findingtimetowrite

Thinking, writing, thinking about writing…

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

How Deserving Am I of Awards?

That perennial shrew and busybody, Old Mother Busyness, has prevented me from graciously accepting and passing on two awards I have received this glorious month of May.  But it’s not just her, it’s also that nasty old hag called Shame.  Just how deserving am I anyway of these awards? When there are so many other brilliant writers out there?

Today, however, I will kick those two old witches to one side, and mention both awards in one post.  Hopefully that will not cause gross offence to the Great Owlish Order of the Great Lords of E-Wisdom, or whoever is currently ruling the Internet.

So, first of all, thank you to Ami Fidele, who has been waiting so patiently for me to respond to his Inspiring Blog award nomination.  I have mentioned him before and I will mention him again: he is philosophical, lyrical, a true romantic and he writes beautiful poetry.  Oh, and did I say he is a lovely online friend, too?

The second award , One Lovely Blog, comes from a more recent acquaintance, Ash N. Finn.  But such is the marriage of true minds over the blogosphere that I already feel we understand each other very well.  Thank you, Ash, and if you appreciate really clever and surprising flash fiction, you will love her blog.  I was also simultaneously nominated by Honoré Dupuis for this same award, so big thanks to him too, he is such a supportive and active presence on blogs and Twitter, it’s been a pleasure knowing and reading him.

The requirements are quite similar, thanking your ‘nominator’, sharing those dreaded seven personal revelations, the only difference being the number of bloggers you then link to.  I will err on the side of plenty, and I will start with the Inspiring Blog Awards, because these are all bloggers I love and look forward to reading.  My only complaint is that some of them do not post frequently enough for my taste.  Please, guys, let me hear from you soon!

A Literal Girl – American in Oxford, blogs about books, meeting of the minds on the Internet, writing, music and anxiety

Iliterate Poet – poetry and art with a pinch of humour

Rivenrod – completely, delightfully mad and brilliant at art, poetry and microfictions

Writing for Ghosts – teacher, writer, musician and parent, he does it all

Creative Flux – or rather Terre Britton, who curates this wonderful site, full of resources and inspiration for writers

Hyakunin Isshu – translation and commentary of some of the most beautiful classic Japanese poems

Irretrievably Broken – beautiful writing about a grim subject, divorce

Mullings of a Mindtramp – searingly honest poetry

The Linnet – get drunk in the lush imagery of these poems

The Thread is Red – creative adventures and one of the most attractive sites ever

Rebuilding Holly -  naturally gifted writer trying to break out of the corporate stranglehold

Poet Janstie – he’s waited all his life to write – and how well he does it!

Mind’s Sky – I’ve nominated her before – can I help it, if she is so good? Really thoughtful, gorgeous poetry

Mocha Beanie Mummy – combines photography, storytelling and coffee – a winning combination

Connie Assad – fellow Cowbirder, amazing personal stories

And seven more for the One Lovely Blog Award, who do post regularly, but whom I read with undiminished enthusiasm:

RC Gale – he makes me laugh, he makes me cry, he makes me think

Project White Space – a newish discovery for me, she remotivates me with her energy

Writing on Board – sailor, sculptor, writer, adventurer

Coffee and Spellcheck – subsists on coffee, imagination and her love of words

Madame Guillotine – not that she needs my awards – very popular, fun and informed about history

Keat’s Babe – she is so multitalented and diverse!

Writeitdownith - inspiring writer but also great connector and encourager of people

There are so many more I would love to mention, or mention again.  But that’s given you enough to be getting on with. And it also serves as a reminder that I need to update my blogroll.

So now, for those of you who haven’t yet wandered off to check out these lovely bloggers … why haven’t you?  That’s the best thing about awards, to connect with others and discover new minds and souls.  But if you are waiting with bated breath for those stunning personal revelations, here they are, my favourite seven words in the English language (at least, at this moment in time):

1) belligerent

2) serendipity (mine and everyone else’s, but who said I had to be original?)

3) rivulets

4) surfeit

5) exaltation

6) imagination

7) jitterbug (by the way, did you know that the term was originally used to describe alcoholics?)

Uh-oh, it’s just occured to me: I do like long, pretentious sounding words, don’t I?  Maybe I should develop a loving relationship with the word ‘purge’!

The Washing Machine Chronicles

As a child I enjoyed spending time in the bathroom.

Not that I was vain, you understand.  I scraped my knees along with the boys, cut my own fringe and let my mother buy clothes for me, usually two sizes too big so that I could grow into them.  I did occasionally long to have red hair and freckles, in the belief that might make me as strong as Pippi Longstocking, but I didn’t lose too much sleep over it.  I seldom looked in the mirror and even resorted to the age-old trick of wetting the soap to simulate handwashing rituals I had no intention of observing.

