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The Lammermuir Snow Dunes

April 2, 2010

Today, I began the four day weekend by heading into the hills.  It was a beautiful day, sunny enough that I now have some freckles I don’t remember seeing this morning.  Thus far, Scotland has been kind to me weather-wise.  Whenever I go walking, the sun does its best to shine and the rain falls somewhere else.  Long may this continue.

Today’s walk should have been a fairly gentle stroll up to the summit of Lammer Law and then back down via the Hopes Reservoir.  But, as you may be aware, it has snowed a bit in the last couple of days.  Snow makes walking a bit tricky.  Snow is unpredicatable, one minute supporting you, the next letting you plummet straight through it so that you suddenly find yourself thigh deep in the stuff.  It made things a little more challenging than anticipated.  One thing it made easier, though, was traversing fences and gates – you can just step over them:

Up atop the hills strong winds had obviously been blowing, producing patterns in the snow that reminded me of sand dunes:

Woe and alas that I forgot my camera.  I could have happily snapped away for some time up there.  As it was, I had only the capacity to capture a feeble image or two on my phone.

It’s hard to believe that this is Easter weekend.  That this is a time to be revelling in spring and new life.  But it is.  And here are some slightly out of focus lambkins to prove it:

I don’t think they liked the snow.  They were complaining loudly about it to anyone who happened to be close enough to hear them.  I don’t blame them, poor poppets.  If I hadn’t been wearing waterproof boots, I wouldn’t have liked it either.

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Safely received and zebra for no reason

March 31, 2010

Just had a heart-in-mouth kind of moment when I checked my emails and saw that there was one from my (hopefully) future agent… but it was just to say they had received my submission and would be in touch in due course.  Ah well, good to know it’s there.  Now, everyone think positive take-on-a-new-client thoughts and send them down to London.

For no reason other than that I have found myself thinking about Africa today, here are some zebra to keep us amused while we wait for a real response:

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A little bit of writing and a whole lot of walking

March 29, 2010

Not much to report on the writing front – I have sent my synopsis and first three chapters of The Path of the Moon to the Laura Cecil Literary Agency.  Fingers crossed they ask to see the rest of it.

Thoughts on writing are currently minimal.  It’s a wait and see kind of time.  So, I thought I’d blog about something else.  And the main something else that is occupying me at present is walking.

I love walking.  I don’t do enough of it.  Last summer, I joined a walking group in Yorkshire intending to do much more.  I went a few times and never failed to enjoy myself.  When I moved to Edinburgh in December I transferred my membership to an Edinburgh based group.  Someone in the group sent out an email about the Caledonian Challenge.  I replied to that email.  Shortly afterwards I found that I was a member of a Caledonian Challenge team.

Now, the Caledonian Challenge is, essentially, a very very very long walk.  A 54 mile walk, to be exact.  The organisers are fond of telling us that it is “two full marathons in distance and more ups and downs than two ascents of Ben Nevis – all in one go”.  They claim that it’s “tough but achieveable”.  I definitely believe that it’s tough.  Right now I am alternating between being very excited… and very scared.  I need to train quite hard if I am going to manage it.

Recently, three of my team members and I went on our first official team training walk.  The aim of the day was to summit two Munros – Ben Vane and Beinn Ime.  We achieved that aim and now – with only 281 to go – I feel that I am well on my way to becoming a Munroist.  I can’t wait to get out into the hills again to continue this mission.  I have bought myself a Munro map with boxes to tick whenever one is ‘bagged’.  I have chosen my inspirational reading (Hamish’s Mountain Walk by Hamish Brown – my new hero).  I am one step away from becoming a Munro obsessive.  (That step being the creation of a Munro-bagging spreadsheet.)

Half way up Beinn Ime I would never have predicted that this would happen.  Half way up Beinn Ime my legs ached, an icy scramble awaited me, a blister was forming on my left heel… half way up Beinn Ime I was fairly sure I would never walk again.  And then I reached the top.  And saw this:

And this:

And then it all made sense.

