Today, with a rare Sunday of nothingness to myself – no personal or work commitments – and the weather so gorgeous, I decided to explore a local park.
It wasn’t too hot – the sun was strong, but there was a lovely breeze to offset it a little. I wandered around the entire park: the open spaces, the herb garden and then the ‘wilderness’ at the far end. Spring is a great time to take photos, with that promise of so much more to come, so I thought I’d share a few highlights of my walk here.
Shame you can’t record smells, as when you’re sitting next to a bunch of hyacinths, that’s the thing that strikes you the most:
I do enjoy a good tangle of trees: different types all entwined, like this:
I always appreciate a tangled tree, too:
I love it when all the colours start coming out:
And, finally, it wouldn’t be spring without the daffodils!
After all that sun and fresh air, I feel rather virtuous! But more importantly, I’ve spent a lovely day in a local green space, relaxing fully and enjoying myself. What better way to spend a free Sunday?
An age ago (well, a couple of weeks, anyway), the lovely Suzie Tullett
put me forward for the Versatile Blogger Award
. Having seen her other nominations for same, I’m pleased to be in such great company.
It's kept me busy ever since. There are two conditions attached to the award, the first being that I reveal seven things about myself that you, my readers, didn't hitherto know. So, in the hope that I've not covered these in previous blog posts, here are those seven facts:
- I’m a chilli fiend. I don’t yearn after the heat, and indeed can’t go above a certain level of hot. But gosh, I get a huge endorphin rush off the stuff.
- I store my CDs in alphabetical order. This is less to do with my nerdy tendencies and everything to do with finding the right one of the 500 or so that I own.
- I can’t swim. Many people have tried to teach me, and failed. I gave up trying at about 15 and have managed without ever since. A little inner voice likes to nag me about this every so often. I don’t listen.
- I have an amazing memory for numbers. This includes phone numbers, car registrations, postcodes and – yes – any PIN divulged to me. I’ve never used one dishonestly.
- I have a strange, inexplicable, fondness for word search puzzles.
- I consider purple, orange and lime green to be a fab colour scheme for anything, especially interior decor. Most of the civilised world disagrees with me.
- To this day, I’ve never been able to do long division.
The other condition of the award – that I nominate 15 blogs to receive it in turn – will be met in my next post, when I’ll reveal those which I think should be recognised for their general worthiness. In the meantime, if anyone can explain long division in a few sentences, please feel free to enlighten me!
For as long as I can remember, Tom and Jerry have been a part of my life. My earliest TV memories are of waiting for it to start, even as a youngster hoping it would be an earlier one. Fred Quimby, its producer, was a legend in our house for some years. My enjoyment never ceased, and I owned videos – and now DVDs – of these perpetually-funny cartoons.
I’ve always loved the pure silliness of it: Tom’s stupidity; Jerry’s smartness; the improbable supporting characters; and especially the appearance of random objects. Were it not for Tom and Jerry, I would probably have no idea to this day what an anvil looks like.
So that was it: along with other things that made me laugh, I’d just defined my sense of humour as “silly.” It wasn’t until much later – in fact, I’m ashamed to admit it was only a couple of years ago – that the boyfriend identified that my comedic affinities leaned at a very definite angle towards slapstick. And, to prove it, he introduced me to Laurel and Hardy.
This was a revelation. The first Laurel and Hardy film I watched (A Job To Do) rendered me completely useless. I laughed until I cried, and then more until I ached. I can’t remember how many films we watched that day, but I know I wasn’t in a good physical state by the end of it; just incredibly happy.
It’s easy to pick similarities between the two pairings; and it seems obvious that the creators of Tom and Jerry had Laurel and Hardy in mind when they created the cartoons. But gosh, I’m glad they did. Aside from giving me the opportunity to really laugh when I watch them, they’ve also inspired me to play with my writing in a way that is different from my usual style. Slapstick will never work as well in writing (it relies too much on visuals for that), but I’m working on achieving some form of it on paper.
So why do we hardly ever see either on mainstream TV any longer? I believe that some of the cable channels run modern versions of Tom and Jerry, but these are unlikely to be a patch on the originals. Not because I’m some sort of nostalgic purist (although granted, I am), but because any newer version will have suffered the same “modernisation” as the Beano: where Dennis the Menace no longer has a catapult, and Walter the Softy now has a girlfriend, so Tom running into an anvil, or smacking at Jerry with something large and far too heavy, is seen as no longer culturally relevant. Or, worse, too violent.
