Monday, 26 November 2007

There and back again

Just returned from a lovely weekend in Paris. Wowed by the atmosphere of the Opera House, exhausted by the vastness and variety of the Pompidou Centre and dazzled by the opulence and extravagance of Saint Chapelle. Lots of lovely food and wine too.

By a spooky coincidence I chose to take along Wild Boy by Jill Dawson to read. I only realised as we set off that it was set in Paris (I was recommended the book by a friend and hadn’t read the blurb). Couldn’t believe that it was actually set in and around the exact bit of Paris where we were staying - the Latin Quarter, just off Boulevard St Germain. It really added to the trip and my reading of the book to be walking along the same streets and seeing the same buildings that she mentions, especially as the book is set two hundred years ago. I really loved the book and would defintiely recommend it whether read in Paris or anywhere else.

Back home to cold and rain but cheered myself up today, while waiting for my usual Monday morning café to open, by reading the noticeboard outside:

Enjoy Piano! 4 Sale 4 Pressure Barrels - 4 Must Go. Mobile Tattoo Artist. Sing Your Self to Life. Practical Shamanism. Celebration Concert for St Cecelia. Introduction to Open Fidelity Evening. Friendly Accounting. Concert for Tibet. Treesculptor - Figurative Chainsaw Carver. Cabaret Heaven. Calabrian Roast Fig Balls - Order Now for Christmas. Steiner Advent Fair. Do You Play Bass? Do You Want to Play Sax? We Need a Gas Person, A Rayburn Stove Person and A Welder to Do Some Jobs. Female Plumber - Girls Plumb 2. Nine Miles: 2 Winters of Road Protest. ‘Turn Your Kitchen into a Microplastic Recycling Factory’ Workshop. Holistic Reflexology. Alternative B&B. Ethical Business Chinwag. Low Impact Eco-Boating. Do you Speak Italian? Heart Shrine Relics Tour. Indoor Market Bazaar. Land Wanted for Tree Planting. Horse Drawn Festival Carriages. Shaggy Dog Stories. Sewing Machines Serviced. Plant Pots Recycled. Woodland Courses in Old Wives Wood. Electric Eclectic Psychedelic Trance and Chill. Hire Your Aquabirthing Pool Now!

It’s good to be home

Thursday, 22 November 2007

A Nigella rant

Nigella gets more addictive as the series go on. I have to have a large glass of wine to appreciate her fully but once that's down I'm hooked.

She was on a comic roll this week with her quips about chips, collapsing grandeur and squidgy piles. I do worry about her arteries though - when she added the cream to the butterscotch topping for the ice cream cake, I could just hear them hardening.

But, pomegranate seeds in a tub! Come on Nigella, I know you're in a hurry ("Its the express way") but what's wrong with halving the fruit and using a fork. Ooooh that made me cross. 'What did you expect!' a thousand voices less gullible voices cry. Well yes I know, but have you tried her Margarita ice cream, her Sausage, Halloumi and Peppers and her Marsala Honey Pears with Gorgonzola. She's doing something right.

Please someone tell me that she has pinched all these fab recipes, that actually work when you try them at home, from someone who gives a damn about packaging and food miles and I will willingly switch my allegiance, and I won't need a glass of wine to do it.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Writing down the words

2007 has been a really important year for me writing-wise. I have finally got my act together, made writing part of my daily life and written complete pieces and sent them out there. I'm also really fortunate at the moment in having a fair bit of time to write in, as my work load is quite light.

So, where's the novel?

I've realised that despite my newly acquired positive approach to writing and my daily stint with pen and paper or keyboard to hand, part of me is still hanging on to that old idea that my novel will just write itself, while I sit here and doodle. I found the following quote appropriate:

The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it. ~Jules Renard, "Diary," February 1895

Well I've been looking for it for ages and it hasn't turned up yet, so I need to face the fact that some hard grafting, some creative juicing, spilling of ink and tapping of fingers is required. Otherwise it will forever remain what it is today - just a damn good idea for a novel.

I'm wondering if my recent forays into short, short fiction are also holding me back, not just because I am writing them instead, but also because I am finding it difficult to think in terms of longer pieces of writing. But maybe I can put this to use. In much of my flash / micro-fiction I have been writing 'moments'. Advice from writing friends and books suggests approaching a novel 'scene by scene', so as not to be daunted by the whole. Maybe I need to approach mine 'moment by moment'. If I write enough moments I should eventually have a novel.

It's worth a try.

Meanwhile, I listened to Book of the Week on Radio 4 this morning and really enjoyed it: the journalist Katharine Whitehorn reading from her autobiograpy, a beautifully written insight into life and love in the 1950s, well worth a 'listen again'

Monday, 19 November 2007

A flash in the pan?

The Leaf Micro-fiction 2007 results are up on their blog, and I am really chuffed - one of my pieces has been 'commended'. This means it will be included in the published anthology - a piece of my writing in a book that sells for real money - a first! So chuffed I had to spill some champagne, but in a refined 'drink as much of it as you can' way not the Formula One racing driver all over the floor method (and it was Cava not Champagne but who's counting.)

