Adventures in Teaching First Graders

…or the story on how time flies when (a million things happen at once) you’re having fun.

Because I am having fun. Honestly. Even when it’s hard. Even though I’ve had to scale down in my personal life just to survive the wear and tear of this term. There just isn’t much brain power left when you’re part-time parent to 25 six-year-olds. To those who don’t know it I’m a primary school teacher in my second year of teaching.

I want to share the story of one chaotic afternoon from a few weeks ago. All kids’ names have been changed.

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Well here we are… (beware frustration)

And what have I done? To be honest it feels like nothing. On average I’m writing 300 words a week if even that. Updating my blog isn’t even on the radar. Even though I want to, I really want to. It’s May. Last time I updated my blog was January.

I looked at my goals for the year yesterday. Almost all of them are writing-related. And what am I doing? I’m either dealing with the stupid health issues or working. There isn’t much energy for else. And most of the time I don’t even feel guilty. I’m doing the best with what I’ve been given. And you know what? I have less than twenty working days until the summer. And during the summer I will collect myself, get my body to work again properly and have so much time to write. Before then all I can do is bide my time.

So I’ll probably not write anything here until the middle of June, but luckily it’s not far away. In the meantime I can start thinking about what I actually want to blog about.

Before I graduated, the idea of my blog was short stories. And it kind of works (except the mess that is “Never break a leg before christmas”, I know I haven’t finished it and honestly I will) except during school weeks when lesson plans take up a lot of my creativity and energy. Whatevers left I want to give to novels or novellas. So what can I blog about? What do people blog about? I don’t have that much writing experience, I mean, I do but not if you compare to other bloggers. Especially not this dreadful year. I have very little experience with self-publishing. What can I write about then? Teaching. I have experienced with violent kids, kids with dyslexia, kids with ADHD, unhelpful parents. I can talk about being rootless, of not living in a place more than four years all my life. I guess I can talk about boats. And nature. I can talk about stress and guilt. Of putting on music and dancing around to it. What else is there to me?

IMG_20170501_184516My mum gave me this light. It runs on cooking oil, how cool is that?

Happy January 1st!

Here we are again, first of January! Welcome to 2017! I was reading my January first post from last year and I just feel like 2016 went incredibly fast.

So many things happened, not just in the world but in my own life. I got married, graduated and survived my first term as a proper teacher. I didn’t write as  much as I have in previous years but since I’ve been busier than ever, I’m not too disappointed with myself (well, I’m trying not to be).

My goals for 2016 were:

  • Finish On board the Monster (working title) which is my third novel.
  • Properly revise Out of Hand and add at least 20k words.
  • Find someone to publish State of Emergency.
  • Participate in Nanowrimo for the first time.

How did I do?

I *didn’t* finish On Board the Monster, it’s sort of on a semi-permanent hiatus. There are other stories that called my heart too much. Instead I started, and finished, a contemporary romance called Stargazing which is about a pornstar and a virgin who falls in love.

I did revise Out of Hand and added a buckload of words. It’s been through another bout of beta reading and editing and I’m planning to self-publish it in early 2017. But more on that in another post.

I self-published State of Emergency in August and loved the experience. I still want a publisher to publish it sometime in the future but we’ll wait and see.

I didn’t participate in Nanowrimo. There is no way I manage and I’ll not have that as a goal this year. In the middle of term it feels like I work 24 hours a day, planning, correcting, contacting parents, plus the actual teaching. There is no way I’ll manage to cram out 50k words in a month. That part of my life is over.

My new goals for 2017 are:

  • Revise and self-publish Out of Hand.
  • Revise and send Stargazing to a publisher
  • Try to update my blog once a month.
  • Not let my tumblr die. If I have one, I need to use it.
  • Finish The New Story, another contemporary romance.
  • Please, please, please finish Never break a leg before Christmas, (Come on, Kathy, this is getting ridiculous).
  • Start the sequel for State of Emergency. 

In just 12 days I’m moving to my new home. I think it’s going to boost my creativity a lot. The last six months I’ve been commuting four hours a day plus living in very tight quarters with too many other people.

I want this year to be a year of, well, writing again. More writing than 2016. Also happiness. And hope. And all the good things.

Happy January first everyone!

Interview with Harper Bliss

Harper Bliss is an incredibly popular author of lesbian fiction and erotica with titles such as At the Water’s Edge, Seasons of Love and my personal favourite, Once in a Lifetime (and many more). She lives in Hong Kong with her wife, is also the co-founder of LadyLit Publishing and has the personal quest to be the most accessible author out there. 