I grew up on those old cartoons and I have never yet done anything violent with a grass rake. Likewise, the boyfriend grew up on Laurel and Hardy and has shown no signs of outrageous violence, stupidity or sexism. Given the profusion of repeats on television, it’s inconceivable that we don’t see these shows because they’re simply old. Why are we denying a new generation the joys of some seriously funny TV? Is it just because these shows are seen as too offensive/politically incorrect for our modern sensibilities? Or is our taste these days too complicated for anything as beautifully simple?
Thank goodness for DVD. Chez Smith, slapstick really does rule.
Enjoy a fab Laurel and Hardy clip below. Not much slapstick, but fab music and a great performance by the two top guys.
Today I’m delighted to welcome Stella Deleuze as a guest poster to my blog. Stella is an author of short stories and novels, and an editor. She’s wonderfully individual, which a quick visit to her own blog will confirm. Her latest novel, Candlelight Sinner, is available now – I’ve already read it and can wholeheartedly recommend it. At the close of this post you’ll find an excerpt from the new book, but firstly Stella shares her experience of ADHD and how it affects her as a writer.
Hi, Im Stella Deleuze, author. I also have ADHD.
For those of you who are not familiar with the condition: ADHD means Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. It sounds rather impressive, doesn’t it? In short: I'm an impatient, short attention span, always jumping around individual. Not. The condition is so much more complex. There are basically three types of ADD: the dreamy version, the fidgety person and the mix of both. I belong to the last group.
Wait a minute, I hear you say, you said you're an author: doesn't that require sitting still for many long hours?
Yes, it does, but writing is not boring; it's what I chose to do and love. It also keeps my brain active and often even occupied, something I can't say for filling in lengthy forms, doing tax returns, or reading articles I'm not interested in. If I have to read it, I'll switch off at some point and won't take anything in, even when I read it three times or more. This can be a right pain in the back.
ADHD is normally inherited. Either one or both parents have the gene and it's not curable. It is, however, manageable, either with behaviour therapy or medication. And it won't, despite common assumption, dissolve with puberty: you will have it forever.
I’ve heard it all: 'But you can't still have it. Only kids have ADHD.' That's not true; adults have just adapted better, either due to upbringing or other influences. They quickly learn that being late at work means being sacked, or that interrupting others is seen as impolite. They often find ways to fit into society and you probably won't even know a person with ADHD. But they struggle – a lot. Kids are impulsive. Take sitting on the bus when I'm a little in a hurry and the bus stands for ages at a bus stop. I have to suppress the impulse to shout or jump up and get off the bus. A kid would probably do exactly that.
I personally think it's nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, I think it's a great asset, for people with this particular condition are excitable; if you have someone with ADHD in your company, you can give them a new task every day and they will dive right in. They have enormous resources of energy and if they fail, they will get up, brush off their clothes and start again. That said, the condition often comes with a negative side: although the degree varies, many suffer from depression, panic attacks, some get aggressive or rather impulsive or everything together. It really depends on the person. Most lead a normal life, having found coping mechanisms to make up for deficits; they will appear like the average person to you.
Here are some main indicators:
- dreamy, not listening
- fidgety, not listening
- forgetting things/misplacing things regularly
- bursting out with answers/interrupting someone
- can't sit still for long/need to get up and walk around, even in conversations/meetings
- difficulties with attention to detail, especially with tasks they find boring
- can be extremely moody/falling from one extreme into the other
- easily distracted by a simple noise
- hyperfocusing on things they really like/staring at the computer for hours
Of course these points can suit almost everyone; it's a combination of things and ADHD can only be diagnosed by a specialist.
Writing, to me, is a perfect outlet. I love to play with words, to create stories that will let a reader forget about their life for a while. I write for myself and find it has a very positive affect on me; I feel more balanced. If I'm upset about something, I'll sit down with my laptop and let my soul pour into my fingers, that type the sentences. It might end up as a scene of a book or a short story. I was diagnosed in my early 30's and refused to take medication. And surprisingly enough, since I found my calling as an author and editor, I don't think I'll ever need to take it.
