December 19, 2010

Birdsong and Piano Music

Writing about web page

Chopin's Études: Opus 10 No. 1 "Waterfall" is played in the background by my lovely talented son, competing with the slow trickle of water as my hubby washes the meat ready for tonight's meal, which in turn competes with the sound of the judges on Master Chef India who make Gregg Wallace and John Torode sound like big softies. 

Outside, the snow is thick and virginal.  Barely a soul has ventured out in it, and I can't say I blame them.  A flame-red breasted Robin feeds hungrily on the sunflower seeds in one of the feeders hanging from the mock orange tree in the garden.  As he leaves, a Blue Tit flies in to take his place on the perch, while another goes for the peanuts in the feeder nearby.  Then a Coal Tit appears.  In the background, I think I spy a sparrow.  The dark shade in the interior branches makes it difficult to make out exactly what it is.  I wonder where the colourful Bullfinches and Green Woodpecker have gone, and think that maybe I should know more about the wildlife that visits my garden. 

From the Sparrows, Robins and Tits I need to transport myself to the land of Koyals and Bulbuls and Peacocks, the colourful Mor and his beloved Morni.  I wonder how I'll transport myself from this snowladen England to the warmth of India in September, decades ago.  I'd better get into the mood somehow.  It's been a while since I worked on my novel and the next chapter needs to be ready for submission on 5th January.  Better get writing then...      

December 16, 2010

Call for Book Donations for raise money for Anthology of Student Writing, MA in Writing, Warwick Uni

Writing about web page

The Ma in Writing students are producing an Anthology of their writing.  In order to do so, we need to raise enough money to cover all costs incurred.  If we don't raise enough, we can't ahead.  Simple as that.  So we need lots of fundraising ideas and activities.

One idea is to contact writers and publishers and see if they would be able to donate any books - especially signed ones - to help us raise some money. 

These are some examples of how the books may be used to raise money:

1) help sell pre-order vouchers - at each event where vouchers are sold, a book will be offered as a prize in a prize draw

2) if possible, and if we manage to get some big names involved, we may be able to auction books

3) books may be offered as raffle prizes

4) any excess books may be sold at launch or other fundraising events

Are there any writers and publishing houses out there willing to donate some books to us?  Please help us if you can! 

We will try to credit everyone who's made donations even if it's a general 'thank you' rather than a specific mention (which we'll do if there's enough space!). 

Many thanks to the generosity of those who have donated already.

December 06, 2010

What I've Learned So Far

Writing about web page

Well, I've written about the weather, the snow, the travel delays and the early starts but only a little about what I've learned. 

There have been writing exercises, tips, lots of things learned from my fellow students, among them internet rules and suggestions of books to read and films to watch, and peer feedback - some constructive and some not.  And with it all, lots of laughter along the way, and cakes and mince pies and cup cakes, lunches eaten together and discussions and singing over late lunches and cups of tea and on the buses.

I'll try to share some of these.

Winter Wonderland and more Monday Morning Blues

The wicked Snow Queen was out today ensnaring the world with her frosty glare, sending shivers through all the land. What wouldn't I have given to be wrapped up warm in her fur-lined sleigh and a drink of the melted Turkish Delight? 

Especially when my car broke down at -6.6 centigrade on the busy ring road and had to ring 999 to request assistance from the Police to move my car out of the 'live traffic' to a safe location.  Needless to say, I felt like the woman who dialled 999 because her snowman had been stolen.  I had to tell the operative that I'd been told to ring them by the AA, just in case they thought I was some clueless nutter who thought they had nothing better to do than move broken down cars out of the way of oncoming traffic. 

It was surreal to have a policeman push my car while a policewoman drove the police car behind me, across the traffic, lights flashing, blocking the traffic to protect me from being hit.  Then they left me parked on double yellow lines - that's got to be a first, I'm sure.  

During the forty minute wait for the AA I could feel my fingers and toes go from tingling with cold to feeling like I'd put them in the freezer.  I couldn't tell if I imagined, or could actually feel, ice chrystals starting to form in the blood in my fingers and toes.  I breathed warm breath into my gloves to try to slow down the freeze.  As though to mirror what was happening to me, the car was starting to be covered in white.  Until now, having been parked under the car port overnight, it had escaped the blanket of overnight frost.  Now the frost seemed to be bent on reclaiming the victim that had escaped its clutches.  Like Death claiming its victims in Final Destination.   

