A Happy New Year to you! Here’s to the hopeful days of early January, at least for those of you old enough to be over the angst of adolescent despair and weeping at Auld Lang Syne.
No matter how often I’ve seen one year moving through to the next, I can't help loving the few deliciously lazy days that run from Boxing Day to that itchy evening in January when we get ready to go back to the Real World.
For now, the tree is still twinkling, there's enough food – though possibly in odd varieties - and any visitors can jolly well ignore the state of the house.
From a writing point of view, these quiet days are a gift, offering a space for clearer thinking, for hopeful decisions, for the construction of sturdy To Do lists and – maybe - the gathering up and cosseting of projects abandoned during 2012 in case they can be coaxed into good humour once more.
I’ve tidied my desk and put the in-tray in order. I've glanced at the remaining paperwork heaps and book piles and planned how to sort them and stow them. I've pondered about re-arranging my working space, again, again.
So now, for a very short while, there’s an illusion of positive order- but how that feeling feeds the sou! And nearby I spy that other solace: the empty diary, ready to be filled but still mostly under my control.
I opt for the forward gaze of Janus, not that retrospective face. Far too many things not done last year, far too many distractions that distracted during 2012. The New Year will be better, I promise myself, and just for a few days I can almost believe that.
So, here are my Notes to Self, my resolutions, for me.
That lightweight Christmas laptop? Now’s the time to test it out in the library or in local cafes, where the nagging everyday stuff has no choice but to hush down and the brain has space enough to work.
Set the timer. Open the folder, or the notebook. Keep on doing the small bits of writing that add up to the bigger thing.
Do nice things. Fill the well. Make time to actually meet that “artist date”, not just mourn about its absence. (And do plan such activities and outings into the diary.)
Oh, and don’t be a hermit. Plan time for meeting people, positive people, those whose company you enjoy. Beware of those other Meetings with a capital M that mean come away with even more Things to Do – especially when they need not be Your Things to Do.
Go out for walks or more. Move. Don’t let Rigor Scribis set in over the WIP. How will you come over as bright and dynamic at any agent meeting/ networking event /publisher’s party/award ceremony if writing toil has petrified the body? Think of those inspiring writers who frequently go walking, or to the gym or to swim.
Don’t neglect the smaller ideas. Don’t let that troublesome Big Idea blind you in its headlights. Looking back – which I won’t, I won’t - maybe I could have made time for smaller, more easily workable projects instead of being mesmerised? Let the good small ideas in, make them welcome. Build them a home.
On the other hand - and I'm not sure who said it: The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
Let the writing, not the tweeting and networking, be the main task of the day. Give the inspiration room to fly.
Had enough of my resolutions? Just let me mention one last one, please.
Resolve to BE JOYFUL. The writing life can be grim and horrid and soul-sapping and lonesome and tricksy and financially unprofitable BUT there are far, far worse things to be doing than writing. Make the most of it. Yes, be sad and angry when there’s a need to, but don’t waste energy endlessly grouching.
That’s my Final Note to Self. Try and make 2013 as Happy a Year as it can be. (And keep calling back to read the posts on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure and Awfully Big Reviews, of course.)
Now, how about your 2013 resolutions?
A Boy Called M.O.U.S.E (Bloomsbury) Shortlisted for the West Sussex Children's Book Award and the Stockton Children's Book of the Year.
We hope you've enjoyed this ramble through a handful of our hundreds of posts. Any time you have a few minutes to spare, you're welcome to browse the blog archive on the right-hand sidebar - just click on a year, a month, and an intriguing title, and you're bound to enjoy yourself!
Or why not click on one of the labels underneath the archive, and pick a post from there?
We hope you will, and we hope you'll keep coming back to find out what's new here, too.
Thanks to everyone who contributes to An Awfully Big Blog Adventure, whether by writing for it or reading it. We're looking forward to the next twelve months of stimulating, provocative, instructive and whimsical entries - but as the sun sets on our fourth birthday celebrations, let us leave you with a reminder of how we celebrated the first three:
For our first birthday
, back in 2009, we had a virtual party featuring guest posts, competitions, and games! You can find them by clicking on the link - if you want to read them in order you'll have to start at the bottom and scroll up.