Writing allows me to 'work' whenever I feel I'm able to concentrate. It is also good training to focus, even when I don't feel like it. I will let off steam without putting my fist through a wall; frustration is a big part of ADHD, I can pour my heart out when I'm depressed and it really helps me to calm down. To me it's the best way to deal with the ups and downs of life. I feel more balanced since I started to write 2.5 years ago. Many thanks to Stella for this enlightening post. In case you’re wondering just what a writer with ADHD can achieve, check out this excerpt from Stella’s forthcoming book Candlelight Sinner:
Being madly in love with Tom, a rather good looking, immortal wish-consultant and working in her dream job, life seems to be perfect for 32-year-old Celia. If it wasn't for the dark side still being after her or Sam, a charismatic man asking for her help, causing dilemma. When Tom gets another demanding case, and Celia takes her friend on a trip to Lanzarote, everything's about to change.
I climb into the black limousine, close the door and sink into the comfortable leather seats. The separation between the driver and me has been closed.
“No small talk about the weather, then,” I mumble, looking out of the window. I'm not keen to get back to the place where it all happened, the place where I almost died, but apparently I have to. I sigh and feel the plaster on my forehead: a visible reminder. I press the button to communicate with the driver.
“Excuse me, could you please put on some music?”
“Very well, Miss Watson.” A second later, I'm lulled in an orchestra's soft tunes. Leaning back, I watch people and houses fly by.
Fifteen minutes later, I knock the heavy door knocker to the wooden door of the solicitor's house. After a few seconds I hear footsteps and the door opens.
“Hello, Miss Watson.”
“Please, call me Celia.”
“Fine, Celia, do come in.” Mr Brown leads me inside and into his office. I shudder as we pass the replaced mirror. I see him catching my reaction. He smiles briefly.
“Can I get you something to drink?”
“A water please,” I answer. God knows how long this will take.
“Will be right back.”
I look around his office. Nothing has changed since the last time I was here. As usual, I admire the beautiful antique mahogany desk. Rays of sunlight shine through dirt-stained windows. This house needs a thorough revamp. Once upon a time it must have been a magnificent building.
“Here you are.”
I didn't hear him come back and jump.
“Did I startle you?”
“A little, yes.”
“I'm sorry, it wasn't my intention.” He takes a seat opposite me, combing his fat, short fingers through the dark hair and opens a file. Why isn't he using a computer like everyone else?
“First of all, thank you for coming, Miss, er, Celia. I appreciate you feel a bit uncomfortable being here, but we have to go through it.” I nod and he continues, “As you know I'm the mediator between the dark and light side and after the recent incidents, I've been asked to let you in, and explain the rules.”
“Rules?” Now that's going to be fun! “What rules?”
“Well,” he clears his throat, loosening his tie, “as you will have realised, you're not going to lead what others would call a normal life.”
“If you put it this way...”
“I'm sorry. It must have come as a shock when you found out about your 'heritage'.”
“You can say that again.”
“So, fact is, you have powers that need to be controlled at all times. Nobody knows how strong they are or will become, but you are indeed a walking lethal weapon.”
“Err, come again?”
“I'm sorry to be so blunt about it, but there's really no way to put it nicely.”
“Seems like it,” I answer. But you could've tried! “What I would like to know: why me?”
“There's no easy explanation for it. Your parents are from different worlds. They fell in love and that's a very rare thing to happen.”
“You are aware of the fact that it all sounds rather surreal, aren't you?”
He nods. “Yes, but it's reality, even though a different one that 'normal' people wouldn't know it exists.”
“I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen the proof.” I sigh, shuddering again at the memories.
“What your brother did–”
“I don't have a brother!” I cut him off. “He's the lethal weapon, he should sit here, being lectured about following rules, not me!” My voice, which was calm until about a minute ago has gained sharpness.
“Please, Celia, hear me out.”
I settle back into my seat.
© 2011 Stella Deleuze
I don’t know why, but of recent months I’ve struggled with getting any writing done. Yes, I can argue time constraints, and work pressures, and of course the recent festive season – but really they are just excuses. It’s certainly true that I feel uninspired by any of the copious ideas I write down and the attempts I make to turn them into something readable, but ask me why this should be and I’m without answer.
