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.

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Any takers for cliff diving?!!!

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Stand-up and Abseil Down

I’m doing it again!

I’ve signed up to take part in the Funny Women Awards 2014, and my heat takes place on Tuesday 29 April – the day after my birthday – in Stoke Newington, London.

“ You’re so brave. I could never do that,” is a common response when I share the news with people, but what I suspect they’re really thinking is “ARE YOU COMPLETELY OUT OF YOUR MIND?”

Time will tell. When I performed stand-up the last time, it was as part of my research for my novel The Dare Club – I wanted to experience it so that I could write authentically about someone finding the courage to do it. Here’s the link to see me performing on that occasion at Up The Creek in Greenwich. But this time I don’t have that motivation – I’m doing it for the pure pleasure of it. Yes, pleasure – because the feeling of achievement afterwards was completely amazing.

This time it will be different – I have to deliver a 5 minute set. Last time it was 3 minutes. There will also be a competitive element, and alas, my mate Sharon can’t be there to film me and offer me support. I tried to convince her it wasn’t too far to come back from Mexico where she’s going to be on holiday, but she wasn’t convinced.

Anyway, I have some new material to add to some of the stuff I used last time and I’m doing a lot of practising in front of a mirror with a hairbrush microphone. (Or a pepper mill, depending which mirror I’m using).

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The stand-up heat will be one event in an exciting week for me – on Thursday 1 May I’m on Future Radio in Norwich, chatting about The Dare Club and how it has inspired myself and my friends to set up our own dare club! Our first event is a 20-metre charity abseil on 21 June in aid of the charity Keeping Abreast. If you’d like to sponsor us, we’d be very grateful! Click on the link here.

 

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The setting for our Charity Abseil on 21 June

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Checking out the venue

Wish me luck! I’ll let you know how it all goes.

Inspiring Friends

When I first began writing, a male friend was convinced I’d based the hero of my romance novel on him. Like my friend, my hero was a landscape artist, and I probably had used little things I’d observed about the way my friend approached his painting. However, my hero didn’t share his passion for drawing the inquisitive cows that meandered over to inspect his paintings, and neither did he have my friend’s very wild red hair or his habit of existing all week on extremely large pans of vegetable stew.

Obviously though I do use my experience of friendship in my writing – both The Goddess Workshop and The Dare Club are about friendship groups and how the support of good friends can help you to triumph in life. Friends have helped me to get where I am today and help to keep me here – by that, I mean they have been and remain an important source of encouragement, support and life-affirming fun.

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Just recently I have laughed out loud at friends’ tales of embarrassment while using ladies’ urinals at music festivals, and wrongly-pressed Facebook buttons that have led to people to jump to completely erroneous conclusions. I know friends wonder if I’ll use such things in my novels, and I might do with permission! For me, little things like this can be the starting point to me conjuring up characters or even whole novels. For example, one friend recently told me that her way of getting over a broken heart was to challenge herself to do one new thing every week – how inspiring is that? It could definitely be a starting point for a novel. Hmm, yes, I might write that one, one day!

Another friend was recently very generously open to me about her experience of breast cancer – and this helped me to form my character of Colette in The Dare Club. I’m sure she would never say that Colette was her though – Colette is very much herself; she is just experiencing similar things to my friend.

So thank you to the friends who constantly inspire me. If you ever feel an urge to become writers, then feel free to use me in your books! Well, unless I tell you things after I’ve downed a few glasses of wine that is… X

 

A Couple of Baby Owls.

Last time in my series of posts where I look at how major life events have shaped my writing, I wrote about a satisfying way I got revenge after being cruelly and suddenly dumped by the man I thought was the love of my life. This time I’m writing about something else I did to help me survive and thrive in the aftermath – I attended a course called Rebuilding When Your Relationship Ends. (I used such a course recently in my novel The Dare Club, only I renamed it the Lift Up course).

One of the best things about the course was that I was in a room full of people who knew exactly what I was going through because they were going through it too! Friendships were quickly formed, and wild nights out arranged. We boogied together, rode on the back of fast motorbikes (well, I did!), but mostly, we talked, we listened and we cried.

