Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Lowry exhibition Lakeside Nottingham

Met up with friend for chat and wander round the L S Lowry exhibition this morning.  I've never been the biggest fan of his style but back in the seventies went to the museum in Kendal that contained some of his drawings which I preferred.

I had the same reaction to this exhibition.  Having come from the north, though not the industrial towns, such scenes were regular sights.  Trips to Wigan and Bolton showed me enough of that landscape to last me.  He obviously had a singular vision and as such I can admire him.  What I liked today were the landscapes and seascapes, spare and bleak, reflecting according to the guide, the way he felt.  One or two of the landscapes viewed from an angle almost appeared to be tapestries.

I'm sure others could find all kinds of attributions and meaning in his work.  IAs someone going his own way from whatever cause I can honour him but wouldn't chose any of his work for my own walls except...

... there was one seascape that appealed in particularly.  Maybe because there was a gentler feel to it or maybe I just preferred the colours. 

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Why do we write novels?

"I've never known a writer who didn't feel ill at ease in the world. ... We all feel unhoused in some sense. That's part of why we write. We feel we don't fit in, that this world is not our world, that though we may move in it, we're not of it. ... You don't need to write a novel if you feel at home in the world."

Andrea Barrett
I came across this quotation in a Writer's Almanac segment this week.  It made me sit and think for a while.  Certainly for most of my  life I've felt an outsider.  Not because I was rejected in childhood; on the contrary I enjoyed a very settled and loving life. 
For me the disjoint came as for others in adolescence.  Janis Ian's song, long after the events, told my story. No beauty queen me and that was the first time I stood outside of myself and observed the behaviour of others.  I wonder now what would have happened if I'd started writing at that point.  But having been rejected as not good enough to take an English A level, I assumed writing was for others, more clever than me.
Andrea Barrett has also talked about being told to put down her book, go out and live a normal life.  I remember someone saying that to me in my twenties.  But if you're built differently, you're built differently aren't you?
Of course I've made my way in the world, a different one that has taken in other observer roles, like being a complementary therapist.  And of course all my experience, including my otherness, is now at the service of what I try to write. 
And now, I'm glad of that detachment and difference.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

St. Augustine

"Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are."

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Spooky moments

Last night I had one of those spooky moments that make the shivers run up and down your spine.

After my meal, I sat on nursing a glass of red wine and reading a short story by William Trevor titled 'An Idyll in Winter'.  A story about love and loss. 

The radio was by me and suddenly I became aware of the music playing.  Slow, meditative and in the same vein as the story with a strong element of yearning.  Till the end I had no idea what it was.  One of those pieces that you know you've heard before but the title and composer escape you.

Turns out it was Howard Skempton's Lento.  Perfectly tuned into the moment.

Monday, 7 November 2011

You may not be a songwriter but...

trying to write a song could help you with all kinds of writing.

Today I'm reproducing an article from one of my favourite newsletters.  Copywriters Roundtable.  Penned mostly by John Forde, commercial copywriter, American but living in Paris.  Yes he's commercial and writers those long sales letters many people hate.  But he's also interested in all kinds of writing, offers practical and wide ranging hints on writing of all kinds.

And he has many guest writers.  Today I'm reproducing an article by Cindy Cyr another copywriter, married to and mother of songwriters.

by Cindy Cyr, Copywriter

The other day while listening to Pandora Internet radio, a song came on that took me back in time and put a big smile on my face.  Suddenly, I was 20 again, standing in the kitchen with my best friends. Laughing and singing The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” at the top of our lungs, the world was ours for the taking.

A well-written song does that. It transports you and taps into your deepest emotions.
It can remind you of good times, like “Louie, Louie” written by Richard Berry.
Or inspire you to take a chance, like in “I Hope You Dance” by Mark Sanders and Tia Sillers.
Or fill you with feelings of hope and togetherness, like in John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Great copy does that too.

The challenge is … how do you tap into those emotions? How do you write copy that makes people feel a deep connection?

Nearly all professional songwriters, including Grammy winners John Mayer and Gillian Welch, use variations of “object writing.”

Object writing is a warm-up exercise where you write for exactly 10 minutes first thing in the morning about a random object, emotion, or event and focus all your senses on it.  Kind of like stretching before exercising, it loosens up your writer and prepares you for a productive day of paid writing projects. You’ll find it helps you to stop judging your writing and just write. That speeds up project completion and encourages more original ideas.

