Sunday, December 21, 2014

Four more sleeps until Christmas

Coffee and mince pie.

For the first time in a long time, I’ll be working the week of Christmas. I have Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (Christmas Eve) to make my appearance at the library. Luckily the agency staff all got a couple of extra days off as well, so I’m free to hang out at home with Steve. (We may actually have a change to drive somewhere and do something outside of town!)

Today the Christmas turkey arrives so we can put that in the fridge. We may also brave the retail mall for some big TV shopping. On Monday we’ll have to get the rest of our Christmas necessities: biscuits, milk, oranges, and kitty litter. Tuesday is the late night at the library, and Wednesday I’ll be donned in my Christmas jumper. At least we close early that day.

My new job is turning permanent next year, so the boss in the process of getting my contract sorted. This means chasing up references, and producing a proof of address in order to get the ball rolling.

Lately, as I’ve said more than once, I’ve just been busy doing my daily routines. I finally was able to get my hair done last week, so I don’t look like some ragamuffin who looks in the mirror and think everything’s okay. I’m also done with the Christmas shopping (aside from the television shopping today). Of course, every time I think I’m done, I think of or see something new to add to the stack of presents in the closet that needs wrapping.

That wrapping never ends!

I haven’t been reading as much since I discovered that looking at an electronic device on a bus makes me sick to my stomach – bummer. The same goes for my writing, even though I have a set plan of events for my YA sci-fi series. I’ve been editing the first book with my CP and writing the second book slowly but surely. (Very slowly.) Since I’m not in the midst of the Twitter/PitchMad fever lately, I’m not as worried about getting things done in a rush and it, inevitably, ending up sub-par.

I also have my NA Thriller that still needs publishing on Smashwords. Maybe I’ll get to it early in the New Year. My schedule will change soon, so I may end up with half days on Wednesday and every other Saturday off so I can catch up on the book stuff much easier.

Anyway, with that update, I want to wish you all a wonderful Christmas. Hope you have a great holiday!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Being busy and being productive

Mad Tea Party.

Busy. We're all busy. We feel guilty if we're not busy, but we have to pace ourselves.

Now that I'm working full time, I've decided that I do want it all - work and writing. But I work late hours and only get one day at a time off (usually). So I have to give myself time to do all the other things I want to do when I can and in whatever increments I can handle at the time.

I read on the bus during my commute. I've tried writing on the bumpy bus, and it's more bother than it's worth with the typos.

Steve and I have given up on going to the grocery store on Sundays. We want to sleep in, eat breakfast, drink tea and coffee, and chill out. Since stores close at 4PM here on Sunday (even "24 Hour" stores aren't legally allowed to be open late) we simply don't have time to get the shopping done.

I've figured out that if I do the laundry right when I get home on Saturday night, I have a better chance of dry socks and work clothes by Monday morning. Before, I was trying to do that and shop and have family time all on Sunday. It just isn't feasible.

So, I've adjusted my schedule. I tackle what I can each day.

We're so worried about word count, but I really need to take the time to edit too . Now I know that the editing is the hardest, most time consuming process and I just can't think about submitting to a publisher or Smashwords before I do some editing and rewriting bit by bit, when I can.

I have a list of things to do every night when I get home: eat dinner, take a shower, talk to my parents, visit with Steve, pack Steve’s lunch, and get into bed by 11PM at the latest. It doesn’t look like much as a short list, but everything needs time and with only 4-5 hours each night to get everything done, there’s a lot of other things I’d like to do, but I just can’t.

I started to believe that busy was productive, and the opposite of lazy. The "no excuses" opinion of the masses is that we should have time to do everything , every day. If I have errands, I can't go to the gym. If I go to the gym, I can't get errands or shopping done, plus get writing and editing done. There just aren't that many hours in a day. Plus, if you run yourself ragged, you never have time to recuperate from the rushing around you do the rest of the week.

So, take your time, do what you can, do your best, and don't let the world pressure you into being on half empty all the time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Making time to make NaNoWriMo your own

The Quayside, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1961

Today is my Saturday. That means I can eat sausage rolls, drink coffee, and get things done around the house. It also means that I have time to sit at my computer and get some writing done. (Obviously, I’m not doing it right now because I’m typing this blog post, but whatever.)

As usual for me with NaNoWriMo, I am otherwise engaged with a new job. That means working at a busy library, and a long commute to and from. No, there’s not a lot of time to do anything at home other than hang out with Steve, eat, watch TV, and pass out for the night.

However, I have found that the commute is handy for reading. I really like sitting on the bus with my Kindle for the better part of the journey, letting myself relax with a book first things in the morning. If I can find time to read, surely I can find some time to write.

I know right now that getting 1,667 words per day is going to be too high of a goal, but as I’ve found out the hard way, rushing to get a project done really isn’t always the best way to go about doing something.

So, I’ve made out another handy list of articles devoted to finding time to write. Even if you’re like me who just wants to get something down each day, you can do NaNoWriMo in a way that suits your current situation.

There’s always going to be the debate between plotters and pantsers too. Whatever works for you is fine. Personally, I do better by just writing out notes, then letting the story take shape on its own. Too much planning makes me feel stifled (sometimes, not always).

Bottom line is to enjoy the journey. We’ve all been through the same issues of finding time, or having so much time on our hands that we procrastinate. Just get what you can done because in the end all you have to really do is write.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Libraries, jobs, reading, and writing

Sign in the morning clouds.

I came back from our Florida holiday on 7 October. That night I applied for a rare public library job through an agency. Steve went to an interview locally that Thursday and while I waiting on him in the car, I got a call saying I was to start my library job on Monday. Friday Steve was offered the local job which he eventually took and has already been working at for a week.

We get to stay in Newcastle. Both of us are working. Hooray!

I have a bit of a commute, which works well for reading. So far I’ve been reading The Princess Diaries and Harry Potter because I really don’t want to tackle something heavy like Gone Girl at 7:30AM.

Since I’m not able to have sit down time to myself as much, the writing is going to be sporadic, but I will definitely treasure it more.

This means that, once again, NaNoWriMo is not something I’m going to have time to do. It’s always the way, so I’m not really that gutted about it. I’m working Saturdays as well, but this means my one weekday off gives me the much needed Zen-like state to be alone at my desk, or with my word processor at a Starbucks, getting some words down.

I have too many ideas, notes, and outlines to give up on my writing projects now.

It will leave for a much happier Christmas too, if I have cash of my own so – yay! Things are going well. The blog won’t be updated as often (unless I do short, on-the-go post but, honestly, isn’t that what Twitter is for)?

So with that, I wish you all a very Happy Halloween. Good luck on NaNoWriMo. Make us proud!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

An update for September


There’s been a lot going on over here at Pick Manor, so I wanted to post a quick update about our crazy goings-on.

Yesterday was our 4th anniversary. This is the first time we’ve spent it at home, so it was nice to take a late night walk through Newcastle. We ate at El Torero for Spanish tapas. It’s been ages since we were there, so it was that much more pleasurable to have a nice dinner for a special event. We even drank a pitcher of sangria. Yum! All in all a very romantic evening to celebrate four years of wedded bliss.

In the spirit of our anniversary, our yearly Florida holiday starts tomorrow! We’ll be doing the regular holiday-type things for the last two weeks of September like visiting with my parents, celebrating my birthday, enjoying the beach (we want to get bikes this time!), hanging out at Disney, and doing the oh-so important American things like drinking Slurpees, driving on wide roads with a distinct lack of roundabouts, and buying DVDs at Target while sipping on a pumpkin spice latte.

I get to swim in a big, outdoor pool again. Hooray!

Jake has the cat/house sitter to keep him company while we’re gone. I always feel bad leaving him, and I do miss him when we’re in bed at the hotel without a fat ginger cat snuggling up between us. At least I know he’s well taken care of at home.

When we get back from holiday, we very well may be planning for a move. Steve was suddenly let go from his new job (after they told him over and over how he didn’t need to worry about his probation and it was perfectly fine.)  He’s applied for lots of jobs that are in other parts of England (not America or Canada yet) so we very well may be exploring the rest of the country for a new place to live.

