Day Four at the Wee Treasure House

 

A ‘JR Hartley’ moment, a ‘it had to happen’ moment and a  mission accomplished…

OB4 wee camera 001

It was World Book Day today so I had the brilliant idea of running a 20% off all books day in the shop. However, I don’t think there’s a career in marketing beckoning to me as we weren’t exactly swamped with customers –  but we did sell eight books.

I had a bit of a serious browse myself today and have picked out some possible purchases. Yes, it had to happen! I knew I’d succumb eventually. I’m working in a bookshop, for goodness sake – a wonderful, jam-packed space full of real, actual books.

Below are the four frontrunners from this wee treasure house of a bookshop.

  • A volume of The Penguin New Writing series from 1941, original price 9d (4.5p for those of you who don’t remember the ‘old’ money in the UK). It has an ad for Grey’s cigarettes on the back cover.  On the last page, there’s a list of books to be published later that same year. The list includes E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End and Robert Graves I Claudius. The book contains essays and extracts by Stephen Spender, Louis MacNeice and C. Day Lewis to name only a few.

OB4 wee camera 004

  • The Rambler’s Countryside Companion by E. Mansell is a 2009 reissue of a 1952 original walkers’ guide. I love the pipesmoker guy on the cover.

OB4 wee camera 002

  • A Wild Adventure by Tom Pow is a speculative verse biography of Dumfries man Thomas Watling who was transported to Botany Bay in 1789 where he became the penal colony’s  first professional artist. I attended a talk given by Pow at last year’s Edinburgh Book Festival and was very impressed by him, so this book just sits there beckoning to me.

OB4 wee camera 005

  • The Longest War by Jacobo Timerman was picked out by Iain for me. This is the Israeli journalist’s personal memoir of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. I have only skimmed the book briefly, but it seems Timerman is a man of tolerance , peace and justice and he seems to have foreseen the situation that now prevails in today’s Israel, something I guess he finds lamentable, as do I.

The theme of this last book forms part of one of my own novels and pervaded today’s lunch date. I was taken out to lunch by Sarah, one of the members from one of the local writers’ group whose meeting we hosted yesterday evening in ‘our’ flat above the shop. I’ll be doing a separate post about the meeting and the lunch very soon.

The JR Hartley moment in the shop this morning was charming. (For those readers who are too young, or who aren’t from the UK, so won’t know of this reference to an old but classic TV ad there’s a Wikipedia explanation below). A couple came in and the guy was looking for a years’ old copy of the Sparky annual. It turned out he’d designed/drawn the cover but didn’t have the book and was now very keen to get it. Sadly it isn’t in the Open book’s stock.

And finally, I completed the tidy up of the children’s fiction section toady. It’s now all sorted by age and the shelves labelled accordingly. Hurrah!

Another good day in our bookshop-keeping life.

 

From Wikipedia: J. R. Hartley is the name of a fictional character in a popular British advertisement promoting the Yellow Pages which was first shown in 1983.[1]

The advertisement shows an elderly man (actor Norman Lumsden) asking in several second-hand bookshops for “Fly Fishing by J. R. Hartley”. Every attempt fails, and the next scene shows him at home looking dejected. His daughter, sympathising, hands him the Yellow Pages (the UK’s telephone directory for local businesses); in the next scene he looks delighted as his end of a telephone conversation reveals that a shop has a copy of the book. He asks them to keep it for him. He responds at dictation speed to a question: ‘My name? Oh, yes, it’s J. R. Hartley.’ The advertisement ends by promoting the Yellow Pages.

 

 

 

 

A Serious Collector and a Spooky Kettle

 

Days two and three at the Open Bookshop

'Our' bookshop

‘Our’ bookshop

We had quite an assortment of people in the shop yesterday, some customers, a man from the local council and someone wanting to sell books to the shop.

