Friday, 30 October 2009

Radio plays

I picked up the course book for A363 a couple of months ago - partly, at least, to make A215 seem easier and more doable. But also, because I thought I would be able to get ahead with the course after I finish the coursework for A215 - which I probably will do in the spring. In the meantime, my OCA tutor's feedback got me started on converting my assignment into a radio play - and it worked! At least, I think it does, and so I'm now looking at the 750 word assignment thinking that might work for radio even better. It's about a village woken up early by the lifeboat station, and waking up, the sun starting to come up, all from the perspective of someone who slowly because revealed as the character in the water waiting for rescue. I tried to make her a bit hypothermic and therefore rambly. I thought, that dark/cold thing is better for radio than film, though it works OK as a short story it is incredibly short - it was just an exercise for A215! But it's all good source material so I'm playing with it. I like the challenge of trying to realise the external settings purely through what is heard.

I'm finishing the poetry section in the book, and going back into the fiction section (part 2) to write the assignment. I've written a linear story but it feels very pedestrian, so I am now looking at starting in the middle of the action (in media res - I know, I read that chapter!) and increasing the tension that way. I'm also trimming the characters down basically to the two protagonists, young people buying their first house together. Although husband and I are 100 years old, we bought our first home together a couple of years ago, so I had some doubts/weirdness to draw on from my own life. My OCA tutor says it's important to draw on experience but not write all autobiographical pieces. My dilemma is that looking at the house of the removal she has huge doubts, then the situation gets worse and worse - until it becomes comic and manageable. I think some people are better at managing disaster than doubt - it brings out their survival instincts, spirit of the Blitz and all that. In doubt we might pull apart, in crisis we hopefully pull together. Come to think a bout it, we moved into this house with the rats and the damp and the Oh My God it's huge and smelly and we can't afford it, then we had a car accident, husband nearly died, children were injured and I got the house in its proper perspective, so it is autobiographical after all!

Talking about the house, Hallowe'en is around the corner, and the season of spending and feasting isn't far behind that. As pagans, the whole time gets a bit more significance, so a lot of cooking today and tomorrow and a bit of playing about. But seriously, the reason I started this blog is as part of my campaign to find something beyond motherhood for my next two or three decades, so this Hallowe'en (or Samhain to my pagan friends) is important. I'm thinking and planning for the masters as well - something to do next year that will give me structure beyond now. It's nice to have writing ambitions beyond getting published - but to write really well, and hopefully get published. So, radio plays for the BBC are a starting point!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

OCA course feedback

Well, that was a relief. With two assignments in for marking I started to get very insecure! The OCA course (which is brilliant, by the way, especially if you're coming new to/or back to writing) uses exercises called projects, then you hand in 5 pieces of work over the year, each with a 1000 word commentary. Assignment 3 was a 1000 word character sketch, a 1500 word short story and a 1000 word commentary - and you are marked on all of it!

The character sketch send me bonkers, I hate description and very thinly set my fiction, so 1k word description of someone was a struggle. So I made it into a scene in a story:

The two articles in the paper were four pages apart: the inquest and the obituary. One, full of judgements about the neglect of the pub’s owners, workers and patrons talking and drinking as an old man suffered a stroke and slowly died in the corner. The other full of love for the regular of thirty eight years, who had celebrated anniversaries and birthdays; children and grandchildren; good friends. The inquest had concluded, Duncan Anderson died by natural causes. The defiant obituary had concluded, he had died of a broken heart.
Julie folded the paper over at the obituary, flattened it down, and left it on corner of the oak bar. Customers would want to see the write up, even if they had helped write it. The picture of Duncan did him little justice, he was always camera shy. Maggie came out better, barely reaching his chin, smiling at the camera, thin hair neatly brushed back and pinned into a small bun, her hand lost in his.
The barmaid, Denise was already in, shaking off the drizzle onto the flagstones. ‘Want me to light the fire, love?’ Julie had put it off, Duncan had always come in and put a match to the paper, sticks and logs in the pub’s inglenook. He was like a child, the orange glow lighting up his grey, bushy hair, his thick eyebrows. He used to say Maggie wouldn’t let him light the fire at home, called him a pyromaniac just because he once set fire to some washing she was hoping to air in front of the wood burner.
Harry, the landlord, came in with a tray. ‘Is that the paper?’
Julie took a cloth and started polishing the still warm glasses, the squeak of the clean cloth echoing around the dark bar as Denise and Harry bent over the paper.
‘The Doc gave evidence at the inquest.’ Harry waved at the paper. ‘Is that in there too?’
‘We all gave evidence.’ Julie could feel her throat closing, a harsh note in her voice.
‘Well, we know the truth, don’t we love?’ Harry put an arm round her broad shoulders, briefly squeezed. Julie looked across at the empty, scratched leather chair by the fire. ‘The doc wrote the bit about Maggie, I never knew Dunc was so much younger than her.’
‘They met down at the Big Wheel Café, on the common.’ She lined up the glasses on the shelf, ran a duster over the brass fisherman’s lamps beside the spirit bottles. ‘She got TB when she was at school, spent some time in hospital. She used to say, she was left on the shelf, so she went to work as a waitress. She only got talking to Duncan because she couldn’t understand his accent when he ordered a cuppa.’
‘Was it Aberdeen?’
‘Arbroath.’ She touched the grainy picture in the paper with a finger, covering his deep-set eyes, so crinkled with laughter lines they almost disappeared when he smiled. He had organised her daughter’s brownie camp. He had sung behind her, two places to the left and one back, in the church choir. He had missed an E at her wedding. She walked over to the coat rack by the door and hesitated.
‘Go on, Julie, just for today. They will be a few in to pay their respects.’ Denise stood by the wingchair, one slim hand out.
Julie folded the scratchy, woollen seaman’s jacket over her arm. Despite the months of hanging up, it still smelled like Duncan, green sea, wet dog and the ghost of tobacco. It was moulded by his wide shoulders, one button hanging by a different coloured thread. Denise laid it reverently in the wing chair, as the sticks began to crackle and catch in the fireplace.
‘Tatty old thing, he always swore it saved his life in the merchant navy.’ At Harry’s curious look Julie continued. ‘One trip, out to Oslo with car parts I think, they got caught up in a terrible storm, he nearly got hypothermia, one of his mates got frostbite. He always said that coat saved him. It’s a submariners coat, it was his dad’s. Him and his brother were in the Royal Navy. They wouldn’t take Dunc because one of his legs was too short.’
Julie looked around, suddenly seeing Duncan everywhere. The barstool second to last bore the scars of encounters with Duncan’s built up shoe. His photograph holding a seabass (4lb 6oz third prize Parcombe pier fishing competition, 1994) was up on the noticeboard. His darts were up on the high shelf above the board where the local teams competed.
‘Morning all.’ A tall man in a suit smiled at Harry, nodded at the women. ‘I’ve come in to buy a bottle of whiskey to put on the bar. Give everyone who wants one a free tot on me, Harry. I’ll be over once the antenatal surgery is over. I think we need to remember Duncan as we knew him, after the write up of the inquest.’
Julie brushed the back of her fingers against one itchy eye, was surprised to find it wet. ‘We did the right thing, didn’t we, Doctor James?’
‘We did.’ His voice had authority, a conviction. ‘And we told the truth at the inquest. Duncan had a stroke, and he died. There wasn’t much we could have done about it, even if we had called an ambulance. Since Maggie’s death, all Duncan wanted was to be with his friends. He chose not to go to hospital. We were all there. We respected his wishes. We were good friends.’
Julie could almost feel Duncan’s cold hand, the fingers stained orange from his pipe, nails short on his stubby fingers, unable to grip hers. His eyes, deep set, deep green, looking into hers, not afraid, just holding hers. The doctor had been talking to him, soothing, reassuring, but Julie had felt as if it were just her and Duncan, locked in together for the two hours of his dying. Then she had taken a breath and he had not.
‘We were his family.’

I didn't give it a title, but my tutor felt it worked well, as a character sketch of someone I who wasn't even there. It's a pedestrian piece about an artificial subject but I liked the contrast between the obit and the inquest reporting in the paper, and so did my tutor. And it's very short on adjectives and adverbs!