The course covered many things, but one of the sessions that has really stuck in my mind was the session on the different relationship styles. They were illustrated with drawings of stick people, and I’ve attempted to reproduce them here from the book that accompanied the course. Please excuse the quality of my drawings!

 

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Master/Slave Relationship – speaks for itself!

 

 

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Martyr Relationship – 1 person always making sacrifices for the other in a controlling, emotionally blackmailing way.

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Pedestal Relationship – Loving someone for who you think they are rather than who they are. Hard to live up to?

 

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Dependency Relationship – holding each other up. But what if one wants to move? The other will fall over.

 

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Smothering Relationship – Is this what we think is the ideal? That special in love feeling? Feels great for a while.

 

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Back-to-back Relationship – still joined, but leading virtually separate lives.

 

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Healthy Relationship – 2 people happy within themselves, choosing to be together out of love.

My relationship that broke up was somewhere between a Pedestal Relationship with a touch of a Master/Slave relationship thrown in! In my novel The Dare Club, which is about what happens when 4 very different people meet at a Lift Up Course Colette has a similar experience, while Nick has recently come out of a dependency relationship. He has a photo of himself and his ex-wife leaning together looking like a “pair of baby owls” – sweet, but a bit helpless!

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What shape is your relationship?

Margaret XX

 

The book Rebuilding When Your Relationship ends is by Dr Bruce Fisher and Dr Robert Alberti, and is available on Amazon.

Join The Dare Club!

Drum roll please ….Today’s the day! The Dare Club is published!

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For this book I have scared myself stupid swinging through the trees high up in the forest canopy at Go Ape.

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I have also done something I never imagined I would do in my wildest dreams – I actually went up on stage and performed stand-up comedy! I know, I said the same thing too – “I could never do that!” But I did, and there’s a YouTube clip to prove it!

Watch me performing at Up The Creek in Greenwich here.

So join Aleysha, Nick, Colette and Emma as they attempt to scare themselves into forgetting about their problems. Will it go smoothly? Of course not! But they’ll have a lot of fun trying!

And as a special bonus to celebrate the launch of The Dare club, my novel The Goddess Workshop is available for 1 week only for the bargain price of 99p! That’s until 11pm on Sunday 1 December.

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What have daring things have you done? I’d love to know!

Margaret X

www.margaretkjohnson.co.uk

 

Cover Reveal – The Dare Club

Not long to go now – The Dare Club, my follow-up book to The Goddess Workshop, should be hitting the virtual shelves next week!

The Dare Club follows the fates of 4 very different people – Aleysha, Nick, Colette and Emma – who meet on a Lift Up Course for the newly divorced and separated. After initial tensions, the group bond and Colette has the idea of setting up a dare club to help them to forget their problems.  If they’re cavorting several metres off the ground, or standing under a spotlight, it’s bound to help them to forget about their troubles, isn’t it? At the very least, they’ll have some fun, and who knows? It might just change their lives forever.

I’ve had a lot of fun doing scary research for this novel – like my characters, I feel changed forever after doing things like swinging through the tree tops and performing stand-up comedy. I look forward to many more scary challenges in the future!

So, without further ado, here’s the cover for The Dare Club. I think my illustrator, Jane Newland, has got it just right.

THE DARE CLUB cover 2

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My Stand-up Comedy Challenge Achieved!! Yay!

I did it! Last Tuesday night I went to London and performed my 3-minute stand-up comedy routine at Up the Creek in Greenwich in front of an audience of around 200 people! I’ve been waiting to tell you about it until I had the footage, and now I can reveal all!

Those of you who have been reading my blog regularly know that I set myself this challenge as part of the research for The Dare Club – the novel I’m writing about a group of newly divorced and separated people who set themselves challenges as part of their recovery process. My character Colette is going to have a go at stand-up comedy, so I had to do it. I don’t feel the need to try out all my characters’ dares – after all I have got an imagination. But I really felt I needed to experience the terror of this particular one.

