You, Your Bones and Osteoporosis

It was World Osteoporosis Day on 20th October, so not surprisingly, when I looked ahead for subjects to pitch for this month’s health column, osteoporosis was top of my list.

My health column discussed what osteoporosis is – a weakening of the bones and a loss of bone density – and also what causes it and what you can do to prevent and treat it. It’s appeared in various print magazines and on some websites too.


So, how likely is it to affect you?

Quite likely – particularly if you’re a woman. Worldwide, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men aged 50 and over will suffer an osteoporotic fracture. Us poor women are at greater risk after menopause because of our falling oestrogen levels. Hyperthyroidism, a BMI of 19 or less, smoking and heavy drinking are some of the other top risk factors.

Osteoporosis can affect any bone, but the wrists, hips and spine are the most commonly affected. You can help to prevent it by taking regular weight-bearing and resistance exercise and ensuring you have plenty of calcium, protein and Vitamin D in your diet, The exercise will not only help you maintain your bone health but also help you maintain your flexibility and balance – meaning you’re less likely to fall!

Go and eat a yoghurt immediately – and jog to that fridge, lifting weights as you go!


#Writer Beware: Not All Fame Is Good Fame

From time to time, people contact me to say how much they’ve appreciated one of my health columns. It’s nice to get those emails, social media messages or comments via the website; I like to feel the articles are being read and that they’re helping people. If one of my columns has been published in a local magazine, I sometimes get some rather lovely pleasant face-to-face feedback, too.

However, I was reminded recently that my control over how my humble Word documents are transformed into printed articles in magazines is limited – and that not all fame is good fame…

“They’re talking about your article!!” chirruped a Facebook message from a friend last month. I frowned at her link, which was to a post on the FB page of a local village. What was that image? Why were they laughing about my article? I squinted. Wasn’t that a picture of the short version of my article, printed in a local magazine?

I leaned closer. Why had somebody drawn a circle around th-


World Blood Donor Day Blooper

No. I don’t know how that made it to print, either.

I went straight on the internet to see if I could find digital versions of other print magazines in which it might have appeared.

Phew! Luckily, the article has appeared in other publications with a less embarrassing graphic. People in Birmingham and various parts of Yorkshire have been spared potential blushes, as have many others across the blood donor day 3

Unfortunately, people in Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire weren’t so lucky. I would apologise, but honestly, that side of it is nothing to do with me!

The moral of this story? Never write an article with a title that could be turned into something dubious by a graphic designer’s one-letter typo. It’s certainly made me give my titles a second look…


This Writer’s Resolve: No More Resolutions!

Reading a post by Valerie-Anne Baglietto on the Novelistas Ink site the other day reminded me of something I’d forgotten: the original meaning of resolution. It’s all to do with breaking things down into their constituent parts, basically, similar to its meanings in the fields of chemistry and physics. And because I’m a sad muppet, this led me to write a business article based around the chemical and physical meanings of ‘resolution’. (Honestly, it was a cracker. But it’s not out yet, so I can’t link to it and show you).
In case you’re interested, here are those chemical and physical definitions.

CHEMISTRY resolution: the process of reducing or separating something into constituent parts or components.

PHYSICS resolution: the replacing of a single force or other vector quantity by two or more jointly equivalent to it.

My article for business owners and freelancers encouraged them to study their existing work patterns, projects, clients, products and services, and assess them as separate entities, considering their value and time/stress to income/satisfaction ratio, possibly with a view to outsourcing tasks that didn’t make the best use of their time or talent – such as bookkeeping or web design.

After writing it, I realised that using these meanings of resolution for reflection and change could be just as valuable to my life in general as it was to my freelance writing career.  And as last year’s resolutions were never revisited in this blog (despite my stated ‘resolution’ they would be!), and were mostly unsuccessful, I decided not to make any New Year’s resolutions. Not of the typical, modern, ‘eat lettuce every day, give up donuts, write 3 squillion words a week, walk to work’ variety, anyway.

I would be different! I would make scientific resolutions, breaking down what already exists and examining the separate parts to see what needs eliminating, replacing or pursuing.Having let this thought swim about my head today, so far these magical insights into general home life have occurred:

  • the whole sharing-the-emptying-of-the-dishwasher does not work
  • the allocation of cooking duties doesn’t fit new circumstances (Arty Daughter starting work and now usually being the last one home Monday to Thursday).

Nothing profound, but I’d already made plans for managing our weekend commitments better as a family, so there’s a whole swathe of changes involved there. More thoughts might occur later.

As for work – well, to quote my own article:

“It’s time to identify the parts of your working life that don’t work and either eradicate or change them, rather than cling to them out of habit.”

She who advises it and writes it should, er, follow it. So I did, any conclusions were:

  • I need to stop feeling guilty about not pitching for new editing/proofreading work (although I may do so towards the end of each week, if I want to). I have enough regular writing work and semi-regular clients not to stress about it. In any free time, I should be writing stuff I want to write, even if it does mean I get disowned by a certain freelance marketplace site. I’m not too keen on its increasingly heavy-handed blackmail tactics that force you to do all your work through it anyway, or how it penalises you for being busy with independent projects. The t&cs for new starters are lousy, I’ve discovered, and if they’d been in place when I first looked at the site I’d never have joined. Their customer support is pants too.
  • Before I was a writer, I was a reader. Two of those ‘constituent parts’ of my life that aren’t working too well are reading and blogging, and I’ve been intending to get seriously stuck into book reviewing for ages. So that’s the nearest I’m getting a standard New Year’s resolution; more blogging, and more of it about books.