Hi Harper! Thanks for the interview! Did you ever think that writing for fun would lead to your life today?

Thank you for having me. I certainly never believed it could be like this before the ebook revolution happened in 2011, which (lucky for me) coincided with me having lots of time to write due to my wife being relocated to Hong Kong for work. I’ve been doing this for 5 years now. Very amateurishly at first, and not making a lot of money. But even when I was only making a small amount each month, it was very encouraging because I could really see the potential. Now we both make a living off the best job in the world. It’s amazing and I’m very grateful.

As I understand it, you’re from Belgium. Have you ever had an issue with writing in English?

Yep. I’m from Belgium so English is not my native language. I grew up speaking Dutch, which is actually pretty close to English, meaning that it’s very easy for Dutch-speaking people to learn English. Belgium is a trilingual country (French and German being the other two official languages) where a lot of emphasis is put on learning languages from a young age. And one must never underestimate the power of subtitles when learning a language. Hearing the language while simultaneously reading translated subtitles throughout my teenage years has certainly contributed to my knowledge of the English language. Basically, you could say that I became fluent after watching Beverly Hills 90210. (It also helps that my wife is half-British and is very skilled at eliminating errors from my writing before it goes to the editor…) All of that being said, these days, I find it nearly impossible to write anything in Dutch. I live in Hong Kong, where I’m surrounded by English-speaking expats. I exclusively read in English (and have done so for a very long time). Though English will never be my first language, it has definitely become my language of choice.

Do you ever find it difficult juggling your marriage and your writing? I.e. Needing to write when your wife wants attention etc.

Not in the least. My wife has always been super supportive and now we run our publishing business together (and have done so for the past 2 years.) I only write in the morning anyway. She doesn’t want attention before noon. 😉 All jokes aside, writing and publishing is now both our full-time job. We’re in this together and we love it (we’re codependent lesbian like that.)

How come you decided to create LadyLit publishing rather than going the self-publishing route?

There was a time when I had a dream of becoming this amazing publisher of lesfic. Until I learned that running a publishing house is a lot of extra work that takes away a lot of time from writing. We closed for submissions about a year and a half ago to focus solely on Harper Bliss books and it has certainly been a good decision, not only for our bottom line, but even more so for our peace of mind. Being responsible for other authors’ success in publishing is extremely stressful. I have nothing but respect for houses like Ylva, Bella and Bold Strokes, who make a big difference to authors who don’t want to go indie (it’s not for everyone), but I’m glad I don’t have that responsibility anymore. Ladylit is still our company and will continue to be so, but for the foreseeable future we will only use it to publish Harper Bliss titles (and hopefully a couple of new pen names soon.)

Do you have daily goals for writing? 

I do, but consistency has always been my greatest enemy. Though, and I might be jinxing it by saying this, I think I finally cracked it. (It only took me 5 years.) Ever since I started writing seriously, I’ve dreamed of a regular routine, perhaps not daily, but at least on weekdays. The problem I’ve always had is that I dream too big. I set myself outrageous daily word count goals, only to end up terribly unmotivated when I can’t reach them, then start taking days off… that kind of predictable slippery slope. Since about a month or 2, I’ve been writing consistently between 8AM and 10AM. Being a fast writer, I can get between 2.000 and 3.000 words done daily. So that’s my goal (as opposed to the 6.000 words days I used to aim for.) I’ve always known consistency is more sustainable than binging, and it looks like I can finally make it work now.

Do you have a favourite among your own novels/short stories?

I think my best book is my latest release In the Distance There Is Light. It’s fairly controversial. And I’ve learned that my writing can really thrive on topics like that. I have written fairly straight-forward lesbian romances before, but they will never be my own favourites. I like big drama and emotional sex scenes and impossible situations. In the Distance has all of that in spades.

Out of all characters you have ever created, do you have any favourites?

That’s like asking about my favourite child! I’ll attempt an answer, anyway. 😉 I’ve always had a huge soft spot for Alice, the main character in Seasons of Love. She’s a pretty uptight, very British solicitor going through a midlife crisis and I love her transformation throughout the book—during which she falls in love with a much younger woman, who is also her best friend’s daughter. It’s funny because I always believed the power lesbian characters I created like Dominique Laroche in French Kissing or Isabella in High Rise would stay with me much longer as my favorites, but it turns out Alice McAllister is much more interesting as a character.

What kind of writing process do you have? Do you plan the whole story first or do you like to see where it takes you?

