Tag Archives: Books

Eight years on #gdnbloggers

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Eight years ago, I was coming to the end of my initial teacher training; the PGCE was over and I was looking to the future. I had also started to do an experiment.

During that final summer time, I wasn’t feeling particularly positive. I had no idea whether I would make it through the course, my morale was very low and I wondered whether the vocation that I felt was just a whisper on the wind that I had misunderstood. For some daft reason, I threw aside the applications for NQT posts having been sat in the garden trying to fill them in in the sunshine. I took the bus to the High street, went into Wilko’s and came out with seeds and pots.

I really fancied sowing those seeds, and how difficult could it be to sow a tomato, a chilli and why not throw a runner bean into a pot. See what happens. A few weeks later, I was in a gardening store, and I saw a crate of onion and shallot sets. There were far too many for me, so I sunk some into the garden-my parent’s garden-and gave away the rest to a neighbour.

Watching seedlings come through-the summer of 2009 was freakishly warm-and then having chillies and tomatoes growing lusciously and then cropping, was something of a marvel to behold.

As the summer drew to end, my sweet peppers were damp but productive; something had clicked, changed; I found that I rather enjoyed sowing seeds, watching them grow, and you know, those four courgettes a week did come rather handy in Mum’s kitchen. I thought about expanding the science experiment-that is in essence what it was-and to be fair, Dad was thought there were a lot of plastics pots lining his garden.

I knew that there were allotments in the area, the neighbour who I had palmed off onions too, he told me about them. Off I went to a search engine to investigate.

What he didn’t tell me, and it was only after I called the allotment secretary as listed on the local authority information, that I found that the onion neighbour were the one and the same. I know, daftness. I put my name on the list, I wanted an allotment.

 

 

I had already been documenting my seeds sowing; by writing things down, I used another website. Horticultural Hobbit was born, there was a growing-literally-body of work. I even asked a good friend of mine, to give the name a face, give the name a face. He took one look at me, and came up with the figure holding carrots. The figure that we now know as Petal. I was adamant. that this would be my alter ego, that the allotment in the shadow of the Shire Country park and Sarehole mill would be a good record of my growing adventures.

By November, I was renting half an allotment plot. This was now about allotment adventures.  It took two weeks to clear it, and to get cracking. There was half a plan-sketched out-as to what I wanted to do, what I wanted to achieve. This was going to be anything but easy.

Put quite simply, I didn’t have a clue. What I was doing, how I planned to do it, was a bit of a haze. What I did next was to join an online forum, I had questions needed answers. This was by far one the best things I could have ever done. To have joined a community of like minded people, from whom I could learn,  use as a sounding board and also pass on the benefits of my mistakes.

What followed was growth, development and further scientific enquiry.

Growth. Development and a journey. A journey, that is on going and to this day.

There have been peaks and there have been troughs. That’s a lot of tomatoes, more courgettes that you can shake a stick at. There have been weeds galore-current, state of play, by the way-and storm damage, sometimes not enough time in the life space continuum; everything has ebbed and flowed.

 

 

It is impossible for me sum up in this post every triumph and disaster, every seed sown and harvest made. Plus you can find it all in the archives. All in all, a journey is documented and is shared.

Sowing seeds and then writing about it has had benefits that I could not have possibly for seen. I remain a teacher, although my jobs have varied since that summer of 2009. There have been a few posts, where I have been able to use gardening to support students; at one point, I grew chillies in a classroom. The plan is to continue with the vocation.  I have become a trained listener, started to train as a counsellor, as the impact of gardening on my own mental health has encouraged me to consider how the mental health of others could be supported. In particular, work carried out with veterans, mental health and gardening really struck a cord and led to the development of the Pledge for Warriors.

Then there was the writing outside of the blog. I was able to write guest blogs with the support of Michael Perry and this tipped something of a balance.  I felt that this was really positive step forward and helped to move within the blogging and gardening community. Plus, there was the whole ‘bollywood gardener’ hashtag, I couldn’t tell you how that came about, but I am grateful for Michael coining it and I am keeping it! Plus, I remember swooning and almost keeling over when termed as being gardening royalty…that is a dream that I will continue to keep a hold of as motivation to persevere.

