Tag Archives: Cambridge University

About the Author – My Crazy Unorthodox Life!

Continuing my trio of blog posts this afternoon (see The Author Package, and My Writer Package!) I’ve decided to answer the Apprentice Candidate question, and hopefully also add to my personal ‘Author Package’, by telling you about my crazy, somewhat unorthodox life.

Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile at sunrise

 I think the key thing about my life is that I’ve never seen boundaries in the same way other people do.  Running a marathon in another country isn’t a life-long pursuit for me, it’s something I’ll sign up to four weeks beforehand.  I spend my life writing emails, searching out opportunities, taking chances, and generally trying to fill my life with as much excitement as possible.

On the inside of my left wrist I have a tattoo of two words – Carpe Diem.  As a child ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ was my favourite film, and it’s a motto that I’ve tried to apply to my life every single day.  ‘Seize the Day’ insists the Latin translation, and to be honest, I’m one of those people who when I don’t seize it, and look back on what I consider a ‘wasted’ day, I get rather frustrated!

My ACTUAL real wrist! How’s that for sharing? 😉 

I was orphaned at nineteen, which definitely had a profound effect on my attitude to life, however I maintain that deep down I’ve always been this person, the situation with my parents simply amplified this attitude of mine. At primary school I was an over-achiever.  Too young to really understand it, I constantly demanded my teachers attention, resulting in a host of awards and prizes, but rather unflattering school reports like ‘Charlotte needs to learn she’s not the only pebble on the beach!’

Hmm … well, I’m pretty sure I’ve learnt that now, though I’d probably suggest my pebble looks rather different to the norm!

At secondary school I was an all-rounder.  I was still academic, scoring straight As and A*s throughout school, but for me life wasn’t just about studying.  I played various sports, for the school and for the county, won a coveted role as a DJ on a children-run radio station, presenting the Breakfast show, and was sent to Japan to represent Great Britain in an International Schools Forum.  I was chief prosecutor in the county Mock Trial competition, Prime Minister in Youth Parliament and a Millennium Volunteer.  Outside of school I volunteered as a helper with Beaver Scouts, Brownies, Cubs and Guides (organisations I still volunteer with, 15 years on).

I did my Gold Duke of Edinburgh climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, my Queen’s Scout in the Swiss Alps, and saved up for two years to do a World Challenge across Venezuela.  My parents weren’t wealthy at all, and my Dad was often out of work caring for my Mum, who was ill throughout my time at secondary school, so I did a series of part-time jobs, from as young as 13.  I always had an expedition or a trip to be saving for, and so I worked working as a waitress, bowling alley lane host, a children’s entertainer, and then a lifeguard.

Looking back, I was the kind of child who would probably annoy even me now!  I know one close friend of mine, who if they saw 16 year old me, would describe me as ‘that kind of girl!’ with a disparaging roll of the eye!  But all those things were character building, and the more I did, the more I wanted to do.

At nineteen, on my gap year, I took a job teaching English in the middle of nowhere in China.  At a time when the internet was a lot more dubious, I received a random email asking if I was still looking for a teaching job in China, having been turned down by a number of major schools and universities for being too young and inexperienced.  Huaihua College simply asked if I could speak English!  And so, with that requirement fulfilled, I set off for China with my best friend at the time.  We literally weren’t even sure anyone would meet us at Beijing Airport, and had agreed that if that was the case, we’d do two weeks in the capital and then just fly back home.  Someone did meet us, and we took a 27 hour journey to the middle of nowhere.  Huaihua had a population of hundreds of thousands, and yet together with a Canadian girl who was teaching in a local middle school, myself and my friend were two of only three white people in the entire city!  We were literally treated like film stars every time we walked down the street!  I taught in China for six months, before returning to England to take up my studies at Cambridge.

Receiving my Cosmopolitan ‘Fun Fearless Female’ Ultimate Family Girl Award in 2008 from Matt Di Angelo and Gethin Jones

(I didn’t realise I’d won so literally got ready 5 minutes beforehand!)

It was at the end of my first term at Cambridge when I became orphaned.  I lost both of my parents to cancer in 2003, literally starting the year with two ‘healthy’ parents, and ending it with neither of them.  As the oldest sibling, with very little extended family, responsibility fell on me to make funeral arrangements, sell our family home, and see that my younger sister was looked after properly.  Once all the admin had been done, I fell apart.  For about a term I was unrecognisable.  Lazy and uninspired, I had hit rock bottom.  And that was when I remember thinking, ‘are you honestly going to let this take you too?’.  My sister had lost a mother and a father.  It wasn’t right to throw away her sister too.  I ought to be the person my parents had brought me up to be.  The daughter they had known.  And so I guess I got myself back, but in overdrive.

