Friday, 29 March 2013

Please Don't Make Me Plan

"Right children we are going to be writing an adventure story called The Storm. No, Jimmy, put down your pen - you can't start now because today's lesson will be writing the plan. Remember I  talked last lesson about all stories needing a beginning, middle and end. That's right, Cloe, we have to set the scene,  introduce the problem, plot the build up and the climax to the story and then note down how it will be resolved."

This was me, two years ago, teaching my year 6 class the importance of planning a story.

This is me two years later.

Now what was that interesting comment Ali made when we were swimming last week? Ah yes, she said, "I've been on a diet for four weeks but it's David who's lost the weight." I like that. It would make a good story. Turn the computer on. How shall I start? I know: Val sat on the bar stool and watched her husband at the hob. Singing to himself, he ripped the lid from the double cream and added it to the soup. Now why did I write that? Oh yes, because that was what my husband did last night. What shall I write next? Shall I make Val happy or sad to start with? Let's try happy. "Hmmm... When will it be ready? Shall we open a bottle of wine?" she smiled.

And so it goes on, the story taking shape as I write it, the characters taking over and living lives I hadn't foreseen when I first breathed life into them.

This story was published in Woman's Weekly and there was not a plan in sight.

So what about the saying practise what you preach? I hear you gasp. The simple answer is - I CAN'T! Even at school, I was unable to plan a story and the same holds true today.

Planning! How I dread that word. The mere sound of it conjurs up lines and grids and organisational skills which I seem to lack.

So why is it that I have just spent the last fifteen minutes reading an article by Barbara Dyness about this hateful word in this month's Writer's Forum magazine.

It's because I know that one day - if I am ever to write anything longer, such as a serial or a pocket novel or even (fanfare) a novel, I shall have to have a try, give it a go, take the bull by the horns even.

If I do, I shall use the brilliant mind mapping app on my iPad called Total Recall - which you can read about in my post Mind Mapping Your Stories.

Happy Easter everyone!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Who'll Be My Fiftieth Follower?

I have no prizes, I have no books to give away but what you will get is me saying, "Woop, Woop, Woop you are my fiftieth follower!" 49 is a scraggy number neither clean cut lines nor comfortable curves but 50...well it shouts out, "Look at me. I'm half a century!"

I am sad  because I had three (yes three!) rejections yesterday, in the same email. So cheer me up by joining my select little group of lovely followers and we can have a party!

This is all just one huge procrastination because I am stuck on my story but never mind, I'll get there in the end.

If you want, you can pop over to The Bookshelf Muse where there is a great post about writing dialects - something I avoid at all costs.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

The Curious Incident of Missing Bonnie

Bad Bonnie went on a mini-break for three days. She went to stay with Grandad, who she loves and who loves having her, while my husband and I went to London for the day to The Apollo Theatre to see the National Theatre Production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night -Time.

If you haven't read the book, (which I thoroughly recommend you do), it is about a boy with Asperger's Syndrome. As the author Mark Haddon says:  'It’s a novel about difference, about being an outsider, about seeing the world in a surprising and revealing way.'

The play is amazing - if you don't see anything else see this! It is both humorous and moving.

But back to Bonnie. Great, I thought. Three days of no doggie smell, no wet muddy walks, no black hairs to hoover up and a respite for Bobby the cat (who she likes to chase round the room).

Most of you will know that Bonnie is my step-dog. She came (as a package with my husband) to live at my house three years ago and most of you will also know that before this I was a cat lover.

So, did I enjoy my Bonnie - free three days? I need to be honest here. It was cold and wet and muddy and I didn't miss the stressful walks, always on the constant look-out for other dogs (who she would like to eat). I liked not having a constantly muddy floor and I liked not having doggie drool on my knee... but... the house was so quiet, no one was there to greet me with a waggy tail when I came in from shopping, no one followed me round from room to room, settling at my feet whenever I sat down and as for Bobby - he just moped!

And when bonnie came home? She ran straight to me, her favourite toy in her mouth and dropped it at my feet before rolling on her back and making the strange mewling noise she seems to keep in reserve for when she hasn't seen me for a while.

Did I miss Bonnie? I hate to admit it but I did and would I mind if she went on another mini-break to Grandad's?... well, how could we disappoint him! 

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

How Do Writers Deal with Disability?

