Sunday, 30 December 2012

Marina Warner's Grimm Thoughts

Here is a link to BBC4's series 'Grimm Thoughts', where Marina Warner discusses various aspects of Grimm, including origins of specific tales, links to real people, what happened during the Nazi period, censorship, modern influence, and much more.

Some of the programmes are still available in full, others only have short clips up to listen to. I hope you can listen to these outside the UK!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Grimm Wallpapers

This is a quick feature on Corey Godby, a talented artist who has released a series of beautiful digital paintings based on Grimm and other folk tales, and has put them up for free download (or offer a donation!) on his website. You can download the wallpapers here, visit his website here, or take a look at his blog here.

LRRH by Corey Godby

Monday, 10 December 2012

There's something wrong with Gwen...

Angel Coulby as Guinevere in BBC's 'Merlin'
Readers, as you'll have noticed by now, I love my legends of King Arthur. I moaned about 'Camelot' as I re-discovered and enjoyed 'Merlin', and I couldn't believe it when I found out Caerleon was IS Camelot. Apologies to the readers who follow for fairy tale or writing related ramblings, but this is a 'Merlin'-related rant (that may contain spoilers, so be warned!) about feminism and the depiction of women on TV.

So...anyone noticed that something is wrong with Gwen? I don't mean the way she was brainwashed by Morgana, I mean before that. And after that. The girl who was so active, so passionate, and so kind to everyone in the previous series has become passive and distant now that she has married. I used to think it was very cool to show a woman who deserved to become queen, who lived her life like a queen even though she was a servant. But now...Gwen has become Arthur's accessory.

She sits meekly at Arthur's side and does nothing. She doesn't talk kindly (at all, really) to Merlin, even though they were friends. And she has lost her passion and compassion (I'm thinking about how she obediently 'performed her duty' of sentencing a young girl to be executed. She tried to alleviate her conscience by taking a chance on the fact that the girl's father would show up and try to rescue her, which is a far cry from actually standing up for what she believed in, which is that the girl was innocent.)

Katie McGrath as Morgana
Strangely enough, when Morgana brainwashed her in that dark tower, Gwen became more like the person she used to be. She began to sneak around, actively trying to accomplish what she believed in. She acknowledged her roots, the fact that she came from a 'normal' background. She took the time to relate to Morgana and feel her pain, wanting to bring her justice, unlike the girl she sentenced to be executed, whose pain she wanted to ignore and whose fate she wanted to leave to chance.

Of course, Merlin and Arthur saved the day and 'cured' Gwen. She went back to being the docile, passive woman they had grown accustomed to. Unsurprisingly, that was the end of Gwen as a prominent part of the storyline. And did anything come of it? Well...she did say 'thank you' to Merlin, I suppose.

I feel this brings up the familiar discussions about women giving up their lives when they become married, and of the women in stories who are dangerous purely because they have agency. But what really makes me cross this time is that the BBC has shamelessly and clearly shown Gwen change from strong to weak, active to passive, admirable to deplorable. This is a children's show, it has a 19:30 time slot, and the ONLY female character who represents the force for good is sitting around looking pretty. So much for the role model.






Saturday, 1 December 2012

Mirror Dance is up!

The Winter 2012 issue of Mirror Dance has gone up, and I'm thrilled that my short story, Goodnight, Sweet Lady, has been included in this issue! It's also fantastic to be published alongside L.C. Ricardo of Spinning Straw Into Gold, whose writing on and dedication to fairy tales I greatly admire. Make sure to have a look at all the wonderful work published, and if you like what you read then please leave a comment, however brief, as I know it will be appreciated by the authors.

Have a lovely weekend everyone, and enjoy the snow if you're lucky enough to be in the right part of the country for it!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Upcoming publication: Old Oak & The Maiden

Wow, two acceptances this month! I'm thrilled that Old Oak & The Maiden has been accepted for publication in Scheherezade's Bequest! This really is so exciting for me: when I began writing and attempting to get my stories published two years ago, one of the first submissions I made was to SB. It was, unsurprisingly, rejected. And now, to have a story accepted by them...it's something I can clearly measure my success against, you know?

I'm always disappointed that as someone who wants to use words to make a living, I never find the right ones to express myself properly when I'm overexcited!

Anyway...it will be published (in print!) in Spring 2013.

I posted an excerpt on a previous blog post, which you can read here if you're interested...

Thursday, 22 November 2012

When real life has a well balanced plot

Everyone always says books and films are nothing like real life, because for one reason or another, they're not believable. Somehow my life has been the opposite: several situations I've experienced have been so unique, so random, so hilarious or so well-ordered that it just wouldn't seem credible, even in a book or a film! 

Today I had one of those moments. I went into university for the last time (in theory) to finalise details regarding my transfer, and the girl who helped me out was very familiar...she helped me with everything I needed, then said goodbye and wished me luck with the Open University. As I began cycling home, it dawned on me why I recognised her...

