Social Icons

twitter facebook google plus linkedinrss feed email

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Chasing Butterflies

Well, it's a beautiful day in the City of Edinburgh today. Perhaps the loveliest day of the summer so far. Coincidentally, after my last post about the bravery page, Josie complained of a sore gum yesterday. I had a quick look, and it looked like she might have an abscess starting to form. I made an appointment with the dentist as soon as possible. I don't want anything spoiling our Olympics holiday, especially not a sore tooth.

Josie performed admirably at the dentist. She told me once that she had a sore tummy, and had a little wobble in the chair, but apart from that she was absolutely perfect. The Beano helped, as she clutched on to it, and decided that she would read it straight after.

She wasn't offered a sticker today, presumably because she was in the chair for all of 10 seconds. She decided that was because all the children were on holiday, so the dentist didn't have her usual box of stickers. Whatever the case, it was brilliant to see her cope a lot better than the last time we went, which in turn was a lot better than the time before.

Afterwards, we went to the park. We rolled down hills, and I taught them how to play shadow tig. Then they chased a few butterflies, and a swift. We saw an umbrella in a graveyard (Josie: maybe someone who believes in God left it there for him in case it rains). Oh, to be a child again.

Super Brave Josie!

Monday, 30 July 2012

Using creativity as a coping mechanism

I try not to impose my own ideas on what the Scrapbooks should become, because ultimately I'd like them to be a memento that Josie and Lori created themselves, and have meaning for them. Often, they do something completely different from what I would ever have suggested, and it reflects their different personalities, current obsessions, and anxieties.

For example, whenever they go to the dentist, they get a couple of stickers. I thought that they might use them to decorate other pages, or perhaps make a dentist visit page. Josie proposed something different, which reflects her personal feelings about the dentist: a Bravery page. She's always felt a lot of anxiety about the dentist, although she's never had any particularly bad experiences, except in the worrying recesses of her anxious mind. So, it was good to see her coming up with an idea that I hoped she could use as a coping mechanism.

Here's the result:

This page makes me proud, because every time she goes to the dentist she struggles with palpable anxiety and panic, and with an effort of will, and some support from me, she forces it under control.

As her page says: Dentist Stickers. Brave! And she is.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Compulsively Collecting

Children get bored quickly. I don't tend to do more than one or two pages in a session, so it's important to have a bits box to keep all your collected memories in until they're ready to go in the scrapbook.

Scrapbooking isn't an expensive activity to do with the children. The main outlay is the scrapbook itself, which I talk about in a post here, but even that could be done with a very simple book from a local poundstore or supermarket. Aside from that, all you really need is: scissors and glue (I use a strong glue stick). The point of scrapbooking is that everything else is free.

So, what kind of things are everything else, when you're working with children to make a scrapbook?

Whenever we're out and about, I compulsively gather free stuff that we can use to chronicle the day's events in the book. I encourage Josie and Lori to think about it too, but they tend to forget.

I start with the bits and bobs we've picked up, and then I help Josie and Lori to build a page around them. Don't be afraid to encourage them to cut up the things you've collected.

Here are some ideas:

Tickets for anything (train, theatre, workshops, bus, museums), brochures, maps, post cards, photos, birthday cards, stickers, menus, letters, certificates (school, sports, brownies/cubs), paper bags with logos on them, business cards, mail order catalogues (these are useful for cutting out decorative bits and bobs), theatre programmes, children's art work.

If you can pick it up, then do, you can always recycle anything you don't use in a collage, or the recycling bin.

Here's an example of a day out page from our holiday in Great Malvern last year. Josie decided that she would like to do a history page, after we had been to Great Malvern Priory and Museum.

The whole page was constructed using a single leaflet about the Priory. It had lots of detailed information that we cut out and laid out across the page. We used a couple of photos from the brochure to show the Priory, and also cut out a plan of the Priory. Josie wrote the title in first. She wanted people to feel like they were going back into the past, so she used this for the title. Then we stuck in all the little bits of info that we'd cut out and laid out. Finally, Josie added some pictures to make it look like all the information was actually inside the Priory, and to give extra details that we didn't get in the brochure (like the stained glass window, herself walking through the Priory, and some information on what a Priory is) . I think it came out quite well:

There were some really interesting little details, and so we made sure we captured them:

C.S. Lewis taught in a school in Great Malvern, and it's believed that the old gaslights in the main street were the inspiration for the Narnia light. There's one left in the graveyard.

Maps and plans are always useful to illustrate the place that we were in, especially if it has a key, so you don't need to provide one yourself!

