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.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Bea-ing Zed

Z. It’s the 26th letter of the alphabet and is an indication that you’ve reached the end. Except this isn’t an end, just a temporary halt. A pause. Used in a series, zzzz, is an indication that you've fallen asleep.

I began blogging in February 2015 and each of my posts has followed an alphabetical prompt. This is the second time I’ve been through the list. So I’ve completed 52 posts to date. Not quite one per week but close to it.
I like blogging. It’s an interesting discipline, forcing me to write even when I haven’t always felt like sitting at a keyboard. I suppose in that sense I write mainly for myself but I love it when others stop by and leave a comment. Thank you to those who take the time to read my posts.
I may not update this page quite so frequently in the near future. Real life sometimes gets in the way of the virtual world. I hope to return soon. In the meantime I shall catch some zzzz.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Bea-ing Yellow

It’s such a beautiful colour, isn’t it? It’s reminiscent of spring: daffodils, crocus, primroses.

I find it strange therefore that the colour has negative connotations. A yellow-belly is a cowardly person. A hospital in quarantine would fly a yellow flag. For many years there was a xenophobic fear of eastern races labelled the yellow peril. Someone with a yellow streak has a tendency to dastardly behaviour.

An older meaning, and not one I recognised, was that yellow can mean sensational. A yellow-back was a cheap, sensational novel common in the 19th century.

Yellow press meant newspapers abounding in exaggerated and sensational articles. I can think of many magazines today which fit that description, albeit not many of them use the colour yellow as part of their branding. I’ve recently taken out a subscription with Readly which provides access online to hundreds of different publications. Some are highly sensationalised, others not so.

They may not all be magazines I would choose to read but a little research reveals many will pay for readers’ letters, photographs and helpful hints. So on the days when I find it difficult to focus on longer pieces of writing, I intend to send in my contributions. I may even win some prizes for doing so. Now wouldn’t that be sensational!

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Bea-ing Xenial

Xenial means being hospitable, especially to strangers. Which is exactly how I find the writing fraternity to be.

It is often observed that writing is a lonely occupation. It is not a group experience. Even if we choose to write surrounded by other people, such as in a coffee bar, we nevertheless must exclude from our consciousness the world around us and focus only on the words we are writing.

In a normal office environment people pass by one’s desk, and there is a staff room or canteen to share coffee and chat. As writers in our metaphorical lonely garrets we do not have the benefit of that interaction.

Which is what is so great about social media. On both Twitter and Facebook I meet fellow writers who form a welcoming, supportive, informative and fun group. Facebook is my lunch hour chat; Twitter is my coffee break; #writingchat 8-9pm each Wednesday night is my weekly after-work social.

So today, I wanted to say hello to my writing buddies in the virtual staff room. Even though we’ve never met, thanks for being xenial.