Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Truth or porkies?

My protest hat is firmly on here.  During a Poetry School workshop last Saturday on writing protest poetry the first draft of a poem emerged and an improved version is now offered up, after some re-drafting.

This is the second time I've been to a workshop with the poet Antony Dunn  Once again he gave us with plenty to think about and pursue independently.


“Welfare minister argues in favour of a redefinition of ‘homelessness’” Guardian 4th November 2010, Patrick Wintour
and with thanks to George Orwell who explained that politicians “ make lies sound truthful” in "Politics and the English Language" (1946)

You’ve got the wrong end of the stick
Your mind is in an awful mess
We need a redefinition of homelessness
Really it means happiness.

You’ve got the wrong end of the stick
What you think is pure manure
There’s no such thing as being poor
In fact, it’s now against the law.

You’ve got the wrong end of the stick
Health, councils, charities, schools
means ‘localism’ rules
(Equality is just for fools)

You’ve got the wrong end of the stick
Dave tells us with great certainty
Unemployment is a big fat lie
What we really mean is the Big Society.

You’ve got the wrong end of the stick
The IFS* are too excessive
These taxes are not so regressive
The benefits to all are massive.

It’s a fact, no ifs and buts
Extra money’s there, not cuts.
You’re living in a Wonderland …
wondering, wondering
which words will next be banned.

*IFS = Institute for Fiscal Studies, who found that the Comprehensive Spending Review was a regressive measure, contrary to Nick Clegg’s assertion.

Moira Garland

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

 The Manor House, Ilkley

I don’t know.  This was a starter phrase, a warm-up, for one of Michele Roberts' writing exercises in the workshop I managed to get into, last week at the Ilkley Literature Festival.  Michele describes her style of workshop teaching as ‘bullying’!  But I wasn’t complaining – we all wrote, and wrote, and wrote.  And she left us with plenty of further work to continue at home. That's what I call a really satisfying workshop.

Antony Dunn, the poet in residence for the festival, introduced our over-50s group to some ways of incorporating a life event into poetry.  The workshop was definitely fun as well as productive.  Now the younger end, the 11 or 12-year olds, are working on our events to write their poems, whilst we will get their material to write our poems.  It’s intriguing.

If you didn’t go to the see Carol Ann Duffy perform, along with John Sampson, you missed such a treat.  Carol Ann is a sharp, witty, entertaining poet with a strong feminist element whilst John is an amazingly talented player of all sorts of modern and very old whistle type instruments.  This was the first time I’d seen someone play two whistle instruments at the same time, and not even playing the same notes …

They performed alternately, and then John played Danny Boy with Carol Ann reading a poem to match the haunting melody.  Perfect.  For an hour and a quarter I was thoroughly absorbed and the large audience in the Kings Hall all seemed equally so.  Apart from the three people on my row who left before the beginning of the performance – quick to judge or what?  They can’t have been at the ‘wrong’ show as they would have had to show their tickets to get in …

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Does Adeline rhyme with 'nine' or 'mean'?

Adeline is my name.  My spirit has materialized from the Victorian and Edwardian era.  I am a titled lady (two titles - one must be accurate).  Find me, in bits, in a new story by MoiraG set in Headingley, famous for its cricket ground these days but also known as a suburb of Leeds, and once considered quite 'select'.

This month sees the 3rd annual Headingley LitFest and I have been invited to read a story (as yet untitled), at the Cafe Lento on the evening of 17th March.  As well as the story of Adeline you will be able to listen to several other stories for a Short Story evening at my favourite Headingley Cafe.  It's the second time I've done this and it's a thoroughly enjoyable evening, reading, and listening to other stories too.  However it will be quite intimate as Cafe Lento is small (and exquisite of course!).

So it's been down to the grindstone to get the story completed on time - another deadline!

Monday, 8 February 2010

Something new and scenic blue

Kalithea, Rhodes, Greece - 
part of my holiday last September

As I have been described by a friend as 'into gadgets' Facebook was too tempting for me - see some photos of places I've visited and people I've seen too.

Another extract from one of my short stories, where we inhabit a young girl's yearning, and appetite:

Cold drizzle on Wednesday.  Maria has to duck away from large drops of rain from the high roof above the shop.  The neatly stacked pile of  a dozen chocolate éclairs ooze disdain for her now empty pocket. Always, on the Sunday trip to her nana’s, a chocolate éclair is served up on the stemmed glass plate brought in after the sandwiches.  However ‘manners’ dictate that you cannot just grab the cake you want and often her cousins, or her aunt, or her older brother get the éclair as the cakes are passed round the table.

A child's perception is a theme I find fascinating when writing, the idea of a child's inner life as being entirely separated, even detached, from the life of adults around them.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Photo shows the river at Knaresborough close to the railway station and was part of my research for the Knaresborough story.

