Saturday, 23 June 2012

Submissions, Post boxes and hot air ballooning

Morning world, I was expecting to have a hangover this morning but so far the hangover fairy hasn’t delivered the goods – so, I shall blog while I can.

I’ve had a cracking week after the disappointments of last weekend. This week, I have submitted a poem for consideration to a children’s picture book publisher. A little ditty inspired by my poodle on our daily walks. It had been rattling about the old brain cells for a while, and finally, I have polished it and posted – so, fingers crossed. This submission means that three manuscripts are doing the rounds in the big wide world.

I don’t know about you, but I do have a habit of using the same post box, in preference to any other. Weird, I know, but hey, indulge me. My current favourite is an old styled post box with the Queen’s initials cast into the bottom. I forgo the ultra modern box outside the post office, the brick built one (honestly, brick built?) and uuurrrrrgh, to the tiny half-sized one pinned to a wooden post – a poor excuse for a post box in my eyes. I don’t even mind that I have to go out of my way to use the one I like, it’s a decent dog walk in fine weather or a short car journey in bad weather – but, I still opt for my favourite. Is the fixation too much when you’ve looked at the house situated behind my fav post box and thought hummmm, if that ever came up for sale? Bugger the size of the kitchen, it has easy access to my post box! Is that too much? Really? Oh well.

Quite recently, I wrote a poem about a Dormouse, which the dog sniffed out on our walks, and this week, I had the joy of watching a news reel yesterday about the decline of the Dormouse in Britain due to farming methods. Apparently, 70 pairs have just been released into a woodland to help encourage a breeding programme. Bless um. I was chuffed that my creative flow had captured a moment of a creature in decline, but whose future looks a little rosier..

The big story of last weekend was my trip in a hot air balloon, which I had waited 15 months to do. The constant cancellations had lulled me into a false sense that it would never happen, and even last Sunday morning, I was sure it would be cancelled. But no, the weather was perfect and up we went. It was truly amazing. I would do it again tomorrow. The sense of calm and freedom experienced is something else. We lifted to 3000 feet, travelling at 12 mph and the views were stunning. There was a moment, when I thought ‘there is just wicker beneath my feet then fresh air’ – my stomach did swirl at that thought, but other than that, nothing. It was like being in a great glass elevator – wonderful. The landing was as smooth as possible with just one tiny jolt and the balloon crew were excellent.  

My reading this week has continued with Steinbeck’s ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ – I have fallen in love with him all over again. I am half way through the novel and woe betide the pupil at school that disturbs my reading lunch break. Honestly, truly a great writer. My next reading book is already lined up Alcott’s ‘Little Women’ – I read it as a child but a reread is necessary for a literature course which I’ve booked for October. I’ve seen the film adaptation which my mother loves, and do remember the book taking me an age to read as a child. But, for now, I’ll stick with Steinbeck’s beautiful descriptions.  

This week, I have two writing groups to attend - I don’t know what I’ll be reading but I’ll take something to each. Friday, which I can’t wait for, we, hubby and I, shall be attending a murder mystery evening in plush hotel. It was an item on my ‘April Fool’ list for my 40th year, so I’m chuffed to be able to tick it off. I’ll let you know how it goes.

A big shout out to America – wow, so many hits this week, guys - you made me blush when I saw the stats. Please pass the blog address to others that may or could be interested. I try to share my writing experience as best I can and maybe it’ll help another  to begin writing or continue to plod along.

Remember you can follow me on Twitter @odwyer_author to receive random updates throughout my week. Enjoy!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Creative worth, group etiquette and networking joy

Morning folks, you catch me on the hop between musing and writing tasks. This morning, I was forced to value my worth as a writer by chasing a publication regarding a short story they wished to publish. Now, if you’ve followed my blog, you’ll have realised that I do place value on my time and energy as a creative bod – so, to find that I’ve been strung along for seven months with worthless promises doesn’t sit right with me. With some it might, not me. Anyway, after a quick think, I’ve withdrawn my short story from the publisher. I wrongly thought my withdrawn short story would be valued as the publication was created/produced by writers and poets but sadly not even this ‘experienced’ group couldn’t behave in a fitting manner to acknowledge creative worth. Instead, they’ve chosen to treat the grass roots like fools. So, what value do we each have? I know that for me to write a short story takes hours; drafting, constructing, polishing and editing – those few stages represents about eight hours for me. Once complete, I have the hard material cost of printing, paper, postage – again all small costs, but they too add to the value of the piece. Then finally, to the hypothetical value - the value that it personally means to me as a writer – a good story, set at a particular time, the enjoyment factor. Some of my work I value higher than others pieces. I suppose the easiest analogy to use is painting pictures - some paintings are worth far more than others because of the delivered skill, content, subject matter, toil and tears. As a writer, I truly believe that my creative value shouldn’t be misused by others, but respected and treated as such. Even more so, if offered for publication without a payment fee. But, hey, as disappointing as this morning has been, I know that in the long run I’m glad I found out now as it allows me to send that piece elsewhere. It's another step on the learning curve. It isn't the first time such things have occured, yet again doing 'free' work for others has been taken for granted.

