Don’t Write A Book. Write A Poster!

The idea of sitting down to write anything from a 50,000-100,000 word novel is pretty daunting. The former consumes at least half a box of paper, the latter will eat up the entire 500 sheets.


Add in revisions, synopses and query letters…  that’s a whole lot of dead trees and empty pages to fill.

Even more challenging than completing the physical pages is the emotional energy expended creating a book.  As Red Smith said:  There’s nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.

500 pages.


This summer I visited Platform 9 3/4, the shop containing all things Harry Potter at King’s Cross Station.  In amongst the wands and Gryffindor scarves, I noticed something that – to me –  was truly magical. A poster containing the full text of of JK Rowling‘s Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone.


It so captivated me that I went back to the shop three times to look at it before finally buying it.  A poster, no matter how small the text, couldn’t contain the WHOLE text – 76,944 words – could it?

Well.. yes it could.

I might not be able to write a book as amazing as Harry Potter –  and the idea of facing 500 empty pages may be very intimidating – but I CAN write a poster.

And so can you!


Favourite Friday Website

There seems to have been a bit of a Scottish bias to my posts this week. Tomorrow I’m changing focus, but I’ll stick with Scotland just for today.

Friday mornings, I always check the BBC website, not just to catch up on the news, but to enjoy browsing photos taken around Scotland that week.

Here are the pictures for the week 16th-23rd August.  If you look carefully to the right hand side of Picture #4 you might see Hogwarts, and Picture #11 was taken on Arran which I talked about yesterday.


Favourite Place

In response to Tuesday’s posting on my favourite poem, Anne sent me this verse by Rudyard Kipling.

God gave all men all earth to love
But since our hearts are small
Ordained for each
One spot shall prove
Beloved over all.

Her favourite place is the Isle of Mull (although she’d settle for Blair Atholl). Mine is also a Scottish island – the Isle of Arran. (Click)  Less than two hours from Glasgow (45 minutes in the car plus 50 minutes on the ferry), it’s often referred to as Scotland in Miniature.


Except for a cityscape, everything to be found in Scotland is in Arran; mountains, pasture, towns, villages, caves, forests, ancient standing stones, castles, beaches, waterfalls and even palm trees.  Yes, palm trees!


I’ve visited Arran at least once a year since I was seven and I love it. It’s where my soul breathes. If you ever get the chance to visit, go!


Favourite e-mails.

I love e-mails. I love their immediacy and the fact they can consist of only a single word or a whole screed.

I’m currently having a great e-mail conversation with my aunt.  She’s helping me edit one of my books which is set during WW2. But it’s not just her professional feedback I’m enjoying, it’s the little tidbits about her family life growing up that she keeps dropping in. Totally fascinating. I just love firing up my laptop in the morning and sitting down with my breakfast cup of tea to see what’s in my mailbox from her. (And one of these days I hope to persuade her to start her own blog on Growing up in Glasgow in the 30s and 40s so everyone can read her stories.)

But just edging her out this week was an e-mail I received yesterday which made me really – really – happy.  I’ve known Dee Van Dyk for… let’s leave it at a long time! She was my first introduction (via snail mail!) to the Alberta Romance Writers’ Association (ARWA) and has grown from being a colleague to a good friend. For many years she’s focused on non-fiction, publishing articles in many major magazines, but a few months ago – after several years of puttering around with a YA novel idea – she joined ARWA’s Summer Challenge to complete a first draft over the summer months.

Yesterday morning I woke up to the following e-mail header:  Do you know what this is?

And when I clicked on the image?

Her completed first draft of her YA Novel The Sin Eater!

dee imagge

It just shows what a person can achieve if they have passion and persistence.

Having read the first thirty pages, I can’t wait to read  the completed manuscript. Dee’s a hugely talented writer with a unique, vibrant voice. She’s going to the Surrey International Writers Conference this fall to pitch Sin Eater and I have no doubts it will be snapped up.

When she hits the bestseller list, don’t forget that you heard her name here first.

Way to go, Dee!

And keep those good news e-mails coming!

Favourite Jane Austen Novel

Pride and Prejudice seems to be ‘the’ novel most Jane Austen fans prefer.  (Maybe Colin Firth in ‘that’ scene has a lot to do with it.) But for my money, my favourite is ‘Persuasion’. I’m currently listening to it on an audio book and once again I’m struck by just how perfectly Jane Austen observes and captures the human condition. (Click)

I love the fact her main characters are a little older.  That they’ve experienced love and loss. That they’re smart and serious yet not jaded. That life offers them a second chance.

If you’re not a keen reader, check out the Ciaran Hinds/Amanda Root film version. Adapted by Nick Dear, he remains faithful to the soul of Austen’s work.  (And the music by Albertan group Nickleback on the video below is pretty good too!)

Salutation to the Dawn

I’ve been struggling to get back into the groove since I got back from my holiday. What to blog about? Hmmm. How about ‘favourites’?

