Posts Tagged ‘Performing’

As I trundle around on my holiday at home (a staycation, I believe it is called nowadays!) I am neglecting my writing.

I did meet up with a fellow writer – we discussed the concept of metaphor and the nature of reality, it was a really interesting way of working through some of my brewing ideas – and I have done some admin for the writing group, but other than that work has been very bitty.  A few lines of poetry here, an idea for a short piece of prose there: nothing to get particularly excited about.

I know it’s my holiday, but this seems a little unfortunate, especially knowing what’s coming up… A public reading!  For people willing to pay!  It’s a lunch thing, so people get food, music by my brilliant friend and poetry by me.  It’s all a bit nerve-wracking and quite honestly not something I’m eager to do, but it does push me to do some more work and to practice reading, which is something I neglect.  An open mike every few months is really not enough!

I really don’t feel ready, and it’s only 4 weeks away: I have to get on with some more poetry between now and then, and check the musical playlist so I can try to link the music choices with the poetry to make sure the tone of the lunch isn’t all over the place.

Before that, though, I have a charity zumba event, my friend’s business open day, a trip to see my sister and her family (and a carnival!), and a ghost tour of a medieval city.  Plenty of inspiration material there…!

One thing that has eased the pressure is that I am no longer doing a poem for a wedding – the couple decided just to have a single reading from the bible.  I may still write on the subject but it will be for my own pleasure; they have given me a new idea to write about as well as a more practical idea about the use of poetry, so although we never progressed, it has been a valuable experience.  I wish them all the best!

In other news – It’s now 11 weeks since I sent work off to the second agency; I will chase again next week if there’s no response.  In the meantime I think I ought to send off to another two or three – I don’t really want the book out with too many people at once but on the other hand, waiting around and doing nothing is hugely frustrating so I’m just going to have to do something!

Also – I saw this article about books people lie about reading.  I don’t see the point in that, really – so in the interest of openness, I’ll tell you what I’ve read from the list: 1984, Lord of the Rings, Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre.  I started Great Expectations but didn’t enjoy it and put it down after a few pages.  I read a lot less classic writing as an adult than I did in my youth – probably because we had to read classics for school!  1984 is worth a read, even if just to see how many things Orwell got right about the future!

And finally – As we’re on lists this week, I thought I’d share this one with you: the working/original titles of famous books.  Makes me wonder if ‘The Family Tree’ will become something else entirely one day…

Until next time, happy writing!



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I went to an open mike night tonight; it was the super-friendly one I’ve told you about in earlier posts and this time I read a poem I have never shared with strangers.  It wasn’t my plan, but you have to go with the flow and it followed another poet really well!

I was accompanied by someone who has never read their poems in public before, and felt really good to know I had a hand in getting them there!  They were really good poems, and it got me thinking how many people write beautiful work that no-one ever hears.

So this week, I’m setting you a challenge: if you’ve never shared a poem (or section of prose) before, do it this week.

You can go to an open mike event, if you have one near you.  You can read to your partner, parents, siblings, friends. Record it for your blog, or add it to the comments here if you want, and you know how! It doesn’t matter, just do something to get you past that first hurdle.

Sharing work feels scary, and a room of strangers can be intimidating – it was for me.  But my writing is better for doing it.  My writing is alive; each time I read it aloud I listen for rhythm, for sounds; I change words or punctuation; change breaks; bend the sentences to a breathing pattern or a speech pattern that reflects what I want.  It alters as I do, and improves as I identify what is strong, and what needs further development.

There’s a famous quote by Paul Valéry:’a poem is never finished, only abandoned.’  Don’t leave your poems in a drawer because you are nervous of sharing them.  You could be amazing and never know.

People fall in love with poetry because they hear something that speaks to them.  So go out and speak to people, and spread the poetry love!

Happy writing – and reading,



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As I said on Thursday, I was off to another open mike night – and what a lovely night it was!

There was only two people reading poetry, and only me doing original poetry, so I was a little nervous at the start, but it really was a very relaxed event.