So, no, it wasn’t vanity driving me into the bathroom.  The reason I disappeared ever more frequently in there was that this was where the washing machine was busy at work.  And at some point during the tenth or eleventh year of my life, I discovered the pleasure of sitting on the washing machine during its spin cycle.  Its rumbling vibrations brought unexpected pleasures.  I would cling on for dear life, unsure of the exact position to adopt, simply trying to avoid the sharp corners.

I must have felt there was something slightly reprehensible about this sudden passion for doing the laundry, as I used to lock the door.  I could almost slice through my mother’s rising dough of disapproval.  We were a family used to seeing each other naked.  No shame culture in our house!  But I instinctively knew that these pleasing thrills were best kept to myself. And the bathroom door was the only one with a lock in our house.

It took me a few more months – or maybe years (I was not a precocious child in this respect)- to realise that these delicious sensations could be replicated without the baritone growl of the washing-machine, or a cramp-inducing climb.  I made sure I made up for any lost opportunities.  Seasons came, seasons went, and so did family, friends and lovers.  For a while, I went astray and betrayed the washing-machine with a succession of dry-cleaners.

The next washing-machine, the one in my marital home, was no longer all sharp, masculine corners.  The modern forms were softened, rounded, pure femininity, a collusion in my oppression.  Its location now moved to the kitchen, where there never was any privacy, it now became subject to tantrums and food-throwing, and witness to my staggering up and down the stairs with overfilled laundry baskets, in search of the perennially lost sock.

I had no tender feelings for the washing machine.  Its noisy yammering reminded me too much of a petulant toddler.  Its mouth too wide and hungry, never quite satiated, never quite done.

I wish I could talk of redemption, of how the washing machine, in whichever of its incarnations, inspired me to or reconciled me with or taught me about something.  But that would be untruthful.  Real life does not offer neat, circular solutions. Instead we stagger off into endless linear distances, petering out in our own boredom.

So the truth is this: despite my best care and Calgon, the washing machine developed clogged arteries and flooded messily at random intervals.  I couldn’t really use it much, so it became a repository for magnets and a jar of change.  Postcards from places with names that still had the power to provoke the dreaming: Samarkand, Seychelles, Salvador de Bahia.

Now that I seldom use it, I miss it.  Its virile force, its clueless humming, the daily bustle.  I watch it in its idleness and I wonder where it all went wrong.

Quotes about Not Writing

Here are some quotes from recent conversations with family and friends, which serve to remind me each day about why I want to write but also make me wonder why I am not doing it (or getting better results with it).  Do any of these sound familiar? And see if you can associate the right person from this cast of characters with the right quote:  mother, father, former boss, husband, children, new neighbour, old friend.

If finishing your novel is your top priority, how come it never gets done?

So, what do you do all day?  How come you are always too busy to meet up?

So, when are we actually going to be able to read something of yours in print? No, not online, that doesn’t really count, does it?  And besides, I can’t handle that mouse contraption too well.

Not at your laptop again?! What are you doing there all day?  When do I get to see you or talk to you?

When are you going to find your way back to those incisive, succinct reports you used to write? I mean, creative writing is a lot of waffle, ultimately, isn’t it?

All that education, all that encyclopaedic knowledge, all those years of hard work… and what have you got to show for it?

Do you really think writing will make you happy, or is it just another passing fad? There have been others before, haven’t there?

Instead

The pink whistle wearing thin, they settled on the mauve.

When boxes threatened  overload, they cut out carton flags.

Ideas tumbling in hazen rivulets were picked off, one by one,

With shotgun polished, wit so sharpened.

 

May the treasure hunt of the mind commence!

 

Still, the crack at the very centre, silent foe, widened each day,

Till they no longer could bear to step forward

And peer at the abyss one wrong word away.

Rebellious Songs

Today is another ominous, rainswept day and I turn once more to music to lift my mood.  Yesterday my good friend Nicky Wells posted the lyrics and translation of possibly one of the saddest (though most beautiful) songs in the world, which didn’t help.  So I turned to more revolutionary songs that meant a lot to me in my youth, like Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’.  But that was depressing too, so what to do?

Confession time: I was never an avid follower of fashion in either clothes, music or literature.  Especially with music, I just liked what I liked, usually becoming obsessive about a certain artist or band, following every single release and snippet of news about them.  Some of my choices were kind of obvious for the time (Madonna, Duran Duran), others were more unusual  or considered old-fashioned  (David Bowie, Queen, Dire Straits).  But one constant pattern in my life (which only really becomes obvious with the gift of hindsight) is my love for rebellious songs.  Perhaps it’s the legacy of growing up in a Communist dictatorship, but I’ve always had a soft spot for  songs that protest against the established order of things, that are critical of an unjust society, whether that society is democratic and capitalist (Bruce Springsteen) or more obviously in the grips of dictatorship (Mikis Theodorakis).

So here are two of my favourite songs, with very suggestive lyrics.  And, despite the serious subject matter, the music somehow manages to uplift rather than dampen me!

