Thursday, 31 March 2011

Ratchets and their application to writing

Sorry I couldn't resist that. This is a non literary post... but still a burning issue for me.

Every time I've looked out of my bedroom window this winter the eucalyptus tree has caught my eye.

Not because it's beautiful, though it is, but because when I was pruning it last autumn there was a brach I just couldn't reach.  I went round the tree several times, carefully moving the ladder to avoid squashing any of the plants underneath.

Still I couldn't reach it and it's seemed like a reproach ever since.  Stupid but it's like that streak of paint on a skirting board that you forgot to clean off and now taunts you with being sloppy. 

Might be about to find a solution though courtesy of a local supermarket.  On one of her sweeps through the town looking for bargains my sister spotted a ratcheted lopper.  Now I don't get excited about equipment generally.  In fact I usually am less than enthusiastic about new stuff particularly of the technological variety. 

Too much to learn unless it's a switch on and it works.  In which case I'll take two.

But a ratcheted lopper might just do it. 

You see in our garden we have problems from quite a few trees that belong to the residential home at the back of us.  The council are responsible and every year the tree surgeons come and lop a proprotion of the trees at the back.  But in between them doing the ones at the back of us, we suffer, or at least our plants do from lack of light.

And I look longingly at the spindly branches that trail - surely I could reach them... if only.

If only I were 7 feet tall or had a magic piece of equipment that didn't cost a fortune, wasn't too heavy and worked every time.

Maybe this piece will be the right one - the match made in heaven for me and the job.

A break from the writing is indicated this afternoon and a quick trip to the supermarket to check it out.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

What gets you writing?

I was catching up with the Saturday Guardian Review article on authors and writing.

When I started out I used to pore over how writers organised themselves and created their work.  Of course this was more about business writing, but to a certain extent I did it for fiction also.  The longer I write though for both types of writing, the more I think, it is necessary to create your own routines and aids.

Yesterday I caught a segment of the interview with Charlie HIgson on Radio 3 breakfast programme talking about favourite music and one of his comments about a piece he chose was that it was good music to write to.

That's part of what intrigued me about other writers.  Some writers need loud rock music and some ignore music completely.  For me it depends what I'm writing.  I can't have words in the background when I do first drafts but when I edit that's different.

So far from it mattering if you do one thing or another at any stage of the writing process, what really is important is that it helps not hinders.  Sit in your pyjamas or dress formally; stuff yourself with chocolate or be too involved to think of food.  Makes no odds if it works for you.

I was talking to a writer last week about how she writes and for her the most important thing is to be so excited she can't wait to start.  As long as that state of mind is present then she's away.

I agree with her about needing to be involved because if you aren't there heart and soul 10 words seems like a penance.  On another day 2,000 flow as if by magic. 

And there's always that primeval fear that if you analyse what you do then it might not happen next time.  NLP practitioners wouldn't agree.  But if we view the process of writing as mysterious then maybe we should leave the analysis alone.

How does it work for you?

Thursday, 24 March 2011


26th March 2011 19:30

Joyce Varty will read extracts about Spring from the works of local author Alison Uttley (1884-1976) who spent her childhood at Castletop Farm, Holloway, nr Matlock. Pete Castle will punctuate it with relevant folk songs. It’s at Gothic Warehouse, Cromford Mill (by the canal). Tickets are £5 (or your Christmas ticket is valid) from Pete. email for details
By coincidence I read an Alison Uttley book to my great niece when we were driving from one part of Kuala Lumpur to another recently.  Little Grey Rabbit, and friends have a day at the seaside..


Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Reflections on my trip to Malaysia

It's taken me a couple of days to recover from the very long flight back. 

It's that parallel universe you go into isn't it?  Sitting in Dubai airport at what was 1am in the morning or maybe 5am or later depending on where my stomach felt it was.

It's a while since I did a long flight but nothing's substantially changed except the advent of the personal screens.  The food certainly isn't changed.  Though I have to say that three out of the four legs of the trip, the menu did offer me as a non meat eater at least something I could eat.

