Note Number 85… MA…”Confinement” Lockdown…Zooming (again)…

poppies

Sunday, 8th November 2020. It’s remembrance Sunday in the UK but not in France. Here, they remember on the 11th November each year, which is, of course, the correct date to be remembering. I took a moment or two just now to think about those lost in the two world wars and those who die everyday in some distant war and will pause again next Wednesday.

What a week it’s been! I now have my MA in Creative Writing…pat on the back for me. Ninette Hartley BA (Hons) MA. Sounds and looks good. My mum and dad would be really proud, and I know Geoff, and the rest of our family are delighted. Just wondering if I might be able to add any more letters after my name. . . hmm . . . perhaps not.

Celebrating my MA with a glass of Crémant and my Portfolio of Poems — of which I am very proud. 

COLLABORATION

Dance and Poetry

I learnt so much during the year, but the most impressive thing was the number of books I read, many of them I would not have chosen for myself from a bookshop. I have broadened my reading.  There was a lot to cover in just one year, and part of me wishes I had taken two years and given myself more time for each module. However, as it has turned out with the Coronavirus, after Easter it was taught mostly online anyway. I feel so sorry for my friends and colleagues who are missing out on the face to face teaching and mixing with others to discuss/argue various points brought up during the term. Coffee and lunch breaks in the Post Graduate Common Room were always the highlight of the week.

Last week I took part in an intense memoir writing course organised by Hamish and Rebecca from The Garsdale Retreat . They made sure our timetable was full, with workshops in the mornings, a chat room open in the afternoons and evening entertainment including readings and music recitals. At the end of the week the course participants read from their own work. Cathy Rentzenbrink was the tutor. A famous memoirist herself, with three books already published (which I can highly recommend) and a novel due out in 2021. You can read all about her here . Cathy gave us many useful prompts to help dig deep inside ourselves and to bring all those memories to life on the page, in a structured, interesting and engaging way. I have the tools now, but can I do it? We shall see.

my study

My writing room here in France. Jpeg loves to sit with me in here. Back in Dorset my writing area is on the landing, and she’s never allowed up the stairs. I might have to change that when we get back. Only while I’m writing though. Otherwise she can stay downstairs.

zoom meeting

Happy Zooming Faces

This week was also the second session leading my own Creative Writing Workshop for a cancer support group back in Dorset. They are a great bunch of people, and as we get to know each other, the creative writing juices are flowing (nice cliche for you!). I was nervous the first week, but now I can’t wait for the next session. I consider myself a facilitator rather than a teacher.

view today

View of the valley during our 1hour walk with the dog today (Sun 8th Nov)

The weather has held up this week and we’ve been on some wonderful walks with the dog. She loves it here and we are settling in well for the winter despite the Confinement France’s lockdown, which is pretty tough. We can only go out for one hour a day for exercise and for essential shopping and we must complete an Attestation de Déplacement Dérogatoire a certificate of travel. You must write down the time you leave your home, sign it and carry it with you. We also have to carry our passports with us to prove who we are. Today is the tenth day of lockdown and we have been careful to obey the rules, so far we have not been stopped – but then again we are on the edge of a small town and mostly walk in the seclusion of the vineyards.

Certificate

Attestation de Déplacement Dérogatoire,

Has anything else significant happened this week? I can’t remember. . .

american election

Note Number 83…And It’s All Over Now…

Station Kitchen

Celebrating at The Station Kitchen in West Bay

Well I submitted. Twenty-seven  poems in a portfolio with the title, “Collaboration – Dance & Poetry. Only The Man has read the final collection before submission.  It was hard work for four months, but I very much enjoyed it, and I learnt so much on the journey. I had to read and study many different styles of poetry and I think I have finally ended up with a “voice” of my own. I hope so, because finding your own voice, I have discovered, is an important part of writing poetry.