When I first came to visit the university 3 years ago, she was the student giving my group the tour.
When I joined the university last year, she registered me.
When I went to visit my academic advisor, she was in the queue to see him as well.
And now, I guess she graduated and stayed to work there.

She was the person to welcome me, and the person to say goodbye to me.

How strange, that the story of my time with Sussex has been balanced like a good plot by the presence of one person. If I ever doubt that I'm doing good in the world, making a difference or simply making the most of my time, it'll be worth remembering that making a mark can be a very subtle thing, something we might not even be aware of ourselves...

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Upcoming publication: Goodnight, sweet lady

Remember the story I wrote that messed with my head, because I couldn't stop thinking in blank verse? Well I just found out that Goodnight, sweet lady has been accepted for publication in the upcoming issue of Mirror Dance, which is showcasing blends of poetry and prose! I'm so excited! 

And it couldn't have come at a better time - the motivational kick this kind of news provides is exactly what I need as I get to grips with all these changes in my life. I'm always amazed at how little set backs can knock you down gradually, almost without noticing, and then one piece of good news can shoot you straight back up. I wasn't even aware of how doubtful I was feeling about my writing, but now that I think about it, I was beginning to feel afraid precisely because I was committing to spend more time on it...and I was afraid of failing. 

I'm going to write as much as I can while I'm riding this wave - a surprise bout of confidence isn't something to waste!

'Nixie' by littletreesprout @ dA
(the picture is a clue to the other characters in the story...!)



Friday, 2 November 2012

Feature: My Brain Orgasm

Today I'd like to feature Jess Squires, a very good friend of mine, whose short book, My Brain Orgasm, has just been released in paperback after a successful stint as an e-book from Amazon.

This is my Amazon comment on the book:
This book is an honest and thought provoking read. I've never come across anything like 'real time psychosis' before, but it was gripping - it's not very long but it flows so naturally that I couldn't put it down.Unusually for a book it contains short hand elements (e.g. 'u' for 'you') and this adds to the real-time feeling and gives a sense that the author had so much to say, it just had to come out as quickly as possible.
What I did not expect was for it to be so beautiful. There is a feeling of euphoria and just pure happiness when the author arrives at her own conclusions and understandings about god and religion.
I think there's generally a lack of public awareness about mental health issues, its a bit of a hush-hush issue (in this country at least) and although there are people and organisations working to change perceptions, there is still a lot of stigma attached. That being said, it is works like this from brave people who are willing to share such a personal experience that will help.
She received her copy of the paperback today and it was so exhilarating to hold it and flick through - I felt so honoured to share that feeling of excitement with her.

If you're at all interested in mental health and want to read something truly unique, then please have a look at this book! For more books about mental health, Jess' publisher deals specifically with books about mental health, and by people who live with mental illness.




Sunday, 28 October 2012

Red Riding Hood dances with the wolf


A bit of fairy tale fun on Strictly Come Dancing this week...


The judges mentioned beauty and the beast in their comments as well, and I'd never considered the two together, but I suppose there's a link in the sexual connotations with girl and animal?

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Why the newest fairy tale magazine might reignite Britain's folk heritage

...Unsettling Wonder was officially launched at the beginning of the month - click the logo to explore the website!



If you follow any of the blogs I link to on my sidebar, then chances are this won't be news for you! But in case you missed the deluge of blog posts last week, here is a bit of information from the website:

Unsettling Wonder is about going back to...that troubling, entrancing glimpse into story. Childhood affords us the first glimpse, but it is by no means the last. And the oldest stories—the fairy tales we met in childhood, the folklore and folk traditions that gave rise to them—can still be woven together for telling today. We want embrace [sic] and celebrate, re-imagine and re-invent, our folk traditions, the wild and variegated scrapheap of story and theme and motif that lies open to the magpie gaze of the writer.

But why do I think Unsettling Wonder could 'reignite Britain's folk heritage'? 

After having a look around the site I was struck by a couple of things: firstly, of the five members of staff listed, four of them have strong links to Britain, particularly to Scotland. Secondly, in the 'about' section of the website, which provides a type of mission statement for the magazine, we can read that the magazine wants to tell the tales of 'Woods and princes, elves and fools, voyages and rolling cheeses, tricksters and righteous sages, kings dressed as beggars, stories told by thieves.' Rolling cheeses? Now, that's not something I've ever seen mentioned specifically before by a fairy tale magazine! Cheese rolling is an ancient - and possibly pagan - British tradition that is still celebrated today in the Cotswolds. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I have never heard of such an event happening elsewhere in the world.

Does the British folk and fairy tale need a renaissance?

