Friday, 31 May 2013


Over two weeks since my last entry! May is my busiest work month of the year so I'm really not too surprised that I didn't get to post much during the month. It also just happened that the BNZ Literary Award competition's deadline is today and I have been working on entries for that which can be viewed here
I got all settled in to write an entry last night but as I was flicking around the internet I discovered there was another national flash fiction competition I could enter so I thought I would give it a crack. Great idea, except the deadline was 31/5 at midnight and the time was already 9pm so it was a total rush job - real flash fiction, written in a flash! I have entered the story - maximum 300 words and as usual I used every one - but I am now afraid to go back and read it as I sent it away with 38 minutes to spare and my judgement is never at it's best at that time of night, I have a feeling I will hate the story if I re read it so I'm not going there right now. Once the judging is over I can share it with you and we can all have a cringe about my '2 hour flash fiction' but I did the best I could under the circumstances and I have pushed send so there is nothing I can do to change it now. At least the title will get noticed though as it was inspired by the recent news story about the baby found in the sewer in China so I called the story 'How Do You Fit A Baby Down The Toilet?' which sounds really crass but it does fit the story which you will have to take my word on until I can post it on here.

So, with another work related writing project and four competition entries completed this month, 3 in the last 2 weeks I haven't had a chance to do any creative writing exercises but I plan on setting aside regular time each week to continue with them which should be doable now that work has settled down again. Also those damn addictive cooking programmes are all finishing this week freeing up my evenings - I swear I won't start watching long winded competition TV again although I think I promised that last year and I was weak, succumbing to their guilty pleasures yet again. 

Anyway, the competition rush has finished although there is a regional competition I want to get an entry ready for but the deadline isn't until the end of September so I will be using the long winter nights to get something half decent written. I have to be very careful with this new entry - it has to be longer - not flash fiction but regular short story length which I haven't written for years and the entries cost money so I can't just enter loads willy-nilly as I did for the BNZ competition. I have to work on one story and make it the best I can, I have never liked putting all my eggs in one basket but I will have to on this occasion.

I would like to enter as many competitions as I can this year - I am not expecting to win any of them but I like the challenge of the deadline, as a well practised procrastinator I need a deadline. I normally play to win with everything I do (whether it appears that way or not) but I can't think that way with the writing competitions as fiction, especially, is way too subjective. It all depends on the judge and who knows what they are looking for. It is actually very liberating for me to enter a competition and then forget about it rather than waiting for the outcome and being crushed if I don't win (that damn competitive nature again). I learnt a long time ago that you just can't please everyone so I am working on pleasing myself. I can now focus on the exercises and the next entry which will be a long time in the making, I will let you know how it goes.



Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Creative Writing 2

The next creative writing exercise is a simple, sraightforward account of a physical accident you have had. This is tricky for me as I was a very clumsy child and have plenty of accidents to choose from so I took a little time deciding on which one to write about. I chose this one mostly because I have strong memories of both the incident and the after effects.

When I was young our house was positioned on a sloping section which led to a small wooded area where I sometimes played. The day of the accident I was on my own, playing in the shrubby edges of the woods when I caught sight of movement from the corner of my eye, I wasn't sure what it was so I listened carefully to gauge it's postion. I heard noises, briefly saw what I assumed was a rabbit and sprinted after it.

Not long after I lost sight of the rabbit, stopped running and kept quiet trying to pick up the trail again but all I heard was my own harsh breathing so I sat down for a rest, I had given up on finding the rabbit. That's when I noticed a small hole in the ground nearby, most likely a rabbit hole but that didn't interested me however something shiny was embedded in the wall of the hole and that did interest me. The accident happened when I leaned forward to excavate the shiny thing from the earth  - a stick in the eye, it was half buried, poking out from the hole at an angle unnoticed as I was blinded by the potential treasure. When the stick stabbed me in the eye I rebounded and fell onto my backside with two thoughts running through my head - 1, my eye really, really, hurt and I needed to get to mum so she could fix me up because mums are good at that and 2, the unknown treasure was very attainable. Knowing I would never find the hole again this was my only chance to collect it so with one hand over my bad eye and the other frantically digging out the tresure with the offending stick I only took a couple of minutes to prise it free, take a quick peek and run home.

