Sunday, 27 February 2011

Edinburgh, a deep fried mars bar and Polesworth Poetry Trail workshop

Morning all, sorry that my blog is again a day late but I have good reasons - honest. I have been on holiday to Edinburgh for the week and so spent my time walking up the endless number of steps that cover the city. I don't mean the odd 12 steps in one flight, oh no, 110, 287, 162 in just one flight! That, and benches - I've never seen so many wooden benches in my life - obviously required due to all the steps!
     Anyway, I played the tourist regards the wonderful castle (how have they crammed so much on top of one hill?), a tasting tour of Scottish whiskey, the marvellous Camera Obscura, the million pound in the Mond and the Writers' Museum - see, writing is never far from my mind, even on holiday. 
     The writers museum is dedicated to Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns. I was most interested in RLS as I knew bits about his childhood and his illnesses that kept him from school and surrounded by books. What I didn't know was that his book 'The life of Deacon Brodie' was actually a fictional piece based on a notorious citizen of Edinburgh, from whom RLS pinched..., borrowed many details - heehee, just like the rest of us.
     Our trip was completed by consuming the Scottish delicacy (which I always thought was an urban myth).... a deep fried mars bar - I kid you not, reader. Unwrapped Mars bar, dipped in fish batter and fried for about five seconds - absolutely gorgeous - sickly but gorgeous. Husband commented that it would be worth buying a deep fat fryer purely to indulge ourselves at home - though, I would be the size of a house if that happened.
    My holiday week was rounded off by attending the first of four workshops for phase two of The Polesworth Poetry Trail organised by Mal Dewhirst (please view 'Pollysworda' link for specific details). The day flew by as my mind was transformed for a little while into that of a poet - which I don't find easy. It was a classroom based workshop outlining poetry techniques, poetry themes and the general requirements of the poems. I came home buzzing with ideas, which I am now trying to link to several themes that took my fancy. As I was born and bred in the village I want to give my all to this project - so I shall be trying my hardest to produce a poem worthy of selection. Whether I fullfil that goal, we'll all have to wait and see but I shall be sharing my offerings with you along the way. It'll mean that my weekly writing day will have to move to a Sunday for the next five weeks, as Saturday will be consumed by the Poetry Trail work. Yes, I'm being a good poetry student, next Saturday is being dedicated to research in preparation for the workshop on the following Saturday.
     I return to the day job tomorrow, refreshed and nourished by poetry and literature, though my mind is firmly fixed upon the Grade One music theory exam that I shall be sitting on Thursday. I bet I'll be the only adult in the exam hall - which will give me a giggle.
     Have a good writing week - enjoy.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Write, write, write

Hi folks - the title sums up my week; write, write, write. I've managed to have an excellent week where the editing of my novel has filled every spare minute. My draft now has seven chapters that I would be proud to show to any agent - they may want to tweak a few details but I am finally happy with the beginning of my novel. I suppose on the back of that personal goal, my novel has started to feel 'real' - the end, though a long way off, does feel like a plausible day in the future - many times it has felt like a sheer fantasy.

At school, I had an interesting conversation with a year 9 pupil about how writers contemplate and create a story. I remember a time when I thought there was a secret method, that needed to be learnt and then a novel just happened. I have long since realised that each writer is so different; it really is an individual thing. No two writers are alike in their method or their sequence of writing - I tried to explain to the pupil that it was light bulb moment when I realised that how I was tackling my novel was fine - that was simply 'my way'. Every writer has to find their own method. The look of confusion upon her face made me laugh. Fingers crossed she'll have her own light bulb moment and release her own creativity.