For our second birthday
celebrations all our contributors were invited to offer a Top Five connected to children's writing - and what a diverse group of lists we had! As you've seen, one of them is our most viewed post ever - but a click on the link will show you that the others are all worth visiting, too.
And of course, who could forget our third birthday
and the amazing online LitFest? The link will take you to the first page of posts - I'm afraid that to see them in order, you'll have to scroll to the bottom, read up to the top, then go to the bottom again to click 'newer posts', and repeat... but you could just dip in.
Anyway, getting through that lot will take you to the end of the evening, so at this point we at An Awfully Big Blog Adventure would like to thank you for joining us on our fourth birthday. We look forward to your company all the way to the fifth and beyond!
Our second most-viewed post is also the one which attracted the most media attention, and also attracted what I suspect is a record-breaking 66 comments on the site.
Martin Amis's throwaway remark to the effect that he'd have to suffer brain damage before he'd consider writing a children's book may have drawn Lucy's ire, but it also drew forth a provocative and intelligent response from her, and a sparkling debate from our readership:
And for those of you who just can't wait to find out what our most-viewed post of all time so far is... I'm afraid you'll have to. But only for an hour. See you back here at 6.00pm!
Should there be a literary prize specifically for women? Does the Queen of Teen award celebrate or denigrate? Keren tackles these questions and more, in a wonderfully nuanced and well-argued post that is our third most-read:
The link to most-read post number 2 will be here in an hour!
A constant complaint from many authors is that the whole business of publishing and selling books has become so, well, commercial.
Our sixth most viewed post of the last four years is Nicola's funny, incisive, and - needless to say - crabbit look at her local branch of the Chain Bookseller of the Year, including a visit to its bacon aisle.
As a bonus, the extensive comments section includes a debate between Nicola and publisher Kate Wilson of Nosy Crow, with inactive URLS to further thoughts from both of them, which for your convenience I present in active form here:
Number 5 will be here in an hour!
Today's Ten Most Viewed posts were set up in advance, but I've just checked the stats, and we have a new entry!
Saturday's very witty post from Cathy Butler has had so many viewings already that it's now our eighth most-viewed post, so if you haven't already read it, here as a special Birthday Bonus is:
There'll be another post from Cathy, under her former name of Charlie Butler, later on today; and the next scheduled post will be along in a few minutes.
I don't know if you heard Ed Vaizey's recent appearance on Radio 4's Front Row
, during which he claimed that there's no library service crisis (and I ended up shouting at the radio)?
Clearly the man was unaffected by our seventh most viewed post, in which I sang a satirical song about how useless he's been at looking after our libraries:What's Wrong With Ed Vaizey? - John Dougherty
See you at 1:00pm for number 6!
Looking back: longtime readers of An Awfully Big Blog Adventure may recall that in the last post of 2008 I got all excited about my new shed; but I did admit to worrying that perhaps all it would do would be to rob me of excuses for being so thoroughly unproductive and inefficient. "I'll let you know how it works out," I said.
Well, we're more than 6 months in now, and so far my investment is, thankfully, looking pretty sound. Yes, it has pointed up a bit of a tendency to procrastinate - it's often as much as a couple of hours between getting the kids off to school and actually sitting down in the shed to write - but once I get down there it's like entering a different reality.
Really, that's only slightly hyperbolic. Let me give you this illustration: on Monday, I spent most of the working day trying to sort out a problem with my internet banking (which, by the way, is still not resolved, and if anyone from the Newcastle Building Society is reading this, I'd be grateful if you could get someone from the Knows What They're Talking About Department to make the phone call I was told would be coming on Tuesday. Thanks). At about 3:00pm I decided I ought to at least pretend to do some work, though I was pretty certain I was too wound up to get anything useful done. So I stomped bad-temperedly down to the shed, opened the door (huffing and tutting), stepped inside...