I landed myself in A&E for that little adventure, eye drops which stung badly for a couple of weeks and an eye patch which wasn't even cool - a thick white bandage over the eye for what seemed like the whole term but wasn't.

The upside was the treasure I found. When I got home from the hospital I could finally clean it up and examine it (with one eye). I was rewarded with a small decorative glass with sloping sides, a rose coloured strip around the base, a picture of a dog (an Alsatian I think) painted in black, white and grey on the body of the glass and a gold rim. I kept that little treasure for years on my bedroom shelf and it gave me pleasure far longer than the effects of the eye injury gave me bother so I guess I made on the deal.

This is the heavily edited version, I was surprised how much I remembered about this incident and I had to cut out a lot of irrelevant memories, probably should have cut more but couldn't quite manage to. Simple and straightforward is always hard for me as anyone who knows me can verify so I think I did an ok self editing job on this exercise.

This is a factual recount rather than creative writing but I can see the point of writing it - we all have a massive number of experiences, large and small, to draw on for inspiration. I don't know how inspiring this particular episode from my childhood is but this is the first memory I have about the thrill of finding treasure and that thrill is a wondrous thing, far better than a poke in the eye that's for sure.  

Friday, 10 May 2013

Creative Writing Exercise 1

I don't do anthing in a hurry, I call it research, covering my bases, exploring options but really we all know it is nothing more than procrastination. I don't think I am alone in this but I know I can be incredibly talented at putting things off so although I decided way back in October 2012 that 2013 would be my year to indulge in two activities that I used to enjoy before babies came along it has taken me nearly half a year to make a real start.

Now that the babies are old enough to amuse themselves for good chunks of time I thought this freed me up to regain some of my skills that have fallen foul of the intense child reaering of the last decade. I was very wrong, the big babies may not need me 24/7 but caring for them, the home, the husband, pets, garden and a part time job still suck the time and energy away from what I really want to get on with which is swimming and writing. I have made a dreadful start on both, so far this year I have managed a 15 minute swim and sauna and am (almost) happy with an entry for an upcoming short story competition which doesn't sound too bad until you know that the competition is for 150 words of creative fiction - a short short story which is a very new concept for me and not as easy as it sounds but I will have something to submit and that was the whole idea. Prizes and acclaim are far from my mind, for me entering will be quite an achievement and I hope to enter another couple of competitions this year to keep the ball rolling. Without a deadline or goal in mind (my self imposed deadlines end up being very flexible) I find I keep putting the writing to one side in favour of baking a cake, putting the laundry away and staring for ridiculous amounts of time at the chickens scratching around - at least they are being productive.

So, to get to the point (you can see why 150 words was a challenge for me) I took some creative writing books out of the library, looked up some exercises and decided to just get on with it. To make me feel that I was producing something for a (tiny) audience my next decision was to post them on my blog which is very brave for me - sharing fiction on any level makes me anxious. My next thought was maybe some other people are feeling the same way and would like to join in either publicly or privately, it would be nice if they did, kind of like a writing buddy but even if no one does I have finally made a commitment and I will plunge ahead.

So, before I start with the first exercise (short ones to start) I hope the various authors I have borrowed these tasks from - the first one is from Louise Doughty's 'A Novel In A Year' (which is not on my agenda but the exercises are in manageable chunks so I will do  a few before moving on to another set) are ok with me using the exercises in a public forum, I guess they will let me know if they ever find out what I am doing and don't like it. You can check out Louise on

The following is a baby step but at least I have made a start.

Exercise 1 - finish the sentence 'The day after my eighth birthday my father told me ......'

The day after my eighth birthday my father told me to clean up the blood, there was a lot of it and it was starting to turn to jelly. Gathering a cloth I began to mop up the scarlet puddles, the dry cloth smeared the blood around but didn't remove it so I wet the cloth with the hose.

'Don't bother with the cloth, that won't do the job, you need the hose', he said and showed me how to turn the nozzle so the water came out in a single stream, hard and fast, perfect for sluicing the blood from the little pits in the lino. The force of the water turned the blood into pink froth which slipped down over the wash house step leaving the bubbles to pop on the grass.

I am happy with that, I had originally written more which explained the blood but as I was in two minds myself as to where it came from so I deleted it. If I am not convinced nobody else will be either. The requirement was only one sentence anyway so I will leave it there. I like it though so who knows, I might pick it up again one day and find out why there was blood all over the wash house floor.