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Bonnes, a beautiful french village that runs along the banks of the river Dronne, held an 'Art au jardins' weekend on the 21st and 22nd July.
Thirteen years ago when I came to France for 6 months armed with my diaries, my bike, a pair of wellies and my computer, I rented a studio in one of the houses in Bonnes. For those 6 months I went through all of my diaries from the age of 11 and typed them into my computer. It was incredibly therapeutic - I was re-united with people and places that I had completely forgotten. I walked Charlotte's (the studio owner) two dogs every day for two hours and had a productive and fantastic time. I decided to buy a small house in a neighbouring village, pack up my life in the UK and come out here to write.
So it was fitting that thirteen years later I should set up a stand in Charlotte's garden for the art weekend selling Spaghetti Head. I felt as if I had come full circle.
We had a steady stream of people enjoying the open-gardens and I chatted to most of them. I was bowled over by how interested and friendly people were and how easily they bought a copy of S Head. I sold 20 in all - which I thought was amazing. And it was an invaluable exercise for me because I realised that the creative side of setting up the stand, chatting to people, smiling, laughing, is what I really enjoy doing, and so at every opportunity I will attempt to keep Spaghetti Head out there on a road-tour.
If you have a paperback to sell I can recommend getting out amongst your readers and saying hello.
Two months ago I could sit infront of my laptop in the evening, browsing properties in SW France and Somerset: dreaming. Now, however, my evenings are a whirl of tweeting, scheduling posts on Hootsuite, trying to understand how to use LinkedIn, noting down my passwords for gmail, mailchimp, website, godaddy, createspace, wordpress, onedrive and so on. I'm finding everything that needs reading, researching, joining or liking overwhelming. The crazy-looking Emu in the photo looks how I feel. But I mustn't complain, because apparently, such is the life of a writer.
Tonight, however, I'm taking the time to only write this blog and then celebrate. Why? Well, Spaghetti Head has been available as a kindle eBook for the last 6 weeks. Today it became available as a PAPERBACK!! It feels like a massively monumental moment: a story that I have held very close to my heart has jumped through it's final hoop.
Tomorrow evening I'll be back on my lap-top trying to figure out how to let people know that it's out there, waiting to be discovered.
Until then, cheers!
I realise that all my efforts have gone into realeasing Spaghetti Head into the world, and I have somewhat neglected future planning! I think this is because for years I have had two book titles swimming around my mind, and it's just that Spaghetti Head shouted the loudest and so was written first. Now that it's been published, and all I have to do is fifteen hours of self-promotion and social media every day (!) I feel it's time for the second title to come to life. To bring it to life I am going to go and sit under an Oak tree in South Somerset with my notepad and pen and see what happens. Three trees will definitely play an important role in the book. This poem is getting my creative juices flowing - I wrote it in Mali in 1997:
In a village in the middle of nowhere
sit twenty-five African men and me.
Surrounded by chickens and sand,
we discuss what their women's future will be.
But there's no women around -
they've no choice,
and they've no voice
in what passes in the shade of this tree.
Hello, I’m Laura, Sarah’s Niece, I had the exciting job of creating Spaghetti Head’s front cover!
After reading Spaghetti Head I was excited to ask Sarah if I could give the front cover a go, and luckily she agreed! Because I’d already read the book I had a few ideas of what I thought would be suitable. We wanted something feminine but not too chick flick; colourful but not too in your face; and it needed to be a little bit ‘out there’ because Spaghetti Head isn’t just any old novel!
I guess I started with a ‘mind map’ of ideas, I put a few of these together and sent them over to Sarah to get her thoughts. Luckily, she really liked some of the designs so we narrowed it down.
Below you can find out how we chose the title font and the spaghetti strand that runs across the cover:
Spaghetti Head Title
Obviously one of the most important areas!
We both agree that a bold font was best to make the name stand out, but to also emphasise the bold statements that Spaghetti Head makes throughout the book.
We wanted a fun font to represent the tongue in cheek personality that the lead character, Nell, has throughout the book.
The pink semicircle on top of the ‘i’ represents a Pink Coconut Shell. This Coconut Shell plays a large role in Nell’s therapy sessions. As part of the therapy, Nell has to revisit past memories to understand them in order to let go of the issues she still holds onto in adult life.
You might be asking what a pink coconut shell has to do with that? Well, you’ll have to read Spaghetti Head to find out!
The Spaghetti Strand (my favourite part)!
What’s the relevance of Spaghetti you might be wondering? Well, here’s Sarah’s description for you:
“I was in a relationship with a man who wasn’t entirely honest, and one day I got to the point where I felt I couldn’t think clearly anymore. My head and my heart were one big jumbled mess. I drew a picture of a massive pile of squiggly lines, and named many of the lines with my emotions. I then tried to figure out how I could get from all of the jumbled squiggles to a nice tidy pile - which I hoped would lead to a calm mind and a calm solar plexus."
As I looked at the drawing, I thought of a big pile of spaghetti - and Spaghetti Head was born!”
Sarah and I both agreed that we liked the idea of having a Spaghetti strand across the front cover.