It’s been going on for quite long enough and I’m fed up of being so useless. I travel to work by train, and my usual pattern is to read for half the commute and listen to music for the other half. I’m not sacrificing beloved reading time, but that ‘other half’ will now be used to write. I know I’m not suddenly going to start producing amazing short stories with half an hour’s train-induced scribbling, but a start is a start.
For the next couple of weeks (or however long it takes) I’ve set myself the task that every morning I have to write down a memory. It can be from my childhood, or as recent as last year. The point is that as I’m writing about me and something I’ve either done or experienced, I don’t have to worry about plot and can instead concentrate on getting the words down in some sort of decent form. What I produce by doing this is unlikely ever to be published, but it will get me back into a writing routine, and I will – finally – be producing words again.
What’s more, in sifting through my past to find vaguely interesting memories to write about, I’ve already sparked off an idea for a piece (a flash, probably) that I want to write. Tomorrow morning I’ll cover that one off in the memory files and see where it gets me.
It’s baby steps, really. I’ve let my writing lapse and I shouldn’t have. I’ve even questioned whether I want to write at all, given my rubbish output recently (I answered, too: I do). Now I have a plan, I feel like I’m starting all over again and embarking on a new journey. Perhaps a new approach was all I needed all along. It certainly feels that way at the moment.
As I power through the Hampshire countryside tomorrow, who knows what riches will tumble from my pen? Before long I’ll probably be writing on the way home as well. My only hope is that I’ll be able to read it – those trains do pitch and roll, somewhat. Heartbreaking to think I’ll have done all that writing, only to find it completely illegible when I turn back to it later on!
How have other writers overcome periods of inertia? Do share your experiences.
As the year draws to a close, usually entertaining and informative literary pages are suffused instead with famous people telling us to read books by other famous people; column inches that I personally think would be much better used by the usual reviewers who actually have something to say. But this is just my opinion.
I was impressed today by this post by Abebooks
, though. Aside from its having struck me as a genuine and well-considered survey of books read this year, it struck me while reading it that I never
keep a record of what I read – which in turn means I couldn’t do a review of the year like this if offered my annual salary in one hit for the privilege.
I don’t really expect anyone to pay me for it, but I do think it would be interesting to look back and see what I’ve been reading over the past year, which is why I’m going to start logging books in 2012. I’m a frequent re-reader of books, simply because I get through so many and can’t afford to buy them all the time, so it would be an interesting mix of revisits and new material. My impending ownership of a Kindle will probably make the list a little more varied than it would have been in previous years. So action point 1 of 2012 will be to keep a reading log – which before I’ve even started feels a little bit like being back in junior school.
I’m not a maker of new year’s resolutions as I always think they’re doomed to fail, but the reading log is just one of a number of things I want to do next year. I spent this afternoon compiling my professional aims and challenges for 2012, so it seemed apt to do the same for my writing. I came up with:
- Joining my local writing group (it’s about time and I’ve already made contact).
- Increasing the amount I write.
- Experimenting with poetry.
- Drawing again.
Most of these will be my own thing, and won’t find their way onto my blog, but they are all things I need to do. Between these and work, it looks like I’ll be a busy woman next year! And, in twelve months’ time, I’ll not only be able to survey how it all went but I’ll be able to offer a list of reading recommendations as well.
But before I leave my blog for this year, I do have two recommendations for you.
The first, Misty Provencher’s Cornerstone
, is a gripping YA paranormal novel, which had me hooked from the start. I could spend many words describing it, but instead I’ll leave you to watch the book trailer
, which to me captures the feeling of the book perfectly. It’s available on Amazon
, and I see that Misty is already posting teasers of the next book, Keystone
, on her blog
The second is the Mexico
EP, by The Staves
, which I discovered recently and have had on repeat on my MP3 player ever since. When asked to describe it last week, I came out with “Elliott Smith meets Crosby, Stills and Nash, but female.” Yes, it has three-part harmonies (and yes, I’ve done this before
), but there really is something rather wonderful about this EP. I downloaded it from iTunes
, and I’d suggest you do too. I’m looking forward to whatever these girls do next.