Knaresborough, you know, is a lovely little town in North Yorkshire and once a year has a FEVA (Festival of entertainment and visual arts). In 2007 I was delighted to hear that my story Foxy Lady was shortlisted for the Short Story writing contest where the story had to either start or finish at Knaresborough railway station. An incentive to encourage local writers to enter, or for others to visit. Foxy Lady tells how a lively widow is changed by taking her first steps on the internet. Here is a short extract:

Gardening of course was the main topic of discussion: the best way to get rid of dandelions; how to plant leeks; what were the best shade plants. And so on. It was all very relaxed and Marge mentioned her husband, the solitary riverside walks, even the clutter of all the ceramics. She had even tried out her new digital camera and sent Diana a photo of a miniature fox figurine. Actually it had been an unwanted Christmas present but she would have felt guilty throwing it out.

Now, after two years, she had dared to invite Diana Peters to lunch at her house.

Sadly two other web-published short stories, one a young boy's poignant journey away from home, the other a young woman's loss livened up with humour, are no longer available. In 1994 The National Association of Writers in Education teamed up with the National Railway Museum in York where they asked for writing about anything to do with railways, which they named Moving Stories.   My two stories were then selected to be among the best 200 on the site. For now they languish on my computer.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Recipe for success

RECIPE for making a space and time for your writing
One small quiet room
One (no more) well-behaved exam candidate
One experienced invigilator
A4 lined paper
Silently operated pen

First ensure your candidate is fully familiar with the exam instructions e.g. length of time, colour of pen, how to cross out. Then keep an eye on the time and your candidate to make sure they haven't fainted with shock at the questions or are attempting to write in pencil rather than black pen. In other words you're in charge. At the same time start writing your initial ideas, progressing on to writing your story. Once the ideas are thoroughly mixed produce a perfectly baked final draft. Later, serve warm to a reputable publisher who will devour these greedily. And there you have it - your best seller, displayed at the front of every bookshop in the land.

NB: There is no approved time scale for this recipe. Not all cooks will complete this dish. This can be due to laziness, distraction, cleaning the house, playing Solitaire, going out for lunch, knitting that cardigan you should have finished last Christmas and sundry other displacement activities.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

An unexpected journey

Have some fun, and analyse your writing at the same time by going on to the Wordle site. From the text you copy and paste into the space provided Wordle will make an interesting pattern that you can then edit yourself. The bigger the font of each word the more you have used it in the original text. And you can even display your artwork on the site gallery. Have a look at what I did today with a piece of non-fiction about an unexpected journey I took when I was younger - just click on the link below:

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If you decide to have a go perhaps you can put up the link in a comment on this blog ...

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Good news and bad

The next course I should have been teaching will not run. Where are all the budding writers? Stuck inside because of the snow? Writing alone in their garrets?

Being so snow bound means I've more time to write this blog and here's something that might interest you, as a writer or tutor. Have a look at for lots of writing ideas that start with shoes. As a tutor you can send away for their pack but there are stimuli on the website too. I can't wait to try them out, though unfortunately I will have to wait until my next teaching assignment comes up!

Meanwhile the next competition closing date looms for me, the MsLexia short story competition closes on 25th January and must be sent by snail mail. Note to self: fingers to the keyboard, ideas to come pouring out of the brain (or should that be the mind? ...)

Monday, 4 January 2010

New teaching, new writing

Abject apologies for the gap in the blog! I have a myriad of reasons - finally finished my Lancaster online course early in November along with a final (?) version of the longest short story I have ever produced at nearly 5000 words. It won't go on this blog though as I'll be submitting it to competitions - one at a time - and perhaps to a publisher. The course has shifted me up a gear: next goal is to actually submit some writing to a publisher.

I have submitted some writing to a competition: Leaf books were running one where you had to write something in 140 characters or less. My youthful son tells me that is the outside limit for Twitter. I managed to put four entries in.

And this week sees the start of the next Creative Writing class at an Adult Education centre where I've previously worked. That is, if there are enough students. So to keep me fresh and my teaching I'm thinking of how and where to start. Not my first visit by any means but I have been refreshing my reading of Susan Lee Kerr's blogspot and would recommend it to you if you teach creative writing.

The course is 10 weeks long so the first class is always a balance between persuading them to do some writing, enabling students to feel at ease, finding out what they would like to do on the course and creating energy enough to encourage them to come back the next week! As well as the inevitable filling in of enrolment forms but I try to avoid doing that in class. Instead they can do it in their break (oo aren't I a slave driver!) or after the class. Sometimes though they have to rush off to collect children from school so cannot do that.

I look forward to a new bunch of people but on the other hand, if it doesn't run I can always do more of my own writing, squeezebox playing, house selling, housework to keep the house looking presentable for selling, seeing friends, go swimming ...

... and making resolutions such as "I will write this blog every Saturday". Well, time will tell.