Thank you and…?

Slightly melodramatic perhaps.

I’ve heard that the average person from our “Generation X” will change career six times in their life. Well I’m up to 3.

At the ripe old age of 26, I’ve made a commitment to take writing seriously, and try and make it more than just a side job or distraction. (I hope that as readers and followers of my blog-you are cheering and waving pompoms at the screen right now, because if you don’t think this is a brilliant and overdue idea, no-one else will!)

So does this mean the end of blogging? (You ask in desperation)

Fear not! I have consolidated and moved my life over to www.elishevasokolic.com, and much in the way that Joey must have felt when Pacey gave her a wall (forgive the geeky Dawson’s Creek reference) I feel inspired. As much as I have loved ‘mummy blogging’ for the past two years, I do believe the unexpected popularity of my blog has been about more than just my judgemental parenting!

In short, I have more to give.

Those of you that have taken the time to comment and especially follow my blog are perhaps my favourite people in life, so I do hope that you will follow me over to the new site and keep supporting me there if you can.

For those of you who aren’t WordPress users, who enjoy my writing, but tend to just click on the Facebook links when you see them, there probably wont be that many of them in the future. It’s just a different direction I’m taking. However, if you fancy signing me up to star in your spam email, I promise to try not to induce procrastination more than once a week. I also promise not to make fun of you if you’ve been secretly stalking me for the past two years without ever letting me know.

Come see what I’m up to why don’tcha? 

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Imagine if you asked the Zoo for a pet… And then they said yes.

There aren’t many books that were firm favourites a quarter century ago when I was a toddler, and still are today for me to read to my own son. But Dear Zoo is a classic for a reason. Bright colours, fun and educational flaps (made before flap books were commonplace or even seen as helpful to children and pre-schoolers) and a whimsical storyline, it’s almost enough to make us parents not mind reading it for the 17th time in an evening. (Almost.)

This Autumn marks 30 years of the best-loved children’s book, and I was lucky enough to be invited along this afternoon to Pan Macmillan to meet the man himself and enjoy a party in celebration of the anniversary. We had so much fun!!

Before we went, I was nervous that R wouldn’t be old enough to behave himself nicely and take part properly. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My baby boy was nowhere to be seen. In his place was a confident toddler who swiftly began colouring the adorable Dear Zoo worksheets in with chunky crayons, brought me various Campbell classics to read, (I’m Hungry, Spin and Say, and his personal favourite-Oh Dear!) and most incredible of all, joined all the other children in sitting in an ordered huddle to listen to the storyteller. Just watching him emulate the older children and join in the activities would have made the whole experience worthwhile alone.

But it didn’t need to! From scanning the room I know I wasn’t the only adult there who was enjoying the interactive storyteller’s rendition of the classic a little more than we were supposed to. (This is for the kids right?) I practically burst with pride as R got 3 whole animal noises correct as the story was told. A huge step up from the ubiquitous “ssssssss” we were being given a few weeks ago.

Rod joined us for a Q and A session, and was charm itself. Hard to believe that this man was fully trained in Science and knee-deep in research before his love of painting brought him to children’s books. Imagine how different so many of our bookshelves would look! R spent the Q and A throwing Rod a Dear Zoo anniversary balloon back and forth, probably to the annoyance of the rest of the guests. Rod however was patience personified, and for once I didn’t try and get mother of the year award by making him stop. It’s Rod Campbell! And my son is playing catch with him!