I am still trying to be a part of that community, but what this did was edge me towards writing a book. I looked at the guest blogs that I had written, and had a gut reaction. Two years ago, in something of a haze I sent my youngest sister a text message; I was going to write a gardening book based upon the blog.

“Okay, good luck,” she said. “Do what you want.”

I did.

There was definitely a haze, and I did write that book. I wrote two. Now, they might not be Pulitzers, and you won’t find them on The Times 100 Best seller lists any time soon. But they are my books, and I am very glad to have written them both. They are not perfect, I don’t pretend to be perfect in anyway; I have however, learned from the processes and there is further development, dare I say it, growth. Writing the two gardening books led me to the Indie authors community and has set me onto another, additional pathway. A pathway towards fiction, towards writing in another direction.  I wrote ‘Fragment’s and that couldn’t have been more different to Plant pot tales and so grow eat. This writing journey continues, and there is a release scheduled Spring 2018. As for a return to gardening books, maybe; there are plans.

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Then there was the swag, the merchandise that the figure holding carrots-Petal-was emblazoned upon. Petal, who gave her name to Petal’s Potted Preserve, and was far more than the Orticultural Obbit; far more than just my alter ego. There have been lots of bits and pieces-through trial and error-that have been developed, shared and have actually gone to loving homes. A good sign, I guess, of how much this blog, the process of gardening and growth has changed as there is now also a Petal shop.

Petal is something that I believe in, that I enjoy developing. She is a brand. A brand that is diverse, growing and hoping to get bigger, better and stronger. There are many different facets to Petal, the Orticultural Obbit and her Potted Preserve. To date, I have have uncovered just a few. The plan remains to keep searching, to keep growing and developing.

It truly has been an interesting eight years.

 

Inside the leaves…not the green ones #Fragments

 

I rather cherish the memories of standing in Mum’s kitchen holding my own books in my hands. Each time, there has been a smile as to having worked hard and crafting something that I am very proud of and ultimately would like to share with others. I am not writing anything at the moment; my pens have temporarily fallen silent and are reflecting on new possible stories.

I am also involved in a project called the Peace Series That link will take you to the Facebook page. There is even an event that will hopefully plant Peace firmly on the map. My contribution is scheduled for release early in 2018, and is currently being polished.

There were plans to write a cookbook! Plans being plans, this is on pause; I will get around to that eventually.

For now, I have three books in circulation that I am genuinely proud to have written and developed. Two, are primarily to do with gardening and cooking; with this year being a poor year on the allotment plot, they are a reminder of good times, of fruitful times.

Then there is ‘Fragments’, which is my first foray in to writing fiction. This does not mean I have abandoned my green plot. Simply that I have decided to add an additional string and broadened my horizons a little more.

Bit of a heads up. This is not a fluffy book with hearts, rainbows and butterflies. It’s not a textbook either!

 

Above are a selection of passages from Fragments, these touch on the six different stories that are interwoven to paint a picture of how loss and bereavement may effect us. The people and their experiences are varied and diverse; I wanted to write stories that could be seen to reflect and represent the world around me and to some extent how I see it.

I like my book; I am however, very biased. It is seeing and hearing that other people have picked it up, read it and invested in it that truly makes me feel less biased.

You can find the ebook here . For paperback, click here.  If you happen to be in the USA, you can even walk into Pipe and Thimble in Lomita, California to buy a copy! The store is the only place on the globe that actually holds any of my books right now. That in itself is  a tad mind blowing.

If you do invest in a copy, of either version, then please share and leave the review. As a non-traditional, self published author, I am a cog in the Indie publishing world. Reviews help that universe expand, allowing books that we wouldn’t ordinarily come across become more visible. This expansion then allows myself and other Indie authors to be stumbled upon with our works being shared.

 

Behind the blue pastel #Fragments

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For now, my pen, all three of them actually-are at rest.

