Inspiring Stories of Courage – Lindsey’s Story

Obstacle course for training in winter park

Those of you who follow this blog regularly and have eagle eyes, might have noticed that I’ve changed the wording of my header from Getting Published, Getting Laughs, to Stories About Women Challenging Themselves. This is because I wanted my blog to evolve to reflect what my books are about, and also because I wanted to have the freedom to blog about different things apart from the process of writing.

I have always been a huge fan of self-development and the growth of self-esteem, and these are always major themes in my novels. I regularly set goals and challenge myself – from small things like having a nerve-wracking conversation with my son’s head teacher to performing or taking apart in a charity abseil, as I did recently.

So to celebrate this change of focus, I thought I’d run a mini series of blog posts to tell the stories of women who have challenged themselves successfully in life. Here’s the first one, which is the story of Lindsey, who overcame her fear of heights to take part in that same charity abseil. Be inspired! I was!

If you’ve got a story to tell of how you overcame a fear or did something really courageous, please get in touch. I’d love to feature you in this mini series. :)

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LINDSEY’S STORY

When I was little, I developed a fear of heights and I’ve always been adamant I want to become OK with heights. Mainly because it was blatantly obvious if I didn’t, I’d miss out on a lifetime of potentially mind-blowing experiences and spectacular views with friends and loved ones and I owed it to myself, upon realising this, to conquer it…fast. Fear after all, is in your head and life’s too short for restrictions!

So time passed and discussions were had with various people which had me realise, the way to achieve this was by giving every ‘height related’ challenge I came in to contact with (within reason) a go and at worse, close my eyes if it got too much. This new way of thinking needed to become the norm, as opposed to running in the opposite direction…which believe me was far more appealing on many an occasion.

I’m pleased to say, this determination is slowly paying off. I’m now able to walk over Grapes Hill flyover, go on the London Eye, even the Nemesis at Alton Towers (with eyes closed), then in ‘06 was the big‘in…a 14,000ft tandem skydive in Australia! I can’t explain how much energy, focus and positive visualisation went in to each of these events, working through my breathing, taking my time and continuously telling myself “I CAN DO THIS”. It’s like brainwashing my subconscious to believe it’s possible and waiting for reality to catch up.

Since having children, I’ve become increasingly conscious this has become an excuse for taking time out of my goal. Then a post appeared on Facebook; some women who’ve attended the Eos Programme were organising a Charity 20m Abseil for Keeping Abreast….without even thinking, my fingers were typing “I’m in!” Proud I’d signed up for a challenge, I didn’t really give it much thought, until 4 days before the event, a group of us were chatting in the office and it hit me, I saw exactly WHAT I was abseiling down. I knew it would be a challenge, but my goodness I wasn’t expecting this! My vision of the abseiling event contained a wall, something I could fix my eyes upon whilst working my way down. Grass or sand would meet my feet on completion and if I dared to look, the views would distract any unhelpful thoughts I’d have. Instead, there stood a metal framed tower on a concrete base, surrounded by warehouses and metal spikes. My heart sank, I felt sick. I really, really hadn’t thought this through, nor had I done my research.

The morning of the abseil arrived having spent the last few days seriously working on my self-talk and visualisation. My lovely husband, parents, my Nan and two boys (2 & 5) were all there for moral support; I wanted more than anything to complete this abseil, especially with my eldest watching and ultimately creating new thoughts on what’s possible. Several kidney breaks later, my turn arrived. My harness was on and there I was, at the top of the 20m tower. Looking back, it was almost like a robot had taken over my body. My colleague went first and feeling her nerves, it finally struck me ‘yikes, this is really happening!’ I sat down on the step, convincing my body I didn’t need the loo, I repeated “I can do this – I’m bloody doing this”. Then realisation hit me if I don’t, it’s going to be pretty lonely up here tonight. I took a deep breath, approached the latch, let the instructor hook me up and then lower me down. When I finally reached the ground, I was over the moon. Buzzing as Wilson and Dexter ran towards me with the biggest hugs and grins. That moment I will cherish forever. Believe me, making up an excuse the day I was in the office would’ve been so easy; but what would that have proved – what good would’ve come from that? I needed to take control and believe in myself, have belief and courage to show this emotion (my fear), that my mind (my thoughts) was far more powerful!

