Tuesday 26 October 2010

The Secret Diary of a Teenagers Parent

This blog post is being written off the cuff. No neat editing or thinking about what I could possibly blog about. This is me, sat at my computer simply typing the feelings and frustrations out. The frustrations of parenting a female teenager two months shy of turning fifteen and a teenager who is throwing herself into her life head first with little regard for anything that may be sitting waiting for her to bang her head on.

Why do teenagers feel they could only possibly look good if they are orange in colour, blacked eyes from too much mascara, short skirts and high heels? And why am I always in a constant battle with her?

There is an under eighteens event being held in a pub in our nearest town on Thursday night. She wants to go. All her friends are going. I contacted pub watch or licensing or whoever else I felt could clarify details of this and it is a legitimate event and support by the local Police. I don't understand why everyone feels it's ok to introduce teenage girls (and boys) into nightlife at such an early age. Now she's planning and demanding a dress and has picked out the most ridiculous pair of high heels she wants. I simply do not want her to go. I don't feel comfortable with her going to a pub on a Thursday night (It's half term) when the rest of the pubs are serving adults so drunken adults will be in the vicinity. I don't feel comfortable with the way she is going to want to look when she goes. Yet I feel alone in this. Her friends are going, their parents buying dresses and heels and probably more makeup. If I put my foot down and say no, I am at risk of ostracising her from her friends because she can't join in what they are doing, but if I let her go, I'm seriously not happy, in fact, I'm passed not happy, I'm outright stressed.

I wasn't going to pubs until I was 16 and I know that was still too early, but it just seems so far away from where she is now. She's made terrible decisions this past year. I don't trust her judgement on the safety of situations or for herself. All she is interested in, is how good she could look, in her eyes, and what others will think of her. It's a constant battle. I'm always saying no. I don't want her to enter the world of adulthood yet. It's not the place all youngsters think it is!

This is only going to get more and more difficult the longer it goes on and she gets older. I know there is no magic age where I can suddenly trust her, but she's not ready, she see's life as a big game and party whereas the reality is a little darker.

Thursday 21 October 2010

School Reunion

Recently, on Facebook, I appear to have been located by several people whom I used to attend school with, many many moons ago. I've been located and sent the obligatory friend requests. Now, although I am not sure if stepping back to a time I wore fixed braces, my family couldn't afford all the current trends and I was socially inept, is a good idea, but I accepted the requests, regardless. The thought processes behind these acceptances? I'm unsure.

Why do people feel the need to put on rose tinted glasses when remembering yesteryear and even in the remembering, why take that step and start adding and collecting old friends and acquaintances like a pack of cards? Why go on an friend requesting rampage, adding everyone you can possibly find, that links you back to a time of hormonal teenage angst. People you most probably lost touch with for a reason.

For me, I can't even remember half of the people that have sent me friend requests, yet I have surmised they are old school pupils from the ever growing lists of mutual friends, when clicking on their profiles.

To take this social networking nightmare to the next level, several old school “friends” have decided next summer would be a great year to hold a school reunion. We all turn forty next year. Need I say more?

Will it be fun to catch up? I think I will only remember half a dozen people and if the rest aren't wearing name tags, then I'm doomed. I acknowledge that there are a few people who it would be genuinely lovely to catch up with, but I know I'm definitely not the timid little girl I was back then and interactions are likely to be comparatively different.

Saying that though, a school reunion brings with it, self doubt and self image anxiety. How do I look? Does my bum look big in this? What have I achieved and what does this say about me?
All questions that I will torture myself with regardless of whether the questions have life breathed into them by another.

I will be forty. I work full time in the public sector, I have a modest house, a stable marriage and two wonderful children (OK, that bit can be debatable depending on when I'm asked!) I may also have had, at least one short story published by next summer, but will I feel I have achieved enough?

What is enough? What am I measuring myself against? And what do we expect from each other at these events?

As well as personal self doubt, I will also worry about being the cause of those similar feelings I have described, in some I meet again. Whilst their life decisions and changes will have no bearing for me, could I, without trying, cause some others personal anxieties and self doubt to rise to the surface? I'm not the person to compare and contrast our current lives, but, there's no getting away from the fact that if I'm worrying what they will be thinking of me, you can be sure, that someone else in the little gathering will be having the exact same concerns.

School reunions and stirring the pot of the past, is a hot bed of problems and issues, all silent and unspoken, yet an event, that seems ever popular.

Do we judge ourselves by others standards and achievements? Are these gathering merely a selfish tool to up our own invisible status by scorning others or is there a genuine wish to see old friends?

