This week is Independent Bookshop Week so get buying down at your local.
I am a massive supporter of independent bookshops. When I published Dear Tosh I was determined to get it into the local shops or at least get the book into a situation where it could be ordered from a local bookshop.
As a self-published author it’s been difficult. I’m not famous, haven’t published anything before so have no sales records. The bookshops are unlikely to order copies on spec, but via social media, I have encouraged as many people as possible to get down to the high street and visit their wonderful bookshops.
Today is the 30th July. I have to submit my dissertation and essay for my MA by the 28th August. I should have been going away on the 14th August and had originally planned to have it all done and dusted by then. Am I glad I’ve got an extra two weeks? I’m not sure — The more time you have the more time you take — is what I think.
The odd thing is, I reached my required line limit of 600 for my poetry portfolio a week or so ago, and as soon as I arrived there, I found I could write more and with greater ease, and some quite good (well I thought so). Hence poems are still popping out at the rate of one or two a day. All through working for the portfolio, I was counting lines. . . 300, not enough, only 450. . . how can that be? But, once I hit 600 and the pressure was off the writing became so much easier. I wish now that I had never counted a single line but just written.
Last weekend I attended a workshop organised by the Dorset Writers Networkand run by the lovely Sarah Acton from Black Ven Poetry We met at the Dorset NectarApple Orchard. Unfortunately it rained but we were able to sit in the big barn and absorb the sound of the rain, breathe the air and when there was a break in the showers we walked outside to get close up and friendly with the apple trees. It was, by coincidenc, St James’s Day the day on which apple trees are traditionally blessed. We did our best with our creative ideas and thoughts. It was an uplifting experience and so good to socialise albeit at a distance, but just to have distanced physical contact and talk writing and poetry again with like-minded people felt so good.
Me with the Orchard in the Background
If you haven’t watched them yet there are several Imagine programmes with Alan Yentob, to catch up on on Iplayer, but my favourites were, Lemn Sissay The Memory of Me and Andrea Levy Her Island Story. Both wonderful, inpiring writers with such interesting life stories to tell. Sadly Andrea died at the beginning of 2019…too soon.
I have bought the Lemn Sissay book My Name Is Why and am immediately hooked. What wonderful poetry this man writes.
Going to reread Small Island now and also her book Fruit of The Lemon which is sitting on my bookshelf waiting. Andrea Levy
Too much to read. . .need more time. Too many wonderful podcasts to listen to. . .
I began this blog a while ago and should have posted it but – university work got in the way…that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. (nice cliché there).
Thursday 19th September was Induction Day for Post Graduate Students and yes…that’s me, folks! I was excited, apprehensive…a little fish in a very big pond. I parked in the visitors’ carpark and paid the fee due (bit worried about this because after all I wasn’t a visitor but a S T U D E N T. But, a kind chap pointed out that they had no idea whose car it was so not to worry.
Queens Building, Streatham Campus. Lecture Theatre 2 was the designated venue for induction. I took my place early, and it soon filled up with PG students studying subjects under the school of Humanities, including, English, Archeology, Film, Creative Writing (my subject) and a few others.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when the Director of Taught Programmes arrived to welcome us. I thought the university must have employed him from an actors agency… he appeared how I imagine a professor should look. Long grey untidy hair tied back in a ponytail, a pair of glasses hanging on a string around his neck, open neck check shirt, baggy jacket, black waistcoat and corduroy trousers…I mean, honestly, it was Michael Caine in Educating Rita!
I have to admit to feeling my age on that first occasion. Looking around me, everyone appeared to be in their late twenties or thirties, just the odd, older person hiding in a corner or hunkering down in their seat, trying to look inconspicuous. But, I was relieved later in the day, when we were split into our separate groups to find several ‘mature’ students were studying Creative Writing. Phew! A good mixture, I would say.
Reading week was from 28th October. The first weeks have flown by and I am learning a great deal. At least I think I am. I’m certainly reading a great deal. Text books, poetry anthologies, short stories, newspaper articles, plays and scripts. My brain has trouble switching off in the evening.
This term, I’m studying a poetry module and a module in which I will learn, (hopefully) more about plotting – on an in-depth scale. You might be persuaded to think that 4 hours a week attending university is a doddle. . .let me put your right. I am expected to do 300 hours of work in twelve weeks for the poetry module, and I guess the same for the other. That’s 600 hours in twelve weeks. Now, I’m not very good at maths, but I think that works out at about 50 hours a week plus the four hours of lectures.
There wasn’t much let up over reading week either because, for the poetry module, Professor Andy Brown…he’s an inspiring teacher, asked us to prepare a 1000-word document, evaluating our progress to date, and my aims for the end of the module, plus a few poems, to show ‘how I’m doing.’ It’s wonderful, how much creativity Dr Andy Brown has encouraged and drawn out of his students so far.
For the other module, a 1000-word essay about The Map of Desire…a concept conceived by the tutor Sam North about the needs and desires of the protagonist in any story…moves the story on. It’s more complicated than I’ve made it sound, but you would need to read, The Instinctive Screenplay, to know more about it. The essay was written using the play Waiting for Godot…hmm, say no more. What’s the point anyway? 😂
I was shortlisted in the Charmouth 50-word story competition but not placed. I entered the Bridport Story slam but didn’t get anywhere. I performed at an open mike evening in Lyme and read out one of my ‘new’ poems saying, with great confidence, that it was a Pantoum. Only to realise later that the poem I performed was a Ghazal...haven’t learned that much then!