My short story was better received, partly because I took a moral dilemma and twisted it around. My aim was to take the impossible - deliberately killing a child - and make it seem understandable on some level. My tutor liked it, even was disappointed when the child didn't die, so got into the story as intended. She managed to pick up my addiction to adverbs though, slowly, softly, gently, carefully, momentarily all being called superfluous. She's right, I tried taking them out. Worked fine. Rats! I don't even see them half the time.

One thing she did say (and the reason I'm not floating it here) is that she thought it would work well as a radio play. That stumped me, because the one literary form I have no interest in (except maybe life writing) is radio, because I can't stand it. They say you are a visual, kinetic or an aural learner - I am completely kinetic and visual, if I can't see it or do it, I'm lost (and rapidly bored). So books on tape, radio programmes, are impossible for me. But, over the years, I have been told many time that my dialogue pieces would work well on radio. A363 includes radio in part of the coursework, it does rather suggest I should at least have a look.

So I'm going to have a go! She's suggested the BBC writer's room website and the My Story project, too. More work - I'm swamped but obsessed - and that's without teaching science or worrying about the Chaucer.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Not writing

Now I've spent another day not really writing, though I did start rhyming from the BRB. I feel bad about not writing, and it's scary because I'm worried I will just lose momentum completely and go back to weeks of not writing. What I have done is talk to a friend about her exploration of English Literature and it reinforced how much better other people's books and poems are now I know a bit more about how they are written. I am starting to see the armature of novels and poems, how they work. That helps me try and make mine work better too, though I'm not really there yet, it's beginning to come home to me. I'm reading short stories and more literary novels, and getting them, giving them more time to catch my interest.

On another note, my sad days are over for another year and I'm looking forward again to November, and going away, and the whole month of December, which I try to keep completely free but already has an eye appointment in. I have more visitors still to come, the presence of all the kids, and all is well. We are cooking and washing up for 11 again though - takes up a bit more time than usual...

Friday, 23 October 2009

Looking back

I'm surprised by how far I have come in a few months. I'm writing fluently, yesterday I didn't write and I feel antsy about it, feel I ought to get something solid down now, despite getting ready for visiting friends. I have decided I ma never going to sit at my desk and go through my books, so have made a space for my BRB and my notebook next to the sofa, in the warm.

I have moved on from adjectives. Finally, I get it, they are overused in a lot of books, they are shorthand, they don't transfer the idea in my head to the idea in someone else's very well. All this while trying to convince no.1 son of this. Poetry is becoming a bit of a problem because it sucks me in and I can't sleep, so spend nights either writing or sleeping badly. Unfortunately, once I have written a draft, I really need to put it away and wait for a few days before taking any good stuff. In between - I sleep badly. It just rumbles on in my head, odd phrases and sentences. You can probably get pills for this... But deep down, I love doing the poetry, even though I started this course very nervous of it. I have no real problem with imagery, my problem comes when I look at a poem and have no idea if it's any good or not. Will someone else understand/like it? I'm beginning to wonder if the answer might be 'How much should I care?'. Certainly the BRB is going that way!

The other triumph of this course, for me, is that I now have a notebook brimming with ideas, freewrites, drafts, printed short stories and so on. Lovely rich source material - and I have already half filled my first book! And the garden looks very Autumnal, and the house is tidy and cleanish, I'm almost on top of the laundry, and my week is full and satisfying. On to TMA 02, the first draft of which is bubbling in it's incontinent adjective laden early form now. Hopefully it will be away before December so I can enjoy a month of celebrations and our few days away at Centre Parcs. Now - do I take my course work with me?

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Leonie and poetry

It's that time again, the leaves are turning and the 23rd of October is creeping up on me. My daughter Leonie died eighteen years ago - in August - but I grieve for her on the 23rd of October because her father died a year before, on that date. So I lost the two of them ten months apart, leaving me, Scary Spaniel and Smudge to somehow carve out a new, and completely different life for each other. So, every October I dream about her, get miserable and don't talk about it. This time, I'm going to write about her, talk about her, get it out there. Leonie was born in 1984 when I was in my early twenties, just a kid really, though I thought otherwise at the time. My first baby had been stillborn and I had been seriously ill, so ill that I was told I would never be able to have a child. Steve and I were very very young and optimistic, so we went again anyway, and Leonie was on her way. This time I got past the point where Robin had died, only to find the baby had spina bifida. We were told she would probably be stillborn, would have an enormous head and would die soon after birth if she was alive. Anyway, three hours after I was induced a month early, Leonie was born, alert and well, with a big bump on her back.

