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WriteCon 2019

7 Dec

This time last week I was at WriteCon in Zurich. It’s an informal conference that happens every year in Zurich which allows writers to connect and provides a number of workshops throughout the day. I’ve been meaning to attend for the last two years but something has always cropped up so I haven’t been able to go. I was determined to go this year.

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And go I did. The first workshop that I attended was led by Jason Donald, who has published two novels and is now working in screen writing. The aim of the workshop was to talk about how to edit your work and freshen up pieces in your second draft. The ticket price was worth it for this workshop alone. I learnt a lot of new things and interesting ways to look at things I have written. I wanted to rush straight home and look at some of the things that I had written the day before. The advice was so practical and completely made sense to me. I also gained confidence from talking to Jason about the feeling that I have that my writing doesn’t ‘fit’ into a specific genre and about how I have started writing a book but have abandoned it to write a collection of short stories. He had exactly the same feelings and his first book started off as a collection of short stories which he eventually wrote together when he realised that there was an underlying theme to all of the stories. Perhaps I am on the right path…

After the lunch break I went to a workshop called “Pathways to Publishing”. I anticipated this would be a general discussion about how to decide between self-publishing and a traditional publishing route and what the pros and cons of both was. It turned out it was mainly a discussion about traditional publishing. It was interesting because I learnt how little an author earns per book that is sold and I also learnt that authors get paid every time a book of theirs is taken out of a library (which helped my guilty conscious when I borrow books rather than buying them).

I was surprised how many people had a negative impression of novels that are self-published. Many famous authors self-published their work, like Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain and Stephen King. So long as the book is well-written I don’t see the problem with it. I think self-published novels get a bad press when they haven’t been edited properly and people have self-published just to say that they have had a book published. I am still trying to decide what I think is best to do but I need to write the book first!

All in all, I’m glad I went. I met some more writers and learnt some things that I have already been able to use when I am writing. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before I have my book finished.

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Farewell November

30 Nov

Let’s all say it together so that it’s out of the way: ‘How on earth is it the end of November already?’

This time in a few weeks we will all be stuffed with food, chocolates and booze wondering how on earth we are going to shed the weight so we can get back into our trousers to go back to work at the start of January. When we do go back to work in January, we will be in a new decade. This is a little too much for my brain to process at this point in time.

I feel like this month has been more relaxed than previous months but I’ve managed to do cool things this month that I have enjoyed.

Here is what I got up to in November:

  • After a long absence from the stage, I made my long awaited comeback. My drama group had a performance to share what we had learnt during the course. It was terrifyingly nerve-wrecking but a huge amount of fun and I was glad that some of my friends took time out of their busy lives to come and see it.
  • I finished my swimming course. I also learnt so much doing this and I sort of got used to the early mornings. Without having the motivation of the course, I actually haven’t been swimming once since finishing it but I have promised that I will go at least once a week between now and Christmas.
  • I finished my writing course and I am now working on a collection of short stories which I hope I will be able to publish in early spring next year.
  • I had a nice break in the sun in Tenerife with my mum. I was able to go running most mornings and drink a decent amount of local beer. We also went on a stargazing trip but, because it was cloudy, we didn’t see any stars. We just ended up cold and wanting to get back into the warm bus.
  • I joined the esteemed ranks of a non-nail biter after failing for year after year and, in doing so, completed Challenge #34 of my 40 Before 40 challenge.
  • And I visited my 34th European country when we visited a very wet and windy Monaco.

December will be full on as it always is. Work will be busy and my diary is looking full as it stands, unless I do my classic thing and make last minute cancellations!

I hope you had a great November and you are looking forward to celebrating the festive season.

The Name Game

20 Nov

Recently I found this on social media and I can honestly say I have never related to something more:

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I get at least five work emails a day that are addressed to someone with a name that is similar to mine but isn’t spelt quite the same. I fail to see how hard it is to copy my name from my email address and/or especially when I have orginally sent an email and signed it using the correct spelling of my name. After so many years, I am fairly sure that I know how to spell it, even if everyone else doesn’t care.

One of the hardest things about living in a non-English speaking country is that my name isn’t that common. I find myself in a constant Groundhog Day timewarp when I introduce myself to someone new. Conversations invariably go like this:

Me: Hi I’m Lyndsay

Them: Lesley?

Me: No – Lyndsay.

Them: Lizzy?

Me: No – Lyndsay.

Them: Chelsea?

Me (getting more irrate): No, you’re getting colder. It’s Lyndsay, like Lindsey Vonn (*famous American downhill skier who all the Swiss are in love with*).

