What a Day!

Well folks my Grafton Media Blog Awards Ireland journey has ended for this year – as I haven’t made the finals. Big thanks to the organisers who have been working very hard. And they’re not finished yet! Congratulations and best of luck to all the finalists! Keep an eye on #bloggm for further updates.

Despite the disappointment, yesterday was a fantastic day. I spent it at a Carousel Creates Writer’s Retreat. It’s a fabulous place in the most idyllic setting. The views are as promised, inspiring.  I met a small group of writers, all at different ages and stages of life and writing. It was great to chat and learn from others. There was plenty of coffee, lovely food and a walk up towards (but not all the way to) the Hell Fire Club. (For those not familiar with the HFC, its an old building with some interesting history, perched on Montpelier Hill in the Dublin /Wicklow mountains – google at will ;))

One of the beautiful views I could see as I was writing and thinking about writing 😀

The main aim of the day was to get some serious writing done. So although we walked, talked and ate, we spent most of out time typing/writing away. I had asked on FB and Tw for suggestions for titles of short pieces to write in the morning session. I wanted to see how well I could ‘write on demand’. I’m used to being able to pick my own titles… So of the long list I ended up with, I picked 4.

This is normal life, it’s not easy – suggested by Trish Nugent
The hardest thing I ever had to do – suggested by Karen Mulreid
There’s a mouse in the house – suggested by errrr, can’t remember (or find it on FB/Tw)
The Redemption of Knicker Elastic – suggested by Rhoda Doyle Yeomans

There’s some voting on FB as to which one goes up first… add a comment if you want to pick one. There were plenty more and I’ve added them to my pot of ideas for the future. 🙂

I had decided that in the afternoon, I was going to spend time thinking about the ‘humour’ side of stuff I write and try to work out if it’s something I can do ‘on demand’ or something I can only do spontaneously when I’m in a good mood. But a conversation at lunch changed all that. We started to talk about Moone Boy; how Chris O’Dowd had written this story based on his childhood, but not totally autobiographical.

Me and my niece around 1978 I think…

That got me thinking about a biography based on my dad’s life rather than a real life biography. But then with so many in the family it would take me years to get the ok for each chapter 😉 Then I thought… well someone else then! Who’s life can I write about that I won’t have to get the ok for? Oh… yeah… me..! So I spent the afternoon randomly scribbling the first few thoughts on a story based on my own childhood. I took memories that I have and merged them with a bit of made-up stuff. I genuinely don’t know if I have a talent for fiction but I think this is worth giving a go. Who know… I may end up with classic… Moone Girl maybe? I might even drum up the courage to post a section of it on the fiction blog… someday!

I ended yesterday with a host of new ideas. It was a great salve to the ouch of not getting into the finals. So… I shall write on 😉

A vote for Amo is a vote for… well… just Amo actually… :D

I’ve never looked good on canvas…

I’ve been trying not to go overboard on the whole “vote for me” thing, but it seems my vague references to the voting procedure are not helpful! Particularly to the technophobes in my family who don’t know their hashtags from their URLs!

So here’s the skinny.. the gen… the suss… the story… and the instructions.

For the Best Personal Blog category – well your work there is done. The Grafton Media Blog Awards judges are almost done voting. The numbers are being counted this week and the finalist list will be announced on Friday! If I believed in luck I’d ask yiz all to cross everything, but sure you know me… 🙂

For Best Blog Post – you have 9 days to get me in to the final 10 entries. Now at this stage it’s nigh on impossible as I’m about 40th at the mo. But I’m still in and you can vote this week and next week if you like.

You’ve got to click on the link below – It takes you to a page. You scroll down to where it says “Just another Christian woman talking through her hat…
You click on the little circle.
Then scroll down to the bottom of the page and click vote.
To be clear … clicking ‘like’ here or on Facebook doesn’t count

The link to go vote is here

The post is “A Tribute to my 27 Nieces and Nephews” – to read it click here – you might want to before voting for it! 😀

Make sure to go to the FB page if you wanna vote for this pic 😀

Now ANOTHER vote you can give me is for the pic I submitted to win 2 tickets to the awards night.  Go to this Facebook page and have a look at the pics. Mine is on the last page (page 4) and it’s of me! looking fabliss 😀 There’s a little tickbox to vote on the pic.

