Covid-19 and our work

What a difference a few weeks make. In my last post I was celebrating SfEP becoming CIEP … now the UK is in virtual lockdown, people are dying, and I don’t know what to say but feel I should say something. This (Covid-19) is too big to be ignored.

My heart goes out to the NHS staff – and those who support them – working so hard to save people’s health, and to other key workers keeping people fed and essential services running. A lot of them get forgotten – mechanics keeping doctors’ cars running, communications engineers keeping our phone and internet working, sewage plant workers making sure we have clean water, people who work with the dead protecting our hygiene and dignity – and they are at risk and have to live with the fear of catching the virus.

I’m a long way from the front line. I worked from home anyway; I am one of the lucky ones. But no one is unaffected. As so many people get put on reduced wages or lose their jobs, many people have reduced disposable income, and everyone is focusing on what is important – which, let’s face it, is not usually editing unless you are a publisher. Several of my freelance colleagues have lost some or indeed all of their contracts or upcoming work. Do I worry about where my next projects are coming from? Of course I do. Promoting my services to anyone seems like the height of insensitivity at this time.

The stress is getting to everyone, including those of us who have it comparatively easy.

I want to do what I can to help writers and publishers in these difficult and unprecedented times, but I don’t know how to go about it without being an arse. Look, if you’re writing … if you want help … a critique, dev editing, copyediting, proofreading, anything of that nature … and you’re struggling either financially or mentally, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and I’ll find some way of helping you out. I can’t promise to do everything free, because I need to eat too, but I also want to be humane and find a way of doing my job (which I love for its own sake) in a way that helps and uplifts people. Now more than ever we really are part of a global community, all facing the same challenge, and all I can do is try to spread a bit of love and light by sharing the skills that I have. Editing is something I can do from lockdown, so … here I am.

Stay safe, everyone, as safe as you can. We are all called to be heroes now.


The post I really wanted to make

It’s about time I came clean. I hate writing blog posts.

There. I said it. I thought long and hard and I … oh, who am I kidding. I didn’t have to think hard at all to figure out that honesty is the best policy. And it doesn’t take a genius to work out that if I feel like that, there must be a whole load more people out there who feel the same. Can I come and join your tribe?

Writing blog posts is something ‘they’ say you must do in order to help your site’s SEO, boost your visibility, and attract lots of new potential customers to your site. By ‘they’, I mean marketing how-to guides and other successful editors. And they have a point. If no one knows my site is here, how are they going to find my awesome skills?

So I want writers to come to my site. Writers who need an editor and proofreader. Obviously. And what do writers want to read about? Well, how to be a better/quicker/more productive/published/successful writer, of course. So I try and write posts with that in mind. Posts that will help writers.

There’s one important flaw in this approach. Writing isn’t my best skill. I’m an editor. Now, that’s not to say that my writing is bad or that I’ve got no useful advice to offer – but it does mean that I often feel as though I’m winging it or cribbing information from elsewhere. And, while I know the world is big enough to take more than one ‘how to beat writer’s block’ article and more than one piece on ‘how to write dialogue’ … I don’t just want to rehash the same old things.

So I’ve decided to take a new approach. An honest approach. I’ve touched on this before with posts about my searches and my SfEP professional membership status, but now I want to grasp it with both hands and own it. I don’t mean posting about my personal life, soap opera style … but I’m going to be myself, and that might mean writing about things that aren’t writing, and maybe even things that aren’t editing. In this way I hope to post more often, and give you stuff to read that comes from the heart, rather than from a marketing expert’s idea of what will help my site rankings.

So here we have an irrelevant but sexy picture of a Triumph motorbike. Not connected with writing, but hey, your main character has got to have some mode of transport, right? How about it?

Triumph Tiger motorbike
An irrelevant Triumph.
Personal Reading

Children’s books: my favourites & recommendations

During the last few weeks I’ve probably handled more hard copy books than I usually pick up in a year. As I try to get my baby interested in books I remember all the books I read and loved as a child. Here are some of my favourites.

Reading to a baby from an ABC book
Trying to get my baby interested in reading.

The Ladybird ABC book – the first book I had as a child, and the book that (alongside my parents, of course!) taught me to read. I’m told I was a ridiculously early reader (I don’t remember learning), and my mother credits this book, where you can clearly see not only the letter, but the letter within the word and the picture all on the same spread. It didn’t take me long to make the connection between the big ‘a’ and the smaller ‘a’ within the word ‘apple’.

The Magic Faraway Tree
Just look at those illustrations! I wish I could photograph every page.

Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree. Blyton gets dissed a lot but I loved Dick and Fanny – not to mention Bessie and Joe. My view might be slightly coloured by the gorgeous illustrations in this edition, though. They are lush, and perfectly complement the trippy stories about a tree with its topmost branches touching a rotating carousel of magical lands, all with different, weird and wonderful themes. The tree’s inhabitants include a man with the moon for a head and a man who wears a suit made out of saucepans. What’s not to love?

