Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Education Soapbox

An eensy-weensy little bit of a rant this week I’m afraid.  The news of changes in our education system, again, had me seeing red and screaming at the TV and radio.

‘England's exam system needs further changes,’ Education Secretary Michael Gove has told MPs.  And plans are being made to return to a two tier ‘O’ level and ‘CSE’ style exam.  Mr Gove is reported to be preparing to replace GCSEs for England from autumn 2014 and also to bring in a simpler exam for less academic teenagers.

How many times do we need to keep changing our exam system for yet another one that doesn’t work and fails our children?

The opinion that the current GCSE’s are ‘too simple’ and are ‘dumbing down’ infuriates me and many other mothers I have spoken to whose kids have been part of them.  Let’s put all those kids down after they’ve slogged their guts out to get good results, shall we?  I can categorically state that my son’s GCSE English exams were far harder than anything I tackled at ‘O’ level - endless coursework culminated in exam essays that were so constricting, the kids were totally drilled in what to say and how to say it.  Any ‘thinking outside of the box’ was quite simply not allowed.  If my son had come up with the most enlightened thought on why Lady Macbeth acted the way she did, it wouldn’t have mattered.  If it’s not what the exam board want to hear, don’t write it.  How sad that endless ‘parrot fashion’ essays were being churned out for a pass.  And how hard for the teachers to have to get every child to see it their way, with barely a moment to go ‘off course’ - just to get them through the gruelling curriculum.

The old ‘O’ level system didn’t work, for many kids.  Some are crippled by exam nerves and a bad day could mean a fail for a child that had been obtaining straight A’s throughout the course.

I admit though that the 2nd tier of ‘O’ levels - the CSE - was a Godsend for me when it came to maths.  I certainly didn’t feel as if I was being ‘put down,’ there was quite simply no way I could cope with the standard of ‘O’ level.

In the same way that I feel the old style of exams didn’t work, I also feel that GCSE’s with coursework are open to possibilities of cheating.  Many kids had access to older sibling’s coursework and ‘adapted’ essays to their needs.  Then, of course, there is other outside help from parents and gentle prodding and coaxing in the right direction from the teachers.  My son re-wrote a Macbeth coursework essay approximately seven times to get it close to the standard required for a pass.

Which brings me to my main point.  My son is a bright boy who took his GCSE exams a year early.  Achieving mainly A’s and B’s, we were incredibly proud of him.  But after two years of slogging, rewriting, rereading and a lot of moaning, he still only managed to get a C for English.  He can spell just about any word you chuck at him, has a vivid imagination and can argue for Britain but he wasn’t giving the exam board what they wanted and was tying himself up in knots.  Were we disappointed with his grade?  No.  Why?  Because, quite simply, we can’t all be good at everything.

Surely this is what needs to be considered when looking at education?  I never passed a maths exam - I wasted three years trying to get a C when I could have been putting that time to good use elsewhere.  I get through life without a maths certificate and I use fingers, toes and other people’s brains when it comes to adding up.  I didn’t intend to go into a career which needed maths, so what was the point of all those years struggling?

Similarly some kids hate science, which has always been compulsory.  If it’s not going to feature in their career, why force them to do it?  A second language?  No head for it?  Why bother?

If kids have a hunger for a subject, that’s half the battle won.  Why do we need to compartmentalise them all?

The fact is, some are academic and some aren’t.  Put a system in place and keep it there so that our children know where they stand.  Offer more options and accept that the most vital skills some will leave with are hopefully being able to read and write - the fundamentals on which the most emphasis should be placed.  Another bug-bear of mine, as I’ve taught adult literacy in the past and kids are still slipping through the net.

Far too much importance is put on grades at any early age.  Life is stressful enough, let kids be kids and accept that they are all individuals with different skill sets.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Dream Cast for 'Completing the Puzzle'

As with the Mummy Misfit diaries, today I'm letting my imagination run away with me and I'm casting the main characters for a TV production of my latest novel 'Completing the Puzzle.'

If you've read or are reading it, let me know your thoughts - do you agree or disagree with my choices?  If you've not read it, can I tempt you to a story that contains wonderful characters like these?

First up, FEE.  She's an attractive 'woman of a certain age'  - not a raving beauty but she clearly has a special 'something' to attract Marcus.  I know that my choice of actress is slightly older but I still believe she could fit the bill very well.


Then we move on to HUGH, Fee's troubled husband.  We go on a bit of an emotional journey with this man and at the beginning we meet him in a distressed mental state.  He's carrying the troubles of the world on his shoulders and that needs to be apparent.  So I bring you ...