Josie doesn't really enjoy writing that much, and that's why we chose scrapbook not diary, so we try to minimise the amount that she has to do to brief commentaries and titles.

All in all, we were both very pleased with how this page turned out.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Picking a scrapbook

Last summer Josie's holiday task was to keep a diary or a scrapbook. We chose scrapbook, and we've been working on it all year.

The first task is to choose a suitable scrapbook. Josie has quite big writing, so I knew I needed quite a large scrapbook. The second consideration was durability. We planned to take the scrapbook with us on holiday, where it would be in and out of bags, and generally thrown around. I also wanted it to last after it was completed, so Josie would have a keepsake in future. Those were my two main criteria, but Josie had one too. It had to be colourful.

We went up to Paperchase to browse their scrapbook selection. They're not the cheapest stationery shop, but they are one of the best for scrapbooks.

Josie was immediately taken with the Spectrascope range, and I was also pretty pleased. The range came in a variety of different size. It met her criteria: colourful pages. It met my criteria of durability: the pages are thick card stock, but they are bound with two thick sheets of protective plastic.

The perspex sheet protects the vulnerable card underneath.
We picked the large scrapbook, 30 pages of multi-coloured card. At £8.50 it was quite expensive, but I thought it was a worthwhile expense.My only issue with it was that the perspex plastic was cloudy, rather than see-through.

As soon as we got home, Josie immediately created a front cover to declare her scrapbook open! I bought a stencil art set as part of the train activity set I was building, in preparation for the long journey to Malvern for summer holidays. We opened them a bit early, and she used these to add to her own text on the front cover. The stencils were a pack from Klutz, which has loads of really good craft kids for children.

Those stencils were a good buy; Santa even used them to decorate the house with snow spray animals for Christmas morning. The only drawback with colourful card is that the art laid directly on the page isn't that vibrant. However, self-made art isn't really the point of a scrapbook.

In the next post, I'll discuss the various different items you can collect and use, and ideas that we came up with for our scrapbook pages. For now, here's the front cover:

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

What's next with the book?

So, having established that the first draft needs a lot of work, I need to decide on my next steps.

On Friday, I have two weeks off work. We’ll be away for a few days of that. We’re going to York, and to the Olympics to watch the trampolining.

I’ve decided I’m going to take those two weeks off from the book, and return to it when I go back to work. I won’t be stopping writing during the holidays, as I’ve got some short stories to write for our Warhammer Fantasy/40k roleplay campaign. However, I think the time away from bookland will allow the dust to settle in my head (caution: contents may settle in transit), and I’ll be able to attack it anew when I get back to it.

While I’m on holiday Josie and I are going to make a big push to finish off her scrapbook. She started it last summer, and we’ve been slowly adding to it throughout the year. I think York and the Olympics will provide excellent material for it. Lori has one too, but we started it later for her, so she isn’t quite as far through.

Given I don’t have much to talk about at the moment to do with book writing, I’m going to devote the next post to talking about the lessons I’ve learned while Josie, Lori and I have been scrapbooking the year. There might even be photos!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Tricksy Dreams!

I had a dream last night about what I could write in my next blog. Then, I had another dream, which completely obscured the first with anxiety and stress dreams. Then, in my third dream, I was so annoyed about the second dream, I came up with an excellent and profound blog post to replace the first one.

Then, I woke up, and I realised that all the blog posts I had created in my dreams were actually nonsense, and not at all profound. Dreams are tricksy like that, sometimes.

So, instead, I got up and read through the first draft after a break of a few days away. It needs a lot of work. The end, in particular, is far too rushed. It's like I just got to the final section, and decided I wanted it finished as soon as possible, and so I crammed about 6 chapters-worth of story into 1 chapter. In fact, it's not "like" I did that, I did actually did do that.

Back to the drawing board, or writing laptop, as it happens.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Oooh...Prussian Blue!

I was about to write a blog post about finishing the first draft, and then I got all distracted by Prussian Blue, and pizza for tea.

And then I found out that it wasn't just Prussian Blue, oh no (thanks, Google). It was Prussian Blue, Dark Amber, and the Russian heroine Anna Karenina.

No, I'm not writing a meta fan-fic homage to the the Twilight fan-fic that is 50 Shades of Grey (haven't read it, don't plan to, unless I win all of them on a tombola.).  It is actually the Autumn-Winter collection for Anne Fontaine, which is my favourite shop ever. And then I remembered that we'd been in the shop a month ago, and that the shop assistant had already told me all of the stuff that I had just Googled! And then I felt old, and easily distracted, which is quite clearly the case.

