Sunday, 1 September 2013

I have moved!

Sorry to everyone who missed me!

I have a new all-singing all-dancing website, courtesy of the ever resourceful web-genius, Tim Coxon.

I had assumed that everyone would be directed there - but it seems my email subscribers weren't.

Here is the link to the new site:

You can subscribe again once you're there.

See you there!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Creative Writing: Collaboration: We are exploring together.

  We are cultivating a garden together, backs to the sun. The question is a hoe in our hands and we are digging beneath the hard and crusty surface to the rich humus of our lives.*

By Walt Curlee
This will be me and good friend, Libby Wattis, this very day. A perfect way for me to get back into writing mode. She's coming to stay and we're working together on her solo show for theatre

Libby featured in my very first film, playing an astonishingly life-like corpse.

And here it is, and here she is. (Note how well she learned her lines!)

Collaboration - a gift from the gods or a skill that requires effort and practice?

I'm going for the first option.

* Parker J. Palmer, writer, teacher and activist

Monday, 26 August 2013

About me: Excited about chickens!

Later today, we collect the chicken coop and run. (Oooh, that sentence is remarkably like 'eats shoots and leaves.')

My nesting instinct is rampant at the moment. I think we can safely blame that on Laurie and Irene for producing the most adorable grandbaby, Matilda.My hormones have to have an outlet somewhere...

The thought of keeping chickens makes me smile. I have just heard that there are 200 rescue chickens at a local animal shelter waiting to be rehomed. I only hope Fantastic Mr. Fox isn't rubbing his paws with glee as well.

Be warned, Reynard: The chicken coop shall be the Fort Knox of the poultry world, named Fort Clux.

And now, because I haven't anything more to add until the great moment arrives - some chicken-themed cartoons:



Yes indeed, peace everyone!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

About me: Artist of the floating world

The world is floating but I am not an artist. Not yesterday. Not today.

Brain won't function.

Yesterday, I was a domestic goddess zombie. More like a farmer's wife, I suppose. (I'm not saying that this requires no brain, but that the brain patterns are set in my mind so it's possible to work on automatic pilot.)

By David Burliuk
Riding Alfie in torrential rain.



Cleaning tack.

Making citronella fly-spray for the horses.

Baking courgette cake and cheese scones.

Arranging to see a second-hand chicken coop...

(Yes, today my chicken quest is one step closer.)

By Matt Sesow
 The end of jet lag seemingly ISN'T

 Make the most of it, domesticity.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

About Me: Oooh, the desynchronosis...

That's the medical term for jet lag.

Lady Gaga says it's like bad shrooms.

By Aanabelle
I wouldn't know.

Tim did in fact cook mushrooms for our welcome home dinner but to me they tasted perfectly fine.

I feel spaced out. Can't concentrate. Am easily distractible. Go upstairs and can't remember the purpose of my journey. Start a sentence and tail off.  Eyes are glazed. Expression is blank. Have short-term memory issues.

So what's new?

Friday, 23 August 2013

Holiday blog: Postscript. Journeys are the midwives of thought.

 Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than moving planes, ships or trains.*

Oh, believe me, I had quite a few internal conversations on the plane home, convinced as I was that because it was an overnight flight, I would sleep. Ha!

My seat was the middle of three.

On my left was a (very pleasant) large lady, whose ample right thigh oozed under the armrest and took up about a quarter of my space.

On my right was Peter, who does that thing that many men do when seated on buses, trains and planes (citing the comfort of their undercarriage as an excuse) -  he sat with legs splayed, which took up about a quarter of my space.

In front of me, I swear the guy had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. He thrashed about, arching his back, tossing his head, making my poor little personal screen buck and wobble when I was trying to watch movies. His seat, when reclined, took up another quarter of my space.

I was quite squashed. I adopted the Upward Plank Position, legs stretched out straight under the seat in front, lower back supported by a pile of clothes.You could have done the ironing on my taut body.

Then, we kept on being Served With Things. Oh, yes. 3 a.m. I DO feel like a plastic container full of luke-warm chicken pasta and an egg-cup sized complimentary white wine, also luke-warm. Absolutely, I do.