Since watching small screens isn't my ideal I managed to read quite a lot on the way back.  The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima was one of the books I borrowed from my niece and I chose it for the plane journery only because it was the lighter of the two. 

A story of obsession about an object, the Golden Pavilion, and an ideal, beauty, are woven together based on a factual incident in 1950 when the real temple in Kyoto was burned down.  It's a disturbing read and was compared to Dostoevskian violence and passion according to Nancy Ross Wilson who wrote the introdiuction.  It's certainly a very intense read.

The other book I borrowed is The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng.  It's a story of a half Chinese, half English boy in Penang before and during the Second World War and his relationship with a Japanese who teaches him Aikido.  Apart from the story, it interests me because I visited Penang 30 years ago so I have echoes of the scenery and the atmosphere in my head as I read.

It was good to be offered different perspectives on literary life while I was out there even if only briefly..

Monday, 21 March 2011

Inspiring quotes for writers

Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning, and under every deep a lower deep opens.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, 18 March 2011

Kinokuniya bookshop KLCC

Wandered round one of the major shopping complexes in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday. Starting on the ground floor with the most upmarket stores. Then right at the top was the bookshop. My mouth was watering as I walked in with the extensive array of shelves ahead of me.

I was a bit like a bee flitting from flower to flower in search of honey and unsure where to go first!

Then I found something I'd wanted to look at for some time, pulled the book off the shelves then found I couldn't open it because it was shrink wrapped. As were all the books or the greater part of them.

Disappointment on. Mega scale. Frustration like seeing a display of cakes and finding them all to be plastic.

What I didn't realize till I talked to my niece later was that you could ask them to remove the plastic and it didn't matter if you chose not to buy.

Too much politeness in the face of other's rules!

Still it probably saved me a small fortune.

While in the KLCC we went to my niece's office to look out over the city. Several floors above the sky bridge it offered a view of a city still growing and thriving. General air of confidence everywhere unlike in the UK at the moment.

Food is varied, cheap to eat out though I'm still getting my head around the multiples in the currency. One bill came to a total of 73 yesterday and my head was still saying £s when we'd only spent a small amount.

Still a couple of days here then back home. I'm dipping into more of my niece's books. In the time available I'll only manage to finish one but there are several I may be able to take home with me and blog about later.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Reading for journeys part 2

Arrived in KL having read almost nothing! I did start to rad the Patricia Cornwell but found it too bloodthirsty.

Managed to read some of the Guardian and listen to my Mp3 player with some downloaded talks.

Good suggestion about the short stories from Jim Murdoch though.

KL is larger, more impressive and more abundant than I remember. Though just as hot.

Since this is not principally a sightseeing trip I'm not sure what I'll be seeing though I have been promised a view of the city from the 68th floor of the Twin Towers building where my niece works.

It's good to have a new set of bookshelves to work through - lots of world literature. I've started reading a Murakami -Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Already drawn into his amazing writing.

Friday, 11 March 2011

What do you read on a plane?

I'm taking an unexpected flight to Malaysia tomorrow for family matters.  It's nearly 30 years since I visited and one of the things I remembered about those journeys was the tedium.

The flights are shorter now thank goodness.  And I'm taking my trusty mp3 player which gives me restful music, food for thought and meditation material.

But still I have to have books.  Since I don't have a Kindle or other device, that limits the number I take and it's hard to predict what will interest, amuse and engage me at 30,000 feet in the middle of what feels like several nights.

So far I've only chosen a Patricia Cornwell that came as a Christmas gift and I haven't opened.  Sufficiently short and sufficiently full of action to keep me awake.  But I need a choice... just in case.

I've discarded several for length, heaviness, in physical as well as intellectual weight.  Shall I r e-read a favourite?

It's more difficult than choosing what to wear.  And I guess now I'm looking at the Kindle and its fellows with more interest!

