Sunday, 16 April 2017

Notes from the Notebook: 2003 'She casually dropped in the most important element of the story'.

Today's note from the notebook comes from 2003.

At that time I was working as a Learning Mentor in two primary schools, and this is one of the most memorable snippets of kid-talk from that time.

It's one of those moments which - if you'd read it in a novel - you'd have said it was a bit far-fetched, a bit too clever-clever, a bit too conveniently comedic to be natural and yet ... I assure you, this is exactly how it happened ... 


A group of 10 year-olds were talking about the deaths of pets.

One girl’s hamster had died the previous night and someone had sniggered about how she’d cried over it. In a show of solidarity, a girl called Kirsty (tiny, feisty, entertaining) told her own tale …

“So what if she cried?" she asked. "I cried when our rabbit died. My sister had it on her bed, but she let go of it and it fell off and it looked like this …”

To illustrate she tilted her head to one side, while her tongue lolled out of her mouth on the opposite side; she then closed one eye and raised two droopy little hands up in front of her to mimic the lifeless creature.

She acknowledged the respectful silence saying “Yeah.”

Then …

… with a wistful look …

… she casually dropped in the most important element of the story:

“My sister has the top bunk”.

The top bunk!!! 

How's that for a punchline? Look at that comedic timing! She sets it up (it fell off the sister's bed) ... bides her time ... and then knocks it out of the park with that last detail! And all entirely unwittingly. 

If that ever makes its way into something I write in future ... yo'll know where I got it from! And I'll have Kirsty, and her accidental comedic genius to thank.


I'm really enjoying reading your comments on how the notes I've shared so far have reminded you of something in your own lives, keep it coming, it's lovely being part of a conversation. 

If you want to see inside the notebooks themselves then I'm sharing those over on Instagram - @withjuliekirk - where so far I've revealed are some ideas for a novel in 1994, a drawing of what the adult Julie might look like from the 80s and some sketches from my rock 'n roll years! 

I'm using: #notesfromthenotebook and #juliesnotesfromthenotebook to keep them all together over there. 

Meanwhile, you can continue the conversation with me here, whenever you fancy:
Instagram ~~ Twitter ~~ Facebook ~~ Website

See you soon. 

Julie x

Click the image to visit more notes from the notebook. 

Monday, 10 April 2017

Notes from the notebook: 'June 2006. I don't know what I'm doing'.

Hello hello. 

If you missed me sharing photo of some of my old journals, and introducing the idea of #notesfromthenotebook then you can hop back a post here.  Basically I've been trawling through my old books and plucking out the occasional scribble I think might be worth a second look 

My first delve into my archive has resulted in the following snippet from 11 years ago, a snippet which is almost painfully packed with frustration. 


20th June 2006 

I don’t know what I’m doing. I feel that there is a stockroom full of work hiding away inside me – and I just can’t get it out. 

There are collages, cards, novels, poems – creations, stuffed inside me.

I can feel the edges of canvasses digging between my ribs; I’m being paper-cut from the inside; there are rolled up pieces of paper climbing their way up my throat and unfurling in my head, drying out my brain. 

I have ideas queuing up to taunt and laugh and poke at me.


I actually found a photo of me from June 2006, the same month in which I wrote this piece. Here I am - fortunately looking more relaxed - while paddling in the Cornish sea. 

This was a time in my life where I was clearly hunting around for a creative outlet:
  • I was unemployed having been made redundant.
  • It would be one year until my work (a scrapbook page) would be published in a magazine for the first time (when a message from Shimelle Laine, who at the time worked for Scrapbook Inspirations magazine, pretty much set everything in motion!) 
  • It would be two years until I'd meet my long-time friend and collaborator Kirsty Neale, and about the same amount of time until I'd first visit my local crop where I'd meet the crafty friends I still have today..
  • And two years until I'd start a blog ... where my love of writing would finally find a regular expressive outlet. 
  • It would also be 10 years until I'd publish my first book and decide to start writing a novel. 
I'd like to tell that Julie from a decade ago that she'll spend the next decade sorting out all that paper she felt she had trapped inside her. Tell her to enjoy the unfurling, to write it all down, and not to worry too much ... because it all turns out OK in the end. 


If you'd like to share anything from your own notebook archive, please feel free ... I loved hearing from you in the comments on my last post. 

There are so many stories out there worth dusting off and sharing with  friends. 

Julie x

You can find me here any time:

#juliesnotesfromthenotebook    ***    #notesfromthenotebook

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Notes from the notebook: a life in journals

Before we begin: I've picked the two winners of my Snipped Tales book giveaway (one winner here, one over on Instagram), and I've now been in touch with both winners. Thank you to all those who expressed an interest, it means such a lot!!


Hello you, can we take a minute to talk about notebooks?

("Just one minute?" I hear you ask, "I can talk about note books for longer than that." And that's exactly why you and I get on so well here.)