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Update on Sons Health

It's been a while since I updated the blog on the progression of the investigation into my sons health, so I thought I would do a quick update this evening. 

We did see the head Ehlers Danlos consultant, several weeks ago and she didn't think he quite fitted into the EDS category just now. He is hypermobile, but he could be more hypermobile then "normal" people or a little hypermobile. She just didn't want to call it. 

She mentioned his chest wall shape isn't right, but didn't elaborate. She didn't know what the leaking capillaries were about, so said she will see him again in a year.

A few weeks later, I received a letter from her, where she informed me she had attended a conference where she had spoke with a German Doctor researching children with capiliritis type issues and asked permission to discuss my son directly with him, to see if this can help in a diagnosis for him. I returned contact informing her it was definitely ok.

We then went to a follow up appointment last week, with the head paediatrician consultant who original diagnosed Ehlers Danlos. He took on board what the specialist had said, but when I asked if it could be a different connective tissue disorder and mentioned his chest shape, he really didn't know. He's now keeping an eye on him six monthly, to see if there are any progression of symptoms or new arrival symptoms. 

I'm hoping the German Doctor has something to offer, as seeing my little boy bleed into his skin on his torso regularly, really doesn't feel right for me, in fact it just make me anxious. 

I am a lot calmer than I was before, though. I'm no longer climbing the walls. My son is generally healthy within his day to day life, so I will take this in my stride, even if I am watching him like a hawk!. 

Saturday 9 October 2010

Creating and Using Twitter Lists.

The Twitter lists function has been available for about a year now. They are an add on feature to the twitter – user interface.

Not all users quite know how to use them though, so end up avoiding them altogether and yet follow hundreds if not thousands of people. This huge amount of following of people causes a lot of noise on a twitter feed, and often, this noise is irrelevant stuff that you really don't want, or need to hear.

Recently one of the people I follow, made comment about the amount of useless noise on his twitter feed and stated that they could no longer keep doing complimentary follow backs.

The simple organisational tool to rid yourself of the twiffle and ramblings that come with a large amount of followings is twitter lists. It gives you the ability to syphon off the stuff you don't want to hear, whilst still maintaining the original follow. Obviously if people you are following, hold no interest for you at all, then just don't follow them, click on the “unfollow” button.

To start using this fabulous creation, go to the right of your web based twitter, where you will find all your twitter needs, trending topics, saved searches etc, and there you will find twitter lists. Below the lists title is a “new list” button. Click. Create a name for your list, using whatever labels you want for various people. Some examples for list names are; great-Tweeters, Authors, Creative Cookery etc. and create the list. You can create multiple lists. This will help you phase some of the noise in your time line that twitter can create.

Once you have created your lists you can then go through those people you are following and allocate them into your newly defined lists, or even press the unfollow button. I mean, how often do you actually go through the people you are following and check if you even recognise the name or if you are getting anything from following them, conversation, or something as simple as a daily smile at a tweet they wrote.

So now you are ready to go. If you want your feed to be a bit more noise free, click on one of your lists and those you allocated in that list, will be the only people you will see tweets from. It's easily clickable to change lists to keep an eye on lots of twitter friends.

Another good point about twitter lists is that you can happily stalk twitter celebs without having to to actually “follow” them. You can simply assign them to a list (mines named Celebs who Tweet) and occasionally keep an eye on them by checking that list from time to time.

Twitter lists, for the lovely feeling of being organised. (Even if you're not really)

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Take a Break - Submission Guidelines

I've been busy this past few days,so haven't really written anything, so thought I would post these guidelines for any fellow short story writers. I emailed the women's magazine Take a Break last week, querying short story submissions and whether they take unsolicited mail. The response arrived today, that they did and the below are guidelines for the stories and submission. I hope you find this helpful.


Basic requirements: We are looking for contemporary stories aimed at women from their mid-twenties upwards. We require about 1000 words (N.B. Please note reduction from max of 1100 words) with a strong plot and a good twist in the tail. We do not have a weekly serial, so stories must be complete in themselves. It is highly unusual for us to buy stories written in the first person (I), we prefer third person narratives, (He/she).

N.B N.B. N.B !!!!!!

The twist MUST arise out of the plot, rather than simply turn on a detail, which the characters know but is deliberately kept hidden from the reader in order to mislead:
To check your twist is a genuine twist - not simply a deception - imagine your story were being made into a film and ask yourself - would the surprise still work? If it wouldn't, I'm afraid it's not for us.