Again, I’d already designed a weekly timetable to schedule in sessions in school, doing school prep at home, regular writing commitments, household chores, blogging and writing whatever takes my fancy (because I’d realised scheduling designated time for these was important – and the only way they’d get done). It was all getting quite resolved, in a chemical and physical sense, before I even stumbled on the idea.

So that’s the plan. Or more accurately, those are the changes to the separate bits that were already there.

Have you made any resolutions? Did you stick to the ones you made last year? Perhaps you should try ‘loosening, undoing and dissolving’ the big sticky knot of your life into its separate parts to take a good look at it.

Good luck!

I Know What I Wrote This Summer

Despite my current hankering for fiction and the fact that I’ve got a new novel on the go, I do still enjoy writing non-fiction – particularly when I get the chance to research topics that are new to me, or to delve more deeply into subjects I know little about. When the articles are diverse, it’s even more fun -and it’s good to not always write about health and wellbeing!

Over the summer, I wrote about all sorts.

Roger Bannister 1

Roger Bannister.

The Pomodoro Technique.

Granite (seriously. I called it Fourteen Gripping Facts about Granite, but they changed the title. You can read it here).  Various types of non-surgical cosmetic procedures.




Drones snip

The Honours List.

The Small Merchant Taskforce.

How businesses can go green. Why businesses should go green.

How business owners can avoid stress.




The WI Centenary.

I also edited a coffee table book on a company’s history and another about angels, and wrote articles for the winter about International Mountain Day and New Year traditions, as well as the usual health column offerings.




Tax and Formula One.
This week, I’ve written about Harry Potter and business broadband, and it’s only Tuesday.

That’s a good start to the week!



C is for Cool: Competitions, Evolution, Bono, Penguins & Positive Productivity!

I have the same problem with Cool as I did with Boring yesterday. So many things are cool – where would I begin? People with enquiring, open minds; people who aren’t scared to speak up against prejudice, even when it doesn’t affect them; parents who encourage their children to make decisions for themselves, instead of dictating their beliefs and aspirations – and provide them with the tools to do so. All very Cool.

Penguins, of course, live in cool places and are also inherently cool. Some have funky hairstyles, the Dad does his share of parenting and contrary to urban myth, they do not become so fixated on aeroplanes in the Falkland Islands that they fall over backwards while watching them, because they are far too cool for that.

View details

With all this abundance of coolness, I decided to simply share three of my Google Alerts that struck me as cool.

1) Competitions

Interesting creative writing competitions for children, particularly with good prizes, are relatively rare – but this one qualifies. Stroud Library are running a competition to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Laurie Lee, most famous for Cider with Rosie. I recommend Laurie Lee; if you haven’t read any of his work, shuffle off to the library right now. As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning is a favourite of mine.

Laurie Lee

The theme of the competition is Legends set somewhere in the Five Valleys, where many of Laurie’s stories originated, and where he lived in the village of Slad.

There are two age categories for the competition:

  • Under 7s : 50-500 words
  • 8-12 years: 300-1,000 words

For each category the 1st prize will be £25 and a bundle of books and the 2nd prize will be £15, which is great, so if you know any young budding writers, point them in the direction of this page, where they can download an application form. The competition opens on 5th April and closes on the 31st May, and the webpage also has details of a workshop children can attend to help them get started on their masterpiece.


Scientists have been looking afresh at the Permian-Triassic extinction that occurred around 252 million years ago . While they know that this event, which destroyed 90% percent of marine life and 70 % of terrestrial life, was caused by a disruption to the carbon cycle, the cause of the disruption has always been a mystery – although they knew that something ’caused a burst of carbon to come out of storage’, turning seas to acid and raising temperatures.

According to the Smithsonian website, geophysicist  Daniel Rothman and his team have noticed that the carbon cycle disruption  wasn’t typical of a geological event like a meteorite strike or volcano, where it would peak then taper off; instead the disruption seemed to grow at an increasing rate over time. So they’re hypothesising that microbes may be to blame – pesky microbes that may have traded genes. They believe that Methanosarcina gained two genes from a bacteria that gave them the ability to eat organic waste (with its stored carbon) from the sea floor, causing them to pump out methane and push carbon back into the water. You can read the full article here.


It makes you wonder what else microbes may have been responsible for…

3) Bono

Bono is (arguably) cool, but apparently the poor lad has writer’s block – which is seriously delaying progress on U2’s planned new album and follow up tour. CBC books thoughtfully provided 5 brief writing tips from authors that might help him on his way. You can read them all if you want, but I wanted to share  my favourite one:

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

Mark Twain

Not only is this true, but it’s also the essence of a handy book by Simon Whaley, called The Positively Productive Writer, which explains in detail exactly how to  ‘break your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks’ and provides a host of useful and inspiring tips to get you started.

