Writer in the making….

This is Part 2 of the Weekly Writing challenge from 24 March. The prompt went like this:

Every superhero has an ‘origin’ story of how they came into being. If applied to myself, How did I begin to be a reader, and eventually a writer? 


 

An embarrassing start

I th­­ink I was about seven or eight years old when I attempted to write my first story. It was simple and I tried my hardest to write something good. It was definitely a love story. I remember being quite pleased I’d written something from scratch, all by myself. I must have shown my Mum that I’d written it. My family was there one tea time or something, I think my Grandparents were there too. I remember Mum telling me to go and get my story, and how desperately I wanted to say no, because it was not good enough for people to hear. However, I reluctantly brought it.

I remember my mum saying, “this is the kind of stories she writes… and she proceeded to read it out loud. I distinctly remember wishing I could disappear, acutely embarrassed at what was happening, but worse was to come. Mum finished reading it, and everyone laughed, lots. I remember wishing I had hidden it away and not shown anyone.

I wish I had been able to forget it, work on my vocabulary and practice my writing more. The incident when I was 8 really sucked the confidence out of me. I’ve always allowed myself to dwell on embarrassments. I don’t remember writing stories after that. I did write occasionally when 10 or 11 in a diary with a gold padlock and a polar bear on the front. I only wrote stories in school though not always successfully, the rubbish I wrote when asked to write about a chocolate factory being one example! I did have more success with creative writing at secondary School and University, though I never wrote in my free time.

Nowadays, memoir is usually my favourite style of writing, as I love telling stories of memories I have, people I have met, and events I have been to, as well as a spiritual record of the ways God has used the difficult things, as well as the good things to mould me into the person he wants me to become

Lots of my experiences and everyday life in general differs from the norm because of my ‘being unable to work’, through being both ‘sick and disabled’. A fellow Chrons sufferer started writing and campaigning because she was desperate to have this description recognised. When I read that in a tweet I remember thinking — ‘I am so glad someone’s managed to lobby for that and been successful, as well as relief that I wasn’t alone.

Equally when I write posts and publish the material in my blog, if other people comment that I am I not alone in whatever I write about whether it be discrimination of some kind, difficulties coming to terms with health problems or whatever and share their own experiences, it reassure me I am writing about the right things, and I feel privileged others are sharing their experiences with me.

I’ve also written about news items, popular topics, or a longer comment on things I’ve read on other writers’ blogs. I didn’t think I would enjoy writing about current affairs as much as I do. I had a complex that I wasn’t knowledgeable enough, or enough of a campaigner to write on disability issues. However, some people have seemed to get a lot out of what I have written on the welfare state, especially people who previously did not know a lot about it. There are times I manage to engage others, and get a proper discussion going such as a post I wrote in response to a GP’s comments that the majority of disabled people could work if Stephen Hawking can! This went viral, receiving almost 400 views in one day and causing a lot of debate on social media, both in support, and in criticism of my arguments. (I have always loved debate, but was never confident enough to join the debating society at school, despite my Mum’s encouragement at the time).

My dreams slowly grew as I continued writing. At first, I was happy writing solely for the ‘Big Bible’ website. Then I started my Blog because a discriminatory experience buying glasses in Specsavers got me so fired up I had to write about it! As I wrote, I wanted to write more. Others liked my writing and began to read regularly, ‘liked’ my posts, and my confidence in my writing and in myself increased. This continued for at least a year, however, I found that I became unable to write consistently especially since my health has deteriorated. This has really hurt my confidence, because I very much wanted to write and I would often find that I couldn’t. Obviously the numbers who read have fallen dramatically.

For more than ten years, friends and family members have urged me to write my biography. Blogging has given me confidence to think about doing this because so many read and ‘followed my blog at one point. I started off writing a diary of hospital experiences because I wanted my story to from the ab differundance of other biographies out there. I still haven’t decided what to do because I feel totally torn. Is my story ‘different enough’ to write about on its own, and if so where would I start? And what about the thousands of words I have written so far? Writers, do you have any advice / Suggestions?! As for publishing, who knows, there is much too long a way to go before I need to think about that, surely?

I write for the same reasons I Blog. I wrote something this time last year called ‘Drum Roll Please’. I wrote the following about having a way to express myself. “[T]o have found an outlet which I enjoy, uses my gifts, engages my brain, and connects me with people who have similar interests is a joy.” Slightly clumsy phraseology, I admit, but does largely capture how I feel about writing.

God is using me, and my writing. Writing helps me to explain how my faith makes a difference to the difficult times in my life, of which there are plenty. I hope and pray this will be a witness to those who read it. I decided early on that as much as possible I would keep my blog ‘real’, by writing honestly, including the good, the bad, and the ugly, without dramatising things but also without glossing over the tough stuff.

