Time to begin again

2 09 2009

So…the summer was good.

Haven’t written much lately, partly due to the (pleasant) distraction of family and friends, facebook and finger-painting.

Okay I lied about finger painting.  I just liked the alliteration.

The point is, I figured that with my MLitt starting soon this would be perhaps the last chance I’d have to really chill out and not have to write.  The next two years I’ll be doing pretty much nothing else.

I’m looking forward to this, but still I indulged fully in having a proper summer break first. ‘Writers write’ they say, but I reckon good writers know when to make sure they still live enough to have something to actually write about.

The best news  is that the financial side of things has greatly improved.  I’ve just had official notification that I’ve been awarded a Carnegie Cameron Bursary.  This will cover almost all of my tuition fees.  Winning it has been a real boost, both to my confidence and to my determination to use this opportunity to its fullest.

So my blog will evolve this year.  It will become a repository, not only for my thoughts on writing but for setting down my experiences as a mature post-graduate student.

My journey has begun and I reach the first station in less than two weeks ‘Induction at Uni’.





Is writing like sex?

3 03 2009

After yesterday’s question…today I found an answer.

Writing for a living: a joy or a chore?: nine authors give their views | Books | The Guardian

“The joy of writing for a living is that you get to do it all the time. The misery is that you have to, whether you’re in the mood or not. I wouldn’t be the first writer to point out that doing something so deeply personal does become less jolly when you have to keep on at it, day after cash-generating day. To use a not ridiculous analogy: Sex = nice thing. Sex For Cash = probably less fun, perhaps morally uncomfy and psychologically unwise.”

So says AL Kennedy anyway.

For me I can see the analogy.  I lot of what I write is done furtively in my bedroom.  In secret.  When everyone else is out of the house.  I avoid talking to friends about it.  Unless they are writers too I worry they won’t understand.

My contact with publishers is often done through the internet.  I send them seedy examples of my work.  Some ask for a short bio.  Some even want a picture first.

Given that I’m not writing for money.  Not yet.  Not really.  I suppose I don’t have to worry.   That I’m like a prostitute learning her craft? Practicing on the boys at school?  For free?

I’d like to think the publications that are accepting my work so far are a little more upmarket than that.

To be honest..right now I’d be grateful if someone paid me.

I do have a paid piece in the pipeline.  A story has been accepted for publication in a notable and paying literary magazine.  Not many of them about.  And no I can’t say which it is yet.  I’m scared I might jinx it.

But when it does come out… I promise I’ll kiss and tell.

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New story published

2 03 2009

First off, it feels  like this is going to be a good year for me.

My writing is going well and I’ve already had some good responses to pieces I’ve sent out.

My first publication of the year can be found here…

The Battered Suitcase – March 2009.

The rest of this week I’m going to devote to getting my assignment finished.  I’ve enjoyed the poetry I’ve been writing but not sure it’s suitable for marking.  Some of the subject matter is a bit heavy going and I’m afraid my tutor might not “get it”.  And because I’ve put my heart into it I’m really not sure if I want to risk that.

To put your emotional heart into a piece is part of the joy of writing.  It can be like therapy, even if (as with this poem I’m thinking of) you’re using a different experience, the emotions are yours, you feel them, as you try to put life into your characters.  And that’s part of what makes it so frightening to send them into the world to be read, and judged, by others.  If a person doesn’t “get it” it can feel as though they don’t get you.  As though your emotions aren’t valid.

I’m sure this is part of the reason why so many good writers do it in secret for years, manuscript after manuscript gathering dust in a drawer.  The writer too terrified of having the feelings inside his or her head held up to public scrutiny.

I may stick to the softer option.  I have another short story I’ve been working on, and though I’m not sure it’s as good I think I’d be less personally hurt if the tutor tears it to bits.  But am I just copping out?

Is it my job, as a writer, to lay it all out on the page and hope that whatever genuine experience I’ve mined and carved into a new shape, resonates with the reader?  Should I trust that if I write “the truth” as I see it, that the reader will sympathise with my characters?  Or should I play safe and only write about stuff that has less depth but which will hurt me less if criticized?

How do other writers cope with sending out personal writing?

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Writing Sestinas and Pantoums (and other mathmatical challenges)

22 02 2009

Part of me really enjoys the pressure of a deadline.  It’s too easy sometimes, as writer to find other things to do with your writing time.  I love writing but sometimes when it’s not coming out the way I hope I find myself fixating on “research” or playing online scrabble.

Having assigments to hand in by a certain date keps me on my toes.

For the next one, due 13th March, I have the option of submitting either a 2500 word piece of fiction/biography or 80-100 lines of poety.

I planned on writing prose but after diving into the section on poetry I’m becoming fascinated by some of the forms used.

For example, the Sestina is a highly structured piece of poetry.  For the best explanation see here.

The way it interconnects and seems to repeat itself is clever, and it’s clever because actually, the secret in writing a good one seems to be to find ways to use the identical ending words in new ways.

There are a load of Sestinas on this page

Some are great, some, not so great.

Myfavourite though has to be

How to Build a
Sestina Template
in Microsoft Excel.

BY DANIEL ARI

from McSweeney’s.net

Have a look, it does exactly what it says on the tin!

Given that I’ve already enjoyed trying out the Pantoum (another of our optional taught forms) I’m thinking I may have a go at submitting poetry.

But it’s a big 20 % part of our overall mark

And the tutor is a poet.  I don’t know if this means she’s more likely to “get” what I write or more likely to see my lack of experience.

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Time is a wasting

27 10 2008

..and I’ve my first TMA due at the end of this week.

Luckily though, after a slow start, my muse has been working overtime and I’ve been blessed with a pile of stories. The trouble has been trying to decide on which one is good enough for the TMA.

