For this Relief, Much Thanks …

October 27, 2021

I’m having something of a worlds colliding experience at the moment. On the one hand, I do have a book coming out in January, which will mean a little bit of self promotion over the next few months (apologies in advance for those of you who are here for the cycling and ford updates, although at least the book does have some hares in it and look how gorgeous its cover is).

Since my last book was published cough years ago, book promotion and social media have come a long way – I didn’t even have a twitter account back then, now I come to think of it. And now I’m getting tagged in by people who have been sent advance copies of my book to review (and even been followed by my publisher) who may be looking at my feed in some confusion and wondering if they’ve actually got the right Sally Hinchcliffe.

I have been guiltily thinking that I should probably be doing some more writerly tweets at least every now and then, or perhaps tone down the climate doom mongering / cycle campaigning / swearing a bit, which might not be a bad idea anyway. All of which good intentions went flying out the window with one casual tweet that went moderately viral about … toilets.

Although, given the grateful response from people of all ages and genders, I’m not sure I should apologise at all.

Anyway, in the interests of book sales and keeping my publishers happy, my book is available for pre-order now. There’s even a bicycle in it.


What I Preach

January 27, 2017

They say, if you want tips on getting a good night’s sleep, ask an insomniac, because the people who actually sleep well every night just go to bed and fall asleep and have no idea how they do it. Similarly, if you want advice on avoiding procrastination, ask a procrastinator … but do remember to give them a firm deadline or you may be waiting a long time.

As it happens, this came up at my writers’ group (after we’d just postponed starting our session by two weeks, in a rare example of synchronised procrastination, which is harder than it looks) and I somehow volunteered to jointly run a session on becoming more productive as a writer (stop laughing at the back there). Fortunately there was a firm deadline, and – as I was putting off doing something else more important at the time – I ended up doing a fair bit of reading on the topic and managed to put together an interesting and (apparently) quite effective evening. It ended up as a cross between a group therapy session and a stationery sales convention (there’s nothing quite like a new notebook, calendar or pack of coloured post it notes to take the sting out of actually getting on and doing something, and if that doesn’t turn your crank, then there’s always the option to set up an elaborate spreadsheet).

Anyhow, I thought I had better put my money where my mouth is, so I have made a commitment to try something along the lines of this, to make sure that I make time for my own writing alongside all the other important things I seem to have agreed to do. Today I set up the calendar on my phone and scheduled my first week’s worth of writing sessions – and so far (accountability is everything) I have got that first crucial half hour under my belt, as well as managing to power through a few more things on my to do list.

The problem is, while I feel I’ve actually achieved a fair bit today (and I still managed to spend at least half an hour getting a tricky game of Spider solitaire out), there’s still effectively an infinite number of things I have to do (winning at Spider Solitaire wasn’t one of them, either). One of these days – when I get to the bottom of my current to do list – I shall start learning how to say no to things and concentrate on what’s truly important. Unfortunately, with the way the world is these days, that seems to be everything…

Meanwhile, if you’d like a funny, a bit sweary, but accurate analysis of procrastination, I recommend you start here.


Snatched from the Burning

May 27, 2016

How best to say goodbye to a small literary magazine which has run its natural course? I have been running the Fankle for five years now and it was more or less washing its face – which is about all you can ask of a small-scale literary pamphlet to be honest – until my printing costs doubled and I decided it was time to pull the plug.

I could have just quietly folded it up (appropriately enough if you know how it is made), but I decided its farewell should be marked in more dramatic fashion so we gathered together as many of our past contributors as could make it, to drink wine, read out some of our greatest hits, and then it seemed to make sense to give it a final, Viking-style sendoff by fashioning one into a boat, setting fire to it, and then sending it off flaming across the nearest loch.

When I dreamt this idea up, I hadn’t quite factored in the fact that it would still be broad daylight at 7 in the evening, which made it less dramatic a sight than I had hoped. Nor had I quite taken into account the onshore breeze – or the fact that when a party of people comes down to the edge of the water in an urban location, all of the local swans make a beeline for what they hope will be some food. It’s quite difficult to shoo a swan, it turns out, let alone a dozen of them. Indeed, even setting fire to a small literary pamphlet and floating it in their general direction doesn’t do much more than bemuse them. It takes a lot to faze an urban swan.

swan audience

Come to think of it, this isn’t a bad turnout for a poetry reading…

But it takes even more to faze a party of poets – who weren’t even all that drunk as they were driving so I had had to do my best with the wine – so we said farewell to it anyway (and then fished the remains out of the loch and disposed of them properly; we’re not litter louts). And perhaps after all, adding a touch of farce and an audience of swans to the proceedings wasn’t the worst way to see something off that has always run on a wing and a prayer.


In Residence

August 1, 2014

writer in residence

Would you buy a new book off this woman?

