A pick-me-up playlist as part of Boldwood’s #BoldDailyThoughts

As we’re in the third lockdown in the UK and it’s all a bit scary and meh right now, Boldwood wanted to share some positivity through their #BoldDailyThoughts. Authors were asked if they’d be happy to contribute something positive to share with our readers. This could be anything such as a picture, a quote, a blog post, a video. When I’m feeling down, music is my ultimate pick-me-up so I’ve come up with a playlist of thirty songs that make me (and hopefully you) smile.

Over on Boldwood’s blog, I’ve talked about what music means to me and why I went for a playlist. You can find that post here.

Here’s a link to my playlist over on Spotify. If you’re not a subscriber, you can still register and access this playlist for free but there’ll be an advert every few songs. Subscribers can listen without adverts.

The reason I have this special extension post is that, when I pulled together the playlist, I found I wanted to explain what memories each song evoked in me and why each makes me happy. For thirty songs, that’s a pretty long explanation and too big for the usual length of our blog posts on Boldwood. But it might be of interest to some so here you go. Happy reading/listening!

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Why have I chosen this playlist?

‘Reach’ by S Club 7

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t love this song from 2000. It’s so happy! Nuff said! Get on your feet and reach for those stars!

‘C’est La Vie’ by B*witched

Ah, the double-denim class Irish pop princesses. This was their debut single in 1998 and it’s full of crazy lyrics and melodic delights. If you’re of a certain age, I can pretty much guarantee you’ve attempted some Riverdance moves to the instrumental break in this track! I know I have

‘Waterloo’ by Abba

Anything by Abba transports me immediately to my childhood and it was a tough choice as there are so many uplifting songs I could have chosen. They’re the first band I loved and I’ve remained true to them ever since. I’m sure you’re already aware that ‘Waterloo’ was the winning song for Sweden in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest. In the fabulous film Muriel’s Wedding, Muriel is desperately unhappy and escapes her troubled life by listening to Abba songs. When she leaves home and finally finds herself, she stops listening to Abba because her own life is “as good as an Abba song”. That speaks volumes to me. 

Abba also remind me of so many other fabulous points in my life with friends. Before heading off on our separate ways to university, my good friends Susan and Graham spent an evening at my house dancing to Abba songs. Cider may also have been consumed. Many years later, I took several holidays with another great friend, Catryn. In Turkey one year, we stumbled across a club at the hotel where an Abba tribute were playing. Nobody was dancing but how can you not dance to Abba and specifically how can you not enact the Knowing Me Knowing You video where Agnetha and Anni-Frid face in different directions? The tribute band absolutely loved it! Good times.

‘Be With You’ by Atomic Kitten

Sampling ‘Last Train to London’ by the fabulous ELO, this is such a feel-good track. Out in 2003, this is the year I moved back to the north where my family were based and opened my teddy bear shop. I remember having a night at my younger brother’s with my older brother and the three of us were listening to this and trying desperately to work out where the sample came from. That’s the last night I ever had with just my two brothers (Mike and Chris) and, as I haven’t seen them for over a year now, it feels right to have something that reminds me of them. Although my little brother Chris would probably want pointing out that he likes ELO but not so much Atomic Kitten; not quite his taste

‘Tragedy’ by Steps

I really agonised over which Steps track to pick before settling on this one from 1999. I know the words aren’t exactly uplifting but the dance moves are. The raising of the hands to the head? The shoulder wiggle? You’re doing it now, aren’t you? I couldn’t have been happier when Steps re-formed. One of my all-time favourite bands ever and a gig booked for later this year which might be about my fifth time seeing Steps live

‘The One and Only’ by Chesney Hawkes

This one-hit-wonder is one of my all-time favourite songs. It’s so uplifting. Does anyone else think of it as an 80s classic? It was actually released in March 1991 but I think the 80s vibe might be something to do with being penned by 80s legend Nik Kershaw (bit of pop trivia for you there). So many memories of being on the dance floor to this one at university and beyond. What a floor-filler!

‘Relight My Fire’ by Take That

With so many huge hits in the early 1990s, Take That were the soundtrack to my university days (1990-1994) and I was spoilt for choice but this 1993 collaboration with Lulu is simply fabulous and steps up to a new level when Lulu’s husky vocals kick in

‘Believe’ by Cher

It was the best-selling UK single of 1998 and I know it might have been absolutely played to death that year but I never got bored of this come-back single from Cher. Single and having recently bought my first house in Birmingham, it reminds me of a happy time in my life where I really believed (see what I did there?) that I could have it all in the future. As it happens, I had a few duff years before life finally came together

‘Can’t Stop This Thing We Started’ by Bryan Adams

Ooh, I love Bryan Adams. I’ve seen him in concert four times and am seeing him again this summer (I hope!) So many amazing up-beat songs to choose from and ‘Summer of ‘69’ might be the most obvious but this one from 1991 has such a rousing chorus that I made a controversial choice. Plus, ‘Summer of ‘69’ is about looking back and regrets. This one isn’t

‘New Beginning (Mamba Seyra)’ by Bucks Fizz

Unless you’re a fan of Bucks Fizz – or The Fizz as Mike, Jay and Cheryl are collectively known now – you might not necessarily remember this one but it was a big hit back in the day (1986). It is such a rousing song. Listen to those drums and harmonies. Gorgeous. Best enjoyed really loud! Bucks Fizz were the very first band I ever saw in concert at Middlesbrough Town Hall for my thirteenth birthday. I’ve seen them a couple of times since and still love them. And, let’s face it, we’re all waiting for our new beginning right now!

‘Mustang Sally’ by The Commitments

You’re singing ‘Ride Sally ride’ aren’t you? You can’t not. I was just into my second year in at university when this film came out in late 1991. I’d never really heard soul music before. Absolutely loved the music and it’s a great film too

‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ by The Communards

For the evening do on my wedding day, I wanted 80s music. The DJ was really young and, bless him, he didn’t have any and wasn’t even familiar with the 80s! Eek! So I had to take my CD collection in with a playlist. He absolutely loved it and the dance floor was crowded all night. He said it was the best wedding he’d ever done so I think it’s safe to say I’d converted him. I can picture everyone bouncing up and down to the chorus on this 1986 classic. Did you try to hit the long high note near the end? 

‘Real Gone Kid’ by Deacon Blue

Sticking with the 1980s here (1989) and another band who I absolutely adore who are amazing in concert. A Deacon Blue gig was the very first one I went to without my parents at Whitley Bay Ice-rink in Co Durham. They’re even better live than on their albums. You just have to jump up and down to the piano break in this and sing along to this chorus, arms in the air

‘Mr Blue Sky’ by ELO

Back to the 1970s now. I mentioned ELO earlier being samples on the Atomic Kitten track and now they have their own happy entry. This 1977 song has featured on loads of movie soundtracks and quite right too as it’s simply fabulous. How can you not feel uplifted when listening to this? I remember my dad playing this a lot when we were younger and, when I was on my year out from university, I bought myself ELO’s Greatest Hits and it really reminded me of home. I love Baby Groot dancing to it at the start of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. Brilliant!