Steve and I decided to give her the best possible chance (though against medical advice - in fact, if another surgeon hadn't told our consultant that Leonie couldn't be saved, he wouldn't have tried). Anyway, she did very well for 3 years, paraplegic but unstoppable, bright as a button and dangerously extrovert. Then she started to get ill, and a benign tumour was eventually found over her brainstem. They tried to operate when she was four, but left her comatose for months and brain damaged for life. As the pressure grew in her head life became difficult, and she could no longer understand what was going on. Until she got to 8, and her father died suddenly, when she decided it was time to let go, and with great dignity and love, she kissed us all, told us all she loved us, and slowly died.

And my whole life has changed. But few people in my life remember her, or Steve for that matter. So now I wonder whether to take a little of my own medicine and use narrative therapy to find those memories and work on the feelings and maybe grieve better. They say you never get over losing a chid, you just grow around it. But it leaves a scar, and sometimes when you try and do somthing, the scar gets in the way. So, I'm going to have a go at writing some poems about her, even if they are so self indulgent and sentimental I keep them very private.

But if you're out there, little lion, and reading blogs, I still love you and miss you.

Monday, 19 October 2009

A215 CD1

Well, I spent the morning in the library and it's a brilliant place to study. I listened to the second and third authors on CD1 of the course and found them so inspiring. When I was 78,000 words into the last novel I found I had made some serious errors in the multiple third person voices I was using. Basically, I should have included the main bad character's POV, probably first person, rather than trying to see him through other, less vivid characters. The third author describes how she writes a first draft intuitively, and doesn't worry about POV until the major rewrite. It was nice to find an author (Stevie Davies) who doesn't plan too much in advance until 2nd draft. I've been trying to plan and organise my novels with zero success - because I start with a character and see what happens, where they lead me. If I try and plot I go blank, I need to 'talk' to the characters.

I loved Andrew Greig's approach to the past, researching it, that is. He uses items and photos to immerse himself in what he calls 'sympathetic magic' on the CD, absorbing the past through osmosis as well as doing traditional research. So far, this course is so rich, I've worked through Chapters 1-14 and am enjoying going back, doing more versions of the exercises, building my poetry as well as writing short stories (I've written 12 since I got the Big Red Book in July. The only form I haven't enjoyed and found came fluently is the haiku (I haven't used the clustering that much,either). I'm working through the Stephen Fry book and reading Natalie Goldberg's 'Writing down the Bones'. I'm more than halfway through a notebook I now take everywhere, and I write every day. I must be turning into a writer...

I've ordered a book from each of the authors on CD 1 except Maggie Gee's (I really don't fancy her books much, I might have a look in the library).I'm reading much more widely than I did. I'm reading more critically than I did too,seeing more of the bones of the book, the choices that have been made to write it. I have a draft of a short story (though rather pedestrian plot) and am looking for other ideas. Back to 500 words a day habit, even if just blogging. Good discipline.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

I'm getting creative!

It's weird that writing has made me more creative generally. I was completely stalled yesterday, having sent off two assignments on consecutive days I felt like I have been editing and tweaking for years and haven't produced anything that original for ages. Then TMA02, which is to write a complete short story of 2,200 (which seems like a funny length) made me feel like I'm devoid of plotlines.

Anyway, new day - new story! Or, two to be exact, one based loosely on my parents' experiences of moving into a new house and being inundated with cows one morning, the other about the challenge or diving in competitions. Both using what I know from experience or have developed from experience of reading/talking to people.

The challenge with the first one is to write about moving house in a less obvious, linear way. I still prefer third person, but anchored in one person's point of view (POV). I'm toying with the crisis being a row the day after they move, when they doubt their decision to buy a fixer upper, then go back to the stress of the actual move, that caused the row, then maybe end with resolving a bigger crisis at the end (garden full of cows). Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to sort things out, get a perspective. Anyway, that's they way I'm writing it at the moment. My main concern in the commentary, but hopefully i will get useful pointers in the feedback from the tutor.

