Saturday 27 June 2015

Why Blog?

A Blog is a Vital Extension to your Business Card

This weekend the Leicester Writes - Festival of New Writing is taking place. Most of the talks are at the Phoenix Arts Centre with some at the LCB Depot. I will be on a panel tomorrow afternoon talking about the use of social media. It is at the LCB Depot if you're thinking of coming along. In case you can't get there, the following is some of what I will be talking about:

I first began blogging in November 2009. I had attended a session at the Leicester Adult Education College and the advice was that every new writer should start a blog and get a Twitter account. The blog must be kept up to date with regular posts that are lively and interesting and you should tweet with other like-minded people promoting your blog posts as you go. So that is what I did.

When you first start blogging it's hard to know what to write and what style to adopt. (These days I never have to think. I just write!) The month after I set up my blog I saw an online challenge. It offered to advertise my site in return for me blogging about a local independent bookshop. I took up the challenge. I blogged about The Reading Shop, our very own independent children's bookshop in Oadby, and that's how I first got talking with the owner and now also my publisher, Lynn Moore. You can read that blog post here.

Not long after this, Lynn was approached by a publisher asking if she knew any local writers who could write history for children. Thanks to the blog post that I'd written and the discussion that we had, she knew that this was the job for me and put my name forward. I received the commission to write The Children's History of Leicester.

By this time I had built up a group of online friends who visit my blog regularly and I also had quite a following on Twitter. I blogged about the book. I tweeted about the book and they retweeted.

My friendship with Lynn developed and when Richard III's body was discovered under the car park in Leicester she asked me if I would be writing about it. I said I would but when my publisher said they couldn't commit to such a book Lynn stepped in with the awesome line, "If they won't pay to get it published, then I will!" And she did.

Part of Alice Povey's illustration of the Battle of Bosworth
This was new territory for both of us but I didn't have to worry because there's every kind of advice any writer can ever ask for in the blogging world. Bloggers are amazingly generous, supportive and knowledgeable.

We needed an illustrator and, if it had not been for Twitter, I would never have heard about Alice Povey. Alice's mother tweets under the name @Richard1483. She is even more obsessed with Richard III than I am and that was how we got to follow each other on Twitter. I admired the art work on her blog and she told me about her daughter, Alice, who went on to illustrate my Children's Book of Richard III.

None of this would have happened without my blog and Twitter. I am now researching for my Children's Book of the Crystal Palace and, although the contact was made when I was doing a book signing and wasn't directly due to my Internet presence, people from the Friends of the Crystal Palace were able to check me out and look at my work by visiting my blog. This is why my blog has become a vital extension to my business card.

Do share your story in the comments below if your blog or Twitter account has directly created a publishing opportunity for you.

Monday 22 June 2015

Ten reasons why honey is a super food

Honey's ‘super food’ status is not a new thing. The Ancient Greeks believed that honey helped you to live longer. Aristotle talked about its healing qualities and there's more...

Ten helpful honey hints:

1.  Honey possesses antiseptic and antibacterial properties.

2.  It contains vitamins and minerals.

3.  It is said to be better than cough medicine for treating allergy-related coughs.

4.  It helps with acid reflux.

5.  It can help bring down cholesterol levels.

6.  It is good for the skin.

7.  It can boost the performance of athletes.

8.  It helps maintain blood sugar levels and so can help people with Type 2 Diabetes.

My current supply of super food
9.  It contains phytonutrients, which can help prevent certain types of cancer.

10. It is versatile, can be put into drinks, spread on toast, added to cakes... The list is endless, but one thing is for sure. It tastes delicious no matter how it is served... pass the honey pot, please! 

Monday 15 June 2015

From National Smile Day to Diabetes Week

Special Days 

I’m sure that everybody, certainly living in the UK, will know that today is the anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta, but what else is June 15th known for?

Today in the UK it is Beer Day Britain. Today we are supposed to celebrate Britain’s national alcoholic drink. I’m not sure that I feel amazingly excited about it. (I wonder if there is an Archers Peach Schnapps Day?)