I am mostly confined to my house, but reaching others from my living room! About a year ago, I wrote the following:

I aim to inform as many people as [I] can about the complexities of life with significant needs, and deep Christian faith and to live as full as life as I can. I am aware of other disabled people I know who live fuller lives than I, even with a more significant physical impairment. Though I would sometimes wish my life was more varied, in general blogging is my way of being ‘out and about’; reaching people I would not otherwise meet and finding a creative outlet, while having a lot of fun at the same time!

By searching and reading I am constantly learning, keeping up to date with some of the changes to policy, practice, disability laws, news, and current affairs. I have to discard the scare stories and keep only the useful information if that makes sense. I keep writing because I want to continue to reach out to others, especially those who live with constant health challenges, as I and many others do, and to encourage people, impaired or not, to learn to keep going when life gets extra hard, because giving up is not worth it in the long-term. I continue to need a way of using my God-given gifts, and of continuing to learn new things in a fast-paced world.

I heartily wish that when I was young, I had persevered, and learned the true discipline of getting up early, pouring a drink, and having time ‘quiet time’ to read my bible and pray, before writing for a few minutes, even. I’d like to write daily, and sometimes manage it for a few days at a time, but don’t keep it up as I then sleep through my alarm, or I can’t keep it up as my health gets in the way.

My favourite time to write is early in the morning, say beginning between five and five-thirty am if I can physically manage to wake up when the alarm goes off, and slide into my wheelchair. I sometimes use prompts such as this one from WordPress, 365 Days to Build a Better Blog (Rowse, 2011) or for girls and women Robin Norgren’s books, including Writer Girl (Norgren, 2013) . I had the privilege of chatting with the lovely Robin for a Skype jam session or two a while back. The ‘days’ aren’t meant to put the pressure on for you to write every day, but simply when you have the time, energy and head-space.

Please do let me know if reading my story of my own clumsy beginnings as a writer have encouraged you to have a go for yourself, be it with scrap paper and pencil, fountain pen and fancy paper, spoken memories on Dictaphone, iPod, or mp3 player to write later, or laptop / iPad and word processor.


To have a go at this challenge for yourself, click on the blue text (or tab to the word “challenge at the bottom of this post and press space if you have a screen reader).

Bibliography

Norgren, R., 2013. Writer Girl: 42 Days of Exercises to Deepen your Faith in Your Ability and Your Purpose for Writing. 1st ed. s.l.:s.n.

Rowse, D., 2011. 365 Days to Build a Better Blog. 2nd ed. s.l.:http://www.problogger.net.

 

Reader Extraordinaire

Every superhero has an ‘origin’ story of how they came into being. If applied to myself, How did I begin to be a reader, and eventually a writer?

I have to say, I have loved this challenge, (last week’s Weekly Challenge from WordPress) as it’s one of the most interesting I have attempted. Some of the challenges, especially the daily ones, have become repetitive, thinking about how I began to devour books, and my faltering beginnings as a writer has brought back lots of memories, though not always good ones. Part of the challenge was not simply to answer the eight questions suggested by the writer of the prompt but to put together a tale. Predictably, my notes grew exponentially as I answered each question, never being one to be succinct. My mum said recently ‘why write in 2 what you can write in 22, eh?’

When I told this to a friend who works in fundraising, she laughed and said when they present a pitch to organisations and the like for funding they are told the complete opposite. I am so relieved I am a writer and not a fundraiser, I’d never manage it! Proving this to be true, I’ve had to split this post into two, with the second part scheduled for Wednesday.

Reading was my very favourite hobby

The image shows two young, pretty, blonde-haired little girls sitting close together, with a book on their knees which they are reading together.
The image shows two young, pretty, blonde-haired little girls sitting close together, with a book on their knees which they are reading together. image credit: Horton Web Design (view the website at: http://www.HortonGroup.com

Growing up, I do not remember which books were read to me as a small child. I have lots of early, disability, special nursery and school related memories, but not of books read at bedtime, or other times. Wondering if that reflects differences of experience rather than being a reflection on my upbringing. My mum especially must have read to us lots as she was the one at home with my brother and I.

I remember very clearly being assessed by the Educational Psychologist on reading and maths ability because of my disability, and even at age 7, I remember my reading age being ahead of my actual age. I loved that, I was so pleased… as were my family. It was something that was good progress that was not related to my disability, but showed I had some intellectual ability, especially as I was thought have such a level of learning difficulties when I was born that they questioned whether I could finish primary school, but this proved to be the start of dispelling those fears. (My parents say I was always a couple of years behind my peers in maths though.)

