Whistling Dixie

There is no easy way around it.

Revising a novel that is.

Writing is the easy part (for me anyway)

I have written 2 novels now and have to say, I love turning up for the page.  I have yet to experience writer’s block (lucky me).  The biggest hurdle I experience is fitting writing in around my part time job  and my young family life. So when I do show up  and start writing – it is a real buzz – I love it.

When my  first draft is completed, it is truly a  ‘Draft Zero’

Draft Zero – the rough draft – warts and all.

The writing has been more or less vomited onto the page.  It is not a pretty picture to a reader.

first draft

The experts advise to sit on a novel for a bit – leave it ‘in a drawer’ and then to return to it some weeks later.  So you go back to it with a fresh view.

But I have found that the weeks go by, months even,  and I avoid returning to it.  There is that dread.  My characters are nagging me – tapping me on the shoulder – “hey! what about us, that scene – you know it doesn’t work – fix it”  or the character that is a bit fuzzy looking – standing in some fog, cos you haven’t written their back story to give them a good foundation – some depth.

Why do I put it off?

Because  revising is soooo hard.

keep calm

I recently gave my Draft Zero to my writing group for their first impression.  The are my Beta Babes.  My Writing Sirens.  My Realists. They are an honest bunch – I got to hear the plot strengths and weaknesses.  Plot holes essentially.  Don’t get me wrong – it was great.  Very productive.  It just means I had to go back in and sort it out.

Needless to say, there is a lot of work that needs doing.  And THAT is when I had to  convince myself to go back to the keyboard and start the shredding/slashing/re-creating.

Which then is the beginning of Draft one.

My last book, K-Girls took about 17 drafts before it was ‘done’.  Yup,  One Seven.

So I have a bit to go yet on this book 2, before it is truly finished.

There could be many a sleepless night – but hey, I have 3 kids – Sleepless nights don’t scare me.

Anyway – why am I going into all this now you might ask?

Well – I have been putting it off.  And as any decent procrastinator will tell you, it is not my fault that I have not got round to revising my novel.  Naturally, I blame the husband, the kids, the housework, work – my blog………

And here I am – writing this – when on my next PC window sits my novel – Whistling Dixie for my attention.  And so I will take a break from my blog for a bit.  As I get my teeth into revising my own book.

I am sweating thinking about it.  But hey – all for the greater good.  And no one else can do it but me.  This I have to do on my own.

So I am going to knuckle down.

I may be some time

procrastination

Almost ‘and back again’ – last day in New York

Day 6 – last of the ‘Little Adventure’ – Thursday, March 19th 2015

One last burst of exploring the city – left to my own devices and full of confidence, I returned to Grand Central station, and this time headed North.

So what was on my agenda?

Thursday was about research and…. a bit of a ‘business meeting’……..

Throughout my posts about my New York visit, I have commented very little about my writing/novel.  This day was being driven with both in mind.  Whether it is an idea for plot or character for the next book or if it is a whole new book for another time, I felt New York would give me inspiration.  But, again, I wasn’t choosing the usual tourist path.

images (1)

I LOVE history now- not the big stories per say, but more the stories behind the big stories.  I also find, that  from a writer’s view, when I hear a date,  I find my mind relating it back to Kylemore.   What was going on there at the same time?

So for example, when construction was underway at Kylemore Castle in 1867:  the International Exhibition was opened in Paris – Jesse James was busy robbing a bank in Missouri – Karl Marx had just published ‘Das Kapital’ – The widow Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone for the Albert Hall – the Medicine Lodge Treaty was signed between US/Native American Indians – the Fenian’s were organising a Rising in Ireland…….  Needless to say the list could go on.

Did you know that 1867  was also the year Charles Dickens gave his first public reading in New York at Steinway Hall?

Anyway, for research there was a few places I wanted to visit,  to ‘put my eye’ on the locations that I had read about and filed away.

New York is a pulsing  city today – what was it like during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s?

Here is what I did NOT get to see.

I had missed an opportunity to get to the Tenement Museum – note:  you can only visit here while escorted by a tour guide and that has to be pre-booked.  AND I also messed up on  getting to the Merchant House (it is open Thursday – Sundays)  AND with the week that was in it, Ellis Island was totally booked out! 😦 All/any of these,  would have been a fantastic opportunity to see how people lived (and died)  during the late 1800’s etc in New York.   I was very disappointed not to have been able to visit them.