If we are going to be moving, I’ll have to finish up three sections of my Teaching Assistant course in order to get a Support in Learning at Schools award for getting at least half way through the curriculum. It’s kind of a bummer, but I see this as a big opportunity for me to look for work somewhere else.

As Steve said, we’ve kind of exhausted our job prospects in the North East.

I stopped volunteering up at the Primary School too. I enjoyed working up there last term, but now that school’s started with new students and a new teacher, I was doing more physical work (cutting paper, putting stickers on workbooks, etc.) and no sitting down with a group and helping with assignments. Being on my feet like that was killing my back. We had no extra chairs in that classroom, and even when I’d try to go to the library to work, I’d be kicked out because a class was going to use it. Oh well, we are staying here in October, I can always look for another school to go to – one with a place to sit down.

With the writing – I’ve been submitting and getting rejections, but the rejections are much nicer lately, so that’s a good thing. I wrote a New Adult thriller that I’m trying to get represented.

In the meantime, I’ve started this book project that I fought with a lot last year around this time. I finally just started somewhere and got in a few NaNoWriMo-type sprints. Those 1700 word sprints are such an easy way for me to stay on track, no matter what the month or project. Anyway, I’m just going to run with the silly thing and aim for a higher word count.

Anyway, that’s what’s been going on in September. In October, I’ll be working on homework, a possible move, and the new YA light fantasy book so I can aim to get 20k words in before starting NaNo in November.

Right now I have to finish my edits for my CP partner before I get my suitcase packed. I have to charge up my Kindles. I’ve acquired lots of contemporary New Adult romances, just to change it up a little. I love that a lot of them are set in Florida, like all of my books are.

Of course, I always have my Princess Diaries books to keep me entertained. I never get tired of those.

Holiday photos on Instagram will be showing up shortly! Enjoy!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A reading list from a child of the 80s and a teen of the 90s

My husband, Steve, is pretty smart. We had a conversation about my writing and what kind of projects I’d enjoy working on next. He asked, “Well, what kind of books did you want to read when you were a kid? Write one like that.”

It seems silly, but I never really put it into perspective that way. Of course in the 80s and 90s teen books were quite different than they are now. We didn’t need some super flashy action sequence or a hero’s quest in our books. We had nice, slice of life books that made you connect to the characters – at least that’s the kind of books I liked.

So here’s a small list of books that I remember enjoying.

Elementary School:

Middle School:

High School:

Bottom line: no fantasy. Yes, I liked some of the horror and mysteries, and as I was older the dark and emotional, but no dragons, wizards, elves, etc. I liked books that I could connect with, and books that dealt with “creatures” always felt weird and wrong to me. In fact, I remember being grossed out when we watched the cartoon version of The Hobbit, and they talked about the hair on their feet. And the dwarf peeing on the wall of in Labryinth? Grody to the max, man.

If you’d like to dig up your 80s and 90s teen book past, here’s a handy list of paperbacks to browse through. I know I recognize a lot of them from back then. Also, it just occurred to me – Where did we buy our books in the 80s anyway? Barnes and Noble wasn’t in our tiny Midwestern town, that’s for sure.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Moving on from writing rejection

Tyne Bridge getting ready for The Great North Run 2014

I was another writer who did not get chosen for a mentor during PitchWars. I had some great feedback that can really help me in my revisions and future books. It’s a subjective process and one contest shouldn’t make me feel down in the dumps about the work I’d done so far. After all, I entered the contest when my brain told me to not bother because no one would be interested anyway. Now that I know that I’ve not been chosen, I can just pick up where I left off and keep going.

You believing any of this? Nah, didn’t think so.

I was upset. I cried on the phone to my folks in Florida about how no one wanted my work. I didn’t want to do anything. I stayed in bed, I felt sorry for myself, I contemplated why I was writing what I was writing, who it was for, what it was for, and if I should just try something totally different. Seriously, the sadness wasn’t just from not being chosen so much as that it stopped my mojo from flowing. Since Wednesday, I have been so weepy and wallowing in my self pity because I didn’t know if I should keep working on this big series book project I wanted to do, or just set it aside and do something completely different.

I sort of still don’t know.

I know quitting is not an option because, seriously, how would I spend my time if it weren’t working on a book, or writing notes for another book project? (I have too many notes and plans for books to ignore them at this point anyway.)

But, I do think it’s perfectly okay to take a step back and reflect on what you’re doing. I know all the motivational quotes in the world about never giving up and how failure isn’t an option and how rejection is all part of the game. However, it’s hard to be positive all the time, especially when you’re just having a crummy week and the rejection letter sort of solidifies your belief that, yes, things just suck right now.

So, as a help to you and myself, I’ve comprised a little list of articles regarding rejection to help us all get through the painful process.

I hope that everyone who was rejected for PitchWars still participates in PitMad on Monday, Sept 9th. Personally, I’m just going to put some queries out to prove to myself that I’m moving on, getting back on the horse, not letting it get me down, and all that junk.

Here are a couple of resources for helping you write a good Twitter pitch:

And finally, here’s a motivational speech from Sly Stallone:

Friday, August 29, 2014

The end of the summer holidays

Sunset by the pond

It’s a sad, but true statement – the summer holidays are almost over.

I really enjoyed this month off because I did get my last book done and my CP helped me edit, so that right there means I had a productive break.

So now I’ll be heading back to school on Tuesday (Monday is a teacher day, so there’s nothing for non-teachers to do.) I’ll be back in my same classroom, with a different teacher and a different set of kids. At least I get to be there on the first day to see how another teacher handles it. These are things I was never taught during my Florida teacher training.

I’ve decided not to take the Maths and English courses that I signed up to do this term. Since the tutoring didn’t do much, I’m going to get my own study books, teach myself the test, then sign up for the appointment-based tutoring sessions again. I still don’t understand why England is so against people making their own decisions about things: I can’t just sign up to take the Level 2 tests when I want to. I have to have a tutor pre-assess me first, evaluate my scores, then decide if I’m ready to take the real test.

These are the kinds of things I dearly miss about the US – the freedom to do what you want, when you want. There’s no middle man to go through.

But, anyway, I’ll be writing as usual during this school term, but I’m thinking I’m not going to do NaNoWriMo this November. (Though, I’ll probably end up starting it because it helps me get going.) Since I finished my last manuscript, I’ve not known exactly where I want to go next. I usually finish a book, then want to move on to something else immediately and forget about the old project. I’m impatient like that.

So that’s my small update on what I did over my summer break. (Finished a book, went to London, and read a lot – I dearly love being left to my own devices.) Hope you all have a wonderful autumn.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The #AmWriting Birthday Party


What is #amwriting. I always figured it was short for “I am writing.” But our leader of the community, Johanna, writes in the early morning. I was afraid for a while that my afternoon and morning tweets were null and void.

Luckily, the #amwriting community for all of us who are writing – in the morning, noon, evening, or too late or too early to really know.

I started using the hashtag a while ago when I was first embracing the self-publishing world. I was surprised how many indie (and traditionally published) authors there were on Twitter. It was intimidating and frustrating at first, but then I realized that with the #amwriting hashtag I can easily tag any random questions, word count updates, or worries about editing. It works so much better than having my updates (or, random whining, if you will) getting lost in the sea of Twitter updates on my followers’ timelines.

So, thank you, #amwriting community, for giving me a community of like-minded writers who are just a hashtag away.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

When you’re the only one who likes your story idea

Yachts from Holland at the Quayside.

“I don’t think it’s good for your head – if you spend a lot of time writing about a book, you probably shouldn’t be talking about it, you should be doing it.” Cormac McCarthy

Last night on the phone my mother asked me what my current WIP was. When I told her, she said, “Why would you want to write about that?”

This has been one of the most frustrating things in my writer-hood. The ideas I love, people don’t get when I tell them, and the ones I think are kind of dumb, people think are great.

Has anyone else noticed that the stories that they find the least compelling, are the ones you’re most encouraged to write about?

When I attended the online writing workshop a year or so ago, I proposed two story ideas: on YA and one MG. The one I felt the strongest about wasn’t as well received as the one idea I had that seemed rather thin and flimsy.

I proposed my stronger idea, the Middle Grade novel, to another group at the library workshop later. I didn’t give them another option, and they seemed to understand where I was coming from and how I could make it interesting.

