Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #4

Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #4 ‘Scars’ is live now! Memoir writer Irene Waters asks us to write a double length Carrot Ranch flash, or 2 chapters of 99-words each (198 words total), tell a story that shows a scar. It can be memoir, other forms of creative non-fiction, any genre of fiction or a BOTS (based on a true story). Deadline 11:59 pm EST October 26. Read on for all details and submission guidelines, and as always, good luck one and all!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Scars

By Irene Waters

Welcome to Contest #4 of the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo. This competition is free to enter and carries a cash prize of $25 for first place. Winning submissions will automatically be forwarded to the All-Around Rodeo Winner which carries an additional cash prize of $50. Naturally you can’t have a competition without rules and as each competition leader has devised their own rules I suggest that you read those for this competition prior to submitting your piece. The rules follow the competition topic.

The Topic

As a memoir writer and reader I am very aware that it is the situations in life that have a massive impact on the memoirist, those events which leave scars, whether physical or emotional, that are the chosen part of the life to be relayed. As a flash fiction writer delving into fiction, a genre with which I have…

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #3

Flash Fiction Contest #3 from Jules Paige live at Carrot Ranch! This is flash fiction with a difference: Jules asks us to use a form of poetry called a ‘Septolet’. Never heard of it? Me neither, but it looks to be a fun challenge. Read on for all the details and good luck one and all!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Septolet in Motion

By JulesPaige

Words are cast like magic spells. Some may debate the text in which such lessons exist. Religious works could be a type of Grimoire since often as children we are taught rote prayers that will lead us away from temptation. Other schools of thought may define Grimoire as a book devoted to just the teaching and instruction of magic and those amulets and talisman that would be endowed with gifting the owners with better fortunes. I quote this next line from the Wikipedia entry on the subject, “In many cases, the books themselves are believed to be imbued with magical powers, though in many cultures, other sacred texts that are not Grimoires (such as the Bible) have been believed to have supernatural properties intrinsically.

I would beg to argue that any book that transfers us to another world or jolts our imagination could be a Grimoire…

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #2

Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #2, Geoff Le Pard’s challenge Little and Laugh, is up and running live at Carrot Ranch! Geoff wants us to make him laugh. That’s it! Deadline Midnight EST October 13. Read on for full details and keep flashing!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Little and Laugh

By Geoff Le Pard

My father was a man of many aphorisms, epithets, old saws and clichés. A know-all, really.

But one quote he shared with us that not only stuck but resonated was from an American poet, Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Laugh and the world laughs with you

Weep and you weep alone.

Laughter, in all its forms has taken centre stage in nearly every phase of my life, from irony to farce, pratfalls to priceless, life-enhancing fits of giggles. Whether it was as a defensive mechanism or merely because I enjoyed it, I don’t now remember but I’ve always wanted to make people laugh. Over the years I’ve tailored my delivery, become sensitive to my audience and played everything and anything for a laugh. I’m one of those people who you can always trust with a secret…unless it’s genuinely too funny not to be shared. In…

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #1

The Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest at Carrot Ranch is off! Contest #1 Leader, Norah Colvin, kicks off with ‘When I Grow Up’. Next up: The Little and Laugh Flash Contest by Geoff Le Pard on Tuesday, October 10. Enter the contest for judging as instruced in Norah’s post, or you can write a flash in the comments for the challenge only. And remember, entry for the contest is free with a cash prize for the winner! The deadline for Norah’s contest is AEST midnight 10 October. All the best to all the candidates!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

When I Grow Up

BY NORAH COLVIN

Do you remember being asked this question as a child? Or contemplating it, even if you weren’t asked? Do you recall your childhood thoughts?

I remember having no aspiration prior to the age of ten when I decided I wanted to be a teacher. Although I loved writing, creating stories, songs, poetry and plays; writing was a part of who I was, an integral part of me, I didn’t consider a writer as something I might be.

It is often mooted that we are educating today’s children for a future of which we have no knowledge, a future we can’t begin to imagine. But hasn’t that always been so? Has any generation known exactly what life will be like for those following? While the rate of change may be increasing, change has always been.