Lindsey takes the plunge!

Lindsey takes the plunge!

The tower Lindsey Abseiled down.

The tower Lindsey Abseiled down.

Much to my delight my son Wilson, aged 5 was so inspired he immediately asked to do it too – the full 20m alongside a trained instructor. So I may still be working towards my goal, but I’ve achieved much more knowing my son has set the wheels in motion for an incredible future which includes heights! What’s more all the wonderful women that took part raised an incredible £3k! I’m honoured to have been part of the memorable day.

P.S My eyes were shut.

Thank you very much for sharing your story, Lindsey! Awesome!! Is this you next time around? !!!

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Don’t forget, if you have a story for this mini series, get in touch.

A surreal night

What do you get when you combine two bickering comperes, performers who have wholly misunderstood the concept of a comedy club and a comedian who persists with audience participation even though all previous signs have indicated that this is at best a bad idea, and at worst, a disastrous one? Answer: an evening at The Redneck Comedy Club in Norwich.

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Those of you who follow my blog will know that I had a go at stand-up comedy as part of my research for my novel The Dare Club. I loved it so much, I had another go earlier this year, taking part in The Funny Women Awards at Ryan’s Bar in Stoke Newington. Sadly, I didn’t get through to the semi-finals – boo, hiss, sob – but I enjoyed it every bit as much as I’d done on the first occasion, and it was such a buzz to make people laugh.

I’d love to keep performing, because it’s so good for my self-confidence, and a great challenge. As I’ve got a nine year old son, I don’t have the kind of lifestyle that makes it easy for me to obsessively tour around the country gaining experience at various comedy clubs, so I was pleasantly surprised to find out about The Redneck Comedy Club, as it’s local to me. I persuaded a friend to go with me, and off we went to check it out. It turned out to be one of the most surreal nights of our life.

I’m not experienced at going to comedy clubs, so I don’t know whether some of the things that happened are a regular occurrence, but I doubt it somehow. For example, how often are there two comperes vying for the microphone? And do people usually think it’s okay to go up on stage in a silly hat to read out chapter 9 from their steam punk novel? Although incidentally, this was the funniest thing of the night, since whenever the reader in question paused from her reading to offer some kind of a plot explanation along the lines of “Stella had previously been hypnotized in a dark alley” (not what she said, but it’s all a hysterical blur now, so I’m improvising) – the two guys behind me and my friend made sarcastic comments that were so funny I was soon writhing with laughter and fearful for my bladder.

And then there was the final comedian – who made the mistake of asking whether there were any single men in the audience. One audience member piped up, “Well, I’m technically single.” Oh, how that comedian must wish he’d just smiled and moved on instead of asking questions to investigate exactly what the guy meant. Because apparently, the man has a phone app girlfriend. Judging by the way he was speaking, he was very much in love with said girlfriend too, and celebrated the fact that he could change her appearance whenever he chose. He then proceeded to have a kind of breakdown moment, when, hands-to-head, he groaned with sheer horror at the prospect of a real girlfriend “with feelings and problems”. The poor comedian completely dried and lost his thread, getting drawn into what soon became more like a counseling session than a stand-up performance.

All excellent material for something, I’m sure! But will I return to brave those bickering comperes? I’m not sure. Watch this space!

 

Win a free copy of The Dare Club!

I have various competitions and special offers available at the moment!

My novel The Goddess Workshop is  available for a limited time for the special offer price of 99p! Grab a bargain while you can!

In The Goddess Workshop, four very different women are laughing and crying together as they attempt to become more sensual. But will it have a beneficial affect on their love lives? Click HERE to download or view on Amazon.

