Month: June 2011

Mother Writer Interviews: Chris Mosler

Chris Mosler

Chris Mosler describes herself as an ‘over stretched, thinly spread mother of 4 writing, teaching, tutoring and parenting’. She is also a blogger (Her popular blog Thinly Spread is a finalist in the Mad Blog Awards), professional photographer and copywriter.. She was recently asked to travel to Mozambique with Save the Children and is now a digital ambassador. She lives in Somerset, UK with her family.

Tell us about your family Chris

I have four children aged 5 (boy), 11 (girl), 13 (boy) and 15 (boy) and a gorgeous husband who I met 23 years ago and have been married to for 17.

You are a teacher, blogger, writer, and professional photographer and copywriter, as well as raising your family. Does it get…erm…busy. How do you juggle everything?

It’s very busy but I now have time during the day while they are at school which has made things much easier and means I don’t (often) have to work into the night. I’ve had to learn to be organized and have a wipe clean whiteboard in the kitchen where I jot down what everyone has to do during the day otherwise it could all go horribly wrong! The older ones are pretty good at organizing themselves now and the oldest one of all organizes me!

What is a typical day like?

It varies. I’m not supply teaching this year while Bonus Boy is in reception and I’m taking the opportunity to try to launch my writing career so I don’t have to teach. (Supply teaching is a bit thankless and I can’t see me going back to full time teaching with four kids and a desperate urge to write!) Most days I write all morning and up until about 2 when I rush about like a mad thing trying to sort the house etc before the kids get home. It’s then kids and clubs until I collapse in a heap at about 9 o’clock. My teens are still around so I can’t really write in the evenings (although I do if I really need to!)

Tell us about your blogging and writing, your blog Thinly Spread, is gaining recognition among parenting blogs and you also write fiction.

The blog has been a revelation to me, I’ve only been at it for 16 months and it has gone from strength to strength. I started it to showcase my writing but I’ve enjoyed writing it so much it has quickly gone beyond that. I did get copywriting work off the back of it (I wrote the Timberland Family Club website) but it is the sense of community in blogging and the sharing of ideas which has brought me most joy. It is fabulous getting an instant reaction from readers and having a dialogue with your audience! I am a finalist in The Mad Blog Awards for Best Blog For Family Fun which I am really chuffed about. I was blogger of the month on Tots 100 and Blogger of the week on Britmums last month which was really lovely. I love writing using my parenting and teaching experience and people seem to like reading about it!

My fiction work has taken a bit of a back seat as I strive to set up a career which fits around my children and earns a bit of money. I have run writing workshops in the past but I’m not at the moment as I find it stifles my own work a bit while I’m trying to encourage other people’s creativity! I write short stories, some poetry and I have 35000 words of my first novel marinading under the bed!

As if your life wasn’t full enough you were recently chosen to go as part of a team to Mozambique with Save the Children, how did that come about and what was to be your role there?

I was asked! I have gained some recognition in the parent blogging community for ethical blogging and I attended the Save the Children blogging conference earlier this year but it was a complete surprise when I received an email from them asking me if I would be interested in travelling with them to follow a vaccine along the cold chain from city warehouse to rural community and into the leg of a child. We went to raise awareness ahead of last week’s GAVI pledging conference where world leaders were deciding how much money to invest in the vaccination programme. My role was to blog like mad and whip up a social media storm to get as many people as possible to sign the Save the Children petition to persuade them to save 4 million lives in those 4 hours…and it worked!

It must have been an amazing and emotional experience, what were the key moments of the trip?

It was incredible. Meeting the women of April 7th clinic (I arrived by motorbike following the vaccine) was life changing. Vaccinations literally mean the difference between the life and death of a child living in those circumstances. If a child gets ill with measles the mother would have to walk back along the rough track it took me 20 minutes to travel by motorbike carrying her child before she even got to a road. Then she would have to wait for an overcrowded (jammed to bursting) mini bus to take her the long distance to the nearest hospital (at a huge financial cost to her). When they reached the hospital there is no running water and the chances are if her child survives what s/he went in with they will come out with something else. These are killer diseases, we take vaccination for granted in this country but 1 in 5 children worldwide receive no protection at all and they are, in the main, the children living in the poorest, most difficult circumstances. The women I met were just like me, with the same dreams and hopes for their children. They shared their children with me (I blew bubbles with them and played, it was lovely) and I showed them photos and videos of mine on my Iphone. We didn’t speak the same language but the language of motherhood is universal.

I saw children dying in Mozambique, I was a shouter before now I am yelling and, thankfully, it is now possible to be heard. Social media is a wonderful thing!