Not much has changed since I was a kid, and party bags were always my favourite part of any birthday. This one was pretty awesome, with limited edition dear zoo mugs, board books, a gorgeous photo frame, puzzles and activities galore, as well as the piece de resistance, the brand new Touch and Feel version of Dear Zoo itself. I have to say, I was very excited to see what they had done with it, and the book doesn’t disappoint. Great varied sensory ideas on each page, and very different from the original. The only thing I wasn’t expecting was R’s reaction. He was unimpressed to say the least! Because it is such a favourite in our house, he knows the book back and forward and upside down. He spent the whole time I was trying to read it to him getting more and more frustrated that he couldn’t find the flaps! It annoyed him to such an extent that he couldn’t listen to me telling him to touch the furry or sticky or bumpy bits, and he ended up shuffling off my lap and finding another book instead.
My point I suppose is that the touch and feel version is a GREAT present for someone who doesn’t already love Dear Zoo, or perhaps a slightly older child who will appreciate the coolness of comparing the two versions and getting something different from each one. For a slightly OCD partially sighted toddler who likes things to be exactly how he remembers them… don’t even go there.

Rod signed books and was happy to take photos as guests mingled and healthy snacks were ignored by children who know better than to accept carrot sticks when there is birthday cake to be had. And we had a truly fabulous time! Arming our goody bag and our balloon puppy (it is the perfect pet after all) we left the party with matching grins. This book isn’t going anywhere in a hurry, I have a feeling I’ll be itching for an invite to it’s 60th anniversary party!

Look who’s talking. (R’s story)

Boy, what a terrible afternoon I’ve had. You just wouldn’t believe what my Ima has put me through.

Today I wasn’t with my Ima, because she didn’t exist. Everyone knows when you don’t see someone, they don’t exist. Anyway, I was at work, watching and playing with the nice lady who cooks much nicer food than my Ima, (even though I admit it does look the same) and suddenly my Ima existed again. No warning, nothing, she just arrives while I was eating my supper. Well that put me right off my food, and no matter what coaxing and distracting she tried, I wasn’t going to have one more bite. No sir. I didn’t mind as I was sure there wouldn’t be any consequences.

Anyway, then I wanted to leave right away, and my mean Ima made me have a clean nappy, (what was wrong with the old one?) shoes, (does anyone know the point of those?) and a hat (I didn’t mind that so much-I do look pretty fly in a cap) before we left. Finally we got out of the door, and my Ima tries to put me in the buggy. The buggy! I can’t remember exactly what was so bad about it, but I know I was definitely not going to get in there, so I started walking in the right direction. But Ima wouldn’t listen to me and kept making me go the other way. She seemed to be getting frustrated every time I went the right way again, so even though I was correct I let her make the wrong decision and followed her instead. Eventually we got to the park. It took much longer than usual. I’m sure it would have been quicker my way, and definitely if Ima had stopped asking me to get in the buggy every time I stopped to look at flowers and leaves.

The park is my favourite place, but someone had forgotten to open the windows or put the fan on, cause I was very hot and uncomfortable. I can’t see how that would affect anyone else, so I was hoping that Ima would be especially good and well behaved to make me feel better. No such luck. First she offered me some water, which I drank. But then she took out my juice. I’d never seen it before, but it must be mine-as everything is. She started drinking from MY juice! I let her know how upset I was by throwing my glasses on the floor. That’s the best way to show her that I’m cross. She had the cheek to tell me off about my glasses, but didn’t make me wear them again. She gave me my juice back, and I took a sip and decided to keep the lid in my hand so she couldnt put it away. She asked me for the lid. I said no. She asked again. I didn’t answer as I’d already told her no. My poor Ima, she only recently started understanding yes and no, so sometimes it’s hard for her. Then you will never believe what happened, she SNATCHED the lid out my hand and put it back on the bottle! Boy was I angry. I sat on that climbing frame and kicked and shouted. But nothing, she just walked away like she couldnt even see me. Eventually she came back with more juice, and the ultimate insult- a straw. What does she think I am? A baby?! I threw the straw on the ground where it belongs. Gosh I was hot and uncomfortable, and something else… that’s right, hungry. Why was I hungry? Didn’t I finish supper? Why didn’t my Ima let me finish my supper? I couldn’t remember but I’m sure it was her fault. This day was going from bad to worse.

Just then my phone rang from Ima’s bag, and she had a quick chat with the man inside the phone. He sometimes sounds like my Daddy, or Ima’s friend Auntie M, but mostly he sounds like my Nana. I wanted my phone very much, but Ima wouldn’t let me have it for no good reason. That upset me for nearly 7 seconds until I found a breadstick. Remind me what was wrong again?

