Rejections and Party Preparations

Can you tell what it is yet?

Can you tell what it is yet?

I think my brain might just explode. Everyone take cover!

I always overthink things – it’s a major flaw and one I’ve battled with all my life. Mostly these days I deal with it by being so tired I can’t think. Besides, ignoring the cleaning and laundry and reading or writing a book instead doesn’t take much thought!

But once I enter into party-prep mode, my brain goes on overdrive. It’s as if it says, “Ooh, planning, I recognise this! This is what you did to earn a living. Hurrah, I’m needed. Think. Think. Think!”

So I wake at two in the morning, planning how I’ll make and decorate the piñata, and how I’ll keep it a secret from the kids. I plan how to make superhero cuffs to the nth degree. I stress over how to make a Ninjago cake, and what to do when the icing turns out germoline pink rather than lego red.

Not exactly things worth stressing over. Definitely Middle Class problems: especially in a world of refugees and politics and homelessness.

7 pairs of cuffs ready to go

7 pairs of cuffs ready to go

Which means then I feel guilt for my triviality. For rushing home to mow the lawn after dropping the children at school, rather than rushing to work to do something important and serious.

Except I worked in marketing. In car insurance. Not exactly earth shattering: hardly making the world a better place.

Perhaps planning just the right Jungle Scramble obstacle course, or Superhero Musical Statues, or Spiderman piñata is actually making the world a brighter place.

Who knows?

At least I’m being brought to earth by my ‘day job’ such as it is. My first rejection arrived this week. A lovely ‘thanks but no thanks’ which arrived at a speed to suggest the query wasn’t even read.

Never mind.

I suspect a pink ninja might not be appreciated!

I suspect a pink ninja might not be appreciated!

Rejections mean I’m trying: it’s like bad book reviews. It means I’ve written a book that someone read and had a reaction about.

Rejections mean I’m trying to find an agent, to get my books published and into children’s hands where they belong. I’m engaging with the world I want to belong to.

So bring on the piñata and the pink icing, bring on the rejections.

But most of all, bring on October, so I can let my brain drift back into its happy fog!

Art in August #13 – Cookies

Iced Biscuits

Iced Biscuits

Today’s plan for school holiday survival has involved craft and cookies. The children were booked in to do craft at our local library, as part of their summer reading challenge.

We were going to head to the park first but it took two hours to hustle the children into the car. I’m not looking forward to being back on a strict timetable in three and a bit weeks, even if I am longing for five minutes by myself.

The library craft involved decorating scales for a giant dragon. These days I let the kids get on with it and listen to the more controlling parents getting frustrated with trying to steer the production of something beautiful.

Son's cookies

Son’s cookies

It’s one of the many things I’ve learned to let go in five and a half long years of parenting wilful children. I still offer guidance and encouragement and occasionally, when they’re not looking, I’ll cheat. But what do I care whether their creations look like scales or not? It’s the doing, not the end product. (I almost didn’t even mind when I saw some of the neat, colourful and inventive designs the other children did! Hehe)

Ditto goes for the cookies. My plan for today involved buying gingerbread men (and picking up a Waitrose coffee) before going to the park. As that didn’t happen, I decided we would make some. I’m pre-menstrual: cookies are essential. Besides, it meant another couple of hours filled and a tick in the Mummy box, to off set the hours of TV they’re watching these days.

Daughter's designs

Daughter’s designs

I no longer supervise, except to put the finished products in the oven. We’ve made them often enough to know what to do. I love that lazy parenting is sometimes the best sort!

I decided icing biscuits might as well be today’s artistic effort. Except I don’t do baking. I look at pictures of fancy birthday cakes made by Mummies I know (they seem to be never ending on Facebook) with envy, as I buy mine from Tesco. So I don’t have any of the kit either. Icing is done with bowls and plastic cutlery.

As a result I’m especially proud of my dribble-design iced biscuits. Artistic (after a fashion) AND tasty (sort of – I ran out of syrup), what more can you want?

Art in August #9 – Watercolour Dragon

Watercolour Dragon

Watercolour Dragon

I decided to introduce my daughter to the joys of watercolour painting today, using the proper kit rather than the cheap paints and brushes that come in kids’ kits.

We picked up a pad of heavy-weight grained paper after dropping little man at nursery, and I got out the hallowed box of expensive watercolour paints for the first time in five years.

I decided to have a go at drawing and painting a dragon, as that’s become a bit of a summer theme. I’m okay at copying things but I have no ability to draw things from my head, so I opted for a YouTube tutorial, seeing as that’s worked so well for the loom-bands.

