Writing 101: Don’t Stop the Rockin’

This was the challenge for October 8th and it’s now the 12th.  But after this I have only one more to catch up.  So -

On this free writing day, remember the words of author Anne Lamott: “I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good at it.”

Today is a free writing day. Write at least four-hundred words, and once you start typing, don’t stop. No self-editing, no trash-talking, and no second guessing: just go. Bonus points if you tackle an idea you’ve been playing with but think is too silly to post about.

I want you to let it all hang out. So does writer Anne Lamott. At the risk of turning The Daily Post into an Anne Lamott fangirl blog, no one motivates me the way she does. Every time you sit down to write and think your idea is too stupid, too uninteresting, too random, or too unoriginal to be committed to the page, let Anne give you a gentle but firm nudge.

Four-hundred words. One at a time. Go.

Rain on leavesThe sun is shining and summer most certainly is on its way. But each day this week I have thought that only to have the day “ turn to custard”. Large black clouds suddenly appear in this fantastic blue sky. I scurry out to retrieve the washing before it rains. And then, having got it all in the sun reappears and I could hang it out again if I wanted to. I choose not to and pop it into the dryer for a final dry off.

Lunch can be eaten outside. There is no wind and the sun is really warm on my face. I consider going inside for some sun cream but decide that as I am only going to be sitting for about 30 minutes I can just relax and enjoy the sun on my face.

Lunch is eaten and the daily newspaper beckons. I turn to the World news and see there is more mayhem, killing and abuse around the world. But what’s this? The new Mrs Clooney wants to help the Greeks bring home the Elgin Marbles. The Marbles have resided in the British Museum for many many years. It seems to me that they have always been there but I know this not to be the case.

Each time I go to London I head to the Museum and one of my first stops is the Marbles. I marvel at the intricate work of those long ago carvers. All now moved into the bounds of history.

My next port of call is always the Rosetta Stone. What another marvel this is. I stand among the crown just looking at it. Around me there is a cacophony of voices in so many languages and I wonder what they are all saying. Are they as mesmerised as I am at this ancient piece of writing on a stone?

I turn to the crossword section of the newspaper. This is where I relax. So with pen in hand I start, but true to form of the last few days, the sun goes behind a black cloud, the wind suddenly picks up and the first spots of rain appear. So that’s the end of lunch and as I pick up the newspaper and pack up the lunch things I muse that this will no doubt be the way of the weather for the next few weeks. We are not into summer yet.

Writing 101 – Point of View

Still playing catch up.  Hopefully tomorrow I shall be caught up.

Day 9 and the challenge is:

A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene.

Today’s twist: write the scene from three different points of view: from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.

The man suddenly stopped. He looked at the old woman knitting her red sweater and broke into loud sobs. “Hush dear. It is alright” said the woman who was walking with him.

“But what if he doesn’t respond.” said the man. “What if he is a vegetable for ever?” “What if we hadn’t persevered and insisted that he have the operation. He was a happy little boy, now who knows what will happen to him.”

Taking his hand in hers and gently wiping away his tears the woman said “But we had to give him the chance to live life as any other normal little boy. Without this operation he would never have run around chasing a ball, never have played cricket or rugby and would have always been sitting on the sidelines watching life go by. I am sure that we have done the right thing.” And with a smile she turned him back towards the hospital where their young son lay recovering from an operation.

The woman is much more pragmatic than the man, although she too is very concerned about the condition of their son. She has had many conversations with herself, their married daughter and their medical advisers before and since reaching the decision to go ahead with the operation.

The sick child has been born many years after their only daughter, who has since married and moved away. She and her mother are in close contact and since the decision was made to have the operation, they have been in contact daily.

While she is conciliatory towards her husband, helping him in this terrible time, she also wishes he would ‘buck up’ and perhaps support her more. Hard times are easier if there is somebody to share them with.

