Monday, 29 April 2013

Poem from the Credit crunch series


Glinting, in the glass cabinet,
a silversmith's ring -
well crafted, clever
like a frou frou skirt

the  silver slices 
remind of waves,
 or the petals of a rose 

It catches the light, transforms -
wants a hot dress date 
wants to join up with jeans
It's my leaving present.

The vouchers sat in a draw for nearly a year
redundant, like me
but I found the ring without trying
as if it was meant to be.

Idly tried it  like Cinderella
amazed by the fit as if
only made for my finger

Now the ring wears me,
Reminds, with its weight
leaving has
beautiful compensations

I've moved on.
Stunning, not stunned. 

Train tweets @wordpoppy

  1. Train tweet 6: Bath Ales gaze over honeyed stone, a woman pushes a bicycle garlanded with flowers on the platform
  2. Train tweet 5: A sleeping tomb zooms on; pockets of poetry, a lambing shed, a flick of mobiles, dampened voices.
  3. Train tweet4: "When I lived in Malawi I got malaria and I couldn't give blood for years" Overheard

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Writers - self-editing, writing prompts and tweets

Whilst surfing around the web indulging my passion for writing I've been collecting examples of things I've found interesting: There's an blog I've found about self-editing. It seems full of useful advice, including this about interior monologue - using Lord of The Flies as an example see

22nd June is National Flash Fiction Day and on the official website are examples of short stories that have won this year's competition, as well as some writing prompts for story ideas. 

Then I found the service of people willing to review your book, so an opportunity for readers and writers -

Using writing and social media for charities seems a fabulous idea - I came across this project which created a graphic novel with collaborative tweeting every day for a year,  for the Teenage Cancer Trust at  - they raised a huge amount of money. Seems like an inspired use of social media for a really good cause. 

Follow me on @wordpoppy
Broadcasting daily between 08:05 - 08:40
I've been developing a twitter project - writing daily train tweets on twitter of interesting lines, or overheard dialogue, inspired by my daily commute. You can connect with me on twitter @wordpoppy. I intend to weave these tweets into a longer story at the end of 30 days, or 30 tweets, depending on what comes first. 
Departing from Platform 15

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Train Tweets: broadcasting on @wordpoppy

Follow me on the daily commute. 

Broadcasting daily between 08:05 - 08:40 
on twitter @wordpoppy

Here's a little example;

Train Tweets 1 - 3 

Train tweet 1: The recycling plant spills paper, ink and tears. Other work at

Train tweet 2: Square jawed and purple braces; faux fur and 50's hair. Stealing characters for my art.

Train tweet 3: There's no escape from the natterer, on and on he dribbles, a diarrhoea of sound.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Quote: When I loved myself enough by Kim McMillen

Outside Melbourne Tourist Information Centre

When I loved myself enough 
I began leaving whatever wasn't healthy. 

This meant people, jobs,my own beliefs and habits - anything that 
made me feel small.My judgement called it disloyal.Now I see it as self-loving.

 by Kim McMillen
from her book, 'When I loved myself enough' -

Kim McMillen's little book is one I sometimes turn to - opening pages at random for inspiration. This is the page I found yesterday.
Having not been loved myself enough for most of my life it reminds me to trust myself, and to be courageous. 

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Writers - but is it any good? The next time I write a novel ...

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

How do you write a novel? By redrafting until you want to hurl it at the wall. Writing the Wish Bone is one of the hardest things I've ever done. Compared to childbirth or nursing my daughter through cancer this may seem ridiculous, but at the moment it feels like I'm wrestling with daemons inside myself, an inner psychic drama. 

Like Caroline in my book who shreds her husband's trousers I want to attack it with a large pair of scissors. Why this anger?

I endured a major critique on my novel today, from a writer I respect, and I'm still reeling from the implications, hence why I feel so violent towards it, (or should I say I feel violent towards my lack of ability to be as good a writer as I aspire to be.) Like stamping my feet in the playground I feel like shouting 'f off' and marching away defiantly. But ripping the whole thing up would be self-harm and petulance. The alternative is more hard slog. The patient nuturing of the thing until it breathes with a steady, powerful heart, that it lives as fully as it can. 

|I was aiming to finish editing this year. If I have to do another major redraft it will take another age to reach the end. I want to move on to other writing projects. But when you're redrafting 80,000 words that's not going to happen quickly. 

