Wednesday 3 August 2022

St. Michael's Mount


Back in 2018, I visited St. Michael's Mount with one of my best friends, Kate. We grew up together here, in Cornwall, but she lives in the US now, so over the past 25 years we've gone from seeing each other every single weekday at primary school, to a couple of times a month when we went to different secondary schools, to once a year when she comes home for all too short visits. We like to make the most of it, which made it all the more annoying when she made it back for just one week this summer and I went and got covid for the second time.

Anyway, this is all to distract from the fact that it took me a full 4 years to finally edit these photos. In my defence, I took over 100 pictures this day and have managed to edit it down to just 20. Did that need to take 4 years? Who can say.

I have already uploaded these to Instagram and, to be honest, I have no idea if anyone even reads blogs anymore (is anyone there? Please say hello if you are!) but when I took these pictures I thought they were going to be a blog post, so it just feels like they should be.

This might be my favourite picture I've ever taken of Kate. She might not agree but I know for a fact that she doesn't read my blog so I can say what I like!

St. Michael's Mount can be accessed via a causeway at low tide, but it was high tide when we arrived so we got the little boat across to the mount. Thankfully, it did not set off my notoriously delicate seasickness, signalling the start of a truly excellent day!

The view through the window of the little cafe at the base of the mount, where we had very delicious sandwiches for lunch. Obviously, I can't remember what was in my sandwich now but I definitely remember that it was delicious, which is good enough for a sandwich I ate 4 years ago.

There are a lot of great windows in the house.

The view of the mainland from the roof of the house. By this point, we were having such a nice time that we had already started hatching plans so that we never had to leave. The problem is, a guide had already told us that everyone who lives on the island has to have two skills that can help the community, particularly because in bad weather, they can end up totally cut off from the mainland. Unfortunately, we're both rather low on skills, but Kate was already cooking up another idea. More on that later.

Kate enjoying our future home.

This tiny but beautiful sculpture of Michael fighting Satan is on the wall inside the chapel on the mount. As I was taking this picture, Kate was talking to one of the guides about whether or not the family who own St. Michael's Mount might happen to have two eligible sons of marrying age. The guide was very helpful but we ultimately decided marrying into the family probably wasn't a viable plan.

One last look. Obviously, we haven't figured out a plan to move to the island just yet but we'll return one day, and good luck getting rid of us again!

Seriously though, this was such a brilliant day and I highly recommend a visit to St. Michael's Mount if you've never been! We finished our day off with a swim in that gorgeous, turquoise water, St. Michael's Mount on the horizon, and it felt completely magical. I really did fall in love with this place and I can't wait to go again.

Friday 14 January 2022

Writing My Novel: The Real Second Draft

So, I wrote a first draft in 2015. Then, in 2016, I started and then abandoned a second draft. In 2017 and 2018 and every year since there have been short stories. Oh, so many short stories. There were also novel outlines. Oh, so many novel outlines. All for the same novel.

Now, we're in 2022 (even typing that makes me feel a little sick. Anyone else?) and finally, there is a second draft!

I started writing my New and Improved Second Draft in September 2019. There had been a few attempts before that but none of them took. In September 2019 though, I was ready. I wrote consistently, if not every single day, for about a month, and in that time wrote over 43,000 words. I felt pretty good about it. I really thought I would finish that draft before the end of the year.

Then, in October 2019, my laptop's battery died. After a stressful few days of third party batteries causing the laptop to shut down suddenly and at random (making writing on it into some kind of extreme sport that I was not brave enough to attempt) I accepted defeat and left my very old, very beloved laptop at an Apple store for a week.

An enforced break for a couple of weeks right in the middle of the draft. My momentum was knocked but I figured I'd recover it soon enough.

Then, I started getting gallbladder pains. I ended up in hospital, then on a diet that left me constantly weak, dizzy, and bad tempered for months on top of the pain, until finally, I had the keyhole surgery to remove my gallbladder, just in time. A few hours after my surgery, the UK government announced that all non-essential surgery would be cancelled to help hospitals cope with the rapidly intensifying COVID-19 pandemic.

I'll skip the next year of anxiety. Come to summer 2021. Nearly two years after I started this second draft, I finally felt ready to read through those 43,000 words again and try to finish the rest of the story.

