3.7.2017

Am sitting on my sofa having had a mad morning dashing about, packing to go to Wales this afternoon. I’m going with my friend, Clarey who’s due to arrive about oneish. We’ve been meaning to go away for ten years or more, but have never had the opportunity due to family obligations, but now Harry has finished his GCSEs and school is out for summer, we can finally go.  I have this brief hiatus in which to blog, after a morning spent washing, ironing, shopping (to get things in for the family whilst I’m away), showering, shopping again (because I forgot the shampoo) and going to the cash point to make sure everyone has dosh for the gym and the guided bus whilst I’m away.

Its a bit of a watershed moment for me and Clarey as she has just passed her BA in archaeology and my kids have all officially left school. Feels like the end of an era and the start of a new phase, thus we have decided to mark the moment by climbing Snowdon and staying in Snowdonia for three sleeps. The weather looks good for tomorrow, not too hot, a bit of drizzle in the morning and clearing in the afternoon for a good chance of a clear view once we’re up there. We’re doing the longest but least inclined route (for the elderly) so hopefully we will be okay. Unfortunately, I have a cold but its not a bad one and should be much better by tomorrow.

Writing wise I have done little since I last blogged as life has been a hectic whirl, but I have had a story published in Flash Flood as part of National Flash Fiction day, had a short story published in Scribble, I was short listed and published in Brilliant Flash Fiction, and I came second in a local comp for Ely Writer’s day and won £25 and attendance at a champagne reception after the final concert of Ely’s Art Festival. I was given a cheque by the mayor of Ely and had a photo taken which I’ll put on here next blog. In the meantime, here’s a pic of me and Harry just before his prom. harrypromnI’ll also link the digitally published stories so they’ll be readable here.

Last weekend I went to the Flash Festival in Bath. It was a wonderful experience. I learned lots, met many of my Flash heroes and made a genuine connection with a sister student from my Masters Forum. Ali and I spent much of the two days together and I so enjoyed her company. I felt her to be a real kindred spirit, writing wise. The winners of the Bath Flash award were announced at the end, and included the wonderful Nod Ghosh, who’s story took my breath away. So many congrats to her. Her winning a prize was the icing on the cake of a thoroughly wonderful weekend.

I intend to blog much more in the month of July as I’m hoping to get more writing time once I get back from Wales. I have a couple of good ideas for flashes too. Right off to make Clarey’s sarnie. Might blog later from lightest, highest wales.

29.5.2017

Well that was a full on year of learning. The first year of my MA in Creative Writing at the OU has now come an end. The deadline for our EMA submissions was Thursday. I submitted a 4000 word short story called Mornings After the Night Before. A complete departure for me and a story I would never have attempted before the course started. Its written in the third person in alternating sections inside the heads of two protagonists as they go about their seemingly unconnected day. Its written in a Bolton accent both in terms of dialogue and the narrative voice. (The narrative voice is a sort of chameleon that takes on characteristics of the protagonist it sits next to.) The story is set in Bolton, Salford Quays and Manchester Victoria, at the actual station, which is such a strange co-incidence following the awful events of last week, when the concert at Manchester Arena was suicide bombed, killing 22 innocent people.

Despite the mind-numbing awfulness of this act, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more proud to be a Manc. The coming together of the community to show solidarity and mutual support in the face of the cruel losers who’ve managed to twist their minds into believing that there is anything other than horror and inhumanity in the killing and maiming of free spirits and children, has been extraordinary. ‘Dont Look Back in Anger’ by Oasis is something of a family anthem for us Kaneens. We sing it at gatherings – on birthdays, and at Christmas – when we get together to reminisce about long ago rows and distant holidays when we moaned more than joined in and drove the parents bonkers. Its all nostalgia and love now, because we’ve done what the song says. It moved me to tears to hear the crowds singing it too. There is such power in words and music. Tony Walsh, reading out his poem, ‘This is the Place’ to grieving crowds, had everyone held in a thick silence, full of sorrow and pride and determination. Never have I been more convinced of the need for word smithery, to tell our side of things, to win hearts and minds, to stop the madness.

