Note Number 77…Quick Catch-up…

It’s almost the end of January 2020. Already the year is going too fast, and this is a particularly special year for me as I have a big birthday in October. But, before I get to that, I still have two terms of my MA to work through. I’m loving it. There is so much reading and writing to do. Who could complain about that? This will be a quick post because I have to finish reading the last story in Alice Munro’s Runaway, a book of short stories. Every single one was a great read.  I love the way her stories slowly unfold, and because of her ‘relaxed’ style of writing, I find myself easily drawn in and carried along. I never feel panicked or stressed when I read Alice Munro. Short stories are definitely back in fashion and thank goodness for that I say.

Alice Munro

How I Image Alice Munro Writes… How I write!

This term I’m taking two modules, and one of them is a Prose Writing Workshop. There are twelve of us in this module plus the lecturer. Three people each week write their stories and send them to the rest for a critique. I offered to be one of the first to send in work. It was an interesting experience. I sent in 2500 words of a memoir. They didn’t hold back! Everyone seemed to like the actual content, although I got the impression that quite a few thought I had tried to include too much information for a first chapter.  Looking at the suggestions and corrections, I decided they were correct in their comments. I will be able to go back and edit now with more confidence.

I do have a bit of a block about commas and general punctuation. I thought I was okay, but looking at all the ‘red markings’ on my work from my colleagues, I think I need to take a few lessons. Anybody got any suggestions for a good grammar book? Or anyone prepared to take on my ‘commas’ which seem to have a life of their own?

 

comms

 

Note Number 76…Pantomime Visit…and Mini Saga Competition Win…

Not a fan of pantomime? Neither am I, so it was a rather reluctant grandmother (or Nonna as they call me) who took her two granddaughters to see Cinderella  at the Pavillion Theatre in Weymouth. I managed to obtain three tickets in the front row of the balcony but the view was a little restricted because the balustrade was covered in thick velvet so unless you had a very long body you couldn’t quite see the front of the stage. Even with the booster seats the grandchilren could not see over. Anyway, minor problem as they stood on my lap or just stood up.

It turned out to be a very good show. Fast moving, lots of good quality dancing and singing from cast and chorus, bright and stylish costumes — including about 20 changes for the ugly sisters. At the very beginning of the show, the Fairy Godmother came on singing and half way through the song, she rose up into the air. My granddaughters’ faces showed total amazement.  She then floated up and out over the stalls all the kids were completed stunned and I was certainly impressed…I have no idea how they did it. I couldn’t see any wires. If you know how they achieved the illusion I’d love to know.

By elbowing my way through the crowds during the interval, I managed to get a ‘golden ticket’ for the eldest granddaughter, Evie, and she had a wonderful time dancing onstage with about twenty other star-struck kids. Highlight of the show for sure.

Evie Golden Ticket hand

The Golden Ticket!

 

Mini Saga Comp

toast

For the second year I entered the Yeovil Community Arts Association Mini Saga competition run in the Western Gazette and once again I was lucky enough to be one of the winners. *blushes for round of applause*  The theme this year was TOAST and I’ve included my little story here for you to read – especially for those who can’t rush out and buy a Western Gazette today as you live in another area of the county, country, continent or whatever. Just to make it clear, it’s a 50 word story and you are allowed up to 17 words in your title. So basically 67 words altogether.  Somebody suggested this little story might make a good short film. I think it might make a feature film! Remember you read it here first!

T.O.A.S.T – Telling Our Adventure Stories Together. The Evacuees Children’s Club. Five members. 1940 – 1946.

reading B&W

At the farm where we’d been placed. We told each other stories and ate toast. Scary Gothic tales; wild imaginings; exaggerated memories of our families and homes in London. After the war we continued meeting annually. Now, there’s only me left; telling stories to the wind, but still eating toast.

