Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Suffolk Short Story Competition

Can you write a story about Suffolk?

Do you have memories of the old days? Or have you recently moved here? Could you write a fictional account of life, set in this eastern county of England? Village life, seaside life, life in the town, life on the farm - in Suffolk we have many different settings that could inspire you to write a prize-winning story.

The Bury writers’ group Write Now! is launching a short story competition this September on the theme of ‘Suffolk’. The story must be no longer than 2,000 words and there is prize money totalling over £200 for the three best stories submitted, and for three runners up.

The closing date is December 31st 2006. Winners will be announced in Spring 2007 and will be invited to receive their awards at a special prize-giving ceremony. Full details are on the entry forms that are available as a download from www.writenow.wickerswork.co.uk

Write Now! is a group of aspiring writers who meet twice a month in Bury St Edmunds. Visit us online for more information or send us an email.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

short story competition

Grey day, the recent hot weather is a memory, but there is still cause to be happy! Why not - the writers' group Write Now! is launching a short story competition here in Suffolk. In fact I have just finished posting the website for the competition (you knew I would have to get involved, didn't you).

The link to the competition is here, don't forget to browse the rest of the site, as I have updated poems and generally given the place a 'lift'. More news later.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Patrick White

I am reading The Vivisector, by Patrick White. I wonder if this book would ever have been published in today's environment? What with Show not Tell, punchy starts, sex, violence and Celebrity - darling, don't ya think Patrick would have remained in the slush pile for ever?

His language is wonderful though, poetry in observation. He makes me look at the world differently, think about humanity, ponder the differences between poetry and prose. I come alive in his characters and through them see my own life a little clearer. Isn't that what (fictional) writing is all about?

On this same theme I received a rejection from an agent. "...this is less a criticism of your work than a comment on the dire state of publishing at present, where it is becoming increasingly difficult to place fiction with a decreasing number of good editors."

That may well be true, it still hurts though.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Dream the second

Now this one is easier to understand (Champions League Final tonight, Arsenal versus Barcelona). I'm playing football against a team with Ronaldinho in it. Problem is, the football is a normal shape, but has a blotched skin, like a potato. Worse still, Ronaldinho keeps calling it his "mother" and every time someone kicks it he cries. In the end I take him to the side of the pitch, tears streaming down his face.
'Why are you calling it your mother?' I scream at him, 'We can't play properly like this.' Eventually he calms down. Then I take the ball on a mazy dribble the length of the pitch and score a wonder goal. Unfortunately the alarm goes off and I wake up, so I don't know how Ronaldinho reacts to this.

Maybe I'll find out tonight.

Dream the first

Strange dream the other night. I was mixed up in a cult, whose origin was in the worship of a great tree, called Antaeus (In mythology Antaeus was the son of Gaia and Poseidon. He was a giant who compelled all strangers to wrestle with him and defeated or killed them all. He was invincible for as long as he remained in contact with his mother (the Earth) for she supplied him with strength. Heracles discovered his secret and lifted Antaeus from the ground and strangled him. The battle with Heracles is depicted on many Greek vases and even on coins.)

The cult was not so much of the living tree but of the dead one, for it had been felled, and the symbol of the cult was the profile of the inside of the trunk, which was in the shape of a grinning face. I seem to remember the other members were prone to violence and dressed like savages, although their headquarters was a shop on a High Street!

Now I'm not ill and haven't been on medication. Can't even put it down to drink. So where was this dream coming from? I'm a great believer in the pyschological interpretaion of dreams, especially symbolic ones, which this appears to be. I'll have to read some Jung to put perspective on it, but any suggestions will be welcome. I have been revising chapters of my fantasy novel Inside Out recently, so perhaps I am just flexing my creative muscles after a bit of down time.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Progress report

Those nice people from Dell have sent me a new computer - well OK, I did have to pay for it - and I've got my desk back. In essence, I didn't have a desk before, just a piece of furniture to put the old computer monitor on. The great CRT monster sat there for five years, in space I was meant to be writing on, collecting dust and goading me. I shuffled around the house looking for a place to write: sometimes clearing the dining table; or perching on a bed upstairs; occasionally shivering in the garden watching my papers blow around in the breeze. Never, ever in the place that was most suitable; the desk. Yet now the beautiful 19" flat screen monitor sits on a mere corner. The 'box' sits on the floor and the cordless keyboard and mouse (look no wires!) can be put away in seconds. The whole liberated expanse of fake mahogany then beckons to me; use me, use me, use me.

