Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006


Fresh Life for an Old Blog

Charlotte’s Web recently turned four, which in blogging years is about eighty. This blog sits in a corner all by itself, rocking and remembering the good old days when blogging was new and it was a whippersnapper. Instead of consigning it to the scrapheap of ex-blogs that lanquish in the dusty corners of cyberspace, I decided a revamp was in order. We’ve plucked the old lady’s whiskers, lashed on some red lippy and got her ready to face the world again.

Here are the things that are changing around here:

1. The Look: Renaissance woman Lilalia, whose blog Yum Yum Cafe many of you know, designed me a lovely new header. She gulped when I told her my favourite colour is white and she took it bravely when I described in detail a dream I’d had about a seagull and a hill and a road going nowhere and how my new blog header should look that way. Using the art of gentle persuasion, Lilalia helped me choose the image you see above.

2. The Tecchie Bits: These were done by Canadian graphic designer Kim Hadley, whose beautiful work you can see here. Kim has also designed my new business writing website, and you don’t have to look carefully to see how she whipped up a theme for me. It would be ambitious for a micro-business such as mine to claim branding, but the two sites have a similar look and feel, and I’m thrilled with them.

3. The Side Bits: As promised, I did some spring-cleaning and sorted out the blogroll. I have a main blogroll, a list of publishers’ and agents’ blogs under the heading Required Reading, and a roll of writers. Please check which category you are in and let me know if you not happy with it. Also, if you are a regular reader, new or not, and I haven’t linked to you, let me know. This is your moment! I could let the blogroll go mouldy for two years again.

4. The Content: Lilalia and I had a meeting, face to face, with lots of coffee (me) and tea (her) and worked out some new topics for Charlotte’s Web. These are the some of the post ideas we came up with:

  • Interviews with writers published and unpublished
  • Book reviews
  • Posts on the process of writing a novel
  • Posts on the process of trying to get that novel published
  • Thought-pieces on feminism and other issues I like to contemplate/get hot under the collar about
  • Anything else I want to write about because I’m the boss here

But mostly this blog revamp is about having fun and bringing the playfulness back into blogging. And that’s where you come in: go over to the Big Bad Bloggers’ Competition and enter yourself for some mystery prizes.

This old lady’s kicking up her heels and going dancin’. Want to join her?


Small Glittery Things

This post is not about diamonds, though I am not above them. It’s about a scattering of small things that are bringing me joy right now. I only have to pick up one of them and consider its sparkle for a short moment to have a flash of happiness run through me. Let me elaborate.

I have just finished reading Maggie O’ Farrell’s The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox. It is a perfect book, neither too long nor too short. It’s a delicate balance of flavours that sit gently on the palate, never hitting a strident note. Not too say it’s genteel, because it isn’t, but it’s subtle, disturbing and lovely. A gourmet meal of a book, that leaves you sated but not crammed.

I finished my novel on Sunday.  That would be finished again, for the third time, now with comments from beta readers. I have some further outlying beta readers who I may still need to canvass, but right now it’s being read by a friend of mine who’s a talent scout. I also pinged a partial to a literary agent and please hope along with me that I was not being premature. The sparkle in this case is the feeling that my baby is out there, trying to stand on its own two feet.

Two blog pals and I are working on reinvigorating our blogs. We are all veterans now and are putting our head together to think about ways to rejuvenate and find the joy in blogging again. Watch this space! There are changes afoot.

A wonderful graphic designer is helping me design a professional writing website (different from this blog and my putative author’s website). It’s time to put my business card out there. She has recommended that I have a business blog and I would relish ideas for topics from you clever lot. What would a freelance writer writing in English but living in Germany want to write about? One idea I thought of was how writing a novel has affected my business writing (a lot, I can tell you, especially this revision phase).

I found this website and this one, both full of quirky travel options. There I found Camping Les Ormes and I’ve just booked a week’s holiday for my family in a Kalahari safari tent. It’s in the Dordogne, so we won’t hear any lions roaring at night nor will we have monkeys stealing our food, but it’s a thrill. And so pretty.

The Orange long list is out today. That’s 20 new books by twenty fabulous female writers that I can put on my wish list. I’ve read Wolf Hall and The Help, so make that eighteen, but still!

I bought new black sunglasses and am walking around feeling like I have a new angle on the world. Feeling rather film noir, I must say, but in a good way.

In three weeks I go to Prague with my oldest and dearest friends, K and D.

It’s about to be spring. The Burg burnt the snowman on Sunday and what the Burg says, goes.

Wishing you happy Spring! May your lives be filled with glittery things.


A 21st Century Executive

I first started working as a corporate journalist 15 years ago, at one of South Africa’s big mining houses. It was as hierarchical as a company could be, with levels and grades and people who had corner offices and important art and people who worked in cubicles, like me. As part of my job, I had to interact with the senior executives, some of whom were very pleasant and human, and others who were not. Every article I wrote had to be signed off by the relevant executive, so the coal guy signed off the coal articles, the diamond guy the diamond ones and the gold guy had his say on the gold articles.

Each article would be printed out and put, along with a polite note, into an inter-office memo envelope (yes, it was before email) and sent along to the person for checking. If I was up against deadline, I would run it along to their offices myself and plead with the secretary to get it through for me. If not, I posted and waited. The articles all came back, duly checked, with terse comments and, as per company style, the person’s initials. Very taut, very mining house, very 1990s.

This week I had an article back, via email, from a chief executive. It said, “I am happy with the article.” And then there was a smiley.

I’m not really a fan of the smiley or any kind of emoticon. I like words to convey how I am feeling. But that smiley, from that 21st century executive, was a good one.

And in mining house terms, it was practically a proposal of marriage.


My New Gig

My writing life has taken many turns, and now it’s following a new path. Check out my new gig, corresponding to Hollywood from Germany. I have other articles in the pipeline and will let you know when they appear.

Now, I may be a correspondent, resplendent with fabulosity, but I also have brownies in the oven and a child to take to a playdate, so I have to go.

Have a wonderful weekend.


Whipping Myself With the Protestant Gene

I’ve got a lot on my plate right now. Today alone I have had two deadlines to meet, a NaBloBlastedMo post to write, a birthday lunch to plan for and cook, all amidst my usual daily tasks of delivering, collecting and shepherding my clan. In between I managed to fit in an hour-long walk and a visit to a friend for tea. The rest of the week, next week and forevermore contain a stream of deadlines like a vapour trail I’ve not yet created. The Season, a six-month period which contains all our birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, lantern festivals, Easters, has started. And I actually imagined I would manage NaNoWriMo!

Am I addicted to stress? If I removed my work from the equation, which I could do seeing I’m freelance and not beholden to anyone, I would have time for creative writing, for pinning down that hovering novel and for meditative yoga practice instead of a few slapdash sun salutations of a morning. And yet right now, I can’t imagine my life without the work. The money’s nice, but it’s more about the work, the taking on and doing of work, that pleases me. I like the satisfaction of handing in a job well done, the religious meeting of deadlines, and knowing that people find me reliable and come back to me with more work.

Clearly, I’ve caught the Protestant Work Ethic really badly. Anyone got a cure?