Thursday, 30 October 2014

Chasing the Puddings

You know when you have one of those visions of pudding? You don't want just a little biscuit or a bit of chocolate - you want a great big gooey pudding, laced with cocoa and brimming with sugar and probably surrounded by a semi-solid moat of ice cream or custard. Yes, that one.

The kind of vision I have in the evening, when it would be madness to eat even a spoonful of the imagined pudding. And yet, I can taste it, I can see it, I can smell the gentle waves of euphoria baking off it as it sits, smug and irresistible, in the middle of the bowl.

It makes me think back to when I was only 20 and astounded to find there was such a thing as a pudding club at a local cafe. You could go and simply eat puddings, one after the other, with like-minded people who saw the other courses as short pauses before the main event.

In the bad old days, I would have eaten that pudding. Imaginary or not, I would have hunted down the calories and had them in chocolate or a packet of biscuits. The time of day (or night) would not have mattered. And the intention would have been to eat something so bad for me that I could prove, once and for all, this very night, that I was a person worthy of nothing more than disgust.

The joy of the pudding, the need to consume this beautiful concoction, would very quickly turn to this familiar and friendly disgust. Before eating, it wouldn't have mattered about the after: serial piggers are serial dieters also, and the after is pushed aside. Worry about it later! You can always cut down tomorrow and make up for it.

Life is the same, you know. Sorry, but it is. We rarely get away with extra puddings; we eat and savour and devour until we cannot bear to even look at the spoon let alone the food And we justify this eloquent self-destruction with the idea we can make it up later.

It doesn't matter what I do today or did last night, it only matters what I do tomorrow. Even though the calories of tomorrow are fat-free and the actions of tomorrow are still un-made, they are the only ones that matter. Today's pudding, today's silly, self-indulgent cruelty or lapse, count for nothing when measured up against tomorrow's assumed glory.

I am not advocating abstinence, though. If you abstain, you desire and if you desire you give in, sooner or later. That pudding you avoid now will happen sometime and when it does, the fall will most likely involve extra cream. The action you indulge in today can save you from worse ones tomorrow.

Like many things, life is about keeping the balance. Knowing when to give in and Pudding It Up is vital because without the treats, we can't appreciate the rest of it. It's no good torturing yourself for what you did: behave that way and you spend the beloved tomorrow full of regret and appreciating nothing.

And all of this brought on by pudding? No, not exactly.

All of this brought on by remembering things I haven't done, in favour of what I expected to be. I have had puddings and then not made up for it, just the same as I have avoided puddings and then the piety of abstinence has faded away in the knowledge that I have missed my moment of opportunity.

Remember to appreciate yourself and every spoon of your pudding. That way, you won't consume life for the sake of it, just to feel like you have accomplished something.

Live now, add custard, or cream, or ice cream. Enjoy every spoon and regret nothing. Then tomorrow, the actual tomorrow where you get up and are a real and actual person, remember you enjoyed yourself and go about the rest of it with a smile.

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Monday, 27 October 2014

Creative Writing for Kids - new omnibus edition and free samples.

Creative Writing for Kids vol 3 & 4!

The second omnibus edition in the popular Creative Writing for Kids series.

This combined edition of Winter Tales and Once upon a story… brings together two very distinct creative writing books for children aged 7 and over.

Winter Tales uses the themes of Winter, holidays, seasonal fun and familiar but exciting ideas to help children think and write creatively. Once upon a story… uses magical and fantastical ideas and imagery to encourage children to create their own stories about lands full of wizards and witches, goblins and giants.

Images and illustrations are used throughout the book, for inspiration and enjoyment, as well as for visual learning activities.
There is lots of advice and guidance throughout the book and the exercises are flexible for students who need more help as well as those who want to jump right in and write their own stories and poems.

Both Winter Tales and Once upon a story… have been published separately, as part of the Creative Writing for Kids series. They follow on naturally from the first two volumes in this series but can be worked on without first completing the other volumes.

Available now on Amazon, will be available as paperback shortly.

