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Book Review: This family of things by Alison Jameson

I happened upon Alison Jameson’s novel This family of things towards the end of April on Twitter. It must have been the feathers on its striking cover which caught my eye and once I’d read the blurb, I was left in no doubt. This was a book written for me.

On his way back up from the yard Bird had seen something white and round – a girl who had curled herself into a ball. Lifting her was like retrieving a ball of newspaper from out of the grass or an empty crisp bag that someone had flung over the ditch. She seemed to lack the bones and meat and muscle of real people. She felt as if she was filled with feathers.

On the day Midge Connors comes hurtling into Bird Keegan’s life, she flings open his small, quiet world. He and his two sisters, Olive and Margaret, have lived in the same isolated community all their lives, each one more alone than the others can know.

Taking in damaged, sharp-edged Midge, Bird invites the scorn of his neighbours and siblings. And as they slowly mend each other, family bonds – and the tie of the land – begin to weigh down on their tentative relationship. Can it survive the misunderstandings, contempt and violence of others?

When I say the book was written for me, it’s because this is a book about characters living outside the mainstream, both geographically and by their nature. While Midge Connors may have lived all her life in Tullyvin, Co. Wicklow, she’s never felt wanted by either of her parents, or the wider community. Left behind by her siblings and treated like the runt of the litter, she tries to look out for her mother and deflect some of her father’s punches and anger. She seems more like a battered and bruised angry pixie, always on the verge of vanishing, than a grown woman. Tossed about by life and thrown from a moving car, it’s little wonder she protects herself with a spiky and defensive nature or by curling up into a ball.

Bird and his sisters, Olive and Margaret, on the other hand, live outside Tullyvin near a lake. Bird works the family farm, in tune with the rhythms of the seasons, his livestock and the farmwork but barely existing once indoors, where the only warmth to be found in the damp farmhouse is in the kitchen. After their father’s death, Olive and Margaret moved out and took their sisterly co-dependency act to the nearby Lodge, where they may have made an altogether cosier home of the house. Their relationship is a strange dance around each other, one which falters every time Bird visits. They desperately need something to shock them into opening up and when Midge lands in Bird’s field and their lives, she’s the catalyst for this but also one of the initial beneficiaries alongside the brother and his sisters.

Alison Jameson captures the sense of place and steady rhythm of nature so well in this book, and it’s one which you can feel the characters moving to especially for the Irish sections of the book set in Co. Wicklow. I liked that no matter how erratic or tentative the characters’ behaviour at times, there is that constant going on around them, and demanding their attention. It links them to the land and that community in a way that they can’t seem to do on their own until Midge and the Keegans’ worlds collide.  Read more

The #WoMentoring Project

I’m excited to be helping to spread the word about a terrific free mentoring initiative run for women by women which launches today: The WoMentoring Project.

What’s it all about?

The WoMentoring Project exists to offer free mentoring by professional literary women to up and coming female writers who would otherwise find it difficult to access similar opportunities.

Each mentor selects their own mentee and it is at their discretion how little or much time they donate. We have no budget, it’s a completely free initiative and every aspect of the project – from the project management to the website design to the PR support – is being volunteered by a collective of female literary professionals. Quite simply this is about exceptional women supporting exceptional women. Welcome to The WoMentoring Project.The mission of The WoMentoring Project is simply to introduce successful literary women to other women writers at the beginning of their careers who would benefit from some insight, knowledge and support. The hope is that we’ll see new, talented and diverse female voices emerging as a result of time and guidance received from our mentors.

Why do we need it?

Like many great (and not so great) ideas The WoMentoring Project came about via a conversation on Twitter. While discussing the current lack of peer mentoring and the prohibitive expense for many of professional mentoring we asked our followers – largely writers, editors and agents – who would be willing to donate a few hours of their time to another woman just starting out. The response was overwhelming – within two hours we had over sixty volunteer mentors.

The WoMentoring Project is managed by novelist Kerry Hudson and all of our mentors are all professional writers, editors or literary agents. Many of us received unofficial or official mentoring ourselves which helped us get ahead and the emphasis is on ‘paying forward’ some of the support we’ve been given. Read more

Wales Blog Party!!!

Welcome to the Wales Blog Party!