Though it may sometimes appear otherwise, change creates more…

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Meanwhile Back On The Farm

Hello World.

Remember those first two words WordPress put on our About Page?  When, all shiny and brand new we ventured nervously, hands shaking as we hit the publish button, into blogland for the very first time?

Clueless as to what to write about in my first post well over four years ago,  I  blogged about my garden, my Summerhouse and, of course, my Robin.  Sweet Robin.

And so today since that very first post I say not, ‘Hello World’ but, ‘Hello Dear Friends’.  But I am also saying goodbye. Not to you, but to the way things were.

In early June, I signed off here to prepare and pack madly for our upcoming house move. ‘See you on the other side of the packing boxes,’ I said, or something like that.  Things were always going to be somewhat complicated with selling two houses (ours and Mum’s) and buying a place with an annex, but it seemed reasonable at that point to expect to be done and dusted and moved in by mid-July.

But…always that Big But…without going into all the logistics (okay…real reason: this is a public domain and I’d get carried away and end up with an expletive-ridden post essay book…), on the day of exchange of contracts, the entire chain of seven parties collapsed. Stress?  What stress…

What followed over the next couple of months was a pretty nightmarish time. The good news is that I wrote like the wind on my memoir.  The focus kept me grounded and sane.

Due to the utterly frustrating vagaries of our English conveyancing system, it is possible to go all the way to exchange of contracts (which usually happens two weeks or even less before completion (close of escrow)), without anything being legally binding.  Meaning, anyone can drop out, for any reason or no good reason at all, right at the last moment.  But the way it affects people’s lives is quite awful.  Enough said.

But then…on the Friday of our last Bank Holiday weekend of the year at the end of August, a miracle!  It was all back on and long story short, we moved out of our house last Friday.  One week ago today.   I still can’t believe it really happened.

Here’s where we are now, with the geese…

 

Oh I wish they were ours, but the truth is, we’re not out of the woods yet, not completely, with Mum’s sale and our purchase still working to completion to late October.

Meanwhile, we are living in our van not down by the river, but on a working goose farm.  And we love it.

Of course, we have our own Animal Farm to house temporarilly.  My beautiful black cat boy Eddie is at a cattery only minutes away so I can visit regularly.  Oh I miss my boy…but he’s settling down well despite in all his eleven years never having been away from us or his home. Hopefully he and family life will soon be back to normal…

The Chinese Button Quails are down to one.  Poor Mooncake has outlived all his wives, daughters and sons, his last wife (daughter?) having departed a couple of days before we moved.  We have Moonie with us, happy in his cage and awaiting a new wife as soon as possible.  Most people take their dogs camping. We take a Button Quail.

The farm cats have already made themselves known, fascinated both by Moonie and the inside of our van…

As for Grumpy Bunny, well, he’s at Aspie’s.  And not very grateful for his new circumstances, I might add, but he’ll get over it.

One challenge has been the internet, but that’s solved because I now have a dongle.  Yep. A handy-dandy dongle, ha! Now I can do stuff! A dongle is the cure on a farm with no wi-fi; hooray for mobile broadband!

My usage is limited, but I’m greatly relieved to get this post out.  It also means I can announce Charli Mills’ hugely exciting Flash Fiction Rodeo launching at Carrot Ranch next Thursday, October 5th…

There’s no entry fee but plenty of cash prizes, and it runs through October every Tuesday and Thursday, open to all! I’m truly thrilled and honoured as one of eight leaders to run my competition – Murderous Musings: When Good Folk Turn Bad at the Rodeo –  on 26th October both here at the Summerhouse and the Ranch:

All competition details will be announced in my next October 26th post. And huge thanks to my partners in crime co-judges Mike and Hugh Roberts who so kindly agreed to co-judge the entries! I’m getting pretty good at using that lasoo…

Check out the Event’s Page at Carrot Ranch for more details of all the competitions and the other wonderful leaders running them.   And the Rodeo Fest Kick Off Party goes live on Facebook October 3rd announcing the cover reveal of our very first Flash Fiction Anthology!