So, feeling very inspired this morning. Although I'm a bit concerned that what with flash fiction submissions here and there and the ongoing Your Messages project all of my writing recently has resulted in pieces less thann 300 words long. Will I never write anything longer again? I'm hoping to enter the Fish Short Story Comp at the end of the month so I will have to start practicing getting my word count into the thousands. I have a couple of ideas for a story so will give it a go this afternoon.

The Bridport winners are also up. I was comforted by the writing pedigrees of the majority of the winners - creative writing lecturers, published poets, Toby Litt! Made me feel much better about not making the cut. Looking forward to reading the anthology.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Poetry, Paris and parrots

One of the spin-off benefits of the Your Messages project (yup I'm still doing it) is following links to the blogs and web sites of other writers. I have been really enjoying Oz Hardwick's postings. Visit his website to discover his poetry, if you haven't found it already.

I've got a trip to Paris planned for a couple of weeks time and a friend has loaned me her copy of The Guide to the Architecture of Paris by Norval White. The architectural delights that Mr White has promised me so far include “a bejeweled and bedecked dowager on the way to a fancy dress ball” and “vegetative soffits and cubistic capitals … bedecked in attic finery.” Great stuff, I’m looking forward to spotting the buildings from his luscious descriptions.

I’ve been working in that London this week, hence the brief absence from blogging and messaging. I had access to a computer but not much head space, although I did manage some scribbling on the train on the way down. Journey back was totally devoted to Ali Smith’s ‘Hotel World’ - stunning stuff especially when read in one sitting - the luxury of train travel.

Had to watch lots of Monty Python for research purposes last week (sometimes I really love my job). I'd forgotten just how funny this sketch is (a bit like hearing 'Stairway to Heaven' for the first time in ages and realising that it's actually jolly good).

Thursday, 8 November 2007

As others see us

I discovered today that in someone else’s life I am not Sarah D: aspiring author, freelance quiz writer, charity shop bargain hunter. In the story of their life I am quite a different character altogether. I am not Sarah for a start. ‘They’ are a neighbour, six doors down on a quiet terrace. I am not ‘Sarah’ because they do not know my name. To them I am ‘The running woman, the one with the hats”.

Now ‘running woman’, that’s an epitaph I could live and quite happily die with. I do run; two or three times a week. Often up onto the moors, across fields and bogs. I love it. It is part of my life. But. ‘with the hats’ worried me. When my friend told me that her work colleague (my neighbour) had called me ‘the running woman, the one with the hats ', I felt I had to query the hats. I don’t wear a hat when I’m running. Maybe I should. 30% of heat loss is through your head, and I love running in the cold; but I never run in a hat. My friend smiled, “She says you run past her house two or three times a day, and generally you wear a hat.”

I got it then. The hats. I do wear hats: peaked caps - blue wool, dusky pink velvet, a cable-knot brown with a silky green flower. I wear them on a morning, meeting friends for coffee and in the afternoon on last minute trips to the Co-op or the post office. I’m often late, often reach the end of the street and have to turn back for something I have forgotten (my purse, my phone, my ecologically-sound cloth shopping bag). I am often, in fact usually, running.

I am ‘the running woman, the one with the hats”. I feel like a character in a graphic novel. The one who always gets there just too late - to stop the train, to defuse the bomb, to rescue the hero, - but who is always impeccably turned out, and always wears a hat.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

An 'everything is possible' moment

This 'Your Messages' thingummy is so working for me. Its giving me a new structure to my writing day (and I do really need structure) I got my 300 words off first thing (well first thing after having coffee with friends and a trip to the market scouting for bargains). I was so fired up from having written and posted something that I then had a stonking game of Spider Solitaire and got my highest score ever. And its only 11 o'clock!

I must continue on this up beat for the next few hours - maybe I can finish that novel, write my WEA assignment for tomorrow, edit my story for the Fish Short Story Comp, set up a Ning social networking site for our writing group AND plant out the forget-me-nots that are currently languishing in the shed. Everything seems possible.

But first I'd better feed the cat

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

A good start to the day

If you want a really good start (or end depending on what time you're logging in) to your day then get yourself over to the Your Messages blog. Inspirational jumping off points for stories and the potential for publication. I've just posted my first story there and it was a great feeling to have written something new and put it up where it could be read (scary feeling too of course.) I'm aiming to try to post something up there most days this month. Even if you don't fancy contributing something yourself it's worth having a look at the other submissions - there's some really good stuff.

Its Writing Group night tonight. Twelve to fourteen of us meet up about once a month to talk about writing, share our recent scribblings and sometimes do writing exercises together. Last month we had a 'guest speaker', a local author and script writer who did a fantastic workshop for us on dialogue. This week we are supposed to be continuing the dialogue theme. We had an 'assignment' following on from last months session which I have sadly not got round to doing. Never mind It will be good to hear everyone else's pieces, and I might just take along something else to read out. We meet in the pub and its usually quite a jolly affair. I really enjoy having time to talk about writing and to get support and feedback from other writers.

I have a work free day today - a rare and wonderful thing. So I am going to crack on with my children's novel. I'm unlikely to make the deadline for the Times competition but after that's passed I will have to set my own deadline for completion - Christmas? I dreamed last night (in between a dream about a giant rabbit and one about freewheeling on my bike) that I had finished it - the feeling was lovely, so satisfying, I've just got to make it happen.