Tag Archives: Brighton

The Beach Hut Writing Academy

 

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I’m very proud to be taking part in this fabulous writing event this Saturday, March 12th.

It’s a full-day conference for new & experienced writers, run by the Beach Hut Writing Academy Conference and taking place in the gorgeous Brighton sea front Angel House.

There’ll be plenty going on, including workshops and lunch with bestselling authors, screenwriters, agents and editors, all sharing their insider secrets. Emlyn and I will be chatting about writing together and how to make a career out of writing.

The conference is currently SOLD OUT, but you can join the waiting list for last minute tickets here.

Hope to see you there.

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A good old-fashioned achy hand

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When was the last time you had an achy writing hand?  The kind of wrist-flipper that catapults you back to when you last feverishly wrote in your exams?  I have to say, it’s rare for me –  being the speed typist I am –  but it’s good to be reminded occasionally of the sheer joy of handwriting.

Last night at my creative writing event at the Jubilee Library here in Brighton, I was lucky enough to meet a whole room full of enthusiastic writers.

I started off with a timed writing exercise, following a set of rules.  I first stumbled on these writing rules when I read Natalie Goldberg’s ‘Writing Down the Bones.’  She’s also written a fabulous book, ‘Wild Mind:  Living The Writer’s Life’.  Her idea is a simple one: that is the more you practice writing, the better you get at accessing your creative mind.  The idea is to write FAST, in a timed session, with no censorship.

There are SIX rules for writing practice.

  1. Keep your hand moving.  No matter what.  Even if you write banana, banana, banana, the idea is that you will outsmart the editor in you which is telling you that this is ridiculous and you’ll get to the good stuff.  You must not stop writing for the time allocated.  SPEED is everything.
  1. Don’t cross out.  That’s editing as you’re writing.  Even if you’ve written something you didn’t mean to.  Leave it.  Nobody is going to judge you.
  1. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar.  Don’t even care about writing straight on the page.  Just keep going.
  1. Be Specific.  Use your senses.  Use colour, textures, sounds.  Use different nouns and verbs to bring your sentences zinging to life.  If you write a generic sentence, don’t worry, just make the next one better.
  1. Lose Control and Don’t think. Stick with your first thoughts, not your thoughts on your first thoughts.  Stay with the words you’ve chosen.  Follow your instinct. Let it rip.  Go where the writing takes you.
  1. Go for the jugular.  If something comes up in your writing that it scary or naked, dive right in.  It probably has lots of energy.

The group wrote for ten minutes and I gave them the words ‘The First Time’ as a jump point.  All sorts of wonderful tales came out.  I particularly liked one woman’s description of her first cigarette and the hellish relationship she’s had with cigarettes ever since.

At the end of ten minutes, everyone had achy hands, but everyone agreed that they felt better for the exercise.

Try it.  You might enjoy it.

My next creative writing session is on September 13th here in Brighton.  The course runs from 10.30-3pm and is £99 including a gourmet lunch.  Please contact me to book your place.

 

 

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Gorgeous Gossip

 

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Things have rather Dark & Stormy around here with Emlyn, Julia and Ray’s new Crime Festival, which was a storming success.  There were sell out events all-round with a brilliant turn from Brighton’s own Peter James as well as a ‘Spies Fact or Fiction’ event in the Dome with Dame Stella Rimmington and Liam Fox amongst the other distinguished guests, not to mention the rocking launch party. I was lucky enough to make my radio presenting debut recording for the brilliant Radio Gorgeous and spoke to Julia Crouch and Candida Lacey about why Brighton and crime go together like Fish and Chips.  Here I am on Gorgeous Gossip.

http://radiogorgeous.com/podcasts/author-joanna-rees-reports-from-dark-stormy-crime-festival-on-gorgeous-gossip/

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The Truth About Summer

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And here it is…I give you…Summer.  Ta da!  After a couple of false starts, it finally feels as if the rain is over and summer can begin.  Brighton certainly thinks so.  On the way back from the school run, I saw people with towels under their arms, walking towards the sea like zombies, pre-nine o’clock.  What is this?  The Med? 

 

You can’t knock the dedication of the sun worshippers.  These are the girls and boys, who know that they can strip off and lie on a beach in a bikini or shorts all day, reading a book, or lying with headphones on, just simply looking great.  They make the art of doing nothing seem not only impossibly glamorous, but blissfully effortless too.

 

I never been one of those people. 

 

Don’t be fooled by the sun-worshippers.  In my experience, of all the seasons, the summer bills itself as the most effortless, but is actually the most effort.  And once it starts, there’s no respite from barbeque preparation and beach trips.

 

And there’s personal effort required, too.   Whilst everyone else is oooh-ing and ahh-ing at the weather, the bikini season fills me with dread.  I always think that when summer hits,  I’ll be ready.  I’ll be waxed, tanned and sorted with funky little skirts and tops, but it never happens.  The sun comes out and Bam! I go into a full-scale panic.  That denim mini-skirt?  With these legs? You’ve got to be kidding. 