I might not have occurred to others, who don’t write or are just starting out but the seasons have a huge impact when it comes to writing short stories and placing them for publication. The story, I just mentioned is set for the pantomime season and so, there is no point sending it to a magazine in November, it has to be sent now in June, so that editors have time to read, peruse and still have time for Christmas deadlines. So, as a writer of short stories you are usually six months ahead in your planning and creative flow. This adds a new dimension when writing about winter when there is a heat wave outside your window, skews your description a little. I used to write as the season occurred, then save until the appropriate time to send to a publisher, but of course this increased the time cycle. So, imaginations just have to work that little bit harder to ensure a shorter cycle regards productivity.

Thursday evening - I attended the Grace Dieu Writers Circle for an evening of in-house competition. Most writers groups have similar exercises, I mentioned the Mad Hatter one a few weeks ago. Any how, the in-house competition related to six words chosen at random from the dictionary (local, crinkle, imperfection, polygamist, concession, vulgarity). The brief stated that the word count could not exceed 1000, but could be about any subject and presented in any manner. Well, I wasn’t aware of the competition until Tuesday night but, I just had to have a go. I produced a letter, which contained the six words. I don’t usually share work with my followers and so thought I’d make an exception on this occasion, as it is only a short piece.

111 High Street,

Dear Mr and Mrs Jenkins

The Grace Dieu School wishes to keep parents fully informed regarding their child’s progress.

As Gareth’s form tutor I have tried, without success, to make contact on numerous occasions. I appreciate that working parents may not work in or near the local vicinity - preventing them from attending parents’ evening or performance day meetings. Therefore, our head teacher, Mr James, has requested that I contact you, via letter, to outline our current concerns.

In recent weeks, Gareth has incurred a number of negatives due to poor behaviour and rudeness during lessons.

Last week, in Mrs Munn’s English lesson, Gareth was awarded a detention for eating a packet of salt and vinegar crinkle cut crisps. He was particularly rude when his teacher confiscated the packet, stating that it was his breakfast therefore, he had a ‘legal’ right to consume food during the lesson.

Earlier this week, Ms Nixon expressed growing concern regarding the amount of time Gareth spends checking his appearance for the smallest imperfection – particularly his ‘guyliner’ and geometric hairstyle. Ms Nixon has confiscated the small vanity mirror, decorated with a skull and cross bones, as Gareth kept removing the said item from his pocket throughout her lesson.

Yesterday, in Mr Young’s music lesson, Gareth was asked to curb his language and refrain from social discussions, about his drunken weekend, which verged on utter vulgarity.

You may be aware, that Gareth has a strong friendship with two female pupils, Polly McGuire and Misty Green. My specific concern relates to an incident that occurred in my Geography lesson. Our class project focuses upon the Canadian village of Concession in Nova Scotia – in yesterday’s lesson Gareth, Polly and Misty insisted on forming a working group. Sadly, they contributed very little to the class discussion other than their strong belief that polygamist behaviour should be mandatory in every society. I do believe that their opinion only arose from the notion that their forenames, when combined, do spell ‘polygamist’. I feel it is no coincidence that the word ‘polygamist’ has been daubed on every bench, bin and fence panel within the school yard.

As you can appreciate, pupils and parents have expressed a desire that such poor behaviour is addressed, as learning is being affected.

As Gareth’s form tutor I do hope you can attend the next parents’ evening on 18th July or make contact should you have any concerns regarding Gareth’s grades.

