Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Looking back and looking forward

Bit of a long post today, so grab a cuppa and settle in for an update!

Looking back...

I told you about my birthday, didn't I? Well, one of my presents was to go on an evening of glass working with the lovely Judith of The Creation Station. (I'd done some stained glass work - gosh! FOUR years ago! - and fancied trying my hand at making glass coasters this time)

Making glass and firing it in the kiln is very different to stained glass work; Judith explained that you can never tell 100% how a piece will turn out after firing, and that you have to learn to love bubbles in your finished work. There are many ways to make the coaster - we used bullseye glass, and you could sandwich other glass fragments, snipped rods, powders, flit or thin sheet copper between two layers of glass which, when fired in the kiln, would blend together as they melted and make the final piece.

To begin with, we practised cutting float glass. As you can see, it was a bit hit and miss as to whether I got a straight line or not!


Once I managed to do it fairly consistently, I was excited to get going on the coloured stuff - but my first problem was deciding on a colour theme. Just look at what we had to choose from...




There were so many colours - I tried to put together a rainbow, but apparently you don't get purple glass very often because it's very expensive: contains gold. So I ditched that idea and looked at shades of green, but still wasn't happy. Eventually I plumped for aqua and white, selecting a mixture of opaque and transparent fragments with the aim of cutting simple stripes.


Second problem. Could I cut the glass? Could I heck! There were a variety of different tools on offer, and I must've tried each one, but I couldn't seem to make the scratchy noise that told you you'd scored the glass well enough to snap it. I had felt reasonably confident on the float glass, but the coloured glass is slightly thicker and Judith also said that some glasses are harder to cut. (Made me feel better - could blame the glass, not my ability with the tools!) Anyway, eventually I had prepped my first coaster.


It took me so long to prep the first one, I panicked and did my second coaster in a terrible hurry. I found some iridescent glass fragments - the blue had textured ridges in it, too - and chopped them into little squares and strips and triangles.



Everyone did something different - here are all the designs laid out on kiln paper on the transporting boards.



The coasters were fired over the next few days, and returned to us. The results were not too bad at all.
Bubbles and stripes!
The striped one is my favourite - pretty square, not too many bubbles, good blend of colours. The slight wibble in the outside edge is because I wasn't too good at getting the strips to cut exactly the same length. The other is good for different reasons - it has a serious bubble issue! This makes it impossible to use as a coaster, but makes it beautifully tactile. Apparently it could have been because I used too much glue (we secured the pieces for transport with teensy dobs of PVA), or I'd not cleaned the glass properly (grease from fingers can have this effect) or it may have been just too big an air gap, that would not have happened if I'd added some chunks of clear glass in the gaps. Whatever happened, I like it! It sits by the TV and the iridescence catches the sun...

I realised two things about myself as a crafter at this session. One; I like immediate results. By which I mean that sending the coasters away to be fired and not knowing exactly how they would end up was not a pleasant feeling for me. Something to do with controlling the result, maybe? Perhaps that's why I knit or crochet or draw - you can see the piece building up, albeit slowly, and know what you're going to get at the end. Two; I'm a bit anal about patterns! I love to see random colourways and blends of patterns, but I am incapable of doing that myself and feeling comfortable about it. There has to be a certain amount of symmetry or balance in what I create...maybe that's why I wasn't entirely happy with the placement for the bubbly one.

I'd have loved a longer session, trying out the different effects you can get on coasters or jewellery pieces. Perhaps I'll try to persuade Judith to do a whole day? It'll give me a chance to get to grips with those tools and learn to cut properly.

So that's glass working. Next - the garden room. Last time I wrote about it, it was weather tight. Now, it has cladding, insulation, ventilation, and a floor. Still not completely finished - internal walls, electricity, some landscaping and finishing touches required - but it IS useable. 

We've also treated ourselves to a new patio set (the old one was about ten years or more old and very, very broken!) which goes really well colourwise with the cedar cladding on the front. Best bit of it though is that it's a collapsible table, which means it won't take up much space for storage when it's folded down, but we can have just half of it up and push it against a wall inside the garden room to give me a table for typing on. Assuming I ever get in there to write...



And then there was Mountfest. This is the annual PSA (Parents and Staff, as opposed to the more usual Parents and Teachers) Garden Party, which is one of the biggest fundraisers for Mountfields School, where I used to work and still help out as a volunteer librarian. the school. I was given the opportunity of having a table for my books, which seemed like a good idea, because the children know me through my work in the library and my love of stories already. Perhaps there'd be a few sales, though from past experience I know that people don't come to these garden parties with lots of money.

