Category Archives: People

What’s in your bubble?

Hello again.

Today, I’m thinking about bubbles. I think about bubbles quite a lot. You may have noticed… No? Take a look at my header image… Now, pop over to my website… See it now? It’s something of an obsession.

Wedding bubblesLike most kids, I loved making and watching bubbles as a child. I never grew out of this and it’s still my favourite activity to do with my three-year-old son. I even had bubbles (instead of confetti. Now there’s something I like less) at my wedding.

I love the way the word rolls around in my mouth and the way it sounds… To me, it’s an onomatopia. Listen: “Bubble.” See? Hear how light and spherical that sounds? So deep and watery yet light and hopeful? No? Just me? Ok then, I’ll stop.

Giant Bubble

Image Source: The Enchanted Tree

This isn’t just a simple love letter to bubbles. I wanted to share my personal bubble with you.

What??

Ok, I know that sounds weird, so let me show you. Come this way… That’s right… and step inside my bubble for a minute… It’s ok, it won’t pop.

My Bubble

Quiet isn’t it? It’s ok, I don’t live in here all the time. It’s just where I come when I need to rest, or get things done. Let me show you around. It won’t take long, it’s not too big…

See how the bubble has a green tinge to it? That’s my calm… It reconnects me with nature and helps me to focus. It gets greener when I’m writing and has a sort of citrus smell about it. Although it makes me feel more awake, at the same time it sort of helps time to slow down…

Then, when I need a confidence boost it changes again… A sort of deep red colour that seeps in at the bottom and works its way up one side… Yes, behind me like that, sort of pushing me gently forwards. It smells musky doesn’t it? Makes me feel powerful. Now, listen. Can you hear that voice? A gentle, woman’s voice saying ‘It’s ok. You can do this. I love you.’? Yeah. Reassuring, isn’t it? She’s always there when I need her.

Then, when I need to completely relax – to sleep, for example, it goes quiet again and these giant beanbags appear… See those red, pink and purple cushions over there? Almost womb-like, that corner, isn’t it? Smells a bit like vanilla ice cream… Just lie down there for a second… What’s that like? Comfortable, right? are you feeling sleepy yet…?

Hey, wake up! Ok, time to get out now…

What was that like for you? Did you feel focused, alert and then relaxed? Or something else? Those images, sounds and smells work for me. When I’m feeling anxious or tense, overwhelmed (happens often to me, you..?) or simply need a confidence boost, I step into this bubble for a little while to get back to myself. It wasn’t always this way. I used to shut myself into a cardboard box that was cramped and dark and would tell me I’m stupid and worthless. I still climb into it on occasion and have to remind myself to get out and try the bubble instead.

What about you? Do you have a bubble you can go to when need it? Or something else? Where do you go? What does it look like? How does it feel? What does it sound like? And is it helpful? If not, what could you change to make it better? Do share in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

Not another student on a volunteer vacation

Last month, my sister-in-law posted on Facebook that my niece, Emma, would be spending three months in Zimbabwe. She was, and still is, proud and scared in equal measure. I was curious.

A bit of background about Emma… She is 20 years old, and has recently started a degree in International Development. This was not her original plan. I’ll let Emma explain:

‘For a long time, I’ve been curious about the world beyond my comfortable bubble in North East London. When I began university, I realised that there were paths I could take to one day hopefully make a positive impact on the global issues that indirectly affect me. I made the difficult decision to change my university course from English Literature to International Development (with social anthropology and politics) and despite the numerous times of doubt and worry, I can now say that it has been the best decision I have ever made in my short twenty years!’

So, when I learned that she was planning to volunteer in Zimbabwe, I wanted to find out more, especially as I had recently had a conversation with a friend about whether ‘voluntourisim’ was a good thing. There are numerous articles about how some of these placements can cause more harm than good in the long term and I wondered where Emma was going, who with and what she planned to do. So I asked her. And I was impressed.

After researching various opportunities, she had decided to volunteer with youth-led charity Restless Development, who work with countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Importantly, this charity only works with communities have specifically requested help. The projects Emma will be working on in Zimbabwe focus on livelihoods and employment, sexual and reproductive health and civic participation. She will be working alongside a local volunteer when she arrives… Which is next month!

Emma explains a little more about her decision to work with Restless Development and what they do, in her brand new blog, Emma’s Restless Journey.

In order to get going on her journey, Emma needs to raise £800 for Restless Development. She’s almost halfway there and just needs a little help… The money she raises does not go towards her placement but directly to Restless to support their ongoing projects so if you’re inspired to donate, head over to Emma’s Just Giving page to help her on her way!

Meeting Miriam

Over the weekend, I met up with fellow blogger Miriam Drori over at London’s South Bank. This was the first time I’ve met up with a blogger in person who I didn’t know already so it was an interesting (and enjoyable!) experience.