When you returned from Mozambique there was still more to do, tell us about the GAVI vaccines conference and meeting some famous and influential people there.

I met Bill Gates when my fellow travellers and I were asked to sit in on the telephone conference he held with Justin Forsyth and Natasha Kaplinsky. He is an amazing, understated man who is incredibly passionate about helping poor children. Best quote of the day was ‘Vaccines are cool, cooler than writing computer code’

I visited the Department of International Development and had a meeting with the Secretary of State Andrew Mitchell to talk about my trip and show him photographs and also some of the letters written and pictures drawn by children in support of our campaign. I met him again at the press conference when the vaccination funding announcement was made and he thanked me for all the work I had done, which was very nice!

I went to Downing Street to deliver the petition ahead of the conference.

I was on telly a lot…the ITN lunchtime news, Daybreak, Local TV and Radio and the Politics Show and in the press.

On a personal note I was delighted to bump in to Alan Titchmarsh very early in the morning at the Daybreak studios and to have a cuddle with him and a photo taken. I love gardening, write about it a lot and have watched Gardener’s World avidly for many years. If I could now meet Monty Don my life would be complete!

Chris' children

How do you think your experiences will feed back into your life now as you return to the bustle of daily living and how did your children relate to your trip?

Settling back in to life in the UK has been hard. The excess and advantage is deeply unfair. I have tried hard not to over burden my children who have been staunch supporters of the campaign and waved me off with pride but it is hard not to say ‘You have no idea how lucky you are’ all the time. I have come back with a deep respect for the women I met and I shall be writing about them in one way or another for many years to come. I am now a digital ambassador for Save the Children so I am maintaining my links with them which I am delighted about.

Is there any message you would like to give people based on your experiences?

The written word is a powerful one and with the enormous potential reach of social media and the internet there are enormous possibilities for social change. We reached nearly 30 million people with our twitter campaign. Never think that your voice doesn’t matter, that it won’t be heard because it can be…it’s astonishing!

And what advice would you give parents juggling life, writing and other work?

Do what you enjoy. Make time for the bits you love and let the other stuff go if needs be. I rarely iron, my house is a mess but we survive!

Thanks so much Chris for talking to us, and for a really inspirational interview. If you enjoyed this interview, click here for more.

Where to find more on Chris

Chris’ regular blog Thinly Spread is an excellent blog on parenting with regular features such as Silent Sunday, Something for the Weekend, fabulous recipes and things to do with the kids.

Follow Chris on Twitter

Chris has also been blogging for DfID (UK Department for International Development) over the last couple of weeks http://blogs.dfid.gov.uk/author/christinemosler/feed/

The Gates Foundation featured one of her posts from Mozambique which was very exciting she tells us. 

She also vlogged on In the Powder Room http://www.inthepowderroom.com/archive/2011/05/ while she was in Mozambique.

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#Fridayflash Solid Table Fallacy & New Post on Writing.ie

I am absolutely delighted today to have been asked to post my #fridayflash on the #amwriting website.

#Amwriting is ‘an award-winning Twitter hashtag created by Johanna Harness.’ Joanna is a mother and writer of middle grade and young adult novels who has created a venue on twitter (the hashtag #amwriting allows you to see a stream of people now currently engaged with their writing) and now on a dedicated blog for a community of writers to come together, share their work, resources and ideas and support each other. For an excellent explanation of what #amwriting is all about see here.

My #fridayflash fiction today is called Solid Table Fallacy, it is one of the stories from my flash collection in process and features characters from previous flashes You can read it here on the #amwriting website. Don’t forget to leave a comment if you have some feedback!

My other hat is resident guest blogger on Writing.ie . Today I have a post on novel writing and headspace: My novel is a submerged island.

I hope you enjoy!

Guilty confessions of a Writing Parent

Just thought we’d have a bit of fun today. In my mother writer series of interviews one of the predominant feelings was that of guilt. We often feel that we are not fulfilling all of our roles adequately. I hope she won’t be offended but I often laughed at Vanessa O’ Loughlin, founder of Inkwell Writers and Writing.ie, crime and romance writer and mum when she tweeted about burning her sausages because she was caught up in one of her projects. I myself know how to make a bed in ten seconds and tidy a room in 5 minutes if I know someone is about to arrive  Tip: make sure you have plenty of empty cupboards. I make dinners that will last for two days, no mean feat!  I have never ever washed my windows (been in the house for 6 years) and there are cobwebs in most of the rooms.

What I want to know is your guilty confessions and your housework horrors, the shortcuts you take so that you can make more time for writing. We need to know that everyone else is not perfect and not able to do everything. When you reach the podium ready to claim your Booker prize, what will you refer to, will you say, this has all been possible because I only bathe my children once a month? 🙂 Spill all and the funnier the better!