As a child I had become interested in cricket.  At the time it was a sport very few women played, let alone girls, and when the local women’s team was ill-equipped to take on a nine year-old beginner, my Dad became heavily involved in the sport, so as to facilitate me playing.  He took coaching, umpiring and scoring courses, and set up clubs and even county teams simply so that girls my age could play the sport.  I had actually given up cricket at 15, discovering boys and part-time jobs, and other teenage distractions, but Dad’s death kick-started something in me, and I returned to the sport.  I trialed for the Cambridge team in my first year, becoming the only Fresher to play at the Varsity Match at Lord’s that year.  In my second year I became Vice-Captain, and in my third year, I retired from the sport after captaining Cambridge against Oxford at Lord’s, and changing the status of the women’s sport to Full Blue – a huge achievement at the time.

During my time at Cambridge I also became heavily involved in a number of other extra-curricular activities (often to the displeasure of my Director of Studies!).  I ski-raced for the University on dry slopes and snow, edited both my College Magazine, and the Cambridge University Law Review, ran the Paris Marathon, and after two years on the Ospreys Committee for University Sportswomen, held the coveted position of Ospreys President.  I was heavily involved in the Cambridge ‘Drinking Society’ scene (something similar to sororities and fraternities), despite ironically only ever drinking Diet Coke on nights out, and I was President of my College May Ball Committee – a two year position which saw me in charge of a £140,000 budget. I literally crammed my university experience with as much as I possibly could.

My aim was to have the most all-rounded experience I could, something probably best demonstrated in my first year when I took on the role of mascot for the college rugby team, and happily danced around the rugby pitch perimeter in a fluffy cat suit.  For me, university wasn’t just about grades, it was about seizing life and making the most of experiences, and in my four years at Cambridge, my time definitely wasn’t without those things.

Despite my extra-curricular distractions, and probably much to the surprise of my Director of Studies!, I graduated Cambridge with a good degree in Law.  At the time, Oxbridge graduates were being snapped up by Magic Circle Solicitor firms, however behind a desk was not how I saw myself.  The only thing that had every really appealed about the firms was their international offices, and the opportunity to travel, however this was something I now understood I could achieve without a legal job. Inspired by the Children’s TV Show Blue Peter, I decided to pursue a Masters in Broadcast Journalism at University of Westminster.

If I’m honest, the step away from the stringent requirements and administration at Cambridge made me rather carefree, and I found myself literally doing enough to get by in my course, whilst taking every opportunity to travel.  I designed projects for myself which took me to South Africa to report on AIDS orphans, and then to the Philippines to make a documentary about the recent murders of journalists on the island of Mindanao.

I also started my own YouTube Channel, called ‘Challenge Charly’, where I filmed myself doing a series of endurance and extreme sport challenges in Britain and around the world. During my Masters, I climbed to Everest Base Camp, ran the Rome Marathon, did a 42 mile hike in a day, a 100 mile cycle ride in a Day, the London to Brighton cycle ride, visited the jungles of Borneo, learnt to wake board, ice-climb, sail a yacht and fly a plane.  I did air acrobatics, a bushcraft course, several adventure races in the British Isles, and my Advanced Open Water scuba dive course.  I did the Three Peaks Challenge as part of my Queen’s Guide Award, cycled across Cambodia, and ran around London in a gorilla suit for charity.

Basically I spent the inheritance I received from selling our family home to have as many exciting experiences as I possibly could, and documented them all on video.

Inspired by the things I achieved during my Masters, I then decided to carry on traveling after my second graduation.  I fulfilled a life-long dream and booked a ‘Round The World’ plane ticket, to take me to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and South and Central America.

My first sky dive – Mission Beach, Queensland, Australia

On my own, I spent two months in Australia, doing everything from volunteering on a Scout Camp, to scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef and doing my first sky dive.  In New Zealand I hiked glaciers, faced my fear of heights doing a bungee jump, and read the Twilight series in four days.  It was actually getting so excited by a series of books which inspired me to put pen to paper and begin to write some of the stories I’d had in my head for years.

I spent eight months traveling from Patagonia up to Canada all by my self, and in that time I did some weird and wonderful stuff.  I worked for a month for board and lodging as a groom on a polo farm in Argentina, with about ten words of Spanish to my name!  I climbed Mt Aconcagua (the highest mountain in South America) all by myself – a foolish, foolish move! – and lived with people I met at bustops!  I took 28 hour after 28 hour-long overnight bus journeys and met some incredible people.  I did the Inca Trail, and the Lost City jungle trek, sailed from Colombia to Panama, and did every adventurous activity I had the chance to try along the way.  In Honduras I stopped on Utila, in the Bay Islands, and completed my PADI Rescue Diver.

