Thursday, September 30, 2010

With friends like these ...

It's 9 months since I finally gave in and joined Facebook.  Time for an assessment.

Apart from the occasional confusion between FB (First Born) and FB (Facebook), I have to confess I'm really enjoying it.  I love the immediacy.  A blog post can take hours to compose, especially if it includes links, photos etc.  In contrast, I can type up a wall post in seconds.  As a way of letting people know what's happening day by day (and sometimes minute by minute) there's no comparison.   OTOH, posts are often shallow - do I really need to tell the world that I've just dropped a tub of marge? 

As I work from home, I think of these as the kinds of quickie conversations I'd have round the kettle or water cooler or on fag breaks if I worked in an office.  I can pop into my home page and see an instant snapshot of other people's recent posts.  They make me feel connected to the world Out There and make me smile - or commiserate - or fume.  Whatever the reaction, they're contact with other human beings and that can't be a bad thing, no?

Blogging has suffered in terms of quantity.  Having FB as the place for daily updates means I inevitably publish fewer posts here.  But that's good because it is actually less of a distraction from my own writing as I don't have to devote the hours and effort it takes to compose frequent blog posts.  Page views haven't suffered as much as I anticipated when I realised I was posting less.  In fact, as I usually link to posts on my FB wall, if anything I have more readers on the day a post is published.

I now have over 2000 friends.  There's a large number of people who are family and Real Life friends.  There's another swathe consisting of people I have never met in RL but consider them as genuine virtual friends, whom I've 'met' through blogging or forums.  That still leaves an awful lot of people I have only the flimsiest of connections with.  The vast majority have come to me as requests via mutual links.  I check them briefly and if they have a lit connection or look like the kinds of people who would like my books, I add them. 

So 9 months after I came on board as a blushing virgin, it's time for an audit. FB etiquette is very different, but I have my own take on it now which I feel comfortable with.  I've started to delete people who I don't know but who use my wall to post their own poems or links to videos etc.  Because they're on my wall, they appear personal, but they're not of course.  They've sent the same thing to hundreds and maybe even thousands of others, and by so doing they shunt my own posts down the page.

Just because we may not know each other in Real Life, we have to remember that an FB contact is a human being, not a virtual creation or roving bot.  The same rules of mutual respect apply in both worlds IMO.  If you came round to my home, I would invite you in.  We'd chat.  I'd put the kettle on and rifle through the cupboards in search of biscuits. 

But while I'm in the kitchen, I don't expect you to push all the pictures on my living room wall out of the way behind the settee and replace them with your own pictures.  That's just rude.  So anyone who does that, or the FB equivalent, can expect to be dropped from my friend's list.  Fair enough?

Right, I'm off ... to link to this post on FB of course.  If you're not there already, I'm here.  Wanna be my friend?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner ...

... that I can't help being excited by appearing in the Story of London Festival, reading from 33, the anthology from Glasshouse Books.  See here for a blog post by Bobby Nayyar.

I'll be at Victoria Library from 6.30 pm Monday 4th October.

For further info re this event and others in the Festival, you'll need to check the links. 

I'm currently snowed under with work that needs to be done prior to the Getting Published event on 2nd October, so please forgive the brevity of this post. 

It's all good, though I do wonder when (or if) I'll ever get a chance to wash my hair ... I'll be the one wearing a hat.  Or a wig.  Or possibly a paper bag ...

Oh, and I regret to inform you that Jimi Hendrix sadly won't be able to make it.  Apart from that, I feel great.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In an English urban garden ...

It's almost a year since Emma Darwin transformed my life by offering to allow me to use her garden as an allotment.  I thought I'd share the highs and lows of a very productive and satisfying few months.


Broad beans were the first to appear and I was so excited that I forgot they were broad beans and picked the whole pods and steamed them.  They were delicious, but the real things, once I'd allowed them to mature, were better still.

