Another Parenting Chapter: The School Trip.

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For her first school trip Freya went to…Tesco.

That’s right, the supermarket.

Apparently it was The Best Day Ever.

They got to go through doors you’re not normally allowed to enter, wear paper hats, bake bread and learn about all sorts of food.

It sounds amazing… and not at all like the exact same place we’ve visited almost every week of her life.

I’ll admit I was a little bit jittery about her going but it was just for a couple of hours, she’d been there before and it was only down the road.

I still drilled her full name and address with her a few hundred dozen times and gently talked about stranger danger but all in all I was pretty chilled…well, compared with her latest excursion anyway.

This time they were going to a forest.

A forest 45 minutes away.

In a minibus without car seats.

Along a very busy dual carriageway.

Yes, it sounded like a really fun and educational trip but there was a huge part of me that simply didn’t want to let her go.

“Imagine how I felt each time you announced you were jetting off somewhere remote and possibly dangerous,” was my mum’s input.

It was for work, mostly.

And I was in my 20s and 30s at the time, not FOUR.

But, yes, I can appreciate, now, how it might have been a little worrying for her. Sorry mum.

My dad was more sympathetic.

“I bet you feel like following along behind her,” he said. He was joking, of course, but his  laugh sounded a little nervous when met with my silence as I imagined myself dressed head to toe in black (not sure why as it would be daylight), following behind in the car and then hiding behind trees to make sure she didn’t wander off.

When I discussed it with some of the other mums it seemed like we might get a convoy going.

In the end I did manage to leave her in the classroom on the day of the trip with a cheery “have fun” – even though all of my motherly instincts were urging me to pick her up, run all the way home, wrap her in a blanket and snuggle her all day.

I walked home, via the shop for chocolate, very slowly in the hope that I would see her getting on the bus through the fence. I *might* have imagined seeing the bus pull out and then jumping on and clinging to the back door.

It’s not that I don’t trust her teachers to take care of her. They are brilliant and very experienced, I knew they would look after her. Freya is also used to being outside and exploring without any drama. I’m not sure whether it’s being a former news reporter or just an anxious mum but all sorts of horrible scenarios were going through my head. All day.

Thankfully all was well. Freya said the trip was brilliant and talked about seeing aliens on roller blades (?!). I’m not sure they were supposed to be there but as long as she’s happy.

I know I’m going to have to get better at this; at letting go of the reins a bit more. Although, if my mum is anything to go by, maybe you never get better at it? I want her to be independent and eventually to go off and explore the world. If she wants to. When she’s 30. But it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was pureeing her food and changing her nappy.

Any tips for making school trips easier (for me)? Maybe don’t read the news any more? Pretend to be four and go with her? 

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A Look Behind The Book With S D Robertson.

SDRobertsonBestselling author S D Robertson took a risk when he quit his job as a newspaper editor to follow his dream of writing a novel but, thankfully, it has more than paid off.

Stuart has just published his third book, Stand By Me, which has already received rave reviews on Amazon, including being dubbed “a heartwarming and tearjerking triumph” by one reader.

As a fan of his work, I was delighted when he agreed to be my latest Behind The Book interviewee.

Read on to find out what he had to say.

You started your writing career as a journalist, ending up as editor of a local newspaper before leaving to pursue your dream to become a novelist. Did you find the transition to a more creative style of writing difficult?

Writing creatively is very different from writing news stories or features. However, I found that my time as a journalist did prepare me well for becoming a novelist, particularly in terms of being self-motivated, meeting deadlines and having confidence in my ability to communicate effectively to readers. I think it’s also important to write sparingly in fiction – particularly with books of a commercial nature, which need to be pacy and easy to read. In my opinion, a good journalist’s greatest skill is the ability to convey complicated ideas in a straightforward, easy-to-comprehend way. As a novelist, I try to do much the same in terms of my characters, plots and themes.

SBM2You’ve just published your third novel, Stand By Me, can you tell us about it please?

This book is about the powerful and changing nature of a long friendship. My two central characters, Elliot and Lisa, meet as 11-year-olds in the early 1990s and remain great pals as they traverse secondary school and grow into adults together. Then life pulls them apart – until one day, totally out of the blue, Elliot returns just when Lisa needs him most. As the story flits between past and present, we gradually learn the remarkable truth about Elliot’s return and what it means for both of their futures.

Are you ever sad to say goodbye to any of your characters? They live in your head for such a long time, do you find yourself thinking about them once the book is done and dusted?

Yes, definitely. As an author you spend a great deal of time with your characters and you really miss some of them after you finish working on a particular project. At the end of a story, I often wonder about what might happen to them next. In fact, one character from my debut novel, Time to Say Goodbye, does actually make a cameo appearance in Stand By Me. I won’t say who, as I don’t want to ruin it for anyone. But it was great to reconnect and to see how things had progressed for them since the end of that novel.

Can you tell us about your route to publication with your first book? What was it like getting that phone call (or email) telling you they wanted to publish it?

I left my job as a local newspaper editor and wrote a novel inspired by my early experiences as a reporter. I sent this off to various literary agents and publishers, but after lots of rejections, I stuck it in a drawer and returned to the drawing board. The next novel I wrote was Time to Say Goodbye, which went on to be published by Avon HarperCollins. The first exciting moment was when my (now) agent phoned me to say that she loved it and wanted to represent me. Then, several months and a few tweaks later, I got another call from her saying that Avon wanted to publish it. Both of these were fantastic moments that I’ll never forget. They validated all the hard work I’d poured into pursuing my dream and inspired me to keep on going.