For instance, we had an activity on using research as a leap-board. We were asked to choose from a selection of subjects to look up. I chose rat-catching. (Why? I don’t know…it just sounded kind of interesting.)

After trawling the Net I found a wonderful book through Project Gutenberg. If you don’t know already, Project Gutenberg is a website dedicated to making the printed word accessible via the internet. It has loads of out of print and out of copyright works available to download, or browse via the site.

Anyway. On with my rat-catching research. Detailing the 25 year career of a Victorian Ratcatcher, it was a surprisingly good read. And short too. With my attention span at the moment its 28 or so pages fitted nicely thank you.

So here’s a wee excerpt of a story I came up based upon it…

The places near the Clydeside docks had it worst. We did a lot of work in big warehouses there, catching what the local cats couldn’t keep up with, but I liked working in peoples homes best. I got to set foot into the homes of the Tobacco Lords and other grand merchants. Houses filled with more beautiful objects than I’d ever seen if my life. A less respectable man might have been tempted to pocket a candlestick here or a brooch perhaps, but not me. Mr Macintosh said he hired me because I had an honest face and because my ma had raised me a good Catholic boy and I knew stealing was a sin.

Mr Macintosh said the rats infected the houses of rich and poor alike except in the rich houses you’d often only be called in after some eejit gent had tried to poison the rats himself.

“Stupid, stupid wee man.” Mr Macintosh would whisper under his breath once the man of the house was out of earshot. “Jim”, he’d say, “What’s the first thing I taught you about catching a rat?”

At which I’d repeat,
“Never lay down poison in an enclosed space.”

Because the rats take the poison but then go off to find somewhere dry and warm to die. Mostly they end up under the floorboards or down inside the wall cavity. As a ratcatcher I worked in some unpleasant places with smells that would choke you blind; under floors, beside water-closets, in the drains. But the stench from a decomposed rat has to be one of the most stomach churning of all, as though death himself has caught the back of your throat.

The story goes on…Jimmy is somewhat naive and tries to help Mr McIntosh, but in doing so he nearly ruins the man’s business. How will he make amends?

One of the problems I had when writing it though was trying to make sure I kept up with telling the story rather than just describing the work. But the grimness of the work made for an interesting background. In my revised versions of the story I worked harder at trying to keep a balance.

Now I have to decide which story I’m going to use for the TMA.

As much as I love the rat-catcher, I think I’ll develop it for use later. I’ve a much better one up my sleeve.

Keep your fingers crossed for me when my marks come back.





Jumping right in

12 10 2008

For this exercise we were given a starting paragraph and a list of possible names for the piece.  By using the name we could create a piece in a variety of different styles. I had to look up what Peyote was (duh!) but once I did I imagined a Hunter S. Thompson style story.  The crying baby was a side-note in the original starting paragraph but (perhaps because I’m a mum) this stood out to me and so for my story I was thinking Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas meets Three Men and a Baby. Obviously it’s not a finished piece of work, I might develop it for later use in the course though.

My Problem with Peyote

The church clock struck eight, so those villagers who were awake knew without checking that it would be six. I think there was a cock crowing somewhere far off and there was me, strung out across the church doorstep, fedora over my face. Everything was peaceful, my world still same as it ever was. Alls I remember was a whiff of someone gliding past the church wall and then the silence broke hard by the baby crying.

I didn’t see him at first, just heard that noise. I read somewhere, or maybe Frank told me, when they worked out the noise for them ambulance sirens, well it’s exactly the same frequency.

Wheeah! Wheeah!

The sound felt like a truck roaring into my head. I sat up and adjusted my hat; squinting into the Texan sunrise. As I did so my hand caught on the edge of some sort of basket and I saw him.

Tiny purple face, all mouth screaming, “Wheeah! Wheeah!”

Now, I’ve woken up in some strange situations in my life. I mean there was that time me and Frank ended up in Fort Worth with them oil-baron heiresses. We guzzled champagne and hoovered coke like it was an end of the world party. Serenity or something she was called, peachiest ass in all of Texas but we’d went for a walk, you know how these things go, and in the morning she was gone and I was naked, surrounded by red-necks in her daddy’s oilfield. Never ran so fast in my life. But this… This time I knows I’m in proper trouble.

The little fella finally stopped bawling. I’m still only guessing at this point that he’s a he. Babies all looks the same don’t they? But he was looking up at me with them big blue eyes and his tiny hands all balled up into fists. That’s when I saw the note…

Dear Edgar,

I’m sorry to do this to you but I’ve got no choice. I’ve had to leave town for a while, just until things calm down. Please keep Dylan safe for me. There’s a bottle and all his diapers and things in the bottom of the basket. You’re the only one I can trust, and also, I should have told you this before now, but Dylan is yours.

Christie.





Starting/finishing or not knowing ones arse from ones elbow

21 09 2008

I finish  AA310 Film and TV History in two and a half weeks. Exam is 8th October.

My next course, A363, the brand new all singing all dancing, yes you’ve all been waiting… ****Advanced Creative Writing**** starts in just over a week and I’m DESPERATE to get started.

But I daren’t. What if my muse sets off with gusto and I end up with no brain space left and then fail my AA310 exam? Can’t let that happen.

Instead, I go through the motions of revising.

And all the while the various characters and storylines congregate impatiently at the gates of my mind. Set free via my early reading of the A363 coursebook (not a wise move but how could I not?). I can hear them, coughing and spluttering and occasionally banging on the gates wanting in.

What if they won’t wait for me?  They all give up and go home?  And then I’m left with a big shiny piece of blank paper and nothing to put on it?

If I fail my exam I blame the OU…