Yours Sincerely,

Mr Pemberton
Head of Humanities

(Word count 416)

As you can see, I managed to squeeze a little bit of humour and day-job related experience – it gained a chuckle from the other members. The entries were anonymous, read aloud to the group by non-participating members, after which we voted. The group winner was a story about pickling cucumbers and the winner receive a bottled of vino for their efforts. As always happens at meetings, a very interesting discussion arose regards the return of a member who hadn’t attended the group for near on six years. She introduced herself to those she’d never met, and was very honest regards why she’d stopped attending. I listened in horror, to her account of the behaviour of certain members who used to attend. I know I’ve mentioned group etiquette before, but this was something else. It only goes to show just how important group dynamics are in any circle – if, like in this case, they are verging on authoritarian it only serves to put people off attending, and in this lady’s case put a stop to her creative writing.

Last week you’ll remember that I mentioned that I’d begun following and connecting with a whole host of other writers belonging to The Romantics Novelists Association – well, the networking list has been endless. I am so delighted that many sought to view my little blog – so, a big ‘thank you’. I am so looking forward to July’s conference weekend.

The week ahead is empty regards meetings and what nots, so I’ll be taking full advantage and having a writing week. So should you happen to view the clock between seven and ten, any evening next week, I’ll be fokbos (fingers on keyboard, bum on seat).

The plan for today, is a gentle stroll to my desk with a disgusting volume of hot tea.

Remember you can follow me on Twitter @odwyer_author to receive random updates throughout the week. Enjoy!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Happy holiday, RNA prep and lost voices

Morning folks, how the devil are you? I’ve been on school holiday all week and, am proud to say, I have made the most of every minute. I have written everyday, for hours on end - and the result, is one happy woman. Honestly, I haven’t done day trips, visiting, coffees or lunches. Nope, from ten o’clock, sometimes nine, I have simply written at my desk until clocking off at six o’clock. It might sound a tad selfish, but I haven’t cared that it hasn’t stopped raining for the entire time. I have today and tomorrow remaining of the holiday, as we return on Monday, so I shall make the most of it. See, I promised with Plan B out of the way I’d dedicate the time to my writing.

Talking about Plan B, which was rubber stamped last Friday, 1st June – I still can’t believe that I’ve managed to secure a paying career which can accommodate my writing. I can now circle each school holiday for writing, which given that the six weeks holiday is fast approaching, is great news.

The postman delivered some sunshine yesterday with the arrival of my Romantics Associations Novelists’ Conference pack – woo hoo, my very first RNA conference. Anyway, the package contained all the nitty-gritty details regarding the various talks and presentations from which I’ve had to choose which I’d like to attend – easy, all of them! Sadly, that isn’t possible, so I’ve had to select and then email my choice. I have to say, I am very impressed with their efficiency and organization. All the newbie bods, like me, are contacted prior to the weekend to ensure we know the basic details and what to expect. And… I loved this bit, they issued a networking email enabling us each to write a little about ourselves and swap Twitter details, so before blogging, I was busy ‘following’ lots of new writing ‘friends’ on Twitter. Do you remember what one of my six New Year Resolutions was? Yep, more networking with novelists – yay, I can’t wait!

Have I ever mentioned my previous experience of a writers’ conference?  The one I attended about five years ago? No, woo. To cut a long story short, it was the one where conference virgins are given a coloured sticker to highlight that they are newbies. Anyway, after a day and a half of being rudely spoken too, shoved out the way in the afternoon tea queues and general unpleasantness all round - I’d had enough. Anyway, whilst walking back to my room I spotted a pile of blank ‘veteran’ name badges (different coloured spot) left lying on a reception desk – I took one. I then changed my badge for the remainder of the conference and received very different treatment – I wonder why? One conference, I won’t be returning too.

Last weekend, the United Kingdom celebrated Lizzy’s 60 years as Queen, and I have to say, I was impressed with the organised events and concerts. I was quite touched at certain points – and was delighted that I was able to capture some thoughts in a poem. Being of mixed nationalities, I haven’t always felt particularly ‘British’ even though I’ve never lived anywhere else. Hubby goes spare when I can’t get wound up - sorry, excited by the England football team, or have a burning desire to hang a large Union Jack from the bedroom windows like normal folk do. I just don’t feel it, I usually end up supporting one of my other nationalities or a wildcard team, much to hubby’s disgust. But, last weekend, at the ripe old age of 41, I did have ‘flutterings’ of proud to be British. I thought, it best I write it down given that the Euro football started yesterday, I made need a reference point in a week or so. One final thought, if the Diamond Jubilee looks like that, I really can’t wait for the Olympics come July. Have I mentioned that I have tickets for the football final at Wembley? No, that’s surprising, I think I’ve mentioned it everywhere else.

