A funny thing happened…

The social media course for writers I had booked onto on the 7th October began at 10am. So it was an early start to get from my hometown in East Sussex, to the Holiday Inn in Bloomsbury, London. Luckily the train journey with fellow writer Mabel Bliss went well, and we met two other author friends, Wendy Clarke and Liz Eeles-Smith, at Victoria station on time.

I heard about this course from writers while at the RNA conference in July at the Harper Adams university. Writers these days have to learn many other skills other than writing, so I knew this was a course I could benefit from. Whether they are traditionally published or Indie authors, writers need to know how to promote themselves and their books on social media. This is in order to generate sales and find maximum readers for their work.

We arrived at The Holiday Inn, which was clean, bright and welcoming. Once we were all settled into the classroom with our teas, coffees and bottles of water, the course began. We started off by learning about Twitter. I love Twitter and feel it’s a great tool for promotion. I learnt all about something called: Tweetdeck, which is about scheduling tweets, and also what kind of thing to tweet to get followers when not promoting your books. Apparently pictures of cats and cakes work well. We covered lots of aspects of social media including Instagram, which is all about images, but still good for promotion.

We then progressed onto Facebook, which is where a funny thing happened.
I was in the classroom minding my own business and listening intently to Anita, along with the rest of the students, when something hilarious popped up on my Facebook screen. I just happened to glance down at the screen to see that Facebook had put a Medieval History picture on my screen. This was a funny picture I had shared on my timeline a year ago. How strange it happened to pop up at just that precise moment! Honestly it was all I could do not to guffaw loudly with laughter, and I almost nudged Liz who was sitting next to me.

Thankfully I didn’t. Instead I averted my eyes from the screen and concentrated on the course. Just so you know what I’m talking about here’s the offending picture. WARNING RUDE PICTURE COMING UP!
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Thankfully I somehow managed to contain my laughter, and lucky for me the next time I looked at the screen, the Medieval History picture had disappeared. Phew!

On reflection the day was thoroughly enjoyable and many thanks to Anita of Neetsmarketing for a well-run and very informative course. Also great cookies, cakes and lunch too Anita. I definitely learnt loads from the day and the only thing I have to do now is to put some of it into practice.

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Enjoying the Social Media course with fellow writers. 

 

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Biker’s Moll.

 

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Hi everyone as you can see from the photo, I am now officially a biker’s moll. This photo was taken after my first ride on a bike in about twenty years, which is a bit scary I can tell you and I very nearly chickened out.

When OH suggested to me, quite some time ago, he was yearning to buy a motorbike again, (after seventeen years gap of not riding bikes), I was dead against it. This was for various reasons I won’t go into, but one of them was, we’ve been there done that and got the t-shirt.

Aren’t we getting a bit long in the tooth for adventures on a motorbike? I argued. This was a road we’d been down many times before. I didn’t have any desire to do it all again. Why I asked him, when you can sit in a comfortable warm car, would you want to ride on the back of a chilly motorbike? The wind in your hair or the sun on your face I hear you saying, rain down your neck while frozen stiff more like. I brokered a sound argument, but it fell on deaf ears, and eventually after much debate OH purchased the bike.

On first sight of the said bike I couldn’t help feeling a tiny bit excited, remembering those heady days of riding on the back of previous bikes. In the past I had travelled to France on the back of a Goldwing, and been to Dorset on the back of a Honda CBR (1000cc sports tourer). And this motorbike: Kawasaki 1700 (see photo) was a cruiser unlike some of the other bikes OH had owned. I was softening towards getting my little-old body onto this Monster-Machine.

But it wasn’t that easy. I had to get geared up first. In the olden days, (as my grandchildren would say) we wore leather gear for protection while riding. OH had bought himself some new gear. Manmade fabric was the way to go this time he said, it was cheaper than the leathers we used to wear and was waterproof. I couldn’t help feeling a smidgen of disappointment. I used to love those black leathers and felt like the bee-knees in them all those years ago. But I agreed the cost involved was a good reason not to buy leather gear this time around – much cheaper. So off we went to the bike shop to purchase these cheaper (but not so sexy) waterproof jacket and trousers.