The man from the council had lots of questions to ask about the shop and flat and rather flummoxed by the notion that we aren’t the owners of either. When he got his head round this fact, having been even more flummoxed by my explanation of who we were and why we were in the shop and flat, he left to pursue his enquiries elsewhere.

We caused further consternation when we had to tell the prospective seller of books that we didn’t have the authority to buy his books from him, but he seemed happy enough to go and ask the people with the authority after we pointed him in their direction.

We had one very serious book collector in – serious in the sense of his passion for collecting old books, not in his demeanour, he was actually very nice and friendly. He made a serious purchase including four beautifully illustrated volumes on wildflowers.

Another very charming gentleman came in looking for books on the history of the local railway, but alas there are no such volumes in the shop. However, we did have a pleasant chat about trains and railways in general. He even declared himself a fan of the new but somewhat controversial Edinburgh trams. He said he just loves anything that runs on rails. I do hope he will find the books he was looking for.

It was another very cold day but we gave each other time off to go out and explore the town a bit. We both headed for the harbour and wildfowl reserve, but it wasn’t a day to linger outside. After closing the shop we went to one of the local pubs for a pre-dinner drink. I did enjoy my whisky sitting by a lovely, warming log fire.

Today I continued with the sorting out of the children’s fiction section. I would never have thought that sorting books could be so tiring but it’s hard work. However, it’s also satisfying and more day should do it. I’ve almost finished sorting the books into age-appropriate sections and one lady who came in was very complimentary on the new layout. This gave me a warm and happy feeling :)

My first ever attempt at window-dressing

My first ever attempt at window-dressing

I have also done a children’s book window display. It’s for very young children – well more their parents actually – with suggestions for bedtime stories. It looks okay to my unartistic eye.

This evening we are hosting the monthly meeting of a local writers’ group at the flat and I’m looking forward to meeting them and joining in with their meeting. I’ll report on how it goes in my next post.

And I can’t leave without telling you the story of the spooky kettle. The kettle in the flat is the weirdest piece of kitchen equipment I’ve ever come across. Sometimes it will allow you to switch it on, other times it won’t. But if you get cross and decide to put a pan of water on the hob to heat instead, it immediately works. In fact now all we have to do when it’s playing up is put the ring on, on the hob, no pan of water necessary, and then press its button and voila, it works.

 

 

 

 

Day One at the Open Bookshop

interior of the 'Open Book'

interior of the ‘Open Book’

It’s day one for the husband and me in our fortnight as booksellers-in-residence at the Open Book in Wigtown. I blogged about the background to our involvement in this project here. The shop is well-stocked and has an eclectic selection of second-hand books. Outside, it’s been a bitterly cold day with snow flurries, but the shop is cosy. We had four visitors to the shop this morning and then while I nipped up to the flat for a bit of lunch, the husband had six more people come in and he made a sale.

As I write this just after 4p.m. we’ve had a total of thirteen people in for a browse. One lady  – an artist – was looking for hardbacks with no pictures or photos and with page edges in good condition. The subject matter wasn’t important. This was an intriguing brief! It turned out she does paper-folding using old books. She didn’t have much time to browse, so I said I’d pick some out for her and to come back when she has more time. There’s now a small bundle awaiting her inspection.

Sci-fi section all sorted

Sci-fi section all sorted

Husband has done a tidy up of the science-fiction section and I’ve made a start on the children’s section, but it’s going to take a few days I reckon to get it a bit more child-friendly.

Children's section is a work in progress...

Husband Children’s section is a work in progress…

So a fairly busy and productive start.

Our Very Own Bookshop

The Open Book Project

image © Strannik_fox via shutterstock.com

image © Strannik_fox via shutterstock.com

It’s almost time. On Friday, me and the husband will drive down from our home on the Isle of Skye to Edinburgh to spend the weekend with our son and his wife-to-be. It will be good to spend time with them and have a proper catch-up. I’m sure one of the main topics will be how the plans for the wedding in May in Cyprus are going––an event the whole family is looking forward to.

