Sunday, 29 June 2014

I have been struggling with hurt pride

OK, that title is the first line of a poem - but I have noticed that in blog world 'disaster strikes' gets more page views than 'everything is going swimmingly'. Lately my 'patchwork poems' (pieced together from scraps of language I encounter in a day) ) have been more informed by personal issues. Things I have written, whether from the heart or for mundane or functional reasons, are interwoven with other people's words, from texts, emails, books I am editing, news updates, articles and even things I overhear in the street. A challenging time of hurt pride and frustration in 'real life' was followed by an upturn in my writing fortunes as I found a writing mentor and began to work productively with her. This form of poetry is both a form of expression and a great place to hide!

Have a look at these three short offerings – they are unpolished but seem to carry the essence of what I want to say more effectively than a more usual blog post.

Courtesey of

I have been struggling with hurt pride
But am starting to get some peace.
Once again, I’m sorry for the oversight
I should have made sure your book was promoted.

I’m sure God is whittling me on one of his walks.
I was floundering and clueless for a while,
But am now attaching chapters one to three.
Use the golden leaf brush to paint the sea.

We do not have a high priest who is
Unable to sympathise with our weaknesses.
I was cutting an apple with a penknife
When I sliced across a knuckle.

Paint the detail at the top of the lighthouse
Using a ruler to help you with the lines.
He was tempted in every way, as we are,
But did not sin.

The day wilts like the roses, blood-heavy, bloated and blown.
Use masking tape to mask out the horizon.
This brief is a great example
Of the kind of thing I had in mind.

I was feeling much better, and have then been stupidly upset
By another email. I have left behind me
Young men working long hours in the hot sun
For the minimum wage.

Cast-on stitch is used in Brazilian embroidery.
The next batch are easier, so why the price hike?
The rate we estimated didn’t really work for us.
I mean, what, really, am I doing with my life?

courtesy of

The air is full of plans and congratulations
That fall as stony weights on my unfaithful heart.
I am very surprised that I am not due any payment.
Personalise yours with motifs of your choice.

How to stop worrying and love your opening!
Use the templates in this book, or your imagination.
Harris hid a demon under his charming exterior.
It’s RGB white and two per cent K.

We need to find a way to resolve this more fairly.
It’s unreasonable; it’s my work and nobody asked me.
My opening was crammed with backstory
And changing points of view.

Juan to check my knocked back braids.
The numbers will not move, or not enough.
On the next table is the vicar who danced down the aisle.
She has seven million hits on Youtube.

We have sinned in thought and word and deed.
Heads roll, blood spurts and heads crack.
Turn through neatly; gently roll the seams.
These graphic depictions caused some people to faint.

The prognosis is not good. I shouldn’t have looked, but I did.
Please put the dates in your calendar and I’ll let Jeff know.
If we slow down now, we cannot counter the lies.
See the snowflakes at the back for inspiration.

It could have made a difference in saving their lives,
Had the circumstances only been different.

courtesy of

A war correspondant remembers young soldiers
Feared and reviled, coming for help.
‘We haven’t been able to call home in ages.’
They almost always phoned their mothers.
From the other side of the room
I’d hear the phone sound in Idaho.
You look like a chavvy I was in prison with!
I thought you was him.

There are no parallel lines that meet in the distance
And things are less detailed when further away.
Let us not give up on meeting together
Let us spend time and rekindle our faith.

Our son is disgruntled about travel expenses.
‘You didn’t hold back from helping Ben’.
I dream of a baby, found in our care
‘We haven’t even been feeding him!’

We regret that we can’t accept stories by email.
If your writing shows promise, we will contact you.
There is not much to beat an English June
With roses, strawberries and tea on the lawn.

We are going to swarm on Downing Street
To hammer the message home.
God willing, this force will be successful
And destroy the terrorist dens.

Eating cupcakes is a vital part of my life
It is there to be eaten – do not forget.
They wandered in deserts and mountains
In caves and holes in the ground.

A mini cupcake is a tiny canvas
The decoration is there to create its effect.
Who will look back at your name with gratitude?
Who are the fathers and mothers of your faith?

Sunday, 1 June 2014

A Writing Mentor Saves My Life

Still from Tom's Midnight Garden courtesy of

My confidence scraping rock-bottom, I doubted the wisdom of going to meet a new writing mentor now, fearing that one more discouraging knock might sink me altogether. What if her appraisal (initially of my first 3 chapters) found so many problems that I'd have a rewrite to do on the scale of the last, which took me two years of work crammed into evenings, mornings and chore-filled weekends? Maudlin with worst-case scenarios, I pictured myself following her damning comments with a plea,

'Is there anything you like? Do you think I have any chance of publication at all?'

Minutes into our two-hour consultation, all such fears fell away. This was not only because there was so much she liked (I had to master a self-deprecating 'thank you' to repeat as she revealed her enthusiasm for many aspects of what I had written) but also because I could immediately tell what an excellent grip she had on what was wrong in my first chapter, and how I could put it right.

Writers know that the first few paragraphs are all that matters, whether it's an agent, a publisher or a book-buyer who is assessing your work. If this bit doesn't entice them, they are not going to read your synopsis, ask to see your whole novel, or buy your book. Knowing this, I had thrown my all into the opening, trying to cram in as much exposition, character backstory and general pazzazz as possible so that prize judges and others would be hooked. The writing groaned under the strain. As my writing consultant pointed out the jumps from one point of view to another, the amount of backstory jammed in and the interruption of the action as characters harked back to the past and the further past, this became clear as day.

It is incredibly hard to judge your own work. If you have been working on something for a long time, certain phrases, rewritten, honed, polished and read umpteen times, stop registering in your mind at all. As you read over them, a kind of numbness grips you, but you don't know if it's because the passage is too familiar, or because it isn't working. That's when you need a pair of expert eyes to guide you.

I came out of the consultation elated. I have work to do, but I know where I'm going now. Most important of all, someone else believes in the project; someone whose expertise I trust. We got on like a house on fire and discovered we have loads in common. Most delightful of all was the opportunity to have someone else discover the world I have created and in which I spend hours wandering around, with only my fictional creations for company. Here was someone else admiring the view, commenting on this, caring about that, taking a liking to a character or recognising something I've pointed out. I was like Tom in his Midnight Garden, discovering he was not alone there.

It was hard to be stuck down by self-doubt, just when a setback had shown me how much writing matters in my life. You are not supposed to use blogs for whingeing - it puts readers off; but last week I couldn't help myself, and it was interesting to see that a post with 'disaster strikes' in the title got so many more views than most!) Well, here the whingeing ends. I have a writing mentor. I have a plan.

The writing life is good again.