The old woman is knitting the red sweater for her grandson. She doesn’t know whether it will ever reach him. He is living in Algeria with his mother and his father, who is a doctor.  She is greatly worried about them.  However, she continues to send parcels to the family regularly but does not know if or when they receive them as contact with them is difficult if not impossible.

So she knits and sends presents as a way to keep some connection with her family during this scary time.

Dead Heat

I have talked before about one of my favourite authors, Bronwyn Parry.  Bronwyn  romantic suspense novels set in Australia’s wild places. She lives on 100 acres of  Australian bushland, and travels extensively through rural and outback areas of the country for background research for the novels.

I read Bronwyn’s  first novel, “As Darkness Falls” a few years ago and then discovered that in 2007 it won the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award for best romantic suspense manuscript in 2007.  In 2008 it was a finalist in the Romance Writers of Australia Romantic Book of the Year Award.

Then I read her  second novel, “Dark Country”and found that it was a finalist in the Romance Writers of America RITA Awards and the Romance Writers of Australia Romantic Book of the Year Award in 2010.  It also  won the Australian Romance Readers Award for Favourite Romantic Suspense novel of 2009.

And then sad news.  Bronwyn could not attend the RITA Awards in 2010 as she was awaiting brain surgery.  Fortunately, she seems to have made a complete recovery and last year her third novel “Dead Heat” was released.  This is another great read, set in the Australian outback – a romantic suspense novel indeed.

Dead Heat

Then a few days ago I received an email with the exciting news that “Dead Heat” is a finalist in the romantic suspense category of the Romance Writers of America RITA awards.  This is great news for Bronwyn, her very supportive partner/soul mate and her readers and this time Bronwyn is well enough to travel to the USA for the awards.  How exciting for her and how pleased those of us who follow her are.  This time hopefully, there will not be a dead heat and her novel will win the award.her novel will win the award.

For those of you who don’t know. Bronwyn says “The RITA awards are often described as the ‘Oscars’ for the romance genre – the winners are announced at the gala awards night at the end of the Romance Writers of America conference, which this year will be in Atlanta, Georgia, from July 17-20th.”

I wish I could be there to cheer her on.

Clapping hands

“There are three rules for writing a novel.
Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
W. Somerset Maugham

An Extremely Difficult Task

To say that it was a bitch of a job would be to put it mildly.  I had been asked by an ex-employer to talk to his messenger about her personal hygiene habits.  I didn’t know this young woman; I had never met her.

I had worked for Mr N for several years as his personal assistant.  I had arranged his daughter’s wedding, bought birthday and Christmas presents for his wife and generally made his life run smoothly.  So when this problem arose he immediately thought of me, so sure that I could solve it.

What to do?  First I had to meet this young woman and set up some sort of rapport with her.  I wasn’t looking forward to it I must say.

The day duly arrived and with much trepidation I entered the office.   I knew the team and spent a few minutes catching up.  This served a good purpose; the girl could see that I was liked by the team and got on well with them.

So having settled down with a cup of coffee I began by introducing myself and telling her a little of my time with the company.  Then we switched to her.  She was not very forthcoming about her life or her upbringing and so I turned to the job.  I asked how she enjoyed what she was doing and what her plans were for her future.  She told me she enjoyed the job but hadn’t given any thought to the future.

I explained to her that she was the first point of contact for many people.  I stressed how important it was to dress appropriately and to be very careful of our hygiene manners so as not to offend anyone.

She looked a little embarrassed and asked if I thought she should buy an anti-perspirant.  We discussed this and she agreed to buy it.  So while this was a bitch of a job it had good results and we kept in touch for several years.

Trifecta tricycleThis is my entry in this week’s Trifecta Challenge.  The challenge as stated is:

And now we move on to this week’s one-word prompt.  Apologies in advance to those who are easily offended, though I imagine if you stuck with us through our TrifeXXXtra erotica challenge, we probably won’t scare you off now with a little mild profanity.

