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I warned you there was no book this week, but I still wanted to write something for you, and came up with the idea of sharing quotes from books I have read. The purpose is to give an insight into the writing style of the book and perhaps encourage people to read books they’ve never tried.

I wanted to start with a particular favourite but I couldn’t find it (the horror!) so went for a Man Booker prize winner that I read a few years ago and ought to revisit – The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai.

I opened it up at random a few times to see what floated my thought boat and I found this:

Then there was the cat, Mustafa, a sooty hirsute fellow demonstrating a perfection of containment no amount of love or science could penetrate.  He was, at this moment, starting up like a lorry on Sai’s lap, but his eyes looked blankly right into hers, warning her against mistaking this for intimacy.

I was pleased to have found this section, having been told it is International Cat Day today – sometimes the fates align for most peculiar things!

I don’t remember if I enjoyed the book or not, but I feel like I ought to give it a second chance to have a positive impact on me, so onto the list it goes!

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

 

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I am sure I am not alone in getting all sorts of strange comments sent to me at the blog.

Recently there has been a decided change because they are nearly all in Spanish.

Normally I just check and trash but having them come through in a different language is quite educational. I try to read them, at least basically, to learn a little.

I am sure you have seen the ones in English that look like random words have been picked from a dictionary; the Spanish ones may well be the same, but at least a word or two are sticking in my brain!

Long term readers may remember that I was trying to use words from other languages or with different roots to English for a mini poetry project. Sadly, after a few efforts it felt a bit forced, and it didn’t last as a concept.

In reading the Spanish spam, I remember that languages have different sound and feel different when you form them in your mouth – that perhaps linguistic choices have to be made differently for a performance piece.

So, once our slightly shortened open mic is done I can think about something new, something with a Spanish feel, for the next time.

And I am already working on the next time.

So when you next clear out your spam, have a quick look at what’s appeared: who knows if it might actually be worth reading!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I don’t write comedy. I might have amusing scenes, or light-hearted poetry, but I am not someone who is skilled at the laugh out loud moments.  I’m thinking about this, because this week I went to see the funniest play I can remember, The Play That Goes Wrong

Comedy is most definitely an art.  Depending on the nature – physical, reflective, political – completely different skill sets are needed.  For writing, it’s also about picking the perfect words.

I don’t think I have ever really appreciated the art involved in creating a funny, engaging, novel. Most of the comedic poetry I have discovered is quite light, nothing to get you thinking too deeply, but that isn’t the same with a book.

For novels, there’s got to be engagement and sustained levels of comedy over 70,000 or more words.  It sounds impossible!

I am trying to think of a few that are genuinely comedies (rather than simply witty or light-hearted) and am going to have to review a few.  I would really like to understand how it can be done!

I am never likely to write a truly comedy novel, but I might see how to tie in a few more smiles for readers.

Plus, what a great project to see me through the autumn: books to make me laugh!

If you have any suggestions, please let me know in the comments…

Happy laughing!

EJ

🙂

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As I said on Sunday I haven’t read anything this week.

It’s been quite nice actually: the only words I have been reviewing are my own.

There are pros and cons to reading when you are writing, but for now there are too many cons. Mainly, I don’t want to lose the voice I have developed for each piece.

I probably won’t start a new book before I go off to the family wedding in a couple of weeks, because that’s when I expect to stop working on the new poems.

But, as always, I reserve the right to charge my mind.  After all, I might see a funky cover, and you know I’m a sucker for one of those…!

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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Let’s start with the slight panic.

The open mic event is coming along fast, the advert is out and the local community aware. Unfortunately, an emergency local meeting has been booked at the same time as our event.

Naturally, this has an impact on who can take part: some of the writing group might miss our own event!

My best plan is to move our event forward by one hour and hope this minimises the issue. However I have gone from frustrated to upset to sanguine and back round a few times over the weekend!

If all else fails I will keep in mind the immortal cover words from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

Don’t Panic

Beyond that, it’s all progressing pretty nicely.  We’ve got a few performers lined up, the performance poetry is shaping up well and there is a new vigour in Creativity Corner. The writing group has been joined by a painter and we are going to open up Thursday nights for a selection of creative ventures – hopefully a dedicated space with different artistry will bring us all some new inspiration.

In the meantime I am having dragons painted on my shoes, which will keep me happy for months!

There is still no time for reading properly, although I gave myself Saturday night off anything in particular so I could watch Doctor Who. It was raining and miserable outside and I needed some escapism, so I went right back to the start of the reboot.

Sometimes you just need to switch off thinking, stop thinking about rhyme schemes, and watch a wooden box fly through space…

I am back to work now though.  From now until we go away for the family wedding I will be trying to finish my current work in progress; when I get back I have 3 days to choose my pieces.

I am amazingly confident I will have a good selection to share!

Happy writing,

EJ

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I’ve been at writing group tonight, and inevitably much of the discussion was about our open mic night.

I have written the spooky poem but I think it needs a concluding stanza, so we discussed that.  I don’t think the others were in quite the same headspace as me though; there was a push to make it funny!

