Saturday, 26 March 2011

Crime Writing Competiton

Alibi TV in conjunction with HarperCollins and Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate are holding a short story writing competition for crime writers who have a strong sense of their home area.

Entries are invited for original, unpublished crime stories between 1,000 and 2,500 words that link to the writer's local region. Only one entry is allowed per person.

To register as a member of the Alibi website and submit your story, visit the Alibi site. The deadline is noon on 1 May 2011.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Bye bye Violet Eyes

It was with great sadness that I read today of the passing of Elizabeth Taylor at the age of 79. She's one of those names who has always been present in my life.

I'm a Lady!

Today marks my first guest blog post '7 ways to avoid online overload' on the wonderful Lady Bloggers Society site.

I discovered the Lady Bloggers Society on my blogging travels a while back and have found it to be a very friendly place to connect with other 'lady bloggers'. 

"The Lady Bloggers Society was formed to give women bloggers a place to connect, learn, share, and advance as bloggers and dealing with everything feminine in this growing digital age."

With over 2,000 followers, this is an ongoing and vibrant community. Do have a look if you get the chance.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

My favourite room

Without wanting to sound like Rolf Harris, "Can you guess what it is yet?". My favourite room, if I could extend my home to build one, would be a library. To be honest, our lounge is gradually becoming surrounded by book-cases so maybe I should start calling that room 'my library'. Each move seems to incur the need to buy yet another bookcase. My excuse is that to be a writer necessitates the need to be a reader too. I love books - paperbacks, hardbacks, old and new. I not only love to read books but also to re-read them, revisiting old favourites when the whim takes me. If I could surround myself with books and more books, I'd be a very happy person but...

In a world where more and more, we have to consider how we are affecting our environment, is there a place for books? Is that a gasp I hear? Or a cry of indignation? Has this woman gone mad? Surely, as a writer, she's shooting herself in the foot to suggest that there may be no place for books. Let me explain what I mean and where this thought process began.

Like many people, my husband and I occasionally have discussions about what we'd like to have in our lives - new car, holiday to this place or that, dream home, etc, and so on. At the weekend, we were talking about what rooms we would include in a house if we could afford to build one. Almost my first thought was 'a library'. A library with lots of shelves, and a high ceiling, and a ladder on wheels, and big comfortable leather chairs, and a view of the garden and... I'll stop there but you get the gist. My husband then posed a question that stopped my gallop of thought completely. Will there be libraries in the future?

I have to admit that my first reaction was outrage. Of course there will be libraries in the future. I love books. My children love books. How could he consider the absence of libraries? Then I calmed down and began to look at the suggestion from his point of view.

My husband is a writer like me and he reads avidly but whereas I revel in the feel of an actual book, he does the majority of his reading on his phone through a e-reader application. I have something similar on my own phone and have downloaded several classic novels to read while I'm in the car (I'm currently reading 'The Moonstone' by Wilkie Collins). Now I have to admit that I have a natural aversion to and suspicion of having all nature of information simply held online and accessible through a computer or other device. I worry that if the world goes bottom over the proverbial, we could lose so much valuable literature that we could never retrieve again. I also love the feel of a book in my hands. Curling up in a chair to read always seems a luxurious experience to me. Having said that, we know that deforestation is causes major problems for our planet's health for varying reasons that I won't go into now (I'm sure you know all about that already) so reading a book online is environmentally a better solution. We still have all these books though so even if we stopped producing physical books tomorrow, there would be a need to store them somewhere (unless we decided to mulch them all for fertiliser - that thought actually brought tears to my eyes).

So returning to my husband's question - will there be libraries (in the home and publicly) in the future? - I think the answer is yes but that they will be very different to what we consider a library to be nowadays. I don't think that public libraries will simply be filled with books and a small section of DVDs and CDs. I think that instead they will become mixed media centres with e-readers on hand or to hire, and the ability to borrow an e-book file. The same will apply to the films and music you can currently borrow from them. The other side to the coin, bookstores will most likely die out in their sole form and again become mixed media, merging with music and film stores.

At home, although many of us will still have our shelves of books, our libraries will merge with our offices/computer rooms and the majority of our reading matter will shift from paper to e-book. It may not be the same as my dream picture of a library but I suppose I can as easily curl up with an e-reader as I can with a book, as long as I have that comfy chair and the view of the garden.

