Wednesday, 28 December 2011

UK Writers and Small Stones

I don’t do resolutions. They’re like rules. They’re made to be broken, but this year I do want to get some of my longer manuscripts completed and out there. I’m always telling other people that their work will never get published if it's sitting in a pending file, so I suppose I really should listen to myself. This means that I’ll be doing a fair bit of editing over the next few months and, as editing can be tedious, I’ve planned two Twitter distractions:

@mariaAsmith and myself, @RosalindAdam, thought it would be useful for UK writers to have a tag so we can link up with each other to share news on Twitter. The news can be writing opportunities, competitions, conferences, in fact anything that's relevant to UK writers. 

If you're interested then please tweet ‘I'm in #UKwriters to @mariaAsmith and she'll include your twitter name on her UKwriters twitter list. If you're already on the list and want to follow more UK writers go to Maria Smith UK writers list where you can check it out. Do please use the #UKwriters tag whenever you tweet writing advice etc. Who knows, we might even get it trending.

I’m having another try at taking part in the River of Stones project.  It’s run by Fiona and Kaspa and this is how they explain what you have to do: 

"You'll create a 'small stone' every day when you pay proper attention to something (a cloudy sky, or your cat leaping lightly across the lawn) and then write it down as accurately as you can.

Writing small stones will help you to engage with the world around you - to enjoy every sip of your black coffee, to savour the scent of lemon wafting around your kitchen, to appreciate the grungy sliminess of your compost pile." 

You can find out more on their website at Writing our Way Home. I tried to take part in last July’s project but life overtook me. Hopefully, if I can keep ‘on task’, I’ll be tweeting a ‘small stone’ daily throughout January using the tag #smallstones. I’ll post up the best at the end of the month.

What are your plans for January?

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Festival of Lights

Today is the first day of Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. In the UK it also happens to be the shortest day of the year... so it’s a time when we all need light in our lives in more ways than one.

Chanukah lasts for eight days. We have special candlesticks called Menorahs or Chanukiahs. When I was in Jerusalem in October I bought myself this lovely new Chanukiah. [Did I mention that we went to Jerusalem?! I did! Whoops, I do keep repeating myself!] 

The photo doesn't really do it justice. It's soooo pretty.
The middle branch is the lighter candle, called the shamash, which is used to light the other candles. Each night an extra candle is lit until on the eighth night there are nine candles burning. It’s a really fun time for the children who look forward to a small gift as each candle is lit.

Chanukah commemorates a miracle, a historical event that took place over 2,300 years ago. The Jewish temple in Jerusalem had been ransacked. When Judah and the Maccabees reclaimed the temple they found that all the oil had been contaminated except for one small jug which held enough for a single day. There’s always a light burning in a Jewish place of worship and so the oil lamp was filled and lit. Then a miracle happened as the tiny amount of oil stayed lit not for one day but for eight days, enough time for fresh oil to be prepared.

But when we light the Chanukah candles today we also celebrate the power of light. If our house is in darkness we stumble and fall over each other. The same can be said of the world. If we light a candle to light the world... 

if we ALL light a candle to light the world

then there’ll be no more darkness, no one will stumble, none of us need fall. Maybe one day.

Here’s a fun message from a cartoon character called Rabbi Infinity that shows us how light is more powerful than dark. It's called A Little Light.

Whatever festival you’re celebrating, or about to celebrate, may it be a happy, healthy and peaceful time for everyone.

Friday, 16 December 2011

So Many Skills

If I was to ask you to write down all your skills you’d run out of paper for sure. We’ve all acquired so many skills in life that we take most of them for granted. I’ve had two email chats this week that have made me think about my skills. The first was about writing poetry. Sue from PoetrySpace Competition asked if I could write a post for her blog about my approach to poetry writing.

      “Yes, no problem,” I said and I picked up my pen but I couldn’t find the words to describe it. Of course, I managed to find some words in the end. I rarely am completely lost for words. [“That’s true!” says Mr A as he walks past my desk.] The resulting article is here. I’d love to know if you approach your poetry-writing in the same way.

The second chat was with Sarah from Empty White Pages. I’d commented on her blog that a song she’d featured in last week’s post has satisfying guitar chord changes. Sarah was surprised.

      “You play guitar?” she said. “I never knew.”