...and something changed. My shoulders unknotted - not completely, but noticeably - and some of the tension, at least, just lifted. My mind let go of the problem with the building society, and took hold of the story I'd come down to pretend to focus on.
I was At Work.
I could say an awful lot about the benefits of the shed - the Wordshed, as a friend of mine has named it - but I think this encapsulates what makes it special, what makes it My Writing Place, and why I was right to spend all that money on it. When I enter it, my mind knows why I've come, and just slips into that mystical Zone that writers sometimes talk about. All the stuff that gets in the way when I try to write in the house, all those other jobs I should be doing, just don't exist while I'm in the shed. When I'm there, I am A Writer, and Writing Is What I Do. And consequently, I do more writing.
Looking forwards: Hard to believe, I know, but An Awfully Big Blog Adventure will be one year old tomorrow! Hoorah! And we're having a party - a virtual party to which you're all invited. There'll be virtual cake and balloons, posts by some very special guests, and updates throughout the day - including some posts for which the comments will be the important part. So please drop by from time to time during the day, and remember: if you need a displacement activity on July 10th, An Awfully Big Blog Adventure is the place to come.
And finally, a plug: we're often quite reticent about plugging our new books here on ABBA, and perhaps we shouldn't be. So just in case anyone is interested, my latest, Jack Slater and the Whisper of Doom, was published last Thursday. Do keep a look out for it - and if you'd like the chance of a signed copy, it'll be one of (at last count) 35 titles being offered as prizes in the great Awfully Big Blog Adventure Birthday Giveaway.
See you tomorrow!
Without Anne Cassidy, there would be no Awfully Big Blog Adventure. Recognising the tension between the following facts:
- publishers think writers should blog
- blogs should be updated frequently
- writers are often too busy writing books to blog frequently
Anne decided that the ideal solution was to get lots of authors to take turns updating a single blog. She gathered a group of 15 writers for children and young adults - all of us members of the Scattered Authors' Society - and An Awfully Big Blog Adventure was born.
So when we launched, on 10th July 2008, it obviously fell to Anne to kick the whole thing off, which she did with this understated little musing on the ideal library:
Please click the link to view the blog. It'll open in a new window. If you'd like to leave a comment, please leave it here
- if you leave it below the original post, we may never see it!
Do enjoy reading our very first post. The next Birthday Blogpost will be here at 9.00am!
It's our birthday!An Awfully Big Blog Adventure
is four today, and to celebrate, here's a lovely picture of a cake taken by my friend Michael over at foodimaging.co.uk
(do take a look. The pictures are mouthwateringly gorgeous).
But there's more! To celebrate our first four years, we're taking a little stroll down memory lane. Throughout the day, we'll be linking back to blogposts you may have loved and blogposts you may have missed, beginning in a few minutes with a link to our very first blogpost of all and then continuing with a run-down of our top ten Most Viewed So Far.
Do keep dropping in through the day, and please join in the celebrations by leaving your comments. Tell us how long you've been reading ABBA, or why you enjoy it, nominate your own favourite post from history, or just wish us a happy ABBA birthday!Your host today, on behalf of the editorial team and everyone who posts on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure, is John Dougherty
We've no idea why some posts get significantly more page-views than others, but as a way of sharing with you a selection of great posts of the past this seems to make as much sense as any!
We'll be starting the rundown of our Ten Most Viewed Posts in about 10 minutes. You can read each one by clicking on the link, which will be in big hard-to-miss letters and will open the historic post in a new page or tab in your browser.
Please leave your comments below the new
post - the one posted today, 10/7/12 - not the original it links to, or we may never get to read them!
And remember - there are lots of terrific contributions which haven't made the Ten Most Viewed, so please let us know some of your historic favourites. It's worth noting that none of our ten are from the site's first two years - and almost half are from the last twelve months - which probably reflects a growth in readership more than anything else.
Anyway - enough waffle. See you in ten minutes for the start of our Top Ten! In the meantime, have some more cake.