#DystoniaAroundTheWorld Challenge, Dystonia Around the World Challenge, Short story, Writing journey

Short Story: Old Jax’s Quilt by Kate Kenzie

Short Story: Old Jax’s Quilt by Kate Kenzie

PUBLISHED ON 

September was dystonia awareness month and time for the fundraising challenge, Dystonia Around the World. I promised to write a short story if the target of £100 was reached and here it is. For those at the Enchanted Emporium, it is about the Willow’s grandmother, Old Jax from a small village in the Yorkshire Moors. I hope you enjoy.

If you do, why not make a small donation to Dystonia UK – here. £1 can make a huge difference in providing support and research possibilities into this neurological condition.

Happy reading!

Illustration of a child covered with a quilt on a crescent moon
Image by Oberholster Venita from Pixabay

Old Jax’s Quilt by Kate Kenzie

          Early 1980s   

Hettie didn’t need the fragrance of sweet apple drifting through the open window to tell her something was amiss. Earlier, she’d accidentally snipped an inch from the end off one of her plaits while cutting fabric into squares and now Jenny Ramshaw cursed as she stitched her skirt into the quilt she was making. Aunt Mildred mutterings were also louder than normal. Not that anyone else heard or saw her. Only Hettie had the pleasure of possessing that “special gift”, apart from one other who was now in the village.

Hettie’s needle came free from the thread, fell, and rolled across the wooden floor sloping towards the window. The problem with old ramshackle buildings was nothing stayed where it belonged, with or without spectral help.

“It wasn’t me,” Mildred huffed. Her translucent form joined Hettie as she picked up the needle. “But while we’re here, you may as well look. You know you want to.”

The high street below was quiet. Even the Jack Russell outside the village shop resisted his usual incessant yap. He stood still looking toward the top of the hill, waiting as Hettie was. A circling crow landed on the roof opposite and did the same. A figure appeared on the horizon.

“She won’t come in, you know,” said Jenny recognising the signs of Hettie’s discomfort. “She never does.”

“Aye,” another of the sewing circle agreed. “She’ll pop into Pritchard’s place, pay her bill and be gone.”

“No. Too early for that,” said Clara Turner, the newest and youngest member of the circle. “Pritchard sends the bills out at month’s end. Besides, Old Jax just pops a cheque out for our Larry to collect.”

Roland Pritchard ran the newsagent that vowed to sell everything you ever needed, and Hettie knew he wasn’t the reason for the visit. Not when the thirteen-year-old paper kid, Larry, remained unfazed about cycling up the back lanes to the isolated farm at the edge of the village. Few ventured that way, but there was always one in the younger cohort brave or desperate enough for money to deal with the old crone from Speedwell Cottage.

“Whatever the reason, it’s nowt to do with us, Hettie. If you’re not sewing, you can make us another cuppa. We’re parched.”

With tea now served, Hettie joined the chatting group of women basting the large quilt together. Her ex, Tommy, once complained the sewing circle resembled a coven, but she didn’t take offence. Many members were distant descendants of the witches once scattered across the county by fear centuries before, but any magical abilities in the bloodline were now so diluted they’d become redundant. Unless you counted the occasional blown fuses when they all got together or the faint whispers in the air from seamstresses past. Tommy also said he couldn’t wait to leave this godforsaken place. Now that statement was unfair. Everyone who knew the history of Mexenby knew it was blessed,  just not by the conventional god. Was it Hecate? Or  was it Brigid? This was often up for debate. Only one person knew the answer and now she was coming their way.

The bell tinkled as the shop door flung open. The incoming customer was never one for subtlety and Hettie heard several thuds of feet descending the stairs behind her. No one wanted to miss this encounter and the electricity in the air mirrored their anticipation.

 “Jax,” said Hetty to the stooped woman whose hands were as gnarly as the stick they clasped. Thin and frail, her veneer of vulnerability fooled no one except newcomers or tourists to the village. Everyone knew she was capable of single handily helping sick or lost sheep on the moors and farmed her smallholding alone. Jax never accepted anyone’s help and ignored the villagers as they did her unless a specific need drew them up the lane.

