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Posts Tagged ‘reading group’

It’s been a bit of a busy time for me recently, life-wise.  There’s been a lot going on – some great, some not so great – and it’s one of those periods where everything seems to happen at once.

The outcome of this is that there is not a lot going on with my writing.  However, there is a lot to feed my writing, when I get back to it!

In the meantime, I am trying to focus my attention on the more practical things I need to do – adverts for the next open mic night; booking in long overdue time with my reading group; helping friends find poems they want to read and so on…

It’s a shame to lose the momentum I had reached but life is full of challenges for all of us, and what is important is to make sure I get back in the writing saddle as soon as possible. With some fun times to be had this weekend, I hope it won’t be too long before I find a poetic moment!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I read this week’s book for reading group. Our description: weird…

Book 16 – Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. This book follows the experiences of Piscine Molitor Patel – Pi – firstly as a child in India, and then as a shipwrecked castaway.

I agree with the reading group assessment. This book starts as the exploration of a life in India, a child living on a zoo, who loves science and love. A child who cannot decide to be Hindu, or Muslim, or Christian so follows each religion devoutly and honestly; it seems to be the story of a child finding his place in the world.

It then turns into the story of the boy, shipwrecked and alone on the Pacific except for the company of a Bengal tiger. There is a lot of description of weather, of death, of the consumption of one creature by another (particularly horribly, unnecessarily so in some circumstances) and of survival against all the odds.

Finally, it turns into another story altogether which I won’t spoil for those who haven’t read or seen the book.

I really don’t entirely know what I’ve read. It’s such a strange book that its success is unexplainable in normal terms – I can’t even say whether I enjoyed it myself.

I don’t think I’d re-read it, but it took me only a few hours and I wanted to keep on until I finished it. I found the main character to have a stilted and affected way of talking which was a little off-putting, but his thoughts were interesting and drew me in.

I feel as though there must be something more under the surface of this book that I didn’t pull out which would explain its success and attraction more effectively, but I don’t know what, at least not right now.

Perhaps it is just the sheer unexpectedness of the tale, the unique viewpoints and the wildly imaginative circumstances but I’m glad I read it and I think I’ll be pondering it for a few days yet!

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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You can tell before reading this post that I didn’t do as well as I had said I would do, can’t you?

In my (self) defence it hasn’t been a straight forward week. Still, I did have time to write and chose not to do so. I also chose not to rehearse my panto role or wrap Christmas presents or sort through the remaining wedding odds and sods.

I chose to have a wallow instead – I watched some trashy tv and bad films, ate junk and generally lazed about when I wasn’t working. It was necessary, and the end result is a list of ideas I have for future works so it wasn’t a complete waste of time, but it wasn’t the most practical time management tool…

I haven’t started the last novel up again yet – I feel too far away from it in writing terms at the moment – but getting some ideas and concepts down is a good step in getting me back into thinking like a writer.

Realistically, I’m not going to get into a proper writing pattern until after Christmas as I have so many things on, but just getting back into the habit of writing some notes every day will ne useful, sensible, and valuable.

I feel really quite rusty at using my brain in that way, despite my notes when I was away, and the work I did before.  It’s almost like I’m training myself to write again.  So writing each day is my first target, and I want to achieve it this week.

In other news – there’s still plenty of time for you to suggest books for me to read in 2015, and I’d love to get your suggestions.  I’m even thinking about starting a local reading group to get some more interesting ideas from people (because one reading group just isn’t enough!)

And finally – on a semi-related subject, I haven’t read book 63 or 64 of the 100 novels list.  Both sound like they are worth investigating further though…  I am doing quite badly with this list but it is introducing me to new writers and new books so I guess I am doing well from it at the same time!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

 

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This week I concentrated on the book for reading group.  I’m not sure who chose this one but it was a change of style:

Book 32 – War Horse, by Michael Morpurgo.  I probably knew this was told from the point of view of the horse, but I didn’t remember when I started reading and it was a bit of a shock.  It is a children’s book, but as complex a story as any young adult novel, and certainly isn’t talking down to children; however writing from an animal’s POV inevitably means it feels unsophisticated.

I don’t think I really got beyond the strangeness of that – when I was wondering how a horse was multi-lingual I knew it was affecting my perception! – but despite that I thought the story had many powerful scenes and concepts running throughout.

There were a few specific elements that I appreciated.  Firstly, that despite it being a story of war, there was no sense that one side was ‘goodies’ and one was ‘baddies’; rather, there was a focus on personalities and how life experiences and the everyday grind of life can impact on how people respond to circumstances.  Secondly, I think that the horrors of war were sensitively balanced for the intended audience – there are deaths and injuries, and there are descriptions of shelling and gunfights, but they are not gratuitous and they are not sensational.  Thirdly, despite knowing that the story for this horse is very unlikely, it is written in such a way that, theoretically, it may have been possible.  Keeping it just on the right side of possibility – whist showing the outcomes for most of the horses were far less happy – meant that the book felt very grounded.

I was really pleased that it doesn’t patronise its audience; any book written for school-age children has to tread a fine line and I really think it was successful here.  It was emotionally affecting and very engaging.