The format was round-table, so I read on three separate occasions, and in between I could listen and enjoy performances by other people.

And the outcome of listening and being surrounded by music? I began editing the poems in my folder.

Before I carry on, I have to say that these were not new pieces. The most recent was written over a year ago, and everything I edited was either entered into a competition or was a piece of coursework: to all intents and purposes they were ‘complete’. But as I reviewed them, deciding which to read, I could see improvements as though they were highlighted in neon!

With the music going around me it was almost as though the different notes emphasised the different rhythms of the words.  Things I wasn’t quite satisfied with suddenly became clear, and lines I had struggled to adjust seemed to fall into place.  It was amazing – especially as I can’t normally concentrate when listening to music.  I couldn’t do it when people were singing, but listening to the varied instruments really seemed to unblock me.  I definitely need to sit with my other poems in that circle and see where the music takes me.

It’s worth trying even if like me you need silence to write in proper poetic form – sometimes a buzz of creative energy can really help!  Suffice it to say, I will be going back, and honing my reading and my writing 🙂

It’s been great to have a couple of poetry weeks but now I need to get back to the prose – I am going to finalise my bio and my synopsis this week and I also want to re-read the second novel and work out some of the kinks before I start on a second review of that, which I’d like to get underway in July.

I’m also a little overwhelmed with the courses with another archaeology course starting tomorrow and two nutrition ones ongoing; I’d like to finish what I can of them too.  By the end of the week I should be much more organised!

In other news – I read an interview with Khaled Hosseini today which struck a chord with me for a number of reasons: his understanding that over time his writing has changed, his feelings about calling himself a writer, and the importance of family.  I’m glad to see some of the same thoughts that I have about writing are reflecting in a multi-million-selling author!

And finally – I talked about setting up a writing group some while ago, because there was nothing I wanted near me.  Well, I have finally taken the first step and advertised in my local newsletter for interested parties to join one – as I said to my friend, if it just ends up three people in the pub every month, so be it – at least we’ll have a nice night out!

Happy writing,



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Today I went and did a poetry reading (3 poems again) at an open mike night.

I do not like doing these – my hands shake, my stomach twists and squeezes, my face flushes and heats, my heart beats as though I’ve run a mile.  I speak too fast, and sometimes my tongue trips over the words and can’t get straightened out.

And yet I do them, and I try to enjoy them, because reading out my poems to an audience – of one, or a hundred – makes me believe I’m a poet.

Reading is believing.

So I thought that today I would share what I’ve learnt so far:

1. Pick pieces to read that you are comfortable reading.  For me, that means nothing with explicit language or of an intimate nature; for others it may be pieces related to current personal trials.  Go with what feels best for you.

2. Trust your audience.  They want to hear poetry, and are there because they enjoy it; they are not trying to pick everything you say apart.  And if they do, sadly it’s a side effect of sharing your work.  Writing requires a thick skin or an incredibly quick healing time.

3. Speak slowly.  Think about the way you speak with your best friend – then slow down to half that speed.  It feels agonisingly slow, but it’s the only way the audience can hear what you say.

4. Be respectful of other artists.  Don’t talk through their performances, make unkind comments about their work or undermine their confidence.  You might not like what they do – and you can certainly talk about it afterwards – but they have the right to be heard without interruption.

5. Listen to your performance.  Do some words grate against each other?  Are some words causing you to stutter or slur?  Are some phrases repetitive?  Use the reading as a chance to improve your work.

6. Know you are a writer.  You are there because you have a voice to share, and know it is worth hearing.

So there’s a few tips for your own open mike events.  I am not good at them all, and other writers are not always to your taste, or polite, or sensitive to your feelings, but if you want to learn to enjoy sharing your work, you need to practise.  The first attempt can be honed and refined, just like your writing.

And if you’re confident and happy to read to a roomful of strangers – please tell me how!

Happy writing,



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Having finished editing earlier this week (hurrah!!!) I thought I’d focus on something entirely different this week, and have a look at my long-neglected poetry.

