Showing posts from July, 2016

Upending a Story by Trevor Thorn

I’m in the middle of a delightful few days. I’m having a quiet week in the magnificent setting of Launde Abbey, the diocesan retreat house for the dioceses of Leicester and Peterborough. Pam, my wife, is on an Icon painting retreat led by Peter Murphy. I have come along to enjoy the quiet and hopefully, to complete a number of fragments of poems that have been started and laid to one side, generally because of a lack of time – so this is a splendid. splendid opportunity to make sure that some part-finished material is not wasted.

One of the pieces I had not completed followed from an earlier prose piece ‘A Temple Trader’s Rant’ and now, in a few short verses expresses the same individual’s satisfaction later in the same week...  

A Temple Trader’s Glee He lashed me with a rope of knots And wrecked a whole day’s trade, But I’ve just seen him flayed alive, It’s been a great, great day.
For generations we have served The people of this land By always having Temple coin Kept readily to hand.

Stepping Stones or Stumbling Stones? - by Lucy Mills

If you want to get a point across, try not to baffle your readers.
Challenge, by all means. Inspire to think, certainly.
But leaving readers frowning because they don’t know what that phrase means will only hamper them.
Of course, sometimes things are ‘hidden’ in our writing.  We do it all the time in stories and analogies.  Jesus did it with parables.
But we want to give our readers a chance to see it.
There is a secret there to be found, if readers dare to explore, to reflect, to ruminate. But sometimes we veil meaning with jargon, obfuscating the obvious. 
We must also be aware of who is most likely to be reading, and how our words can help them understand. Jargon, technical language and even what might be just termed as ‘long words’ can be problematic (I would not, in all circumstances, use ‘obfuscate’, for example!).
Recently, I was editing an article (written by someone else) where a certain phrase completely stumped me.  It was written by an academic, so I floated it past some o…

Identity and privacy, by Eve Lockett

What do Elena Ferrante and Banksy have in common? They both decided to keep their true identity a secret, and yet both have successful international reputations, one as a writer and the other an artist. The efforts to find out who they are have been extraordinary. Maths, criminology and geographic profiling have been used to ‘out’ Banksy, whose name is now apparently known. Elena Ferrante explains via her publisher: “If the book is worth something, it should be enough. I will not participate in debates and conferences, if I am invited. I will not go to accept prizes, if I am given any. I will never promote the book, above all on television, in Italy or, should the need arise, abroad. I will only participate through writing, but I will also try to keep this to the bare minimum.” The question is, if we did know their names, what would it give us that we want so badly? Would it bring us closer to them? Would their genius rub off on us? Would we discover the secret of their success? Or is t…

The Turning of the Seasons, by Fiona Lloyd

Those of you who read my post last month may remember I wrote about a poem I had started at Scargill in early June. Well, it’s taken me longer than I thought (largely due to my tweaking addiction) but it’s finally finished...just in time for this month’s blog.
I should point out that the visit referred to in the poem was my first trip to Scargill, almost five years ago. I’d also like to acknowledge Wilfred Owen’s poem, Strange Meeting, which inspired my first line and got me going.
Anyway, here goes:

The Turning of the Seasons

From escalating darkness I escaped, And took the road that wove through sculpted vales; Where hamlets carved from honeyed Yorkshire stone Gave way to lofty crags and soaring fells.
Fragmented rays of amber kissed the fields: A verdant quilt – criss-crossed with dry-stone walls – Whose supple folds ran rippling down the slopes And flanked the bustling Wharfe within its course.
Late summer’s lavish reign was evident In softly shimmering streams and hedgerows br…

Writing levels: Global, Structural, and Language

Call me slow-witted if you like, but I’ve only recently realized that when we talk about writing we are really talking about three distinct, though interconnected, things. If you start reading this and quickly see that I am merely restating what greater minds have apprehended long ago, by all means stop!

First there is the Global level. When we say that Tolstoy wrote War and Peace or Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice, we refer to the whole process, from the first glimmer of an idea to the last page of corrected proofs. But in particular we mean the creative act whereby Tolstoy and Austen invented imaginary people, places, institutions, and events. It doesn’t matter that there was a real Napoleonic War: the one in the book is Tolstoy’s Napoleonic War, whether or not he has faithfully modelled it on history. Writing, at this highest level, is thinking up a whole world of events, even if they are minute domestic occurrences, in such a way that they come together to make a story.

How to be a small, inadequate, mighty warrior - by Helen Murray

Gideon had a word with me the other day.
I'm sure you've met Gideon. His story can be found in the Book of Judges in the Bible. 
I am drawn to Gideon. He felt small and inadequate, and I know that feeling.

Judges 6:12.  God sent an angel to chat with Gideon and the first thing the angel said was, 'The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.'

