For the love of words…

On this St Valentine’s Day, when it’s traditional to make a concerted effort to show someone you love them, I thought my blog this week should pay homage to my love of words. In a more obvious way, that is, as one could say that it does this every week.

book-1169437_1280Whether it’s reading or writing; consuming fact, fiction, poetry or prose, there’s just something about words that presents the world in a new light – in a way that nothing else can. Words focus you in on the specifics – they reveal secrets you might otherwise never see or think to ask about. They draw you into other worlds – real and imagined – and introduce you to characters bizarre, ordinary and obscure. Words broaden the mind, create empathy, excite and enthral – they conjure up images that will never be the same from one mind to the next, and they teach us, inspire us and encourage us to ask questions.

Words make magic with language, are as colourful as any paint, and can be clear, abstract or laced with hidden meaning. book-1012275_1280

It’s a conundrum to ask if I prefer reading or writing, but I’d have to say, if made to choose, that reading would win out. Reading inspires me in my own writing and there’s so much more of value out there to read than I’m sure to ever produce. My bookcases at home are spilling over with books, their numbers being added to often from impulse buys at second-hand bookstores, high street book shops and anywhere else that books can be found.

If you have a love of words, then I believe your life will always be  enriched by it…

 

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Meetings and greetings

If you write, then at some point, you’ve probably attended a writers’ group, or are currently part of one. Writing groups are a great way to get feedback on your writing, to share ideas and to gain confidence in reading your work in front of people. They can also keep you focused on your writing goals, as well as motivating you to keep going.elf-478330_1280

I attended a writing group programme a few years ago and since then, regularly go to prose and poetry workshops throughout the year. I find this works well for me. While I see the benefits of being part of a group which meets every week, it suits my writing habits better to do things this way. I also meet up with fellow writers to chat about what we’re doing, and draw inspiration from literary festivals, writers’ talks/readings and the like.

Anyway, as with writing styles and so on, every writer must find what suits them best – whether it’s being in a group, or flitting around to one-off workshops and events like myself. This week, I was invited along to a relatively new writers’ group in Derry, where I chatted to a lovely group of wordsmiths about my writing experiences and about submitting to journals and so on. Everyone came across as being very supportive of each other’s work, and were enthusiastic about progressing their writing careers.

We swapped names of authors to read, chatted about short stories and writing for children, and just had an inspiring evening centred on writing. Even if you don’t go to a group every week, it’s good to connect with other writers offline, so if you haven’t been to anything in a while, then I encourage you to drop in on the next literary event or writing group meeting in your area!

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Literary launches and the like

Having attended the launch of a book about the musical history of 19th century Belfast, and the launch of the Launchpad children’s writing journal at the weekend (too many launches?!), I was doing a little less writing and a bit more reading and reporting the past couple of days. I also enjoyed a catch-up with Incubator Journal editor, Kelly Creighton, which is always good for the soul!kids-1099709_1280

At Saturday’s Launchpad Journal event, it was my first time reading one of my stories at an event aimed primarily at children. The dynamics are definitely different, and the writer reading would certainly be advised to have a few tricks up their sleeve to captivate their young audience, but I was surprised at how well-behaved the kids were. They sat through a fair few poems and stories being read, and were certainly enthusiastic in clapping us off afterwards. :)

Anyway, writing-wise, I’m pushing poetry aside for a little while to focus on my short stories (for adults), and to get some new ideas churning. There are also some writing events and festivals on the horizon to look forward to, and it might also be a good idea to get submitting again… January was a rather dreary month, and February may have started off with a storm (the second in as many days!), but the good thing about writing is – you can do it whatever the weather. :)

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Meditative moments

A few days ago, I attended my first meditative movement class, Chill Step, which combines yoga, meditation, mindfulness and dance to create a fusion of calmness and which ultimately, leaves you feeling all chilled out. So chilled out in fact, that I almost forgot to write this blog post…

I jest – I was consumed by work. :)

Camera (1) 772Led by the lovely Georgia, the class encouraged us to still the mind and really focus on what we were doing with our breathing and movements. If you’ve dabbled with meditation, mindfulness and the like, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Usually, I leave my meditative moments for the dog walks, but then, that’s usually thinking time. The mind is still busy and while sometimes I try to clear it out, I’m often musing over potential story ideas, picking through the day that was, or planning for the week ahead.