SO all modesty shunned, giz an oul vote and shure you never know…

I’ve a bottle of champagne in the fridge from my 40th birthday in March. If I get on to the finalists list of the Best Personal Blog category, I’ll be cracking it open and when it’s empty I’ll write a blog post straight away – or maybe not 😀

A Review of Some Holiday Reading #1 The Terrace by Maria Duffy

Drenched to the bone on hols but who cares 🙂

So am back after a lovely few days away in the west of Ireland. Kerry really is beautiful! On Monday we got soaked to the skin and on Wednesday I got sunburn! We had a great time.

Anyway… more of that anon. I can’t go any further without doing a little happy dance that I’ve made the shortlist of the Grafton Media Blog Awards 2012. Thanks so much to those who nominated me and to the judges for putting me through. I am shocked and delighted in fairly equal measure. There’s 3 weeks til the finalist list is announced but that little blue and brown badge will do me nicely! 🙂

Even though I’ve been blogging for more than 5 years now, the ‘I want to write!’ thing is still quite new to me. I’ve read almost every ‘How to be a better blogger/writer etc’ article that I’ve spotted. Some of it seems nonsense to me but there are some gems that I’ve gleaned and stored away for further peruuuuuusal! 😀 But there’s one tip that has been on almost every list. And that is – if you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader.

All I’ve been reading for the past few years are theology books. (Apart from the odd holiday indulgence and my annual read of Pride and Prejudice.) In 2007 I decided to actually FINISH my Theology degree (after starting in 1994) and then went straight on to do my Masters, which I’m currently in the middle of. So everytime some one recommends a great book, all I can think of is the pile of textbooks I should be wading through. But I’ve decided that I have to read other stuff so am now always going to have one non M.A. book on my reading list.

I got a head start while we were away and read two books. So I thought I’d do a couple of reviews. I should say I’m well aware I’m an ‘aspiring’ writer and these are just my own personal views on what I’ve read. There is a little voice whispering to me… “Who are you to review anyone’s book Amo?! You haven’t a clue what you’re talking about!” But that is the same voice that tells me not to write, not to like what I write, not to like myself and to deep fry everything before I eat it! So I’m going to ignore it 😉 Here’s the first one…

The Terrace by Maria Duffy
As I’m from ‘old Tallaght’ the heartwarming, neighbourly feel of The Terrace reminded me of my childhood. I could see my mam at the gate talking to neighbours as they passed by. The Terrace is about just that – a row of houses, the people that live in them, and the connections between them. There’s a ‘days of old’ open-door culture throughout the book that again, reminded me of my childhood. A lot of the story centres round the other thing that binds them – the missing lottery ticket that someone in the syndicate has, but no one can remember who…!

I am quite convinced that Maria Duffy could walk into the conference room where the script writers of Coronation Street/Eastenders/Hollyoaks/Fair City are gathered, and immediately take her place as part of the team. I reckon that if you like your soaps, then The Terrace is the book for you.
The problem is… I don’t! I gave up on soaps years ago and much prefer my intrigue to be about whether the President’s special advisor is actually the baddie who stole the launch codes – rather than, who had a drunken fumble with who after the pub last night. It’s a preference thing, I know.

I did tire a little of the popping in to each other for tea… and wanted things to move a bit faster. But there are two things about this book which I loved and applaud Maria for.

One is that I consider it an honest and real portrayal of how money affects things. The lost lottery ticket caused a lot of trouble. Accusation and counter-accusation rolled around the houses on the terrace as suspicion fell on almost everyone at some stage. Suddenly this tight-knit community that trusted each other with everything, began to lose their faith in each another and (mis) interpreted every move. Not only that, they began to lose faith in the community itself.
It’s the reason lawyers tell families to put stuff in writing and the reason that God warns us not to love it too much… money changes us!