Anyway, I set up the stall (old sari bunting rather than the rainbow flags because I've obviously put my rainbow bunting somewhere really safe - I couldn't find it!) with my books and a Granny Rainbow treasure map game;


For the game, basically, Granny had lost her potions and if you chose the same square that Mr Squidge had (answer in a sealed envelope which I didn't see beforehand!) then you won a jar of rainbow sweets. If you look closely, you'll see all the pictures had something to do with a Granny Rainbow story...although as one eagle-eyed Phoebe told ma "The frog should be pink!" Put that down to colouring too late at night. There's one thing that WASN'T in a story; the squirrel is the school's logo. You can also see why I didn't illustrate the books - my violin is shocking, and apparently I draw 'angry cats'!


I only sold four books, but there were some interesting conversations with members of staff who didn't realise I wrote, and with children who'd moved on from Mountfields but still remembered Granny Rainbow. It's all about being seen, isn't it? I raised a little bit of money for the school, too, so it was all good.

So all of that's stuff which has happened. Looking forward, then...

On Friday, I will be at the launch of the Leicester Writes Short Story Prize Anthology, reading from my longlisted story 'The Pink Feather Boa Incident.' The anthology has twenty stories in it, and there are some real corkers. You can buy copies of the book here on Dahlia Publishing's site.


Then it'll be a family holiday, followed by The Kitchen. After twenty five years in this house, we are having a new kitchen! Which is all very exciting, but at the moment I'm having a minor panic because I'd set my heart on having pale grey unit doors, but all the colours we've received as samples so far are brown and way too dark...

Blog posts may be few and far between over the next month or so, but I'll do my best to keep in touch! 

Monday, 26 June 2017

Kingstone, out in the wild

I am prepping a blog for the Scribbles, and it's going to be a big one! In the meantime, here's a link to Bedazzled Ink's blog post, where they hunted out copies of Kingstone in the wild...

Think Casey and Claudia did a bit of sneaky 'face-out' rearranging!

Looks to be in some good company...

For fellow authors, it makes for interesting reading when finding out why Barnes and Noble have chosen the apparently random stores across the US to stock the book in...

And while you read that, I'll carry on prepping my blogabout the garden room, glasswork, a garden party...and anything else I can think of!

Catch you later.

Squidge x

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Half a century old

Last week, I was fifty.

I wasn't bothered by it - age is just a number, after all - but it was a funny old day.

For a start, I had hormones. Yes, I know we all have them, but at a certain time in a lady's life, we get even more of the little blighters. So a fair chunk of my birthday was spent tearful and emotional, which made everyone think I was upset about the big 5-0, when it was simply my body choosing the worst possible moment for an outbreak of hormonal angst.

Secondly, it's exam season here and both Squidgelings are in the thick of it, so no huge celebratory get-togethers planned for the sake of revision. Squidgeling T had an exam in the morning, so all presents were delayed until he got home just before lunch. In the meantime I went shopping, made a couple of appointments, and opened some cards.

I had suggested that it would be perfectly okay for folks not to buy me anything, because I am very blessed and didn't need anything. But, as is the way, I was treated to lots of goodies from various friends and family who decided to spoil me on my 'big' birthday;


Basket of rainbow flowers, supplied by the lovely
Madeline's Gifts and Flowers

Gardening featured...and yes, that is a basket of chocolate frogs

Of course there were books...to read and to write in

New cycling gloves after the old ones perished (only lasted me twenty seven years)
a personalised bracelet with my name - spelled correctly!
rainbow mat, and my super startled sheep.

Other presents arrived over the course of the day - a writer's toolkit, a hamper from our financial consultant, potful of cornflowers, a pottery heart, beautifully scented lavender and bay candle, and a 'vintage' t-shirt which states '1967 - all original parts' on the front!

Family Squidge went out for lunch at The Griffin Inn, Swithland. I don't usually take pictures of my food, but I ate the best lamb dish I have ever tasted. I swear there was half a sheep on my plate... Lunch was definitely the highlight of my day. So nice to spend time with my family, eating good food and having a laugh in lovely surroundings.

Birthday drinks - the wine glass isn't really THAT ginormous!

Half a rather delicious lamb...

Family Squidge

All told, it was a pretty low key day, really. I don't feel any different - in fact I feel a lot better than I did, because the hormones have made themselves scarce for the moment! - I don't look any different, (I'm already grey!) and life isn't any different to what it was before.

Except that I'm fifty.

Or - as one person put it - twenty five for the second time.

Hey ho. Here's to my Fabulous Fifties, and whatever comes next.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Supporting Stories for Homes 2

Just to say that my short story - Potato Soup - written in support of the second Stories for Homes anthology (due to be published later this year) is now LIVE on the SfH website.

Follow this link to find it with the rest of the online anthology. There will be more to follow in time...

If it makes you feel all homey and warm, why not try making your own potato soup? There's a good recipe here, on BBC Food.

Picture from the recipe on the BBC site.

And please, support Shelter too, the housing and homelessness charity who are the reason SfH came into being...




Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Giveaway of Kingstone

If you haven't already ordered a copy of Kingstone, then how's about entering the goodreads giveaway for a chance to win one of three signed copies?

Just follow the link...




Goodreads Book Giveaway


Kingstone by Katherine Hetzel

Kingstone

by Katherine Hetzel


Giveaway ends June 14, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.


