Category Archives: Winning

Count your blessings

I saw something on Facebook that said get a glass jar and every time something good happens write it down and fold the paper and put it in the jar. I think this is a wonderful way to think in a positive way and focus the mind to think about good things and not bad ones. I think I could count many blessings every day; that I get to do what I love, that I write lists and do everything on them; that I have the most wonderful friends, a great family, a man who tells me every day how much he loves me. I think we must all think that way.

This week as I look at it in review I have subbed Chutney with a new synopsis; finished an edit and have the report to write today, fitted in three gym classes yesterday, helped someone pass the next level of their PT course by being their guinea pig in a training session the day before, set up a JustGiving page for our gym challenge and met the lady from the charity, got banners, T-shirts and balloons and arranged a visit to the hospice; arranged to see my best mate Sunday as a pre-birthday lunch and plans with a couple of friends for lunch next week. Hopefully my poorly man will be well enough to take me out Saturday but if not then we will have to postpone the birthday celebration until he is well… that will stretch it out, right?

If we can see the good and the positive and not the negative side of life, which we all know is there, we will see that counting our blessings is a wonderful way to live and imagine the joy we will have reading those little notes in that glass jar this time next year.

That is all, have a wonderful weekend everyone… 

jar2

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The Winner Mentality

Since I started going to a gym my life has completely changed, and no doubt for the better.

When I met Malcolm Brown  it changed even more.  As a bodybuilding champion when he was young, and I mean a British Bodybuilding Champion with over twenty wins to get there, this is a whole new world to me and one I am only beginning to understand. He now works as a personal trainer and yoga instructor, but he still helps people (in fact he has trained champions) but he doesn’t compete now.

So when Malcolm was asked to hold a seminar at one of the big gyms he works for in London (Intensity) he was a little apprehensive, having not talked at something like that for many years. I told him how I had spoken a few times now about my writer’s journey and if you’re talking about what you know, it always works, just have a plan to guide you and see where it takes you.

When I give talks, as I will be doing again towards the end of the year to the U3A on Canvey, one of the things I have found is that when you talk about the hard work it takes to achieve the dream, people will always be inspired. We need someone to relate to and whatever your dream, someone who says I NEVER gave up, no matter what, is an inspiration in any field. It’s truly humbling to feel that something you’ve achieved is inspiring to someone else, right? All the more so if those people want to be where you are. And that message rang loud and clear yesterday in London. Malcolm had done what so many people there wanted to do.

We heard Malcolm speak about his own journey to become a winner (I think you become a winner long before you hold the prize, right?) and what an inspiration it was. It doesn’t matter if you appreciate bodybuilding as a sport or not (it’s a lot more scientific than I ever realised!) what stands out is the hard work involved. You have to admire the tenacity and the drive, and what I was so impressed about was what an inspiration he was to all those younger people who stood and listened and watched. Also it’s the real people stuff. There stood a man, who said it as it was. Who said that his sport saved him from trouble because where he grew up in Tilbury wasn’t easy and he is sure if he hadn’t found his sport and known what he wanted from a young age he would have ended up in trouble, prison even. He is a regular guy who lived the dream and proof that anyone can do it. His dream started in a garage with a few weights. He describes himself as a loner on a mission. When home life isn’t all it might be, his escape was his home-made gym. It’s a story of hardship and fight, and his inspiration was an Arnie poster. There is something humbling about that image, right? I see it now, in a film. Maybe there’s a memoir waiting to be told.

In the second part, Malcolm walked us around the gym and demonstrated some of the exercises and there is no doubt that people left with a wealth of new knowledge. In fact as Ben, another very successful champion, said at the end, he is certain what Malcolm did and said has changed the way people will now train.

I was so honoured to be there and see that other side of him. Truly inspirational. So writers, take heed:

  • The winner’s mentality needs to be in place long before you sign that first publishing deal.
  • You have to want to win no matter what and be prepared to focus only on that dream with a focussed and determined mindset.
  • And above all: never give up.

