Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Stillness

We went to a friend's farm on the weekend and I took some photos. I took this one on the drive out there in the late afternoon.


I've been looking at it a lot.  I feel peaceful, and happy, looking at it. I remember being in the car with The Loved One, not saying much, just content to be together. I remember asking him to stop, and clambering out on the verge, the grasses brushing against my legs. The long shadows and the light sloping low over the land, and although it was only about four in the afternoon, the chill of winter in the air. I would've liked to have stopped there longer. Turned off the ignition, let the dog out, maybe leaned against the fence. The day was dying and I would've liked to have held its hand.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The Last Goodbye

I have to carry you out to the car. Once upon a time I wouldn’t have managed but there’s nothing much to you now. I settle you on the rug. Talk softly. Avoid your eyes.
            It takes us no time at all to reach the surgery, so I open the door and sit down alongside you and we watch the sun on the weeds between the concrete cracks. You seem content, if a little puzzled, but I can’t tell you what’s happening. I can’t speak right now.
            I have difficulty closing the car door and I don’t want to make any sudden movements while you’re in my arms, so I leave it wide open.  
            You sniff the air inside the surgery and put up a half-hearted fight, but the doctor and nurse are waiting – I discussed this with them last night – and we go straight into a consulting room.  They talk in undertones. I hold your hand. I tell you everything’s going to be alright. You’re not convinced. After fifteen years you know me too well. 
            Then the moment is upon us and I have to step to one side of the table.
I don’t let go of you.
I watch the long silver needle slide in. It seems too big but you don’t flinch.
Your eyes glaze over. Your soft head droops.
After some time I have to let go of your furry paw.
And I walk out to the car, close the gaping door and drive away.
I leave you behind. I leave you behind.   
 

 
                   


Monday, 11 May 2015

Prose poetry

My writing friend, Rebecca Jessen, has introduced me to prose poetry. Well, not so much introduced me as told me that what I had written, what I had shown her for critiquing purposes, was prose poetry. What is prose poetry? Wikipedia defines it so: Prose poetry is poetry written in prose instead of using verse, but preserving poetic qualities such as heightened imagery, parataxis and emotional effects.  So what is "parataxis"? Apparently parataxis is a literary technique in writing or speaking, that favours short, simple sentences, with the use of coordinating rather than subordinating conjunctions. It is also used to describe a technique in poetry in which two images or fragments, usually starkly dissimilar images or fragments, are juxtaposed without a clear connection. Readers are then left to make their own connections implied by the paratactic syntax.

I was pretty excited. I'm not much of a poet, so I was thrilled to be told I can write prose poetry.  The piece I'd written was called Winter and it was a collection of ideas, thoughts and feelings not only about the wintry season, but about being in the winter of one's life. I really enjoyed writing it. And Bec pointed out that the bits that succeeded the most were the ones where I'd given the description some detail. Rather than just talking about a cold wind that might blow in winter, I had talked about what effect this wind might have -- on me, on anybody.  The wind snatching at an umbrella and turning it into the underside of a bat's wing.(Or, in paratactic syntax: The wind snatching at an umbrella. The underside of a bat's wing.)

Photo Google Images www.telegraph.co.uk
Photo Google Images CC


I had a line about the smell of baking biscuits, especially delightful when rain is pattering on the roof, and she told me to be more specific. What kind of biscuits are they? How do they smell? (I made them Anzac bikkies, and I said they smelt like Coconut!)  This attention to detail is something writers can all relate to. Go back to your work, look at your descriptions, and see how they can be improved by adding some or other attribute, it doesn't have to be big. Sometimes it's the tiny details that make the difference.

Oh, and try your hand at some prose poetry!  And parataxis!  




Tuesday, 5 May 2015

That writing moment...

That moment when you've been away from your work-in-progress for weeks through no fault of your own and you open up your manuscript and read the last few pages to get your mind into gear and then you sit with your fingers poised above the keyboard and your mind is blank and you think, This is so hard, why's it have to be so hard?  There is no God. 



And you get up and go outside and throw the ball for the dog until the dog won't give you the ball anymore, and then you go in and eat half a packet of chips, and refill the ice-cubes because nobody can ever be bothered, and straighten the tea towels on the shelf and then...and then...



You go and iron six shirts...and after that you go and pee and waste ten minutes in the bathroom parting your hair on the other side and wondering what the advantages of growing old are because looking at yourself in the mirror is doing your head in, and then you return to the keyboard and write senseless drivel, which you call creativity, on your blog page.


And then, finally, when you've wasted half the day, you return to your work-in-progress...

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Guest writer : J M Peace

I so love my writing friend's latest post, I'm sharing it here...

J M Peace is a writer, copper and a mother.

 

The trouble with the sequel

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My second novel is called ‘A Mother’s Work’ as in the saying ‘a mother’s work is never done.” And that’s the way it made me feel. As of yesterday, the manuscript rests in the lap of my publisher. I gave it a metaphorical pat on the head then booted it out on its own.
Part of me is proud. I actually wrote a second book. It is close to the 80,000 words I was shooting for. It has a sound plot with several twists. It is plausible from a police procedural point of view. I can do this. I can write books.

But part of me absolutely shitting myself. My first story took about three years from when I started writing it to when it went to print (any day now!). The story itself was bouncing around inside my head for a lot longer than that. By the time I actually sat down at a keyboard, it had already been thought through and nutted out. I consistently typed over 1,000 words an hour. Would have been even faster if I could touch type.

During that time, I also took courses, I read widely – things like writing blogs and crime novels – and I sought advice. The manuscript was handed round, edited, and improved on as the result of comments from an agent, a publisher and an editor. It was read and re-read and re-jigged and polished and nurtured and loved. By the time it was picked up by Pan Macmillan, they decided it didn’t even need a structural edit.

On the other hand, the sequel has spent its existence scuttling around behind more important things. I started writing it to distract myself from all the waiting as agents and publishers read and contemplated my first manuscript. And then all of a sudden my debut novel was bought and the sequel along with it. It had an April 30 deadline and they had already paid me some money for it. I had to finish it.

So it was completed on the fly, whilst I juggled the extensive editing of my first novel, plus all the extras requested off me – social media and photos and biographical info. Oh, and then I still had to go to my day job, and my family wants feeding every single day.

I’ve sent off with a bunch of disclaimers. As a manuscript, it is vastly inferior to the first. I know it has errors – big ones like plot holes as well as little ones like people’s names changing halfway through the story. I’ve had a red-hot go, but a snappy six months of broken writing with a looming deadline is just not the same.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not whinging. I wanted this. But can I do this? Was the first one a fluke? Will this one need three years work too? Or am I a writer?

I’m going to find out in due course. But right now you’ll have to excuse me – I have to go start book three…