What’s your favourite word? And which ones make you grimace?

_MG_5249I recently came across a blog devoted to the word “moist” and how much the writer – and many others – hate this word. It brought a smile to my face as it’s a word that one of my good friends, Catryn, absolutely loves. I understand why some hate it because it tends to be used in quite a dirty context. But I have to admit, it’s a word I find quite amusing.

I have a word that I love: undulating. Don’t ask me why; it just has a gorgeous sound to it. From where we live, there are a few different routes to drive into town and one of them’s a country lane which is very undulating. My daughter loves it because it makes her belly go up and down like a rollercoaster and I love it simply because it’s undulating!

_MG_5264There are other words I really love too like scrumple, gargantuan, drenched and ditzy. The thing all of these words – and undulating – have in common is that they sound like the thing they describe. At first I was thinking this is onomatopoeia. (Now that’s a tricky word to spell but a beautiful word to say). But I think that’s words like splash and bang and plop which do actually make the sound of the word. I do think undulating and gargantuan sound like what they describe … but perhaps that’s because I know what they are.

I’m sure I’ll think of loads more words I love when I’ve posted this. Ooh, grimace is another one.

However, it also works in the reverse. Many of the words I hate also sound like the thing they describe: insipid, lubricate, smear. I don’t like the colours grey and taupe. Actually, I have nothing against the colours themselves; I just can’t bear their names! Such incredibly dull, boring words. And nobody can seem to pronounce the latter one; torp or toap? I have put “lol” on there in honour of my writing friend, Jo, who hates it as a phrase. For me personally, I don’t mind the phrase providing it’s not overused but I do hate it when people actually say “lol” as a word in a normal sentence. Shudder.

_MG_5248Of course, there are other words I don’t like that are rude and I didn’t want to spell them out on my scrabble board but I’m sure a few have popped into your heads already.

Returning to lovely words, I did a quick straw poll on Facebook a short while ago. My good friend Jackie responded with several corkers: mermaids, serendipity, pelagic, odyssey and zephyr. I love serendipity both as a concept and a word. Wasn’t quite enough room for it on my scrabble board! She also said “arse”. Now arse is a hilarious word which has provided Jackie, Catryn and me with hours of entertainment. Many years ago, Catryn and I were on holiday in Turkey and we invented “the arse game”. This involves finding as many words as possible with the word arse in them like gl-arse, arse-pedistra, p-arse-ly and so on. However, you do need to say the “arse” part in a Bristol or Devonshire accent. It has a far greater impact that way. We taught it to Jackie when we met her on a diving holiday and, between us, we’ve taught it to loads of people. What was hilarious was that Catryn went out to Egypt to dive one year and someone on the dive boat tried to teach it to her! It was our legacy and a proud moment. Very childish. Very funny.

Anyway, other suggestions included “strewth!” from my friend Sharon “with the emphasis on the !” I suspect she may be having a bad day. “Tibbletastic” came from my friend Karen whose surname is Tibble so I suspect she’s made that one up (although it should be a word cos it’s fabulous) and “chocolate” from my cousin Janice. Amen to that. And another friend, Carole, joined in with squidgy (love that word!) and doppelganger. Nice choices ladies ūüôā My best friend from school, Susan, suggested Timbuktu and merry-go-round. Fabulous words. And former work-colleague Sharan came up with some gems: flabbergasted, genesis, chanel (and coco!), quintessential, Mississippi and tea (as a word and a beverage). Lovely words. Thank you all for contributing.

My friend Liz said she didn’t have a favourite word but she does sign language and she had a favourite sign which is the one for “fire”. Unfortunately that’s not going to translate here but thanks for playing, Liz. My older brother, Mike, was a late-comer but he was rude. I loved one of the words he suggested but my husband looked it up. Yep, not going to put that in the post! My younger¬†brother, Chris, suggested music and beer. I’d say that both brothers were very predictable ūüėČ

_MG_5268What are your most loved and hated words and why? And if you can think of an arse word, do join in and play the game! I think we’ve exhausted them but are always excited about the possibility of discovering a new one. The gauntlet is laid down!

Photos are copyright¬†of my talented husband, Mark Heslington and huge apologies to Mark for missing the ‘h’ out of drenched so that he had to put the board together again for me after he’d done all the photos. Oops!

A bit of tea & sympathy is even better with cake!

I’m a huge fan of the Eurovision Song Contest so was glued to my TV for about 3.5 hours last night getting seriously envious of the skin and figure of bearded drag-Queen Conchita Wurst who took Austria to the winning spot with a massive 290 points. Inspired by Eurovision, I began writing a post about what makes a winning song and quoting some dodgy lyrics from the past. It took quite a bit more research than expected so I had to leave it part-written to go out and fulfil my afternoon plans. However, having got back from my afternoon out, I’ve ditched the Eurovision post in favour of inspiration from my afternoon instead.

You see, this afternoon I had something as good as a child-free afternoon of writing. I had tea, sympathy and cake with two writing friends (Alex and Sharon). We talked about writing solidly for four hours, only halted by closing time at Costa. I could have stayed for hours more and, driving home, I thought about what an amazing support network of friends I have with The Write Romantics and with Alex (who is also a Write Romantic) and Sharon which then got me reflecting on friendships and support groups throughout my life so far.

ImageWhen I was at primary school, I don’t remember having a big circle of friends. I was one of these kids who played with most other kids and dipped in and out of groups. There were a gang of kids within a 3-year age range in my street and the next who tended to hang around outside of school and I was a leader in that gang but we didn’t interact at school. By the time the oldest went to senior school, the gang fell apart because it simply wasn’t the done thing for senior school children to mix with primary kids!

Senior school overwhelmed me. With seven or eight feeder primary schools plus outlying villages, it was enormous. Most of my friends from primary school were disbursed amongst different classes and I felt really alone.¬†I had a friend from primary school who I hung around with in my 1st year and then a new best friend (let’s call her Emily) for the next two years. We were inseparable while we were in the same form class but she found a new best friend by 4th year who was prettier and slimmer and therefore a better boy-magnet then me. Emily and I were still allegedly best friends until we went away for university but I’d say it was a toxic friendship and one I don’t miss.

In college, I was part of a small group of four but always felt¬†like the outsider and it was the same when I started university.¬†The first time I really experienced a great group of friends who supported each other was on my year out. There were a group of us who were on our placement year and we mixed with the graduate trainees with the bank we worked for. It was amazing. There was always something going on and I thought I’d found friends for life. But things don’t always work out as expected. Without email or mobiles, we lost contact during our final year at university and when a few of us returned as graduate trainees ourselves, I found myself on the outside of a huge clique. I don’t know how. I don’t know why. The next couple of years were a very lonely place although I did have a small group of very good friends from my final year at¬†university who kept in touch and met up regularly.

Then, in my mid-twenties, I became part of a huge circle of friends. It felt like it had done on my year out again. We all worked for the same bank¬†but had met through a work social club¬†that organised¬†adventure activity weekends. I felt so at home with like-minded people. We all loved being outdoors, challenging ourselves to abseil, gorge-walk, mountain-bike, surf or whatever we were doing that weekend. We all worked for the same company. And we liked beer! Once again, I thought I’d found friends for life. But one by one we left the bank¬†to further our careers and, even though the love for the great outdoors hadn’t gone, the activity weekends had (because they were organised through work) and the connection of work had gone too.

After that, I moved around the country with work and never had a big group of friends again. I have some amazing friends I’ve gathered along the way from Guides, university, holidays and work but no big groups. Until I became a Write Romantic, that is.

One of the friends I met through doing all my outdoor activities used to say that we wouldn’t be friends long-term because, once we left the bank, we’d have nothing in common. She said friends come and go and it’s not worth trying to make a friendship work for the long-term. I used to find that quite an odd and disturbing outlook on things. But she was absolutely right. Perhaps things would have been different if social media had been around but it wasn’t so our friendship did, indeed, fall apart. I tried not to let it but she stopped returning my calls. Hard – but valuable – lesson to learn.¬†

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With The Write Romantics, we haven’t actually all met yet. I met Jo virtually and we set up the blog, then I met Alex at a dinner organised by another RNA-member. Alex met Sharon, another member of the New Writer’s Scheme, through Twitter and, as the three of us all lived within an hour of each other, we met up around this time last year and then again today.

Quite quickly after we started the blog, Jo and I realised we couldn’t sustain regular entries from just the two of us so¬†we opened up membership and are now nine.

We’re different ages, live in different parts of the country (and one even lives in Australia), we write different genres and we all have very different backgrounds but the one thing that will always connect us is writing. We may move, we may change jobs, we may change partners, we may change other hobbies but the nine of us (and Sharon as our honorary member) will always, always, write. Because it’s in our veins. Because it’s in our minds. Because we have to.¬†For that reason, we are – and will continue to be – the most amazing support network for each other.¬†

It’s been said many times that writing is a solitary occupation. It’s also one where you have to be so tough and resilient to face the rejections as you try to get published and the bad reviews when you do get published (whether this be traditionally or self) and we all have our moments where we wobble like crazy. Moments where we want to give up. Moments where we don’t think we’ll make it. Moments where we don’t believe we’re good enough. But all we need to do is put something on our closed Facebook group or message one of the others and we have tea, sympathy and cake to cheer us up. Most of the time this is virtual but today was so lovely to have it face to face. Alex, Sharon and I are¬†all working on “that difficult second book”. We’re all thinking about the future and what it holds. And we’re all talking about¬†self publishing and what this may mean. Today was so valuable to talk through where we are with our writing journeys and our hopes for the future. I think I may have talked far too much but I do have a few things clearer in my own mind about where I personally want to go with my writing. I feel even more positive about the latest rejection that came through last week. And I have a new idea for a novel inspired by a line in a song I listened to on the way home.

So thanks Alex and Sharon for today. Thanks to the Write Romantics for the last year. And thanks to all the friendships that have come and gone in my life because you’ve made me the writer I am today. At the RNA Conference last year, writer Julie Cohen ran a brilliant workshop about theme. I realised that all the plots I had for novels have a theme running through them. Yes, they’re all romance stories because that’s the genre I write but they all have the theme of friendship – lifelong friendships, friendships changing over time, toxic friendships. You name it, it’s in there. And I know it’s because of my experiences throughout the years as friends have dipped in and out of my life, most leaving fond memories but some leaving scars. I’ve also learned from those who’ve stayed in my life, some for the long haul, who I may not see very often (or even at all) but who are always there thanks to the power of social media and some incredible shared experiences over the years. Every one of these friends who have come and gone or stayed have given¬†inspiration to this writer who won’t give up because she has friends around her who understand, who support her and who, quite simply, won’t let her. You know who you are xxx