Looking for contributions to eBook about welfare reform

I’ve been swithering with an idea for a book for some time now – my first non-fiction piece. I often speak on Twitter about benefits sanctions, welfare reform and so on — seriously, when did ‘social security’ become ‘welfare’? I’ve thought about writing a book of case studies, personal experiences from people who’ve had their benefits stopped for the most stupid of reasons and it’s about time I did something about it.

Seriously, when you’re threatened with sanctions for writing your jobsearch record in blue ink rather than black, you know the system’s corrupt; they have a quota of sanctions to hand out and woe betide you if you’re next in the signing-on queue.

So here’s what I’m looking for: people who are willing to email me privately to give me a run-down, however brief, of their experiences of the benefits system in the past, say, three or four years (to keep it fairly current). Beginning of 2012 onwards?

It’s very important that I have proof of what folk share for the sake of the book’s integrity, so I also ask that you do, where possible, provide dates and locations of where things happened — don’t worry; I won’t publicise these. This is just so I know, personally, that we can prove your individual case. If anyone sends me photocopies or scans of letters they received, so much the better. You have my word that I will not publicise these; they would just be for the sake of the book’s integrity. If you want me to mention your story under a pseudonym, that too is acceptable. I can give you a name/location vague enough to protect your privacy. I know that this will be especially important to those of you still on benefits and unwilling to ‘draw fire’ from officialdom.

Depending on the number of replies I receive, I might not be able to use everyone’s story. The book will be a short ebook, and for sale on Amazon. Self-published, and depending on profits made, a percentage of them donated to a food bank or similar. As this is in the early stages of this idea, the details are still to be ironed out, of course. Still need to work out format of book, see to cover art, and of course I need to weave my own personal experiences into the book as well. I’m thinking a price point of 99p will make it affordable; the royalties on a book of this price would be 35%. Copies sent out to any review sites willing to boost the signal.

If anyone is interested in contributing, please contact me on scarlettparrish@gmail.com and we can discuss things privately. It may well be the case that this book will sink without a trace. A few people may read it. Who knows? The one thing this government tries to do is to stop the truth coming out but the internet is far more democratic than that, and we all have a voice.

Let’s use it.

Colour me happy

Showing off my colouring purchases again. Check my previous blog post, the one with the video of Peta Hewitt’s colourings. You’ll note she uses Faber-Castell Polychromos and Derwent Inktense pencils, both of which I had to have — and now I do!

The other day I splurged in Hobbycraft. I won’t tell you how much I spent as I don’t want any of my readers to suffer heart failure. Well, maybe one or two of you… ;)

Ms Hewitt has a tin of 36 Polychromos pencils (I think) but I limited myself to 24 because I can always replenish my stocks with any colour or shade in the catalogue I fancy as they’re sold individually too. And there’s the small matter of having to pay the rent as well.

FB tin

They’re top-of-the-line and I’m not kidding, came in one of those clear boxes you normally find on DVDs and CDs, which the woman who served me had to remove with one of those grip and click machines at the till. The kind they also use on tagged bottles of booze? Anyway, here’s what the tin’s innards and gizzards look like:

FB pencils

More on those later. I also bought this:

Derwent wrap

…which is a pencil wrap. Opened, it now looks like this:

Derwent pencils

On the far right of that pic you’ll see my waterbrushes, as these are Derwent Inktense pencils, which turn (as the name suggests) from pencil to ink when you wet them, either on the pencil itself, or once you’ve lain the colour down on the paper. I’m not too handy with these yet, as it’s difficult to control how much water gets onto the paper. What I think I might do, even when using the narrowest of waterbrushes, is just wet the paper but use a separate, dry brush to spread the water where I want it. The waterbrushes come in narrow-, regular- and chisel-tipped and wet the paper even without you having to squeeze the barrel. Each stroke on the paper releases more water and though it’s a tiny amount, depending on which tip you use, even the smallest droplet can ruin a wash or a blend. Hence my idea about wetting the paper then spreading the water with a normal dry brush. Sable, while expensive, is probably best, as it maintains its shape and holds the water beautifully.