‘Up’ by Olly Murs feat Demi Lovato

Jumping forward a whopping thirty-six years to 2013 here for my next choice. Another fabulously uplifting tune. I’ve seen Olly Murs twice at Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre and will (hopefully) be seeing him again this summer. It goes without saying that we’ve missed friends and family this past year but who has missed live music and theatre too? Can’t wait to make up for lost time

‘Roar’ by Katy Perry

Sticking with 2013 here although this could easily have been ‘Firework’ as I think both these Katy Perry tracks about believing in yourself are so uplifting. I’ve settled for this one as I remember it being in my bootcamp era. I used to rise at 5.15am and go to a bootcamp on the Yorkshire coast with my sisters-in-law and this was out at that time. For about a year, it was a very special time in my life. Let’s hear you roar!

‘Love Machine’ by Girls Aloud

There’s a fabulous 60s-sounding vibe here with this fun 2004 release from the Pop Stars: The Rivals winners Girls Aloud. I’m no dancer but I cannot help doing a little shimmy to this one. I had my teddy bear shop between 2003-2005 and I often used to listen to this track. If the shop was empty, I *might* have been known to dance to it while dusting the shelves!

‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ by Tiffany

Another of my all-time favourites and back to the 1980s for this absolute corker from Tiffany. She was only fifteen when this was released in 1987. Did you know that 1987 was also the year Scott and Charlene (Kylie and Jason) married on Neighbours. What a cracking year! Doing the ‘Tiffany-dance’ used to be one of my party-tricks

‘Love Revolution’ by Will Young

Since I first saw him on Pop Idol, I’ve been a massive Will Young fan. I have all his albums and have seen him a couple of times in concert. This 2015 60s-vibe song just makes me want to clap along. Love it

‘Beautiful Stranger’ by Madonna

Oh behave! From the 1999 Austin Powers film, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, this takes me back to my single days in my late-twenties living in Birmingham. I had such a busy social life then and a big circle of friends and have very fond memories of those times. I saw the Austin Powers films with my great friend, Catryn and we met another friend, Jackie, on a diving holiday in the late-90s and frequently quoted Austin Powers to each other (and still do on social media) 

‘Friday I’m In Love’ by The Cure

Another one from my university days, this is such a lovely song. In fact, so many of The Cure’s songs are gorgeously uplifting which might perhaps be surprising given the appearance of the band. Just shows that you should never judge on appearances. I don’t think it’s possible to listen to this 1992 song without your heart soaring with happiness

‘Stop Me From Falling’ by Kylie

So many Kylie songs I could have picked but I’ve gone for this lovely one from 2018 which describes one of my favourite romantic tropes in books/films: friends to lovers. This song makes me want to pop my cowboy boots on and do a bit of line-dancing

‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ by Queen

Queen are amazing. They have songs from such a variety of genres yet a completely distinctive sound. I don’t remember this back in the day (1979) but, over the years, this has become one of my favourite uplifting tracks. And can I just pause to mention how amazing Brian May is for all the work he does rescuing hedgehogs?

‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ by Starship

Sticking with the theme of nothing stopping us, the beat slows a bit here but the message remains just as uplifting. This 1987 track features on the soundtrack of the Kim Cattrall/Andrew McCarthy film Mannequin which was an absolute must-watch when I was at college

‘Somewhere in my Heart’ by Aztec Camera

More 80s music here and another of my all-time favourite tracks. I was at college when this was released in 1987 but it reminds me more of recent years out and about with my family on day trips. There’s a standing joke that I think I can sing all the words. I can’t. I also make a few up! Looking forward to days out again

‘ME!’ by Taylor Swift feat Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco

The most recent choice on my list, this 2019 song just makes me smile and even more if watched with the visually stunning video. Those outfits! Those colours! I love Taylor Swift and have been listening a lot to her fabulous more chilled Folklore and Evermore albums recently which are simply gorgeous but, for feeling alive, you can’t beat this one

‘Groove Is In The Heart’ by Deee-Lite

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of this song. From the summer of 1990, it reminds me of finishing college and preparing to start university – friendships pausing and new friendships starting. I instantly think of my friends Susan and Graham whenever I hear this song and love that we may not live close but the positive side of social media has meant we’ve been able to keep our friendships going over the decades. This one’s for you two!

‘Cotton Eye Joe’ by Rednex

Possibly a bizarre choice but, oh my word, I LOVE this 1995 song! I’d graduated from university and was on a graduate trainee programme when this came out. I was in a house-share with another graduate with whom I’ve sadly lost touch but it brings back good memories of a great friendship

‘Tubthumping’ by Chumbawamba

A couple of years after Cotton Eye Joe, this came out in the summer of 1997. It evokes a very specific memory of spontaneously going on a gorge-walking adventure weekend in Wales with a work colleague of mine. We ended up joining two stag dos and had such a laugh with them that we were invited to join them raft-building the following day. This song was constantly played on the radio that weekend and, every time I hear it, I’m instantly transported to Wales

‘The Logical Song’ by Scooter (radio edit)

Yes, I know, things are getting a bit weird now with a bit of early noughties electronica sampling Supertramp on helium which is why I’ve put this last on the list. Scooter makes me think of my big brother, Mike, who loves him. This 2002 song was a huge hit and just makes me smile, especially when Scooter spouts his random musings! I could just have easily selected ‘Posse’ which I also love. Hands in the air like you just don’t care!

Why I absolutely loved, loved, LOVED Bridgerton

I’ve been working flat out recently – evenings and weekends – working on the first round of edits for the third book in my Hedgehog Hollow series: Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow. With them emailed to my editor on Sunday evening and the second round due back within a week, it didn’t make sense to get into my next book – only to have to dip out of it soon after – so I decided to take this week off to catch up on a combination of housework and admin. And perhaps a rare bit of relaxation.

Last night, conscious I was quite late to the party as friends have been raving about it for a while, I decided to try the first episode of Netflix’s new eight-strong series: Bridgerton. Four episodes later, I had to force myself to stop watching and go to bed. Today I caught up on the remaining four. Wow! What a series!

I do love a period drama but I dragged my heels on watching this one and nearly didn’t bother last night because I was disappointed with a couple of period films I’d watched over Christmas and was reluctant to invest my time in Bridgerton in case it left me with the same feeling of disappointment. It absolutely didn’t.

The two films in question were Emma and Little Women. Both really good films and I am sure that many will have loved them but I’m afraid I personally preferred previous adaptations of both. I love the 1994 version of Little Women starring Winona Ryder and Emma was always going to have tough boots to fill for me as the 1996 version starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Toni Collette and Ewan McGregor is one of my all-time favourite films.