Well, I survived my afternoon and even sold a few books while not getting rained on, which surely counts as a result in a writer’s life these days. I didn’t even have to spend too much time pretending to write or practising my writer face as people were happy to come up and talk, even if most of the questions were along the lines of ‘where are the nearest toilets?’

Someone had the bright idea of starting a story which we were inviting people to add on to. It started ‘I opened the door of the beach hut, expecting the usual paraphernalia of deck chairs and beach equipment but instead I found…’ but quickly went off piste once the kids started adding their suggestions with brave Captain Crochet reviving a scary skeleton who reanimated as a mermaid who fortunately spoke fluent shark and was able to give directions to the Great White who had got lost on his way to visit his Grandma… (and if you’re wondering what happens next, you’ll just have to head to Kirkcudbright to find the writers’ hut and find out for yourself. Hopefully it won’t have gone too Fifty Shades of Grey by the end of the weekend.) Children might have no real sense of narrative continuity but you can’t fault their inventiveness.*

Meanwhile the long-suffering other half, who was acting as my chauffeur (we were half way there before it occurred to me that I could technically have just driven myself. I really should get behind the wheel occasionally), after attempting to fill a couple of hours in the Stewartry Museum, retired to the other deck chair to read his book.

skeleton pirate awaiting revival

Not the other half. Just in case anyone was wondering

He was revived by a visit to the fishmonger and some locally caught dressed crab, which we had for supper followed by excellent lamb steaks from Notso Bigtown butchers followed by wild raspberries gathered from along our road. Food miles don’t come much more delicious…

* with the exception of the little boy who said squashingly, ‘well, as stories usually have a happy ending I expect it all worked out in the end.’ Terrible to have developed the soul of a critic already in one so young.


A Beach Hut, a Cup of Coffee, and … Well, Anyone, Really

July 30, 2014

Kirkcudbright Arts and Craft Trail writers in residenceOn Friday, I shall be fulfilling TWO long-held ambitions: to become a writer in residence and to have a beach hut. Sadly, both only last for an afternoon, which is not so much a residency as an afternoon visit, and the beach hut won’t actually be on the beach but in Kirkcudbright town centre, but hey, let’s not get picky here.

I know have to think about what to do with my short residency. Hopefully people will come and say hello because otherwise I’ll have to spend two hours maintaining my unthreatening and friendly but not in any way desperate writer’s expression as last practised during my one and only bookshop signing event. I will almost definitely have brought the means of making (or at least keeping hot) some coffee because it might just lure people in (cakes, while tempting, might smack of desperation). Does coffee with a writer sound appealing? I will almost certainly have books (my own and other fellow writers-in-residence’s) to sell. And there will be paper and pens and writing prompts for anyone who wants to do some writing of their own.

And I may even get some writing done myself, but let’s not go mad here. All will depend on how much of that coffee I end up drinking on my own…


Creatures of Habit

May 19, 2014

So we spent this afternoon clearing out the shop that will be this weekend’s pop-up bookshop. A group of us started the bookshop last year, primarily to annoy the arts high heidyins who would rather local writers confined themselves quietly to giving readings in pub toilets and then dying genteelly in poverty instead of demanding to be noticed and celebrated by the literary establishment at our local book festival. By some accident of fate it turned out to be something of a success so we are now invited to pop up at other artsy events by the same powers that be (as long as we find ourselves a venue, sort out our own insurance and do all the marketing ourselves, obviously). Anyway, with the local Arts Festival looming, we found ourselves the perfect shop in Notso Bigtown, an old newsagent and stationers that shut down three years ago – and even then was old fashioned enough that the one time I went into it I was rendered unable to speak for about three minutes* because I could not shake the conviction that I had actually stepped back into the past. It has a long wooden counter with the goods displayed in glass cabinets behind it and I had to double check when I came out with my paper that it was actually that day’s edition of the Guardian, and not the Manchester Guardian reporting the Suez war or, indeed, the progress of the Gallipoli campaign.

the shop that time forgot

Since closing down, the owner has been using it to keep all those things you think might come in handy but don’t normally have the space for, plus things which he hasn’t got around to throwing away, on top of leftover stock dating back at least fifty years (dip pen nibs at 2p each, anyone? – apart from anything else, it’s a stationery fetishist’s idea of heaven). We were there last week for a preliminary clear out where we managed to hack the undergrowth back as far as the counters, and today we were cleaning and putting in some finishing touches that will turn it from the opening part of Alice’s Restaurant into a moderately convincing temporary book shop.

shop that time forgot

It was a satisfactory afternoon’s work all told, but what I did find amazing was – as we swept the floors, and cleaned the windows, and emptied out the cabinets, and stuck up posters with such giveaway hints as ‘pop-up bookshop this weekend’ on the door, in a shop that’s been closed for over three years – how many people still walked in and attempted to purchase a paper. Here’s hoping they’ll return for a book or three at the weekend.

