knees were very stiff and sore, but I was fine by Wednesday.  What has taken longer to recover from was just the absolute and total draining of my resources.  I felt really quite weak and blah for quite a while.  And it was only really Thursday before I felt relatively "back to normal".  And this was on top of carb-loading, which I did for the whole week prior to the event.  I hate to think how I'd have been without that energy store on-board.

That night, after a bit of sleep, Hazel, Brian, Adele and Ed took me out for birthday tea at TGI Fridays.  I had a fajita and it was exactly what I needed!  I got sung to by the wait staff and got a balloon hat.  It was a good night. :D

What else have I done...?

Oh.  Tuesday I was off on strike.  Mostly because Michael Gove, the education secretary, is a massive shit.  The way I see it, if you don't strike, you've got absolutely no leg to stand on with regard to moaning about anything in the future.  You had your chance to register a protest and you didn't take it?  Well shut the hell up.

On Thursday I went to Birmingham to see 'Jesus Christ Superstar'.  I've never driven in Birmingham before, so to drive through the city centre at rush hour was a slightly nerve-wracking experience!  Driving home was worse!  Mostly because I am a bad night-time driver.  I don't think my night-vision is up to much, and it's definitely worse than it was a few years ago.  And then I spent an hour crawling along the M6 because of roadwork-related lane closures.  Eventually got home at 1am, when I should have been home at about 11:30pm.  Sucks.
That being said, it was a fantastic show!  I mostly went in order to see Tim Minchin, who I slightly adore, playing Judas.  And he was kick-ass brilliant.  As was the whole show really!

Umm...  I think that's it!