If you’re a writer who needs a constructive kick up the butt and a Plan, then read all about it here before hopping off and buying (or downloading) it. Perhaps I should send a link to Bono, too…

Money & Morality – The Freelancer’s Dilemma

You may think that the professional life of a freelance writer is free of any soul-wrenching moral dilemmas. After all, you think, surely these freelance writers choose what work they do? The clue’s in the name!

Well you’re right. Mainly.
A freelance writer can choose the work they do, although work that they might refuse to do when they’ve just finished their third lamb roast dinner that month might look much more appealing when they’ve just opened their cupboard to find only a solitary tin of Tesco’s Everyday Baked Beans.

(I’m in no way dissing Everyday Baked Beans; I buy them. I merely mention them for comparative purposes). But what might interest you is what freelancers get asked to do – regardless of whether they say yes or not.

Firstly there are the jobs that have ‘You’re going to be involved in a slander or libel case if you take this’ written all over them. For a sample of these fine professional work opportunities, sign up to for a month of so and you’ll soon have a selection to study. Nearly all these spring from the USA (sorry, it’s a fact). Often written by someone who is borderline literate, they usually tell a tale of woe, often involving a family member, and ask that you write their ‘true’ story so that they can get justice via memoir publication /going to the national papers/taking the ‘guilty’ party (often a daughter, son, ex-partner, ex-boss) to court.

I only look at these because many are just entitled as ‘need ghostwriter for my memoir’ (or ‘ghostwritter for my trew storey‘). Any writer who wades in and writes a ‘true’ account of such emotive and controversial topics with only one side of the story available to them, must surely have a death wish or be desperate for money. Probably both.

Illustration of two bats and a ghost

The second category of avoid-like-the-plague jobs is perhaps best explained with a real life example – in which the names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent (depending on your moral standpoint). Recently I came across an opportunity to write a ‘professional literature essay’. Being the proud owner of a first class BA Hons in this area, I took a closer look. The fee offered was $30 and this was the description:

Num. of words: 1250
Topic: Hansel and Gretel
Tone: Instructional/Educational
Extensive research needed: yes

Ideal! One of my specialist subjects had been children’s literature, and fairy tales had been a major topic. I could do this with my eyes closed! However, a little wary already due to the use of the word ‘essay’, I sent as message:

Hi X, Could you tell me what the context, title and purpose of this essay is please? Many thanks.

X replied:
Mrs. Alison, (??)
We studied how to create an arguable claim and write specifically and persuasively about literature. For this paper, you need to draw on the work, finding themes and morals in the Hansel and Gretel’s story to create an argument about a fairy tale and to prove it using the story itself. Is it clear?
Thanks, X

Oh yes, X. It’s crystal clear. You’ve uttered that fatal phrase ‘We studied’. You want me to do your homework – possibly your final assessment piece; it’s probably for an A level at the very least, and far more likely with this topic to be for a uni diploma or degree.


See that line? That’s where I draw it, you see. I’ve managed to get my GCSEs, A levels, Pharmaceutical Science qualification, various Education qualifications, a uni Diploma and a BA Hons, often in circumstances far from ideal – and many of them were gained while holding down a job and looking after two children. Blatant requests from Great Big Cheats asking me to help them Cheat Cheat Cheat make me see red. However, I felt my response explained my point but was civil – nay, t’was politeness itself.

Dear X,
Thanks for your reply. I’m afraid that having worked so hard for my own qualifications, I make it a rule not to do work for other people’s, as I believe this devalues the work of people who achieve their qualifications through their own efforts. Therefore I won’t be putting in a proposal. Many thanks, Alison

There. I’d said my piece, bowed out gracefully without personally attacking X. The end.

Wrong! I got a reply – most definitely personal, and most definitely not polite!

Hi Alison
I assure you that almost every other people I see around (including me) works so hard for their own qualifications. In order to make money, you must do work for orther people’s. Contrary to your argument about devaluing, I think this improves the value of people who achieve their “qualifications” through their own efforts. Your mind of thinking won’t make you more valuable in the long run, and no one needs your advice on how to write stuff as every sort of information is available online for free of charge! If you are part of this community, and want to make money, you must use your qualifications and give people what they need. Your job is not to tell people what kind of principles you have, and believe me noone cares about it. 
Regards, X

I confess I nearly had a urine-based accident when this popped into my inbox. But it confused me on several points.

  • If people who obviously can’t achieve qualifications by themselves get other people who can do the work, and do know their stuff, to do their work for them – and end up with a certificate that looks just like the one owned by us poor saps who slog away for years – how can this possibly ‘improve the value’ of the people  who ‘achieve their “qualifications” through their own efforts’?
  • If ‘no one needs [my] advice on how to write stuff as every sort of information is available online for free of charge!’ – why do other people do it so often, and why was X asking for someone to write his essay? X could just have looked it up. Simples!

    Anyway, this concludes this post because as you can see above, ‘[my] job is not to tell people what kind of principles [I] have, and… noone cares about it’. So I won’t.