Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Cheated... that cruel enemy, Laryngitis.  It tricked me, returning my voice on Sunday, only to tear it away again with sharp, biting blades after two hours and twenty minutes at work on Monday, amongst dry air-conditioning and unavoidable communication with customers and colleagues. 

My reclaimed voice is gone.

My doctor has exiled me to Silence, signing me off work for a week to rest my voice - at this rate, I'll be hibernating for winter!  So, ill, frustrated, bored and a little lonely, I am determined to channel the not-speaking-Me into the writing-Me, and develop a Voice that will be heard when it is read, if not yet spoken.

In this week off, I aim to write.  This evening, I am going to spend a (timed) hour writing the short story I've been faf-tivating* with since March this year.

* Faf-tivating = a combination of faffing and titivating with a piece of writing, where ideas, thoughts and brief notes are made, altered and re-conceived...but no actual writing happens.  An affliction which ails all writers from time to time, faf-tivating can only be cured by GETTING ON WITH IT.

So, an hour into my short story will hopefully result in me not wanting to stop writing it, and will lead into the next hour and the get the picture - so keep your fingers crossed!

A result that I have already achieved this week is to have wrangled the Pesky Poem into an acceptable form, with insightful and (thankfully!) favourable comments from Zoe (thanks, as always, hon).  It needs just a few tweaks more...and then I'll be onto the next poem in the sequence, which I will begin before my sick-week is over...

So, Voice, you rascal, you may not be able to speak but you will write!

"...the more individual the personality, the more specific the voice." ~ James McCreet,
'Writing Magazine' April 2011

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Forgive My Silence

I have been quarantined in silence this past week, due to suffering severe laryngitis.  Which requires silence to recover.  Yes, that’s right – me, silent; unable to utter, chatter or giggle.  Not nice, not right, not Deb!  Doctor’s orders was to rest my voice, take analgesics and drink lots of fluid, and I’ve obeyed these – but felt bored and a little lonely without conversation.  Added to which, I’ve generally felt as if I’ve been run over by a chariot of war-horses, my throat a battle of a thousand swords, slicing and gorging each time I swallow.

Creativity has been cowardly during this illness-siege, hiding until it’s safe to come out...

Hopefully, it is now – the danger is past and I have a voice, though it is still scratchy and squeaky in places (making my giggle sound even more like Mutley from the Wacky Races than usual).  While I’ve been horrendously ill, I’ve been reading, and managed to be craft-creative with new pictures and sayings for the walls of my writing room, the scriptorium.  Printing the quotations out in fancy fonts (saddo, I know, but it’s the digital equivalent of calligraphy and I’ve always wanted swanky handwriting!), I’ve backed them and the pictures onto funky craft paper/card, giving it the Deb-Art-Twist.  Big thanks go to Leigh for donating her unwanted craft supplies several weeks ago – and to Zoe, as always, for her creative craftwork inspiring me to have a go too!

Now I have a new-look scriptorium to inspire me, I just need to track down the Muse to get me back to writing-health again...

Friday, 16 September 2011

Rapturous Reading

It’s all over tomorrow – I’ll be back at work after a week’s holiday, during which I achieved nothing but two days spent sorting through the attic (times my previous post’s cupboard-under-the-stairs-rubbish-hoarding-dad moan by infinity – that was just the tip of the iceberg, as the attic was much, much worse....!), and reading the rest of the time.

I’ve always read a lot – so much so that I wonder if I came out of the womb clutching a book (while talking too, I’d imagine!).  About three years ago, I started to keep a reading journal and I’m on to notebook number two.  My entries are quite long (I know, I have trouble being brief!), at least two pages of A5, sometimes more.  I note the date and how long it’s taken me to read the book in question; a score out of 10 (I’m quite harsh with this – in the same way contestants on Strictly Come Dancing yearn to get a 10 from Craig, but without the b****y comments!); a discussion on what grabbed me about the story, characters and the way it was written; and end with a list of themes I can see in the novel.  My friend Zoe (she’s a writer too, and a crafter – see her blog at: also keeps a reading journal but with entries much shorter than mine, though no less able to bring forth the detailed responses she had when we discuss what we’ve been reading (which we do often).

Perhaps you’d like to join us in keeping a journal of the books you’ve been reading, even if it’s just a list of the titles?  When you look back at the end of the year and see how much and how widely you’ve read, what you’ve liked/disliked and why, and realise that you’ve not only responded to it but participated in the debates it raises (if only in thought), you feel chuffed, clever and creative – and so you should!

This week, I treated myself to reading ‘The Distant Hours’ by Kate Morton.  I discovered her as an author last summer when I read ‘The Forgotten Garden’, which was her second book – and LOVED it.  I adore the language with which Morton writes, the room she gives both her plot and narrative to evolve, and I care deeply about her rounded, flawed characters.  Once I’d read one of her books, I had to read the next and so I snapped up a copy of ‘The House at Riverton’ (her first novel), and fell for that one too.  I’ve got about one fith of ‘The Distant Hours’ left to go...and I hear it whispering to me now, tempting me back into its pages – but before I immerse myself in Morton’s world once more, I’ll share with you some words from my reading journal, and a picture that could be an actual photograph of me (if only I looked like Kate Winslet!):

‘The Forgotten Garden’: Well written, with beautiful and deft language peppering the pages, this story is intricately plotted and richly realised – wonderful!  A dense narrative, it never feels rushed or indulgent – it is just what it is meant to be.  Eliza’s embedded fairy tales are decent, good stories in their own right, but also form layers of storytelling which extend the whole, woven experience. 

