The ‘why’ is the easy bit, the ‘what’ a little harder to understand


I have been following the recent WordPress challenge ‘Writing 101’ – you note that I say ‘following’ –  it should actually read ‘participating  in’ but I confess I have only added two posts instead of the intended post every day. (Sorry WP staffers, I fell by the wayside).

At the start, I really wanted to take part and answer the prompts with well thought out posts and if I can’t manage to get a post out there every day, what the heck am I doing joining up in the first place? But in my defence I also have a full-time job and the husband you will read about later. So a point for good intentions at least?

This started me thinking about blogging, why I do it and what I am hoping to achieve. The why is easy, I want to write, I have things to say,  having a blog is a way of getting my work and my thoughts out there, the second question I find harder to answer.

I started my blog exactly five years ago this weekend.  I had been thinking about retirement as my husband had taken early retirement and wanted me to do the same.  I had read reports in the press of the increasing numbers of people approaching retirement age, who wanted to carry on working, in some cases they just had to.  I wasn’t ready to retire then and I’m not now, but I thought that I would share my thoughts on my blog.  So my first post went out there ‘Some thoughts on retirement’.

I  thought it was a reasonably interesting subject and looked forward to a response from the blogosphere, but zilch – zero – nought – nix – nothing.

I was disappointed, realising  that I cared more than I thought I would about the fact no-one had read my blog. I thought about this ‘rejection’ for a while, then reasoned that obviously there must be a lot of other bloggers on WordPress discussing more interesting things than retirement. (Yes, I was that naive)

I carried on blogging.  But it wasn’t until towards the end of the year that one kind person clicked the ‘like’ button, and it was well into 2010 before my blog started receiving a few regular visitors. I analysed the posts and found that when I followed a photography challenge for instance, I had lots of visitors, but my normal posts carried on receiving little attention.

Undaunted, I carried on with a mix of photo challenges and ordinary posts.  Late summer of 2012 I was invited to join the Friday Fictioneers group.  I read a few of the posts submitted by some of the other writers and felt very dubious about attempting to join them. Their writing was of a very high standard – in my opinion it still is – and the idea of writing 100 words inspired by a photo prompt was huge a challenge, something I had never attempted before.

I took a deep breath, then submitted my first post ‘Shrouded‘. I was amazed by the almost instant feedback from the group. They were very welcoming, supportive and kind to a newcomer. When I faltered they urged me to continue, their criticism was always constructive and their support invaluable. Nowadays, we still share our stories but consider each other more as friends and the comments certainly reflect that – illnesses, family problems, travel plans have all been mentioned and shared.

Since joining the group two years ago, the visitors to my blog have increased, mainly through the other writers as we comment on each others’ stories, but also from new followers, who have found something they like and have stayed. And I thank them sincerely.

I’m delighted when someone leaves a comment, I enjoy responding and then reading and commenting on their work.  It’s a bit like building a pyramid, thankfully it hasn’t taken as long as the ones at Giza!

When I read the stats in a Daily Post, about the number of bloggers using WordPress – like several million – and the number of posts published each and every day – several more million –  I am doubly grateful that my posts have attracted any readers at all.  I am also pleased that my work is not just disappearing into the ether, nor am I talking to myself.

So, what do I hope to achieve? I think the answer has to be to just enjoy doing what I like doing, not worry too much that it’s not perfect, or going to set the world on fire. After all we can’t all be racehorses, there have to be some plodders farther down the field!

 

 

The Unreliable Narrator – it’s been playing on my mind


Well actually that’s not strictly true, but I have spent quite a lot of time wondering about it. Does the author deliberately set out to lie, mislead, or be economical with the truth, or does she/he get caught up in the story and forget what they have written a few chapters earlier?

When I read a book, I usually always trust what I am reading. I don’t think I am alone in this, and one of the most important things we have to learn in life, is to be able to work out the truthfulness of what we are being told, either by voice or in print or even face to face.