19/4/2017

aquariumCame back from Barcelona yesterday where a fun time was mostly had by all. The hotel (Hotel 1898) is on Las Ramblas and is wonderful, a curious checkerboard of black and white marble in cool post-colonial splendour, with excellent customer service – friendly and prompt – efficient without being cap-doffing, and they do a killer mojito in the rooftop restaurant.

The footie was seriously weird. Barca are unbelievably good up front and unbelievably bad at the back. Being a lifetime Bolton Wanderers fan I couldn’t help but think Barca could do with a bit of help from Big Sam in that department, but as he’s working his particular Allerdycian magic at Crystal Palace at the mo, spose there’s no chance of that. Anyhoo we were perfectly positioned to see Messi score two fab goals and Barca hold onto a flimsy lead to win 3-2 in the end.

On day 2, we went to the Picasso museum and the teenagers were very well-behaved though I reckon the Las Meninas room stretched their engagement a wee bit. Grumpy husband curiously taken with it all though, and even bought himself a t-shirt.

We decided to go to the Aquarium on day 3 because we all wanted to see the axolotls, none of our party of four ever having seen an axolotl before. I just like saying axolotl, so went along with the plan. The aquarium was an amazing space full of strange and curious sea flora and fauna  – octopi, nautiluses, puffer fish and such like. We were in there for three hours and right at the end we realised there were penguins too and so dashed off to spend another half hour watching them. We’d just come outside the turn-styles with our shell-anklets and shark’s teeth souvenirs, when we realised we’d missed the axolotls entirely. Thus the axolotls must be revisited on another trip. The picture above is of us all at the aquarium. Grumpy husband is looking more uncomfy than grumpy in this photo. This was not because he was not enjoying himself its because we had to pay 5 euros for the photo.

Writing wise I’ve done nothing, nothing at all. Today I am back in the hobbit hole for one day only and intend editing a couple of stories ready for sending out into the world. My last Tutor Marked Assessment which I got back on Friday, scored my highest ever score (joint with a wee story from A215). That story came third in the 2016 Scribble short story comp so I think maybe I’ll enter the new story into a comp too. My tutor feedback was very helpful so I’m going to take all her advice and edit it now, and send it out this aftie and see what happens. Better crack on and stop blogging then.

1/4/2017

Well that went quick. March I mean. Here we are on April 1st and I blogged not in the entire month. Here’s why – mahoosively busy with MA – sent in Tutor Marked Assessment 03 this Thursday, which was not the one I planned. Ended up writing a sci-fi about a post-truth telepathic judge who enters the minds of those undergoing reassessment to decide whether they should live or die. All this Donald Trumpism has a lot to answer for!

This month has been the steepest learning curve for me writing-wise. I’ve now got names for techniques I was using instinctively. Knowledge IS power. Now I have names for what I’m doing, I can both control myself and my writing, and edit miles better.

Case in point – I entered a short story for The Fish Prize in November, a story I’d started doing A215, then had mashed together with another story.  I quite like said story, and was very pleased that it was long-listed – but here’s the thing. Fish are really good because they keep the draft for you to revisit and I went and had a look at what I’d submitted. Don’t get me wrong its quite a good story, half-decently written with much potential, but boy did it need an edit! I decided to re-edit it post TMA deadline (last night) planning to send it off to Fabula Press’s comp, deadline midnight. The story is now 500 words shorter, stripped back (as I have a tendency to ‘over write’) and the first thing I’ve finished that I think really has a chance to do well. Setting myself up for disappointment? Maybe but I’m going to take a min to feel pleased with it. I missed the deadline for Fabula by falling asleep! So will scout around for somewhere else to send it off to. Editing getting better, time-keeping needs more work!

EMA writing starts on Monday and Block 4 – the final part of year one of my Masters. Much, much work to do and Harry starts his GCSE’s in May and we’re off to Barcelona too,  so don’t know if I’ll get back here again in April. One thing I must prioritise is getting new specs though. Have had a series of awful migraines due, I’m sure, to spec breakage and wearing Tesco’s magnifiers instead of prescription. First thing on my to do list over Easter.