We arrived at the shop late in the day and I spent a good hour trying on the most unflattering of outfits, telling myself safety came first. But suddenly we had run out of time and the shop was closing. So we put aside a jacket and left the shop promising to return the next day.

By early evening I began itching all over my body and by the middle of the night I had come out in hives. This made me feel very unwell and OH had to go and get me some antihistamines from the Sunday chemist. To cut a long story short I had an allergic reaction to the chemicals in the material, and couldn’t wear the gear I’d tried on. I couldn’t help feeling a bit smug. If I was going on the back of the bike I would have to wear leather gear now, oh dear what a shame I thought, remembering the lovely black leather, with white trim, outfit in the shop. Back we went the following week.

After purchasing my very expensive, leather trousers and jacket (OH looked quite put out as my motorbike gear was twice the price of his), I was at last set up for a ride on the motorbike.

The day dawned and I pulled myself into all the gear feeling a bit claustrophobic. As the motorbike roared into life my heart was beating out of control. I warned OH to go slowly, ‘I always do,’ he reassured me. At first I wanted to cling onto OH for dear life. I tried to remember how years ago I had been all the way to France on the back of a bike, if I could do it then…

Thankfully after about ten minutes I relaxed onto the cushioned seat behind me and began to enjoy the ride. I noticed how when passing other bikes while out riding, OH would nod at them as they passed and they did the same to him. When I asked what this meant, I was told it was a kind of rule of the road with bikers, they nodded at each other to say they were okay. A new respect was born in me after hearing this, for the way bikers look out for each other.

To conclude I have now been on another ride and feel as if I’ve really settled into being on the back of the bike now. So becoming a biker’s moll wasn’t as hard as I thought even after all these years of travelling around in a lovely, warm and comfortable car.

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A well earned Gin & Tonic!

To Write or Not to Write?

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If anyone is out there reading this then I’ll begin my very first blog post. Well that’s not strictly true as it’s actually my third. The first blog was written two years ago on what inspired me to write my first novel and the second was last year when I reviewed the Film, Suffragette.

Ah there’s a theme here I hear you say, Suffragettes. Before I explain further I’ll begin at the beginning. I’ll tell you how my writing journey began, while trying to disguise the scary feeling that no-one will be reading this blog post, no-one at all.

My writing journey began in two thousand and four, after I decided to attend a writing course at the local college. I’d tried writing short stories before but never found the courage to have a proper go at ‘this writing lark,’ and because of job and family commitments, writing was always on hold.

I digress. The day of the course arrived and I felt nervous, I’d had no time to prepare I told myself. What preparation I needed I didn’t know. To find out if I could write or not? To Write or not To Write?

I told myself I had to attend the course, as it would push me into doing more than just dabbling in a bit of prose, when I had a spare moment. It would spur me onto bigger things. Or… assign my writing to the bin forever (more likely).

The course turned out to be good, the teacher was helpful and the other students friendly. I felt I was making progress in my writing. Every week we were given homework which we had to read out in the class, this was nerve racking.

One day the subject of the homework was to write a monologue. We were each given a person and a situation to write about, and mine was: ‘someone who’d been captured and  about to be tortured.’ My heart sank, this was a dark subject and not my kind of story at all. How was I to do this? Thankfully the words came easily and I called my story: The Red Shoes.

The theme of the story was moving and I soon realised it would be hard to read this aloud in class. I overcame this by reading it constantly to my long–suffering family. The time came to read it to the class and I managed it fine. There was a hushed silence when I reached the end of the story and I was full of pride, until one student said in a very loud voice, “Yeah but it isn’t a monologue is it?” What’s that they say about pride coming before a fall?