All of the writing projects are in a lull. One writing project is being reviewed at a draft level for release slated as March next year. The others being very much being paused due to a lack of mojo. I am taking a rest, as the daydreams have disappeared for a bit and  have left me to my own devices.

With that, I have been thinking about Fragments and the process of writing it. What I have been reflecting upon, is why I wrote it and the stories that are within the pages. For days, I have been thinking about what I might share about a book that I feel I had to write, wanted to write and hope that people might something out of. Three things, that are no different to how I felt when writing about my allotment and on this blog. Three very important drives when picking up a pen and committing thoughts and feelings to paper.

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‘Fragments’ is not a book full of sunshine, rainbows or butterflies. The theme of the book and that which covers all of the six stories is grief. Grief, bereavement and loss is something, that like taxes is part of our lives.

It happens to us all, but for each of us the journey that occurs is unique.

Grief, bereavement and loss are also veiled in social acceptance; talking about grief, showing how it affects us and then processing it, is all very much on the down low. It is shied away from, thought of as dark, gloomy and best dealt by alone. Grief, bereavement and loss feel spikey; we hold these things at arms length and wrinkle up our noses when faced with them.

‘Fragments’ started it’s life nine months after I experienced the loss of my  maternal grandfather. He was the last grandparent. To this day, I remember the message that my sister sent me, I remember telling my mum-the hardest thing, that I have ever had to do-and I remember leaving work, climbing into George, turning off the music, and heading off towards the A444. I remember Nana still being there and at home, whilst I went looking for saucepans and tea bags in the kitchen. I remember cursing March, as it was such a pain in the backside. There was relief when March ended, I can assure you.

Starting to write in November and much later in the year, I didn’t think about purpose, tone or audience. I wasn’t even thinking about writing a book. All I wanted to do, was write down the day dream that I was experiencing and as quick as I could on lined paper with a green biro. I had written two thirds of the first chapter, when I realised that what I was writing was important. I couldn’t give it up, and I had to go with it. There was no plan, I  had not plotted out arcs or characters. This was seat of the pants writing, and then some.

I found a notebook, a robust one; I wanted to do this properly. This daydream was far too important to ignore and at this point, I thought about planning what shape it would take.

All in all, six interwoven stories appeared on the page. I know, there are only five on the blurb. But hey, find it, open it,  and find the sixth.

There are the Anands, Christopher, Daniel, Michael, Aldo and Matthew within the pages.

The Anands are an Anglo-Indian family who lose a wife and mother. Christopher loses his dog. Daniel loses his husband, Michael and Aldo are parents bereaved. Like me, Matthew experiences the loss of a grandparent.

I have another character in the book. Marcy, a counsellor.

All of these characters, these people somehow reflect the world around me. There were times, that during the writing process they all felt real and very much three-dimensional. Figments of my imagination these characters may have been, but within the pages of Fragments their worlds are some form of reality.

Over the course of nearly two years, the six stories were developed. I must have dragged them on every adventure I went on, used bottles of ink and spent hours poring over the two notebooks that the stories would fill. There were tears, when I felt the stories so strongly and had to sit back with a cuppa to be at arms length. There were smiles when the words flowed. In writing the book, I had put my soul onto the page to go through both pleasure and pain.

When it ended, I felt a loss and not to dissimilar to that experienced by the characters.

Fragments had become a part of me, it contained so much that I thought I had dealt with. It became an act of self care-though, at times when I pushed myself to get it written, this didn’t feel the case. Writing helped me to process what my own feelings and thoughts were and I cannot find the words to convey this more clearly.

When eighty per cent of Fragments was written and Christmas 2016 drawing close, there was another family bereavement.

My pen froze.

December 2016 was painful as Aunty Indra passed away.  Again, I was cursing the month for being so awful.  I couldn’t write a single solitary thing. I don’t think I was supposed to, the universe didn’t want that to happen and at that point, I put books of any sort aside.

It was an interesting book-end. Fragments started with a death, it was finishing with a death.

Time had to pass and grief had to be processed before I could pick up  my pen again. When I did and at the end of January, Fragments was ready to resume its course.

