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With barely more than 48 hours left of 2013, I have been looking at this year’s progress and where I need to get to in the next few weeks.

This time last year, I was still working on the family tree novel.  Now, after the waiting game I’ve played with agents, I have decided to speed up the agent approaches and work out a timetable for possible self-publishing.  It’s still not my preference but I didn’t write the book to let it sit in a drawer for the rest of my life!

I now want to give some attention to increasing my public profile. My blog merrily flows onwards but I really need to gain more followers; I should sort out a Facebook and twitter account. This is all possible outside of my personal pages so I’ll target those things for January.

As part of that, I’ll add more of my own prose to the blog for feedback and comments to see what I need to improve, and what works well.

Alongside that I want to do more poetry performances and perhaps make them a regular event – say once a quarter so I have time to write new material. As the poetry exists under my own name and not my writing name, I can keep the two separate which will please any agent I do eventually secure!

But all good things must end, and I think I’ll have to start looking for paid work in the new year too – it’ll mean less time for writing but looking on the positive side, it’ll give me new things to write about!  Besides, I am saving up for something important and it’ll all be worth it!

In other news – Book number 14 on the 100 best novels list is Vanity Fair.  I think I’ve read it, and I’ve certainly watched both tv and film versions of it!  I can’t remember much about it though so I think it might be one I go back to.

And finally – I’d like to wish you all a happy, peaceful and creative 2014.  This year has been difficult at times, but there has also been love, laughter and happiness – and a great sense of camaraderie, including on WordPress.  I want to thank you all for commenting, reading and liking posts, and following the blog 🙂

Until next year – happy writing!

EJ

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After last week’s target-setting, I have finally got back into some sort of writing groove, even if it is a very shallow and lowly groove.

And although it’s been nothing to do with book 2, it is at least a step in the right direction!

Yes – I’ve mostly been working on other pieces, between a variety of appointments, outings and events.  In fact, today is the only day I haven’t been out at some pre-arranged event or other (I was supposed to go out today but rebelled) so I have a lot of material to use, and if I think about that as work-related, I’ve been incredibly prolific this week…

Certainly a new idea I’ve been working on has grown from a single random thought at an appointment, and ties in nicely to something I saw leaving another event.

You see – every moment is fuel for a writer’s imagination!

I won’t complain about having things to do, especially as most of them were fun, but I definitely need to up my game when it comes to book 2.  My new target is my final target and if I still can’t get motivated by it, I think I have to put it away, which would be awful.

Thinking positively, though, I set some targets for this week: two chapters of the second book edited, completing the prep for writing group, and revisiting my winter poetry set for the possible post-Christmas performance.

Manageable in a week, I am sure – as long as I don’t let myself get too distracted!  I am away for a few days, so need to get going as soon as possible…

In other news – Well, after a late uploading, book 9 and this week’s book 10 of the 100 greatest novels are up – and no, I haven’t read either.  I am beginning to think my education was sorely lacking…  I haven’t even heard of the first writer, and I wonder what exactly is meant by the ‘greatest’ novels – especially after attempting Emma again, and finding it much less engaging and enjoyable than Pride and Prejudice.  I will carry on and hope my faith is eventually rewarded!

And finally – I found this story about a manuscript forgotten in a garage and stored in a soup carton.  Putting aside the financial value, it is wonderful that something with such great history, which survived the Second World War, has come to light.  I can only hope it the person who buys it is willing to show it to the world.

I’ll leave it there for today, but let me know what you think of the 100 best novels list so far, and if you’ve read any of the books!

Happy writing,

EJ

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Having had an intermission last week, and being pretty useless for a few weeks now, I thought I’d try getting back into the swing of things.

It hasn’t entirely gone to plan, but at least I’m heading in the right direction. I’ve been doing research, having discussions about storylines, reading up on different styles of poetry and so on. I’ve also been involved in a fundraiser which has taken up a reasonable amount of time so I should have realised that this wasn’t the week to catch up.

It’s bugging me a little that I feel so disengaged from work, but I know from previous experience that I just need to get back into a routine.  So tomorrow the timesheet comes back into play – I’ll start with 15 hours this week as a target, and go from there.

I feel more confident when I can tie my work down a little and I really need to get to grips with book 2 as I wait for further info on book 1 (looking for an agent required oodles of patience and it’s good to be diverted) and start working towards my target date for completion of this draft.

So there’s not really a lot of news, as such, but just putting this stuff in writing makes me feel more confident I’ll get things done!

In other news – I missed books 6, 7 and 8 on the 100 best books list but I looked them up – and finally got to some I’ve read! Woo hoo!

I have read (or at least started reading) Emma and completed Frankenstein.  I will give Emma another go, I have it in my study and will aim to read it by the end of the month; I find Jane Austen very easy to read nowadays so that’s a reasonable target.   Suddenly I’ve gone from 0% of the list to 25% and I feel much more literary!