But take heed, and Malcolm has this in spades, be humble. Be prepared to stand up and talk about your journey and where you came from in a way that will inspire and hence drive others with the same dream.  Do it with dignity and heart and share your wisdom. Winners never stop being winners and I was so proud of my man yesterday. We hope to do a similar seminar at one of the other gyms he works at. And anyone who lives close by should come. It’s inspiring.

That is all. Have a wonderful Monday. Choose to be WINNER.

 

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Malcolm Brown EFBB Champion 1987, Intensity Gym, London, May 22 2016

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Inspiring young people

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Not like that, like this…

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In awe of the champion…

 

Check out Malcolm’s Facebook Page if you want to know more or book him for some PT or even a seminar! LINK

 

 

 

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Little boosts to confidence

It can be a very insecure life being a writer, especially before you start to see your work accepted.

But even when you do, if you’re like me you keep moving the goal posts and challenging yourself.

So when you have a new story accepted or published, as happened last week with Open Windows, and a writer who you greatly respect says something really complimentary (someone whose work really sits up there in the short story field) you think, wow. Really? And then you think: phew.

There are so many of us out there trying to get validation with our work, so every little comment or nice review makes a massive difference. Writing is basically something you sit and do alone and so as a writer you do sometimes think: okay great this is really working and other times you think, this is pants. That’s being a writer, that’s also very much part of process. First drafts of anything have those pants moments but the more your chisel and refine your work, you more you come to know when it is working.

Working as an editor also helps and I think one of the things I can see has really developed the more I work with writers, is being able to look at people’s plots and shapes of stories. I think getting up close and finding issues with the plot is fundamental to those big second drafts, and often we just don’t see the issues when we get too close. Story analysis is something I seem to have refined more and more as  a skill to try to help other writers, and to help my own writing of course: it’s the who, why, where, what does the protagonist want, what’s at stake and who or what is standing his way that might sound fundamental but actually make the difference between something really working or it not working as it should. Being able to pin down what’s not working and might be stopping an author getting work accepted is a vital component of my work, so I am also learning and looking for new ways to ensure this is achieved in my editing work.

Getting up close to the nitty-gritty nuts and bolts stuff once we have looked at story shape and character motivation is actually the easier part usually to put right, those clunky phrases, out of context metaphors, clichés, telling etc.

I do care about the process and my clients, so if, as happened recently with a client, it seemed they had not quite grasped something important that I felt was essential for their novel to work, I couldn’t relax until I had I arranged a call to talk about it. I feel as if I am nurturing something very personal and so it has to be right, and handled right. Your stories are after all your babies, right? So come into my world and I will be mindful of that. I think it helps that I am a writer too.

But even when you have a reasonable grasp of all of this, it still can be isolating, so when someone appreciates your work, take the compliment and let it boost your day.

Or week.

Or forever.

Have a great day everyone.

Compliments

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Opening Windows With The Short Story Form

After some twenty short stories being published in collections since 2008, the biggest feeling of accomplishment came when my debut novel While No One Was Watching was finally published in 2013, nine years and one MA after deciding to be a serious writer. It was  finally something all in my name and the thing I had been working towards. But it would not have happened without the short story. This is why I have a lot to thank it for and why I still write short stories; although fewer now, there are still some out there trying their luck and still ideas I can’t wait to develop.

The short story form for me is this perfect thing; if you get the voice right; deepen the characters enough and capture life in those few words you can shape the story into something that didn’t exist before — and within a relatively short space of time. It’s incredibly satisfying.

I am probably most proud of three short stories (so far including the one I’ve just written, right?) — the first one ever to be good enough to be published in 2008 and that was Jigsaw. I was in the middle of working on a novel (with a lot to learn about writing) when this child’s voice entered my head and I was compelled to write it. I was nothing like anything I’d written before and I was thrilled when Bridge House Publishing (who I didn’t work for back then) chose it and it inspired the cover. What a feeling that was.

A string of success later (and rejections naturally) I wrote something while studying for my MA, but not as an assignment as an experiment in contemporary story-telling and that was The Theory Of Circles, which I have talked about here before. The faceless/genderless voyeur social media obsessed narrator in a story reporting on the goings-on on a crescent in a nameless place; but reading backward the way you scroll blogs. But of course, I had to make certain it still flowed forward for the reader in terms of story. Quite a challenge. I knew conventional publishers and competitions would pass on it but had been seeing a lot about innovative short story publisher Unthank Books. So I targeted them and waited.That wait was rewarded and the story was published in Unthology 3 back in 2012. I was even more thrilled when the publisher nominated the story for the prestigious US Pushcart Prize.

So more short story successes later ( a few short lists and anthology acceptances), between the novel writing and I saw Learning to Fly win the Bath Short Story Award; another young voice, but an important theme, coping with grief but with humour.  This story, with some autobiographical elements, is one I was so proud of — so did the dance when it won! I celebrated that night at a Bon Jovi concert and wow. They even had a tea-party in my honour in Bath (not Bon Jovi!) but the lovely ladies at the Bath Short Story Award.

Of course amongst these stories are some yet to find homes and others that made it onto prestigious short lists that I hope will find homes: namely Mirror Image that I long to adapt into a novel (short listed in the Aeon Prize in 2010) and Chutney that was short listed in the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2013 and is the current work in progress having been adapted into a novel.

While No One Was Watching as you may also know was adapted from a short story.

So it’s clear how important short story writing has been for me, in three key ways: the first in teaching me how to write, to experiment, to develop and to grow (and you learn faster and get the satisfaction faster with this shorter form). The second  being that some short stories get bigger and inspire development into a novel. And thirdly, the more I write them, it seems the more the ideas fall from the sky. So ideas seem to be around me all the time and some get scribbled on bits of note paper… and when I am between drafts of novels beg to be written. Once I finish Chutney I plan to write a few more.

When I was thinking about moving back to my home town over the past two or three years I wrote ny first short story set on Canvey Island about a group pf friends meeting at Canvey sea wall after the wake of one of their friends, Adam. I called it Open Windows; which has more than one meaning, but the main theme is making the time for people while you still can. Something happened to Adam when he was thirteen and he got stuck. He is the real boy who never grew up.

The story was selected for another Unthank books Unthology and I got to hold a hot off the press copy in my hands yesterday! Don’t you love the smell of fresh ink! This book is officially released on June 20th. There will be copies at the London Short Story Festival Unthology event that I plan to pop along to and say hi to the lovely Ashley and Robin. And its official launch event is June 25th in Norwich where I, and others, will be giving readings.

While this might be something like publication success number 20, or 21 (which is an odd but humbling thing and to lose count!), and it might be that we all strive for that next novel success (and trust me I do) but we must never negate any success, and to be alongside such a calibre of writers in Unthology 7 is indeed a thing to feel very humble about and feel very grateful for. I am immensely proud to be in another of their collections. Thanks for choosing it Unthank Books.

I will post a small excerpt of Open Windows tomorrow.

Wave your banner BIG and PROUD for the short story form, and thank the publishers for keeping the stories out there…

Happy Wednesday folks!

I hope to invite some of the other unthologists onto the blog to talk about their writing and their stories, so watch this space… and there will be photos and a post about the launch of course!

Unthology 7 coverOrder from Amazon, release date June 20…

Yay!

Yay!

 

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The Day the World Stopped #JFK51

Tomorrow marks the 51st anniversary of that fateful day in Dallas when John F Kennedy was assassinated. Today, the Friday, is the actual day of the week, 12.30pm.

 

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From website: LINK

With the Zapruder tapes, it remains one of, if not THE, most watched and most studied murders captured on film. The very public nature of it and the conjecture that came from it, puts it up there as one of the most iconic moments in history and it sits in the top ten list of conspiracy theories; being labelled THE quintessential conspiracy theory.

Why it captured my imagination the way it did and hence became integral to my novel, I don’t know. It hit me one day what other news stories are overshadowed when something as big as this impacts on our lives. That concept inspired our On This Day short story collection at Bridge House and some later works of mine. And of course is the premise of While No One Was Watching; Eleanor Boone goes missing from the grassy knoll at that exact moment.

I know I have talked about it here before, about the role of fact in fiction, but it continues to fascinate me and I am itching to recapture that sense of time and place, as I did for Lydia and the American civil rights movement when I revisit Colourblind. This was one of my training novels and one I really want to dive back into. I know it has something.

It’s a year on since we marked the 50th anniversary with my big launch event on Canvey, a day I remember so well and so fondly, having already celebrated its release and started to get some great reaction to it with my lovely friends in North Wales as well. And it marked the start of Lydia coming into her own when I started to give readings in her voice.

And a year on, some 60 reviews later (virtually all 5 star or 4 star) and reasonable  sales (not anywhere near the figures reached with the big presses but respectable never the less) I am still plugging away. And I still hold the dream alive that one day While No One Was Watching makes it onto the BIG screen. Keep dreaming they say and I always will. Come on!

I will mark tomorrow in WHSmith in Southend-on-Sea signing books with my stars and stripes bunting and tablecloth and I might even have some candy to share! Please come and see me if you live local and consider a signed novel (£8.99 so less than a tenner!) for a Christmas present! My mission is to outdo my afternoon in Liverpool and again SELL all my books but we have more! Come on Southend –prove you can do it! Help the local lass!

And of course if you can’t make it, I have signed copies for £12 on my website if you are in the UK! It would cost more if shipping elsewhere! http://www.debzhobbs-wyatt.co.uk/Pages/BuySignedCopies.aspx

The book is on Amazon too as you know! So please add it to your lists. And what a pertinent weekend to buy it, right?

Amazon.co.uk: LINK

Amazon.com: LINK

My Goodreads Giveaway finishes Sunday so if you haven’t had a go yet — please do! LINK

I was also in the local paper yesterday so as soon as I have a copy I will also post that here!

Have a lovely weekend.

I will leave you with my book trailer again for those who haven’t seen it, or want to see it again and my poster.

 

Have a peaceful one.

Signing again!

Signing again!

RIP JFK

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Going Animal

Animals have always had a very special place in my heart.

I feel a spiritual connection to animals on the deepest of levels and it’s why I originally (after wanting to be a writer before everything else of course) went to vet school (only not  completed due to ill-health) but did go on to get an honours degree in Zoology and later a Masters in Ecology.

My love of writing and love of animals kind of went hand in hand and I used to write so many animals stories as a child, winning my first writing  competition at the tender age of ten with an animal story. So the work I now do with Paws n Claws and the Born Free Foundation is a natural step, a way of bringing the two together in a very important and worthwhile way. Animals belong in the wild and my mission is to try to change what people believe about that, to rethink what you see in zoos. And if that means changing the mind of one child when I visit schools, then I am succeeding.

Yesterday I got to upload the next two Paws titles to my printer and can not thank enough the people around me who made this possible: the pinnacle of many many months of hard work. And you can not do that alone.

And to celebrate the huge amount of very satisfying work, Dad and I went to London by special invite to a Born Free Wildlife Art Exhibition and Celebrity Auction headed no  less by TV’s auctioneer, James Lewis.

For me meeting Tara from Born Free who has worked tremendously hard on the new poetry book, was fantastic, numerous late night emails as we proof-read and phone calls so we feel we already know each other!

It was of course also wonderful to see Virginia McKenna again and since we have also had a lot of recent phone calls involved in this special book (details of which I will share soon!), she came right over with a hug. She is a truly remarkable woman!