Everything worth saying today

I’m up to my neck in my novel, putting bits together when I know that I will next be taking them apart again, throwing some of them as far into the corners as I can in the hope that I will forget about them, leave them wither of their own accord because it’s hard to actually kill your darlings because your darlings are all the things you hold dear about life, your darlings are the way you see the world but might just not be the right thing  here and now to tell this story. And yet, the only way the novel will be finished is if you hold fast to the things that are dear, that make you want to write in the first place.

I have a mountain of projects, of tasks I need to do on behalf of others and I have to turn away from everything, from all the clamour to wrestle with the novel and my own fears as I put it together. Then I find this Chaos Theory  in my inbox from Karen Rivers, that says everything worth saying today in my life about writing, the domesticity,  the precarious feeling of the world.

On wresting with the novel: The way a book in process has to be gutted like a fish, messy red and stringy, bones everywhere.   You want to leave it there, on the dock, for the seagulls to pick clean. 

On domesticity: Things that make you think of chaos theory:   the house, the garden, the shoe closet, the way the kids’ toenails grow so fast.  

The full post is well worth reading.

I’m off again to wrestle with my novel and with chaos. See you somewhere in the thick of it.

What mint chocolate can tell us about writing and finding an agent

Just a quick post based on thoughts that seemed a good idea at the time but that I can’t really tell if are of any substance because I was not alone with the said thoughts, they were had at the front of a car containing 4 children behind just out of school and in full ear bending flight.

So what I think I was thinking is this:

My kids chose orange chocolate and mint chocolate in the supermarket. Why this combination of taste sensations was ever invented is far beyond my comprehension. I cannot abide these groupings and am only just fond enough of coffee Revels to risk my tastebuds being assaulted accidentally with the very similar from the outside looking orange centred one.  As for After Eights and Jaffa Cakes just stop it now.

Right now, some of you will be looking at me or rather this blogpost (If you were really looking at me you would see me guiltily eating a family pack of Revels by myself). You will be thinking to yourself, I really like zombie mermaid western steampunk thrillers and to that I say. GO YOU! (Over to the other side of the room at the very least). It’s all a matter of taste isn’t it? The things we like and the things we don’t.

If we like to write romance (mmm strawberry chocolate – now you’re talking), or crime (beef & chocolate, delectable) or literary books (swiss handmade chocolate with fresh cream centres, yum) then we should do that. We shouldn’t worry about the people who love orange chocolate loving our books or that the agent who only ever choses mint passes up our novel when our novel is clearly a completely different flavour.

My eldest son talks in Mario speak, that’s his immersion. He was also telling me in the car when I was trying to think about not orange chocolate that he really enjoyed a film recently that was a sort of army comedy. He remarked that these two elements shouldn’t really work together but they did. It sounded right up his street but not at all the kind of combination that I would enjoy. However he really loves orange chocolate.

(Mmm, two toffee centres in a row, things are really coming together for me!) (Arrghh, scratch that, I just ate an orange centre!)

So what do we need to do to be successful and ultimately published authors?

  • Be certain what kind of choc combination we like best
  • Write a book that is our very favourite kind of chocolate, the kind we want to savour forever, the kind we would always choose above the others, the kind that our loved ones should know to buy us when a) it’s a special occasion b) they are feeling very guilty
  • If it’s handmade swiss choc with a cream centre then find a handmade swiss choc with a cream centre agent and definitely not one who likes mint choc (apologies to any mint choc loving agents, since I’m looking for an agent (a swiss choc one for my literary novel) I really shouldn’t insult any of you but if we aren’t right for each other, so be it!)
  • Find all the other handmade swiss choc with a cream centre loving people in the world and offer them some of your choc (No! this is the tough bit, sharing with others!)
  • Make sure that everyone knows you are a handmade swiss chocolate sort of girl and that if that’s what they are looking for, that’s what they will get.

People sometimes get cross about genre, let’s face it, I do sometimes too. (I mean what am I going to do with my comedy, women’s, slightly sci-fi, slightly romantic novel (A selection box?)) but if you think about chocolate flavours instead you can see that it’s all about the flavour, the voice, the setting where you sit down to savour, the (word) combinations, the tone, the choice of language, how it melts, or how it snaps. There’s a feeling that goes along with a certain kind of chocolate and a certain kind of book, people know what they like and they don’t want mint chocolate if caramel is on the wrapper. )

And remember. The best thing about good chocolate is that it leaves you wanting more. Make your books like chocolate so that people long for their next bit.

That’s it really. Go to it, folks.

