Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Better bend than break

I'm drowning in GCSE papers at the moment so my blog posts and writing will no doubt suffer. However, as of 7th July, I will be free to write as much as I wish and I fully intend to do so. I have to admit that the goals I set myself a couple of weeks ago are not all being kept. The marking and walking are but the writing at the moment isn't. I think there is a proverb that says better bend than break and, on this occasion, I have chosen to opt for this.

There are many places this idea could be said to have originated but my favourite is Chinese and it states:

Human beings are
soft and supple when alive,
stiff and straight when dead.

The myriad creatures, grasses and trees are
soft and supple when alive,
dry and withered when dead.

Therefore it is said:
the rigid person is a disciple of death;
the soft, supple and delicate are lovers of life.

The army that is inflexible will not conquer;
the tree that cannot bend will snap!

The unyielding and mighty will be brought low;
the soft, supple and delicate will rise above them.

I love proverbs. Any favourites?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Trade secrets?!!

More details on the retreat for you inquisitive people:

Debi Glioroi spoke about how she started writing and illustrating. She said that she found writing a one paragraph synopsis really helped her to focus on the plot. In the past, she has also broken her plot down into chapters but she preferred writing 'Alpine style' as she called it, like mountaineers who climb with the minimum amount of gear. She liked to write without a plan but she was quick to point out that there was a risk of 'falling off the edge' or losing focus, doing this. Her style is to write the story first and foremost and then worry about technicalities.

Judging by what Imogen Cooper said, Debi's right. Chicken House like writers who are open to being edited, so that one of their editors can guide you towards the best that you can be and the best possible book.

According to Imogen, the main failings amongst authors were weak plots that could do with the first few chapters being chopped off. The company is looking for books that are sparky and push the boundaries in content and in style. They publish 25-30 books a year but aren't looking at manuscripts now until November. Wait time can be anything from 3-6 months once they start to look at manuscripts again.

Writers should try to get their plot strands to tie up and their characters not to be two dimensional. Ideally, Chicken House is looking for someone who has more than one book in them.

Names of contacts for you:
Imogen Cooper- fiction editor
Elinor Bagenal- picture book editor

Hope this is useful to some or all of you! Have a great weekend. I intend to :-)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

SCBWI Retreat

Okay, folks here it is, so far...

The retreat:
This was SCBWI (British region's) first such endeavour and it really was worthwhile.

It was held at Croydon Hall, an old country house, I'd never heard of, and which was set in beautiful Somerset country. The views were spectacular and the surroundings very peaceful. We were fed a diet of very healthy vegetarian food which meant that by the second day we were suffering from sugar withdrawal and were desperately in need of dessert, which we finally got, AND it was lovely. Of course, the food and the setting were not the main focus. The writing was! And that was fab.

The first real day was Saturday which we spent writing and learning. Debi Gliori- writer and illustrator was the invited speaker and she was really very good. She spoke about her experiences in publishing, how she got started and what she is doing at the moment. As a novelist and picture book writer and illustrator she had a lot to offer and plenty of talent to share. Amongst her pearly words of advice were the ideas that agents were like umbrellas after the rain and a plot was like knitting. Remove one thread and the whole thing can unravel.

We also met Imogen Cooper, fiction editor with Chicken House who went through the ins and outs of the publishing world and editing process. She outlined what Chicken House is looking for and the main errors that writers make. There's loads more to tell and once I've figured out how to upload photos from my mobile onto here, I shall post some pics and write in more detail about the retreat.

Suffice to say, I got a lot out of the weekend: I met some fellow writers and accomplished a lot. I got some thinking and writing done which will definitely help me to move my plots along....so I would definitely recommend time away from it all to all of you.

Well, here is the photo, as promised. It was taken by Chitra, an attendee, and is of some of us on a walk. I say us, but I have to admit that, when these adventurous few went on an early morning walk, I chose to stay in bed. Not the right attitude, I know.... so here are Debi Gliori, Natasha, Terrie and Gill.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Promises, promises!!

