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Archive for May, 2010

It’s something we all have to do. After all, unless we have a devoted mother (or other significant person) lurking in the wings singing our praises to all and sundry, there ain’t no-one else who’s gonna do it for us.

I’ve just applied for a job that I really hope to get. On the face of it I’m perfect for it – I have all the skills necessary and it will fit nicely with my university studies, and it’s with an organisation which I have a great admiration for and would like to stay with long-term. However, it’s taken me several days to formulate my application and work out what is so special about me that they would be daft to turn me down… it’s so difficult to do!

Fiction – that’s easy. It’s just making things up. Poetry, that’s easy too, in its own way. You have an image or an idea you believe in, you just need to find the right words to communicate that. And if a few of your readers don’t get what you’re trying to say, it doesn’t really matter. Well, it does, but as long as it works for you as a writer, and for most readers, that’s fine.

Job applications – not so. They have to be just right for whoever’s going to read them. Spot on. No mistakes or crossed wires.

USPs

Maybe it’s my innate British-ness, or some childhood trauma I’ve forgotten, or some such ridiculousness, but I find it really difficult to tell people why I’m wonderful. Which is silly. Because I know this job is perfect for me and I’m perfect for it.

They always tell you to identify them. Unique Selling Points, that is. Why should people pick you rather than anyone else? I find this an inherently weird concept – there are so many people in the world, each of whom is Unique. But when you look at a job description or a person specification, the Points they ask for are by no means Unique. So Selling oneself must mean finding and communicating a Unique combination of Points that fits perfectly with the requirements, and Selling that combination so the recruiter has no choice but to offer you the job.

And everyone who applies is doing that.

Hmm…

It’s a weird process…

(wish me luck)

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Post-natal depression is terrifying. What should be one of the best times of your life becomes worse than a nightmare, because you don’t wake up. You can’t get to sleep in the first place. Despair and guilt smother you, creating a cell-blanket barrier between you and your baby. All you see of this little person who is completely dependent on you is small glimpses through the holes. And that’s not enough to love him or her.

I wrote a short memoir in class the other week – an exercise in dangerous writing, and when I read it out I could see the shock on my classmates’ faces. It struck me that not enough women talk about their experiences of post-natal depression. How can anyone who hasn’t been through it have any hope of understanding what it’s like?

I survived post-natal depression twice. I was lucky.

my story

Simon was a lovely baby, gorgeous to look at and so easy to look after. If none of the standard list of “things to do when a baby cries” worked, I just put him in the pushchair and took him for a walk. He’d fall asleep as soon as the outside air hit the lining of his lungs.

The birth wasn’t easy, lots of machines and doctors and pain and confusion. The single moment of joy when they laid him on my stomach made up for that, but it wasn’t enough to carry me through all the complications that set in afterwards.

By his fourteenth day, it was obvious that something was wrong. I couldn’t stop crying. I didn’t want to pick Simon up, I really didn’t want to feed him, I had mastitis and cracked nipples and it was agony. I couldn’t sleep but I was exhausted all the time. Sleep when the baby sleeps, they said. But that was the only time I could be me again.

I went out and bought bottles and formula, then cried as I sterilised the clear plastic unnatural teats, and cried as I counted out the scoops of pale yellow powder, and cried as I shook the bottles. I cried when Alan got up in the night and took Simon into the other room to feed him.

Alan didn’t understand. He was giving me what I needed, time away from our baby. What he really didn’t understand was that I didn’t want the baby at all. I did love Simon, but more than that I resented him for stealing my life away from me. And I wished he wasn’t there.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t have harmed him. I had those new-mother nightmares about some stranger coming along and doing awful things. I even worked out exactly what I’d do if a nutter threw Simon and his pushchair into the Trent as I walked along the Victoria Embankment.

But I wished he wasn’t there.

I knew I would kill for him.

I was terrified I’d die for him.

Six months, countless prescriptions, and many hours of counselling later, I still wished he wasn’t there. Until one day, in a tiny room at Queen’s Medical Centre, when the psychiatric nurse said, “You could always give him up for adoption, you know.”

She might has well have punched me in the stomach. Pain radiated from behind my belly button, I couldn’t breathe.

No-one, no-one was going to take my son away from me.

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Just… wow…

Just got proofs for Into the River publicity material.

Into the River publicity material

Eight postcards and one bookmark


Am speechless.
Into the River publicity material

And their backsides.


Wow.
Into the River publicity material

I just couldn't stop taking pictures...


Thank you SO much to Ian Collinson of Parker and Collinson printers for making our words and pictures into something amazing!

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Into the River

Just in case you were wondering what this anthology thing is all about… follow this link and click on the gorgeous picture for a sneak preview of some of the material.

I am inordinately proud of what we’ve achieved.

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Duck familyThis picture isn’t relevant to the post, but I like it, so you get to see it anyway. It’s a family of ducks I saw on Jubilee Campus on Friday – very very cute.

I had fun yesterday. Much more fun than #2 son, who was doing a Duke of Edinburgh practice expedition, yomping round Derbyshire in the rain with half a ton of stuff on his back. I was doing my training for the Students in Classrooms scheme. This is something that’s been going for many years now, it involves chucking a load of students at a load of schoolkids and seeing what happens.