Jax offered a brief nod, but her silvery eyes flashed, warning Hettie not to get too close – not that she wanted to. The pungent lingering whiff of sheep was enough to make her keep her distance. 

The click of the stick’s brass ferrule echoed around the small shop, muffled only by the endless bolts of fabric lining the walls. Hettie couldn’t resist a new design, a new hue and pattern she’d not seen before. Every time a salesman visited with a suitcase full of samples, she was in heaven. Despite Aunt Mildred’s warnings that people didn’t want that “overpriced fancy stuff” when a cheaper synthetic fabric would do, Hettie chose with her heart rather than her head. Yes, some customers wanted budget material, thread to fix clothes or ribbon to add a finishing touch, but others like her wanted more. Under Hettie’s care, the little haberdashery flourished. It lured people countywide to buy fabric for that extra special quilt, a unique pattern or just to be inspired. Forget bibliosmia, fabric had its own legion of fans. The refreshing smell of cotton and starch, combined with the dazzling array of colour, hypnotised visitors. Their clean hands trailed over the rolls of crisp linen, baby soft brushed cotton and silky-smooth satin. The quality and texture urged them to spend.

Hettie studied Jax’s hand tapping her stick, the only sign Hettie could see that the old woman was uncomfortable in her surroundings. Calloused and twisted from years of manual labour, mud encrusted every nail and a tide mark of muck circled each cuff. Jax extended her arm towards a delicate yellow fabric. This was too much. Those hands mustn’t touch Hettie’s wares! If smudged with farmyard dirt, they could never be cleaned, and would have to be discarded in the reject bin at a reduced cost. 

Aunt Mildred screeched in her ear, “Move.”

Hettie shot across the floor, snatched the roll away from danger and held it tight against her chest. 

“Are you looking for anything in particular, Jax?” Hettie smiled despite the thunderous scowl on the old woman’s face. While the huddle of sewers eagerly waited for Jax’s response, Hettie stood her ground. Whatever renowned reputation Jax held, this was Hettie’s shop, and no one caressed her fabric with grubby hands, not even the infamous witch of Mexenby.

Jax leaned back on her staff and scrutinised Hettie. Her skin prickled cold under Jax’s intense stare, but she grasped the fabric tighter and met the gaze head on. To her surprise, Jax blinked, and her shoulders dropped.

“I need fabric. For a girl,” she snapped. “Something pretty. Soft.”

“Something like this? For a dress?” Hettie enquired, knowing the sewing group longed to know more. After decades of hiding on her farm, Jax’s appearance in this shop must mean something. Any juicy titbits to share over coffee were a small ask. 

Jax remained guarded. “A blanket. Something like that.” She pointed to a sample quilt hanging on the wall, a complex interlocking design that took Hettie many evenings and shop hours to complete. 

Hettie’s eyes washed over Jax’s clothes for clues that she would be up to the task which even advanced quilters cursed. Rising from mud splattered boots, heavily darned woollen tights covered Jax’s whippet thin legs, and her thick drab skirt and coat showcased similar repairs. A hotchpotch of patches covered larger areas of damage. Every stitch had only one purpose – to mend. Hettie fought the urge to recoil. The poor child, her poor fabric. Nothing could battle against the crudely jabbed stitches that would be their fate. Quilting required an abundance of patience, creativity, and care. Jax had none of these.

“I’ll make it. Tell me the colours and I’ll make her one,” Hettie offered. Aunt Mildred nodded in agreement. Her customers’ projects were the best advertisement for Hettie’s shop and Jax’s creation must not be allowed to thrive.

Jax’s upper lip quivered with refusal and her eyes pierced Hettie’s. Again, Hettie forced herself not to look away. A migraine threatened along with increased pressure in her head. The shop fell silent, waiting for an answer. If causing a crushing headache to her opponent was Jax’s response to an offer of help, no wonder people avoided her. Hettie debated whether to retract her proposal when Aunt Mildred coughed and broke the silence. Jax broke the eye contact and her eyes flicked to the ghost.

 While rubbing head, Hettie tried to decipher the murmured communication between the two older women. Whatever Mildred was saying, Jax was listening. 

Jax clicked her tongue against her remaining teeth and jabbed the stick to the ground, making everyone jump. “Fine. Mildred trusts you. You do it.”

She reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a battered leather purse. Her swollen fingers counted out several notes and flung them on the counter. With a hasty spin, defiant of her age, Jax flounced out, leaving everyone aghast.

Later, when the shop was shut, Hettie closed her eyes and took stock of the task ahead. All afternoon, the others offered their opinions and ideas. The mystery of who the girl was fuelled their conversation. Was she a relative? The next generational witch? Jax’s son had been disowned years ago when he left the village. Had there been a reunion? Unlikely, everyone decided, so maybe she was a distant cousin? The gossip turned to what the mysterious girl would prefer. Hettie refused to engage. That part was for her and the fabric to decide. 

Hettie scanned the material, caressed those which attracted her and listened to the fabric hum. One by one, she dragged out the bolts she needed. Laying them on the large table in the workroom beside the yellow fabric Jax chose, she allowed her imagination to arrange them into a design devoid of childlike motifs. The colours resembled the sunrise seen over the Moors. The bedspread would be appreciated by a child and later, the woman she would become.

 Hettie measured, and snipped into the night, until, with a yawn, exhaustion set in. She slumped over the table and slept.

A loud knock on the shop door woke her. Stumbling down the rickety stairs, she rubbed her eyes and smoothed down the wayward strands of hair escaping from her plaits. It was too early for customers.

 Larry grinned when she opened the door and leaned on his bike. He didn’t acknowledge her dishevelled appearance but pulled out a tiny package from his fluorescent newspaper bag. Wrapped in crinkled brown paper and bound with twine, he handed it over with discretion worthy of an illicit drug deal.

“Jax said you needed this. Mildred knows what to do.” 

Hettie slipped it into her apron pocket. Larry climbed on his bike and pedalled away. The door was nearly closed when he called over his shoulder.

“She’ll collect it in ten days.”

Ten days. Hettie swallowed hard. Jax expected a quilt to be ready in ten days? There weren’t enough hours in the day for her to do it. She’d have to tell Jax, it was impossible. With no phone at the farm, she’d have to trudge up there and tell her herself. Aunt Mildred appeared at her side and offered a smile. “You can’t do it alone, but this blanket was always one that required a team. It’ll work better that way.”

With a fresh cup of tea in hand, Hettie grabbed her telephone book and made a few calls. 

All across the village, sewing machines whirred as each quilter made the blocks as directed by Hettie. The next day, the true work began. In exchange for copious amounts of tea and biscuits, the Mexenby quilters sat at the large frame and they stitched Jax’s quilt. Chat remained at a minimum as they concentrated on the pattern. Mildred was right. A quilt like this was better made with many hands. Quilts were magical like that. They forged friendships within groups, and love flowed into each stitch, which the recipient felt when they wrapped themselves in the end product. A hug from the community; proof they were seen and not alone. Hettie believed whoever this child was, they’d need it more than most. With Jax’s package still lodged in her pocket, she wasn’t the only one to think this. 

Time progressed, as did the quilt. Stitches indented the material and brought the patterns alive. Did the quilters realise amongst the swirls and curves, they’d sewn several runic motifs into the fabric as instructed by Jax? No one mentioned them, to her relief. Hettie didn’t know the meanings despite, according to Mildred, the motifs being common in older quilts and garments made by those in the village. 

“Just because you think you brought this quilting idea back from your globetrotting to America, generations before you made them here, we just didn’t rave about it,” she’d muttered when Hettie commented about them. Hettie hadn’t dared disagree. She still needed her great aunt’s help.

On the ninth night, the women snipped off their threads and placed their needles into their pincushions for the last time. 

“Well, it’s done, apart from the final strip of binding,” Jennie stated. “Are you sure you don’t want us to stay and help? It’ll be quicker.” She failed to hide her judgement that Hettie was a slow stitcher. 

“No, it’s fine. I can finish up. Thank you all. I’m sure Jax will appreciate it.”

This was met with low chuckles and Jennie shook her head. “Doubt it, love. But the kid might.”

With that, the women left with a murmur of goodnights until only Hettie remained.

Could she do what Jax required? The precise and bizarre instructions from Mildred bore a heavy responsibility. Maybe she could take the unfinished quilt to Jax to let her do the required ritual. A few mismatched, ugly stitches wouldn’t matter, would they? She was the witch, after all.