It wasn’t just the writing that was therapeutic. Making the cover was also important to me. Whilst I had the title of the book, nothing felt right when it came to the cover. So much so, I fancied getting creative. In already having a stash for colouring, I knew that I had soft pastels somewhere. I used these to create three different pieces. All blue; blue felt right for this book and I went with it. Playing with sugar paper and soft pastels was rather interesting! What I couldn’t then do, was decide which one would be the cover and the options went to a public vote via social media. I gave no clue as to what the image was for or what the content of book was.  In then end, ‘Fabric of the universe’ won and became the book cover.

Recently, when learning about grief and bereavement during my counselling diploma, Fragments took on another dimension. I saw the book, the themes from a different perspective and as being even more real One hell of a light bulb moment occurred, and writing the book felt even more important.

I opened with saying that my pens are at rest. For now, they are and until the mojo returns, that will remain the case.

Until then, I shall be smelling the roses…..

 

World Book Day 2016: Thursday 3rd March

I hear it’s World Book Day tomorrow; the global celebration of literary fiction, of characters that inveigle themselves into our imagine to loom larger than life, and of the passion and pride that authors feel when their words are read and enjoyed.

Admittedly, these were my second. third and fourth thoughts after thinking of my own book and how I could plug it all day tomorrow. Not the most appropriate thought I suppose when there are books for every taste and interest that should be celebrated. I wrote mine as it corresponds to mine, the fortunate thing being that there are people out there for whom I hope it is useful. I enjoy having a vegetable patch, and I wanted to share the lessons learned from it.

It is less than seven months since I published #Plantpottales, and I am trying to think of what to do next. There is a current work in progress, with slow and steady progress being made. I do have a self imposed deadline that I am working towards; and two months in it is feeling rather tight already. I don’t write full time, I don’t even play on the plot full time; so it is shoe horned into the real life. This makes having a monthly quota a challenge, and I have a long list of things I want to write and put into the work. It’s a move away from non-fiction; I am trying to use my imagination and a thesaurus to create a work of fiction.

But I would also like to write another non-fiction gardening book. The thought has entered my mind of late. It will have recipes in it, certainly. I have a list! Of the assorted jams, jellies and chutneys that have been plot experiments. (I’m going to be cautious here and tell you that I am not a professional preserver but a hobbyist, so don’t be expecting full scale rules and regulations for health and safety et cetra. Keep yourself and your kitchen safe, all right?).  Whilst I have the list of recipes, I will need to reflect on what I put in the book proper. This means devising a list of chapter headings in the same way I did when developing #plantpottales. Some serious reflection is required as to what I want to put into it; knowing what I had put into #plantpottales.

This is the first-I think-World Book Day that I can experience as an author. I might be self published, but an author nonetheless, and I like to think that #plantpottales is one of the many books out there that will be appreciated not just tomorrow, but also beyond. The growing season has but just started!

With two possible, projects for the coming year, I can only hypothesis what world book day 2017 might be like.

Book Worm Bonanza: @AstleyBookFarm

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It’s been a while since I blogged about books. And today, I just had to. Accompanied by a lovely counselling classmate and friend of mine, I spent the afternoon at Astley Book Farm. I have heard a lot of positives about it, certainly about the cake, so was looking forward to visiting.

The book farm is epic. A ten bob barn, where there are thousands of books, all priced at the princely sum of fifty British pence. The main body, is a nirvana for all bookworms. There are bookcases and bookcases of books.

I felt my heart go thud as I stopped at the Ian Fleming section. Bond books. Dating back to their first publication. Okay, I have the electronic versions, and I have now read all fourteen of the originals. But to have them there in front of you, in black and white, paper back. That is something else. I remember being an A-level student, trying to find original Fleming books, and having no luck. At that time, the universe didn’t mean for me to have them. Not until today, and I picked up a copy.

Then there is star trek. I like Star Trek, the next generation at least. So I homed in to two books. Like the Fleming books, there is something about the books, the history in the pages.

So many books, I can see how it would easy to while away the hours there and not realise.

Visit. You know want to.