*insert your own joke here


Wagging Tongues

October 3, 2013

I think I have written before about my ambiguous relationship with Wigtown* and its book festival. This year, rather than see what creative corner the organisers could hide the local writers in, we took matters into our own hands and have – for one day only – planned a little mini festival of our own, disguised as a pop-up bookshop (yes I know, London people, you are so OVER pop-up shops but bear with us because the trend has only just filtered its way up here and we still find them unbearably exciting). There will be readings. There will be books and pamphlets for sale (including, of course, the Fankle). There will even be my own book for sale. There will be hand made Moob hats (no, I didn’t know either). It should be a blast.

It had better be, because I’ll have to be waiting to be picked up at 7:50 AM on Sunday at the road end due to an inconvenient delivery of an entire school to Nearest Village which will be blocking off the road to the village that morning. Honestly, you wait five years for something as exciting as a school to be delivered, and it happens on the one weekend you aren’t going to be there to witness it. I just hope there’s someone waiting at the school, otherwise they’re going to be landed with one hell of a ‘while you were out’ card to pick up…

* note for the confused: while ‘Bigtown’ isn’t really Bigtown’s real name (and nor is Notso Bigtown Notso Bigtown’s), ‘Wigtown’ is a real place. I gather this has caused some confusion in the past…


Tiniest of Plug-ettes

November 27, 2012

Edinburgh Review cover issue 136Regular readers of this blog may be surprised to learn that as well as my regular cycling, gardening, ford-monitoring and general trouble-making activities, I am technically supposed to be a writer. Friends, family AND regular readers of the blog may be even more surprised to learn that I have actually finally written something AND found someone to publish it. No, not the long awaited Difficult Second Novel – honestly, who do you think I am, Thomas Pynchon? – but a short story which will be appearing in the forthcoming issue of the Edinburgh Review. Not only that, but I have decided to dig myself out of my rural isolation, pick the straw out of my hair and scrub the chain grease off my knuckles – I might even change out of my gardening trousers, if I remember – and go to the launch. Well, what can I say, there was a promise of free wine. Anyhoo, if you’re interested, I shall be here, and if you’re even more interested, you can buy a copy of it. I’m sure it’s packed with brilliance.

Oh, and if you’re reading this and going ‘I didn’t know she was a writer! Where can I buy her fabulous and acclaimed and likened-to-Barbara-Vine-no-less first novel?’ then can I direct your attention to the links on my sidebar.

Here endeth the plugging. As you were. Carry on. Nothing to see here, folks, move along…


Pluggity Plug Plug

September 1, 2010

There’s an interesting interview on the front of the Guardian today with someone who’s memoirs have recently been published … no, not Tony Blair, rehashing the tired old battles of the past. I mean Shaun Attwood, on the front of the Society Guardian, about his book detailing his experiences in ‘America’s Toughest Jail’ (copyright Sheriff Arpaio).

Why do I mention it? Because Shaun just happens to have been my mentee through the Koestler Trust (I am assured this is a real word although I’m suspicious) and I spent just over a year working with him on his book. He’s kind enough to suggest I worked some magic on it, although most of the time I was merely standing on the sidelines while Shaun taught himself to write, making the odd helpful comment rather in the manner of someone watching someone else remove a goat from a fence. But his book, Hard Time, (I preferred Shaun’s original title Green Baloney and Pink Boxers but what do I know about titles*) is out now. I don’t do much plugging of writerly stuff here, as you’ll know, but I’m making an exception in this case. Although having seen how much higher he is up the Amazon ranking than I am …

Anyway, Shaun is also a blogger – it’s how he got started and the reason why the Koestler Trust matched us up in the first place. His has been a fascinating story and I’ve been privileged to see it develop over the time that I’ve known him from a series of scattered and amusing anecdotes into a compelling story about someone who managed to drag himself out of the depths and not just survive but thrive. Go, and have a read.

Right, plug over. Normal service will resume tomorrow…

*especially as I managed to misremember even this one


Writerly Stuff

May 10, 2010

OK, it’s not all been bike rides and somersaulting green beans and scenery up here – I’ve been doing some writing stuff too. No, not a new book yet, so don’t ask – ‘how’s the writing going’ is one of those great unanswerable questions like ‘who can stop the rain?’ or ‘have we got a government yet?’ – but I have been busy setting up this, which will be out at the end of the month. There will be a short story from me in it, and – when it’s printed and I’ve wrestled PayPal into submission – there will be a way to buy it on-line and have it posted to you, actually physically, in a proper envelope with a stamp on it and everything. This digital world is overrated, I’ve decided. We put it together with actual cut and pasting – scissors and glue – and it was the best fun I’ve had in a long time.

Hmmm. Maybe Paypal is the wrong approach after all. Does anybody still do postal orders these days do you think?