“Don’t even think about it” A frigid blast cooled Hettie’s shoulder with Mildred’s arrival. “Jax trusts you. Besides, you wouldn’t be the first Henderson to do it on behalf of the witches on the hill.”

Hettie raised her eyebrow. It was the first time she had heard about anything about a connection between her ancestors and the Mexenby witch legend. There was no time to question Mildred now. The last section needed doing. Hettie flung the blind open, flooding the room with moonlight and she unwrapped Jax’s package revealing an old coin, a tiny pouch of herbs, several dried apple seeds from the Speedwell orchard, and a bobbin of thread. Under Aunt Mildred’s guidance, she lit a candle and whispered the words from Jax’s scrawled note.

“Well, you need to say it louder than that, dear,” Mildred interrupted “and say it as if you mean it. Intention sets the magic.”

Hettie took a deep breath and despite feeling ridiculous, repeated the words. Maybe magic was as real as the ghost haunting her shop. It was worth a go. She blew out the candle and passed the needle through the smoke three times before threading it with Jax’s cotton.

She slipped the coin, and pouch of herbs into the embedded secret pocket she’d made earlier in the quilt and added the seeds into the binding. With Jax’s words lingering in the air, Hettie finished the last stiches as dawn broke on the day of the deadline.

Wrapped in brown paper and neatly tied with ribbon, Hettie popped the quilt under the counter for collection, but Jax didn’t come. A week passed and another before news of Jax’s son’s fatal accident sent shockwaves through the village. Jax retreated into further solitude refusing to talk to anyone including Larry. A month went by and then several. After a year Hettie placed the package in a cupboard. Apart from the occasional visit from a spider or two, it lay forgotten for the next four years.

A sweet aroma of apples hung in the air and Hettie’s new electronic till refused to work. She snapped at Mildred whose mutterings made it hard to think. Jennie stomped down the stairs to complain the kettle refused to boil. They looked at each other, aware of a shift in the air.

“Jax” they said together. Jennie stood on guard while Hettie rushed to the cupboard to retrieve the forgotten order.

The bell tinkled above the door when it opened.

It wasn’t Jax.

A young woman in a vibrant pink jumpsuit stepped in clutching the hand of a young girl. Hettie knew before anything was said. The air hummed as the girl hopped from one foot to another. A sprig of Speedwell apple blossom tucked into her golden hair confirmed the thought.

Flashing a huge grin, the girl said, “Grandma says you have a gift for me.”

Characters, NanoWriMo, The Enchanted Emporium's Bookshelf, work in progress, Writing journey, Writing process

Hello July and Camp NaNoFinMo

Long time since we’ve had a catch up and it’s July already. I swear time is speeding up or is this normal once you get over 40? It feels like it should be in the depths of February not in the summer past Solstice.

So what’s been happening? Personally, a lot but writing wise not so much. I’m plodding on with my Silver Swan novel and looking for a home for my witches of Whitby novel, A Blend of Magic.

With the witches of Whitby in mind, they have their own book review blog and Instagram account. Amber and Willow became fed up of my procrastination at telling their stories so they’ve gone rogue. The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf will showcase their favourite books with a fantasy or paranormal leaning, give small insights into their lives and hopefully, share interviews from visiting authors, bloggers or anyone else they fancy talking to who stumble into Black Cat Alley.

Rosa, the only non-supernatural member of staff doesn’t want to be left out and as a fan of romance novels, she will periodically choose a book from her Rosa’s box of Romances to chat about.

All this can be found here –

Blog The Enchanted Emporium’s Bookshelf

Instagram – witch_of_Whitby

To give myself a final kick over the finish line of my second draft of the Silver Swans, I’ve joined Camp NanoWriMo or as the aim is to finish a novel NaNoFinMo. This is much needed as I have agents and publisher waiting for the finished product – maybe this is why procrastination is rife, once it’s out there the fear of rejection is unleashed. The high of wow someone in the industry want to read it crashes into full blown imposter syndrome.

I’ve just read Stop Worrying, Start Writing by Sarah Painter which has helped with facing my writing demons and self-doubt but it still creeps in when faced with an unformed chapter.

