You know how things just gently work themselves out? It seems to be happening. A couple of posts back I wrote about my tricky start to the year, viruses, horribly dark mood, and a head that felt it would burst if I tried to make it think of one more thing. The virus is still here, and the black moods still pop their head up, but my brain seems to be more fertile and free. I’ve been reading some great poetry which has excited and inspired me. I find I have to give myself a kick to make sure I don’t stray into self pitying “I’ll never be that good ” frame of mind. Once I get over myself (only I control how I feel after all), I can flit and fly with the joy of reading new exciting work. The delightful consequence is that I’m writing more again. By giving myself permission to stop, I’ve given my mind freedom to ruminate and relish the thoughts and ideas that grow.

This book is amazing. It manages to give me a kick and hold my hand all at once. Wonderful stuff.

Combine this with receiving the fabulous book “How to be a Poet”, and the chance to take part in an online poetry reading/feedback session hosted by Bare Fiction magazine and I seem to a have a happy mix of opportunities. I’m terrified, but I’ve got to be brave. Putting myself out “there” is frightening. Burying myself in the false comfort of consumerism would be even worse.

OCA work is moving forward too.I’ve completed my penultimate piece for Writing Short Fiction with the help of a master proof reader (thank you Gill!) . It’s almost ready for submission and then it’s time to start the final part of the course. I’m also on the OCA thirtieth birthday celebration picture! Can you spot me ?

Read, like, share and comment. Interaction is good for me!


One year on……..

It’s my anniversary. Twelve months since I started putting thoughts on paper and sending them out to be read. By rights I’d like to be shouting about my acheivements. I’d like to be telling I’ve been published or that I’ve won twenty seven competitions. After all there’s no point in all this if I’m not successful is there?

But there is. And I’ve only just realised it. You see, I’m the kind of person who says nothing unless spoken to. The kind of person who gives little away unless I’m asked a question. I am someone whose voice is crowded by those who are confident,those who are noisy and those who simply can’t bear silence. It’s not a trait I like, and I find many social occasions leave me frustrated and cross with myself. I am used to it and I am happy to be a listener for eighty percent of my time. I just long for the chance to be heard in that other twenty percent.  This is what I have here. It’s not a particularly loud or flamboyant voice, or place but it is a voice nonetheless. Realising that is my success.

I believe am writing some of the best work I ever have. It’s not visible, mainly because I can’t afford to enter any competitions at the moment and I really want to save the work for when I can. I think I’m afraid I’ll never write anything else half decent. The down side is that I’m experiencing brain fog more powerfully than I ever had. Writing creatively seems to exhaust a whole new element of me. Interacting with people is becoming harder and my body is not in a happy place. I’m resting my brain, as advised by the two people closest to me. They also have the dubious accolade of being possibly the only people that I’ll actually listen to. Don’t tell them .

I am still working on my OCA work, but not at such an intense rate. I was rushing to finish, rather than working to learn. My intention is to have a body of work ready for submission to comps and publications by summer. This gives me time to research my market which I find incredibly challenging. Perhaps I’m just a bit intimidated.

A year on I haven’t hit dizzy heights. I don’t even feel that great about the prospect. I’m not going to stop though, and anyone who knows me knows that is a sign that I think there’s something worthwhile ahead.

Thank you for reading. Please follow my blog on here and please, like and share on Facebook. They’re mucking about with the settings again, so make sure you’ve clicked the button at the top of the page that says you would like notification when I post. If you could invite your friends to like my page, that would be absolutely tremendous.

Peace and kittens x

Some more things I’ve learned


Language is not a neutral medium that passes freely and easily into the private property of the speaker’s intentions; it is populated—overpopulated—with the intentions of others. (Bakhtin,1981,p294)

I’m enjoying this part of my studies so much. I first encountered the work of Mikhail Bakhtin as part of my studies for my degree English Language, way back in 1999. I loved it then and I love it now. It makes so much sense to me. Everything we read,hear or write is influenced by those around us and by previous experience. The response I have had to my previous post illustrates this beautifully. I had so many supportive messages (thank you), and each one featured a personal account, either through direct or indirect experience. As we read anything, whether it’s a novel or a half-witted twitter rant, we bring our own values and judgement to bear. I’m sure there will be some who read and sigh and roll their eyes. I cannot control that and accepting the negative response is part of putting work into the public domain. Being mindful that negativity reflects personal experience and prejudice helps me to distance myself. A little.