Okay, I lied. I'm not going to write about the retreat. Sorry- I am so tired. I've had a very busy day, but I promise to post properly about the retreat tomorrow.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

On the up!

Things are on the up today, although I did receive a strange email from ebay, which I think is a spoof, so I've alerted ebay to it. Just thought I'd let you all know in case you get one too.

I've completed the synopsis for The View From My Window and am on a bit of a roll with it which is great and I'm keeping up to date with my marking, so so far so good. Yesterday was a bit of a downer but that's life's peaks and troughs for you!

Recently someone on a writers' forum I visit posed the question: why do those of us who have blogs have them? Why did we start them?

I'd be interested to know why all of you started your blogs, if you indeed have one AND whether or not you have websites.

While you're mulling that over, here's a poem I wrote a while ago:
Nursery Rhyme
Ring a ring of soldiers
A group of men with folders
An oil rig an oil rig
We all fall down

Happy writing and reading!

After a doctor's appointment, I am going on a writers' retreat for a few days in Somerset which I'm really looking forward to. Details of it can be found at SCBWI, in case you want to do one some time.... so I shall be blogless probably till Tuesday. Hope I don't suffer withdrawal symptoms.....

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Every cloud has a silver lining but sometimes it's hard to find

I'm not having the best of days but I guess we have to weather the storm as well as the calm in life.

I'm looking forward to a break in the clouds. I mean that both literally and metaphorically. Hope all of your days are cloudless.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The walking wounded

I am in a different part of the country today, staying with a relative who lives near to the hotel where I have to attend an examiners' meeting tomorrow.

It's been a relaxing morning- quiet and peaceful. I have so far marked part of the 10 scripts I have to, and I hope to get some writing done later. However I have set myself the following goals for the next few weeks which I hope to achieve. In order of priority:

1- Mark 14 scripts a day (deadline is beginning of July)
2- Write 1000 words of my novel a day (here's hoping)
4- Complete novel by end of August
3- Research other project (deadline beginning of July)
4- Walk for at least half an hour three times a week

I'm trying to get back into fitness. I used to go to the gym three times a week and ever since I had glandular fever two years ago, I've not been very good at maintaining my fitness levels. I've also got a recurring problem with my one shoulder which needs to be sorted, so that is another aim. What image must you have of me?!

Oh well, better crack on.

So much to do and so little time!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Eating, writing and marking

Well it's sunny again and doesn't it just life your mood?

I'm going to buy a BBQ today. Even though I'm vegetarian, I'm determined to get into the spirit of things. Argos has a nice range of reasonably priced BBQs for you BBQ enthusiasts. They even have one with football print, in case you're a World Cup person?! I'm going for the one I've posted above, if they have it in stock and then I will be smoking some vegetables and quorn burgers for lunch. mmmm

My 300 GCSE scripts have arrived, just this minute, so a lot of the next few weeks will be spent with my head buried under mounds of marking. Why I do it to myself I do not know. Still, someone has to. I like to think that I am helping people with their futures and earning a bit of extra cash at the same time.

With the sun out, I plan to spend today in the garden eating and writing. Marking can wait till tomorrow. Priorities.

Friday, June 09, 2006

That Friday Feeling

It is Friday and that is cause enough for celebration, but in addition to this, I got back to writing my novel The View From My Window yesterday and am on a roll. I was, no doubt, inspired by the creative writing club I run afterschool for the kids.

Speaking of which, I've posted below the beginning of one of the girls' work. She's entitled it Giraffe Child. It was inspired by a Dali painting which I showed her and have also posted for you.

See what you think of her start. Personally, I think it's original and inspired. It's hard to believe that the writer is only twelve!

Screams, shouts, gunshots, arrows. Fire, death. The giraffes. I remember it all so vividly.

My name is Kyia and I am a giraffe child. Rather, I am THE giraffe child. Everyone else is gone.