After the writing course ended I decided it was a novel not short stories I really wanted to write. As you will see from my previous blog post, (a whole year ago) I’d had an idea for a contemporary novel, and the research led me to the Edwardian era. This spiked my interest in how women lived then and the fight they had for the vote, making me realise the contemporary novel needed to be historical.

After completing another course, this time online, I finally finished my book. With my novel ‘Bird in a Gilded Cage’ now a finished manuscript I began submitting it to publishers and agents. To my great disappointment I had nothing but rejections. What to do next I wondered?

Self-publishing was my next step. I had spent five long years writing the novel and by publishing it myself it would have readers. Which also meant I could get on with writing the next one. Since then I’ve written another novel entitled ‘Amethyst’ which is a dual timeline story, featuring WW2 and present day intertwined. It’s set in Brighton and a small village called Isfield.

So that’s my writing story so far. I’ve recently returned from the Romantic Novelists Association’s annual conference (I joined their New Writers Scheme last year). While there I pitched Amethyst to an agent, who gave me some valuable feedback on improving the structure of the book.

I’m now in the middle of structural edits on Amethyst and also planning my next blog post as we speak. Is that the truth or fiction I hear you ask? To Write or Not to Write that is the question. I promise you I’ll be back next month when the fun will really start. I’ll tell you all about my struggling writers stuff (not always huge fun but definitely a challenge), and about becoming a biker’s moll. Now that’s got you wondering hasn’t it?

Thank you for reading this blog post (if anyone did) and look out for Sue’s Scribbling this time next month when I’ll definitely (promise) be blogging again.

A link to the short story The Red Shoes can be found at: http://www.susangriffinauthor.co.uk/

Find Susan at https://www.facebook.comauthorsusangriffin

Twitter: @sugriffinwriter

 

Review of the film: Suffragette

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Grim, terrifying, passionate, but immensely inspirational, that’s how I would describe the film, Suffragette. Carey Mulligan’s portrayal of Maud Watts, a working class woman in the East End of London employed in a laundry where abuse of women is commonplace, was incredibly moving. At the start of the film she shies away from being associated with the movement, as getting involved means to court trouble of the very worst kind. Not just from men but fellow women as well.

But Maud’s sense of injustice becomes such she cannot help herself. A way to help womankind have a better life is staring her in the face if only she can find the courage. She eventually relents when a suffragette friend persuades her to join the movement. As Maud becomes embroiled in the cause, as a wife and mother she pays the highest price imaginable.

The film has many violent moments but the scene where Maud is being force fed in prison is particularly harrowing. Even the hardened police officer in the film, who hated these women with a vengeance, was moved to protest at the growing inhumane way they were being treated. In the end a martyr was needed to educate the public on what the suffragettes were fighting for as the newspapers were being silenced. Emily Wilding-Davison became that martyr when she gave her life for the cause, by leaping out in front of the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby on 4th June1913. She died of her injuries on 8th June 1913.

It is barely believable this was how women were treated just over a hundred years ago. Even if you were wealthy or you married a rich man everything was owned by your husband, including your children. Wealth did not mean freedom.

I spent years researching the suffragette movement for my book, Bird in a Gilded Cage, and there are similarities between this film and the story I have written. The book started out as a contemporary story, but whilst in the process of researching an Edwardian piece of clothing, I found that research led me to look at women in this time period and how they lived their lives. Women were trapped in a world where they were denied even the most basic of rights. One of those rights was the right to vote.

 

My heroine, Beth, is from a privileged background having grown up with every luxury money can buy. But it is freedom Beth is desperately seeking, that and finding a way to help women have a voice. Beth is frustrated beyond reason when she witnesses her brother, James, being allowed privileges she can only dream of while she is effectively imprisoned in her cushioned world.

As in the film Beth meets a suffragette, a young woman called Alice who draws her into the movement. Alice becomes her mentor and falls in love with Beth, but Beth is in love with Finn, a man who is opposed to the suffragette cause. Beth now has more than one fight on her hands in this dramatic portrayal of life during this pivotal time for women. Beth like Maud pays a high price for her freedom, but she never gives up the fight.