This concept of dialogism seems obvious, but what makes it so interesting is that it is such a subconscious act and that it is an act that influences our understanding and behaviour in almost every sphere of our interaction with others. Every word retains its social history even when used in a new context. It’s like having ghosts sitting on our shoulders as we read, listen or write.

How does this affect me as a writer ? It makes me think more. It makes me worry less. If a piece of writing means something to someone, how much does it matter if their understanding does not correlate with my intent ? Not a great deal . The only situation that would concern me would be a gross misappropriation of my values and beliefs although I think with my tiny (and lovely) readership I’m fairly safe.

Bakhtin’s work is also helping me with an area I’ve struggled with; developing the voices of my characters. One of the best things someone said to me recently was that they could really hear the characters’ voice as they read, instead of hearing me . That is what I am striving for, because that is when I will know I have created an authentic character. Everything we write has an element of our self, but my aim for this next part of my course is to create strong, vivid voices that help my reader to feel and know my character. If I can write something that resonates with others then that will be the icing on the cliche.

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.

Up and down


I started to write a post on Friday. It’s title was Gah! which is an indication of how I was feeling. I haven’t really recovered from having fun a couple of weekends ago and I’m still a reluctant rester, so as soon as a little spark of energy starts I jump up and decide I feel better. This is a bad thing. I need to cultivate balance,  but that has never been my nature. Each bad spell seems to last longer though, so I know I need to change something and try to live in a more measured manner.  The problem is it all feels so measured now and I’m not sure how much calmer I can be.

Wobbly health has meant plenty of brain fog so studying has been tricky, even writing this is taking far longer than it should. I can still say I am enjoying it, even if it does take me an hour to read a few lines. I’ve been learning about technique which is something I really enjoy. It’s a bit like being given a new recipe to try out I suppose, one which has new spices that I’ve never used. I’m looking forward to experimenting in my next piece of short fiction, which is bubbling away in my head.

I’ve also had a leap forward with my work for the Hundred House and I finally feel I’m producing decent posts. I spent today taking photographs of a beautiful garden, watching chefs create great food and then tasting it. Not a bad Monday all in all. I use all the research to create blog posts that I hope will entice people to visit. Being back in a working environment is tricky and I find it quite scary but it makes me feel useful, even if it is only a few hours work a week.

All in all my Gah! feeling has waned. This is the danger time in a way, since I’m full of adrenaline having had an encouraging day, I need to be cultivate calmness. Unfortunately I seem to have more in common with an overexcited puppy than is entirely useful. I need more practice I think. Wish me luck.

Foggy assessment

Odd week. Two and a half days were lost at the beginning,and as well as the usual pain, my favourite M.E. symptom had a little party. Brain fog is an odd, but perfectly descriptive term; for me it’s the most upsetting aspect of this illness. I can’t speak, think,read,or follow a simple TV programme.Not ideal for writing coherently .  Or living coherently, to be honest. I’m guessing it is a result (or punishment?) of being so productive over the last couple of weeks.

Anyway, things have become a little more normal in the brain department, so obviously, I’ve completely overworked it again. I had results for my final assignment this week, I’m incredibly pleased with the feedback I had, and feel I produced some good work.

The Art of Poetry has been a difficult course  for me, I’ve been frustrated by my initial lack of technical knowledge, terrified of delving in to my emotions and bamboozled by the obscurity that seems to be required. Despite this, I finish the course invigorated, I’m excited to be writing poetry again, and to be writing poetry that I am happy with. As are others, which is always a bonus. Or indeed,the point.

The downside of finishing the course is that it is time for formal assessment. This is the bit that gets me a degree. Now, I have no interest in getting a qualification, I have degrees,diplomas ncfes, cipds,wkrps, galore. I began to study in order to become a better writer. This is happening,so I don’t have to undertake the assessment. However, I cannot resist the challenge of creating a beautifully presented folder of my work. Perhaps it concludes the course. Perhaps it feeds my love of stationery. Perhaps it fulfills a deeply buried  need to spend hours trying to organise page numbers. Who knows. The main thing is, it’s nearly finished, which means I can get back to actually writing. Once I’ve tried out a few different styles of header and footer……