Sisters are doing it for themselves

My lovely writing friend and fellow Write Romantic, Sharon Booth, was recently passed the ‘Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award!’ baton where female bloggers answer questions set by the person who nominated them, then passes a new set of questions onto another female blogger.

sister-hood-awardI promised that I would accept the baton and answer Sharon’s questions, but a couple of weeks have passed and I’ve only just got round to it because I’m still chasing my tail as highlighted in an earlier post. I’m doing a half-effort, though, because I can’t think of anyone onto whom to pass the baton. There are plenty of blogs that I follow, but they’ve all either accepted this challenge or been invited to participate. So I’m going to have to stop it with me. Sorry. I feel quite selfish saying, ‘I’ll tell you about me, but I won’t pass it on!’ Hope you’ll forgive me!

Before I answer Sharon’s questions, I thought I’d comment on sisterhood. I don’t have a sister although I have two brothers who are married, and hubby has twin sisters so I’m lucky enough to have four sisters-in-law who are all absolutely lovely. Big shout out to Linda, Ness, Clare and Susan xx

My career to date (the day job) has mainly been in Human Resources, specialising in recruitment and/or learning & development. For me, this has been mainly female-dominated although quite a few managers have been male although I’m not going to pass comment on that today. I’ve often been asked, “What’s it like just working with females? Is it bitchy?” I’m pleased to be able to say that this hasn’t been the case in most of my jobs. I’ve found supportive, caring colleagues who are excited and inspired by the success of other females in the team. Sadly, I’ve also found jealousy, back-stabbling, taking credit for other people’s work and outright bitchiness. The latter qualities disappoint me so much. Why do that to each other? Why try to reach the top by clambering over other people? I could never do that. Unfortunately, that refusal to stamp on others has meant I never progressed as far in my career as I could have. Oh well.

Fortunately, The Write Romantics do demonstrate sisterhood. We’ve blogged together for two years now and we provide support, advice, and encouragement. We actively promote each other, and we are there for each other. Long may it continue!

Enough wittering. Onto Sharon’s questions…

P1060221What is your earliest memory?

Most of my childhood memories are set what I consider to be my childhood home; the place I lived from when I was almost four-years-old. However, my earliest memory traces back to the house I lived in before we moved. I remember going for a walk round the block with my pram and my dolls. It’s just a brief flash of a memory, but it’s definitely my earliest. About 12 years ago, my older brother bought a house round the corner from there and it was strange going to visit him for the first time, passing my first house, and looking at the path I remembered walking along.

What was your favourite Christmas present?

P1060219I love presents so I’m happy with most things! I’ve had some great gifts over the year. One of the best as a child was an ice-skating Sindy which I’d longed for. As an adult, one of the most thoughtful was when my hubby bought me a silver chain with three intertwined rings with my name, his name, and our daughter’s name on them. Lovely.

Who would you like to go on a date with? (Excluding current partners/spouses)

I’d probably go for the humour value and pick Ant and Dec. I reckon a night out with them would be great fun.

Which film would you choose if you could only ever watch one again?

Oh that’s mean! I love films and there are so many I’d watch again and again and again. I absolutely couldn’t name one. One of my favourite films is ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, but I don’t think I’d choose that as the only one I could watch. ‘Ever After’ perhaps? Or ‘The Wedding Singer’? Or maybe ‘The Proposal’? Ooh, I’ve got it! ‘The Holiday’. I absolutely adore that film and find myself drawn to it any time I flick TV channels and it’s on.

What are you most proud of?

10933962_422724554553053_2755676624398073407_nAs a parent, the obvious answer would be my daughter and I am, of course. But isn’t every parent (I hope)? For me personally, the thing I’m most proud of is that I kept going with my writing and kept believing and it paid off with a publishing deal. The day I hold ‘Searching for Steven’ in my hands will be the most amazing moment ever.

Which woman in history do you most admire?

Very difficult question. I don’t really know much about history. I’d therefore turn to a writer from the fairly recent times – Catherine Cookson. She was a prolific writer with an incredible imagination and gripping voice. My mum is a massive fan and, in my twenties, I probably read the vast majority of Catherine’s books, all borrowed from my mum’s collection. I haven’t read her autobiography, but I understand she had a particularly challenging upbringing, which no doubt inspired many of her stories.

Which book do you wish you’d written?

It would be so easy to say The Harry Potter series, Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’, The Twilight Series, or ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ for the financial rewards – *dreams wistfully of a day without debt*. However, my answer is a book that probably still made the author very rich, but the reason I choose it is how it made me feel. Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews is my most favourite book ever. I’ve mentioned this before on my blog as the first big book I read and it blew me away. I couldn’t stop reading it, dying to know where it would lead. The rest of the series equally gripped me, but I read that first one so many times that the book actually fell apart. Imagine how incredible it must feel to have created a piece of fiction that can do that to someone. Wow!