So, not a year-long retrospective, but a couple of heartfelt recommendations from the latter part of this year, both of which I’m glad to pass across in the hope that you, too, will enjoy them.
I have another coming up in January as well, but I’ll tell you more about that nearer the time.
Finally, I would just like to bid thank you to everyone who reads this blog and engages with me via other social networking. I set up the blog and joined Twitter back in March, and I’ve met so many good people since that I can’t now imagine what it was like before I did. So, to all my regular (and not so regular) readers, I wish you all the best over the festive season, and a happy and prosperous 2012. I’ll see you next year, fresh and ready to start all over again!
Regular visitors to this blog will know that I’m a voracious reader. I’ve covered my reading habits many times before, and as an aside, the joy of writing a blog like this is that I get to recommend books and writers in the hope that someone – anyone – discovers something which they hadn't previously read. I’m always looking around for the next new thing myself, so these things go around.
Having said all that, I’m slightly embarrassed to recall that between the ages of 16 and 19 I stopped reading. I didn’t go near a book within that period unless it was required by the A-level syllabus. This is not to say I was too busy studying to read at leisure – quite the opposite, in fact. I suppose I just lost interest. And I didn’t even realise it until my father (also a keen reader) pointed it out to me.
I can still recall his disappointment that his bookish daughter had taken to lazing around, doing nothing except grunting. The problem was, not having read in so long, I had no idea where to start.
Up to age 16, I had followed the predictable trajectory of Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew, American YA and then books for grown-ups. Rarely did the classics feature. Little Women and What Katy Did were as close as it got, aside from prescribed reading for school. So it was with some trepidation that I received the suggestion from my then boyfriend that I should read some classic literature.
“You should start with Wuthering Heights,” he said. “If you like that then you’ll be fine with anything else. And I’m sure you’ll love it.”
I’ll admit I struggled at first. It was so dense and grey that I had to work hard to get through even a single page – although this, I’m sure, was as much to do with my lack of practice as Brontë’s prose. But as I went on, it gripped me. And before I knew it, I’d finished a book for the first time in three years.
It is, of course, an outstanding book. Its atmosphere is unique among anything I’ve read, and the story is compelling no matter how well you know it; to this day I can pick up Wuthering Heights and read it as though for the first time. There are books that I’ll read over and over, but I ration myself with this one. I want it always to be special. I get goose bumps just writing about Cathy and Heathcliff, and I want it to stay that way.
I owe Wuthering Heights a great debt, as I so often say in these Why I Love posts. I’m sure that had the former boyfriend suggested a Wilkie Collins or a Charles Dickens, I’d have credited that with setting me back on track with reading. But Wuthering Heights did so much more than end a dry spell: it opened my eyes to the classics; it made me read the other Brontës’ work, and visit Howarth, and start reading history.
Wuthering Heights, I think, was the start of my modern self. Without it, who knows what I’d be doing now? And all of this because it was recommended to me as something I should read. As I said above, these things go around. And long may book and author recommendations continue!
Morgen Bailey is a short story writer, novelist, blogger, interviewer, hoster of writing groups, podcaster… in fact when it comes to writing there’s not much she doesn’t do. I first came to know her through Twitter and her series of author interviews
(I’m number 43!) and thought it might be nice to turn the tables on the interviewer for a change.
Trying to avoid asking the same questions that Morgen asks of her own interviewees, I instead thought I’d find out a little about her numerous pursuits.
Hello Morgen, and thanks for agreeing to be on the other side of the questions! Let’s start with an easy one: how did you get into writing fiction?
Hello Winn. Lovely to see you outside of Twitter. :)
I used to read a lot (mostly Stephen King but have mellowed since then – now crime and humour) and enjoyed English at school (“out damned spot”) and it was my best subject (history was my worst). I dabbled with limericks in my 20s and still have the ones I wrote for colleagues (although I cringe at them now). I moved area (Bucks to Northants) in 1999 and didn’t know anyone so went to evening classes. After brushing up on languages and computer skills I looked at the prospectuses (prospecti?) and there was creative writing calling out at me.
