Visiting Alice Liddells Grave

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Any fan of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ will know that its eponymous heroine is based on a real person. Alice Liddell was the fourth child in the Liddell family. They were friends with Charles Dodgson AKA Lewis Carroll and it was on a boating trip that he whipped up the tale of Alice and the White Rabbit which Alice encouraged him to write down. ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ were born.

Alice lived most of her life in and around Lyndhurst in the New Forest. And it’s handily not that far away from where I live. It seemed only right that after photographing Lewis Carroll’s final resting place, I should do the same for Alice herself.

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You can find her around the back of the rather grand St Micheal and All Angels. A handy sign points the way. On the headstone, Alice is referred to as ‘Mrs Reginald Hargreaves’, which does jar, but put that down to the times in which she lived.

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The grave itself has a rather lovely white stone memorial. It contrasts with the very apt red and white rose bushes planted inside.

 

If you’re ever passing through, I would definitely recommend stopping by to  see this charming site.

 

Try these next…

 

Lewis Carrolls Grave, Guildford
Jane Austen’s Grave, Winchester
Take Five Books

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 themFor every writing problem you may be having, 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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Writers desk

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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She’ll do Nicely

Old woman

They say when your senses diminish, other senses become more astute, so your eyes improve if you’re deaf, your ears if you’re blind. I don’t know how truthful that is, but it seems as my body has diminished the strength of my mind has grown.
All those books I read are now proving their worth. People used to tell me “you’ll never get a husband with your nose in a book”. As if I wanted that! I learnt a lot about the power locked in the human mind from those pages. I was a scholar, a teacher, a thinker.

Read more

When was the Last Time you Backed-up your Work?

Before we left for our Cornwall trip a few weeks ago, my other half said,

‘Have you backed up your work recently? You should do it before we go.’

As it happened I hadn’t and said it was very sweet of him to remind me.

‘Well, I just don’t fancy dealing with you if you lost it,’ he said.

Er…thanks?

But seriously, backing up your work is vital if you write on a computer/laptop/tablet etc and should something to get into the habit of doing every time you write. Not just when you’ve finished either but during in case your machine decides to have a funny five minutes.

The easiest way is via a memory stick. They’re cheap, easy to store and easy to use. Try to keep it away from where your computer etc is, in case of damage from a fire or flood for example. I keep mine on a key ring in my bag.  It’s good, but it still means that it’s physically with me in the house or liable to get lost if my bag does.

So a good way to store work “off site” is via a “Cloud”. This is a type of digital storage that is becoming increasingly popular and is possible to use for free. I use Google Drive which comes with my Gmail account. It’s relatively simple to manage and gives a good amount of storage space.

Do you backup regularly? What do you use? Any stories of lost work?

 

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Exploring Highgate Cemetery

My recent trip to London granted me another writerly interest; Highgate cemetery – or the East side of it at least

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The cemetery was one of a number built and run for profit in the Victorian era, a heyday of death and funerey. As that era faded, so did the cemetery until it was left in a state disrepair. Eventually a group was set up to revive its fortunes and you pay a small entry fee to help pay for its upkeep.

In the Eastern cemetery I found two new additions to add to my slightly, er, morbid collection of writers who are deceased (see Oscar Wilde, Jane Austen and William Shakespeare).

First Mary Ann Evans or George Eliot as she is better known:

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Eliot wrote a clutch of famous novels including The Mill on the Floss and Middlemarch (which I’ve struggled with but plan to finish some day). Her writing was intelligent and political astute, and her personal life was lively. She lived openly with a married man and later married a chap twenty odd years her junior.

The second author is a personal hero of mine, Douglas Adams:

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I suspect I won’t have to explain too much about him but in case you’ve been living under a rock he’s the writer of the wonderfully brilliant “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.
You could easily miss his grave amid the grander memorials. As you can see fans have left a multitude of pens, a towel and if you look closely a small whale on top of the headstone. It was simple and charming and I think Adams would have loved it.

There are plenty of other famous people buried here – like Karl Marx whose grave was perhaps grander than he might have liked

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And there are even more next door in the West cemetery (admission by guided tour only at a rather hefty £12 -I saved that for another time).

But I shall finish with this honorary literary grave:

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From what I can tell Mr Horn wasn’t involved with Penguin Books in any way he just really liked them. I think it’s a rather wonderful idea for a headstone, don’t you?

A Visit to The Charles Dickens Museum, London

I’ve recently returned from a trip to London and, as I’ve already been to Charles Dickens’ birthplace,  I felt it was fitting to visit the Charles Dickens Museum.

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Number 48 Doughty Street was where Dickens’ lived from 1837 to 1839 and it’s where he wrote some of his most famous works including Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby.  It opened as a museum in 1925.

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The home is furnished with a lot of authentic pieces, many purchased from Dickens’ final home at Gads Hill.

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The house was set up as if the owners had just stepped out for a moment.  The dining table laid to receive some of Dickens’ contemporaries;

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Whilst downstairs, the kitchen (complete with hedgehog to catch bug infestations) was busy preparing the food;

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and upstairs in the study, the desk sat, patiently waiting for it’s master to return;

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The house is a wonderful,  evocative place to visit – I highly recommend it.  And I added to my notebook collection – natch!

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Discover Literature – The British Library Online

Fancy seeing the original manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Underground? What about one of William Blake’s notebooks? Or the first appearance of the Vampire in English Literature? Well now you can all without leaving the comfort of your own home.  All of those manuscripts plus loads more have been put online on The British Library website as part of their ‘Discovering Literature’ program. So if you can’t get to the library itself you can still view these amazing pieces from literary history.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit the British Library and have the bookmark to prove it.

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It’s an amazing place to visit for anyone who loves books. You can almost feel all the words within it’s walls, not in an oppressive manner, but as though all that knowledge were swooping down on you, lifting you up.  So if you do get the chance I highly recommend popping in, but regardless their online resource is definitely worth a click or two . It has much more than the documents I mentioned.

Have you ever been to the British Library? Is there another library in the world you’d recommend visiting?

(Mini) Music to Write to -“Chandelier” by Sia

I’m not a music expert by any means but I do have a strong appreciation for it and as a writer find that it can be inspiring and motivating – hence my occasional Music to Write to posts. This is a mini one of those post because it concerns only one song. I haven’t been struck this hard by a song in a long time (ah the cold hardness of adulthood)

Anyway, the video is for “Chandelier” by Sia. It was released a couple of weeks ago and has become somewhat of a YouTube sensation. The song itself is amazing, building from reggae-esque beginnings to a belter of a chorus filled with emotion.  It sounds like it should be uplifting, but the painful lyrics tell a story of darkness beneath the ‘party girl’ image, of an individual hanging on to life. It has a certain resonance with my WIP that means I have listened to it a number of times.

The video simply lifts the track into something mesmerizing as Maddie Ziegler (who I’m given to understand features on something called Dance Moms?) dances with passionate abandon around a dilapidated apartment.

I hold my hands up and say I’m only familiar with Sia through collaborations with artists like David Guetta and her work writing for other artists (the list of those is endless), but I will now be investigating her earlier solo albums.

Take a listen, and tell me what you think.

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