Lightly Done

June 2019 – Lightly Done

Inspiration or imagination?

Which is the most important? Every month a group of writers meet in our house to exchange news and ideas. As a parting challenge someone will suggest a word or phrase to be used in a poem or short story. The single word ‘Tissue’ left me high and dry right up to the last few days when I was tidying a drawer and found a forgotten piece of blue tissue paper wrapped around my father’s medals. The following piece of flash fiction was the result

Mum brought us up on her own. . . she said men were, and always would be a waste of space.  ‘Don’t you believe anything they tell you,’ she would say.  ‘They’ll pay you compliments as long as it suits them, but when you need them you’ll find their priorities are all wrong.  Got to look after my mates, or some such nonsense and off they go.’

     My dad was in the navy, a stoker, mum said.  Good looking guy to judge by the photo she kept beside her bed, taken on their wedding day.  She held a bunch of flowers in front of her, to hide me and my sister was all she would say. She said we turned up three months later but by then the war had started and my dad had gone.  He never came back.  

     We lived on benefits and hand-me-downs from cousins and stuff from jumble sales and mum took in ironing until we were old enough to go to school.  If we asked why we didn’t have a dad like the other kids, she would get angry and talk about the swindle of sex and wrong priorities.  ‘You’ll find out one day.  Just don’t trust them, if they are in the navy you will always be second best.’

     Mum loved pretty things and as soon as we were old enough to be left alone at home she got a job in a local dress shop.  ‘I can’t afford beautiful clothes but this way at least I can enjoy them,’ she would say as she wrapped up delicate lace underwear for some man hoping to woo a fair maiden with a seductive gift.

     Mum died in the hospice last week.  Me and my sister, we clubbed together and bought her a beautiful lace nightgown to wear in her coffin, it seemed only right.  Yesterday we began to clear out her flat.  I’m glad the two of us were together when we discovered what our mum kept hidden under the lining paper in her bottom drawer. Folded between the pages of a local newspaper was a letter from the Commanding Officer of HMS Repulse offering sympathy and congratulating our mum for the selfless bravery of her husband and inviting her to receive his posthumous award, the Victoria Cross. Our dad had died a hero saving the lives of his mates.  Wrapped in blue tissue paper was proof of his priorities.    

Which is the most important to a writer, inspiration or imagination? I would say both. On those days when both are lacking what is the solution – do you despair and give up? What keeps you going?

Lightly Done from The Shed – May 2019

the centre of this writers world.

I promised that I would post a Lightly Done newsletter from the shed during the first weekend of every month. Age is only a number and as a six year old friend told me ‘Life should be an adventure.’ Seize every opportunity and hang on to your dreams!

 All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages

. . . the seven stages can apply today just as much as they did in Shakespeare’s day. Becoming a pensioner can be a depressing event, surrounded by expectations that we should become the equivalent of Shakespeare’s slippered pantaloon with spectacles on nose, voice a childish treble and should down size, move into protected housing, even a care home and give up. 

I can see the pattern in my own life, though not in quite the same order. Baby, school child listening to stories, mother telling stories, OU mature student writing articles, studio potter writing more articles, grandmother writing short stories  and novels, and finally, one day eventually slowing down, too tired to do more than doze and dream – but oh, the adventure has been fun!

Writing poetry and story-telling are means of making sense of the world we live in and the traditions we inherit but how to begin? There are no rules. W. Somerset Maugham is reputed to have said ‘There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately no one knows what they are.’ The same can be said of short stories though in today’s world some universities run creative writing courses and there people on line who will tell you they have the perfect formula – at a price. There are shelves of books on how to write great short stories and more on plot structure, developing characters and submitting work for publication, but there is only one real answer – write, write and write. Hang on to your dreams and – write some more.

The most valuable resources we all have are memory and imagination.  If you have never kept a journal, start today.  A journal is more than a diary, how many of us make a resolution to keep a diary that by the second week becomes a chore and by the third is set aside.  A journal lies there waiting for quick notes of intriguing events and sudden thoughts or those moments when something so special happens that you want to record every detail, or an idea haunts your mind until you have to explore it, taking pages before you see the way ahead. Take time to record your very earliest memories and see if you can prove them to be fact, then set them aside until you need them as an asset for your fiction – more of that next month. In the mean time take time out to read as well.