I’ll try to visit as my internet allows before my next post on October 26th (miss you friends!). And then let’s get our Murderous Musings on and have some fun!

Meanwhile, I’ll settle into our new life in our van on the goose farm. My summerhouse has gone, but its essence remains; I hope you’ll still share the view with me wherever this blog goes. And always, in rain or shine.

Today, the view looks like this…

The garden I tended and nurtured for almost ten years now belongs to another, but it’s not the first time I’ve left one behind.  And a new garden awaits.

We discovered a resident hedgehog living by the Summerhouse in the weeks before we moved.  Made sense when I wondered why the lack of slugs and snails this year.  I hope Mrs Tiggywinkle (or Mr…) will continue to enjoy life there…

And so it is…

Goodbye Sweet Robin in the Snow…

Goodbye pretty garden…

And, last but never least, goodbye Summerhouse…

But hello to new adventures. And perhaps it is time to once again say, Hello World.

Love Sherri x

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Friends Fun And Photos: #BloggersBash2017

Last year I called it Big, Bright And Beautiful.  And it was.  The Blogger’s Bash 2016 was all of those things.

So what do I call it this year?  I could call it the  ‘International Blogger’s Conference’ as displayed in the lobby of the  The Grange Wellington Hotel in London where this year’s Bash was held.  After all, with bloggers from Ireland, Canada and the USA attending, it truly was an international affair.

But I am going to call it this: Simply Wonderful.

So it was on June 10th, arriving in London on a beautiful, not-quite-officially summer morning,  I met up with Julie en route for a quick coffee. It was fantastic to see her again; we’ve both attended all three Bashes, real old timers, ha!

First of my mad spate of selfies with Julie Lawford

Just before meeting Julie, Sacha and Geoff happened to be walking towards me on their way to run an errand before the Bash began…what a great surprise! From then on, it was hugs and photos all round, all day long…

Sacha and Geoffle, sporting his lovely reddish/pinkish beard as has become Bash tradition…

Arriving at the hotel,  Ali greeted me with the most wonderful welcome which naturally meant a huge hug and it was as if it had been only yesterday when we last saw each other.  The same with Helen who I met for the first time last year…

Ali Issac & Helen Jones…no escape this time!

Last year, Graeme organised an impromptu pre-bash meet at a nearby pub, but this year he held one for, well, himself.  Can’t blame him, since the bash started earlier this year.  But next year…perhaps a Pre-Bash Breakfast might be in order?  Always great hanging out with Graeme…

And then there was Hugh.  Hugs galore! For anyone not sure about attending the Blogger’s Bash, I would say go just for the welcome alone.

Three years ago when I walked – late, as usual – into the very first Bash held around a table at a Pizza Express, not recognising anyone amongst the sea of faces, I froze.    Thinking, yikes, I can’t do this, I’m in the wrong place, I was about to head for the door.  But I heard someone call out my name. And there was Hugh.    Need I say more?  Blogging friendships are real.

And a lot of fun. Lord knows laughter really is the best medicine.  A joke about my purple shoes and who wanted to wear them and an incredible compliment from Queen-of-Killer-Heels Sacha who said she loved them – wow! – and taking away great fun with great friends is what the Bash is really all about for me…

Hanging out with Hugh Roberts and Graeme Cumming – my purple shoes unseen…

Then the Bash began!  Thrilled to find a seat next to Marje, we chatted nonstop.  I heard ‘Sherri!’ again and there was Sally arms open wide ready for the most promised of hugs.  I’ve known Sally since my very early blogging days four years ago.  I can’t believe I finally got to meet her and later, to share in her joy at receiving the Runner-Up award for the Most Informative Blog. Richly deserved, as Sally’s excellent blog is all that and much more…

Marjorie Mallon and Sally Cronin…big smiles and big hearts, both…

Sally…for real!

The day flew by with presentations given, awards handed out and announcements made, with several tea/coffee/water/G&T breaks (socialising being thirsty work) and lunch.  And let’s not forget an amazing selection of delicious homemade cakes on display at the back for the room from Ritu and Geoff…thank you both!