As I have volunteered myself to do a reading next  week, it seemed sensible to start looking at what I wanted to read.  I rely on three tried and tested pieces, but my friend tried a fourth one in Cornwall, so that’s available too.  I also decided to look out some older ones to update a little, and some new pieces I’ve been working on.

The key thing is to find pieces I really feel confident in reading, because it is something that I find terrifying.  It’s not just whether people think my poems are good or not – to some extent that’s irrelevant unless they pelt me with rotten vegetables; most of these things are very polite.  It’s about the confidence to share work, and the reality of listening to my own pieces.  I can hear limitations when I read to an audience that I couldn’t hear when I wrote them, or read them to myself.  Different orders affect the flow of the poems and allow me to identify similarities I didn’t know were there.

I also tend to stick to just a few for a number of other reasons – but knowing that my poetry is probably going to be self-published does allow me to use it more widely.  My decision not to enter anything into competitions this year has also freed me up (anything considered ‘published’ cannot be entered) to use some of the newer pieces which I might otherwise have kept aside.

I have taken to thinking of my poetry as the fun, personal side of writing and the novels as the business side, which is a false distinction really, but one that keeps things in perspective.  The two are utterly dissimilar.

Apart from focussing on the poetry, I’ve also been enjoying my new courses.  It’s great to immerse myself in something new and cooking up interesting dishes and getting recipes from around the world has been a welcome change.  I am also looking at food lists, and the food people eat, and thinking about characters who could eat these things, or the places people would go to buy them.  It’s good to remember that what you see as normal, or usual, is very different from another person’s perception.

It’s also got me thinking about my lifestyle.  Writing involves a lot of sitting down, or moving from one bookcase to another – it’s fairly sedentary.  The research stages can be more physically active – visiting sites, houses, libraries, museums, beaches – whatever it is, the research is the active part.  But once I get to writing proper, I end up sitting down for days at a time.  So, I need to change that; to break up the writing time a little.  An active brain needs stimuli, so I need to seek it out!

Just one other news today – I found this article about the power of photography today; having focussed on a photo in Thursday’s post I thought it tied in nicely.  It’s interesting to see how other people view their images.

I am off to trawl through piles of poetry – the reading is on Thursday so I’ll let you know how it goes then!

Happy writing,



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I had fully intended to write about news stories this week, and in fact had almost finished my post for the week when I changed my mind.

There are two reasons for this. The first is a poem by Carol Ann Duffy, called Chaucer’s Valentine.  As you know, I like to use words in my poetry that are from Old English, or from different language roots.  Well, Carol Ann Duffy has done this in a way that is very accessible and I thought you might enjoy it – and in a week it’ll be too late to enjoy the festiveness of it!

The second reason is I finally read some of my poetry to strangers at an open event!  It was very simple, just a few musicians and a couple of poets around a table, and we each shared or performed something in turn but I’ve finally done it.

I know I read when my cousin tied the knot but that was in front of a lot of people I knew who were very supportive and in an environment where everyone was going to be polite even if they thought it was rubbish!  This was a bit unnerving.  Still, I went with a friend and my partner, so not entirely traumatic, and I got very good feedback and that’s made me feel more confident in my pieces.  Reading them in a different order to earlier incarnations, I did notice that two have very similar images in their last lines so I’ll probably do some work around there but I was pleased otherwise at how well they worked as performance pieces.  As my friend said, the more I perform them, the more self-assured I will become so hopefully this is a good starting point and I’ll build on it.  Watch this space (but not too closely, I don’t want to disappoint!)…

As it’s late, I’m going to leave it there for today with one other bit of news.  I have signed up to three more courses!  I’m on 8 now, covering all sorts of things – Astrobiology, Philosophy, Archaeology, Nutrition, History, Mysticism and Psychology, Geology and Greek and Roman Myth (to take me a little further on than my last course).  I have no idea if I’ll be able to fit them all in, or give them the time they deserve, but I’m so pleased to have the opportunity to do them, I want to make the absolute most of it!

I’ll update you on the editing on Sunday, but it’s not looking too promising for now.

Happy writing



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