Firebird Kisses Final© Ninette Hartley Aug 2020

The poem above is from “the collection”. I gave it a last edit just before the final submission. I’ve included it here because a few people have “liked” it — I thought it would be a good one to share. It was inspired by the ballet The Firebird first performed in 1910 with The Ballet Russses.

I now want to finish my memoir about the loss of my son Tosh, and of course I want to write a lot more poetry. I’ve already entered a couple of competitions and looking around for more. I’m one of those people who needs a deadline! In the middle of September I’m going to do a Wild Writing weekend in Yorkshire. Watch this space….

I am now in Bristol to collect my two lovely granddaughters to take home with me to Dorset. It will be a break for their mum (my daugther) but now the pressure is off me, I can enjoy playing with them and spoiling them for a few days.

Girls on the Beach

The last time they visited we went the the beach at Charmouth — I don’t think the weather will be good enough this time.

 

 

Note Number 82…Zoom, just one look…

. . . and then my heart went boom (Remember the song?)  Well, I’ve been ZOOMING now for a few weeks, and so far the closest I got to a heart booming was for my children and grandchildren. Although, I have to confess I felt a twang when I attended a masterclass with Sebastian Faulkes Then, on the 5th August, I watched Simon Armitage on an Arvon Zoom at Home and there was a flutter in my chest when his face came onto the screen. I have seen Simon live onstage in Bridport. Hearing him read his poetry and speak about it was great entertainment, but “meeting” him on Zoom felt special. I reckon I know him personally now — but If I see him in the street and rush up to greet him, he won’t know me at all — I’m suffering from Zoom illusions.

Simon Armitage

Simon Armitage 

Last week I attended a Forward Meet the Poet session with Vicki Feaver (if you click on the link you can hear some of her poetry). What an inspiration she was! A wonderfully ‘laid back’ lady with so much poetry knowledge which she willingly shared. Forty-five minutes wasn’t enough time. I don’t know about others, but I could have watched and listened to her reading her poetry all evening. She was speaking about her book I Want I Want I Want which has been shortlisted in the Forward Arts Prize. I can recommend the book. Her poems are full of imagery and after reading them, they stay with me for a long time. I think this what makes a good poem: good imagery and desire to read them over and over again, each reading bringing you closer to the heart of the poem. I aspire to write like this. At the moment I think I’m a bit hit and miss and not very consistent in my work. But, for me, it’s still early days. It takes a long time to learn poetic skills.

Vicki Feaver

Vicki Feaver

On Saturday 15th August, I was “interviewed” by my son Matthew Rickard. He’s started a new series of podcasts that you can watch on the 1095 Pod on YouTube. I enjoyed the experience and hope if you have the time to visit that you enjoy watching.  Of course, afterwards, I thought of many different answers to some of his questions. Isn’t that always the way? I never mentioned “imagery” when speaking about poetry and for “memorable life events” I never thought about “giving birth to twins” which has to go down as unforgettable. Also, being present at the birth of my first granddaughter — how did I not think of these things at the time?

Me

ME!
Well gotta think big — I’m now on the same page as Simon Armitage and Vicki Feaver !

Only twelve days left before MA Dissertation submission — Better stop having delusions of grandeur and get on with it!

Note Number 81. . .

poetry

Image Clip Art Barn

Today is the 30th July. I have to submit my dissertation and essay for my MA by the 28th August. I should have been going away on the 14th August and had originally planned to have it all done and dusted by then. Am I glad I’ve got an extra two weeks? I’m not sure — The more time you have the more time you take — is what I think.

The odd thing is, I reached my required line limit of 600 for my poetry portfolio a week or so ago, and as soon as I arrived there, I found I could write more and with greater ease, and some quite good (well I thought so). Hence poems are still popping out at the rate of one or two a day. All through working for the portfolio, I was counting lines. . . 300, not enough, only 450. . . how can that be? But, once I hit 600 and the pressure was off the writing became so much easier. I wish now that I had never counted a single line but just written.