My method: I started by creating a scrap book of characters - which included pictures snipped from the local newspaper of people who look similar to my characters, photographs of real houses near my location that I have housed my characters in. I have drawn tiny maps into my scrap book to show details that I may need to help the setting. I'm a visual person so anything that helps my creative processes gets photoed or sketched. At the back of the scrap book I have dedicated pages: one for beautiful words that I love and want to use; a research page for questions I have relating mainly to Law in the UK; a list of incidents that currently don't appear in the planning but which have popped into my head and could potentially be included - I will use these all one day maybe in another book. My scrap book is my working Bible regards this novel and has become the working blue print. 
Above my writing desk, I have a sheet of magic white board with a list of characters and their ages, so that a quick glance reminds me of family trees and blood connections. Close to hand, I have a book of baby names from which I've selected some characters forename based on the original meanings - though the majority of my names come from my own family tree - the inclusion is a personal element meant for no one but me. I have a tiny cork pin board on which I pin the details of each chapter into a logical order - though I tend to chop and change the order depending upon unexpected twists that I didn't realise would occur when writing.
My writing template has wide margins so that it looks like a page of a book when typing - this helps me to visualise the finished page - plus gives me a rough idea of pages as I am working. I'll revert back to a standard margin size when sending to an agent. The only other thing that I do is book writing time in my head - sounds daft but if I don't allot specific time I'll find other tasks in my life take over the spare time I have.

And finally, I got around to watching the second episode of 'Faulks on fiction' and once again went AWOL for the entire hour - I must admit I don't totally agree with this week's comments about 'lovers' but it got the old grey matter working on my opposing argument. This week's episode is focusing on 'the snob' so I look forward to debating that topic with the flat screen. I noticed that BBC2 has another book programme beginning on Tuesday, 22nd Feb 'My life in books' is to focus on personalities and their individual selection. So, along with my beloved 'The Book Show' on Sky Arts, I feel thoroughly spolit.

Have a good week, I'm heading back to my writing desk for an extra hour. Enjoy!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Polesworth Poetry Trail, World Book Day, sunshine and Treacle Town delight

What a week! I had a fabulous weekend with the house to myself - the fingers tap danced non-stop after I'd off loaded my moan and a groan on here (thanks for listening). Monday, which is usually my worst writing day turned out to be quite productive. I say it's my worst day because I  feel Monday is taken over by the day job. Though not this week - I was able to edit a short story about a wedding dress so was pleased with my efforts. Though, in hindsight my motivation may have been forward planning, knowing that I was going out on Tuesday evening, so that would be a wipe out regards writing.

Anyhow, Tuesday night was spent at a little wine bar close to home called Jack D's in Atherstone, where a four piece, rhythm and blues group called Treacle Town entertained us by pounding out favourites such as: Hound Dog, Mustang Sally, Walking the dog, Hoochie Coochie Man - you name it, they played it. The evening zipped by, the red wine flowed and the crowd steadily grew as the live music filtered out to the neighbouring market square. I was amazed by the scope of the audience: young divas dashing in for a tipple,  jovial friends huddled in groups eagerly catching up on good times, numerous couples and a smattering of young blood wishing they were a generation older - all enjoying the relaxed atmosphere and excellent music - conversations were punctuated only to provide a much deserved round of applause. All in all an excellent night for music lovers. Jack D's wine bar offers a range of entertainment every Tuesday and Thursday nights - so far each one has been a delight to attend. Future events: Friday, 18th February - a karaoke night - though, whether I shall be warbling Gloria Gayner's 'I shall survive' is not yet decided. Jack D's Tel. 01827 722 447 for more details.

'Faulks on fiction' - a fabulous television series began last Saturday night. I for one went AWOL for the entire hour, returning home only when the credits rolled. Presented by Jonathan Faulks, author of Birdsong, he invited the viewer to focus on the subject of literature heroes - giving his account of why readers adore such characters. He declared the nation's first fictional hero as Robinson Crusoe, followed by Feilding's Tom Jones and Thackery's anti-hero Becky Sharpe of Vanity Fair. I'm yet to watch this week's episode on 'lovers', which I'm saving for a quiet moment guarenteeing I go AWOL accompained with a large glass of merlot.

