What makes you happy?
Languages, coffee, books, learning, wine, food and travel.
What makes you happy?
Languages, coffee, books, learning, wine, food and travel.
Meet Dippy the Diplodocus. He’s on tour around the UK having left the Natural History Museum in London for the first time since 1905. His show is on the road until 2020 and is next heading to Newcastle on 18th May, having just wrapped up a several month stint in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.
Dippy is a beautiful big beastie who originally roamed the earth 150 million years ago, munching on leaves and hanging out with his dino friends. I can’t help but be reminded of The Land Before Time and Disney’s Dinosaur, so excuse me while I wipe away my tears.
If you are a paleo purist (ancient bones, not the diet) then maybe Dippy wasn’t your thing, he is a replica – plaster cast of the original Dippy in residence in Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History. However, I don’t care, because it’s thanks to Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish-American industrialist and philanthropist, that we over here have a Dippy to look at! Carnegie financed the excavation of Dippy in Wyoming in 1899 and they later discovered it was a new species, thus named the
Diplodocus carnegii. As a favour to King Edward VII, Carnegie faithfully reproduced the bones of the original at the cost of $2000 back in 1902 and gifted them to the Natural History museum in London.
Most people know how much Kelvingrove means to me, it’s my hang out place when I can get there; where my interests in art, history and old buildings converges so for that to be the temporary home of Dippy’s Scottish visit, I couldn’t have asked for more. Picture it, me in all my 30 years turning up with my pater and the two of us nerding out worse than the kids swarming around.
Even though the photos show other people as scale, it still doesn’t do justice to how massive Dippy actually is. He towered over the adults, nevermind the kids and weighs in at a hefty 20,000kg (alive, I’m sure).
I had to zoom in to get his wee face, and felt so small and insignificant. Really makes me wonder about people who deny the existence of dinosaurs – we might mostly be top of the food chain these days, but we’re all fairly tiny and annoying.
It was a great day out to visit Dippy and I can only hope that there have been countless children inspired by seeing him. I may have ended up at the merch shop and may have acquired a Dippy soft toy for a small fortune…
Kelvingrove is a free-entry museum and is open nearly all year-round from 10/11-5pm everyday. There are accessible entry points from both the Argyle Street and car park entrance. There are two cafés serving hot and cold drinks and light foods, the basement café serving meals as well. The basement features different installations and the two gift shops sell the permanent and temporary merchandise. There is artwork from Dalí and the Dutch Masters to the exhibits of Ancient Egypt and Scottish Wildlife, so there is definitely something for all to see.
First things first, my last post was officially my 100th post! Woo hoo! I think I’m happy with it, or maybe I believed I’d posted more. Anyway, here’s to another hundred.
Monday was the recommencement of the Monday study sessions in town. My Italian class starts back next week, so I used this time to haul my laptop and notebooks with me to work on my Creative Writing assessment. It was a fairly early start (for me) and I was in the library for 12pm and a giant coffee to get things started. Unfortunately, for the first few hours we had to make do with a drafty round table, but later we got using a booth (not the usual one, but good enough). I’m a bit like Rory needing her study tree, I’m a creature of habit!
I’m terrible for procrastinating, even when something is right in front of me to be done. I also put it down to being more of an evening, nighttime worker but needs must and since being ill my sleeping pattern has improved somewhat. But I had my checklists and tried not to overdo the pressure with the tasks I wanted to complete yesterday. In the end wrote 1700 words for my assessment which is sufficient as the bones of a first draft, it’s not due until the end of January but I can’t leave it because who knows what is around the corner.
The great thing about this library is that it is much warmer than the one in Aberdeen. Granted I felt chilly at points throughout the day, but most of that was to do with the draft from the door way and my brain wanting to curl up and go back to bed.
My plan now is to rework the draft into something I can share to the forums for feedback (I missed the workshop deadline – didn’t have anything to submit), then I have to start worrying about the commentary. It’s a horrible exercise of only 500 words which I apparently still don’t have the hang of. I ought to message my tutor for help, but what can she tell me that hasn’t already been shared in our groups online?