And then, when I finally came home, a year later, I decided I needed to go away again, and just two weeks later headed to the ski resort of Whistler, Canada, to find a job to begin repaying all the debt I’d wracked up travelling!

Whistler ended up being my base for a year and a half.

I did two ski seasons there, qualifying as both a ski and snowboard instructor during that time, and I used the shoulder seasons (Spring and Autumn) to travel, completing my Dive Master and First Aid Instructor courses back on the island of Utila in Honduras. I came home two months ago, which I guess brings you up to where I am now. I guess the thing about me, is I’ve never seen the world in quite the same way other people do.  I see it as a playing field.  A place for adventures – ours for the taking.  And nothing will stand in my way to have those adventures (whether it’s my bank balance – hence the heaps of debt I then had to pay off!!!! or people’s assumptions of the ‘right career path.’)

Ok, so I have a Law Degree from Cambridge, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I have to be a lawyer.  I know it’s often frowned upon to jump off the bandwagon (trust me I’ve had some interesting comments from peers along the way!) but I just think your life is WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT! And the more I’ve achieved, the more I’ve done … the more I’ve wanted to do.

Anyone regularly reading this blog will know the past two months have been my idea of Hell.  I’ve been sitting around with nothing to do, waiting for a start date on a job.  I live my life for adventures and my list gets ever longer. I think that’s why I originally wanted to be a Blue Peter presenter.  They seemed to have the ideal job – trying every activity and going to every place imaginable – but then I realised those were things I could do alone.  Whilst obviously being a TV presenter is a career where you could do all those things and still be ‘working’, I realised that writing is also a job you can do ‘on the go’.   And that actually, all of this life experience – all of my strange and wacky work experience, and all the people I’ve met along the way, can actually be of use to me in my future career.

Because writing is about understanding.  Understanding people and understanding experiences.  Not everyone is going to run a marathon in their life, or hike up to the top of Mt.  Kilimanjaro, but as an author who HAS done those things, I can relive them for people.  I can help people have those experiences in their minds, and possibly even inspire them to go out and try some of the weird and wonderful things I’ve done – the initial reason for creating Challenge Charly.

I’m sorry this has turned out to be such a long blog post.  It’s not meant to be a CV, or a ‘wow aren’t I amazing’ piece, I’m just trying to explain why I maybe think slightly differently to your average writer, and why I’m so passionate about writing and travelling, and inspiring others.  It’s one of the reasons I most enjoy writing for a teenage audience, because they, in particular, are the ones deciding exactly what they want from life.

Your life is what you make of it!  And I really hope my life story is reams and reams longer than these couple of thousand words.  I hope I have many adventures left ahead of me, and I really hope that I’m writing along the way, and that one day I have the opportunity to share those adventures with thousands of people and hopefully inspire them to try something they currently see as outside the barriers of their own life.

Test the barriers.  Push them.  You’re the only one who put them there!

C-C xxx

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Filed under C-C Lester, Novel Excerpt, The Dream Navigator, Unsigned Author Commentary

The Year Ahead ….

Following on from my post about how you need to be a blog reader as well as a blog writer

I’ve just been reading ‘The Becoming Year’.

Initially I came across the blog post ‘SVP and I, Volume 1‘ a collection of stupid comments from Abigail’s former boss, which I noticed in a link she posted on the very amusing, Freshly Pressed,  ‘Post It Notes from My Idiot Boss‘ both of which have definitely inspired me to write a second installment of my ‘Tales of a Starving Artist‘ very soon, however it was actually the description of The Becoming Year which caught my eye.

Abigail describes her blog as ‘A thirty year-old gal with scraps of creativity and an abundance of judgment, I’ve quit my career as a leadership consultant to pursue my original dream of becoming a published author, becoming thin, and becoming kind. This is my story. This is my year.’

As I explained just a few days ago in ‘Inspired ...’ I’m coming out on the bright side of a bit of a mope-slash-panic about returning home after two and a half years travelling without a book deal, and have to say I found Abigail’s opening paragraph really inspiring.

I LOVE nice ‘neat’ blog frameworks, where you follow a year in someone’s life, or someone completing a specific challenge, from start to finish, and am kind of envious because my own blog has ended up as a bit of a mish-mash of my personal opinion and my fiction writing!