I have promised myself to get to them on my  NEXT trip to New York!

We do have comparable tourist experiences  here in Ireland:  Living The Lockout, for the tenement side of things in Dublin, and our own Cobh Heritage Experience for the Famine Ships, Titanic and Lusitania stories, and of course we have our own fine examples of the Big Houses, Kylemore and Muckross House being two of them.

But would they be a similar experience?

I think not. ( I will endeavour to get to the Irish ones before the year is out)

I did get to seek out some places on my list for New York.  One was the Dakota building (built between 1880 and 1884) – I had recently finished a great time travel book (recommended by Stephen King) – Time and Again by Jack Finney,   where the Dakota was used in the book as the base for time travel – the building reportedly got its name from being built so far on the Upper West Side, that it might as well have been in Dakota.

 

The Dakota in winter c. 1890 - (image as appears chp 17 of Time and Again)

The Dakota in winter c. 1890 – (image as appears chp 17 of Time and Again)

 

Of course the building now sits nice and snug, blending in very comfortably with its’ towering neighbours….. I had great fun finding it, and then wondered what stories IT could tell.

Dakota Now,  2015

Dakota Now, 2015

 

On a side note, did you know that prior to establishing the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island, that her torch bearing arm was first exhibited at Madison Square Park?  The story, as I understand it, is that the state couldn’t afford to build a base and erect the statue and so the arm was on display instead, tourists paying to climb up into the torch, while fund raising continued.

lending a hand of Liberty

lending a hand of Liberty

 

Lunch time soon snuck up on me and I had to attend my ‘Business Meeting’

For lunch I meet with a ‘Certain Someone’.  Now this person shall remain nameless as I do not want to identify them in this blog, until such time that they advise otherwise.  And as casual as it may have been arranged, it was actually a PR exercise for me to push the idea of my book and for ‘He who shall not be named’ to put a face and character to my name. In case you get too excited, they are not an agent/publisher or an author even, but they are in the industry and lets just say they were doing me the favour by giving me some of their very precious time.

On the surface it was all very relaxed and easy going, but I have to admit I was nervous and very conscious of not coming across as too cocky, or too wishy-washy either.  I had about 30 minutes to talk up my book and me, without appearing pushy and needy.

As a result the first 20 minutes we talked about everything BUT the books and my writing – and the last few I had my ‘window’ to try and capture the very essence of what I was all about and where I wanted to bring my book series ‘K-Girls’.  It was my first real ‘pitch’ without trying to make it sound too obvious that that is exactly what it was!

I think it went very well – not to any degree of signing any book deals but I certainly got some interesting feed back, picked up a professional tip or two.  I think they went away reasonably impressed, not just with my book series idea,  but with me too!  If they go away thinking this girl has some good ideas that go beyond the traditional, and they drop my name in their professional circles, then I would be very happy with that.

We shall have to wait and see what outcome, if any, comes out of that.

Meeting over, I sauntered for a bit near by and I have to say I was in my total element when I found this little Gem – not a building – but a book of buildings!

images

 

Fab imagery of New York back in its early days, with comparison shots from modern day – (hats off to author Marcia Reiss and photographer Evan Joseph)  I had great fun finding some of the buildings within and making my own comparisons.

As a result,  I walked miles around the city and felt I even did my own bit of  ‘time travel’  …….the weather was glorious and I got to walk across Central Park (where the pond was still frozen) and ‘popped’ in (how naive was I) to the Met Museum.   I would need a whole new trip to New York to get to see everything there.

Oh how weary was I by the end of it all – how wonderfully wonderfully weary.

At the end of the afternoon,  I made it ‘home’ to Mamaroneck with blistered feet and a very happy soul.

The next day was ‘Going Home’ day and so I spent it with my hosts, dear friends – and I will always appreciate those last few cuddles on the couch, from my beautiful and pixie-like god daughter ‘Berry-Boo‘.

It was a quick and sad good bye. (save having to go back to collect a forgotten purse!!!! – thank you AGAIN Rozzy)

I arrived home to Ireland in one piece – and I have to admit I was very happy to see the familiar patchwork green fields from Aer Lingus just before we set down in Dublin.

My trip was  – oh there is no denying it – AMAZING – as cliched as it sounds.

