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 Anyway, after a quick think, I’ve withdrawn my short story from the publisher. I wrongly thought my withdrawn short story would be valued as the publication was created/produced by writers and poets but sadly not even this ‘experienced’ group couldn’t behave in a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!

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