I need to remember more study snacks for the next library session, I had some food, but there’s nothing dairy-free or vegan as options at the coffee shop or canteen as a snack and the vending machines were empty too. You might recognise me on the next trip though, I’ll be the bag-lady laden down with laptop and books and a tote-bag full of food.
Yesterday was the first day I finally felt better, and to crack on with my every growing pile of work. So, naturally a study-date was called for. Unfortunately, the uni is still in Christmas holiday mode, I arrived on campus and found the library open but no coffee outlets, no food, and empty vending machines. Like the apocalypse.
I met my study buddy at her flat and after going foraging for food at Sainsbury’s we came back, ate and attempted to work. Yes, it took a while to get back into the swing of things, but as I had tried to be kinder to myself with my to-do list I did all right.
My next assessment is at the end of January, I do essentially know what I’m doing now, it’s just doing it that’s the problem and the most time-consuming part. As I remembered from the last assessment, the bibliography is the most awkward bit, because of formatting and remembering everything I read and skimmed over the last few months. I’m glad I started it and have at least the bones and formatting down, just minor information points and a few other sources to reference, otherwise it’s taking care of itself. Still hate writing the commentary though, it’s only 500 words and I’m wordy dammit!
I missed the deadline for the workshop for the second block, unfortunately they’ve been appearing earlier this year and I had nothing to submit, not even a semi-formed idea… in part due to the beating I took from the last assessment. I’ve tried not to take the criticism too personally, perhaps the genre of my work isn’t to my tutor’s liking or… I don’t know. Alas, I’m attempting this assignment from a different angle; I made a list of all the technical points we covered in this block and constructed a chapter where I was actively trying to include many of these points in it. I understand that the assessments are to see how we’re managing with the new topics learnt and if we are able to weave them into our own work… Which is fine, but I think others in my class are as frustrated at not being able to crack on with longer pieces to see how we are developing as writers and not trying to hit bullet points in a marking scheme.
Just my thoughts. Next study date is tomorrow, but I’ve a ton to get on with later tonight. Italian class starts back next week! I’m planning to start a new series of blog posts related to Italian grammar, at the very least to keep it fresh in my head!
Drinking: Black Coffee
Listening to: You look so fine – Garbage
As I announced a few weeks ago, Amazon Academy was returning to Scotland for a second year, and bringing the Author Academy along again!
March 17th was a perfect day for the event (not least because I was on a holiday from work, but I’d submitted my third assessment a few days prior), the sun was scorching from first thing in the morning – and it was dry! Well, ish.
The event was held at the SECC out by Finneston in Glasgow, so while it wasn’t quite the schlep to Edinburgh like last year, it still takes me about an hour on the bus to get out to that end of town, plus there’s a bit of an underestimated walk through the tunnel to the conference centre.
I got there in plenty of time, and was quickly regretting the bundle of coats, though it was raining a little just as I exited the tunnel and had to charge into the main building. There was a little time of waiting around, unlike in Edinburgh where we were welcomed early with seats, this was standing around the main foyer. It didn’t matter too much, soon they let us in, and the event staff were far more vigilant about arrivals this year – each person’s name had to be checked off on a phone/tablet list of guests.
Somewhat akin to last year, I was misdirected. I don’t know if there is something magical that happens when I speak and no one hears what I’ve actually said, or simply if the workers themselves forgot that the Author Academy was an equal yet separate event. So there was a snafu with checking off my name, involving me clarifying to a second person that it was the Author Academy I’d signed up for. I got checked off, but still wasn’t given a name tag, and the first person instructed me to go right into the main hall. Hmm.
Arrived in the main hall area where they were serving coffee and FRUIT?! I’m sorry, as healthy as they were trying to make us, can you imagine how awkward it would be networking and meeting new people while trying to peel a tangerine or talk with a banana in your mouth? Alas, I asked in this room for my name tag and lo and behold, there wasn’t one. A girl with horrendously high-heels shuffled to the far end of the tables to get me a blank one and I was faced with a handwritten name tag for the second year. I asked someone else where the Author event was taking place and it was way back through the main entrance and around… blah blah blah.