I would like to think that my one was one with a difference – I hope my  last few posts have caught some of that.

Looking back on the last year, it goes to show that you have to Put It Out There – whatever IT is that you want in life –

it might just come true –

After all

I got to New York didn’t I?

Little Erin stroll

New York- Paddy’s Day with a Difference.

17th March 2015 – Day 4 of my ‘Little Irish Adventure’.  It’s Saint Patrick’s Day!

IT’s St PATRICK’S DAY IN NEW YORK CITY!

patricks day in NYC

And my day was all the more special.

First thing in the am,  Roz and I got to read some Irish stories to children in Mamaroneck’s Montessori – this was tough- not because I am shy at reading in public (as if!) but it is so hard to find an Irish story where it doesn’t end in bloodshed and slaying, or at the very least,  curses or banishment.

I didn’t want to scar the little innocents for life!

So we stuck to fairy tales.

Parental responsibility over, Roz and I headed back into Manhattan.

Now, I am the sort of girl that likes to do things a bit differently.

So, NO,  I didn’t go to watch the Paddy Parade.

For those out there who expect floats and giant air balloons or acrobats….You would be disappointed – because those type of parades happen on  Thanksgiving.  (think of the movie ‘Miracle On 34th Street’)

New York Paddy’s Day parades are all about marching bands.

Pre Paraders

Pre Paraders

Roz and I walked parallel to the parades and took glimpses here and there – but to be honest, we were on a different mission.

By private invitation (cough cough) we were off to Pier 90, where the NYPD were having their own Paddy’s Day celebration.

Where?

What?

Who?

cat I could tell you

I will let the pictures speak for themselves….

held in a secure location……

NYPD cruising for a bruising

NYPD cruising for a bruising

NYPD keeping an eye on the Party

NYPD keeping an eye on the Party

and some amazing  music – I promise there WAS dancing

The in house entertainment

The in house entertainment

and lots of men in uniform

Cuchulain in the flesh!

Cuchulain in the flesh!

Who's got your back!

Who’s got your back!

Friends from San Fran

Friends from San Fran

Guardians of the Peace

Guardians of the Peace

best NYPD sandwich ever!

best NYPD sandwich ever!

And then we had our own private parade as the NYPD pipe band arrived……

 the pipes are calling

the pipes are calling

Short side view!

Short side view!

I never felt threatened or on constant alert (a natural feeling I get when surrounded by lots of testosterone) as these guys were natural minders.

True gentlemen  to the core!

We had a great laugh  – the NYPD gang were so welcoming and genuine.

And sure  after a couple of beers, I felt we both blended right in!

cagney and lacey

What an afternoon!

Roz and I were VERY tempted to stay on but,  we being good Catholic boarding school girls,  and not forgetting we are both married….

we took ourselves off out of temptations way…….lol

After resting some, and strolling  along the very pleasant Hudson river walk, in the sharp (and I mean very sharp) air…..

Riverside Rest

Riverside Rest

…..we linked up with Aileen (who had preformed at the fund raiser)

aileen

Aileen (pronounced ‘I-Lean’) has lived and worked for years in NYC -she currently is the Piano Artist Studio Manager working on a fab project Sing for  Hope – (she also is a fab musician/song writer) – note the plug Aileen!

Anywaaaays, I know Aileen as my old pal from Kylemore.  We have linked up over the years, and until this trip, always on Irish turf.

This was my first time to visit Aileen at her own base – and WOW!  If I ever had a ‘far away fields are greener’ moment – this was it!  City living is not for everyone but if I was without kids and didn’t own 3 dogs – I would gladly have what she has.  Aileen couldn’t live anymore central to the creative world that is the bones of New York.  As a writer I had little flashes of what my life  could be  like if I too lived somewhere similar…..how my writer’s world might be……..I wouldn’t give up my life now that as I have it….I have a fab husband and kids after all…….but if I lived in a parallel one?……..oh well, it might make a nice story someday.

We had a fab evening – it was lovely to see Aileen again, and have her show us a snap shot of what she is up to these days- I was tempted to take lots of photos of her super stylish apartment, but I thought that would have been just plain rude – but I did take a few to capture the evening – so I will let the photos speak for themselves!

When all was done and dusted – it was a truly amazing Saint Patrick’s Day – one I will never forget.   A huge thank you to NYPD, and Aileen,  for making it such a Paddy’s day with a difference.