All I know is that the book needs to get finished. It's been four years. Four years of ignoring my friends inviations on walks, gatherings, four years of solitude, the persuit of this thing rather than relationships. I've nurtured, re-written, re-drafted,  worried at it, it's been cossetted, debated and kicked, by myself and generous souls in writing groups, until I'm sick of the doing of it. 

The issue now is gathering the strength for another major edit, and once that's done I need to know when to abandon it and when it's ready to be sent off into the world.  You, lucky readers, can see some of my draft novel, and so far, I've been getting very good comments, so I could just ignore my friend's advice, which could be wrong, after all. 

My next novel won't be workshopped chapter by chapter by my writers group. It will be written fast, day after day so the momentum is kept up, with no long gaps where the ideas or narrative thrust have a chance to fade. It will be done at speed so it is one coherent whole. Like Stephen King suggets, in his excellent book, 'On Writing', the next book will be written with the door closed at first, written just for myself, and only once the first draft is down will I let others see it.   

But back to my dilemma and disappointment. I am committing to writing the best novel I can, and like someone said on Radio 4 this week, you have to fall in love with your own book. I need to work out which of my friend's critique I agree with and then approach it again, edit it again, until I am satisfied with it, then I can rest easy sending it to an agent knowing that it is the very best I can do. 

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Video: Chapter 2 of The Wish Bone: WILL

The novel tells the stories of a Bristol family. Chapter 2 is told from Will's point of view. He's the Dad. 

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The kindness of strangers

Anchor in a storm

Cycling to the train station this morning, going hell for leather in the bus lane something unexpected came up. A small boy ran straight into my path.  

Cue: spectacular bike dive then palms and knees smacking tarmac. Boy unhurt, but I was left spreadeagled unable to move after the introduction to the floor. Thank God Bristol buses are so unreliable and one wasn't lumbering its way behind me.  Luckily two kind samaritans picked me up, plonked me on the pavement,  offering water and tissues to mop up the blood and untangle the bike. 

After some minutes on the pavement I rang my kids, both in bed, at the ungodly hour of 8.00am.  Apparently it took seven minutes for my son to get from horizontal sleeping mode in bed to arrive by my side, also by bike. I love the fact he timed the rescue mission. My daughter, ever practical, came with paracetamol and the promise of cups of tea back home. 

 Fortunately no major harm was done other than nasty scrapes, bruises and a pulled muscle.  

So, thank you for the kindness of those strangers who stopped to help and who made themselves late for work,  and for my lovely family.    

Monday, 15 April 2013

1980's roadtrip poem - the Australia series

At the terminal the coach heaves,
swallows me and my every possession
You said "goodnight, not goodbye."

We thunder down the highway -
three days to Ayers Rock

I begin to unravel you and me;
unpick the horrors of what we did
and I see nothing but an emotional landscape
and when I reach Adelaide
angular, flowered, calm city
my accent still marks me out 
and nobody shares these harsh pillows. 

We skirt the Flinders Ranges.
Grey bushes break up the red stony soil
and lone houses break up the hours.

The water pipeline follows the road for hundreds of miles
and far away at Stony Point where you worked
a fire is burning

No doubt the sharks are breeding now. 

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Green ink, purple prose and pens

I'm feeling reather antiquated. I visited WH Smiths and Rymans with the intention of buying a fountain pen. My last fountain pen used green ink, had a broad nib and was used for writing countless letters.  

Letters are sadly old fashioned, but the feel of a fountain pen in your hand opens new possiblities when writing. The look of the ink on the page is far more satisfying and has personality, unlike the humdrum of arial or the crotetchy Times New Roman fonts. 

In my writing playbook a fountain pen would be the perfect instrument, adding weight to crossings out or scribblings of my short stories and poems. The flow of ideas through the pen has a different feel from the scratchy tap tap on a keyboard, with its myriads of typos or instant deletions. A fountain pen, I decided, is essential to my writing experiments of getting into the flow - and it would be fun to play with the physicality of writing, so long as purple prose doesn't emerge of course, but even then as an expression of thought it could be a relief after the intensity of my daily rigour of the taut press releases I write for work. 

The assistant looked me up and down. I'd asked, politely, if I could try the pens out so I could test out the nib and the thickness of the instrument in my hand. Back in my day this was how it was done -  Smiths had a special counter for the purpose. 

"Of course not. Sealed packets," she said, staring at me and speaking louder than was strictly necessary to get her point across. 