However, I definitely think I can apply some of her thoughts to my own life at the mo.

In just over a month I return back to England.  And I think what’s going to help me feel like I still have some structure in the haphazard unstructured world of being an author, is by giving myself definite targets.  Obviously there are some targets which I can’t have too much input on.  For example, for now at least, with my novels ‘Flicker’ and ‘The Dream Navigator’, I’ve essentially done all I can do.  I wrote, finished, edited and re-edited both novels, until they were in a condition which my wonderful agent, Lucy Dundas at Peters Fraser & Dunlop, deemed publisher-worthy.  And unfortunately (because this is the bit I’m really awful at!) now I just have to sit back and wait!

However, while the ball on those two projects is now firmly in someone else’s court, that doesn’t mean I have to sit around twiddling my thumbs!

And so … I’m going to take a leaf from Abigail and The Becoming Year, and set myself some targets for the year.  Now I know it’s not the start of the year … however I for one definitely need to learn to be a bit less rigid and precise about stuff (as you may have noticed from my extremely strict approach to writing a novel!! – ‘The Secrets to Finishing a Novel‘)

Also, yesterday was my Dad’s 66th Birthday.  (He died just over 8 years ago)  So it’s a particularly memorable day for me …

By my Dad’s 67th Birthday I hope to achieve the following …

  • Obviously I’d love to get a book deal … but that’s one thing I can’t directly influence.  Though I can obviously work as hard as possible to pursue that particular dream.
  • I’m going to take a Screenwriting course (have been looking at 8 week intensive courses at the New York Film Academy … give me a shout if you’ve done one of their courses!)
  • I’m going to turn My Ten Future Lives into a screenplay … because, without revealing too much about the plot, it would work really well as a film … possibly better than a book.  (Characters change from imaginary life to life, so the same actors could play a variety of characters 🙂 )
  • I will finish my new book ‘Mercury’s Child’ … which is currently just a lot of notes!  It looks like I might be having a rather cruisy few months back home over the summer, after a winter working 70 hour weeks as a nanny, so I’m aiming to have MC finished by the start of September … which would be when I’d be flying out to New York.  If all goes to plan, four months seems to be how long it takes me to write a first draft.
  • I’ll still be keeping this blog, and using it to learn about the life of an author, and share my observations with you guys
  • In a year’s time, I’d like to feel more like writing is my ‘career’ … which is a very loose ambition, I know … but I think that embodies how unspecific ‘writing professionally’ really is …

In previous years, when my ‘year’ has been strictly regimented by school and university semesters, I’ve always had very specific aims.  And yet, I think my main aim for the year is just that I feel I’ve truly made the most of it – whether that’s (shock horror!) by taking a third ski season (rather tempting at the mo, when I know how much writing I get done working as a nanny).  I want to look back, this time next year, and feel I’ve made some steps firmly in the right direction.

Only time will tell how large those steps are …. but I guess the main message should be that I haven’t been deterred from my overall aim.

To be a career author –

To be able to look my best friend’s parents (who have been my adoptive family since my parents died when I was 19) in the eye, and tell them them that I don’t need to ‘look for a career’ because I’ve genuinely found one!!!

No doubt over the coming days, weeks and months I’ll find other aims to add to this list, and I’ll keep you posted on them, but right now, these are the things I want to achieve in the coming year 🙂

And as for Abigail’s other aims … what girl wouldn’t want to be a bit thinner in a year’s time 😉

C-C xxx

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Filed under C-C Lester, Unsigned Author Commentary, Writing

Inspired ….

A number of your comments on this blog have thanked me for ‘inspiring’ you.

Which is lovely … and something I’m extremely proud of.

However, I have to admit to feeling increasingly uninspired in recent months.

Just to recap my situation for those of you who haven’t read my entire blog … I’m a 27 year-old Cambridge law graduate.  I passed up a career in law for a Masters in Broadcast Journalism, and then disappeared off around the world on a rather extended second gap ‘year’.  Two and a bit years later, and I’ve written three novels, got myself an agent … but am still not published.

Of my two and a half years away, I spent a year travelling across Australasia and South and Central America, all by myself, before installing myself in Whistler, Canada, where I have worked as a live-in and live-out nanny.

But that time is coming to an end … fast!

My plane ticket home is booked for April 27th, and whilst I’ve had an agent for over a year, getting signed to PFD feels like my last tangible writing achievement.  I finished my first novel Flicker almost two years ago.  I know it’s a slow process, and those two years haven’t been without major developments, but still … I’m a month from going home, and if I’m honest I guess I’d always imagined returning home with my first book deal firmly under my belt.