Old woman reading

 

©Ninette Hartley December 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note Number… 75…Help! — I’ve Got Sonnetitis…

Shakespeare

Shakespeare…(in case you didn’t know)

I’ve just finished my first term at Exeter University, studying for an MA in Creative Writing. It’s been brilliant. Last week I had to submit my first assignment —  250 lines of poetry and a supporting self-reflexive essay…and before you say anything the word is ‘self-reflexive’ a subtle difference from ‘self-reflective’.  The latter meaning looking back on what you have learnt and how it has shaped your work; the former meaning, how your learning will influence your future work, i.e. how you will go forward. Not sure I actually followed the premise exactly, but I gave it a go. (I did a bit of reflecting and reflexing I think…it was hard to avoid).

images copy

But, to get to the title of this blog. One of the last taught seminars of the term for the poetry module, was all about sonnets. It was an eye-opener for me I can assure you. I had always tried to stick rigidly to the rules of a sonnet. That is to say, fourteen lines, iambic pentameter, and the Shakesperean or Petrachen style (or other if you’re so inclined). If you want to know more about these look here. Sonnet. There are many other sources on the Internet if you want to read more, but I’ve just given you a Wikipedia link.

The thing is…the modern sonnet has opened up a much looser interpretation. In the seminar, we were told to experiment with the form, to the point that, as long as there are fourteen lines in the poem it was pretty much a sonnet. The rhyming dosen’t matter so much, you can be lax with the ten-syllable rule etc., Well, you can imagine, this opened up a whole new world of poetry writing for me — a whole new world of writing in fact, because once I started on the sonnet, I couldn’t stop. Now EVERYTHING I write comes out as a sonnet — even flash fiction! It won’t last though. Next term I’m taking two prose writing modules so that should soon cure the Sonnetitis.

I thought, I would share one of my sonnets with you here, it’s from a selection I’ve written about Cornish holidays in the 1950s. Enjoy.

Rock Pooling

Tee-shirt and shorts, old sandals bite my toes

Bucket in one hand, net in the other

I challenge rocky boulders in the cove

excited to see what I’ll discover.

Pools of water sit like tiny mountain lakes

I hunker down beside one, examine

what hides inside the miniature world,

weeds, empty shells and a broken toy.

I move cat-like, searching for an hour,

 

enthusiasm waning, I spy a lurking crab

I slip, stumble over the belligerent rocks,

and lurch to seize a skeletal leg.

Balance lost, I fall and graze my knee

but watch, content, as the crab scuttles free

 

Rock Pool

 

 

Note Number 74…University…O Yeah!

I began this blog a while ago and should have posted it but – university work got in the way…that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. (nice cliché there).

Photo on 20-10-2019 at 12.25

Thursday 19th September was Induction Day for Post Graduate Students and yes…that’s me, folks! I was excited, apprehensive…a little fish in a very big pond. I parked in the visitors’ carpark and paid the fee due (bit worried about this because after all I wasn’t a visitor but a S T U D E N T. But, a kind chap pointed out that they had no idea whose car it was so not to worry.

Queens Building, Streatham Campus. Lecture Theatre 2 was the designated venue for induction. I took my place early, and it soon filled up with PG students studying subjects under the school of Humanities, including, English, Archeology, Film, Creative Writing (my subject) and a few others.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when the Director of Taught Programmes arrived to welcome us. I thought the university must have employed him from an actors agency… he appeared how I imagine a professor should look. Long grey untidy hair tied back in a ponytail, a pair of glasses hanging on a string around his neck, open neck check shirt, baggy jacket, black waistcoat and corduroy trousers…I mean, honestly, it was Michael Caine in Educating Rita!

professor_skwirk_7

I have to admit to feeling my age on that first occasion. Looking around me, everyone appeared to be in their late twenties or thirties, just the odd, older person hiding in a corner or hunkering down in their seat, trying to look inconspicuous. But, I was relieved later in the day, when we were split into our separate groups to find several ‘mature’ students were studying Creative Writing. Phew! A good mixture, I would say.

Reading week was from 28th October. The first weeks have flown by and I am learning a great deal. At least I think I am. I’m certainly reading a great deal. Text books, poetry anthologies, short stories, newspaper articles, plays and scripts. My brain has trouble switching off in the evening.

