Monday, 29 May 2017

Music and poetry

There have been mutterings in the ukulele ranks recently about the sort of music we should be playing. I'm not a fan of George Formby, but I don't mind playing the occasional down-up-down-up song as long as it's tempered with something modern. However, there are some in our group who steadfastly refuse to play anything written in the 21st century (I kid you not), so when 'House of Gold' by 21 Pilots was introduced to our set list they took umbrage. Some sit stony-faced and won't join in, and one man has actually left the group in protest! This notwithstanding that the song was written for the uke. Whatever: lots of potential story material, methinks.

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On an entirely unrelated note, those of you who live, study or work in the West Midlands might like to have a go at Poetry On Loan's competition, where the prize for adults is a paid performance in a library. Details here. Good luck


Friday, 26 May 2017

Is it OK to celebrate today?

My principal celebration today isn't really mine, but I'm happy to cling to its coat tails. Some of you might recall that I had a piece of writing in a  local guide book about the Montagu Monuments in St Edmund's Church in Warkton, a village just outside Kettering. (Read more here.) Well, this lovely little publication has received a national award for the best church monument guidebook in the country, which I'll admit is quite niche but worth raising a glass of bubbly to. Sadly, I shan't be able to go the presentation do as I'll be away.

On the same weekend, I've also been invited to a writing competition prize-giving evening, because I'm on the shortlist, which is rather pleasing. I shan't be able to go to that either, not least but it's in Taunton, which is a tidy step from Northamptonshire. The organisers have said they'll let me know if I win: I'm not holding my breath.

Apart from playing my uke in a concert on Saturday night - a church fundraiser in aid of a new roof (aren't they always?) - I have nothing planned for the Bank Holiday weekend, so maybe I'll just sit about and do nothing. Yeah, right.

Have a good weekend, folks.

Want to join in and celebrate with us? Hop over to Lexa's blog here and sign up.

Footnote. I am, of course, mindful of the recent terrible events in Manchester, but have nothing fresh to add to the conversation, other than to say that if you heard the moving Pause for Thought by Remona Aly on the Chris Evans show and were wondering about the Shams of Tabriz quote she used, you can find it on Goodreads here.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Feeding the soul

A scene from 'Dreaming Our Woods'
I don't have much of a daily routine, because my work is different each day; I rise and retire at varying times, depending on what the day promises; and I eat when I'm hungry, not at set times. However, even I'm feeling out of kilter at the moment. The 'Dreaming Our Woods' performances were wonderful, although I say it as shouldn't, but the post-show comedown has been bleak. What on earth am I going to do with myself now it's all over?

Well, one thing I've done today is to attend 'Continuum', the last event of the Our Woods festival, postponed from March when storm Doris was in town, so once again I found myself in the Corby woods thinking, 'I've never done this before!' A fabulous walk led by artists Carol Miles and Jo Dacome found me lying on my back looking at the tree canopy through a mirror-prism device to mesmerising kaleidoscopic effect; and making a show of human bluebells with sheets of Perspex. All great fun.

They say that if you want to be creative you should mix with other creative types, and I've certainly been doing that recently. Early fruits include a short story in the current issue of Ireland's Own magazine.

I really must get back to normal, though - or as normal as I ever am. This week I shall get more exercise, eat better and, as a result, I hope, sleep better. So much to do, so little time.

Monday, 1 May 2017

This week I shall be mostly trying to stay calm

I am about to embark on a week of full-on rehearsals for The Show on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (tech week, the professionals in the cast are calling it). I'm most concerned about the fact that we are in the theatre until 10pm each night and that is usually bedtime.

This means you probably won't hear much out of me until next Monday, apart from the occasional warbled song line and the soft shuffle of my shoes as I practise in the kitchen; so here is a book recommendation to keep you going.

I entered a competition recently for which Lauren Collins was judge. In the interests of research and as an excuse to go into Waterstones again, I bought her book When in French, subtitled 'Love in a second language'. I was expecting some kind of romance, with translation jokes and, yes, there is a bit of that: but this book is actually a love note to linguistics. As the jacket blurb says: '. . . sharp, funny tale of bilingual romance and learning to speak French. Part acerbic love letter to that language and part meditation on language itself, When in French is so charming it made me want to learn french, too.'

If you have any interest at all in how language works - and I know I'm preaching to the converted here - you need to read this book.

That is all.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Celebrate the small things 28.4.17

On Monday I promised myself to take things a little easier this week. The best laid plans...

It's been a good week, though. Lots of extra rehearsals for the show next week (eek!) and plenty of work to keep me busy. I even managed to put together a couple of competition entries.

Having had a bit of a mental breakdown on Sunday when out clothes shopping, I actually managed to buy some jeans this morning. When did that get to be such a complicated task? When did they start giving styles names? And are we really wearing high waistlines and tiny ankle cuffs? Anyhoo, I shall take them out for a test run this evening: I'm playing my uke at a ceilidh, and there will be dancing.

Also this week, I have a letter in Leisure Painter magazine titled 'Yoga for Creativity, as a reward for which I have been sent a copy of Places of the Mind, a beautiful art book that I would never have thought of buying, but that I can see I'm going to enjoy.

Have a good weekend, folks.

Want to join in and celebrate with us? Hop over to Lexa's blog here and sign up.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Taking things a little easier?

Good morning, world. It's only just starting to get light and it's so cold I've had to switch on my little radiator to take the chill off.I always have an early start on Mondays, because I teach a half-nine yoga class, so I have to be up, fed and digested in good time.

It's no hardship, really. My desk faces the window that overlooks my garden, so I've just been watching the birds having their breakfast while a visiting squirrel tried to join in. We have a family of blackbirds, and despite the fact that the babies are now quite chunky, it's still the parents that are running around chasing mealworms and other tasty morsels.

Last week was tough, but only in a first-world-problems kind of way. Am I now at the age when I must remind myself not to do too much? Surely not! And yet, by Friday teatime I was feeling quite trembly. This week I shall practise what I preach, and be kinder to myself.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

My first webinar

Call me old-fashioned ('You're old-fashioned!'), but I've only just taken part in my first webinar - and what a delightful portmanteau word that is. Despite by newbie status, the tech element was very straightforward and it was a pleasing way to spend an hour.

I was alerted to 'What Happened Next? Plotting a Story' by Helen Yendall on her excellent Blog About Writing. The free webinar was presented by Barbara Henderson of Penguin/Random House’s The Writers’ Academy, and while it didn't really tell me anything I hadn't heard before it was a useful reminder of the basics of story, plot and narrative. Of course, it was actually a taster for its forthcoming online course 'Constructing A Novel', also with Barbara Henderson, but at £799 that's a bit out of my reach.

There were a couple of writing books recommend: Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell and Writer With a Day Job by Aine Greaney, plus the novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. I'd be interested to know if any of you has these and whether they're worth buying.

And remember, folks: if there's no conflict, there's no story.