Thursday, 18 July 2013

On paths, choice and writing

Looking through old photos taken over the last few years I've noticed many of them are paths.

Here's my Australian collection: 

I used to worry over whether I'd chosen 'correctly' - career path, partner, houses, computer, bed, bread or board.

The agony of choice overwhelmed me, and I'd find equally interesting choices and not know which one to take. Perhaps that's why I find re-drafting my novel so hard. Have I thrown away a writing nugget?  For me the fun is in creation rather than shaping. As I type I'm surrounded by stacks of drafts of my novel, and centimetres of feedback from my writers group. I have many versions of my novel. 

Perhaps subconsciously my photos are telling me that I'm still working out the answer to the riddle of what I should be doing, or where I should be going. Maybe I think that once I'm on the 'right' path I'll be happy, or fulfilled, or content.
 Here are a few English paths that I've photographed over the last year.
Animal track

Cornwall, path from the beach

View from Welsh church

Looking at these images, it seems I'm still trying to work it out. I've always felt a 'little out of sorts', taking the role of observer on the edge of things, which is a good state to be in for a writer. Writing for me is far easier than speaking, it's the place where my thoughts live. It is the writing, or not doing the writing that has dominated so much of my life. There's been on-going frustration - as discussed in my very fist blog post about how I wasn't putting my work there, and so wasn't being 'heard'. 

Interestingly, at the end of my thirty day challenge to change things I wrote that I'd climbed the path. Now I'm feeling I'm still half way up - and that's good because at the top of the path, with a clear view the only way is down. And I want to keep on climbing and exploring choice in my writing and life.

The more I write, blog and practice being creative - then the happier I feel and my inner voice  that knows what to do and is instinctive rather than intellectual, is heard. 

The last word belongs to Robert Frost.

Here is a Youtube recording of Robert Frost reading The Road Less Travelled

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Guy Fawkes and Alice at Montacute

A few weeks ago some friends and I visited the National Trust property, Montacute House in Somerset in a converted ambulance called Bob. 

Alice in Wonderland

The day was the first hot day of summer, and the sun was high and still. As we walked up to the imposing Elizabethan Mansion an Alice in Wonderland type girl posed for a photo-shoot. Her face was chalk white and she wore a silk peacock gown. The young photographer. behind  a very large tripod wore a white cotton dress. They were both yin and yang, presumably students, but both looked as if they'd walked out of a film. 

We walked across Montacute's fabulously romantic grounds, with deep borders of roses and dreamy planting set against formal lawns. Pudding houses with beautiful mosque-like structures  stand at the corners of the lawn. This is where diners would retire to  eat quince perhaps ? On the other side of the lawns tall old yews are lopped into topiary, bending and twisting in a formal still life. 

The place is full of atmosphere,and on a whim I took this photo. When I looked at it at the end of the day I couldn't make any sense of the shape our shadows made. I am a petite size 10, but look wide. What was my friend holding? What is the hook that appears on my shoulder? 
The picture seems to hold significance beyond itself. Interesting to now discover that the house was built for Sir Edward Phelips who gave the opening speech at the prosecution of the trial of Guy Fawkes. 

The exterior is imposing and gargoyles and carved statues keep watch over the house.
Pudding House

Inside are some fascinating pieces such as a marriage bed with carvings of women with enormous breasts and bulging thighs. Upstairs  the Long gallery stretches the entire length of the house and contains  portraits from the National Portrait Gallery which include the 'eyebrow collection'  and the 'crossed eye collection' of princes and kings - crossed eyes to show that the monarchs aren't to be trusted. It is a house full of echoes and however much the guides talked the place has an eerie feel to it. This is a view from one of the windows.  

And this is one of the staircases, where it's easy to imagine walking down in the heavy petticoats and gowns depicted in the Long Gallery collection. Luckily trusty Bob was waiting for us at the end of the day.
Down, down

Sunday, 23 June 2013

How a writer created a National Day for Flash-Fiction

May, Mother's and Valentine's used to be the only significant national Days in my childhood calendar. (Back then Father's didn't need their own Day - pre-feminism it was Mother's who needed recognition.) Now there is a proliferation of Days in the UK from the worthy, 'NO SMOKING' to the silly, 'National Cleavage'. Rank commercialisation in the US has produced Days for  log cabins, sunglasses and chocolate eclairs. 

Writers now have National Poetry Day and National Short Story Day, and yesterday, 22nd June, was the second national Flash- Fiction Day. This is the story of how author and Creative Writing lecturer, Calum Kerr, turned his love of writing into a national event to celebrate flash-fiction writing and writers.   

Calum began with a writing challenge -  to publish a new flash-fiction every day for a year on a blog. After 100 short stories he wrote a press release (smart promotion), resulting in the coup of his stories - flash365 - being broadcast on iPM on Radio 4 in a Christmas Eve edition. Listen to his stories here,  read by Diana Rigg, Rory Kinnear and Emilia Fox. 

Yesterday, at the Bristol National Flash-Fiction event,  (reviewed here) he explained how he'd been inspired by his friend Jo Bell, national Canal Boat Laureate, and formerly Director of National Poetry Day. If Poetry had it's Day why shouldn't Flash-Fiction? He checked but there was no National Day for Flash, so he created one. 

Competitions were created and the stories published in a flash-flood on this website at ten minute intervals. Two anthologies of writing from the Flash-Fiction Days are available - Jawbreaker and Scraps. Yesterday events took place in Shrewsbury, Abergavenny, Bristol and probably many others - all created by volunteers without sponsorship. Calum also took a call from writer in the US who wanted to join in - so maybe next year this could go global. 

 If you want to write and place your flash-fiction here's a list of web-sites and competitions from the National Flash-Fiction site.  

After joining in Bristol's free workshops and evening readings for flash-fiction Day yesterday my conclusion is that a successful writer needs talent and graft to craft their words but must publish, give readings and showcase their work to create opportunities. These days, with blogs, open mics and supportive writers' groups it's easier than it was. But, following Calum's example, self-belief and acting on a bright idea can also achieve great things for writers.