Roz and I managed to get home before midnight, and not only that, but  managed to get home sober – ish.  As Roz  had an early start for work the next day (5am),we were both conscious of the late hour.

I too was keen to get some sleep.  The next day I was going to be flying solo and heading into New York again for some research.  I would be going in wearing with my writer’s hat

– but that my dears, is for the next post…..

New York – Day Three – putting the fun in Fundraiser

Monday 16th March: The real reason for my visit to New York!

As explained briefly in my earlier blog – ‘New York – There and Back‘, it was the fundraiser that kick started off my whole interest in getting to New York.

This fund raiser was an Irish concert to raise money towards the building of a new monastery for the nuns.  It took place  in Saint Josephs Catholic Church in Greenwich Village, Manhattan.  An evening of Irish entertainment was organised where supporters could purchase tickets, $100 (which included admission to the ‘reception’ afterwards and meet the performers)  or $50 for ‘just the concert’.

Having grown up with my brother performer/musician, I am old hat to sound checks and stage presence and no longer in awe of celebrities – I do not gush over the famous.  So while I appreciated the generosity of the wonderful line up that was the front stage for the concert,  (including class mate Aileen who, I was of course, very excited to see again) I was more keen on being part of the machine that made it happen.

For those that are interested to learn who was performing,  and seeing the playlist, here are the details below:

Program coverEabha McMahonProgam Page 2

But I am going to skirt around the event for now, and will report on the ‘pre’ evening that introduced me to the heart  of the community of ‘Greenwich Village’.

While this was my 3rd day in the U.S of A, it was to be my first to actually traveling into the ‘City’.  Roz  and I were going on a full day mission, and one of the Holy Orders kind.  This was no shopping or tourist trip.

I will admit that I was both excited, and nervous, about the day ahead.  Why was I nervous?  I always find strange city commuting daunting, and so I was relieved to know that Roz would accompany me on my maiden voyage.

For Roz, this daily commute and city hanging is a breeze for her.  It is all part of working downtown and living elsewhere.  For her, the late start to the day was a welcome lie in  to her usual 5am wake up and  express train to be at her desk for 7am.  Roz  makes this  daily sacrifice  to allow her to be able to enjoy the  lifestyle balance that is working in the financial district, and getting home to her hubby and small ones.  Hats off to Roz in managing it so that her family can live the dream.

hats off

And so I happily scurried along with Roz,  as we made our way  into the city. Tom stayed at home to mind his girls and to allow us ‘K-girls‘ escape and fulfill our promise as volunteers.  We got the train from Mamaroneck, which took us directly into Manhatton,  with a few stops along the way.

So we arrived and even at this stage, having witnessed the city come out to meet me, I still didn’t really believe I was in New York – Grand Central Station.

THE Clock!

THE Clock!

We left the station through one of the famous arches, and Roz led me along busy paths.  Before long we were at the National Library, with the Chrysler building in the back ground.

I am grateful to Roz taking photos or I might not have believed I stood there at all.

Spot the tourist

Spot the tourist

My mind kept wandering to familiar scenes of movies (King Kong, I am Legend, Day After Tomorrow…….take a look here if you are interested in a web site that shows you what was filmed where.)

Anyway, Roz isn’t one for hanging around and so a taxi is hailed and off we go past sky scrapers ‘downtown’ and before we know it we arrive at Saint Joseph’s –

St Josephs exterior

So the fund raiser,

well these things don’t happen by themselves.

As with all these type of events, there is great reliance on volunteers and the generosity of performers – it also involves a lot of  sweat and tears to boot.  The macro and micro planning that goes behind such events relies on a whole hive of busy bees.  And I got to be part of that.

So in typical volunteer style, Roz and I  skipped to the side entrance of the church, to find the office and where we met with Mary Reed.

Mary, bless her, was the producer and professional fund raiser/organiser, who was orchestrating the whole event – Roz in her official role was the Event Co-Chair along with Fr. John McGuire – and between them and the many volunteers at St Josephs – the whole event was unfolding before us.

Fr John, greeted us warmly,  and was impressionable in both size and manner.  He offered one big warm swoop of a firm handshake and met all the  attributes that go with the word ‘affable’.