This term, I’m studying a poetry module and a module in which I will learn, (hopefully) more about plotting – on an in-depth scale. You might be persuaded to think that 4 hours a week attending university is a doddle. . .let me put your right. I am expected to do 300 hours of work in twelve weeks for the poetry module, and I guess the same for the other. That’s 600 hours in twelve weeks. Now, I’m not very good at maths, but I think that works out at about 50 hours a week plus the four hours of lectures.

There wasn’t much let up over reading week either because, for the poetry module, Professor Andy Brown…he’s an inspiring teacher, asked us to prepare a 1000-word document, evaluating our progress to date, and my aims for the end of the module, plus a few poems, to show ‘how I’m doing.’  It’s wonderful, how much creativity Dr Andy Brown has encouraged and drawn out of his students so far.

For the other module, a 1000-word essay about The Map of Desire…a concept conceived by the tutor Sam North about the needs and desires of the protagonist in any story…moves the story on. It’s more complicated than I’ve made it sound, but you would need to read, The Instinctive Screenplay, to know more about it. The essay was written using the play Waiting for Godot…hmm, say no more. What’s the point anyway? 😂

Other News

I was shortlisted in the Charmouth 50-word story competition but not placed. I entered the Bridport Story slam but didn’t get anywhere. I performed at an open mike evening in Lyme and read out one of my ‘new’ poems saying, with great confidence, that it was a Pantoum. Only to realise later that the poem I performed was a Ghazal...haven’t learned that much then!

I had the grandchildren for two days in reading week; went to the Dinosaur Museum in Bridport and to see Farmageddon the Shaun the Sheep new movie. All good stuff. Keeps you young you know, and I have to do that, as I’ve just entered an important year, at the end of which I will be celebrating a big birthday.

 

 

Note Number 71. . .Seamus Heaney Home Place. . .

Me outside

Last Monday The Man and I were in Northern Ireland, and we took the opportunity to visit Seamus Heaney Home Place. It was the most inspirational few hours that I have spent in a long time. What a prodigious man. Not just a great poet but one prepared to mete out his knowledge to everyone. By coincidence, there was an article about Seamus Heaney,  in the Royal Society of Literature Review, waiting for me on my return from Ireland.  I was interested to read this quote, about his engagement with his thousands of correspondents,

‘. . . I have a feeling of responsibility towards those who want contact with poets or poetry.’

He replied to everyone who wrote to him.

He was, I think, an approachable man, someone who would easily chat to a person like me. Unfortunately, I will never get that chance. Seamus Heaney died in August 2013 at the age of 74. But, I did have the opportunity to visit the museum, in his birthplace of Bellaghy. I was able to listen to his voice reading his beautiful words. I was truly inspired. Sometimes, reading the work of a literary genius can just make you feel defeated, in the knowledge that you could never be that good but somehow, his voice, his infinite words, urged me on, to try and create some good poetry in my own voice.

Words

Dialect words used in Seamus Heaney Poetry — Witney, one of the guides at Home Place, printed out a glossary for me of over 100 words. I doubt I’ll be able to use any of them (I could try) but they make fascinating reading.

 

I’ve got the notebook, pencil, mug and a few anthologies. Time to put them to good use . .

Note Number 69…Writing Conference Weekend…New Friends… New Inspiration…

Well, like the old saying about waiting for buses I don’t blog for ages now two come in less than a week, and there might be another on the way!

From Thursday 11th until Monday 15th July I became a student again…well kind of…I went to Lancaster University for the Romantic Novelists Association Conference. A long, long drive, but it was worth it I think. It was full-on, with workshops, lectures and one-to-one appointments with industry specialists. I met a publisher, agent and an editor. All three had different ideas about my novel, but the agent and editor showed enough enthusiasm for me to keep at it! Significant changes will be made over the next few months, and I feel inspired to continue with the story but make some massive cuts and re-writes. I have decided that the protagonist in my novel is a bit weak. She’s one dimensional and lacking in spirit. I’m going to give her a makeover and make her more exciting, someone that the reader will get right behind and will on to achieve her goals.