I’ve never been a big fan of poetry – going to blame that on having to learn by rote the most boring poems in the world when I was at school back in the Dark Ages. However, a few years ago I watched a beautiful TV series called 2,000 Acres of Sky. (Click)  In one episode, a character stood on a beach and recited the following poem. I found it so inspiring that I spent an hour walking around a loch in Scotland learning it by heart.  Returning to Canada, I wrote it on the window in my hall so I would see it every morning.  (FYI, I rewrite it every couple of months after cleaning the window!)

Salutation to the Dawn by Kalidasa.

Look to this day, for it is life. The very life of life.

In its brief course lie all the realities and verities of your existence. The bliss of growth, the glory of action, the splendour of beauty.

For yesterday is but a dream and tomorrow merely a vision.

But today, well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Look well, therefore, to this day.

Such is the salutation of the ever new dawn.

Dawn photo

Surprise Day – Part Four

Last, but not least, our final destination, Red Cross Gardens (Click), a street away from Cross Bones Graveyard, and a real hidden treasure.

There’s a memorial plaque there to Octavia Hill. (Click) I’d never heard of her before, but she was a famous social reformer of in the 19th Century and one of the three founders of The National Trust. (Click)


It was just after lunch when we visited there.  Children were racing around the paths, office workers relaxing on the (burned – hey, it was 30C) grass beside the lily pond.


What I love about London is all its secret places. My idea of heaven on earth?  To spend a month (or two) in London so I could start to scratch beneath its tourist surface.  But for starters, next time I’m going to follow this Secret London/Borough (Click) walk, and this walk through some of their secret parks. (Click)

It was a fabulous day. Thanks, J. I’m looking forward to our next trip and the next surprise day.  (Pressure’s on!)

Apologies for all the ‘clicks’, but I just realised that the links weren’t showing up very well in all my posts and some of them are really interesting.

Surprise Day – Part Three

Hmmm.  I think I’ve got my timing a little wrong.  We might have gone for lunch before going to Cross Bones Cemetery.

No matter – lunch was wonderful – both the food and the unique location!

J took me to The George Inn, which I believe is the only remaining coaching inn in London. It’s now a National Trust property and another great place to visit if you’re in the Southwark area.  Charles Dickens spent some time here and mentions it in one of his books. It was a wonderful place to sit, relax and reflect on what we’d seen that morning.

The George

The meal was delicious – as was the glass of wine that accompanied it. In fact, the meal was too much for me, so make sure you’re hungry when you visit.


I worked in the Southwark/London Bridge area a l-o-n-g time ago. In those days, it wasn’t the kind of place you wanted to hang around – our Nurses’ Home in Bayswater was a much better area in which to spend time – so it’s lovely to see how the whole South Bank and the Borough/Lambeth/Southwark areas have been regenerated.

Did I mention I love London??

Surprise Day – Part Two

The second part of my surprise day was pretty special.  A few years ago, when J and I were last in the UK, we watched a documentary called History Cold Case on the BBC  (watch it HERE) where historians and forensic investigators attempt to solve the riddle of skeletons found in unusual places. (The Windy Pits episode is truly creepy!)

Having recovered the bones of a young woman from a communal grave in Cross Bones Graveyard in Borough, the investigative team then tried to figure out who she was and reconstructed her face.  The investigation into her sad life was fascinating, but seeing her ‘come to life’ was incredible.

It turns out that back in the day, the Bishop of Winchester gave licences to prostitutes and brothels to allow them to operate – the prostitutes actually being known as Winchester Geese.  However, when they died, the church was no longer interested in them and their bodies casually disposed of in Cross Bones Graveyard.

Crossbones plaque

Nowadays, on the 23rd of each month, a memorial service is held to commemorate their lives. In remembrance, ribbons, flowers and trinkets are attached the the iron gates of the now disused graveyard.


A fascinating story and very unusual memorial.  Cross Bones Graveyard is definitely worth a visit if you ever find yourself in the Southwark/Borough Market area in London.

Surprise Day – Part One

I love London. It’s my favourite city in the world. The first time I visited as a child, the magic of the place caught my heart and imagination.  I try and visit once a year, and this summer spent ten days in the city with another writer friend –  30C heat and royal baby included!

This trip, I suggested that we arrange a ‘surprise day’ for each other.  The day J arranged for me fell into four delicious parts.  This is part one.

I love the cinema.  Love it, love it, LOVE it!  From the first time I walked into the darkened theatre and watched Danny Kaye as Hans Christian Andersen as a five year-old, I was hooked. There’s something wonderful about the lights going down and a story unfolding in front of your eyes. So J’s first treat for my surprise day was a visit to London’s Cinema Museum.


It’s an amazing place and if you’re a movie afficionado, you must check it out.  On our guided tour we viewed original art deco cinema doors, posters, ushers’ uniforms, even the air fresheners and original tokens (instead of tickets) they used in the olden days. Fascinating.


Ironically, a few days before I left Canada, I’d watched a documentary called The Secrets of the Workhouse.  It traced the histories of various celebrities’ ancestors who had spent time in the workhouse.  Charlie Chaplin was one of those celebrities, and the workhouse where he lived… ?  Well it now houses London’s Cinema Museum.

Check out Part One of the documentary HERE .