Thanks for stopping by here at The Nut Press. Help yourself to some of my dragon cupcakes and a drink. I’ve got some Brains S.A. or some Brecon Carreg mineral water, if you’re operating heavy machinery – like a Windows box 😉

So hey, I’m Kath and I’m a writer and blogger living and working in south Wales. I blog about books; events I go to, such as book launches, open mic, poetry and spoken word; and writing. Oh, and I also sometimes blog about chocolate and life with a squirrel muse, Squizzey, who has his own blog at SquizzBlog and is the one and only blogging squirrel in Wales. (I think I’m reasonably safe in making that assumption!)

Anyway, enough about me. Now it’s over to you…

Here’s how a Blog Party works:

  • Leave a Comment below, saying something about yourself and your blog and any food or drink you’ve brought to the party.
  • Visit the blogs of at least three other party bloggers and leave a comment on their blog. (Follow it too if you like the look of it!)
  • Post a Facebook update or tweet about the party and encourage other bloggers in Wales to take part.

And that’s it!

It’s really simple and a fantastic way to discover new blogs. Hopefully, you’ll find some you want to follow and also get your own blog some new followers in return.

I’ll try and visit everyone’s blog who takes part this weekend and I hope you all have a great time!

The Twelve Months of Nuts

The Nut Press celebrated its first Blogiversary today. On 6th October 2009, I wrote my first tentative post about Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker Prize win and ventured out into the blogosphere.

Here’s my year in nuts…

Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns Grow. Each and every blog started with just one post and no followers. I didn’t worry about how much – or little! – content I had at the beginning. If you keep planting acorns, eventually you’ll get an oak wood. The same goes for blog followers. I don’t worry if my Networked Blogs or Google Connect widgets are looking empty or the few followers I have are rattling around in them. Not everyone follows a blog by signing up through either of those. Many people prefer to bookmark blogs and read them as and when they have time. Likewise, when it comes to commenting on blogs, not everyone wants to do this. Some people prefer to tweet you a response or mention it when you chat.

Having a hard shell sometimes gives you a distinct advantage in life. Not everyone is going to like what I write or how I write on this blog. Which is fine. It’s probably a good job to get used to that because not everybody is going to like any book I get published either.

The Nut Press changed its look a number of times but is now happy in its own shell. When I started blogging, I wanted to find a template that was easy to read (so as to showcase my writing), easy to navigate and to which I could easily add side-bar widgets and pages to the basic template. In short, one which had all the functionality I wanted. Considering the template I currently use is free, I’m very happy with everything the Comet theme from FrostPress gives me in this respect but we tried on a considerable number of outfits before we found each other.

The Nut Press contains a different assortment of nuts to the one I ordered. I don’t blog about writing as much as I thought I would when starting out. I thought I’d journal my writing progress on my blog or post work-in-progress. I haven’t wanted to do that, so instead I’ve mainly blogged about events, reading, social networking or posted book reviews. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not that changes again over the course of the coming year.

There are lots of different kinds of nuts. Instead of worrying about who’s reading this blog (from the outset, I always assumed only Squizzey and I did and I wasn’t so sure he bothered that often!), I haven’t kept to a single niche or theme. I’ve simply blogged when I’ve had something to say, for example, because I’ve read a great book and wanted to share that or have been to a good event and that’s worked out pretty well. Different people respond to different posts, which is great. It’s always good when I get a comment because something I’ve said struck a chord.

Some nuts aren’t really nuts. Just as a peanut is a legume, not a nut proper, I don’t think the odd post which might be considered off-topic for a blog that is mostly about books, reading and writing will put people off. Besides, it’s my blog and therefore up to me if I want to write about chocolate or life with a squirrel muse.

A handful of nuts is better than eating the whole packet. I’ve read a lot of blog posts about “building an author platform”, telling me to blog regularly (at least 3-4 times a week). I understand the reasoning behind this but I’m not doing that at the moment. I don’t want blogging to become a chore.

Nuts are even more delicious when mixed with other foods, like fruit and chocolate. I’ve had a lot of fun this year interacting with other bloggers, for example, by taking part in Book Blog Tours for Keris Stainton’s Della Says OMG!, Nicola Morgan’s Wasted and D.J. Kirkby’s Without Alice, visiting and reading other blogs and leaving comments and having people do the same here. It’s been fantastic to see how blogs and their bloggers can work together to help promote a book or an event, such as Talli Roland’s upcoming Blogsplash on 1st December. Watch this space!  