That was late 2005 and I joined crime novelist Sally Spedding’s workshop
and never looked back. From the very first evening my brain was buzzing with ideas and I went to bed that night scribbling away. I turned the light out but then came up with something else so switched the light on, wrote it then switched the light off, then… yes, you guessed it… sending out Morse code messages to anyone walking the dog on the green outside my house. I know that feeling! You say you love the short story, and also that you got into novel writing via NaNoWriMo - what tempted you over to the dark side?
I do. I adore it. Not a great attention span. I need something like a NaNoWriMo deadline to actually write! Telling me “whenever you like” is no good (although I say that to my interviewees so maybe I shouldn’t) – tell me you need it yesterday and I’ll do it! So…?
Until I heard about NaNoWriMo back in 2007/8 I considered writing a novel as a year-long project and didn’t want to spend that long on one piece (see earlier reference to attention span) but when a fellow writer at a local council Readers’ Day (which was the first event that I met ‘real’ authors – including Jon McGregor, Alison Penton-Harper, the latter I’ve kept in touch with and I’m hoping will be an interviewee once her currently novel is done) said she was going to do NaNoWriMo and I thought “Ah ha! Perfect opportunity to see if I can do it.” I had also finished the first year of a Creative Writing degree certificate course so had some longer shorts under my belt and didn’t think 50,000 was that much until I dug them out and realised the longest was a children’s story (which I must dig out again and do something with) at 3,000 words.
Anyway, I did a lad lit for NaNoWriMo 2008 which came out at 53,000 words then a chick lit which was 117,540 (in the month, although I trimmed it down afterwards to just over 105,000) – and another novel in between – and a dark ‘therapeutic’ story at 51,000 words in 2010.
My trouble is that some of the novels have lots of waffle and there are SO many threads in a novel that I find short stories are much simpler and make me focus on having every word count (which is important) so I’ll stick with them for the foreseeable, although I do plan to convert a couple of the novels (1 and 2) into eBook novellas (removing said waffle) and the chick lit into an eBook themed anthology (and I’ve written a 365-day writing workbook) so that’ll be interesting.
The eBook process isn’t as scary as it looks, once you wade through the 70+-page Smashwords guide. The workbook is now up (and sold four copies on day 2… how thrilled am I!), there are three free shorts (first, second and third person viewpoint – I like variety) and my ‘Story A Day May’ anthology which is the same price as the workbook ($1.49) – I’d rather sell lots cheaply than one at $4.99. It’s all I have ready, for now, but lots more content to go through, submit to my editor and put up (now I have a shell to slot it into it’s a breeze).
So are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?
I am, and am already WAY behind. Day one was ahead of target but then life took over. It’ll probably be the same as last year with writing the whole thing in the last couple of weeks. I’ll get it done even if I look like a zombie by the end of it. Last year’s was really dark and this is much lighter about a group of women – that’s me; dark and light, rarely anything in between.Your website says you've written 100+ short stories (gosh!) - how many of these have been published? Is that your aim with everything you write, or are some written just for the pleasure of doing so?
Written 100+ yes, but I’m rubbish at sending things out. So the answer is two; one with Woman’s Weekly (the first thing I ever submitted anywhere – back in 2008) and more recently on Nathan Weaver’s website
. Neal James has also accepted a story for his website which will come out in January. But I plan to be better. I’ve had more competition wins and need to start submitting that way too. Plus I’ve quit my job (leaving at Christmas) so that’s always a good incentive.
I used to write for pleasure but as time went on started to see whether a story was commercial or not. As long as something is well-written I think I can find a home for it eventually, so hopefully I have a lot of fodder… er, high-quality manuscripts for the wonderful editors out there. We usually do three or four exercises (mostly 10-15 minute beginnings) in our fortnightly Monday night workshops so I know I have 18 months’ worth of those too. :)How do you find fitting your writing around work?
Fortunately I only work two and a half days a week so everything else (other than the dog, house and cinema is writing related). That and I have too little sleep, but that’ll all change come the New Year, whether I’ll get more sleep is another matter but I’ll definitely be writing more.And running writing groups as well! How do you do it?
I do. I run two: one Monday critique, another Monday writing workshop. And I belong to two others; one of which I run their Twitter page and do workshops for – the other is pretty much critique only so I get a night off, and just read. We’ve got the annual members’ only short story competition next meeting. I won last year (with April’s Fool – one of my free eShorts) and whilst I don't anticipate doing so again this year we have a new member who has us all running scared! I won’t name names but he’s my interviewee no.80. :) I know what I’m going to be reading out and it’s one of my strongest pieces but I can see myself spending a chunk of time on it before then until I can see my face gleaming in it.What led you into running writing groups? How easy is it to get one started and then maintain impetus?
