Despite encouragement and advice from poets and writers of prose that I meet up with I have so far resisted writing in a poetry style. After a few glasses of wine I enjoy stringing together some rhyming doggerel and having a laugh.
But real poetry? no.
I went to a short workshop a couple of years ago and realised that I didn’t understand the way poetry works and I shut the door of my mind to it.
All that changed during an Arvon course I attended at Lumb Bank. Ann Sansom, an inspirational and nurturing teacher (and writer) of poetry, got me started. She shed a light on the fact that some of my short flash fiction reads like poetry anyway, and that was the single aha! moment that banished my fear of trying.
I know I’m rambling but I have had a poem accepted for publication and it has made my day. Watch this space.
Thank you Ann!
This story is one of my favourites and Dear Damsels have selected it for their online collection in June 2018, so I’m very proud of it.
Tarot in the Blue Tent is an example of ‘writing what you know’, which is often sound advice for newish writers. I’m an enthusiastic medieval re-enactor and I love designing and sewing costumes for medieval events. And my usual role at these re-enactments is as a tarot card reader. So that’s two topics I’ve got direct experience of and have researched quite a bit.
On the topic of research, my friend author Natalie Fergie has done a lot of research on sewing machines and the west of Scotland at the turn of the 19/20th centuries. Her breadth of knowledge astounded me in her novel The Sewing Machine. Beautifully crafted, poignant and authentic, her book is well worth a read.
A number of my recent stories are set in the Middle East or Turkey and I have enjoyed creating them. I was delighted to hear from poetry center san jose, California-based ‘Caesura’, that one of my stories had been included in their Caesura online anthology.
It’s a sombre story and a piece of our era. Terrorists and doctors, journalists, young mothers with tiny children seeking to become ISIL brides, all blend into a gritty tale of the twenty-first century.
Sometimes you have to be very patient after you have submitted a story for consideration by a press. Not so with Australia-based Pure Slush, a no-nonsense and very fast-response online publication.
Here’s what their founder said about Pure Slush’s aims:
Founding editor Matt Potter, when asked what Pure Slush is ‘about’ in an interview with Fictionaut in December 2010, said, with reference to flash fiction: “Fun, humour, attention, absurdity, humanity, love, sex, more fun and more humour and more absurd humanity. (Wank, wank!) Stories big and small, but not too big, hence the 500 word limit. Maybe some posturing, but definitely not macho posturing!”
So at the beginning of December I submitted my quirky little piece in response to a call for SIX TIPS ON ANYTHING and waited – for a mere 79 minutes.
All the way to Australia and back. Matt accepted my story in less than an hour and a half. Seriously impressive.
Thanks Matt, and here is my piece of silliness he published –
The Honourable Lady Philomena Partington-Smythe’s Six Steps On How To Deal With A Crisis While Baking A Lemon Drizzle Cake
by Shirley Muir
1. If your cake is still baking when disaster strikes, seek out your oven manual and read the ‘setting the timer’ instructions. Set the timer so your cake will be finished even if you have to abandon your place in the kitchen before that time.
2. Leave a fire extinguisher by the oven if you are unable to set the timer properly. Do not switch off the oven if your cake is still cooking. See 1.
3. If you are obliged to vacate the premises, brush any stray flour off your open recipe book and close it, marking the page with a tasteful bookmark. (Mine is a portrait of Her Majesty The Queen). Keep the recipe book safe as you want to avoid someone stealing it in order to copy your recipe.
4. Close the kitchen doors and windows so there is no unwanted draught to fan any flames in the event of a fire. If the house is on fire call the fire service.
5. If catastrophe befalls during inclement weather collect your Wellington boots, a waterproof coat and an umbrella on the way out. Do take your house key. Make sure the servants are aware that they must not desert their posts.
6. If you have to leave the house, seek out a large shopping bag (your maid will direct you) and carefully select from the larder all the ingredients listed in your recipe. You will need these if your kitchen is destroyed and you are forced to bake a second lemon drizzle cake to replace the lost one.
Linda Tyler and I have one or two similar goals. Linda writes historical fiction – novels, in fact. I admire her work.
I dabble in science fiction – short stories only, and I suspect Linda would never try that.