I’ve written a little of both, but I’ve written way more on the MG novel than the YA book idea that the first writing workshop teacher and students seemed more interested in. Sure, it may be a good idea, but I really just didn’t know how to get about doing it. I tried at least three times to just start the story right, and even had a CP look at the first chapter – she was just as confused as I was about what I was trying to do as I was. In fact, I tried to make the YA book my NaNo project for the fall last year and I choked. I didn’t like that I was trying to write something I wasn’t sure about, and I wasn’t happy about trying to fit it all in with the hero’s quest as the workshop had told me.

So, what do you do?

Agents and publishers don’t want the same old thing (supposedly), but readers are still reading vampire books even though we’re told that we shouldn’t bother with them anymore. We shouldn’t have The Chosen One, or pirates, or treasure hunters, or werewolves, or set anything in a dystopian setting either. But, look at the top 100 Kindle sales. People are still reading books like this, and writers still enjoy writing them.

Frankly, I can’t, like just physically can’t get the words out if I don’t have a clear idea of what I want to have happen. That has to be my own decision and something I really see clearly. The writing is the main thing, so I’m just going to stick with what I like doing.

Besides, didn’t King say something about if you write for the market and get published from it, you’re not going to be able to keep it up?

Time and time again we’ve heard that the writer has to be involved with their work so the reader can sense it. I guess it’s better to keep it to ourselves and get the job done.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Confessions of an impatient writer

Pink rose

I hate waiting. I really do. When I want something, I want it to happen, and now, so I can go on to the next thing I want to happen.

Maybe it’s because I’m American. We’re use to having everything we want straight away, and if we don’t get it, we complain. We don’t like waiting in line and, in fact, we’ll put our purchases down and leave the store if the line at the register is too long.

Maybe it’s because I’m an only child. If I complained and pouted enough, I eventually got the toy I wanted.

With writing, though, this just doesn’t work the same way.

I have a handful of projects that I want to work on. A couple of them are books half finished. I’ve had my CP look at one of them, and the last finished project. This whole process takes too long. I have to edit and refine before I think about self publishing.

Also, I started looking into hiring an editor. That will take time to have that looked over, plus I have to get a cover sorted.

When I come up with a new project idea, I start thinking about covers immediately – see, no patience.

I know I have to concentrate on the writing first, the editing, and the perfecting before I can have a book birthday. I just read that most writers aim to get all this done in a year. I finished the first draft of my last novella last September. Of course, I got tired of the book, hated it, and neglected it for months before deciding to have the CP look at it.

I don’t know how to combat this, other than to tell myself to stop worrying about Point D, when I’m only at Point A, half way to Point B.

I just really, really, like things done, fast.

It’s the way we do with kids at school too. We tell them to get on with their work, and stop dilly-dallying, then we complain when they rush through to get their work done. Mixed messages that I’m sure we all learned as kids.

Anyway, so I’m going to have to stop wanting the book to be done, I guess. I have to keep thinking I want the book to be good. Big difference.

Friday, July 25, 2014

My thoughts on my high school reunion and why I write what I write.

This year marks 20 years after my high school class graduated. There’s a whole reunion and everything. And, no, I’m not going.

Aside from the fact that I’m all the way across the pond, I’m really not interested. Granted, I have some nice people who I wouldn’t mind saying “Hello” to if I saw them, but spending all day at the beach, or the park, and an evening of drinking (and putting Steve through the whole thing) isn’t something I’m into.

You see, I was not typical in school, I guess. I hated it. I don’t mean, resented going, I mean from Second Grade on, I detested school. I hated that I was locked in a prison every day, doing what someone else thought I should be doing.

The whole cast system annoyed the crap out of me. Preppies, and goths, and in-betweens (me) and band/choir girls and, ugh. My whole mission during my high school days was to be left the heck alone. I skipped school constantly, I hid out in the library and read Seventeen and YM magazines, writing to the editor on recycled notebook paper about how grunge was not a trendy fashion choice.

I distinctly remember members of the SGA in the library one day talking about anyone who wasn’t in upper level classes not counting at the school. (Hello, Breakfast Club much?) I was in upper level classes (except math) and I couldn’t care less about Student Government, or who was Prom Queen.

I didn’t go to prom. I never had a boyfriend and everyone of my gal friends did, so I didn’t even consider going anywhere stag with no one to talk to. I did the freshman and sophomore dance thing with all my freaky friends (bless them) but my wearing Doc Martins with a lacy party dress was a discussion the next week at school. (And, oh, how I loved to make the normal people wonder.)

Anyway, so all this week, my friends on Facebook have been posting graduation and school trip pictures and going “Oh, wow, I feel old. It’s been 20 years?”

I left school, got my diploma at night school and went straight into community college that was included in the university’s four year degree program. For the last part of my high school year I was just gone. I would still see my friends, but I was in no way going to attempt the whole “Oh, let’s get your college applications ready.” I had bad grades. I had no idea what I was going to do in the future. I could read books and write on my own (though I loved my English and Creative Writing classes, obviously.) I didn’t miss school and once I left, I never wished I’d been involved with all of that.

Later, in college and after we all started teaching (pretty much), my friends from other schools would go on about the overnight slumber party at the school and the overnight Disney trips. I never did any of that and I’m sure if they’d have invited me to partake in any of it, I wouldn’t have bothered. Any of my friends, a lot of them a year or so younger, wouldn’t have been there either, so, yeah, not interested.

This is why I became a teacher. I understand how much it sucks. I was never good at being a high school teacher because I saw through the busy work and arbitrary rules set for students because it was “in their best interest.” Even when I’m at the elementary schools now, I feel bad for the kids who are always told to stay on task, do their work, and not do all the fun things I use to do like look out the window and write stories during a math lesson.

I’m so glad to be out of school, I can’t even tell you. And that’s why I write the kinds of characters that I write. The preppy, happy, always involved in things kind of girls is not who I knew and not what I was a part of. The ones who hated authority, who wanted to do their own thing – that’s my kind of high school student.

This is also why I stick with Facebook. I like that all that old school crap is over and I can talk to people from my old high school as adults. I can share travel and cat pictures and know how everyone is doing back home. It could be 20 years or 200 and I’d still not look back to reminiscence.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Dear Writer's Block, It's not you, it’s me …


Dear Writer’s Block,

It’s not you, it’s me.

The truth is, I was never really that into you. Sure, you have some appealing traits, like how you make me not to worry about anything other than when I take a nap, or how many missions I get done in Watch Dogs, or how many episodes of Gossip Girl I can watch in a day, but, it really doesn’t make me feel good. I dread having to spend time with you each day. It’s just so boring. You never want to do anything worthwhile or fun. You just want to distract me. It’s selfish, Writer’s Block, and I’m sick your tricks.

Even if I have a few words down for the day, it’s better than nothing, so no, Writer’s Block, we can’t keep this up.

I’m going to write notes and plot ideas, and outlines for scenes, just to get back in the mind-set of being without you, Writer’s Block. I’m tired of having good ideas, and then sitting at the computer, stuck, not knowing how to get down the great ideas I had that morning. I have too many things I need to do, and I can’t do them with you always needing attention, and trying to get your way. I’m tired of Netflix, and free games on the Kindle. I want to do my own thing, a productive thing, and you just aren’t interested in the same things I am.

I’m going to make a pot of coffee in the morning, sit down, and get work done. I’ve lived without you, Writer’s Block, for a long time before, and it’s time for me to do it again.

Don’t take it personally, Writer’s Block. You’re just not my type. (Get it? Type? Eh, you never did appreciate my dopey sense of humor.)



From: The Writing Prompt Boot Camp

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Catch up before summer break

Star Wars pinball. #NERG

Things I’ve done lately:

  • Watched the director’s cut of Alien at the Tyneside.
  • Kept up with World Cup semi-finals.
  • Watched Kasabian, Metallica, Jack White, and Dolly Parton at Glastonbury. (Lana Del Ray was so boring live.)
  • Baked cupcakes for 4th of July (even though I’m in England.)
  • Taken down and put up displays in the classroom (cutting and pasting are not my forte.)
  • Read Never Let Me Go, and started Age of Miracles.
  • Started my gym membership again.
  • Went to the North East Retro Gaming event (lots and lots of pinball and old arcade games to play.)
  • Watched some more of Breaking Bad and finished Fargo.
  • Had two of my ten objectives for my Teaching Assistant course signed off.
  • Ben Folds. (Planning on seeing him Friday – Steve’s choice. He’s trying to show me why I should be a fan. All I know is ((awful)) Brick and You Don’t Know Me.)

