Tag Archives: smallholding

Blog Number Ten – Writing Confessions

ImageI have been bad, very bad by writing standards. I have not written anything new for ages. I blame the good weather, smallholding tasks that need doing, and escapee piglets. To the point we’ve had to electrify the vegetable plot, because the little ones are small enough to squeeze under the barb wire fence and even through the gaps in the gate.

Last year, we replanted the broad beans three times to failure from wet weather and slugs. This year, we have a healthy crop and aren’t about to be complacent by letting either the rabbits or gambolling piglets get the better of our haul. Then there’s shopping to be done, day jobs, walking the dog, checking the sheep and leaves on the line (sorry, wrong season).

But you get the idea. My mind hasn’t been on the job. When I’m not writing full book proposals to agents who will most likely just send me a rejection, I’m making sure the piglets have got water and trying to tame them. This involves sitting in the middle of the pig plot and trying to let them near enough to me without freaking out. This seems to tap in to their agoraphobia, so they don’t venture far from mum in this scenario.

Being the side of the fence is completely different. So far, I’ve had more success at feeding time. If I lean over the barbed wire fence while trying to avoid the big mamma’s muddy snout in my face, I can get a stroke of their soft fur. Oh, and now eating my shoes is their new game. As I’m trying to stroke them, they get their own back by mungeing on my Moshulus. Have-at-you for trying to domesticate me…

Again, I digress. It could well be that having finished my book (in my opinion) means I have little drive to write the next in the season, until I well and truly exhaust all my agent options. I have written the plot structure, but something hidden is holding me back.

Next month, I am attending a literary festival and have booked a slot with an agent for a bit of guidance at where I must be going wrong. So I am holding off approaching publishers myself or throwing the dog out with the soggy towel, to do the self-publishing option.

Feedback so far includes the following, in no particular order: ‘It doesn’t read as a story’, ‘not right for my list’, ‘witty and interesting but difficult to sell in the current climate as an unknown.’ Is celebrity king? Do people only want to read the autobiographies of the rich and famous? But then nothing. All I can do is wait. 😦

Right now, some news, any news would be welcomed, even if it is more rejections. So my little face creased into a smile when I read an email saying that a sample of my work will be included in August’s edition of Writing Magazine. Not because I am some ‘bright, young thing’, but my work is going Under The Microscope. This is the regular feature in the magazine, where you submit 300 words of your work and it is critiqued by an expert. So I have publishing news of some sort. I am doing my best to resist breaking into a sweat, the sort I do when I’ve drunk the boss’ coffee or realise I have to sing a solo at the village pantomime. While I am letting all see my work, this is better than an empty inbox. Let the world be my judge.

Please visit www.facebook.com/LucyGhose to see photos and read sample chapters of my book. Click the ‘like’ button to keep updated with my writing journey.

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Blog Number Five – Pastures New

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Sitting at the top of the field, we’re enjoying Dorset scenery as we have the first barbecue of the year. It’s a minor miracle that I’m not wearing a jumper. My arms haven’t seen the light of day in months, let alone my feet. The wellies are staying on for now.

Heat curls up from the urn and pork ribs sizzle as we gaze across the fields to the rippled horizon of Eggardon Hill, towards the sea. We squeeze up on the picnic bench, drinks in our hands, grinning at each other. We’re feeling almost undeserved of the warmth, a newfound treat.

I’d forgotten that we spent most evenings last summer eating outside like this. Trundled all the food up in the wheelbarrow and ate under the stars. Easy to forget when it’s snowing in March and the ground has been squelchy from October until now. It only takes a day and night’s rain to make the rivers overflow.

While daffodils and other flowers have been late arrivals, many people wouldn’t consider the slow growth of grass to be a problem. But for farmers who rely on grass to feed their animals, the low yield has meant more reliance on concentrated feed. With our acre, feed costs for six sheep and their lambs pale into insignificance. Some farmers’ feed costs are £60,000 for a week because there isn’t enough grass.

A few weeks ago and things were getting desperate for us. The grass was no more than a thumbnail long where the sheep were all in the field. We had a field of yelling sheep at feeding time and had to make sure the hay-nets were permanently full.

Going on a dog walk, we found everyone else was struggling too. Cue tutting from us, as a boy on a quad bike sped up the road. Thug. He screeched up next to us. ‘Have you seen two hundred sheep? I’ve lost them.’ Must’ve been so hungry they buggered off to pastures new.

It’s a stereotype that a sheep’s main occupation in life is dying or escaping. And they’ll escape when hungry. I had an ask round in the village for grasskeep and a deal was made just up the road. The sheep have a shiny new field to play in, which hasn’t been used all winter. It is frequented by ducks, pheasants (to the dog’s delight) and pigeons. From there, we can see the church where we got married and the rooftop of our house.

