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Showing posts from 2021

Shut Up and Write, Kathleen!

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  When JP (not her real name) told me her grandmother would be coming to parents evening, I had no idea that this older woman would become a central character in the novel I now intend to write. Teaching the first Art History “O Level” at St Mary’s High School in Highgate, Jamaica I was (at that time) intent on expanding the students horizons regarding Caribbean artists as well as others listed on the exam that would arrive in a brown envelope from Cambridge. These were the days before Caribbean exam boards. It was also the days before I knew about a strong black culture of grandmothers. When JP’s grandmother made her way into I my classroom I had a feeling it was she who would be doing the teaching.  She eyeballed me straight and I sat down, ledger of her granddaughter’s grades in hand. “I’m not interested first of all,” she announced, “ in JP’s grades. Tell me how she behaves.” With no hesitation I was happy to report that JP was a model student.  Grandma nodded, still not smiling. 

The Honeycomb Maze, by Georgie Tennant

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Have you ever watched an episode of Takeshi’s Castle? If you haven’t, I will struggle to describe, in mere words, the spectacle you are missing. But I will try. It is a quirky Japanese game show, in which contestants compete in numerous humiliating events that gradually eliminate them. The faithful few that make it to the end, have the opportunity to storm Takeshi’s Castle and win a prize – if, by “storm,” you mean drive around in fake cars, popping each other’s balloons. I’m still not completely clear on what the prize is, as I’ve never yet seen anyone win it. Events include: Avalanche, in which the competitor has to get to the top of a steep hill, on a narrow path, whilst avoiding giant boulders being rolled towards them. Bridge Ball, in which the competitor has to cross a thin wobbly bridge to the other side, whilst balls fired at them from a cannon, to try and knock them off. Skipping Stones, in which the competitor has to cross a lake by using stepping-stones. All the stones loo

Dear...

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 I'm stopping in for Rosemary Johnson today - just in case any of you are experiencing a sense of deja vu! I've been thinking some more about letter writing, especially after reading the comments on the post I wrote about this on 14th June. And I've been mulling over the importance of mutual communication, following on from a Facebook group discussion: the to and fro that, like a tennis rally, pushes us into different areas and stretches our thinking. There's nothing more disheartening than spending precious time and emotional energy on crafting a letter or writing a blog, only to get no reply, no reaction. Words are meant to have an effect or, at the very least, they deserve an acknowledgement that they have been read, heard. Those songs, like The Pogues' Fairytale of New York or Bob Dylan's Must Be Santa, which are built on a call and response pattern, lose their effectiveness without it. Letters and blog posts that garner no response are similarly limited. I

Pantsing, Publishing and Portentous Plots - Chat with Maressa Mortimer

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Beyond the Hills - image created by The 3D Book Creator & Canva.com Today I'm chatting with the lovely Maressa Mortimer, who has just published her new book, Beyond the Hills - the second in her Elabi Chronicles series, a follow up to Walled City . Over on my blog I've reviewed the book and asked Maressa some more questions about the story and herself, so do join me over there as part of Maressa's blog tour! I've watched Maressa's writing career with interest and admiration over the past year or so - she's a one woman writing machine, and has published two books and a novella within a year. I really wanted to ask Maressa about how she writes, and reflect a little on the differences she's found between traditional and self publishing, and how those experiences chime with my own experiences.  L: Maressa, I'm in awe of how you've published one book after the other over the past year or so. Can you tell us a little bit about the writing process fo

Voice recognition

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My husband and I are having communication difficulties - not the ones that cause huge rifts in our relationship because we fail to understand what we mean but simply because he doesn’t hear. There are probably times when I don’t too, but his is a long-standing hearing loss that seems to have phases when he can’t hear anything. In order for him to participate more fully in our recent leaders’ weekend, I decided to try an app that puts words into writing so that they scroll up the screen of my iPad whenever I speak. One of the other leaders is exceptionally good at IT and showed me how to set it up - using his own voice - which meant that it didn’t recognise female voices at all. We sorted that out eventually. The four of us started praying. The huge words scrolled up the screen fast and inaccurate, among them came: ‘Claud Blessan as they moo into their new house give them Faye and carriage’  Then I noticed something unexpected. The text began to experiment with alternatives. It

More than kisses, letters mingle souls (John Donne)

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  I fell in love with my husband through his letters. We met in London during the Christmas vacation and had two dates before I had to return. He was studying at the local university and I was two hundred miles away. No mobile phones. No social media. And calls from phone boxes too expensive for student budgets. So we wrote to each other every week.   I remember the cold tingle in my stomach at the sound of post through the letterbox. How I made myself wait as long as possible before opening the envelope. The joy whilst reading. And the disappointment when I reached the end, wishing each missive was longer. He wrote a wonderful balance of chatty news and romance. We got to know each other well through those letters. We shared daily triumphs and frustrations as well as deeply held hopes and beliefs. Little did I know what a solid foundation those letters would form. Letter writing is rather a lost art. But I was delighted to see Paul Eddy’s Facebook post about writing condol

How do you like to party?