After all, we do this all the time in our everyday lives; when we go shopping for a new gadget, meet someone new or watch the news on television. We are constantly assessing the information we are receiving and working out whether what we are being told is true. So how easily do we recognise the unreliable narrator when we come across one? Do we read and then question every act, dissect every paragraph, constantly review what has gone before?

I have written several short stories; not really sure what I will do with them, probably re-line the drawers in the chest in the spare room.  Sometimes it has been a memoir, sometimes I have made up the whole story, after overhearing a comment whilst waiting in a shop or on the train, but I have always been truthful. It has never occurred to me to be otherwise.

I have enjoyed writing them, but have to admit to sometimes losing my way with the plot.  At this stage perhaps I should have thrown in a few red herrings and gone off in a different direction, but how would I then have brought all the loose ends together?

I am not a good enough writer yet to do something like this, but then again, how do you know what I have told you so far is true?

writing-101-june-2014-class-badge-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written for the Daily Post writing assignment –http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_assignment/writing-101-day-one/

Writerly Reflections


I realised years ago that I wanted to write.  My first attempts at short stories ran to three handwritten pages or so, and I would make my sister sit and listen, along with an audience of soft toys and dolls. She got quite bored with my tales of princesses lost in woods and toys that would come alive at night when their owners were fast asleep.

I moved on to bigger projects when I was about nine or so.  I announced that I was writing a play entitled “The Little Bull” and would be happy to let my parents read it when it was finished, which I confidently announced would be in a week or so.

A few weeks later, after losing my way with the plot, I threw away all the pages I had written and started again.  The play would still be about the little bull, an antique milk jug spotted in the window of a little shop in town, but this time I had a definite idea how the play would end. I made the mistake of mentioning the play to my teacher who got very excited and asked me every day how things were going, until I handed in the finished pages.

I must be honest here and say that I did expect some modest praise for my efforts.  My parents told me how good they though the play was and thought perhaps the school may want to put in on at the end of term. My teacher had other ideas.

She gave me what I am sure she thought was a fair critique of my play; at nine years old you are not ready for talks about directions, or voice, or sense of place or even a timeline. She lost me.

I didn’t attempt to write anything for a long time.  Then in the last year in high school, the English teacher mentioned a short story competition and urged as many of us as possible to ‘give it a go’.  I wrote furiously about a girl who finds some letters written to her grandmother years before she was married, obviously from a lover.

It was all going beautifully, until the boy from the local bank asked me out on a date. I had fantasised over him for months …

Over the next few years, I married (not the banker)  – moved to Scotland – moved back – had a child– got divorced and wrote nothing.  Years rolled by and still I wrote nothing, although I was sure that I could write something.  Sometime.  Perhaps.

I read everything I could find about writing and successful writers; about skill with words and plot, about voice, a sense of place and dedication to their craft.  I joined a creative writing class a few years ago, with eight other women and two men.  Towards the end of the first term, Arthur who wanted to write a book about fishing, disappeared.  He never returned to the class.  Tristan our tutor, ‘who had been published’, tried in vain to find out what had happened to him. Tony, now the only male in our class, decided to put this strange happening to good use and wrote a short story about ‘The Disappearance of Arthur.’ It did nothing to shed any light in Arthur’s disappearance.

I stayed the course and received my fair share of honest criticism and some praise too I might add, but found the experience stifling.  Although I enjoyed our discussions about Hemingway, Carter, Chekov et al, and no doubt gained a lot more than I thought I had, when the class decided to move on to studying poetry the following year I decided not to join them. I made some good friends and we keep in touch.  None of them has as yet finished the novel they began in the classroom, but they are all convinced that they will finish them one day.  And I wish them well.

Since starting my blog I have met lots of good writers. I look forward to reading their posts and stories.  I’ve found that a lot are waiting for that phone call or email from an agent telling them The Good News, whilst others are happy just to write when they can and entertain the people who follow them.

I find that life has a habit of interfering with my writing, perhaps that’s as it should be; perhaps all other writers and bloggers experience the same thing and I am not just as organised as they. I would like to write more and do find it frustrating when I can’t. I read most all of the Daily Post hints and tips on blogging, feeling that I am missing that vital key to unlock the blogosphere.

Perhaps I am thinking too much about the why and should just get on and write.  Perhaps as Hemingway put it:

‘We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.’

ERNEST HEMINGWAY, New York Journal-American, Jul. 11, 1961

 

Rewritten for Weekly Writing Challenge: Writerly Reflections.

 

Hayride


I have missed the Friday Fictioneers community in recent weeks, due mainly to lack of inspiration and a lost muse! However, after my previous post, thanks to some very kind messages of support from Erin, Dawn, Ruth and John, that basically told me to ‘just get on and write’ I have a story;  a memoir prompted by Sandra’s photo this week.

Thanks as always to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for organising the prompts and supporting all the writers, and this week to Sandra Cook for her lovely photograph.

28 February

Genre: Memoir

Word Count: 100

Hayride

I remember.

‘Come on up. You can do it!’

I struggle, balancing on fat bales. My grandfather pulls me up and drops me on the hay.  I pick bits of straw from my unruly hair then scramble forward to watch Joe start the tractor.

The sun is warm on my back, the air is still. I feel hot, the straw scratches my legs and they itch.  My father waves his shirt to me from the open gate, he is laughing, happy.

At the farmhouse, my mother and grandmother wait with warm scones fresh from the oven…

That summer, long ago.

 

For more FF stories click here 

To help with my personal reboot, I have also changed the appearance of my blog. There are a few glitches to iron out, but I hope you like the new layout.

The art of not writing, and making a habit of it…


I realised years ago that I wanted to write.  Not just essays for school, or long thank you letters to my relations for gifts they felt I would like, but stories. Each Sunday I read what I had scribbled down, to my sister and a collection of large teddy bears and dolls who had no option but to sit and listen to me.

I moved on to bigger projects when I was about eight or so.  I announced that I was writing a play entitled “The Little Bull” and would be happy to let my parents read it when it was finished.  I confidently announced this would be in a week or so. About a month later, after losing my way with the plot, I threw away all the pages I had written and started again.  The play would still be about the little bull, an antique milk jug spotted in the window of a little shop in town, but this time I had a definite idea how the play would end. I made the mistake of mentioning this project to my teacher who got very excited and asked me every day how things were going until I handed in the finished article.

At this point I must be honest and say that I did expect some modest praise for my efforts.  My parents told me how good they though the play was, and ventured that perhaps the school may want to put in on at the end of term. My teacher had other ideas.

She gave me what I am sure she thought was a fair critique of my play, but at eight years old you are not ready for talks about directions, or voice, or sense of place or even a timeline. She lost me.

I didn’t attempt to write anything for a long time.  Then in the last year of high school, the English teacher mentioned a short story competition and urged as many of us as possible to ‘give it a go’.  I wrote furiously about a girl who finds some letters written to her grandmother, years before she was married, obviously from a lover.

It was all going beautifully, until the boy from the local bank asked me out on a date. I had been fantasising over him for months …

Over the next few years, I married (not the banker)  – moved to Scotland – moved back – had a child– got divorced and wrote nothing.  Years rolled by and still I wrote nothing, although I was sure that I could write something.  Sometime.  Perhaps.

I read everything I could find about writing and successful writers; about skill with words and plot, about voice, a sense of place and dedication to their craft.  I joined a creative writing class with eight other women and two men.  Towards the end of the first term, Arthur who wanted to write a book about fishing, disappeared.  He never returned to the class and we never heard from him.  Tristan our tutor, ‘who had been published’, tried in vain to find out what had happened to him. Tony, now the only male in our class, decided to put this strange happening to good use and wrote a short story entitled ‘The Disappearance of Arthur.’

I stayed the course and received my fair share of honest criticism and some praise too I might add, but found the experience stifling.  Although I enjoyed our discussions about Hemmingway, Carter, Chekov et al, and no doubt gained a lot more than I thought I had, when the class decided to move on to studying poetry the following year I decided not to join them. I made some good friends and we keep in touch.  None of them as yet have finished the novels they began in the classroom, but they are all convinced that they will finish them one day.  And I wish them well.