As I had my son with me for the morning, he led the morning’s family friendly activities so I blogged about it over on my parenting site, Mothering Mushroom. Head over there now to find out more about Miriam and what we got up to.

Ordinary People – interview with Petra Kidd

Last month, I re-launched my Ordinary People interview series by catching up with retired headtacher Julia Skinner from Julia’s place.  Julia is also the founder of the the 100WC project, is a weekly creative writing challenge for children under 16. To read more about Julia, and find out more about the Ordinary People series, head back to last month’s interview.

This month I interviewed fellow blogger and fantastic short story writer, Petra Kidd. I first ‘met’ Petra via twitter, when she mentioned that it was possible to download a kindle app for free to your mobile rather than buying a kindle to read e-books on the go. I had no idea. I promptly downloaded said app and thanked her for the advice. She then suggested that I might enjoy her short story e-book, The Eight of Swords, which was the perfect length to read during a morning commute. Clever marketing Petra. It worked. I downloaded the Eight of Swords and read most of it on my way to work one morning, becoming so involved in Jayne’s dilemma that I almost missed my stop! When The Putsi, its sequel, came out, I immediately downloaded this too, excited to find out what happened to Jayne 18 years later. More recently, I have been hooked on Petra’s first blog novel, Before I was born onto land… I was a Fish, which she posts on her blog in weekly installments. Once again Petra has created wonderful characters in Mira, Daisy and co., who immediately draw you into their world.

Petra Kidd

Petra lives in Norfolk and when she’s not writing she is running her own small business. Her latest short story e-book, Revenge Double, which comprises two stories with the revenge theme, is out now on Amazon.

As I said, I first discovered your writing by way of the Eight of Swords, your first e-book. What was the inspiration behind this book and its sequel, The Putsi?
The Eight of Swords was very loosely based on a true story where an immigration officer came home  find gypsies had invaded her house and pretty much wrecked it. The story niggled at me for about six months before I finallyThe Eight of Swords sat down to write it, then the characters came into my head as if they really existed and it all came very naturally. I absolutely loved writing The Eight of Swords, putting Jayne in such a dilemma and watching how she reacted. Lots of people said it made them question how they would react in the same situation, which is great. To make people think more deeply than just enjoying a story, to me, is real success. Also, I think it is good to learn about other cultures and not just make assumptions about them in their entirety based on a few media reports.

I have to admit I did get a little nagged to provide a sequel. I wasn’t sure but when I started writing The Putsi, again it flowed naturally. When people say characters become like friends it’s very true and it can be hard to let them go. A bout of Pleurisy left me housebound and The Putsi became a great distraction, even if I was dying on my feet trying to get it done! It’s not often I get so much uninterrupted writing time so I made the most of it.

Fish

Credit © J. Henning Buchholz | Dreamstime.com

Before I was born onto land… I was a fish is another original idea. Do you believe in reincarnation?
I don’t believe we necessarily get reincarnated as other creatures as in Mira’s story but I do think the human spirit goes on and evolves. I can’t believe that we go through all the challenges in this life for nothing. I like Paulo Coelho’s theory or philosophy that new doors open for us and the spirit goes on towards enlightenment. 

Before I was born throws up an interesting idea, what if we could remember what went before, in such detail that it affects us in this life?  Some people experience déjà vu and under hypnosis there are those who have talked about past lives so it could be true that we have lived before in different guises. I think the leap from another creature to human might be too great a one but who knows? Reincarnation is something that fascinates me and will no doubt crop up from time to time in my stories.

What former lives do you think you might have had?
A Clairvoyant once told me I had been an Indian in the Lunape tribe, some of who apparently have blonde hair. According to her I was a man who had six children. I don’t have any in this life; perhaps I got too exhausted by them in that life!

As much as I love the idea of once having been a Lunape I did take the suggestion with a pinch of salt. Having said that, I’d love to visit Delaware one day to meet them and see if I do feel any connection…

All of your books are self-published e-books. What are your thoughts on the self-publishing versus traditional publishing debate?
I self-published my e-books because I’m impatient. I wanted feedback from readers and I knew that if I went the traditional route it would take a very long time to reach that stage.  The whole self-publishing phenomenon came just at the right time for me. Also, I think it depends on the book. I would still consider taking the traditional publishing route but I do like the freedom self-publishing offers. It’s a tricky one because both have advantages and disadvantages, you just have to decide what’s right for you.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of writing a short story e-book?
Write your story, show it to friends or acquaintances who you know will be honest with you, get it proofread/edited and make sure you have the best cover you can have, which usually means using a professional designer. I treat my short story e-books as seriously as I would a full-length novel. I published with Amazon and Smashwords because they have such a wide reach and slick systems.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Persevere.

We already know that you love to write, are there any other ways in which you like to create?
I love photography, sometimes I put my pictures on my Facebook page, and recently I started sketching again.