First, the classic Supertramp song that almost anyone can hum along to: ‘The Logical Song’.

Here’s a glimpse of Supertramp in action:

And these are the lyrics that get to me every single time:

But then they sent me away
To teach me how to be sensible
Logical, responsible, practical
And then they showed me a world
Where I could be so dependable
Clinical, intellectual, cynical

Secondly, a rather less well-known song ‘Superbacana’ by the great Brazilian singer,  composer and political activist Caetano Veloso.  He was briefly imprisoned by the military dictatorship in Brazil and had to go into exile in the late 1960s. I was unable to find a video of Caetano singing this, but here is an audio snippet:

My knowledge of Portuguese is very rudimentary, so my translation is probably not very accurate, but to me the song seems to be mocking the rhetoric of the absolutist Brazilian government of the time, promising ‘supersonic aircraft, electronic (high-tech) parks, atomic power, economic progress’, everything super-duper in fact, while contrasting it with the actual poverty of the vast majority of the population, who have ‘nothing in your pocket or your hands’.

Why do these songs cheer me up a little on such a gloomy day? [By the way, you may think I am harping overly much on the fact that it is raining, but I have been known to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, so it really is all in my mind!]  Because they express anger in a humorous way.  I find anger a more productive sentiment than sadness and despair, because it usually makes you want to do something to change matters.  And when anger is tinged with humour, it no longer is simply destructive, but becomes instructive and constructive.

What do you think of these songs?  Are you a fan of songs with ‘political’ messages?  Or does that create an obstacle in your appreciation of a song?  And what about songs in different languages, where you might not understand the subtext or even the outright meaning at all?  Can you still enjoy a song, even if you think it’s about something completely different?

 

Was It a Joke?

‘Glower!’ he said.

And with this incantation

he led me to inebriation.

I hereby file this citation

that, despite all the calibration,

I cannot circumvent

the decimation of my brain cells.

 

And that’s a quotation.

My Father

I was never Daddy’s girl -

I was his only seed.

He’d come so far: cow’s tail to ambassadorial sash,

always the sparkler, never the rein.

He taught me all I knew:

cheering Maclaren on TV, explaining the finer points of rugby,

testing me on African country names, world flags, capital cities,

he never once faltered, he had all the answers.

He dared me dream better, spurred me shoot higher.

We were explorers; I lived for those days

when the car’s nose would choose our final destination,

perhaps climbing up to the fortress where Richard lay prisoner,

my own Lionheart all roar and fun bluster, streaming ahead, always the one to catch.

 

No hiding of his light under bushel, repetition is his manna, boasting his flow.

Nicotine breath exploding in laughter, the world rejoiced in his fireworks,

the teasing, the wordplay, the invented words.

At times the scintillation broke my lesser spirit.

I stormed away, blinded, to be sought out and hugged,

brought back in the fold with boxing and play.

‘Of course I did not let you win that game!’ His reassuring fib.

Swirls of his humour, like chocolate, like warm custard,

would treacle forward to sturdy up the shore after the storm.

 

Spent in passion, united, against all odds so similar,

we’d sit in peaceful duality on the sofa and read.

MarinaSofia:

Wake up and smell the realism… what works and what doesn’t when you launch your self-published book.

Originally posted on Catherine, Caffeinated:

May is How To Sell Self-Published Books Month here on Catherine, Caffeinated. Last week I poured a bucket of ice-cold water over your dreams in Read This First (which, thanks to Freshly Pressed, is the most popular post ever on this blog), and then explained why I think you should go guns blazing for the launch of each book instead of waiting until you’ve a few to sell in One at a Time. This week I’m presenting my Not So Scientific Theory of How Self-Publishers Can Use Social Media to Get Amazon to Sell Their Books, which is based on how I think I’ve managed to sell my own books over the last couple of years. You can catch up here

So in Step 1 you assembled your online infrastructure—blog, Twitter, Facebook fan page—and in Step 2, hopefully found a little corner of the internet that…

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Blocked

Word by word they sucked it

void of treasure, dry of sap.

The lotus seed burst not into bloom that year.

Bit by bit they chiselled

away at its proud likeness.

How hurtful, how convenient

when friends hurl friends to oblivion.

 

Clenched, jaw-like,

in a world of its own hating,

we shivered with the knowing,

we struggled with the touch.

The gush has settled down into a mere trickle

and mud is silting oddly the channels of delight.

 

We sigh and add more caustic

as inspiration dies.

Constant Gardener

Sowing such thin layers

Reaping bitter crop

Weeding out small fearsomes

Roots exposed on top

Floundering in compost

Sinking in the ground

No active verbs in this one.

 

Words, ready to pound.

 

And a quick answer for those who wondered what the poem I posted a week or so ago was about (the one starting ‘First the little slip…‘): it was about Alzheimer’s.

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