Taking proper ‘time out’ to clear your head is just as important, I think, as taking time on a walk to conjure up all those creative ideas for your stories, poems or whatever. The imagination needs to be nourished, but overloading anything can never be a good thing. I enjoyed the class (led, as it happens, by someone who’s also a writer), and so I plan to go again. Hopefully, it’ll refresh the mind and help feed the imagination. I’ll keep you posted!

Now, back to the writing. :)

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Writing without agenda

ink-316909_1280When you write your stories longhand there’s always an element of surprise, no matter how well you think you’ve estimated words per page, when you go to type it up. Usually, my worry is that the story will be too short, as what fills a small notebook and makes you think you’ve written something significant, can often translate into just a few typed pages. However, my most recent story, which I thought would be around 2,000 words, turned out to be about 4,500 words, so I was pleasantly surprised at that!

I got into the habit last year of writing stories that were mostly in the region of 2,000 words, as this is the word limit for so many journal submissions and competitions. However, as part of my pledge to write without agenda this year, I’ve reverted back to form – my form – which means lengthier short stories that won’t necessarily fit the mould. I will probably also write some that are 2,000 words and maybe even less than that. We’ll just have to see how the creative juices flow…WOMEN ALOUD

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to being a part of an exciting new project in Northern Ireland called Women Aloud NI, which will take place on International Women’s Day on March 8 this year. The project is all about championing women writers in Northern Ireland, so if you’re from NI (whether you’re a current resident or are living elsewhere) and would like to take part, then check out their website at: http://womenaloudni.com/

I’ll be reading my story from The Incubator Journal in Coleraine on the day, as well as chatting about submitting to journals, so it should be good! More details will follow… :)

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Scribbling on…

For the past few Januaries, I’ve taken stock of my writing achievements in the 12 months previous, making a note in my diary of what I accomplished. This is a good way to see how much I actually managed to do, as you can easily forget as the months go by and, as someone continually striving to do more, it can be all too easy to under-appreciate these things.book-1112467_1280

In 2015, I had three poems and three short stories published, with another poem accepted for publication in an anthology which is due out this year. This is an increase on the year before, publication-wise, and while it’s not always about numbers, it does feel good to reflect on that. I also completed my short story and poetry collections for the Arts Council NI as part of the Support for Individual Artists  Programme, wrote various other bits of poetry and prose throughout the year, and was delighted when my feature about a short story collection was shortlisted in the Thresholds International Feature Writing Competition.

Furthermore, I kept this blog going, which never ceases to amaze me, as one wonders sometimes what there is left to write about on it. But there’s always something! I find it keeps me motivated in my writing life and I appreciate anyone who runs their eye over it, though I’d still be writing it even if no-one visited. :)Library

Anyway, this year, I fully intend to push on with my writing, and dream of a more harmonious schedule with regards to my business writing and my more creative writing… Read more, write more, is my plan! It’s easier said than done sometimes, but after a few weeks off at Christmas, I’ve emerged in 2016 determined to keep going and to see what happens. It’s good to have writing goals but then again, it’s good also not to become too caught up in them and lose focus. Better to write what you will with no agenda, and appreciate any good thing that comes of it…

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Ye olde style writing…

SnufkinFollowing on from my last post before Christmas (I had a wee break from the blog for a week in between), I’m picking up where I left off… with Mr Dickens. Yes, over the festive period, I whiled away the hours with David Copperfield (at last! My English teacher once suggested I read it over the summer holidays, when I was in first or second year, but I wasn’t convinced at the time…) and suffice it to say, I enjoyed it very much. I’m now mid-way through Dickens’ collection of ghost stories and have Bleak House and The Old Curiosity Shop on standby because, I have to admit, I’ve never read them.

My problem – if you want to call it a problem – is that I love the old style writing of Dickens, and the overtly descriptive prose of authors such as Joyce and Woolf. What’s more, when I read these sorts of books, I find myself indulging in a similar style which, although still popular with many readers in 2016, unless you actually are Dickens or Woolf or Joyce, journals and publishers don’t really want to know. Today’s preferred short story style seems to lean towards the short and sharp; the punchy and in my opinion, more journalistic type of writing. It’s pared back and this is grand, but I don’t think everyone should necessarily be writing to fit the same style.

Anyway, having taken a proper break over Christmas, I only managed to cobble together one short story (in spooky Dickensian style no less!), which is still being refined, but I’m approaching 2016 with less haste and my writing will take the form that it will…  :)

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