Sr Magdalena, who  had traveled from Kylemore, Ireland , was due  to link up with us and along with Mary, we were to have some lunch before we rolled up our sleeves to volunteer.  How wonderfully strange it was to greet Sr Maggy on the steps of St Joseph’s instead of my usual encounter with her at Kylemore.

The plan was that we were to eat first.  ‘An empty sack won’t stand’ after all.  And then when re-fuelled, Roz and I would help with preparing finger food for the reception party after the fund raiser.

Father had a place booked,  a ‘nice little Italian near by’, and with Father’s bad knee and parking privileges, he drove us all there.  Less than 5 minutes later, call it a local miracle, but Father finds a spot immediately outside the eating house that is ‘Volare’ (147 West 4th Street)

It is in a basement and as we step down and in, it is dark and secretive looking – When my eyes adjust, I am surprised to see the walls  painted with colourful painted scenes of the half clad women.  In true Italian style, there are dining booths, and center tables dressed in crisp white linens.  The waiters stand to attention with long white aprons and polished looks.  You would think I had never been in a restaurant in my life but this was something different – I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I bet those walls could tell a thousand tales.

volare

Back in Volare, the Maitre D’ greets us with a strong accent and I am grateful that I am a guest so I don’t need to understand what he has just said.  Judging from his body language and the casual greeting, Father is a regular here.

Two hours, fabulous fresh pasta, and a very large glass of Chardonnay later and I realise that I have had my first New York dining experience in the company of a nun and a priest in,  decoratively speaking,  what could be a basement boudoir!

Only in New York!

Delizioso!

I ask Roz is it far back to the church; ‘could we walk off the overload’?  What a hoot to discover, when we walk around the corner,  there opposite us is St Josephs!

Saint Joseph’s Parochial House is impressive.  There are many floors and I was only privy to the kitchen and dining/sitting space that occupies a certain floor – but this was enough to see how lovely it must be for the traveling religious who stop and contribute in their way to the parish.

I was in my element, catching up with Sr Maggy, Roz and Fr, while getting to meet another K-Girl, Juliette, for the first time, and meet the many volunteers and some not-so-local (some as far out as the Bronx) kids who have come in to help out as well.  We set up a catering train as one sliced bread, another buttered, another sliced salmon and yet another was in charge of capers.  There were crackers, patés, cheese/pineapple sticks,  all sponsored by locals as their contribution to the fund raiser.  It was not long and the huge dining table was covered in plates of finger food that would feed the many $100 guests later.

It was never said out loud but I got the impression that Father is much loved and appreciated, that St Josephs is still the heart of this ‘village’ and is productive in its way of ensuring that the simple sense of neighborhood values are going strong.

A true village in the heart of one of the biggest cities in the world!

Time ticks on,  and soon  we were assigned our tables at the church door to welcome paying guests.

Did I mention that TV crews were there? – the whole thing was recorded and news of it broadcast the following evening back home in Ireland.

It was a wonderful evening.  Of course the performers preformed beautifully – but I have to make a special mention of our own Aileen (pronounced ‘I-lean’) as a beautiful singer and I have to say a natural entertainer (not all could claim this skill) , and the headliner Eabha (pronounced ‘Aay-va’)  breathtaking while also a natural at keeping the crowd engaged and smiling.

At the end, we made it our way back to the reception where the fruits of our earlier efforts were being enjoyed by the masses – I think I was forgiven for turning it down, one can eat only so much salmon in the same day after all.  We mingled, pressed the flesh, chit chatted and all the while promoting the great cause that is building the Monastery for Kylemore.

I am grateful to those who took photos – I was so invested in the ‘here and now’  that I forgot to record those special moments.  Thanks to Mary Reed for being on the ball again there.

Pictures from March concert

It was over too soon, and like the fairy tale, Tom has Roz and I back in Mamaroneck before midnight!

Was it a success?  I certainly believe so – I will leave the money counting to Mary Reed et al – as for myself…..I would never have thought when a student back in the the 80’s,  that  30 years later,  I would be linked in arms in New York, all in the name of Kylemore –

for that alone, the whole trip to New York was worth it!

L to R:  Juliette, Aileen, Roz, Sr Maggy, Fr John, Peggy, myself, Jenny

L to R: Juliette, Aileen, Roz, Sr Maggy, Fr John, Peggy, myself, Jenny

putting the fun in fundraiser

putting the fun in fundraiser

New York – a Little Irish Lakota connection

Day Two in New York – Sunday 15th March 2015

In a previous blog,  I  mentioned that one of the many reasons that justified my trip to the Big Apple, was to visit relatives.