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  In case you haven’t noticed, the Association of Christian Writers is celebrating its golden jubilee this year. Fifty years of supporting and encouraging Christians who write – that represents a humungous number of words written, and a huge impact on many people. The Bible talks about a year of jubilee rather than a single moment, so of course we’re going to spin the partying out over a twelve-month period. (Even hardened introverts like me can see the value of having multiple celebrations instead of just one.)   Of course, it’s easy to celebrate when it’s a big occasion or you’re with a group of special friends. Where we sometimes struggle is when it comes to celebrating our writing on a personal level. We’re too good at looking at what we’d like to accomplish and feeling we’ve somehow fallen short. Maybe we play down our achievements because we haven’t won the Booker or had a book published, or we’ve just received our forty-seventh rejection letter of the week.   ·        S

If at first you don't succeed... by Sheila Johnson

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I am coming to the end of a year studying the MA course in Creative and Critical Writing at my local University of Gloucestershire. I will be leaving (hopefully)with a certificate. But what have I learnt? Loads. Much of our studying has, of course, been online at home, as this picture suggests. Although my study isn't anywhere near as tidy as this one but much more like the one below. However, I would say that I have, to some extent, achieved what I set out to do, write better.  In the penultimate week, for example, producing, in our class workshop, what I deemed to be my final submission for one of my assignments, I was told by my lecturer that my writing was - 'disconnected and superficial' Hard words to hear at that late stage. I have never prayed so hard for God to turn things around. After all, he is the Creator and the supreme Author. Thankfully, he did.  I decided instead, to re-submit an earlier piece of character memoir which my lecturer then said he had really enj

Ten things I've learned about covering/query letters (maybe)

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  After prevaricating about the bush as to which of my three ideas to write about this month, I asked people on the ACW FB page and this got the most votes. I put maybe in the title of this post as I would not claim in any way to be an expert. I have recently had a novel accepted for publication but, without wanting to discourage anyone, this was the third novel over a period of about fifteen years and many, many rejections. However, I feel I've learned quite a lot along the way and would love to help spare others what-I-call the  head-in-the-oven moments. Although I should point out that I use this purely as a figure of speech and have never ever come close to putting my head in the oven. (It would be impossible in our kitchen anyway, due to its distance from the floor). There are some publishers and agents in this group who will hopefully contribute in the comments if they have anything to add. Liz Carter also recently wrote a fantastic post (How not to write a query letter).

Twists in the Tale, by Ben Jeapes

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I don’t know about you, but I would not be impressed by someone who routinely spat on a crucifix and publicly denied Jesus. Which just goes to show what I know. I’ve just finished The Templars: History & Myth , by Michael Haag, and a fascinating read it was too. (The author’s other books include a comprehensive debunking of The Da Vinci Code , which made me warm to him before I even started.) The Templars were, at their simplest, an order of warrior monks created to protect pilgrims to the Holy Land. This book gives their entire history and then some, fact and fiction, myth and reality, from the prehistory of Jerusalem (before there even was a Temple), through to their downfall in the 14th century, to the present day with all the myths and legends that still continue. When an avaricious King of France wanted their wealth for himself, he arranged their downfall by fabricating charges of heresy, including the aforementioned spitting and denying, which it wa

The buffaloes are returning

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Photo by Jon Sailer on Unsplash A few years ago, my main focus in writing was the text for a children's book called Buffaloes on the Bed.  I was deeply passionate about it, read it to anyone within earshot, and even sent it off to a publisher, to which it got no response, I must add. But then my passion cooled, I realised that it wasn't as amazing as I believed it was, and I shelved it. Until a couple of weeks ago...  As many of you know, I recently completed a writing course called 'Writing with Jane Austen'. It was a six week course, and we worked our way through Pride and Prejudice, discussing her writing style, and completing various exercises. Well, that came from a writing community called The Habit . A hub of community where like-minded writers can connect, discuss, and give one other just a little more.  courage. And there came the opportunity to join this fellowship, so I did.  Now not only does this give me the opportunity to access courses such as  Writing T