Flicker was sent to publishers last November.  And over half are yet to reply.  Whilst all of the rejections I’ve received so far, have been rather positive and encouraging … they were still rejections.  And I’m not feeling overly heartened by the fact that the other six publishers are in no rush to respond …

My second book, The Dream Navigator, will be sent to publishers in the next few days, but it’s hard not to feel despondent. after getting my hopes up when I heard Flicker was finally being sent off.

So … I’m returning home unsigned.  And unemployed!

Uninspired.

I’ve spent the past few weeks, wincing at job pages.  Trying to find a day job that inspires me, recognises my academic background, but that forgives my lack of professional expertise.  Easier said than done … And while I may have been happy working as a nanny on the other side of the world, being back home and babysitting for a living seems like selling myself short.

So there I was … uninspired, and panicking that my dreams of becoming a writer are all for nothing … Worrying that my only chance to make it as a writer involves making coffee for editors, and working eighty hour weeks for literally nothing … (more on that later!).

The problem with my background is that writing isn’t my only option.  Every now and again the sensible voice inside me reminds me that I don’t have to completely turn my back on my academic background … that the Magic Circle Law firms are still there, and that I have the gift of the gab to glaze over my four year ‘sabbatical’ ….

But I don’t want to be a lawyer!  I dismissed that career years ago … and found a vocation that I love … and truly believe I can succeed in.

I just have to keep working at it.  Like all of you, who have read my blog … I’m almost there … but not quite.  And I need to believe in myself to continue  on that path.

Where did my inspiration come from?  What was it that made me realise I’m not ready to give up on my dream just yet, and that just because I’m leaving the protective bubble of my gap year, and returning back into the harsh light of my ‘real world’, doesn’t mean I have to abandon the thing I’ve spent the past two years working towards?

Last night I watched the Adjustment Bureau.  Easily the best film I’ve watched since Inception.  I love films that make me think, and stretch my imagination.  Partly because that’s the kind of fiction I like to write.  And partly because I just love stories.  Stories are my life.  Whether books, movies, or trashy American TV … I love stories!  And as I sat in the cinema last night, watching an amazingly well-told and thought-provoking story, and at the same time watching the rest of the audience enjoying that story … I was inspired.  I wanted my stories to touch people like that!  I want to sit in a cinema, and know the story inspiring and captivating every member of the audience, started in my head!

I want to share stories with the world!  I like to write … whether fiction or non-fiction, a journal, a blog, a news article  … but it’s the stories that are my passion.  And I want to dedicate my life to telling those stories …  In novels, and screenplays … and maybe even in good old trashy American TV!

Nut the Adjustment Bureau inspired me for another reason.  The film focusses on the idea of destiny, and having a pre-ordained path in life.  And it’s message is a positive one of taking hold of your own life, and determining your own destiny with your own actions.  Truly writing your own story.

What better message for uninspired me, than to be told to take the reigns of my life, and make things happen?

Ok, so Flicker has been at publishers for a few months …  Who cares? It’s my first novel!  And not only did it get me signed to an agent, but she thought it was good enough to submit to some of the world’s biggest publishers!  And in not one of my rejection letters, did those publishers question why Lucy thought it good enough to send to them!

I’m 27 years young … as I observed in The Life/Writing Balance most authors are in their mid-thirties when they write their first novels.  The past two years haven’t been my writing career … they have been my first steps on a path which will hopefully last my entire life.  And I shouldn’t abandon that path just because the first steps are turning out to be a little tougher, or longer than my impatient excitement can handle!

So I am writing my own story, and determining my own destiny … by believing and investing in my ability.

I go home in a month’s time.  But that isn’t the end of my dream.  It’s the start of a new chapter.  Where to next?  Well I’m thinking a screen-writing course in the States so that I can turn My Ten Future Lives into a screenplay …  and hopefully one day sit in a cinema, and stare up at my own story.  And more importantly, stare around at the people touched and moved by that story!

C-C xx

 

 

 

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Filed under C-C Lester, General, Unsigned Author Commentary, Writing

The Life / Writing Balance

In my recent post ‘The Writers’ Network’ I explained how blogging can provide a new social network for writers.

Interestingly some of the comments on the post extended this new society to an actual social life.  As if talking to other writers online is the closest thing a writer might have to a life of her own.

The idea of a writer not having a real life of her own angers me.  As I explained in ‘Writing from the Heart’, it’s important to know and understand the things you write about.  So how can a writer convincingly write about the exciting lives of her characters, if she herself lives a rather mundane existence?