Available for 99p for a limited time

Available for 99p for a limited time

 

I’m also giving you 2 chances to win a free copy of The Dare Club. There’s a Giveaway on Goodreads, and a competition on my Facebook page.

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The Dare Club is about what happens when four very different people decide to challenge each other to do scary things in an attempt to forget about their broken hearts. Will it work? Or is life about to become very complicated?

For the Facebook event, just Like my Facebook page and Share the post about the competition to be in with a chance. The closing date is 9.00am on Monday 14 July.

For the Goodreads event, go to my Giveaways page and sign up. The lucky winner will be chosen after 1 August.

If you’d like a taste of The Dare Club, my short story Emma’s Choice is adapted from the beginning of the book. It’s available to download HERE.

Emma's Choice

 

Good luck!

The Dare Club – when life imitates literature

THE DARE CLUB cover 2

Question: what do you get if you combine a novel featuring an abseiling woman on the cover, good weather, good friends and a deserving charity?

Answer: The Dare Club abseil challenge in aid of Keeping Abreast, which took place on Saturday 21 June at Aid Rope Access in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.

It was a fabulous day – everyone was so brave. Quite a few of the ladies taking part were terrified of heights and were literally shaking as they climbed the steep steps to the top of the 20 metre abseil tower. There were 3 different heights to abseil from, but everyone went from the top, which was a real achievement.

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The 20m abseil tower at Aid Rope Access

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Me with my fellow Dare Club organisers – The Amazing Abseillers. Love them all!

There were 3 different heights to abseil from, but everyone went from the top, which was a real achievement. One of my friends said she was cursing me since it was my idea, but she did it anyway and felt amazing afterwards. But then I already knew she was brave, because she maintained a steadfastly positive outlook for the whole time she was being treated for breast cancer recently. She was also more than happy to help me with my research when I was writing The Dare Club, in which one of the characters – Colette – has had breast cancer.

As for me, I’d been fairly blasé about the whole thing right from the start – I went up the tower before the event and enjoyed looking at the views and the feeling of the wind in my hair. I’ve never had a problem with heights, so I wasn’t scared as I posed for photos before I began my ascent to the top.

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Posing before climbing to the top with the book that inspired it all!

But then I was actually standing at the open hatch with the distant view of the ground below and… well; let’s just say things were suddenly different. I still wasn’t scared of heights, but I was scared of imminent death. But of course that was never a possibility! The guys at Aid Rope Access who hosted the event were amazing, and our safety was never in doubt. And it had to feel scary, or else what was the point? People needed to be impressed to be inspired to donate, and donate they did. We raised almost three thousand pounds for Keeping Abreast, a charity that helps women who’ve had breast cancer by running support groups and providing information about reconstruction surgery.

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Coming down!! Eek!!!!!

And so, my novel about a dare club has inspired the existence of a true life dare club, and our inaugural event was a big success. “What’s the next event?” people kept asking me on Saturday. “Cliff diving,” I answered, deadpan. For just a fraction of a section, some of them believed it, but don’t worry, you won’t get me up there on top of a cliff. Now, white-water rafting, maybe.

cliff diving

Any takers for cliff diving?!!!

The right time isn’t always when you want it to be!

This week Eimear MCBride – an author in my home city of Norwich – won the Women’s Prize for Fiction with her novel A Girl is A Half-Formed Thing. I haven’t read Emear’s book, but I understand it centres on the relationship between a girl and her brother – who has a brain tumour – and is written using a stream-of-consciousness narration.

It’s always great to hear of success, especially to someone local, but Eimear’s particular case gives me hope for more reason than one. Because Eimear wrote her novel years ago – 9 years ago – and ever since then it has been rejected over and over again, ending up in the back of a drawer. Then a chance conversation between her husband and the manager of a local independent bookshop set off the train of events that led to Galley Beggar, a Norwich publisher, accepting the book. The rest, as they say, is history.