Some people have a nut allergy. There are some people who will never read my blog, even if I read theirs, comment regularly and retweet links to their latest blog post. I know I’m doing all of that for the right reasons, because their blog posts are worth reading, I like them and want to share them with others. I don’t do it to try and encourage reciprocal behaviour, so I have to accept it probably won’t happen in some cases, deal with it and move on.

Nuts are a highly prized food and energy source. I’m amazed and thrilled that The Nut Press has been shortlisted for an award in the inaugural Wales Blog Awards 2010. When I started blogging a year ago, I never even considered I’d be on any kind of shortlist for it and I’m very excited about attending the Awards ceremony next week at Chapter Arts Centre and looking forward to meeting some more bloggers for the first time.

Nuts are a healthy snack. If you’re shy (like me), blogging can be a great way to interact with other people without having to do it face-to-face. You write a post, people comment and you respond to those comments from the comfort of your own chair in front of the computer.

Although, nuts are also great party food! I think I’ve mentioned already on The Nut Press how I’ve found blogging a great way of meeting people, both by visiting other blogs and having people visit mine, as well as through meeting bloggers at events out in the real world.

To celebrate my first blogiversary and blogging in Wales, I’m hosting a Wales Blog Party this weekend (Friday 8th – Sunday 10th October inclusive). Drop in anytime over the weekend to see how it’s going and if you’re a blogger in Wales, I hope you’ll join in!

Wales Blog Awards longlist

And I’m on it!

I can’t quite believe it but I’m very happy. Especially as I’ve been longlisted in the ‘Best Writing On A Blog’ category. Thank you so much if you nominated The Nut Press.

Equally as exciting is the fact that a lot of people I know, either through Twitter, blogging, IRL or a combination of those, are also long-listed. So, if you’re looking for some great blogs, check out these lovelies:

Cardiff Bites –  Food, News and Reviews from Cardiff and Beyond – Nicola Tudor

Catherine Hughes – What I read, what I write, what I learn along the way… – Catherine Hughes

Corpulent Capers – Talking about food, travel and anything else that takes my fancy. – Gomez Adams

In a Welsh Garden – about a garden …. and trying to live right.

Journal of Plastik – an e-magazine/journal of culture and things relating to creative culture.

Pint of 45 – A User’s Guide to Drinking in Cardiff – Phil Jones

Rachaelblogs – A little place to share… – Rachael Phillips

Save the Vulcan – A campaign to save the Vulcan Hotel, a meeting place for all sections of the community. – Rachel Thomas

Stuart’s Photography – The Diary of an Amateur Photographer – Stuart Herbert

One of the great things about the Wales Blog Awards longlist is that I’ve now got 100+ blogs to check out. I’m so looking forward to finding out who is blogging in Wales and what they’re blogging about.

Blog, not blag, your way into a Party!

The Nut Press is at a BBQ Blog Party this Labor Day Weekend (it’s a holiday in the US, hence the spelling!) If you’re dropping by, hello there!

Squizzey and I baked some peanut cookies and a coffee and walnut cake (okay, so we bought the cake but we did actually make the cookies with our own fair paws) and they are truly scrumptious. I just hope they survive the trip and we don’t arrive at the party empty-pawed.

We’re hopping all the way over to Karen Gowen’s lovely blog Coming Down the Mountain: From Reclusive Writer to Published Author. She’s running a BBQ Blog Party over the four-day weekend, giving bloggers a chance to find new blogs to read and meet the bloggers who run them. All you have to do is comment on and/or follow the blogs of some of her party guests to get you started.

If you want to join in, hop over to Karen’s blog and follow it (right after you’ve followed this one and Squizzey’s SquizzBlog, of course!) Here’s how it works:

* Follow Karen’s blog
* Comment on the party post on Karen’s blog telling her what food you’ll bring to the BBQ, and say something about yourself and your blog
* Find at least three new party-goers to visit, comment on their blogs and follow if you like
* Click on the twitter and/or facebook icons at the bottom of the party post on Karen’s blog to invite more people to the party. That means more followers for everyone!

Really simple and a fun way to get to know other bloggers all over the world.

Are you coming? Okay, Squizzey and I’ll see you there. Hurry up before all the peanut cookies and cake are gone!

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