Also – I liked this interview with Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman, specifically what she says about getting on and working, and ways to deal with writer’s block.  Mainly because I’ve said the same things before and it validates my opinions!  I also appreciated reading about the number of rejections she had – I know I have to keep the faith but that’s quite hard some days.

And finally – I’ve talked before about public reading events.  Well how about reality-TV writing?  Is this the future of literature?

I really, really hope not!

Happy writing

EJ

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Today two positive writerly things have happened.   Well, more than two actually, but two that are important for the purposes of this post!

Firstly, I went to an open mike event, which was a lot of fun. I read one of my poems in a new style and it worked much better; it’s funny but in a wry grin rather than a belly laugh way, so I read it with different inflections and I was really happy with it.

The second is that I was asked to do another performance of the same style as the weekend’s event ie music and poetry over an afternoon session.

How are these relevant to an inspiration post, you ask?  And, why am I talking about them both?

It’s all about inspiring you to get out there.

I’ve said repeatedly that the performance side of things is really hard for me; I’d be happy to read work by others, I think, but I feel very exposed reading my own poetry, so the more I do it, and the more I try things out, the more I can see what works and what doesn’t.  Most of my poetry is serious, but I am aware that I read some poems as though I’m reading the news and that’s not great from an audience point of view!

Using open mike events to see how people respond is useful.  Tonight I learnt that my planned poem introduction for one piece didn’t work, but the new style of reading got a specific response from virtually the whole audience (‘aah’, in this case – the bunch of romantics!).  Until tonight I hadn’t had a response like that to the poem, and now I know what works.

So before my next performance, I’ll practice reading at these events and with someone whose responses can be used to measure the success or failure of an attempt.  I have to remember that my performance is a type of acting, and I have to act the part of a confident performer!  The more I do it, the better I’ll get.

I have been promised a workshop on performing poetry by someone with 30 plus years of experience, so that should help too…

I’m sure I sound like a broken record on this, saying yet again that you should just go and do things.  But it’s true.

My experiences show that even when you are nervous, lacking in confidence or frankly terrified of performing, you can improve.  You can use open mikes to develop your confidence, try out new styles and listen critically to your work.  Then, when the chance comes to perform you might do it better than you thought, and be asked to do it all over again.  And you’ll be using those open mikes to refine your performance for the next time.

If you make a life as a poet or writer, you will have to read your work in public one day.  Preparing yourself is the best tool you have for getting through it successfully.

Happy writing,

EJ

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I did it – my first proper, formal, public poetry reading is done. And I’m typing, so I must have stopped shaking…

What an afternoon!  I started with my newest poem, and in reading it out had a horrible whoosh of what I will refer to as performance anxiety thinking it wasn’t really ready to present.  I have rushed to get it finished, or at least presentable, and I just don’t think it’s refined enough to read in an open forum yet. I take that sense of incompleteness very seriously and it put me off my stride.

Once that was out of the way, my friend sang one of her songs and I had time to collect myself a little bit, and the rest of the afternoon was a lot smoother. The next poem I read was a very familiar one and from there on in it was a case of remembering to speak slowly, breathe – and project my voice because there were issues with the microphone.

It’s done, and I’m glad to get it under my belt, and I now have to decide if I ever want to do another!  I feel quite exposed doing poetry – not only is it more physically intimate than blogging, but it’s also more personal in terms of how I am addressed and how I am expected to behave.  It’s as much about performance as it is ability to write, and I have never considered myself a great orator.  Maybe I don’t just need public speaking tuition – I should do acting classes as well 🙂

I am however utterly exhausted.  I didn’t realise how tiring the afternoon would be, and how much it would take out of me, and now I just want to go to bed!

However, I’ll do one ‘in other news’ just for you! – I found this article about lost words, and following on from the news that twerk made it into the OED in August 2013, it reminded me how much language changes and mutates over time.  Of course some words are commonly used and will probably stay in use for centuries (the, and, at are some of the more obvious examples!) but will other words we use now?  One of my favourite words is flibbertigibbet  and I’m convinced this will fade out of use within the next hundred or so years because other words have taken over from it.  Whether twerk lasts as long as waltz remains to be seen, but it’s a good lesson in keeping our language appropriate for the historical setting of our stories.

Now I must go and rest up, it’s been a very long day!  After this weekend I’m back into novel 2 to get that ready for the end of November’s deadline.  Watch this space…

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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This week’s inspiration post is not an inspiration post at all. It’s written in lieu of a panic attack as I think about my first proper public reading.

Yesterday I spent about three hours with my friend going through the set list – songs, poems and excerpts from relevant books. The way it has worked out, I’ll now be reading six of my own poems, one poem by another person, and three passages from books.