Object writing is best known to songwriters, but it can help any writer tap into deep emotions, avoid clich├ęs, and showcase their own unique voice.  It can also help you create a bank of sense- bound language that involves your reader by tapping into their deepest thoughts and feelings.

Let me show you what I mean...


The part of object writing which says, “Focus all your senses on it,” is actually the most crucial part and the key to connecting to people emotionally.

You see, most people focus on only one sense at a time in their writing – which one depends on what they’re writing about.
And most people are aware of only five senses:sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell.

However, there are two additional senses acknowledged and described by the scientific community: organic and kinesthetic.

Organic sense is “your awareness of your inner bodily functions.” For example, your heartbeat, cramps, or a headache. If you sit in front of your computer too long, your organic sense would tell you that you have a stiff neck.

Kinesthetic sense relates to “your relationship to the world around you” and has to do with body movements. For example, if you spin around in a circle quickly, the world around you is blurry.

So what happens when you start including all of your senses in your writing?

Including words or phrases that create vivid pictures and relate to ALL of a person’s senses helps connect a person emotionally to your copy.

For example, you could say, “Make more money when you use product XYZ.” Or … you could use more of your senses and say, “Feel like you hit the $1 million jackpot at a slot machine in Caesar’s Palace when you use product XYZ.”

Which creates a more colorful picture in your mind?

In the first description, “make more money” is bland and vague. But in the second description, you can hear the coins clanging in the tray. You can just see them spilling over the sides as the machine dumps its entire contents.  While showing and telling both have a place in your writing, showing is more difficult. But it’s a necessary element for connecting with your reader.

Use the following exercise to uncover the vivid writing that lies within you. You’ll soon notice you're quickly able to come up with juicy descriptions that will liven up all of your reader’s senses.

Here are seven tips for how to get the most out of your object writing:

1) Write using all seven senses. Focus all of your senses on the object you are writing about.

For example, let’s say the object you are writing about is your backyard. How would your bare skin feel if you were to lie down in it?

What does it smell like? What would it taste like if you licked it? How does it sound? What do you see? Remember your other two senses too.

How do you feel in your backyard? Can you feel your heart rate slow down because you’re so relaxed? Are your eyelids tempted to close because of the bright sun?

2) Do it faithfully. Do your object writing every day, and I promise you’ll see a difference. Stick to 10 minutes only. Remember that the critical part is to always use ALL seven senses.

3) Rotate your subject category. You have three categories to choose from: Events, Objects, and Emotions. Most people find one category easier to write about than the others. Rotate categories consistently so that you force yourself to practice writing about each one. If you want topic ideas, you can go to ObjectWriting.com. You’ll find a daily object to write about, plus you can see how other people describe the object of the day.

4) Try variations. There are a couple of ways to tackle your object writing. One way is straight journaling. Another popular technique called “cluster writing” is similar to mind mapping.

You write down your object of the day in the center of the page and put a circle around it.
Then write phrases and thoughts around your word. Some people alternate styles from day to day.

5) Don’t worry if it’s any good. Many writers fear the blank page or writer’s block.

You stare at the page and you can’t think of anything “good to say,” so you don’t put anything down. But with object writing, your goal is to put words down on paper as they come to you. Not all the ideas or phrases will be great. But you’re trying to get things down as fast as possible so the good ideas can emerge.

Besides, nobody has to see what you write.

Rick Beresford, an award-winning songwriter and songwriter coach, says, “It’s okay to fail. Mistakes lead to great songs.”

Similarly, mistakes lead to great copy. No one has to see this if you don’t want them to. So don’t be afraid to write and make mistakes. Because while the main purpose of object writing is to get you to stop judging your writing, train you to write faster, generate ideas quickly, and create spicier copy, you might just find the clue to your next blockbuster headline too. For example, one day the object I wrote about was “my first paycheck,” which led to a headline idea for a client.

6) Review what you write. Take a minute after you’re done writing to underline any colorful phrases, interesting word combinations, or anything that leaps off the page at you. If there’s nothing that strikes you, that’s okay.

7) Leave it for later. Capture your best stuff.

Take the phrases you underlined and transfer them into a spreadsheet or some sort of idea bank so you can use them in the future.

You’ll discover that object writing prepares you for the day’s writing projects. You’ll always be ready to dive in and knock things out. Plus, because you’ll be coming up with new ideas all day long, your copy will no longer suffer from “sameness.”