I'm not sure how much time I'll have to sightsee but I hope I might manage to scoot through a bookshop or two and since my niece who I'm visiting is the literary type, I may even get to meet some of her writing buddies.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Radio 7 replays

Over the weekend I was catching up with some programmes on BBC IPlayer and found the current Paul Temple series.  Gosh it took me back to the sixties when I last heard them.  My mind was racing on how competent his wife seemed to be - wondered if Francis Durbridge was portraying her as a feminist. 

Enjoyed the episodes though and must catch up with the final ones.

In August they always do a season of thrillers at the Theatre Royal and I'd been thinking it might make a fun birthday outing this year..  I think one of them is a Francis Durbridge.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

SHINDIG! With LeftLion Magazine and Nine Arches Press

Hosted by Aly Stoneman/James Walker and Jane Commane/Matt Nunn
Date: 20 March · 19:00 - 22:30
Venue: Jam Cafe, 12 Heathcoat Street, Hockley, Nottingham NG1 3AAShindig! on Sunday 20th March is hosting SPECIAL GUEST POETS:

Mark Goodwin, Deborah Tyler-Bennett, Mike Wilson and Luke Kennard WITH: John Marriott providing Music and Words! + open Mic.
Doors from 7pm, readings start 7.15pm prompt!
FREE ENTRY - Sign up for the Open Mic on the door.

4 - 6pm at Jam Cafe, Sunday 20TH March 2011
Join experienced poets, workshop tutors and Nine Arches Press Co-Editors Matt Nunn & Jane Commane for two hours of creative writing designed to stretch your poetic muscles and get your inspiration running wild!
How do you get started on a poem? What should be in a poet’s toolkit? This session teaches you ways to make the process of getting started much less daunting. Learn how to get kick-started in unusual ways, invent a poetic form of your own and discover poems you never knew you had.
Cost: £14.00 per person Places strictly limited! Please email: MAIL@NINEARCHESPRESS.COM to book your place.

Facebook Event:

Aly Stoneman 07866 430736

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Passing on our knowledge

Last night I was listening to one of the many teleseminars I download from the internet.  Over the last year in particular they've become a source of learning for me.  Providing me with a steady and rich vein of new knowledge and ideas.

Almost like a university of the ether.  I sometimes wonder about the lives of all these people who from their generosity offer their take on events and ideas.  With a computer, there's certainly no excuse these days to feel you don't have access to learning.

Of course like anything else you need to use some discrimination and appropriate caution.  And of course there's the counter argument that this access can be used for evil as well as good.

But that was always the case regardless of the means of access.  At the weekend I was catching up with some TV programmes on BBC Iplayer - one of which was about David Nash a sculptor of wood(well worth a look if you're interested in the artistic process, sculpture or wood). 

More pertinent to my theme was a programme about the production of handwritten books and the move to print.  The programme I watched featured the Luttrell Psalter, produced for a Lincolnshire noble and full of the most wonderful illustrations of hell fire and damnation, along with scenes of 14th century life. 

As wonderful as it was, there's no dobt it was full of propaganda, the Church's and the nobility with everyone in their rightful place in the hierarchy and those at the bottom of the pile would be unlikely to have access to books like the Psalter.  Contrast that with the second book they featured which was the first edition of Chaucer's Canterbury Pilgrims. 

The sudden access for those who could read, to something in their own language must have seemed as strange as all this internet stuff to us when it began.  And the impact must have been as great in terms of opening out new ways of thinking and behaving. 

Thinking again about sharing of information, it's always seemed to me that the more generous we are, the more ripples we can have around us.  I know how much I've benefited from mentors and friends who opened my eyes to new ways of thinking and ideas.

I think that's why I ended up as a librarian though at 13 when I first had the idea, I couldn't have put it into any kind of theory.  It just seemed to me learning was the key to a wider world.  It certainly worked for me.

So I'm grateful to all those with the generosity impulse and I hope that I can pay it forward in my small way.