You took a risk to follow your dream, was there ever a moment where you doubted yourself and, if so, how did you bolster your confidence again?

There were lots of moments when I doubted myself at the beginning; there still are from time to time. Authors tend to be introspective types and I’m no exception. Beating your insecurities is one of the many hurdles you have to overcome in order to finish a novel and then get it published. My advice to any would-be novelist struggling with this is to channel it into their work by creating characters with believable flaws, issues and contradictions.

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Surrounding yourself with positive people who believe in you and encourage you to follow your dreams is always a big help.

Your novels seem to twist and turn. Do you know before you start writing what is going to happen and when? If you are a planner, how do you do it? Do you use Post-it notes or write a chapter by chapter plot?

I start with a plot synopsis and I do tend to stick fairly strictly to the beginning and end. I think it’s important to know where you’re heading when you start out. However, in terms of the middle, I’m very flexible. I like to allow room to develop things as I go along: particularly the twists and turns, which I find often work best without advance planning. (If I’m surprised, the reader is likely to be surprised too.) I don’t work with Post-it notes, but rather that initial synopsis together with a notebook that I update as I go along. This includes character profiles and any other information I don’t want to forget.

What role does social media play in getting your books out there? Has it changed much since the first book in 2016?

I think social media is a great way of reaching out to your readers and vice versa. It’s hugely important nowadays, although it can be quite time-consuming. As an author working from home, it’s all too easy to procrastinate rather than actually writing; social media can be dangerous in that regard. In my experience it hasn’t changed an awful lot in the last couple of years, although it is probably a little harder now to communicate with your readers on Facebook without paying for adverts.

On your website you say you’re a film buff (who doesn’t love a rom-com?), which of your books do you think would make the best film? Have you ever considered writing a script?

Any of them could be made into films or TV shows, in my opinion. It’s a dream of mine that I do hope will come true one day. I think my love of movies seeps into my writing, giving it a visual quality that would translate well on to the screen. I have considered writing a script, because I particularly enjoy creating dialogue, but so far I haven’t done so.

Are you working on something new at the moment? Can you share any details?

I’m currently working on my next novel, which is still at a pretty early stage, so I don’t want to say too much. What I can tell you is that it’s about a childless couple who suddenly find themselves looking after their estranged teenage niece.

Do you have any writing tips to pass on please?

One of the best writing tips I can offer is to complete your first draft before you start editing it. I don’t recommend reading anything back until you’ve got to the end of the story. Otherwise you’ll probably find yourself so busy tweaking things that you never actually reach that point. And you’re not going to get published without a completed manuscript. Think of it like creating a sculpture. Start with the basic shape and add in the detail later.

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Many thanks to Stuart for his thoughtful answers, I especially loved his advice for beating insecurities. Fingers crossed that his dream to see his work on the big (or small) screen also comes true one day.

If you’d like to know more about Stuart you can visit his website, follow him on Twitter and buy all his books via Amazon.

Two Egg-citing And Easy Easter Crafts #BostikBlogger

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When I was trying to think of Easter crafts it was like I had some sort of mental block. The only word to enter my head over and over again was – I’m sure can you guess – chocolate (and I’m saying that the same way Homer Simpson says “donuts”).

Thankfully, when our craft box arrived it was chock full (sorry!) of egg-cellent (that’s the last, promise!) Eastery/spring things and I soon had plenty of cracking (can I get away with that one?) ideas of what we could make.

As well as painting foam eggs various shades of pink for a little egg hunt in the garden (I’ll leave you to imagine them), we made a button egg card to send to Freya’s great grandma and also had a first go with fabric paint to create a simple tulip cloth bag. Freya has now added fashion designer to her long, long list of future careers (she’s going to be a busy girl). We will definitely be doing some more fabric painting in the future.

To make the button card we used:

A card.

Buttons.

Bostik Fine & Wide Glu Pen.

Step one.

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I used the fine end of the Glu pen to draw an egg shape and then let Freya use the wide end to fill it in.

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Step two.

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When I was small my mum had a box full of buttons I used to play with. I actually remember the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana being on tele in 1981 (showing my age now!) and I was sat at the table recreating it in buttons. I told Freya this story and she said: “Didn’t you have dolls in the olden days?”

While she didn’t want to play with them, she did enjoy picking which ones went where – and the good thing about the Glu is that you can move them about quite easily.

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Once the Glu has set the buttons are firmly stuck on  (I shook the card a couple of times and everything stayed in place). Hopefully Freya’s great grandma will enjoy it.

To make the tulip bag we used:

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Purple Tulip Pearl Dimensional Fabric Paint.

Small cloth bag.

Tulip (or egg) shape for a template.

Green ribbon for the stem.

Blue glitter glue for the outline.

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Freya and I (excuse my plaster, I accidentally stabbed myself with a kitchen knife) used the tulip as a template to draw around.

Step two.

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I blobbed some more paint in the middle and then gave Freya a paint brush to colour it all in. As she went over the line in places I thought I’d outline it with glitter glue to make it a bit neater but what I hadn’t realised was that the fabric paint actually dries up hard so you can use that to outline. (Note to self for next time.)

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Step three.

We left it to dry flat near the radiator overnight and then added a small piece of green ribbon for the stalk, stuck on with normal glue.

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Freya loves bags and has been taking this one out with us everywhere.

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* Please note: We receive a craft box from Craft Merrily free of charge, as part of our role as Tots 100 Bostik Bloggers, in return for this post.