For me, becoming a good writer has meant understanding people.  And that involves communicating with, and engaging with, people from all different backgrounds and in all different situations.  In order to have the imagination to create a full range of characters, and empathise properly with those characters, I feel like I need to truly understand the world around me.  As a result I often feel like I’ve lived a hundred lives.  I’ve tried anything and everything … possibly one of the reasons why I’ve adapted so well going from Cambridge Law student to professional babysitter! Every adventure is two-fold.  Not only is it interesting and exciting for me as an individual, it’s also useful for me as a writer.  I’ve stood on both sides of the fence – the served and the server –  and as a result I understand life ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people write their first novel in their mid-thirties.  However I was 25 when I finally committed Flicker to paper, and I think the reason I did so at such a relatively young age, is because I feel I’ve had more than enough life experience.  The adventurous and constantly-changing way in which I live my life has equipped me with the knowledge and empathy to write from various different perspectives on a number of different subjects, which has proved particularly useful, particularly where books like ‘My Ten Future Lives’ where the characters’ situations change with every chapter.

In my opinion the traditional image of an author as a loner, trapped in a room, able only to socialise through her pen is out-dated and unrealistic.  Just because I can write, shouldn’t mean I can’t talk to people … and vice versa.

Personally I like to think of myself as a rather bubbly and sociable person, who also enjoys writing, and I hope that this personality shades my writing rather than hampering it.

The idea of the loner writer is a rather romantic one.  As if she puts her all into the book and has no time for a life of her own.  However, it is more than possible to have a life, and dedicate your time and energy to writing a book … it’s simply a question of understanding your writing.

As I explained in ‘The Author, The Journalist and The Blogger’, everyone writes differently depending on the nature of the task.  I also find that within each ‘discipline’ of writing, I work differently according to the task.

Take, for example, the administrative side of writing a novel.  As I will explain in more detail in a later post, it’s important as an author to present your work in a user-friendly manner.  And this involves headers, footers and page-numbers.  Compare this side of writing to expertly selecting the perfect words for the opening paragraph of your novel, and you can hopefully understand the different mental demands of various tasks.  Labeling my pages uses 2% of my brain power … finding the perfect words, maybe 92%.  And then there’s re-reading and editing.  The more often you have revised a piece of work, the less attention you need to pay it.

And so, with this all in mind … it’s actually possible to be rather sociable, and still find time to write!

When I’m writing prose, I know I need to be alone … whether that privacy is offered by four walls, or simply by my laptop headphones.  Similarly, I need to have relative focus when it comes to my initial edits.  I’ll perhaps play music I know well, or a tv show I’m not captivated with in the background.

But in the later edits, where I’m simply skim-reading for mistakes or repetition, and when it comes to numbering my pages and making everything look neat and tidy, I don’t need anywhere near my full attention on my computer.  And so these activities don’t require me to be a ‘loner’.  In the same way that I’m sitting writing this blog post whilst half-watching a movie with my boyfriend, and contributing (all but half-heartedly) to a conversation with him and one of our friends, a lot of writing tasks don’t require my full attention, and so I have adapted my life to include ‘laptop’ moments.

It’s not gospel, and probably wouldn’t work for everyone, but knowing when I can fulfil tasks in a sociable manner definitely helps me feel a lot less like a loner writer.

Finally, the other thing which keeps me sane is knowing when NOT to write.  As I mentioned in The Writers’ Network, I’m between books.  And three novels into my writing career, I understand my habits well enough to know that I need to take a decent break in between projects.  I need to switch character perspectives, in order to write convincingly from that new point of view … and whilst I’m not exactly lazy during the gaps (as perhaps best evidenced by this blog!!) I definitely take a proper break.  Which leaves more time for that life part of the life/writing balance …

Two years in, and it seems to be working for me … what about you?  Have you found the perfect balance?  Are your coping methods different to mine?  Or are you the stereotypical loner writer?

As ever … discuss!! That’s the whole point of the blog 🙂 Get social with the rest of the internet’s aspiring authors!

C-C xxx

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The Pen Name: A Shield to accompany the Literary Sword?

My newest non-fictional effort!  Before I get started just wanted to thank WordPress for making me Freshly Pressed on Thursday!  And to thank all of you who took time to read, and comment on, my post ‘So Am I an Author Yet?’ Incredible reactions from everyone, will try my best to live up to expectations!

C-C xx

The Pen Name : A Shield to accompany the Literary Sword?

We’ve all heard countless times how the pen is mightier than the sword.

But in this day and age, where someone’s dirty, and not so dirty, laundry can be hung out to dry on the internet in a matter of minutes, do authors now need a shield to accompany their metaphorical sword?