I reckon in total, over two 45 minute sets, I’ll read for a maximum of about 20 minutes – and yet the whole thing is filling me with dread.

I was asked today what the difference is between open mike events and this.  Well, in reality I suppose you could argue that there’s not a lot of difference but in my mind open mike events are full of poets, singers and musicians all sharing their work, whereas this is about performing to an audience.

Even writing that makes my stomach shrivel up…

This is what it means to be a writer though.  The sharing part has never been easy for me, but I have to conquer it to make the life I’ve chosen meaningful.  I can’t do it with the novels until I have exhausted the agent search, but I can do it with the poetry.

All the poems bar one are like old friends, and I can wrap myself in their comforting familiarity. The venue is well-known, and the people warm and supportive. I really am easing into the performance side with a sympathetic first attempt.

But I’m still terrified!

It’s like that phrase you see on inspirational posters – ‘feel the fear, and do it anyway’.  By this time Sunday, the fear will be in the past and I’ll have accomplished something important.

And once I’ve done it, you’ll know you can too.  There you go – a little bit of inspiration after all!

Happy writing,

EJ

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For the past couple of days I’ve put the writing to one side to help out with a friend’s business open day – and have been lost in a fog of wool, paper pompoms, fabric, raffia and hessian, with the occasional bit of bunting thrown in for fun.

It was exhausting, and time-consuming but it was just what I needed after the last few weeks – a bit of creativity with a group of lovely people, helping a friend pursue a dream.

I also managed (part of) a charity zumbathon this weekend, which explains my general sleepiness… but now it’s time to refocus all my efforts on phrases not fabric, words not wool.

As I’ve said before, I’m performing at a ‘Listening Lunch’ next Sunday; the poetry count has gone from four to six and now I’m only doing one other reading.  I don’t need to write any more new poems, thankfully, and I’ve performed most of them at open mikes before, so that’s also made me feel a little better.  I just need to get on and finish editing everything.

Having made it through this weekend, and having seen how much can be achieved when people put their minds to something, I feel like this might actually work out – so watch this space!

In other news – As Thursday was National poetry Day here in the UK, I thought I’d belatedly share this article about writing poetry.  Poetry really is a rollercoaster relationship for me – I write copious amounts in different styles for weeks, then I write nothing for months, then I find old drafts and edit for ages, then I struggle to find any words to convey my emotions.  It’s infuriating sometimes – but when it works, and I write something that says everything I’m trying to say, I feel deeply proud of myself.  Of course in six months I won’t think it’s finished and I’ll edit a little more – but that’s how I think poetry should exist anyway.

Also – A few weeks ago I said I’d keep an eye on the reasoning behind the compilation of the 100 best novels.  Well – so far I’m failing but in fairness of the two books posted so far I’ve read neither.  Maybe I’ll get through them once I’ve got poetry week done!

And finally – after last year, I am not intending to register for NaNoWriMo this year, but to use November to get the editing of book two sorted out – but for anyone doing it who needs the occasional pep talk, I’ll try to post a little more often about my progress and the tricks and tips I’ve learnt to get through the daunting word count.  And please, please plan you work fully before you start so you don’t end up unpicking it for the best part of a year!

Until next time – happy writing!

EJ

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Having been ill, and having had a less than stellar week, I have fallen behind on the work front, and this post is not about writing much at all…

I have a lot to do before the Listening Lunch, and have to get some work done before my next writing group (which was deferred by a week and I’m still behind!) so I’m feeling a little under pressure.  I also have a number of tasks to get done by next weekend that are to do with other events so I should have worked really hard this weekend.

Instead, I spent Friday and Saturday evenings huddled under a blanket on the sofa, with honey and lemon, throat sweets and crisps, watching Strictly Come Dancing.

Here’s a bit of fun for you from Saturday’s show – I enjoyed it immensely, and it was just what I needed!

The professional dancer here is Karen Hauer, a previous World Mambo champion no less.  Her celebrity partner is Dave Myers.  They are being judged in the studio, and being watched by millions – and they are laughing like drains.  It is unbridled pleasure in what they are doing.

This is what I want to feel when I write.  Whether it’s gone well, or badly; whether the pages are flowing or I am trapped in a cul-de-sac of plot devices, I want to remember this joy in what I do.

I am hoping that next week I’ll get back on track, and that the rest of this year will be a little smoother – but whether that’s true or not, I’ll be watching this video and remembering that joy is about how you approach a task, not whether the outcome is perfect.

In other news – I saw this gallery of Chinese paintings and it’s so beautiful it needs sharing.  I love Chinese art because there is something in it that I find both beautiful and tranquil.  It’s not just the art I find so inspirational though; I have tried to emulate a style of poetry I found in books of Chinese verse (and indeed in the novel ‘The Silk Road’) – I’ve tried twice now and I love the feel it gives to my work.