That's progress. All I've got to do now is find something to write about.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Bone fide

Where are the bones of St Edmund? It's not a problem I would normally bend my mind to, preoccupied as it usually is with football, poetry and what to have for lunch. But I've just finished reading a book on the subject and it seems that they are not where they should be, i.e. here at home in Bury St Edmunds, seat of the former shrine to the once patron saint of England, martyred in 869 and so on. I never doubted that they were stashed locally but, according to this compelling book, the skull is in a church in Toulouse (where they venerate the old boy a lot better than we do), the skeleton sans fibia is (or was) in a private chapel in Arundel, and only a few of the teeth are somewhere in this borough, kindly donated by the nice people in Toulouse during the 60's.
What is the truth? And is it important? Well, I think it is. If Dan Brown can make a fortune with his tall tales of the Holy Grail and a bloodline right down from Jesus to the present, then surely I can milk success from the true story of a saint's lost bones, pulled (literally) between England and France since Mediaeval times. The search is on...

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Tuna friendly

Blackbirds like tuna! Especially when dried and processed with vegetables and who knows what else in brown chunks designed for (and eaten by) cat-up-the-road. This is the evidence: forget raisins, seed, old apples and special concoctions packaged by the RSPB; £2 something a bag gives them protein, vitamins, flavour and hopefully nothing else. I mean, they wouldn't eat it if it wasn't good for them, would they?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Tilly


This is a picture of cat-up-the-road eating. We tried feeding her indoors but one day she had a few too many chunks (possibly the tuna) which, when mixed with milk, seemed to set her stomach 'on edge'. Hah. The consequence was a lot of brown liquid on the kitchen floor. This happened twice; I had to clean it up, now she is fed outside. Looking at this photo I do feel a bit guilty (it's been a cold winter round here) but after all - she has got a fur coat. Don't look at me like that: in all other ways I am the perfect (surrogate) owner.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Casting off

I am seriously (again) considering self publishing. It's come up recently at the writers' group and after a quick look on the Web it's clear that the technology for POD (Print On Demand) and short run digital printing is moving on. Publishers like Matador and Grosvenor House offer reasonable packages and professional services, including marketing, which is the essential skill for anyone printing their own work. An article from the Guardian online is a useful guide. Other sites and services I am looking at are Authorhouse and Lightning. I have 48 pages of poetry ready to be printed, plan to provide my own artwork and hope to get 250 copies printed by May. Now to get those quotes and see how reasonable it really is! Watch this space.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

My new maxim

Life is long and blogs are (or should be) short.

Inscrutable

At last, an enigmatic ok on feedback from the Chinese cameraman. No thanks, glad to have it, best camera in the world, a privilege to do business with you etcetera. Zip, nothing. Perhaps that's all I should expect, what with their inscrutable reputation and all.

Friday, March 03, 2006

View from a window

Here is a picture taken from my window today, here in Bury St Edmunds, a fine frosty morning, the sun trying to break through that low mist that settles in the early hours. It's a sign that the pace of the year is picking up. This is a marathon not a sprint, I call to some blackbirds who sit outside the back door waiting for catfood. They don't want advice, just dry bits of Chicken Chunks. I'm a vegetarian, so of course I don't eat chicken, but the blackbirds love it. We leave it out for the cat-up-the-road who seems to have adopted us. Even before we began to feed it. There was a Hitchcock moment yesterday when about 6 birds were keeping vigil on the patio just waiting for deliverance! Sometimes they don't wait for the cat to finish before starting in. The cat's not bothered, why should it be? It's a question of energy expenditure: chicken chunks don't move that fast...

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Post haste

Still no news on the camera (see last blog). Has it or hasn't it? Arrived I mean. I have been tracking it on the Post Office website; the last they knew it had been handed over to the Chinese postal system for delivery. So, I await confirmation (or feedback through eBay) that it is safely in the hands of the buyer. It is open-ended, a transaction uncompleted, and I don't like that - I need wholeness, a mandala of satisfaction, knowledge that everyone is happy and that positive vibes are reaching me through the ether. Will keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Camera Lucida

I sold an old camera on eBay at the weekend, to a guy from China. This phased me at first, when bidding had stopped and the necessity of despatch began. Why does someone from China want to buy an old TLR (Twin Lens Reflex) from someone in England? Is that the beauty of eBay, that a camera bought by my Grandfather in 1965 for £35 can be sold for not much more and end up on the other side of the world? It probably came from Japan in the first place. Thus it completes a circular journey; creation to death, or maybe he will just sell it for more money to an American.
I hope he enjoys it, uses it, thinks of my Grandfather as he presses the shutter, rewinds (manually - what do you expect for £38.50!) the 35mm film on the shaky spindle, removes the film and gets the prints developed. I will probably have spent the money by then, so above all that, I hope the bloody things come out.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Waving not drowning

Took my little boy to school today. Recently, he insists on waving to us all the way in, the last wave taking place as he stands in the doorway of the classroom, not looking sad but instead smiling a toothy grin. Still, you would think I was leaving him at the very gates of Colditz. Or the train station for a first term at some distant boarding school. That will never happen, of course, but it leads me to thinking – do we make things too comfortable at home? Is that the reason for this protracted goodbye, or is it really us that he is missing? Looking at him, I also wonder - is it possible to love someone too much?