Actually, it’s much more structured than that, and is a jolly good wheeze. They send you into a local school for 3 weeks to work alongside one or more teachers, and you can make what you like of the experience – if you want to take all or part of a lesson yourself they’ll let you try it, for instance. And they pay you. Not much, but it’s better than nothing.

I’m doing it to find out what working with kids is like, to see if doing workshops in schools is something I could do to earn money on an ongoing basis, and for fun. I’ll be working in the English department, I don’t know which school yet.

The training session was strange in many ways. For a start, I’m twice as old as most of the other trainees, and I think I’m probably older than the trainers too. Which made the exercise where we had to think about how our subject is taught differently today a bit difficult…

And I learned something about myself which I’m a bit uncomfortable with – I have a significant desire to please. One of the trainers was wandering round sticking stickers on people when they did something she thought was particularly good, and once I noticed this I was desperate to get one of those stickers. I tried really hard to do everything well, to be proactive and thoughtful, to speak out and make my opinions known…

I didn’t get a sticker. Which left me feeling quite let down at the end of the day. I deserved one, dammit. Or maybe I didn’t? Perhaps I’m just not as good as I think I am?

Enough of that. What really annoys me about it is I want to be a rebel. I don’t want to be desperate to conform and gain approval. Damn.

And here’s another couple of pictures to finish with. The new Nottingham Trent University building is amazing. A. Maz. Ing.

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So, Pip, why is it important?

I’m glad you asked me that. It’s my mother’s birthday. She’ll be partying with my brother and the sheep, I’ve no doubt. Hacking brambles in the field, or hedge-laying, or worming lambs, or some such fun and games…

Happy Birthday Mum!

You’re missing something, aren’t you?

…and then there’s the election thing. I’m a bit fed up with that. I live in a marginal constituency (Broxtowe) so the only way I can vote is Labour – Nick Palmer is a reasonably good MP and had a slim majority last time round. I’d like to vote Green, but can’t afford to let the awful tory woman get in. I posted my vote last Thursday, so the last seven days have been even more irrelevant to me. It was nice to realise this morning that the BBC avoids politics until the polls close on election day. The Today Programme was so much better for it…

I am looking forward to watching the Channel 4 election night coverage though, David Mitchell, Charlie Brooker and Jimmy Carr… should be great fun. Hopefully #1 son will stay up with me.

So, how’s life in the writing world, Pip?

The anthology is nearly done. The printed anthology, I should say. I’ll be battling red tape this afternoon to get all the bits and bobs finalised, then delivering the PDFs to the printer tomorrow lunchtime. I’m ridiculously nervous about the whole thing. I stayed up till 2am last night proof-reading, and only discovered one mistake (a misaligned page number) so I twiddled with the layout on a few pages just to make myself feel better.

I’m sitting in the library (oops, sorry, the Djanogly Learning Resource Centre) today, which is the Most Bizarre building – it’s an ascending spiral which expands as you go up – you can see a bit of it in this rather nice photo of a heron.
Heron by the DLRC
I thought it would be a good place to work but it’s full of whispering students, and there’s a woman below who’s feeding the ducks, which is fascinating. Three baby moorhens had a fight over a crust with an ENORMOUS fish. They won. Yay birds!

I’m actually trying to sort out a poetry collection for the Templar competition, but there are too many distractions. Damn you, ubiquitous internet and wonders of nature.

So, what else is new?

I heard yesterday I’ve been accepted onto a “Students in Classrooms” scheme. I will bravely venture into a local secondary school for three weeks in June/July, and attempt to help teach the little darlings English.

Can’t decide whether to feel sick or excited!

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Having got the marathon of anthology typesetting and three sets of coursework out of the way, I need something to do to keep me off the streets. University term starts this week, but as I only have two classes (that’s 6.5 teaching hours a week, with 5 Saturday day schools) I have plenty of time for various projects:

  • Catching up with Eireann’s poetry exercises which I fell woefully behind on due to aforementioned marathon.
  • Getting all the printed anthology loose ends tied up so I can forget about it for a while.
  • Having said that… exploring some ideas I have for marketing the anthology (postcards and bookmarks, anyone?).
  • Working on the anthology website (yes, I know I said I’d forget about it, but…)
  • Getting some of my work published. It’s about time.

I Am Not A Published Author

One member of our writing group keeps posting Facebook statuses boasting (quite rightly) that “IAmAPublishedAuthor” (he is, not I am). Every time he does this I feel a flash of envy. Then I feel a flash of irritation. With myself.

How am I supposed to ever get published if I never send anything off?

well, duh.

So I have had stern words with myself, and I spent much of yesterday researching competitions and magazines that are worth my while submitting to. There are an awful lot of them… which is a Good Thing.

Then I went through all my short stories and poems and listed them, along with brief notes on what needs doing to them (most of them need significant revision, but that’s ok).

And today I’m printing everything off and working on an entry to the Templar Poetry Collection competition. I am deliberately not thinking about my chances – if I do I’ll realise they’re slim and I won’t bother entering. Which is the attitude that’s got me to where I am today. i.e. IAmNotAPublishedAuthor.

I shall keep you updated on how things go.

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