I confess I haven’t read either of the books so I have no idea which version of the film is the closest representation of Austen’s/Alcott’s classics but the 90s films definitely did it for me.

It’s always hard, isn’t it, when there’s a remake of a film you love? I can’t think of any occasions where I’ve preferred the version I’ve seen second time around. Miracle on 34th Street is my all-time favourite Christmas film but it’s the 1994 version I love. I’ve never seen the 1947 original as I know I will be constantly comparing it, even though I know most who saw that first will probably say it’s the best.

Anyway, back to Bridgerton. Set in 1813 Regency England, why did I love it so much?

The Costumes

Oh my goodness, how simply divine were the costumes? Tiaras? Jewellery? Apparently a whopping 7,500 pieces were made for the series with the lead female character having a whopping 104 costume changes. Eek! And the make-up and hairstyles were fabulous too. Stunning. I loved how the two main families – Bridgerton and Featheringtons – had a colour palette. And the final ball is a visual delight of different shades of blue.

The Music

Set across one debutante season, Bridgerton is packed full of balls so there’s lots of music courtesy of string quartets. As I listened, I thought, ‘I recognise this song!’ and I don’t mean familiarity with a classical piece. You see, the music is contemporary but played by a string quartet in the regency style. I specifically recognised ‘In My Blood’ by Shawn Mendes (the munchkin is a huge fan of his so I know that song well) and ‘Wildest Dreams’ by Taylor Swift (although I confess to only confirming that one after I Googled it as I didn’t quite get there and it was bugging me!) I loved this contemporary edge on a period piece.

The Settings

As with any period drama involving society, there are some sumptuous properties. Much of the series was filmed in London and Bath but there were various settings used around the country and I was particularly thrilled to spot that The Duke of Hastings’s fictional home was Castle Howard. Deep in the countryside off the A64 between Scarborough and York, I love Castle Howard. I visited it with my good friend and fellow author, Sharon Booth, in Christmas 2019 where the decorations were masquerade-themed. We’d have returned in 2020 if we could but hopefully will be able to return in 2021. I’ve put a few pics below although the sunny one was not from Christmas 2019!

Incidentally, Castle Howard makes an appearance in one of my books – New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms – under the guise of Denbury Castle where protagonist Sarah has a hot air balloon flight.

The Story

But my absolute favourite part was the story itself. It was fast-paced, gripping, full of intriguing characters. It was about love, family and friendships and all the challenges that come with that. It explored how relationships change as character circumstances change. It made me laugh out loud and it made me cry. In short, it was everything a good book should be and these are the elements I endeavour to include in all my stories as they are what excite me.

Ultimately, this was a beautiful love story about someone whose past has left them damaged and how they find their way through that. Again, a bit of a theme for my own writing.

I loved the idea that the narrator, voiced by Julie Andrews, is the person who pens the society gossip pages – Lady Whistledown – whose identity is a mystery but whose narrative certainly causes a few problems for everyone. This added a level of intrigue throughout the series which was fun. I made several wrong guesses in the first couple of episodes before guessing correctly. Not that guessing spoilt my enjoyment of the rest as I did change my mind a couple of times after that before the final reveal!

I adored all the comments about the place of women and could feel the frustration of the characters who wanted more from their lives than what society expected of them. I felt invested in them all and hoped they’d manage to achieve their dreams in the future.

And I love that this beautiful story has not been out of the Top 10 on Netflix since its release on Christmas Day proving that romance stories are alive and loved. As they should be!

I don’t want to say too much more as I don’t want to give any spoilers but I’m delighted to see the author of the books – Julia Quinn – riding high in the Amazon and Apple charts (screen shot from Apple as there were more of her books together at the time of writing).

I’d love to read the books and I can’t wait for season 2 of the series (had been planned but filming coudln’t go ahead due to the pandemic). Netflix haven’t confirmed a second season but, after the success of this one, surely there’s no question that they will.

Congratulations to Julia Quinn, Netflix, and absolutely everyone involved in this production. My faith in period dramas has been restored.

Have you seen it? If so, what did you think? Had you perhaps read the books first? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where Christmas was different but hubby excelled himself

How was Christmas? Quieter than usual? Virtual hugs rather than face to face ones? Perhaps you were planning to go away and couldn’t. Or maybe it was your first Christmas without a loved one or a family pet. Sending love if it was.

It was our first Christmas without our beloved cat, Felix, who we lost in January. His absence was certainly felt over Christmas dinner when he’d normally have been up on his hind legs against my chair demanding turkey. I’ve rounded up a few pictures of him at previous Christmases. He wasn’t impressed with his Christmas hat and ended up wearing it as a beard! He loved to lie under the tree or with the Christmas bears. Bottom right is hunting out Christmas dinner with his sister and partner-in-crime, Pixie, who crossed the rainbow bridge several years earlier.

Aside from a Felix-shaped hole, our actual Christmas Day was no different (other than being the first year the munchkin didn’t believe in Santa – sob!) as it’s usually just the three of us first thing then a visit from hubby’s parents who live in the next village either from lunchtime (they’d normally rotate round their three children) or from late afternoon. This year, they were in our Christmas bubble, joined us for a lunchtime Christmas dinner and stayed into the evening.

What was significantly different for us this year was not seeing anyone else either side of the big day. We would normally see hubby’s sisters at some point around New Year – often a full family get together at one of their houses where the munchkin loves to see her four big boy cousins (all in their mid-late twenties now) – but we can’t do that. And we’d normally see my side of the family twice and we couldn’t do that either. They’re not too far away but they aren’t local like hubby’s family.

I have two brothers and they’re both married with two girls each so we’d typically drive across to the nearest town to my parents about a week before Christmas and the men would go on a pub crawl while my mum, my sisters-in-law and the five girls (this year aged 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15) would have a lovely lunch then a wander round the shops. The second get together would be between Christmas and New Year (would have been Sunday just gone this year) where we all meet up at my parents’ house for gift exchanges and food.

As we couldn’t meet in person, we planned a family Zoom on Sunday instead. Only it didn’t work. None of us could dial into the meeting my younger brother had set up so he sent a new invite and, for some strange reason, my parents and two brothers could get in but we couldn’t. We tried everything including the usual switching off and on again but to no avail.

Christmas shopping was very different this year. I’d normally explore the high street and local shops in my hometown of Scarborough and also have a trip to York to visit the Christmas market and the lovely independent shops there but, like so many others, we had to mostly shop online.

Hubby is exceptionally hard to buy for. There’s never anything he wants so I usually end up getting him socks (yawn), a chocolate orange (yummy but dull) and a couple of photography books including Landscape Photographer of the Year (inspiring for him but not very inspired seeing as he gets it every year). We usually agree that we’ll go away for a weekend as a gift instead but that’s not something any of us can plan right now.

