While the mouse is away…

Munchkin has gone to stay with her aunty for a few days. We only said goodbye a few hours ago and I’ve already threatened to shower the cat and read her a bedtime story.

showered cat

The cat last time I showered her – she still hasn’t forgiven me…

I’m really pleased that the Animal Agents Summer Reading Challenge is being held in libraries nationally. It means that Munchkin can continue the challenge in Warwickshire with her cousin – they’re both on book three of six so I think they’ll complete it well before they go back to school in September.

Other activities that Munchkin’s aunt and uncle have lined up for her in Warwickshire include:

  1. Ryton Pools Country Park
  2. Hatton Country World
  3. Conkers indoor and ourdoor play in the National Forest
  4. Plantasia & Maze World

Meanwhile, her daddy and I will be having a rare evening out without having to worry about a babysitter. We’re planning on checking out the recently opened Establo Lounge and much less new La Cucina in Rustington.

Being Munchkin-less for a few days will hopefully give me the chance to catch up on some writing. Number one on the list is to find an agent and submit Sky Man. I decided not to go with the original agent as they stopped posting on social media last year and I was concerned they could be in difficulties. I’m now considering a more established agent who has made it clear that they take debut writers. I signed up for Absolute Write, and will be checking them out on there but am slightly more confident about this agency as they are active on Twitter and have signed a few big names.

I’ll also be doing some blogging this week. I noticed someone asking for guest bloggers to post whilst she’s on holiday. There’s some overlap with my blog so I think I’ll volunteer. After a suggestion by SJ Higbee in response to my ranty post about the low number of hits I’m getting, I’m going to start reblogging posts that I find interesting – mainly those connected to creative writing or parenting. If you are blogger and would be happy for me to reblog you, or if you’d like me to write a guest post on your blog, please let me know.

Bloggin’ Hell! – ⚠️ Warning: Ranty Post Alert

I started blogging again around two months ago. I enjoy doing it, but I’m frustrated by the small number of views my blog gets. I’ve done all sorts of things to promote my site and increase views but none of them have really had the desired effect.

I try to blog at least twice a week

I was advised that once a week wasn’t enough to attract views and followers. Twice a week seemed a fair compromise given that I have a day job and I want to devote time to writing fiction and poetry.

I tag and categorise like mad

I categorise all my posts, add tags, and add alt text to images.

I share my posts on Facebook

My blog page has over 60 followers, which isn’t great, but it could be worse. My post reach is hit and miss. I paid £4 to promote a post the other day. It helped but not as much as I’d hoped. Perhaps I need to bite the bullet and pay £14 to promote my site for a week. I belong to a couple of bloggers’ groups. I get a few views from sharing on those, but nothing much. I tried to join some other groups but my membership never got approved, even though I completed the forms properly.

I share my posts on Twitter

I guess a Twitter following of around 60 isn’t bad when I’ve only been tweeting for a month. Unfortunately, hardly any followers click through to my blog. I use appropriate hashtags for creative writing and blogging, I think this attracts a few followers but they don’t seem to read my blog. I follow various bloggers’ pages that claim they’ll retweet if you tag them. I had my first retweet yesterday. Up until now, it’s felt as if there are some unwritten rules that they only retweet special people, and I don’t know how to become “special”.

I write for an online magazine

I write blog posts for Worthing Mums, because this gives me the opportunity to promote my blog. It gets me a few click throughs, but I’d love more.

Do you have any tips to increase my following? Please bear in mind that I don’t really have time to blog more frequently or read lots of tutorials, and I don’t want to spend lots of money on it. Perhaps these things take time and I just need to be patient. I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.


Photo credit: Cyclone288 via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND. I know the image is a bit random, but the cat came up when I searched for “annoyed” on Foter, and I am a bit annoyed.

Parlez Vous Français?

We’re just back from France, but this post isn’t really a travel blog, it’s more about teaching languages to children.

We stayed at Camping St Gilles, near Bénodet in Brittany. We booked through Eurocamp and I’d definitely recommend it. I might write a review and/or travel blog post at some stage but I’m not much of a reviewer. I’m still traumatised after receiving hate mail from an elderly guest house owner, after leaving a mediocre review on Trip Advisor. Apparently, I ruined her summer! This was six years ago, and I think I deleted my account in the end – not before reporting her for abuse of Trip Advisor.

beach, britanny, france, child

Munchkin is fortunate enough to start learning French in Year 1 at school. So she’ll start at age five, as opposed to age ten or whenever it was I started. I have an ‘A’-Level in French but my vocabulary is terrible. My husband has a GCSE, and his is even worse!

We want to help her learn and are pleased that she’s showing an interest and asking how to say things in French. Here is our plan to help her learn.

  1. We’ve bought some French flash cards.
  2. She wants to start going to a Saturday French group.
  3. My husband is going to start French lessons. Unbelievably, the main adult education provider in Worthing doesn’t run French courses so he’s still looking for a suitable class.
  4. I’m going to read bilingual story books to her. Hopefully this will improve my French. The idea is that I’ll read the story in English, then repeat it in French.

I’ll let you know how we get on. What ideas do you have for helping children learn a foreign language? Please let me know in the comments below.

French flag photo credit: wisegie via Foter.com / CC BY

Writing Update – Secret Agents

I haven’t done a great deal of writing in the last week or so, but I have a cunning plan. I’ve got a few blog posts in the pipeline, some for here and one or two for Worthing Mums. I still need to write the time slip story, and Harry’s Homes – the cat story, hopefully I can find time for both over the summer holidays.