I was about to go hunting when a nice lady came up to me to chat; M, she’d heard me talking about the KDP and we quickly struck up a convo about writing, travelling, and writing about travelling (she’s a travel writer and photographer) and before I knew it, the coffee break was over and it was time to head to our conference room.
Can you guess what happened? As we were being herded along another corridor, I was called out by security for not having a GREEN badge on (I knew it was wrong!) but he insisted that I go get the right badge before he’d let me through. Argh! Thus it involved more frantic displays of power from the event staff as I found my right badge with my name and they are yelling at me that I need to be checked in (“I’m ALREADY CHECKED IN!!”) And whoosh! Back through the right door. M and I sat against the back wall of the room as it was fairly stuffy and we didn’t want to be sardine squish in the centre seats. I sighed. Already exhausted and very uncomfortable, plus all the drama meant I hadn’t gotten any coffee at all… Le sigh.
Beyond that, the talks were good, much the same as last year but with a few updates: paperback printing has done fairly well (not a lot of money in it for the writers, but some customers prefer to have the option) and proof and author copies are now available to purchase at cost price.
There were a few familiar faces from last year, Steven A. McKay and Linda Gillard who were joined this year by L.J. Ross and Barry Hutchison all introduced by Darren Hardy, the head of KDP. The whole panel were wonderful and gave plenty of great advice for getting started (Just write!) and while discussing the merits to publishing with Kindle Direct Publishing, they were very sincere that it’s so easy and with 70% royalties you’d be mad to even attempt traditional publishing. Barry gave a great example of this, he thought he’d hit the motherload when Asda wanted to bulk purchase his books to go into their stores, 10,000 copies no less – until six months later when he received the royalty cheque for a measly £200 (£0.02 a copy)!
Linda spoke again about how she started as a traditionally published author yet after a couple of books the publisher complained that her work was mixing and crossing genres and could not possibly be sold – yet has become a bestseller on Kindle. Thankfully with Kindle as you are marketing your own work, there is less pressure to write to a specific singular genre. Additionally that was another thing Barry touched on, he had published a children’s book which coincidentally came out at the same time as a David Walliams book and the publisher put all their effort into promoting the latter’s book rather than Barry’s! Might as well DIY it all!
L.J. Ross was the one who surprised me the most, having only published her first book in January 2015 she is about to now publish her 8th book and has sold over 475,000 copies of her books via KDP! Her books are crime fiction set around her hometown area of Northumberland and have proved vastly popular, scaling the best seller lists in their genre and many features within mainstream newspapers. Plus she writes a new book in around 4 months… boy do I feel lazy.
There was a mid-morning coffee break which allowed for some more chat and mingling, then an hour for lunch served in the main hall. I had forgotten to message the venue before hand and was a bit concerned that there might not be anything for me to eat. At last year’s event I hadn’t known there would be lunch but the two options were salmon (which I like, but I can’t eat hot fish) and a pasta stuffed with ricotta cheese. I ate with trepidation last year, but since I’ve been completely dairy free for nearly a year now, I knew better than to attempt anything with dairy. Alas, my fears were unfounded as the caterers had provided a wide variety (about 5 different options) of food. They were served in tiny bowls, like ramekins, but I was just so thrilled at there being a vegan option, Spinach and Chickpea curry with rice (I’ve been hunting down the recipe to make this myself and I forgot to take a picture!). It was a mild, creamy curry sauce but with the right consistency I could tell it was definitely vegan, much like my vegan cheese sauce I make at home. As we had entered the hall, M noticed how many name tags still lay uncollected on the tables. I guess that is the problem with free events that people sign up and may not bother to turn up, missing out on all the free stuff allocated to them. Because there were so many no-shows, the catering staff had a ton of uneaten food still to punt, so were wandering around with trays asking if we wanted extras! I did, despite worrying about being polite in company, I couldn’t pretend that one tiny bowl had filled me… so a second was needed. (To be fair, I could have eaten ten!) The vegan desert option was fruit salad, of which I’m not always keen on the weirder fruits but I ate it anyway, still had room to fill.
