Tuesday, 6 March 2018
If you know me well, you will know how much I love radio. And if you know me very, very well, which not that many people do, you will know that I have been a massive fan of The Archers since I was a teenager. I have rarely missed a Sunday omnibus sine the early 1980s. If I ever went on Mastermind it would be my specialist subject.
The Archers doesn't often make me cry. Well, not that often. I cried years ago when Ruth and David received her breast cancer diagnosis, and more recently I cried at the scene between Helen and her dad Tony after she was acquitted of attempting to murder evil Rob. I probably cried when John Archer died too.
The week before last, it made me cry again. Twice. Once on the Friday night, then again when the episode was repeated on Sunday morning. Because Nic Grundy died of sepsis. A fit, healthy woman in her mid thirties died a horrible agonizing death because she had an infected cut on her hand. This storyline came completely out of the blue. One day she was fine, and fretting over having lost her job. A few days later she was gone. That's what sepsis is like. That really is how quickly it can happen.
Many people think that soaps, or serial dramas, or whatever you want to call them, shouldn't be used as public information vehicles. It's a valid viewpoint. Their main purpose is to entertain. Having said that, most of what I know about HIV and AIDS I learned from Eastenders, and much later from Hollyoaks (Yeah, ok, you get the picture, I'm a bit of a soap addict...) But I'm willing to bet that Nic's story has already saved some lives, by raising awareness. Sepsis isn't glamorous or sexy. It's not a 'cause' that you see celebrities championing. It's cruel, ugly, random and, for the most part, completely avoidable. So well done The Archers for tackling it. Read more about Nic's story here
In other news, I'm having a rather better writing year in 2018. So far I've managed a shortlisting in the Retreat West Flash Fiction competition, with a brand new, never been anywhere before story called Curl Up And Die, and I'e been Highly commended, for the second time, in the Inktears 2017 Short Story Competition, with my story The Less Fortunate, which got down to the last 50 in the Mslexia comp last year. Never give up on a good story.
Most excitingly, I have sold my first ever story to The People's Friend magazine. Don't know yet when it will be published. I know magazines work months ahead. The People's Friend was always on the arm of my Nana's chair when I was growing up. I think she'd be just a little bit proud.
Thursday, 14 September 2017
Sepsis isn't a new thing. First World War poet Rupert Brooke died from it, after a mosquito bite. Not exactly a hero's death. Basically, it's blood poisoning, and without rapid treatment it can lead to multiple organ failure and death. A sufferer can go downhill in less than the time it takes to Google symptoms. A friend told me recently that her neighbour had died from it, after a seemingly insignificant cut while gardening. Often, it can begin with a urinary tract infection. This is what happened to my dad and, seemingly, to many elderly people.
The tragic thing is that my dad had suffered from sepsis before. I didn't know this until, trawling through his things after his death I came across his discharge papers from a previous admission, three weeks after Mum's funeral. What I had been led to believe was a severe chest infection was actually his first bout of sepsis. And yes, I'm fully aware that I should have asked more questions at the time, but I didn't, and I have to live with that now.
Which brings me, at last, to the point. If I'd known what sepsis was, and that my dad had a history of it, I'd have kept telling the people who were attempting to treat him until someone listened to me. As they say, knowledge is power. Most of us know, at least in theory, what to do if someone is choking, how to recognise the symptoms of a heart attack or a stroke, how to perform CPR. We all know, or at least we should do, that a rash that doesn't disappear when pressed with a glass tumbler could be meningitis. We should all know about sepsis.too.