NaNoFinMo National Novel Finishing month image. A shark swimming in water
National Novel Finishing Month

Time to stop procrastinating and let the fun commence.

Happy writing

Love

Guest post, Meet the Author, Writing process

Guest Post: Starting My YouTube Channel by Emma Bennet

Today, I’m excited and pleased to pass over my blog to author, Emma Bennet to discuss starting her YouTube channel. Over to you, Emma.

Starting My YouTube Channel

Being an author is without a doubt the best job in the whole wide world, but it is a job in an industry which has changed very rapidly in recent years and is showing no signs of stopping – only recently Kindle Vella has emerged as a brand new, and very exciting opportunity for example.

There’s a huge amount of information for writers to keep up to date with nowadays, particularly if you’re an independent or hybrid author, like me.

Over the last few years, I’ve self-published some of my contemporary romance novels while others were taken on by traditional publishers. I’m extremely lucky to be able to do this, and it’s a career which simply wouldn’t have been available to me, or at least as readily available to me, even ten years ago.

Being a hybrid author means that I get all the advantages of having a toe in two parts of the publishing industry, such as the fact that my publisher spends money marketing the books I publish with them, and the higher royalties and control I have over the books I publish myself. However, there are also some disadvantages, and one of those is having to negotiate and understand twice as much as an author who is either traditionally or independently published.

I’ve learnt a huge amount over my years as an author, and am continuing to learn. Sometimes I haven’t found it easy to quickly find the information I need – I don’t want to have to wade through a four thousand word blog full of so many ads it won’t load on my laptop, or watch an hour-long tutorial. Working by yourself can also make you feel like you’re the only person experiencing the things you are, and alone in dealing with the problems and issues a lot of authors face. And so, I decided to start a YouTube channel to help other writers with these difficulties.

My aim is to provide support, advice and encouragement to aspiring as well as veteran writers. I’ll be sharing my own publishing journey as well as plenty of short (and to-the-point) how-to videos, book recommendations (particularly books on the craft of writing), and generally letting you know that I’m just as weird as you and things like weird clauses in a contract you don’t understand, and Amazon messing up formatting your paperback happens to the best of us!

My channel can be found at:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKJKt8kmDXrWQAGkTV1VHMQ

I’d absolutely love it if you would subscribe if you find my content interesting!

My books can be found in ebook and paperback formats on Amazon.com:

https://www.amazon.com/Emma-Bennet/e/B00DK8SSE4?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1647886138&sr=1-1

https://www.amazon.com/Laura-Williams/e/B08J3ZMMKY?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1647886115&sr=8-1

And Amazon.co.uk if you’re based in the UK:

https://amzn.to/36FTmv2

https://amzn.to/3NaJPN2

www.emma-bennet.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/emmabennetwriter

https://www.instagram.com/romanceemma/

https://twitter.com/romanceemma

https://www.tiktok.com/@emmabennetromance?lang=en

Author biography

Photo of Emma Bennet
Author Emma Bennet

Emma grew up and lived in London, before falling in love and moving to Wales to marry her own hero. Emma now lives with her husband, 4 children, and many animals a few miles outside of a small Welsh market town. She can often be found in rivers attempting to control two overexcited chocolate labradors.

Seven charming romances are currently available from the Amazon bestselling authoress:

Number 1 Australian kindle bestseller, ‘His Secret Daughter’, is the heart-rending story of Iris, a woman falling in love with the father of her child. The only problem is she never told him they had a daughter.

The beautiful landscape around her home gave Emma the inspiration for ‘The Green Hills of Home’, a tale of love and duty in which country girl Gwen struggles to save her family home and avoid her feelings for her handsome, suave new boss. Is he quite all he seems?

‘Snowed in for her Wedding Day’ is a novella picking up Gwen’s story as her wedding day approaches, but with terrible weather, and an absent groom, will she have the happy ending she so deserves?

‘Just Desserts’ is a novella about confused chef Leah, who’s falling for her handsome French co-worker Jean-Claude, but meant to be marrying to Dan in just a few weeks! Who will she choose?