We left our ram up with us, so he doesn’t get randy with the ewes. And he’s not happy about it. From a harem to nothing. He’s watching us from two pens away, making a bleeting sound like an unblocking sink. He’s not used to seeing us up here unless we’re feeding him. He beats his hay-net up by bashing it with his head a few times and then struts off to his sty.

His luck is soon to change. The week of our holiday is coming up. People with pets will appreciate that animal cover is needed. Usually I’d ask my mum, but she’s coming with us. So it is left to Dad. It’s a big ask, so we thought we’d bring all the sheep back together for a while to make it a bit easier for him.

He will have to animal-sit the dog, the ram, the ewes and lambs, and Big Pig who is due to give birth any day now. I’m slightly concerned about this, as the last time he ‘pig-sat’ for us, we had the flying pig incident (this anecdote has gone in my book). Pigs do fly.

We’re hoping she’ll have the litter sooner than later. But if it is on Dad’s watch, the good thing is that pigs tend to get on with it when in labour. Last time Big Pig had piglets, I thought she’d finished when I gave her breakfast. Seven piglets. I went back two hours later and counted ten. Everything stops for dinner.

This excursion will be a writing holiday in Iona, Scotland. Mother will be walking and Hubs will be fishing. I’ve been there before and I’m excited at the thought of writing in such beautiful surroundings by the sea. But Marjorie-Self-Doubt pops up when I start thinking about it. What’s the point in starting a sequel when you haven’t got an agent for the first one yet? Shouldn’t you be researching now if you’re going to start that science fiction book? How are you going to take all those notes as luggage? Will you be able to carry it all? Bugger off, Marjorie.

No, it’ll be fine. I should enjoy the thought of starting from scratch again, whether I do my Piggy Tale Revelations, or the SF book. Maybe both. I have the luxury of choice.

In other news, I’m trying to reach 70 ‘likes’ on my Facebook author page this weekend. Please visit to see photos and read sample chapters of my book. Click the ‘like’ button to keep updated with my writing journey. www.facebook.com/LucyGhose

 

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Blog Number One – Writing Life of An Unpublished Writer and Blog Virgin

With some uncertainty, I’m popping my blog-writing cherry. And what better way to start than typing with one hand, as I eat a block of cheese? After a day in the office, I needed a bit of cheese. Sorry.

I’d never considered writing a blog before, what with a full-time job, keeping sheep, pigs, chickens, a dog, and trying to finish my first proper novel. And trying not to neglect my husband, my time is somewhat limited.

One of the Top Ten reasons people have for not ever having written a book is ‘I have no time’. The response? ‘If you really want to do it, make time.’ So I have.

I wake up at six a.m. every day and write for two glorious hours before hauling my arse to the day job which pays the bills. Writing is a compulsion and my memory is terrible. I’ve just finished writing 75,000 words about my agrarian adventures.

If it isn’t published, at least it should provide some entertainment to my eighty year-old self when I’ve forgotten the sheer hard work and hilarity which ensued from it. In the first six months, I was nearly crushed by a pig sty, tried putting suncream on the pigs, and there was the inevitable trip to the abattoir. The day I opened the airing cupboard to find a parma ham staring back at me, I decided these tales needed to be written down.

At the suggestion of a writer friend, I’m starting a blog. Why, when I’ve got enough writing material to write another two books? I’ve got an author page on Stalkbook www.facebook.com/LucyGhose where I put all my writing news and smallholding-related pictures and status updates.

Not everyone has an addiction like I do to writing status updates, which is close to rivalling the cheese obsession.

I’m glad I can’t smoke or drink Stalkbook, because if I had to cold turkey, I honestly don’t know how I’d cope. I’ve managed to be a bit more reserved about playing games on it, in order to create writing time. To the point, where I’ve had to buy myself a kitchen timer. But I still need to check in before and after work.

Stalkbook has that nifty ‘like’ button, instant gratification on what I’ve written, but blogs are an unknown entity to me. Who would want to read my blog?

Maybe it’s because I’m one of those unpublished writers, I feel the need to get my story out there. I used to be a journalist, writing for a readership of 30,000 across Dorset and Somerset. But that was different. I wrote what I was told to, not what I chose to. They were a captive audience, wanting to read about events where they lived. So now, why should people care about my life?

The inferiority complex kicked in, when staring at the blank page. Maybe that’s why I needed the cheese.

Could I self-publish my novel instead? Yes, of course. But the temptation would be to hit the enter key, see it up there in all its glory, and then find a glaring error. I’ve re-read my novel several times now and I’m still finding things wrong with it. I’d be in danger of constantly fiddling it, so it had as many different versions as Star Wars. I want someone else to say ‘Yes, that’s good. We’ll take it.’

What should I write about here? ‘Pigs’ was the suggestion. Obvious really, as I’ve been writing about them for five months. And I will, but given this is my first time, I thought I should explain my current situation. And how I started writing in the first place is a tale for another time…

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