I hadn't really written anything in a few months. I'm not very good at handling stress and thanks to, you know, everything, there had been a lot more of it to handle than I was used to. Perhaps that's why I suddenly found myself unable to write.

I would sit at my keyboard and stare at the page. Sometimes, I would manage to force out a sentence or two, but it felt like wading through half-set concrete. I've struggled with writing before, but it had never felt this physically difficult for so long. For weeks, I tried, getting more and more frustrated. Finally, in desperation, I grabbed a pen and a notebook.

Obviously, I've written in notebooks before, but I've always been primarily a keyboard writer, which was what made this block so unsettling. I managed to get a hundred or so words a day down in my notebook, adding them all to the Scrivener document every few days. I hated the slowness of this method but told myself again and again that a few, slow words are better than none all. Then, one day, after I had typed up the words from my notebook, I kept typing. The next day, I opened the Scrivener file and started typing without writing anything in the notebook first.

I finished my second draft in November 2021. It is 90,380 words long. It is still not very good.

This draft, it turns out, is not what I want this novel to be, but I wouldn't have known that if I hadn't finished it. Sure, it would have been nice to get to this place a little sooner, but there we are. The important thing is that now I know what I don't want this story to be, it should be a little easier to figure out what I do want it to be. Plus, writers are always saying it's important to finish things, and I certainly felt relieved when I finally finished this thing!

Now I just have to make sure I don't take an unexpected year and a half break in the middle of the next draft.

Tuesday 1 December 2020

Last Night at the Christmas Market

If Melissa had to listen to this choir sing Wonderful Christmastime once more, she was going to start jamming gingerbread into her own ears. 
    The bells started again. Melissa tensed, waiting for the choir to sing, but she already knew what it would be. What it always was. 
    She groaned. 'Don't they know any other songs?' Melissa eyed up the gingerbread sausage dogs in front of her, with their jaunty icing scarves. She could probably fit one of those in each ear.

This is just a quick post today to let you know that I have a brand new short story in the newest issue of PaperBound magazine! PaperBound is an online magazine for younger readers (and the young at heart) and I'm so excited that they've chosen to include Last Night at the Christmas Market in their very first winter issue!

Last Night at the Christmas Market is a short YA story about a girl called Melissa, who has lost some of her Christmas cheer selling gingerbread at a Christmas market, and Nick, the cute boy at a neighbouring hot chocolate stall who, during a minor disaster on the market's last night of the season, might help her get some of it back. Basically, it's a bitesize, gingerbread flavour, Christmas romcom!

I had so much fun writing Last Night at the Christmas Market and I'm thrilled it's been included in this issue of PaperBound, which you can download and read for free on their website, right now!

I hope you enjoy reading it even half as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Thursday 26 November 2020

An Experiment

A while ago, my mum found her old Olympus AF-10 point and shoot camera in a drawer in her office and asked if I wanted it. Obviously, I did. I'll have any camera someone offers me. This one though, also had a roll of film in it that had been half shot and left there for no one knew how long. We had no idea what might be on the film or if it would even come out after so many years, but I decided to find out. I finished the roll off and took it to be developed, with the full expectation that I might end up with nothing to show for this experiment.

But I didn't end up with nothing! 

What I ended up with was a slightly psychedelic set of photos I actually took on a school trip when I was probably around 13. I remember the trip in question (I think it was for geography) but I have no idea where the trip was to and neither of my parents remember either. If you recognise this unidentified beach, please let me know!

I also ended up with a few not-so-bad pictures of Bodmin Moor from earlier this year. 

One film, two sets of photos, ~15 years apart. All in all, a successful experiment!

Tuesday 24 November 2020

A Roll of Film

It turns out that any random old film you've had rolling around in a desk drawer for the past ten years is maybe not the best film you could be using?? Who could have guessed?! Either way, I do still have a few rolls kicking around so we're just going to have to make the most of it! Even if I did realise while editing these images from a roll I had developed earlier this year that this particular film is pulling VERY green, especially in low light. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing. It's all just part of the unpredictability of shooting film, isn't it?

Although, I wouldn't mind a little bit more predictability, so if you shoot 35mm, please tell me your colour film recommendations! Because once I've used up all this Agfa pro 200 I got with a lomo camera when I was a teenager, I will probably be looking for something a little less expired.

In the mean time, here are some photos!