The Idea Graveyard Part Two

I get a lot of story ideas. In the past, I’ve talked about how I deal with them all: metaphorically, by making them queue up and wait their turn, and practically via the use of lists and spreadsheets. But even with this mindset and those tools, it can still be a lot to manage. Sometimes – and it breaks my heart to say this – it is best to just let an idea go.

I was greedy for a long time, so obsessed with fears of ‘the one that got away’, that I tried to not give up on any idea. Ever. No matter how much it didn’t work. But that, as I’m sure you can guess, is unsustainable.

Once upon a time, I had a long list of maybe twenty or more blog posts I wanted to write, forty poems, and dozens of short stories. It stressed me out because, deep down, I knew my output wasn’t big enough and that the backlog was only going to grow. Not only that, but all the blog posts, poems, and short stories were keeping me from the novels I wanted to write.

To save myself from the insanity, I’ve had to learn to prioritise even more; not just making the stories queue up and wait their turn, but actually turning some of them away. It’s been difficult, but my master list of works in progress is finally starting to look manageable.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still not entirely where I want it to be, but substantial progress has definitely been made. This has taken literal years. I used to have three blogs instead of just this one. When I merged two of them and scrapped the other one entirely, that was a big step. As of right now, I have ideas for three future blog posts. Three is a number I’m comfortable with.

In place of my list of forty-plus poems I wanted to write, I easily have forty poems. The backlog on those is completely cleared to the point that if I get a poem idea, I can write it then and there without wondering to myself if I should finish a different one first. Continue reading

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Future Study Plans

This is a follow-up to my ‘School Days‘ blog post. In re-reading it in preparation for writing part two, I realised I’d left out bits and pieces. I suppose that’s expected when you’re trying to summarise three decades in a thousand words.

There are short courses I’ve done that I completely forgot to mention, and that’s fine, at this point it doesn’t really matter except to further illustrate in a more general sense how much I’ve been trying to educate myself since I left high school.

I have spent most of my thirty years engaged in some kind of formal or semi-formal education, which I think is a good thing but, at the same time, that only makes me feel worse about the fact that I still feel like an academic screw up.

Part of the problem was, I couldn’t find the right path for myself. I didn’t know what to study, so I tried a little bit of everything: vocational courses, science subjects, the humanities. For a very long time, I had it in my head that true success lay in doing ALL OF THE THINGS(!) and doing them perfectly.

When I discovered Forensic Science & Criminology wasn’t working out for me, I dropped the forensics and tried to do Criminology on its own. When that didn’t work, I tried to switch to English Lit (but couldn’t). I sat for ages debating with myself what was my true passion and thought that maybe I’d like to study Social Work, or Youth Work, or Counselling. I had interest in these subjects and still do, but going back a step to pursue them was a path that was blocked to me due to already having used my funding for the failed Forensics course.

I briefly did study Youth Ministry through my church job in Oxford, and for a while I wondered if studying through the church here in Northern Ireland was perhaps a way forward. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.

Having written all that, maybe what I should be taking away from all this isn’t that I’ve repeatedly failed but that I’ve tried again and again and haven’t given up. As I said in part one, I don’t think I’ll be happy until I finally finish my formal education. (Side note, but I’m a big believer in life-long learning, even once formal education is done – at whatever age that is.) Continue reading

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Surprised by Joy

On Saturday the 23rd of November, I’ll be taking part in this year’s C.S. Lewis Festival alongside other Women Aloud NI members. A couple of years ago when I took part, the theme was ‘Surprised by Joy’, for which I wrote the following flash fiction piece. I hope you like it!


It was a terrible, miserable, frozen, windy, brown-grey day; the sky the embodiment of ‘bah humbug.’

Jasper just wanted to sleep through it, but circumstance wouldn’t allow. There were presents to buy, food to arrange, parties to go to, decorations to put up – all the rest.

It wasn’t that he hated Christmas, it was just that he was exhausted and the holiday always poked at him, knowing just where his insecurities lay.

“Haven’t you settled down yet?” one great-aunt or another would invariably ask, only for all the other family members to pile in and spend no less than a half-hour discussing the intricacies of his love life, or lack thereof.

There would be advice – “You’ve just got to put yourself out there, you know?” – and there would be teasing – “Look, Jasper, even the cat has a girlfriend!” – and it would be miserable. All of it.

Jasper had tried to find someone, he really had, but there was nothing for it – no one out there for him. He was alone, and he was lonely. That was just the way things were.

Dragging himself around shop after shop to get everything sorted, Jasper’s mind wondered as his mood lowered still. It took someone calling his name three times before he blinked and looked up, coming back to himself.

There she was. He had to blink again to make sure he was imagining things. Joy Pringle – Jasper’s childhood sweetheart, who had moved away when they were twelve and, in all honesty, he had never gotten over.

“Joy!” he exclaimed. “I’ve found you!”

She laughed, the sound like jingle bells. “I found you, more like. I’ve been looking for you for years. You aren’t on Facebook.”

“Ah, well,” Jasper stammered, cursing his previous negative attitude towards the site. “I– I’ll sign up now.”

Joy smiled at him, the sun rising in her cheeks. “Oh, no. Not now. I’m about to meet some friends for a drink. Do you want to come?”

“Yes,” said Jasper, glad he pulled himself out of bed for such a glorious day.

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SCBWI Con 2019: A Comedy of Errors

Sketch by Imogen Foxell

This past weekend was The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators annual British Isles conference. Having won one of SCBWI’s Margaret Carey scholarships, I got to attend with all expenses paid. And wow, was it one heck of an experience, even if it didn’t quite go to plan.

Having studied in England for University, I’ve travelled back and forth there a lot of times over the years and it was not uncommon at all for me to return with tales of a wacky adventure and/or a war wound. This past weekend was a bit of a return to that.

I should start by saying that, before I even left, I’d been sick for about a week. Really, really sick. To the degree that, I spent most of that week wondering if I was going to make it at all. But I pushed through, packed my bag, and got on a plane.

Minor inconvenience number one (aside from being sick): a short delay taking off. This in itself would barely be worth mentioning if it weren’t the first of many, many things that went awry. How many things can go awry in three days? WELL!

Things kinda started off on the back foot for another reason: I was going entirely broke. Our rent went out the day I set off, the very start of the month, which means our bank account was empty. Over empty, in fact. Even our overdraft was gone. (October was a hard month, you guys.) But anyways, this shouldn’t have been too much of a problem because of the ‘all expenses paid’ bit. My travel was free, my accommodation was free, and of course the conference fee itself was covered. What I also had was £5 on a gift card leftover from my birthday that should work in a long list of places. I double-checked the balance and the list of places before I left, and I planned to get myself a bottle of water in the airport WH Smith once I’d gotten through security. Sounds simple enough, right? Except it didn’t work. Of course it didn’t. The person at the till conjectured it was probably because an airport WH Smith probably doesn’t count as a normal WH Smith.

*deep breath* It was gonna be one of those days. Continue reading

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