Thursday, 28 January 2016

The next move?

Food for thought - maybe a bowl of homemade soup
will help me think through my next move!
I seem to be stuck right now. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be doing. I read an article the other day which said that when you have written your novel you should set it aside for six months. Six months? I do see the point in a way. After all I often put my poems away for a while because when I came back to them stuff shouts out at me. The longer I leave it the louder it shouts!

My problem is this: I finished my comic novel in December. I did the first read through/edit earlier this month and then after only six days I went straight into the second edit which I finished a few days ago. That's fast....probably too fast. There are, I know, things I want to add and I'm especially concerned about the beginning, even after re-writing the first few paragraphs. Last time I looked I bracket round a paragraph I'm thinking of deleting! I suppose I should leave it for a longer time and do something else. But what?

There is my first novel festering away after several edits. Just thinking about it makes me turn my back and consider anything but this! I've tried changing the viewpoint in the first few chapters and I don't know if it works better or not. I seem to have become bogged down with it and am worried that too much editing might leave it in a state where I have over done it. Does anyone know what I mean?

To take my mind off all that I have booked myself a place at the Beach Hut Writing Academy one day conference in Brighton on 12th March (if anyone else is going let me know). There are opportunities to meet agents but I'm not sure I am ready for that again, both mentally and at the right stage in my manuscripts. The venue overlooks the beach - I fear my eyes will wander! The programme looks good and hopefully I will learn something.

The other thing I have been doing is searching for some outlets for some poetry. I'm not sure how I feel about poetry competitions right now but I did submit one to Magma earlier this month and have just sent two off to the Kent & Sussex Poetry Society open poetry competition. I have a couple of other poems ready to go to a magazine but I cannot submit until February, so they are waiting.

I know I'm going to have to tackle the editing issue of the first novel soon. I was pleased with it when I wrote it but I have written a lot of other things since then. Each time I write I think 'this is the one', so the first novel falls further down the list. And there is my goal of getting a novel to an agent this year (even if it does come straight back). The two nearest ready are the comic novel and the first novel. I'm reluctant to flit to the detective one (50,000 words written during NaNoWriMo in 2014) because it will drag me away from the other two, especially as it needs so much work, research and insider advice on all things Police (though I do have a potential person for that).

Recently I was looking for older things I have written and was searching on several memory sticks and came across something I didn't recognise. It took me a while to confirm it was my writing and not something I'd copied for a course I'd done. What made me consider the writing was that I liked it and automatically thought 'this isn't mine!' But it was. Written some years before I started the first novel it had echoes of it which is when it dawned on me that this was my writing. It's the start of another sort of time slip novel - different characters, different story. I have no idea where I thought this was going, so if I want to resurrect it I will have to do some major potting etc. It's now in my holding file. Maybe I could turn it into a short story instead of a novel. What was so good was the writing and how it surprised and excited me. I can only hope my writing has this affect on any agent I might submit my work to!

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Review - The Withering Room

The Withering Room by Sarah Sibley is the last of the poetry books I  picked up at the Poetry Book Fair last September. It is a small booklet, just twenty pages long. The poems are mainly short so it is quick read but a great read nonetheless. Poems written about things past- lives and memory. Many poems feature the sea and many about  death and ghosts. The booklet often has a gothic feel about it. Why did I decide to buy this one? Well....I liked the title, the shortness of the book and the poems and  the subject matter had my interest. I have just done another read through as I first read this month's ago. I love Sarah's use of language, her sentence structure. It is reading poems like hers that make me reach for my notebook as my imagination is fired to write (poems have been sadly lacking in my writing lately too). Sarah finds words to describe loss in original ways that surprise. In contrast the poem Vacuum made me smile. It describes how having bought a new Dyson vacuum it's cyclonic action is balding her fifty-year-old carpets -/airlifting in them. 

A great little booklet where I find something more each time I read it. I do hope there is more to come fromantic Sarah Sibley. Click to read Sarah's poem Levitating.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Poetry Book review...of sorts, and a moan

I'm getting to the end of the backlog of poetry books I purchased at the Poetry Book Fair in September. Last but one is All the Ways You Still Remind Me of the Moon by Liane Strauss (from Paekakariki Press). I bought this for two reasons: 1) Loved the black cover with the moon on the front and there are pages throughout depicting the various phases of the moon, 2) two years ago I began writing a series of moon poem myself and I wanted to see how someone else did it!

The poems are very different from my mine (my thunder is not yet stolen) and reading them has taken me back to my own collection. I have been re-reading them, editing and have actually added to them - first poems of the year.

Liane's poems look at how our lives wax and wane like the moon through relationships, patterns and actions. I am not one for recognising much poetry form but when a poem is called Villanelle of the Moon I know where I'm at! I rather like this form and the challenge it presents. I enjoyed this poem which used the idea of the moon as a reminder of what to do and comes back with 'always leading me to you.'

I also enjoyed Catching the Moon which resonated with my own writing. I think I need to do closer/slower reading of some poems to get the full meanings but I did like the way Liane uses internal rhyme in her poems as well as end rhymes. It is a nice booklet and visually pleasing, split, as it is, into sections corresponding to the moon's phases (by the art work). That's one of the things I enjoy about the Poetry Book Fair - the different formats of books and pamphlets being produced. I am draw by black and white art work and anything different. Poetry has come a long way from the plain book. It's exciting to see poetry branching out in new directions.

One last thing about form and the recognising of it. Some poetry forms are obvious to me like the sonnet and villanelle, other not. I don't take poems apart to work out whether they conform to a set pattern, use 'metrical feet' or have feminine word endings. Maybe this is why I shall never make a 'real' poet! I know it makes for a poor poetry book reviewer as I struggle to find the words for what I mean.