I saw it, I was there.

First they attacked; they marched up to the village with those automatic bows and arrows. (They call them guns. Imagine that, a gun! What a ridiculous name!) And those sticks of flame. They fought with the males of the village and won; next they burnt the village, captured the women and the remaining children and hauled them on the cart.Lastly, they took the giraffes and burnt them, all of them. All except two, two baby giraffes- one girl and one boy.


Copyright Helen P.M

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Trials and tribulations

It's a sunny day again. How glorious! I do feel spoilt- for once!

My writing projects are mounting up.

I have so very much that I want to do but I'm forcing myself to take it easy and just read...well most of the time. It's been so long since I last gave myself the opportunity that I feel I've earned it and of course everything must be earned :-)

A couple of days ago, a small educational publisher, that I've done some work for in the past, called to see if I had any projects on the go. It was just the sort of kick up the proverbial that I needed so today I've been working on some units that I started a while ago.

I've taken a break from my novel but will get back to it next week. Sometimes, a distraction helps the creative juices, or so I've found.

I've also looked into ezine publishing and have found a link which you may find of use. Here it is!

This site lists a whole load of ezines, some of which are no longer publishing but most are, and some, you'll be glad to hear, are accepting submissions. Go on have a go, if internet publishing's your thing.

There are a few UK based ezines which look discerning and I shall be popping some of my poetry off to them when I get a chance.

I've also had to deal with my car insurance company today as a lady in a rather large black mercedes banged into me- well my car. I was actually stationary at the time, filling up at the petrol station. Guess I was easier to hit as a result!

Not much damage really but the car still needs to go into the garage, in case you were interested. Oh the excitement never ends.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sunny days

Today is a beautifully sunny day, as was yesterday. I spent the entire day yesterday at an Educational fair in London as part of work I do for a small tutoring company.

London was busy with people and traffic so today I'm going to the country. Last bank holiday I went to a beautiful area called Runnymede where the river Thames runs through a National Trust site. It's very picturesque: boats run along the river and there are some grand houses situated at the opposite side on the bank.

Last time I went for a walk towards the JFK memorial that's located nearby and came across some of Brunel university's disused tennis courts up a half forgotten road, and today I'm being taken on a walk in another part of the same area. If you've never been to this place, it's worth going, especially on a sunny day.

I'm still working my way through Body Double which isn't half bad.

On the topic of reading I'm going to provide a link to Emanuel School's English site as it holds reading lists for Year 7- sixth form which really are fantastic.

I based my Year 8 list that I recently gave to my students on this school's Year 8 one. If you're an English teacher or a writer for this age group you will definitely find the reading lists useful. They are grouped according to subject area/ genre and include an outline, so get reading!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The power of words

Well, I succumbed once again to the '3 for 2' offer, but this time at a Waterstone's. Now I have six books to read over the summer.I've started the first one: Body Double- a very compelling first chapter! I don't normally read crime fiction but I thought it'd help me with my current novel and besides I've just not had time to read in ages!!

The other two I went for are Hide and Seek and We need to talk about Kevin

I'll let you know my thoughts on the books when I get through them.

In the meantime, I wanted to share this poem which I wrote in 2003, following a programme I saw about a young man and the awful decision his family was having to make. I was really moved by the story and I called the poem The Voice . Perhaps I will forward it to the International Solidarity Movement some time.

The Voice

‘Switch on or off?’
A muffled cough
Sister and brother
Father and mother
Remember him then
Dark haired and when
Aged twenty one
Away from the fun
Saving Salam
Peace named little man

The movement he joined
Solidarity coined
A phrase for him
'He was their voice,'
She said
Shot in the head
A hospital bed
In a coma

Alive or dead?

Occupied territories
His life surrendered

Who occupies his room now?

(Tom Hurndall who in 2003 was shot in Israel whilst doing voluntary work for The International Solidarity Movement.)