Things I’ll do over break:

  • Write. (Enough said.)
  • Read. (Ditto.)
  • Edit. (I have a project that I’m putting off a 2nd draft because I just hate the story and don’t think it’s worth bothering.)
  • Maybe go to London on a day trip. (Super excited about this one.)
  • Try to go to Maths and English classes somewhere other than where I was going (my TA instructor agreed that I had every right to be angry about how stupidly those tutor sessions were being handled.)
  • Get my hair done.
  • Go to the nurse to ask her about my stupid knee.
  • Exercise. (Swimming is on the agenda.)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Discrimination, bullying, and other white people problems


At the elementary/primary school where I am volunteering, the teaching assistant and teaching assistant trainees (like me) have their own little lunch room to sit in.

I’ve been there for, oh, a couple of months now and never ever had anyone act as if they couldn’t understand my accent. Generally people are interested and ask me about American schools, sports, amusement parks, etc. (The kids always ask me about corn dogs – I don’t know what the fascination is, but I assured them that corn dogs are awesome.)

Anyway, so there are a lot of trainee teachers and teaching assistants who come and go at my school, so we can have anywhere from two to six or seven volunteers sitting in that little lunchroom at a time. Most of the girls are from a local college, some already have a degree and are getting work experience, and some are like me who are taking adult ed classes to get a certificate as a teaching assistant.

Well, last week there was a new, quiet girl sitting at our lunch table. Myself and another lady who volunteers there chatted with the girl and she told us she was a high/secondary school student who was just there for a few weeks to get job experience in the nursery before she graduated.

When I went into the lunch room on Tuesday, the regular group was there, plus another high school girl sitting with the one I’d met before. I sat down and started chatting to everyone as usual, when the new girl started laughing about something. The girl from the college, who I’d been talking to about her course, stopped and we sat there, awkwardly asking what we’d said that was funny.

One of the adults was giggling along too and said, “Oh no. You’re just funny.”

So, we continued to talk, still confused, but we dismissed it. Then every time I would speak, the high school girl would nudge her friend and they’d giggle, staring right at me. I quickly realized it was my accent – something I never think about. I mean, seriously, most people have seen a ton of American TV and movies to know how we sound. It isn’t some kind of new concept. In Florida we generally went, “Oh, wow, cool! An English accent!”

Now, in that situation I had no choice, really. I like to think of myself as a nice person, but when someone’s acting incredibly rude, I’d say something. If it had been at the mall, or on the street, I would have told her to blank off. But in that situation, I had to ignore her and let everyone at the table feel really uncomfortable until the new high school girl left the room. While I know I was acting like an adult, I felt incredibly sad, hurt, and embarrassed because I’ve never had anyone do anything like that to me before.

I have had high/secondary students mock my accent once and be done with it when I taught a class. When it happened during my first English teaching job here, the teachers were very supportive and said, “No, no, that’s really discriminatory and racist. We don’t tolerate that.”

Other teachers who had Scottish and other regional English accents assured me that kids did that and they brushed it off because they didn’t mean it to be hateful.

This situation, however, was hateful, not to mention, rude and childish.

I told Steve in text about what happened and he said for me to report it and not feel like I don’t have the right to do so. I waited until the end of the day (the kids were painting and trying to put sentences in past tense, so I was thankfully distracted for that afternoon) but I did mention this to my classroom teacher before I left. When I told her she said, “What? How rude!” and jumped up out of her chair saying, “Well, I’m going to find out who she is!”

The office told my teacher that the girl was only going to be there for the week, which was fine by my because I wouldn’t be there to deal with it. The teacher asked if I was sure the girl wasn’t just “being silly” and I said, “No, she was clearly laughing at me and trying to get her friend to join in the laughter ever time I spoke.” It never happened at any other time. They would even make me stop talking because their laughing would be so loud it distracted me.

Anyway, when I mentioned this to my family and friends on Facebook in Florida, most people were very blasé about the whole thing. “Oh, she’s just a teenager. Ignore her.” or “It’s not racist because you’re all white. It’s just a jerk thing to do.”

I quickly pointed out that I have to indicate that I am “White – Other” in this country – just like every Canadian, Australian, and European. My ethnicity is not British, Irish, Welsh, or Scottish.  I am “Other.” That means that if I had a Polish, Russian, or German accent and someone laughed at me in a work situation, it would be less of an issue because we’re all white? No, that’s not right at all.

I told my teacher that I mentioned this situation because, as a person working with children, there are many students and teachers who have various accents. My hope was that the office would report the girl to her and whoever had sent her to that school to work, but I seriously doubt anything like that was done.

Also, if they spoke to the girl, would she have come back to the lunch room and told all the other volunteers that I had reported her? Would I be ridiculed for that too?

It’s really a lonely and depressing situation to be in, to be made to feel like you’re different and being publically humiliated and harassed is okay in certain situations.

It bothered me a lot that day, but I just felt mad. I can’t shout at a teenager in a work-type situation (or can I) without someone getting on my case about it. I mean, if she had been a year older and in college, would that be more of a discrimination situation, or would people tell me to overlook it then as well?

Anyway, I just want to let people know that, no, white people, you are not exempt from someone being a jerk to you and treating you like you’re “other.” It’s totally not cool to do it to anyone and I don’t like that most people don’t immediately say, “No! It’s not right!”

I wanted to make sure that I wrote this out, not only to get the situation out of my head, but to let people know that this kind of stuff does happen and a lot of people think it’s not a big deal even if it makes the other person feel rotten and self-conscious. I can only imagine what happens in other companies where some idiot decides to make fun of the resident American.

Monday, June 23, 2014

How busy is too busy?

I want to be a ninja.

I kind of knew when I signed up to do this Teaching Assistant training jazz, that I’d have extra things to go during the week. That was fine because I just have to go to school two days a week, then my class for one morning. I would have Wednesdays and Thursdays to hole up in my computer room and get my writing and my editing done. Plus, getting out of the house and focusing on something in the real world is good for my brains (and my eyes – they love to get strained when I’m at the computer too long.)

But when I started with that stupid Maths and English malarkey on Wednesdays, that left me with just Thursdays free. When you’re trying to write books, edit your Critique Partner’s chapters, do homework, and read (just to name a few things on my daily To-Do List), one day a week just ain’t going to cut it.

So I quit the Maths and English tutor for now. Honestly, the whole thing was a bit of a waste of time. Granted, I needed practice with the metric system and the math, but the whole “you need to use more semi-colons in order for us to think you’re functional in English” just made me mad every week. English is not a weak point in my life, but they made it seem like it was.

The only reason I was doing it was because my TA instructor said I should have recent Level 2 qualifications to put on my application when I do apply for jobs. I understand the logic, but since there are no basic skills tests for a TA like their are for professional teachers (and I already did those tests in Florida, mind you), I just don’t see a pressing need. Granted, I’m not a British Headteacher and I don’t know if my not having these Maths and English tests done this year are a big deal or not. I can always go back and do them later, I guess.

But, with my mid-week free, I can now go back to locking myself in the house and getting stuff done. Hooray!

Today I have the day off due to a teacher in-service, so I’m working through my poor, neglected CP edits.

I’ve put a Joyce Meyer quote down here, about saying “no” because I’ve also put more on my plate than I can manage. Now that I’ve spoken to a couple of new CPs for my YA work, this means not only will I have to finish the NA book that my 1st CP is giving me suggestions on now, but I’ll also have to work on the YA fantasy series I was going to do.

Also, I have the old NA thriller that I have to go back and clean up for Draft 2 – there just isn’t enough time. I can only muster writing one book and editing another at a time.