(Don't mean to be churlish. I KNOW I'm the luckiest person in the world to have had such a trip.)

Good to be home though!

The dogs were pleased to see me...

*Alain De Botton, from The Art of Travel

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Holiday blog: The last.


Tomorrow today at Toronto Airport.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Holiday blog: Travel does not exist without home.

If we never return to the place we started, we would just be wandering, lost. Home is a reflecting surface, a place to measure our growth, and enrich us after being infused with the outside world.*

Yes, I know that only a few days ago I said that home is people, not a place...

Yesterday was the last full day of our trip. Today, we head for Toronto Pearson Airport and home. Overnight flight. Back Thursday morning, UK time, carrying our jet lag and memories.

I have completely loved being with my two boys and their girls and my precious grandbaby and all the extended family, but now it's time to go to that home....

...that home where there's my other lovely boy and the dogs and the horses and my friends and the bees and the rabbits and the promise of chickens and possibly even cats, because Pete can no longer claim he's allergic having spent five sneeze-free days with Hibou the Hairy Feline Grandson.

For me, home isn't just people, it's animals and caring for them and it's cooking meals for my menfolk and doing the washing and ironing and forgetting about the cobwebs and picking the runner beans and tomatoes and courgettes and making chutney...

All those things, which aren't THINGS but are acts of love which make the house a home.

*Josh Gates

Monday, 19 August 2013

Holiday blog: Quite Interesting Things In Ontario

They spell neighbour in the English way...I hesitate to say 'correctly' for fear of being castigated. Funny, because they spell colour color, as in 'incorrectly.' Why is this? Doesn't make any kind of sense.

Milk is sold in bags, not bottles or cartons. This is quite interesting yet strangely wobbly when pouring.

Here, motor homes are about the same dimensions as Olympic swimming pools. Indeed, some of them may contain swimming pools as well as full-size cinemas, shopping malls with their own branch of Tim Horton's and a crazy golf course. They are not like Dr. Who's tardis because they are as big on the outside as the inside. 

By contrast, at Kawartha Lakes there is an Amish community and it's lovely to see the horse-drawn buggies trit-trotting at a spanking pace along the highway, shy bonneted women peeping out from under the hood.

Heart attacks are served on plates. This dish is otherwise known as poutine, which is chips (French fries) slurped with brown gravy and topped with cheese curds. No, I haven't tried it yet.

The cabbages are the size of over-inflated footballs and the tomatoes are as big as croquet balls and the Brussels sprouts are like tennis balls. Though I've never tasted a tennis ball.

Perhaps everything is bigger in proportion to the size of the province? Ontario is 415000 square miles in against the paltry 94000 of the UK.

See, that proves it. Except for the Amish.


Holiday blog: The world is flat, isn't it?

It is, pretty much, in Ontario, certainly around Orillia.

I find the landscape quite unnerving in a way - though more than made up for by the lovely people here. Absolutely. Generous and welcoming folks.

You'd have thought that endless miles and miles of flatness with perfectly straight roads would give a sense of space and freedom. Perhaps space, yes, but space that gives the impression you're getting nowhere slowly and there's nowhere to go, no friendly landmarks to punctuate the journey, nothing contained within the reassuring arms of Mother Nature, for here she has no arms, only a vast expanse of skin, fuzzy green with grassland, corn fields and cabbages.

Even the trains are long and flat. A train passes a road crossing and you stop. And you wait. And still it goes by. And you complete the Times Crossword, and knit a Fair Isle sweater, and compose a couple of symphonies, and glance up, and, oh, there goes another carriage, trundling by - and if you're really lucky you meet the same train at the next crossing.

I feel a sort of...I suppose you could call it agoraphobia? Not exactly FEAR of open spaces but just a desire for contours and being enclosed by nature, not dwarfed by it.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Holiday blog: Canada is the linch pin of the English-speaking world.Says who?

Winston Churchill said but, plainly, he didn't spend enough time in Canada to know that they speak American, not English.

My son Jamie doesn't speak English anymore.

Why, only this morning, he asked Peter to open the trunk and I looked around vaguely for a large sturdy chest such as my father might have taken away to boarding school.