The other is the fact that Maria does one thing that the soaps tend not to. She portrays marriage as worth fighting for. One of the reasons I hate the soaps is that everything is so temporary and someone can be madly and passionately in love with someone and a few weeks later be equally madly and passionately in love with someone else. Family ties and relationships are strong in The Terrace. They’re worth working at even in the midst of a whole heap of misunderstanding, temptation and heartache. And that is another part of our ‘once upon a time’ culture that is in danger of dying. But it’s alive and well in The Terrace.

Not my usual genre, but a great read. All the more special having met the beautiful lady who wrote it.

The Terrace by Maria Duffy is published by Hachette Ireland. It’s available on Amazon (including a Kindle version) but also available in all good bookshops – so I say, go support your local one 😉

More T.V. Vicar?

In case you didn’t read the previous post (and shame on you btw :D) I should mention that I was one of a number of bloggers who were set a challenge to write a post using two words randomly pulled out of a hat… and my two were ‘sandwich’ and intrigue’. So here we go…

Recently I tried to think of a vicar/priest/minister that isn’t portrayed as ridiculous or nasty in film/TV/literature. I’m not one of those people who hears about something that is hailed to be “disgraceful and offensive” to Christians and then goes looking for it so I can see how disgraceful it is and how offended I am! I do confess to being quite curious when I hear of the outrageous stuff, but I tend not to get too worked up.

From the funny, but hopefully inaccurate, Welsh vicar ranting about sandwiches, (you can see the clip here – just to check how offensive/funny you do/don’t find it – delete as appropriate) to the sinister scenes of intrigue and conspiracy with plotting bishops and assassin priests in The Da Vinci Code – your choice seems to be… wally or baddie. (Other clerical baddies include Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers and Dan Brown wheels them out again in Angels and Demons)

As much as I loved The Vicar of Dibley, she was a bit more sex mad than a single woman of the cloth is probably supposed to be. And there’s a whole host (pardon the pun) of poor hapless priests and vicars to choose from. Four Weddings and a Funeral has that great wedding ceremony scene with Rowan Atkinson. Jane Austen’s father was a minister, and a good one at that (supposedly anyway – I never met him myself), yet pretty much anytime she wrote a vicar/curate into one of her books, he was silly and vain. There seems to be no end of incompetence. Programmes like Rev, Jam & Jerusalem, Keeping Up Appearances, Killinascully – they all have these bumbling halfwit clergymen! And then there’s Father Ted…

I’m not saying they’re not funny or well written. OK some more than others, but they are often very funny and in some cases scarily well written. Tell me, people of Ireland, how many of the priests in Father Ted are you sure you’ve met at some stage in your life!

So, I’m waving a banner. Just to say that there are many good, faithful, hardworking men and women out there. Serving God, serving the church and serving the community. Just in case there is someone somewhere wondering whether church leaders are all wallies and baddies. My answer is a resounding… CERTAINLY NOT! Well… not all 🙂

In a little nod to the restoration of faith in the faithful, let me quote just a few lines from Series 1, Episode 5 of Jam and Jerusalem. The doctor’s receptionist ‘Tipp’ (played by the wonderful Pauline McGlynn, of Mrs.Doyle fame) is talking to the local Church of England vicar about how she was,

“raised by nuns in a cold convent, in southern Ireland.”
“Yes, it must have been dreadful.” came the Vicar’s half-hearted reply.
“No, actually. It was lovely.” answered Tipp. “I won’t have a word said against them! But THAT won’t win you the Booker Prize will it?”

I know the feelin’ missis 😀

Writing? Ahh sure it’s like falling off a blog!

I went to the launch of the Grafton Media Blog Awards Ireland last night. It was also the 2nd birthday party of the #klck (Kilkenny, Laois, Carlow, Kildare) Bloggers Network. It was a great night. Met a few I’d met before and met some Twitter buds face to face for the first time.