So what’s the link between Eimear and me, apart from both of us living in the same city? Well, none; except that I recently remembered a novel I finished more than 15 years ago that has since then, languished in 3 different attics. It’s called A Nightingale In Winter, and is set during the First World War. The reason I remembered it was because of the current centenary of the start of WW1. “I wonder if I could do anything with that old novel?” I thought, and duly dusted it off and sent it to 3 friends to read. I read it thoroughly myself too, and what a very strange experience it was! I could barely remember writing any of the actual words, although I can very clearly remember the writing process itself. I did a great deal of research for it, immersing myself in books and visiting the Imperial War Museum in London to study very moving original letters and diaries of both nurses and soldiers. At the time I had a full-time job as a guidance worker in a further education college, and it was a fairly demanding role. But each evening I would return home to have something to eat, followed by a brief catnap. Then I’d make a strong mug of coffee and pour myself a large glass of wine. The combination of caffeine and wine usually fired me up sufficiently to write for a good two hours a night. And so; very gradually, the novel was completed. But I had no idea whether it was any good or not, since it was a very different type of story to those I’d previously written.

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Here’s where I made my mistake, or not; depending which way you look at it, because maybe the time is right now and back then it just wasn’t. I sent Nightingale to a publisher who’d previously published some of my stories, but didn’t bear in mind that they published romances of the traditional kind; whereas Nightingale isn’t like that. There’s love in it, certainly, but also obsession and madness and the war. It’s strong stuff: certainly too strong for the publisher I sent it to. Their rejection letter fuelled my uncertainty about the story, and, since I had an idea for a new book, I put Nightingale away.

But now it has been rediscovered, and, since the feedback I’ve received from my 3 readers has been encouraging, it almost feels as if I’ve been gifted a novel! Whoopee! I do need to do a little work to it, and as soon as I’ve finished working on Taming Tom Jones, the novel I’m currently writing, I’ll get to work on it.

So congratulations, Eimear, and thank you for the encouragement of your story, even though you don’t me!

Being Daring For Keeping Abreast

 

I’m very glad to say that my novel The Dare Club is inspiring lots of women to take part in a terrifying abseil in aid of Keeping Abreast, a charity that helps women who have had breast cancer.

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One of my characters in The Dare Club – Colette – has had breast cancer and experiences the extreme disruption it has on lives. Despite everything, she is determined to make the most of life and boldy sets herself lots of challenges. A friend of mine has had breast cancer and very kindly gave me lots of information and insight to use when I was writing about Colette. Since this friend is taking part in the charity abseil – even though she is terrified – she remains an absolute inspiration to me.

 

The abseil is taking place on 21 June in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, UK from a 20 metre training tower at Aid Rope Access, our amazing sponsors for the event. Believe me, when you’re at the top, it feels very high! And the wind really blows! Eek!

 

Abseil tower

 

Keeping Abreast helps women who have had breast cancer surgery to make choices about reconstruction surgery. It also provides support groups for women who might otherwise feel very alone at this difficult time in their lives. Here’s the link to their website: http://www.keepingabreast.org.uk/

 

If you’d like to sponsor those of us taking part in this challenge, you can do so by clicking on the link to the Donation Page here.

 

Thank you! And wish us luck!

Competition Time!

On Tuesday night (29 April), accompanied by my wonderfully supportive friend Sarah, I braved a tube-strike affected London to make my way to Ryan’s Bar in Stoke Newington and my heat of the Funny Women Awards 2014. I had hoped to be able to bring you footage, but that’s proving to be more problematic than I’d thought it would be. Hopefully I will be able to post it some point fairly soon.

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My one and only other stand-up performance was in May 2013 – almost a year ago, and I did it as research for my novel The Dare Club. Since then, I have been focussing on writing and marketing the book. Besides, I didn’t need to perform again, did I? Those scenes were written now. Surely I didn’t want to do it again? Except that…I did. When I was setting some goals for myself in the New Year, performing stand-up comedy again appeared on my list. Clearly, I hadn’t finished with it. Or it hadn’t finished with me! I needed to try it one more time to see if it was something I wanted to continue with or whether I could say to myself, “You did that. Well done you!” And put it behind me.

