Sunday, 1 January 2017

Gate of the Year

The new year can be exciting, full of possibilities - successes, new discoveries, plans to be made. But it can be scary too. Who knows what problems lie before us? A poem I learned as a child comes to my mind each January.

I love the imagery of a guiding hand being "better than light and safer than a known way". The poem was written by Minnie Louise Haskins who died in 1957. I wrote about her in my recent article which is published in The People's Friend Special 133. Minnie unwittingly became an overnight celebrity when King George VI quoted from her poem in his address to the Commonwealth in December 1939.

The words of the poem would have provided comfort to many in the early days of the Second World War. As you stand at the gate of 2017, I hope that, whatever your faith, you will find strength and courage to embrace everything that the new year has in store.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Fillers and Bea

img_0494No, I haven't gone down the route of cosmetic correctives, Botox or the like.
img_0497'Fillers' in the context of writing are the shorter articles that magazine editors slot into gaps between longer pieces of copy and adverts. Because of this they are usually chosen at the last moment, once the major components of an anticipated edition are agreed upon and a judgment is made as to what space needs to be infilled.
img_0496My first published piece of writing was a filler in The People's Friend over 2 years ago. Since then they have published several more of mine, the most recent in the Christmas Special now on sale. The current article is about Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean which I first discovered as a child when looking through my father's stamp collection. 
img_0495Stamps give an overview of a country featuring as they do pictures featuring geographical, historical, anthropological, mythical and natural interest. It is from these stamps that I learned of the spectacle of the island's red crab migration. If you've never seen photographs then do take a look online.
img_0498My favourites from my late father's collection though have to be a set of 5 stamps issued 30 years ago in which an artist imagined Santa Claus holidaying on the island which bears his name. After the busy-ness of Christmas Eve, who would deny him a restful holiday in the sun?

Monday, 7 November 2016

Espresso and Bea

While I'm writing this, there is in the background a gentle buzz of noise. People are chattering, there is an occasional burst of laughter from the table in the corner, the explosion of a grind and hiss from the machine being used by the baristas as they complete the next order for a skinny latte with a caramel shot, or whatever it may be. All the normal sounds and comforting hubbub that comes from sitting in a cafe whilst tapping away at my keypad.

You may think that I am writing in a cafe, as many other writers choose to do. Except I'm not. I'm in the warmth of my own home listening to 'university undertones' from the cafe menu on Coffitivity. As it's pouring with rain outside I really didn't want to leave the comfort of my desk this morning!

Cafe bars are a great place to people watch and many an unsuspecting customer has found his or her way into a short story of my composition. Just why has the otherwise elegantly dressed and perfectly maquillaged old lady sitting by herself have dirt incongruously entrapped under her fingernails? What happened to the brusque workman this morning to put him into such a foul mood that he snapped rudely at the young barista serving his tea? And the smartly suited businessman in the corner working at his laptop in the corner keeps glancing furtively around the room, leaning forward to cover the screen whenever anyone walks by - what is he hiding?

Here is a piece of flash fiction of mine that was published last month on Paragraph Planet. Enjoy!

Do you find writing in cafes a distraction or a source of inspiration?

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Dogs and Bea

Every picture tells a story, so it is claimed. What story do you see when you look at this painting?

'Fidelity' by Briton Riviere
What happened to the young boy that led to his imprisonment? How did he injure his arm? What is the significance of the graffiti on the cell wall? What will happen to him next? Above all, what emotions does the painting evoke?

I have a fondness for 19th century narrative art. I was brought up in Liverpool where the Walker Art Gallery, and the Lady Lever Art Gallery in nearby Port Sunlight, have an excellent selection. As a child I would examine the paintings and find myself asking those simple questions – who, why, what, where?

Story writing begins the same way. We start with the questions and then we provide the answers: introduce the characters, explain their motivation, describe the situation, identify the setting. In so doing we aim to create a credible and well-rounded plot that will evoke emotion in the reader.

My focus in Riviere's painting is the dog. He has such expressive eyes, full of concern and love. The droop of his tail indicates empathy with his master's sorrow.
I no longer have a dog of my own but provide regular doggy-day-care for those belonging to family members. Here are my three loyal and loving friends. They have already inspired some of my short stories. Do you find pictures and animals a source of inspiration?
Why is Ziggy so sad?

Who has caught Henry's attention?

What has Freddie found buried amongst the leaves?

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Cobwebs and Bea

They aren’t everyone’s favourite, but even the most ardent arachnophobe can’t help but be awestruck by the beauty that these misty autumn mornings reveal. The hedge in my back garden was covered in silver when I opened the door this morning.

I must pay tribute to the tenacity and patience of the spider who lives in my car’s nearside wing mirror. Despite regularly having his web destroyed when I brush past, or attempt to wash the car windows, or drive at speed, by the next morning the web will have been rebuilt.

Maybe I can learn from him how to be persistent? In writing terms, if I submit my delicate manuscript and it is destroyed by rejection, I need to practice that same determination: pick up the threads and reconstruct my story, one strand at a time, until it is stronger and better and ready again to be submitted.

The same lesson can be applied to overcoming life’s setbacks, silken thread by silken thread. OK, maybe that’s a bit deep and pushing the analogy too far.

On a lighter note, here’s a little something I prepared earlier which was published last year on Paragraph Planet. Hope you enjoy it.


Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Baking and Bea

It’s back today! Judging from Twitter I’m not the only one struggling to keep my excitement under control. I refer of course to The Great British Bake Off which returns to our television screens tonight. Weeks of fun lie ahead. Expect to see plenty of hard work and effort, creativity, histrionics, disbelief, despair and finally exultation. Just like writing really.

Last year I had a 75 word flash published on Paragraph Planet which was inspired by The Great British Bake Off. Today is as good a time as any to share it again. If you haven’t heard of Paragraph Planet pop across and have a look at their site. They publish a new piece of flash fiction every day, the only requirement being it has to be exactly 75 words, no more and no less, including any title. I find it an excellent way of warming up for a day of writing. Why not give it a go?

Now to get back to my own literary efforts, mixing up words and phrases in just the right proportions to create a tasty manuscript. Hope I can avoid the flabby middle and soggy bottom.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Alan and Bea

I said in my last post Bea-ing Zed that I would be taking time out from blogging because “Real life sometimes gets in the way of the virtual world”. Sadly it did in the cruellest way. During the last few months I nursed my wonderful husband through his final illness before he slipped away on 23 June. No, that is wrong. Alan didn’t so much slip away; it was more that he chose his time to leave. Sometimes the bravest thing is to let go of what we know and to face the unknown. Alan did that.
Thank you, Alan, for the time we spent together and for your inspiration.
Which leaves me to carry on. I intend to resume my writing. Alan was my greatest supporter, always encouraging: he suggested topics for articles, he danced with me when I celebrated a sale and he picked me up when I received a rejection.
Knowing he would support me still, last week I attended the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School just six weeks after he died. I’m so glad I did: informative courses and workshops; inspiring speakers; refreshing meditation sessions; beautiful grounds (with a little WW2 history thrown in); an abundance of food and coffee; evening entertainment. I met with virtual friends and made new ones. Stimulation and relaxation in equal measure, just what I needed. Thank you to all at Swanwick for a week of renewal and inspiration.