Maybe. Maybe not. I think when most people think of the British fairy tale, chances are they'll be thinking of the works of Victorian writers who, for all their moralising, produced great works and great names that stay with us: Andrew Lang, Charles Kingsley, Christina Rossetti...What I personally love is the slightly blurred boundaries between folk tales and fairy tales that occur: Victorians wrote moral versions of familiar fairy tales, but also incorporated that moral tone into stories of fairies, sprites and all the other mischievous little folk whose legends litter our countryside. Kingsley's The Water-Babies is an example of this, yet it is still called a fairy tale.

And things seem to have been a bit quiet since then (although perhaps the passing of time will make it easier to see otherwise...) Fantasy is something that Britain has always done well, in short stories and novels, but I'm not aware of any rejuvenated fairy tales that have had much impact. American writers seem particularly good at producing the 'modern' fairy tale set in, say, a desert or a high school. But I haven't seen many British writers take the fairy tale in that direction - perhaps we are struggling to move on from the unique blend the Victorians produced for us? A lot of fairy tale magazines/ezines seem to be based in America and have American editors too.

I don't know. I'm just speculating, and I won't pretend I've spent hours and hours researching this - I am basing this purely on my own observations (so criticise me, agree with me, attack me - lets debate this!) But perhaps Unsettling Wonder will allow British writers to shake off the dust covering their tomes of folk and fairy tales, and re-explore a land left behind long ago, creating new footprints in the dust...

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Let nature be your teacher

Ah, I feel the shift! The leaves have begun to change colour, the temperature has dropped, and the first crisp chills have started to hang in the morning air...
by IgnisFatuusll @ dA

I'm sure I say it every year, and with every change in season...but I feel as though I must carry on sharing this feeling, because it is just too uplifting and inspiring to contain! I want to be out connecting with nature and finding inspiration in the wild places! I want to find a way to capture all the feelings of autumn in words! I love the way everything is on fire, and yet it can be so cold...it's magical!
Each year my birthday becomes more and more entwined with celebrating the first day of autumn, as I can welcome in the new season along with a new year of my life. Perhaps that explains why autumn is my favourite season - I'm an autumn baby!

As I am struggling to express all my crazy nature-loving feelings, and as I am using far too many exclamation marks in proportion to the number of words on the page, I've included a poem by William Wordsworth who, as always, says it best...

THE TABLES TURNED

AN EVENING SCENE ON THE SAME SUBJECT

        UP! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
          Or surely you'll grow double:
          Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
          Why all this toil and trouble?

          The sun, above the mountain's head,
          A freshening lustre mellow
          Through all the long green fields has spread,
          His first sweet evening yellow.

          Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:
          Come, hear the woodland linnet,                             
          How sweet his music! on my life,
          There's more of wisdom in it.

          And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
          He, too, is no mean preacher:
          Come forth into the light of things,
          Let Nature be your teacher.

          She has a world of ready wealth,
          Our minds and hearts to bless--
          Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
          Truth breathed by cheerfulness.                             

          One impulse from a vernal wood
          May teach you more of man,
          Of moral evil and of good,
          Than all the sages can.

          Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
          Our meddling intellect
          Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:--
          We murder to dissect.

          Enough of Science and of Art;
          Close up those barren leaves;                               
          Come forth, and bring with you a heart
          That watches and receives.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Feminist Fables

I have been reading various anthologies as part of my short fiction module at university, and I recently came across three of Suniti Namjoshi's Feminist Fables in an anthology edited by Angela Carter. I was struck by how her writing could be both humorous and deeply meaningful in such a small space - they can't be more than a couple of hundred words...

I particularly enjoyed 'A Room of His Own', which is a take on Bluebeard. Bluebeard goes through the usual routine with his new wife, goes on his travels, and when he comes back finds that she hasn't been in his room. He questions her and wants to know why she didn't look, and why she wasn't curious. When she tells him 'I think you're entitled to a room of your own,' he is so angry he kills her. 

It really made me think.

And it definitely made me want to try re-writing fairy tales again!

by fatamorgana1989 @ dA
The anthology I referred to is called Wayward Girls and Wicked Women (ed. Angela Carter) First published in 1986 by Virago Press.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Kindle has landed

I celebrated my birthday last week, and knowing that I am a writer, book lover and English student, my parents very generously bought me a Kindle Touch! I know that e-readers are nothing new anymore, but it has taken me a while to get to a point where I feel like I want and could make good use of one. I'll admit I am a sucker for physical books; I love the way they feel in my hands and the way they look on my bookshelves!

Recently though, I began to see how an e-reader would be a good investment in my life...but more as a writer and a student, than purely as a reader.


English students spend how much on books each year?!

Yep, the biggest draw is the money I can now save on my books for university. I was talking to a friend  recently who studies sociology, and she was having a bit of a rant about her £10 course reader and the other £15 she'd spent on a mandatory text book for the term. I bit my tongue, and didn't tell her that in my first term as an English student I spent nearly £100 on my books, followed by about £70 for the second term.

Whilst there's no way my massive anthologies will ever be released as e-books, a lot of other books are accessible, either at a significant reduction or, through sites such as Project Gutenberg, for free.