This week’s word is:

BITCH (noun)

1: the female of the dog or some other carnivorous mammals
2 a : a lewd or immoral woman
b : a malicious, spiteful, or overbearing woman —sometimes used as a generalized term of abuse
3: something that is extremely difficult, objectionable, or unpleasant
Our response must be between 33 and 333 words and we must use the 3rd definition..If you want to know more about Trifecta or join in the challenges click on the tricycle above or visit http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com.  Good luck, it’s fun to try the challenges.
For Your Information this really happened.

Fiction for the Fearful

“If we had to say what writing is, we would define it
essentially as an act of courage.”
Cynthia Ozick, American-Jewish short story writer,
novelist, and essayist. 1928 -

Many years ago when I was completing a creative writing course one of the exercises set for us was to write a letter to ourselves, either our older selves or our younger selves.  The letter would be mostly fiction but of course, interspersed with necessary facts.  I haven’t thought about that course or the task for some years.

ChateauBut today, when I had time to ‘noodle’ ( my sister’s word) around the internet I found some interesting courses being run in France and thought how lovely it would be to attend a creative writing course in a château in France.  Patrick Gale is not a writer whose work I know but I think I would be very pleased to get to know him and his writing by attending a course held in the Chateau Ventenac on the banks of the Canal du Midi in the Languedoc Region.

Note the title of this blog is copied from the title of Patrick Gale’s course in October.

Hunter Building, Vic University Wellington

Victoria University Wellington

But now back to the creative writing course held in Wellington, New Zealand.

Imagine a dark Tuesday evening in the middle of winter.  The course was run at the local University in one of its older buildings.  I seem to remember that it was always cold in the study room; perhaps they turned the heating off once the main body of students had left for the day.  Most of the building was deserted and the cafeteria was closed for the day so no cups of hot coffee for us.

Fifteen of us started the course that was run by  well-known NZ writer Bill Manhire, but in memory only about 11 of us completed it.  This was no holiday course.  It was hard work.  The fact that such a large percentage of people dropped out was disheartening .  Bill was rather a hard taskmaster but he was inspirational.  Praise wasn’t lightly given and so was all the more welcome when it came one’s way.

Anyway, back to the task.  I chose to write as a 70-year-old to my younger self.  Little did I know then how quickly the years would pass until I became a 70-year-old.  I wrote as a fond (maiden) aunt might; praising my young self and encouraging her/me on my life journey.  I don’t remember quite what I said – we didn’t all have laptops then – but I do know that having completed the task I thought how nice it would be to receive such a letter from an aunt or a caring relative.

That then made me think of other letters I might write.  In fact, it encouraged me to write to my parents thanking them for the childhood my sisters and I had experienced and for the love and caring they showered upon us.  I knew, from talking to others, that not everybody had been so lucky and I thought it important to let them know that I appreciated them.  And now that they are no longer here I am so very glad that I did write that letter.

And now I ask you “Is there somebody to whom you would like to write a letter before it is too late?”  I think there is nothing more cheering than receiving a hand written letter from a friend or relative.

The World Is Going To End

The house had been sold in record time and arrangements for her to move into the retirement facility had been accomplished without any hitch.

But now, sitting in her packed up house, Elizabeth thought “The world is going to end in three days time.”  Or at least the world as she had known it up to now.

She had moved into this house as a young bride 45 years ago and now she was to leave it behind.  She would be leaving many memories both happy and sad.  Memories of days when her children were young, the accidental death of her son and the wedding of her daughter.  These memories were shared with Charles, her beloved.  But after Charles died, life did begin to be lonely.  Her daughter had her own family to take up her time.  Her friends were moving away and the house and garden were beginning to be too large for her to manage on her own.

Reluctantly she had agreed to her daughter’s suggestion that they look at what retirement villages had to offer and which if any might suit her.  There followed weeks of looking at places that if one believed their brochures, were absolutely perfect for her, but mostly they didn’t live up to her expectations. She had almost given up hope of finding the right place.

