Thursday, 22 June 2017

Characters asserting themselves!

I was reading a comment on a writing community group page on Facebook recently. Someone asked if anyone had every created a blog for any of their characters. Wow! Now there's an idea. I've been thinking about this and not sure how it would work but I rather like this.

Anyway, while I'm not currently doing any novel writing or editing my old characters still buzz around inside my head sometimes. I wonder what they are up to now and whether I will ever revisit them, give them other stories.

One I want to return to at some time is Ashington (though I've never tried conventional publication, and to be honest I just love writing it. I adore the characters and thinking of new situations for the villagers to cope with). I have a few ideas for a next book but no overall running thread through a revisit. However, last night I wrote what you see below - a letter from one of the characters to me, the author. I thought I'd share it with you. It was fun to write and that's what this business of writing is about in the end. Of course it may stir your interest as to what I did to these people and want to read it should it ever gets into publication!

Dear author of Ashington,
 There is a rumour going around that you have made some notes about the village and are bringing in a new family. You do know you still have some loose ends to tie up after your last visit? I mean, really. How could you do that? And what’s this I hear that you are writing those flashy fiction things. They’ll never get you anywhere. You need our story and if you don’t get back here soon some of the villagers are threatening to write their own parts. Just imagine if Kev does that. No one will be safe.
 I’ve had Ted out keeping the garden nice for when you come back, though why after your treachery, I do not know. Jason is now doing the morning papers. Pru’s only gone and given him his own set of keys for the shop. Oh you knew that. I don’t know why you allowed that to happen. It has disaster written all over it.
 And I really think you should put a stop to Ivy and that Italian man. They slobber over one another like teenagers and now you’ve given him the cafĂ© next door. If you think I’m going in there you are mistaken. And what did you do to our poor vicar? He was a nice peaceful man before you brought his wayward brother back into his life. I still don’t know what that was all about. I don’t like it that you don’t tell me anything and Ted’s no use. He’d never make a spy. Maybe you should just stay away. But if you have to write about us all I’m telling you now, I want a bigger part – bigger than Pru’s, and I want another term on the PCC so I can stop these modern ideas taking hold. We are a traditional church here in Ashington and don’t you forget it!
 Your truly,
 Audrey Harris (Mrs)

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Published - Flash Fiction piece

Received two pieces of news today - I didn't win the chapbook competition I entered with a stack of poems but I heard from Gold Dust magazine that Issue 31 is out and my flash story is now ready to view!

Gold Dust is free to read online or you can download it (also for free) at Lulu. Follow the links from the Gold Dust website. My story is on page 27. One is very happy!

Friday, 26 May 2017

The importance of feedback and at a crossroads

A story in itself - a tidy pile. Not working on anything!
One of the short story competitions I entered this year offered feedback. I'd forgotten all about that aspect. I was longlisted but that's where it ended. A couple of days ago the feedback came through. I was pleased to see they liked my take on the subject but what they said was that the ending let it down - a bit too rushed and unsatisfactory. This was so useful. I had struggled with the ending so my gut instinct had been right at the time, yet I saw no way of improving it. At some point I'll take it apart and see what I can do and re-submit it somewhere else. That's the plan anyway. One day.

It would be really great if competitions offered feedback like this, though I know with all the entries they get it must be impossible. Maybe they could just feedback on the longlisted ones, those that didn't quite make it. I find getting proper feedback difficult to obtain so to get some 'expert' feedback has really helped.

At present, apart from maintaining my blogs I'm not really writing at all. I worried about this for a while - I'll lose the knack - my ideas will go - but I need this time. I was/am stuck at a crossroads not really knowing what to do. The pleasure I found from writing had gone and became a chore - the creative flow stunted. Instead I have chosen to do some learning and am working my way through a bunch of writing tutorial videos from The Writers' Workshop. They have been so enlightening. This is obviously the right way for me.

I don't know what I do after I've completed the course. I have a vague idea that I will take some of my competed novels apart and see if I can save them using the techniques I am learning. I may have to be brutal (not my thing). Or I might just have to ditch them and start afresh.

I've stopped submitting things (this has been a very lean month - just two submissions) and I am not really looking to submit on the scale I was. If something feels right I'll go for it. I do still enjoy writing to the picture prompt of Visual Verse once a month. For now that's enough. I am using this time to do a few other things - I've picked up an old book on the German language to try and re-kindle that. Having taken the pressure off by not forcing myself to write I feel better. Sometimes I think that this might be it and I might not write again. Strangely this doesn't bother me. It did, terribly at first - it was like a bereavement - but now I'm laid back about it all. For the moment I am enjoying learning the craft through the videos. What I do afterwards I don't know. It's a long way down the line anyway. I have to rediscover the fun of creative writing. Without out there's no point. I am hopeful I will find it again. I will know when I'm ready and right now I'm enjoying a break, reading other's work and relaxing doing other things I enjoy. I even thought I might dig out my old guitar!