My room and the view (if I leant right out of the window) 

A great deal of food and wine was consumed, new acquaintances made, and old ones rekindled. I had a great time, although I came home exhausted. I slept in student accommodation, which was fine, but the single bed with springs and a thin mattress left much to be desired. Although everything was modern and it was an ensuite room, (one of about 8) with a shared kitchen, I could understand why some students feel a bit isolated when they first go to university. Thrown together with others they don’t know, and some may not have been away from home before. I said this to a few people who didn’t agree, but then on BBC Radio 4, just the other day, I listened to two students talking about how difficult it can be making friends at Uni. Many students hideaway and chat on Facebook, Twitter Instagram etc., to friends they’ve left behind. You can listen here 

Like I said, I made some new friends, one of them has an uncanny resemblance to me! Or is it just the hair? We’re all hoping to meet up at other writing events or just socially during the year. We sat together at the Gala Dinner. Wonderful.

ladies copy

My new friends from left, Suzanne, Louise, Me, Helen (my lookalike) and Jan.

Great to meet up with you lovely ladies…see you soon I hope! 

Note Number 67…Messing About with Sewing…

Last week I bought a sewing machine. I’ve had one before, in fact, I had the last one for well over thirty years, but then the house got flooded and the old machine took a battering that couldn’t be repaired. Anyway, got a new one, more modern but not too sophisticated a basic Brother model. It does forwards and backwards, zig-zag, zip foot, buttonhole foot etc., and best of all tada…*drum roll* it has a gadget that threads the needle. Beats me how it does it. I do what I’m supposed to do and hey presto…the cotton is through the eye of the needle, but I’ve no idea how!

So the first garment I made was a mop-cap. Success. I need it for a little performance that I’m doing with my local writing group, Story Traders, some of us have written short stories or poems using William Turner as our inspiration. The Bridport Museum are having a Turner exhibition featuring one of his paintings of West Bay. He visited the area don’t you know? The piece I’ve written is a little creative story about Turner on the beach meeting some young people while he’s painting and trying to join in the music, playing his flute. They (whoever they are) do say that he played the flute, albeit usually in private. They found one in his home after he died. We’re performing on Wednesday 3rd Julyin Bridport library, 2.30 – 3.15 and in the museum on the 10th July (I think…not sure of details yet).

mop capMop Cap

Hope I look a bit brighter than this chap when I’m wearing it! 

Back to the sewing. I have a wonderful jacket that I bought in New York several years ago and it is one of my most favourite items. I wear it all the time. I decided I would like to make a copy but of course I didn’t have a pattern. The result was not exactly disastrous but the teacher would definitely say, ‘could do better’. I never realised how difficult making a pattern from an article of clothing would be.

Jacket 1

First attempt at a jacket…I won’t show you the original…tut tut 

Next morning, I took myself off to the wonderful Livingstone Textile shop in Bridport, bought a pattern for a kimono jacket and some fab material…second attempt was a lot better but I need lessons on how to do a collar and also how to measure myself – I chose extra-large…big mistake as it’s about two sizes too big. It will do for Barcelona though,(*see below).

kimono 1

Better effort this time

(didn’t make the black t-shirt underneath, just thought it looked better in the photo) 

Practice makes perfect, but of course practicing costs material and time. In comparison, writing is easier,  because it doesn’t matter how many mistakes you make you can put them right, improving the end product all the time, but, with sewing? Well, once you’ve made a mistake, you’re done for…unless you are very clever and can make a silk purse out of a sow’sear.

CLICHE ALERT!! 

*The Man is off cycling in th Pyranees at the moment (hence I can sew all day on the kitchen table), good luck to him! He finishes in Collioure and will be dropped off in Barcelona. so I’m off to meet him next Thursday for a fabulous five night in a city that I have always wanted to visit. Looking forward to it and will let you know how I get on. Plus, I now have a lovely kimono jacket to wear in the evenings! Wonder what else I can make tomorrow? Better do some writing I think.