And then one day, while at the supermarket, she met an old acquaintance.  After they loaded their shopping into their cars they went off for a coffee and a catch up.

Over coffee, Rex told her that he had recently moved into a splendid retirement village.  He had his own small house; there were plenty of leisure facilities and people of his own age  with whom to spend some cheerful time.  In return Elizabeth told him of her search for a place in which to live.  He had piqued her interest and they parted agreeing to keep in touch…..

___________________________

Trifecta tricycle

This is my entry in this week’s Trifecta Challenge. It follows on Fireworks an earlier entry in the Challenge.

“For the weekend challenge, we’re playing the ambiguity card again and leaving interpretation up to you.  Give us 33-333 words with this as your inspiration:

The world will end in three days.

If you want to join in, click on the tricycle above and you will be taken to Trifecta’s blog that contains all the instructions.  Do have a go.  I promise you it is fun.

Fireworks

“No, no, no” she cried in a spectacular display of temper “I shall not go and that’s an end to it.” Who would have thought that a kindly suggestion could cause such fireworks?

Elizabeth was getting older and although she wouldn’t admit it, she was finding it increasingly difficult to manage on her own.  Her only daughter, being concerned for her mother’s well-being, had taken it upon herself to investigate some assisted living/retirement homes for her.  And the suggestion that they go that afternoon and view one or two of these, was what caused this outburst.

“I am perfectly capable of looking after myself, thank you very much” said Elizabeth and “Your father and I bought the house when we were first married and that’s where you lived your life until you were married.  How could you even suggest that I move out into a little, cramped apartment, surrounded by old people?”

The daughter was at a loss as to what to do next.  But after making her mother a cup of tea and offering a slice of the cake she had made that morning, she decided to leave her mother in peace for the rest of the day.  However, as she was leaving Elizabeth asked her daughter to leave the brochures behind and she would look through them when she had time.

Imagine the daughter’s surprise when the very next morning she had a call from an excited Elizabeth who was keen to look at a couple of places and could they go that afternoon.  Of course, she would be delighted to take her mother and of course they could go that afternoon.

So the fireworks display had been necessary for Elizabeth to vent her distress but the distress it caused to the loving daughter was unnecessary.  And at least the ice was broken and even if they didn’t find anything suitable that day, they could continue to search until they did.

———————

Trifecta tricycle

This is my entry in this week’s Trifecta Challenge.  The challenge is to write a response using between 33 and 333 words (just scraped in at 324 words) using the word fireworks and the definition below :

Fireworks (Noun) – 
a. display of temper or intense conflict – b. a spectacular display.

If you want to join in, click on the tricycle above and you will be taken to Trifecta’s blog that contains all the instructions.  Do have a go.  I promise you it is fun.

The Bonnets – Lost

The taxi  duly arrived and the two girls climbed into the back….

By now Daisie was exhausted with the music, the noise, the chatter and the dubious drinks she had consumed both at the party and at the nightclub.  She almost fell into the back of the taxi and immediately went to sleep.  This left Charlotte, who was rather the worse for drink (she had lost count of what and how many) to instruct the taxi driver to their destination.  Unfortunately, in her befuddled way she gave the driver the address of her house instead of Daisie’s.  Daisie slept through the ride only waking when Charlotte shook her as they arrived at their destination.

Charlotte paid the driver and walked rather unsteadily towards her front door with Daisie following sleepily.  The two girls entered the house and went to Charlotte’s room where they immediately fell asleep.

They were awakened the next morning by Charlotte’s mother who in turn had been awakened by Daisie’s mother who was worried when the girls hadn’t arrived home.  It had been too late to call when they arrived the night before and neither girl awoke early enough to put Juliet’s mind at ease.