I have a lot of notebooks. Shocker eh? But - believe it or not - I've actually written in some of them.

Actually, I'm not being fair on myself there; granted, I do have many, many a blank, as-yet-un-written-in, notebook lurking on my shelves, because: notebooks. Who can resist?

  • They're exquisite papery bundles of potential; entirely blank and utterly filled with inspiration at the same time.
  • More mind-expanding than alcohol; less expensive than paying for another online course to inspire you.
So, yes, alongside my collection of journals, I do have something of a backlog of empty books that I can't seem to help adding to. And yet, I have actually written in more than just some of them

Which is what I'm here to talk about today. Because, when you've lived a life of thinking on paper ... what do you do with all those pages?  All. Those. Pages.

The notebook corner of my workroom. 

There's clearly an issue of space.

  • Failing knocking out those eaves and extending the roof-line of my house, there is really no more room for more notebooks on my shelves. Some of the old work diaries could probably go in a box in the loft ... but do I really want to pack away all of my ideas, scribblings, thoughts and musings resting in between some of those pages? 

Because there's an issue of content too.

  • Not everything I've written down, not even half, has since been worked-up into something finished; something complete.
  • Of course there's a lot of old nonsense in there, but equally, there's so many inchoate ideas loitering around, untapped, overlooked. 
  • Plus, there's a huge chunk of me flattened between those pages. I have work stretching back to when I was 8. 
  • To sit in front of a page I've written years ago is the closest thing to time-travel; I've been there before, held that book, pressed those words into the paper. And I can often remember how I felt, where I was, or what was happening when I originally wrote it. 
A few of my journals from the 80s and 90s.  

So what to do with it all? What do I do with all those years of scribbles?

Well ... I've taken two approaches:
  • If you're of a nervous, bookish, disposition then look away now because ... I tore up some of them!

Genuine notebook remains
 Before you report me for bibliocide (although, if you haven't done that already, what with my book-destruction reputation, I'm probably safe) I only destroyed the scrappiest of books, the ones that didn't hold any great sentimental value for me. There were many which I'd used mainly for practical things like lists and project planning etc and they were never going to become the basis of any book I might write in the future. They were more admin based. And I could spare them.

I saved any pages that held little gems, and copied-out any quotes or interesting snippets I'd noted down, and recycled the rest.

As for the full books, the fertile, fit-to-bursting books, I've hung on to those. Of course I have. But, rather than let all those words go to waste ... in a process that's ongoing, I'm sifting through their pages and panning for notebook gold.
A few books from the 2000s
And 'notes from the notebook' was born ... 

Whenever I stumble across a pithy thought, a funny phrase, a mini-story, an observation etc that I think might be worth sharing, I'm typing it out and adding it to my #notesfromthenotebook archive. And in the months to come I'll be sliding some of them under your nose, here on my blog.

I won't be editing them, completing them, or even particularly explaining them - I'll just be revisiting them, airing them off, getting the light to them. And I hope that in amongst my 33 years worth of words, there'll be something there that'll chime with you, or make you smile, or inspire you to write some of your own. Or share some of your own even.

Currently empty; apparently I have a thing for motivational slogan notebooks these days.

So how about next week then? How about I dip into my back issues and put some of my old ideas to work ... wake them up ... drag them into the present day and see what they've got to offer?

OK, then, next week it is. I'll make a note of it. 

Julie x

p.s: I'm here for any and all notebook related chat. What've you got? My ears/notebooks are open ... get in touch

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Thursday, 30 March 2017

Snipped Tales 'halfway there' book giveaway


Hello you.

Yes, this is a give away. Yes, I will tell you how you can win a copy to keep or give away. Just ... give me a  minute first ... to ramble ...

Creating a published book from my private hobby of making tiny text-collages was one of the most rewarding and delightful gifts I've ever given myself. And I give good gifts.

 On the other hand ...

... deciding on how many of them to print was one of the most stressful times I've had in recent years.

There were so many factors to juggle ... and I'm notoriously bad at catching.

When faced with the mathematical nitty-gritty of pricing, profit margins, and print costs that scaled with size, my stomach, previously buoyed-up on the initial creativity of the project, began to sink. But the project couldn't go ahead until I finalised that print number; I had to commit to something. 

I wanted to both play it safe (begging people for reassurance I was doing the right thing) ... and take a risk at the same time. I believed in what I was doing, I had the money in the bank, I wanted my work to reach more than a handful of people.

So I decided on a number. 
  • A smallish number in the grand scheme of publishing, but a number that was far higher than the 'safe' option. 
  • A number that was at least 5 times more than the 'sure thing' orders I knew I was likely to receive. 
  • A number that was many more than what I could expect family and friends to buy.
In a show of support for which I will be  forever grateful, during the first week the book was on sale it sold more than a few people had advised a first book, self-published, would ever sell.  Which was when I knew I'd made the right decision to publish more than that!  

