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Friday, 17 April 2015

Falling in Love

Love is a funny thing. It can strike when you are least expecting it. You can have seen something loads of times before, you can even own something similar, but have never really appreciated its beauty. Maybe it was the sunshine that did it, or the bright blue sky or the fact that it was our first trip out this year to visit some gardens. Maybe it was the planting plan, the way the garden sloped upwards from the pretty, low, redbrick cottage nestling in a Northamptonshire village. This garden was created from scratch a mere eighteen years ago and it was a joy to walk around, especially because, for virtually the first time in months, we could discard our coats, gloves and scarves.

The garden comprised a stream leading to a small pond, borders bursting with pink and lemony yellow primroses, a shrubbery interspersed with little winding paths which my granddaughter would have loved. The greenhouse was filled with the delicate scent of pink blossom from the peach tree and at every turn were pots planted up with clematis. It is too early for the clematis to flower and although I have one clematis in a pot I hadn't considered planting any more but I am inspired to do so.

But what I really fell in love with on that day were the hellebores, their delicacy, their modesty, their variety. I had deliberately left my camera behind so that I could concentrate totally on the garden itself rather than looking at it through a lense. Maybe this is what made the difference. There were dark chocolate coloured hellebores with single star- shaped petals, lush, exotic double petalled deep purple ones and the most beautiful pale pink and cream one with the lightest tracery of green veining on its bell shape. This was a double hellebore and, when you lifted it up, the underside was like a  froth of petticoats.

Hellebores like to grow in rich, well-drained soil in dappled shade. Depending upon the variety they flower from late winter to early spring and prefer a North or east facing aspect. I love the fact that to discover their true beauty you have to pause, to bend down and gently upturn the flowers. Wait, they seem to be saying, take your time, look properly, the most beautiful things are not always on the surface. That is what we need to do as writers too, to look properly, to take time, to absorb. I already have a couple of hellebores in my garden and although they are not as spectacular as the ones on our Easter Monday visit, I am seeing them in a new light and planning to buy a couple more.

Thank-you for dropping by and have a good week.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Every Word Counts

I've always loved words, ever since I was tiny. I learned to talk early and I was taught the value of words from an early age, that words are important, that they have weight and power. We can all recount words which have hurt us. They linger long in our memories. Kind words too can make all the difference to our day.

When writing for children, often with the imposition of a limited word count, every word really does count. In picture books especially, every single word must earn its place. People often think that writing a picture book must be easy and a good place to begin with a writing career but it can actually be the hardest place to start and there is a definite art to it. I have tried for years to get a picture book published and I've had a few near misses. One particular picture book text was received with great enthusiasm by three different publishers. They all said they wanted it at different times. With one major publisher we even got as far as discussing who would illustrate it but before contracts were issued they all changed their minds. I was so disappointed and this picture book text waits in a file. I still have hopes for it and believe that one day, its time will come.

It's strange how things work out and having waited for so long I had two picture book texts accepted at the same time, not by a U.K. company but by some lovely publishers in South Korea of all places! The fact that these books are being published so far away doesn't make it any less special but I am still a little bit surprised by it all. You sort of begin to anticipate rejection.

This month the first book, Sheep Can't Sleep, will be published as part of a reading scheme and it even has a little song to go with it which is a delightful and unexpected added bonus.

So the moral of this little tale is not to give up. Things happen when you least expect them and not always in the way you envisage. Never throw any writing away either. Sheep Can't Sleep emerged from a manuscript which I had written some time ago and had been sent out and rejected several times by U.K. publishers. I stripped it down to the bones, took the best bits, (which are so much easier to spot when something has been put away for a while), and re-wrote it.

I love the thought that children in South Korea will be learning English with the help of one of my stories. I hope they enjoy it.

Thank-you for dropping by and have a lovely Easter.