Fee's oldest friend, the actress and drama queen, CORDELIA, was an easy choice!  Larger than life and dominating every situation with her theatrical and attention seeking outbursts, who better than ...


Next we move on to Fee's Dad, MALCOLM.  In his eighties and widowed, a bit of a flirt and a fantastic grandad.  He's making the most of his Twilight Years and, although living under Fee and Hugh's roof, retains his independence and likes to speak his mind when fighting his corner.  My No1 choice ...


I made myself chuckle a bit when choosing the irritating but (eventually) loveable VERA - the cleaner from hell who has her heart set on Malcolm.  Her ear shattering nasal snorts can be heard for miles and she can turn any positive to a negative.  Well it had to be ...


This brings us to the wonderful SIR F (or Sir F*ckwit) the affluent owner of the private school Fee works in as a nurse.  There is more to Sir F than originally meets the eye and it has to be said  that, by the end of the book, I'd actually developed a little bit of a crush on this sometimes rude and often blunt man.  It's been lovely to hear that some of my readers have felt the same way.  I wonder if this gentleman would fit the bill for them?


The twins, WILL & TOBY proved slightly tricky as I couldn't think of any nineteen year old actors with a similar look.  They're not identical twins in looks or personality but they do need to be seen as twins. When writing them, I found myself remembering the boys in Carla Lane's 'Butterflies'.  So a modern day version of these two ...

WILL (left) TOBY (right)

Getting just a tad excited now as we're moving on to the 'lurve interest,' MARCUS.  So many delicious actors to choose from but he had to be strong and rugged with a soft and caring side.  After many hours of steamy research, I have decided on ...


OK, so he's not really an actor but he's just so perfect for the part, I refuse to be swayed.

So there you have it.  My cast for 'Completing the Puzzle.'  Are there any that have you screaming at your screen in horror?  Answers below please ...

'Completing the Puzzle' can be bought at Amazon for Kindle, PC, Smartphone etc and in paperback at Lulu.  Don't forget to check out the Mummy Misfit books too - bitching, Botox and designer handbags.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Launching 'Completing the Puzzle'

Last Saturday saw our very good friends throwing a book launch dinner for me.  It was us with our kids and another close friend.

I was greeted by a fantastic book launch balloon and 'Mummy Misfit' bunting.

There were a couple of catastrophes on the night!  Firstly, my hair.  I'd decided I wanted to ditch the boring bob and go a little wild.  My hair had other ideas.  It quite simply refused to conform and I spent a long while battling with it.  Hubbie to the rescue!  Is there no end to his talents?  I think he did a jolly good job and I applaud his patience.

The next drama was broken gently to me with an 'I'm afraid we've got some bad news,.  My blood ran cold - what could it be?  The oven had decided to breath its last and two huge chickens for our lovely roast were cooking slowly.  So slowly, it looked like we might settle to eat at midnight!  We moved to plan B and ordered a fantastic Indian takeaway - yes, the chickens were cooked by about 11.30 but we were all stuffed by then.

My beautiful God-daughter made me a launch cake - which miraculously complimented  my dress.  'Because we're so tuned in,' she told me!

Great fun was had by all - we blew champagne bubbles, covered ourselves in fairy dust (which I'm still finding now!), decorated my hair with party poppers (the streamers again miraculously matching my dress!) and played daft games.

Here are the rest of the pics - hope you enjoy:













So there you go - my lovely launch with my lovely friends.

My new book is available to buy at Amazon for Kindle and at Lulu in paperback.  I have two 5* reviews already!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Fanfare Please!

So did you have a lovely long weekend of Jubilee celebrations?  Did you feel a little let down by our Great British weather or were you not surprised?  After all, Bank holiday = rain!

I was dragged, kicking and screaming (literally!) by my Aussie husband to see the gathering of the boats for the flotilla, down on the Thames at Putney.  This involved parking the car and then taking a rather muddy hike across the common to get to the river.  Relieved I’d ditched the sandals and gone back to boots, the trudge with lingering sciatica was still not good.  Neither was the fine rain in my hair or the pain in my cold ears.  Not a very happy bunny!

Once we’d seen the majority of the rowing boats set off, hubbie was still looking rather too keen for more.  ‘OK.’  I told him.  ‘I’m happy to drive along the river to see what we can see from the car.’  Son seemed happy enough with this too as he could plug himself into his iPod and become a non-communicative teen again.

Little did I know that we'd end up near Battersea Park, where hubbie had other ideas - to find a parking spot and hit the river again.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not a misery guts but by this point I had the hump.  I’m not a massive Royalist, I have a very annoying bladder (which tells me I need to pee if it knows it can’t) and I HATE crowds.