I didn’t have any writing meetings this week, which sometimes happens due to the fall of calendar. A ‘fortnightly’ group along side a ‘week two and four of each month’ group can sometimes appear in the same week or in different and occasionally, not at all. So, this coming week I have both, Mad Hatters on Wednesday and Thursday night,
Grace Dieu Writers Circle
. I haven’t a clue what I’ll read but I must make an effort to take something to both meetings.

I had a ‘film session’ during the week, as I had school marking to do, and I marveled at how simple some of the plot lines are; Full Monty, Pretty Woman and Mama Mia – I’m starting to think that authors could possibly take a visual lesson from the plot breakdown and transfer it into their writing. I noticed that something similar was proposed at the RNA conference in relation to Pixar films – which I haven’t watched many. I might do a little more private research on this topic and share my findings at a later date.

Other research, my own musings really, is the reason why some people become writers and others faint at the very idea of spending so much time alone. I’m starting to think that writers, and to some extent poets, are those who have lost their voices within their own lives. Growing up I always felt over shadowed by a sibling, they were classed as funnier, louder, sportier, cleverer – everything basically, and my voice/personality was lost in their shadow. I suppose, I went into my own head, which helped as a teenager when my father was diagnosed with an illness to give me a place to retreat. I’ve started to recognize this trait in other writers – I’m starting to listen to their stories and so far, I’ve heard their ‘lost voice’ come through in numerous ways, but it is there. Try it, see if you agree.

I’ve begun reading ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ by Steinbeck – I think, I’ve fallen in love all over again. Steinbeck literally paints a picture in my mind before the scene begins and characters interact. I’ve read ‘Of Mice and Men’ but many people have mentioned that this book is his prize work. So far, I agree.

Today, the plan Stan is to repeat the writing pattern of the last week. I might even polish a short story ready for Wednesday and Thursday groups or I might arrange and print a few poems.

Remember you can follow me on Twitter @odwyer_author to receive random updates throughout the week. Enjoy!

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Time, energy and a dream

Well, I did it! I qualified as an English teacher yesterday and as fabulous as that is, I should always have employment…. it actually means that from this day on I shall have more time and energy to focus on my dream, a published novel. Oooh the weight lifted from my shoulders yesterday as my trainee teaching documents were officially signed. I was on a high all day. And, today, well it was my first thought when I opened my eyes, quickly followed by ‘ohhh, a day of writing’. So, the plan for today is very, very simple – I shall write. In fact, I have an entire week of writing ahead of me as I’m on school holiday.

This weekend the United Kingdom are celebrating the Diamond Jubilee celebrating Elizabeth’s 60year reign. What an amazing accomplishment! So, I am sure I’ll be casting my eye over the celebration and pomp, with the odd glass of vino. The actual day of her accession was today, 2nd June 1952 and so I’ll draft a poem in honour, which I’ve done for all the large events of this year. I even made up a tiny ditty at a wedding I attended last night, it seemed more fitting than yet another ‘best wishes for the future’ - see how poetry has crept into my daily life?

My week has been dominated by preparing for the teacher qualification but I have listed lots of new ideas for short stories, and I have received some rejections from competition pieces which I can now ‘tart up’ and distribute else where. I missed my Mad Hatters’ meeting due to preparation work and have vowed to myself that I won’t be cancelling any future events.

You might remember that last Saturday, I attended ‘Swan Lake’ ballet – oh, it was lush. I’d never previously attended the Garrick theatre in Lichfield, but it was an ideal venue. It is small, intimate and of modern design but it was a stunning performance. Though, I was surprised to see many empty seats at a Saturday matinee. I’d arrived in Lichfield earlier than necessary, so I went to The Sparks cafĂ©, for a drink and a muse. The only other customers were a couple, spoon feeding a toddler, the task took ages but the image inspired a poem which I drafted there and then.

A big shout out to my overseas followers – you are currently outnumbering the hits from England – so, hello, good morning and welcome. I hope you enjoy my weekly snippets.

With the additional time on my hands to be creative I have promised to become a creative junky. Quite literally. I have booked numerous events for the coming months that should help to inspire and keep my creative level topped to the brim, if not over flowing. A murder mystery weekend, the hot air balloon (yes, still waiting), day trips to London, Romantic Novelists Associations’ annual ball and some quiet weekends dedicated to my craft. As always, I’ll let you know how they go, as they crop up.

So, my plans for this week: write, write and write. I have nothing else planned, and expect nothing but an empty house and me. I intend to ‘Tweet’ my progress on my second novel. Remember you can follow me on Twitter odwyer_author to receive random updates throughout the week. Enjoy!