Enter Giveaway

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Aaaand...Publish!

Happy Publication Day to you,
Happy Publication Day to you,
Happy Publication Day, dear Kiiiingstoooone
Happy Publication Day to you!





Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Reunited... and a blast from the past

Yesterday, I met up with some friends from my schooldays, who I had not seen since I was eighteen.

That was thirty two years ago. Eeek!

We had a great time catching up with each others' lives and reminiscing about our time at Limehurst High School and Burleigh Community College. And we're going to have to do it all again soon, as one of our little group had to cancel at the last minute because of poorly offspring.

The best thing about meeting up after so long was that I was forced to look through my keepsake boxes for photos and momentos from that time; my mum always carefully clipped articles out of the local rag if we were in them, and saved programmes from school events, reports etc etc.

Here's a newspaper cutting of the Limehurst Award winners of 1981...


I'm the one on the front row with her head helpfully circled (!); Muninder is on the second row, directly over my right shoulder; Helen is on the far right of the second row, and Penny is on the third row back, fourth in from the left.

We sat trying to put names to faces on this picture - I can remember a lot of them, but not all...Reman, Sally, Adrienne, Elizabeth, Pauline, Stephanie, Michelle, Lyn, another Helen, Bridget...

Helen and I were both at primary school together too, as demonstrated in this rather wonderful pic from a school production, where we were beggars. (We worked out it wasn't the one where we sang Beatles' songs, but I cannot for the life of me remember what this one was about!)



Back row (L to R): Tracey, Deborah, Mark, Samantha, Anne
Front row (L to R): Helen, Helen, yours truly and Alex

Then there was this one. 



I can only assume it was a music group or choir-y photo, because some of the folks have recorders. Goodness only knows why I was pulling the face I am... third in from the right on the front row (again). Helen's third in from the left on the same row. This one also has lots of my neighbours and friends too - Marianne, Rebecca, Catharine, Steve, Elizabeth, Mark. Wonder where they all are now?

There's also a rather fetching pic of me in a wimple, singing. I seem to recall I had to sing Greensleeves in the local park. Heaven alone knows why.



Anyway... You know I mentioned Mum kept all our school reports? I found my Holywell junior ones (that's Y3-6 in modern terms) and had a laugh over what the teachers had written - especially about my creative writing. Take a look...

1975:

'Her creative writing is imaginative and carefully expressed with colourful descriptions and good vocabulary.'

'Katherine works hard but fairly slowly.' (in Maths)

'She works hard and responds well in PE and seems to enjoy herself.'

1976:

'Her spelling and vocabulary are extremely good. She puts these to good use in her creative writing, which is always lively and interesting, and sustained at length.' (Teacher speak for 'she doesn't half go on!?)

'Katherine has a very fine singing voice, and a good sense of rhythm, and thoroughly enjoys music.'

1977:

'Creative English has been outstanding...She is able to express feelings and details and shows a sympathy for her characters. She writes lengthy stories...and her work is most enjoyable to read.'

'PE is more difficult for her. She is slight and has no great strength, but she does well in gymnastics. Games lessons she does not enjoy.' (I hated PE with a vengeance!)

'She enjoys making dramatic statements which produce a howl of protest from the class and enjoys tantalising them with some of the roles she assumes!' (I honestly have no idea what on earth I used to do to deserve this!)

1978:

'Katherine has worked carefully and methodically, if a little slowly, at Mathematics...'

'In her creative English work, Katherine is highly imaginative...Her stories are lengthy and follow a well developed plot. The excitement generated by the dialogue and the action shows that Katherine derives much pleasure from writing her stories...Her extensive vocabulary reflects her love of words and the depth of her reading.'

'She sang and danced with energy and flair in the Christmas play.' (Wonder if that was the wizard and beggar one?)

'...always works to the best of her limited ability in PE and games.'


It made me laugh that, all the way through, maths is slow and methodical. Still is, if I'm honest.  Music and drama feature a fair bit - I loved performing. PE certainly went downhill over the four years, though - I remember taking part in the Five Star Awards, scraping a one star award in my third year and being so terrible in the fourth year, I didn't even get that. On Sports Day, I was always the egg-and-spooner or sack race candidate...

But in writing - my word. I would be extremely pleased to get this kind of feedback now! I hadn't realised that I was considered quite so good at writing back then. I remember enjoying it, and using my imagination, but good? It seems a shame that I lost all of that excitement and skill during my further studies and working life and only rediscovered - and to some extent, re-learned - the love of reading and writing when my own children came along.

But thank goodness I did. Belated thanks to Miss Cartlidge, Mrs Johnson, Mrs Bennett and Mrs Creasey for their kind words back then. I wonder if, when they read my 'lengthy stories' all thoses years ago, they had any idea that one day, I'd be a published author?

I'm off to look for some of my Limehurst and Burleigh reports now, see whether the trends in certain subjects continued!