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Promises, Potential and Pelicans

Posted by Simon on 15th, October 2017 at 07:41:10

I keep being asked, and it's a fair question, so - 

No, it wasn't because there was anything wrong with Devon. Quite the reverse. 

I love Devon. I miss the county and the people, some of whom will always have a very special place in my heart, and I will never let go of.

And yes, I had an amazing job, and it was a great place to be a writer, and I delighted in the teaching I did at the University, and College, and with schools. 

There was nothing wrong with Devon. Far, far from it. 

This Cambridge move is down to one of the mantras you've heard me wax on about plenty. 

The fulfilling of the potential. The challenging yourself. The need to explore, innovate and learn. Whether it's in writing or whatever.

I'm at a stage of life where I've probably got the energy and creativity for another 15/20 years of making a worthwhile contribution to something, somewhere. 

So that's what it's about. A challenge to myself to do something new, in a different place. 

Can I teach, and teach well, at one of the finest universities in the world? Can I make a difference to another generation of young people? Not to mention writers?

So I've set myself a series of challenges, and I'm working through them. 

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Why a trio of pelicans here? 

Well, one of my challenges is to do some work in London and get to know the city better. 

So I spent time there this week. I had a wonderful sunshine walk along the embankment, from St Paul's to Westminster. I met some people I hope to be able to work with. 

And I had lunch in St James's Park, with thoughts turning to whether I'd done the right thing in moving, because it sure is a big thing, when...

Three pelicans swam past. As they do. Just like that.

How eccentric, how English, how elegant, how uplifting, how wonderful. 

And you know how fond I am of aquatic fowl. So I took the arrival of my new pelican friends as a wink from the fates that I'd made the right move. 

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Pride

Posted by Simon on 7th, October 2017 at 17:46:10

I don't know if it's a British thing, or maybe just human, but we do tend to underplay our achievements. 

This week, I went back to the journalism job and interviewed a man whose sister was murdered twenty years ago, when he was just 15. 

His courage and dignity were simply humbling. 

When I asked how he had kept going, at the time, he said he was well looked after by his parents and friends, and always had been since. 

What he didn't say was anything about his own incredible inner strength. 

Another example - 

I did a double gym class this weekend, a weights session followed by an hour of CV. 

One of my fellow sufferers told me how great that was, and that she was embarrassed to have only managed the CV session.

How about seeing it the other way, I replied? And being proud of getting out of bed that weekend morning to go to the gym.

A fellow writer got in touch this week to ask my opinion on a short story. She wanted me to be honest, which I was.  

Not quite enough sense of the characters, I thought, but otherwise excellent. 

She apologised, and immediately forgot about how good the other thousands of words of the story were. 

So - maybe instead of seeing the downsides, we should think more of the positives. 

Like the current favourite pub of my Cambridge exploring - 

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Apart from being a cracking, old fashioned, wooden pews and real ales inn, you know what else I like? 

Their pride in what they do. 

There's a chalkboard at the front, which proclaims the total number of beers they've served in their years of operation. 

Sometimes we can find lessons in life in unexpected places. 

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New Eyes

Posted by Simon on 1st, October 2017 at 09:51:07

Prepare yourself for a shock - 

I've taken up cycling (don't laugh, I haven't fallen off too much), and it feels like I've been given a new pair of eyes. 

Wow, the world looks different on two wheels. This is a snap I took last week of Cambridge from a few miles away.

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Ok, part of the reason I'm cycling is that the area, as you can see, is flat as a dish. 

But here's the real delight.

Cycling is a celebration of the slow life, and the slow life can be the good life. 

(At least, it is the way I do it. I got overtaken by a guy on a mobility scooter yesterday.)

One of the problems of the modern world is that so much speeds away so fast that we miss the simple wonders. 

This week, i enjoyed cycling through piles of autumn leaves, the smell of the countryside after the rain, and the joy of splashing through puddles. 

All because, instead of being in a car, insulated from the world, I was part of it. 

And that's precious for a writer, and - more importantly - a human. 

It gives you a sweet connection of the soul with this amazing planet of ours.

And it's been such a joy rediscovering that. 

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The Writing Family

Posted by Simon on 24th, September 2017 at 11:19:19

You're never alone when you're lucky enough to be a part of the writing family. 

I've been in Cambridge for a couple of weeks now, trying to find my way - 

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This is a mandatory part of visiting Cambridge - the beautiful King's College. 

But besides the wonders of the city, I've been trying to find ways to make myself useful. 

I've been putting out feelers to see if I could help with teaching about careers in the media, or creative writing. 

And I'm delighted to say I've been welcomed and offered a range of opportunities. 

I would love to be able to claim this is down to my experience and talent, but...

The answer is simpler, more honest, and much more uplifting. 

The World of Words is a family.

So it doesn't matter where you are - Devon, Cambridgeshire, or elsewhere. 

If you do the writing thing, you'll always be made welcome anywhere because of this wonderful shared passion. 

It's something I had no expectation of when I joined the family. 

But I'm more and more grateful for it with every passing year. 

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A Reunion With Yourself

Posted by Simon on 17th, September 2017 at 11:28:23

I've been getting to know the myself of ten years ago again this last week. 

How? Because I'm rewriting the first of the TV Detective series at the request of a new publisher, which is great. 

But wow - the things you discover about how you used to be. 

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I have found - 

I was much more wordy then. 

I described characters too literally - what they looked like, rather than their aura. 

I went on too much about place and surroundings, rather than getting on with the story. 

I thought I was funny. 

Ok, I still think I'm funny, but hopefully I've got a bit better at expressing that now. 

Don't get me wrong, the book's still got a good story, with strong characters, and I'm enjoying reliving it all. It's just that it could be better. 

Which is why I'm reworking it.

One of the oddities of writing is how it allows you to look back years and get a sense of the person you were then from your books. It's like a living record of your life. 

But the most uplifting thing is seeing how you've improved as a writer. It makes all the hard work feel so worthwhile.

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