Noddy and Big-Ears
Noddy and Big-Ears go to the seaside.

At the risk of wallowing in a Blyton nostalgia-fest I was also a big fan of Little Noddy. I didn’t notice the racist golliwogs at the time; I was just captivated by Noddy and his red and yellow car. The image above is from Noddy Goes to the Seaside.

The Flower Fairies
Be careful you don’t misspell ‘Poppy’. We don’t want a ‘Poopy’ fairy. We get enough poop in other aspects of life.

Cicely Mary Barker’s Flower Fairies series is just delightful, and another series which is made by its illustrations. The charming poems also teach facts about each of the flowers; facts which are made more memorable by being cloaked in whimsical verse. Perfect if you don’t want girlie pinkified fairies for your daughter (some of the ‘flower fairies’ are male, and none of them sparkle) but don’t want to completely abandon magic.

Paddington Bear
I can vouch for the fact that marmalade chunks make excellent glue.

He’s very topical at the moment thanks to the recent film (and a forthcoming one in 2017), but I’ve been a fan of Paddington Bear since childhood. The dry, straight-faced humour appeals to children and adults alike, and Michael Bond also pulls off a slapstick line of physical comedy which is very hard to do in writing. And who wouldn’t love to be able to do Paddington’s trademark hard stare?

Jennings, White Fang, the Shadow in the North
Books for slightly older readers.

When she’s older, I hope my daughter will, like me, come to love Anthony Buckeridge’s Jennings books, White Fang by Jack London and The Shadow in the North by Philip Pullman. The world of an all-boys boarding school might be dated, but it has a beguiling innocence and some laugh-out-loud moments. Throughout the decades, kids haven’t fundamentally changed and they have always got up to ‘mischief’. Philip Pullman needs no introduction … White Fang is not only a firm favourite but also a gateway to the harder-hitting, more adult Tales of the Klondike, which I read as a teenager and would heartily recommend. It taught me one thing – never light your fire underneath a snow-covered tree. The snow will melt and drop on your fire, smothering it and leaving you to die in the frozen wastes. You’re welcome.

Jinny, The Machine-Gunners and Harry Potter
Spot the wild card.

It might be an obvious, some would say cheesy, choice, but I’ve jumped enthusiastically on the Harry Potter bandwagon and can’t wait to read J. K. Rowling’s famous series to my daughter. Robert Westall’s The Machine-Gunners is also a classic these days, I believe (that makes me feel old!) and I love his down-to-earth style. There are quite a few lesser-known Westall books for my daughter to discover, including The Wind Eye and his collection of short horror stories for adults. My ‘wild card’ is the Jinny series of horse stories by Patricia Leitch, which are as far from middle class pony club romps as it’s possible to get and still involve horses. When I was younger I wanted to be the feisty, red-haired Jinny and to ride as fearlessly as she did. Each book (there are twelve) has a horse-related storyline together with a more meaningful facet to the plot where our heroine discovers more about herself and gradually becomes a less selfish and more respectful person who cares about the world around her.

There you go – my pick of books for young and older children. Some of these are obvious, but I hope some of you benefit from the more obscure recommendations. And if my daughter doesn’t enjoy any of these, I hope I won’t be too disappointed but will continue to nurture a love of reading through books that she does like!


Oh baby baby …

I try to avoid posting anything personal on here, but I have to proffer an excuse for my recent silence on the blogging front. I gave birth to my daughter in early August, so I haven’t had much work-related excitement to inspire any posts.

reusable nappies on washing line
My idea of a productive day during the last six weeks

From Monday I’ll be back at the grindstone and ‘open for business’ again (proofreading and copy-editing business, that is!). One client has asked for a critique, so I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into that.

I can’t wait until my daughter is old enough to enjoy a bedtime story, but I did resist the temptation to call her Paige after my line of work.

Authors Christmas Help For Writers Personal

Happy New Year: 2016

Happy New Year! I hope 2016 is a great year for you.

I’m really excited about 2016. There are going to be fantastic new developments at Help For Writers! In the next few days I’ll finally be in a position to reveal all. (Sorry for the vagueblogging in the meantime, but I couldn’t wait to greet the New Year anyway!)

If, as a writer, there are any services you’d like to see that you haven’t been able to locate anywhere, or some way that existing self-publishing services aren’t fully meeting your needs, please drop me a line because I’d love to hear about ways we might be able to help make your life easier.

On a personal note, I’ve been in India for the last three weeks. As per all good cybersecurity advice I decided not to broadcast my absence on my blog in case hordes of rampaging looters descended on my house to strip it bare. (I needn’t have worried.) I spent a few days in Mumbai, then five days touring the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra, Ranthambore, Jaipur and back to Delhi again) and finally a week soaking up the sun in Kerala. This was my holiday of a lifetime and I feel extremely lucky to have seen some wonderful sights and met a bunch of super-friendly people. I didn’t take many photos but here’s a gratuitous Taj Mahal shot.

Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal