Arty Stuff & Classlessness

Last week I went along to see the play ‘Kiss Me Quickstep’ at The Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough.  The theatre itself is rather awesome.  It’s in the round, so wherever you sit you have a great view.  We were lucky enough to sit in The Director’s Box, which meant that even if the bloke in front had had a mohican (I’ve had it happen) we would still have been able to see without problem.  You can even sit on the stage, which would be my next choice, although not suitable for those who smuggle in their own refreshments, not that I endorse such behaviour, but all the same…

The play was very enjoyable; enough of the drama, enough of the funny.  It had some nice little ballroom routines in it too, which made me want to be part of it rather than a spectator.  At the end the cast invited some of the audience to dance with them – so bad luck for those seated on the stage.  Even if they had managed to hide their contraband for the duration of the play, they risked mass Malteser spillage at this dicey moment.

The characters each had their own issues, and in one couple’s case it was money, or lack of it.  One of the characters was Eastern European and most of the others were working class northerners.  It got me thinking what a wonderful place the dance floor is for classlessness.  Dressed in acres of tulle, sequins and spandex, and twirling round the floor everyone is equal.

Wealth, upbringing, education and class are not even brought into question.  How very refreshing.

This isn’t the first time this has struck me.  When I’m out dancing I often think how lovely it is that no-one’s judging anyone else on anything other than their capabilities and enjoyment of dancing.  No-one knows, nor cares, about how plummy (or not) you sound, where you went to school, what you do for a job, whether you wear Hunter wellies or Sainsbury’s own, or any such other nonsense that seems to dominate so much of our lives.

Yesterday I returned to the South East after a week up north and instantly started to round off those vowels a bit. I do this in the interest of intelligibility; basically, no-one down here would understand me if I carried on talking like I had been doing for the past week.  “You’ve gone reet northern.  Have you swallowed a whippet?” my Sussex-born husband commented, his brow furrowed in concentration as he tried to decipher my words.

I’ve found over the last 15 years of being a northerner down south that it’s usually met with enthusiasm and positivity – and once or twice fear for some reason!  I’ve only had a couple of instances of out and out hilarious discrimination.  One of those was a few years ago when I was at a lunch meeting with a high end client.  When I ordered a fish finger sandwich (which is very de rigueur these days, I must have been ahead of the times!) Mr client nearly fell off his chair and boomed: “Why, I do love working class girls!”.  I’m glad I didn’t bring up the fact that I was disappointed it was one of those gourmet jobs rather than a good old Captain Birdseye – he might have sent me straight to the workhouse!

I’ve not managed to find true classlessness anywhere else other than where there’s a parquet floor and a disco ball.  I reckon other art forms offer it though.  Think of Adele.  There is so much interest in the fact that when she sings you’d never guess she ‘talked like that’.  Why on earth wouldn’t she?  Can only middle class people with Standard English accents sing?  Of course not.

Writing’s another good place to find classlessness.  When you put pen to paper no-one knows the background of the author (unless the author chooses to make a point of it) and that is liberating.  So when the day comes that I manage to get my book published, the readers will not say: “You know, that northern author”, nor will they say: “That writer, you know, who likes Birdseye fishfingers sandwiched between two slabs of Mighty White”.

Then again, I might choose to allude to it on the author’s page.  I can see it now…

Gina Hollands lives by the sea.  When she’s not writing about romantic encounters, she’s being very cultured at the theatre, going to classical concerts and practising rounding off her vowels.  

As a working class northerner she would sooner take off her jumper at the supermarket and walk topless to her car while using it to carry her shopping rather than pay 5p for a carrier bag.  This is in the interest of economic integrity.  And is of course excellent for the environment.

She also buys vanilla ice cream in square slabs and has been known (on very rare occasion) to smuggle Sainsbury’s own Maltesers into theatres throughout the country.  