"She was probably looking for the owl on your shoulder." my colleague replied when I returned to the office grumpy and aggrieved.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Controlling creativity and negativity in the writer

Controlling creativity is something that feels deeply unnatural to me. Surely cretivity is about playing, experimentation and being free? Isn't it an oxymoron? 

As I sat down on Sunday morning to begin editing 'The Wish Bone,' all sorts of negativity crept in - it's no good, you aren't as good as you were back then, it's too long since you wrote anything. Fear. 

Path in Austrailia

With my novel it's like endlessly climbing the same  mountain. Each time you re-start you seem to be at the bottom of the pile.

Hemingway said," Writing's easy - you just sit over your typewriter and bleed."

So on Sunday I fiddled around with facebook, couldn't resist checking my emails, and kept reading over and over Caroline's words, worrying about how the plot fitted together. Then I tired meditation, something new to me, which for me just means sitting in a room on the floor and trying not to think about thinking. There is no rest from the busy mind, it keeps me awake at night, inhabits my dreams, leaves me exhausted. 

So, in the end I forced myself to sit there and focus on the text and the words, and I gave myself an end time - one o'clock. As the deadline approached I suddenly entered the 'zone' and I was away. I edited 5 pages - it's slow but then it was re-writing, as it really wasn't as polished or meaningful as it should be. Stephen King in his book 'On Writing' which I can recommend says you need to get closer to the truth, and that's what I was aiming at. 

In the afternoon I had a much more productive day with my  family than usual. Becuase I'd only allowed myself to be creative in a time frame, I could then be free to really be with my family when I wasn't writing. And I promised myself I'd write the novel everyday. Have I? Well yesterday I was just too busy checking out instructional video's from the 30 DC project, and tonight it's my writing group, so no, not yet!

Happy writing and reading everyone. 

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Editing Chapter 24 - how to avoid cheap sentiment in writing

I'm feeling very chuffed with myself as I have finally finished editing Chapter 24 which tells the story of Freddie at Bristol Kite Festival. I had to write in a whole new character into the scene and increase the pathos. But it's done and the word count for the edited novel now stands at 75,698 words. I have a childish pleasure in knowing how many words I've edited. Though as Mark Twain says in The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain, "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug." 

Freddie flies a Black angel kite like this 
Chapter 24 has always been a favourite of mine - it's got emotion and power, it's a high point in the book, and it's got a bit of magical writing about kites that uses extended metaphor to mirror what's going on in Freddie's world. Freddie doesn't normally do sentiment being a 14 year old boy, but here I let him have a bit of fun linguistically. 

A few weeks ago I took Chapter 24 to my writing group and P, (he likes to be anonymous) said, 'Grace, you've got a puppy moment in the scene. I don't like it. Too obvious.'

I considered, and I knew he was absolutely right. I'd written this chapter as if it was a film scene. Queue: tears, soppy music, and heightened emotion. I was cheating. I was giving the reader a scene which wasn't deserved. It was too predictable, too expected, too easy. 

"No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader." - Robert Frost.   

I've gone back and made it sharper, edgier. Now Freddie has a mix of emotions and the high points are counterbalanced with rougher edges and dark humour. 

One writing technique I'm using which is very useful is to read my work out loud when editing. In a novel like this which has three first person narrators the voice is all. It won't work if I get the voice even slightly off. It will stand out. 

Getting the specifics right is also really important - what references does Freddie use, or any 14 year old boy? Am I being consistent across the novel? The more I read it out loud, the more I can hear if my own voice, or  use of language, is getting in the way of my character's voice, and the more I can hear Freddie's voice. Reading aloud helps as I can hear the duff note and when the rhythm falters.

 For now, it's done. 

Monday, 1 April 2013

Spring ought to be sprung

When I was growing up in the countryside I used to spend a lot of time with my dog, walking around the lanes and fields. I knew what month it was by looking at the flowers in bloom.

I'd wait for the bluebells to appear in the secret wood, watch for the peppery heavy flush of cow parsley to froth up in the hedgerows, the fine May months when the grass had the unfurled, first-born green shine to it.

Summer was overblown, when the heat and dust of harvest had played out the colours of the grass, leaching away its strength.

It worries me deeply that the seasons have become so unreliable, so unpredictable. This long dull winter refusing to shift feels so wrong, and damp climbs the walls of the house. So, in memory of heat, warmth and light some pictures: