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!

 

 

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A change of style and a twist


I haven’t taken part in many of the Writing 101 prompts, to be honest I haven’t written very much at all just recently.  I did take a weeks’ holiday, but mainly it’s work that has just got in the way of me enjoying myself – I’m going to have to either get more organised or magic up some days with a few more hours in them!  I found the latest prompt very interesting however; my post is not really about a fear, although I have always shied away from writing about crime, sci-fi etc –  genres I find difficult for my style of writing, it was more the idea of trying to write in a completely different style that appealed to me, so here goes…

————–

I’m waiting at the station. Penny is late. We agreed to meet at 10.00 the train leaves at 10.15 and it’s now ten past. I fiddle with the strap of my overnight bag, I do not feel comfortable waiting here on my own, but it is something I have had to get used to. Being on my own. I thought Penny was different from the rest, she is such a good listener and always says the right thing.  She bolsters my confidence in a way that makes me feel good, wanted, desired even. Sarah started out like that and we had some great times together, but she ended up like all the others, her needs were more important than mine. Her and her perfect skin, no blemishes or imperfections, no acne scars to hide away under a generous helping of Max Factor. I could have forgiven her looks, if she had remained true. The train is here and no sign of Penny. I find it hard to believe that she has changed her mind. At least Sarah told me face to face, that was something at any rate. Not that it did her much good. My mother always said that everyone gets their comeuppance in the end and it was only fair that Sarah did too. I get on the train and take a seat by the window. There are a few people running down the platform, but no sign of Penny.  The guard takes out his flag and puts his whistle to his lips, we will be off in a minute and I’ll have to make new plans. Shame about Penny, the one that got away, that’s what I’ll call her. Why doesn’t the guard blow his whistle we are going to be late. There’s a sudden movement at the other end of the platform. Oh it’s Penny, she is here after all.  She is walking towards the train and stops outside my window. She is pointing at me and I wave;  for goodness sake get on the train, I shout through the glass. She is holding up something for me to see. It’s a newspaper showing a photograph of someone who looks a bit like Sarah. I get up to go to the door, to get Penny, but my way is blocked by two large policemen.

 

You can read more about the Writing 101 challenge and this prompt here

 

 

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.

 

The Games Children Play


An early prompt this week, thought I was still caught up in jet-lag-holiday-mode.

Once again, Queen Rochelle gathers her workers about her with a new prompt, this week the photograph is courtesy of John Nixon. I love the wizened looking trees and twisted roots, and guess the photo will provide the usual brilliantly inventive stories from the other Friday Fictioneers. You can read mine below the photograph.

Copyright John Nixon

Copyright John Nixon

 Genre: Fiction

Word Count: 100

The Games Children Play

‘You abducted him, admit it’

‘No!’

‘You say you know where he is’

‘Sort of’

‘So you took him?’

The world slows, the mist comes.  I see a blindfolded child standing in front of a tree; five older boys are running away.

‘I can see him, in a wood’

‘You can see him in a wood, what sort of crap is that?’

‘I came here to help. I see things. I didn’t take him, but I can see him’

‘You see things?  Then I guess you know what’s coming! Lock him up Ben’

I see the bough break.

And fall.

 

You can read more stories here 

The Entertainment


Another photo prompt this week for the wonderful group of writers, who make up the Friday Fictioneers Family.  Mother Hen Rochelle Wisoff-Fields takes charge every week, posting the photo – this week courtesy of Adam Ickes – and urging us all to ‘write what we see’.  This is what I saw…

Copyright - Adam Ickes

Copyright – Adam Ickes

Genre: Horror

Word Count: 100

The Entertainment

Silence as the numbers are called. Nervous boys go to their allotted place, although challenged, no-one refuses. My number is called last. For one brief moment, as I join the other ninety-nine, I consider the challenge. My mother is ill and Mary’s pregnant, but The Glory will change everything, forever.

Outside, we line up shoulder to shoulder. The General reads the rules of ‘The Entertainment’.

You will walk until only one remains; to him will be awarded The Glory – anything he wants for the rest of his life.

Those who stop walking will be ‘removed’.

We walk.

The crowd roars.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-

Inspired by ‘The Long Walk’ a novel by Stephen King – his first, published under a pseudonym Richard Bachman. Set in a future United State of America, the story tells of the annual event called The Long Walk.  On 1 May each year 100 teenage boys are drafted into taking part; the idea is that they all walk until there is only one left standing.The walking never stops. If anyone does stop they get a warning, three warnings and they are ‘ticketed’ which eventually you realise means they are shot. Read more about his novel here –  http://stephenking.wikia.com/wiki/The_Long_Walk

 

To read more FF stories, click on this link –    

 

The Island


Hello from sunny Wales!  It’s been a long time since I could say that.  Seems the rains have eased, fingers crossed.

Another Wednesday, time for another Friday Fictioneers story.  Thanks as usual to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields who is in sci-fi mode this week and also to Danny Bowman, for providing the photo prompt.

Copyright - Danny Bowman

Copyright – Danny Bowman

Genre: Fiction

Word Count: 100

The Island

The island has been in my family for generations.  It’s home to seabirds and seals, virtually uninhabited most of the year. The crossing can be quite dangerous; I was intrigued by his suggestion that we take the boat across.

‘You OK?’

‘Not really, be glad to land’

‘You didn’t ask why’

‘Thought you’d tell me once we got there’

‘You think you’re going to get there?’

‘What?’

‘Where did you put the papers from Islandhopper?’

‘That was years ago. I’m still not signing’

He made a grab for me as the boat rolled.

The ocean holds lots of secrets

For more FF stories click Mr Froggy 

Maggie’s Choice


My story is rather bleak as that is how most things have seemed to me this week, though I have tried for a hopeful ending.

Thanks go as usual to Rochelle for continuing to host Friday Fictioneers. I must admit to slight envy when I read in her post that she will be meeting up with some Fictioneers this weekend, it must be so good to meet up in person with the people whose stories we read each week. I can dream…

Thanks also to Kent Bonham for the intriguing photograph this week.

Copyright -  Kent Bonham

Copyright – Kent Bonham

 

Genre: Fiction

Word Count 100

Maggie’s Choice

Maggie walked carefully down the dimly lit back street. Her small bag contained the items she was told she would need, afterwards. The house in the back street was her only option, no-one must ever find out about ‘It.’

The bright room smelled strongly of antiseptic; the strange array of equipment on the starched white cloth, looked alien and frightening. Though her body had healed after the violent assault, the nightmare continued. Tom still could not bring himself to touch her and now, this.

She endured the pain and, with her body cleansed, at last felt ready to move on.

 

For more stories click the little blue froggy thing         

 

 

A Different Life


It’s time for Friday Fictioneers again.  Many thanks to Rochelle for captaining our ship and keeping us on course, and to Janet Webb for providing the watery theme for the 100 word challenge this week. My story follows the photograph.

18 October

A Different Life

Genre: Fiction

Word Count: 100

Noor clawed the baked earth around her failing crop; her baby son slept on her back, too weak to cry. Solomon set off weeks ago to look for work, the water he left them was all gone.  It was thirty miles to the aid station, Noor knew if her son was to live, she had to make the journey again.

 

Nora stood looking out, praying for a break in the weather.  It had rained constantly for six days. The garden was a sodden mess, no place for the bouncy castle or Disney Princess tent. She considered cancelling the birthday party.

 

Read more 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 )