WHAT’S IN A DRESS…

‘…Because it is never about how a bride looks, but how she feels.’

A few weeks ago I had the fun task of getting some professional photos taken by the brilliant @MaryRichardson. Given the images are intended for promotion of my forthcoming book debut, THE PERFECT DRESS (click to find out more), picking an outfit for the shoot felt like a big deal. After all, one cannot sell such a title dressed in jeans and a hoody. Trading standards would chase me down, closely followed by the Crimes of Fashion special unit. A dress of dresses was required – feminine and friendly, definitely not frumpy (nor too edgy), preferably flattering, respectful of my interest in fashion history, and above all, something ‘me’.

I scoured shops, sales and vintage clothing stores. I obsessed over Pinterest. But the answer came in a conversation with my mum, and her reminder that the default dress-up policy of my youth was to raid her suitcase of 60s and 70s leftovers. I say leftovers – she’s kept some cracking good dresses. Immediately I thought of the suitcase gem I’d loved most and knew that it was, in its way, my own ‘Perfect Dress’.

Louisa Leaman full length

Original BIBA, in a simple teal daisy print, with ruffles and bell sleeves and a high-low waterfall draping hem, I wore it for my sixteenth birthday, for a friend’s posh university ball, for another friend’s wedding, then forgot all about it during the practical-wear scramble of motherhood. Testament to its thoughtful design, that several decades later, after three kids, two house-moves, cropped hair and a lot of messy, outdoor hobbies, I’ve managed to zip it up again – and it feels amazing.

It’s a dress that thrills me, not just for its form fitting grace, but because of the immediate rush of nostalgia that gets me in the gut. Memories of my sweet sixteenth: blueing light, summer dusk, the sensation of dry grass beneath my bare feet, catching my reflection in a window, tipsy from vodka, and thinking that perhaps I look a little bit like Stevie Nicks, then being told by a random boy that I’m ‘cool’. All the while, uncurling within me, is the buzz and bedlam of emerging adulthood.

And that, I think, is the magic of the clothing we cherish. Perfect dresses aren’t just about style, but about heart and soul, the memories absorbed in their fibres, the truths in their stitches. Dressing up in my mum’s BIBA dress I am reconnected to the me of then – sixteen, arty, a hippy-wannabe day-dreamer with hidden fears – and it’s as powerful a marker of how far I’ve come as any.  What’s more, this dress, before I even existed, had a life via my mum – and goodness only knows what she got up to in the late 1960s, but hey that’s her story to tell… 😉

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SOCIAL MEDIA OPENS UP… AND SUCKS ME IN

It’s like a gemstone. The more you look into it, the more intriguing it gets. There is SO MUCH and SO MANY WAYS to do it. Writer cliche languishing in solitude for most of the working week, I’ve been reluctant until now to go heavy with social media. It’s seemed like an intrusion, not to mention an effort/inconvenience I don’t have time for. But with a big new book on the horizon I am finally bowing to the expectation that I need it: an ONLINE AUTHOR PLATFORM.

Pushed for time, I find myself watching ‘HOW TO TO TWEET/BLOG/PROMOTE/#HASHTAG’ Youtube video guides (big up @brittanywang and iWriterly) while fixing tea for my kids. Its the perfect solution. My husband loves cooking, but works too late to be home in time for the daily kitchen. I hate cooking, but love learning, and love the possibility that, if I up my social media game as the videos suggest, I can sell enough books to buy said husband out of the rat-race, thus making him available to provide the smalls with a regular decent meal rather than the ‘rice surprise’ they have come to loathe. Put another way, buy my books and you will feed my children…

So, after a little learning and conseicentious application, suddenly I find myself in some kind of social media mind-warp takeover. The switch has flicked. Everything – from cups of tea to unusual umbrella handles – has become fair game for the feed. My life must be lived through opportunist flashes of instagrammable prowess. I’m just itching to send you snaps with the filter of Clarendon to show all the snow that has fallen and frozen in suburbia. Although your feed is probably clogged with these already, right? Do you really need another?

Then there’s the browsing. Twitter is fun, albeit confusing (…I’m not sure but I might have inadvertently offended @joanne harris). Facebook is steady. Instagram is a feast. I like visuals. I could do this all day, gaze wondrously at images of exquisite dragon jewellery, artfully staged vintage wedding scenes, and ‘takes-me-back’ photos of 90s pop icons. I could do it so much, I could forget/neglect to write that new novel.  Which kind of defeats the purpose of plugging in in the first place. Plus there’s some pesky Brexit thing going on in the background. And three children. And life in general.

So I will be back. There will be more. But patience please, I’m new. And in the mean time… here are some charming photos of cats in bomber jackets… #VicandBob

images-1      images

2019 IS MY YEAR!

I’m not sure how many times I’ve announced words to the effect of ‘This year I’m going to post every hour/day/week/month!’ – only to find this poor, sorry site languishing in silence. Well, here I go again, except, this year, I really am going to up my social media game, because this year EXCITING THINGS ARE HAPPENING!  More details to follow soon, but just to say… there’ll be a book involved. Beams with pride. Watch this space.

person using inspire typewriter
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Reluctant Blogging is the New Blogging

I’ve said it before. I know. But this time. This. Time. There will be blogging, as sure as there is half-price Cathedral City cheese.