So, yeah, think twice before added something else to your To-Do List. I’m perfectly fine with editing other’s chapters, but as far as my own work is concerned, I have to stick to writing one and editing another. I can’t sell half-manuscripts, I’ve learned that lesson, so I have to keep working until I get stuff done. The more I mess with that formula, the more apt I am to go out of my boundaries, then nothing will get done.

Plus, I like having time in the evening and on the weekends when Steve’s home to read and watch TV with him. Family is the #1 priority – the writing comes 2nd.

Don't Be Overcommitted 

Do you have too much to do? This seems to be the number one complaint I hear today. When I ask people how they are, about 50 percent respond, "I'm busy." Common sense tells us that God isn’t going to stress us out and lead us to do more than we can. Therefore, if we’re being led by God's Spirit, saying yes when He says yes and no when He says no, we should be able to accomplish what He gives us to do and walk in peace. Do you need to say no more often? We should be sure when our heart says no that our mouth isn’t saying yes. Sometimes trying to keep other people happy can make us very unhappy. A person must be really careful in this area, especially if he has a tendency toward being a people pleaser. 

Don’t be a people pleaser. You need to say no sometimes.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

New Parent Care in England–You’ve got to be kidding me


Recently, during a conversation for my husband’s birthday, my mother-in-law told us about when Steve was born.

She mentioned: “Then the midwife comes to your house, you know?”

Me: “To the house? You’re kidding me! Why?”

MIL: “Oh, to check up on the baby – make sure he’s fed, and taken care of. It’s a bloody nuisance. You have to get the house clean and she comes snooping around to see how you’re getting on.”

Me: “I’ll tell her to piss off. She shouldn’t be coming to your house.”

After that conversation, I got to wondering what the deal was. Was that just something they did in the 70s? Was it because their family needed to use the NHS and they assumed something was wrong? Was it because they had a big household?

So I investigated and found out that this is common practice for all woman. Shock. Horror.

From what I’ve read, the midwife comes to visit you 10 days after the baby is born. She may come every day. She does check ups and “reassures the new mother.” I call b.s.

First of all, if the midwife just wants to help you, why isn’t she coming to your house while you’re huffing and puffing, trying to get around with a big bowling ball in your tummy? You think that when you’re sleep deprived, have the baby and other kids, plus any family members who may be coming over to visit, that the midwife just “wants to check up on you.” No. I don’t think so.

From the NHS’s website the midwife may come to visit you at home before the birth, but from forums I’ve also seen that it’s rare and the midwife only comes to your home after the birth. Also, during these visits, the midwife does the regular check ups that she’d do in the office – that means drawing blood and pelvic exams. In the home. Hello, gross. Why wouldn’t you want to go to an appropriate sterile room that’s been scrubbed with disinfectant to have your child and yourself examined?

This is apparently an okay, “great” thing for British mothers, but I just can’t see anything more than shady dealings here. In the U.S. house calls by doctors are antiquated. I don’t know if they do them here because so many people rely on public transport, or because people live in such cramped conditions, but it’s still very strange to me. Twitter has said that it’s a relief to new mothers, but my MIL was on her fourth child. She certainly didn’t need someone showing her how to change the diaper at that point. In the U.S. the only reason a person of official capacity would come into your home would be to check on any child abuse or neglect. This is why I’m super suspicious of the idea that, “Oh, it’s just to help you out.”

My theory was confirmed when I read this article: Health visitor – help or hindrance?

What is a health visitor? It’s a midwife who comes to visit the mother at home after the baby is more than 10 days old. Now, this is horrifying. Basically, she’s a social service midwife who comes around to nose through your home, ask you patronising questions because, yes, they assume a mother is going to neglect her baby.

Health visiting is an oxymoronic dichotomy. That’s just my fancy way of saying that the values of health visiting are in conflict with each other. On one hand, health visitors are required to give support to new mothers. This is the common reputation enjoyed by health visitors. Yet on the other hand they are required to place the same mothers under automatic suspicion of child abuse, erring on the side of caution at all times. Yes – child abuse.

Women should be outraged, offended, and horrified that this is common practice. No one needs to come into your home without a legal warrant to search. This is intrusive and violates any rights to privacy.

“They usually work with mothers once post-partum care is handed over from the midwives, advise on feeding, care and support to both infants and parents, provide routine child development checks and have responsibility for child protection issues.”

So, yeah, they are the Health Police. I’m still not exactly sure what the legal aspects are of all this, but if it is common practice to have someone snooping around your private home just because you’ve had a child, I am beyond words. If mothers have the right to just see the midwife at the office and no fuss will be given to her if she simply doesn’t feel comfortable with someone intruding in her house for a routine check up, then fine. Some mothers may like it while others like me may get the willies just thinking about the idea.

"Although health visitors have no legal right of entry, they do not make a habit of pointing this out to clients"

If this is “just how we do things” and you pretty much have to go along with what the midwife wants to do, then that’s a whole other ballgame. As someone on Twitter put it, “Sound like a Health Intruder! What is this 1930s Berlin?”


“The paradox is that when a mother is threatened with Social Services for “refusing” help, they are then seen as a risk when they “accept” help.”

Dear Lord, what is going on there?! This is totally insane. If I refuse to have someone barge into my home, I’m flagged as an abuse mother?!

But some mothers just don’t see any problem with this. They have the attitude of, “Oh, just grin and bear it.” Are you kidding me? Have no control over your own family? Your own home? Your own personal space? No. No. NO!

Anyway, whether the Health Visitor or Midwife is there to help or not, I simply do not understand why they have to come to your home. I don’t understand why that’s a common thing. I’ve known plenty of new mothers who were out at the mall when their kids were new born. They can get to the doctor’s office just fine, thanks.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What’s Happening this Wednesday


  • Teaching – The teaching assistant gig has been going fine. We’re in our last term of the year and the regular teacher has taken over the class again. We have two student teachers in the class too so there’s lots of support. I’ve been trying to figure out how to do classroom displays because middle/high school teachers don’t really need to do this that much (from my experience.) I was given advice to look to Pinterest (*groan*) for ideas, but I really just have trouble with making the paper frames for the mounted work all uniform and straight. We only have a small paper cutter that slides back and forth, making this loud squeaking sound, so my resources are a little limited. Oh well, the one I did this week looked a little better than the first (ridiculously janky) one I did my first week.
  • School – Aside from my TA course, I’ve been working on these silly Level 1 and 2 English and Maths assessments. I have to turn them in today and I’m praying they at least let me off the hook with the English because it seriously is wasting my time. I’ve taught this stuff myself. I don’t need someone telling me I’m a Level 1 because I don’t use semicolons. *another groan*
  • Travel – We took a trip down by Liverpool to visit Steve’s family over the bank holiday. We went to Chester Zoo while we were down there (as you can see from the Butterfly House photo above) and it was super fun. The trip was kind of long, but I was glad we went for a drive. I’d never gone on the motorways before like that, so it was definitely an experience.
  • Family – Steve’s birthday was last weekend, so we had a late night viewing of Godzilla along with an even later night of cake baking. While we waited on the movie we ate at Gourmet Burger Kitchen and hung out in the arcade. Don’t care how old we get, we still manage to stay young.
  • Reading – I’ve been trying to read more contemporary and sci-fi lately. I’ve updated my book blog on my lately reads.
  • Writing – The JuNoWriMo thing hasn’t been going well, as I feared. I did write 900+ words of my current project (the one I started for Camp NaNoWriMo), but that’s it. With this new English/Maths sessions, I’m limited to one day of absolute freedom to get things done. I have to help my CP out as well, but she’s also going to read some of the new project, so I’ll be forced to get the first draft done. Hooray!
  • Music – new album discovery is Kasabian’s 48:13 which features Eez-eh – a very Hot Chip-esque song. Saw them do this on TV during the Glasgow music fest. Great stuff.
  • Movies – recently saw: Godzilla and Ender’s Game (and Tinkerbell on Netflix, if I’m being completely honest.)
  • Television – On S2 of Breaking Bad, and we fell behind two episodes of Fargo.
  • Games – Watch_Dogs, of course. (Steve did some of the UI design.)
  • Me – I was absolutely exhausted yesterday after running around late Sunday, then running around at school for two days. I’ll be running around less today at least, but tomorrow I hope to relax, read, and get lots and lots of writing done.