Last weekend I attended a workshop organised by the Dorset Writers Networkand run by the lovely Sarah Acton from Black Ven Poetry   We met at the Dorset NectarApple Orchard. Unfortunately it rained but we were able to sit in the big barn and absorb the sound of the rain, breathe the air and when there was a break in the showers we walked outside to get close up and friendly with the apple trees. It was, by coincidenc, St James’s Day the day on which apple trees are traditionally blessed. We did our best with our creative ideas and thoughts. It was an uplifting experience and so good to socialise albeit at a distance, but just to have distanced physical contact and talk writing and poetry again with like-minded people felt so good.

Me and Orchard

Me with the Orchard in the Background

If you haven’t watched them yet there are several Imagine programmes with Alan Yentob, to catch up on on Iplayer, but my favourites were, Lemn Sissay The Memory of Me and Andrea Levy Her Island Story. Both wonderful, inpiring writers with such interesting life stories to tell. Sadly Andrea died at the beginning of 2019…too soon.

I have bought the Lemn Sissay book My Name Is Why and am immediately hooked. What wonderful poetry this man writes.

Lemn-Sissay-Event

Going to reread Small Island now and also her book Fruit of The Lemon which is sitting on my bookshelf waiting. Andrea Levy

Too much to read. . .need more time. Too many wonderful podcasts to listen to. . .

 

Note Number 79. . . Reading, Writing,Watching. . .

Closeup of Workspace with Modern Creative Laptop, Cup of Coffee

My everyday: pencil, computer, notebook, textbook. 

Just keeping up with everything really. Still slogging away my dissertation work. I’m creating a portfolio of poems based on dance and I am writing an essay entitled, Stress Behind the Creative Arts of Poetry and Dance — this may change as I read and research but you get the idea?

 

yuli 2

Last week The Man and I watched the film Yuli, the rags to riches story of Carlos Acosta. It’s directed by Icíar Bollaín and the screenplay written by Paul Laverty — a magnificent team.  Even though it’s about ballet it’s a film that anyone could enjoy (The Man did, and he’s not a ballet fan). You can watch the trailer here

No Way Home

I had bought the book, No Way Home, on which the film is based, and settled down to read it the day after watching the film. The book provides far more insight into Carlos Acosta’s personal journey, and sticks more to the facts than the film. It has given me a wealth of material to use in my essay. Of course I will have to be careful it doesn’t turn into an essay just about Carlos. The book was the twentieth book that I have read since January this year — not including text books and poetry books. I have found reading during Lockdown easy, although I know some people have been unable to concentrate. What has helped you pass the time while being stuck at home?

I’ve also been keeping a journal during lockdown, paying particular reference to the stress of creating poetry. Luckily for me, so far, I haven’t found the process too traumatic but perhaps you should ask The Man what he thinks!

Also for research, I am reading Poets on Prozac written by Richard M Berlin. It’s a collection of essays by poets who suffer from mental health problems and have had counselling and/or taken drugs or alcohol to help them. Because of the nature of the content — it’s one-sided; nothing about poets not on drugs etc., — I began to think that I could never be a good writer or poet unless I suffer some kind of breakdown. I need to find a text that shows the other side. Which of course there is, because writing/art/drama/dance are all encouraged to help people relieve stress and tension. 

I have also attended three masterclasses through the Arvon Foundation : Cathy Rentzenbrink, Sebastian Faulks and this week I’ll be joining the poet Kate Clanchy for some tips and advice.  I also watched an evening reading by Tania Hershman. It’s the most exciting experience. There can be up to 200 people in attendance, but we all have to turn off our microphones and cameras so the only person on the screen is the tutor. I can assure you that two hours with Sebastian Faulks made my week!

I can highly recommend the Arvon At Home readings and Masterclasses so do check them out here. Arvon at Home When things are back to the “new normal” I’m definintely checking out their residential retreats.