How many English students break their backs each year?!

OK, I'm exaggerating slightly here. However, I have a back problem that may have been caused by the heavy loads I've been carrying throughout my school/uni life, and is definitely exacerbated by those days where I have a lecture and two seminars for different modules, and need three+ different books for the day. (Especially when one of those books is a Norton Anthology. Seriously. Go and find one if you think I'm stretching the truth about how massive they are!)

Bring an e-reader on to the scene, and my day gets a little less painful.

Students' eyesight deteriorates by how much per term?!

I have to read a lot of PDFs from the university's electronic library. These essays and articles can be thousands of words long, and require translating into laymen's English and serious note-taking. I can't look at a computer screen for more than about an hour before I start to get a headache and tired eyes. And popping pills every day isn't a brilliant solution.

Thank you, Kindle, for your non-glare, 'just like paper' readability! You will be giving my optician something to smile about for the first time in 10 years!

You want to write? Read!

This isn't a new idea by any means - it's common knowledge that if you want to be a writer you need to know what's popular, what works, what doesn't...and that means reading a lot. And how does one read 'a lot' of books?

Besides finding making the time, you need to have the books in the first place. My library is great, but they don't always stock the newest releases (particularly for kids books) and they don't always have a great selection in certain genres or the sorts of non-fiction books I need. Buying the books builds up the cost, and then there's the issue of storage. Where on earth am I supposed to keep ten different children's books about rabbits that I bought because for a while I was dead set on writing an amazing children's book about rabbits?

My e-reader stores something like 3000 books. Amazing!

It has taken me a while to get here, but it now looks as if my Kindle and I have a beautiful friendship ahead of us...

Friday, 21 September 2012

Brothers Grimm on The World Tonight

Last night, the Brothers Grimm featured on BBC radio 4's The World Tonight programme, as part of celebrations for the 200th anniversary of their first published collection of fairy tales.
The World Tonight  
BBC radio 4, 22:00, 20th September
It was only a short segment of the programme, but they discussed some pretty interesting things. For example, according to a survey of Britain's parents, 90% say they read fairy tales to their children, and more then 50% prefer the Grimm fairy tales to all the others. 90%! I didn't expect the number to be so high considering all the negative media recently about 'how bad fairy tales are for children'. 

One writer was asked why fairy tales still appeal to children - because surely it is all about Harry Potter these days - and they said a large part of it was probably to do with the fact that things just happen to you, regardless of who you are, unlike in Harry Potter, where only certain children are selected for great things to happen to, who then have to spend time in training anyway.

They did bring up the violence and unjust punishment in the earlier tales, e.g. in the original Frog Princess, the princess attacks the frog in order to gain her reward. A psychologist commented that this is how children learn to deal with scary situations - within the safe confines of a book.

There appear to be quite a few Grimm features around the BBC at the moment, so keep your eyes and ears peeled!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tale and Fantasy

If you live in the south of England you may be aware of the Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tale and Fantasy, based at the University of Chichester. They frequently hold events that will interest any fairy tale fans out there, and this is the latest one:

Sex, lies and Videotape: The brothers Grimm experience
Wednesday 10 October 2012 5.15pm-6:30pm, Cloisters, Bishop Otter Campus,University of Chichester**Professional story-teller Janet Dowling presents the story of how the brothers Grimm cleaned up their act for contemporary readers … and what Disney did next
.
Their advisory board is made up of big names in the global business of fairy tales, including Jack Zipes, Maria Tatar and Marina Warner. There are a couple of videos of lectures on the site, and a link to buy their journal, Gramarye.

It has occurred to me that I am only about 1 hour and a £13 train fare away from Chichester, and that I should definitely make use of such a wonderful centre that is practically on my doorstep!

Marshland by liselotte-eriksson @ dA

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Contradictory thoughts

Hello!

I have returned. I returned a week ago, actually, but I've needed a bit of time to adjust and catch up with my tiny corner of the world. I have also been struggling to figure out how to write about my experiences - I've certainly been awed and inspired, but there is so much to say, so much going on, so much variation in India that I can't find the right words.

I think the best way to sum it up is probably in a single word: contradiction. 

'Holy' cows wander the streets, avoiding starvation by eating rubbish
I could spend a long time talking about the myriad reasons India is contradictory, my chief concern and confusion being that the world's second most populous country lacks basic sanitation...it looks like an epidemic waiting to happen. How can an 'emerging' global player be so floundering? The mind boggles. But I have been thinking about this with a certain sense of irony too, because if I were to write India, or 'world-build' a place based on what I experienced there...I don't think it would be believable to a reader! Seriously, I highly doubt I could get away with it; there are too many loose ends, absurdities and...yes, contradictions.

