Friday, 23 October 2009

My Number One Fan

I get different reactions when I say I write for teenagers. Some people are very excited, because they know what a lively and varied genre it is, and they don't care who sees them reading a book that's marketed to folk much younger than they are. Sometimes people are not really sure what to say - maybe they would never consider reading teenage fiction, or they don't know any teenagers, and it's just a bit so what? to them. That's fine, too. Others look at me as if I've done something a bit selfless - as if writing for teenagers is doing said teenagers a big favour. As if I could have been writing for adults, but instead I went out of my way to do something for the kids. Just because I'm nice.

I'm not nice. Well, not like that. I didn't write my book as a favour to anyone, or to teach anyone anything. I wrote Girl, Aloud to please myself. It was the most fun I've ever had writing. I love writing about teenagers - if we all have an inner child then mine is 15, and she's very pissed off that I grew up and had children and started baking and joining school committees (she's glad I have stuck to my no-ironing policy, and that I still let her eat cola bottles and listen to 80s music). Maybe I wrote it for her.

Recently, the very impressive Steph Bowe of Hey Teenager of the Year tweeted some of her old diary entries from when she was 12 (she's now 15). I laughed out loud at them - they could have been straight out of a Louise Rennison book. I thought: 'Hey, I should dig out my old diary and revisit the Old Me.' And when I did, it gave me a bit more insight into why I love writing from the point-of-view of teenage girls - I was dull. Really, really dull. No juicy extracts here. My inner teenager needs me to write her some better stories because she spent a lot of time sitting at home worrying and stewing and imagining what life was like instead of actually living it.

It's possible I'm being unfair to my old self. I wasn't very good at keeping a diary - maybe on the days that I didn't write in it I was kicking up my heels...but that's not how I remember it. I'll quote one line that sums it all up:

29th November 1990
" social life has been soooo full this month (ha) I just haven't had time to write. I went to one party. Yes! Me! I actually went! It's true! IT WAS CRAP."

So, when I write for teenagers, it's not in an "I'd like to teach the world to sing" kind of way. At 34, I'm simply not over being a teen, so I go back there again and again (in between baking and being on committees). I do it for me.

That said, when I ask myself what the best outcome of having my book published would be, it's simply this: that a teenager other than my inner one has enjoyed it.

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Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Holy Marigold(s)

It's 7pm on the day I gave up housework to see how that might affect my writing life...and it's a monumental disaster, people. I thought that if I stopped mopping the floor or hanging up the washing I'd maybe free up the odd minute for my book - okay, that was a bit optimistic considering the fact that I have a 2 year old at home full-time and that any time he sees I'm not occupied (and, no, typing on my laptop does not count as 'occupied' in his eyes) he says all too sweetly: "Would you like to meet my game?" but I had this fantasy that giving up housework would leave me feeling lively and refreshed at the end of each day and ready to devote my evenings to the novel without feeling as lacking in inspiration as a wrung out J-cloth.

I am exhausted.

The day started well - instead of coming back after the nursery-school-run to get on with chores, I took The Boy out for a babyccino. That was nice. Not exactly 'relaxing' (the babyccino came with a tiny teddy biscuit that was missing an ear...The Boy went nuts about the asymmetry, even when I suggested that we call the bear Van Gogh) but definitely more fun than stacking the dishwasher.

We did the shopping. I was still feeling kinda reckless - the breakfast things were still out for god's sake! - and felt sure I'd be raring to go on the novel by the time I'd put the children to bed.

But it was just after I'd made lunch for three children and sat down for a sarnie myself when the itch, not the lice again, I wanted to DO something. I knew the children wouldn't let me write (noise I can deal with but hanging off my arms is a struggle) so I decided to...make 24 savoury muffins and some puff pastry pizzas. Oh my GOD! What was I thinking?? It was 28 degrees today and there I was sweating away in the kitchen, pouring hot butter all over my right boob (not for fun, I might add) and creating an almighty mess. I told myself I was just testing my anti-housework-powers to the max - ha, I'm not gonna clean you up! I sneered at the kitchen, now sticky with muffin dough.

Then the goods were baked and I knew I had to get out of there before I started cleaning. "Come on! We're going swimming!" I announced. And then I pushed the children and the towels in the misshapen Phil n Teds about 3km uphill to the pool. Did I mention it was 28 degrees? Right, so by the time we had our swim, walked 3km home, and gorged on savoury muffins and puff pastry pizzas, I felt WORSE than I feel after a bog-standard day of housework and childcare. Disaster!