Them: Oh. She’s my favourite skier. Can you ski as well as she can?

Me: Considering I’ve never been to the Olympics or been a World Champion, I’m going to have to go with a definite “no” on that one.

I’m not sure what I would do if it wasn’t for Lindsey Vonn. I’d probably end up changing my name just to make things easier.

I also have the misfortunate of having a very similar first and last name to a famous American actress, who I am sometimes confused with. Apparently, in the local paper my name was given as said actress in reference to a shooting competition that I took part in. I say “apparently” because I was too embarrassed to look at it.

Someone I met told me that she has a technique for remembering names: when you meet someone for the first time think of someone or something that has a similiar name. When she was about to tell me which actress she was thinking of when she shook my hand, I told her not to dare utter that name to me. Perhaps, slightly melodramatic but still…

I’m not saying that it isn’t nice to have a unusual name but people should at least make an attempt to spell it correctly. I can’t count the number of times an employer of mine has spelt my name wrong on official documents, such as contracts or bank cards. Think how embarrassing it is to have to contact HR and explain that you would love to accept their job offer but “Can you please spell my name right or I won’t sign the contract?”

I’ve also noticed that no one ever calls me by my nickname anymore; only people who knew me when I used to live in the UK. Okay, Lyndz isn’t much of a nickname but with Lyndsay being so hard to get right, I don’t have a chance of shortened form of my name.

All I’m saying is that it’s important to watch your p’s and q’s but if you’re writing to me make sure you watch your y’s and a’s as well.

The show must go on

8 Nov

I started going to a drama workshop once a week at the start of September, which culminated in a performance that we made for family and friends on Wednesday. I found an ad on Instagram and I decided to give it a go.

I have don’t anything like this before and I worked out that the last time I was in a play or performance was back in 1994. Yes, I am that old!

I’ve said in a previous blog post that a few weeks into the course I wasn’t sure if I was enjoying it or not. I couldn’t deny that it was interesting and I was learning things about drama and theatre that I hadn’t even considered before. I also learnt how dedicated you have to be to create something from nothing. But it wasn’t until we started putting things together that it all started to make sense.

We didn’t have much time to put together the performance and rehearse it properly. In fact we only finished it on the day of the performance about an hour beforehand the audience began to arrive. It would have been good to have more time to perfect things but I’m starting to learn that nothing will ever be perfect.

I was so nervous about perform. Hearing the audience stirring in their seats while we were anxiously pacing around back stage was unsettling. I had a monologue to perform among other lines I had to learn and I was terrified of forgetting them.

I’m glad to say we pulling it off without a hitch! The show lasted about 20 minutes but it felt like twenty seconds! I managed to get through the whole thing without forgetting my lines!

I was completely overwhelmed with some of the comments that people made to me after the show. I wasn’t expecting people to be so kind and positive. I’m so glad I decided to join the group. I’ve met great people and learnt a huge amount!

There is another course running in 2020 with the same theatre company and I am now trying to make up my mind if I want to continue with acting or do something else. It’s going to be a hard decision to make!

Swimming training

5 Nov

Yesterday I finished a six-week front crawl course that I had to get up impossibly early for every Monday. Even though I was a strong swimmer when I was younger, I’ve never had any lessons to improve my technique. I’ve been looking for an alternative to having to join an expensive gym for the winter months when it’s too dark and cold to going running after work. When I saw the opportunity advertised, I thought it would be good to get back into swimming and see if I could make any improvements.

Before I started the course, I was nervous about swimming front crawl. I always had the feeling that as I was going up and down the lane I was splashing water all over the place and people would be wondering who let the whale into the pool.

The teacher was very good and gave us loads of information and exercises to practice in or own time and I can’t believe the difference it’s made already. It’s strange when you are trying to get better at a new sport and you’re given exercises that are designed to breakdown specific parts of the techniques so you can make small improvements. You end up doing exercises wondering how on earth they are going to help but then you put all of the bits you’ve learnt and you realise you have made significant progress.

The teacher I had was very motivating and gave lots of personal tips so it’s no wonder that I feel like I made progress. I definitely don’t feel like I’m splashing around looking like I might be half-drowning.

I’ve always struggled with breathing while doing the crawl (which sounds stupid) but it turns out that I have been breathing wrong the whole time. After doing exercises with floats and concentrating on the learnings for the lesson, I feel like I’ve fixed it. It’s more enjoyable being able to swim more efficiently and I hope that I will continue with swimming during the winter. It will give me time to go back over the exercises that we did to make sure that I don’t fall into bad habits. 