- Slurred speech or confusion
- Extreme shivering or muscle pain
- Passing no urine (in a day)
- Severe breathlessness
- It feels like you're going to die
- Skin mottled or discoloured
|John Dudley Wassell 14 September 1936 to 18 September 2007|
Love you, Dad xx
Friday, 8 September 2017
My blog has been, yet again, sadly neglected. I often feel that I have nothing to say that would be of interest to anyone else. But I started this blog so that I had somewhere to direct people, in the unlikely event that they were interested in the stories I have had published. So I've spent a bit of time this afternoon updating links, deleting those that don't work any more and adding new ones. I hope I've included everything. Probably the thing I've been most excited about in 2017 has been the inclusion of my 100 word story The Smoking Circle in Sleep Is A Beautiful Colour, the 2017 National Flash Fiction Day anthology. I'm a bit in awe of some of the writers in there, and can't quite believe I'm rubbing shoulders with them. Oh, and I made the longlist of this year's Mslexia short story competition, which I was more than a little chuffed about. It's been a quiet year, so far, but I hope to be posting a bit more regularly from now on.
Monday, 9 November 2015
No matter how many times it happens, it never stops being exciting. And I'm especially proud to have a story included in the Momaya Short Story Review 2015. The theme this year was 'Treasure', and I entered a new version of a story I originally wrote some time ago, which seemed to fit the theme perfectly. I've received my copy of this lovely, beautifully produced anthology, and there is at least one story in it that I wish I'd written.
I was also thrilled when another older story, The Secret, was highly commended in the last Inktears Short Story Competition. This story was the first one to appear when the site was revamped recently. It got some lovely, interesting comments, for which I'm very grateful. You can read it here.
Relying on old stories is all very well, but you need to write new ones, and try out different things. In September I went, with some trepidation, to a Woman's Weekly Fiction Workshop in Manchester. I've been submitting stories to 'womags' for some time, although I fear that the optimistic tone they require doesn't come naturally to me. I am a natural pessimist who expects my toast to fall butter side down. Most of my stories have sad endings. This won't do, apparently, in the womag story. There must be a note of hope. So I have a lot to work on.
Having said that, I had a fantastic day at the workshop, which was tutored by the lovely Della Galton, and the very witty Gaynor Davies, Woman's Weekly Fiction Editor. I learned so much about what Woman's Weekly is looking for, and what they don't like. And I was actually brave enough to read something out loud. If you know me personally you'll understand what a massive thing that is. I hate the sound of my own voice. The best thing of all though was the opportunity to spend a whole day just thinking about writing, in a room full of other people who love it as much as I do.
Stepping outside my writing comfort zone again, I entered the People's Friend Serial Writing Competition, which closed at the end of last month. I grew up reading my Nana's weekly copies of People's Friend. I can see them now, piled up in the corner of her sofa. I suspect that there are some very special skills required to write the kind of stories that People's Friend likes. I also suspect that I don't have them yet. But I had such fun writing an outline for my 3 part serial, and the first 6000 word installment. I don't think I've ever worked so hard on anything in my life, and that includes my university finals. There have apparently been 116 entries for this competition. I don't for one minute expect to be successful, but nothing is ever wasted. I'm sure I can develop what I've written into two or three shorter stories, if nothing comes of this.
In other news, I had a pleasing little win last week in the weekly flash competition recently started by The Short Story Website . My winning story, Lambs, was originally part of a much longer story. Re-reading, I realised that all I really wanted to say was contained in this little episode. I'm glad it's finally found a home. And this newish site is a wonderful thing for readers and writers of short stories.
My cat Lily remains unimpressed by my writing. All she really cares about is where her next packet of Dreamies is coming from. Can't say I blame her. Onwards.......
Thursday, 9 April 2015
Pieces of good writing news are, it would seem, like buses. As the saying goes, you wait forever, then three come along at once. I was thrilled, last week, to learn that I had been highly commended in the Inktears Short Story Competition 2014. Obviously, I'd have been even happier if I'd won, but to come in the top 7 of a competition with around 500 entries is something worth celebrating.