The diving piece is more biographical, but looking at the nature of fear, and overcoming it. We are often exposed to moments of drama that leave us with mini flashbacks, and I wanted to look at the effect seeing a diver have an accident would have on a teenager years later. Doesn't sound very exciting, does it? I am making her think about this on the high board, and if you're scared of heights, hopefully the descriptions will be tense, but I'm not sure it will work for people who don't mind heights!

Anyway, back to tidying the garden while husband cleans windows, while the buzzards wheel overhead and my chickens are loose!

Friday, 16 October 2009

OCA assignment 3 away!

Thank whoever's listening, assignment 3 for the OCA is winging its way to my tutor. I had to write a 1000 word character sketch, which ended up more as a storyish scene. The fiction piece I had to write was 1500 words, and while I had a first draft easily, getting it to where it is now took ages! On the plus side, I'm using both courses to improve my writing. The really difficult bit was the 1000 word commentary I'm supposed to write. Having wrestled with only 300 words and a strict format for A215, I found it really difficult to reflect for 1000 words even though I had more material. My OCA tutor had previously commented on my addiction to adjectives, so I'm trying to show more than tell, but even in the final read through I found several I couldn't account for. I'm finally very happy with the short stories I'm writing though, which is good news as I have to do one for A215 in a couple of months. Now I'm just waiting for inspiration for a plot to hit me. I'm reading Karen Maitland at the moment I really enjoyed the Owl Killers, and she used many first person accounts but a linear approach to the time, so you see the whole story in fragments, from many points of view, some quite alien, like the views of religious people in a community, like nuns. I've just started Company of Liars, again set in the same time frame as the Chaucer project that the kids are doing. I've always been a bit cautious of first person, but it can be so intense, especially where your narrator has an unusual perspective (or is barking mad). Great stuff.

For other news, apart from having seventeen pots of sloppy jam that just won't set, chickens that won't stop laying and moult even though they are going bald, and two courses on the go, I am looking at next year. There is a masters in creative and critical writing in Winchester that looks right for me, although I like the Portsmouth MA in creative writing as well. The downside is, I live in Devon ... Two of the boys are looking at studying at Sparsholt college near Winchester next year, so if I can go down with them and all rent somewhere for a few months maybe we can all study together. It would be really good to spend more time with my brothers, my mother-in-law is ill and old and could do with more visits, and I can concentrate on writing for 9 months. Maybe even rewrite the novel, which got positive feedback from the publisher even though the ending was weak (their words, mine was crap!) I have a BSc and MSc, but in psychology, so they might want time to do the A363 first - but then I miss the window of opportunity of going down with the boys. And I think they do need me there, especially Isaac! That would leave the first mate at the helm though - maybe the jam will set and the chickens moult for him. It would be a big, fun adventure after the gloom of the accident, anyway. Possibilities, possibilities.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

TMA01 sent - am I mad?

OK, this doesn't make a lot of sense, but I had a moment of confidence and threw myself into writing the commentary for TMA01 - and sent it by eTMA. You see, in the good old days, I would have had several opportunities for second thoughts and doubts before walking the mile down to the post office. Then I could have opened it up, found the two spelling mistakes and one typo that lurk in everything I do even if I've reviewed it a hundred times - I could have given it to various family members, even though they know less about writing than I do. I could have sent it in 4 days late, like normal people, not sixteen days early. Now I am at the mercy of my tutor. Many years ago, on my first courses with the OU, I had two courses on the do (K260 and ED209, if I remember correctly). I sent my TMA's off on the same day, a few days early, and then the fun began. One tutor marked each assignment as it came in, with reams of notes, and I got it back within the week. The other used to wait until the last one had come in (sometimes two weeks late) and then would slowly mark the whole lot. I think mine was probably last. I barely got it back in time for the second TMA, and then I couldn't read any of the seventeen words he had scrawled in hieroglyphics on the PT3 form, which was a faint carbon copy to start with.