Sally moved to Wales late 2007 and the university couldn’t find anyone to take over so it disbanded. I bumped into one of the poets (a superb one at that) called Pat and we were saying what a shame it was that we weren’t meeting, and in my case wasn’t writing. So I found myself volunteering to have the critique group at my house every other Monday night and she said “yes” without hesitation so it’s been going strong since March 2008. So I’ve not had to set one up, although the group has been full and I was getting new enquiries so looked at renting a college room for every other Wednesday. In the end that didn’t come off and I started a writing workshop on the Mondays in between and that’s been going well, although having a couple more people would be good.So what would you say makes a successful writing group?
The people definitely make a writing group. You need someone in ‘charge’ but someone who ‘takes part’ and not ‘over’. Anyone who takes over can spoil it for everyone else – I’m conscious that sometimes I’m a little too enthusiastic and often the one to pipe up first so I’m getting better at waiting 'til everyone else has had their say before reeling off my list of “this was good but would be improved by” or “I love the bit where”, which is usually a shorter list after everyone’s been anyway, which helps.
And criticism for criticism’s sake isn’t helpful. My mother once called one of my pieces (a competition winning poem actually) “dreadful” because she doesn’t do dark so I’ve learned what to show her, but the quickest way to get a new writer to leave a group is to say it’s rubbish (which of course is only an opinion) but not explain why. Equally, saying it’s brilliant isn’t helpful either, lovely but not helpful. We need to know what works and why.Presumably, your podcasts and 'red pen' sessions are an extension of the writing group thing? What gave you the idea, and how easy were these to set up?
When the blog interviews got going (mid-June) I quickly saw how easy they were in comparison to the audio interviews (no travelling, Skype sound issues, time-intensive editing afterwards) plus I could post one daily (I did two a day for a while) rather than one or two a month. So once I’d recorded the audio interview with Sally (Spedding) at Winchester Writers’ Conference in July, I went back to the hints and tips episodes but wanted to add something else in between. Because I love reading short stories and critiquing other people’s work I put the word out on Twitter and have recently posted the seventh ‘red pen’: a brilliant twist story called ‘On the edge’ from a chap called Aaron. I say in the intro that I’m not mean for the sake of it and he did say when he read my feedback (I email the draft transcript before it goes out so I know the authors are happy with what I’m going to say – no complaints so far!) that he thought I was going to be tougher but there was very little wrong with it.
The podcast itself was fairly straightforward. I’d been listening to them (The Book Show, Books and Authors, PRI, World Book Club, Writing Excuses… there are many more good ones) and thinking “I’d love to do this myself.” Last June I bought a Mac laptop which came with GarageBand and once I saw the ‘Podcast’ logo there was, again, no stopping me. I started in August 2010 and have recorded over 80 episodes now (hints and tips, audio interviews, literature event reviews etc) although I’ve only left the interviews, red pens and last half a dozen hints and tips episodes available because any new subscriber would have their work cut out wading through all 80-odd. There’s only so much of my voice anyone can take, even if it’s a posh British one! Audacity is a PC equivalent – I’ve heard good things about it but never used it myself. If anyone wants to advice on the process they can email me
.And what about the writer interviews? I see you’ve published no 179 but have them scheduled up to early January! What gave you the idea to do this?
I have, yes. No. 200 is coming up at the end of November and I have someone really exciting (to me anyway) lined up for that slot, I just hope I get the replies back in time. I also have a couple of ‘household’ names in mind for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and keeping everything crossed that that comes off. I’m getting braver with asking ‘famous’ authors but every time one says “yes” I have their name as ammunition. I’ve just interviewed my first agent (Peter Cox of Radio Litopia and Michelle Paver fame) and would like more… Ditto publisher Simon Marshall-Jones so if any agents, editors or publishers are reading this… :)Have authors been flocking to be interviewed or has it involved some coercion on your part?
Coercion: I like that. Yes, see earlier reference to ammunition.