What is it that you like about sketching?
I sketch people and I suppose in a way it is akin to writing, seeking out the character and depicting him or her as you see them from your own unique viewpoint. People fascinate me more than almost anything else, well apart from outer-space…

Tell us a secret (or something surprising about yourself)
When I was a child I had an imaginary friend called Bert, he was a builder who also flew helicopters. He was so real to me my mum even wrote a story about him where he had to tap on the window one night to prove his existence! My family used to think it very funny when I disappeared off down the garden to ‘help Bert’ wearing my ‘Pork Pie Hat’ as they called it.  I remember very clearly the day I killed Bert off. He was on a mountain road and his car crashed. His death was as real to me as his life. I must have reached an age where I felt I couldn’t believe in him anymore. Luckily I never let go of my imagination.

 Thanks taking part Petra! I hope you enjoyed answering these questions as much as I enjoyed learning more about you.

To find out more about Petra, head over to her website and/or follow her on twitter.

Ordinary People – Interview with Julia Skinner

I’ve been blogging for just over three years now (how time flies!) and throughout, my focus has been on writing, people and poetry. The focus switches from time to time but everything here should fall under one of those categories. Back in 2009, I launched a series of interviews under the ‘People’ category. If you’ve been reading for a while you may remember it, I called it ‘Ordinary People.’

I’ve always been interested in people, and what motivates them to do what they do, especially when they do it well. Each interview in the series was with someone I admire – usually for creative reasons. This year I have decided to re-launch the series.

For my first interview, I caught up with Julia Skinner of Julia’s place.  Julia is a retired (but not retiring!) headteacher (primary school) who is not wasting a second of her time. Since handing in her headteacher’s hat in 2008, she has taken on a variety of creative projects. She manages three blogs – her main site, one about her experiences as a headteacher and one that showcases her Project 365 photos. She also contributes to various creative writing websites. In addition, Julia is a school governor and the founder of the 100WC project, is a weekly creative writing challenge for children under 16.

Did you have any plans of what you wanted to do before you retired or was the plan just to rest..?
Julia SI had presumed that ‘life’ would fill in the days. I thought I’d do some consultancy work with schools, catch up with my reading, get fit & ‘do lunch’! I had intended to learn to play the piano. As it was, the first six months were hell. I cried EVERY day. I just didn’t have anything or anyone to worry about. I suffer from anxiety & the vacuum of no school meant my demons came flooding in. My wonderful hubby got me through it, together with twitter!

You’ve taken on quite a lot since then, and I’m sure you have other personal commitments too. How do you manage your time?
Not well! I do sometimes forget to ‘check the diary’ & find myself chasing my tail. I start the day at the PC & have a routine for each day that includes cleaning, shopping & spending time with hubby. We try to go out on an adventure every Wednesday and even take a picnic with us.

Tell us a bit about the 100WC challenge and your motivation behind it
It started as an idea to get more people visiting my blog ‘The Head’s Office’. I used to do a similar challenge with an American blogger and thought it could be adapted for schools. As it’s grown it has become my second career!

You now have a team of volunteers behind 100WC, to ensure every child receives comments on his/her work. How did you manage when you were doing it by yourself?
When I started 100WC I said that if the children posted, I would comment. That was fine until it got to around 150 each week and I was eating & sleeping 100WC! I now have some volunteers who follow a set of guidelines and between them, they leave a comment for each child. My aspiration is that each child gets three to four comments from a grown up but with an average of 700 entries each week, I need lots more volunteers. If any of your readers have an hour to spare do get in touch!

I love the weekly prompts on your main blog, the 100WCGU. Tell us how this came out of the 100WC project.
Well, it seemed an obvious extension. Originally, both the challenges were coming from the same blog but as the grown-ups could be a tiny bit saucy and the children might stray into the wrong place and read stories that are unsuitable for a younger audience, they now have their own spaces.

You write, bake, and dabble in amateur photography, what’s the appeal of each of these creative outlets?
I’ve never considered myself creative in any way. I think I associated creativity with art and art with painting. Joining in with some of the memes* and the blogging world in general has given me the confidence to have a go. Much to my surprise, I’ve found that I really enjoy it.

Do you have a preferred creative channel?
No. I’m happy to have a go at most things. I do need to get out the keyboard that we bought when I retired & have a go at playing it!

What or who inspires you to create?
Other bloggers. If they can do it – so can I!

Tell us a secret (or something surprising about yourself)
I have very low self esteem but my wonderful third husband (yes – I’ve been married three times!) really keeps me going each day.

Thanks taking part Julia! I hope you enjoying answering these questions as much as I enjoyed learning more about you.

Daff big (1)To find out more about Julia, head over to her main website and/or follow her on twitter.

If you would like to find out more about (and get involved with) the 100WC project, head over to the website to find out more.

*What’s a meme?