After hurried breakfast Daisie departed to face her mother.  And it was then that she realised that the two bonnets they had borrowed from Maisie and her friends were missing.  Presumably still in the back of the taxi.  She was in a blue funk.**

Having unsuccessfully tried to locate the taxi and the missing bonnets, Daisie felt very low in spirits.  How was she going to tell her beloved grandmother Maisie that the two bonnets were missing?  She was not sure how she would take the news.  But, being a child of the 21st Century she decided there was nothing to do but to go and face her Grandmother, and see whether together they could perhaps come up with a way of tracing the missing bonnets.

Photo thanks to Sallyann at Photographic Memories.
Click on the photo to go to Sallyann’s post.

** Note.  Thanks to Christine at Trudging Through Fog for pointing out that I had not used the word ‘blue’ in my post.  This sentence was added after that.

This is the fourth in the series about the bonnets.  If you haven’t read the earlier posts check the links – The Bonnets The Bonnets Part 2 The Bonnets Part 3.  It is also a continuation of the Hats Series.  Links to The Hats posts appear on each of the above three posts.

Trifecta tricycleAnd this last post fitted in well with Trifecta’s challenge this week and so this is my entry.  The challenge is to write an entry between 33 and 333 words using the third definition of the word BLUE (adjective) :
1  : of the color blue
2  a : bluish
b : discolored by or as if by bruising
c : bluish gray
3  a : low in spirits : melancholy
    b : marked by low spirits : depressing <a blue funk> <things looked blue>

If you want to try your hand at the challenge, you can find the complete guidelines on the Trifecta site by clicking the tricycle picture.

Writing a Novel

“There are three rules for writing a novel.
Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
 W. Somerset Maugham

Like many others I have always wanted to write a novel.  I have written and had published several short fiction pieces but not a novel.

I used to say that when the time was right; when I no longer went to the office every day; when I had the perfect place blah blah blah.  Well I did have all these things together at one time.

When he was about 56 my late husband decided to retire.  We bought a fabulous property in a small bay in the Marlborough Sounds at the top of the South Island here in New Zealand.  The Sounds are rather like fjords; they are  network of sea-drowned valleys (or rias) created by a combination of land subsidence and rising sea levels.

Willow Bay

Willow Bay

So, we bought our little bit of paradise and settled in.  Paradise was short-lived though as my husband became very ill and spent a long time in the local hospital.  Local being used here in a general manner – it was 60 kms away from us much of it on an unsealed road.  You can read more of this if you are interested in an earlier post – Paradise, Phones and Phrustration.

Anyway, once he came out of hospital (and even before then) the time was right;I no longer worked; I had the perfect spot (the study looked out down the Sound) so all was in place.  But where was my muse?  I had always had several plots running around my brain but now there were none.  How could that be one might ask.  Well my answer is that I think I was too busy just rejoicing in the fact that he had recovered, relaxing and thinking there was always another day, another time to write the novel.  Saying today we will just explore our new surroundings, take out the boat or go for a drive.  And of course, after Robert was so very ill, doing things together became more important and the Great New Zealand Novel never got written (not by me at any rate).

New Novelist cover

This was the first version. Version 3 is now available

After he died, once again I thought about my novel.  I went as far as to buy software to help me to write it.  Its preamble stated “Let’s face it – writing a book takes time. LOTS of it. Until now, aspiring writers and novelists faced – and let’s be honest – a gut-wrenching, slow and grueling writing process.” and it claimed to break ” down the process of writing into manageable chunks, to help experienced and novice writers complete a novel.”  All well and good.  But in all honesty, this only confused me more.  I went back to the old way,  notebooks, cards and the computer while the  software in its box languishes on the shelf.   But still the novel eludes me.  I think that I shall have to be content with writing my blogs and the occasional piece for a magazine.

But watch this space – I may surprise us all yet.

“Writing is the hardest way of earning a living, with the possible exception of wrestling alligators.”
Olin Miller

It’s a good job I am not reliant on writing my novel.  If I were I would probably starve.

New Hats

Women's hat

From "Woman's World" August 1930

“What fun” thought Maisie..  Shopping for hats with her favourite friends.  And these three had shared so much together since they met in school all those years ago.  They knew instinctively which hats would suit.

