This is no ordinary circus, there are no clowns or elephants, no big tent with circus ringmaster, instead there are lots of individual tents you can wonder through, including an ice garden, a cloud maze and a pool of tears, but these are no illusions. The magic is real and it's part of a duel between between two young magicians, Celia and Marco.
When I was little we had a big box of Christmas books we got down from the loft every year but the one I remember most was Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore (1799 - 1863) looking at the pictures and falling in love with the lilting words. I decided to create my own picture version and here it is. I hope it gets you in the festive spirit.
When you write it's easy to get caught up in your story. I know that I'm too close to it now and need somebody impartial to read through it and give me some suggestions on how I can improve it.
Part of me is a little nervous - it's a big step to show my work to anyone, I've only rececntly entrusted it to two friends and they like me, so chances are they will be kind in their feedback. A stranger... now that's completely different.
My hope is that their response will contain positive suggestions of things I can do to make my story better. I want to feel empowered and excited to add some new elements. My aim is to write the best novel I can and this is one step closer to doing that.
I don't have children but I imagine choosing your favourite book is like picking your favourite child. How do you decide? They're each so unique and individual. I thought about the books on my shelves, the ones I've read more than once and often have the book and audio book. These are the books I recommend to friends over and over again so I realised these must be my favourites...
Judging a baking competition is serious business and fortunately the first time I was involved there was an official WI judge who gave me some top tips on what to look for. I was happy to impart these to the other judges this time around. We were looking for good colour, a nice rise, a light texture and of course the scones had to taste delicious. The scones got marks out of ten for appearance, taste and texture.
There were six categories: Cheese, Plain, Fruit, Freestyle, Children’s and Signature. I was judging the Freestyle round again because it was such an unusual category, you never know what you’ll get. It proved to be the most popular category this year with the most entries - I lost count of how many scones I tried but there was at least twenty! A little overwhelming to sit down to but I proved my WI credentials and tasted them all.
The trick was to only take very small pieces of each scone and I alternated between sweet and savoury to keep my taste buds fresh. This year Mediterranean flavours were really popular, lots of sun dried tomatoes and olives as well as two entries with Norfolk saffron. There was also some fun sweet flavours including s’mores, gingerbread and Nutella.
It was very close between first and second, just a couple of points between them. First prize went to a sun dried tomato, chorizo and feta scone and second was cheese, apple and onion. Both were delicious and I would be very happy to be served them at any afternoon tea I attend.
I still use the same method when I'm not doing NaNo as it stops me from getting bogged down in perfectionism and helps me to move through the story. Ideas come quicker and flow easier, often ideas I would never have come up with if I had been agonising over what to write or trying to craft the perfect sentence.
The next stage is the edit, that where I take time to remove all the extra bits I haven't filtered out but I still work fast, setting myself a certain number of pages each day. I always know I will go back and re-edit the pages and probably will several times, so it takes off the perfection pressure.
Writing and editing is a process of layering the story, adding details, taking away any unnecessary words and scenes until it just feels right. Once I got comfortable with that (or remember that) it all gets much easier and much more fun.
I've finished my first novel while enjoying copious amounts of chocolate and cake.