Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Swanwick Day 3: Transfering A Memory

It was Sunday, lunchtime, the last week in June. The sun was strong, the sky cloudless and deep blue. Crowds strolled along each bank of the river in Ljubljana. Stall holders watched their stock lazily from under parasols. It was too much effort to pull in the punters. There was a buzz of conversation and occasional shouts of laughter from the crowded bars.

We were having lunch in our favourite restaurant. We shared a bottle of cool local wine, young and with a greensih tinge. There was a large wooden platter on the centre of the table with local hams, cheeses and olives, both green and black. The sour taste of the olives complimented the wine beautifully.

"You know we're going to lose our buyers, don't you?" he said.

The thought of losing the wonderful converted barn we'd discovered in Dorset was too much for me to bear.

"I don't suppose you'd consider buying the new house before we've sold the old one?" I whispered

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Swanwick Day 2 - To-Do Spidergrams

I've always been highly organised - or anally retentive, as an unkind colleague once described me. One of my delights is writing To-Do lists, in the form of spidergrams. On trains, on planes, in hotels - each time I feel my busyness overwhelm me, I make another list.

Best of all are the ones I prepare in my own office, with coloured pens on flip-chart paper - blue-tacked to the wall for all to see. I use them as a plan of what must be done and a record of what has been achieved. I've even been known to add completed tasks (which I'd forgotten to list previously) to the list, so I can immediately cross them off.

My lists encompass the day job, creative writing and personal life and are written in code. The latest one has headings of: Writing, Party; HIS work; CWC; NAWC; CBG and Swawnwick. I make mini-lists on a daily basis, taking critical tasks off the master list.

Once while on a business trip, I got a call from a client to say a project I'd assumed to be cancelled was not only back on, but also pulled forward. Tears rolling down my face, I told my partner I couldn't do it all. He just sighed, pull a blank sheet of paper towards him and picked up a pen. 'Let's make a list' he said.

It has been suggested that making lists is a substitute for getting things done (like sharpening your pencils instead of doing homework). That can't be true - my list is different every time I draw it. Nevertheless, it doesn't seem to get any shorter.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Swanwick Summer School - Day 1

It hardly seems a year since the diamond jubilee, but here we are again at Swanwick for the 61st Writers' Summer School. After 6 hours of hell on the M5 last year, we let the train take the strain this time - along with half the inhabitants of the West Country.

During the 'Writing Autobiography' course on day 1, we were tasked to write a mini-memoir in just 50 words - much harder than writing it in 500. Here is my attempt:

"The woman in pink blocked the aisle as the packed train set off. Absent-mindedly wrestling with the Yorkie in her arms and chatting to her seated companion, she ignored my attempts to reach my friends. I shrugged, found an empty seat, put my feet up on my case - and waited."

Sunshine and Sausages

My play-project finally matured on 01 August. Sunshine and Sausages, an e-book on how to organise and run a successful summer garden party, was launched. You can find it at

The objective of the project was not just to write and publish a book, but also to learn about the technology. In two months I wrote, laid out and illustrated the book, developed my new website and mastered the art of PayPal buttons.

Thanks to John Williams of Creative Maverick ( for the original suggestion and for encouragement along the way.

Now for my next project....