Halloween nostalgia

I love this time of year. I love the crisp, cold days, the autumn leaves, and the smell of wood smoke in the air. I love the way darkness falls quickly and resolutely, the cosy nights indoors and the promise of frost and snow to come. Yes, by January I will heartsick of winter and wishing for the spring, but for now I’m craving it.


I also love Halloween. I love the idea of lighting candles against the dark, of curling up with a good spooky book or giving one as part of All Hallows Read.

The iconography really appeals to me, too. Not so much the Freddy Krueger masks, eyeballs, and fake blood,  but the witches in black pointy hats, dumpy, cheerful pumpkins, and bats with their black wings spread wide. Not to forget ghosts made from bed sheets, black cats and broomsticks, lanterns and a shiny full moon. I just passed a happy half hour browsing this gallery of vintage Halloween postcards.

And if that’s put you in the mood for some themed decorating, check out this collection of carved/decorated pumpkins from Country Living and these free, printable images from the generous Graphics Fairy.

In which I apologise

Sorry for abandoning you.

After a beautiful family wedding last weekend, I succumbed to a horrid chest infection that swallowed up my week in one snotty gulp. Nice.

I’m beginning to feel almost human but am not up to a proper blog post. Instead, I give you this astounding routine from the film Stormy Weather. It’s surely the best, and certainly the most painful, tap dance I have ever seen…

Make sure you watch to the end for the full, wince-inducing effect.

[Via The Kid Should See This]

Friday Five: The NaNoWriMo Edition

Oh my, it’s that time of year again… Already! How did this happen? (This is a serious question. Answers on a postcard, please.)

So, the gears are turning at NaNoWriMo HQ, preparing for another month of frenzied keyboard activity as thousands of people around the world attempt the improbable: 50,000 words of fiction in one month.

I’ve tried NaNoWriMo in the past and failed. I’ll probably take part again, though, because I invariably end up writing a good chunk of rough draft material and that ain’t to be sneezed at. As one wise person said to me on day 29 of last year’s challenge: ‘Words. Good.’

Indeed.

How about you guys? Anyone else joining in this year? If so, the following links are just for you…

1. How to do NaNoWriMo when you don’t have the time. Handy hints from writer Alison Wells.

2. Easily distracted and need a full-screen text editor? Or perhaps you want to be able to work on your NaNo book online. Check out this list of 10 free minimalist word processors.

3. Invest in a Go Away I’m Writing mug from the Literary Gift Company and send a subtle message to your nearest and dearest.

4. Stuck? Read Chris Baty’s (founder of NaNoWriMo) book No Plot? No Problem. Although it isn’t on my shelves, it’s been recommended to me enough times that it probably should be.

5. And if that doesn’t do the trick, access the Pep Talk archives at NaNoWriMo HQ for inspiring advice and encouragement from writers including Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman and Maureen Johnson. If they don’t get you fired up and raring to go, then I don’t know what will.*

*I do know: caffeine.

I am a great writer

In the recent Storywonk course I took with Lani Diane Rich, she ended each class by making us type (and say out loud) I AM A GREAT WRITER. She explains why in this podcast, but here’s the gist:

There are people lining up to tell you that you’re not good enough or smart enough to be a writer or that the genre you write in is ‘wrong’ or that you should be doing something sensible with your life – don’t do their job for them.

Like most (all?!) writers I know, valuing my work is something I struggle with on a daily basis, so posts like this one by Theodora Goss are very helpful. I’m trying to follow her advice. I’m trying not to put myself down, to resist the urge to say ‘this is rubbish’ when asking someone to read my work; as Goss says, ‘writing is hard enough without the preemptive put-down’.

Something funny happened last week. I got a rejection (that’s not the funny bit) and, although I stomped around the house swearing and banging cupboard doors, I felt a strange flickering pride spark into life. It left a warm glow of resolve that – I hope – will sustain me as I continue to submit.

It seems that while I excel at the preemptive put-down and fail (repeatedly) at the ‘I am a great writer’ mindset, my lack of self-confidence has a kink to it… When someone says ‘awesome job’ I hear ‘yeah, right; you are having a laugh’ but when I get a rejection, I think, ‘sod that; I’m going to prove you wrong’. Oddness.

[The image is of a Thoreau quote made into a wall plaque, available here for £9.50]