Oh, you mean open the BOOT, Jamie? The boot. Opposite end of the car to the bonnet. BONNET, that is, not hood.

I was also advised to take long pants on a visit to the in-laws, in case it cooled down in the evening. Long pants to wear under my trousers? Do they sell those in Marks & Spencer where I get all my pants? I don't think so.

Jamie even said, with a cheeky grin in my direction, that he was just popping out to get some beer and would be back momentarily. By which he meant, 'in a very short time' NOT 'just for a moment' which is what momentarily REALLY means, actually, people of the world.

There will come a time when I need a dictionary in order to understand him, my own flesh and blood.

AND he drives on the wrong side of the road...

Friday, 16 August 2013

Holiday blog: Home is people. Not a place.

If you go back there after the people are gone, all you can see is what is not there anymore.*

I have many homes. In Sussex where we live and so do Tim, the dogs and horses. In Whistler, where Laurie, Irene and Matilda live. In Orillia where Jamie and Breanna live. In Arboleas where David and Gilly live. In Sheffield where Jane lives.

Home is where the heart is. My heart's doing a pretty good job being in five places at once.

Elastic heart. Multi-tasking heart.

*Robin Hobb

Holiday blog: You know what the great thing about babies is?

They are like little bundles of hope. Like the future in a basket.*

Yesterday I spent my last day with the BC family, with Matilda. Irene was very generous, letting me hog my perfect little grandbaby for ages, only I couldn't quite oblige at feed time.

I swear Matilda's progressed in the few short days we've been with her. Not quite on to differential calculus yet, but she holds her head up well now, and pushes up on her little legs.

One of the happiest moments of my life - Matilda falling asleep in my arms and me falling asleep holding her, absorbing the smell, the warmth, the softness of her.

Flying to Toronto today and Jamie and Breanna will meet us at the airport. 

I love to be met. To go through that gate and see those familiar smiling faces and rush into their welcoming arms.

It'll make up for missing the others already!

* Lish McBride

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Holiday blog: But it’s all still there in my heart and soul.

The walk, the hills, the sky, the solitary pain and pleasure - they will all grow larger, sweeter, lovelier in the days to come -  like a treasure found then, voluntarily, surrendered. Returned to the mountains with my blessing. It leaves a golden glowing in my mind.

My mind and Edward Abbey's who wrote that in Beyond The Wall: Essays from the outside. ( Amazing how, sometimes, I find words that sum up so exactly what I'm thinking, feeling.)

Last day in the mountains yesterday. A wonderful hike called the Decker Loop. Strange to be walking over ground I've ski-ed so often. Hard to recognise with contours no longer softened by the pristine whiteness of billowy snow, but then I see the names of the runs and lifts on those familiar blue and white signs and know I've been there. Seventh Heaven. Harmony Ridge. Burnt Stew.

Walking's good for thinking. Oh the plans I've made in the last few days, the pondering! How I find it so much easier walking uphill and is this a metaphor for my writing, my life? My technique, yes. I see a steep slope, a challenge, then, head down, looking neither to left nor right, I storm along until I've reached the top. My Protestant  work ethic.

I chose the wallpaper for Matilda's room if the kids come to live with us, which sounds as though it might happen for visa reasons...

And named the chickens I'm going to purchase on my return. Miss Peck, Miss Flap and Miss Cluck.

After all, Nietzsche did say 'All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.' 

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Holiday blog: A thousand mornings.

  Or maybe Oblivious Like a Fence Post: Part 3

And it's me, this time, who's been oblivious.

Just as when I waited and waited for the milometer in my car to turn over to the 70,000 mark and then blinked, got distracted and missed it. Though why that should be so important I'm not quite sure. Slightly embarrassing to admit, really, but if I could have driven backwards to take the numbers down to 69,999 again...

For a couple of weeks now, I'd noticed that this blog was approaching the fairly momentous milestone of 1000 Posts. 

And it approached and it past, on August 9th and I was oblivious (like a fence post) until my boy Tim sent me a congratulatory email. 

I started on November 28th, 2010 and since then, the only days I've missed, which you can count on the fingers of one finger, or maybe two, have been when travelling and with no access to a computer. It's funny to look back at my early efforts. I have evolved. Praise be.

