What makes a good writer?

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I saw a post on twitter this week which was publishing a BBC Radio 4 blog

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09fzmjt

This podcast (for want of a better word) ran with the title:

“Where are all the working class writers?”

Being a proud working class writer I was intrigued to listen to what the author Kit De Waal ( https://twitter.com/KitdeWaal ) had to say on this subject. As it is currently still up on the BBC’s website I wont go into what she so eloquently talks about but leave you to take a wander over and have a listen. Its 30 minutes long give or take and I think it illuminates a subject that I have been thinking on for a long time.

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On similar lines but not exactly the same it got me thinking….

Do we as writers expect the same treatment? I would like to think that it is a yes, however I do often feel (and this is of course my own opinion) that money talks. Always has and always will. Take my own circumstances. For many years I was a single parent bringing up my wonderful son. Money was tight and so I wrote, and wrote and most of my words stayed with me because spare money was hard to come by. Married now for nearly ten years and working full time I have found that the spare money I thought would be available still isn’t.

When my family needs clothes or I have a big bill to pay how can I warrant paying £300 plus for an editor for a book? Of course there will be those who say you have to speculate to accumulate but where does true talent get recognized over the buisness of writing. And by that I mean those who all want to take their slice out of my pie? At this present time I have 13 books ready for editing, but first these need revising, they need checking first to see if they are even worth editing before I can even get to the editing phase and each one of those processes take money.

Moving aside from the money I often hear or read on the internet about voice.. voice is important.. voice will always shine through. And yet I am constantly told there are a set of rules that all writers must follow. In my mind making each of our voices the same. If I want to use very in my book.. why does that make me a bad writer, it doesnt.. it makes me write how I write. My voice. (Not that I ever do use very but you get the point) On the subject of very I am currently reading a book by a published author and have read a smattering of the V word.. so it shows once you are published and recognised and getting the money rolling in you can pretty much write as you wish.. as long as the pie keeps paying money to all those who have a slice I guess.

One of the first book I wrote was a children’s book, it was a real labour of love and up to yet has probably recieved the most rejections of them all. And I have revised and I have revised with advice from fellow writers (not any of the editors/agents as they rarely give any critical advice) and now I hate what the book has become. It is not the whimsical book that reminded me of Enid Blyton, or the magic faraway tree.. it is a book that has been shaped by what other people want it to be. So much so that I cant even read this new book, this book that has been written by me but is as alien to me as mars. It makes me sad that that story will probably never see the light of day. It saddens me that my voice has been lost because I listened to what others wanted and didn’t just trust me.

 

Where do we as writers draw the line? Is being famous (not necessarily rich) more important than our own integrity. It made me think of this when I was listening to that article, bundled up in my winter coat and travelling to work a minimum wage job (that I incidentally love)  I wondered before how many people from working class get noticed, or have the money or their fingers in the pies that will get them noticed. I often think if you are a celebrity of famous you can get a book published with not much talent, just your name driving along the sales.

 

I worry that all the writers who are out there who cant get that first step up with always be lost somewhere waving frantically as they sit in  their buses trundling off to work and silently screaming ‘notice me too’

 

xx

 

Let me know in the comments your thoughts. Both on this post and the Kit De Waal recording.

 

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So little time

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For those of you who are long followers of my blog you will know I recently got a full time job. Although this in itself is amazing it means I have to really juggle my time to fit everything in. I commute about 40 mins a day so I have been trying to write or read in that time, it’s not always possible when the bus is full of schoolkids but at least if I ever need *rowdy teens on a bus* as a scene then I will have that covered!

 

I am also a keen artist, as I also write children’s picture books I would love to be able to illustrate my own books too. Visually I have the ideas in my head , but sometimes the journey between my brain and the paper is disjointed and I get frustrated at the lack of progress. Are any of you artist/writers? How do you find the journey between what you visualise and what you draw?

 

Recently I went away with my husband to Cumbria. We had a wonderful few days relaxing, walking and eating way too much. And now alongside the writing and illustration my brain would really like me to draw some of what I saw. Its easy to get good photos in a place like Cumbria to be fair. The photos take themselves, but getting that feeling, that luminosity and hit in the stomach may be the challenge. I will keep you updated. I also had another idea for a children’s book.. so at least my brain is still whirring even if I struggle to find the time to get all of it done!