I looked around at the house - bits of paper everywhere, toys-toys-toys, a swarm of ants on a stray bit of muffin crumb, clothes, dishes, aarghhhhh! I couldn't bear it! And yet I had The Experiment to consider, so I casually picked up a couple of things, hoping I wouldn't notice, hoping it wouldn't count. I tried to rope the children in; they tried, they really did (especially when I paid them in gingerbread) but it was no good, I HAD TO GET IN THERE! Before I knew it, the floor was completely clear and I had to admit to myself that I had failed. FAILED not to do HOUSEWORK!

Am I sick?

All I know is that I'm completely knackered and that The Australian is about to walk in from work expecting an almighty mess...and I've got nothing to show for my efforts but a fairly large quantity of savoury picnic treats.

Reader, somehow, without my noticing it, I have become a bit more Van Der Kamp than I intended. I thought I was Scavo! Or, at the very least, Mayer. Tell me there's a cure.

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Monday, 19 October 2009


Housework Ban to commence at 00.00 hours.
Ben linen: clean
Hair: de-liced (nb. no actual lice located...may have been hoax)
Floor: toy-free, raisin-free, Playdoh-free
Dinner tonight: crackers, and some salami we'd forgotten about from...a while ago
The Australian: tetchy
The children: oblivious
Me: ripping off my marigolds with my teeth

Brace yourself, Household, for what happens when: Mummy Goes Experimenting!

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Sunday, 18 October 2009

Nobody Does It Better

I've tried to embrace Australian Idol, really I have, but gawd-blimey-guvnor it's dull as ditchwater compared to the brilliant/awful/brilliantly awful British X-Factor. Thank you, YouTube (nasty won't let me watch the show from Oz). And I can only agree with Simon Cowell when he says, at the end, that it's a bit like watching The Exorcist for the first time: you know you shouldn't put yourself through it but do you want to watch it again? Of course you do.

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Pre-Publication Infestation!

Egads! A spanner in the works only hours before The Experiment II is due to begin. Or rather, not a spanner but a nit. A nit with no wit, crawling in The Girl's golden locks...and so I must avail myself of one of those blasted combs and wash all linen. And try to find the Czech word for 'nit' so I can explain to our houseguest why we suddenly smell like a laboratory. For logistical reasons all this will take place tomorrow, and so I officially declare that the Housework Ban will commence on Tuesday.

Gawd, just when my life was starting to look a bit more glamorous.

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Thursday, 15 October 2009

Two Things I Thought I'd Mention

1. Girl, Aloud will now be available from November... What's that you say? The November that's in just two weeks? Why, yes indeed, that's the November I mean.

2. Inspired by the talented and successful writers I know who claim they don't do any housework, I'm giving it up as an experiment for one week, starting on Monday. I will post before and after photos for your viewing pleasure. When I informed The Australian of my plans, he ran out of the room, yelling "No no no, I don't wanna hear it!" Which seemed to me to provide even more motivation than the thought of a possibly elevated word count. I've a feeling he's going to regret giving the children ALL of his old Lego in one go.

Fun times ahead.

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Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The Experiment

It was gratifying to discover that I have the ability to stay away from the internet for a whole week. (There's a point to this; I'll stop bigging-myself-up in a sec.) I'll be honest: it was really really really really hard. I gave up meat for 10 years but a week without Facebook was tougher.

The soaring word count helped (10k in total), as did the fact that I used my friend Sam as a replacement for Wikipedia. Of course the downside is that I now know precisely how much time I waste each week on the Net, and should probably give it up for good. Or maybe Monday - Friday, like my wheat ban. God, what is it with me and bans? Could be a throwback to my Catholic upbringing: confession, mini-Lent, absolution.

But it's over. If I do it again it won't be for a little while. Think how many wedding photos of people I don't really know I'd miss! And all the blank spaces in my manuscript where I had to write "Google this". Giving up for good is not an option. So I've started to make a list of other things I could give up in order to create more time for writing.

1. Housework. Obviously. Maybe houses eventually become self-cleaning, like hair. Has anyone tried?
2. Showering...not only would this give me approx. an hour a week, it would also act as a social barrier, giving me more time to myself.
3. Cooking. We could live on KFC "mashies". I bet the Great Writers of Yore would have made such a sacrifice for their Art.
4. Social Life. I've put this at the bottom because in reality this would only free up an average of five minutes per week.

Don't even think about suggesting "the telly" - there's a new series of House for pity's sake! My writing isn't that important...

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