Visiting Virginia Woolf – A trip to Monk’s House

Monk’s House was once the home of Virginia and Leonard Woolf. Today it’s owned by the National Trust. It’s a simple, unassuming 18th century cottage with a beautiful big garden and orchard.

Virginia writing shed can be found in this orchard. And she resides here too, her ashes scattered amongst the trees.

Virginia and Leonard Woolf owned this place as a retreat from London. In it they made welcome several notable members of the ‘Bluestockings’ literary and artistic set in the 1930s.

There’s a real sense of simplicity about the place. It’s a home not a grand place to show off. Which isn’t to say it’s not interesting. It’s full of books and colourful rugs, painted chairs and vases full of flowers.

If you’re a member of the NT and you’re into your authors, this is a good place to visit and it doesn’t take long to go round.

The garden is delightful and many a visitor was enjoying a picnic on that summers afternoon. You can see why Virginia and Leonard found a creative bolthole here.

I think you either love Virginia work or admire it and I’d say I fall into the latter category. I’ve read a number of her works (favourite is The Years) and I’ve been fascinated by her themes, her use of words but I’m not as passionate as I know some will be. But her influence on the literary world and development of Feminism cannot be underestimated. So if you’re in the vicinity, why not pop in and look around.

Anyone else been to Monks House?

In Real Life

The real world rushed into focus recently in the worst way possible. It’s why I’ve been so quiet on here. It was a full-on bolt from the blue and it’s sent everything I knew spinning.

We write to escape reality. Perhaps this is most true if you write fiction, but even those whose work is ultra realist are still escaping into the story. The beginning, the middle and the end. The place where we are in control. Where we have the power to go straight, diverge, rewind, erase and, if we don’t like where we’re going, switch off completely. The real world becomes clear and easy to hold. But now the sharp edges of life are here and they’re staying. They an’t be rewritten and they an’t be erased. These times remind me why we escape real life but also of the best parts of it. The people I love. You have to hold them tightly along with our precious armour; our words. It’s scant protection, but it’s all we’ve got.

Where's the oddest place you've done it

Write I mean!

On trains and buses, boats and rooftops, beaches, balconies and the bottom of the sea, we writers will do it anywhere (get your minds out of the gutter please!) I’m sure you know what it’s like to have the Muse (or just the need to flex those writing muscles) strike at an unexpected moment.

Personally, the oddest place I’ve done it was a department store. Working 9-5, you can only re-arrange the cushions and lights and mirrors so many times before you start to feel a bit zombified. In the long periods between customers (because no-one buys lights on a Wednesday afternoon), I used scraps of paper we kept for customer notes to scribble out a ghost story set in, yes, a department store.

So, where’s the oddest place you’ve done your writing?

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4 Roadblocks to your Writing – And 4 ways to Steamroll them!

Image of steamroller

For every writing problem you have, there is an answer.

Not necessarily an easy answer that involves lamps and Genies but an answer nevertheless.

Here are 4 common roadblocks that stop you from writing – and 4 ways to steamroll them flat.

1) I don’t have time to write

When I was younger, there was a TV show about a boy with a watch who could stop time. I think everyone would kill for one of those, writer or not.

You’re allowed to have a busy life, a job, a family, kids, pets and all sorts of other commitments. You’re allowed to have days when you don’t write. Don’t feel bad about them.

But –

the fact remains that your book/short story/poem/screenplay isn’t going to write itself. So you’re going to have to make time. That might mean making a few little sacrifices; you wake up a bit earlier, you write in your lunch break or skip an evening TV show for a couple of hours of writing instead. If you don’t drive on your commute, you could fit in a few words then. Or even keep a notepad in the toilet – multi-tasking to the extreme!

2) I’m just not inspired

You can’t write without inspiration right? Well…actually, you can. People who write for a living don’t have a choice. It may sound mercenary but if you have to, you’ll find something to write about.

If you’re stuck on a scene, skip it and move on. Try editing something you’ve already written. Or go and write something completely different to keep your mind active until you’re ready to go back to your WiP. Blog posts are good!

Physical activity can also get the creative juices flowing. A simple walk can work wonders for the old noggin. A trip to the Library is even better. Grab a book to find your inspiration.

3) I’m not sure my writing is any good

Join the club, we’ve got jackets.

Every writer ever, in the history of writing, has doubted their work or their writing abilities. And not just once either. It’s completely natural. And it may be that what you’re writing on isn’t going to work out.

Step back. Let your work breathe. When you return to it, give it a the once over and, if you decide to scrap it, don’t chuck it entirely. Keep a copy so that if nothing else you can cannibalise it for ‘parts’.

You also need to remind yourself why you writeWhy do these characters dance through your through your head and onto paper? Because they need to. Because you need to. You may not be the next Charles Dickens (I know I’m not), but you will always have to write. 

4) I keep getting distrac-oh a butterfly!

The internet is a wonderful and terrible place. So are Netflix and Instagram  and all the other distractions of the digital age. When you turn on your computer to write, you open up world of procrastination right at your fingertips. I know this. I’ve already been distracted six times in the last paragraph.

Hmm…what was I saying?

You can try swapping your laptop for a pen and paper. But if you’re anything like me, you type faster than you can write anyway. Then you’ll need to get serious and unplug the internet. You can do this literally or by using handy apps from Chrome or Microsoft. Use them to block the Internet on your computer for as long as you need to get things done.
Or try a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, with or without music, to help you focus.

And hide the TV.


What are your top tips to get past major writing difficulties?

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An Explanation of the Continuous Necessity

You write
so that when you fall,
your descent will be arrested,
by a silver net of words
tied in knots
onto the walls.

And you ask,
are they strong enough,
tough enough, tall enough,
what if they just break
so that you crash into
the floor?

So you write
and on you tie them
knots with bows
and knots with snarls,
knots with no one else around them,
knots fixed
into your soul.

For you know
the way you speak
in those tight,
serrated thoughts,
fingers stained with psychic ink,
so permanence
is taught.

And it never
ceases moving,
the story rolls forever,
blind and bullish,
never ending,
minds working
without a hold.

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Raised in the fantasy way

R2-D2 toy

I grew up surrounded by fantasy and sci-fi. Maybe that’s why it’s what I love to write now.  Bedtime stories were The Hobbit, Wind in the Willows, Roald Dahl. Daytime video viewing was Star Wars, Willow, Labyrinth and all the Disney films. It’s still seen as odd if you’re into fantasy and happen to be female. People assume you aren’t into it for the ‘right’ reasons, whatever they are. Sexist bollocks of course!

Anyway, all this leads to the fact I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens last week. I went with my boyfriend, who’s decently into fantasy but didn’t grow up with Star Wars like I did. We had the toys, the books, the games, you name it. I was the one at the screening with the Star Wars T-shirt! They’ll be no spoilers, but suffice to say both I and the boyfriend loved it. It brought back the feeling of watching the original films, with the added bonus of being on a very big (IMAX) screen that practicaly swallowed me into the story.

What did you think of the film?  And are you a fantasy fanatic?

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New Year Musings

New Years Eve fireworks

It’s all over. Both the year and my book.

Completing the book has been my biggest achievement and one I didn’t expect to happen. When I looked back at my New Years postfrom January 2015, I was surprised to find I’d gone beyond what I thought I could do.

I completed the 2nd edit on my book and started and completed the third. I never thought I would do that. I also continued with this blog and gathered 350 or so followers from the fellow bloggers (and a hello and thanks to all of you). It’s nice to have somewhere to share my work and my ramblings about books and places. And it’s great to follow other writers and gain all the insights I can.

Back to the book, this year begins with the question ‘What now?’ I think the best idea is to have someone read it, someone who will give honest, constructive feedback that hopefully doesn’t just consist of ‘don’t give up your day job.’
Any advice about how to go about this will be gratefully received!

I hope you all had a good year and have a good one in 2016.

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I’m still here

My apologies to anyone who follows me (you still there?) as I’ve been neglectful of this blog of late. It’s been two months (!) since I posted anything which is not good.

My main issue has been dun dun dun…the day job.  It’s been sucking up my time and energy like a sponge.  I’m sure many of you know how that feels.  The moments I do find for writing, I’ve been putting towards my WiP.  This has at least paid off and I’m on the very last page of the book, right the end of my 3rd edit.  I shall feel good once the last full stop is in place.  Of course, then I’ll have to look for feedback from er, somewhere out there but that’s a whole other blog post.

To end, hello to everyone out there and, as the Writers Secret Prayer goes, “May your words flow without blockage”.

I Bought the Final Discworld Novel

Well, I had to didn’t I?

The final Discworld novel. After this, there will be no more. I knew this day would come eventually, but it shouldn’t have come so damn soon.

The Sheperd's Crown by Terry Pratchett The Sheperd's Crown by Terry Pratchett

I’ve started reading it and it’s just as good as I expected albeit tinged with bittersweetness in every word. One day I shall have every Terry Pratchett book on my bookshelf, saved as my tribute to him. For now I’ll just savour this last adventure.

Have you read the book yet?

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A Tour of The British Library

The British Library

One of the main things I wanted to do when I visited London, was go on a tour of The British Library. I booked the tickets beforehand to make sure we had a place but being a Tuesday morning there were only six of us on the tour anyway.

We started the tour with a trip outside to see the building and learn some interesting facts.

The British Library

The building was designed in 1960s by Colin St John Wilson but due to delays and relocations, that design bares little resemblance to what was actually built.

Bust of Colin St John Wilson
Bust of Colin St John Wilson

It was meant to be built near to the British Museum where the library was first kept. In the end that wasn’t possible so it wound up across the city near to St Pancras Station.

The foundation stone was laid in 1982 and the building opened in 1997. The project went wildly over-budget until the government cut off funding at which point it just stopped being built, with unfinished bits left, well, unfinished.

The British Library internal structure
An unfinished bit of the library.

Below the library is the basement which goes down eight storeys and stores most of the libraries books. The film “Alien” was shot there whilst it was being built. We didn’t get to go down there but hopefully no alien’s got left behind after they finished!

Model of the British Library
The basement of the library.

To store the new books it receives, the library is now having to build a new premises in Boston Spa, outside of London. By law, every book published in the UK has to have a copy sent to the library. They receive about 8,000 a day. Even newspapers and magazines have to send copies in – including the pornographic ones!

As far as ‘behind-the-scenes’ goes, we didn’t see too much but our guide did show us how requested books are hand-picked then whizzed around the building. And we got an eagle-eye view of one of the reading rooms.

The British Library reading room
We see you!

We also learnt more about The King’s Library, donated by King George IV after he inherited it from his father. It’s kept in this rather snazzy area in the middle of the main atrium and can only be accessed by about 30 people.

The King's Library
The King’s Library

I also have to mention the gift shop because it’s like heaven for any lover of literature, with souvenir postcards, bags, badges, notebooks, pens etc as well as actual books both fiction and non-fiction.

The British Library gift shopThe British Library gift shop

All the pretty, pretty things. I wanted to jump in them and swim about, but that’s probably frowned upon.

Anyhoo, I know the question you want to ask which is “Wordlander, did you get a notebook?”

Alice in Wonderland notebook

Of course I did – but more about that in another blog post!

I hope you enjoyed my ‘taster’ of my British Library tour. They only appear to be going on until 30th September this year so if you’re interested get in there quick!

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