The vision of the yellow AA van was like a desert oasis - or the fur-lined sleigh in the deepest Narnian snow.  Only there was not much snow.  Just frost that was so thick it looked like snow. 

Frost so thick it didn't melt even by my journey home from uni about six hours later.  That's apparently not destined to melt for a while because we're in the clutches of an Arctic freeze according to the news headlines.  So maybe the Snow Queen's mode of transport will be the best for a little while yet.       

November 22, 2010

More Monday Morning Blues

So, this morning, the alarm doesn't go off and I'm woken up by 'wake up, the alarm didn't go off!'  Jolted from sleep, I look around and see 7.12am on the face of the clock radio.  Past the time I should be leaving the house.  I drag myself out of bed and feel shattered, suffering the consequences of finishing the last thirty or so pages of Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things before going to sleep.  

I rush to get ready and am ready to leave the house by 8pm but end up still there at 8.12 because my son's not ready and somehow I get roped into taking him to school.  It's on the way to the railway station.  I'm in panic mode by the time I leave and the traffic is SLOWer than a snail and of course, all the traffic lights are red. My heart is thumping inside my chest and I cuss every slow driver who won't get a move on because I need to get through the lights before they change to red again.  I don't make it through.  Sunday drivers on a Monday morning.  Not good news.

As I go to the ticket machine, a young woman approaches me asking if I've got change for a fiver.  I know the feeling of turning up somewhere and realising that I don't have the right change or coin denominations, so I don't want to walk away and disappoint her.  I'm not sure, I tell her, but if I have, she can have it.  She looks on with anticipation as the coins drop into the machine.  With it happily fed and about to burp out the ticket, I discover I do have change after all and drop it into the woman's hand.  She smiles and thanks me.  I've saved her from hanging around waiting for someone else to turn up who might have some change to share.

The watch is not my friend.  It's far later than I want it to be, and I race uphill to the station.  There's work going on the tracks so coaches have been organised for some of the journeys.  You'd think drivers didn't ever have to use a diversion before the way some lunatics are driving - or not, as the case might be.  Thankfully, they're out of my way.  I race through the entrance and then use all my remaining energy to get up one flight of stairs, across a bridge and then down another flight of stairs.  It uses up all my energy and I think my heart is thumping its way out of my chest Alien style.  Perhaps the God of Plenty will see my good deed this morning and delay the train for a bit, I think to myself.  I make it onto the train with about thirty seconds to spare before it sets off.  Maybe my good deed paid off. 

As the train sets off I feel sick, my heart is pounding so much and I can't breathe through my nose.  I take huge gulps of air but suffer for it because as cold air hits my throat it chills my larynx and triggers a cough.  I drink water and it takes me about five minutes for the heart to calm down, but the cough splutters on, shunning my efforts to make it stop.  The cold water doesn't help, nor does the lozenge I suck on.  The menthol in it makes my cough worse.  The girl in the next seat has shuffled away from me as far as she can go.  I want to turn around and tell her I haven't got a cough or a cold, it's allergies and a sensitive throat, but she doesn't look like she wants to be anywhere near me, never mind talk to me.

A bag search discovers a different kind of lozenge.  No menthol.  It does the trick after a few minutes.  I settle down to read the last piece of writing to be workshopped later in the morning.  I finish just as I reach Coventry. 

Then it's a race for the number 12 bus to uni.    

November 21, 2010

Polished Mirror

Writing about web page

I can't remember where I read these words, but today, I came across 'polished mirror'.  The first thing that popped into my head was:

My writing is like a polished mirror.  If there's no foundation, there is nothing to polish.  There has to be a rough sketch, a starting point.  If I don't sit down to write, then I will not have anything to polish later through editing and redrafting. 

I've known that you have to write something, no matter how bad it seems.  If there's nothing there, there's nothing to improve.  The 'blank screen', the writer's nightmare.  In the hardest of times, a few lines written are better than no lines at all.  Those few lines can act as prompts at the next writing session, and so the cycle will progress until you're able to write with greater fluidity. 

I just never thought of it as a polished mirror before.  I like that image.  I want to remember it so that the next time I hit a block, I hope the phrase will help me, spur me on, deliver me from the dark, fuzzy mirk of writer's block.  I want the clarity of that polished mirror. 

Is your writing like a polished mirror?  How do you deal with the fuzzy mirror?  

November 16, 2010

Chinese Whispers

Well, our assignments for the Research Methods module are due about now.  I say 'about now' because no-one seems to know exactly when they're due!  My understanding is that they're both due this Friday.  Other people have all sorts of combinations, including Wendnesday next week, which is a bit dangerous because if it's due Friday but hand in the Wednesday after, then you've missed the deadline.  Not a good start to the course if you manage to miss the first submission deadline. 

The experience confirms that to know exactly what we need to do and when, it's best to check with our Postgrad secretary. 

It's scary to think how easy it would be to miss a due date.  I'd hate to jeopardies my course because of something like this.  Vigilance is the key...

November 15, 2010

Monday Morning Blues

Writing about web page

Well, it was bound to happen. I forgot to take my work into uni to hand out for next week's workshop and remembered on the railway platform. Couldn't get hubby to print and bring to me because the memory stick with the work on was in uni bag on my person at the time.  I'd thought it felt too light when I left the house but couldn't figure out why.  Shame I got to the startion before I realsed!   

Okay, don't panic, Raj.  There's bound to be a solution.  Go into the uni library and see about printing some copies.  It worked only inside my head. Apparently, the library 'don't have anything to do with' and the IT Helpdesk I was sent to wasn't even open, despite it being theoretically open.  Emphasis on the theoretically.  In a different Dimension, maybe.   

End result: confession in class and offers to email the work to everyone.  I now owe 12 people cake next Monday.

What flavour?  Not Costa Lemon  - that didn't go down too well last time.  Chocolate? 

Note to self: take cake to class on Monday.  Flavour TBC.

November 08, 2010

Better News – Assignments and Stuff

Better day today, except that I felt unwell and couldn't breathe through my nose.  Time of the year has something to do with it, being the soggiest day in a while.  Lots of drenched students around, with a myriad colours of brollies.  In my imagination more than in reality.  Most people had black, some pink or red, some blue.  Many with spikes out on show and compromised function as a result. 

The Portfolio we need to submit seems a long way off, but February will soom be here and I want to be organised.  I need to work on the basis that someone usually goes pear-shaped near submission, so why tempt fate? 

I want to start asap, so I asked about what the submission entails.  I don't want to know things like word count etc - I already know stuff like that from the MA in Writing Handbook.  What I need to know are things like:

- can we submit writing that has been workshopped, or must it be new writing?

- what does the critical analysis/commentary entail?  I know I've got to show problems and solutions, but I didn't know if this was to be in a formal, academic, essay style, or whether it should be in a more relaxed, personal reflection in the first person which read more like a writing log.

I feel happier now that it's been clarified and want to make a start on it as soon as I can.  First, I need to start writing the next chapter of my creative piece for my next workshop.  I realised today that I've got to take it in next Monday ready to workshop the following week!  So soon?  It'll be the last workshop for me this semester, so I'd like to use it for an experiment. 

Better get stuck into it, I guess.  I need to sort out what's what in the novel synopsis and novel chapters - or maybe look at character conflicts.  Linking the main threads for my two main characters needs attention.  Maybe I should use the workshop to look at that. 

Hmm...  time to don the thinking cap.  Before that, I need to get my Research Methods work done.  Better get on with then.       

November 03, 2010

Mid Term already

Well, already it's week 5 of term.  Half way through the first term of three and I've barely been able to do any writing.  With any luck the hardest bits of home life are over now and I can get on with finding some creativity again.

It was the last lecture for Research Methods today.  I went in early as usual, keen to try and make headway with the assignments for the module, and to meet with Ted, my fellow student, to discuss elements of the novel I'm working on.  It's been a productive day: I managed to complete the research databases elements of my assignment and have decided that I'll review Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie for the Book Review assignment which is designed to test our ability to work with the MHRA referencing system.

Okay, enough of the assignments!  It's great getting to know some of the other students in my group.  We often don't get much time together outside of lectures, and not living on campus makes it more difficult for me to get to know the others.  When I have a uni day I try to get there early and allow time to have a drink after workshops instead of rushing off for the train home. We're all becoming a little easier in each other's company and it's making a lot of difference to me.

We've all started to work on or discuss our assignments for Research Methods, which is due in Week 7, which is not far away now.  Also, we've started to chat about our final module submissions for Week 10 for Warwick Fiction Workshop 1.  The only trouble is, we end up with more questions than we started with!  There are lots of things to be discussed with the lecturers, I guess.

And I'm dreading using the MHRA system again for the critical analysis and review parts of the assignments.  I wish the system would get modified and made easier.  Why does pulling teeth spring to mind?    

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