Right off to pick up Harry now, from a last day of term party, somewhere in Norfolk. At least the sun is shining.

 

20/2/2017

Lots has happened course-wise since my last blog: my tutor resigned, our tutor group got decommissioned, and we all got split up the day before the deadline!.

It was very stressful because we all got tipped out of our tutor group just like that, without any warning at all. One minute we were all beavering away in the group, exchanging critiques on each others’ work, (worth 10% of total TMA mark) the next we were suddenly in other groups, unable to get back. It was very upsetting as we couldn’t access each other’s comments for referencing, right at the point we needed them and each other most.

One of the group went into another forum called the Cafe, which is staffed all the time – and complained. After a night of shenanigans, our connectivity to our original group was reinstated, but now we all have different tutors and new tutor groups too. I guess we get the best of both worlds – new tutor groups, new tutors and the old one so its worked out okay in the end I suppose.

I am soooo pleased with my new tutor, who was up until eleven the night of the de-tutoring, trying to sort things out for me. She’s helpful, insightful and thorough, and I got a distinction for my TMA02 – so all is good.

Currently I’m working on TMA03 which is Fiction again – a 2500 word short story with which I’m going to be very avant garde. I don’t need this to score well to pass, so I’m going to do something very different and experimental, to see if it works. I’m going to disregard some of the conventions of short story telling, by writing in four completely different voices, telling four (maybe five if I can get it done) complete flash fictions that are linked by subject matter and theme that, read together, will reveal a deeper truth about the human condition.

It will be very labour intensive and time-consuming as the story(ies) will span seven hundred years, three continents, and will each need researching as if they were stand alone pieces, but I reckon its worth attempting, because even if it goes tits, it wont matter MA grade-wise and hopefully I’ll learn loads.

Other writing wise I’ve done very little except enter Bath Flash and submit to Scribble, so everything is a bit quiet on the being published front at the moment. Right off to the forum to see who’s about.

 

 

28/1/2017

haloLook what just dropped onto my welcome mat (Its on the chairside table now). Halo lit mag with my wee story in it. It is so beautifully produced, I just want to stare at it and stroke the cover. Am going to read it from cover to cover in Nicko’s comfy chair in front of a blazing fire – well I am when I get back from dropping Georgy off at work – cannot wait.

27/1/2017

Been hard at work drafting, redrafting, re-re-drafting (repeat as appropriate) my second Tutor Marked Assessment (TMA)  for my MA. This is a piece of Creative Nonfiction about when I was ill as an undergrad. Have just put final touches to it and will now leave it in a drawer until next week, so I’ll be able to see it with fresh eyes before submission.

When you edit something so many times (which you have to do as part of this coursework) the writing becomes a bit invisible and you miss mistakes. I’d edited out a ‘he said’ ‘she said’ and make the beginning senseless at final draft stage. Good job one of the excellent tutor group members picked up on it. I’ve edited this story so many times I almost know it by heart and have come to anticipate what’s written rather than what actually is.

The next stage of this TMA is to do a 1000 word commentary on how I came up with/edited the piece. That’s why I’m doing this blog. Procrastination is a powerful thing. So far I’ve washed all my hand-wash jumpers, Hoovered  the house and cleaned the loo.

Other writing-wise I’ve done hardly ‘owt this week, bar polishing my TMA01 story. I’ve just written a tiny flash for Ad Hoc Fiction as I came up with a funny-sad idea for a 300 word Flash for Bath Flash Fiction and you get a free entry to that if you win Ad Hoc. Haven’t written the flash for Bath though and don’t know if I’ll be able to fit in getting it done this time round.(Deadline’s in Feb)

janandlilyAnyhoo, before I go, here’s a pic of me and the lovely Lily Green at The Arnolfini Bookshop in November at the launch of No Bindings. Lily is the creator of the No Bindings concept and is an all round gorgeously good egg. It was a very cold day, that day, and Lily was standing near the door telling people all about the No Bindings, thus the hat scarf and coat. What a brilliant day I had.