As you can imagine, it felt like there was an infinite amount of Spaghetti shapes and we were finding it hard to pinpoint the shape we were looking for. I’m based in Dorset and Sarah in France so most of our communication about the cover was done via email or Skype. This made the process of agreeing on the perfect stand a little more time consuming!
Here’s an email snippet so you can visualise how rubbish we were at deciding what spaghetti pattern we liked the most:
“Thanks for adding more squiggles, but that doesn't feel right - and it's an optical illusion - but it makes the page look much wider than the others - bizarre.”
“I like it, but I think the strand is a bit bold, and maybe a bit fat? I think it looks a bit like a snake! I like the left hand side with the loop - maybe follow it with another smaller loop and a twist - something a bit more chaotic.”
So Sarah decided to take it back to basics! Oh how I chuckled when I found this in my inbox on Monday morning:
“Morning, and a Happy Monday to you, it’s been pouring here since Friday evening.
Now then, are you sitting comfortably? At the risk of you disowning me as any blood relation, and being branded totally anal, I have to admit to spending a very happy half hour with a strand of Spaghetti on Saturday night.
The strand on the cover design has been niggling at me, so I threw my Saturday night strand in the air and took photos of my favourite landing configurations. Below is one. I’ll send the other one in next email.”
Here are our finalists:
And how did we narrow it down to one? Here’s another email extract to explain:
“The more I look at the one on the right, the more it looks like a stick figure doing a kind of bicycle-in-the-air gym exercise.”
The squiggly bendy one was the winner! We moved it around a little, but doesn’t it look proud!
So there you have it, the regimented and rigorous process of putting together the Spaghetti Head cover! If you’ve read the book, I think you’ll agree that Nell Greene wouldn’t of had it any other way!
I’m disciplined, so forming a writing routine was easy. I’m also self-employed, so I can keep at least one day a week free to write. I write either in my office, surrounded by photos, pendulums, pictures and post-its, or in my caravan out in the garden – depending on the weather! My cat is never far from me, and neither is a cup of coffee.
I sit down to start writing at around 10am, trying not to get side-tracked by social media. I’ll write solidly until lunch, and then do another hour before going out for a walk. It does me good to clear my head – and I’m never more inspired than when I’m sweating out in the fresh air!
Once I have an idea, I just need to get it out, so I could probably write 3,000 to 5,000 words in a day. Once I have the initial idea onto screen, I then start the process of editing. In a previous life as an overseas development worker, I wrote many many reports, and so developed a logical approach to managing a lot of words. When I received feedback on Spaghetti Head, from my first wave of readers, I felt overwhelmed by having to figure out how to make changes to 85,000 words without losing track. I sat down in front of the manuscript and stared at it, and stared at it, until I figured out the most logical approach.
I never write at weekends.
I find writing therapeutic – so I’m never happier than when I’m tapping away on my laptop.
How did I know I was a writer?
That’s an interesting question, and one I thought I would never be answering on a blog.
I have never (until recently) thought of myself as a writer, even though I have written for most of my life. I have kept a diary every year since I was eleven, and written poetry since I was seventeen. None of which I shared, none of which I put forward for publishing - so I didn't think I was a writer. But then, a few years ago, I was asking myself what I really love doing, and the one thing I kept coming back to was 'writing'. As I said: I have always written. So, that must make me a writer, yes?
In 2006, I wrote 90,000 words in 30 days as part of Nanowrimo, and there I had my first draft of Spaghetti Head. It was at that moment I realised there was a huge leap I needed to take - from writer to author. I can be a writer and nobody will ever read it. If I'm an author, the whole point is for someone else to read it. To me, that was a very scary prospect. But the story needed to be written.
Am I a good writer, or a bad writer? I'm just a writer - it's what I love to do. Good or bad. Being an author is a totally different thing - that takes hour and hours, years even, of re-writing, editing, formatting, perfecting the same piece of writing.
I do not judge myself as a writer, as I do as an author. I am a writer when I am scribbling how I feel about something in my diary. I am a writer when something inspires me to make up a poem. Freeing my emotions through my pen is always what has kept me sane, so I will always be a writer.
Bumble - my mini, Tracey and I, set off on our big french adventure, with a tape player/radio on the dashboard: a tent, which, we discovered at 11pm one evening in the middle of nowhere, had no pegs: a bottle of cider, and not a lot else. We sang Lilac Wine by Elkie Brooks into the antenna of the radio, and braved narrow mountain passes that terrified both of us.
We were nineteen, it was our first adventure together, and it was when my mind started to really thrive on the inflow of sights, sounds and smells. Somehow I needed to capture all of it - and so my usual diary-writing routine moved up a gear, and I added poetry into the mix. We started our trip grape-picking in the Loire, and this is a poem I wrote whilst there:
Little green ones,
little red ones.
Big green ones,
big red ones.
Mouldy green ones,
mouldy red ones,
all for me to pick
and cut my bloody finger
and get bloody back ache
and bloody dirty hands.
But, oh, how I love you, Grapes.