19 Days to go

One of the hardest things to do, as a self-employed person, is to find a way to balance work, rest and play. Most of the demands on me are purely mental and there is no doubt that if you want to be successful to any degree then you have to be driven and single-minded. I have those in abundance so I guess that's half the battle. Fortunately, being a creative person allows me to view the writing, and even the editing, side of my work as pleasure rather than work. Sleep can be problematic sometimes. I don't turn the creativity on and off by choice, it's there or not there, and that can be at any time of the day or night. The trick is to work around it as best as possible.

Touring is a mixture of pleasure and pain. My time in schools is exciting, exhilarating and very creative and I have the benefit of working with some of the most creative minds in the country - the children. Year's five and six are my personal favourites; as they learn that there is a grey area between the black and the white for a brief while they open their minds to the seemingly impossible and it is fantastic to share that with them. The pain is more concerned with getting to the schools in far off counties and often I spend more time in a day driving than I do with the children teaching. It is the most tiring thing I do.

keeping yourself physically fit requires a little discipline too. Most of what I do involves either sitting down or just standing. Little in the way of physical exercise. I swim as often as I can during the week and enjoy walking the countryside at the weekends. Both physical activities have the feel good factor about them for me and ensure that I am in the best physical shape I can be in for the demands of my work. As you get older, its natural for your body to tire and you have to be sensible and not push it beyond what it is capable of doing. I can't afford to be ill or suffer from injuries caused by sport despite still having the need for competition. These days I compete against myself in different ways, challenges and goals I want to achieve present a different form of competition but help towards achieving my goals.

In truth, the simple way of saying all of this is that you need to look after yourself, both physically and mentally and if you do it right it should provide a balance that can help you work at the top of your game.

Happy Reading


21 Days to go

For the second Saturday in a row I have taken a lazy approach to work and gone out exploring on the Marsh. Today I wandered along the paths of the Military Canal at Winchelsea. It's not as wide and deep here and wouldn't represent too much of a challenge to cross had Napoleon crossed here to invade us. I guess of course in his day the canal here could have been bigger and wider. Following the path here, which eventually leads to Pett Level, it was surprisingly lacking in terms of view. The path was tree and bush lined on one side and had taller ground full of trees on the other. It is the first time that I noticed the lack of scenery anywhere on the marsh although it has to be said that I only covered a two mile stretch of path. For once then it was about looking closer at the things that were around the immediate area I was walking in and it wasn't long before my eyes tuned in to what was nearer.

It wasn't long before the heat of the day beating down on me made me change my mind about walking for too long here. It was intense and there was no shade at all in the middle of the day. I found my attention drawn towards the insects that buzzed around constantly and in particular the damsel and dragon fly that were present in huge numbers. The vibrant blues of the damsels were particularly striking but there were other coloured varieties too that could easily be missed if you didn't look hard. Flowers on the lily pads were in their infancy but delicate pinks contrasted the green of the pads and the murky shades of the water. Buzzards were flying overhead again, soaring effortlessly on the thermals of warm air. 

Even though the heat shortened my walk there was plenty to see as always on the marsh but it constantly reminds me of the delicate balance everything is held in and the fact that man can be overzealous in his rush to build and expand places close to home. This beautiful fifth continent, as it is sometimes affectionately known as, is wild, beautiful, and untamed and I for one would like to see it remain like that for future generations.

Happy Reading 


23 Days to go

Most of you know that I promote my books in schools across several counties making free visits to each. There is no point now advertising for paid work anymore, schools simply don't have the budgets to pay for author visits. Giving free days like this allows me a chance to promote and sell my books to the point where I can make a living from the sales of them. That's not easy to do without a mainstream publisher. Here's a typical day broken down.

My days in schools start with a question and answer session, usually with the whole of Key Stage 2 in the hall. It's an interesting challenge for me because I can never be sure of what they will ask me so I need to be on the ball. After that I tend to do a small presentation. The most popular one is on time travel but I have others for different purposes too. A Brexit one which focuses on books based on Islands for example of more sensitive issues like the plight of the homeless in the UK. Most of these lead to a writing challenge that i issue next. With that I try to emulate the sort of writing that would take place in the real world. The first draft is about getting the story out of the imagination and onto paper. It doesn't matter if it's a mess, if it's written in the wrong order or even if the spelling and grammar is a complete mess. 