Talking of books and heroes, it's World Book Day here in the United Kingdom on Saturday, 5th March 2011 and I have been selected to receive 48 copies of one of my favourite books, free of charge, to distrubute prior to the glorious event. I had to write a review of Marian Keyes novel 'Rachael's Holiday' explaining why I would wish to distrubute this particular novel. I am delighted to be chosen and be one of  20,000 people distrubuting one million books.  So my friends, you may well be receiving a free copy to enjoy or pass on to encourage another to partake in the annual event. Though, how funny will it be collecting 48 novels from Waterstone's bookstore and leaving without paying for a single book!!!!

Some news to share - I eagerly filled my diary this week with dates for the forth coming workshops relating to phase two of Polesworth's Poetry Trail. Malcolm Dewhirst has announced the four dates (26 Feb, 12 Mar, 19 Mar and 26 Mar 2011) on which poetry workshops will be held to craft suitable poems to complete the Polesworth trail. Please, please, please take a look at the link below 'Pollysworda' for more details - these workshops will be over subscribed and places will be quickly taken - act now if you wish to take part.

And finally, you'll be wondering why I have posted on a Sunday evening when my usual blogging spot is first thing Saturday morning - well the truth of the matter is that when I woke yesterday morning the sun was streaming through the curtains. I literally couldn't bring myself to spend one minute of the day inside. So, I switched my writing day about, to enable me to enjoy the first sunny day of 2011. I promise, I made the most of it. I marvelled at a line of white washing gleaming in the sunlight, scrubbed winter dirt off pathways and driveways, I even disinfected three rabbit hutches - more on those little furries another time. So, today when the wind and the rain has returned, I have re-drafted chapter seven with the added satisfaction that yesterday, I made hay while the sun shone.

Wow, a mammoth posting from my tiny world but hey, enjoy yourself and have a good writing week. Midweek will find me attending the Mad Hatters' writing group - of which I'm looking forward to reading out a short story called 'The clocks were striking thirteen' to my fellow writers.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Disappoitment, rejection and a good old telling off.

I arrived home on Monday to find a rejection letter from a womens' magazine waiting for me. I'd had an awful day, as I'm still bunged up with a cold/cough, and so a rejection was the last thing I needed. It's part of the course as a writer, almost a qualification to be a writer, is how I like to think of it but it still stings when it drops on the door mat. I keep each one, in a gloomly folder, maybe I'll re-decorate the downstairs toilet one day as a badge of honour for surviving the hard knocks prior to success.

Tuesday found me off work and wrapped in a duvet tapping away on the keyboard whilst in bed - it felt so decadent. Though, the only disappointment to grow from my poor state of health was missing my Writers' group come Wednesday night - 'if you can't go to work, you can't go and play' whispered the moral police, so I had to cancel. Annoying to say the least, as I've completed a short story 'The clocks were striking thirteen' which I should have read aloud two weeks ago! Anyway, it'll have to wait till next meeting.

So, with feeling poorly plus two disappointments my mood started to fester, I began along the negative track which I've learnt from experience ain't a pretty one. I indulged myself for a little while but then began the 'telling off'. I was more than capable of completing my novel, more than capable of getting my short stories published, time was on my side, knowledge and creativity too. So within an hour or so I was delving into the world of other authors - googling their work and reading of their early years struggle - if they can do it, so can I! It's part of the course for me, one which I've learnt to bounce back from rather than succumb too. In fact, I've realised that several things I do as a writer are necessary elements of my personality and aid my writing. I've learnt over the years to embrace them and sometimes encourage them to make the most of my ability. For instance, I'm very much a solitary person; I enjoy being with people for the short time I'm with them but the majority of the time, I'm a lone hunter. I enjoy silence, I view it as a gift in this busy world. So as a writer I couldn't wish for better elements; solitary and silence to assist with my goal. I won't deny that in years gone by my family have felt my solitude had the potential to be detrimental to my life; my mother used to worry herself sick. I feel it was and still is, all part of the package, a kind of young apprenticeship into the world of writing.

Apprenticeship knowledge: solitude and silence work wonders.
                                          some ideas need germinate before they're ready.
                                          self belief and hard work are the key.
                                          you must be writing to be a writer.

So, feeling as I'm all bright and breezy today, I shall head off to the keyboard as I have the house to myself for two whole days - luxury!