When I was ordering things for the munchkin, I added in a few bits I might like and passed them to him to wrap, although this is something I’ve done for several years now as he claims I’m hard to buy for when there are so many things I love: jewellery, books, hedgehogs, bears, owls, stationery, lighthouses, chocolate etc. etc. etc. However, he surpassed himself this year. He visited NotOnTheHighStreet and Etsy and bought me some really fabulous gifts. The boy done well!

Hedgehogs might have been a bit of a theme! I got a gorgeous pin brooch which I’ll add to my bag or purse, a small plush hog for my desk, some socks, a fab T-shirt and a diary.

I also got 3 new charms for my Troll Beads bracelet. A friend started the collection at the launch party of my debut novel with a leather bracelet and a book charm. I’ve since upgraded to a silver bracelet and bought a charm for each part of my writing journey and to represent each of my books.

I’d previously acquired suitable charms for all my books except the Hedgehog Hollow series and, although Troll Beads did have a hedgehog charm at one point, it had been discontinued in something like 2002 so I’d given up on ever having one unless they issued a new design.

I ordered myself a starfish charm (relevant to my 2021 Christmas book) and a lighthouse one (relevant to several of my stories and possibly a future book and acquired just in time as it has been discontinued too) but he came up trumps by finding a hedgehog charm. It’s not a Troll Bead but it does fit my bracelet perfectly.

One of the promises I made to myself and my family when I started writing full-time was that I’d finally get a work:life balance. Trying to fit writing around a full-time demanding day job made that impossible. It hasn’t quite worked out as planned, though. It has been difficult to break the habit of working evenings and weekends after doing this for well over a decade, particularly in a year when going out and about isn’t practical so I might as well stay at my desk and work.

I also feel guilty when I’m not working which is ridiculous but I know I’m not the only author who feels that way. We can put such immense pressure on ourselves sometimes.

Anyway, one of the things I want to get back into is drawing. It’s not a great talent of mine and I definitely can’t draw from imagination – absolutely need to copy something – but I quite enjoy it and I’d like to give it a go again. I used to enjoy drawing but haven’t actually picked up my sketch pad since I started college in 1988! So I choose some art paper, charcoal and chalk pencils and pastel pencils myself but hubby surprised me with a gorgeous lighthouse cross stitch kit; cross stitch being something I used to love doing before I had the munchkin. I also treated myself to a hedgehog one earlier in the year so I’m going to be busy! Just need to make some time to do it.

Another gift I chose for myself was a miniature Charlie Bear. Our local garden centre stocks them and the munchkin and I visited their fabulous Christmas display after school one day in early December (when it was pretty much empty). I always look at the Charlie Bear display. I have a few large Charlie Bears but I prefer the limited edition collectible ones. On the display were what looked like classic books with miniature bears sat on them. Each book was hollowed out and the bear stored inside.

This is the ‘Plush Hug Book Collection’ and I’ve since learned that they came out in 2019 and there are six in the collection. The garden centre had three on display. All the bears were gorgeous so it was a case of selecting the most appropriate book as the words on each were different. The green one featuring the panda is a ‘Guide to Snuggleability’ – awww – but what absolutely sold it to me was the caption on the back: All the best bears read books. Could there be a more perfect choice for an author who’s also an arctophile (collector/lover of teddy bears) with a book in her collection set partly in a teddy bear shop?

I’d chosen a heart-shaped necklace myself from one of my favourite shops in Scarborough – White Beach Designs – and a heart-shaped beaded clutch in the Accessorise sale that I plan to use the next time I can go to an RNA event (Romantic Novelists’ Association) but hubby surprised me with this gorgeous keyring. Aww. Isn’t he just the best? We met in July 2003 when I was 31 and he was 33. “If I had my life to live over again, I would find you sooner so that I could love you longer”

Another surprise gift was ‘baby Yoda’ aka ‘The Child’ aka – look away if you haven’t seen the most recent episodes of Season 2 of The Mandalorian where his true name is revealed – Grogu. He’s a plush version and he is absolutely adorable. I just need a Baby Groot now and my life will be complete!

And my final amazingly thoughtful surprise gift was this gorgeous scrapbook for my newspaper clippings. Isn’t it just divine in it’s purple-ness; my favourite colour?

So the hubby definitely did well and I have been thoroughly spoilt this year with some amazing gifts from him and the munchkin. Feeling a bit embarrassed about the socks and chocolate orange now! 😉

How was Christmas for you? Hope it went okay.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I wish my followers a Happy Christmas

Let’s face it, Christmas 2020 isn’t going to pan out the way any of us had planned (or re-planned) so saying “Happy Christmas” does feel a little strange, but I do absolutely wish it for everyone and hope you can still enjoy the day with family and/or friends, even if that means in smaller numbers or virtually.

A meme has been doing the rounds on social media this week showing soldiers in trenches on Christmas Day 1914. It’s a sobering image and, in my opinion, a valuable reminder that it may have been a really tough year compared to what we are used to but we do have so much to be thankful for…

And, scary news about virus mutations rapidly spreading aside, let’s look forward to next year with vaccinations and hopefully some sort of return to normality (albeit a new normality) so I also wish you a Happy New Year and THANK YOU so much for making so many writing dreams come true this year by choosing my stories and writing such gorgeous reviews…

Sending much love and strength to those who have lost someone this year (Covid-related or otherwise), have lost their job, had financial struggles, been lonely, been ill or any number of challenges faced during the strangest of years.

And sending particular best wishes to my own family who have lost three loved ones this year, two of whom were taken far too young and one as recently as Saturday. RIP to my brother-in-law Richard, my cousin Gary and my brother-in-law’s mother Mary. My thoughts with their families as they come to terms with their tragic losses. As I light my candles on Christmas Day, I’ll be thinking of you all.

Big hugs and positive Christmas wishes

Jessica xx

The one where I share some more of my favourite Christmas decorations

Happy Christmas Eve! I don’t know about you but I feel like it was 1st December just yesterday. And now we’re one sleep from Santa. Eek!

Last week I shared some of my favourite Christmas decorations from my main tree and said I’d come back and share some from the smaller tree in our dining room. Today’s the day!

There are accents of silver and purple on this tree with beading, baubles and stars in those colours but it’s more of a mishmash of colours than the main tree.

Bears feature heavily again, including a fairy bear at the top of the tree although I think that, from her downcast expression, she may be afraid of heights, bless her!

And more bears…

Many years ago, I bought some Me To You tree ornaments (Tatty Teddy) from Clintons. Each year, a new range of four designs comes out and, over the years, I have massively added to my collection. Sometimes I’d buy the full set, sometimes just a couple (particularly if the designs seemed similar to ones I already had) but, in recent years, Clintons stopped stocking them (or at least my local branch did) so I haven’t bought any more. Which might be a good thing given that I have about 20 of them. But they’re so adorable! Here’s a selection:

I feel bad having favourites but there’s something so irresistible about the one dressed as a gingerbread man. Look at that little tummy! I also absolutely love the one above him (in the middle) in his Christmas jumper and reindeer slippers. Adorable! And top right dressed as a Christmas pudding. That expression on his face as if to say: How did that happen? And… yes, I could go on!