Suffragettes had enormous courage and fortitude in their fight for the vote. We must never forget how much we owe them. The freedom women enjoy today is only a result of their immense suffering, determination and brave sacrifice.

‘Inspired by Emmeline Pankhurst to write my novel.’

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My novel Bird in a Gilded Cage, is a passionate story set against the backdrop of the suffragette movement. The heroine, Beth, is fighting to break free from overbearing and manipulative parents, when she meets headstrong Alice Sparks, and finds herself drawn into the fight for the emancipation of women. Alice’s declaration of undying love for Beth throws her into confusion just as the handsome and mysterious Finn McGuiness appears in her life.

But the real fight has only just begun, as Beth becomes embroiled in a powerful struggle for her own survival, where her beliefs and emotions are threatened and the resulting events lead to dramatic consequences.

An impassioned story of love, women’s fight for equality in the early twentieth century and friendships pushed to the very limits of endurance.

Bird in a Gilded Cage began life as a contemporary novel until early on in the planning of the book I had to look into Edwardian women’s fashion for research. This led me to discover not only the way women dressed but how they lived their lives. Emmeline Pankhurst and the suffragettes were at the forefront of the fight for equality and after reading their story I was inspired by these brave and courageous women.

It was at this point my novel changed from present day to historical and I began to write Beth’s dramatic story.

Emmeline was born in Manchester in 1858 the eldest of ten children. She grew up in a politically active family as her parents were both abolitionists and supporters of female suffrage.

In 1878 Emmeline returned to Manchester after studying in Paris and met Dr Richard Pankhurst. The two married in 1879 and gave birth to five children over the next decade, Christabel, Sylvia, Adela, Frank (who died in childhood) and Harry. Emmeline managed to combine bringing up her children and household responsibilities with campaigning for her husband in unsuccessful runs for parliament and hosting political meetings at their home. She was truly a remarkable woman.

When Emmeline’s dear husband died in 1898 she was consumed by grief and for several years focused her attentions on her children, however she retained a passion for women’s rights and in 1903 she created a new women-only group called the WSPU, Women’s Social and Political Union whose slogan was ‘Deeds Not Words.’ The group was led by Emmeline and her three daughters.

The WSPU was determined on a new approach as the government had refused to support women’s suffrage. The new tactics would be daring, disobedient and more militant than ever before.

After a protest in Parliament Square in 1910 turned violent and police beat many suffragettes, the WSPU waged guerrilla warfare, orchestrating window-smashing and arson attacks. As the movement became more desperate so it became more violent. In 1913 Emily Wilding Davison was killed when she threw herself under the king’s horse at the Derby racecourse. She was the only suffragette to die for the cause.

In 1914 war was declared in Europe and the government released all suffragettes from prison and they suspended their activities. Emmeline and her daughters threw themselves into the war effort.

In 1918 the government passed an act giving women the vote if they were over the age of 30 and either owned property or rented for at least £5/year or were the wife of someone who did. The suffragettes dream was finally realised when in March 1928 a bill was introduced to give women the vote on the same terms as men. However, Emmeline Pankhurst fell ill and died on the 14th June 1928 just before it became law on the 2nd July 1928.

There is no doubt that Emmeline Pankhurst and the suffragettes raised the profile of women’s right to vote to a national level. Emmeline was a woman with an indomitable spirit and gritty determination and is an inspiration to all women everywhere.

The suffragettes and their bravery against all the odds is still a subject which fascinates people today – including me. Earlier this year the BBC broadcast a three part programme on the suffragette movement and equality for women and Radio Six also aired a feature on the same subject. In September of this year the film Suffragette will be screened in cinemas across the country, starring Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst and is the first film to be shot in the Houses of Parliament with the permission of MPs.

My novel Bird in a Gilded Cage is available now in paperback and eBook.

Pick up today: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bird-Gilded-Cage-Suffragette-Story-ebook/