This trip has reminded me that nothing is as insane and unbelievable as real life. Books might contain the most accessible adventures, but nothing beats going out and experiencing things first hand for their randomness, uniqueness, and that overwhelming, heart-stopping feeling of wonder.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Fairie-ality


Once upon a time, during a balmy summer in the Kent countryside, I tiptoed carefully through gardens, paddocks, forests and orchards in search of bark chips, ivy vines, soft white feathers and fallen petals; I was hunting for the materials to create my very own fairy dress, inspired by Fairie-Ality from the House of Ellwand...

© David Ellwand, 2001

I must have been about 13, but I so vividly remember the way the excitement and passion bubbled in my stomach, it might as well have been yesterday. I wasn't just keen to make a dress: for one month only I was an escaped Londoner, and I was convinced not only that I could make fairy clothes, but that I could find a little someone to wear it whilst I was in the countryside. The chances of finding a fairy in the Big Smoke seemed slim. 

Some people will laugh to think of a teenager believing in fairies, but I grew up on a diet of fairy tales and adventure stories, and none of them ever took place in a city. I associated the countryside, any countryside, with the storybook worlds of my youth.

I never did make that dress. My desire was far greater than my ability (I could just about sew a felt purse together at that age.) But the magic was - is - still there. All you have to do is open the 'catalogue' and let it immerse you.

Recently I discovered David Ellwand's other related work - the Fairie-ality Style book of interior design. This caused all the above happy memories of nature-treasure hunting to come back to me, and when I found out he lives in West Sussex, one county over from where I live, it made me want to embrace the countryside around me so much more, and use it as inspiration in my work (hence quite a few previous posts about how inspirational nature really is.)

Click below to see more images from Ellwand's website, which I urge you all to explore...

Friday, 13 July 2012

Old Oak & The Maiden

After my last post, it seems an appropriate time to say that I have written a 'new' fairy tale! The driving force behind it was the question, 'what would happen if someone in need refused to accept magical help?' After discovering a piece of artwork that so brilliantly illustrated my story (which I blogged about here) I decided that I had no excuse for not finishing it!


I have no doubt that people will be able to see some of the stories that have inspired me, including older versions of Cinderella, the legends of King Arthur, The Tinder-Box...the list could go on. It's a mish-mash of traditions, but hey, there's nothing wrong with that, right?


Old Oak & The Maiden is currently being considered for submission, but I believe I can post an extract without it causing any harm:
     At the very heart of the forest, where no stars could be seen through the treetops, where no animals dwelled and where silence was as thick as honey, she stopped. She had arrived before an ancient oak tree, and mustering the final dregs of her energy she curtseyed in front of the thick, gnarled bark, before collapsing onto the floor and relinquishing into sobs. She had shed the last of her grace.
     Time expanded and contracted, and moved in the mysterious patterns called forth by solitude. She didn't know how long she stayed curled up amongst the dead leaves and her dirty dress, but enough time had elapsed for her to fall quiet once more. 
     The tree spoke to her at last.
     'Fair maiden, you did not come all this way to simply cry at my roots. Tell me your troubles.'
Inspiration from nature: Friston Forest, October 2011 

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Same old, same old


Christie at Spinning Straw Into Gold recently posted interesting questions about whether traditional fairy tales still naturally occur, and whether there is such a thing as a new fairy tale (I left my answer in the comments).


This got me thinking about writing in general, and about how we so easily say 'this has been done before' when we see a story that we vaguely recognise. Well, of course it has been done before. There is a theory, somewhere, that there are only about 13 different plots that can be used to make a story - but how many millions upon millions of stories are there in the world? How many books do you recommend to people, and say how great they are? 


If we think broadly about the subject matter in stories, we could link Twilight to Pride and Prejudice to Romeo and Juliet if we so choose. The real distinction comes from writing styles, format, language, and yes, there are some stories that really are like other stories (Mills and Boon is a whole industry based on the predictability of the plots!) but what I find interesting is that people are a lot more judgemental about similarity in books that in, say, fashion or music. 


In fashion, its 'cool' to look like everyone else, and vintage fashion is just wearing the same clothes that were worn years before. And as for music, Will.I.Am uses the same notes as Smashing Pumpkins, as Girls Aloud, as Mozart: there are only so many notes, after all. 


Perhaps this judgement comes from the personal investment we put into books. We spend money on them, then sit down specifically to give our time and undivided attention to them; if we don't invest this care, we don't 'get into it' and are unable to follow the plots. When we read a book, it is an experience that isn't shared by anyone else at the same time. 


Is this deep personal connection what drives the need for newness, for originality? Is the investment of money and dedicated time what makes us turn our noses up to story lines that seem familiar? I'd be interested to hear other people's thoughts on this...

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Surreal, unreal

This morning I woke up in that surreal, unreal time, when it was light but not yet day. It would have been the morning version of twilight - does this have a name?
I emerged into a still world of grey light at 4:45 AM, and I stood in the garden breathing in the sweet, early-morning air. I heard the first bird make a sound. It soon became a peace-shattering cacophony of noise, which definitively bridged the gap and declared it day. 