 

Then I go through the guilty stage and start muttering to myself: Why didn’t I go on a diet when it was raining? I could have been to Pilates, yoga three times a week and now it’s too late, because any second now I’ll have to expose upper arms.  Thighs even.  Eek!

 

I scour women at the school gates.  Oooh, she’s got nice Birkenstocks.  Are Havaiana flip-flops still in?  Why is she wearing that T-shirt and not sweating?  Actually, why is nobody apart from me sweating? 

 

It’s not the stripping off thing that worries me about summer.  Don’t get me wrong, I like nice weather, but during the day I’m indoors working and looking at it through the window.  Nobody talks about it because we’re supposed to be happy, but looking out at nice weather, when you’re too busy to be in it, is slightly depressing. 

 

No doubt, I’ll do what I usually do and pluck an old favourite frock from the cupboard and hit the English Riviera in my large sunhat and shades, assuring myself that it’s OK, because you get all sorts down on the beach.  There’s even some whiter than me.  Besides, it’s hardly a fashion parade, when a beach trip is a military operation with three kids and a husband in tow.

 

Within minutes of arrival, I have replicated what looks like crash site as the kids strip off.  Then I field-marshal multi-directional questions, delving to the bottom of my bags for sun cream, hats, jelly shoes and swimming costumes.  In seconds they want sandwiches, drinks, crisps, then it gets chilly and they all want jumpers and towels.

 

As the carnage spreads and my entourage race around with pots of sea water and squirty water guns, and slimy sea-creatures for me to examine, the tanned girls in their skimpy bikinis and little towels usually leave.  I should feel sorry for them, but I don’t.  Go on, love, that’s it.  Go and read your book in peace.  Skinny cow.

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Back to school blues

It’s that back-to-school time of year again.  As I write this, huddled up in a cardigan and looking out at the rain, I can’t help but think how strange my sun-tanned hands look and how far away all that Fiesta-ing suddenly seems.  Was it only a week ago that I was cavorting round in shorts and a vest top, drinking tequila shots in the Placa at midnight?  Good Lord!

Yes, after six glorious (if not somewhat excessive) weeks in Mallorca, we’re back in England and I’ve had the task of re-acquainting my children with such forgotten concepts as wearing clothing and shoes, going to bed on time and brushing their hair and teeth.

As usual, we holidayed up to the wire, disorientating the little blighters with extreme culture-shock so that before they knew it, they were trussed up in school uniform and bundled through their classroom doors.

In my usual spin-to-the-positive way, I convinced myself that this would be a great idea, brushing over the inevitable dose of easyFlu and easyNits that such a strategy involves.   But a twelve hour pool-side to registration turn-around is the norm for my kids.  They can handle it.  Who needs those dreary last-days-of-the-summer-holidays slow build up to the inevitable going back to school moment?  Not us Reeses.  We’re hard core.

But this time I was forgetting that the Little One was starting nursery.

Big mistake.

OMG! What a trauma.  Emlyn and I have been through the emotional wrangle every morning since we’ve been back.  For both of us, it’s been like splitting up with our first girlfriend/boyfriend ten times over by nine a.m.  We meet, war torn and exhausted for our morning coffee, the weight of guilt at ‘breaking’ our darling three-year-old weighing heavily upon us.

The poor Little One.  She seemed so positive about the whole starting nursery thing on holiday, playing ‘school’ every day, ransacking the kitchen drawers to put all the plastic cups and cutlery into her backpack for an imaginary party with her new school mates.  In her head, I now see that nursery was going to be one long party. Her party.  With her in charge, of course.

Watching reality slap her round the head has not been pleasant.  For starters, she hadn’t at any point grasped the concept that we’d be leaving her there, or that she might have to do as she was told.  So what followed was awful to behold.  That big, big shuddering intake of breath, the wide-eyed shock of betrayal followed by those fat, fat tears and the heart-breaking wail, ‘Don’t leave me.’

I’ve been through this with the others, of course, but somehow with the Little One, my third and final baby, it’s been harder than ever.

A friend reminded me how the Big One was when she started school.  She was fine on the first day, but when I took her back on the second, she said, ‘Oh no, Mummy.  I’ve done school.’  Talk about a short, sharp life lesson there.

The school have been brilliant, I must add and today, so far, so good.  I think that’s because I resorted to some of my most brilliant parenting this morning, fully committing to bringing a BIG packet of blue crisps AND a cola Chupa Chup to pick up.  That won’t ruin her lunch, or her teeth at all, right?

But…hang on.  I’ve just found out that Emlyn managed to get her settled in this morning by promising that ALL of her new friends in the nursery can come to her house for a party.

Hmmm…. I’m staring to think that the Little One has had this all worked out, all along. She’s not ‘broken’ at all.  We are.

NOW what do I do?