Following is my first attempt at colouring with the Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils. It’s difficult to blend, for example, purple and orange, but greens that are close together look good, as do similar shades of blue. As I build my collection it will be easier to blend colours opposite on the colour scale, as I’ll have the in-between shades to make the blend less glaring.

Note the budgies’ beaks, which I highlighted in white first, before going over with the colour. I’m also particularly proud of the leaves right at the bottom of the picture in the middle, and the blue wing of the bird on the right. The leaves were done in similar shades of green, and the blue wing was done with one pencil, adjusting the angle of the nib and the pressure to leave the centre lighter, which gives a highlighting effect without having to use the white pencil.

Budgies

The above picture is in Anastasia Catris’s book Colour Me Mindful: Birds, and she’s on Twitter as @acatris

#RainbowCrusaders fangirl squeeing

Two and a half months since I’ve blogged. What have I been up to? Tweeting like crazy and I’ve been occupied (sometimes) with the Evil Day Job. Migraines have been playing me up a bit, and it’s been hard to keep my stomach where the good Lord put it at times. Anyhoo, enough of that!

There’s been much colouring in, as those of you who follow me on Twitter will know from my appearances on the #RainbowCrusaders hashtag.

Over the weekend I acquired yet another colouring book, The Magical City by Lizzie Mary Cullen. Must admit I got a bit fangirly when she followed me on Twitter. Colouring book artists are my rock stars.

(Possible new romance trope?)

I started on one page, then found the following video on YouTube, which immediately made me think maybe I’m not as great at colouring as I first thought!

Peta Hewitt, if you ever read this — you have ASTONISHING colouring in skills and I would love to tell you that personally if you ever get in touch!

For the benefit of anyone not called Peta Hewitt, fast forward to 01:20 or thereabouts, and you’ll see what a pencil ninja she is. Honestly, her colouring work looks photoshopped, it’s that good. (Which is meant as a compliment, PH, if you ever read this; I mean it looks like it was done by something/someone not quite human!;))

I foresee lots of money being dropped on Faber-Castell polychromos (not a mis-spelling) and Derwent Inktense pencils in the future. And I’ve located a shop in my town that sells ’em so…meh, who needs to pay the bills anyway, right?

I’m not that good at drawing — it’s not my passion so I’ve never dedicated much time to it. But colouring? Yeah, that’s what I enjoy. And it’s still creative, so I’ll carry on doing that. I love playing with colour and up until seeing the above video, I thought felt pens were my medium of choice, but that could very well change soon! :)

Come join the #RainbowCrusaders!

You’ll note from my previous blog post that I’m seriously into colouring in. Well, it appears a couple of my Twitter buddies are too, and unashamedly so. While chatting to @merlinslaugh the other day, we decided colouring was such srs bznz it needs its own club or hashtag or suchlike. So I said, “Rainbow Crusaders!”

Rainbow because we’re colourful and all-inclusive and Crusaders because we’re on a mission to make the world a more crayonny (shut up; that’s a real word), pencilly, felt tippy-type place.

And because we kinda want to wear superhero capes as well, but who doesn’t?

So now the #RainbowCrusaders hashtag exists. Thus far, our movement is small – me, on @scarlettparrish, the aforementioned @merlinslaugh and @beckyblackbooks basically show off to each other with shots of pictures we’ve coloured or paraphernalia we’ve purchased. Join us! All you need to do is post a pic of something you’ve coloured in and add the #RainbowCrusaders hashtag.

And spend more money than is healthy on spangly felt pens.

Today’s purchases are thusly, and thusly are today’s purchases.IMG0364AI’ll use the above (from The Works) to store my paraphernalia, gubbins, bits ‘n’ pieces, whatever you want to call it/them. Pens, smaller colouring books and so on. Speaking of colouring books…IMG0365AIt says it’s for grown ups, yo!