I savoured my moment in this transitional time. The rain overnight had encouraged dozens of slugs and snails to come out and eat my plants, but it didn't bother me as much for some reason. I can't blame them; dew-covered shoots and leaves look far more appealing than dry ones. It felt magical to stand surrounded by such slow forms of nature, which seemed incredibly active and busy in relation to the stillness everywhere else. There was silence from the tracks and from the road - the trains had not started running, and I couldn't hear a single bus or car despite living on the main road into the city. And no drunken shouts. Just the growing din of seagulls to remind me that I do in fact live in a big coastal city.


It's as if the world was tucked safely in its bed, and there was time to discover its secrets in this little chink of time between night and day...
by kaasutii @ dA
I don't find 'the witching hour' particularly significant, but this time seems to hold an infinite amount of power. It played tricks with my mind. I thought I heard bells or wind chimes, but the air was still, and none of the neighbours have any hung up. I'm sure I smelt toast when I got out of bed. And were those little footprints on the dew-matted grass?


It has been a long time since my mind has felt so active, or so inspired. I should not have gone back to bed. I should have stayed up and written more than I did. Whilst everything around me was still I felt so alive, and like I was meant to be there experiencing it all - I wrote with ease, with instinctive voice, and with honest passion. Nothing felt forced. I didn't feel worried, stressed, or like a fraud; everything about me and what I was doing felt natural. It felt right.


Some people say you should write first thing in the morning. Others say at night. Others say whenever you have a free moment in the middle of your hectic day. I say: write when you feel the magic, because you will be the most true to yourself.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Oh dear, I can't stop writing in blank verse

Fantastique Unfettered is still open to submissions for its Shakespeare Unfettered issue. I wanted to submit a story I wrote, but its far too short (I have unintentionally written my first ever piece of flash fiction.)


by Schnellart @ dA
I've written a piece about Ophelia, under water. I read and re-read the scene where Gertrude tells Laertes how his sister died, and tried to use similar images, and even mention plants that Gertrude talks about. Then, when I'd written a first draft, I thought about making it a real challenge to myself...so I re-wrote it in blank verse.


Good grief, I had no idea how much it would mess with my head! I don't know how Shakespeare could have held a normal conversation after a long stint writing - my brain was translating everything, and all I could hear was the iambic pentameter rhythm pounding in my head. I've experienced this before after reading Shakespeare, but I had no idea writing in blank verse would do the same thing; I thought my head would be pleased to be shot of it! Isn't it described as the rhythm most suited to the English language? Something like that - maybe that's why my brain couldn't let go. 


I would even recommend it - it was a fun sort of challenge, after all, how often can we say we've tried to write like Shakespeare? And if anyone submits a piece I would love to hear about it, or about anything Shakespeare-related that inspires/amuses/means something to you...

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Never trust a talking tree

I've just noticed that a whole load of posts I'd written and scheduled to go live have somehow vanished from Blogger, which means that I am once again behind on posting (pretty ironic considering my recent warning about how much I have to talk about, haha!) 


I think there's a lesson here about backing up my work. Alternatively, there's one about making the best out of a bad situation. Despite feeling completely ineloquent and harried right now, I'd like to apologetically go for the second option and share something positive that came out of my day: I came across a beautiful picture that shocked me, because it perfectly encapsulates a story I'm working on:


by jerry8448 @ dA
(My tree even offers a girl a flower...) I would encourage everyone to explore jerry's gallery on deviantART, the scenes he creates are magical, and the attention to nature's details is wonderful.


I think lots of people are inspired by pictures or other creative media. Personally I find them most helpful for describing landscapes or buildings, but they inspire me most when I come across something that conveys a mood or feeling very strongly. My starting point for writing is often a feeling which is then attached to a situation or character, rather than a character, place or situation that I then have to find feelings for (if that makes sense).

I recognise that this often causes problems because my plots don't move at a decent pace, or my characters don't develop enough - I just get so caught up in the feeling! But I suppose, in the end, it doesn't matter where inspiration comes from as long as everything else fits together and works well, and the end result is a good story.


But this picture could be the find of a lifetime - like he was illustrating my thoughts...

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Break, break, break


Break, Break, Break
 
Break, break, break,       
On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter         
The thoughts that arise in me.
 
-Alfred, Lord Tennyson 
When I first moved to Brighton two summers ago I spent so much time by the sea. I felt so free and relaxed listening to the waves, and it seemed like my best creative ideas popped into my head when I was in the water.  Perhaps it was inspired by change, but I also think that the raw power of nature played a part. Recently, it has been green spaces that draw inspiration from me; parks, gardens, forests...earth instead of water. 


I want to spend more time outdoors, now. I have been reading stories that draw so much inspiration and feeling from the landscapes in which they are set, where characters live and breathe their surroundings, and I've missed having that connection. It makes me feel alive; and reading it in books makes the characters and the stories come to life (and, frustratingly, they feel like they are living more than me, sitting with a book curled up on the sofa with a cup of coffee!)


