Writing opportunity: Calling all Wyrd Sisters … and Brothers

 

Now, I know many of you out there are weird*.

I don’t mean that in a bad way, because you’re like me – you’re drawn to reading and writing on subjects from the darker realms of your imagination and that’s great, right?

When you close your eyes or put pen to paper/ fingers to keyboard, you’re mind is not teeming with big-eyed Disneyfied, fluffy bunny fiction, spilling over with love and flowers and happy endings.

That’s not to say everyone your write is a sociopath with a taste for human flesh, but if your characters are good people who rescue small children and help old ladies cross the road, they are made that way so you can do horrible things to them.

Preferably with pits of magma.

And ghouls.

And horned beasts.

Given that you are a fellow twisted soul who needs a creative outlet (and let’s face it, we’d all be very afraid if you didn’t have an outlet), you might be interested in this writing opportunity at The Wyrd magazine.

So if you’re an author or artist who has

a fondness for weird and slipstream themes

Pop along here. Closing date is the end of this month and good luck, siblings.

 

*Of course, if you’re genuinely weird, you’ll spell this WYRD

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The worst writer in the world?

 

Have you ever visited that portion of Erin’s plot that offers its sympathetic soil for the minute survey and scrutinous examination of those in political power, whose decision has wisely been the means before now of converting the stern and prejudiced, and reaching the hand of slight aid to share its strength in augmenting its agricultural richness?

So begins Amanda McKittrick Ros’s novel, Delina DelaneyI found this quote on the Goodreads site with the tag wtf-does-this-mean. And no, I haven’t a clue either.

Now, literary fashion has changed a great deal since Ros published the book in 1898. If he were writing Bleak House (1853) today, I’m not sure even Charles Dickens would have dared begin with a discussion of the grisly London weather, wonderful though that passage is, complete with mentions of fog, mud, umbrellas and a Megalosaurus. Imagine the tattoo of red pen from a modern editor.

‘Never open a story with the weather’ is one piece of writing advice often given. As is the need to trim your prose of flabby, unnecessary words  – edit, edit, edit is our current mantra – and make your writing as clear as a mountain stream to your reader.

None of which seem to have been a priority to Ros.

The writer was famed for her circumlocutory language. When she wrote in her debut novel, Irene Iddesleigh,

When on the eve of glory, whilst brooding over the prospects of a bright and happy future, whilst meditating upon the risky right of justice, there we remain, wanderers on the cloudy surface of mental woe, disappointment and danger, inhabitants of the grim sphere of anticipated imagery, partakers of the poisonous dregs of concocted injustice. Yet such is life

it probably never occurred to her that she could have said –

Why is it we always feel most fed up when something good’s about to happen?

More was … more as far as Amanda was concerned.

She may have been a self-published teacher from County Down, but that didn’t stop her from imagining “the million and one who thirst for aught that drops from my pen” and that she would “be talked about at the end of a thousand years”. One thing she never lacked was confidence in her own work: she once discussed the Nobel Prize for Literature with her publisher, asking “What think you of this prize? Do you think I should make a ‘dart’ for it?”

Some of her best words she saved for her critics, calling them variously,

“bastard donkey-headed mites”

“clay crabs of corruption”

“auctioneering agents of Satan”

“hogwashing hooligans”

“evil-minded snapshots of spleen”

She had a gift for alliteration if nothing else.

What are we, then, to think of an author who – in her last novel, Helen Huddleson – lumbered most of her characters with a fruit-based name (Lord Raspberry, Cherry Raspberry, Sir Peter Plum, Christopher Currant, the Earl of Grape, Madame Pear)?

Well, I can’t advise any modern writer to ape her writing style and it seems famous authors would support my decision: the literary group The Inklings (which included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkein) held competitions where the winner was the member who could read from one of her books for longest without laughing.

But I do admire her no nonsense attitude towards critics, the absolute faith she had in her own work and the way she was prepared to defend it.

In these days when most authors are loathe to get into online arguments with readers over snippy critiques or even outright, troll-like oceans of bile, Ros reacted to a poet’s criticism of her debut novel by printing a 20 page rebuttal in her follow up novel.

No shrinking violet, our Amanda.

So if I think she was deluded in her own talents, she had more self-belief than most of us.

And that is definitely something to aspire to.


What do you think of Ros’s verbiage? Do you agree with the critics or do you long for a time when the circumlocutory phrase was en vogue? Are you tired of this demand for tough edits, long for the return of purple prose?