Apparently in the US today is Lobster Day. I’ve never eaten a lobster. I don’t fancy trying one now and I don’t know why it needs its own day. (Anyone got any idea?)

Also in the US it is Nature Photography Day and National Smile Power Day. Now you’re talking! I can share a nature photograph…

A rose from the garden
And a smile, or better still two smiles from the grandchildren, always powerful enough to lift the heaviest of spirits…

My grand Grandkids
I Googled the list of 'special days' in Britain and I found that today is part of the following special weeks:

British Heart Week
Oxfam Water Week
National School Grounds Week
Diabetes Week

Diabetes Week has a special significance in my life because that lovely smile on the right of the above photo is my little grandson who was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes before his second birthday. 

To look at him you would never know that he has a pump permanently attached to his stomach to administer insulin. This means that at least he doesn't have to have four or five injections a day but he still has to have his blood levels monitored round the clock. He has to have all his food checked and weighed and when he gets overexcited his levels go crazy, which is sad because he tends to get overexcited every time we visit. 

Let's hope that one day they can find a cure for this awful disease. I know that the scientists are working on it but as with everything else, they need money. Here is the Diabetes UK website if you would like to know more. There is also the JDRF website which specifically raises money for research into curing Diabetes in children.

Monday 8 June 2015

Breaking News

Today has been an exciting day for me. It is the 150th anniversary of the death of Sir Joseph Paxton and I have been to St Peter’s Church at Edensor on the Chatsworth Estate for a Commemoration Service. I talked at length with John Greatrex, Fellow of the RSA, who organized the event. I spoke with Canon Dave Perkins who conducted the service. I was introduced to the Duke of Devonshire. A film crew interviewed me. I bet you’re wondering why. I shall explain all.

Sir Joseph Paxton was a gardener, an architect and a Member of Parliament, but he is best known for designing the Crystal Palace, which was erected in Hyde Park in 1851 for the Great Exhibition... 

Here comes the really exciting bit... 

I have been commissioned to write The Children’s Book of The Crystal Palace. It’s going to be in the same format as The Children’s Book of Richard III and I can’t wait to get started on the research.

You’re going to be hearing a lot about Paxton and the Crystal Palace over this next year. It’s a fascinating subject and I will definitely be sharing with you glimpses of the book as it emerges, but for now I’ll share with you some photos of my day.

Inside St Peter's Church just before the service began. The children from Pilsley School took part of the service and you could feel their enthusiasm. 

Joseph Paxton's grave. The children had made flower baskets that they placed in front of the grave.

The cameraman from Sort of Films who interviewed me. He seemed to need a rest after the interview. Was I really that difficult a subject!

And last but not least, John Greatrex wearing his Joseph Paxton hat and declaring the start of his campaign to rebuild the Crystal Palace. The site has yet to be named so watch this space.

Monday 1 June 2015

Distance driving...

...and why I hate it.

In the last two and a bit weeks I have been completely out of my comfort zone. The reason for this is that we have been visiting lots of family and I have driven almost six hundred miles this way and that across the country. I'm not new to driving. I passed my test when I was 17, which is more years ago than I'd like to admit to, but until recently I rarely ever drove distances and I don't like it one bit.
(Due to Mr A's eyesight issues, I am now the sole driver.) 

The mind is a strange thing. I can drive around town and not have to concentrate on, or even be aware of, what I’m doing, but when I’m driving on a journey I have to fight my brain to not think about my feet, about my hands, about keeping the car in a straight line. This last point mystifies me. I have never, to date, veered off the road or drifted into a wrong lane, so why does my brain start to worry that I might be about to do just that when I’m driving long distances? It's not only a motorway thing either. It's any roads.
This is an old photograph of me driving - before I went blonde!
I don't have an up-to-date one.
One strategy that seems to be working is to have music playing, music that I can sing along to! This may not be particularly relaxing for passengers but it does stop my brain from ‘over-concentrating’. As regular visitors to this blog will know, I do love listening to music, so having to work out a journey playlist isn’t exactly a hardship for me.

Yesterday's music of choice, to accompany my drive from Manchester to Leicester, was from a selection of Tamla Motown CDs.

What is your favourite music to drive to?