A few examples off the top of my head of some books that I think do this more than others:

  • Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys (various Caribbean locations)
  • Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte (Yorkshire Moors)
  • When God Was a Rabbit - Sarah Winman (Cornwall)
  • The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy (Kerala, Southern India)

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Birdy @ The Hurly Burly

Birdy
The Hurly Burly, 25/5/12, Brighton Fringe Festival

Photo from here

It occurred to us that the entire Brighton Festival and Festival Fringe had passed without us really noticing. Determined to enjoy something on offer with only 3 days remaining, we discovered Birdy. It is described as a 'fizzling, dark fairytale...with live music and physical mayhem,' on the festival website...and it truly is a fantastic and hilarious twist on the classic fairy tale that I would highly recommend! Click below for a synopsis and review...

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

New home

Apologies for my absence - I have recently relocated and I am without Internet. Which, of course, has made me come to realise how much I rely on it. I don't think I could find a library catalogue in a library, let alone use one; I wouldn't know how to access newspaper archives; I don't think I'd even have the strength to pick up an Encyclopaedia...Internet has been a blessing and a curse!


It's the little things that bother me, because I'm perfectly happy to let my email inbox stagnate, and I don't care about catching up on the TV programmes I've missed. 


I hate not being able to use a search engine to find out that random bit of information that I just can't quite remember. An actor's name, where Budapest is, where my nearest post box is...things that don't require a trip to the library, but which will absolutely do my head in if I don't find out the answers straight away!


So, if I never do return to blogging, assume I have been driven crazy from not being able to find out how many kilometres are in a mile. Or something like that.



Sunday, 29 April 2012

Genre boundaries

I came across a new genre definition the other day - 'hysterical realism'. I was doing a bit of research into The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, and I was surprised to find this genre pop up when I had been expecting to see 'magical realism' mentioned. I had read the novel thinking about how it related to the magical realism genre, and I started to wonder, 'have I read it wrong? Should I read it again and re-evaluate?' (and then, of course, 'but I won't have time before we look at it at uni next week!')


We've been looking at genre more broadly in relation to horror films as well, and one of the questions that has arisen is whether or not genre is of any use as a tool for analysis. Boundaries are constantly being blurred; for example, horror films incorporate the gothic, thriller, murder mystery, some romance...I've even heard the word 'goreno' mentioned....


We have 'genre fiction', which isn't considered especially literary. But then works considered highly literary contain elements of genre fiction. I would argue that a great literary work like Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children is a work of magical realism, which I believe contains elements of fantasy. And the list could go on, along with the arguments.


I used to tell myself, 'I want to write a novel in X genre because it is better, and I won't touch X genre with a ten foot barge pole.' But classification is messy, and boundaries become blurred, and some of the best works aren't afraid to mix it up a bit.
We all interpret stories differently. Actually, we all interpret all sorts of things differently, so the idea of a one-size-fits-all classification system seems frankly laughable. Sure, it may help when used as guidance rather than rule, but I think if you have a story that you want to tell, just tell it without worrying about sticking to particular genre conventions. Sticking to convention means you're not offering anything new, and your story will have been heard a thousand times before. Conversely, if you end up with a story that has been heard a thousand times before, maybe then look at different genres to add a bit of spice and sparkle...


My attitude towards genre as a writer is different to when I'm considering it from the reader perspective, and I imagine that could be true more broadly. But I stand by the belief that anything can be used to your advantage if you approach it with the right attitude!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

An accidental pilgrimage

Somehow, whilst on my cycling journey, I made accidental pilgrimages to two places that captured the heart of my inner child; the Alice Liddell memorial in Lyndhurst, and various tributes to the Famous Five at Corfe Castle. 


For those who don't know, Alice Liddell was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice in her adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. And the Famous Five are...well, how to put them into words? They are Enid Blyton's most masterful creation in my opinion, and I feel sure that before Harry Potter came along, no series of books had captured the imagination of so many children quite like this. (That being said, I don't know how famous they are outside of England...)


I wrote before about how good the journey felt for my soul, and this is one of the main reasons why...


Pictures and more explanations below:

Friday, 13 April 2012

Journey or destination

Hi!


I'm back from my cycling holiday and feeling so alive and inspired! It's amazing what fresh air and beautiful sights can do for the soul...I even found myself wishing for some Wordsworth or Byron, any Romantic poems, really, because I felt they would make more sense, or speak more truth when read in context in the natural world.


In fact, I would say it was more than a holiday, and that for me it was more like an adventure.


loveday journey adventure writing


And what an adventure it was....


Thursday, 29 March 2012

The second time

I know it's trite, but the second time feels so much better than the first...


string her up on the pomegranate tree

...I think it must be because somewhere inside, I worried that it was a fluke when I first saw my name in print. 