Geoff had a little too much fun playing holding the microphone as Hugh, Sacha and Ali gave their presentations…

Here with Lucy Mitchell is anybody’s guess…

Throughout the day, Sacha posted live on the Blogger’s Bash public Facebook page for those who couldn’t attend. Debby Gies, friend to me and many attending bloggers, posted a short but very sweet live video message all the way from Canada. Shout out to Debby and Tina – next year, right lovely ladies?

Suzie and Elena both gave informative and helpful presentations about ways to bring more traffic to our blogs. Suzie gave great tips for those wanting to monetise their blogs and Elena about the value of using Pinterest…

Suzie Presenting…

Together with Christoph , Suzie and Elena then formed a panel, inviting us to ask questions about blogging in general.  What came across strongly for us all is that the most important thing about blogging is not the numbers: it’s the connection with our communities and the friendships we form.

Last year I met Ritu for the first time and I was thrilled not only to see her again and have time for a quick chat, but also to congratulate her when she won Best Overall Blog

Ritu gets her well deserved Best Overall Blog Award from Sacha and Geoff…and of course a great big hug…

Many congratulations to all the Award winners!  You can find the full list of winners here at Sacha’s blog.  Also to Ellen, winner of the ‘Connections’ writing competition with her beautiful story.  Noelle  and Steve were runners-up and you can read all three great stories here.

Joy and laughter and celebration filled the room, and of course, I carried on clicking away…

Ellen Best and Julie… great to meet Ellen for the first time…

Ritu Winner!

As always with these events, I was sorry not to be able to chat with everyone.  But I did get a hug with Shelley and it was nice to see Lance there again.  Great to catch up with ‘old’ friends  Mary and  Sue, and meet new friends  Willow, Eloise, Jessica, Adam, Jo, and Alexina.

Great to meet Jo…and still chatting to Marje…

It was great to meet Alli who came all the way from North Carolina.  Always keen to talk to a ‘fellow’ American about my other ‘home’, I hope I didn’t ramble on too long…

Allie Potts…welcome to England!

By coincidence, Allie had a FaceTime session going with Sarah as I walked by, so I got to say hello to her too in the States.

And there it is, BB 2017.  Too soon, it was all over and we said our goodbyes.  But do not fear, because it’s all happening again.  On June 9th 2018 to be exact.  Sacha’s blog will have all the updates starting soon I’m sure.

If you want to read more about the Bash, check out the BB public Facebook page and the hashtag #BloggersBash2017 on Twitter for lots more great photos, videos and write-ups.

Also, and very importantly, Hugh, as he does every year, has made a wonderful video of the day, now live on his blog.  Waving to Charli and Norah, Irene, Anne, Sarah and all the gang at Carrot Ranch, and thanking those of you who still read my blog even though I’m barely here these days,  it was great to share the day with friends near and far…

And finally, a huge thank you to the Blogger’s Bash Committee: Sacha, Ali, Geoff and Hugh, for once again making this event so successful, enjoyable and fun. Thank you so much for all your hard work and excellent organisation making such a terrific event possible.

Great Day, Great People.  Simply Wonderful.

Goodbye BB…see you next year!

Hi and Goodbye until next year from Sally and Ritu and me!

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All Change At The Summerhouse

Hello dear friends, how I miss you.  My absence breeds a growing sense of isolation from my blogging community, the Summerhouse needs the laughter of friends. I wonder what you are up to, how things are going, what’s your latest news?  There’s been a few things going here…

‘Arrrgggghhh’ is the first sound word that springs to mind; where to start?  How about confessing that I got ‘done’ for speeding by a mobile speed camera. It wasn’t as if I was racing down the motorway, which at least would have been more fun. Boringly, I was clocked doing 41mph along a road I always thought had a 40mph speed limit but I now know is 30.  I attended ‘Traffic School’ which, surprisingly was quite interesting.  I am now reformed, if not a little paranoid…

But I ask myself, how hard does it have to be to get one measly blog post out? I  started this one, my first since March, almost four weeks ago if that tells you anything.