We got chatting to another lady, much to my surprise I discovered she lives just down the road from me! Lunch flew by so quickly and it was time to go back for the last panel of the day. This was very much a recap of last year as well, dealing with the business side of things, creating a blog, running a newsletter and facebook group, getting the word out about your writing. The most important point made, however, was just to keep writing. Don’t get so bogged down in the business or promotion side of things that you have only one book to talk about – get more books written so ultimately the more you can earn and sell.
A great piece of advice was from L.J. Ross, who said that if you are writing a series, make sure that you have most of the second book done before putting the first book on sale, as fans will be chomping-at-the-bit to read more. It does make sense, including why so many readers are more invested in Kindle series, not having to wait two years on the publisher to hand out the sequel, instead getting it in a few months almost as soon as the author is finished polishing.
After the last panel, we were treated to another networking time, with complementary prosecco and Birra Morretti (vegan). I grabbed a glass of fizz and talked with a few girls I’d met earlier, passed out some business cards and looked at the selection of promo material on the tables.
Now I must point out, I was zonked even though it was barely even 3 in the afternoon, I’d been up since half-five and spent the whole day surrounded by huge crowds of people (far out of my comfort zone). I think the Prosecco hit me a little fast, I could feel my cheeks burning already… but then I noticed someone lying a few books on one of the tables and decided to do my nosy.
Someone swiped one copy right away and I felt bad pawing the only remaining copy, it was Wolf’s Head by one of the panellists, Steven, the first book in his Forest Lord series featuring Robin Hood!
While I was deliberating to take the book or not, a lady sidled up to me and asked if I wanted it signed, I froze, then she told me, “I’m his mother!” That warranted a laugh, I can totally see my mum doing that in the future.
So I got the chance to meet Steven, he signed my copy, I managed to speak in English the whole time (had been singing Italian songs on the bus on the way there), mentioned seeing him last year, thanked him for his time and discovered that he also did Creative Writing at the OU (small world, a sign perhaps?). Then the Prosecco and sleep deprivation had hit me too hard and it was time to call it a day on the event.
It was a scorching day when I left, too hot too quickly though, and I melted further on my way back up the tunnel to the bus stop.
But you know what?
It was all totally worth it! Great fun, met knew people, didn’t spend a penny the whole day, and I left feeling bouncy and inspired. I have a plan!
Roll on Year 3!
Woke up early yesterday thanks to all the drilling works right outside my window from 9am!
I arrived at the gym for about 12pm and got stuck in right away, I did 31 minutes on the rowing machine which I haven’t done for a few years; walked for 20 minutes on the treadmill and did loads of Lat Pull Downs and variations. After that I went to Caffe Nero and got my favourite Soya steamer with Cinnamon syrup, a perfect winter drink and a bit protein hit. Yum.
Later I met Padre in town and I was craving sushi so we went to Ichiban, of course! Followed that by an impromptu trip to Tim Hortons for timbits (see above) and a cappuccino in Waterstones while staring at all the books I want.
Naturally we meandered back up town and ended up in Molly Malone’s – seriously go, the food is great and cheap and the atmosphere is so chill. I debated what to drink but chose the small bottle of Prosecco, it was only £4.99 and I got about three small flutes out of it! Bazinga!
It was a great day/night out just to hang without rushing around or stressing about work. Now I’ve just had a Timbits breakfast and a big coffee (see below)
I’m staying inside today because the rain is bucketing down and my muscles are aching. Ended up doing nearly 12k steps last night and had some chippy chips as a reward.
I’ve been watching Suits this afternoon. Tis awesome.
Off to have a Slim Fast and get some writing done!