However, when I write I find a lot of those constraints take away the creative element,  Does knowing all of them and applying them make you a better poet? Having read most of Stephen's Fry The Ode Less Travelled I got bogged down by all the iambs, spondees, dactyls and trochees. I have other books which explain them but it's like getting to grips with another language. I wish I could be this clever juggler of anapests and such like but it's Greek to me (I think that's an attempt at a joke at root words!).  Maybe with me it's like music - can't write it, can't read it, but sing me a tune and I will give you a harmony.

When listening to a tutor trying her best to explain metrical feet and admitting that even she struggled, I thought yes, this is like the clergy trying to explain the Trinity. Impossible!

You can read one of Liane's poems here.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

An unexpected present

I received an unexpected gift today. A friend from the community choir I sing with gave me a poetry book. I don't think anyone has ever bought me a poetry book and I was in fear of getting emotional! She said she only picked it up in a charity shop. I really don't care. I'm just touched at her lovely thoughtful present. My friend said it was a thank me for printing out all the lyrics and singing schedules for her (she doesn't have a computer), even though she had already given me a small gift at Christmas (a mirror depicting one of Eadweard Muybridge's moving pictures on the other side, and which I love).

The poetry book is Selected Poems by Sophie Hannah. Strangely, although I've come across her name many times, I have never read any of her poetry. Over lunch I read a few at random. I didn't realise she wrote humorous poetry that rhymed! I shall enjoy delving into these. No chance of having to unravel sentences to get to the meaning here! These will tickle my funny bone. There's nothing like a dose of light verse.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Book Review - Kith by Jo Bell

Kith by Jo Bell (from Nine Arches Press) is a wonderful collection of poems. I began reading this weeks ago and then put it aside as I had so many other things to do. I came back to it recently and I will have to do another read through some time as I've forgotten the earlier poems. Jo is the Canal Laureate for UK appointed by The Poetry Society and the Canal & River Trust, and she lives on a narrowboat. Any wonder there are poems about rivers and canals here then! She also features quite a lot of sex! I do love the way she writes, the humour and matter-of-fact use of words.

In her past life Jo has also worked as an archaeologist. I find anything to do with this subject interesting. It seems to run parallel to my rather macabre interest in forensics/crime and writing! Jo's book is dotted with archaeological poetry. Small Finds was one of my favourites - how we leave bits of ourselves behind. Excavation is another I love. Then there is Worship (not quite the usual kind!) inside a church. Suffice it to say that the font had probably never been used in that way before! Frozen in is a canal boat poem. You can hear the ice moving around the boat, feel the cold as Jo weaves her words. How to live on a narrow boat is written in a long column, lines of between one and three words.I like the visual effect of the that.

In all a lovely collection. I've had the pleasure of seeing Jo Bell perform her poetry live. The fun of those quirky poems comes across so well as she reads. The book (the blurb on the back refers to the poetry as being about love, sex, boats and friends and so much more) is endorsed by Carol Ann Duffy. You can't get better than that now, can you?

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Start, stop edit.

I was going to do some editing this afternoon but time is running out now. Having boxed up the Christmas decorations, sent the emails I needed to write, written on my other blog, I now have the wet washing to hang and tea to think about.

Still, I did make a start on editing yesterday. I know I will still have to go back and change the beginning again, but this is the first edit when I see if it all works.The beginnings of my novels are never my strong point. It seems to take me a couple of chapters or so to really get into writing, find my voice, be my characters. I know with this one there are a couple of early chapters which appear sluggish. This novel is a comedy which drifts into dark humour and sometimes keeping up the humour can feel rather staged. Keeping it natural comes easy at times, so much so that I'm laughing as I type. Other times I'm searching for the right level. All the chapters are short but I might consider merging several chapters if it works better. At least I've made a start and that is always the hardest part. The first edit is always the worst. To me it's like the blank page. Then I look at my words and think 'this isn't as good as I remember it!' Perhaps that's good. There's a long way to go yet.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

New Year, catching up and reading poetry on trains

First post of the New Year. I heard about my novella at the end of December - didn't get on the shortlist. Oh well. Yes, I was disappointed but when I went back to it I realised that the opening isn't strong enough. I had already changed it once before I entered it for the competition, but it can be improved and will be! I had the idea of submitting it somewhere else. However, looking at the criteria for this particular place I'm not sure if it falls into their categories (sci-fi and fantasy). My story is more supernatural. My other problem is it's length. Very few competitions exist that take word counts of around 15,000 words. I still like the story. I'll take another look at it sometime and see what revisions I think it needs.

My 10p copy of War and Peace with  cover
sellotaped together!
I'm still trying to catch up on magazines and am now well into War and Peace, Dare I say I'm quite enjoying it now! I think I will watch the TV adaptation. It might help me clarify things, but the book has definitely become more interesting. Part of the problem is getting into that mindset of reading books written so long ago. They style of writing is so different. A lot of the books I read I fast paced, and this is a slow one. Once I accepted it I began to enjoy it.

On a different note I often see posts or articles stating that people are never seen reading poetry on trains. I must be an exception then because I do. If the book I am reading is too big to carry around I take whatever else I have to read - writing magazines, poetry books and small press magazines, even On Religion, a magazine I consider one of the best multi-faith magazines (subscription only). I love looking to see what other people are reading (I'm just so nosy) and I don't mind it they look at what I'm reading. Poetry books are handy sized reads and often fit into my handbag. Maybe we should make this the year of reading poetry on a train - let everyone know it's cool to read poetry. Who is with me? Why not take a photo to prove it too!