But quality family time isn’t the reason for this post. Edinburgh is a stopping off point before Iain and I embark on a bit of an adventure. On Sunday we’ll be heading off to Wigtown, a small market town in the south-west of Scotland. Wigtown is also Scotland’s National Book Town, a title earned not only because it has a high number of second hand bookshops relative to its size, but also because of its very popular annual book festival. However, as the festival takes place in the autumn, it’s not the reason for our visit.

We’re going to Wigtown because our application to take part in The Open Book Project was accepted. This is a six-month project being run by the book festival company. The project sought people to run a bookshop in the town for stints between two and six weeks and to blog about their experience. The bookshop in question deals in second hand books and is called The Open Book. It’s an unpaid residency but comes with a flat above the shop where we’ll live for the duration.

image © Miguel Garcia Saavedra via shutterstock.com

image © Miguel Garcia Saavedra via shutterstock.com

Below is an extract from the project’s pitch:

“Old-fashioned” bookshops have never been more under threat yet they have also never been more valued by bibliophiles. How do traditional bookshops thrive and survive in a digital world? How does the fantasy of being a bookseller compare to the reality? The Open Book is a matchless experience, offering participants the opportunity to discover what it’s like to run a bookshop in Scotland’s National Book Town, and to contribute to a unique literary community by helping to sustain one of its bookstores. While in Wigtown, guest booksellers will be asked to blog about their experience and consider the role of the bookshop and the bookseller in the 21st century.

Qualities looked for in visiting booksellers include a passion for books, good communication skills and a sense of humour. We are looking for people who will bring new ideas and new energy to Scotland’s National Book Town.

Preference may be given to those who may also use the period of their visit for writing or other artistic activities, although that is not compulsory.

image © CoolR via shutterstock.com

image © CoolR via shutterstock.com

We’re thrilled to have been selected. We’re excited at the prospect. We’re nervous with anticipation, unsure what to expect and open to this new experience.

We don’t know Wigtown or the wider area of Dumfries and Galloway  very well at all, although we did have one summer holiday in a cottage Dalbeattie, thirty years ago when our children were small. I expect Wigtown will be similar to our own little town and I know I’ll feel at home in the Co-op supermarket.

We’ve never run a shop before, but between us I think we can cover all the bases. The most daunting aspect for us , I guess, will be doing the window displays as neither of us are particularly artistic. But we’re each going to give it a go.

However, as avid book readers, we’re both keen to explore the shop’s stock and to chat to its customers about the books they’re interested in.

The husband is a sci-fi and fantasy fanatic and he’s also interested in sport, technology and motorcycling.

I’m very interested in children’s fiction, both classic and modern. In the adult  realm, I like mainly crime and romance. I also enjoy lots of types of non-fiction.

So it would be good if we found a first edition JM Barrie or HG Wells, or a Mary Stewart or John Buchan on the shop’s shelves!

Apart from blogging about how it’s going throughout our time in the shop, I plan to get started on my third novel for adults––just mulling over ideas at this stage, and I also plan to work on my next piece for the online writing magazine Words with Jam to which I’m a regular contributor.

Other than that we both have open minds as to the literary events and opportunities that could arise while we keep shop.

Watch this space for developments…

The project blog is here where I’ll also be posting and where you can read the posts so far by previous shopkeepers.

The Wigtown Book Festival runs from 25 Sept to 4 Oct this year and the programme is out now. See here for more information.

Social Media for Writers-building an online platform

image © Rawpixel via shutterstock.com

Daunting? Yes, a bit. What I expected? No. Worth it? Definitely.

This is not meant to be a definitive guide. It’s a look at what’s worked for me with regard to promoting my writing. If it helps you become better informed for doing the same, then that’s great. But I present it in the hope it’s interesting for its own sake.

Five years ago I published my first novel, Change of Life. But of course that wasn’t the end of the process of being a published author. It was merely the end of the beginning. The next stage was marketing.

