Monthly Archives: March 2017

Writing Weekend Part 2

Hello Dear Reader

Writing Weekend Part 2

Hopefully, you will have read Part 1, it makes sense of course in case there is some startling revelation of catastrophic news. Rest assured, there is nothing but reading Part 1 helps. I may never know if you have but it’s a comfort to think you will have.

Writing festivals are often packed as you only have a few days to work with. For me, it was only two days sadly. It’s never two days as well you know since people won’t be awake all night. Maybe one festival they will. Having completed the workshop, it was time to prepare for two interview sessions, the first with Mark Gatiss. A brief lunch, walk around and then of to the York opera house, a traditional old theater in the heart of the town.

It would be impossible to cover everything that was mentioned in the talks. I doubt I could transcribe it all and there would be a flatness in just reading the words. Understanding what interests a writer and how they write helps others see what they can do to further their own writing. Most writers I have discovered, seem to write from an early age, I did myself making up simple stories. Sometimes it starts with reading a favourite subject that makes one think.

League of a Gentleman

The event was well attended by fans from across the spectrum. I was very aware of the work Mark Gatiss had been involved with, but for me, it was discovering why or what he liked about writing that was interesting.  To open the talk, they played a sketch from League of Gentleman. A very deadpan Mark Gatiss in the role of a cave guide. This is dark comedy at its best, written perfectly and delivered in that droll, uninterested style. To write that and both produce laughs and not laugh is very difficult. You can’t help but laugh as it is just the polar opposite of slapstick. That was the gift of this writing, to write so bleak, it is seriously funny.

Carry on enjoying

Horror and ghost stories both film and television seemed the background for Mark Gatiss and one film, in particular, stood out for me, Carry on Screaming. This is my favourite Carry On film, I know it so well. Why? For me, it is one of the best-scripted films, well acted, a good cast including Harry H Corbett who stepped in for Sid James at the last moment. It is a huge nod to Hammer but most of all had two Doctor Who elements. A mention by name and of course Jon Pertwee.

It is clear that writing is very time-consuming. Many people never see the whole writing process, from an idea through to the completed work. Part of the talk touched on that process given that one idea alone had taken two years. Of course, Mark Gatiss was not just working on one project at a time. There was the assumption given the body of work completed that anything would be taken up. It is not always the case even for someone like Mark Gatiss. That was quite interesting as it shows all writers have the same problems.

 

One other passion of his, are ghost stories. I myself I have written a couple. To bring the right amount of horror, scare the reader or viewer just enough takes a fine balance. Building up those dark feelings, as you are drawn in, then the shock. The shock does not need to be harsh. Mark Gatiss has a real understanding of this, in what he has produced. He also laments the lack of this on television these days. Children are no longer properly scared, adults don’t always see good horror. As for mine, now I know I need to both finish them and write more. I might even be able to turn them into scripts. After his talk, I like many others had the chance for an autograph and a brief chat. Mark was genuinely interested in people and I was able to tell my Jon Pertwee story to him.

Around another world

So talk one completed, booked signed photography snapped. A chance to grab a bite to eat and ready for the third event. Again, an interview this time with Micheal Palin. Now I am a Monty Python fan. I know the Parrot sketch. I can sing (badly) a number of their songs. What I was looking for here was why and again what drove Micheal Palin to write. It was really simple. Just like Mark Gatiss, the drive to write came from a shared love of words. The chance to put his sketches on in a university environment gave the opportunity to test the waters, so to speak. He certainly found his dead parrot and more than a number of naughty Brian’s.

The other element here was his diary. You might think this is an odd source of information but if you really think about it, a diary is sometimes shorthand for ideas. Micheal Palin started his diary to remember events, ideas and was what you could consider the blog of its time. It has not gone out of fashion, just replaced by technology. It is something all writers I suspect should carry to hand. It does not need to be a diary in that traditional sense but a notebook or series of them.