Back then, one fine, spring day, I walked through an ancient English wood.  I wanted to share the beautiful Bluebells with you.  They’ve all gone now, but here’s the photos anyway…

The Path to Publication? Working and walking on it…

Two trees are dedicated to my Dad in these woods through The Woodland Trust

Facebook reminded me of my post Time for the Rose which I wrote in June four years ago.  June 2013, only five months of blogging.  Where does the time go?  I reflected on the passage of time and shared photos of my rambling rose growing across my front porch.  The rose is gone now too.  Things change.  So much has changed here at the Summerhouse…

Some of you will know from Facebook that after a brave two weeks and two days, we said goodbye to our darling, sweet Maisy.  All of us heartbroken, but especially my youngest Aspie, for whom Maisy was a constant companion and true friend.

Life is struggle enough for anyone with Asperger’s Syndrome.  The unconditional love and companionship of a family pet brings comfort and security in a world that so often feels remote and uncaring, alien even.

Goodbye darling, sweet kitty, thank you for the joy and love you gave us…we will remember you always…

 

Get back to my writing, settle down, write a blog post,…I thought.  Then this, from early April onwards:

First, after much heavy-duty decision-making, Aspie youngest moved out of the family home into a flat, the first time away from home with the challenges it brings.  All my chicks fledged, empty nest thing going on.   A lot to sort out but so far, so good…phew… and I’m getting used to my new routine, back and forth…

And then in April we sold our house, having had it on the market since February and barely any viewings and not even mentioning it much because, honestly, I thought it wasn’t going to happen.

We needed to find a place with an annex for Mum.   It was never going to be smooth sailing, but after a few frustrating weeks and a sale that fell through, Mum also sold her house.  And then, by no small miracle, we found the right place.  Since then my feet haven’t touched the ground; I don’t need to elaborate on the stresses of selling/buying/moving…

And my Summerhouse…I have to leave it behind!  I feel sad about it.  What will I do about my blog without it?   I still need a view…and I still need my Summerhouse.  A new one, it has to be…

During all the upheaval and randomly, while out shopping for garden supplies, I ended up posing with a very handsome owl, as you do, called Lord Ginnsburgh

Me & My Lord

In early May, I did manage an essay for Dr Gulara Vincent’s inspiring ‘Not Good Enough’ blog series.  It stirred me up and reminded me that being good enough isn’t measured in what we do, but in who we are and those we love and who love us along the way.

In fact, stirred up pretty much describes my emotions of late.  Along with everyone else, the horrific terrorist attacks in the UK within the three past months have left me traumatised. My eldest son was heading to London Bridge on Saturday night by Underground.  Minutes before he arrived, all the trains stopped, every route blocked.  He eventually got home via Victoria station in the small hours of Sunday.  I don’t even know what to say other than Thank God.  And to keep praying for all those who have suffered such tragic grief and loss and awful shock. I don’t know the words…

Thoughts of my dad grow keen again…then I remember that it was this time last year, approaching Father’s Day that I hadn’t heard from him for a few weeks, before I knew how ill he really was.  Now I rush past shops selling Father’s Day cards, sharply reminded that I will never buy one of those again.  I miss my dad so much.

On the writing front, I am pushing through one small step at a time, but I fight constantly for writing time.  Sometimes I wish I could let the memoir go because I will have no peace until I do.  It claws at my throat and fills my every waking thought and  I want to sit at my laptop and say, right, today I Am Going To Finish It.  Instead,  I tell myself that better a short paragraph than nothing at all…so long as it is never nothing.

And finally, on a lighter note, once again London Calls.  I will be there this weekend at the Blogger’s Bash.  I don’t feel much like a blogger these days, but I’m so much looking forward to seeing ‘old’ friends and meeting new, as well as missing those who can’t be there.

My plan – ha! – is to try to catch up with as many of you as possible over the coming days… determined if nothing else.

See you soon! Love Sherri xxx

 

 

 

 

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Spring Forward

Hello again dear friends!  Cobwebs linger in the corners of the Summerhouse, my short, more frequent posts haven’t materialised – yet – but spring has sprung, I am writing and my daffodils are blooming ~

A getaway to the countryside of Wiltshire last weekend brought brief respite and a chance to stroll through a beautiful village, between rain showers.  But I can never complain about the rain, how I missed it when I lived in California, although I am so glad for the rain they have now, badly needed.