I’d written it to be read. I wanted readers. The book was available as a paperback and as an e-book. It was available to buy online and in the few bookshops I’d managed to persuade to stock it.

But if nobody except me and my nearest and dearest knew the book existed, let alone anything about it, then it wasn’t going to be bought or read.

So how to get it noticed?

The advice on writers’ street was to get onto the social networks. Authors, it was said, needed a strong online presence. They needed a social media/online platform. Now, up until 2010, a platform to me was where you boarded and exited a train. So, I found myself at the foot of a learning slope of at least Ben Nevis proportions, if not quite Everest. And the slope would lead me to this virtual platform.

It was a bit daunting at first, but I did my research, assembled the necessary kit and set off.

EXPLORATION PHASE:

image © Rawpixel via shutterstock.com

image © Rawpixel via shutterstock.com

Although I was relatively tech savvy, I knew nothing of Facebook and its siblings. I’d heard of them of course, but being of a certain age, i.e. over fifty, they weren’t my natural habitats and the landscapes were totally unfamiliar.

WEBSITE: With my husband’s help, I got myself a domain name, a web hosting package and I set up a website. I furnished the site with home page and an about page. I included information about my writing and my novel and where to buy it.

image © 360b via shutterstock.com

image © 360b via shutterstock.com

BLOG: My first solo expedition was blogging. I chose WordPress as the host. I was impressed by both the clarity and ease of use, and the level of support it offered. I still am. So I claimed a spot and set up my online base camp there.

image © Gustavo Frazao via shutterstock.com

image © Gustavo Frazao via shutterstock.com

TWITTER: From there I visited Twitter. Nobody from my real life was on there and the land of 140 characters was completely alien. But gradually I got the hang of it. I followed people and people followed me. I got to know the etiquette, found some good Twitter mentors and some lovely Twitter friends amongst the other writers who are on there. I set up a link from my blog to Twitter, and from Twitter to my blog and moved easily between the two.

image © Twinsterphoto via shutterstock.com

image © Twinsterphoto via shutterstock.com

FACEBOOK: Encouraged by all of this, I then ventured out into the wilds of Facebook. I befriended the members of my friends and family who were already there and some of the writers who I ‘knew’ from my pre-publication days when I hung out at the writing peer review website You Write On. I also joined some Facebook writers’ groups and set up an author page. And, as I’d done with Twitter I linked my Facebook presence to my blog.

GOODREADS: It wasn’t until 2014 that I ‘decided’ to join Goodreads. I was sort of gently coerced there by another writer whose book I’d reviewed on my blog. This writer has a bit of a presence on Goodreads and was very keen that I post my review of her book there.

PINTEREST:  I enlisted on Pinterest around three years ago. This was following a suggestion by my daughter that I could make up storyboards of characters, settings, and plots solely for my own use.

LINKEDIN and GOOGLEPLUS: I have never visited either but both keep sending me emails to tell me I’ve friends there who want to hook up.

image © mama_mia via shutterstock.com

image © mama_mia via shutterstock.com

 

SETTLING DOWN – MY SOCIAL MEDIA HOMES:

So where did I eventually settle? Where did I chose to lay foundations and build my platform? Well,  it’s been a slow but steady journey of exploration. But I would say that five years on, and with another novel published along the way, I now have my own, well-established platform access points. There are two of them and they are here on the blog and my Twitter feed.

WHY MY BLOG?

As my own knowledge about blogging has increased, so too, I hope, has the quality of the blog. And you know what? I love it. I love WordPress, its friendly knowledgeable and helpful staff and its real community feel. I love posting. I love tinkering with the look and the feel of my blog. I love interacting with visitors and fellow bloggers, ­­most of whom I’ve never met, but who I count as friends.