Writing for children wasn’t yet ‘cool’!

Enid Blyton – Classic or Controversial?

The first books I remember reading by myself at home were written by Enid Blyton. Someone gave me ‘The Enchanted Wood’ trilogy for Christmas or a birthday. Now her books are controversial, as some consider them racist. I remember names like ‘Fanny’, ‘Dick’, and ‘Moonface’. I remember the biscuits full of honey which exploded in your mouth, (perhaps an early warning of my sweet tooth!) The tales of faraway lands fuelled my young imagination, though. I was never interested in the Famous Five, oddly, even though I was interested in adventure in other stories. I read the ‘Malory Towers’ books, by Enid Blyton, I think there were several in the series, the main characters a girl called Darrell who goes off to boarding school called (handily!) Malory towers. I read also some of the later books which featured Darrell’s younger sister Felicity. Again, these books were a reflection of the time in which they were written, though for me this was part of the charm.

Roald Dahl – Prolific engaging and inspiring writer or dark and dangerous?

I remember some of the books I read at school too, around the same times as I read lots of Enid Blyton’s books. We read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in primary four, on which we were to write a story using our imaginations to dream up an amazing factory. Unfortunately I got side-tracked, writing ten A4 jotter pages of rubbish. I think we possibly read George’s Marvellous Medicine too, both books by Roald Dahl. I remember too the following year reading Danny the Champion of the World, (Roald Dahl again!!) and Stig of the Dump (Clive King). I must have loved them to remember them over 20 years later.

I went on to read other Roald Dahl books including The B.F.G and Matilda. I remember feeling sorry for both Sophie, the orphan whose life changes when she meets the BFG, and Matilda, who learns to read long complex books from age of four, while sitting in the library, the only place she feels safe. She is also famous for being able to move objects with her eyes, which she uses to her advantage, both with her dysfunctional family and draconian head teacher Miss Trunchbull. I think it was one of the first books I borrowed from a library. I remember numerous trips to the local library, though I do not remember the titles of what I read, just snippets of books.

Classics versus Contemporary

When I was about 11 or 12 I think, Mum wanted me to start reading classics. It would have been good preparation for high school, and University too. However, what I read, and Mum wanted me to read differed widely. I wanted to read what she considered rubbish, namely The Baby Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High.

Children’s literature has grown exponentially since I was young, thanks to the rise and rise of authors like Jacqueline Wilson, JK Rowling, Stephanie Myers and the likes. It would be fun to know what your memories are of reading as a

child especially, too, or maybe there was some other hobby you excelled in?

(P.S. Stay tuned for part 2 on Wednesday this week which will be live at 6am if I remember to schedule it….)


This post was written in response to last week’s Weekly Challenge from WordPress:

Every superhero has an ‘origin’ story of how they came into being. If applied to myself, How did I begin to be a reader, and eventually a writer.

To have a go yourself, click on the blue link directly above this.(or shift + tab and press space if using screen reader)I’d love to read your story! I do read others posts for hours at a time.

 


 

Age, not just a number…

Milestones, done differently…

I have a pretty good idea of which milestone I reached at which age, from talking to my parents over the years, from photographs or from my own memories. I was late to start walking and talking for example, though I’ve not stopped talking since. I was 5 or 6 when I put my crutches in the back of the wardrobe, and didn’t look back until I need a mobility scooter aged 18 at university.

I was 12 or 13 when I started worrying about boys, though wondered if anyone would ever be interested in me. I remember well the love letters from a boy called Danny when I was 14, who moved away shortly after, but I don’t think of him as my first proper boyfriend. However, by ‘proper boyfriend’ I mean someone that I really, really loved. That only happened last year, just before my 30th birthday. Things like that make me feel old, especially when I consider that by 25, my Mum had two children, effectively two babies, because of my level of need. I wonder now if I’ll ever meet someone, or even if I need to.

Babies everywhere, but not mine!

I don’t know whether I ever thought I would be married with children by this stage or not. I think my mum would say the former. I am more and more aware of my age as more friends get married and/or have children. Even the friends who like me were waiting to meet someone are now married. I’ve got to the stage where I can be genuinely happy for them, meeting up with a close friend and her baby regularly, who I adore. Also, Sunday school will have exploded in numbers in a few years. I love that I’ll still have contact with lots of children because of church. It’s funny, no way would I have said that before I got my electric wheelchair, but it somehow makes me more approachable to most children, and has helped me be much more comfortable talking to them. I am more at their height I guess, and some kids are fascinated by what the chair can do, or the golf ball controller.