      “I’ll blog about it,” I said and we both agreed that it’s fascinating to find out about other things that bloggers can do so…

I learnt to play the classical guitar as a child and moved on to acoustic in my teens. I dabbled with the harmonica and for a short time was an oboist in the school orchestra. I rarely play the guitar these days. My once hardened finger ends have gone all soft and soppy and it hurts too much. I prefer to sit at the piano where I can just about plonk out a tune. Oh yes, and I also have a bodhran drum, a leaving gift from one of my teaching jobs, but drumming is a skill that I’ve never quite mastered, although I can make the most thunderous racket with it… especially when I’m stressed!

What skills have you got hiding under your bushel?

Sunday, 11 December 2011

If we cared

I’ve had a go at one of Jenny Matlock’s weekend challenges. I can't get Blogger to put a link on her badge but please visit her blog. There’s always something there to make you smile. This week her challenge is to post up a piece of writing in any style as long as it’s less than 100 words and includes the phrase:

It doesn’t have to be that way

Excellent!’ I thought when I read her prompt. ‘I now have an excuse for one of my regular moans.’ So here goes:

Why is it nation fighting nation,
Always man versus man,
Another journalist’s sensation
As the bad news hits the fan?
We say we care about each other
But that clearly isn’t true.
What with brother killing brother
I’m afraid for me and you.
If we cared we’d not permit
All of that murderous display.
It’s our world we’re messing up. It
Doesn’t have to be that way.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

What does your computer screen wallpaper say about you?

Some people don’t bother to upload personalised wallpaper [background] for their computer. They’re content to make do with the Windows default one. My theory is that these people are practical and business-like and don’t want to be distracted by personalised add-ons.

I, on the other hand, am neither practical nor business-like and I’m more than happy to distract myself with personalised add-ons! I’m certainly spending rather a lot of time trying to decide on suitable screen wallpaper right now. It all went wrong when the dog died just over a year ago and I couldn’t bear to look at his adorable face on my laptop screen each day. I decided to go impersonal. I started to photograph flowers in the garden but I soon got bored with each one. The following three are some of my better attempts. [I've never been much of a photographer!]

Autumn Dahlia                        Clematis head                             Daisy
Every few days I would be out in the garden, camera in hand, but now that it’s winter there’s nothing inspiring out there to photograph so at the moment I’m using a picture from that lovely holiday we recently had in Jerusalem [did I mention that we went to Jerusalem?!?] I’m sure that I’ll soon be changing it again. I may go for ducks next time because, as I said in a recent blog post, ducks make me smile and we all need an excuse to smile while we’re working, don’t we!

  • What wallpaper do you have on your computer screen?
  • Do you keep changing it or have you had the same one for so long that you hardly notice it?
  • And what does that say about you?

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Sticks in a Bundle are Unbreakable

The title of this post is a Kenyan proverb and a lovely way of talking about the security of being part of a group. Rather like ‘United we stand divided we fall’, it’s the sort of feeling strikers get when they walk out together in order to raise awareness of a valid complaint.

I decided to Google the phrase and discovered that Sticks in a Bundle are Unbreakable is the name of a movement based in South Korea who want to... 
"...reach to the needy through numbers, through working together and through spreading love. In unity lies strength and the more people who become aware of different humanitarian needs around the globe will seek out solutions faster." 
Now that's an amazingly positive use of group strength. If only everybody had the same ideals. You can read more about them on their Facebook page.

I decided to look for more proverbs with a similar message. [Yes, I was supposed to be writing and no, this was not a strictly necessary activity but it was enjoyable nevertheless!]

None of us is as smart as all of us:
Brainstorming ideas can produce much better results than sitting scratching your head and thinking on your own. It works particularly well with a creative writing class, which brings me to writers' critique groups. They're not only helpful but they're enjoyable and inspiring too. If you're a writer and you don't belong to such a group then you must join one now!

A single leaf provides no shade:
I’m not sure if the two examples I’ve given here quite fit this proverb. What do you think?

Firstly, singing in a choir has a totally different feel to singing solo. I’ve only tried it once and it was amazing to be part of that wall of sound.

Secondly, my most mind-blowing group experience was when I took part in a group meditation. I’d tried meditating on my own several times with little success so when I joined a group I wasn’t expecting much, but as the group leader talked us into the meditation I could feel an atmosphere surrounding me, almost like a presence. I felt calm and positive and there was something else that I can't put into words, something quite spiritual. I've never experienced anything like it before or since.

Have I interpreted the ‘single leaf’ proverb correctly?

And what has been your most powerful group experience?