Tag Archives: Writing inspiration

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.


After the Beep

4 Nov

After the Beep

He goes to the phone box every day – 20ps in his pocket; the number he used to know by heart, on a scrap of paper.

Some days no one answers, on others a voice gives racing tips. Fewer times now there is the offer of a job – something local, nothing that requires speed.

The walk takes longer each day, the occasional stumble; the rare fall. He had a phone put in in the 70s, has the latest smart technology in his inside pocket, but each day he varies his route to the last phone box, hoping that before he dies, the voice on the end of the line will reveal where the loot is buried.


This post was inspired by a photo on Creative Writing Ink


Another Day, Another Win, Yipee

27 May

I do love Creative Writing Ink, and they seem to love me. Just won the Writing Prompts Competition, you can read my winning entry here – American Gothic.

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.

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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


Wait in Your Car

7 Sep

Wait in Your Car

 The sky is a brilliant blue, getting darker minute by minute: black at the top, if there is a top; and at the horizon just a few shades darker than daylight.  Absolute, darkness falls.  There’s just a sliver of the moon illuminated, and there, behind it, still visible, the rest of the globe in shadow, not mysteriously removed as I once believed.

There is an orange-speckled hue on my page, and a thick black right-hand margin, curved at the top and bottom.  It’s a little too dark to read, I tried but my eyes hurt even with the circular light of the torch.  There is just enough light to write, making definite strokes, pushing hard onto the paper unsure of where the lines are.  Writing transient words that disappear once they move from the exact focus of the pen.  Words which lose all sense and meaning, already fudged by the memory of what they were, of what they are meant to be.

It is so peaceful.  Noises which we never normally hear become apparent: the hazard lights clicking and the syncopated ticking of my watch; the hum of the street lights; the background noise, like background radiation, at Dounray, not quoted.  This is what we call silence.  I sit for a while and listen to it.

What else can I do but sit and listen, and write a few words?  Eating a Mars bar doesn’t take that long, no matter how hard I try to savour the flavour, and I-Spy isn’t much of a challenge on your own.

It’s getting colder now, and I could curse myself for wearing this damned regulation skirt, impractical in emergencies, designed to keep women down.  I pull up my scarf so that it covers my mouth and with deep breathes try to create some warmth while keeping the fibres out of my mouth.  Slightly consoled that I can no longer see the cold, I try harder to keep warm, tucking the travelling rug tighter about my body.  All winter it has travelled backwards and forwards, keeping my back seat warm, and the flask of coffee safe.

I finished the coffee an hour ago, and now it waits in my bladder screaming to be released, causing me more pain and discomfort by the minute, distracting me from the pain in my bluing fingers, grasping ever tighter on my pen.

My writing gets sprawlier, hardly keeping to any sort of format, and I am distracted from it by the appearing constellations.  Orion is the only one I can name at this time of year, but I recognise the shape and brightness of others.  I always look at the sky as I walk up the path, noting as the months go by Orion’s slow descent down the back of the house.  They are the only proof we have of movement, the only indication we have that we might be going somewhere.  It’s comforting to know that even while I am stuck here, I am actually travelling through the night.

I am suddenly aware that my hazard lights have gone out, and I am not sure when I was last aware of them.  Did I doze?  There is now no sign of my predicament, unless of course you count a car on the hard shoulder for five hours.  Five hours?

I saw on the news about a woman who brought a sign back from America which said: “Breakdown – Please contact police”.  The police in this country don’t approve saying that such signs only advertise the driver’s vulnerability.  “Wait in your car” they say.  A couple of cars have passed recently, but I doubt that they would have been able to read a sign at the speed they were going, even if I had one.

There is a certain lawlessness at night: no one heeds traffic lights or speed limits; burglars sneak away; boys get slashed and women raped, and no one sees, no one hears.  Yet in a strange way it is so calm: all the fever and fervour of daytime has abated, there is less panic, even I feel less panic.  I being to wonder where these passing cars are going, and I make up stories corresponding with the size and make of the cars, and I try desperately not to fall asleep.

How long have I waited, believing that with every minute, every hour, I increase the probability of being rescued?  I have contemplated taking the risky, solitary walk, but what if I miss my one chance, the one police car that my pass and wonder what I’m doing here.  How long have I sat imprisoned in my car, while murderers roam free?  And how long before I freeze to death, unheard, unhelped, following police advice.

Author’s Note: This story was written a long, long time ago, before mobile phones were commonplace. I’ve just fallen so far behind with the weekly writing prompts at Creative Writing Ink that I had to do something drastic. I know it’s maybe not quite in the spirit of the prompts, but needs must – I’ll not bore you with how crazy my life is just now.

1. Perpetual Adoration

19 Aug

The winning story from the last round of Creative Writing Ink Inspirations.  Well done – really enjoyed it.

1. Perpetual Adoration.

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