 

I remember before I got my job that I used to complain about all the time I had on my hands.. oh how silly was I? Still I love my job and I know I am really lucky to work where I do with a mostly great bunch of people.

 

How many of you out there have the same issue? Do you find that you have to make time for yourself each day? Regardless of how much other stuff gets left behind? I think I need to learn how to multitask even more than I am doing to get it all done.

And on that note my washing machine is done, and real life beckons once again!. Until next time M xx

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The Grey

I started writing this during a course I was taking. We were prompted to write a story about a disaster, but to not actually reveal what had happened. I am not sure if this will ever become anything more than this; whether it has legs to be something longer.

Enjoy. M x

 

The night had fallen over the group like a blanket. Only a solitary light remained in the centre of the room and it flickered and jumped about, caught on gentle movements of air.  Ashlyn looked across at the sleeping form of her sister, how Teca could sleep was beyond her, but perhaps it was for the best, considering. Pulling her legs up towards her chest in an effort to conserve heat she tried to remember who had been in their group. The events of the past few days seemed to have erased everything useful from her mind. Now all she could think about was how hungry she felt, how dry her lips were.
“Has anyone tried the radio again?” asked a voice from the gloom, devoid of a body it hung there like an accusation rather than a question.
“We’re trying to save the battery remember, twice an hour till we get a reply.” another voice answered. Ashlyn knew the chances of anyone replying to the little two way were slim, but didn’t say. Perhaps the others already knew.

Since the huge cloud of  dust had fallen they had sat in this cabin, waiting. What for? None of them knew but time was running out. With no water or food and their last candle about to be distinguished, they needed to make a plan.

And now.

Coldness was something that Ashlyn was familiar with. Living in Scotland you got used to the bone chilling temperatures in winter. But this cold was something different. It sat in her bones and inched its cold fingers into her whole body. Like the coldness was a disease. Teca stirred in her sleep and a smile played at the corner of her lips, Ashlyn envied her sister the escape into a dream world where none of this was happening.

“Ashlyn, are you ok?” turning she saw her best friends concerned face. Her usually perfectly made up face was grey and Ashlyn nodded. She knew she would not convince Kat of the lie. ” We are going to make a run for it, tommorrow.” Ashlyn peered at the only window and shrugged. Die in here or die out there seemed to be the only choices they had right now. Ashlyn wasnt keen on either of them. But she knew they couldn’t sit there forever. Something had happened out there, and their own chance of survival would come from the nine people who were still alive here.

“When?”

“Jake says as soon as the sun rises.” Jake was the groups unofficial leader. Ashlyn was glad someone appeared to be in charge. Even if he had no idea what had happened either. ” He says it gives us the best chance at finding life..” Kat let the sentence trail off and with a sigh returned to the shadows that filled the room.  Ashlyn crawled into bed next to her sister and she stirred against her. With the warmth of her sister’s body Ashlyn watched the window, waiting for the day to return.

****

Her sister’s hand felt so small inside her own. Eleven years old and seeing this. A new reality stretched out before them. As far as the eye could see was a destruction that Ashlyn had only seen in movies. Any buildings that were left were burning and the sky was filled with black smoke that hung in the air like a mourning veil. Nobody spoke and Ashlyn was glad. There were no words to explain what they were seeing. They were kids, all of them.

And everything they had ever known was gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slipping

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He said,

Love’s slipping away.

Gossamer wings

beating a slow path

to nothing.

 

Did we ever love?

Taste forever on lips,

that spoke of always.

 

Was reality too stark?

the pressure too much?

for fragile shards

to be fixed?

 

He said..

 

You’re slipping away,

Nothing left but what ifs,

and empty promises.

 

You’re slipping.

And I dont care.

 

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Heartbeat

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Please note this short story may cause upset to some people.

 

Carmen rested her fingers lightly on her stomach. Closing her eyes she imagined Joshua’s heartbeat travelling from deep inside and into her fingertips. Each beat of his heart caused a flutter of excitement as it chased its way until it met her own heartbeat and she couldnt tell one from another.

The early morning sun filtered through the curtains as Carmen opened her eyes. A slight breeze moved them almost lazily. Carmen was transfixed by the beauty in something so mundane, so ordinary. Is this what happened? she thought. You saw things as if seeing them for the first time? Biting her lip she couldn’t stop the tear from escaping. It rolled down her face and dripped onto her bare stomach.