The day started at The London Theatre with a 1-1 with Harry Denford, the comedian who delivers the course. Feeling nervous, I ran through my material, and Harry suggested I cut some things and change others. I wasn’t entirely sure I agreed with everything he said, but hey, I’m the rookie – he’s been doing this for 20years or more, so I took his advice. Then we ran through it again, focussing on how to perform it so that the audience was involved rather than just being recited to. The session finished with him telling me that the other comedians were meeting in a noodle bar near Up the Creek at 5.45pm. “Look for a group of people who don’t look as if they should be together,” he advised me. “All sorts of people do this course.”

I went to Greenwich to look at the outside of the venue. It seemed surreal that later on I would be performing inside! But I didn’t feel tempted to flee to the nearest station to get the hell out of there. It had been far too difficult arranging childcare etc for that! Besides, I wanted to see what I was capable of.

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I killed the rest of the afternoon by alternately taking in the sights of Greenwich and practising my act in toilet cubicles. Close to the Cutty Sark, I spotted a man walking round talking to himself. “I bet he’s one of the comedians,” I thought, and sure enough, when I approached a group of people in the noodle bar at 5.45, there he was.

I made myself eat something and exchanged nervous chatter. Then all too soon it was time to go. I loved the inside of the comedy club, but all those empty seats were daunting. The other comedians had invited between 20-40 guests each! Mad! I’d invited 1, my mate Sharon, who I met when I went on holiday to Cuba. She had promised to film me doing my act.

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Harry told us all to have a go on stage, to practise going on and off and looking at the ‘audience’. The lights were so bright, you couldn’t see anything! How the heck was I supposed to choose someone to deliver my punch lines to? Then we went upstairs to a room dominated by a picture based on Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, but with the faces of 1980s comedians replacing the usual cast. Julian Clary looked particularly fetching.

The Comedy Last Supper painting

The Comedy Last Supper painting

After a long wait and lots more angst and practise, Harry announced the running order. I was to go 4th, after a guy who looked like a younger Colin Firth. I was happy with 4th – not 1st, but not having to wait too long. Good.

Then it was time to go downstairs.

The place was packed out – not a spare seat! Sharon was at the front with her video camera. It was real – it was actually going to happen!

The chairs for the performers were arranged around the back of the club. It was a bit like one of those hairdressers where you don’t need an appointment and you keep moving round until it’s you turn. But when I got to the last seat, I couldn’t sit down. I was too pumped up with adrenalin. Just before the MC announced my name, I did a few jumps and arms wings, limbering up. I expect I looked like a prat, but that was the least of my concerns at that moment.

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Then it was time. And amazingly, a feeling of calm settled over me as I went up the steps to the stage. We’d been told to take the mic out of the stand and to put the stand behind us. I did so – it took an age. But then I looked out at the invisible audience, said ‘hello’ and dived in.

Ok, it wasn’t perfect.

I didn’t have the mic quite in the right place to begin with so I started off a bit quiet.

I forgot to include one of my jokes, which meant the one that preceded it didn’t work quite so well.

Because I’d made some cuts, my routine was slightly short.

But I loved it! People laughed and it felt amazing. I didn’t want it to end. And when total strangers congratulated me at the bar later, I just felt so proud of myself. All the next day, I couldn’t stop smiling. I felt transformed. Who’d have thought that I, who’d once been so painfully shy I couldn’t speak up in front of people at all, could actually go up on stage and entertain a large crowd of people?

I whole-heartedly recommend the experience to everyone.

If you’d like to see my performance, you can view it on YouTube by clicking here. But be warned, it contains swearing, lies and smut, so give it a miss if these are likely to offend you!

Would I do it again? You bet your life I would! In fact, I need to seek out opportunities to make it happen.

And Colette? How is she going to get on? Well, she’s going to have a mixed experience. She’s got a particular reason for wanting to do this challenge, and because of that, she’s going to choose to ignore some of her tutor’s advice. So it could all go horribly wrong for her… Well, it’s fiction, isn’t it? I can’t give my characters a completely easy ride.

Watch this space!

The Dare Club will be out later in 2013. It is the follow up book to The Goddess Workshop, which is available on Amazon now.

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Available for Kindle and in paperback from http://www.amazon.co.uk

 

Coming later in 2013!

Coming later in 2013!

http://www.margaretkjohnson.co.uk

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