But we did it.  Aussie husband loves the spectacle and pageantry.  He got his way and I was then rewarded with pizza and wine.  Son enjoyed giving us a running commentary of what the Queen might be saying.  ‘Oh, Phil!  Hope I didn’t leave the gas on.’  And, ‘Gagging for a G&T old boy!’  A good time was (eventually) had by all.

Then, yesterday we had our street party - well what can I say?  It was very British - we were drenched but we sang through the rain and did our best to enjoy ourselves.  Community spirit rules!

But during all of the festivities and jubilation, the main thing in the back of my mind was the arrival of today.  It might be have been a busy time for Queenie but it’s been pretty full on for me too.  FANFARE PLEASE, as today is the launch of my third novel ‘Completing the Puzzle.’

If you’ve read the Mummy Misfit books, I hope you’ll continue on my writing journey into romance and see what else I’m capable of.  Fingers crossed you’ll like it because I’m currently working on my fourth novel (release date December) and if you all say you just want more Misfit Madness, I may cry.  A lot!

So here’s the blurb:

Middle aged and middle-of-the-road,
Fee Crawford has been drifting through life in a passionless marriage
and hurtling towards the menopause.

With her twin boys grown up and needing her less,
why does she still feel incomplete?

Coping with her elderly dad, increasingly distant husband
and flighty best friend, Cordelia,
her life seems to be spiralling out of control.

Will a chance meeting with a handsome vet
be the missing link to make everything fall into place?

From the author of the ‘Mummy Misfit’ books comes:
A tale of families, love and mid-life crisis.

So, what do you think?  If you’re tempted, head on over to Amazon to pick up your copy for Kindle for just £1.97 or in paperback at Lulu.

It will be a scary week for me as I watch my sales and wait for the first reviews to trickle in.  But I have a lovely book launch dinner to look forward to on Saturday.

Watch this space, I may post photos.

          *          *          *          *          *

All THREE of my books can be found at Amazon or Lulu - just look for me, AMANDA EGAN

Friday, 1 June 2012

Happy Anniversary to Me!

'What’s this?’ I hear you say!  ‘Two blog posts in a week from the Misfit?’

Well it had to be done really because today is my first anniversary of being an Indie writer.  Yes, one year ago today I launched my first book and within the next week I will have three out there.  Not bad going really.

I was totally unaware until yesterday that my good friend and fellow Indie author , Michelle Betham, had her first anniversary yesterday.  Read her blog post here.  We’ve been there for each other through thick and thin - celebrating one anothers highs and swearing at each other over the lows.  Really, you should see the emails we send!!

I think Michelle’s blog says it all - there is very little else I can add to it.  Indies are now a force to be reckoned with.  We’re not prepared to sit back and decide that somebody decrees our books are good enough to be published - we work hard at our craft, polishing our manuscripts until they are perfect and we keep on at it.  We’re not ‘one-book-wonders’, we’re full of stories waiting to be told.  Publishers really don’t know what they’re missing out on.  But, sadly, neither Michelle nor I are ‘A’ list celebs so that says it all really.  Bitter?  Us?  Hell, yeah!

But becoming an Indie writer is certainly not a decision to take lightly.  It’s a constant slog and, as Michelle says, writing the books is the easy part.  It’s the promoting and marketing, the guest blogs, the interviews, the constant need to look for a new angle to get your books talked about - they are the killers.

Sales can be slow.  Then you have a day when they’re sky-high and you can’t figure out what made it happen.  You wrack your brains to see if you’ve done something different, to see if you can repeat it - always looking for that elusive selling tactic.

I could never have got through the see-saw of emotions if it hadn’t been for Michelle or my lovely fans who have become friends on Twitter.  They are such a loyal and devoted bunch and have often made me cry with their kind words, encouragement or great reviews.  They really make it all worthwhile and I truly thank them for that.

I feel incredibly proud of what I’ve achieved in this last year.  When I look back to how close I came to being published traditionally, and then having to come to terms with the fact that my dream could be over, I realise that I had the strength and determination not to be beaten.

So today I raise my glass to Michelle and say ‘To us!  The Fabulous Feisty Indies.  Soul sisters, doing it for themselves!  Long may we continue our battle in this mad, mad world of writing!’

Make our anniversaries special and check out our books.  Chick lit, humour and a bit of raunchiness - you’ll find it all between the two of us!  Mine are here and Michelle’s are here.  Support an Indie today!

Oh and in case you hadn’t heard (!!!) my new novel ‘Completing the Puzzle’ is out on 6th June and Michelle’s sequel to ‘No matter What’ (‘Illusions of Love’) is out later in June too.  Watch this space.

See we really do work hard!