It’s a question close to my heart, because obviously I’m intent on writing under a pen name of sorts.

‘C-C Lester’ isn’t a pseudonym.  However, it’s also not what my closest friends call me … In fact, the only people to have ever called me ‘C-C’ were the members of my university cricket team, because that was how my name appeared on the scorecard!

However, C-C is the name which I have chosen to write under.  Something my lovely agent Lucy Dundas queried early on in our partnership.

Because thanks to J.K. Rowling, it seems everyone wants to have two initials!  And the publishing world are getting rather sick of it!

Most avid readers and authors will know exactly why ‘Jo’ became ‘J.K’.  Bloomsbury feared that male readers would be put off by a female author, and so asked her to use her two initials. However, she only had one, and so added the initial from her favourite grandmother’s name, Kathleen, to become the legendary  ‘J.K.’

My reasons for become C-C are a little more complicated.

For a start, they are both actually my initials.  My parents had a bit of a thing for long names, and so I was born Charlotte-Cristina Lester, a fact very few of my friends even know, because all my life I have been called Charly.

C-C Lester was the tag on my school uniform.  The adult I always felt that ‘childhood me’ might grow into.  My parents only ever called me Charly, but told me I had an extra-long double-barreled ‘real name’, in case when I was older I wanted to use a ‘girl’s name’!

I didn’t.

However, I did always find something cool in the fact I had a hyphen where most people simply had a space.  To me it sounded rather epic and mysterious, and reminiscent of C.S. Lewis, one of my favourite childhood authors.  Even though even he wasn’t lucky enough to have that hyphen!

As I discussed briefly in my last post, I was a child who grew up writing, and longing to share my stories with the world.  And so in my head, ‘C-C Lester’ was the future writer me.  Whose clothes I was merely growing into!

However, when Lucy came to ask me why exactly I was writing under ‘C-C’, my main, and probably most convincing reason, was privacy.  In the cyber-world we live in today, it takes a matter of seconds to enter someone’s name into Google, and dredge up all kinds of information about them.  Thanks to the Cosmopolitan Ultimate Woman Award, which I received a few years ago, a LOT of my personal information was put into the public domain without my say-so, including my then address, and the very detailed description of how my parents died.

These weren’t necessarily things which I wanted people reading my books to know about me, or to associate with my work.

I was also quite keen to keep my broadcast journalism projects, namely my You Tube channel ‘Challenge Charly’ separate from my writing efforts.

One of my favourite high school teachers once gave an assembly about women juggling ‘lots of hats’.  The lover, the friend, the artist, the career woman, the mother etc etc…

And so, when I finished my first novel ‘Flicker’, I made a decision.  I wanted to wear a different hat when I was an author.  I wanted author ‘me’ to be C-C, and the rest of me to be scooped up under the name ‘Charly’.

I wanted to protect Clark Kent’s truths, behind Superman’s badge.

Except the problem was that no one had ever heard of my Superman!

It’s all well and good protecting your real identity, if your pen name has great exposure.  But one of the things I gradually came to realise, was that my ‘Clark Kent’ side – the part of me behind the writer’s mask, was actually pretty special too!  And perhaps those other aspects of my personality – my love of travel and adventure, my tenacity and positivity in the face of a really rather awful tragedy – were things which might inspire others in the same way I hoped that my fiction might too.

In a later post, I hope to write about my influences for each of the books, and the aspects of my own life which affected those stories.  And so, perhaps it is best that my readers see me as both Charly AND C-C Lester.

Check out my YouTube Channel and let me know what you think!  (And those of you who posted comments yesterday assuming I was a man, hopefully the video will clear that one up!)

So, now you all know my name.  You know the Clark Kent behind my Superman … or should I say, Superwoman?!

And yet, I will still continue to write behind the name of my favourite superhero.  Because I am really excited about my journey to becoming C-C Lester.  To becoming the adult, who that little girl in the baggy school uniform could only dream of being.  I’m excited about the opportunity to wear the hat of writer, or author, or whatever you want to classify it as.  And to explore all the experience which that hat provides me with!

What started out as a shield, is no longer necessary as one.  Instead, for me at least, it has become both a passport, and a destination.

In a number of the comments to my ‘So am I an Author yet?’ post, people discussed the journey of the writer – from conception to publication.  Well ‘C-C Lester’ is both a passport, allowing me on my personal journey – the side of me housing my immense passion and determination to write – and also the final destination – the writer I want to be, and have always wanted to be.

Thank you for continuing to join me on that journey!