Here, in England, thanks to all that rain, it really is easy being green ~

Howard’s House where we stayed, is an independently owned and run country house hotel in the idyllic village of Teffont.

It dates back to 1623 as evidenced by this plaque on the side of the house ~

The gardens, despite the lack of sunshine, shone with the joys of spring.  This little gate leads us there, just off the road ~

You can see why this is a popular venue for a wedding.  If it had been just a little warmer, I would have happily sat here whiling away the hours with one or two glasses of bubbly ~

Especially lovely are the wild primroses, delightfully prolific this year ~

As a child, I remember picking a small handful of wild primroses from our garden for Mum on Mother’s Day which falls in March in the UK.  Happy Mother’s Day to my fellow Brit Mum’s for this Sunday!

This is the back of the hotel which really does look like a house, albeit one with sixteen bedrooms ~

It would have been nice to walk further, but the grass, while lush and full, was soaked ~

Since my last blog post, our darling cat Maisy, fifteen, has been diagnosed with inoperable liver failure.  Last week, we braced ourselves to say goodbye, utterly heartbreaking.  But…she rallied and is back home as we make the most of every day we have left with her. We’ve always said Maisy is one tough cat; despite using up eight lives, she’s making her ninth count for all it’s worth.

Here she is, happy to be back in her usual spot ~

Finally, exciting news: my essay ‘Promise of a Rose Garden’ is recently published in Lady by the River: Stories of Perseverance, a collection of personal stories about facing everyday challenges. I was truly honoured when my dear friend Yvette first invited me to collaborate with her. This summer, Yvette plans to use the book as a resource guide when she teachers her self-help workshop.

‘Our’ book has bubbled away for some time; it is thanks to Yvette’s hard work and tenacity that ‘Lady’ was published at all, and I thank her so much for what we all hope is a book that will encourage even just one person reading to know, above all else, that they are not alone.

lady-by-the-riverSome of you may also know dear Mabel Kwong, one of the collaborating authors, who shares her thoughts about being published in Lady By The River in her recent post.

One more thing, I almost forgot, just a little somethat that amused me I thought I’d share…

A short item in the local Gazette caught my eye with the headline: ‘Is town becoming hotspot for sightings of UFO’s?’  I read on to discover that, apparantely, my town has been the subject of several, unexplained sightings, a few of which have been reported to the UFO Stalker website. But the strangest of all is of a sighting back in December of an alien wearing a Stetson walking by the college.  I wonder if I had walked past this alien it would have tipped its hat and said ‘Howdy Ma’am’.  After all, if it’s good enough for Clint Eastwood

I miss you all, and I will see you very soon!

Love Sherri x

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Of Blogging Blues And Otters

Today, the view from the Summerhouse is grey and wet.   Yet I am heartened at signs of spring bulbs rising from winter’s slumber with fresh, green shoots.  Soon, the view will be awash with colour.

As I work on the last leg of my memoir revisions, I  feel like a spring bulb:  hidden away, seemingly asleep, but working hard to grow a shoot of writing progress, the completed draft, closer to the surface.

Concentration and focus on writing is one thing; my increasing challenges as a carer and advocate for a family member are another.  And this leaves me with not much left for blogging.

My solution, I think, is to post short (but hopefully sweet…) posts when I can.  Just a few words, with a photograph or two, maybe a quote or a 99 word flash fiction while I focus on my writing…

Because I don’t want to disappear, and I do want to visit you, dear friends, and I will be working on that…and thank you so much for your understanding and to those who’ve recently helped with suggestions to ease me out of my blogging blues.

One idea from dear Sarah was to post a haiku and a photo, as she regularly does.  I have always wanted to try my hand at haiku, so let’s see.  I was encouraged by her beautiful post about the different forms of Japanese poetry featured at her friend (and my new blogging friend) Bill’s blog, Artistry With Words.