‘The House at Riverton’: Fabulous – an absorbing, excellently written story, delving into the past and the multi-layers of the present, particularly in terms of memory.  The characterisations are fantastic and I love the way they breathe on the page, even the smallest ones.  The themes of secrecy and guilt and redemption are seamlessly drawn into the narrative, and I was stunned and saddened by the eventual conclusion.

I found this fabulous drawing through a Google Image search, included in someone else’s blog – they’d posted it in February 2009, where they’d seen it on The Portrait Society of America’s website (but I couldn’t find it there – it must’ve been removed!).  The drawing is untitled by Antonia Franck – and I love it so much, I’ve printed it out, framed it and put it on my bookshelf!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Time for a Change

It's been about a month now that I've been writing this blog, and (as I do with my bedroom and writing room) I feel it's time for a bit of an image change - I get easily bored!  You'll get used to this as, every now and then, I'll change the background, images and text colours to suit my mood and the atmosphere I want to convey.  I do it all the time with my laptop wallpaper - though this is particularly for inspiration when I'm working on a piece.  In my job, the Accessories department is mine and I get to play with pretty colours and pleasing patterns when merchandising the new stock - and this design-ness is one of my favourite things to do!
This past week has been a busy blur - I've felt drained and tired; been disappointed and flattened as the writing course I'd enrolled on has been cancelled due to low numbers (though there is a possibility of the tutor running a smaller course sometime in autumn - but we'll have to see what happens); felt no creativity or motivation with regards to my problematic poem; BUT the week ended with a great night out last night - so thanks to my fab friend Jess and all her girls on her hen do, who taught me that karaoke isn't as scary as I'd thought (but it is bad - I CAN'T sing!!).  I discovered a new, delicious cocktail ('New Yorker' = Jack Daniels, grenadine, sugar syrup and a dash of lime - mm mmm!), and found that being a pirate is mucho fun...!

This week is my holiday from work, so I'm going to rest, relax and enjoy.  As we're supposed to be having the tail-end of hurricane winds tomorrow (we'll see!), I'm going to brew a pot of tea, break open the Hob Nobs and snuggle down with my new book, 'The Distant Hours' by Kate Morton - well cosy!  At some point this week, when fiestiness is upon me, I'm going to tackle that pesky poem and wrangle it into a decent piece.

So here's to a good week - enjoy!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Try, Try, Try Again

Rubbish.  That’s what it was, when I looked at it on Monday.  And it still is today.  Ouch.  I really thought it was going to be better than that...

First Drafts are meant to rubbish, of course, because they’re the result of mind-spillage, the instant, often instinctive, creative flow oozing on out onto the page.  Later comes the redefining, redrafting and editing from which, eventually, a honed and good Final Draft appears.  But it doesn’t stop it being shocking, embarrassing and gutting when you read it back...and find that it really is rubbish.

In terms of my poetry process this year, I decided to split the first attempt of a poem into First Thoughts and then a separate document called First Draft – so that I can free myself of the flow in the former, and begin to craft in the latter.  When writing the First Thoughts of the next poem in my sequence, about a thesaurus using alchemy imagery, my imagination whizzed and zinged around like shooting stars and crashing comets, leading to a First Draft where I thought I had it down; thought the skeleton of the piece was there with most of its muscles and a bit of flesh, and that I’d only have to paper on the rest and sprinkle in some soul to make it breathe. 

Oh how wrong I was.  The words on the page are flat, repetitive and prose-like.  So what was happening to me when I was writing it, because I truly thought it was the opposite...?

Freya North says it better than me in her novel ‘Pillow Talk’ (a good, intelligent and yet light-hearted book, well worth a read).  Her protagonist Petra makes her own jewellery and has a gemstone which is waiting; waiting for the right arrangement, the perfect setting that she hasn’t come up with yet – until:

“...all of a sudden she knows what to do with her tanzanite; what it wants to be.  She’s just been afforded a dazzling glimpse of how the finished piece might look...She had caught sight of the end result and it’s thrilling.”

That’s what happened to me.  I had the sudden flash of Finished, the film-reel spooling on past drafting and hard work, clattering to a stop at the final feeling.  A sense of what my thesaurus/alchemy poem wants to be, what it could be.  But how to make it that?  Toil.  And lots of it.  I need to redefine my idea so that my angle is original; wield my words better so that they’re imaginative and surprising; and get right to the core of it, cut out all the prose-bits, in order to distil it into poetry.

So it’s hi-ho, hi-ho, off to work Deb goes...!  Wish me luck – I’ll keep you posted how it goes.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Film Experience of a Lifetime

As my last post was rather epic (!), this one is a little 'un, I promise!
It was my birthday last week, and as a gift one of my best friends got us tickets to see 'Dirty Dancing' the stage show at the Bristol Hippodrome last night - and it was FANTASTIC!

For many women (pretty much all of us, I'd imagine!) and anyone from a certain era of growing up, 'Dirty Dancing' is THE film: good story; great performances; hot moves.  We know the script backwards, sing to all the songs and wish we were Baby with a little dancing and a lot of Johnny in ours lives - let's add a quick communal RIP for Patrick Swayze here.

The stage show was all that and more: audience participation with singing, clapping and cheering throughout (plus a standing/dancing ovation at the end!); a few extra songs; and some scenes that never made it into the film but offer fresh and deeper insight into the characterisation.  Plus, the bloke playing Johnny was well fit...! (Sorry: it had to be said!).  If you get a chance, see this show - it won't replace the film in your affections, but it will allow you to join in and share your love for it with everyone else who loves it too.

I'll leave you with this quote, as it sums up what 'Dirty Dancing' is to many of us, both when we first watched it and now as we reflect on it, and hope that one day I too can create a character or write a story that lives on in the audience's mind:

"The function of the artist is to make people like life better than they have before." ~ Kurt Vonnegut