I will make amends for all my excuses-excuses online absenteeism, beginning RIGHT HERE, with a pledge (yet another) to make monthly – and sometimes bi-monthly – contributions to the community in the screen.

The rhetoric is embarrassingly familiar to me now: a writer needs an online platform, i.e. a blog, vlog, podcast, website, instagramming, tumbling whatsit, in order to publicise their work to the world, in order to raise awareness of their writing, in order to sell more books, in order to make more money, in order to keep their children stocked with fidget spinners for the rest of their damn lives.

Otherwise…said writer’s career will wither and die like so many bad sitcom scripts and THEY WILL BE NOTHING.

I get it. I have good intent. Alas, however, I also have barriers:

1, children

2, children

3, shyness

Okay, so shyness is stretching a point. I’m actually not a shy person, but I’m definitely an introvert, so the concept of flashing my wares to a vast(ish) public makes the edges of my soul curl and crinkle. But I love writing, so I am duty-bound to make the grade.

It occurs to me that people use blogs for either information or entertainment. Unless you want lists of dos and don’ts on topics such as ‘Fast-Track Procrastination Techniques’, ‘Bubble Guppies Versus Paw Patrol: How to Manipulate Your Child with TV Programmes’ or ‘Writing the 2 Minute Plot Synopsis (…Because 2 Minutes is All You Damn Get)’, then I’ll aim for entertainment. Fun with words – and a few pictures.

A lot has happened since my previous pledge to blog (which perhaps explains the lack thereafter): my youngest shed his sweet baby disguise, to reveal his true identity as Toddler Destroyer Extraordinaire; I married and moved house; some very bad things happened in the political world; while various pop-stars of my youth popped their clogs. I, and this is the significant bit, also had several writing successes, which you probably wouldn’t know about, because I kind of *forgot* to brag about them online. So here’s the gist:

Firstly, my novel, Last Night I Dreamt of You, has been picked up by Goldmann (part of the Random House empire) and will be published in Germany and hopefully other territories thereafter. It is my first adult novel – a romantic mystery thriller set in Cornwall, my ode to Daphne du Maurier – and I’m intrigued and excited to see how it all unfolds. I will promise with all my heart to post updates on here. In the meantime, brush up on your GCSE German…

Secondly, I am delighted to have been taken on as one of the writer/editors creating content for the V&A Museum’s new website. As an Art History graduate, painter, and wannabe interior designer, it’s nothing short of a dream job. Plus, the V&A has long been one of my favourite London haunts, so I sometimes feel a little star-struck by the whole experience, should it be possible to be ‘star-struck’ by a large building (and all of it’s magnificent contents)!

My V&A work can be seen here:

Wedding Dress

And here:

Art Deco

Okay, so I’ve bobbed my head above the parapet and now hopefully you know a little more of where I’m at. I’d like to linger some longer, but a large piece of Duplo has just been flushed down the toilet. I guess I’ll see you in a month…

(…or five?)

Learning To Be An Author Again

Yes, I’ve been away.

Feels like I’ve come back from the dead.  And I pretty much literally have.  (More on that another time…)

In short, I am now recovering from a life-threatening pregnancy complication.  All is good and I’m thrilled to be back at my laptop and back in the world of books books books…but, oh, oops, I’ve gained a tiny but perfect premature baby along the way!

So far, he sleeps, sleeps, feeds, poops, then sleeps some more, which is very conducive to blogging and resuming promotion of BORN FREE ELEPHANTS and IN THE GARDEN which, for those of you who are new to my work, are my latest children’s books.  But I know babies and I know that as soon as the prodigal son hits his due date and beyond, this is all set to change.  The luxury of time will become the race for time.  Half finished blog entries and one word tweets… I’m thinking ‘HELP’ or ‘BABYTAKEOVER’

So currently I’m nurturing a theory that it’s all about hours.  One hour a day to work on new words for the new novel.  One hour a day to edit said words.  And one hour a day to toy around with social media.  Everything else will be a blur of nappies, cuddles and milky lips.  Exactly where I’ll find these magic hours is yet to be seen, but here’s a clue…I’m currently typing left-handed whilst I jiggle, soothe, wipe baby puke and breast-feed…oy vey…

A Blog is Born!

 

Photo on 30-06-2014 at 11.08

Yes, a blog. Why, after all these years of obscurity, am I doing a blog? Because apparently, as an author/artist/illustrator, I need A PLATFORM. Like I need a hole in the head. Or a toddler with scabies. Or chocolate with no sugar in it.  But there you go, a platform is what my unsuspecting super-fans want. A platform is what they will get.

Lord knows the on-line community doesn’t need another thinly-disguised-as-writing-tips-but-actually-self-promotion list of bluuurgh. My content may, at times, contain writing tips. There will definitely be some shameless self-promotion. But I also want to deliver something that feels truthful, playful, hopefully entertaining, sometimes ranting, often excitable…in other words, a bloggy-manifestation of WHAT IT IS TO BE ME.

There may be lists. A bit of bitching. A bit of armchair psychology. A lot about WRITING.  A lot about ART. Oh and some smug, cutesy anecdotes about my children. No recipes (anyone who has tried my flapjacks will know that’s a good thing). And no photos of kittens in cowboy costumes.  Sorry to those who like kittens and cowboys.

As for the rest, WHO KNOWS?