To kick off my new blogging regime then, I thought how nice it would be to share with you some photos from a sunny day spent at Tamar Otter & Wildlife Centre in Cornwall last summer.  It is one of several posts I was forced to abandon at the time…

It was a baking hot day, for England, but these darling otters, both British and Asian, including their babies, came out to play ~

otter-world-july-2016-6 otter-world-july-2016-8 otter-world-july-2016-12 otter-world-july-2016-19

otter-world-july-2016-26 otter-world-july-2016-28 otter-world-july-2016-30I thought it would be against the odds to snap a shot of a family of otters looking in the same direction.

Next time I post, let’s hope the view is sunny and bright with the bulbs in full bloom and we will say hello, how lovely to see you again, and share a smile beneath spring’s warming sunshine…

 

 

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In The Raw

As the sun slowly set on 2016, I watched from a beach on the Dorset coastline, and I thought of my dad.

west-bay-sunset-dec-2016-5-editedToday, writing my first post of a new year, I think of all that’s happened since I wrote my first ever post.  Four years of blogging.  Three years of writing my book.  Another year begins and I’m ever hopeful that this is the year I publish my book.

One of the last things Dad and I spoke about was my book; he loved hearing all about my writing.  Brexit happened while I waited to hear back from him, keen to know his thoughts. Dad watched the news avidly, always interested in the world around him.  But I didn’t get the chance.  I wonder what he would have made of Trump.

Between Christmas and New Year, I received an email from my cousin. Her mother was my auntie, Dad’s eldest sister. To my cousin, Dad was ‘Uncle Bobbie’.  She sent photos I’ve never seen of my dad as a boy, of my grandparents when they were young, of me as a little girl snuggled next to Mum, sitting on Dad’s lap, holding Dad’s hand; smiling for the camera.

I always wanted to know more about Dad, about his younger life: what he did; where he lived, how he did at school.  What happened.  What went wrong.

You can learn a lot from old photographs. I discovered, thanks to my auntie’s annotations, that as children in the early 1930s, Dad and his siblings took family holidays at Bognor Regis, Tiverton and Southend.  That they lived in Leicester during WWII.

That each of them celebrated sumptuous 21st birthday parties at long tables bedecked with crisp, linen tablecloths, around which sat family and friends dressed in black tie, cocktail dresses and furs and drinking champagne, headed up by my ‘Godfather’ Granddad, cigar in hand, beaming proudly. In fact, in most photos of Granddad, he is holding a glass of champagne.

Bittersweet. Raw. Memories of lives and eras gone by, yet kept alive through photos and words.  Especially words.

Me with Mum & Dad. Mum knitted Dad's jumper. It was orange. 1960s

Me with Mum & Dad. Mum knitted Dad’s jumper. It was orange. 1960s

Before Christmas, lovely blogging friend Tina Frisco, invited me to write a few words about my blogging/writing goals for 2017 for her Spotlight on #Blog Visions for 2017  New Year’s post, a huge honour to feature alongside several amazing bloggers.  Thank you Tina for helping me get moving after Christmas!

And when dear friend Charli Mills invited me to write the first essay for her new series, Raw Literature: Starting the Conversation, I was both thrilled and incredibly nervous. Charli challenges us to examine and look past the ‘shittiness’ of our first drafts; to explore, as she defines it,  that ‘…first lick of flame after flint sparks…’.  That moment when we find the real story and discover the writer we really are.  Thank you Charli, for believing in me.

In my essay, Raw Literature: Memoir & What Lies Beneath,  I share that ‘moment’ when I realised why I write memoir, always looking for the true story behind the story I’ve always believed it to be. But there are some stories we will never really know, and perhaps we do not need to.

Time then to get back to work. Thank you dear friends, family, online and off, who read my blog, my writing, for taking the time to leave your lovely comments of encouragement; for messages, emails, texts, something said quietly in person. I hope I show you the same kindness, love and care in return.

My 21st birthday was very different to my dads, and that’s another story.  But discovering my granddad’s love of champagne, it looks as if I have him to thank for my New Year’s mantra, found hanging on a wall in a pub, naturally…

new-years-resolution-editedI hope 2017 is kind to you all, and I raise a glass of bubbly to second that.

Love Sherri xxx

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