C-C xx

 

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Where do I start?

Well I guess, seeing as this is an ‘Author Blog’, I probably ought to start by telling you about the author.  About me 🙂

I write under the name C-C Lester, however, rather quickly, with the help of Google, you will realise my name (or the nickname I have always gone by) is Charly.  I’ll tell you later why I go by ‘C-C’ when I write, but for now let’s focus on the more biographical aspects of my life.

Where do I start?  How about with where I started?!

I actually wrote a mock-up ‘About the Author’ to go with my newest book – The Dream Navigator – just a few weeks ago, and it went something like this ….

‘If my Stage formed before the age of fifteen, it would definitely be The Oval cricket ground, back when it was known as the Fosters’ Oval.  My Library would look like the Sherlock Library at Catz.  My Control Room would be the Whistler Roundhouse, on a blue bird afternoon.  And deep within the Safe of my mind, you would find a simple wooden haberdashery basket, just like the one which sat at my side, as I watched TV as a child.  If the segments unfolded, amongst my other talents would be questionable Bikram yoga capabilities, kick-ass liquid eyeliner skills, and the ability to communicate rather vocally in Spanish without being able to use either the past or future tenses!’

Which, in terms of  Dream Navigation, actually tells you virtually everything about me!

However, seeing as The Dream Navigator is still in ‘unpublished, unsigned, final draft mode’ … I guess I ought to also describe myself in layman’s terms!

I’m a twenty-seven year old, female, British author.

My main focus is teenage fantasy fiction.  And I like to think it’s a genre which I address well.  My most recent ‘rejection’, from the very generous Simon Taylor at Transworld Publishers, had only one criticism.  That my writing was ’emphatically on the YA side of the adult/YA divide’.  Something which, whilst obviously very important to him, in my opinion, wasn’t even a criticism, more a recognition of my firm genre!

My path into writing, like most authors’, has been a convoluted one.

I majored in Law at Cambridge, more because it ‘sounded sensible’ than because I wanted to become a lawyer.

Of my chosen subjects, Media Law was the one which most inspired me, and having realised that the odds on becoming a Blue Peter presenter were far better than those on getting a Media law pupillage, I decided to focus on the former as a career option!

In 2008 I completed a Masters Degree in Broadcast Journalism at the University of Westminster.

During my year in London I was offered several opportunities.  I received a Cosmopolitan Woman of the Year Award that winter, and after receiving the award from none other than Gethin Jones, was actually offered work experience at Blue Peter! Unfortunately a TV work experience placement didn’t fit with the priorities of my course (don’t ask!!) and so I was forced to turn the offer down.

I did, however, go on to complete a month of work experience as a child presenter Mentor at Takeover Radio.  The placement was close to my heart, not only because when I was 14 I pioneered Children’s Radio by Children, as the Breakfast Show Host at Kiddz FM, but also because I have very strong views on role models for children, and being an inspiration to younger generations.

During my Masters I also made documentaries in South Africa, on AIDS orphans and the work of South Africans to combat HIV in their communities, and in the Philippines, on the culture of impunity towards the murder of journalists.

I loosely mentioned my Cosmopolitan Award.  The reason I was honoured with this award was because of my personal strength in the face of adversity. When I was 19 years old, I was orphaned.  It’s not a part of my life that I like to dwell on, however, it is a part of my life which has motivated and inspired me.

Losing my parents at such a young age made me realise how important it is to seize the day.  That there are so many opportunities and challenges that the world has to offer, and you only have one life, so you may as well take on those challenges.

The culmination of this attitude, of the tragic events behind it, and of all the things I learnt during my Masters was ‘Challenge Charly’, a YouTube Channel where I filmed myself completing different challenges around the world.  Very much in the style of my wannabe alma mater ‘Blue Peter’, I tried new sports, completed great feats of endurance, raised money for charity, and pushed myself to the limits of my own fears.  I bungee jumped, sky dived, ran marathons, cycled hundreds of miles, and climbed to Everest Base Camp, all in the name of Challenge Charly.

And so, with my MA firmly under my belt, I decided to take a year to travel the world, and expand both Challenge Charly’s, and my own, horizons.

 

 

I travelled to Australasia, and then on to Patagonia.  From the southern-most point of South America, I took eight months travelling all the way up to Los Angeles.  During this time, I spent countless hours on the back of overnight buses, with nothing but my laptop for company.

It was during these lonely, cramped hours, generally on the left-hand side of the rear of the cheapest ‘semi-cama’ (half-bed) buses, that I began to write my first novel Flicker ….

 

C-C xx

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