So the idea of performing at Funny Women Awards 2014 was born.

On Tuesday evening, Sarah and I allowed lots of time to get to the venue – just as well too, because it took us at least half an hour to find the right bus stop –sorry, Sarah – since I was doing the map reading, I take full responsibility! Finally we arrived – after a fortifying break in a pleasant local park to chill out and fuel up – and went downstairs to the function room. How small it looked after Up The Creek, where I’d previously performed! This was going to make it easier, wasn’t it? Although that empty stage with the waiting microphone was still pretty intimidating.

With both the event organiser and the compère held up by the effects of the tube strike, there was time to chat to some of the other contestants. All of them were really lovely, but also a lot more experienced than me. Gulp!

One woman who was in her sixties and told me that she’d decided the previous November to try comedy because “as we get older, things scare us more, and I didn’t want that to happen to me.” She has performed 18 times since making that decision. Wow! How inspiring. All the time I was chatting to everybody, I felt fairly calm – and excited too. I’d practised a lot, and I suppose I was confident that I’d done everything I possibly could to prepare. I could also vividly remember how amazing it felt the previous May when people laughed at my jokes. I wanted more of that feeling!

The organiser arrived, and the running order was shared. I was up fourth out of nine contestants – the same position I’d been in last time! Perfect. I was wearing the same outfit I’d worn on that occasion too. Note to self – find another outfit, or that one may become your ‘lucky’ outfit, and what will you do if it a) wears out, b) is in the wash or c) you change shape and it doesn’t fit anymore?!!

 All systems were go.

 

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Funny women Contestants, Heat 1, Ryan’s Bar 29.4.14. Me on the far right.

Sorry, contestants 1, 2 and 3; I was watching you, but I can’t remember too much about your acts. Except that the woman before me played a character that was very loud and very Australian. She seemed a very formidable act to follow on from, especially as she ended her act with a joke about chlamydia – something I was about to make a gag about myself…

Then suddenly the compère was announcing me and it was time to go on. Like before, it seemed to take me an age to take the microphone from the stand and to move the stand behind me – I definitely need more practice at that – but then I was turning to say ‘hello’ and plunging in. And finding that, although the venue was small, I COULD SEE ABSOLUTELY EVERYBODY IN THERE. At Up The Creek, the lights were so bright the audience was completely invisible. Not this time. I could see who was laughing. And who was not… Also, with fewer people, when there was laughter, it was inevitably not as loud as it had been on the previous occasion. My left hand – the one holding the microphone – was shaking. I just hoped no one could see. Luckily, my voice was not, and I pressed on, remembering all my jokes – hurrah!!!

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Spouting lies about ex-husbands.

 

Then the microphone stopped working.

 

Cold panic. It was a bit like my first driving test when I got to a busy crossroads to find that the traffic lights were out. What the hell should I do? The only thing to do in this situation was to carry on, so that’s what I did. Fortunately, people could still hear me because the venue was small, but I did feel very alone and vulnerable without the mic and it was a huge relief when it began to work again.

 

I got to the end and experienced that same amazing buzz when everybody applauded. I’d done it! Yay! And now I could sit back and enjoy the other acts. Everyone was amazing, and there was so much variety. Fortunately we weren’t in competition with each other at that stage – any of us – or none of us – could be picked to go through to the semi-finals in July. There are 12 more heats to go, and around 60 women will go through to the semi-finals. So, it’s a case of wait and see now. But whatever the outcome, I’m so glad I did it, and I know now that I definitely want to do it again. So I’ll be walking round everywhere with a notebook to jot down things I think I can use for material, and Googling to find opportunities to perform.

Watch this space. And do be funny and inspiring if we should happen to meet up. I promise not to mention any names.