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First fence cleared

March 19, 2010

Feeling rather chirpy having just checked my emails to find that the begging letter recipient/agent has requested to read my work.  A positive response in less than a week.  Hurrah!

Technically, this puts me no further on than I have been before.  I’m about to send off three chapters and a synopsis (I think I may need to rewrite my synopsis first), something I have done several times… but this time is different.  This time I’m not unsolicited.  That’s a first.  And it somehow makes the whole process feel a little more hopeful.

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And so it begins (again)

March 15, 2010

It has been a long time since I last submitted my book to a publisher or an agent.  I’m assuming that the people who rejected it back then will now have moved on… this means it’s time to get rejected by a whole new set of readers!

The first time around, many publishers accepted unsolicited manuscripts.  Now, most of them don’t.  No great surprise there.  What does surprise me is that there are some agents who don’t accept unsolicited material either.  What insanity is this?  Are we going to reach a point where you need a pre-agent to get an agent?  Is it not hard enough to find someone to read one’s work?

So, instead of merrily sending off three chapters and a synopsis like I was expecting to do, I have now written my first ‘please will you read my book’ begging letter.  It was tricky.  I didn’t really know what to say.  But it is written.  And sent.  I have no idea how they decide whose work they want to read.  Perhaps I’ll find out soon.

In other news, I have happened upon this competition by Chicken House.  I will most definitely be entering.  Chicken House published Inkheart by Cornelia Funke.  For that alone I love them.  They have rejected me once before, but maybe they won’t remember that.  Fingers crossed.

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Not knowing how not to

March 11, 2010

In one of my many rejection letters – this one from an agent – I was told not to be disheartened.  “We get 2-300 submissions a week and take on 2-3 new clients a year” they informed me.  I’m not sure which part of that sentence was intended to hearten me.  Perhaps I was supposed to take some satisfaction from the knowledge that I was one of the 2-300 who at least got a response.

As soon as you start reading about writing you get confronted with figures like these.  You get told, over and over again, that your work will probably never be published and that, even if it is, you’re unlikely to make a living from it.  Recently I read that most published writers earn less than minimum wage from their writing and the article suggested that those of us aspiring to reach those heights “get a day job”.  I would hazzard a guess that most aspiring writers already know these things.  That most aspiring writers already have a day job.  I am tired of the negativity and don’t care to hear any more of it.

A friend of mine who once worked for a publisher told me that there are different levels of rejection letter.  There are those that just reject your work outright, and then those that offer some form of encouragement or critique.  Mine have always been of the latter variety which apparently means that my writing is not completely awful.  So that’s something to feel positive about.  That and all the lovely comments I’ve been getting on Authonomy as The Path of the Moon slowly works its way up the charts.

I’m not writing to get published.  I’m writing because I don’t know how not to.  I’m not saying I don’t want to be published – of course I do – but, even if I knew for sure it would never happen, I would still write.   There are always stories in my head.  I don’t know where they come from but I know they can’t stay there.  And so I write them down.  And I always will.

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‘Varmints’

March 7, 2010

Yesterday afternoon, while in a state of general perusement in Edinburgh’s old town, I stumbled upon a picture book called ‘Varmints’ by Helen Ward and Marc Craste.  I was instantly smitten.  It is beautiful.  It is powerful.  It almost made me cry in public.  It’s the kind of book that makes you believe that the earth is not doomed and that the little things we do really can make a difference.  I don’t understand why I’ve never seen it before.  It reminded me a little of ‘The Red Tree’ by Shaun Tan (which is equally beautiful and powerful).  And it made me really miss spending my days surrounded by books.

Today, I went online intending to purchase a copy of ‘Varmints’.  Imagine my delight when I discovered that it has also been made into a film.  It is downloading from iTunes as I type.  Having watched the trailer, I am in a state of blissful anticipation.  The next 24 minutes are going to be really quite special.

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