A knot of something so raw had settled inside of her, and she could feel it living and breathing inside the space that used to be hope. That used to be life.

 

The doctors had been wonderful. Rushing around her and cooing in their universal learnt platitudes.

But Carmen had known when Jay had walked into the room. Opening the door his face ashen, his eyes red. He had smiled at her but all happiness had been sucked from the emotion by a grief, a loss he had no way to comprehend.

Their Joshua was gone. And despite the doctor’s assurances they ‘could try again’ and ‘it happens sometimes’ Carmen couldn’t bear to think of life without their longed for child. He hand dropped from her stomach and she sighed deeply, she knew no heartbeat had tickled its way up her fingers.

It was her, alone in the room. Her own heart beat called out, searching for that something. That hope..that love that she had lost forever.

 

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Written on route to work today, using the word Heartbeat as a prompt.

Social Interaction, or Social Distraction?

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I was listening to a local radio station earlier. You know the type that have all the news from the local area. When the host asked the question

“Do you think life was better twenty years ago, compared to now.”

And it got me thinking. Now, twenty years ago I was single (just) my son wasnt yet born and I guess I was doing what I wanted within my own small circle of influence. I didnt have a lot of money but I managed to be quite social and I had a great group of friends, who I saw most days. Life was good. It was easy. Or easier.

If I wanted to see my friends, I got ready and went across to their house, or flat. and knocked on their door to see if they were there. There was none of the impersonal sending of a text to check if they were ok. You had to physically make the effort to go and do it. In some ways if a person did make the effort it meant they were interested.

As the season of christmas approaches once more I wonder if that desire to be social kicks in more? Is there anything nicer than to receive a handwritten card or small gift through the post. An inexpensive item that someone has taken the time to choose and wrap or send. Or will we once again be flooded with impersonal messages on social media?
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I cannot lie that social media has its positives. I met my husband on a poetry site. I have met some amazing people from all over the world online, people who I would have never have known and yet I do year for that personal touch, that something extra that comes from a social interaction, where you can read someone’s facial reactions, can hug them in real life. All of those things that years ago we took a little for granted.

 

What do you think of the lack of the personal touch Do you think we are at risk of becoming one of the loneliest generation while being even more connected now than ever?

 

Let me know what you think in the comments.

 

Marie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dead

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A short poem I wrote a while ago.

Poetry was always my first love. I would write poem after poem. I have books filled with them. In fact I met my now husband on a poetry site.

Enjoy.

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I lay here and listen.
Silence
except the distant drone
of cars, and vans.
And a dog ,somewhere out there in the night.
barking.

 
The stars are silent.
They just twinkle away.
‘we are here’
‘we are here’
but really they are already
dead.

 

 

 

Black Scab.

This is a short story, Although it is not really a full story it is part of a an assignment from a course I am doing at the moment. The assignment was to describe a situation from a child’s point of view. Something monumental to the child but in less that 500 words.

I chose an imagined scene from the Miners strike of 84-85.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UK_miners’_strike_(1984%E2%80%9385)

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It is perhaps difficult to imagine the scene. But this played out in many pit villages across yorkshire and Nottinghamshire. The strike of those two years, not only ruined the mining industry in the UK. but it tore families apart. Those who decided to work to support their families and those who stood with their brothers, on the picket lines that became the focus of anger, retribution, but also hope and camaraderie.

In the end, it only prolonged the inevitable.

What Margaret Thatcher started in the name of progress, ended the coal industry and the beautifully diverse communities and people that huddled around its warmth.

 

This story is for those of you who lived this.

Day in day out.

It is for you all, whatever side of the line you stood on.

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The crowd towered above me as we nudged our way through the picket line. It was difficult to see just how many people pushed and shoved through the sea of legs but dads hand squeezed mine tightly as he moved me slowly forward. Somewhere behind me I could hear my sister Louisa crying, her shrill call piercing the grumbling shouts of the men as they protested our voyage through them.

“Call yourself a miner? Scab!” Someone shouted and I felt dads hand tighten around mine. “Go home, think of your brothers.” someone else called but dad said nothing keeping his head down. Before us I could see the faded green door of the doctor’s room. Mr Griffiths the pit medic stood hands on hips watching us push our way through. He had known my dad since my birth, nearly twelve years ago but he did nothing to help us. Soon he was lost behind the tide of men sweeping us up towards the pit.