Then, after 12 weeks of almost always being in the top 10, but never shortlisted, and just before I gave up hope, I managed to win WriteInvite for the first time this year. To be honest, I wasn't that happy with my story when I wrote it. It was all a bit traumatic, and for a few seconds, minutes before the competition closed, I thought I had lost the whole thing. Somehow, I managed to get it back. And miraculously it won! My friend Jo came third. It's the first time we've ever been shortlisted together. You can read our stories here. I wish more people would enter this weekly competition. You have a really good chance of being shortlisted. I was, the second time I entered. It's such a good exercise, writing for 30 minutes using one of 3 given prompts, with the chance of winning £50. What's not to love?
On Tuesday my story Eavesdropping was published by the online Flash Fiction Magazine. It's the second story I've had published by them,and it has received some lovely positive comments. Interestingly, not everyone sided with the same character. This is what makes writing so interesting. So it's been a good writing week. Lily Cat continues to seek attention, and has developed a fondness for tapping at my keyboard. I'm thinking of letting her enter WriteInvite on my behalf on Saturday. She'd probably do a pretty good job. She certainly has a tale or two to tell!
On the reading front I have been enjoying the wonderful Millie And Bird by Avril Joy. This is the kind of short story collection I fantasize about writing, all set in the same close knit community. The title story won the Costa Short Story Award in 2012. I'm also currently reading, on my Kindle, From Writing With Love , Avril's book of sound advice about the craft of writing. I can recommend it for anyone in search of a little encouragement. I've also been having a look at the latest Bath Short Story Anthology , in preparation for hopefully submitting a story to the 2015 competition. I have a story in mind, and just need to more or less rewrite it. Onward and upwards .....
Monday, 16 March 2015
I'm not quite sure how it's happened, but almost a quarter of 2015 has passed. It's been a frustrating few months, without a single publication. I haven't even managed a WriteInvite shortlisting, even though I've been entering every week. I've definitely fallen out of favour there.
On the positive side, I've actually been writing more than ever. Thanks to writing sessions with my writing buddy Jo I have, since the beginning of January, completed around six brand new stories, and have at least 15 'works in progress'. One of these new stories made the shortlist of the latest Word Hut short story competition, which is, I guess, better than nothing. At least I know I'm not writing complete rubbish.
The most exciting writerly thing that has happened this year is finding myself of the Inktears Short Story Competition Shortlist. I'm thrilled to be included in the final thirteen, especially since the longlist was VERY long. The closing date for this competition was in 2014. In a way, I hate having to wait for results. But at least while you're waiting you still have hope.
Last year I blogged about how pleased I was to have my flash fiction, My Evil Twin, included in issue 2 of Firewords Quarterly. Rather belatedly, browsing on one of my favourite websites, Shortstops, I came across a lovely mention for my story in the Review section. You need to scroll down the page to find it, at the end of the Firewords review. I'm especially taken with the sentence 'Her short short is powerful enough to get her imagery stuck in your brain for several days after reading it.' It's a shame they spelled my name wrong, mind you, but I can live with that.
My writing goal this week is to complete a story to submit to The Short Fiction Prize. I suspect that none of my stories are really literary enough for this kind of competition. But you never know.........
Monday, 2 February 2015
I haven't updated my blog for some time now. January has somehow slipped by with nothing interesting to report. No shortlistings, no wins, no acceptances. In fact, no acknowledgement at all of the fact that I am a writer. Longlists, shortlists and results for competitions I have entered keep popping up. I am never on them. I am like that five year old child that keeps tugging on the teacher's sleeve, needing to be told that she's doing okay. But I have no sleeve to tug. The only thing I have ever really wanted to do is write. Unless you count my childhood ambition to be a hairdresser. That never happened. At the moment, the writing thing isn't happening either.
Ironically, I've written more this month than I've done for a long, long time, thanks mostly to almost daily sessions with my writing buddy. I've got a handful of brand new stories in first draft form. I'm quite excited about a couple of them. I'm sure I'm a better writer now than I was this time last year. All I need is a bit of encouragement. Please? Anyone???