Friday, May 30, 2014

JuNoWriMo 2014 begins in two days


Right, so I finished half of my current WIP during Camp NaNoWriMo – now I’m going to use JuNoWriMo to get the rest of it finished. I know this is kind of a backwards, defeating the purpose kind of way of going about these challenges. However, I am terrible at setting my own deadlines and with a whole community spurring me on, I know I have deliberate, achievable goals for each day.

The currently project is another NA thriller, like the most recent one I’m editing. I’m dying to get back to my YA/MG book projects though, but I need to have this silly first draft done. At least my CP can help me with this one too. I used an outline this time and everything!

Also, I’ve made myself a little author page at:

I’d be intimidated about having such a long name for a domain, but there are lots of writers with Suzanne or Schultz (spelled more than one way for each) that I may as well just stick with the simplest option.

Steve’s birthday is this weekend, so we’re planning on a nice, quiet celebration at home. He’s on work duty so we can’t go far, plus we just got back from our bank holiday visit to visit our fellow Picks down by Liverpool, so we’re good for travel for a few weeks.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Note to Parking Services

Parking in the U.K. 


I was wondering if you could tell me if there are any parking restrictions on My Road. I live in the flats at My Court and I have seen the sign by our garages that say "Strictly No Parking" but there are no indications that the street has restrictions.

Since we have the allotments directly across from the block of flats, there will sometimes be a lot of extra cars at the end of the road where we live. With the extra cars and the cars owned by people in the flats, it is sometimes very hard to find a place since the street is a dead end. Many times I come back from picking my husband up from his work late (7:30 - 9:00 PM or so) and the only convenient place for us to park in on the sidewalk down the street from the flats.

I am asking about this because on a Saturday, the 24th of May, during this last bank holiday weekend, I had an elderly lady come up to my flat around noon telling me that I shouldn't park there. She told me that all the people who live in the houses down the street are "very, very sick" and they can't get to their cars if my car is parked on the sidewalk. She mentioned something about needing to have room for emergency vehicles as well, so I'm wondering if there is a care home, or a restricted area on our road that would make my car be in a handicapped area.

The woman, whom I had never seen before, claimed that she had contacted the council about my car being on the empty sidewalk, and that she had spoken to me before and left notes on my car about my parking. I've never received any kind of note or notice, so I'm wondering if the woman has just confused me with someone else. I do not know what house this woman lives in and I do not recall her name, so I'm not sure if other people have parked down there as well and she's assuming it's always me because I happened to be parked there on the day she happened to be out of her house.

The area she is referring to is a usually empty sidewalk alongside a hedge. There are no gates or entryways anywhere near where my car was parked and the houses beyond the hedge cannot even be seen from the sidewalk. I told the woman that I parked on that empty sidewalk at the far end because I could clearly see it was out of the other neighbours’ way. (My car was the last in the row of parked cars on the sidewalk. It is not near the front of a house, gate, or drive of any kind.) My car was not very close to the car in front either (I make sure of this so I can get out easier myself in the mornings) so I honestly don't understand what the issue is. I've had my car for over a year now and I've done as the other neighbours have by parking on the street where it is convenient. Obviously on a bank holiday the street is much more busy than others and I had left after 10AM on that Saturday morning to take my husband to work and back at noon - the empty sidewalk way at the end of the street is many times the only convenient place to park.

The woman said she wanted me to park on the other side of the lamppost behind where my car was just so I would leave the sidewalk clear. She said it was not for her to be able to park her car there, but because she couldn't get into her car if it wasn't clear - this is what I don't understand. If the neighbours are very sick and cannot get out of the house, as she was telling me, I can only assume she isn't driving herself and caregivers have to keep that area open. The lamppost she was talking about is on the very end of the corner and there is a long driveway to a house right there.  I have never parked there because it's close to a junction and I've seen delivery trucks needing to turn around in there due to the heavy congestion on our street.

So if you could please let me know if there is any reason I shouldn't be parking on the empty sidewalk across from the houses and the flats, please let me know. I let the lady know that if I had known it was a handicapped area I would not have parked there but, again, no one had ever said anything to me about that issue. I'm quite worried now that if I need to park on the street again, as I usually do, I will be in a violation of some sort.

On a side note, the woman also claimed that a lady in our block of flats uses a key to scratch up cars on that side of the street where I'm parked. The lady claimed she's notified the police about it as well, but I have no idea if this is true or if it's some kind of tactic to intimidate or scare me into not parking down there.

Anyway, thank you for your help. I appreciate your time.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Do not park in England

Church yard

Holy crap.

So for the third time in the one year I’ve been driving in the UK, I’ve had someone of an older age tell me where I can and cannot park my car.

We live on a short, dead end street that has allotments (rented out gardens) attached. The street is full all the time, and since I’m not the best of drivers or parkers in the world, I try to just stay the heck away from the other cars.

Our apartment complex is at the very end by the allotments and we have a tarmac area in front of our little storage garages, but our useless overseers (the ones who blame us if we tell them the pipes are broken, or the gate lock is busted, etc.) have a “Strictly No Parking” sign above the garages. (Though I see people parking there sometimes, but I’ll guarantee the overseers jump on their case about it because that’s how they roll.)

Anyway, so around Christmas last year, late on Saturday night, the street was jammed packed with cars and visitors’ cars, so I had to park in front of one of the houses toward the end of the road. I left it there Sunday, and on Monday saw that I had a note saying, “Don’t park your car here. I find it annoying.” *rolls eyes*

I eventually saw the people who lived in the house and it was a very elderly couple and the woman can barely walk so, yeah, fair enough, it’s easier for them to park a car close to the house (even though they have a driveway they don’t use, I might add.)

So, today I get someone buzzing at the entryway (over and over, like they can’t figure out how to get in the building.)

This older lady at my front door goes, “Hi, we’ve spoken before?”

Me, “No.”

“Yes, I’ve left notes on your car. We have a problem.”

“I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.”

“I left a note on your car in a zip loc back. It’s a black car.”

(There are 10 black cars outside) “Nope, not seen a note like that. I got one at Christmas…”

“Oh that’s Mary, she’s 80. Now, everyone who lives in these houses is very sick and we can’t get to our cars…”

“I parked my car on the very end away from everyone else. It’s a public street.”

“Oh, it is, yes, but no one else parks there, you park by my car and I can’t get to it. You should park on the other side of the light post, or up here by the hedge.”

Okay, let me explain this. I purposely park where it is not in front of a house or a gate or stairs or any kind of driveway. People park all over there place here, wherever it’s convenient. Sometimes I can park closer, sometimes I can’t. Steve has to get his bike out, then the groceries when we come home. Now, the only places to park are the ones by the allotments where there’s some big drop of a hill and a ton of overgrown trees so either the brambles with scratch the car (or Steve), and the seagulls and pigeons do massive pooh all over the place. I’ve had gross stuff on the car enough times to not park there.

Anyway, so this woman was all about how she’d called the council on me, and how she’d been to the apartment block a bunch of times (no clue about any of this.) She said the council told her that they couldn’t do anything and they’d been out to see my scandalous parking job, and blah blah blah.

I apologized and told her if I had any clue, I would have moved it. But, as Steve said, people besides me park down there all the freaking time. It’s just that I do it more than others, I guess.

Anyway, then she went on to tell me that someone in our apartment complex has been keying cars down by that side of the street and she and her husband have “tailed” her and called the cops on her.

Okay, first of all how do these people know this? They must just be sitting at home, waiting to see something to complain about. Also, everyone in our apartment complex is my age or older. No one would give a crap about cars all the way down at the end of the street. If she was insinuating that it was me, I have no freaking idea. I told her I’m either at school or in the house – I have no idea what anyone does around here.

Anyway, so that’s the new development in “Life in The U.K.” Even if you pay thousands of dollars for a car, people will tell you what you should do with your own property. Even when I parked at the school the first time a few weeks ago, some old lady came outside, telling me I couldn’t park in front of her house (Which is 10 steps from the school and the school has about as many parking spaces in the lot for teachers.)

So this has been three times in a year that someone didn’t like where I parking on a public street.

But, this is how we roll in The Shire, I guess. Glad it’s bank holiday weekend and we’ll be out of this neighbourhood for a while. Sheesh.