Do you know the exact address of YOUR  extended family scattered about the world?

Well, I had only a vague idea of where my rellies were,  and did not fully investigate their address until I was ensconced on site at ‘base camp’ that was Mamaroneck, and iphone in hand.

I knew the rellies lived in Scarsdale (remembered easily due to the mad diet my mother was always on in the 70’s and 80’s) but  I had no idea where Scarsdale was in relation to New York city and Mamaroneck.

Well would you believe it but  – according to Google maps, and GPS – we were a mere 10 minutes drive from the rellie’s house in Scarsdale!

hop skip and a jump away

hop skip and a jump away

Now here’s the thing – Rellies has a broad term doesn’t it?

 

friends are the family

My true blood relatives, are the O’Farrell-Gallo side,  and their very good friends, the Dunnes, have become ours too over the years.

Tim and Cindy Dunne visited us during the summer of 2014 in West Cork,  and naturally, the courtesy was being extended as I was now on their home turf.

There is no way I could have left American soil without linking up with them.

In any case, the arrangements were that we would all meet at the Dunne’s in Scarsdale on Sunday, for a  late morning brunch.

So we descended en masse to Scarsdale with a gift of a good bottle of wine, and obligatory giant bars of  Cadbury’s chocolate. I had an additional gift for the Dunnes.

My brother, Fergus O’Farrell, is a singer song writer.  And he wanted me to pass on a couple of CD’s of his two albums to the Dunnes.  While Fergus’s songs are available commercially (visit his web site here) one of these songs was particularly special and he wanted to give signed copies to them.

interference live in Dingle  interference

Bear with me as I now FLASHBACK to the summer 2014 when Tim and Cindy had visited us in Ireland.  Cindy was telling us as part of the general chit chat that she was now retired and had the time to volunteer with the Pine Ridge Lakota reservation and specifically, with the Lakota Children’s Enrichment foundation – this was as a result of their daughter, Maggie, who works very closely with the Lakota children on the reservation.  As it natural with these things, Maggie’s mother had taken an interest too.

I added my bit that, I felt the Irish could relate (if even just a little)  having had our share of colonisation and banishment, oppression, genocide, treaty breaking etc.  I shared the story of  how good the Native American’s had been to the Irish during the Great Famine (1845-52), sending over funds, following their own Trail of Tears.

To think, the Native American Indians had so little and gave so much to our people.

And I shared news of how, in recognition of this wonderful aid, there is a sculptor planned to be unveiled in Cork. (For details of this see more here)

 

proposed 'Feather' sculpture

proposed ‘Feather’ sculpture

Back to us at brunch in the USA Spring 2015 and I was delighted to pass on my  brother’s CD which features his song ‘Gold’ (as sung in the movie Once, and performed as part of the Broadway show)

These CD’s do not have the original version  which includes has a speech recorded that precedes the song.

Fergus had written a personal note to the Dunnes, included in the CD, explaining that the song, although perceived as a love song, was actually an environmental song that had been inspired by a  speech he had heard.

I played the original version song to the full room and wasn’t I thrilled to be able to report that the speech was delivered by the Great Grand daughter of Chief Hollow Horn, of the Lakota tribe. ( I will include a link here once I figure out how to upload to audio to the blog so you can hear the full rendition)

This as you can imagine made a wonderful impression.  Great discussion followed as to the coincidence etc.

Admittedly, while Fergus never knew the Lakota connection when he wrote the song, we are only delighted to now put the two together.

Serendipity?  Fate?  Maybe the Great Spirit would have a say on that.

In any case,  the morning was filled by a circle of friends, new and old, sharing food, chatting, and exchanging stories.

There was that special moment when I realised how wonderful these kind of gatherings are – and how lucky I was to be right in the middle of it.  My mind slipped back to a time when the same lands might have had a tribe somewhere near by where others too may have gathered, shared stories and exchanged gifts.

There was no mass for me on that Sunday – but I figure any God wouldn’t have minded.

Hollow Horn Bear  (ca. 1850 – 1913)

Hollow Horn Bear
(ca. 1850 – 1913)

Putting it out there

I am a great believer in asking for something.

