Tag Archives: Inspiration

Sunshine Days

15 May

I know my blog can sometimes read like a misery memoir, so here are my cheerier reflections. I am just back from a long weekend spent in  Woodstock Lodge with 5 of my dearest friends, celebrating a significant birthday (which we will pretend is 40, but isn’t)IMG-20180512-WA0037 We got together as our eldest kids are all the same age (and went to school together), and now we are living through their second year at university.

The sun shone, and while we were on the Clyde Coast, we could have easily been on Lake Garda. Sunshine, prosecco,  hot tub, the works. And we talked, and we talked, telling stories, entertaining ones, heartbreaking ones, inconsequential ones. What struck me today, as I recover from the booze, is that even though we meet regularly, and talk, it is only when you have real time to speak and listen that you form deeper connections. I feel as though I understand my friends so much better from hearing more about their past, and their plans and dreams for the future (especially when our lottery wins cover more than the weekend’s food shopping).

So, it’s back to reality now: the shopping and the washing done, the house pulled back together, tomorrow the creative stuff starts again.



Postcards in the Attic

1 Dec

When I was younger I collected postcards, and as a result when people were having a clear-out (usually after a death), they would pass me any postcards they found. I knew I had them, I knew there were treasures there, I just kept putting off looking through them. Today, as a precursor to doing some writing, I pulled them out, and they didn’t disappoint. I haven’t reached the Majorca of the early 80s – flamenco dancers with real skirts, but I have, rather handily, found a bundle from Switzerland, Germany and Austria from the 1950s – the era of my current writing project.

Selection of the Collection

Selection of the Collection

Bizarre postcard of Ronnie and Nancy Reagan with their heads swapped, and a cheery one of a V2 flying bomb – wish you were here?

One of the photos has inspired a chain of thought already, and others are helping with the general vibe. Glad I finally opened the box.

A Treat at the Retreat

11 Mar

This time last week I was at Moniack Mhor – on Day 2 of my annual retreat. I had intended to blog when I was there, but it didn’t happen, so here instead is a reflection – which will hopefully be more interesting than – got up, had breakfast, wrote, had lunch, read, wrote, walked, had dinner, drank.

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So, this year was my third time at Moniack Mhor – the first time in Spring, although that didn’t stop us having snow every day (I was in the Highlands after all), but it did change my schedule a bit as I was able to go out for a couple of head clearing walks.

Click for Options

The first time I went on retreat, I must admit I was a bit overwhelmed – wow, I’ve got all this time, and I’ve got no family to look after, and I don’t have a washing machine to feed, and I’ve got all this time to write, and I really should make the most of it, and I can’t believe I’ve got all this time to write. Aaaah. Second time, I relaxed a lot more into it. Decided that I had to write a complete novel in the first day, realised that I do need down time between burst, and that flicking through a trashy mag can be as vital a part of the creative process as reading Ulysses (which I brought back unread from my first retreat).

Fast forward to last week. Six of us met at Queen St Station in Glasgow (another 2 folk would join us later) for the 3 and a half hour train journey to Inverness, where we were met by the lovely Gordon and his minibus and taken to Moniack Mhor. The train journey itself was lovely – a great chat, and fantastic scenery, then into the cottage and we were off. I set myself absolutely no targets, and as they say, I managed to exceed them. I had been critiqued the previous night at our usual G2 workshops, so I started with going over my draft and making changes based on the comments. Then I pulled out another short story which had also been through the workshop but never been revised. And finally I started my novel, and over the next few days wrote almost 5,000 words. Not bad going.

Click for Options

Sunday was Mothers’ Day, and it was 5pm before I saw my three kids – and no, the non-mothers in the group didn’t decide to give us breakfast in bed – and my own mum. So, back home, what happens next. Well, there was the inevitable back to work blues – why can’t I still be at my desk writing? Which was followed by a major TV binge. But from Wednesday I’ve been able to find the inner retreat – to get into the writing groove – to go out walking, to read, to write, to be a proper writer.

And that really is the treat from the retreat. Being with a group of writers (and I’m lucky that I have a great group of writers who I know well, even if they are camera shy) means that you don’t have to apologise that you are heading off to write. You don’t have to feel embarrassed or guilty or self-conscious. You are there to write, and that’s what you do.

On a final note – since as a group we are normally picking over each others’ writing with a fine tooth comb, it was great to kick back and relax. And what can I say – Obama Llama brought on an asthma attack I was laughing so much.


Some Questions Answered

13 Feb

One of my friends is about to discuss All the Places I’ve Ever Been with her book group in Switzerland, and posed me a few questions. I thought the easiest way would be to do a little Q & A here. If there’s anything I’ve missed, please feel free to ask below, or on GoodReads.

Q: Where did you get your inspiration?

A: I’ve always been a big music fan, and a keen traveler, so it made sense to put the two together with a love story to create my first novel. I suppose lots of young girls fantasize about running off with a rock band, and I was no different. Even though I was no longer young, the stories that had stayed in my head were the go-to ones when I started the Faber Academy course on Writing a Novel a few years ago.

Q: Is it based on a true story?

A: While I am the same age as Meg, and was therefore a teenage girl in 1985, and while Meg and I have visited a lot of the same places, and had a lot of the same impressions, she is a fictional character. I did do quite a bit of research though, watching every rock documentary I could get my hands on – thanks to MTV – and re-visiting places via Google Maps. I also went to a rehearsal of one of my workmates bands Rebel 69, and that was really interesting, allowing me to get close up to the dynamics of a band.

Q: Have you visited the same places as Meg?