I used this tutorial for the sketch – How to Draw a Dragon – Ten Minute Fast Doodle – and then made up the colours. I’m a bit rusty, and spent half the time watching my daughter like a hawk to make sure she didn’t leave my sable brush standing in the water pot (she did, frequently), but it was great fun.

Today reminded me of two things: 1) I love watercolours but need to practise more, and 2) detailed artwork and small children don’t really mix. I’m so precious about my paintings and my equipment and I’m like a two-year-old when it comes to sharing! One more thing to add to my ‘when the kids have left home’ list 😉

This post is part of the Art in August challenge from the Laptop on the Ironing Board blog.

Art in August #7 – Loomband Unicorns

Rockin' Unicorns

Rockin’ Unicorns

Oh look, more loomband creations! This one was my daughter’s choice, as it was just the two of us today (and after we made a cardboard robot and a clay unicorn).

The brightly coloured one is hers (at least, she selected the bands! At 5 years old, her attention span and dexterity aren’t quite up to this yet.)

Unfortunately the sparkly bands are very soft so I hoped the unicorn pegasus would stand up better if made with solid bands. As you can see it didn’t make much difference: they’re still either newborn or drunk.

Never mind, I think they look quite rock and roll! If only my clay unicorn had looked as cool. It was so awful I squished it and my daughter made a snowman instead.

A day with my gorgious girl

A day with my gorgeous girl

On a non-artistic note, I’ve made it to the end of the second week of the school holidays; only four more to go (thank goodness we only have six).

While I’m certainly not missing the school run, we are all starting to unravel and to get on each other’s nerves. My son’s report from nursery today was that he’d been ‘challenging’, I spent two hours trying to sleep through Doc McStuffin episodes, and then had to carry my 5-year-old round the field on my shoulders, while walking the dog, because she got a blister.

When we got home from nursery pick-up, little man managed three tantrums in about ten minutes and little lady had two. The house looks like the aftermath of a three-day sugar-fuelled festival for preschoolers and the dog’s taken to following me around like a shadow. I haven’t figured out if she wants a walk or some respite from the constant arguing.

Life-sized robot

Life-sized robot

This evening, despite the less than desirable behaviour, I ordered the kids a GlowPet pillow pet each, as bribery/compensation because I’ve cancelled our planned trip to Sea Life tomorrow (I can’t face it!)

But as the pillows won’t arrive for a week I still have to come up with a plan for entertainment or they are going to murder each other.

Please tell me how any of us are going to survive another month? Thank heavens for Art in August, Facebook and Escape to the Country… Oh and chocolate.

Art in August #4 – More Loomband Pets

Loomband Alligator

Loomband Alligator

I had intended to have something other than clay and loomband creations to show off today, but as I’ve been in bed poorly all weekend this is all I have.

I probably shouldn’t have done these, even, as the eye strain is possibly contributing to my general feeling of dizzy malaise, but I need something to stay sane. There is only so much Commonwealth Boxing and episodes of Flog it! you can watch!

So, I introduce loomband Alligator and loomband Giraffe. Both come courtesy of DIYMommy instruction videos on YouTube.

Loomband Giraffe

Loomband Giraffe

My daughter requested the giraffe and helped me with some of the prep but really the 3D pets are a little hard for her concentration levels (or should I say for my patience levels – trying to teach a five-year-old to listen and follow a 45 minute tutorial is beyond my skill!)

The Alligator is the hardest thing I’ve made so far, involving much cursing, especially as it turns out the green bands I have are weak and prone to snapping (no pun intended).

Still, I am growing rather fond of my loomband pets (I have a purple bunny which is probably my favourite to date.) Hubbie thinks I might need counselling for my addiction…

This post is part of the Art in August challenge on the Laptop on the Ironing Board blog.

Art in August #3 – Clay Dragon

My dragon

My dragon

When my daughter asked to do modelling with clay, I knew what I wanted to make. A while ago, fellow author Rinelle Grey took a break from writing to make clay dragons. They are adorable. Her designs were based on the work of Becca Golins, aka Dragons and Beasties, who makes the most incredible dragons. I want them all…

Anyway, I’ve wanted to make one ever since seeing Rinelle’s post, especially as my first complete novel is all about dragons.

Unfortunately it turns out I don’t quite have the knack (oops, scrap that, one of the rules of Art in August is to not apologise for your art!) I think my first attempt is cute, in a timid sort of way. I wonder if it could be Ilaria.

Daughter's dragon

Daughter’s dragon

I must investigate what clay to use, as I don’t think painted white clay has the same impact (plus it’s really hard to paint!)

All good fun and, as with the clay dog yesterday, my daughter’s dragon was cool too. It reminds me of Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon.