I’ve added links to all the writers and poets even though I’m sure you know them all. It just makes it easier if you want to find out more information.

 

Tania Hershman: Kate Clanchy: Cathey Rentzenbrink: Sebastian Faulks

Note Number 78…Last Leg of the Masters…

Everyone is writing and talking about Coronavirus and lockdown — I will leave that alone then.

MA Update:

I’ve spent the last few weeks working on two stories: one for my Realism submission and one for Prose Writing (I wrote a short memoir). The results came in yesterday, and I was pretty pleased. A high merit for the Realism and a low distinction for the Memoir. If I’m honest, which I like to be, I hoped to get a distinction for my Realism piece too, but it fell short on pace and plot. When I’m in the mood I’ll go back to it and tweak it so that I can either enter it for a competition or develop it into something else. That’s the thing about writing you can always edit, redraft, resubmit or find a home for most pieces of work other than the bin!

editing

A good bit of news is that I was long listed for the Fish Poetry Prize this year. I was indeed chuffed as they had nearly 2000 entries and the long list was 295. The Man pointed out that I was in the top 15% — I could never have worked that out! I’ve now entered the poem for the Bridport Prize…I’ll keep you posted.

Poetry is where I’m at right now. For my MA Dissertation, I must complete 600 lines of poetry. If you say it quickly it doesn’t sound too bad but it will probably be around forty poems. I’m trying to write a sequence of poems inspired by dance; specifically ballet, and even more specifically The Firebird, a ballet first performed by the Ballet Russes in the 1920s. The Ballet Russes were a touring company based in Paris. Their director Serge Diaghilev had left Russia during the turbulent revolutionary period. Read more about it here.

Firebird Costume Leon Bakst

The Original Design for The Firebird Costume by Léon Bakst

I’m enjoying the process of creating these poems but as with every project it seems to have morphed into something much more than The Firebird and Ballet Russes. I downloaded a master class by the poet Billy Collins and one thing he said was: “Let the poem take you somewhere. Choose a starting point and just go with it.” Or words to that effect. It was a good piece of advice. The journeys the poems take me on can be arduous and I get a bit lost before I reach the end, but sometimes, I just arrive without even noticing a bump.

Don’t let the restrictions tie you down — Whoops! I said I wouldn’t mention it — you can dance in your house, in your garden or even in your head. Here’s a little haiku from me:

 

Isadora

dancing is freedom

feel the music let it flow

be Isadora

 

Isadora Duncan 26 May 1877 – 14 Sept 1927

Note Number 76…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 75…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 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 66. . . A Quick update of Some Good Things that are Happening. . .

 

students

1.    BREAKING NEWS!

I have accepted an unconditional place at Exeter University to do an MA in Creative Writing beginning September 2019. I know it’s going to be a lot of hard work but I am so excited. I’m hoping it will take my writing to another level and I’m fully prepared and committed to putting in the effort needed to be successful. It will, of course mean, that The Man may have to produce a few meals and take the dog out for a walk now and I’m sure my organisational skills will be tested to the limit.  I have never ‘attended’ university. For my BA in Dance Education I worked on line with the Royal Academy of Dance and then went to Durham University to recieve my certificate, (the course was validated by Durham). I’m looking forward to being on campus and suspect that I won’t be the only mature student there. I’m not planning on going to Fresher’s Week, although at least one of my children thinks I should go and even suggested an outfit.

Freshers Outfit

Thanks Joe! 

I’m going to give regular updates on my MA as I go along to let you all know how I get on from month to month. I hope I won’t be too tired and you won’t find it too boring.

images copy

 

2.   RNA – Romantic Novelists’s Association

I have, at long last, sent in a complete manuscript of my novel for appraisal by this organisation of which I am on the New Writers’ Scheme. I’m not expecting great things, I know there is plenty wrong with it (a soggy middle for a start) but it is a wonderful feeling to have written 84,000 words and finish the story that I have been working on for some years.

 

my awesome book