Mmm, I don’t think so.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

I've been going through some poems, tidying parts up, preparing them for the ritual of submission. It occurs to me that a lot of them are about death. That's not because I'm overly worried about it; on the contrary, death seems to me the catalyst for life. Put it this way; if no one died there would be no room for new life, new people (or whales, to follow an earlier post). The world would be full of nursing homes.

We need to look at it differently: life is for the living. Take more out of each day, instead of grasping at unknown futures. Yes, you might win the Lottery - chances are that you won’t. Yes, you might be run over by a bus - chances are that you won’t. The living are resilient: animals, plants, human beings all cling to life, as if it must mean something. As it does. So enjoy it while it lasts.

Signs

A coughing, spluttering fit;
a nervous, high laugh.
A sign of spring - bird song;
a sign of winter - long scarf
wrapped around the throat.
A sharp frost, a dull pain;
there are signs of life in me,
signs of death too, age
creeping up, as winter does
then leaves, as life should do
by transition, not by this sudden
snatch of death, the soul away
the body cold, the crocus old;
end of the short, short day.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Fringe benefits

Talked to my friend Ruby last night. It seems that the citizens of Bury St Edmunds are to get a fringe festival to supplement the annual version that runs for two weeks in May. The idea is for local people to offer events outside the main ones (John Williams! Toyah Wilcox!) We thought we would put our names down to help. I can play the guitar, recite good poetry badly, do startling things with graphical software on an Apple Mac. Ruby and Mr R. will take photographs and laugh. I'm sure the fringe will be a great success. Why? Because we are getting involved! Enough said.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Non-Celebrity Big Brother

Now here's the thing. Create a TV programme which pits the fragile egos of known celebrities against each other for a few weeks. Presume that none will emerge still standing. Then put a non-celebrity in the mix who pretends to be a celebrity until found out, because it quickly becomes clear that she has no talent. She's now on an par with the others anyway.
Then watch as the proper celebs self-destruct in an orgy of over-acting, bad temper, foul language and little humanity. End result; the non-celebrity gets all the left over votes and wins. Becomes an instant celebrity. Amazing! Defies the logic of programme making and prompts us all to wonder why we need these people anyway. Aren't we all just famous in our own way?

Naw, you're right, it just couldn't happen...

Whale water

Further to the Christmas sprout, it’s whale water time! On the back of the saga of the Thames whale, I note on ebay some new items offered. One is the genuine watering can used to keep the famous cetacean hydrated in its last hours on the planet. Another is a jar of the supposed Thames water that came from said can. Now I can see the point of raising money for charity, but the people who get in on the back of good causes, well.

OK, selling the watering can is fair enough, but trying to sell whale water too? This just reminds me that all the water on this planet has been here since the earth first formed. There are an estimated 326 million trillion gallons of the stuff, 97% of it held in the oceans. Nothing added. Not much taken away. Which means that everything you drink has potentially been through millions of bodies: dinosaurs, ants, trees, paupers, Presidents, murderers, dogs, hedgehogs, poets, squid, plankton, sea cucumbers, fish and yes, even whales! I find that quite humbling. Point is you could label any jar of H2O up and still rightly claim that it was whale water. Pinning it down to one specific whale is the hard thing. More on water here and yes, I AM BITTER.

What 'jars' me most is that I didn’t think of it first.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Busy week, let’s see – highlight: finishing Slow Man by J M Coetzee. Now, I know I rave about this guy and it’s easy – he is a Nobel prize winner after all – but I just love his style. Someone once said about Beethoven that every note seems to be the right one, the only one that can fit in its place. Well, Coetzee is the same. I am looking for cock-ups, the disingenuous, repetition, a false turn; but nothing. All I see is tight prose, no fancy twists of time and place, no verbal gymnastics. Just that simple style, nailed to a strong examination of character and interlinked with a dry humour and humanity! It’s what I must aspire to.

Went for a run on Sunday, 30 minutes, exacerbated a nagging pain I have had in my hip since cycling 3 miles on a flat tyre last week. Seems to have eased now (Friday). Bev had a few aches and pains recently, bemoaned their increasing frequency. "Welcome to the forties," I told her. God knows what the fifties will be like (not there just yet).