This is a story I probably would read again if I was looking for something quick to devour one evening; as I am not the intended audience I haven’t really read or discussed Morpurgo’s work before (only his writing room!) but based on this one, I may well seek him out again.

I’ve now read two books based during the war this year, for reading group; it does force me to read things I’d ignore otherwise and even when they’re not aimed at us, there’s often something of interest in them.  It’s been good for making me expand my reading horizons!

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I have decided to leave Gulliver’s Travels for now; I may finish it but I’m reading it in between other things as it was slowing me down so much. Normally I don’t need more than a week to a book as I’m eager to read, but with GT I’m not that bothered. To me there’s a lesson in that; reading shouldn’t feel like a chore and if it does it’s the wrong book!

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This week has involved books, poetry, illness, writing rooms and weddings, and it’s been an exhausting mix!

I started the week with book club – we discussed ‘The Book Thief’ and it was a very successful, even though we didn’t get through everything I planned. Sometimes the questions I dredge up on particular books make very little sense in the context of the discussion, and you just have to bin them!

The next thing was a plan for a new ‘set list’ of performance poetry. I haven’t been to an open mike since before Christmas, and I’ve asked my writing group to comment on the ‘Cicero’ poem I wrote last year, so I’m hoping that doing some readings and developing that poem will push me in the right direction.

Then there was illness.  That’s all I’ll say about that, except I am strongly tempted to write health-related poetry.

And on to writing rooms!  A friend is building a room and I went out to see the setting for it. It was utterly perfect – the changing seasons, the weather, the wildlife will all inspire; the quiet and peace will allow him to still his mind and write from the heart.

Finally, I rounded the week off attending a wedding fair. I’ve never been to one before, and it was huge – after three hours I literally lost my voice from talking so much! Marriage is about two people wanting to spend their lives together; weddings are about a whole lot more, and going along made me eager to work on an idea I had for celebration poetry.  It was an environment ripe for writing: the excitement, the people, the shiny jewels and crystals – the chocolate fountain… I can imagine all sorts of stories focussing on a day like that.

But that’s my constant and extremely frustrating problem right now – I have all these ideas, and they keep deflecting me from my work.  I feel I am failing as a writer because I can’t keep focussed on one idea.  My mind flits around all over the place and I pick up ideas that light my mind like fireflies – and then they go out, and I start again.

So it’s target setting time for me once more.  By next Sunday I will finish the reading on paranormal writing and I’ll have revisited the guide to plotting I read last year.  Then I can set a new timetable, and you can all give me a metaphorical prod when I go off on tangents.

You are my writing conscience…!

In other news – It’s book 20 of the best novels this week – Little Women.  I can’t remember reading it, but I watched it – I remember a girl with a peg on her nose!  Maybe I’ll read it in the future but my track record with the list is a bit ropey, so please let me know if it’s worth a read.

Also – on the subject of lists, I found this one about the worst couples in literature.  I’m going to compile a few of my own because some of these are relatively inoffensive to me…

And finally – I read this article about Sappo’s poetry with great excitement – as I’ve said before, the discovery of what is thought lost really inspires and delights me.  Writers are part of a tradition that goes back through time to the first fireside storytellers: we are tied to them.  Articles like this really make that connection sing.

And on that note, I’ll leave you to your own writing connections.  Until next time,

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I went to brunch (sounds much posher than a late breakfast, doesn’t it?!) with my lovely cousin and her gorgeous son this week.

As is so often the case when I’m with people, sooner or later books come up in conversation. It got me thinking about how sociable books actually are.

My mum taught me to read before I went to school, so from a very early age books were a shared activity. Fast forward to English Literature classes, where we discussed the text in detail, through to university where we would share textbooks, or where I took books into my temping jobs and people would ask about them.

Now, I have a writing group, and a reading group, both of which are, fundamentally, book-based social events. We see films of books, either with friends, or family; sometimes as a date.  We watch them on screen and on stage, we hear them on our ipods.  We have special ones for certain times of the year, or for important events. And we pass them on, sharing books we have loved with our children, our nieces or nephews. They in turn will do the same.

I love escaping to the privacy and quiet of a book, and I love the peace I get sitting comfortably, with a book in my hands. But I love the discussion too – and the joy of books is that you can have both.  When reading is part of your job, you’re a very lucky person. __________________________________________________________________________________________ The reading challenge continued this week with just one completed book:

Book 6 – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll.  This is another story I half-know, from films.  It’s utterly bonkers, really; there are some wonderful details and plenty of ideas that I can imagine I’d have loved as a child.  The Queen of Hearts is both frightening and ludicrous, as is her husband; the White Rabbit is officious and the Mad Hatter is not as mad as you might think!  The downsides are that Alice herself is fairly frustrating, and that the end just sort of… happens.  I wanted more, and it almost felt as though I’d turned over too many pages and missed a bit.  Overall, I can see why this has an enduring popularity, and I can imagine the delight a child would take in some of the ideas, but I wish the last chapter was different!

Moby Dick has gone from my reading challenge life.  I read a line that made me question why on earth I was persevering, and I stopped.  Other American classics will take its place though!

Until next time,

Happy reading!

EJ

🙂

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