Once you consciously start writing to all of your senses, you’ll find yourself automatically injecting phrases that jolt your reader’s senses – connecting them to your copy at a deeper level emotionally and causing them to read, click, and buy more often.'

My comment; if you haven't tried this exercise then give it a go.  Experiment for two weeks and see what results.  Anything that loosens up our thinking before we write can only be positive.

And if you want to take a look at Copywriters Roundtable  check it out at http://copywritersroundtable.com/

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Who are you today?

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

Dr. Seuss

Saturday, 5 November 2011

EAT YOUR WORDS featuring Cath Staincliffe

The Wonky Table, Sadlergate, Derby, November 23rd, 7pm. Enjoy a three-course meal in the company of our guest writer, Cath Staincliffe, for a relaxed evening of readings, author Q+A and booksales.
For more information, or to book your place, contact Alex at alexdavisevents@hotmail.co.uk or call on 07896 228367.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Have an aspiring writer in the family?

The Literary Consultancy will be offering assessment vouchers for writers. Check out their website http://www.theliteraryconsultancy.co.uk/  

Professional assessment could make all the difference to their progress.  We all need nurturing at different stages of writing. And I'm sure you'd get an invitation to their launch party!

I had an assessment from one of their mentors, via Writing East Midlands scheme last year.  Encouraging, helpful and very practical.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Writing Short Fiction with Judith Allnatt

19th November 2011 10:00-4.Mickleover Library, Derby, DE3 0EA Phone: 01332 718926 or 01332 641727

Where do ideas come from? What makes a story a satisfying read? Using lateral-thinking techniques, memory and images we will spark ideas for new stories and provide tools that can be used again and again to boost creativity. Then, by looking at examples of the genre, we will identify the elements of short story structure and learn how to use them in developing and tightening our stories. Suitable for all levels of writing experience, the workshop will encourage experimentation and shared feedback in a supportive environment.

Cost: £25, booking essential, includes tea and coffee throughout the day
To book a place email mickleover.library@derby.gov.uk

For more events like this http://www.writingeastmidlands.co.uk/

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

'Is that a fish in your ear?'

As part of my miscellany of clients I value a translation company.  Occasionally I receive a call from them, not to translate from a foreign language but to turn translated English into a different type of English.  Though sometimes the initial translation has seemed like a foreign language, or foreign to a native speaker of English.

What their clients are requesting is more colloquial English, 'as she is currently spoke'.

But of course that begs the question, currently spoken by whom?  Received English of the old fashioned BBC?  Teenager speak?  Jargon of a particular group or sub group of medics, engineers or any other category?

I've done my best on each project to come up with something that is closer to readable English.  That is English that doesn't have you stopping and starting because the word order doesn't work, the phrases are stilted and the vocabulary outdated.

That work has given me a brief, very brief, introduction to the challenges and frustrations that translators and interpreters face on a daily basis.  So a review in the Guardian of David Bellos' book on the subject 'Is that a fish in your ear?; translation and the meaning of everything' caught my attention.  Collected on Saturday, I'm half way through it which is more testament to the author's easy style than to my determination.  He sweeps across a very complex topic starting with What is translation and takes in such topics as how we gain language in the first place, what is meaning and is your language really yours.

A translator of international repute, David Bellos poses questions that philosophers have struggled with for centuries.  But he cuts straight to the chase and shows up the absurdity of not only some of the answers but also the questions.

If like me you struggled with translations at school, he has some interesting things to say about 'wording'; that is the replacing of one word for another before trying to make any sense out of it in the second lanugage.  And how difficult that was until we let go the need to get the words right, in the right order and thought about the sense of it instead.

He gives an example:
I have a big house in exact word Russian would read At me big house.

That's because Russian has no indefinite article, possession can be indicated with the pronoun me and for this expression there's no room for the verb to be.

A fascinating book and one of my favourite pieces so far is about Cherubim and how St Jerome,  the patron saint of translators, created the word as an approximation of the sounds of Hebrew into Greek to Latin.

David Bellos wears his deep learning lightly and his love of the subject shines through on every page.  I'm looking forward to reading the rest of it.  I highly recommend it, as a look at language both written and spoken.

David Bellos, Is That a Fish In Your Ear? Particular Books, 2011, 978-1-846-14464-6