This post is part of the Art in August challenge on the Laptop on the Ironing Board blog.

Art in August #2 – Painted Clay Dog

Painted clay dog

Painted clay dog

My daughter saw a flyer for a workshop to make clay dogs this holiday and I failed miserably to get her booked on it. As recompense I took her to the craft shop and let her spend the £10 it would have cost on craft materials, including a pack of air drying clay.

It’s been a long time since I modelled with anything other than playdoh and it took a while to remember how. But I very much enjoyed making my pieces and leaving my daughter to do her own without interference.

Today, despite being exhausted after a four-hour trip to the local woods to do a Gruffalo trail, and being full of cold, we managed to find the energy to paint our creations. I’m cheating slightly and saving one for tomorrow, as we have a busy weekend, but this is my dog. My daughter’s is below.

My daughter's dog

My daughter’s dog

This post is part of the Art in August challenge, as described on the Laptop on the Ironing Board blog.

 

Wonderful Teachers and Winding Down For Summer

Gorgeous thank you

Gorgeous thank you

Today my daughter has her ‘Moving Up Day’ at school, when she will spend the day with her new teacher for next year. I can’t believe it came so quickly. Any regular followers of the blog will know that I didn’t take to school very well (slight understatement, as I ended up on medication to handle the extra stress of the school routine) so it might come as a surprise that I am sad the year is over and I will miss Reception and the teachers.

We took leaving gifts in today, even though there is still more than a week left, because there are so many other things going on between now and next Wednesday. I nearly cried when my daughter’s teacher hugged me and said thank you for choosing to send my daughter to their school (she knew it wasn’t an easy choice).

It shows you get out what you put in. It’s important to me to build strong relationships with the people who are in loco parentis for my children. I felt like I was being a pain, constantly talking to the teachers, double-checking everything, basically being that controlling parent. Clearly I haven’t been that annoying! And, for me, it has been returned ten fold.

Thank you card

Thank you card

My daughter’s teacher often goes out of her way to reassure me that my daughter is happy, well rounded, well liked. The teaching assistant listens to my rambles every day, and makes sure my daughter is happy and settled.

And, on Friday, when my daughter sobbed because she didn’t get the year one teacher she wanted, her Reception teacher took us through to meet the teacher she’s been allocated and they both spent ten minutes reassuring my timid daughter that she’ll have loads of fun next year.

To do such a thing at 3.45pm on a Friday, when suffering from laryngitis, shows care above and beyond expectations. As a result my fearful daughter, who has been crying about going into year one since Christmas, said “I’m so excited about Moving Up Day.” What more could a mother want?

This morning the teaching assistant, who has held my daughter’s hand at drop off every day this year, and talked me down off the edge more than once, said, “I’ve been worried about your daughter all weekend.”

Bless them all.

And so we wind down for summer. Not the best start, with Daddy having tonsillitis, but we’re muddling through. Loom bands have been ordered to keep little hands busy, craft has been stocked up and the paddling pool purchased.

For the lovely teaching assistant

For the lovely teaching assistant

All writing projects are on hold, although I’ve spent the last few days enthralled by the K’Barthan series by M T McGuire (you are personally responsible for the filthy state of my house, I’ll have you know!) does that count as working?

The blog will be sporadic in the coming weeks (nothing new there!) especially as I can’t seem to work on the iPad since I foolishly gave in and upgraded to ios7. I’m hoping to get in a few posts about days out and book reviews, but I’m going to give myself a holiday too.

It’s been a long and stressful year, with lots of achievements and a few battles. I feel like July might become my new Year End, when I take stock and down tools. It’s only six weeks, and I’m going to try and enjoy it with the children.

Of course, I’ll be on here moaning how they’re driving me mad in a couple of weeks, but for now I’m looking forward to a change of pace.

Happy holidays!

Losing My Mojo

By Amber Mart, aged 5

By Amber Martin aged 5

I have spent the last few months trying my hand at writing a children’s book, to enter into the Chicken House competition in October. I tried to start last year, but didn’t get past an idea and an opening. This year I managed to complete the first draft (including writing 30,000 words in two weeks).

Unfortunately my idea stinks.

I began to feel it during drafting, and it was confirmed as I started editing. Chicken House are looking for a fresh new voice and, in the words of the editor I lined up to help me, my writing is, “flat, almost formal, and not successful for Middle Grade fiction.” Apparently the tone is more Enid Blyton than J K Rowling. Much of that is because my fantasy world is dismal and boring, my baddies two-dimensional and my protagonists predictable.