I think the following means I’ll lose all street cred, though. (As if I ever had any…)IMG0366A70! Pens! 70 diddy little pens! But that’s not all. Wait for it, wait for it…IMG0367APENS THAT CHANGE COLOUR.

*drops mike*

*wins the internet*

*does some colouring in*

Join us on the #RainbowCrusaders hashtag on Twitter. Go on; you know you want to. Join usssss…

All the cool kids love colouring in

This is what I’ve been doing in my spare time lately. Nowadays, colouring in for grown-ups is cool again, but I have a confession to make – I’ve liked it since before it was cool. Yes, before all you Johnny-Come-Latelys got your crayons and felt tips and pencils out. ;)

Only now it’s acceptable, so here’s a few pics of the kind of thing I produce through the sweat of my brow and the colouring products of Crayola. (UK site here.)

I really like the colour combinations in this mandala (which I’m told is Sanskrit for circle or round or that which is contained within a circle). Felt tips used here.
Mandala (1)
This one was also done in felt tips:
Mandala (2)
Both of the above were in ‘Doodle Patterns’ colouring books bought from Poundland. The following, however, was done after I decided to commit financially to my new hobby.

I bought Color Me Calm (link takes you to Amazon U.S. but you can easily find it on other country’s sites) and came up with this, in coloured pencils. Rather proud of the colour mixes and blending here:
Mandala (3)
So that’s my new hobby. :D Childish? I don’t think so. Well, I don’t think colouring in is childish in the sense of “grown-ups have no business doing it”. There are plenty of colouring books designed specifically for grown-ups after all. I do, however, think it’s a shame that so many adults have forgotten how much fun it is to simply…play.

Feeling 56 times better

Feeling a bit better than I did yesterday. Whatever the result of the General Election, I just have to suck it up and get on with things. They say “Denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance,” but my process since Thursday evening has been mostly “Nausea, nausea, nausea, anger.” Anyone else? ;)

I’ve made a new Twitter list called The Westminster 56. You can subscribe to the list here. (I think; I’ve only just got lists figured out and I’m not sure if this is the correct link for subscribing. Hope so!)

I have Monday chores to do, which I’m going to get on with now. And, believe it or not, I’m actually beginning to recover my urge to write! I can’t let the disappointment of last Thursday/Friday linger for too much longer. After all, until we get full fiscal autonomy in Scotland (preferably independence), a financial cushion in my bank account is all that stands between me and all that Westmonster austerity wank.

So, on with the filth!

Election hangover

I haven’t blogged for a few days, but this time with good reason rather than laziness, tiredness or illness. (These last two being perfectly acceptable as long as you don’t abuse them of course.)

The General Election result.

I stayed up late on Thursday night for the exit poll. Okay, so as Big Ben struck ten wasn’t exactly late, but I had to be up for work the next day. The prediction of the Conservatives being the largest party sent me to bed feeling concerned.

Then I got up on Friday morning and saw the UK was on course not just for the Conservatives to be the largest party, but for them to have an outright majority. Unthinkable. No further coalition to rein them in. How could this have happened? Don’t people care about the Tories punishing the poor for the sin and corruption of the rich? Obviously not.

But Scarlett; you’re okay. You live in Scotland. There was a yellowwash up there.

True, I live in Scotland. But will us Scots be okay? For as long as we’re under the Westmonster system, we’ll be vulnerable. I think perhaps we’re ever so slightly safer than the rest of the UK from Tory poison, but that’s not something to take for granted.

If you lot had only voted Labour, we wouldn’t be in this mess. Thanks to Scotland, we’ve been landed with a Tory government. Again.

First of all, Scotland has been landed with governments it didn’t want or vote for, for decades, so…oh well. Now you know how it feels.

Secondly, Labour won 232 seats. The SNP has 56.

232 + 56 = 288.

On my planet, 288 is 43 fewer than the Conservatives’ 331. Even if the SNP didn’t exist, we’d still have a Conservative government with an outright majority. Blame the Labour party for its own failings, not Scots who are using their own voice.

That’s how democracy works.

This system is fucked up. We need Proportional Representation.