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The Missing Special - Play at Brighton's Fringe Festival

I like to support those who support me so when I heard Richard Hearn who runs Paragraph Planet had written a play and that it was being performed in Brighton as part of the Fringe Festival, I had to go.

I asked a friend if she fancied it and she did. So a quick trip then turned into a long weekend away! As her birthday was coming up I treated her to tickets and we went to the matinee performance - the first airing of it - on Sunday afternoon.

The play, The Missing Special, sees a couple meeting to celebrate their anniversary, but there is much more going on here. We are taken back to the lost year when everything went wrong. Having taken his eye off the ball for a moment at work the maths mad Rufus ends up charged with fraud. We see Rufus' downfall until a piece of evidence comes to light falling in his favour and finally sets him free. But there are consequences for his relationship.....aren't there?

The acting is brilliant. Two of the actors play several people and slip into the roles easily. The touches of humour are good and often the speech is fast paced (how do they remember all those lines!). The play was performed at the Rialto, an intimate venue with a bar area and the theatre above it. It was a hot afternoon and I felt sorry for the lead actor as he was wearing a shirt and jumper and was obviously rather warm.

It's the kind of play you could see again to catch the stuff you might have missed in the rapid fire of lines first time around. The play runs for one hour and you can catch it this week only. Worth a trip to Brighton for!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Poetry Book Reviews

Just finished reading two books of poetry. The first is Stanza Stones, a colourful book by Simon Armitage with Tom Lonsdale (former Chief Landscape Architect) and Pip Hall (stone carver). The commission was crreate a Stanza Trail running through forty-seven miles of the Pennine Way. The book follows the initial idea to Simon's wanderings across the Pennine Way trying to find the right words for his poems. Much was needed to bring this project off, such as acquiring permission from various people, like English Heritage, who owned a particular piece of land. The book records entries from stone carver Pip's journal who worked mostly in situ in all weathers, sometimes having to retrace letters washed out overnight due to rain. The glossy photos show the the stages the project went through, the heavy lifting gear sometimes needed to move stones, the passing walkers who stopped to chat while Pip carved, and the final finished piece. I loved this book. It's a table top glossy hardback edition, but one I will look through many times. Simon's six poems - Snow, Rain, Mist, Dew, Puddle and Beck are evocative. While I enjoy walking I am not a hill walker so may never get to see these stones for myself so it is great to have a book like this.

The Immigration Handbook by Caroline Smith made compelling reading. Each poem is the story of someone's life. Caroline worked as an asylum caseworker for a London MP and the stories here are ones she encountered. I found myself reacting to these poems. Some made me sad, some made me angry but all spoke of fear, of waiting, of judges agonising over decisions, of bureaucracy. It is a heartfelt book and brings it home to you that this goes on every day, the playing with people's lives.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Poem published - Visual Verse

I have a poem on Visual Verse again this month. This is the website where each month they post a picture and ask writers to respond with a poem or a piece of flash fiction up to 500 words. I seem to be alternating. One month I write poetry, the next a piece of flash! I don't plan it that way, it just happens. My piece is on page 14.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Small successes help beat the dark pit!

My writing world has taken a bit of a knock lately. My confidence hit rock bottom and I even gathered all my writing material together and shoved it in a corner. When things happen they all seem to come at once - negative feedback, rejections and then on top of it all a cold that is reluctant to go. When I'm ill I withdraw. I think it's a self preserving mechanism. I've always had it. I switch off from everything and loose myself in sleeping, reading or listening to music. All those problems can wait until I am well enough to tackle them. This time I found it hard to do that. It worked for a while and then I'd go down into the dark pit!

Whatever has happened has changed me this time. I'm still not sure how good that is! So for now I'm sticking with what I feel I am good at - flash fiction and some short story writing. Out of that came a piece published on Visual Verse and today a piece of my flash is published on the great Paragraph Planet. Last week I also got a surprise - I have been longlisted in the Nottingham Writers' Club short story competition. Okay there are 95 longlisted stories there, but at least I'm in there and hanging on.

To help get back into things I have joined two online communities. I'm taking things slowly. Writing is beginning to happen again. My little writing group meets this afternoon and I had nothing to take to share. I pulled out the Back to Creative Writing School (Bridget Whelan) book I've been working through and an exercise in that book ended with me writing a fully formed poem - one of those strange writing experiences where the piece almost wrote itself.