As most of you know, I have been a keen dancer for nearly two decades. A few years ago, my dance of choice was modern jive and I went to as many classes and dances as I could. At these dances, it is customary to swap dance partners during the evening and my favourite dance partner (let’s call him Ken) was in a wheel chair.
This might seem strange to hear but he was a very popular dancer: he had perfect rhythm, he led the moves beautifully – making sure his partners didn’t catch themselves on his chair, did a mean spin on his back wheels and was friendly and courteous (something that couldn’t be said for all the dancers)
I never knew what confined Ken to his wheel chair, in the same way as I didn’t know most of the other dancers' professions or where they lived.– we were all just there to dance and Ken would always be the person I would seek out as he made dancing a pleasure for his parners.
This brings me to the question of how we deal with disability in our writing. Do we, as authors, include enough characters with disabilities in our writing? Should we write about someone with a disability as just another character in our plot (as Ken was just another dancer at the jive dance) or should we should weave the story around the disability.

Ruth Hunt is a writer with spinal cord injuries who has written a thought provoking guest post, on the subject of disability and fiction, called 'Do You Dare to be Different' over at author Marianne Wheelaghan's blog. Please do visit her there and join in the discussion - she would love to hear from you.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Getting a Grip on Reality

Teresa Ashby from A Likely Story has very kindly nominated me for the Reality Blog - thank you Teresa!
This award is nice and simple (which suits me!) as are the rules:

Visit the blog of the person who nominated you and link to them on your post. Answer the questions, nominate more bloggers and let them know.

Here are my answers to the questions:

If you could change one thing, what would it be?

There would be no cows in the field I have to cross when I walk Bonnie.

If you could repeat an age, what would it be?

Oh, definitely my forties!

What one thing really scares you?

Can I really only have one? I suppose it would have to be the pitch black... and cows (sorry I just had to sneak that one in).

If you could be someone else for the day, who would it be?

Teresa Ashby - then I see could steal here secrets to short story success!
I have chosen people to nominate whose blogs I like and who I haven't nominated for an award before:
Karen Clarke Get On With It
Sally Jenkins
Helen Yendall Blog About Writing
Lynne Hackles I Should Be Writing

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Could Anyone Like the Colour Puce?


When we bought our lovely new settees, we had only one thought in mind - that we needed to buy something that would not show the dirt if bad Bonnie of The Bonnie Trap fame were to sit on them when we weren't looking.
With this in mind, we ordered two lovely heather coloured settees from Next. We were thrilled when they arrived but we hadn't thought it through - our walls were bright yellow and our fireplace had green tiles! Hmm... it was obviously going to be a redecorating job. The yellow walls could go but of course, there was nothing we could, or wanted to, do about the tiles (they are really nice).
This was where the fun began - what colour would go with green and heather. Magnolia, I hear you say. Well we had decided that as all the other downstairs rooms were a sophisticated neutral, we should add some colour in this room...and so began the game  - you know the one - where you dab little bits of different colours all over the walls until you have created your own version of Joseph's Technicoloured Dreamcoat.
Having tried out different match pots, (my husband counted over 30!) we opted for one with the fabulous name of Snuggle Up only to find it had been discontinued. Undeterred, we added more colours to the wall even though by this time our eyes were going funny and all the paints had started to look grey. By the way, don't ever trust the colours on a paint chart - they look nothing like it once on the wall!
Eventually, we found what we thought was a perfect match - a lighter version of the settee colour. My daughter came home for the weekend. "You can't have that... it's yuk!" Undeterred we ignored her and my husband painted the entire room, while we were walking Bonnie. When we got back, I looked at the room. There was only one word for the colour - 'Puce'. We all looked at each other and agreed, Yuk! Time to start again.
So now we have a newly decorated room. It is clean and bright and...Magnolia! Oh well.
A sale to Woman's Weekly and to The People's Friend softened the blow though.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Guest Post - My Mum!

I told you that today I would be inviting a very special person to my blog. Well, to celebrate Mother's Day, here she is - my mum, Joy.
It has been rather hard to pin her down for this interview, and I think that after reading this you will know why!

Welcome to my blog, Mum. I hope you won’t mind telling my readers how old you will be this year.

 I never think about my age. I’ve just worked it out - I’m 81 years, 5 months and 7 days. I don’t really believe it, I only feel 79.

 I imagine that you have had a very quiet year, slowing down a little, now that you are in your ninth decade: knitting, a bit of pottering round the house or a snooze in front of the TV - does that sound familiar?