‘Her Perfect Hero’ was released in July 2015 as ‘I Need a Hero’, it’s a lovely comic romantic read for anyone who’s ever searched for Mr Right (and failed to find him!). Despair of Bronte, a romance writer, incapable of spotting when the perfect man is right next door! Full of horses, country houses and dentists, just beware of the foul-tempered cat Mr Darcy!

‘Starstruck’, proves that falling in love with a rock star is harder than you’d think! When newly divorced Kate finds school friend, now super famous rock star Joseph Wild, on her doorstep, her whole quiet, ordinary life is thrown into disarray. Is the attraction between them enough to make up for all the hurdles they have to cross if they want to be together?

Latest release, ‘Her Sister’s Baby’ is a beautiful and emotional story about grief, the promises we make and finding love in the most unexpected of places.

Emma likes (in no particular order): cake, books, Cary Grant films, prosecco, chocolate, guinea pigs, knitting, quilting and happily ever afters!

Photo of laptop, flowers and notebook

Thanks for popping over Emma Bennet. I’ve subscribed to her channel, have you?

Love

All about Books, Book review, Writing journey, Writing process

Book Review: Write It All Down by Cathy Rentzenbrink

Welcome to my first book review on the topic of writing this year – Write It All Down How to put your life on the page by Cathy Rentzenbrink. I’ve never considered writing a memoir but the blurb of this book caught my eye and I wanted to know more.

Book Review: Write It All Down by Cathy Rentzenbrink

Book cover for Write it all down How to put your life on the page by Cathy Rentzenbrink
Write it all down How to put your life on the page by Cathy Rentzenbrink

Title: Write it all down How to put your life on the page

Author: Cathy Rentzenbrink

Publisher: bluebird books for life

Genre: Non-fiction, memoir writing

Release Date: 6th Jan 2022

Blurb

Why do we want to write and what stops us? How does the urge to express ourselves fight with the worry that no-one will care or that we will get in trouble? How do we identify and overcome everything that gets in our way so we can start making work?

Sunday Times bestselling author Cathy Rentzenbrink shows you how to tackle all this and more in Write It All Down, a guide to putting your life on the page. This is a kind, encouraging and stimulating book that explores the nature of memoir writing and offers helpful guidance on how to write your life on paper. Rentzenbrink will help you to discover the pleasure and solace to be found in writing; the profound satisfaction of wrestling a story onto a page and seeing the events of your life transformed through the experience of writing the self.

Perfect for both seasoned writers as well as writing amateurs and everyone in between, this helpful handbook will steer you through the philosophical and practical challenges of writing the self. Intertwined with reflections, anecdotes and exercises from successful writers such as Dolly Alderton, Matt Haig, Kit de Waal, Sathnam Sanghera and Maggie O’Farrell, Write It All Down is at once an intimate and enjoyable narrative and an invitation to share your story.

Talking points and feature ideas:

 • ‘How writing changed my life’ – Cathy’s personal story

 • Top 5 tips on how to write your own story

 • How to use this book for your own wellbeing

 • Writing in a digital world: the importance of storytelling

 • New Year’s Resolutions – why you shouldn’t diet, but learn something new instead

 • Therapy – both Cathy’s personal experiences, and how to use writing as therapy

My Thoughts

The introduction begins with the words – Dear Writer, I am so pleased to meet you. Welcome. – and that is how I felt the instant I began reading. I felt as if Cathy had welcomed me into her writing world and she was giving me a personal lesson in writing. Write It All Down is a highly accessible read and can be read from the beginning to the end like I did or dipped into.

I’ve read a several how to write books now and attended tutorials and conferences on the subject but this book contained fresh hints and viewpoints on the subject. The idea of writing about my life is slightly horrifying but this book isn’t just about writing to be published it’s about exploring yourself and tapping into your life and being creative.

It covers many aspects that are relevant to all types of writing including tackling first drafts, mindset, edits in all their forms and what happens when the words don’t flow. I came away from reading this uplifted, inspired and less daunted on writing my current project. I also have pages of thoughts on my own life that I know I can explore in the future.

Would I recommend?

Yes. I’d recommend this not just for those who are considering writing a memoir but for all writers at the beginning of their journey or stuck in a rut. The friendly tone, simple exercises, and explanations provide a safe space to explore ideas, and inspire creativity. It gives a nudge towards facing the fear that can block writing.