Oh yeah, by the way, the neighbour (a lady I’d never seen before, I might add) knew that I take the bus sometimes. Creepy.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Remember the semicolons!

Secret Garden.

If you want to be humiliated, and told you’re not as good at the one thing you know you’re good at, then come to England and take one of their assessment tests. You’ll feel lower than dirt by the time you’re finished, I guarantee.

Per my whole reboot into the teaching world, my Teaching Assistant tutor (lecturer/instructor) said that the bare minimum qualifications to have a job at a school is to have your TA certificate, and be a Level 2 in Maths and English.

In the U.S., of course, we don’t care about anything we did in high school once we’ve left. A high school diploma is equivalent to GCSE tests that students do here when they’re in Secondary School. This all falls under the umbrella of Level 2.

According to the chart, a Bachelor’s is a Level 6, and a Master’s is a Level 7. I have all these qualifications, but apparently this does not matter. A Head Teacher would want to see in writing, from a local establishment, from a recent assessment, than I am a Level 2. So I went to the Civic Centre to take my assessment and get my certificate.

First off, my math is atrocious, especially since I don’t know the metric system. They gave me a scale for kilograms and I could not for the life of me figure out how to read it. There were 20 notches between full kilos, rather than 10. I tried to logically reason it out, guessed on three questions out of six, and got two of the easy ones right.

I was given a Level 1 workbook to take home and have someone look it over for me next week. Fine. I can totally accept that. Steve’s been helping me with the metric because I have no clue what I’m doing. I need to know this stuff to help the kids at school. I am 100% okay with working on math workbooks. They aren’t fun, but I get it.

But the English. Oh, the English! So, they gave me a recipe and asked questions, gave me a letter and told me to edit it, then said to write a letter to a local store. The task said to write to the manager and tell them you’re returning a pair of jeans that lost color when you washed them once. That was all that was in the directions.

There was only room for two paragraphs on the page, so I wrote a simple, effective letter that went through my “experience” and explained what happened. I even wrote, “Dear Manager” at the top, and signed it. I was wrong. So, so wrong.

When the examiner girl assessed it, she told me, “You’re going to have to write more complex sentences. You didn’t you any semicolons and you didn’t add an address.”

I pointed to the instructions, “Is that indicated in the instructions? None of those requirements are listed. If I’d known you wanted them, I would have done it. Plus, there’s no address given.”

“Oh, you’d just make it up!”


I was mortified. Here I am, a former middle, high, and college English teacher with a freaking Master’s Degree, and they’re telling me that I don’t use enough semicolons to be a Level 2 in English? A high school level writer? (Ironic, isn’t it?) (I’ve also wondered if the writing for a lower grade has changed my style too.)

Anyway, I was mortified.

So, I left with a workbook for Level 2 English that I have to bring back next week as well. Talk about humiliation. I just left the training room and sat on the couch in front of the Civic Centre for fifteen minutes, trying not to completely explode. I wanted to cry, just because I have never, ever, ever, ever been told I wasn’t good at English. It’s the only thing I am good at. But, apparently, that doesn’t matter.

This is why living here gets me so down - I can’t just get anything done. No matter what I try to do to play the game of getting a job or a qualification there’s some hurdle to go over. I had to do the Life in the U.K. Test twice, had to take my driver’s test three times after a year of lessons, and now I can’t even get a base-rate job at a school because they don’t think I use enough semicolons.

I totally didn’t feel like I was capable of writing any kind of book after that, that’s for sure.

But, alas, that’s how life is, I guess. I have to go along with silly rules and regulations, and there’s nothing else I can do about it. Last night I just realized that if this is my time to reboot my career, I’m going to just have to forget every degree I have from the States, and move on. None of it matter now, except to me, but job-wise, I’m a complete newbie and I have to start fresh as a person with no qualifications or education whatsoever.

Because I can’t let this get in the way of my writing. I only have one free day during the week now, and I have to make the most of my time. I have CP edits, and this Camp NaNoWriMo project to finish before I move into my next project.

England, you can’t get me down!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Saturday Catch Up

Evening at the Tyne.

It's been beautiful in the North East lately. Today is a sunny and inviting day, so we're planning on hitting the city and investigating The Late Shows. We went the year before last and it was lots of fun.

After being responsible adults who stay in after dark, it's nice to remember what the night life is like.

I have been to three Teaching Assistant classes and volunteered three days at the Primary School. I enjoy being there, out of the house, being productive, etc. and none of it is super tough. I'm glad to not have the lesson planning and the paper grading. I'm fine with not taking on all that responsibility, it just feels unchallenging. Oh well, this can maybe be a stepping stone into something else in the schools later.

But, again, the teacher stress isn't really appealing.

In writing news, I still haven't finished my Camp NaNoWriMo book. I've added to it here and there, but it's not finished. My CP has been helping me with the last novella I finished. Of course, I still have one big series to finish (have written bits of it for ages, so there's a ton of unorganised material waiting on me.) Also, I have a few other regular books to do and one I stopped working on when my other CP took a break from swapping work.

Finally, my back, thankfully, has been much better. The chiropractor said it's much more stable. I know the new computer chair and the walking has helped.

With that said, it's time to go out in the sunshine for a bike ride. Too bad my allergies have been acting up lately. It's unfortunate when the drugs and nose spray doesn't make things go away.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Beginning a teaching career again

Neat little street.

As of yesterday, I am officially a student Teaching Assistant. After sitting here for 3 and 1/2 years of not getting any kind of full-time work, and having no idea how to get into full time work without British qualifications, I’ve decided to just start over.

For the next year I will be volunteering at a Primary School two days a week, then attending class once a week. It’s frustrating to not be in charge of the classroom when I have some clue how things should go, but I know I don’t miss the stress of the grading and lesson planning. Also, by being a TA, I can see how class is conducted from a different standpoint. Since I’m working with small groups of kids, I can get a better idea of what the assignments do, and how kids deal with them.

All in all, I’m really glad I started this because I had never been through a teacher training course like this. In Florida they just threw you in a classroom and watched you sink. Plus, I’ve been in the house for a year. When I left the Primary school stint last June, I was was bored to death and wondered how I’d ever survive being at home every day. The, of course, I got use to it and was happy to get my writing done. Now that I’ve been out doing things, I forgot how much I miss being busy and useful.

At least now, I hope, I can brush off the days of school and get back into my writing. I have the introvert thing where I have to recover from socialisation before I can feel like myself again. It takes me a while to settle back into the Writing Time mode.

Steve’s also been home with a cold for two days, poor guy, so we’ve been in the house today as well. The weather had been sunny, rainy, and sunny again. Spring just can’t make up its mind.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Reflections on Camp NaNoWriMo 2014

What worked:

  • Having an outline – it was easier to get through the first part because the outline was loose, but when I got the 2nd part and had strict rules, I knew how the book should play out. Of course, by knowing what exactly should come next made me feel guilty, in a sense, when I just wanted to let a scene run where it wanted.
  • Staying away from Twitter – I love the writers I talk to online, but not knowing what they were doing, and not having much conversation about the month’s goings on helped me not compare myself to anyone else. I liked the community chat in my “cabin” but it ended up only being me and one other author who chatted occasionally. As far as the NaNo stuff went, I just posted my daily word count and left it at that.
  • Getting a good start – having the push of NaNo is always good for me to at least get the book on the right track. In previous NaNos, I’ve been all over the shop by just writing out stuff for the book, but this time I had a bit more of a cohesive goal. Of course, there’s going to be lots of edits, as usual.
  • Knowing the material – I thought up this book idea ages ago, so I pretty much knew what elements I wanted and how the plot should go. When I come up with some new project idea, I know now that sitting on it and really taking time to think about it works best for me.
  • Focusing on one project – when I’m left to my own devices and have no deadlines set up by anyone other than myself, I can drift off into other project ideas. I’ll write notes and dabble with scenes in my other book. NaNo keeps me focused on the project that needs to get done.