Spinach.  This has gone on and on for months.  I pick it as I need it; sweet young leaves for using raw in salads and iron-rich mature leaves for mixing into risotto, curry or just as a steamed vegetable.

Onions.  Very satisfying to watch them grow.  Even more satisfying to eat them.  I'm planning on planting lots more this time.

Garlic.  As above re onions.

Tomatoes. A veritable forest!  Sweet and juicy - essence of tomato-ness.

Potatoes.  Harvested some and I'm leaving the rest in the ground until needed.

Rocket.  Peppery gorgeousness - and self-seeding too.  Can't ask for more than that.

Butternut squash.  Not ripe yet but I've got my eye on them.  Love the way they take over such a vast space - like benevolent squatters.

 Apples.  I can't lay claim to anything other than collecting them and distributing them far and wide.  There are still several carrier bags filled with them sitting in my kitchen.  Apple pie, anyone?  Crumble?  Cake?  Juice?

Partial successes

Lettuce.  I had one fab crop but word must have gone out to the South London slug and snail community.  They nabbed the next plantings as soon as they raised their delicate little green heads.

Purple sprouting broccoli.  Only three seedlings survived the invasion of the slimy ones.  I've sprayed them with an eco confection and hope they make it to maturity.

Compost.  The bin is full and not a particularly pleasant sight (or smell TBH) but it will be worthwhile if it produces enough compost for all the plots.


Subsequent lettuce and other salad crops (see above).

Having, with great pride and excitement, constructed a fabulous set of interlinked bamboo canes to support the 50+ runner bean seeds I planted, you can imagine my disappointment when the slimies ate the whole lot. 

They also scoffed all the pak choi.

Spending time in the garden, sun on my back, pottering, pulling up weeds and tying up tomatoes, has given me enormous amounts of pleasure.  It's enabled me to get away from the computer, chill out and get some good honest dirt under my nails. 

Emma - you've made a nought-but-a-balcony woman very happy indeed.  Thank you!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Little bitty lit bits

And the winner is ...
In the last post, I invited people to vote in a poll to choose a title for the next East Dulwich Writers' Group anthology.  It's strange that the group finds editing relatively simple, but when it comes to something as simple as the back cover blurb, intro or title, the discussions can generate endless debates and some very strong feelings.

That's why the public poll has been so helpful.  It came as a surprise to some that the overwhelming reaction was that we should stick with the title of the previous anthology, Hoovering the Roof.

The public has spoken.  We have listened.  We're now working to a tight deadline in order to publish Hoovering the Roof, The Second in late November.

Novel Spaces
My guest post on Novel Spaces is up today.  Click this link if you'd like to see my version of the tools essential for writing.

The Story of London
As part of The Story of London Festival, I will be appearing at an event in Victoria Library in Buckingham Palace Road (hey!  I'm at the palace - nearly) with Jemma Wayne and Tom Bromley.  We'll all be reading from 33, the anthology published by Glasshouse Books.  (I wrote the story set in Croydon.)

Click here to see more Glasshouse events.  To celebrate Glasshouse's inclusion in the Festival, they are making a special offer: if you order either 33 East or West before 8th Oct, you will get the accompanying volume free.  Simply put the code: Story of London in the special instructions, when purchasing through PayPal. If you'd rather not use PayPal, then please email

Getting Published
Apparently (and somewhat surprisingly - it looks like a very useful day indeed) there are still a few places available for the Getting Published event on 2nd October at the Royal Overseas League.  (Yet another vaguely royal connection?  Where's my damn tiara?) 

If you've completed a novel or non-fiction MS and want to know how to go about the next steps, this is the event for you.  There's a packed and very entertaining programme (including a party afterwards - yay!) and you'll meet publishers and agents as well as getting direct feedback on your opening chapter, synopsis and covering letter from one of the Book Doctors.  Click here to see the full programme.

For short story fans, the final one "How Lucky You Are" by Debi Alper packs a punch making you glad you purchased these books.