Top tips to finding the time to write when you have young children

When I’m on a writing course I enjoy being surrounded by people with whom I have something major in common – the love of writing and the passion for penning something that may one day be published.  This coupled with the support they offer in believing in each other’s abilities offers a much-needed confidence booster!

However, I still feel like the odd one out when it comes to my age and life situation.  Many writers don’t seem to take up the hobby until retirement – quite understandable given that this is the first time in most people’s lives that they have the bandwidth to write.

When I mention that one of my main difficulties is finding the time, suggestions include “what about when your child is at school?” or “how about weekends?”.

Ho, ho, ho – if only.  The simple truth is that when my child is at school I’m at work, and on weekends my husband is at work which means entertaining a child.  And anyone with a little one knows that this is no easy feat.

So rather than come up with excuses for why I don’t have time to write I’ve decided it’s much more productive to find ways to create the time.  Here I’ve produced my top tips for time-poor writers with young children.  I hope it’s useful!

  1. Soft Play.  Oh, what a wonderful, ingenious invention.                                                      The upsides of soft play are hours of uninterrupted, guilt-free writing time: while your child socialises, has fun and is active.The downside is that there may be a fair amount of chav-dodging to do, especially on rainy days.

    Top tip: If writer’s block should strike I like to play a private game of ‘hunt the hunk’ ie finding a half decent, hero-inspiring bloke in the crowd.  This can often be very challenging in such establishments; like a MENSA version of Where’s Wally, but I promise you that there’s always one – trust me on this and have a go.

    You will need a good imagination to think what they’d look like if they weren’t wearing joggers but this helps get the creative juices flowing.

  2. Movie Afternoons.  Key to success: seting the scene                                                               A movie afternoon doesn’t just mean whacking on a film and job done, oh no no no, it means closing the curtains, getting out the duvet and buying in the cinema style popcorn and drinks.I generally find I can sit on the sofa (so half partaking in movie afternoon) and switch off from the film to concentrate on the writing.  Some kids’ films are geared for adults too though and are really entertaining so be wary of these.

    Top tip: The recent Snoopy film is a good one – it’s a load of rubbish through adult eyes but kids love it.

  3. Join a class.  Keeping active and time to focus – result!                                                             I take my son to gymnastics on a Saturday morning.  It means an early start but it’s worth it for the one hour solid writing time this gives me.  I don’t have to worry about him as he’s being well looked after and is doing something that brings him many benefits, and it means that by 10am I could have written several hundred words.Top tip: Don’t be tempted to treat it as a social occasion.  If you end up sitting next to the same parent every week you’ll spend all your time chatting politely about how wonderful their little Isla Mae’s arabesques are.

    Not only won’t you a) know or b) care what an arabesque is, you’ll also hope for poor Isla Mae’s sake that her other hobby is rugby, judging by the state of those awful arabesques.  One thing for sure is you won’t get any writing done.

    So be anti-social.  If anyone tries to strike up conversation, look at them blankly and start picking your nose.  I also find that asking them if they know  a cure for the noro virus gets rid of them quite quickly and leaves you a bit more space on the bench to spread your stuff out.

    Following these tips should ensure you remain a no mates long enough to write something substantial.

  4. Making sacrifices.  You may just have to deal with it unfortunately.                           Jokes aside, as a working mum I of course like to spend weekends and evenings with my son and yes, I do try to carve out an hour or so on a weekend to write, but sometimes I just can’t because we’re doing lovely things together and that’s wonderful.  So this means that when he goes to bed the laptop comes out.Now this means that it might be 7.30pm after a full working day, after cooking tea, doing housework, helping with homework, reading, bathing, etc etc.  Needless to say, I’m often not feeling particularly inspired at this point.  But too bad.  If I’m serious about writing a good book, I need to shut up moaning and get on with it.

    I like to go out dancing – salsa, modern jive, lindy hop, etc.  But often it’s a choice between going to class or sitting on my backside and putting something on the page. Last year dancing invariably won but this year as much as it pains me, I can’t let it win, not if this book is going to become a reality.