Please enjoy the free samples below. I have included samples from both Once upon a story... and Winter Tales.

Free Sample

Giants and heroes

Giants and heroes have often starred together in the same stories, usually with the giants not doing too well by the end of the tale. As you can see from the story-starters, not all giants are horrible and not all heroes are brave and uncomplaining.

Look at the story-starters below and choose one from each set. Then write a short story based around each choice.

Gentle Giants

Rumble ran down the hill, as fast as he could
It was a long way up to the table
The cat was as big as a lion
Tina the tiny giant screamed

Gentle Heroes

Frankie didn’t want to fight
Pip handed the sword to the little dog
It was a lovely day for making friends
Callie gave the giant another sweet

Grumbling Heroes

Sir Greg watched as the giants cried
Smiling, Little Annie stepped on the giant’s thumb
It was the biggest sword Peter had ever seen
Kieran would climb as high as he could

Grumbling Giants

Humans made such a good dinner
It was time to chase the pigs
Humbold the Giant started to sing
Grim the Ginormous clapped his hands

Story-poem: Sun and rain

You are going to write a short story, starting with one of the sentences below. The story should be at least five lines long and with lots of description.

Rain, grey as sadness
The bright sun glows

When you have finished your story, try turning it into a poem. You can do this by chopping out extra words, like ‘and’ or ‘then’ and by shortening the sentences. Then rearrange your sentences into lines of a poem.

Here is a short example to help you. I have chosen The bright sun glows. I have kept my example shorter than yours should be.


The bright sun glows over the sky as I get out of the car and look at the still, calm sea. This is the perfect day to take the dogs for a walk at our new home. I’m so glad I live near the beach!


Bright sun glows over the sky
I look at the still, calm sea
A perfect day for a walk
At our new home
By the sea

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Sunday, 19 October 2014

Where life breathes

I often think of an article I once read about a published author who wrote 10,000 words a day. My first thought was that if I did that, I'd have no time to feed the cat or go to the shops or ferry around various children. My second thought was that I was not committed to writing because if I was really committed, I too would write thousands of words a day.

I feel differently now. It is good to be a 'lazy' writer, someone who remembers to feed the cat, who enjoys a trip to the shops, who is willing to drop everything and ferry offspring around. This is the stuff of life. I rather feel that writing thousands of words a day, every day, is more like going to the gym for long power sessions, instead of walking round the lake or diving in clear-water seas. Sometimes the experience is worth more than the perceived gain.

Then I think that anyone who can spare those hours for writing at least has a significant other to deal with life for them. They are not solely responsible for the cat-feeding etc. They will not harm anyone by staying, closeted away in a brain-fuelled fugue.

This could be where I come full circle and feel I am not committed enough again. It is not that I want someone else to do all these things for me - I like the cat, I like seeing the kids - but it would be good to be so utterly focused that writing great amounts, every day, is nearer the top of my list.

And then, and then, I look again and see life more clearly.

I write in short bursts because, these days, my concentration comes in short bursts. I rarely sit for hours, words streaming from me, because when I do I forget everything, dear readers, the cat is left to itself, as is the whole of life. If I live my work, I truly live it and thousands of words spill from me and nothing else matters. Then after, I pick up the pieces and see what I have missed.

I am no longer a power-house of the written word. I cannot go for hours in my muscle-building sessions. These days it has to be the walk by the lake or the dive into clear waters: anything else is bad for the rest of me.

And so I write my stories in the time it takes the washing machine to finish; I write the next chapter in my quiet hours, sitting in the car; I write the next book in all the gaps when other things have slipped away; I write my poems in the dark of night when sleep drops its guard.

I write in the places where life breathes and I breathe with it. All writing is an exhalation, after all, a letting out of thoughts and dreams taken in with new air.

When all this romance fails me, I write in the time it would have taken me to complain I am not writing, so that by the end of each day, some new thing has been created and I can go to sleep knowing only nightmares and dreams are waiting.

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A story somewhere