Write It All Down is a welcome addition to my forever reference shelf and will reread parts in the future when I need a positive reminder that I can write and the reasons behind my motivation to do so.

Author Biography

Author Cathy Rentzenbrink
Author Cathy Rentzenbrink

Cathy Rentzenbrink is the author of the Sunday Times best-seller The Last Act of Love and of A Manual for Heartache, Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books and Everyone is Still Alive. It took her twenty years to wrestle her own life story on the page and she loves to use what she has learnt about the profound nature of writing the self in the service of others. Cathy has taught for Arvon, Curtis Brown Creative, at Falmouth University and at festivals and in prisons, and welcomes anyone, no matter what their experience, education, background or story. She believes that everyone’s life would be improved by picking up a pen and is at her happiest when encouraging her students to have the courage to delve into themselves and see the magic that will start to happen on the page.

Websitehttps://cathyreadsbooks.com/

 Instagram – @writeitalldown_

Twitter – @catrentzenbrink

Thank you Random Thing Tours and Bluebird Books for Life for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Happy writing!

Love

NanoWriMo, Writing journey, Writing process

Dancing into NaNoWriMo and Rebelling Tips.

Hello November, one of my favourite times of year, not only because of the lingering high from Halloween and hurtling towards the festive feel of Christmas but it’s time for NaNoWriMo. The atmosphere of the writing community rises and there is always an explosion of support to keep people writing so it’s always hard not to get involved. Despite my success in 2018, the full challenge is out of my reach like many spoonie writers. The pressure of 1666 words a day is crippling and even with naps, it triggers flares and guilt. So I belong to the NaNoWriMo tribe of rebels and we all have our own ways of rebelling. I thought I’d share some things that have helped me.

My tips to being a NaNoWriMo rebel

1. The key thing of rebelling is to make up your own target. I’ve chosen 15,000 words but know it maybe too ambitious – I’ve already lost days to migraines and exhaustion but if I manage it, my first rough draft about my ballet quartet will be finished and that will be the ultimate achievement. Can I eek my manuscript of 66,660 words out to stumble over the 75,000 mark? Watch this space!

The fantastic author and co-founder of the Authors with Disabilities and Chronic Illness (ACCI) group Claire Wade has developed one of the best rebel goals for author’s with limited energy, chronic illness or disability – the #PostItNaNo challenge. Aiming to write at least a Post-it note a day can be a huge step in the development of a story or character, and the dopamine rush of making progress without the pressure of hundred’s of words is a good inspiration for the next day.

#PostItNaNo challenge

2. Find your tribe, if you have fellow writers to connect with it and share ideas, good news and disappointments it makes the writing process easier and more fun

3. Join in with the community on social media or the NaNoWriMo site. The podcasts, zooms and general chitchat inspires more writing and determination to keep going.

4. Find someone to do sprints with. Writing sprints whether they last thirty minutes or an hour have become my friend. I’m lucky to have friends in the RNA to join forces with, but I have also discovered The Writer’s Hour which follows Neil Gaiman’s idea of ‘do nothing or write’. You can hop on to zoom at predetermined times during the day for an hour of writing and accountability. It’s a friendly group and best of all, they start with a writing related quote to give you a kick in the right direction. Click here for more information. Maybe I’ll see you there.

5. Rewards for achieving small goals even a sticker or favourite hot chocolate are a great motivator. Books as rewards are even better.

5. Don’t fall into the guilt trap. It zaps creativity. Even a couple of words a day is a step closer to your goal. I find this hard to do because guilt and imposter syndrome seem to be my default thoughts when faced with an empty page or rough rough draft of a scene.

6. Just enjoy the writing progress and remember why you’re doing it. Writing isn’t just about word count. It involves so much more – thinking time to grasp the idea you want to focus on and let it brew while doing other things (okay this could be classed as procrastination but if the story and characters are strong enough the mind will be working in the background without you realising it) and plotting on post its, and research. Everything counts. And the variety of actions helps keep the spark and fun alive.

7. If it all grinds to a halt and target isn’t achieved, take what you have done and celebrate. It’s progress and still deserve a treat.

However you’re doing NaNoWriMo good luck, keep going and happy writing.

Love