At this point I imagine Gideon looked behind him, because clearly there must be a mighty warrior nearby that he hadn't noticed. He wasn't feeling very mighty, or warrior-like; he was feeling defeated and weak and insignificant. What's more, he didn't feel particularly that God was on his side, but he rallies and very politely comes over all cynical:
'If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders...?' Gideon was quietly doing his thing, minding his own business, and God came and told him to stop doing his thing, and go do a great thing.
'Go in the strength you have and save …

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

This is a well known quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt which I imagine you will have heard before. My most recent endeavour, in both life and work, is to stop the comparison merry-go-round, for the following reasons.
Comparison hinders progress
I have a friend who has a section of her bookishelf housing nearly twenty books with her name on, and every time I see them I think, ‘what has she got that I haven’t got? How did she get opportunities while I’m sat slogging away and getting nowhere?’ I get so caught up in what other people are achieving that I end up grinding to a halt in my own writing because I’m so preoccupied with the progress and achievement of others.
Comparison hinders learning
If I’m too busy comparing myself with someone, I lose sight of the things I could be learning from them. If I envy the way other writers work, I’m far less likely to ask them how they do it, and therefore lose a chance to learn. When considering my twenty book friend, I have two options: I can ei…

Taking the plunge........................ Ruth Johnson

“The Lord delights in the way of the man whose steps he has made firm, though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.Ps.37:23-24

At the beginning of June we left for Spain with a sense that a new day was dawning for our nation.My belief, and from every prophetic word I read God’s call was, and is, for us to leave the EU.How the result of that has shaken-up our government and nation.
On holiday, my friend was lent Hannah Hurnard’s book “Hind’s feet in High Places”.Its forty years since I read it, I’d forgotten how good it was. And that led me to call my friend, ‘Much Afraid’ when she was skeptical about using the water slide.Bravely I declared, “I’ll go down first”. Oh ha ha! I shot down it so fast I plunged into the water and holding on to my sun hat came up spluttering! Laughter ensued, and she determining to overcome fear lowered herself into position. Once in the running water she was immediately swept downward, and with no control over her speed when …

From there to here, part 4 by Sue Russell

This month I bring to a conclusion my mini-series on my journey as a writer, so far. I hope it has not been too personal, and that it has been of some use, interest or encouragement to some of you, wherever you are in your own sojournings.

A germ of an idea, a picture in my mind of a disabled woman murdered in her wheelchair, led after months of churning thoughts, scribbled notes and intense conferences to novel. no. 5, 'An Iron Yoke.' This was a departure for me because, as it involved a crime, it also had to include a police investigation, about which I know little. However, I was uncomfortably aware that I had to get it right. Although the police activity was important, it wasn't central, and I don't see 'Yoke' as primarily a crime novel at all; nevertheless, there are many eagle-eyed crime addicts out there who would pounce on an error with the speed of a striking snake, so I had to get my facts straight - where I could not simply leave them out. Fortunatel…

Speak, Lord, by Veronica Zundel

A fellow Mennonite and I have a little game in which the title of a book plus its author make up a sentence, for instance The Courage To Be Paul Tillich, or Jesus Asked Conrad Gempf (or indeed, David Watson You Are My God!). I've found a new one recently, in a reissued classic: God has Spoken by J I Packer. Can't wait to tell her (apologies for all these titles being by men - can't think of any by women at the mo, please supply my deficiency in the comments...).

That last one has given me pause. Has God spoken by J I Packer? I'm inclined to answer Yes, though I haven't read the book. Not in the sense, perhaps, that God spoke by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Simeon or Anna, or even the five daughters of Philip. But certainly, there will be
many people who have read the book and heard God speaking through it. Jim Packer (or any Christian writer) might not think of himself as a conduit for God's utterances, but then I have a theory that St Paul, writing letters …

To share, or not to share? by Joy Lenton

It's happening again. My fingers hesitate over the keys and icy shivers slide down my spine. I wait for words to come and when they do I feel afraid to share them.

They feel too raw, too real, too exposing somehow. And I feel too vulnerable, my former courage melting into puddles at my feet. To publish or not to publish? That is the question.

Maybe you've been there, too, when writing an article, blog post, social media update or part of a work in progress? Suddenly we freeze, yield to feelings of unworthiness, people-approval issues and wondering if we've even heard aright

Discernment is a tricky thing. I've walked transparency's path many times in trying to stay faithful to what I believe God wants me to write, and it doesn't get any easier. All those what ifs? spring to mind, inhibiting the flow.

Certain topics are considered to be off limits in polite society. For instance, it's not good dinner party etiquette to talk about money, politics, religion or se…

Writing to myself by Claire Musters

I had the fascinating experience of being asked to write a letter to myself recently. I was coming to the end of a two year course on biblical knowledge and leadership development. The delegates were asked to consider what things we felt God was challenging us to implement in the next few months as a result of what we’ve learned. We were each then given an envelope and piece of paper and were encouraged to write a letter to ourselves, in which we challenged ourselves to see whether we’d actually started doing them. The letters and addressed envelopes were then collected up and will be sent to us in six months’ time.
I found it interesting to write to myself – I seemed to adopt a persona to begin with (possibly as a way to distance myself or find a way to relate to my other, slightly older self!), and then found I was asking myself a lot of questions. I think the letter will be a great way to maintain some personal accountability (although I have to admit I also wrote a list of what I…