Thursday, 28 January 2010

A funny old world

It's a funny old world. I was gaily thinking that I had got away with catching any of the nasty bugs going around at this time of year, when I woke up one morning a few days ago and found I had a cold of epic proportions and I was disgusting to live with. Ho hum...

So, apart from feeling sorry for myself, what have I been up to? Well, not a great deal. Sneezing and sleeping have comprised the majority of this week but I did go into Southampton and meet up with a brave young man on Tuesday. He is brave on two fronts: first to put up with my sneezing, which got steadily worse as our meeting wore on, and, secondly, for the fact that his job is ghost hunting. Yes, that is right, he hunts ghost for a living. Andrew House is a paranormal investigator and he knows his stuff. He agreed to talk to me for my forthcoming book, Haunted Southampton, due out in 2011. I know now about the different stages to a haunting and the difference between some of the sensationalism seen in the media and a proper scientific investigation. Andrew was a fountain of information and I thank him very much for talking to me.

I have heard from Sylvia Kent recently. Readers of this blog will know that Sylvia published The Woman Writer, the history of The Society of Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ), in November. This fascinating story recounts tales of some of the great names in English literature over the past 116 years. Sylvia was kind enough to mention me as editor, in the section on the Society's magazine, The Woman Writer, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. Since its publication, Sylvia has been a busy lady and much in demand for television and radio interviews. Her well written and entertaining book has done much to increase the profile of the SWWJ.

Talking of radio interviews, my writing buddy, Rob Innis will be on the radio in Spain on Saturday. He will be talking about football, his great passion. Good luck Rob!

Today I heard officially that I passed my PTLLS course (Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector). I was verbally told I had passed in December but today received the news in writing. Another couple of weeks and I will have the Certificate too. Now all I need is somewhere to practice my new found skills. I have given tutorials and one to one sessions on several subjects over a long period of time, but, as with everything these days, I needed the piece of paper to prove I could teach! Now it would be really nice if there was a learning establishment out there in reader land who would like my services. On my website there is a list of workshops and talks which I give and I am always open to suggestions for further sessions. If anyone out there reading this is interested, please contact me.

OK that is enough from me for now. I am now going to find the vapour rub!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Writing Buddies at The Art House, Southampton

Writing Buddies has a new home. This is an announcement I am really pleased to be able to make. The Art House in Southampton, 178 Above Bar Street, has opened its doors to us and when we held our first meeting there it proved to be a hit with all concerned, not least because the coffee is excellent and the staff are very pleasant.

The next meeting is tomorrow, Friday 29th January, at 2pm. Everyone is welcome. Wendy Hughes will be our guest.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

A New Year ...

Another January and another birthday approaching. Time flies, doesn't it? I thought, before the fateful day actually arrives, I would take some time out and look back over 2009 and forward to what I know is coming along in 2010.

2009 was not an easy year for anyone, I think. For me it saw my efforts to establish myself back in the UK for the first time in nearly eight years. I tried to do so during the worst recession in living memory, which was, perhaps, not the best of timing. To say I found this a challenge is an understatement.

The first thing I noticed was that editors wanted a lot for their money, or were not prepared to pay anything at all for honest work. I joined the National Union of Journalists and have found this to be useful in terms of asking for advice, but if an editor ignores you, refuses to reply to messages, and runs your work without byline or payment, I find that there is not a lot of help at all. I have learnt a valuable lesson from this and will not approach a certain editor again as he is untrustworthy. My list of publications to avoid, which, thankfully, is small, has lengthened in 2009.

On a positive note, I have found that publishers are interested in writers who would like to write non-fiction books, and who know one end of a camera from another. Thus I signed four book contracts in 2009, and have been busy with the very interesting job of researching folklore, taking photographs out and about in Hampshire and finding out more about the county. Folklore of Hampshire is now with the publisher and should be in the shops in July. Southampton Past and Present is now available for pre-order on Amazon and will be in the shops in October. Haunted Southampton and Winchester: History You Can See will both be available on Amazon soon, and will be published in early 2011.

I have missed the warmth of Bangladesh and Anguilla since I came back to Blighty. I lived in thermal socks for most of the first five months of 2009 and think the inventor of these most useful items of footwear should receive some kind of accolade, if he has not already done so!

During the year I successfully studied to improve my mathematics qualifications, took another course with the wonderful Open University, this time in creative writing, and also took a PTLLS course (Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector) to enable me to teach at night school and to offer workshops etcetera to adults. I also began tutoring on the non-fiction and the proofreading and copy editing courses for The Writers Bureau. In terms of personal development, 2009 was a good year!

I have edited The Woman Writer for The Society of Women Writers and Journalists for a year now and have learnt a lot along the way. I have found that I cannot please everyone all the time and so, to save my sanity, I have decided to please the majority and not to worry about the minority, who will always find something to complain about. I realised the other day, with something of a shock I have to say, that I have edited magazines in four different countries for more than fourteen years. This experience has stood me in good stead with The Woman Writer, which is now celebrating its 100th anniversary.

I went out and about in 2009. I love meeting people and talking to them about their lives, hobbies and careers. Two trips stand out in my mind. The visit to Swanage, in Dorset, I made in May to cover the Veterans Day events there, and to St Agnes in deepest Cornwall, to meet a couple whose home is a living museum of wartime memorabilia. Super!

It was not all work though. I was surprised by the amount of interest shown when I blogged about the new kitchen we had installed in our home, with several emails sent in protest when I dared to suggest that perhaps readers were getting bored with a blow by blow daily account of the work in progress! Later in the year the Legg household acquired Phyllis, an ancient, and very tiny, Suzuki campervan, which I bought on ebay as a project to do up, and which I hope will be fun to travel around in next summer. This was after a disastrous camping trip, which saw a storm ruin our tent and made us vow not to camp again!

In May I started Writing Buddies, the group for writers in Southampton. This was a venture begun to bring together professional and aspiring writers for coffee and writing related chat, and has proved highly successful. We met in Borders bookshop in the city until the shop closed and then moved to the central library for the last meeting of the year. We will meet again at the end of January, at a venue to be decided.

I was pleased to be presented with the Scroll Award for Writing, by the Southampton Writers' Circle, for my piece on the Master of the Queen Mary II, which I wrote for Hampshire Life magazine. This was a very pleasant surprise.

I was interviewed by Express FM radio at the end of the year, which was great fun and I looked forward to hearing the broadcast, but this was not to be. I have now heard that the broadcast tape has been 'lost' and so you can imagine what I think of this radio station now ...

So, looking forward, I will expand my series of talks and workshops, about aspects of writing, my life, photography and folklore. I am speaking to the Southampton Writers' Circle in February, talking and co-hosting a workshop at the Festival of Writing in York in April and speaking at the July meeting of the Writers In Southampton (WiS) group. I am also open to new challenges, so am actively looking for these.

I am also looking forward to the launch of the two books coming out this year. My mother keeps saying that she never thought she would have an author for a daughter! I wonder why she says this, as I have been writing since I was a small child. It was only a matter of time.

So, on that note, I will sign off. Happy New Year everyone!