I just love the whole blogging thing. It may have started out as a way of shouting into the darkness about my marvellous novel, but it very quickly became about so much more. It became my own personal magazine where I could express my news, views and current preoccupations. Although I have links to my novels in the sidebar, I only wrote posts about them at the time of their publication. The blog is not about selling, but it is about visibility and connecting.

And even if I never publish another book (which I hope isn’t the case) I will continue to blog for its own sake.

BLOG vs WEBSITE

My website, however is no more. It proved, for me and my lack of expertise at the time at least, to be too difficult to use. Adding and updating material seemed ridiculously complicated and, besides, nobody ever visited it – or if they did, there didn’t appear to be any way for them to contact me via the site. BUT time has moved on, so has website design, and so has my knowledge, so never say never. I may yet set up a website separate to the blog and make that the place that is exclusively about my books.

WHAT’S SO GOOD ABOUT TWITTER?

Being on Twitter is similar in effect to doing the blog. What began as a way of marketing my books, quickly became so much more. I now have a supportive network of other writers who all tweet and retweet for each other. Besides writers I also have tweet contact with all sorts of people, some of whom are readers of my books, but most of whom are not. Being on Twitter has gone way beyond shouting out ‘buy my book’ – a mistake lots of authors new to Twitter make – and is about networking in general. It’s about engaging with other people and giving and receiving all sorts of support, advice and encouragement. By using Twitter lists I’m able to keep the whole thing manageable and productive.

My blog is linked to Twitter so that when I put up a new post an alerting tweet also goes out.

As with the blog, I count several twitter friends as real friends even although we haven’t met.

FACEBOOK IS NOT FOR ME:

As far as promoting my writing, Facebook is not for me. I’ve tried it and it was just frustrating. I was bombarded by other writers wanting me to shout about their books, but who rarely reciprocated. My author page was full of other authors – again they just wanted publicity for themselves in the main – but no readers. So I’ve taken down the author page and keep Facebook strictly for real world friends and family. I visit less and less and would probably leave if it wasn’t that it’s a good way for me to keep in touch with my nieces and nephews who are scattered across the globe.

OTHER ONLINE PLACES:

I couldn’t get along with GOODREADS at all. It seems unnecessarily complicated and not worth the effort. I like PINTEREST but so far have just done it for fun although I’m coming round to exploring its possibilities for book marketing and publicity.

TO SUM UP:

So, what advice would I offer to authors setting up their online platform?

Take your time exploring.

Choose the networks that work for you and concentrate on them.

Be patient. Relationships worth having take time and effort to develop.

Share stuff about yourself and your wider life. Don’t just shout ‘buy my book’.

Return favours and support that others give to you.

 

And, ironically having said all that, I think I’ve found most of my small but loyal readership by word of mouth and by being in the ‘also bought’ bit on Amazon when readers are buying books that are in a similar vein to mine. That’s not to say social media makes no difference to your popularity as an author, but I think it’s more about visibility and relationships with readers rather than it having a direct bearing on sales.

 

And Finally:

There is a massive amount of advice out there on how authors, both traditionally and self-published, can, and indeed should, use social media to promote their work. A lot of it is good advice, but there’s a lot that’s really more about the person offering the advice raising their own profile, or trying to get money out of the unwary and less knowledgeable. There are many self-appointed experts. So do your own research, make informed choices and do what feels right for you.

Good advice and information can be found at:

  • The Alliance for Independent Authors website.
  • The B.R.A.G. website here. They have just done an analysis of how readers and authors find each other online.
  • Pewinternet here have also carried out research on the use of different social media in general, including by gender and age group in the USA.I found this particularly interesting as I suspect my target readership are not big social media users.

So there you have it? I’d be interested to hear your experiences of using social media to promote your books. Please do leave your comments.

 

 

Kicking Winter’s Ass

 

Go to it and then park up in the comfort zone layby…

A Jan day of snow 2011 001

So, yes, I know I’ve been banging on about getting out of the comfort zone a fair bit lately. But I haven’t abandoned it completely. We all need some comforts, some down time and relaxation. And, here in the northern hemisphere, probably more now than at other times of year.