I’m hoping that quantity and (hopefully) quality (by the ‘fireside chat’ feel) will encourage people I ask to agree to take part but equally it’s great to be able to champion independent authors, especially now as I am one myself. Of course I’m hoping by having aforementioned ‘household’ names that it’ll attract loads of visitors (I get c. 150-200 a day as it is) who will then stay on and read the indie authors’ interviews. I am conscious that I have so much content for people to wade through which is why I have the Blog interviews
page (which was called ‘Authors’ until Peter and Simon changed that dynamic) so people can start with the genres they write (or perhaps are considering writing) and then perhaps go from there.
Back to your question, I’m very lucky that I have had so many authors asking. When I started I had a backlog of a day or two but now it’s up to a couple of months on all three aspects (interviews, spotlights and guest blogs), a little less on the Flash Fiction Fridays but then that’s newer. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing as long as authors want to take part, or until I’ve interviewed every author (published or non-published, I’m happy to hear from both) on the planet. :)Your writing work is so prolific and varied that I almost dread to ask this: anything interesting coming up that we need to know about? No need to dread asking me anything (especially about my writing – I think I’m like every other author in that respect) – it’s lovely being on the other side of the virtual microphone.
I’m part-way through NaNoWriMo which I’m hoping will become an eBook in the new year. I’m cheating actually: I’m writing a collection of short stories, but as long as the word count is 50,000+ plus I won’t feel guilty… probably very, very tired but it’ll still be a ‘win’ to me.
Having written four and a bit novels (the bit is a conversion of the 102 pages I wrote for NaNo’s sister project ‘Script Frenzy’) it’s made me realise that short stories are my first and last love and so there’s no point in writing a novel for the sake of it… it probably wouldn’t be any good and a waste of a month and all those keystrokes. So yes, apart from the latest collection ‘Story A Day May’ (sub-titled ‘An author’s challenge to write 31 stories’) the next will likely be this NaNo’s ‘Calendar Girls’ – 12 stories about 12 wild and wonderful women… that’s the plan anyway, whether they’ll let me write them like that, we shall see. :)
Where can we find all your efforts? Give us a digest of where everything is!
Quite simple really: the blog is http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com
(the menu options at the top list everything on it) and the eBooks are accessible via https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/morgenbailey
. I have a website as well (http://morgenbailey.com
) but it’s a static page (and ‘contact me’ form) pointing to the blog.So much work! Thank you very much for taking time out to answer my questions, Morgen.
Thank you Winn. I enjoyed being on the other end and loved your questions.
I went to a funeral a few days ago. I’ve been fortunate in how few deaths have happened around me (so far), but nonetheless I’ve been to a few in the past.
While I’ve always managed to find something slightly amiss with previous funerals (that is, aside from someone I cared about having died), I’ll be surprised if I ever attend another as well-planned and appropriate as this one. It was a touching and charming service, reflecting the personality of the deceased: cheery (relatively), uncomplicated, warm and gentle. She had specified no party, flowers or cars, so there was little in the way of ceremony, just genuine remembrance.
This is a personal thing, but I have a strong dislike of “funeral poetry.” It always strikes me as overstated and designed to generate tears. It’s one step up from the flowery verse you find written in the majority of sympathy cards. Buying one last week, I spent a lot of time rejecting all but the one which simply said, “Thinking of you,” which was all I wanted it to say. I’m aware that some take comfort in flowing poetry on such an occasion, but I think there's room for getting the message across just as sincerely without going overboard with fancy phrases.
So I was relieved when the poems read on Wednesday were less sentimental and more reflective. Words from the deceased’s relatives were touching and honest, and the deceased’s choices were to the point without being overwhelmingly emotional. There were still tears in the chapel, but for the right reasons.
All told, it was a dignified and fitting goodbye, in which sparing use of words made a greater impact than any expansive poetry or prose could have done. It’s the only funeral I’ve been to that I’ve really appreciated, probably because I could relate the words to the person I knew. Afterwards, I learned that others felt the same.
Some won’t go to funerals because they want to remember the deceased as they were in life. I certainly have some sympathy with this stance, but last Wednesday reinforced my memories rather than eroding them - and there you have the power of some well-chosen words.
This one’s for Sue. RIP.