The talk centered on a few points in Micheal Palin’s career, notably the Life of Brian, Ripping Yarns, Time Bandits, and his travel series. In each one, the love of writing was intricately involved. There was also one other interest to me briefly mentioned, Jabberwocky. That is one of those long complex poems, where some words are nonsense. I would have liked a little more about how that was constructed from poem to script.

To be able to tell a story well requires an understanding of characters, plot, surrounds and all. One might think there was no ‘plot’ in Around the World in 80 Days for example. However, the plot was very clear, reproduce the travel of a fictional character from a book. Now although there was a book, this was no fictional trip so that itself created other issues. How to write about 5 days sitting on a sailboat, make it interesting, exciting and yet not repeat the same lines, is difficult. While there was the time to write, maybe there was also the time to catch up?

 

Again the talk finished all too soon and there was the chance to get an autograph. I purchased a copy of poems by Micheal Palin to study. As I have been told, you have to read to be able to write. With the second book signed, it signaled the end of a very productive day. It gave me many ideas to work on, the thought that you can write what ever you wish and that the only thing stopping writing is yourself.

Having completed the second of these blogs it just shows what writing can do. I have three more poems to complete, a short story to edit and my sci-fi novel to re-edit (again). I also want to combine my love of photography with poems and short stories to produce another book. All can be done, but all would have to compete in this growing ocean of literature.

The York Literature festival was brief for me but very enjoyable. I would do the same again given the opportunity. I do have one more writing event to try, that of a weekend retreat, where all you do is write. Maybe that’s my next step? With my camera of course. Thank you all involved making my brief visit a joy.

Tagline: ‘Carry on Doctor, Who needs to get Around the World’

 

Writing Weekend Part 1

Hello Dear Reader

Writing Weekend Part 1

In the past, I have attempted to visit writing festivals. There has been some success, to be honest. Some of them in St Ives, Cornwall during September holidays. That is a difficult venue now due to various things. I did visit Hay-on-Wye festival, however, that was more a literary weekend rather than writing. Many festivals take place when time is short or the best parts are during a week when hotel prices are high.

Having spent many a time in St Ives, I sort of knew what I wanted from these. Really I need a writing weekend to finally prove I can write. Well, I can write as I published a book. What I want to prove to myself is that I can write both poetry and fiction. I have been successful to a degree, having both a poem and short story published by Keele Creative Writing. Yet I want to push myself.

Entering the unknown

This past weekend I managed (with great help), to get a place on a poetry workshop at York’s Literature festival. This for me was both very exciting and rather special, as added to the workshop was two talks, one by Mark Gatiss and one by Michael Palin. Two people whom I knew as both performers and writers.

York itself is a wonderful place to visit, it has history and atmosphere that can make a writer think. There is a rich vein of architecture, surrounded by ancient Roman walls. Yet there is the odd flashes of modern just peaking here and there. Very much like St Ives.

First stop for the weekend was York’s Art gallery, another old imposing building. This poetry workshop was entitled ‘Bodies and Flesh‘. Now, straight away you have to look at the title and step back. You can fall into the trap of wondering what or which way it might go, but for me, it was the chance to be guided by a poetry author.

I had no idea what to expect, which in itself is good. I was not concerned about meeting new people, I do that all the time. I was mindful that my work might not be as good but this was a chance to learn. So of I went into the unknown.

There were 10 others on the course and the lecturer. We all introduced ourselves, each of us a little shy I felt as we all wanted to learn. Having self-published I was conscious not to ‘boast, it did not feel right. The lecturer, Christy Ducker, was a published poet and took us through what the workshop was intended to cover. Reading a few poems, making notes, writing a couple drafts and visiting the art gallery for inspiration.

Shaking out the gray mist.

I re-learnt something valuable within the first 10 minutes. I have been told it or read it before, it made sense… again. The first task was to shift that gray mist that often clouds the mind, obscuring the wordsmith. A simple three-minute exercise writing the following;

‘My body is…’ and then you add a few words about your body.

