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A creative breather

Ok, so work on my novel was full on, but I had the dilemma of having to use up annual leave in my day job – what to do? Plan my dream trip to Japan of course!

My sister and I have wanted to go for years and it was now or never. We had the funds, the time and the energy (just about). The timing was bad as I was trying to finish my book – specifically the 125 illustrations that needed to go alongside the 60,0000 words! I decided that spending 2 weeks slogging away would have been counterproductive as I was already feeling burned out. A change of scene was needed, so Japan it was.

And what a trip! The flight with ANA set the pace for the rest of the holiday. We boarded what turned out to be the Star Wars R2-D2 jet and took our seats with the theme tune playing and an announcement of “May the force be with you”- brilliant!

As soon as we landed everything was super exciting: getting on the train, walking down the street, buying stuff from the supermarket, and even going to the loo! We spent the first week based in Tokyo and got to experience the scramble crossings, arcades, bullet trains, food items we had on our list (Sushi, ramen, udon, takoyaki, yakitori etc…), food items we didn’t have on our list and 2 days in Kyoto to experience the ‘old Japan’ of pagodas, zen gardens and geishas. Culturally, everything was so incredibly different to what we’re used to.

But it’s the creativity of the Japanese that I was in awe of the most. Everywhere you turn something  strikes you: cute anime characters on billboards, TV, metro ads, vehicles. Massive digital screens on the sides of buildings alongside coloured neons lighting up the main strips. And food is clearly a ‘feast for the eyes’, presented with consideration and thoughtful composition with colour, texture and form – Oishi! (Delicious!)

The second week was a welcome breather from the mad hustle and bustle of Tokyo (not for the faint hearted BTW!). We flew 3 hrs south to Ishigaki to sample laid back tropical island life and stayed in a traditional Japanese house by the beach. We did scuba diving with manta ray and turtles and basically chilled the hell out.

I think that holiday hit the spot. I managed to remove myself from the project that I’d been dedicating all my spare time to for the last 3 years. It gave me something else to focus on and head space to prepare for finishing the novel when I got back home.

So if you’re ever in doubt, choose a break – life’s too short for burn out!

Manuscript finished

3yrs, 63,931words, 2 massive eye bags and 0 friends later, I have finally FINISHED my first teen novel!

So, how do I feel?

Well there’s no fanfares or parties or even any whooping or air punching. The creative process of  book writing is a slow burner. It doesn’t end here. The manuscript is now with a copy editor, who will look at the more technical (and tedious) aspects, so that it’s tidy and legible and makes enough sense to present to the public. It will then come back to me for final edits, before it’s laid out and marked up for illustrations. My next job will be to get those done – all 90 of them!

The illustration deadline has been set for January 2019, so I’m going to have to get my drawing hat on PDQ. Initial copies will go to print then to be honest, I’m not sure what happens after that as I only have enough headspace to focus on the next few months, and obviously want to enjoy that time without thinking about other stuff.

Right now I’m happy to say I’ve already completed front and back cover art and the first 5 illustrations. For the first time since starting this project, I can see it coming together – it’s looking excellent and I am VERY excited!

Chilling at Parkstone Library

Loads of enthusiasm from the group at Parkstone – well done! Kids love the mindfulness effect – teaching them how to be in control of their emotions at a young age gives them a valuable tool for coping with stress throughout their entire lives.

Chilling at Broadstone Library

This is me demonstrating how easy it is to ‘Chill with Lil’ at Broadstone library, which believe it or not is on Story Lane! How amazing is that? I asked if the library or lane came first – it was the lane.

The group I had followed the guided meditation really well and the grown-ups always join in, which is brilliant. My favourite part is when I ask everyone to slowly ‘come back’ into the room. They honestly look like they’ve just woken up from good night’s sleep, with lots of yawning and rubbing of eyes!

The book was written to help calm kids before bedtime, but it can be read whenever you feel like chilling out. People have asked if it can be used as a bedtime story and I say yes, because even if the child isn’t actually doing the exercise, at least they’re learning how it’s done by observing and learning the steps.

Seven Stories

While I was up in Newcastle visiting my son, I squeezed in a cheeky visit to a place I’d always wanted to see: Seven Stories – The National Centre for Children’s books.

This former granary building has been converted into a museum and visitor centre completely dedicated to children’s books – whoopee! The founders wanted somewhere to house Britain’s collection of original manuscripts and illustrations, put on exhibitions and invite writers and artists to come and speak. Since it was opened in 2005 by Jacqueline Wilson and Nick Sharratt, it has hosted lots of famous names and won numerous awards.

I was on my own, so had all the time in the world to explore all seven floors – what a treat! I especially loved the magical exhibition ‘Where your wings were’ by North-East author David Almond, and the interactive ‘Aliens Love Underpants!’ room.

If you’re ever in the area, take your kids for some fun – or if you’re a big kid like me, then just take yourself. There’s something for everyone!

A calm kid is a heavenly kid

Chill with Lil

This was the ultimate challenge – helping my friend’s son go from a state of frenzied hyperactivity to total tranquility!

I’m pleased to say that it happened in less than ten minutes, while reading Chill with Lil. As soon as you have the child lying supine with a blanket to aid stillness, they start relaxing straight away.

Read the book with a soothing voice and you’ll soon notice your calm energy transferring over to them. The breathing and body awareness exercise has been especially designed for kids, as they find the instructions fun and easy to follow.

I honestly can’t tell you how much it’s like magic happening before your eyes when you see the instant transformation. Please try it for yourself sometime, and enjoy the peace it brings!

First group reading of Chill with Lil

Mindfulness

I read Chill with Lil to this group of adults and kids at the Bournemouth Buddhist Centre. They responded amazingly to the breathing exercises and body awareness meditation, which of course they would, as we all have the ability to switch our brain waves when we focus in silence. The result was that everyone was much calmer, happier and ‘blissed out’.

This is the aim of my book – to bridge the gap between awake state and bedtime. So many parents I know have trouble getting their kids off to sleep, and it’s because they’ve missed out the slowing down process. The beauty of mindfulness is that it can be done anytime, anywhere, not just before bedtime. I want more people to experience the benefits, and that’s why I wrote Chill with Lil.

Releasing Lil into the world

Chill with Lil has been officially released. Let’s hope she spreads the word of mindfulness far and wide!

If you’ve never meditated before, I highly recommend you start with the simple body awareness exercise inside this book. You’ll wonder why you’ve never tried it before. And the beauty of it is, you only need one minute – yes, that’s all it takes to sample a smidgen of blissful, calming silence.

Did you know we have about 60,000 thoughts a day and 90% of them are either repetitive or just a load of negative twaddle? Also, when the mind slows, the body follows? You can learn to feel chilled in seconds – what an impressive and useful skill to have!

I hope this book helps to improve our busy, noisy lives in some way – Enjoy!

Lil goes to Bologna

Lil is off to Bologna Book Fair to see if she can spread the word of mindfulness far and wide – good luck Lil!

 

To be seen on screen?

Well, what a grand finale to my 3 years of plugging away at my novel. It just goes to show that a little effort each day truly does go a long way (no matter how painful it seems sometimes!).

As we speak, I am writing the synopsis for a TV production company (or rather, applying displacement activities such as updating my blog page). So I best get on, after all, this is what I’ve worked so hard for, there’s no putting my feet up just yet! And a word of advice for other budding novelists – keep going!

Watch this space…

Above: One of the main characters in my memoir ‘My Crazy Chinglish Life’