Things were looking up. I decided to find a new game, and started climbing up the stairs to the slide sideways. How fun! Why do people do it frontways? I wondered. But here comes Ima again, spoiling all my fun. Yes yes, I hear you telling me to turn around and climb properly, but I don’t want to. No, stop it! Stop lifting me off the slide, I want to climb this way! Ok FINE. I can wait.. I can be patient… Let’s pretend I’m walking towards the swings… and yes! NOW! I ran towards the slide and started climbing sideways again, but … OUCH! Why am I on the floor?! Why am I all dirty? Why does my arm hurt? Where’s my Ima and why did she let this happen to me? Horrible terrible parent, why didn’t she warn me this could happen???

For some reason, it was my Ima who looked like she had had enough of the park and the whole afternoon, even though it was me having such a terrible time, and she picked me up and after a quick cuddle put me in the buggy. I was about to moan for food, when she read my mind and gave me a whole packet of breadsticks to eat. Boy, that’s more like it. Normally I only get one or two, which would make me cry when they were done. As I finished the breadsticks, she already had a peppa pig ready on the magic phone for me to watch. It was amazing. She must have been feeling very happy to give me so many treats all in one go. I hope she knows how lucky she is not to be hungry, tired and far too hot like I was, and feeling so rubbish. But I didn’t dwell on it. After all, I wasn’t hungry any more after the 17 breadsticks, and much less tired and hot after the shady ride in the buggy home.

But when I got home, I was angry. What a bad day I was having. Ima didn’t seem to understand, or at least, she wasn’t doing anything about it, so I decided to cry and whinge non-stop for a while. But if anything-she got less sympathetic. I wasn’t sure I could take much more of this treatment. She carried me to the bathroom and started running the bath. A bath! I don’t want a bath, I shouted, I hate baths!

(Ten minutes later.)

Why are you trying to take me out of the bath? I want my bath! I shouted. I love baths!

You probably wonder why I decided to have an Ima in the first place after all this negligence on her part. Well, on days like today I wont pretend I don’t ask myself that question. But most days aren’t like this. Most days she doesn’t make the world too hot, or keep me hungry for what must be hours, or refuse to play with me or be wantonly mean. Most days she tries not to give me too much time to myself, and offers me lots of delicious broccoli and not too much yucky chicken. In fact, as crazy as it may seem, once we all go to sleep at 7pm, I will probably miss her, even today. I will probably miss her enough that after a little while, I will cry very loudly so she comes in and I can have just one more quick cuddle. I know that she doesn’t mean to be difficult. She just doesn’t know any better yet. She’s only an Ima after all.

Writers Block

After suffering from writers block last week, I’ve compiled a list of ideas for those of you writey types afflicted with the same disease. We all have times when the creative spring dries up, our pencil stops scratching mid-sentence, and we are plunged into self doubt and frozen inaction.

Of course, you may enjoy staring at the blank screen, watching the cursor blink, or gazing into the semi-distance waiting for inspiration to strike. If so, carry on by all means. If not, then I give you…

Top Tips for Curing Writers Block

1. Change your topic
Writing something completely different can often help clear your mind enough to get back onto the project at hand. If you are stuck in the plot of your novel, take a break from it and work on a short story or some prose, and let a different concept fill your mind for a day or two.Coming back to it a while later, you are bound to be able to see the problems from a different angle, and carry on where you left off.

2. Keep Writing
Taking a break from writing for an afternoon is a great idea. I’m also a big fan of sleeping on it. However, taking a week off to ‘recharge’ may work for some, but is more likely to stretch into longer. Inaction breeds inaction. Even if you need a holiday from your subject matter, try to keep writing something every day, even a diary entry or a blog. (Facebook statuses dont count.)