As with my main tree, owls feature here too:

How fab are the ones on the bottom row? They come as a collection of six in an egg box from White Stuff. In a pre-Covid world, my mum, my two sisters-in-law on my side of the family and my cousin would meet a few times a year in York for shopping, food, wine and lots of chat. Loved those days out. We’d always try to have an outing in the approach to Christmas and several years ago, I picked up an egg box of penguins (featured shortly). Last year (possibly the one before) it was owls. Such fun!

Which leads me onto penguins. I love them and there are several on my smaller tree. One of my absolute favourites is the one in his life jacket from the RNLI shop (middle top row). Love him so much. As I live by the sea and set my Whitsborough Bay books on the coast, the RNLI is a cause close to my heart and will feature in my Christmas release next year. The bottom left one is one of the White Stuff egg box collection.

And, finally, anything goes. I have a huge fondness for needle-felted, felt, and knitted decorations as you can probably tell. I love my sloth and my snowman and a new purchase this year was a few lighthouses. I have a fascination with lighthouses and they feature strongly in some of my Whitsborough Bay books, particularly one of my Christmas releases – Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café – which you can buy here. The lighthouse in my stories is a red and white striped one and I hope to find a red and white striped lighthouse for my tree at some point. For now, blue and white will suffice.

Hope you’ve enjoyed a look at some more decorations. Wishing you and your friends/family a restful and laughter-filled Christmas.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

The one where I share some of my favourite Christmas decorations

One of my absolutely favourite parts of Christmas is putting up our trees. That’s not a typo. I do mean trees plural. We have three!

I adore fairy lights and it’s so magical seeing Christmas trees lit up in the windows of houses but our lounge is at the back of our house so our main tree wouldn’t be seen from outside. We have a small dining room at the front of the house with a bay window so can put a smaller tree on the window ledge. Our full-size tree is in the conservatory and the third one is a small pink one on a side table in the lounge which my daughter (half-heartedly) decorates.

The main tree started with a red and gold theme but I have a bit of a decoration-purchasing problem and can’t resist some gorgeous new additions each year. Cream and grey have crept in and the occasional splash of a different colour simply because I couldn’t resist the item.

On the smaller tree in the dining room, it’s more of a colourful mix although, if I was to name a colour theme, it’s predominantly silver and purple or blue.

Here are some of my favourite decorations on the main tree and I’ll do another blog post later about the ones on the smaller tree…

My Writing Trio:

I bought the ‘Make a Wish’ star years ago and it always has prominence on the tree, reminding me of when I first made a wish to finish writing a book. Then a wish to get a publishing deal. Then a wish to write full-time. Lots of my writing-related wishes have come true this year.

The ‘Jessica has been good’ Santa makes me laugh and we picked him up from our local garden centre a few years ago. The gorgeous books are a new addition this year from John Lewis. I have three of them on my tree as they’re so pretty. See what I mean about the occasional non-theme colour infiltrating!

Because I write uplifting stories of love and friendship, hearts feature quite strongly on my tree and this isn’t even all the ranges:

Bears feature very heavily and they’re also connected to my writing journey. I came up with the idea for my debut novel – New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms – after ending a toxic relationship and making the decision to move back to my roots in the north and open a specialist teddy bear shop.

I started writing Seaside Blooms while I had Bear’s Pad and I met my husband through having the shop. He encouraged me to enrol with The Writers’ Bureau where I began learning how to write properly. Bear’s Pad also provided inspiration for my novel, Bear With Me, which is now available for pre-order under the new title All You Need Is Love with a fresh edit. (For those who’ve already read it, I will write a future post about what’s changed).

Some of the bears I stocked in the shop came home with me. Okay, lots of the bears I stocked came home with me! The Forever Friends ones aren’t strictly tree decorations but they sit beautifully on the branches. The Mrs Christmas and Elf are stunning miniature jointed bears by Gund and the detail on them is amazing.

I love the idea of buying Christmas decorations when I’m on holiday so there are reminders of special times on the tree. This isn’t usually possible when holidaying out of season but I have managed to collect a few. My husband and I had an amazing honeymoon in Canada in late September/early October 15 years ago and bought the two black bears there. I picked up Pooh Bear in Florida in November a few years previously.

This time last year, we had the most amazing trip to Lapland and bought a few decorations there to remind us of an incredible holiday. Ah, holidays, what are they? 😉

There are lots of other bears on my tree – plush and wooden – and a gorgeous angel bear on the top which I’ve had for about 20 years so he’s served me well…

And there’s a super special Paddington Bear (or three) from M&S a couple of years back who I absolutely love:

Regular readers will know that I adore hedgehogs and may have even read the first book in my Hedgehog Hollow series: Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow. Book 2, New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow, is available for pre-order now and out on 7th January (woo hoo!)

Therefore, it probably isn’t a surprise to see hedgehogs on my tree! My absolute favourite is the middle one: a Wrendale Designs bauble which my fabulous friend (and super talented author) Sharon Booth gave me last year.

I have a few new hedgehog decorations that haven’t quite made it onto the tree yet as I was using them for a photo shoot last weekend!

And I recently bought this adorable little fellow who is the size of a tree ornament but isn’t hangable (is that a word?) so he’ll stand nearby:

As well as bears and hedgehogs, I have a thing about owls, stemming from me being a Brown Owl for 7.5 years. I absolutely loved the role but, when I started a Masters in Creative Writing a few years ago, something was going to have to give and running Brownies had to be it. But getting my owls out each year always makes me smile and it was lovely that Sharon added to my collection this year with a pair of gorgeous gold owls (bottom right).

I could go on and on for pages and pages but I’d better stop there for now! Hope you’ve enjoyed meeting the bears, hedgehogs and owls on my main tree.

Do you have a theme for yours? Perhaps it’s a colour or a type of ornament? Do you vary the theme each year? Do you have decorations passed down through the family or bought on holiday? I’d love to hear from you.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

The one where I talk about the one where…

With blog titles that usually begin with the words ‘The one…’ you might have already guessed that I’m a fan of the phenomenally successful TV show Friends.

Ten seasons covering 236 episodes were originally aired between 1994 and 2004. Unless you’ve been hibernating in Outer Mongolia, I’m sure you know the premise: the lives and loves of six friends (Chandler, Joey, Monica, Phoebe, Rachel and Ross) who live in New York and frequent their nearby coffee shop, Central Perk. They’re in their mid-20s when the series starts.