Am I always defined by the number I am?

Recently, someone told me I ‘look good for 30’! A backwards compliment, for sure! I definitely don’t feel 30. Some days I feel old, when the routine of care and the sameness of every day gets me down. Other times, I feel young and insecure as though I were a school kid again… usually when something goes wrong in the house and I don’t know what to do.

I might like to do Uni over again, with carers to do personal care, and PA’s to help with library access and so on, as I didn’t have care until a couple of years ago, and no PA till third year. I wish I had been strong enough to ask for these helps though and been able to concentrate my limited energy wholly on my studies. I don’t think I realised I was entitled, or thought my disability was ‘bad enough’ even though tiny things sapped my energy. It’s so easy to say ‘what if’ and ‘if only’ though… almost everyone must have some regret about something. I was so intimidated by everything too, fearful, and never feeling like I was ‘good enough’ to be there… I guess that is where some mature students have the edge. Do I wish I were a different age though? Probably not, unless I had more confidence to with it.

My Grandparents, examples of how to age!

On a slightly different tack, thinking about age makes me think of my three grandparents, who are 78, 76, and 88. Generally they all keep in fairly good health and all have active lives. They are amazing, and definitely defy stereotypes of ‘elderly people’. I hope I am like them when I am older. All of them look young for their age. My Gran recently came to visit, and someone asked how only she was. When I told them, their jaw dropped in shock, and they said how strong and healthy she seemed for her age.

In some ways it is easy to tell they’ve got much older (for example, my granddad has two hearing aids, but he is 83) I don’t remember him having any health problems at all until a few years ago. Trouble is, aside from Gran’s diabetes, I have more health problems than them all put together!! Maybe I am the aged one?!

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I used the ‘Weekly Writing Challenge‘ prompt from March 10th, as inspiration to get me writing again. The prompt asked what age meant to each blogger. Above is what it means to me… but what does it mean to you? Why not have a go at your own post on ‘Golden Years’ and aging in general? (Click on the link in the sentence above to see the prompt) I’d love to read it!

The stuff of nightmares…

Photo by Michelle Weber.

The bright colours of the playground are at odds with this little girls mood. She shouldn’t know how to think this deeply this young. Weighed down with care, she has few friends. The green creature is the stuff of her nightmares. She knows nothing of Pinocchio, a friendlier creature with a similar length of nose. She should bounce with Tigger, and eat honey with Pooh, but no-one will read her the story.

This little girl used to dream of a better life. What it might feel like to have a mommy and daddy who loved her, read her stories and played with her. Instead, some days she has to scavenge for food. She does her best to hide, not wanting anyone to notice her for fear of what will happen if her momma is in one of her moods. There are no scars on her face or her arms as they would be noticed by others, and then they would know. She is waiting for her momma to come out of the building next to the roundabout. She would rather sit there forever and not go home with her momma, but go home she must. Maybe one day, she will escape the horror, and the pain, but what if someone never notices her?

What if someone does notice the little girls withdrawal, and the heaviness on her heart, and raises the alarm? Maybe then she will find a family who loves her, plays with her, and feeds her home cooked meals. Maybe then she will learn how to dream again, but we will never know.

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I wrote this (very) short story for the Weekly Writing Challenge. I was to write a story based on the picture above. It was my first attempt at a proper story in a very long time! I am sure you can do better! I would love to read it!

 

local observations

This post is a response to the Weekly Writing Challenge, asking for descriptions of a person, place, and thing.

A Person

Being me, she was the kind of person I would notice, I never did find out her name. I didn’t want to interrupt the girl’s time with her mother, or upset her in any way. At least, I think the woman with her was her mother. They did look a bit alike. The girl herself had a wonderful mega-watt smile; the kind that is instantly contagious. Beautiful girl, sat in an ugly standard-issue wheelchair, of the sort that is seen everywhere: steel frame, red sides, 4 small wheels, so not very easy to push, either. Heavy and burdensome, though covered in stickers to make it look a little more cheerful, and somehow also made it seem more personal. The girl herself was very pretty, brown hair in a pony-tail, brown eyes, neat features, and as I’ve already said, her infectious smile. She wore school uniform, though I do not remember what colour, this being some time ago, and gave no clue as to her age. There seemed to be no personalisation to it as other teenagers might do. It wasn’t until sometime later that I realised this girl had down syndrome. I guess that smile had something to do with it. I do not remember what the girl had to eat or drink, though I remember juice of some kind, perhaps a “fruit shoot” or similar, as I know the cafe sells those. The girl and her companion be they her mother, a carer or guardian, did not stay long.