 

https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2013/apr/19/worst-novelist-in-history

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amanda_McKittrick_Ros#cite_note-Words_To_Remember-6

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2013/01/was_amanda_mckittrick_ros_the_worst_novelist_in_history.html

Terrifying photograph and author interview : The People’s Friend

 

This is week sees the final instalment of my serial The Mermaid of Mortling Hall in The People’s Friend magazine and what a lovely experience it’s been, from the writing and drafting of the story under Alan Spink’s steady tutelage, to kind comments of support from family, colleagues and blogging friends.

As a finale, Alan emailed me and asked if I’d like to give an author interview on the magazine’s blog, so if you’d like to learn a little more about the story, about my writing habits – and see a terrifying extreme close-up of my toothy mug – then pop along here.

Many thanks go especially to all bloggers who left encouraging comments and to all those who bought the magazine – your support has been amazing.

 

Older writer? Smile, your time may yet come

 

When I read those author interviews, you know the ones,

the ones where the successful writer claims they ‘always knew they were going to write’, that they wrote their first word before they were out of nappies, their first short story before their first spoken word, their first novel before leaving junior school – those interviews – I read them with a mixture of resentment and admiration.

Admiration because anyone who is together enough to have a life plan at a young age is truly blessed and resentment because I … didn’t.

I drifted through school, got kicked out of college, fell into retail (hairdressing, measuring old ladies for corsets, selling extra strong cider in an off licence, waiting tables in a cafe that closed a week after I started) … I was hopeless.

When asked what I wanted to do when I grew up I shrugged. Drift, drift, drift …

Floristry came along and was a reliable way to earn a little money, but it was only after I put myself through a degree and the studying was over that a hole opened in my life that needed to be filled.

And I filled it with an old love – writing. And I realised – I had found it. I’d found my one, true love. 

Nine years and a LOT of writing later, I’m starting to feel vaguely competent. I’m not sure if I’ve completed Malcolm Gladwell’s fabled 10,000 hours yet, but I don’t think I’m that far off and there are days when I feel I’m at a publishable standard.

But at 48, have I left it too late for a career in writing?

If you’re an older writer like me take heart from this article in Author’s Publish Magazine.

There maybe some hope for us yet.

 

 

How I’ve earned my writers’ stripes

 

No thanks

Image: Pixabay

I’ve talked about that old writers’ nemesis, rejection several times on this blog. 

Well, when I say ‘several’, what I really mean is ‘many’ (here, here, here – okay, you get the picture).

You see, the problem is, that rejection for a writer is about as easy to avoid as raindrops in a thunderstorm. You can run as fast as you like, but baby, you’re gonna get wet.

I’ve had a fair few rejections – many of the short stories I’ve submitted to competitions and magazines have been rejected. But let’s face it, you should (theoretically) only be spending a handful of hours on a short story, so yes, you work hard on it, you love it, you nurture it, but your whole personality isn’t invested in it in a big way.

You’ve not lived with it for months – years – drafting and redrafting, sculpting and resculpting, deciding it needs completely taking apart and rebuilding all over again because if its findamental flaws. And knowing that decision will take you months to achieve.

Because that’s what you do with a novel.

You get to know the characters so well that if you’ve set it in your own city, in buildings you know, you’ll find your eyes drifting there every time you go past, wondering if those people are actually inside, what they’re doing, who they’re hanging out with.

You’ve lived with them so long, there’s actually a small part of you that believes if you went inside and wandered the corridors, knocked on a few doors, you’d find them and finally be able to say hi face to face.

It’s okay, it really is a very small part of me that thinks that – well pretty small anyway.

Now, I don’t know how many of you are hoping to publish a novel the traditional route, but if you’re not a potential novelist you may not be aware that trying to get direct access to a publisher these days is tougher than getting an audience with the Pope.

Most of them don’t take unsolicited submissions and if they do, the manuscripts run the risk of sitting in the attractively named ‘slush pile’ for a year before being scanned by the intern. Just occasionally, the publishers usually closed to manuscripts will have ‘open submissions’ where unagented authors can try their hand.

I’ve sent manuscripts to three such open subs – one too, too early on in the process, a second just a few weeks ago, both resulting in rejection. Neither was pleasant, but neither was it devastating.

The third was different.

I submitted last August and waited.

And waited … and waited.

In October some people had rejections, but I dodged that bullet.

I waited.

I waited.

At Christmas I still hadn’t had a decision.