Miracles Do Happen

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Hello fellow writers, forgive me for being so late today! It seems crazy that I have a whole month to prepare for my post yet I seem to leave it until the last minute. To be honest I tend to write the post only a day or two before it's due because I like to share my heart with you in ‘almost’ real-time! Well, this is ‘real’ real-time! Some of you may have noticed I’ve been a little off-grid as of late, not that I’m a huge chatterbox on social media, (I know, I know, I need to get out there!) and so I thought I would share with you why and this time, it’s not family dramas – though they can be quite fun to write!! You see, a miracle happened. A month or two ago I took part in the ACW Writing for Children Zoom Day and, though I was a little nervous, I absolutely loved it. The opportunity to share my experience was great but, even better, was the opportunity to “meet’ new and old ACW friends (goodness I’ve missed those writers’ days!). A week or so following this event, I received a c

Twenty-Four Days and Counting

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This time last year, I was spending lovely long, sunny days at my laptop creating the world of Isabella M Smugge. I had loads of time, hardly any work left thanks to the pandemic, no idea what I was doing and was delightfully naïve about the whole business of publishing.   A year on, the deadline for delivering the MS of my current WIP, “The Trials of Isabella M Smugge” to Instant Apostle is 1 st July. As I write this on 6 th June, only twenty-four days remain. I have been closeted with Isabella and her world for weeks now, surfacing only to eat and sleep. I’ve had to fit in lots of freelance work around her since most of the work I lost in lockdown has come back and then some.   I very much enjoyed Fran Hill’s latest blog in which she revealed her own recent experience of writing a book. Her notes to self (“Is the asthma important to the plot?” and “Didn’t I say she had red hair in Chapter 1?” and “If the aunt in New Zealand surfaces, will she need a subplot to herself?”) had me c

A win-win situation by Jane Walters

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I have a good friend who is training to become a coach; and, because I’m a good friend, I offered to become one of her victims coachees. Every month, she sends me a short list of questions to consider before our Zoom meeting, so we both have an idea of what ground to cover and what progress is being made. (copyright Reality Explorers) Last month, one of the three questions had me stumped. It wasn’t that I couldn’t understand it – I mean, I do know how to read – but I had no idea how to answer. ‘What wins can we celebrate?’ My first thought was, How glorious! A celebration! "We" - that's practically "together"! Some words just do that to the soul, don’t they? But after I’d laid aside thoughts of Pimms and sunshine, I had to dig a bit deeper. Wins. Hmm... I tend to think in terms of writing, naturally, and the coaching is designed to reflect that. The trouble is, as alluded to last month, I’m actually in a season of tent-making. What on earth had I won in t

GOD SENT ME A CRAB by Bobbie Ann Cole

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Even before Jesus made himself known to me, I realise He was there for me. I felt Him when I was at my lowest ebb of chemo for breast cancer. The chemo was a bid to keep my breast. I also cut out salt and generally improved my diet. I went in for all sorts of therapies — aromatherapy, reflexology, even hypnotherapy. (I was a New Age Jew.) I had counselling, I meditated. Every day, I visualized my white cells as seagulls, pecking away at a putrid pile of fish on a beach, my cancer. Two weeks after my first treatment, I had a fever. My pain threshold plummeted. Even a page of a book falling onto a scab on my thumb made me groan. I lay on my bed and visualised my beach. The sun was beating down on my putrid fish but where were my seagulls? There were just a few of them, gliding overhead, with no strength to land. The hospital told me to come in. ‘Your neutrophils are all the way down to 18%,’ the nurse said, after tests. That sounded bad. Even so, I told myself they gave me an isolati

Reasons for Writing

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Looking back on my school days, the only subjects that I took any interest in or showed any aptitude for were English and History. Maths, science, geography, modern languages, each was a puzzling mystery which continued to allude me. Not surprisingly, evidence of information teachers bravely - but vainly - spent time and effort trying to impart, became all too clear when the annual report cards were sent home. I finished my formal schooling in Ireland, under the auspices of the Sisters of Mercy, who like their Christian Brothers counterparts had their own unique take on discipline and grievance; they administered the discipline, you were left nursing the grievance. However, despite this I did gain a love of books and reading, which in turn nurtured my interest in writing. I first began my “writing career” some forty years ago submitting reports to the local county newspaper about the exploits of our junior Gaelic football club while still at school. Although not from a journalism