“This is my treat” cried Maisie as they entered the shop.  She immediately pounced on a dove grey felt that she absolutely knew that Juliet would love; and she did.  Then she picked out a pretty pink concoction for Imogen noticing how pale and drawn her friend looked that day.  No doubt she was suffering pain from the damaged arm and shoulder.  And for herself she chose a darker grey, soft cloche that she could pull over her hair when her hairdresser hadn’t called that day.

After demurring slightly, the other two were delighted with their hats and all three women trotted off to board their omnibus for home.

They talked about the rest of the day – first a trip to their homes for Juliet and Maisie to bathe and change, and probably a telephone call to Sir Percy Carruthers to assure him that his wife was well, had been looked after at the hospital and discharged that morning.  The three women separated, Maisie and Imogen going to Maisie’s house and Juliet to hers with the promise to meet after luncheon to take tea together.

Good plan.  But of course, with these three women it didn’t work out as desired.  As soon as Maisie and Imogen arrived at Maisie’s house they were met by a thunderous Sir Percy who told them that he had been summoned from an important meeting by his housekeeper to be told of the disgraceful carry on of his wife and her two friends.  It was bad enough that he heard the night before how they had arrived, slightly the worse for drink, but then to be advised this morning that his wife had spent the night in hospital was too much for an honest man to bear.  He demanded that Imogen immediately return with him to their town house where she would stay while he concluded his business.  That done they would return to Horley for her to recuperate in peace without the disturbing influence of her two friends.

Maisie was sorry to see Imogen go but realised that Sir Percy, who was still trying to show the world that all was well in his marriage,  really had taken control.  So she retired to her dressing room to wash and change and then after a quick luncheon, Sir Percy and Lady Carruthers left.

Maisie took her after-luncheon coffee into her sitting room and attended to some correspondence.  That done, she picked up a magazine to await the arrival of Juliet.  What would they do for the afternoon?

Well of course, once she arrived at Maisie’s, Juliet said that they must go around to Imogen’s to cheer her up.  She couldn’t be left alone.  No sooner decided than Maisie summoned her chauffeur Higgins to drive them to their friend’s house.

Once again they had tea but they decided to leave Sir Percy’s cellar untouched.  They talked and laughed again as they always did, but shortly after tea, Imogen said she was tired and her arm and shoulder hurt, so she thought she would lie down before Percy arrived back from his meetings.

That left the other two at a loose end.  So shopping came to their minds.  Not hats as they each had a new one, but perhaps some new gloves to go with the hats; then perhaps a quick cocktail before returning home to prepare for the evening.

A Hackney carriage was summoned by Sir Percy’s valet and the two women left promising to be in touch with Imogen very soon.

women's gloves

© Art Deco Society of California

A visit to Mr Simpson’s emporium produced the perfect gloves for each of the ladies and so sporting their latest acquisitions they crossed the street to a very modest establishment where ladies could sit and have a cocktail while watching the passing parade in the street.  They were seated and had just lit their cigarettes when they saw Johnny Crompton-Mayhew and a couple of his cronies.  Johnny espied them and immediately came into the establishment assuring them that it wasn’t the done thing for them to be drinking cocktails alone and insisting that they joined him and his friends.  They accepted with alacrity and putting out the cigarettes, after downing their cocktails, they followed the fellows.

You can probably imagine where this story is going.  One drink led to another and another and soon there was talk of going to a club for dinner and dancing.  Of course the women couldn’t go dressed as they were and so they decided to go back to Maisie’s whose house was the closest to change and prepare for an evening out,.  They would meet the fellows at around 9 pm at the nightclub.

What happened next?  They bade Johnny and his friends farewell with the promise to meet as agreed.  They had the porter call a Hackney Cab for them and…..

Two women on beach

Oh yes, they still had on their hats but...

Related Posts:

Hats On
Hats On Again