“C’mon princess, not too far now.” Dad’s voice drifted through the angry shouts and I looked up at him. His eyes briefly locked with mine and I saw the fear and hurt flash for a minute before he pulled me forward again. From somewhere in the crowd I heard cries of anger and then the whistle of eggs as they flew through the air. One exploded in a mass of yellow and white goo that ran down dad’s back but he continued walking. I stared at the shell pieces as they trickled off his green jumper wondering why these men, our friends and family were behaving this way. What was happening?

At last dad pulled me into a large whitewashed room and sat me on a plain bench by the window. He ducked back outside and returned minutes later with mum and Louisa who sobbed silently into dad’s jumper, her eyes red and swollen. Mum looked shocked and sat down heavily by my side her soothing questions towards me coming out in sobs and sighs.

“Never again Graham. We can’t keep doing this.” As she cried dad knelt down beside her and took her in his arms. For a moment the room was silent but for the soft crying. When mum had quietened he placed Louisa in her arms and patted her head softly. He held out his arms to me for a hug. I fell into them and smelt his familiar smell, mints and cigarettes. It clung to him like a cologne.

“Everything’s ok,” he muttered over and over as he stroked my back. “Everything will be ok.” Outside the crowd of men shouted angrily and the whine of police sirens punctured the air. Noticing the man behind the desk for the first time Dad walked to the counter and placed his rough hands on the table.

Dads voice shook as he asked the man behind the counter for the wages he had worked for as the shouts of anger and fear rose and fell outside like the sea in a storm.

Dad had said we would be ok. But I knew at that moment. Things could never be alright again.

From a miners daughter.

Marie x

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Where have I been?

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Hello and apologies for not writing on my blog for a while. It seems that I apologise far too much for the lack in content. Unfortunately , sometimes the real world gets in the way. or should I say the real world takes precedent.

Two weeks ago I climbed a mountain in Cumbria. For those of you who read my blog but are not based in the UK Cumbria is quite often known as the Lake district and is situated on the west coast of the United Kingdom. It is a place of beauty that suppresses anywhere else in the UK, but is most definetely on Par with the west coast of scotland. A place I have also visited.

Being a yorkshire girl, born and bred it is quite a strange admission for me. That Cumbria holds my heart and my soul in a way that Yorkshire never really has. It has something that calls me back. A deep longing. It is the only place where I go on holiday that I never want to leave. Without it in my life I feel empty, like something of me is missing.

Melancholy is perhaps not that right word, but it is some feeling that I simply can’t explain. Not with enough meaning. When I leave, I feel like I am leaving me behind.

Until the plans me and my husband have come to fruition only fleeting visits will be had. But I know it is the place I want to be.

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A photo taken by me. Half way up High Cup nick.

 

I have chosen to have a real break from social media. Especially Facebook. It zaps everything that used to be good about me and my personality and replaces me with someone I dont recognise.

I don’t know if you have ever felt that way? Are we way too reliant on a society that lives behind keyboards and screens. I have a sinking feeling that we are.

And strangely, I don’t miss the drama and the snide comments. The blatant ignorance and rubbish that facebook sinks into our psyche without us even realising it is doing it. I like the me I am without it.

A few days ago I had an episode where I felt like I had no reason. I wasnt suicidal. I’ll put that out there. But it was a time when I needed someone and I felt as if I had not one person I could turn too. Neither in the real world or the fake one I have made for myself. I sat here, firstly on my own and then later when my husband came home and we talked until my throat burnt and my eyes had no tears left.

And the next morning I decided that I had to change who I was. And that is what I have been doing.

A week on, and I am feeling that spark, that old me and it feels good. I have started eating better, exercising more and believing in me as a person,as a writer. As a good person again.

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So I have been on two journeys, and I guess for both of them I am still on them.

My next big step is too close social media down even more, do away with turning to people who can’t make me happy. If I truly am not. Turn from those who don’t deserve to share me and my journey. And thats not being big headed, or vain. Its being real.

Something that social media lost a long long long time ago.

Until the next time.

Be good to each other.

Or be a tw@ Your choice.

Marie x

I will be posting more content I promise. Please subscribe and keep up to date with my journey.