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Bring Back Smoking

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Ever since my Mum bought Emlyn membership to CAMRA (The Campaign for Real Ale) for his birthday along with the 2010 Good Beer Guide, beer has become big news in our house.  I even found myself surfing home brewing sites.  Seriously.

This year, bitter has become an epiphany for me.  There are so many fabulous summer ales that are light and low in calories, I’m a convert.  OK, so they’re not that much lower, but so much better for one than fizzy lager.  The volume of liquid I’d otherwise glug in wine is much better consumed in pints of bitter.

Subtly and slowly, I can feel myself morphing from a snooty white wine sort of a girl, to an earth-mother bitter drinker.  And I am embracing the challenge to find the best pub within staggering distance.

Oh, how I love the pub. Let’s face it, the pub is our defining talent as a nation.  It’s what we do best.  The summer pub tables in the garden, the cosy inglenook fireplace in the winter – the pub is a place of sanctuary and warmth for everyone.  Even The Little One was heard sobbing loudly in the playground when she fell over, ‘Take me to the pub.’

So after a crappy week here in Rees towers, Emlyn and I headed out to seek the bosom embrace of the boozer.  We chose the Evening Star, THE Mecca for beer drinkers in Brighton.  There’s been a brewery on this site for donkeys years and the low beams are steeped in beer-making pride.  This is a place for the serious connoisseur.

‘We’ve got a few casualties from the beer festival in Lewes,’ the barman explained when nodded to the bloke by the window who appeared to be asleep on his stool.  But no matter, the beer was delicious.  Light and lovely and we’d already fallen in love with the place until I walked around the pillar and walked slap bang into it:

THE biggest, smelliest fart I’ve EVER smelt.

And that’s when I realized what was going on.  There were big, hulking great bloke guffs wafting from every corner. It was like a siege of farts. We had to drink up and leave.

This type of flagrant trumping can only mean that these type of ale folk are used to blowing off in public.  To be honest, it probably hasn’t mattered before, as it the God-awful smell has always been masked by the smokers.

Choking and gagging, we lurched down the road to a pub with a younger crowd, but it smelt of cleaning products.
So bring back smoking, I say.  I’ll take passive smoke over annihilation by fart any day.  Or the deeply un-relaxing smell of chemical loo-freshner.  Or, alternatively, can someone hurry up and invent charcoal padded underpants?

The Big One presented her Father’s Day card this morning to her hung-over Dad, explaining that she’d made it at eleven pm in a sleepy haze.  ‘Happy Farter’s Day’ it proclaimed inside (entirely by accident).

Hmm.  Quite.

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Twenty Swear Words

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Here we go, here we go, here we go. World Cup fever officially starts tomorrow and there’s cheap white car flags, Adrian Chiles and bad haircuts everywhere.  Yesterday, I saw a small child with the word ‘Gerrard’ shaved into the back of his head. Oh dear, oh dear.

I’m not a fan of football.  It’s a bit woosy for me.  It’s all the excessive buffing, the chest waxing, the hair products, the mano-a-mano contact at every given opportunity, the tears, the faking, the communal baths, the socks. It’s not attractive to us girls.

And it’s a mug’s game being a supporter.  Let’s face it, poor old England don’t stand a chance of winning and yet we’re marching over the trenches, walking blindly into a summer of collective mass depression and damaged self esteem.  Tragic really.

Nelson Mandela can croak on all he likes about the beautiful game bringing together nations, but we all know it’s personal.  It’s going to be like Eurovision all over again where we lost – spectacularly – because everyone in Europe hates us.  Why wouldn’t they?  We’ve been turning our nose up at their party now for years.  They couldn’t wait for a chance to snub us publicly.

And the same goes for the Americans.  With BP pumping out the horrific oil slick onto America’s prime coastline, we’re literally dumping on their doorstep.  Do you really think we’ll have a hope in hell of winning on Saturday against a side so pissed off?

And it’ll be oh-so-easy for them.  All the yanks have to do is wind up Rooney a little bit and he’ll be off.  The Anglo Saxon within will rear up and he’ll be hoisted by his own petard.

Oh yes, Fifa’s list of banned expletives is a genius move to thwart us, especially since we invented swearing.  Everyone knows that kicking a ball and bad-mouthing are hot-wired together into the very DNA of every footballer in the land. I’d love to know the total on Capello’s swear box by now.  You could probably buy a small island with it.

But twenty words, eh?  I’m intrigued. I’m an accomplished swearer, but I’m struggling with twenty.  Imagine the meeting of the officials to decide on the definitive list?  These are grown men.  It’s got to be the silliest meeting in history.

But the secret list has been issued.  So clearly there’s the F word and the D word – multiply by two when you add Head to them both.  So that’s four. Then there’s obviously the C word and the Mother one.  They’re up there, right?  Then there’s S H one T and the one that rhymes with Banker.

But what else?  Pillock?  Wassock?  Twonk?

You’ve got to wonder.

Roll on Wimbledon.  Bring on the hairy chests and racket throwing.

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