Anyway, all of that distraction from the main thrust (first draft, woot woot!) seemed quite appropriate, because finishing the first draft of the first draft isn't actually that big a deal, when I know it will need a ton of rework and editing.

So, in the mean time, while you listen to the holding music that is rework and editing phase, why not look at this lovely picture of a red squirrel. Because who could fail to like one of these?

Hint: If the answer is you, then you're probably not going to like my book.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Progress...slow progress.

The deadline of birthday is in the past, and I'm looking forward to writing at a more leisurely pace. Next self-imposed deadline? Christmas! That's ages away. If I can't get it finished by then, I will be seriously disappointed with myself.

I managed about 500 words today, which is not bad for a school day, and I also went back over the first few chapters. Andrew Law made an excellent suggestion for getting a bit more Edinburgh flavour in the book, whilst still advancing the plot. Result!

Despite not knowing anything other than the bare bones of a synopsis, he manages to come up with surprisingly useful suggestions. I can't wait to see what he does when he starts editing.

 I also did a bit of research on a few historical and mythical figures. It's interesting how many of them are reported to have red hair, and are also supposedly descended from Gods.

 Anyway, I think Christmas is too far away to make an effective deadline, so I've decided I should probably come up with a new one. My birthday is on 2nd August, so that sounds about doable!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Happy Birthday, Josie!

Strictly speaking, I wasn't being entirely honest when I said I had no deadlines. I was (secretly) hoping to have completed the first draft before Josie's birthday, which is today. However, that was always quite ambitious, so I'm pretty pleased with the progress so far despite not having it fully completed.

We went to the Museum of Scotland today for her birthday, and I took the opportunity to do a little more research on the local statuary. The statues of Edinburgh can largely be split into two categories:

1. Historical figures, who are mainly male and close to ground level.

2. Mythical concepts, who are mainly female and adorn the porticoes and domes of neo-classical buildings:

There are a couple of exceptions, but the rule mostly holds true.

I wandered around between the Royal Musuem of Scotland, on Chambers St., and Games Workshop, on the High St. (known to visitors as the Royal Mile, but the postal address is High St.).

It's an area that holds a lot of memories for us. Andrew used to work in Games Workshop, and we lived across the road on the second floor of Geddes' Entry. Geddes' Entry is a Close, which is thin alleyway leading to a common stair. It was built in 1797, and it had a lot of character, by which I mean the floors sloped, and the windows rattled behind the shutters. This is the Close one down from ours:

Anchor Close in the twilight

On my wanders, I was surprised to find a statue of King Charles behind St. Giles (commonly called St. Giles Cathedral, but it's more properly the High Kirk).

I've walked the front of St. Giles countless times on my daily commute, first to Uni across George IV bridge, and then later down the Mound to my first grown-up job. I've walked round the back, to where the statue stands, perhaps ten times fewer, but even then...I would have thought I would remember him. He must have some good ninja skills:

The obfuscating King Charles II

He's dressed as a Roman Emperor, and sits astride a huge horse. He's the oldest lead cast statue in Britain, but originally it was planned to be a statue of Oliver Cromwell. The Restoration of the Monarchy changed that!

I wonder how heavy a lead-cast statue that big would be? And what sound would it make when it clopped down the street? What other statues that I thought were bronze are actually lead? Interesting questions, but they're not getting that final chapter written any quicker!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

It's only the first draft!

Since last year Josie and I have been discussing the possibility of me writing a book for her. We've bouncing ideas around. In May I started writing them down, and I've now written about 27,000 words. They've come quite easily, all in all. I've enjoyed letting my imagination loose on the city I love. I've enjoyed taking a new delight in every walk I take, as I see a new detail that will add character to the story. I've loved talking to Josie and Lori about it, and getting their perspectives on the world.

So, why is it that I'm finding it so hard to finish? I have no deadline. Josie has no real expectations that it will be complete any time soon. Any pressure is completely made up by my own head. I write chapter after chapter. The end section extends. I stop writing chapters, and start making "helpful" additions like a chapter by chapter breakdown describing characters, main plot points, and magical elements that appear in that chapter. The climax stays stubbornly unwritten. Why am I getting worked up about finishing? I know that it will need editing. I know it will need a lot of editing, so finishing the first draft isn't even the end anyway.

Perhaps it's because I've decided it will end with something that I'm not sure how to write. Perhaps it's because I've never written a book before. Perhaps it's because I'm new to all this plotting, and character development, and satisfying plot arcs. Or perhaps it's because I haven't been on the right inspirational walk yet. 

Whatever it is, I know I'll get there, but I'm not going to work it out today. I have a new blog to create, and a companion Bestiary to write!