On being an amateur

Amateur comes from the Latin amator ‘lover’, from amare ‘to love’ – one who does something for love. The modern definition is less wonderful, describing an amateur as a person who is incompetent or inept at a particular activity. Curious how it is no longer enough to do something just because you love to do it. The response I hear most when I tell people I write is “ooh are you going to be the next JK Rowling” –I scuttle away from the subject, and feel ashamed that no, I haven’t made a great deal of money from having work published, nor do I expect to. Those who know me know that making pots of cash has never been a driver for anything I do – I’m not an aspirational type of person and have no wish to be anything other than happy. I make a little money from writing, but that is lowly stuff like online copy for cabinet makers or theme parks. I love doing it and do it well but it isn’t flashy or shiny, and it is simply a means of paying for the weekly shop. I am a tiny bit thrilled to be writing for a living though, however meagre.

Why am I telling you this? I feel like I lost my way a little last year. I focused on publication, to validate, and confirm that my work is ok – and that is still true. Nonetheless, the literary world feels still feels like one I can’t be part of, as though I’m knocking the door, but there’s a secret knock that I’ll never quite know.  I’m not sure I’ll ever want to perform my work or read it at literary festivals – the thought terrifies me, getting anywhere is a nightmare because of M.E. and, I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel like me. Is this sour grapes? I don’t think so. I’m a behind the scenes sort of person. I like the limelight, but from a safe distance, and in a safe environment. Online communication works for me, because I can choose the time, the format – I’m in control, and I don’t have to worry about the impact of my health.


This feeling of being a perpetual outsider has got me down. It has also made me ask myself why I write. It’s not just for myself, it’s because I want people to read what I’ve written, and to enjoy it. I wrote a tiny script for an online course Staying in and Writing it out and got lovely feedback. I made people smile and giggle and that felt great. I think the conclusion I’ve come to is that I’m going to stop taking all so very seriously. I don’t mean the work; I mean the whole circus of creating a career out of something I love. I’m not a corporate soul, I really don’t like working with others (apologies to all the folk who suffered this over the years) and I just don’t seem to fit. In short, I have decided to continue to be an amateur, to continue to be a person who does something for the love of it, and to embrace the freedom and joy that that brings. The thrill of publication will always be a wonderful, but I don’t want it to be my end goal. I want to write stuff I love.


On that note, I’ve decided I’m going to put more of my work on this blog you can read poems, short stories, including a new one called Pica and earlier work too as well as the pieces I’ve had published – it means I can’t submit so much, but the most frustrating thing is having work tied up in the system and not being able to share it. I love writing, I love people enjoying what I’ve written and we have the wonders of the internet, so why not? I’m including a bit about process too and as ever I love to get your feedback and comments. I’ll try to add a new piece at least every week.

Hope all is well, hope you’re safe and I hope my odd little stories and peculiar poems bring you a smile in these oddest of times.

Kathryn xx


New things I’ve learned

SAMSUNG CSCIt’s nearly time to submit my second assignment for Writing Short Fiction. I am enjoying this course so much! I’ve learned a few technical terms which is always something I enjoy, mainly because it makes me feel like I know what I’m talking about. Many of the terms in creative writing have pleasingly dramatic names, In Medias Res for example, starting things in the midst of things, plunging us as readers right in to the action, or Deus ex machina , is a plot device where a new character or situation appears and resolves a tricky plot. A particular favourite is pathetic fallacy not just because it doubles as a marvellously plosive insult but because it’s something I’ve enjoyed before I knew what it was. Ruskin used the phrase as exasperated in reaction to the poets of the nineteenth century and their weaving of nature and emotion. The term is pejorative, but the technique can be beautiful. I’ve been reading much more short fiction, and the use of nature to mirror emotion is a subtle way of creating depth and resonance. When every word has to count, a device that works with experiences that the reader is likely to have experienced is invaluable. Not sure I’d say that to Ruskin, obviously.

The work I’ve been reading has been a revelation. I have an odd relationship with short fiction. Until I started studying, my experience had mostly been short stories in my Mum’s copy of Family Circle magazine.Later on when I tried to read more literary pieces, I found myself oddly dissatisfied, and quite anxious. I didn’t want to invest time in a character who was going to disappear in a pages time. Even once I began studying I found myself overwhelmed with reading competition entries from my peers which were dense, obscure pieces that I didn’t completely get and that left me a little cold. I thought this was how I had to write to be considered good. One of the main things I’ve learnt is that fancy words are just that and the true skill is describing people,situations and feelings in a way that is authentic and good to read.

Happily, there is a middle ground between Family Circle and forced academia.I’ve loved the work of Margaret Atwood since I was seventeen, but avoided her short stories for all the reasons I’ve talked about.Big mistake. They’re as amazing as you would expect, showing the worst of human nature in a way that sits and stirs and stays with me. My tutor has introduced me to other writers too, who create tiny snapshots of life that make me think and make me wish I’d written them. I suppose it’s like food,sometimes a tiny canapé with zingy sharp flavours is more pleasing than a hefty meal. I’d just been tasting the wrong things.

As I’m enjoying reading them, so I’m enjoying writing them and can feel a difference in how I’m thinking. Each draft becomes more focussed on capturing the essence of the story, rather than the whys and whats. My writing is very different to my first “official” attempts and I feel it is improving. Being able to feel I’m progressing is great. I’d like it to quicker but the fact that I’m persevering despite daily frustrations is something I’m pleased with.

If you’ve enjoyed this would you do me a favour ? Liking the post on Facebook or Twitter means that more of my friends and yours will subscribe to this blog and my page. Sharing it means that even more people will get to see it. If you could do one, or both I will be a happy as a happy chicken. Which is very happy indeed.



P1040118You can’t manage what you can’t measure is a phrase I learned to hate and that spawned a thousand pointless but amusingly decorated charts to track the sales of spurious spectacle enhancements. This of course leads me to thinking how I measure whether doing this is worth it. Is it being published ? Is it being seen as a “mirror to the world “, as a particularly pretentious songwriter likes to describe herself ? Is it having thousands queue to buy your latest tales of magic and fortitude ?

The answer is that it’s all of these (except the mirror to the world bit, that’s just affected,) happily this list isn’t exhaustive. I had a message a couple of weeks ago from someone who I haven’t seen in years, saying they’d like to be one of my Beta readers. Just having someone interested enough to want to spend a bit of time reading what I’ve written is a tremendous feeling. I was trying to explain to my Dad ( who firmly believes success is measured by whistles and bells and grand reward) why it took falling ill to make me write seriously. Quite simply, I had to. I had nothing left to lose and needed to feel I still had a valid role, beyond trying to maintain domestic bliss.  Having made the best of my job for years, it is amazing to be doing something for it’s own sake. Not for me. For what I want to write. Realising this is a tremendous step forward and brings a freedom I’ve not known since producing the angst ridden musings of my twenties. What I have that I didn’t have then is the ability to craft and critique my work, and to seek the criticism of others. I wish I’d learnt this a bit earlier but on the other hand a seventy year old has just been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, so there is always hope.

Can I ask a favour ? Would you like and share this post ? I know it’s a pest, but it means more people will get to see it and that more of my friends might volunteer to join my group of Beta readers. Thank you !

Sowing seeds…….

IMG_20140510_225526……is what I have been doing, instead of writing a blog. Or much else really. That little burst of sunny weather spurred me to start getting ready. From mid February, I prepare a couple of trays each day, so that when sowing time arrives, I’ve just the easy part to do. This has taken attention from my blog, mainly because sunshine and the delightful promises in those little packets of seed give me so much joy. All this seed sowing has given me time to ruminate though, and I’ve been able to unravel a couple of stories that have been rumbling around my mind for a while.

I’m preparing my last few competition entries for this year. I’m particularly  struggling with  a good concept, that seems to turn in to tripe as it hits the page. I’ve a couple of months left, so I’m hoping I can make it shine. The main problem is the competition I’m hoping to enter it for is a serious, literary one, which is eclipsing the writing itself. I’m not really having fun with it. I may have a writing party to see what we all come up with.

In May, I start  my new course, delving into the mysterious world of script writing. I’m really looking forward to learning something new, but I’m prepared to spend the first three quarters of the course hating it. I’m a terrible, impatient pupil. I think this is why distance learning suits me so well. The less distractions or irritations the better.

I suspect my blog may become slightly more grumpy. Perhaps I’ll invest in some more seeds.



I haven’t done any of the things that I said I would, but I have written a short poem in response to a photo prompt on #creativewritingink. You can have a read by pressing the #creativewritingink tab on the main menu.

Thanks as ever for all your comments and messages, they are very much appreciated.

I’m off to obey myself now.