We both travel quite a bit and we are both interested in writing about our travels, whether fiction or non-fiction. Senior Travel Expert is a useful and intelligent site for people interested in travel and travel writing. They run regular competitions and the quality of the work they select is very high.
I want to congratulate Linda on her recent success with Senior Travel Writing Expert. She travelled to Switzerland in 2016 and has written an impressive and engaging tale of her visit to the site of Sherlock Holmes’s demise which is now published online.
Her piece is a highly commended entry in their Travel & Water Writing Competition.
Well done, Linda!
I get lots of rejections in response to my submitted stories, and I get some acceptances, too. Some organisations which have rejected my work have supplied unrequested yet highly valuable feedback. This is a real bonus to a developing writer.
Firewords is a superb example of a publication that responds quickly, lets you down gently yet tells you what was good about your story and how it could be improved. And they ask you please to submit again. The people at Firewords to my mind are extraordinary in their understanding of writers.
In contrast, one rejection that came through last year was for a piece I had submitted seven months earlier. Now I have a lot of stories that I edit and submit on a regular basis but not enough that I can happily wait seven months for a decision on all of them.
Realistically, I knew after a couple of months that if they loved my work I would have heard from them. But hope always lingers, doesn’t it?
Some publications let you know within a fortnight or so and are kind in their response. I respect those publications. They must be run by writers.
Well, I didn’t mean to moan but I have worked out that organisations that respond quickly and helpfully have been in the business of evaluating writers’ work for a long time. Those who take ages and don’t understand how we feel are new to the role. They will no doubt learn in time. I suspect some writers will not submit a second time if they feel unappreciated.
For the moment I will remain loyal to people like Firewords and other organisations who email me to encourage further submissions.
As a new and rejection-familiar writer little gems of encouragement go a long way.
I saw this little pile of grey feathers lying at the roadside as I walked in the country lane today. It was probably a bird yesterday. Pretty feathers, transient life.
A grey pigeon, perhaps? They land on the wires and coo every day.
We have some robins in the bushes by my window and I wonder if they are on their way to Africa for the winter but I don’t even know if they migrate.
I managed to write only a few words for my novel today but will make more of an effort tomorrow.
I passed the half way mark yesterday and heaved a great sigh of relief. And then I saw my watch had stopped. What is this magical power over me that insists on telling the wrong time during Nano? And now… spooky… the watch is going again. It had a rest for two hours…
I’ve been here in Turkey for seven weeks now, and in that time it has only rained on two days. Every other day it has been sunny. This is so good for the spirit, regular blue sky and sunshine.
Even as I write I can see some shafts of light piercing the heavy pillows of cloud. Yesss! The sun may appear, but more writing will be done if I am confined to barracks because of rain.
My laptop is determined to tell me I have more hours left to write than I actually have. I keep resetting it to the correct time and it keeps changing it back when I’m not looking.
So today, knowing that I am in the Istanbul time zone and knowing that I am actually in western Turkey I have had to pretend to the laptop that I am in Minsk. Minsk is the same as Baghdad and Moscow so I hope the laptop doesn’t notice and allows me to stay three hours ahead of the UK.
And now to rain more words on the Nano novel.
Day seven input here I come…
A new day dawns in Uzumlu and the sky is once more blue. Outside temperature at 8am was a chilly 4.5 degrees so the woolly cardigan has been dug out of the wardrobe.
Starting at the beginning and writing one chapter after another, I am working now on chapter three, and I am very satisfied with progress.
However today I think I shall work on some later sections of the novel, a bit scary. I am very conscious that the setting of this book is inadequate. I have rushed at it as a storyteller and need to be more of a writer. But these things can be fixed and I shall fix them.
I think I shall play a bit more with my novel’s mind map, which I have drawn up in FreeMind. Great fun and a very illuminating exercise for a novel. And it’s free!
Not sure that I can fix my lack of hot water, though. One of the amazing and delightful things about this house is the water tank on the roof that is always full of hot water – provided the sun is shining. And it is shining. It shines for almost all of every day. So I hope it’s a short blip as I don’t want another lukewarm shower tomorrow morning. hmmm…