Naturally, once the initial excitement of the first month and the Christmas gift-buying season were over, sales began to slow. But then ... just this week, a couple of orders came in and tipped me over into a territory I'd been looking forward to since the beginning. 

This week (wc 27th March 2017) I reached the half-way mark! 

And now that I've reached this milestone it's my turn to order a copy .... only I'm going to send that one to one of you. 


  • I will send one gift-wrapped copy of 'Snipped Tales' to the giveaway winner. 
  • I am happy to post to anywhere in the world (However, please note: I have had trouble posting to Brazil in recent times ... with at least 2 orders going missing).
  • Any one can enter, even if you already own a copy. 


  • Leave a comment on this blog post making it clear you are entering the give-away. 
  • In your comment you can say why you'd like a copy, or who you'd gift it to. You don't need to to this to enter ... I'm just interested in hearing from you. 
  • (Feel free to also comment if you're not entering. I like hearing from you anyway!)
  • You can also enter via this post on my Instagram account. Where I will be giving away a second copy. Enter one or both ... I don't mind! 


  • The giveaway will end at 1pm (UK - BST - time) on Thursday 6th April 2017.
  • I will make a list of all the entrants and use a random number generator to select one at random.
  • I will announce the winner in a blog post ASAP afterwards. 
  • PLEASE make sure you either check back to see if you've won OR that I can contact you to let you know! eg. if I can't hop through from your account then please leave another way to contact you eg. a Twitter/Instagram handle. 
  • If I can't contact the first winner, I will re-draw to select another winner. 

Best of luck to you. And please share the opportunity with anyone you think would like to join in! 


And before I go ... 

Thank you to those - you know who you are - who have valiantly played their part in hauling my book's little legs over that halfway mark. 
I couldn't have got this far without you ... I do hope the book repaid you in some way for your efforts.

And ... if you want to read more about the book or pick up a copy yourself:
Now you can get commenting to win a copy! 

Julie x

Friday, 10 March 2017

Come and meet the novelist ... (then let me know if you recognise him!)

Hello, hello, come in, make yourself at home.

I would introduce you to my other guest today it's just that ... I don't know his name.

Round here, whenever we pass him by, we simply nod cordially and greet him as 'Novelist' (a bit like how Seinfeld always greeted Newman.)

But maybe you do know his name, maybe you've seen his face somewhere before, maybe he's familiar to you.

Do you, have you, is he?? Here, have a closer look ...
So - you might well be asking - if I don't know who he is, how do I know he's a novelist?

I think I can just sense it in his face. His eyes feel like a novelists eyes, his artistic, middle distance stare. His strong nose and soft mouth are held like a novelist's. His sideburns sit like a novelist's sideburns ...

Well, that and the fact that it says 'Novelist' on the back of the frame: 
But apart from that single word I know nothing about this portrait. (I think all the label read was '19th Century portrait 'Novelist''.)

You might already know that I have a head collection (for any passing law enforcers no, not real heads, but ornaments and dolls' heads) and I've been interested in expanding this into painted portraits ever since I saw an exhibition of artist Julian Opie's personal collection of  head sculptures and portraits at Bowes Museum in 2015.

Then, last summer, while James and I were browsing one of the many, many, many rooms at Hemswell Antiques Centre in Lincolnshire I came face to face with the handsome chap ... and it was kind of love at first sight.

Can't you just imagine him wandering into a scene from a Jane Austen novel? Or maybe you're more of a Bronte fan?
That same summer I'd decided that I'd try my hand at writing a novel, which, until then was something I'd never really thought would happen. And - coming across Mr.Novelist at that time - seemed like a sign I hadn't even been looking for.

So, reader, I bought him. 

He lives with me, I see him every day, we chat (admittedly, I do most of the talking while he listens thoughtfully and nurtures his Strong Silent aura), but  I still don't know who he is.
  • Maybe he is a famous novelist of the 1800s (I think that's the right era judging by the clothes - don't you think?) - and I just don't recognise him. It's not like many of them have Instagram accounts for me to check out their selfies.
  • Maybe he's or a forgotten novelist and that's why he's not familiar. 
  • Maybe he's an amateur novelist and someone just fancied painting him (I can't imagine you'd write 'Novelist' on the back of something you'd commissioned for yourself. Although - if I ever do get my novel written - I'll probably go around writing 'Novelist' on everything.) 
  • Or maybe he never wrote a word of a novel in his life and was simply a sitter for an artist creating a series of works featuring different occupations. 
Who knows? Maybe you do! 

If he looks in the slightest bit familiar do get in touch. 

And please feel free to share his mugshot with any of your literature loving friends too and maybe, between us we will #findthenovelist 

And if we don't then it won't change how I feel about him. There's nothing quite like an air of mystery to keep a girl interested ...

Julie x

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