A Jan day of snow 2011 008

 

Here in the Hebrides, we had a couple of bad storms in January with gale force winds gusting around 100mph. We lost roof tiles––all repaired now–– and we’ve had a few power cuts. But that sort of goes with the territory and we have a full power-cut survival kit to hand every year at this time.  I don’t even really mind the cold, or the bad weather particularly––as long as we don’t have to drive anywhere when it’s all ice and snow on the roads. I do hate the shortness of the daylight hours. However, the days are beginning to lengthen and there are already bulbs coming up in the garden.

A Jan day of snow 2011 015

And this time of year isn’t all bad. It can be a time of fresh starts, of bracing walks, warm firesides, and hearty soups. And after all, all our days are precious and are there to be savoured–– even if it isn’t always easy to remember that.

 

Below are my five tips for getting the best out of this time of year, and for parking up for a bit of a break in the comfort zone lay-by.

  1. Get outdoors for a time on most days. Dress for the weather and just go for it. I’ve managed to get a walk every day this month except one – when the weather was extreme and I wasn’t feeling so good. Even if you’re at work, try to get out for even a short time during your lunch break. 

    looking down the croft, across the loch to Trotternish ridge

  2. Get reading. When the weather is truly atrocious and you’ve nowhere else to be––curl up on the sofa or on top of the bed with a nice soft blanket and escape into a good book.

    image via shutterstock.com

    image via shutterstock.com

  3. Eat well. I do try to buy local and in season produce whenever possible, but at this time of year I make exceptions. Freshly squeezed orange juice at breakfast time and a mid-morning tangerine bring a bit of the sunny Mediterranean to the kitchen, blueberries and grapes from South America and asparagus from Egypt also add some much needed colour and variety to the winter diet. But I also enjoy excellent Scottish root vegetables and kale and other greens––all local and in season. Now is the best time here for hearty vegetable soups and rhubarb (early forced) or apple crumbles.

    image © Andrey Stasotin via shutterstock.com

    image © Andrey Stasotin via shutterstock.com

  4. Pamper yourself. A hot bubble bath by scented candlelight is a weekly treat for me. The candles came in handy when my scheduled bath time coincided with a recent powercut.

    image © Marilyn barbone via shutterstock.com

    image © Marilyn barbone via shutterstock.com

  5. Spring clean. Yes, you read that right. Why wait till Spring to get tidying? You’ll have better things to do then. Instead use this time of enforced indoorness to have a bit of a clearout and a declutter. And it can be a very therapeutic thing to get rid of no longer useful or beautiful stuff. So, put on some favourite music and get stuck into those cupboards and drawers.

    image © moomsabuy via shutterstock.com

    image © moomsabuy via shutterstock.com

How do you feel about this time of year? And, if you’re in the southern hemisphere what is it like for you?

Go Grandma!

Report from outside the comfort zone

Biker chick. Me well out of the comfort zone  - riding pillion on the husband's bike a couple of years ago.

Biker chick.
Me, well out of the comfort zone – riding pillion on the husband’s bike a couple of years ago.

In my first post of 2015 I did a bit of a preachy thing about taking the road less travelled and staying out of the comfort zone. So now I think I should give you an update on how good, or not, I am at taking my own advice.

In that earlier post I said that I intended to improve/maintain my fitness level by taking regular exercise, but that I didn’t see it as a New Year’s resolution as such, more as a continuation of something already started that I wanted to become an even more embedded habit.

