Hazel McHaffie


Enough to warm the cockles

Back to work this week and finding plenty to warm the cockles of the heart. A quick share of the most pertinent before I get back to the big edit.

This handwritten sign appeared in a list of 21 pictures ‘to restore your faith in humanity‘:

During business hours the books on this porch are 50 cents. When the store is closed, please feel free to borrow them or keep them and pay me later. ANYTIME: IF YOU DON’T HAVE MONEY TO BUY BOOKS AND NEED OR WANT TO READ HELP YOURSELF. Donations accepted. 

Brilliant, huh?

And then there was the news that for the first time ever women have won all five Costa Book Awards.

And the statistics that show that people are buying more books in total thanks to aggressive marketing and the rise of e-books. All very salient points for me in my current deliberations.

Then there’s the tantalising pile of books I acquired myself this Christmas. IMG_8620

Who needs resolutions to feel positive at the start of 2013?

So, after a good wholesome break and lots of socialising, I’ve  returned to the isolation of my study, and to the current novel, with renewed enthusiasm and commitment. And a fresh eye. Exactly what was needed. The red pen is in overdrive.

, , , , , ,


Red cars and corpuscles

Have you seen a double-sided poster of a lad sitting on a hospital bed? Chances are, if you travel by bus, you will have. Because it’s designed specifically for bus-shelters.

It’s behind plastic and I couldn’t get a very clear photo, so here’s the text:

How much longer? I’ve been waiting ages. Stuck here. Going nowhere. I’ve counted three hundred and sixty eight – nope, three hundred and sixty nine red cars go by. It can’t be that much longer. Can it? Three hundred and seventy. That’s the thing with waiting though. Time. Passes. Slower.

Come on. What’s taking so long? I look at my watch. Check my phone. No new messages. Send a text. Kill some time. Think of what I should be doing now instead of waiting. Think of where I should be instead of here. Three hundred and seventy one. With my pals. At school. Double Art. Not stuck waiting. Three hundred and seventy two. With nothing else to do but count cars going by my hospital window. A nurse pops her head round. Tells me hopefully it won’t be much longer. Will it? Because it all depends on you, you see. It’s you I’m waiting on.


And on the reverse side: Some people are waiting on more than a bus.

Clever marketing, eh? Makes you want to rush in and help that forlorn little figure in his pyjamas before number three hundred and seventy three comes along.

And it beautifully illustrates what I’ve been saying for years. Human interest stories capture the mind and heart, and are a powerful way of getting us to think afresh about important dilemmas.

A parable within a parable.

As for me, I’m a full time grandmother at the moment and the very thought of one of my own little pyjamaed people in that situation makes me shudder. I’m off to check they’re all still alive, well and happy. And reading very good books!!



, ,


Hints and tips on writing

I must confess I find it hard to make space for reading how-to journals. So many other things take precedence.

But two publications break through this natural resistance because I subscribe to them – and after over four decades of living in Scotland, not to mention being married to a thoroughbred Scot, having paid the subscription, I feel compelled to get my money’s worth!

Mslexia’s one of them – a journal by and for women writers. And the edition that plopped – no thudded – through my letterbox this month demonstrates it’s worth persevering. I’ll share a few gems.

On being a woman writer:
‘It is a world [the post-Richard & Judy world] in which women writers … are far better equipped thanks to a plethora of creative writing courses, agencies and social networking sites offering help and alternative means of building new audiences.
And I’d just that very day dragged myself out of my cave and joined Facebook!

On being interviewed:
… be as rude, difficult, vain, self-obsessed as you like, but please, please don’t be boring.’
Hmmmm. That will take some practice.

On designing the cover of your book:
A cover is a signal to everyone around you as to what you like and enjoy. If you doubt that a cover is as much a style statement as a handbag or shoes, think about how you feel about being seen reading a book draped in pastel (chick lit), adorned with a near-naked fighting Amazon (fantasy) or underwear (erotica).
OK, I’m still happy with my new cover (see my 1 Oct blog).

On marketing:
In the 21st Century, limiting book campaigns to cover, press and a few posters is not an option; digital media is key.’
Indeedy. I’m learning that the hard way. Latest discovery: internet reviews.

On using autobiographical experience in your writing:
… imagine your characters intimately, and as separate from yourself and other people in your life, then mix in understanding and emotional acuity and use real-life experiences in a thoughtful, relevant way to breathe life into the clay. Only then will they be ready to walk and talk on their own.’
My experience exactly. So please don’t ask me which character I am in my books. As I’ve said before, I write about what I know about people, not people I know.

On small independent publishers:
Each book we publish is very special; it has to be; because we publish so few of them. Larger publishers may be able to take a punt on a new author and not expect the book to sell, but we can’t afford that risk. We put all our effort into selling as many copies as we can.’
I like the sound of ‘special’.

On getting work accepted:
I receive over 20,000 submissions across all categories a year and might take on 0.1 per cent. At a guess I receive about 1,200 memoir submissions, and might take on three annually.
Needle in a haystack comes to mind.

Lots of gems between the covers of one issue of one journal. Thanks, Mslexia. I must keep finding the time.

, , , ,