A: I can’t claim to have visited all the same places as Meg, but I have been to a lot of them. The places Meg stays longest, like San Francisco, New Orleans and Paris, are places I have been and spent a bit of time, but I decided that Meg wouldn’t go to the Far East, as I thought that would be too difficult to make realistic when I haven’t been there. Everywhere else, I’ll let you guess.

I did go to quite a few concerts at the Glasgow Apollo before it closed in 1985, and I was able to do a tour of The Barrowlands Ballroom when I was doing my research – getting into the dressing rooms, and asking loads of questions of the manager Stan.

Q: Any other interesting info?

My friends who read the first drafts were great at picking up little mistakes in the details. I don’t drink gin, but chose what I thought was a classy brand for the band’s party. One of my gin-drinking friends was able to tell me that that brand wasn’t around at the time, as she remembered quite clearly when it came on the market. She was also got me to check when Neighbours was first shown in the UK, and right again, it was too late for my book, so that had to be scraped too.

I did have a bit of an argument with Stevie from Rebel 69 as he claimed Big Country never played the Apollo, but I won that one, thanks to a bit of research in Apollo Memories.

#Glasgow Apollo #Barrowlands #Faber Academy #Writing Inspiration # Rebel 69 #Janice Galloway #Book Group Choice


Spark Joy

21 Jan

Unless you’ve been buried under a pile of old clothes, you’ll have seen the media frenzy surrounding Spark Joy by Marie Kondo – described as the Zen of tidying. Now, despite not having read it (although I did listen to an interview with Kondo on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour), it does rather make my blood run a little cold.

I’m not going to slag a fellow writer about money and old rope – really, do we need to be told how to fold our clothes? But I am going to make a case for clutter.

Marie Kondo says if an item doesn’t give you joy when you look at it, you’ve to chuck it. Okay, so let’s say you’ve got a love letter from the first person who broke your heart, that might not spark joy, but that doesn’t stop you from pulling it out every now and again and re-reading and feeling – well, any number of emotions. Maybe there is some joy in the memories, or more likely anger, or hurt, but not enough that the letter is ripped up and thrown out. So it is kept, an item which does not spark joy, but which causes pain, but that’s okay because we’re grown-ups and we don’t have to be happy all of the time.


What about that bundle of newspapers you’ve let accumulate under the coffee table, or in a pile in the kitchen? They aren’t about to spark anything, unless you’re using them to light a fire, but wait, don’t throw them out, just yet. You’re a writer aren’t you, or a thinking person, or someone who has to act in the world? Maybe another flick through on a different day will lead you to notice an article you missed the first time around. Maybe there will be a phrase which will suddenly resonate. Maybe a photograph that will sow the seed of a new short story.

Now, don’t get me wrong, if you’re selling your house, you might not want your 200 penguins displayed – as the woman on Phil Spencer Secret Agent did (oh yes, I’ve been procrastinating/wasting time big style). You don’t want rotting food or dirty clothes lying about, but a bit of clutter, a bit of mess, that’s what makes us who we are, that’s what signals to our visitors where our priorities lie (writing poetry or picking up Lego?), it’s what tells those around us what we like, and what we don’t really care about.

I know that mess can become chronic, and I don’t want to turn up on The Hoarder Next Door, but if everything has a place, and everything is in it, where’s the chance encounter with a postcard you bought at the Art Gallery that has been lying in your inbox for a year, or the key that has no lock, and where’s the fun in that?

New Year’s Resolution Part ?

14 Jan

Just decided on this resolution which came like a bolt from the blue and appears to be the answer to all my troubles (don’t you just love cliches?) I’ve alluded in the past to some fairly major family issues affecting us at the moment, which I won’t go into as this isn’t really what this blog is meant to be about. But the issues are still very present, and aren’t going away anytime soon, so here’s the nub of it, it’s affecting my writing. I’ve been trying to get back into a novel I started writing many, many years ago, which is all ready and waiting in my head, but it’s fairly autobiographical, so sitting down to write it takes quite a lot of emotional fortitude. Emotional fortitude is something I have barrel loads of (who knew), but it is all being expended in other ways, leaving none when I’ve got my writer’s head on.

So what’s a girl to do? For the past year I’ve been footering about with short stories, and have spent a lot of time getting All the Places I’ve Ever Been out to market, but the new novel hasn’t been worked on properly. It is a novel I really want, and indeed, need to write. But I’ve finally realised that now is just not the time for it. But it’s not the time for giving up on writing either. I’ve found it really wonderful having a book published, and everyone is giving me such positive feedback that I’d be a fool not to carry on.

So, here’s what I’ve decided – Triangle of Sky is going on the back burner (a place it has languished for so long it should be used to it), and I’m going to pull out a radio play and re-work it as a novel. In theory this should be easier, and as outlets are limited to one for radio plays (and the Beeb said no),  I’m not losing anything by resurrecting it.

I woke up this morning, and even before I saw what a beautiful day it was (a real Elbow one), I felt more ready to write than I have in weeks, and I think it’s because I’ve made this decision.  Anyway, I better go now and get started. I’ll let you know how it goes.


1 Oct


I can hear the footsteps behind me, the slightly uneven clip has followed me since the station. I put my earphones in so they won’t realise how alert I am, so they might think they are unnoticed.

I walk this way from the station three nights a week. I make sure I keep to the centre of the pavement so I can’t be grabbed from the shadows or from a passing car. I wear flat shoes, easy to make a getaway, and I think I could outrun most problems — I still hold the 100m record for my school after all.

I’ve been on a safety course, and have read all the articles about not leaving your drink unattended. All in all, I think I’m a responsible person. But the footsteps still stalk me. Every time, from the station to my job in the pub and home again after hours.

I turn and confront. ‘Mum, will you please stop following me.’

This piece was inspired by the photograph for August 26th on Creative Writing Ink and by a friend who actually did this.

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