3. Borrow
Stuck at the beginning of a masterpiece? Not sure how to even begin? Try borrowing a line from one of the greats, search for quotes online and use that as a springboard to get writing. Having never written a sonnet before, and wanting to surprise my husband, I found myself staring at the screen blankly, until I borrowed the first line from John Barlas. Note the quotation marks, as  am certainly not advocating plagurism. Sometimes the first line is all you need to inspire your own masterpiece.

4. Get out more
Get inspired. Take a trip, or failing that, a walk. Go see something you’ve never seen before, find someone new to speak to. Broadening your mind cant fail to give you new persepctives on your plot themes and your characters. It’s also a well earned break under the guise of ‘Research.’

5. Read Read Read
When reading a great authors work, it is rare not to be able to note his or her influences shining out from their own pages. Reading other people’s writing, whether in the same genre or different, not only inspires your own, but makes you a richer person with stronger ideas to present, and characters to build. It doesnt matter what you choose, but make sure your own library is fully stacked. Even a book you think shouldnt have got past the slush pile can only serve as a reminder that there is hope for your manuscript yet!

6. Don’t take yourself too seriously
No-one needs to see todays writing except you. If it isnt the best work you’ve ever done, so be it. The pressure you put on yourself to create a masterpiece is probably a large reason why you can’t even put the date on the page today. Take a deep breath, start writing, and know that if it isnt great, you’ll edit it into shape another day. 

What else have you found helpful for curing the dreaded block?

I hope your novel never gets published.

That’s what I often want to say when writing rejection letters to potential authors. And many budding writers have told me in the past that they would really love an honest rejection letter which tells them what they are doing wrong. But when I see the truth being given out, it seems to be always met with a chorus of “JK Rowling got rejected by tens of publishers before she got accepted by one.” JK and her “sob story turned success story” may well have made my life much more difficult.

So ok, I’m going to humour you for a minute. Let me tell you five common reasons your manuscripts are being rejected, and you can decide whether one of these reasons is yours, and either rectify it, or if you cant, move on.

It’s not a very good idea.
You are well read, intelligent, perhaps even a great writer. Your idea for a novel however, is just not that good. It isnt original, it isnt compelling, it wont attract enough readers.. Maybe try writing something else, see what kind of response you get.

You’re not a very good writer.
More common. Your idea is good, it would make a great novel. What a shame that you’re writing it. You might make your friends laugh, you might even have a little following on your blog, and please dont tell me that 1000 people have bought it on amazon. It was 0.01p. It takes more effort NOT to buy it. Despite all this, you are really not good enough.

We are not the right publishing house for your novel.
Have you looked us up on the internet? Have you browsed the writers and artists yearbook? Nothing is more annoying than a travel book submission to a poetry house. Or a fantasy trilogy to a womens lit imprint. Do your research.  I am 100% more likely to look upon you favourably if your covering letter shows some knowledge of my agency, and your manuscript fits our list. Why waste your time?

Your spelling and grammar are atrocious.
Great writer? Great idea? That’s a start. But if you struggle with the grammar and spelling, then in this day and age there is no excuse. What you can’t do on a computer, you can ask a friend to help with. If not, it’s worth buying some time with someone who knows their english. Why let your talent get lost behind misued apostrophe’s and badly spelled language when you’ve done the hard part already?

When we said we arent accepting submissions… we meant we’re really not accepting submissions.
A lot of potential authors assume that when an agency or publishing house is closed to submissions, this is practically an open invitation. “Oh well they wont be able to turn MY novel down, it’s too good.” The truth is you are probably wasting your postage. Most of the larger agencies have readers who they employ to look over submissions. If they arent accepting any, then they arent employing readers! Your manuscrript will be lucky to be returned back to you in your SAE. More likely, it will sit collecting dust in a submissions box.

There are certainly more reasons, but these are the ones I see time and time again. Having said that, I also see plenty of these type of novels on the shelves in Waterstones.. so if you fit into one of the more depressing categories.. dont give up.. there’s always hope. You could publish a truly awful novel.