Apologies for my absence; unfortunately I had to read Theodor Adorno's The Culture Industry during the last week of term, and it inspired a spell of nihilism with regards to my work and my blog. The challenge has been to accept that he makes a very good point, but to take it with a pinch of salt so I don't feel like I'm stuck in a Matrix. [Life is meaningful and we are all important, despite the powers that seek to control and repress us!]

I'm going on holiday on Saturday and will return in the middle of next month, hopefully with tons of inspiration and a few stories to tell. Until then, enjoy the beautiful weather if like me you are a surprised and warm Brit, and take care all x

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

String her up on the Pomegranate Tree

I am thrilled to announce that String her up on the Pomegranate Tree has been published in Volume magazine! I am now anxiously awaiting its arrival, with my fingers crossed that it will fit through the letter box...


Volume's launch party for issue 9 was last Thursday in east London, and I'm really annoyed that I couldn't make it, but it sounded like an amazing night and a great success. You can buy a copy of The Girls issue through their website, or wait for the PDF download to be released. 


I have posted an excerpt of the story here.



Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Modernist Alice

Last week I had the opportunity to go to a lecture about one of my favourite childhood books - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Professor Gillian Beer visited Sussex to give a talk on 'Modernist Alice', about how the Carroll books influenced Modernist writers such as Eliot, Joyce and Woolf, as well as other forms of art and new thinking in that era.


by EyeOfMaharet777 @ dA
It wasn't a mind-blowing reinterpretation of the novel, but it was fascinating to see how the logic, words and images Carroll created ended up spanning so many disciplines and influencing so many great minds. It certainly made me think about this funny and magical children's book in a whole new light, and I'm sure that when I revisit the book in the future, the feeling of awe and wonderment it creates will have another, deeper significance. 


I always worried that digging deeper into the books I love would ruin them for me, but I don't think it is as simple as that. We'll never stop loving the books we love for whatever reasons made us love them in the first place - finding out more about them can show us more reasons to admire them.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Success through self publishing

When a writer wants to publish their work, there is the question of whether to self-publish, or go traditional. There are positives and negatives on both sides, and sometimes one type of publishing will better a suit a writer, for various reasons.


It is not something I have had to personally consider yet, but something a writer-friend of mine said got me thinking about it; she said, 'I don't want to self-publish, it's not really 'making it'.'


I'm sure there are many counter-arguments that could be thrown at her view, but it got me thinking about why she, and probably many other writers, feel this way.


I think it has something to do with the access writers have these days to publication. Perhaps not with novels or drama so much, but certainly with short fiction and poetry, the Internet has opened many doors. Because we have the ability to submit our work more conveniently, and with far more places both online and offline to submit our work to, self-publication can feel like a larger scale version of the lengths we already go to in order to get our writing into the world.
I think it is validation we seek, knowing that we will be accepted into a special 'club', that makes traditional publishing seem like the ideal - it is called 'traditional' for a reason, after all. Hundreds of years of rich literary history have passed through the doors of publishing houses, and although it would be arrogant to assume it puts us on a par with, say, Shakespeare, knowing there is a tenuous connection to great writers can be a real boost to confidence, and aid in that feeling of, 'I've finally made it'. 


I'm not there yet, but I look forward to the day when I have a chunky manuscript on the desk before me, forcing me to choose a fork in the road. Perhaps I'll agonise over the journey ahead, but it will be worth remembering the journey I'll have already been on in order to reach that point. 


I wonder if Shakespeare ever wrote the final line of a play, and before looking ahead to the production at the theatre, took a moment to say, 'look what I've just done,' before he had the crowd's applause to validate it...

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Upcoming publication

String her up on the Pomegranate Tree will be published in the upcoming issue of Volume magazine. 


There will be a launch party on Thursday, 15 March in London, with free entry (click the link under the picture to view the Facebook event.)


This is very exciting for me, as it is my second published short story. It was in the final round of consideration for publication in another magazine but didn't quite make the cut, so to have it accepted by Volume has reassured me that my 'never give up!' attitude can pay off! Knowing it is being distributed in the UK also feels wonderful, because it means I'm building my platform on my home turf as well as in the vast universe that is the Internet.


I will post again with download links when the issue is released, but for now here is a sneak preview...

String her up on the Pomegranate Tree - Extract
What is there in a look? What can cause an allure so strong that all carnal thoughts escape a man as he betrays his wife? Is it her mascara? Can she buy designer brands with the money she makes from her deviant escapades?

Parvaneh and Shadi consider these things as they push their trolleys through the towering aisles at Tesco. They weave between the shoppers in a dream-like state, trusting that their young children are following in their squeaky-wheeled wake.

Out of the corner of their eyes they see a flash of light. They turn to see a woman head to toe in black, bending down to observe the flour. Their stomachs knot and their eyes widen.
 

Is that her?   
©2011-2012 A.L. Loveday
Volume magazine