I also talked about the start of my Wild Swans poem, although that isn’t one for the open mic.

I was working on it at lunchtime today, and I am happy with the way it is coming together.  The quote got me thinking about mindless drones and that has informed my approach.

I won’t say anything more yet but I hope to share the finished article with you all.

Finally, I helped another writer with their work.  I have a very different writing style and approach to them, but I can help with the editing process – identifying discrepancies in rhythm, rhyme schemes which alter unexpectedly, and so on.  It’s a really important part of the group, such as it is, to share what we have learnt in our work .

In the spirit of sharing, this is an old technique that often gets forgotten: always read your work out loud.  You can hear if a line sounds right, or a word is too hard, a syllable extra needed and so on.

This applies particularly to poetry, but other writing can also be improved by listening to it. Try it and see if it works for you!

That’s all for today.  It’s just gone midnight and my coach turned into a pumpkin…

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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As I said at the weekend, I am not reading as I am focussed on writing, so there’s nothing book- related today.

Instead, I opened a book at a random page, closed my eyes and pointed, and the sentence has to inform my next poem.

I chose Wild Swans by Jung Chang.  The sentence reads:

But all this introspection was really designed to serve no other purpose than to create a people who had no thoughts of their own.

So that’s my next challenge…  A few ideas are swimming in my head; I just need to land one!

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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There’s no real post today as writing continues, so this is just a quick update.

I have done the first draft of the spooky poem.  It’s about ghostly visitations and I am enjoying writing it.  It has a proper rhyme scheme, which I don’t normally use, but it’s fun to try.

I have started work on a poem about environmental differences which was inspired one lunchtime – I work in an industrial area which is surrounded by countryside so depending which direction I look I can see either fork lift trucks or fields. That got me thinking about the juxtaposition of the two, which led to the original draft of the poem.

I still have one more to write up before Thursday’s writing group but I am happy with progress.

I haven’t been reading but that’s ok for now.  I will pick up on a new book when I feel I can give it a bit of focus.

So that’s where I am now – I keep on keeping on!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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Although my writing focus is on poetry at the moment, I continue to practice some of the writing tools I have found useful.

One of these is reading the news with an eye to an interesting or unexpected story.  As someone deeply engaged in politics I also read political blogs and websites to understand different responses to those stories.

This is proving to be a real eye opener – although I don’t agree with many responses I have a much better comprehension about why some people want to see the world structured in particular ways.

From the human, bloggers for peace, point of view, understanding is imperative to social cohesion.

From a writing point of view, it’s a great way to test out characters.

You can take any character you have written and imagine them reading a post.  What do they think? How do they react? Is the topic something they would have a strong reaction to or discuss with friends? What is their political point of view? Are they engaged with current affairs, do they watch the news or read a paper?

You might never write about anything of this nature but it doesn’t matter: the better you know your character, the more believable and consistent they will be.

So if you find yourself reading something which doesn’t reflect your view, take a chance on it, and read through the eyes of your character. It might provide the spark of engagement you need to find.

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

 

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I finally finished my book! which was Bodily Harm, by Margaret Atwood.

I am not sure how to discuss this one. It’s taken longer than expected to read, and the tone changed dramatically in the last 35 pages which took it into an entirely different direction to the one I had expected.

The majority of the story is about Rennie, a journalist whose life has been fundamentally changed by breast cancer.  Trying to escape from her post-surgery life, she seeks an assignment far away from the complications of her newly aware existence.  She leaves behind her old partner, an affair with her oncologist, and an invisible but frightening voyeur/predator/house-breaker who left a rope on her bed after breaking into her flat.

She arrives on the island of St Antoine ready to write a travel piece but before long she is unwittingly and unwillingly caught up in the politics of the island and its neighbour Ste Agathe.

This book is partially a reverie on body confidence and the sense of loving and trusting our bodies, even when faced with challenges.  As Rennie becomes more involved with the mysterious American Paul, she begins to accept her newly scarred body.

However, it is also a tale of corruption, violence and danger, and although there is an underlying menace throughout, this really takes hold of Rennie’s story in the last 50 or so pages, with the outcome being the main focus of the last 35.

I really enjoy ‘human condition’ stories, where the plot is about a character facing a difficulty.  Therefore all these sections worked for me.

However, the other side of the story wasn’t really to my taste. The sense of foreboding was ok but the extremity of the outcome and the last 35 pages was much less enjoyable – although oddly, much quicker to read!

I think in part my reaction to it is about style. Atwood writes in a way that perfectly suits personal reflection. She has a knack for revealing how an individual views their world and how they respond to stimuli. When that gives way to looking at what is happening to a character (rather than how the character is perceiving a situation) it is less powerful.

Add to that the fact that the end feels very rushed in comparison with the rest of the story, and I think these explain why this book is not my favourite Atwood.

I read this for fun but it has made me reflect on a writing truth: as writers, we need to know what type of storytelling works best with our voice. You can stray from the path, of course, but you need to know your way back.

Playing to our strengths is the best way to get our writing noticed.

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

 

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