It’s all very obvious. Just because I love reading kids books, from great picture stories all the way to young adult, doesn’t mean I have what it takes to write them. I could learn, of course.

The editor suggested I perhaps didn’t have the work ethic to draft and draft until I had the story I wanted. Maybe that’s true. It isn’t that I’m afraid of hard work, but I have to confess that extensive editing leaves me demotivated and exhausted. The more I work at something the more stilted it feels and the harder it is to remain objective. Eventually everything stinks, or everything is bland or derivative.

It happened to my paintings. The abstract my daughter did this weekend might be a bit whacky but it’s much more vibrant and original than mine these days. They used to be like that. But then I overworked them, trying to make them into something that wasn’t me, and they became so bland and boring I didn’t want to paint anymore. But I couldn’t recapture that unselfconscious freshness.

I feel the same with my writing. I used to write multi-pov stories that had a bit of whacky freshness, but I trained myself to write strict limited POV with accurate grammar and not too many similes. All the things that kill children’s stories. And now I can’t write anything else.

Working Hard

Working Hard

What’s the answer? Hubbie asked me, as I sobbed yesterday that maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a writer, whether it is really what I want to do. I had to pause. What I want is a creative job that fits in with the school-run and might eventually make money. I hoped it was paintings – it wasn’t. I tried web design and marketing services to small businesses, but didn’t have the enthusiasm or skills.

Is writing one more fancy and unrealistic dream to avoid getting a real job? I’ve stuck at it much longer than the other ideas (though it’s made less profit) and have published half a million words. I’ve even sold 200-300 books (although not a single copy of Class Act!) But it’s not earth-shattering and certainly not a career.

Parenting is such a thankless, soul-destroying pass time (for me) that I need to feel good at something, to feel successful. Something to offset the endless criticism and contrariness of a three and a five year old. Part of that includes making money and getting positive feedback. Feeling like I’m actually good at something I enjoy.

To be honest I probably need an agent, a publishing deal. But if my writing is flat, formal, clichéd, I’ll never get one. And if I ‘m not prepared to tear a manuscript apart to its bones and rebuild it, am I just another delusional wannabe?

Don’t answer that.

Wishing You a Good Friday

Meeting the Easter Bunny

Meeting the Easter Bunny

At last, Easter is here! Two weeks into the school vacation I feel like the bank holiday is the finish line and I’ve more or less survived. We still have five days before the children go back to school/nursery, but at least there are some family members around to share the small-child entertainment that has left me exhausted.

We have been blessed, though, this holiday, with gorgeous sunny days every day. The kids have been able to run free with me just providing conflict mediation, hugs, plasters, food, drinks, craft supplies, cautions, rules, reward stickers and the occasional trip out for variety. Yesterday we went to play on the new indoor equipment at our favourite Farm, followed by a visit to the Easter Bunny. It was a great day.

One thing I’ve noticed this holiday is that the children have remembered how to play together. With my daughter starting school last September, they seemed to separate, with the age difference much more noticeable. My daughter had less time for her brother, and they squabbled more than cooperated. It’s been wonderful (and terrifying) to see them back to conspiring against me. For example when they decided to empty the sandpit into the paddling pool and across the decking, then fill the sandpit with water from the hose, breaking about five family rules in the process. I didn’t care, I just prayed they wouldn’t draw my attention to it, leaving me no choice but to tell them off.

When my daughter did finally come in saying, “Look, Mummy!” all proud of the carnage, I actually said, “You’ve broken about five rules, which are they?” and after she’d sheepishly acknowledged them, I said, “no matter, I’ll pretend I didn’t see, so long as you tidy up.” Which of course they didn’t, but it took less time to sweep wet sand than it would have done telling them off and finding them something else to do!

Sand Carnage

Sand Carnage

Rules and consistency are all well and good, but sometimes you have to be flexible. It was also another classic case of different parenting priorities as, when I posted my dilemma to Facebook, expecting people to laugh (because of course I wouldn’t stop them playing nicely just because of a bit of mess) I had a range of responses leaving me feeling somewhere between a dragon for having rules in the first place and a lazy parent for choosing to ignore them!

Anyway, this was just a short note to say hello, I’m still alive, and wish you all a happy Easter weekend. The forecast here is actually for rain, making me feel bad for all the working people who have been looking forward to their four days of freedom. But hopefully they’ll stay in and read a book, as I have Dragon Wraiths on a freebie promotion all weekend. If by chance you haven’t read it, do go grab a copy! (I’m trying out a new GeoRiot link, which is meant to take you to the Amazon site for your country, so do tell me if it works/doesn’t work. And thank you to Sally Jenkins for the idea.)

TTFN.