Its simple effective and should be likened to a warm-up before any sort of training. You should always warm-up, no athlete would just start running. It was difficult at first but quickly became easier as I let my mind go. The fog lifted nicely.

We read a couple of poems, the subject being bodies and flesh you can guess the various ones we concentrated on. The first poem was this one.

Mirror

Standing dripping wet, water from the shower running down.

I gaze at myself in the mirror.

It feels like years since I last explored like this.

It’s my body, I should know it better than the water.

The mirror distaste the real truth, my skin appears faded after youth.

I watch a droplet find its own path down my thigh.

Should it swerve like that avoiding a pothole?

My back seems shaped yet oddly poised, pulled around muscles tense.

Water stops collecting in odd places, should that really be like that?

An interesting start if not a stark view from the poet of their own body.

Wandering a Gallery

After a couple more poems and stretching the mind, it was time for our first venture out of the classroom. I was completely unprepared for this, not in the sense of notebook, pens etc but it was for me a really interesting and fresh idea. The plan was to go into the gallery and study a few pictures. The exhibition, of course, was on bodies and flesh, all fitting into place now. Oddly wandering the gallery was a woman in her pjs, quoting poetry. I was glad that was not part of the workshop, I had not brought any.

We had to pick a picture and write about it from the subject’s viewpoint, not the artist. It fitted the poem we had just read. I decided after a wander to pick a painting called ‘The Wrestlers’ by William Etty. It took me a few minutes to consider what I might write about. They do say inspiration finds a way and as I wrote down a few words it hit me. What if the picture, of two men, one white, one black fighting, was a snapshot of real chess pieces? I realised this was my view into my poem. For me the two ‘bodies’ had been forced to fight, maybe daily, maybe weekly, whatever for the whim of their owners. Hence the outline of my poem formed.

Bits of bodies

I was enjoying this now, as the workshop was challenging my thoughts, making me see some things differently. It was also very engaging to the point that time passed quicker than I would have liked. Another couple of readings and then back to the gallery to look at more art. A poem about what I might see in a mirror was written, followed by the final task. This one was based around being out of control of your own body. I chose the subject of archery and how I can be used to show the execution of a shot. It is still to be finished mine but it worked.

Final Thoughts

So the workshop ended and I was both happy at what I had learned and achieved, yet wished it was an all day event. It certainly has helped me think about different styles, ideas and how to reuse pictures etc. It also helped in a project I am working on, combining poems to pictures I have taken or will take. It was rewarding for me to see that I could put my mind to new ideas and explore different strands of poetry. Clearly, the three need working on. The draft of Mirror is a good start and I do like how the poems began. There is always more to do, but looking at others work it shows me poetry is such a vast amazing field.

Tagline: ‘Bodies are poems, it’s just finding the right words’

Three Counties Open Photography Exhibition 2017

Hello Dear Reader

Three Counties Open Photography Exhibition 2017

As some of you may have noticed, I have begun to blog about my interest or rather re-interest, in photography. I have found this to be another of those art forms that hundreds aspire to produce that one amazing picture in life. Like with my writing, I decided to take my photography a couple of steps further and decided to explore with the help of others.  

I joined a local club to help improve both my confidence and my photography. One of the things I wanted to explore was taking the camera of automatic. Part of pushing myself in writing has been to place my work in the public domain. Hence the self-publishing route.

Now, I decided to push my photography that step further and enter my very first competition. So I placed three photographs into the Three Counties. I did not expect one to get in but was very pleasantly surprised to hear that two had been accepted. I don’t know how many entered but for me, it was a major success and another step forward. 

I did not win anything other than my satisfaction that people will see two of my pictures and that I know I can take good pictures. So what next? Well, taking more pictures, pushing myself further, entering competitions and posting more online.