About Me

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On the bright side of the road
Lover of words. Usually found with a book or a pen in my hand.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Tumble dryers, spidergrams and sculptors


I love writing competitions and I look upon them as great writing practice; they provide an opportunity to write something that perhaps I wouldn’t usually think of. It’s a bit like returning to school and homework – the thrill of a theme and word count teamed with a blank piece of paper and sharpened pencil.

Usually the first thing I do is let my mind wander and ruminate over the images and storylines that come to me. My mind is a bit like a tumble dryer – it spins things around and around, often in a frenzied way and when I press ‘pause’ out pop the seeds of my story.

Next is the spidergram – I love this part. I use an A3 sheet of paper so I have a lot of room to explore and I put my thoughts down in a completely vague way until a particular strand seems to make sense. It’s not in story form yet, but the ideas that will form it are there.

Next comes writing wild! Using my spidergram I use my chosen strand to let my imagination run amok and, hopefully, I end up with the bare bones of a story. It’s terribly flawed but it’s there, I have something to work with.

And strangely, I enjoy the ‘work’ side of the exercise, too. Throughout the edit, edit and edit (maybe even more edits) I am a sculptor. I craft my story into shape by shaving a bit here and adding a bit there. And sometimes I have to do a whole lot of remodelling to get the result I want. I agonise over this process, repeatedly reading the story out loud to myself to make sure it flows and that the words sound right.

Finally, submission. This is always a nail-biting process. Have I read the instructions correctly? Am I definitely within the required word count? Have I numbered my pages? I become very OCD over this stage of the process: checking, checking and more checking. But what a great feeling when I press ‘send’ – I can finally relax.

I’m currently working on a piece for a competition run by The Word Factory (@WordFactoryUK). The remit is to write a fable for the modern world in under 3,000 words inspired by these lines written by Neil Gaimon:

Long ago, in the days when there were still fish in the oceans and cars on the roads, there lived a woman who was not afraid of governments...

I’ve found that I’m writing in a completely different style to usual, and loving it. I’m learning a lot, too. I thought I was quite switched on about global warming, but my research has thrown up some very interesting facts that I’d like to explore further.

But for now, my attention is fixed firmly on the competition. I’m now into my second edit and with a deadline of 31 July 2015 I’m hopeful I’ll have a piece I am happy to submit.

For further information visit: thewordfactory.tv

Monday, 1 June 2015

One for sorrow, two for joy


I spotted a magpie in the lane yesterday morning. Nothing unusual in that as I often see lone magpies. Lovely Hubby and Lovely Son scoff while Lovely Daughter salutes them and I desperately search for ‘two for joy’, ‘one for sorrow’ reverberating through my head. I suppose I could be called mildly superstitious. I try to avoid walking under ladders, which is a common sense thing to do and I don’t mind walking on cracks in the pavement. The number 13 is not a problem (in fact, we were married on the 13th) but Friday the 13th causes little ripples of anxiety and the number 6 is positively alarming (if you get three together then you have…well, I can’t even bring myself to type it – have you seen The Omen?!)

So I was driving slowly along the lane, enjoying the rain with Terry Wogan chatting away nicely on the radio, and the magpie (I swear it did) looked me in the eye and flew out in front of the car. I dropped down to second gear and the magpie, keeping at the height of my eyes, continued to fly in front of the car as if leading me down the lane. Its wings flapped leisurely as it drew me on. Too mesmerised to search for ‘two for joy’ I hypnotically followed Sorrow.

And the random, strange events of the last couple of weeks came into my mind and even Terry’s warm tones couldn’t keep away the chill that prickled up and down my spine.

It had started with emails from Plan My Funeral. No matter how many times I mark them as junk and delete them, they keep appearing with regular frequency in my inbox. I daren’t read them – what do they want me to plan? What to wear? Should I get a manicure? The Eulogy? (I have heard of people writing their own eulogies with some very funny results – but I’m not sure I want to write mine.) I suspect the emails are trying to sell me an insurance policy but as I’m too scared to look, it’s a creepy mystery that won’t be solved by yours truly.

And suddenly, I’ve spotted lone magpies everywhere and no matter how hard I look there is a distinct absence of Joy. Should I feel sorry for the magpies all on their own? No empathy here, I’m afraid, to me the lone ones are simply harbingers of doom.

Those two occurrences are not too strange, but then (and I kid you not) – a new follower on twitter:  God! (No, I’m not blaspheming – God is actually following me on twitter, yes, really.) I could interpret this as a sign to get my life in order and start doing something meaningful or it could be that I’m on my way to meet my maker. Maybe it means nothing at all. My various emotional states dictate the answer. And yesterday morning, the second option was foremost in my mind.

While I cogitated, Sorrow brought me back to the present as he flew off over the field, without a backward glance.

Needless to say, what started out as a peaceful Sunday morning, turned into a very anxious day. After driving home with exaggerated care, I threw salt over my shoulder after spilling some, avoided cracks on the pavement and walking on drains when I walked the dog. I slept fitfully, worried that a mirror might drop or that I might snore six times in a row.

This morning Lovely Hubby spotted something amiss as I became frantic at the sight of Lovely Son’s new shoes on the dining table (in their shoe box, but still, on the table).

‘Calm down,’ he reasoned. ‘Nothing bad is going to happen. It’s just a string of coincidences and your imagination is going into overdrive. As usual.’

I’m sure he’s right, and so, taking a deep breath (and touching wood), I put all thoughts of doom to the back of my mind. No emails from Plan My Funeral, a pair of magpies in the garden and no tweets from God. With the sun shining, my mood has been bright and cheerful. But I must admit that I did wear my lucky pants and avoided the number 6 – well you need a bit of insurance, don’t you?