Having taken early retirement from my teaching job is a bit of a double-edged sword fitness wise. I have more time to exercise, but I don’t get the incidental walking time I had when I walked to and from work and I’m no longer on my feet all day, but spend a lot of time writing at my desk.

image copyright DeVisu via @shutterstock.com

image copyright DeVisu via @shutterstock.com

However, I can report that it’s a case of so far, so good. I’m averaging thirty minutes a day of brisk walking, plus 30 minutes of yoga on five days out of seven, plus my 90 minute, once per week yoga class. I’ve also done a bit of an archaeological dig down through the depths of the bottom of my wardrobe and unearthed my long buried hand weights. So I’m also doing a ten minute stint a couple of times a week with them.

image via shutterstock.com

image copyright iQconcept via shutterstock.com

As far as getting out of the exercise comfort zone goes, yoga is new to me. I did a taster course while I was still teaching and then took it up in earnest last autumn. I really love it and it’s no chore to do daily practice in between the weekly classes. What I really like about it is its non-competitiveness and the fact that the philosophy is very much ‘even a little is fine’. So, as a recovering perfectionist this is especially good for me.

Along with healthy eating––again not a New Year resolution but an already established habit, I’m hoping that all that moving about will, keep the old muscles and bones strong, maintain flexibility and balance and keep the heart beating efficiently.

I’ve not lost weight, but I have lost some inches round my middle in the last year or so. And that’s fine by me. I’m so over the whole dieting thing.

image copyright Vova Shevchuk via shutterstock.com

image copyright Vova Shevchuk via shutterstock.com

I’m no fanatic. Running of any sort–– let alone marathons, eating only cabbage-based meals, and saying no to a bit of chocolate or a glass of the bubbly stuff are not for me.

But being fifty-eight years old I value my health more as time passes. I want to be fit enough to play with my grandchildren and to be around for sometime yet to annoy my husband and kids–– and I reckon whatever age you are it’s a case of use it or lose it when it comes to physical ability.

What I find very encouraging is that recent research seems to suggest that it’s not so much a daily hour in the gym that matters, though it’s still worth doing, but that what matters even more is the small regular amounts of movement that we should all be doing. The most recent advice is to get up from your desk/sofa every hour or so and move about a bit, or to do some in the house stair running in the ad breaks while watching TV, or to do some squats and lunges while waiting for the kettle to boil. There’s also a new trend for standing desks where, as the name implies, desk-based work is carried out standing up at a lectern height table top.

So I’ve decided my kitchen worktop shall henceforth be called my standing desk as I work at preparing meals, working out menus and shopping lists and check over the household accounts.

I haven’t tried the staircase gym. By evening, when I’m doing my TV watching, I feel I’ve done my exercise for the day––and  nor have I done any lunges in the kitchen, although I have done the odd tree pose (yoga) while waiting for the toast to pop­­­­–– as my probably traumatised neighbours could probably confirm.

shutterstock_247671976

image copyright Cherryjuice via shutterstock.com

 

As for really getting out of my comfort zone, this month I finally learned to swim! I overcame a virtually lifelong fear and, following a private lesson with a wonderful instructor at my local pool, I swam a width. What a buzz it gave me! I was in a right state beforehand but determined to go through with it. Taking my feet off the bottom of the pool and then finding myself able to float while doing probably the weirdest breast stroke ever was just awesome.

image copyright Suriya KK via shutterstock.com.

image copyright Suriya KK via shutterstock.com.

And in my writing I’ve been trying new things too. I’ve been working on several competition entries mainly ones set by the Scottish Association of Writers whose annual conference I’ll be attending at the end of March. This has meant trying my hand at a short story for adults, a children’s short story, a review and an opinion-piece article. All are forms of writing that I find more difficult than novel writing, but it’s very good exercise for the creative muscles and having a deadline certainly helps.

I’m also having a go at life-writing which is akin to memoir––again it’s for a competition––this time for the Edinburgh Writers Club, of which I’m a long-distance member. I’ve not done this sort of creative non-fiction type work before, but it’s something I enjoy reading and I must say I’m enjoying the process of writing it.

But it’s not all work and no play. The comfort zone still exists, but it’s a layby off the main track. However, it’s one I do pull into regularly. More on that in my next post…