(thoughts on poetry and prose)

A novel, like an evening with a friend
Accompanied by tankards of good beer
Allows us to develop themes and share
Love, laughter, jealousy or fear
And contemplate a carefully crafted end.

A glass of wine, a connoisseur’s delight
Will be remembered for bouquet and taste
And for the dinner that it graced
Never a drop allowed to go to waste,
A story shorter than a summer’s night.

But for a poem I would choose
A single malt to be my muse.

Lightly Done – April 2019 – Grab Every Opportunity

and if there isn’t one – make it!

As I packed for our longed for cruise to the Canary Islands I remembered a previous one where I met Sandra Howard who was travelling with her husband Michael Howard, one of the official lecturers. As an after thought the Cruise Director had invited Sandra to lead a series of Writers’ Workshops and I wondered if anything like this would happen again so (hang on to your dreams) I added some notes and a couple of short stories before I locked my case. On the first evening I during the after dinner entertainment I saw the Cruise Director sitting on her own to one side so I tiptoed over and asked if there was any room to add a Writers’ Workshop to the programme?

If you choose to go to the Canary Islands by sea during the Spring Equinox you have to cross the Bay of Biscay and you can expect (to quote Kipling) that the ship will go ‘Wop with a wibble between’ and it did, but most people got their sea legs remarkably quickly. On day two about eighteen of us gathered for a Writers’ Workshop, an extra item on the programme. Most confessed that they had thought about writing, and had been told that ‘most people have a book inside them.’ Some had been asked by their families to write a family history and one lady had been begged to write down the stories she had told her children when they were small. A man who had done National Service during the Suez Crisis kept us spell bound as he called back his memories and finally another confessed that he had completed an e-book and self published it on Amazon to discover too late that it was full of typos and worse, he hadn’t noticed that he had changed his hero’s name half way through the book! We all agreed that to complete a book is a triumph but I took the opportunity to explain that we all need a professional editor and proof reader whether we are going down the traditional route with an agent and publisher or are taking the increasingly common indie route. Friends and family members can be wonderful supporters but if we are serious we need more than a kindly ‘that’s brilliant dear!’

The would be writers met a second time and we discussed the dangers of being conned by rapacious vanity press publishers and I suggested that the first step is to start keeping a journal . When are we too old? Never!

A proof reader and editor who I would recommend very highly is Judy Manville, in my opinion she is perceptive, knowledgeable and efficient and even if you are a complete beginner she will edit your work ready to publish at a professional standard without destroying the presence of your voice.

Here are some of the useful sources I promised last month:-
Https://  Through this web site you will find Anne R Allen’s blog with Ruth Harris ‘Writing about writing.Mostly’
Https://  Joanna Penn publishes a Podcast every Monday, a regular blog with resources for writers and authors as well as writing novels herself and running courses from time to time. Rodgers is a retired Canadian homicide detective and forensic coroner with a regular blog. I find his blogs very stimulating.

I’ll be back at the beginning of May

Lightly Done

Lightly Done will be a monthly blog exploring the possibilities for those of us who believe that age is just a number and life is for living. My intention is to post during the first weekend of every month.

Each month I will thank some one who has helped me to come out of the shadows to admit that I am a writer with news and ideas to share.

I have been amazed by the generosity of so many established writers. It was more than ten years ago that I came across Randy Ingermanson’s Fiction Newsletter and realised that anything is possible if only I hang on to my dreams and never give up. Questions published in Randy’s E-zine fitted all my needs –

  • You always wanted to write a novel but didn’t know how to get started.
  • You started writing your novel and want to learn how to write better.
  • You finished writing your novel and need to polish it.
  • You revised your novel and want to get it published.
  • You published your novel and want to market it.

I have enjoyed Randy’s E-zine ever since and know of no better way of organising my thoughts and exploring ideas for a new novel than by using Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake method.

This month I have been asked by a new writer how she should use her journal and I found myself wondering what draws late-comers to creative writing instead of any other art form. Is it to share memories and experiences or to create a new world of ideas and possibilities. Is it something you want to do or that you have to do, impelled by the plot or characters of your own creation?