These are similar to the scratches on my knee but not as bad as the dent in my ego

The grape was flowing and there was some very nice food. We’d a few short presentations and some quick, fun blogging games. It was great craic!

BUT… 2 things happened that weren’t so great…

First… as me & himself were leaving, I tripped over a cobble stoney thing and went flying. And I mean flying! I remember saying out loud in some bizarre alien voice… “ohhhh nooooo!” as the path sped towards me. My phone in my hand, I had to fling it to try save myself & the thought flashed through my mind…. “I hope that new iphone cover is as good they said it would be…” CRASH!!!!!

Before I knew it, a man who I knew wasn’t the one I’d arrived with, was making sure I hadn’t broken my leg (while I was hoping someone was making sure I hadn’t broken my phone). With effort in greater proportion to the man, he managed to pick me up, and I was half way home when I realised he’d been at the awards and he’d been in the LIFT as we were leaving. I found him on Twitter & suitably mortified, thanked him – for all my 735 followers to see!

Second… I thought the awards had made me forget how to blog! I had been working all day and pondering on a blog post for this evening but… nada! Nothing, not a thing to say. Didn’t even think that the ‘falling over’ story was worth telling. Although reading it back, why I thought you lot wouldn’t LOVE IT, I don’t know! 🙂

So on Facebook, I asked for a subject to help me get writing and my mate Matt from Kent sent me this one… “why so many people are now feeling the need to blog. Blogs everywhere.”

Why so many blogs? I don’t really know Matt. Sorry. bye…. 🙂

It’s a good question though and I actually don’t know the answer. There are 28 different categories in this year’s awards. So does that mean there are at least 28 reasons?  At the launch we had a representative from the Irish Internet Association. Her main connection to blogging is within the buisiness community – which seems to be a huge area of blogging! It’s said to be a great way of connecting a buisness to its customers in a more personal, regular and direct way.

In a few of the million articles I’ve read on blogging lately (sorry I can’t ref them…) it said that authors use blogs to stay connected with their fans in between books. They often put teasers and snippets on their blog to have their readers eager to buy their books once published.  Other categories in the awards include, personal, lifestyle, music, journalist, popculture, food/drink, eco/green, arts/culture, photography, sports/recreation, humour, craft….

I think for professionals, it’s a marketing tool and a great way of more regularly connecting with customers. It’s also a great way of having a section of your business website that is always changing. But for the rest of us, it’s a way of sharing thoughts & interests. building a reputation for humour & story telling and also for sharing & gaining expertise.

For me personally… ? Well mine is a combination of things. I love writing and I want to be better at it, so it’s good practice. I enjoy writing humour – usually about myself (not cos I think I’m funnier than anyone else – I just seem to fall over more often!) Combined with that is my desire to work out my salvation in fear and trembling (as the Bible says in Philippians 2v12) You won’t find deep Christian theology on this blog. It’s more about the stuff I believe and how I work that out on this bizarre journey that is my life. I use mine to say out loud some of the stuff rolling around my head. Some people appreciate it, many don’t. But saying it out loud certainly helps me think through things.

Not sure If I’ve really answered your question Matt. What I do know is that you are right! “Blogs everywhere.” There were 2000 nominations in the awards. Click here if you’d like to see the Long List.  If that’s too many to skim through, take a quick look here. @limmster who has also been nominted in the awards, has put a number of Irish blogs on her #pinterest page. You’ll find mine there if you look carefully.  (Look for a pic of Katie Taylor 😀 ) It’s a great quick look at the range of different blogs in Ireland. I’m not a lover of Pinterest but that page is quite striking. Thanks to Belle for letting me mention her here 🙂

And thanks to you Matt! You got me writing this evening which I needed to do.

An Intriguing Sandwich – I’ll try not to ham it up too much! I know… I’m a hoot!

Oh and one of the games that we played last night got a few bloggers to come up to the front, grab words out of a hat and using those words, we have to write a blog post within the next week! So I won’t need help with the next blog post! It’ll have at least one of my favourite words in it…