Write Your Diary On 12th May!

Any idea what this is?!

Any idea what this is?!

The Mass Observation Archive, based at Sussex University, is inviting people living in the UK to write and submit an anonymous diary of their day on 12th May (ie: this Tuesday). Who knows, your diary could be read by people researching how we lived in 2015, in hundreds of years’ time!

“Write as much as you can about what you do, who you meet, what you talk about, what you eat and drink, what you buy or sell, what you are working on, the places you visit, the people you meet, the things you read, see and hear around you, how you are feeling and of course what you yourself think.”

There are more details – and information on how to email your diary – on the website.

Some of the 258 diary submissions that they received in 2010 are on the website here and, even though it was only five years ago, they’re make interesting reading (lots of comments about the last election!) but what struck me was how most people started their diaries with the morning and what they had for breakfast. Was that really the most important or significant part of their day? If you’re going to have a go at this (ahem, she says, in her best Creative Writing tutor voice), pick out the interesting bits: conversations you had, or observations you made. By all means, tell us the title of that book you’re reading or the TV programmes you watched (detail is all!), but we probably don’t need to know too much about what you had for breakfast unless it was something extraordinary! (3 Shredded Wheat?!)

Do any of you write a diary normally? (And if so, would you like to give me a comment about why, how long, how it’s helped your writing, given you ideas – or anything? I’m writing an article about keeping a diary, so it would be great to have some quotes!)

Thanks!

And in other news:

Please, if you have five minutes, could you vote for The Friendship Project in the AVIVA Community Awards? It’s the children’s charity that I work for and we are trying to raise more funds. Thank you!

Yesterday I went to ‘Singalonga Frozen‘ with my friend and goddaughter, in Redditch. I am still recovering.. !

STOP PRESS: Thanks to Lynne, we have realised that the ‘deadly nightshade’ is probably not, after all. Aah. We have to break the news to our neighbours that the pretty purple-and-yellow flowering plant creeping over our wall from their garden is, in fact, Deadly Nightshade! Yes, that’s it in the photo above. The poisonous berries will be formed once the flowers die. EEEK!

And I have a story in this week’s People’s Friend, called ‘The Open Road’. The picture from the magazine is below. Sweet, isn’t it?

It’s the first one of mine in that magazine for a long time. I find them very tricky to write for and I take my hat off to writer friends such as Samantha Tonge and Wendy Clarke, who have written dozens of stories for them!

The Open Road

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18 Responses to Write Your Diary On 12th May!

  1. That doesn’t look like deadly nightshade. It looks like a relative that I don’t think is poisonous. We bought one once and it’s very pretty. The common name is Mexican Potato Tree. Do check it out before you try digging it up. It’s a really pretty plant.

    • Yes,Lynne, we think you are right – phew! And thanks! But we will check out with the neighbours anyway! They know more about plants than us! (but it does look like deadly nightsharde!)

      • It was interesting to look up deadly nightshade. The berries are used in curries in some places! Bet that gives it a kick. Wonder if it’s a cause of Delhi-belly?
        I’m sure deadly nightshade isn’t as pretty as that.

    • Patsy says:

      That’s what I think it is too. I wouldn’t worry too much about it being poisonous. Thousands of popular garden plants are – including it’s relatives of potato and tomato if you eat the wrong part.

  2. Lovely story in The People’s Friend, Helen. Did you see what Shirley said about you on her blog?

    “Another writer who I’d like to see more from is Helen Yendall, author of “The Open Road”, a cute story about a family and their beloved old VW camper van. Sailesh has done another smashing illustration for this one.”

    I agree, your plant is probably the climbing potato. They’re all part of the same family apparently: solanum, potato, tomato and deadly nightshade.

    • Ooh, thank you, I hadn’t seen that comment from Shirley! I met her (briefly!) at Swanwick last year and she was very kind and encouraging (poor woman was trying to have a quiet walk around the lake on her own and got accosted by me!!). Thanks for your tip about the ‘deadly nightshade’. We would have looked a bit stupid telling our neighbour (who is a keen gardener!) that she’d got deadly nightshade in her garden. Maybe though, I still will – it’ll give her a laugh!

  3. Congratulations on that story – and the lovely comment by Shirley!
    I write a few sentences in a diary every night – mostly boring mundane stuff. I started years ago when I was wondering if I’d have enough self-discipline to do a creative writing correspondence course. I decided if I could keep the diary going I could do the course. In the end, I only got halfway through the course but the diary is now a deeply ingrained habit. By the way, I never re-read it.

  4. Keith Havers says:

    Congratulations on the PF story, Helen. I struggled to get an acceptance from them at first but now I seem to be selling fairly regularly. Maybe this one will be followed by a few others.

    • Thanks, Keith. Sometimes I think it does take a little while to get into the right frame of mind for the kind of stories a particular magazine likes. PF like to keep us on our toes!

  5. banksywrites says:

    Hi Helen. I bought the latest issue of PF after seeing your name in it and loved your story. Then I saw Shirley’s blog comment in a tweet and favourited it. Amazingly, I have a story in the next issue of People’s Friend Special (106), due out this Wednesday. Being a newbie, you can imagine how excited I am about it.

  6. Great, Claire! I look forward to reading your story this week!

  7. juliathorley says:

    The diary project sounds interesting. I’ll have a go if I get time this evening. Not sure about your plant, but there are rumblings in our allotment plot that we might be being invaded by giant hogweed. Oo-er!

  8. Wendy Clarke says:

    Good to be Friend sisters – strangely, I’ve always found them the easiest to write for! When I was a teenager, I wrote diaries every year. They are cringeworthy (and very gushy about am Irish boy called Sean) but very entertaining!

  9. Patsy says:

    I started a diary as a teenager, but quickly realised there were things I didn’t want to include. I decided it If wasn’t going to be totally honest, it wasn’t worth doing.

  10. Susie says:

    Thanks for the mentioning May 12th. I didn’t get round to sending in a diary entry, but “seven year old school girl” sent in her anonymous diary entry for the day.

    I wrote a diary every day between the ages of 13 and 16. A few of my friends had one too, so it was the thing to do at the time. I stopped writing it just before I met my husband (when I was 16), so I have no record of that, but I think I realised that I was spending more time living my life, rather than just writing about it. I wrote one of my diary entries on the plaster in the hall when my parents stripped the wallpaper to redecorate in the early 90s. I found it again a few years ago, when they redecorated again. I took some photos of the original writing on the wall, added a bit more about what I was doing now and my Dad papered over it again. Since then I have only written about special events, like the millennium, or my wedding or an account of a holiday, so I have an inter-rail diary and an account of backpacking round China as a student. Has it helped my writing? I adapted an inter-rail incident to become a short piece of romantic fiction for a national paper. I haven’t plundered the rest of my teenage diaries yet, though.

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