Hear hear! I always loved the ones my Mum made up on the spot – although she can’t remember doing that now. When I reminded her she said ‘I did? How unusually inventive of me.’
March 1st is St David’s Day – the patron saint of Wales. I am perhaps a little late, but being Welsh-born I celebrated today by making Welsh Cakes for the first time.
In my memory, my mother always made Welsh Cakes on St. David’s Day, and on various other days, although this is probably the gilding of time. However, I can tell you that I loved them, and ate them in gluttonous quantities, for they are what my partner describes as ‘very more-ish’. For those of you know don’t know – they are small flat cakes – perhaps more like pikelets – full of currants, which are cooked on a griddle.
Making them proved rather more time consuming than when I recall my mother doing it, which I suppose is true of a lot of the things in childhood. However, it made me happy for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, it was nice to be doing something for relaxation – it’s been rather busy of late, as evidenced by my atrocious lack of attention to my blog lately.
Also, we don’t have a lot in the way of family traditions, but I like the idea of passing along the enjoyment of Welsh cakes to my lad, who has a Welsh name. I can report that he likes them just as gluttonously as I.
Finally, as I rubbed in the butter and rolled out the dough, I found the words from that great Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, trickling through my mind.
Evans the Death, the undertaker, laughs high and aloud in his sleep and curls up his toes as he sees, upon waking fifty years ago, snow lie deep on the goosefield behind the sleeping house ; and he runs out into the field where his mother is making welsh-cakes in the snow, and steals a fistful of snowflakes and currants and climbs back to bed to eat them cold and sweet under the warm, white clothes while his mother dances in the snow kitchen crying out for her lost currants.
I’m sure I’ll be making them again in the future. They are delicious, even if mine did come out just like my mother used to bake – slightly burnt!
What are your family traditions? Do any of them have links to literature? Would love to hear about them.
I gave my love a poem
on Valentine’s Day
Ignoring the prescriptions
of roses and bears
to write my own
I wrote it on red paper
Black ink bleeding
My soul laid vulnerable
Hoping for his protection
I cut a heart in the corner
The scalpel scraping fibres
two voluptuous arcs
The paper tears a little
And I think
“How do you come up with all that cool stuff in your novels? Your characters and settings are awesome. When I’m reading your novel, it feels like I’m right there. And your villains…” (shudders delicately) “…super evil.”
This is a portion of the fantasy conversation I’d love to have with a reader someday. It ends with the fan asking for my autograph and assuring me that I deserve a Pulitzer. For writing fantasy genre fiction. Hey, if you’re going to dream, go big or go home, I always say.
My fantasy also includes a secluded writing spot; four clean, white walls and a huge bay window through which I can see little forest creatures cavorting on a wide, green lawn ringed by ancient redwoods. No phone, TV, or (gasp) Facebook. Best of all – hours upon hours of uninterrupted writing time.
But the operative word here is “fantasy.” These are rare scenarios, unless, of course, you are Dean Koontz or Nora Roberts. (Seriously, have you seen their houses?) For many authors, the writing life looks more like this:
Get up at five a.m., go to your day job. Work all day, constantly distracted by story ideas, terrified that they will escape before you can capture them. You steal the odd moment and write on whatever is handy: file folders, notepads, the desk calendar, napkins. Frustration sets in because you end up accidentally filing, covering, losing or throwing the notes away. You consider getting a notes app on your phone, but you worry that your boss will accuse you of making personal calls on company time.
The work day is over; you hurry home. Ideas are still buzzing between your ears as you maneuver through traffic. You arrive home and the kids/spouse/pets need your attention, so you feed and brush everyone and then, finally, the house is quiet and you hurry to your writing space and….your mind goes blank. You fear you’ve used all your creativity just to get through the day. But you power through. You pull out the crumpled napkin, power-gulp an energy drink and you write. Sometime around four a.m. you stumble into bed where your spouse gives you a sleepy side-eye but you are too tired to notice. You fall into the bed, already unconscious. The alarm goes off at five. Time to start over.
Alternately, you save your writing energy for the weekend and your spouse complains that they never see you, because you spend Saturdays and Sundays behind a closed door with this sign on it:
The writing life is challenging whether you work a day job or not. Business, family and writing pull you in opposing directions. Plus, you have to sleep sometime. But for authors, giving up isn’t an option. Not writing causes mental and emotional agita. So you steal the moments and write the words that torment you until you put them on paper. It isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. So do it.
That’s my best advice. Create the space in your life for the passionate art of writing well. Surround yourself with like-minded people who support your efforts and dreams. Explain to your significant other how important writing is. Ask for their support. Be courageous enough to say, “no,” in order to guard your writing time. And write. Every chance you get, consistently, creatively, bravely. Write.
It’s a label that is being attached to people who do multiple things, typically actor / writer / dancer / superheroine, etc.
Somehow I’ve managed to become a slashie, and I can tell you, at times that slash feels like a physical one. Personally, I’m a writer/ mother/ landscape architect. But with the writer part, there also comes the baggage of writer / publicist / marketer, which I’m really not all that keen on. There are other slashes I could add, but let’s not go crazy here. Yet. Going crazy might let some of the things I’m balancing topple.
The other day, all my slashes were starting to wear me down a bit, I confess. I think particularly because I have a little one, time out without him is so precious that I feel I have to stuff in something useful. I’m new at this parenting lark, so I guess I’m still trying to find the right balance, but it had gone too far into the “All work and no play makes Jane a dull girl,” territory.