A place

The cafe itself attracts a whole mixture of people, though I have never seen anyone go there who seems particularly well off. I have been there several times, sometimes months apart. To me, the place is either mobbed or empty, there is no happy medium. It is unusal in that it is entirely staffed by volunteers, many of them elderly, or disabled in some way. One might assume this is because it is often elderly or disabled people who have the time to volunteer, or the desire to do so, and therefore make volunteering a priority. There is always a cheerful atmosphere about the place, whether it be busy or quiet, and Christian music playing in the background. I always find there is a peace about the place which is attractive. No one ever seems in a hurry to leave, or in a hurry to make you leave. After costs, any profit is ploughed back into the place, or given to charity. There is a notice on the wall on the left-hand-side which explains this, and lists which charities received donations in which year and how much for. Alongside this there are sometimes framed certificates from the recipient charities thanking the cafe for their donation. On the same wall, nearer the door there is a large grey notice board covered in pieces of paper, and posters of all colours advertising local information, services, or events. Other places on the left-hand and right-hand walls are taken up by colourful posters displaying clever religious slogans or bible verses. I do not remember off the top of my head what is on the far wall, as it is a good few weeks since I was inside the cafe. On the wall nearest the entrance to cafe, a solitary blue door, much like the front door of a house, is a large window made up of several pains of glass, each one held in place by a wooden frame painted white. In front of this is the unofficial “trolley park” sometimes occupied by buggies or prams. The rest of the space in the cafe is taken up by several wooden tables, which I imagine not to be solid wood, but the type that has a wood-effect covering on the outside, with a circular metal base, and one wide leg in the middle. The vast majority of the chairs are also wooden, although there are two small brown-leather (faux-leather??) sofas with a small coffee table in the middle, next to the music speakers, and the specials board, contradiction in terms because extra dishes are written plainly, in white chalk on regular blackboard slate and are generally nothing fancy, though the regulars seem to like them. Near this is the counter, with a glass shelve unit which displays the cakes and tray bakes and keeps cans and bottles of pop cool. At the other end of the counter is a standard regulation automated till. Behind this end of the counter is a back wall covered in shelves and a unit which contain cups, saucers, mugs, plates, There is also a big dispenser which contains a large jug of filter coffee. Very good it is too!

A thing

The above is as detailed a description of the place as I can summon from the brain, but the thing which really captures my imagination is the glass-fronted cake-counter. As I can see it now in my mind, there are three categories of cake — old fashioned favourite, the simple classics, and new fangled favourites, so they might have butterfly cakes, which remind me of bake-sales at school, classic carrot cake with slices cut out, and American style chocolate brownies. I seem to remember other things such scones, flapjacks and mars-bar crispy cake, all of which remind me of being at my Grandparents house for tea on a Friday night while I was growing up. A treat then as now, and all home-made, familiar and comforting. Apparently the lady who makes the cakes for the cafe is a lady who makes cakes for a living anyway. Nothing in the cabinet stikes me as being overly fancy; however if you are looking for good quality cheap coffee and tea and an afternoon treat, or a morning bacon roll and pot of tea with a friendly atmosphere and a warm welcome, look no further than ABC!!

 

 

Midweek healthkick

Wednesday's Healthy  lunch
The picture shows what I had for lunch midweek. A portion of homemade carrot soup, made with a pre-packed ‘soup mix’ of carrots, onions, and herbs. I also included some plain rice cakes, and a low-fat yogurt with fruit purée in it too.

Wednesday’s lunch was very healthy, possibly because I workout later on in the afternoon. I needed energy  and also wanted to start eating healthily before I was told to! T’s so hard to diet! Also, this picture and post is for the weekly photo challenge, so I wasn’t going to be appallingly unhealthy on camera!!

Today is Saturday, and there is at least another six inches of snow on the ground, so I ended up doing my care myself this morning, which has absolutely exhausted me. By the time it got to midday and beyond I was craving sugar. I made some scones with a carer yesterday so I persuaded myself that would do and kept falling asleep mid eating. When I woke at least an hour later, I heated another tub of soup mix that I’d made. There’s just something about soup, especially if it’s home-made. It was so comforting, as I’d made me think of heaps of soup ‘n’ pudding tea-times while I was growing up, and also cause soup mum makes is legendary, and someone or other usually asks for a recipe! It also made me feel so healthy, that I don’t feel so bad about the 11 am biscuits (only 100 cals — bonus) or the cake n’ custard I am planning to have after my meal tonight! When the weather’s like this, everyone should include some stodge! I’m off to make coffee.. and decide what to have later! (Suggestions welcome…)