So who else was there? Check out the Born Free Page here: LINK

Well, Vic Reeves and his glamorous model wife, Nancy; Anneka Rice, Elizabeth Emanuel (designed Diana’s wedding dress), Lauren St John (who has been on this blog, writer friend and judge for the poetry book and the first Paws competition), some more TV Flog It/Antiques Roadshow faces I didn’t know but Dad did! In fact a few faces I thought I knew and I finally got to meet the ever so charming and lovely son of Virginia and Bill, and head of Born Free, Will Travers.

Some amazing artwork by celebrities (see the list of names on the link above) and well-known artists and I watched as James Lewis swung into action and had the room lapping up the paintings. I stood on in awe trying NOT to twitch and find myself bidding on a £5000 painting!!!

The most expensive piece was a tiger painting drawn on the spot during the auction by the talented Sherree Valentine Daines that clocked up an impressive £10,225!  http://www.sherreevalentinedaines.com/

The art exhibition is open this week at the Clarendon Art Gallery until tomorrow so you can get to see some of the wonderful paintings: http://www.bornfree.org.uk/get-involved/events/

Once again I was humbled at how hard people at Born Free work and while some charities do get bad press, ALL the money goes to the front line where it’s needed.

So, here I am — selfies with Virginia and Will, and why not?

 

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Will Travers CEO of Born Free and little old Debz Hobbs-Wyatt!

Virginia McKenna and Debz Hobbs-Wyatt, London 11/11/2014

 

 

 

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Meeting the lovely people…

I know some writers who tell me they’d hate to do what I’ve been doing these last few weeks. Standing in bookstores armed with bookmarks and telling them how I’m signing in store and come have a look at my book.

Well you know, promotion like this is just one of the ways to get your work noticed. It’s baby steps. You’re making only a small dent in book sales, I know that. You can stand in store talking to everyone and really working it, for hours on end and sell just six copies. But that’s six more people who know who you are and more importantly who will read your book, not to mention the ones who they’ll pass the book onto and those who say they prefer Kindle and will download it. And since I give out a lot of bookmarks, and yes many will end up in the bin, some  I hope will buy the book later. It is hard work but I like people. And our  readers matter, so you have to do it. And you might as well enjoy it, right? It is what I always wanted to be and it goes with the job.

It’s amazing how tiring it is spending four hours or more standing and talking! But I realise that while the blurb sells the book in terms of if it’s their kind of thing, people buy into people. So yes I am annoyingly happy all the time and yes always smiling and no that’s not fake, that’s just me, my sociable approach must count. Or I hope it does. I am certain the way I approach people and really just chat to them, means if they like me, they are more likely to go and pick up my book to read the blurb and perhaps buy it.

It’s been a busy but great few weeks. Yes it means having no day off and I can feel the tiredness seeping in, but it’s so worth it. I have my final two Saturdays in Bangor back to normal, meeting writing friends etc and then once I move, and as we head closer to Christmas (yes I did use the C word!) I will be putting together a signing tour in that part of the world, so if you think your local bookshop might be worth including, preferably south-east or close, let me know! I am going to make a list of places soon and start approaching them. I figure a signed novel is an interesting and different Christmas present, right? So many books will be bought online and that’s fine but something unique about it being signed by the author. Remember I also have signed copies I can personalise on my website (sadly I do have to include the £3 postage) but I will have it an offer price of £10 with p&p in the run-up to Christmas, so if I am too far to make it to your local bookshop, please do message me or watch my website as I will be able to send a signed one.

Yes these are baby steps, but how else will people know about my book.

And that’s why reviews count so if you have read my novel please do post reviews on blogs and Amazon or Goodreads etc (if you liked it!) and it all helps!

Right. Might be bank holiday for some here in the UK, but for me, business as usual.

Have a great day everyone!

Signing in LlandudnoSigning in WHSmith, Llandudno, Saturday August 23rd 2014

 

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