Cold here in Bury this week, spilling over from a freezing Europe. No snow yet though. Are we expecting any? I always am when it gets cold, sort of makes up for all the suffering. Yet when it’s fresh, dry, the sun is out, what better weather. You have the feeling that the world is being scoured, stripped dry; all those damp, clinging leaves and the detritus of old autumn shrivelled and parcelled into topsoil. New growth lies ready and waiting, just under the surface of the ground, of the mind. And the English weather, the seasons of growth, decay and dormancy are perfect for poetry: Inspirational, invigorating, enthusing!

Except, I think I have a cold coming on…

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Coffee time

Visited Starbucks in Bury for the first time last week. I had convinced myself it was going to be the MacDonalds of coffee, but I was wrong; it was vibrant, welcoming, and the coffee was fantastic. I recently went two years without drinking coffee, now I have to have one strong cup a day. Who knows where this new urge came from, or what first prompted the abstinence? I'm not going to bother to work it out, just head straight for the shop next time I am in town. Such is the attraction of the brand name, the force of marketing. Or, the mystery of addiction.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Money for old sprouts

It’s Sunday evening. I’ve just listed some stuff on ebay to sell – old videos, Playstation games, that sort of thing. I see it as a form of recycling; and while I don’t expect to make too much money from it, it’s nice to think that stuff lying around for years in cupboards and attics might suddenly be used. Having said that, there is the current story of an unwanted Christmas sprout being sold for nearly £2000 recently on ebay. With a lot of the money going to charity. I did a quick search yesterday; suddenly there are any number of Christmas sprouts on offer, with varying percentages of the money gained going to charity. That’s ridiculous. Don’t these people realise that one-offs are just that; there’s no way that any one would be suckered into spending any more money on an unwanted sprout. Hold on, just getting my listing for that half-eaten Quorn sausage polished up – back in a second…

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Making sense

I have been reading up about Bluetooth and wireless connectivity. Why? Just because I can. Also, over Christmas I bought a new mobile phone. Now, the idea of all this communication seems OK on the face of it, but what information are we trading? News of Jordan’s latest enhancement? Big Brother voting patterns? Ringtones? We seem to be missing something here, and I am all for information, but it really is quality, not quantity, that I’m after.

I’m sure I have learnt a lot more since the Internet first engaged me, but a lot more of what? I used to learn a lot when I visited the library, the difference now is that I learn as and when I think about it. That immediacy can be confusing. My concentration is dissipated, the nature of the Web is to explore, to go off on those crazy tangents, probably never to return to what I was searching for in the first place. As an antidote to that I sit down, in front of a piece of blank paper, to see what my mind, on its own, throws up. That is writing.

So the essential part of me, what makes me what I am (call it personality) is unchanged by technology. Another part of me, the excitable geek, the enthusiast, the useful (to my firm or society in general) part is improved. Which one is important? Well, I would say both are, but not equally. The me that appreciates fine things, beauty, a quality of objects and their attributes is, to me, more important. But that experience is mine alone and purely subjective, a result perhaps of all the poems I have read or written, the hours spent staring at the blank page trying to communicate with myself, and through me whatever sought to bring things into being.

A result also of the time spent playing guitar, talking to people, laughing aloud, drinking beer, reading, looking, learning; in short, living. In the search for quality, not quantity, I would advise turning off the TV, switching off the computer, pouring a glass, curling up on the sofa and opening a book (preferably Shakespeare) and reading. I am taking my own advice here, which will do for now, until my Bluetooth phone beeps and tells me that, as always, the other side of life is still waiting.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Making time

It has been an uneventful start to the New Year; after a leisurely morning we go to Pizza Hut for lunch. The children manage to eat more than we do! Then we wander around the few shops that are open in Bury, as if we haven’t had enough of shopping. Other dazed families are suffering the same fate; children clutching Bratz purses or Star Wars wallets stalk the aisles in search of scraps to buy with whatever money they have left. Everything is something off and items no one wanted at retail cost suddenly become must-have prizes, as the discount stickers glow on the shelves in phosphorescent red and yellow.

Still, that’s Christmas. Over. Tara and her kids come round for the afternoon, Bev irons and Tara and I list a couple of items for sale on eBay, my first. Oh the excitement of selling tat! Must send some emails out too, firstly to wish family the obligatory New Year happiness, then to advise members of the writers' group of the date of the next meeting. I don’t make resolutions, so have none to list, except to resolve to do more writing, more meaningful writing, which I class as drafts, synopses and corrections. This is the unromantic bit, the perspiration, the 99% slice of the pie. Also, I need to enjoy this part more, which I now do, thanks largely to the feedback and interest from the group. It has been a productive year, but I need to get better, so I resolve only to:

Watch less TV.

That should provide some of the time needed. Also;

to do less shopping.


No problem there then. I feel more productive already.