Monday, 14 March 2011

7 ways to avoid online overload

Do you spend more time talking to your other half on Twitter and Facebook than to their actual face? Has your life been taken over by blog hops and online projects? Is your email inbox reaching critical mass? If you can answer yes to any of these questions (or all of them in my case), then I may be able to help.
  1. Taking part in discussion forums can be interesting, informative and just generally make us feel part of a community. When you comment on or sign up to follow a thread, the result can be a constant stream of notification emails that fill your inbox to overflowing. Many forums generate an automatic 'follow' to any threads you comment on which can be useful if you want to read replies to what you've added to the discussion. The downside is that you find, days later, you're still receiving reply notifications which you don't have time to read. Most days I delete two or three blocks of such emails without opening them. The same can apply to joining a group on a forum. The answer to this is to opt out of reply notifications on threads and groups. Without that incessant flow of notifications into your inbox, you'll find that (a) you don't have to constantly read and/or delete them, (b) you are not distracted by said emails, and finally (c) you can take back some control over when you decide to visit these forums.
  2. In addition to Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and Blogger, I also subscribe to several (ok, a lot of) writing related sites. If I wanted to, I could spend 24 hours a day visiting them all. As a working mum, I don't have the time to do that. The answer for me is to mark up slots over the course of the week when I will commit the time to visit one or a couple of them. Some sites only warrant a visit every couple of weeks, or once a month. Work out how important each site is to your life, your whole life. Do you really have to twitter incessantly all day? Can you put Facebook down for 48 hours without the world grinding to a halt? Be realistic.
  3. If you find that you're spending too much time sorting your emails into the relevant folders and you use Microsoft Outlook, then Outlook's Job Agent can come in handy. In essence, it sorts your emails into the relevant folders for you. I've found a useful article about it here.
  4. Return to paper. I enjoy reading the news online and obviously this is an environmentally better solution to constantly buying news'paper's but once a week I will forsake the online news-sites and buy a copy of I, a concentrated copy of the Independent newspaper. It only costs 20p but still feels like a little luxury to me. I also, on occasion, step away from messaging my friends on Facebook and put pen to paper to write them a letter. Note I said 'write' not type. Letter writing seems to be suffering a decline in recent years but personally I love to receive a handwritten letter because it shows that the sender has taken the time and care to communicate with me rather than just rattling off an unpunctuated text or tweet.
  5. If you absolutely must visit all of those sites every day, then commit to a once daily check in. Put aside an hour (ok, maybe two hours) to visit all of your sites of choice, then put them away until the next day. 
  6. I've recently been introduced to the concept of blog hopping and also joined an online initiative called Creative Every Day. These have not only introduced me to new blogger friends but also provided me with many juicy blogging prompts. The only downside is that through my increased blogging community, I've been led to more and more blog hops and online projects. I would love to be able to take them all on but real life stamps its foot and reminds me that the ironing needs doing and didn't I promise to write four new plays for my playwriting business? If you have the time to take part in blog hops and online projects, then go for it but try to be realistic about how much time you can commit to them. Otherwise you'll find yourself running round like a headless chicken trying to do everything and enjoying nothing.
  7. Finally, if all else fails, turn it all off and step away from the computer, mobile phone, tablet or whatever other device you social network and surf on. You may feel twitchy for a while but the withdrawal symptoms will soon abate. You can always go back to it all tomorrow. Now, isn't that peaceful?

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

International Women's Day 2011

Today is the one hundredth anniversary of the start of International Women's Day. That's one hundred years of celebrating the achievements of women past, present and future in all areas of life, be that social, political or economic. Each year on this day, governments, organisations and groups all around the world adopt different (and sometimes shared) themes. This year these include,
  • UK, Doncaster Council: Women's Voices and Influence
  • UK, Welsh Assembly Government: Bridging the Generational Gap
  • UK, Accenture: Stretch Yourself - Achieving 50:50 in the boardroom by 2020
  • Global, United Nations: Women and men united to end violence against women and girls
  • Canada, Status of Women (Federal Gov): Strong Leadership. Strong Women. Strong World: Equality
  • Australia, UNIFEM: United to End Violence Against Women
  • Australia, Queensland Government Office for Women: Our Women, Our State
  • Australia, WA Department for Communities: Sharing the Caring for the Future
  • USA, IBM: Women@IBM - Success in the Globally Integrated Enterprise

You can find a listing of all the related events happening today across the globe on the IWD site. There are 452 events happening in the UK alone.

On Daybreak this morning, Annie Lennox said that her greatest wish for today was that the visibility of the event and the struggles women face all over the world would be heightened. So I'm asking everyone who reads this post to help in that process by posting a link to International Women's Day on their websites, their blogs, their Facebook accounts or their Twitter streams.

It's not just women supporting the day. Daniel Craig and Judi Dench appear in this short film about inequality made for this year's event. There's also an Open University group for this event.

This day is not about creating a war between men and women. As Annie said this morning, let's put down the weapons and start talking about women's issues and the challenges they face.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Look what I made

I recently joined the 'Creative Every Day' challenge. The theme for March is 'nest' and I decided to take it literally.

I wanted to try my hand at making a nest charm and let's face it, I rarely need an excuse to make myself a new piece of jewellery. The eggs in my nest are three freshwater pearls. I've teamed the nest charm with green aventurine round beads, prehnite cube beads and flowers made from amazonite and rose quartz.

I think the result is rather spring-like. I just need some spring weather to go with it.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011