So I chucked it all in, and in my precious free time, ripped into the garden. I pulled out weeds, snapped dead branches, and stuffed them enthusiastically into the green bin. I clipped and pruned and freed poor light starved plants. It was tiring, but so cathartic. At work, I try to remind myself that I need to get up from my computer and go for a walk in the park at lunchtime. It may not be directly productive, but I’ve come to the conclusion that some green time is like sleep.
You need some time out, preferably in nature, to recharge.
It’s actually one of the principles that they use in Bhutan to measure how happy their population is, and they are a country taking happiness seriously, since they use it instead of GDP to see how they are doing as a nation.
My best ideas usually come not when I’m slogging away at my keyboard, but when I’m idle – although sometimes that mental idleness has to be forced upon me, like when walking with my bub in his pusher, or when the trains have been cancelled. I understand that it’s actually a recognised phenomenon, which has something to do with allowing the right brain to have a bit of a kick outside the controlling influence of that stern task-master, the left brain.
So if I have a New Year’s resolution, it’s to give myself the Green Light. ‘Go’ to getting out there: ‘Go’ to a bit more balance: and ‘Go’ to some guilt free idleness.
Have you resolved to be more idle too? Would love to chat about the idea.
A great New Year to you all! Hope it’s filled with adventures, calm, deep satisfaction, and new experiences.:)
That’s what I’m hoping for, I think. As usual, I’ll probably be going for it with all the enthusiasm of my little guy.
It’s been a big year for me – I spent a lot of it looking after my bub, some of it compiling our new motherhood Anthology, The Milk of Female Kindness, and some of it working in what must be admitted was a somewhat half-hearted fashion, considering everything else going on.
I think I need to take advantage of some of that calm I was talking about earlier to consider whether or not I will try and publish my short story collection this year. They are a rather eclectic mix, rather like me – science fiction, speculative fiction, and some which are probably best described just as ‘odd’.
Anyway, if you are looking for a new experience to start off with, I am currently running a Giveaway on Goodreads for The Milk of Female Kindness. It’s not a how-to guide, but a creative look at being a mother, with artwork, poetry, essays, stories and interviews. It will make you think. there are five paperback copies available to the lucky winners, and it’s free to enter, so pop over there and give it a shot!
The latest in this series of Author Profiles is Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali, who is also one of the wonderful women who have contributed their thoughts and feelings about motherhood to the newly released ‘The Milk of Female Kindness – an Anthology of Honest Motherhood’, with a letter written to her 21 year old son. As you’ll read below, she is a fascinating person….
I love the way that you must blow away people’s stereotype of a Muslim woman. What is your take on this? Is the stereotype annoying, baseless, or just a lazy and convenient way of putting people into boxes?
Terrifically proud of the 28 women from all around the world who have shared their thoughts, creativity and time to make this book. It’s wonderfully diverse, with artwork, poetry, short fiction, essays and interviews, from women at all stages of motherhood. Many are established writers and artists: others are new to the world of publishing. Some of them have been featured in Writer’s Block already, and more are to come.
So – if you are a mother, know someone who is, or have a mother (and let’s face it, most of us have at some point ;)), then this book will touch you, challenge you, confront you, and best of all, make you rethink the role of motherhood.
If anyone is looking for a book for the holidays – this could be the one for you.
Part Two of the story of creating our new Anthology – ‘The Milk of Female Kindness’
Originally posted on The Brass Rag:
As promised, Kasia’s – part two of Kasia’s guest post. Working with her on the anthology has been a great experience and I’m looking forward to the release. Read on to find out more about pulling together disparate viewpoints into a cohesive, informative, insightful whole…
I’ve learnt an enormous amount while putting the Anthology together, not only about motherhood, but about the publishing process. Thanks to all the wonderful women who have helped me through their essays, poetry, short fiction and artwork, I have a much deeper and more grounded view of motherhood. I’ve also learnt how to coalesce a diverse body of work into a cohesive whole – bringing together pieces so that they chime off one another, or strike a contrast. I’ve learnt about editing, and the legalities of licensing agreements. I’ve also learnt, in my own way, how to conduct and write up an interview.
There were perspectives from a few angles which I felt would be best covered by a dialogue: those of a midwife and lactation consultant who works with Medecins Sans Frontiers; an academic feminist perspective; and the thoughts of a psychiatrist who specialises in peri- and post natal mental illness. I hunted up all the advice I could on conducting an interview, and thankfully the women I spoke to were not only fascinating, but also friendly and approachable. They say that the first lesson of interviewing is to really listen, and that was a delight in these cases. Writing up the segments, especially avoiding the simple Q&A format, was time consuming, but worth it, in that I was able to draw together themes which reoccurred throughout a meandering conversation.
Ever wondered what it’s like to compile an Anthology? Part 1…
Originally posted on The Brass Rag:
Today’s post comes to us from Kasia James, the editor of The Milk of Female Kindness, an anthology on modern motherhood. Her discoveries in the adventure of pulling together an international group of writers on a universal topic make for some interesting reading to anyone hoping to work collaboratively with a diverse group. Enjoy part one – part two coming your way next week.
Halloween 2012 was a life changing day for me. Under fluorescent glow, deep in the cave-like innards of Box Hill hospital, I gave birth to my first child. The next few months shook my world view faster and more completely than travel, work, and all of life’s other ups and downs.
One of the things I discovered, to my irritation and dismay, was the way mothers are treated and portrayed in popular media. I guess we’ve all heard of the loss of identity that many women experience when they become mothers, but to hit it yourself is another matter. Some people treated me as if I’d donated half my brain to my child when I gave birth.. Even medical information seemed to be supplied in dumbed down form, without the justifying science which would allow me to make my own choices.