I am now eating the last Revel. It’s a toss up between coffee and orange again….No, hang on, it’s raisin. Now what kind of book is that…..?

#fridayflash Not Ariel

This was not her house, this was not her bed, these were not her curtains with the long nosed trolls hidden in the floral pattern. This was not the way the light trotted in around the curtain rail and swung around the room like a torchlight, disappeared with the low hum of departing car. This was not Amy’s life.

Amy bit the duvet. This was her duvet but it smelled differently. This was her duvet cover with the princesses, if she had to choose she was Ariel, the mermaid with the bright red hair. Hannah would have to be Cinderella, blonde, nothing else, just blonde.

They had their own rooms. Mum had said they were extremely lucky to have that under the circumstances. Hannah said what was wrong with their old house, this one was too loud. Amy said yes, all she could hear were the cars all night on the motorway. Mum held her breath, Amy saw her although she was always telling Amy not to do it. Amy saw her mother’s lips turning blue. And although Mum hadn’t said anything, Hannah had started crying. No thought Amy.

Amy climbed out of her bed, she went into the garden.

She could hear the murmur of her mother’s phone voice from the kitchen.

There was one good thing about this house where her Dad wasn’t.

The grass was squidgy under her feet. And squidgier as she went down the slope.

On holidays the last time, Daddy had made her take off her water wings. She had swum: one, two, three, strokes towards him.

From underwater, Amy had seen her Daddy’s white, hairy legs, puffed up like balloons, she had seen the flash of Hannah’s bright pink suit. She’d inhaled water, thrashed to the surface. Her Dad had looked at her and laughed a big belly laugh – a kind he hardly ever laughed. If she’d been Hannah she would have sulked. But Amy just stood, snot and water dripping out of her nose, a sharp sensation in the back of her throat and watched him laughing, watched him as if he was someone else’s Dad far away at the other side of the swimming pool and laughing for a proper reason.

She stood at the edge of the river, heard the music of it.  ‘This is not the sea’ thought Amy. She was not Ariel.

‘I’m Ariel’ she thought.

Someone had told her she was too old for all that.

Things were different. She could swim now.

Her nightdress went to her feet, she stood close to the bank, the hem of the nightdress became damp.

The moon was reflected on the river like a silver coin. She threw a stick into the river. It spun. Then it was carried away.  When she jumped in, her hair spread out like a fan.

Under the water she could not hear the murmur of her mother. She could not hear Hannah’s stupid sobs.  She could not hear the motorway with its army of cars, straight backed men inside with faces set forward, faces with no tears. Faces that laughed at disaster. Amy held her breath. Her legs were welded together with cold. She flicked her tail and swam.

She thought of princess’ pearls on the sandy floor. She wanted to keep on holding her breath, for as long as her mother had, for as long as she could. She swam to the bottom. But her chest began to hurt. She took in great gulps of water. She thought of her father’s legs in the swimming pool. She was not Ariel.

The river was not a sea, the river was not even a river, was it. After all, she found she could stand, albeit on the flagpole of submerged turrets. The water ran off her, she felt it slide over her scaly skin. She breathed the unnecessary air. She heard her mother’s voice tearing the night apart with fright.

Alive now, on this day, at this time

I’ve been at the sea again. And the sea’s been at me. Loosening my thoughts and making them pretty.

If you read my fiction you will find the sea there, over and over, creeping in along the shore of my depictions. The backdrop, it is the past, where I grew up, it is the continuous, that constant energy inherent in nature, the falling away and returning.

I picked up driftwood, seaweed, stones.

Everything is moving so fast. Events looked forward to, swing past and are gone. The 2 year old is a 3 year old then heading onto 4, the construction of his conversation evidence of the passing of time, the gaining of some things, the loss of others. I am here now, on this day, at this time. I cannot climb over the sea wall as easily as before. I think it is just this day, tiredness, but this happens more and more. I am getting older. I am not seventeen walking in circles on the sand wondering what is going to happen. Much of my life has now happened. The sea is always there.

I have a free morning to write. I have a novel to write, to cling fast to, to make the vehicle of what I hold dear. I have not written much these past weeks, life has taken over, family, the garden, each rose coming out in sequence, one beautifully scented one a remembrance of my grandmother, coming from her garden. I remember her, alive, we were all together. It is getting further and further away.

As I get older I fill with observation, on the beach a child’s sock, a toddler with her grandfather, seed heads. Today the sea went Hooo, Hooosh. I want to live now. I want to say yes to my children. I want to tell you something that will go into the future when I am no longer here, alive, now on this day, at this time. I want to write and write and write all the ordinary glorious, I want to sit in the sun and forget everything.