I write romance, so, at its most basic, the story will always be the same: two women meet, like each other, encounter a few obstacles, overcome them, and have a happy ending. I guess, for this reason, I’m not much of a plotter. I’m also very bad at knowing in advance what will happen. What I like to do instead is create complex, layered characters who are unpredictable, even to me as their creator, that drive the story forward. That being said, I would like to be more of a plotter, because when I know exactly what’s going to happen, I can write much faster.

Very soon, my wife and I will be trying our hand at writing a thriller together, and a book in that genre requires a whole lot more plotting than I’m used to. We’ve been planning this book for weeks now and, at times, it’s been a bit of a painful process for me, but I think the end result will be all the better for it (and my wife happens to pretty good at coming up with murderous plots!)

Do you read nonfiction books about writing?

All the time. I would definitely recommend Stephen King’s On Writing, just to get you started. I also listen to a few weekly podcasts (The Creative Penn, Self-Publishing Podcast & The Self-Publishing Formula) about writing and publishing and pick up a lot of tips there. We’ve also been doing James Patterson’s Masterclass in writing, which is quite interesting (though not very detailed.) I think I must have also read every book available about speeding up your writing, but they all say the same, just as any book on craft will, essentially, say the same. But it’s good to be reminded sometimes.

What are you currently working on right now?

I just typed ‘The End’ underneath the first draft of Pink Bean Book Two. The jury’s still out on the title, so I can’t give you that just yet. It will be out just before Christmas on 23 December 2016. Now that that’s done, my wife and I can finally start writing our thriller (about time after all that plotting!)

You can find Harper on her website or on her other social media

Dear past self…

It gets better.

Today I ran my fastest kilometer ever and it felt absolutely amazing. As I was feeling the world rush by, I couldn’t help but think back to just four years ago.

I can imagine the girl that I was, 22, run into the ground. When I was 22 I was… sad. I don’t want to say depressed because I never received any diagnosis nor did I seek help for it, but I was numb and completely empty inside. I cried every night. My body continued without me as I got up every day, as I cooked and cleaned, as I took care of my unwell girlfriend, as I listened to my mother cry every single day on the phone, as I worked part time and studied full time, as I counted every penny and knew that even if I cut myself in two and sold half we couldn’t afford food. Hardly rent. So I worked more. More money. Less time. But at least I didn’t have to stare at the tomatoes and cucumber and know that I had to choose. I couldn’t afford both.

And friends? I wasn’t too liked at my uni. We lived in the north and I was from the south. I didn’t speak like them. I didn’t know the area like them. I was isolated on the island we had created, far away from any friends and family. My girlfriend and I. Not really Swedish. We had only been in this country, my country, for two years. And I hated it. I missed Britain. I wished I hadn’t left the country I had lived my whole adult life in.

But at 22 I went back to writing. I had written earlier of course, but between the ages of 19 and 22 I wrote nothing. I didn’t have any words. But suddenly they came back with a vengeance. I wrote to feel something. To find myself again. To find the spark that had been killed as I had lost myself years before.

So I went looking. I went looking for the 17-year-old who had left home, fresh-faced and naive. I didn’t know the girl I had used to be anymore, all I knew was that she had died in Britain. She had died so that I could be born and at 22 I didn’t know who I was yet. I have tried telling people this. But they always say “you’re always so happy” and I guess I was always happy. I had the world on my shoulders and a smile on my lips. I was good at pretending.

I used to feel sorry for myself. Not the 22-year-old me, but the Kathy who was a teenager. The 18-year-old who lived alone in a cold flat in a little British town. No hot water. I boiled water on the stove to wash my clothes in the bathtub. The building I lived in was situated between three pubs and I would lay awake in my bed listening to the roars and shouts of the drunk people downstairs. In the winter my flat was so cold I would go to bed at 6 PM just to get warm again. Double trousers, jumper, cover and blanket. And I learned. I learned to cook, and after the skin fell of my hands I learned not to wash my clothes without plastic gloves.

But at the same time I lost myself.

I wanted to hug little me, and tell her that it’ll be okay and that I’m so sorry she had to die.

But everyone has to grow up sometime.

At 22 I changed. I found writing again, and a friend was nice enough to send me Jae’s Backwards to Oregon. Then several of Gil McKnight’s books. Which introduced me to lesbian fiction.

And I found myself again. My girlfriend stopped sleeping so much. We moved back south and I started studying here instead. I started believing in myself. I started running. I’m asthmatic and sometimes I thought I would die. But I ran. And I wrote. And I read. And I lived.

I don’t live by my past anymore. I don’t need every difficult thing to be a part of my identity and I have restored the connection with the girl I was. And now?

Now I’m married. We have two dogs. I have graduated and I have a wonderful job waiting for me that I’m starting on Monday. And this week I published my first novel.

And today I ran my fastest kilometer ever.

 

Jules’s Midwrite Crisis (short lesfic)

 

Dear Ms Pearson,

Thank you for the opportunity to review your manuscript, however we will not…

Jules’s vision blurred as she stared at the little words on the screen. How many rejections was that in the past six months alone? She pushed her chair from the desk and got up. She didn’t want to think about it. Not anymore. She looked at her laptop and the stack of notebooks and pencils next to it. She didn’t want to write either. What was the point if nobody would ever read it?

You could write just for the sake of writing, a little voice in her head said. You know, like you used to? She sighed. It was true. She didn’t write to publish. She wrote because she was a writer, it was just who she was.

 The constant setbacks didn’t help her though. She wanted writing to be her job. She wanted her life to revolve around books, not rejection letters and the impending end of her sabbatical which was creeping closer and closer. And with not even one book published she just couldn’t justify not going back to work.

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On being a writer and wasting time

Time-Management-for-Writers-2500x1563-Amazon-Smashwords-Kobo-Apple

I don’t usually review books on this blog (even though this isn’t a proper review), unless I’m making my lists but this is too valuable not to mention. I’m talking of course about Time Management for Writers by Sandra Gerth.

I bought this on a whim. I have quite a tight budget at the moment and I try to save the money I can spend on frivolous things for lesfic novels because from time to time I really do need to read something new that has lesbians (latest novel I read was Good Enough to Eat by Jae and Allison Grey, no wait that’s not true, I also read Bitter Fruit by Lois Cloarec Hart).

Anyway, Time Management for Writers is absolutely awesome! I thought I managed my time well, but oh no, I really don’t. This also explains how Ms Gerth (writing as her alter ego Jae) manages to write two novels in the time I write one. The book gives a lot of concise advice and small exercises to perform after each chapter, everything to make us the best and most effective writers that we can be. To me some of the advice seemed rather extreme at first, e.g. not cooking every day but rather making more food from time to time and then rely on leftovers. But afterwards I started thinking. I write a lot, sure I do, but not nearly enough and not more than an hour or two per day. Which is ridiculous concidering how much time I spend on other things, including cooking (I spend a lot of time in the kitchen 😛 ), watching television, reading or even writing this blog post. This book has taught me to do better and I’m already seeing a change. I want writing to be my job and there is only one way forward.

And that’s why I wanted to tell you all about it. Writers, please read it, it’s for both newbies and people who have been writing for several years. It’s wholeheartedly recommended by yours truly.

…and now I’m going to take the lesson to heart and go and write. Oh wait, dog walk first. And then I need to make dinner. Wait, what did the book say again?

 

Happy new year!

It’s hard to believe that 2016 is here, but I love the refreshing feeling of January first. Enveloped in the feeling of new beginnings, new chances, a new lease on life. And for me, this means new writing goals.

In 2016 I hope to:

  • Finish On board the Monster (working title) which is my third novel.
  • Properly revise Out of Hand and add at least 20k words.
  • Find someone to publish State of Emergency.
  • Participate in Nanowrimo for the first time.

I also want to write several short stories to post here of course. Finish Never Break a Leg Before Christmas (which should have been finished by now but life got in the way sadly), but I also have two contemporary romance short lesfics that I will finish and post quite soon.

I want this to be a year of writing, but considering that I’m also starting my second thesis in two months, getting married in three months and graduating in five, we’ll see how it goes.

Despite how busy I’m going to be in the next six months, I’m very excited about all the wonderful stories I’m going to meet, both my own and others. All in all, I’m looking forward for the year.

I think it’s going to be absolutely wonderful.

Happy 1st of January everyone! 😀

Analysis Paralysis

Writer’s block has hit me hard and in a way it never has before. I’ve spent the past two weeks feeling absolutely frustrated with myself and the world. Why can’t I write? Why can’t I even think of something to write? I thought I had an idea but I feel dissuaded. By myself mostly. There is so much I don’t know, so much I can’t do, so many reasons why my idea is a bad idea. What stories do I have to tell? What stories do I have to tell that haven’t been told a million times before?

So I tried to revise, write short stories, finish short stories, do anything that has to do with writing but not my new novel and I just can’t. I can’t focus. I can’t even start focusing. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I don’t know why I think that writing was ever a good idea, then people will expect you to write. To deliver. When I wish I could just stop.

And then there is the absolute compulsion to write, weighing me down. The character screaming in my head needing to come out, out, out, but I don’t have a story for her. Not even a world. I don’t know where to put her.

What to do…