I didn’t actually watch Friends from the start although I didn’t watch much TV full stop at the time, preferring to watch films if I had some free time. I think it was probably about season four or five when I was away with work and staying with an old university friend who lived in the area. He and his wife were huge fans and, after expressing shock that I wasn’t, I was jokingly advised that I needed to stay quiet for half an hour while the episode aired, even if I hated every moment. I didn’t hate it. I absolutely loved it and wondered why I’d never watched Friends before.

After that, I didn’t watch Friends on TV but, each time a season ended and the videos came out on a 2-for-1 deal, I’d treat myself. Yes, I did say videos! In later years, I traded the videos for DVDs. Expensive! Kind of negated the savings on the 2-for-1 deal! Although my younger brother (also a huge fan) can’t believe I have several different styles in my box set. To be fair, they’re not aesthetically pleasing all mixed up like that but, as I’d already bought the videos, it was about replacing them with the least expensive DVD set!

Why am I talking about Friends today? Because I recently finished (slowly) working my way through all ten seasons. I can’t remember when I started watching them but it wasn’t a lockdown thing. I think it might have been the very start of the year when I was working crazy hours and struggling to sleep. I couldn’t seem to switch off on an evening but my eyes were too tired to focus on a book so I wondered if watching a couple of episodes of something I’d seen before might be a relaxing wind-down pre-bedtime and hopefully help me sleep better. It did seem to do the trick. And, of course, I couldn’t not work my way through all 236 episodes.

When I watch TV shows and films these days, I can’t help watching them as a writer. After watching the second series of Ricky Gervais’s brilliant Afterlife earlier this year, I actually tweeted him to say how fantastic the writing was. Because it was! Both seasons had brilliantly observed characters, realistic, clever dialogue and absolutely represented life in a way that could have me belly laughing one minute and sobbing the next while marvelling at the genius of the writing.

I’d seen the occasional episode of Friends since I wrote my debut novel but watching all ten seasons as a published author meant I approached them in a different way. I concentrated more on the character arcs, how quirks were emphasised more as the seasons progressed, how themes developed in more depth in later seasons and how the writers would drop in the occasional curveball. I considered the dynamics across the whole group but also the relationships between the different individuals.

If you’re a fan and you’re asked to come up with pairings, you’d immediately think of the romantic pairings of Ross & Rachel and Chandler & Monica, the friendships between Rachel & Monica and Joey & Chandler, and the siblings rivalry between Ross & Monica. But I hadn’t appreciated quite how many scenes Rachel shared with Joey or Phoebe and how close Phoebe and Joey were. And I hadn’t appreciated how many sensitive moments Joey had and how much good advice he gave.

What I also found myself focusing on was secondary characters and the impact they had on the friendship dynamics, whether they were recurring characters or one-off guest appearances. I hadn’t noticed before how many episodes Gunther appears in before he actually speaks. I hadn’t appreciated quite how many times Janice reappears.

I have to give so much credit to the writers for the way they maintained storylines for six main characters throughout 10 seasons. When writing a series of novels, it can be challenging enough to keep one or two main characters ‘busy’. The thought of doing this for six gives me palpitations!

I also marvelled at the slick way in which guests appeared, particularly those who were from one of the character’s pasts. The fact that a friend or relative had never been mentioned before made no difference; they just seemed to smoothly fit in. A few of my absolute favourites are:

  • Brad Pitt (married to Jennifer Aniston at the time) appearing as Ross’s former schoolfriend who’d formed the ‘I hate Rachel Green’ club with him and still hating Rachel
  • Julia Roberts (who was dating Matthew Perry at the time of being booked for the cameo) wreaking her revenge on Chandler who’d humiliated her at school
  • Denise Richards appearing as Monica and Ross’s cousin, Cassie and everyone finding her irresistible, especially when she tosses her hair (and Barry White starts playing)

As for who my favourite friend is, I would have always proclaimed Chandler but, having watched the seasons back to back, it’s a close-run thing now between Chandler and Rachel. I love her character arc from being spoilt and selfish to being a really caring individual while still maintaining her personality quirks.

Watching a superbly-written series like this can’t fail to benefit my own writing and I think there are some great lessons to learn about the use of secondary and minor characters.

I was sad when I got to the end and I’m sure I’ll watch them all again in years to come. Life is so much better with Friends in it 🙂

Are you a Friends fan? Who’s your favourite ‘friend’? Which cameo did you enjoy the most? What’s your favourite episode? What did you think of the plotting / writing /dialogue /characterisation? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

The one where I hoped the Christmas magic would continue

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a blog post about my daughter believing in Santa Claus. Not unusual. Except my daughter was in senior school and about to turn thirteen.

I shared the concerns my husband and I had about her being bullied at school for her beliefs and the debate we’d had as to whether to tell her what most children had worked out (or been told) years earlier. I canvassed opinion and, without exception, everyone who responded on the blog post or when I shared it on Facebook said to keep the magic going.

Last year we had the most amazing family holiday to Lapland, flying out on Ashleigh’s birthday and returning a few days later. It really was magical and made all the more so because Ashleigh still believed, although the visit to see ‘the real Santa’ was actually one of the least impressive parts of the trip. He seemed a bit bored, insulted her question as predictable (how rude!) and we felt a bit rushed. Not to worry, though, as every other part of the trip was fabulous.

So, as thoughts turned to Christmas this year, hubby and I braced ourselves. Would this be the year she stopped believing?

A few weeks ago, before we went into Lockdown2 in England, Ashleigh and I nipped into town after school to pick up a copy of A Christmas Carol; the book she’s studying in English. As we were driving home discussing the book, the conversation inevitably turned to Christmas.

‘My friends keep telling me Santa doesn’t exist,’ she said.

I have always approached this with my standard answer: ‘What do you think?’

‘I think that I’m probably of an age where, if he doesn’t exist, I should know that….’

I braced myself for her to admit it, slightly gutted that we’d finally reached that point.

‘…but I still think he does exist.’ And then she rattled off the same evidence about her dad making the desk she’d used before. (You can read about that in my original post here).

She stuck with the subject and I couldn’t decide whether she was hinting that she would like me to tell her ‘the truth’ so I tried something different: ‘So your friends say Santa doesn’t exist and you say he does. What would you say if I said he didn’t?’

She looked at me for a moment and shook her head. ‘It would make me cry so I don’t want you to tell me.’

And we changed the subject.

About a week later, it cropped up again. In Religious Studies, they’d been talking about the difference between facts and beliefs. ‘Some of my friends said that believing in Santa was a belief instead of Santa existing being a fact.’

‘What did you say?’ I asked, wondering if this was the moment.

‘I said it was a belief too but I didn’t tell them I believe.’

I felt so sad for her. I sensed she was struggling and wanted it confirming but, unless she directly came out and asked me to tell her the absolute honest truth, I wasn’t going to be the one to tell her. In the turd of a year that 2020 has been, why wouldn’t I want to hold onto this wonderful piece of magic for her for as long as I could?