Finally, in the New Year, an update was posted saying that anyone who hadn’t yet heard had made it to ‘second reads’, the next level of the filtration process. That was pretty exciting in itself.

Two more months go by.

By this time, I was haunting a couple of forums, waiting to see if any of the members had rejections, reading their chatter, their encouragement to fallen peers.

I started to hope,

to imagine,

to daydream.

Than finally, after waiting 7 months, I had my email.

I’m sorry to say we will not be moving forward …

Was I disappointed? Hell yes.

Is there a tiny part of me wondering if I’ve wasted years of my life writing a book no one will want to publish? Err, yeah. But, weirdly, only a small part.

You see, I’ve got something now no one can take away – I’ve earned my stripes, man. I’ve ridden the rejection rollercoaster that every great (and yes, not so great) writer has ridden. I’m a passenger on the same train and I actually feel I’ve drawn a tiny bit closer to my writing heroes, shared a character shaping experience they’ve all been through.

I’m one step closer to being a published author.

And weirdly, after a serious postal delay, my Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook came today. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s the UK’s bible when it comes to professional  and legal advice …

and contact lists for literary agents.

I’m ready for my next step.

 

Why every writer should travel on public transport

toy-car-431356_1280

Image: Pixabay

 

Respectable looking elderly lady to her husband.

‘… Shaggy the Sheep. What do they mean Shaggy the Sheep?’

‘Shaggy the Sheep. I never did like that name anyway.’

She pauses. ‘No, no. I mean, if someone called you a sheep shagger …’

 

***

 

‘… You visiting then?’

‘Yes, study.’

‘Oh, you’re studying – at the University?’

He points up the hill. ‘Yes, from Kuwait.’

‘You should go up there to the museum.’

Blank look.

‘Up there – the museum.’ Points to a building that isn’t the museum.

‘I meet my brother.’

‘Right, well, you should take him to the museum – it’s free.’

‘Free?’

‘Yeah, free. And go to Primark. They do the best clothes in Primark.’

 

***

 

‘… Traffic, eh.’

‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. What we need, we need to fly, man. Those roads, those bridges – you seen them in America?’

‘The ones on pillars?’

‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. They fly over the roads – like PHEWW!’ Demonstrates with his hand.

‘We need those.’

‘Yeah. It’s like Back to the Future, man.’

 

***

 

‘… You know the Cullens then. You know Liam Cullen?’

‘Yeah.’

‘And Nige Cullen.’

‘Yeah. Yeah. All live up Southmead way, dun’t they?’

‘And Jordan and Phil and Trev?’

‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’

‘Twats, the lot of them.’

*********************************

All genuine conversations overheard on a single bus journey across Bristol – 2/3/16.

And they say the Brits are reserved …

 

 

How not to kill your family – and still be a writer

aygul-barieva-884350_1280

Image: Pixabay

 

Ah, what a joy and blessing family is.

What a comfort through dark times, to know that someone has your back, is standing in your corner, will be there through thick, thicker and impenetrable.

Okay, there are times when it’s hard…

It’s not easy to concentrate on writing your next blog post when an eleven-year-old insists on lobbing a balled-up pair of dirty socks at your head.

And then there are those rare occasions when you’re in full writing flow, the words are pouring out and for once they’re not all drivel. And you’re finally taking control of that scene that’s baffled you for weeks and the dialogue is coming smoothly and it’s clever and real and you finally feel like one day you could be a proper writer …

Then the door opens and there’s a boy and a bike and a muddy P. E kit to wash and arguments over computer time and chores and showers and homework and dinner to cook and forms to sign and bus money to find and lunches to pay for …

And the next time you come face to face with your computer screen, your brain is as slow and reluctant as a toddler eating broccoli and mushroom en croute with a rhubarb glaze.

Yeah, we love our families but sometimes …

It’s not easy to juggle family and your love of writing – but help is at hand. Why don’t you zip on over and read my last blog post for Mslexia on this very subject.

It’s subtitle is DO NOT CUT OFF THIS HEAD – merely charm it!

Sound advice when dealing with family members, I think you’ll agree.

***

Yes, that’s my last post for Mslexia and it’s been fantastic fun. Thanks to all at Mslexia – especially Robyn – for holding my hand through my first professional gig and for giving me the opportunity to share my nonsense with a new audience.

Thanks for all of you who viewed and commented on the posts and shored up my ego – you’ve all been terrifically kind.

Normal service will now be resumed.