What is the worst you can hear after all?

No?

If we don’t ask, we don’t get.

Some might believe that our paths are set and what is due will come in turn.  Rubbish I say! – okay, not total rubbish – I do believe that our paths are somewhat laid down but just for the pure fun of it, GOD (whatever type yours is) throws in a bit of choice to see what we can come up with ourselves.

if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”

I have encouraged my kids to be confident in asking for something.  There is a skill to this I think – there is a lot to be said for good manners, good humour, and sure, doesn’t everyone love a charming chancer?

It all boils down to asking for something ‘cos you, well, want it.   So you have to put it out there.

please sir

 

As a boarder in Kylemore, I took chances at asking for permission  – A lot of the time, I was told no, but it was a real bonus when I was told yes!  I  got home early from boarding school  once – I didn’t expect that result myself!

As an adult I was often on the receiving end.  Having worked in the hotel industry, while us managers had to manage complaining guests and going with ‘the customer is king’ attitude – I always acquiesced so much more easily to the polite guest with the issue, than the demanding loud condescending rude one.

And who doesn’t love the try-er – ‘Is there any chance we could get an upgrade?’

Did you hear about the student at a Richard Branson convention somewhere out of state?  – he was receiving texts from the audience as part of the Q & A at the end of the session before he had to dash to his next commitment that was the inauguration of the new President Obama in Washington.  Some bright spark texted him asking was  there any chance they could get a spin with him to the swearing in  – and would you believe it, Richard was impressed enough with their taking a chance and their charming cheekiness, that he said yes!  The texter and their friend were whisked away there and then along with Richard in his helicopter and not only got to see the inauguration but got prime view with Branson’s entourage! (or so the story goes)

I just love that.

But what has this got to do with anything?

 

take a chance

While the self published route has been very satisfying, now that I have written my second book in the series, I have realised with confidence that there is more to my book series than, well,  books.  I firmly believe that the idea as a whole has so much more potential and that realisation involves not being able to do it on my own.  I can, and do, write, but I need experts in all the other areas to do what they do best and so need to be part of team.

To achieve this,  I need to go back to the traditional approach that is to getting “Published” – and I think that means getting an agent.  So I am back to the asking again.

purrrlease

Permission seeking.  ‘Can I be part of your gang?’ sort of thing.

Little_Rascals

Now I have to up sell – ‘cos this time I am in a queue of askers.

Rejection is a little more commonplace when it comes to putting it out there – and I have had my fair share of those.

I am beginning to wonder do I need to revisit my  approach?

Writing my blog and completing my various pages on ‘About me’ and ‘So who is Ruth?’ has made me realise that what I actually share with people when telling them about my book series is not what I have been actually sending out to the various agents/publishing houses.

Perhaps I need to take another look at that?

I recently sent out some new query’s to agents in New York – the thinking that the American market might like the idea of an Irish boarding school story and so after carefully studying and selecting the agents that I thought would be the right fit, I dusted off my submission page and query letter and sent that off.

I have received one rejection so far (1 week after submitting – good going considering some can take up to 6 weeks and beyond)

 “Thank you so much for writing me about your project. I carefully consider each query I receive, and I’m sorry to say that I’m not quite the right fit for yours. I do appreciate that you wrote to me and wish you the very best luck finding the ideal agent for your work.”

 Nicely put,  but it is still a big fat NO!

It is a bit like going for that new job – but that role you really really want.

The fate believers will tell you that it will all come right in the end – and that you have to keep kissing a lot of ugly frogs before you find the right one – eggs to be broken to make an omelette – many doors to be knocked on before the right one opens………

It is reassuring to know that JK Rowling, CS Lewis, Agatha Christie among others, received many rejections before finding their right fit.  I wonder how often they changed their approach?

And so I am now wondering should I not be knocking on doors but instead, say,

throwing pebbles at a window?

Maybe that would get a ‘special’ someone’s attention?

 

We Want You

Plot – Story or Grave?

I went on a walk this morning,  took a turn up past the small cemetery that lies on the coastal town of Schull (West Cork, Ireland).   It slopes gently down to the shore, overlooking Schull harbour and the Carbery isles – in turn lying on the edge of the Atlantic.  It is a beautiful spot.  I find it very moving and inspiring.

It set me thinking of plot.