I had the grandchildren for two days in reading week; went to the Dinosaur Museum in Bridport and to see Farmageddon the Shaun the Sheep new movie. All good stuff. Keeps you young you know, and I have to do that, as I’ve just entered an important year, at the end of which I will be celebrating a big birthday.
Last Monday The Man and I were in Northern Ireland, and we took the opportunity to visit Seamus Heaney Home Place. It was the most inspirational few hours that I have spent in a long time. What a prodigious man. Not just a great poet but one prepared to mete out his knowledge to everyone. By coincidence, there was an article about Seamus Heaney, in the Royal Society of Literature Review, waiting for me on my return from Ireland. I was interested to read this quote, about his engagement with his thousands of correspondents,
‘. . . I have a feeling of responsibility towards those who want contact with poets or poetry.’
He replied to everyone who wrote to him.
He was, I think, an approachable man, someone who would easily chat to a person like me. Unfortunately, I will never get that chance. Seamus Heaney died in August 2013 at the age of 74. But, I did have the opportunity to visit the museum, in his birthplace of Bellaghy. I was able to listen to his voice reading his beautiful words. I was truly inspired. Sometimes, reading the work of a literary genius can just make you feel defeated, in the knowledge that you could never be that good but somehow, his voice, his infinite words, urged me on, to try and create some good poetry in my own voice.
Dialect words used in Seamus Heaney Poetry — Witney, one of the guides at Home Place, printed out a glossary for me of over 100 words. I doubt I’ll be able to use any of them (I could try) but they make fascinating reading.
I’ve got the notebook, pencil, mug and a few anthologies. Time to put them to good use . .
I have accepted an unconditional place at Exeter University to do an MA in Creative Writing beginning September 2019. I know it’s going to be a lot of hard work but I am so excited. I’m hoping it will take my writing to another level and I’m fully prepared and committed to putting in the effort needed to be successful. It will, of course mean, that The Man may have to produce a few meals and take the dog out for a walk now and I’m sure my organisational skills will be tested to the limit. I have never ‘attended’ university. For my BA in Dance Education I worked on line with the Royal Academy of Dance and then went to Durham University to recieve my certificate, (the course was validated by Durham). I’m looking forward to being on campus and suspect that I won’t be the only mature student there. I’m not planning on going to Fresher’s Week, although at least one of my children thinks I should go and even suggested an outfit.
I’m going to give regular updates on my MA as I go along to let you all know how I get on from month to month. I hope I won’t be too tired and you won’t find it too boring.
2. RNA – Romantic Novelists’s Association
I have, at long last, sent in a complete manuscript of my novel for appraisal by this organisation of which I am on the New Writers’ Scheme. I’m not expecting great things, I know there is plenty wrong with it (a soggy middle for a start) but it is a wonderful feeling to have written 84,000 words and finish the story that I have been working on for some years.
I was pondering this question this morning after reading for half an hour or so. I’m nearly at the end of a book by Edith Wharton, The Custom of the Country. I’m reading it because one of Sophie Duffy’s #100WomenNovelists focused on her and her book Summer. I tried to get that from Bridport library but it wasn’t in stock. They did have The Custom of the Country, so I took that instead and I ordered Summer from Amazon and it’s here but sitting on the bookshelf yet to be opened.
The Custom of the Country is a wonderful piece of literature, beautiful words, interesting characters and a story long in its unfolding. However, the heroine Undine Spragg is an annoying specimen of an early 20th Century American, social-climbing, empty-headed, spoilt brat! Her husband is weak and he takes on the same attitude that her father had previously, allowing her to ‘spend, spend, spend’ for fear she might have a fit of the vapours and take to her bed for weeks on end. We are not supposed to like her I’m sure, but I detest her to the point where I want to smack her good and hard. It’s been a long read for me and I’ve tried hard not to skip pages, but I have found it somewhat unsatisfying that she hasn’t yet had her comeuppance, although the third husband, I think will provide this. I hope so anyway.
I was cross this morning with the fact that her second husband shoots himself because he can’t come up with enough money to ‘buy’ their son. A child she hasn’t bothered with for a few years and does not care for at all. She knows that she can win him in the courts without a problem and sees it as a way to fill her rather empty bank account. In the end of course, she gets the son, and by chance ends up getting a portion of the money left to him by his father. It’s a long story but the ex-husband gambled on the stock market and the money didn’t come through in the desired time, it did however, come to fruition some time after his death. Poor man. Undine’s status, meanwhile, goes from being a divorcee to a widow which is far more appealing to her ‘Paris Set’. She always comes out on top…until now I suspect/hope.
I closed the book this morning and found myself feeling fed up and in a grumpy mood. All because Undine Spragg is such an unpleasant character. I’ve only a few pages left to read…let’s hope it ends in a way which be satifying and put me in a great mood for the rest of the week. I’ll let you know.