I’ve been thinking that now that my swimming has improved that it might be time to start thinking about training for a triathlon. For now I will see how I get on over the next few months with carrying on with my swimming training. swimmers-79592__340

Aloha October!

31 Oct

The months just get busier and busier. The long nights are back and once again I am kicking myself that I haven’t enjoyed the summer as much as I should have! I didn’t even go in the lake once this year which makes me so incredibly sad that I can’t really put it into words.

But I can’t complain because I have done a lot of cool stuff this month. Here is what I have been up to:

  • I’ve made some progress on my 40 Before 40 list of challenges. I visited another European country (Ukraine) this month and toured the Chernobyl exclusion zone and I have been busy reading some more non-fiction books
  • Shooting season is slowly drawing to a close but not before prize givings and end of season dinners
  • I now only have 2 exercises to finish of my online writing course which I have enjoyed – click here for a sample of an assignment I wrote if you missed it!
  • My drama workshop is also coming to a close. Next week we will have our “sharing of work” (because the word performance is far too scary) with family and friends. I’m nervous about performing a drama production in front of an audience since the first time since 1994 when I played a parent in our junior school play The Evacuees
  • I was sad to watch the last episode of Great British Back Off but it does mean that I get to have my Tuesday nights back for the rest of 2019.

November should be a little more relaxed as I will be sunning myself in the Canaries for 10 days to make sure that I get enough Vitamin D to last me for the rest of the year because, it may be Halloween today, but I really shouldn’t look like a vampire for more than half a calendar year.

Here is picture I took last weekend that really sums up October for me.

 

End of Season shooting

30 Oct

The shooting season is almost over and this weekend we have been to not one, but two, end of season dinners for shooting events that we are involved in.

On Friday it was the end of season dinner for my work’s shooting section. I know this sounds completely crazy but there are companies in Switzerland have shooting sections as well as football teams. My theory is that everyone who participates is on a secret email list and, in case of the bank becoming under attack, we would all be emailed to come to the vault and defend the money. For the record, I have no idea where any of the bank valuts are for the banks that I have worked for!

The company-wide competition took place in August and it was the first time that I had used a small caliber weapon. It’s a lot lighter than the weapons that I have shoot with before and the distance is a shorter – only 50 metres. I managed to shoot 87 out of 100 which I was over the moon with.

I came 21 out of all of the women who competed and overall I came 65th out of 195. How good is that for a first attempt? Everyone who took part got a prize. There was a huge table with all sorts of prize to choose from. The higher up the ranking you are, the better the prize you can choose.

Examples of prizes were children’s bikes, coffee machines, electric toothbrushes, Nutri bullets, Lego sets, sets of steak knives and vaccum cleaners. It was almost impossible to choose what to take. I was so glad that the waterproof rucksack that I had my eye on was still there when it was my turn to go up and choose my prize. I now need to buy a smaller laptop that will fit in it!

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Not only did we get prizes but we also got a nice 3-course meal and drinks. Whoever said it was the taking part that counts was right.

On Saturday we had the end shooting competition at the shooting club. This is my favourite competition of the year because again there are lots of prizes to be won but there are also bingo games at the end where you can win even more stuff to take home.

Overall I was pretty disappointed with my shooting at this event. I didn’t do as well as I have in previous competitions and I was hoping to beat my personal best and finally reach 70 out of 100. I didn’t.

This was another competition where everyone who competes gets a prize. There is a separate competition for this which is done in secret. You take two shots at the target and the difference between the two shots is calculated. So, if you get a 2 and a 72 then the difference is 70. The aim is to have the lowest difference. Everyone is ranked from lowest to highest. I somehow managed to get a difference of 3 and was 4th place overall. My other half came 2nd. We ended up lugging home about 6kg of various types of meat, 2 huge salamis and two big packets of smoked salmon between us. Then in the bingo game we won a huge basket of vegetables and two bottles of prosecco.

We now don’t need to buy any meat for the rest of the year (Christmas is sorted) even though we have given some away. I’m also glad that I decided to do my vegan challenge last year!

This week I have another shooting event. Back in August I took part in the regional shooting competition for women and everyone who took part will get together for a dinner to celebrate. I’m slightly nervous as the whole evening will be in Swiss German and normally have my boyfriend there to translate for me but as it’s only girls allowed I guess I will be having a free, crash-course in Swiss German as well as food.

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This is the commerative glass I got from taking part in the women’s shooting competition – it’s basically a shot glass!