Once the children have produced a first draft then they begin the editing process, the more technical side of writing. Normally, we ask them to do this just once or maybe twice but in the real world I can do up to eleven edit runs on my work. The children do the writing before I visit them in class so that I can use what they have done to base my workshops on. I visit every class with the aim of teaching them something relevant and meaningful that will help to improve the quality of their writing. If there is additional time left then I will tell them stories that will allow them to see how stories are meant to be told, with actions emphasis and emotion. Finally, at the end of the day I do the book signings, autographs and selfies. It's a fun time and many of the parents get involved with the selfies.

Happy Reading


22 days to go

It's been a couple of days since I blogged because I've been on the road again. Kent monday, Surrey Tuesday, Hampshire Wednesday and East Sussex today, a tiring week without internet after the school visits but that's how it goes sometimes. Today I was at Hersemonceax Primary School for a second visit and I had a great welcome from staff and children alike. Originally I was going to work with small groups of children but that changed and I had the pleasure of the year 4's for the morning and the year 5's for the afternoon. I can't tell you, as a teacher, how good it is to have longer periods to teach a topical lesson from the real world and get a whole different perspective on the process of writing. 

I suppose my first task was to give them something to write about and for the year 4's I had chosen the plight of the homeless in  the Uk. The children listened well to the problems that cause homelessness and then to the various organisations that have been established to help them. They really empathised with the fact that these poor people weer cold, hungary, suffering from poor health  and very unclean. They understood that it would be better to give them food and a hot drink instead of money so that they could be sure what they gave would be meaningful. Then they wrote in a genre of their own choice about what it is like being homeless and how people treat and view them. Their writing was amazing and I was really pleased how maturely they discussed and then wrote about the significant issues.

For the year 5's the topic was far more emotive and we looked at the issue of famine in Africa and how, in some cases, that leads to children becoming child soldiers to get a bowl of rice. What I taught them was reinforced by images from the Internet that were deliberately chosen to get a response from them - and they did. just like the younger class they were able to discuss and deal with highly emotive subjects in a very mature manner and again the writing that followed suit. They too wrote in a genre of their own choice and four girls managed to write and perform some very clever raps. I like the children using this genre. It is a genre of their age, they understand how to construct one, how to keep the story line going and keep it emotive, it is the music of their time and they should embrace it if they can. Again, the class produced some real quality writing and their ideas were imaginative and relevant.

It's great to work with a school more than once and build up a rapport and relationships with staff and children alike. After a super day with them I left feeling as proud of them as they were about their writing. Thanks guys.

Happy reading


24 Days to go

The inspiration for stories comes from many different source. Last evening I was strolling along the Dymchurch wall when I came across a small crowd watching something happening at the top of the beach as the tide swirled around the bottom steps. A car had gone down the slip way to collect a jet ski and the driver thinking that the sand was solid enough to drive on, ventured of from it and got stuck. There was nothing he could do, the more he span his wheels the deeper they burrowed into the sand until the car was listing to the side alarmingly. They tried pushing and pulling but to no avail, the car would not move and the sea crept higher and higher until it was spilling into the car. Eventually, another car came and towed it out but not before the entire inside was flooded and probably ruined. A lesson to be learned here about driving any vehicle onto the sand. It's not worth the risk.

So suppose the car was on the sand for reasons unknown, there was no jet ski, no driver and nobody else around. Why would it be there as the tide comes in and why would it be abandoned? How had it got there in the first place? Was it there, dumped, after being stolen and taken for a joy ride? Had the owner been trying rallying on the sands.? Where is the driver now? What will happen when the tide comes in, will it be washed away, taken out to deeper water, will it sink deep into the sand? Or maybe something more supernatural or something more science fiction happen to it? The connotations for a story here are endless and that is the beauty of what we do as writers. There's a story in everything just waiting to be told.

Happy Reading 


C.S. Clifford

Author writing for all ages
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