So now I'm wondering, what will my present tutor be like? And, worse, how will I cope if I get a terrible mark? A terrible mark, you understand is between 59 and about 66. If I get 40+ or even (gulp) less than 40, I know I have loads to learn and my tutor will help me out with useful pointers. On the other hand, if I get 67 or 77 or 87 (gulp) I know I've got the right idea, I am capable of good marks and writing good stuff and if I do badly I'm just not giving it my best shot. But if you pour heart and soul into a piece of work until you can't think how to improve it - and it scores 59 - you just aren't very good.

The thing is, I really need to be good at writing. I started out with the idea of a search and a freewrite that I'm very pleased with. Then I wrote a short story from the perspective of the person waiting to be searched for and found. Then I channelled something darker and let her ramble with hypothermia after the dinghy she and her husband were in gets overturned in the sea, late at night, a frequent cause of deaths where I come from. When I was a teenager, I saw a body being pulled in by the police boat, the stench trailing behind it, and the sight has stayed with me. I wondered what it would be like to be one of two people who ends up in the sea, where the real enemy is cold, being the one with the life jacket. It wrote itself into a short story, complete with happyish ending, but I'm not sure it's anything like my tutor is expecting. Worse, it wrote itself, and the narrator has been unwilling to let me mess with it too much. I get the impression that if I tried to really move it around she would slowly sink below the surface in protest and it will be one of those dark, dark short stories that I don't like. Who knows.

I've been playing around with the material in the freewrite as well, it does lend itself to a story poem. Poetry is addictive, turn back now if you want a good night's sleep or the ability to relax in front of the telly. I'm loving it but I'm just not able to switch off the sensitivity to words, phrases, rhyme, structure, emphasis, the music of words. Even when playing scrabble. Now I have to get on with TMA02, because I really need December off.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Freewriting more and more

After Saturday's freewrite and with chapter 13 full of freewrites for raw material for poems, I've been rambling in my increasingly full notebook. The one I'm working on at the moment just splurged out onto the page this morning and has haunted me all day. It was an animal I looked after when I was just 18 and newly married. I hesitate to call him a pet, he was a wild animal who had decided, through some identity crisis, that he was my baby or partner, and lived with us for three years.

Jackdaws on the chimney, jackdaw in my hand, on my shoulder, whispering into my ear. turning sharp beak to look at me, one grey alien circle after the other. Butter pecked a hundred times, pools of melted butter vomit on the window sill, bad JJ, light reptile legs holding, click clack claws land on the back of a chair. Hairy feathers project over a greasy beak, 'Chack' in greeting, beak deep in breast feathers for me to brush fingers over his crown, tickle soft feathers, croon to him. Part of me, wild playful mischief-full part of me, constrained by the new house, new marriage. Me and JJ wind in our hair, wild in our feathers, barefoot in the frost, staring down people, not caring, rough woollen man by my side, walking by me but not quite with me, drawn and repelled by my madness, my freedom, my rage, my passion. I am bold dark sweeps of colour, long dark symphonies, crude scary words, the wordless poet in him is drawn to that. He reaches under my clothes on the stormy beach his teeth grazing my lips, clamped on my neck and I am shivering as much with cold as with anticipation. I love it, the power of the storm, but he's sorry for the tiniest bruise. We walk along the cliff, bird and woman, deciding whether to jump, fly, picking berries, calling to the jackdaws dancing overhead. JJ looks, but clings to my shoulder, sheltered in my neck.

The freewrite captures, for me, part of my past but also my sister's point of view, bipolar and prone to extremes of passions and actions. Now I have to turn it into a poem with a syllable count, but I think it will end up in free form. I'm so enjoying the poetry bit of the book, and thank goodness for Stephen Fry's book explaining the way!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

A215 dayschool

Saturday was time for the first of two day workshops for A215. The focus was on releasing creativity and the first chapters of the BRB (Big Red Book). It was a rollercoaster, with a wide range of experiences and approaches from the students. The tutor was excellent, very supportive and full of enthusiasm for writing and creativity itself. I'm inspired to work harder, and it's been good reviewing my TMA draft after the workshop. I'm working on replacing adjectives with verbs, looking at original uses of words. We briefly looked at commentaries, enough to get me going anyway! The downside is, it's two hours plus each way. We now have to work on doing critiques of each other's work, though I'm not sure exactly what piece of work we are supposed to critique, the freewrites or the 200 words about it. I think of freewrites as the raw material, rather than any kind of finished work. I don't think I can afford to have it critiqued, but maybe the commentary will be very useful to work on.