    Top tip: The husband of a very successful author told me that when she started out writing she had to be selfish.  He was at the time referring to spending less time with her young child.  And yes, this has to happen to some degree.  But it also means being selfish with yourself and giving up some of the other things you like to do.

    It’s a pain, it’s a hassle and it’s not easy, but nothing that’s worth doing is ever easy, so I’m trying to remind myself that the sacrifice hopefully won’t be forever and if I actually manage it, it will be very worthwhile in the end.





Choosing a Hero

It’s a tough job, scanning through pages and pages of Google images on the hunt for a man enticing enough to inspire a potential Mills & Boon hero.  Is it an excuse for a legitimate perv at handsome, brooding (it doesn’t work if he can’t brood) individuals?  Absolutely not!  It’s all in the name of art.

Trouble is, my own personal choice is somewhat ‘quirky’; maybe long-haired; perhaps bespectacled; more Mr DIY than Mr Darcy (I know it’s weird but practicality goes a long way in my book – so to speak).

Having a man who can mow the lawn, do the washing without the colours running, build an extension and cook a slap up meal, all in one day and without breaking a sweat, gets my vote every time.  Mr DIY, however, doesn’t tend to work as well in traditional romance as he does in real life.  But then that’s the beauty of escapism!

So, for my current manuscript (which is attempt number 5) I felt it only right to do a bit of research into Italian male models – like I said, it’s tough.

That’s when I stumbled upon the rather delicious Carmine Signorelli.  Instantly Mr DIY is forgotten!  I don’t know if Carmine is any good around the house, but even if he’s not I might be tempted to forgive him because he sure knows how to brood, and suddenly, when looking at his photo, that becomes the most important thing, ever.

Forget the lawn – that can wait.  And the washing?  If Mr Signorelli is putting on a load he can shove the reds in with the whites for all I care – that’s what Colour Catchers are for! And the cooking?  I’ll do it every time as long as he doesn’t mind chicken goujons (if I was married to him I reckon I’d have to stop referring to them as ‘nuggets’).

Now I’m fully converted from rugged to romantic I’m looking forward to spending the next few months writing all about him, and don’t think it will be too tough a job after all!


Hello Romance Writing Blog!

Following the recent romance writing weekend at Fishguard, Wales, the lovely and very talented Mills & Boon author, Rachael Thomas, suggested to me that it might be a good idea starting a blog to talk about my romance writing exploits.

“What???  How is that even possible on top of working full time in PR, having a husband and young child, doing housework, eating, sleeping and maintaining my beloved hobby of dancing?  I can’t do it, Rachael, not without losing the last scrap of sanity I’m desperately still clinging on to!”

But apparently if (OK, let’s be positive – when) the time comes that Mills & Boon will one day want to publish one of my manuscripts, it’s good to have a blog.  And, to be honest, I’ve always quite fancied one anyway.  So, with a week off work spent visiting my mum in Yorkshire, I’ve decided to stop thinking about it and crack on.

Maybe I’ll be the next Zoella, although I’m not sure that a working mum in her 30s who has the mad ambition of being a romance novelist, is quite as glamorous as a Brighton-dwelling beauty addict ten years her junior, but no matter!  Has she ever created an Easter bonnet with one hand while grilling fish fingers with the other while constructing a romantic liaison in her head while ordering the Ocado shop.  Hell no!

So this blog is for the romantics, the aspiring writers, the workers, the busy parents, and those who believe that, however much of a pipe dream it may seem, it might – just might – one day happen with hard work and perseverance.

Well, we’ll see.  But in the meantime I might as well get on with life and enjoy myself, which is why in between blogging about writing I’ll also be talking about other things that make me happy.  And since I get oodles of pleasure out of dancing, cooking, eating, reading, travel and going to the theatre, that’s probably what the topics will be!

So here goes, and enjoy!