Yes, we do. We also need independence for Scotland. Last year David Cameron said “Don’t leave us, Scotland. We can’t live without you.” Now a lot of people seem to be saying, “Shut up Scotland.” It seems democracy only works when we do as we’re told. Well, no. Not in my book.

Proportional representation? But have you any idea how many MPs that would give UKIP, who polled nearly 4 million votes?

Yes. 83. I’m also aware that SNP representation would be halved under a PR system. But I believe you can’t support PR for as long as it suits you.

(Actually it does up here because there would still be zero UKIP MPs in Scotland, so…)

Under FPTP we all get the government middle England votes for. Under PR we get the government we deserve.

So what now?

£12bn benefits cuts, which will shave Child Benefit, Housing Benefit for under-21s (possibly under-25s too), Working Tax Credits, Jobseekers’ Allowance and DLA/PIP down to the bone, mark my words. And that’s just for starters.

Privatisation of the NHS and further news blackouts to follow. (Just look at the #ToriesOutNow hashtag on Twitter if you don’t believe me, for information on the Downing Street protests which occurred over the weekend.)

I think you’re just a panic merchant.

And I think the Tories just look out for their own, whether that refers to rich pals, paedophiles at Westminster or bankers. Amongst others. Just look at the last five years. It wasn’t the unemployed who caused the financial crisis. Nor the disabled, young single mums, the low-paid…and yet it’s all of the above who are paying for it.

And one more thing: such folks have died because of austerity. People have committed suicide because their safety nets have been snatched out from under them. Don’t care? Think it’s their own fault for taking their own lives?

Then you probably voted Tory, and you can get the fuck away from my blog.

What are you going to do now?

Donate to a food bank, financially and practically. Show kindness to those who most need it, because the government will come for them soon, and they’ll need looking after…because the Welfare State sure won’t. It’s being slowly dismantled by degrees and the UK electorate allowed this to happen.

And write like my face is on fire, because I can no longer rely on the Welfare State being there should I ever need it.

And when did ‘social security’ become ‘welfare’ in this country anyway?

Just another way of demonising the poor.

Aside from that?

Colouring in. Watching cartoons. Reading. Spending any social time with positive people. With the country in such a state and bound to get worse over the coming five years unless a miracle happens, we need all the ‘pocket positives’ we can find. If it makes you smile, go ahead and do it.

Before the Tories put a tax on happiness.

Listy McListington

Star Wars Day again, Bank Holiday Monday, final day of the snooker final.

Not doing too well on this daily blogging, am I? I started on the 17th April, so this should be my 18th post; it’s my 14th. Well, that’s not too bad. Only got four blog posts to make up, so here’s hoping something fascinating happens in my writing life!

After my last blog post, I received a really interesting, applicable, helpful and caring email from an online buddy, which basically listed things I can try to boost my productivity and the ‘return on investment’, so to speak. So that was hugely uplifting. I’ll try various things and report back once results start showing – and I hope they do!

I do love lists, after all. It’s a carry-over from the days when my OCD was really bad. And yes, I was diagnosed. I’m not claiming to enjoy organising things then saying “I’m so OCD!” I had CBT for it years back. No, not cock and ball torture. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It didn’t cure me; I don’t think anything would ever do that. It’s mainly about coping mechanisms. And lists are a way of acknowledging my control freakery and desire to keep everything ordered, while not falling into the trap of rituals and tics all over again. In theory. ;)

Now to make a list of Monday chores so I can have the pleasure of ticking them off one by one. Item 1: finish off that packet of bacon-flavoured crackers in the kitchen.

Analysis paralysis

This is going to be one of those blog posts that I’ll post and immediately regret because WHOA HONESTY, but it’s consistently come up in private conversations with other writers. I’m not prepared to discuss anyone’s feelings on the matter except my own because confidentiality.

Analysis paralysis is defined here on Wikipedia. The part that interests me most states:

A decision can be treated as over-complicated, with too many detailed options, so that a choice is never made, rather than try something and change if a major problem arises. A person might be seeking the optimal or “perfect” solution upfront, and fear making any decision which could lead to erroneous results, when on the way to a better solution.