And finally – writing has barely been mentioned this week, so I thought I’d better introduce it here!  I read this article about people not being able to name authors, and it got me thinking.  Does it matter – other than for the author?  If I’ve bought, read and enjoyed a book, does it matter if I can’t remember who wrote it?  I did the quiz linked in the article and got full marks (for once :-)) but I haven’t read all the books; I read regularly and even if you just take the reading group books I can probably only remember the authors I’ve suggested – even after buying and reading the books.  By all means read authors you enjoy, but that isn’t the only way to decide on a reading choice, surely…

Happy writing – and dance-watching!

EJ

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This week’s post is nice and short as I’ve been out and about a lot for the last few days!

On Thursday I told you a bit about the ‘listening lunch’ where I’ll be reading and sharing some of my poetry.  As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s a pretty big step up from a few open mike events with fellow writers and performers (even if unfriendly ones!), to people paying to attend an event.  It is hugely nerve-wracking and a complete challenge to my comfort zone.

I know I have to do these things; I know that anyone who want a career as a writer has to sell their wares, so to speak. What I also know is that if I don’t do it, I’ll be really angry with myself.  

Although I see prose as my ‘natural’ product, going out and reading the poetry will build my confidence overall so it’s definitely worth doing.  In this case the worst that happens is that my friend has to jump in and do the readings for me, and I look an idiot, but that’s not quite the outcome I’m looking for!  

So from now on until the listening lunch the focus is poetry, and the novel will have to take a back seat.  That means I’m going to put back completion date to the end of November instead of the end of October – I’ll use NaNo as an opportunity to develop the story rather than attempt to write another 50,000 random words.

In fact, Cicero will be springing forth as a fully formed poem in the next few days, if everything goes to plan…  That’ll be three new ones in a week, which is pretty good going.

In other news – I know I’ve linked to book lists a few times, but I thought this one might be a good way to explore different writers and writing styles.  It’s a 100 week series on the best 100 English-language classics, with an explanation of why they’ve been chosen.  Having looked at the earlier list I think ‘classic’ has been confused in some places with ‘have to read for school’, but it’ll be interesting seeing the justifications as to why some were chosen.  There are a number of books on the list that I totally disagree with; perhaps they’ll change my mind…  If I remember, I’ll comment on it here each week, even if just to say I haven’t read the book!

And finally – today is the annual Emmy Awards Show.  I’ve said before how I love the glitz of these award shows, even though part of me is repulsed by the fact that people could live for a year on the value of some of the outfits!  As I write, the presentations haven’t started, so I’ll just catch up with the red carpet. Perhaps I could write a story about the people behind the people we see – the make-up artists busily painting over bruises from surgery, or the stylists who have to shave the chests of their male clients because their shirts go see-through under camera flashes…  See, watching it is practically work!!

Happy writing,

EJ

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As this is my second week of holiday, I was hoping to give you a picture and a few exciting ideas related to the image, but sadly the British weather has turned and outside events have pretty much been rained off for the last few days.

I did manage to get out for a wander by a canal yesterday, looking at the ducks and seagulls, and an unexpected swan, for a very fleeting visit – but sadly I didn’t take a camera!

So instead I’ll update you about the prep for my upcoming performance (more about that on Sunday), and explain what I’ll need to do next.  After all, what’s better when you’re having a two week holiday than working through it…!

I started by meeting up with my friend (who is ‘headlining’ the event).  We agreed the first half of the playlist and a number of related poems and readings, plus we decided a new poem and a couple of additional readings were required.

After that, I started to do some research.  This is the pile of reference books I stacked up on day 1:

book pile

By the time I’m finished I’ll probably have about 3-4 times as many!

I also chose a subject for the poem – Cicero.  I really enjoyed reading his quotes for the peace post, and his standing in history is so contradictory as to make him a perfect subject for further investigation.  Sadly, none of the books on my sofa will help with that but I have a few more up my sleeve (or, more accurately, on a bookcase!) to rely on!  The poem is about war, and his quotes and his life experiences will work brilliantly for that.

Once the poem is written, and the rest properly edited and updated, I’ll share them all with my friend, alongside the other readings I have found.  I’ll practice reading, over and over again.  And then do it at least two more times.  I have to remember that performing is different from reading, and like any performer I need to rehearse.

And finally, the performance will come, and I’ll be ready for it!

The main focus for the next few days is poetry, poetry, poetry.  But I am hoping to enjoy a trip to family and to watch a carnival (ok, and go to a funfair!) this weekend too.  You never know what ideas will be shaken free on a rollercoaster, after all!

Happy writing,

EJ

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