And the pun therein.

Any writer will tell you that every good story has to have a great plot.  And while I like to think that ‘K-Girls’, my book, has one, I have to confess that the whole idea behind writing my series starts with a rather basic, very sad looking plot.

I discovered it at the age of 12, and was struck by it from the get go.  But it would take me the guts of 30 years before I gave it it’s due respect.

Not many know this, but the whole plot behind K-Girls started with the actual plot, that is the grave, of Ruth Stoker who is a 14 year old who is buried at Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, Co. Galway.

For any who have had the pleasure to visit Kylemore, you may remember the lovely walk to the Gothic Church that lies to the east of the Abbey/Castle?  I could say a lot about this cathedral in miniature, but I do not want to waiver from the topic that is, Ruth.  Anyway, under the shade of the Oak trees and watchful eye of Gothic gargoyles is a simple cemetery where in lies the remains of the Benedictine community that have passed on over the years.

In the midst of the simple stone markers for the nuns, there is a small standing celtic stone cross.  It is the maker of Ruth.  It simply states ‘In loving memory of Ruth Stoker who died on 18th December 1923 aged 14 years. RIP’

Ruth Stoker grave stone

When I was a student at Kylemore the myth was that she had died having fallen from the tower (the reason why the Gothic was locked up at the time) , or another, drowned in the lake (explaining why us students were never allowed to swim or boat on the mass of water).  I suppose many girls saw the grave and wondered for a moment, perhaps some didn’t see it at all.  But it struck a chord with me – why was there a girl buried in the nun’s cemetery?  And admittedly, the romantic in me thought how lovely to be buried at Kylemore – imagining that she must have had a great love for the school and her time there.  And that one day, as I have a similar love, that I too might be buried there – or at least some ashes scattered.

Now that I am 44 and married with my own teen girls, I see a different side  – that of the view of a mother  – and try and imagine what it must have been like for the mother of Ruth to have to say good bye to her little girl, and then to witness her being lowered into the ground?  Did the sun shine, setting the church lime stone alight, or did the Connemara rains fall gently dusting people’s umbrellas, or cloche hats and caps.  Was there a good turn out?  How many would have been stood around the small ope and scattered soil into the dark earth on that December day?

As a student at Kylemore, I did not consider a mother’s love, I was too preoccupied with who Ruth was and where had she come from?  How had she truly died?

Perhaps that is where the seed of her spirit was captured within me at the age of 12 and she grew as I did over my years at Kylemore and then, unbeknownst to myself – Ruth came away with me.

It was only the last 7 years that I built up the courage to start writing in earnest and contacted one of the older nuns (Sr Benedict, historian) about Ruth.  While Sr Benedict was not too familiar with Ruth’s background, she went to the retired elders and discovered that Ruth’s story was a foggy one.

A fire in the bursar office in the 50’s (that is a story in its own right) destroyed all student records and so little was remembered of her, only that the retired nuns remembered something about ‘galloping consumption’ and being ‘buried in Kylemore at the request of her parents’.

Oh! – now that put a different perspective on it – galloping consumption? – buried at the request of her parents? What did that mean?  Consumption, I understood was TB but what did galloping?  It did not bode well.  And Ruth buried at the request of her parents? – Where they there after all?  My mind raced with supposing and surmising.

And so curiosity took me down a road of research and censuses – all the while, Ruth stood at my shoulder, and I felt as if she was smiling enjoying the mystery that she had become for me.

Writers will tell you that characters become alive and when writing, they will so often lead us down a plot path that we never designed in the first instance.   I have found this of Ruth.

Ruth Stoker the actual teen who died in Kylemore  has her own story, and one I will gladly share in another post another time – her grave side remains simple and I visit it every time I am back at Kylemore.  I place a stone on the cross to mark my return, (some think this is a Jewish custom but it’s origins are pagan – the stone symbolising the permanence of memory)

It is nice to see that a other stones have been placed by mine.

But the Ruth of K-Girls, the one that lives in my head and manifests as a ghost in my writing, well she is having a ball within the pages that is K-Girls with  her new mortal friend, Alice.  Ruth is getting to live her teen life all over again – albeit in the 80’s  – and as Alice has a whole 6 years to go as a student of Kylemore.

The two of them will  have a lot of fun with plot;

and sometimes even losing it every now and then.