None of the above, I’m afraid - I’ve no time for them! I’m too busy pursuing my various dramatic, cultural, artistic and agricultural activities; reading books for my book club; studying plays for my play study group and going to NADFAS lectures. The Archway Theatre also takes up a lot of my time.

You mention the Archway Theatre. Am I right in presuming that you are taking more of a back seat now after 58 years of membership?

Well, I act and direct. I have a very large part in the May production and I shall be directing a play in December. I’m also in charge of the theatre wardrobe, hiring out costumes ever Sunday morning; I’m a member of the Archway Council of Management and the Repertory and Membership Committees.

 It’s nice to have a local theatre to go to now that you are at an age where you probably don’t like to travel too far.

 I usually travel to London two or three times a week. This year, so far, I’ve seen nineteen plays, four musicals, one ballet, one opera, four films, four concerts and three art exhibitions. I’m a ‘Theatre Angel’ so I’ve also attended several first night after-show parties.

 I must say, your garden looks spectacular in the spring and summer. How many gardeners do you employ to help you keep it like this?

 Aren’t you forgetting how spectacular it looks in the autumn and Winter too? I’m afraid there’s only one, unpaid, gardener - me. As you've seen, it’s quite a large garden so I spend a lot of time composting, digging, planting, weeding, pruning, dead heading and mowing to keep it looking like it does.

As you know, my new writing career has started to take off but a little bird tells me that you’ve had a bit of writing success in the past.

 It was only one prize winning story and one published poem and, of course, ‘Diana’s Poems’ soon to be published I hope.

You're very modest, Mum. I think I know where I got my writing ability from. Can you tell us a bit more about these Diana poems?

 When I was at Drama School, I discovered that my best friend was three years older than me and I never let her forget it. Years later, I started to write a really rude poem in her birthday card each year describing her great age and deteriorating looks, always linked to her activities during that year. Sadly, she died a few years ago so the ‘Diana Poems’ came to an end - but hopefully her family and friends will enjoy reading them in the book.

 I expect you’re ready for a sit down with the crossword and a Horlicks now that you’ve answered all these questions?

 Well, I’m just off to learn some more lines, and find four drama extracts for my pupil’s lesson tomorrow. Looking round the room, I’ve just noticed all the pottery and ceramic items I made in the past and various items left over from when I used to collect and sell antiques. What a busy girl I must have been in those days!


Thursday, 7 March 2013

It's a Hat Trick!

After my mega rejection week last week, I am happy to report that this week things are looking up. I have a story called 'New Beginnings' in Woman's Weekly Fiction Special and one called 'Just a Day Tripper' in The People's Friend. These stories both mean a lot to me as they are  linked in different ways to dear friends of mine, for whom I dedicate them.

I have the honour of sharing the pages of these magazines once again with Teresa Ashby If you get the chance to read WW, take a look at her story 'Going Away for Easter' - it's so moving.

The hat trick came when Helen Yendall and Tracy Fells told me that mine was the star letter in this month's Writing Magazine - thanks girls - I had no idea and haven't even seen it yet (that explains why blog visits have gone through the roof since yesterday - I did wonder!) Helen also has a great story in WW called 'Splintered'.

For those of you who have sought me out from Writing magazine, hello and here is the link to Wendy's Story Timeline.

Before I go, I must just invite you all to visit my blog on Sunday. I have a great guest post for you (it was a bit of a coup to catch this person due to their busy schedule) and I am sure you will all find it inspiring.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Wish us Luck!

Tonight my choir Cantatrice will be taking part in a choir competition in Worthing. We shall be competing against three other choirs in one class and five others in another, so wish us luck!

I joined this choir when it was first formed nine years ago and I love it (almost as much as my dancing).

The youtube clip shows part of our choir - we are normally around 90 strong! Don't try to look for me in the video as I couldn't make that particular concert but it gives you an idea of who we are. I've just been laughing at the actions - usually we don't do any although it seems to be de rigueur for choirs these days.

We were given our seating arrangements for the competiton this morning and I had been put in the front row. I had to plead to be moved further back as I have a hatred of being on show. It's strange really as my main hobbies are all showy ones but I feel happier if I can mingle into the crowd. I only managed my salsa wedding dance because I'd had rather too many glasses of bubbly!

Talking of bubbly - if we do well tonight it will be a double celebration as I've just sold another story to The People's Friend. Yippee!