After the class, I decided to try my hand at writing a blog.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about but hoped that someone would want to read my posts. Since starting to blog, I have met lots of good writers and enjoy reading their posts and stories. I found that though there are some who are waiting for THE phone call or email from an agent, there are many more who are just happy to entertain their followers with photos or stories about their particular take on life.

Most recently I have been enjoying Friday Fictioneers – a group started by Madison Woods and now in the very good care of Rochelle Wisoff-Fields –  who posts a photograph, as the inspiration each week for any writer who cares to join in and post a story in 100 words.  The only stipulation is there must be a beginning, a middle and an end.   I say that I have been enjoying, because for the past few weeks I have found it very difficult to come up with anything worthy of posting.  And I miss the other Fictioneers.

Am I being too critical?    Am I just being lazy?   Has my muse deserted me?

Or am I just continuing the art of not writing…

Constructive comments would be most welcome from anyone who cares to take the time to leave one

Free


There has been quite a lot happening in my life just recently and the urge to write just got up and walked out. I had to have the lenses in my eyes replaced – not as horrific as it sounds I assure you – but a worry nevertheless. My work has also taken up too much of my time and I found I didn’t want to write – anything.  I have missed Friday Fictioneers very much indeed; missed the contact with people who had become very supportive friends; missed the exchange with people who are kind enough and interested enough to follow my blog, such as it is. I did try to post something for the prompt last week, then deleted it as it was not much good.  I am back to try again.

Forgive the out-pouring, but it matters to me that you know why I have been AWOL.

 

Copyright - Sandra Cook

Copyright – Sandra Cook

 Genre: Fiction

Word Count: 100

FREE

 Beth found the bones at 6pm.

They lay in a shallow space between the overhanging rock face and the old irrigation channel she was working in; she had been clearing stones and old debris from it for the past two weeks.

Rob came over when she called and casually inspected her find.

‘Looks small, a child perhaps?’

‘No!’ Beth shuddered at the thought.

‘Children worked in places like this; the find is not unusual.’

As he gently moved the bones to one side, a soft sigh whispered past them and floated up on the cool evening air.

Free.

At last

 

Read other stories here

 

Fearful Symmetry – S is for Strangers


Something in the way he smiles draws my attention

Soft woollen sweater draped casually across broad shoulders

Sunglasses pushed up on his forehead as he reads the menu

Sipping a glass of red wine he looks out across the piazza

Stealing a sly glance I catch his eye

Smiling widely he raises his glass I respond with mine

She walks from behind me and takes the seat beside him

Slow blush flares on my cheeks I lower my head hiding my embarrassment

Soft caresses tenderly whispered words of love

Stabs of jealousy surface and are gone

Sure in his affection wrapped in his arms she turns towards me

Smiling she raises his glass I smile and raise mine to her

Silently acknowledging her youth and beauty

Surprised by the happiness I feel for these two lovers

Strangers yet universally recognised

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(Read more about Symmetry here )

I’ve been nominated for an Award


I have been nominated for the BookerAward by Chelsea at http://thejennymacbookblog.wordpress.com

I  have to confess that I don’t know anything about it or its legitimacy, but I’m thrilled that she nominated me.

Without further ado and in the spirit of sharing nice things with my WordPress blogging community, here are the rules:

1. Nominate 5-10 bloggers and let them know

2. Post the BookerAward pic – ( hope it’s the right one)

3. Share your top 5 books of all time.

My nominees are:

http://thegingerbreadcafe.wordpress.com

http://jobryantnz.wordpress.com

http://mybookofstories.wordpress.com

http://3rdculturechildren.com

http://hugmamma.com/

http://northernnarratives.wordpress.com/

http://pigletinportugal.com/

My top 5 books has been a diffcult decision, but here they are:

Katherine – Anya Seton

Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Wolf

To Serve Them All My Days – R F Delderfield

Labyrinth – Kate Mosse

Not That Sort of Girl – Mary Wesley

 

Have a great weekend 🙂