What didn’t work:

  • Physical problems – aside from the backaches and the eyestrain, I ended up sick from allergies (I guess that’s what this is) so I took a lot of days off. By the time I got to Easter and was too sick and out of it to bother, I knew I wasn’t going to get to 50K words by Wednesday. This has happened during every NaNo I’ve done before. I always get eyestrain and one year my fingers ached something awful. I like aiming for a daily goal, but I need breaks.
  • No real incentive to “win” – by knowing that I was running into mid-May for a finish date, I started realizing that trying to struggle again with eyestrain, backache (which is better now that I have a new computer chair, by the way) and the ickiness from being ill, there wasn’t much to keep me going back to the book straight away. I know what I need to do for P2 and P3, but now that it’s half way done, I can take my time getting it finished. Besides, everyone knows 50K isn’t novel length. A final draft will have to be at least 60K.
  • Racing toward the end, makes for sloppy work – this has been my problem in NaNos before. The last book I wrote, that my CP is now helping me clean up, was thrown together and tried to get finished “in time.” It just made it rushed and in need of more work than usual.

Final reflection for Camp NaNoWriMo 2014:

All in all, I’m really glad I started working on the book. I know that I have a lot more work to go for May, but a first draft has a much better start than if I hadn’t tried to follow the Camp NaNoWriMo daily word count goal.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

W is for The Wonder Years

The Wonder Years is definitely one of the best shows ever created. Aside from the amazing cast of characters, and the soundtrack, it was just a good show. I love voice-over narration, so the fact that Kevin was telling us this heart-warming story about being a kid during the 60s and 70s made the historical references all the more monumental. Plus, the love affair with Kevin and Winnie has to be one of the best TV show couples of all time. I truly miss seeing this show. I know they had it in syndication finally on ABC Family right before I moved.

I'm so glad to have the last A to Z Blogging Challenge 2014 post to be about such a great show.

80s and 90s TV show honorable mention: Who's The Boss (a show I liked, but didn't love. I watched it in syndication after it ran in prime time. It was always kind of meh to me.)

Friday, April 25, 2014

V is for V

Today we were watching old 80s episodes of Doctor Who on the horror channel (??) and I mentioned that V was probably the only sci-fi television show that could have been comparable at the time. I only saw some episodes, but the concept was great - aliens who look like lizards with green blood who pose as humans. I've seen some of the new ones, but I lost interest after a while, unfortunately.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

T is for Three's Company

Another one of my all-time favorite shows. I watched Three's Company as a kid, and then again in syndication. In fact, I was named after Suzanne Somers, so I have a special affiliation with this show. Plus, John Ritter was so stinking funny. As a bit of trivia, he played the TV father of Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting (Penny) before he died.

80s and 90s honorable mentions: Taxi, Thirtysomething (the episode where the prof hangs out with Emily Dickinson is the one I remember most), The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, Tic Tac Dough, Talk Soup (now The Soup with Joel McHale), and Twin Peaks (which I watched after it's big season finale.)

U is for USA Up All Night

USA Up All Night was a great way to show B movies. I have fond memories of me and my friend watching these terrible films in the middle of the night. So bad they were good. I was a fan of Gilbert Gottfried as the host, but even after he left, we still watched these terrible movies.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for Sesame Street and Saturday Night Live

Sesame Street was probably the most influential show that we kids ever had on television. So glad it's still running and still so popular.

I was always allowed to watch Saturday Night Live, as a kid. I was a big fan for a long time, but after Jimmy Fallon left I kind of lost interest. I loved the cast with Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Dana Carvey, Tim Meadows, Chris Farley, and the like. The Celebrity Jeopardy skits were hilarious too.

80s and 90s TV show honorable mentions:  Silver Spoons, St. Elsewhere, Small Wonder

Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for Roseanne and Reading Rainbow

I have a deep love for the show Roseanne. There was no pretence about it. They were the first real sit com family to show what real working class American families were like, and how funny they could be. Of course, without this show, we would have no Big Bang Theory since about every character has been on the newer show (I'm honestly surprised that Roseanne Barr hasn't showed up yet.)

When I first came back to Florida after being in England for over a year, my first priority was to watch these episodes on Nick at Night again. Unfortunately, they were only running the later episodes, after the famed lotto win episode. It just went sour and weird around that time. I did enjoy seeing AbFab make an appearance in one episode though. Still, very strange.

Regardless of that, I have a box set of Season 1, and I still have fond memories of watching this in my apartment in Florida late into the evening. It's like an old, trusted friend. It never fails to make you feel better. One of the best shows on television, hands down.

Reading Rainbow is just a staple in our childhood that can't be denied. I'm so happy that they gave us a show like this devoted to books and reading. I also thank Jimmy Fallon for doing the best rendition of the theme (in the spirit of Jim Morrison.)

80s and 90s TV show honorable mentions: Rags to Riches, The Ropers, he Real World, Riki Lake Show, Road to Avonlea (which I still need to watch in its entirety.)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q is from Quantum Leap

Quantum Leap was such a cool show idea. You have some nice scientist guy who ends up time traveling and helping people. Scott Bakula did such a good job as Dr. Sam Beckett too. I’m glad this show’s on Netflix. Every episode was different and you got an idea about history’s cultural issues with each character Sam stepped into. Good stuff.

Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Punky Brewster and Parker Lewis Can’t Lose

I love, love, loved Punky Brewster. I wanted to be Punky Brewster. I dressed up as her for school (though my mother made me wear matching shoes.) Big, serious part of my whole existence was in this show. I remember being so excited when it came on every week. No words for my appreciation to Soleil Moon Fry for being on this show and showing little girls how different can be a good thing.

Parker Lewis Can't Lose was supposed to be a Ferris Bueller's Day Off for TV, which did much better than the actual Ferris Bueller TV Show. My favorite quote from Parker Lewis was, "Synchronize Swatches." Ah, the 90s were so good.

80s and 90s TV show honorable mentions: Perfect Strangers, Pee Wee's Playhouse, Pictionary

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for Our House

Our House was a show that I distinctly remember watching a lot when I was young, even though it didn't last long. It had Shannen Doherty, Chad Allen, Deidre Hall and Wilford Brimley as the grandpa. The mother had to bring her kids to live with her father-in-law, so it was all sorts of touching and sweet to see a family be a family. I even liked their basset hound.

80s and 90s TV show honorable mention: One Day at a Time (a darn fine show.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for Night Court

I cannot even begin to express how much I love Night Court. All the characters were funny, and the ensemble just worked so well. There were lots of now-famous actors and comedians who made guest appearances on this show so, yeah, it was kind of a big deal. Harry Anderson was like the Matt Smith of judges. He was young, quirky, strange, funny, and wore a bow tie. It was a great show that lasted a while and, sadly, like some others on my list, is no longer in syndication.

80s and 90s TV show honorable mentions: Newhart (I absolutely adored that show too) and The New Scooby Doo Mysteries

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for My Two Dads

Of all the M shows, My Two Dads is one I remember watching a lot when I was a kid. It was a ridiculous story, of course, but the studio apartment where they lived was pretty cool. Also, this was Paul Reiser before his role as Burke in Aliens - and we all know how much I love that movie.

80s and 90s TV show honorable mentions: MacGyver, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Magnum P.I., Mama's Family (I watched this in syndication because it was the only thing on certain times), Miami Vice, Mickey's Christmas Carol (my favorite Christmas movie ever), Major Dad, and Mad About You (the other Paul Reiser show I watched.)

Monday, April 14, 2014

L is for Little House on the Prairie

This is one of my favorite shows of all time. Just hearing little Laura Ingalls begins her narration for the pilot episode to Little House on the Prairie, gets me emotional. It was such a good show - good characters and good moral values. I still watch it on Sony channel here in the UK. It never gets old. It's the show that made me want to live in a small community, made me want to be a teacher, and made me want to be a writer. It's a pivotal part of my childhood and one day I hope to see Laura Ingalls Wilder’s real homes.

80s and 90s TV show honorable mentions: L.A. Law, Late Night with David Letterman, Looney Tunes

Saturday, April 12, 2014

K is for Kate and Allie and Knight Rider

Kate and Allie use to be on in syndication early in the morning and it was a welcome relief to the usual junk that plays after non-college kids go to work. I always liked Jane Curtain and it was nice to see her in a regular sit com.

Knight Rider had the best intro song too. Who didn't want a car that talked? I was such a fan of this as a kid.