Then a week ago … and I’m actually crying as I write this because it breaks my heart … she arrived home from school and burst into tears. She had a horrific bullying incident on the bus at the start of the year – so serious it involved the police – and I was scared it had reared its ugly head again but, instead she wailed, ‘XXX and XXX were laughing at me on the bus. They told me Santa doesn’t exist and they laughed at me and said it’s your parents and everyone knows that from, like, when they’re six. They were really horrible.’

She then asked for the truth and I had to admit they were right. To say they weren’t would confuse her, diminish her respect in us, and set her up for further bullying.

She was inconsolable. I asked her what hurt the most: her friends bullying her or discovering Santa didn’t exist. It was the latter and my heart broke even more.

We had lots of cuddles and she was reassured that she’d still put her stocking out and get presents, we’d still put out a ‘Santa Stop Here’ sign and hang the magic key on the door, and we’d still leave treats for Santa and the reindeer. But it was us who’d buy, wrap (and make where required) the gifts and put them out when she’d gone to bed.

I’m so disappointed for her that this little piece of magic was taken away in the year when we need it most. I’m also disappointed in the cruelty of the girls who mocked her, especially as one is meant to be a good friend but I don’t think they really meant to be nasty; it was probably just a surprise to have someone of their age still believing. I tried to imagine myself at their age if one of my friends had still believed. Maybe I’d have laughed too.

A couple of days later, she had a serious question for me. The family of elves who come and wreak havoc…. were they us too? Yes, they were and the reason they often didn’t move was because we forgot or we ran out of ideas!

‘We might as well get it all out there,’ I said. ‘Who else do you think doesn’t exist?’

She looked at me blankly.

I tapped my teeth and flapped my arms.

‘The tooth fairy?’ she asked, laughing. ‘I haven’t believed in her for years. Like fairies really exist! What do you take me for?’

So apparently it’s a ridiculous notion that fairies exist but a bearded man in a red suit delivering gifts to all of the children around the world in one night was absolutely plausible. Love it!

So now she knows. This Christmas will be different anyway. We won’t get to see either of our families like we normally would as, with hubby and I having two siblings each, that would be four families connecting on each side. And now, with a non-believer in the house, it will be even more different. We’ll do our best to keep the magic going, though. Right now, I believe in Santa and miracles. Don’t you?

Big hugs

Jessica xx

The one where it’s all a bit strange

There are some pivotal moments in recent history where individuals, depending on their age, can recall exactly where they were/what they were doing when they heard the event happened. Some examples include:

  • The shooting of John Lennon
  • The fall of the Berlin Wall
  • The death of Princess Diana
  • 911

But this is probably the first time in my lifetime that we can add an entire year to the list. 2020. The year where everything and nothing happened. We might want to forget it but we won’t be able to because the global pandemic has impacted on every part of everybody’s lives.

How much of an impact there has been will massively depend on an individual’s circumstances and their mental health. What I might consider disappointing/inconvenient based on my circumstances might have a tremendous impact for somebody else. Therefore, what I’ve written below is very much how I might view things but I do recognise that the events may fall into an entirely different category for someone else…

For some, the impact has been disappointing and inconvenient but not necessarily life-changing or devastating – the annual holiday cancelled, a birthday not celebrated in the usual way, missing face to face contact with friends and family, a new alien work environment based from home. 

For others, the impact has been more significant – job loss or reduced hours leading to financial worries, a holiday of a lifetime/ wedding/ anniversary/ big birthday cancelled, being kept away from a loved one in a care home.

And there are those for whom this year has been a tragedy – illness, cancelled operations, bereavement, not able to properly say goodbye to loved ones, businesses failing, acute loneliness and depression and, of course, exam results and the impact of that on college/university places or employment.

My immediate little family of three has been fortunate so far, falling mainly into that first category of a disappointing and inconvenient year: holidays, theatre trips, celebrations for my hubby’s 50th birthday and my birthday all cancelled. Zoom has been a weak alternative to meeting family face-to-face but we still have our jobs and we’ve both worked from home for several years so haven’t had to adjust to that. We have, however, had an unexpected family bereavement – not to Covid – and that was hard, not being able to rush round and give hugs. But we have been lucky and I count my blessings every day for that.

But today feels odd. Strange. Wrong. Because today I should be at my graduation ceremony.

I achieved my Masters in Creative Writing at the back end of 2019 but it was through Open University so ceremonies take place all over the country, with lesser frequency in the north. I’d hesitated as to whether to bother when the ceremony at the nearest venue to us – Harrogate – would be almost a year after graduating but hubby and the munchkin said I should definitely do it and they would be there cheering me on, as would my parents. When Covid hit, all graduation ceremonies were understandably cancelled for the foreseeable future. I have no idea when it will be considered safe to have an event like this again or how they will catch up with the backlog. Will there be any point in attending a ceremony two or three years after finishing? It feels like the moment has passed.

This weekend, I would also have started getting organised ready for our holiday over the October half term. At the start of the year, we booked a week in Portugal for May half term and a holiday cottage in Lancaster to be in easy reach of both Blackpool and the southern Lake District. Portugal was cancelled and, with Lancashire moving into a Tier 3 lockdown yesterday, that’s also cancelled. We had already made the decision not to go while they were Tier 2 as it made no sense to travel from a Tier 1 part of the country into a higher-risk zone, especially knowing we wouldn’t be able to do what we’d planned for our holiday anyway.

What am I doing instead?

I’m staying at home as usual, waiting for a courier to collect the swab kit for my Covid test. I was randomly selected and invited to do this as part of the research survey undertaken by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Dept of Health & Social Care. I agreed I was happy to participate and, yesterday, my kit and instructions arrived in the post.

Also in the post was a box of author copies of Making Wishes at Bay View from the print-run that has gone into The Works. A case of normality arriving alongside this strange new world.

It all feels very surreal. If someone had told me last year to guess why I wouldn’t be able to attend my graduation ceremony and what I’d be doing instead, I’d never in a million years have predicated this. Yet this is the new normal.

And seeing as ‘normal’ is different, is it too early to put up the Christmas tree this weekend? Yeah, you’re right. Maybe I need to wait until November. Ooh, 1st November falls on a Sunday. Could I…?

Sending hugs to anyone whose 2020 has hurt/is still hurting. Hang on in there.

Jessica xx 

My name’s Jessica and I have imposter syndrome – Part 5

We’re now on the final day of a week of blog posts about imposter syndrome. This is what we’ve looked at so far and the subject for this final post:

  • Monday – The theory behind it – what it is and how it manifests itself. Read it here
  • Tuesday – Where it comes from and how mine started. Read it here
  • Wednesday – How it affects me as an author. Read it here
  • Thursday – Coping strategies. Read it here
  • Friday – Recognising it in others and helping them

Final day! Yay! What a mammoth tome this has turned out to be. If you have made it through all four posts so far, thank you so much. I never intended it to be this long but, as I said yesterday, one of the coping strategies is talking about it and, my goodness, have I talked! I do feel so much better getting it all out in the open. The weight has been lifted. I can move on. If you’re struggling with this yourself, I really hope that the combination of theory and personal experiences have resonated and will help you work on those coping strategies.