What one thing do you think would surprise other people about you?

I can be really shy sometimes. Most people would view me as confident, talkative, and not afraid to speak up in front of a group. Just as well given my day job is as a Trainer! However, certain situations and certain people can intimidate the hell out of me and I can be very shy and wish the ground would swallow me up.

You’ve had an unexpected windfall of one thousand pounds. What would you spend it on?

I’d put it towards a holiday with my family. My little girl is eight and we saved like mad to take her abroad for the first time last October (half term). This year, we’re saving like mad again and are hoping to be able to do a special trip north while she still believes in Santa. Ssshhh. It’s a secret!

Thank you, Sharon, for inviting me to participate and sorry that I’m not passing it on.

Sharon’s debut novel, ‘There Must Be An Angel’ is available now in paperback and eBook formats. Find it on Amazon and you’re in for a treat!

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Be Careful What You Wish For

Just under a month ago, I wrote a post on the Write Romantics blog called ‘Chasing My Tail’ and I re-blogged it here. At the time, I found myself massively struggling to to everything I wanted to do. In fact, I was struggling to even do the things I needed to do; never mind the extras. Although I didn’t write it in my article, a little voice in my head kept telling me that it would be nice to catch one of those bugs that was going round to get me a little time off work so perhaps I could catch up a bit.

Be careful what you wish for.

On Wednesday 25th February, I came back from my morning bootcamp and couldn’t stop sneezing. My nose was like a tap that day and I had a constant headache. This continued the following day but, by the time I went to bed, I was aching. My head pounded all night, I went from pouring with sweat to shivering, and I barely slept a wink despite feeling exhausted. I phoned in sick and slept most of that Friday. Things went from bad to worse. I felt drained all weekend. I’m not often ill and, when I am, it’s likely to be two days at the most so I figured I’d be back by the start of the next week. Instead, I was at the doctor’s. I discovered I’d contracted two viral infections at the same time – the cold and flu one and the D&V one – and I could expect to be ill for quite some time as they were particularly nasty strains.

After a week of self-certifying, I had to get a sick note for another week off because I’d still got the infection, but had added conjunctivitis in both eyes to my list of problems. Saturday 7th March was a particularly low point for me. The cough – which kept me awake most nights and added to my exhaustion – was so bad that it made me sick, but the force of doing this burst blood vessels in my eyes. Bear in mind I already had conjunctivitis so was suffering already. My eyes were red and swollen and I could barely see. Early last week, I started to see a slow improvement. Very slow.

I returned to work on Friday. I’m still really tired, but I am well enough to be back at work and I’m definitely not contagious anymore. So was I well enough to catch up on anything or do any writing while I was off sick and therefore fulfil my little wish? Was I heck! I have a strong work ethic and have never/would never skive. If I’m off work, I’m off because I physically can’t work. Which meant I didn’t have the energy to write either. It turned out to have been a very stupid thought!

My first few days were all about bed. After that, I could make it downstairs to the sofa, but spend my days watching films or napping. On the plus side, I saw a lot of films I haven’t seen before. We have Netflix so I had a lot of choice. Particular favourites included a Sandra Bullock film called “28 days”, two based on Nicholas Sparks novels called “Safe Haven” and “The Last Song”, a Natalie Portman film called “Where the Heart is”, plus a Gwyneth Paltrow film called “Country Strong.” I’d never heard of any of them and would therefore never have sought them out if I hadn’t been ill.

Although I didn’t have the energy to write, I did have time to think about my writing. I’m nearly ready to send book 2 to my publishers. It’s being read by two beta readers, one of whom has read it before and the other who is reading it for the first time. I feel like I’ve made some great improvements to it recently, but something still wasn’t quite there. The storyline for one of the films bears no resemblance to the plot for book 2, but something that happened in the film triggered a thought process around book 2 and, along with some initial feedback from one of my beta readers, I think I might have found the missing piece. Yippee!

I’ve done very little writing since my return to work on Friday but it’s my flex day tomorrow (I work a full time week across four long days) so I’m hoping to crack on again then. One thing I’m a little scared of is whether I’m trying to do too much. I do cram a ridiculous amount in with work, writing, bootcamp, Brownies, and family, and I’m wondering if this little illness episode was my body’s way of telling me to slow down and relax a little. Perhaps I do need to have a night off a week where I just lie in front of the TV or watch another film I’ve never heard of on Netflix. I’m back at bootcamp in the morning and I’m back at Brownies that evening after a 2-week break. I just hope that I don’t set myself back again.

Moral of this story: if you are ever chasing your tail and need some time off, book some annual leave. Don’t hope for a minor bug; there’s no such thing!

Jessica xx