Subject matter: We particularly like settings and situations which readers can recognise and relate to, rather than say, country house murders or stories about drugs’ rings or jewel thieves. It's essential to read several issues of the magazine to get the flavour of the type of fiction we publish before writing a story aimed at Take a Break. Many writers waste a lot of time and effort because they haven't done this. Please avoid straightforward romance i.e. boy meets girl and they live happily ever after. Also avoid historical backgrounds, science fiction and stories narrated by animals or small children. Take a Break is a family magazine so graphic murders etc. are not acceptable.

Common plots to avoid: UPDATED

* The heroine/narrator is revealed to be a cat, dog, fox, or whatever! This is a complete no-no.
* The victim of a rip-off tradesman or horrible motorist etc. turns out to be his or her new
boss/emergency dentist/VAT inspector.
* The policeman/woman is really a strippagram/singing telegram.
* The woman discovers her husband's secret lover is a man (or man discovers wife's lover is a woman).
* A husband/wife's mysterious arrangements turn out to be for a surprise gift/party - not an affair.
* The character who sees 'ghosts' is actually one him/herself.
* A shifty antiques dealer or similar dupes an old lady out of what he thinks is a priceless antique and it
turns out she is making them by the dozen.
* Anything to do with twins.
* Someone nervous about a first day at school turns out to be the teacher; or about a wedding, turns
out to be the vicar; or an interview, the interviewer and so on.
* Anything to do with bumping off elderly relatives for the inheritance; in fact 'Wills' in general are best avoided.

Finally...no stereotypes please! It's all too easy to fall into the trap of having lazy husbands and put upon wives, battle-axe wives and put upon husbands, grumpy old people and their longsuffering relatives, lonely single mums and their matchmaking children… Stories about super-husbands and overly-cheery grannies can be equally dull.

Because many writers write to this type of brief, their stories become boring and perhaps a good
twist is wasted. Be open-minded about your characters but keep them real!!!!!!

Because our stories are so short, it can be confusing if you have too many characters. A maximum of four is usually best. The main character should always be a woman.

Stories must be your own idea and original work, previously unpublished, and not on offer to any other magazine or publisher at the time sent to us. Should your story be accepted we would probably have to edit it to conform to page length and style.

Presentation: No e-mail submissions or floppy disks please!
Typed manuscripts are quicker and easier to read, but if you can't get your story typed, write clearly in double line spacing.

Please ensure your name, address; e-mail address (if you have one), and telephone number are on each page of the manuscript as well as on any accompanying letter. An accompanying letter is not necessary. Please include a stamped address envelope large enough to hold your story. Self-seal envelopes are especially appreciated. It's advisable to keep a copy of your story to guard against the remote chance of loss.

Features and articles should be sent directly to the Features Department with a covering letter.
It can take 10-12 weeks before a decision is made concerning your manuscript, so please be patient. If your story has not been returned after 12 weeks, please drop me a line giving me the story title, a 2-line synopsis of the plot and the date sent. Include your phone number (and e-mail address if poss.) and I will get back to you as soon as possible.
Should your story be rejected it can be for any number of reasons. Sometimes we have already published or have in stock a similar story. More likely though, I feel it will not appeal to our readers. This does not necessarily mean I will not like another of your stories, so please don't lose heart.

Payment: £400

Usage Terms: First British Serial Rights with extended usage only across all media platforms
Stories sent for specific issues, such as Christmas, Easter, Halloween etc, must be sent at least three –four months in advance of issue date.


As Fiction Feast is a short story publication we can be very flexible about the length and type of fiction required. However, do read Fiction Feast every month to get the flavour of the magazine. Please note we rarely, if ever, publish stories written in the present tense. If writing with us in mind, please think carefully whether your story wouldn't work just as well in the past tense!

Please check the 'common plots to avoid' list (updated) above. Remember, too, that stories must be original, previously unpublished and complete in themselves. (Sorry, no serials) If you have good, strong 750 - 3,000 words, suitable for a family publication, I'd be delighted to consider it.

Presentation: as for Take a Break (see above)

Reading time: It can take 12 weeks for a decision to be made regarding your story. If you haven't had a verdict after 12 weeks, please drop me a line, giving me a brief synopsis of the plot, and date submitted. Include your telephone number (and e-mail address if poss.) and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Payment: which is generally on publication, depends on published length, starting at £200 for a single page.

Usage Terms: First British Serial Rights with extended usage only across all media platforms
If you have any specific queries about submitting stories to Take a Break or Fiction Feast, I will be happy to answer them. Please write to me, Norah McGrath, Fiction Editor, Take a Break 24-28 Oval Road, NW1 7DT.