It’s no secret that for a while, I’ve been, shall we say…not very productive. Reading The War of Art, which I blogged about here, helped me identify certain problems I have with regard to self-sabotage. And it seems I’m not alone in this. Well, I can’t be, otherwise Pressfield wouldn’t have needed to write the book!

I’ve decided to write about the nature of my own own ‘analysis paralysis’ in the hopes that other people will recognise it. Whether this is a good idea or not, I don’t know. But, as I’ve recently said elsewhere online (again, only talking about my own feelings; no-one else’s), this ‘rut’ I’m in is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. And it boils down to income.

Income for a writer goes up and down. Sometimes mine is such that I’m able to pay a few bills. My income from KDP this month (well, at the end of last month, as it’s May now) was enough to cover my council tax. I won’t mention exact amounts, but I live in a two-bed council flat, so you’ll know my tax band isn’t exactly mansion-level.

Ideally, I’d be entirely self-supporting from writing alone, because then I could give up the EDJ and never have to leave the house. Internet shopping, living in my pyjamas, a sign up on the door saying NO VISITORS, Bob’s your uncle, job done, sweet as a nut, why am I turning this paragraph into a bad Eastenders audition?

Whenever my income for a given month is particularly, erm…low…I wonder if it’s worth writing. And my lack of productivity becomes circular. Lack of money means lack of motivation means lack of writing means lack of…and so on.

It should be noted at this stage that I am not, in any way, looking for sympathy regarding the above. This is one of the reasons I was nervy about publishing this blog post at first, in case that was the impression I gave. Please believe me when I say any mention of £££ is only because that is a huge part of motivation for me, personally, and how I measure success/productivity. Okay, good. Now we’ve got that out of the way…

Discouragement and anxiety issues set in a long time ago, which is what started off this cycle of…analysis paralysis. Putting off doing the very thing that could solve my problems (writing) in case I’m not as successful as I need to be, to be self-supporting.

The solution is obvious: write more. However, that self-same solution is covered in a thick layer of “What if?” Shutting the fuck up, sitting the fuck down and writing the fucking book is the only way – the only way – I will find out if it’s worth it. I have occasions of super-confidence, bursts of “Yay me! I can do this!” But those occasions are sadly short-lived. Perhaps I’m expecting immediate results. Perhaps I’m expecting perfection. Fear of failure? Who knows? And again, “What if?” is the constant drumbeat in the back of my mind.

Sometimes I feel like if I can only find out exactly what I’m scared of, why I’m self-sabotaging, I could break through this wall of doubt. It’s not wrong to expect a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, let’s be honest.  I just have to decide what level of payback is, well, fair, when it comes to my writing. Then again, I have to admit that if I’m not putting the time in, I’ve got no right to expect any results, really, have I? Again, that self-fulfilling prophecy. Constantly wondering if I’m wasting my time means I’m doing nothing but wasting my time. It doesn’t matter whether I’m scared of success, scared of failure, aiming for impossible perfection…whatever the reasons behind my inertia, the result is the same – time passes without any further books being published. Or even finished.

Certain real-life matters, not least coping with a great deal of physical pain are legitimate reasons for distraction. But distraction, if allowed to continue, becomes a rut. And to be brutally honest with you, a rut is damn close to being a grave for one’s career. And every time we say “I’ll write later,” we dig it a little deeper.

I know something you don’t know!

Neener, neener!

Okay, so today I received cover art from GoOnWrite for a book I haven’t mentioned on my blog, or Twitter, before. One might even say I haven’t written it yet. But when I saw the cover art available on the site, I had to snap it up. And I reasoned it would be good motivation to get the supersekrit book (hope to keep it down to novella length) written.

After Family Jewels, of course. Which will be finished after Deep Screw.

So, I’m piling on the workload and calling it motivation. It’s Friday afternoon, and I have the whole weekend ahead of me, free for writing.

No excuses!