Meanwhile, my plan to take a year off from family life to do an MA is starting to seem more feasible. Now all I have to do is go to Winchester and check out the course!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Writer's notebook

Thank God for the notebook, on a day like this exhaustion sets in and inspiration disappears. I've never been able to keep a proper notebook, mostly because immediately after I wrote something I usually thought it was complete rubbish. The fragments that survived seemed so much better after a week or two, or months and years in some cases. Now nothing gets thrown away and it just sits there, waiting for me to take the odd 'diamond of the dustheap' as Virginia Woolf called them. I've been really trying to stick to the course and am going back again and again to the early chapters of the Big Red Book.

Last night, even though I haven't finished TMA01's commentary or TMA02, I started the poetry section. I sat up working on it for hours, completely drawn in. We had an exercise to do, looking at a photograph, and all sorts of images and phrases sprang to mind. The weird thing is, I found myself writing from a male character's point of view, and historical at that. Not to mention the character's romantic interest in the girl in the picture! So, after seven pages of the poetry section I'm writing erotic verse. I couldn't sleep for hours,wound up by words, then had to get up and find Chaucer again for the home educated group. Hopefully I can spend some quality time tomorrow to indulge my new poetical side!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Assignment 3 project 29

This course is divided into projects, little activities that look easy and then take a week to do. I have to send this project in with the assignment, the one due in on September 30th (ooops!). The idea is that you write a character sketch describing a person in his/her context, using movement, voice, history, physical characteristics, personality etc.

I started out with a bit of a cluster (look at me, A215 is rubbing off!) and ended up with an old guy called Duncan from Abroath. It was rubbish, so I rewrote it again. Finally it ended up as a remembrance of the man after his death and inquest. I drew on real life, when I worked in a hospice we had a patient who liked to be delivered to the pub then picked up in the evening, ready for his medication and nursing care. We often wondered, what happened if he died down there, how would the pub respond? So I made Duncan recently widowed, and a constant visitor to the pub, which is now his home. When he has a stroke, the patrons and staff of the pub decide to respect his wishes and let him sit and see what happens. It was fun to create him entirely through the pub, the memories of the pub's people and the obituary in the paper. I'm not sure if it works or meets the brief of the course, but I kind of liked it. Then I gave it to Kez (creative no. 1 son) and he pointed out that I hadn't provided any sort of setting apart from it being a pub. Anyway, a few brief descriptive words later it is an 'olde worlde' smugglerish pub. Thanks, Kez

I'm cautiously looking at doing an MA at the moment, as we have an odd window in our family life, where I might be able to get away with two of the boys for a year and educate ourselves (some more). Plus I have the novel to work on ... Life is complicated as always, and the leaves are turning and falling, my favourite time of the year, not to mention the busiest.

Friday, 2 October 2009

OCA Assignment 3 part 2 and Leonie

OK, having given up on the first short story part of assignment 3 I have now approached it in a different way. I wrote a short story for a competition about 2 years ago, which I was very proud of at the time, but now I'm looking at it I'm cringing. The Book (BRB of A215) has been quite scathing on the importance of showing not telling, and on the importance of voice. I wrote it as a first person monologue, quite poetical thoughts in the character's head. Basically, she's come to the end of her tether and tried to top someone and kill herself. She's failed to kill herself and is now explaining the moment when she snapped. What she doesn't know is that the person survived.

My new version is completely rewritten, in a third person interview from the police officer's point of view, therefore less poetical but much more the readers' POV. It's in it's first draft chaos but is much more promising. My one worry is, will I look back in a few months and cringe?

Another problem is that the experience of 'snapping' or getting very close to it is a bit close to home. My eldest child, Leonie, was severely disabled for the last four years of her life. The crushing weight of work and responsibility of being a carer can drive anyone under. I was lucky to have the support of close family and even closer friends, and I barely made it through. This is me thinking, 'what if...?'