I will just point out that I am not qualified or an expert in this stuff but I am a trained and qualified career coach and a career development guidance counsellor so some of the advice does draw on those skills.

Today’s post will be shorter. I promise!

Recognising imposter syndrome in others

If you’ve read the previous posts, you should have a pretty good idea of what imposter syndrome looks like. I’ll remind you here of the three types I demonstrate but I’ll add in the other two.

The perfectionist – believes their work can always be better and focuses on flaws. They want everything to be 100% perfect 100% of the time. They’ll beat themselves up for not achieving the high standards they set. In the workplace, they may struggle with delegation (if you want something doing well, do it yourself!) and could be a micro-manager

The superhero – feels they must push themselves to work as hard as possible to overcome feelings of inadequacy. They work long hours and can focus purely on work to the determinant of hobbies and/or relationships. They feel they have to keep pushing themselves to do more in order to prove their worth

The expert – always trying to learn more and may focus on what they don’t know/can’t do instead of what they do know/can do. They feel there’s always much more to learn and worry about being exposed as a fraud because they’re not experienced or knowledgeable enough to justify their status/position

And here are the two types that don’t resonate with me personally:

The natural genius – they set the bar incredibly high, like a perfectionist, but this type is about speed and ease of completing their goals/tasks. They’ve likely sailed through academia, been told they’re ‘gifted’, ‘smart’, ‘brightest in the family’ and are used to excelling with little effort. Imposter syndrome sets in when they find themselves unable to do something quickly and/or effortlessly

The soloist – will avoid asking for help as that indicates their fraudulence. They will struggle on alone because that’s the only way to prove their worth

Recognise any of these traits in others?

Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay 

How to help those with imposter syndrome

Here’s some general tips for helping others who have it although specific support would depend on which of the types of imposter syndrome they’re demonstrating:

Acknowledge that it’s real and it’s common but it’s different for everyone

As I mentioned on Tuesday, it is estimated that 70% of us will experience imposter syndrome at some point in our lives. If you’ve never experienced it, please don’t dismiss it. It’s a real thing and can be quite debilitating. If you tell the ‘imposter’ they’re being ‘silly’ or words to that effect, you’re only exacerbating their feelings of failure!

If you have experienced it, then you will have some understanding of what it feels like but do bear in mind that yours may have been brief and swiftly dealt with. Your friend/colleague may be having a very different experience affecting them much more deeply. So empathise but don’t assume their experience is the same as yours.

Listen to them

Find out what their experience is like. Empathise. Don’t tell them they’re wrong to feel this way. They very likely know that themselves. If they have put themselves out there and owned up to how they’re feeling, they don’t want you dismissing it. They want you to hear it and accept it and then you can both work out the next steps from there.

Also, if you have felt like this yourself but it wasn’t as strong/was a long time ago/you’ve found ways to deal with it, do make sure you don’t turn this conversation so it’s all about you and not them! Do listen to what they have to say first as it can be really hard to admit to something like this. When it feels appropriate, ask if they’re happy for you to share your experiences.

Ask them questions

Find out more. How does it manifest? How does it hold them back? What do they want to do about it. This is an important point. It has to be about them; not about what you think they should do.

Show them how valued they are

Help them see how amazing their achievements are. For an author, saying something like, “What are you moaning about? I’d kill to be in the Top 20!” is probably not the best approach to take. But saying, “What was the highest position you had before that? Wow! What an amazing jump!” is opening up a more positive conversation. Yes, you maybe would sell your grandmother for a Top 20 position but the issue here is not that the ‘imposter’ isn’t delighted with it. It’s that their inner imposter is not looking at the positive and you can help them do that.

If they’re in the workplace, maybe challenge the long hours. What are they doing in those extra hours that they could do tomorrow instead? If their work genuinely can’t be done in ‘normal’ hours, there’s maybe another issue at hand and they actually have too much work. Not necessarily a failure on their part! They may have taken on more to try and prove their worth, feeling they’d be viewed as a failure or a fraud if they said ‘no’.

Celebrate successes with them

Because an ‘imposter’ tends to focus on the negatives, they usually can’t see the positives and therefore don’t celebrate them. So help them do that.

For an author example, Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow hasn’t got as high in the charts as New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms. Yet (positive mindset here!) However, it has gathered more reviews much more quickly so each of those books carries a different positive.

Remind them of the word ‘yet’

I even used this above. Yet is such a powerful word. You haven’t got to the top of the charts … yet! You haven’t been promoted … yet! You haven’t found love … yet! Encourage them to keep believing and stay positive.

Get them to set a plan and regularly check in

If they’ve shared their challenges with you, chances are they’re ready to work on them so get them to set some commitments – like I did yesterday – as to what they are going to change. This will cover HOW they’re going to change and WHEN they’re going to do this. 

A good way to look at this is: 

What will you STOP doing?

What will you START doing? 

Because it’s no good doing some positive stuff if the negative stuff is continuing!

But don’t just leave them to get on with this as self-doubt is going to kick in and old habits will die hard. Discuss how they’d like you to check in so that it then doesn’t feel like you’re nagging; they’ve given you permission to ask how it’s going and give them a kick up the backside if needed.

Image from Pixabay

As for my next steps…

I’m feeling so much more positive for having shared this. Thank you for ‘listening’. I also had a great conversation with my amazing editor, Nia, on Wednesday. Nia regularly reads my blog (thank you!) and I was able to talk about the humour behind some of my obsessiveness this summer and confirm, as I’ve done previously, what a pleasure it is to work with her and Boldwood. Couldn’t be more different to what I’ve experienced in the past.

The second round of edits on New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow are very limited and I was reassured that I had managed to sort that out after such an initial struggle. We also spoke about some concerns with where to start the third book in the series and Nia had a great suggestion which I’m excited to crack on with.

On top of that, an update on sales, newsletter subscribers, promo plans and what my next contract might look like have given me such a positive boost. I’m so incredibly fortunate to be able to spend my days doing what I love. It doesn’t feel like work … until I let imposter syndrome take over. So Imposter Syndrome is banished and I will get the edits on New Arrivals… finished today, take the weekend off, and start afresh on Monday with the NaNoWriMo approach to writing Hedgehog Hollow book 3 and a schedule for writing rather than procrastinating.

I’ll let you all know how I get on. In the meantime, thank you to those who have commented and particularly Eloise who has shared her experiences through the comments. Thank you to Samantha Tonge for letting me use her as a case study yesterday, to my editor Nia for being so amazing and supportive, to my husband for all the hugs and reassurance.

Hang in there and be kind to yourself.

Big hugs

Jessica xx