Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006


2011 in First Lines

It is traditional here at Charlotte’s Web to review the past year in blogging by posting the first lines from the first post of every month. Having scrolled through my 2011 posts, one thing is clear to me: life took over from blogging this year. After moving house in January, I spent many long hours revising Balthasar’s Gift, many hours pounding the pavements training for the Mannheim team marathon, many hours planning and giving two weekend-long creative writing workshops at Heidelberg University and then, in July, starting a six-month job posting at one of my customers replacing someone out on maternity leave. It was quite a year!

January: So I’ve reviewed my goals for 2010 and found them to be good.  Ten Things for 2011

February: One of the most appealing things about Germany is its cafe society; places where you can nurse a coffee, read a book and watch the world go by.  Cafe Society

March: Today is the anniversary of the death of Herbert James Downs, who was murdered in South Africa a few weeks after his 100th birthday.  In Memory of Herbert James Downs

April: Life has taken over from blogging – nothing serious, but an accumulation of things over the past three months that have left me exhausted.   Hiatus

May: May is turning out to be quite the month chez moi, which means my presence here at Charlotte’s Web will continue to be vague, scattered and somewhat erratic.  May Madness

June: While reading to the creative writing students about voice this weekend, I found myself getting a little choked up.  More on Voice

July: I’ve just come back from a week in Mallorca, having found its quiet, laid-back corner (it still exists) and am feeling horizontal.  Feeling Horizontal

August:  So I’m back in full time work for the first time this century, and I am loving it.  Three Things I Love about Work

September: Still loving work, so that’s a good thing.  On Women and Work

October: My grandmother was not only an angel, but she was more than a little fey. Survival Skills

November:  My life has changed exponentially – and for the better – since I re-entered the working world. What Feminist Motherhood Means to Me (Now)

December: The theme of today’s World AIDS Day is ‘Getting to Zero’ (zero new infections; zero discrimination; zero AIDS-related deaths)’.    World AIDS Day 2011 – Are There Any Good News Stories?

What was your 2011 like?


May Madness

May is turning out to be quite the month chez moi, which means my presence here at Charlotte’s Web will continue to be vague, scattered and somewhat erratic. Here, in order of importance, are three of the many things happening to me:

1. Complete novel revisions. It turns out that my main revisions are plot-related and plotting is my weakness, which is something I’m going to have to address if I plan to be a professional crime writer. That aside, I’m done with cogitating and have committed to completing and handing them in by the end of the month. I’ve said it! Feel free to stop me in the street and question me in depth about my progress, even if I look evasive and try to distract you with cheesecake.

2. Give creative writing workshop. At the end of the month, I’m giving a weekend workshop to undergrads at Heidelberg University. I’m looking forward to it very much. I visited them last week and asked what they want from their workshop and now have a clear idea how to structure it.

3. Run marathon. For an ex-asthmatic and renowned non-sportler this is the most intimidating, though I am slightly exaggerating the extent of the run. It’s a team event and four of us run a marathon as a relay. My leg is just over eight kilometres: short for some, very long and daunting for me.

I’m also attending to an admin list as long as my arm, one that includes passport refreshing for certain members of my family and other unspeakable horrors. If I’m ever rich/successful/clever enough to have an admin assistant, it is this kind of thing I will gladly hand over. Ticking boxes and filling out forms is not my forte. Give me character motivations and new plot strands any day.

However, I’m finding comfort in reading and have read some excellent books, which I will detail in another post. Right now, Siri Hustvedt’s The Summer Without Men is glowing all buttercup-yellow and tempting next to my bed.

And in other news, today is the last day for voting for Expatica Germany’s best blog 2010/2011, so if you feel moved to support me, here’s the link.



Being back in the riches of my family life has meant my writing output has slowed down again. Having a monster migraine didn’t help either (have scheduled visit to Frauenarzt to talk about the headaches because, frankly, they are getting old). This week has not been so successful in terms of writing, but what I have managed is this:

1. I plugged the gap in Chapter 8, using some material I wrote three years ago. This new scene contains a character who might not make the second draft, because she’s kind of light and funny, but I like how her lightness contrasts with all the Sturm und Drang that the other characters are suffering. This character makes me think I should be writing chick lit, or farces, because her throwaway lines came easily to me.

2. I have acted on my idea for my second novel, which is going to be a historical novel set in Kimberley, South Africa, during the diamond rush, and wrote to some people about how to go about researching it. Both my contacts came back with brilliant ideas and I am suffused with energy for this second project. One of them suggested rereading The Story of An African Farm by Olive Schreiner, just to get a feel for the period, and this weekend I am going to brave the Keller (which is undergoing a renovation project, turning two storage rooms into two offices, one for me and one for my husband) and seek it out.

So my writing goals for this week are:

a. Get seriously stuck into Chapter 9.

b. Source and read the Olive Schreiner.

c. Do more sport! Sport = energy = creativity = words on the page. This week I ran 8kms for the first time. It took 65 minutes. As a non-sporty person who had asthma as a child and couldn’t run 300 metres without wheezing, this was a huge achievement for me. Any accolades you feel like sharing will be warmly welcomed, since my husband is getting tired of telling me how wonderful I am. My goal is to run 10kms in an hour so that I can participate in a local fun-run in October.

What are your writing goals for the week? (Feel free to share any exercise goals you may have too – I’m keen on those!)