I’ve been looking into competitions for picture books but have decided against the only three I’ve seen for the moment. The most promising of them requires a text of less than eight hundred words. The two I’ve written so far exceed that and don’t really lend themselves to editing. If Harry’s Homes comes out shorter, I might enter it. I’ve ruled out the other two competitions as one is only open to members of a society with a relatively high joining fee and the other is for ethnic minority writers. My grandfather was Indian, but I think that’s probably stretching it a bit!

Therefore it’s back to Plan A, of finding a literary agent, for me. I’ve started to do some research. I’ve concluded that I need someone who is well respected in the industry but doesn’t represent too many big names. I suspect that the more big names someone represents, the more exclusive they’re likely to be. I think I’ve found someone. Her portfolio includes a writer and illustrator who is fairly local to me, and I like the way she presents herself on her website. I don’t want to name any names in case I change my mind. My next steps will be to look up some of her other authors and search for feedback on her. If all goes well, I’ll be making a submission quite soon. I’ll let you know how I get on!

Featured image credit: foter.com

Reverse Bucket List

This is a bucket list with a twist, instead of listing what I’d like to achieve, it celebrates what I’ve already achieved. I pinched the idea from Holly of Golly Miss Holly. As I said in a previous post, I’m not very good at singing my own praises, but here goes:

  • I’ve swum on the Great Barrier Reef: I spent my last year at uni saying that I wanted to go to Australia when I graduated. It took me a year to save up the money, but I did indeed go to Australia, where I met my lovely – now departed  – cousin Lisa for the first and only time, as well as catching up with other friends and relatives. I visited some beautiful places, the ultimate being the Great Barrier Reef.
  • I’m proud to call myself a writer: I’ve been writing for a long time, but it’s only been in the last year or two that I’ve been confident enough to consider myself a writer, rather than someone who dabbles with words. As Joanne Harris – of Chocolat fame – recently said on Twitter, in a post dispelling myths about writing, “If you write, you’re a writer.”

jh

  • I’ve visited the Pyramids at Giza: It was a long journey from where I was staying in Egypt, but I knew it wasn’t a country I’d be rushing back to, so I made the most of it, and ensured I saw as many tourist sites as possible.
  • I’ve been to Niagara Falls… twice: The first time was because it was on my bucket list, the second time was because my husband wanted to go there.

niagara falls, canada, horse shoe falls, usa

  • I’ve been to New Zealand: It’s as far away from the UK as you can possibly get, and includes fantastic places like Rotorua. My husband and I got engaged in NZ so it’ll always be somewhere that brings back fond memories. It’s the only country that I’ve ever visited, and thought, “I could live here”. I hope we can take Munchkin there at some point.

agrodome, rotorua, new zealand

 

Writing Update – School’s Out For Summer…

When I’m not writing my own blog, I sometimes write for Worthing Mums. I used to write for them regularly, and am hoping I’ll be able to carry on with this now I’ve started blogging again. It was through Worthing Mums, that Claire from Harmony at Home got in contact about opening a children’s shoe shop/department in Worthing. Our survey attracted 114 responses from parents and grandparents who wanted to see a specialist children’s shoe shop in Worthing. The results are now safely with Claire and I know she’s already spoken to several footwear suppliers.

pen-pen-paper-inks

Photo credit: Foter.com

My most recent post on Worthing Mums was about why I’ve sent Munchkin to a private school. I meant to write this post over a year ago, but I stopped blogging. It suddenly seemed a very timely thing to be writing. Firstly, Munchkin’s school has just launched a parent-led marketing campaign. Secondly, funding issues in my Local Education Authority mean that more people are looking for alternative ways to educate their children. For some, this will be private education. Others are considering home schooling. I also know of families who have moved to local authorities with better funding for the sake of their children’s education.

In other writing news, my Creative Writing course has finished for this term, and I’d like to thank Sarah from Brainfluff for her excellent support and teaching over the last academic year. I talked about my creative writing aims over the summer holidays in a previous post. I also want to try to promote this blog over the holidays.

I set up a Twitter account to promote myself as a writer, and I seem to have attracted a number of new followers over the past week or two. I’m convinced two are spam accounts, even though Twitter hasn’t filtered them out, but the rest are genuine followers. The majority are bloggers or connected to children’s literature in some way.

I will soon be writing a reverse bucket list post – an idea I pinched (with permission) from Golly Miss Holly. Instead of saying what I want to achieve, I’ll celebrating what I’ve already achieved. Munchkin is about to start eight weeks of school summer holidays, so I’ll probably be posting about what we’ve been up to, alongside writing updates. I bought myself some ink pencils and water colour pencils a couple of weeks ago and haven’t taken them out of their packets. Hopefully I can remedy this over the holidays and make a start on some illustrations. The flippin’ fairies might even make a comeback!

Alan’s Aliases 

Not so long ago, I wrote a children’s story about Alan and Munchkin, but I didn’t use their real names. Neither did I call Alan, “Stan” – sorry Aunty Claire! They are the basis for the characters Davey and Lucie in a story called Lost and Found.

The premise for Lost and Found was a post I’d seen on Lost and Found Teddy Bear where someone had left a soft toy in a charity shop.

Alan has been taking selfies… Or is it Davey?


Grandma takes Lucie to a charity shop, where she sees a basket of soft toys. Lucie drops Davey on the floor as she looks at the toys in the basket. Grandma buys her a new toy and Davey is left behind.

Davey gets put in the basket with the other toys. He is bought by Nanna, who wants to give him to her grandsons. Davey soon discovers that they’re horrible. Nanna sees a post on social media about a missing toy dog. Davey is returned to Lucie, along with a toy that Nanna has confiscated from her badly behaved grandsons.

My number one critic [Munchkin] and my writing class like this one. My writing teacher and one of the students are former primary teachers so I always feel that they’re giving me valuable feedback. I just hope the cuddly toy that was left in a charity shop in the Home Counties fared as well as Davey.