Something of an obsession to write this blog but also, for me, a delight. It's how I start my writing day.

Mostly, ideas pop out of my brain door like hyperactive cuckoos from a clock. Sometimes, rarely, they're dragged, kicking and screaming from the darkness. 

So that's a thousand mornings.

My life.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Holiday blog: Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilised peopleare beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home...

That wilderness is a necessity.

Wise words.

John Muir, who wrote this, really captures the zeitgeist, doesn't he? Current thinking. Only thing is, he died in 1914...So, as they say in North America' and I can too, because that's where I am at the moment - go figure!

However, in our Whistler condo (see, I'm really up on the lingo here) Renovation Is Happening. There's a man on our balcony scraping paintwork and another guy pressure jet washing the outside of the building. So peaceful here. So conducive to beautiful thoughts about nature.

We head for the mountains. This time to Pemberton and beyond. Pemberton is a great place, remaining unashamedly like a town in a Western movie with an old General Store selling cowboy boots and moccasins and catapults and violins. Yep, violins.

We have lunch at a cafe endearingly self-marketed as 'the place where food resonates.' I'm thankful to say that so far no resonating has occurred.

And, up the mountain, a walk to another lake of breathtaking beauty, reached through a dank forest dripping with grey-green lichen. I was thinking Lake Cheakamus could not possibly be surpassed and then there was Lake Joffre below the Matier Glacier.

My soul is soothed. 

My heart overflows. 

Writing, creativity, would come so easy here. 

I feel it bubbling inside.

Holiday blog: Babies are such a nice way to start people

So right, Don Herold.

I'm very proud of my grandbaby Matilda. Did I mention that at all? Not that I have any desire to become a baby bore, but she is particularly special. Particularly scrumptious. Particularly alert and intelligent. And, of course, this is a completely objective opinion.

Matilda's earliest memory of her maternal grandma:

Family tradition, you see. My Uncle Edward always used to entertain us as tiny children with the song 'This is the way the lady rides' bouncing us on his knee. I think he had his own version as I can't find the lyrics I remember so well ANYWHERE.

"This is the way the ploughboy rides: step, by step, by step.

This is the way the lady rides: trit-trot-trit-trot-trit-trot.

This is the way the huntsman rides: a-gallop, a-gallop, a-gallop and DOWN into the ditch."

Lots of (gentle) baby bouncing on my knees and a final swoop downwards and...

projectile vomit from Baby Matilda, which somehow managed to go right up the right leg of my shorts.

I've always been good with babies.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Holiday blog: This is a place where grandmothers hold babies on theirlaps under the stars...

and whisper in their ears that the lights in the sky are holes in the floor of heaven.

With thanks to Rick Bragg for the quotation.

We were in such a place last night. It was magical.

I was feeling a bit on the weepy side when we set out until I realised that my mind thought it was 4 a.m. and what on earth was I thinking of going on a hike to Lake Cheakamus when, by rights, I should be tucked up in bed? 

Six kilometres up a dusty pot-holed mountain track and our once-white hire car was thinking the same thing.

But then...

but then, we started walking, me and Pete, Irene and her mum, Serena, and Laurie, carrying Baby Matilda, three weeks old, in a wraparound sling.

We walked through an ancient forest beside a fast-flowing river of unimaginable blue-green tumbling beauty and the air smelled of pine resin and my heart over-flowed with peace and joy and my mind forgot about time zones and knew that nothing in life was as important as this.

Most of all, when three generations of Coxon-Rankin women - me and Serena, and Irene, breast-feeding Matilda, sat on a log over the lake at sunset, drinking in the beauty and the sheer joy of being together.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Holiday blog: Oblivious like a fence post: Part 2

On the plane. London Gatwick to Vancouver. Ten hour flight. Feeling smug as have paid an extra £36 to book seats in advance. Row 5 for heaven's sake! ROW 5! Not Row 47 with no leg room next to the smell of toilets and last to receive luke-warm cardboard lunch.

In Row 4, directly in front of us, is a young family. Mum, dad, baby and toddler. I am very patient. There is squawking and wriggling. I am sympathetic. I am very patient. 

The toddler throws his toy car at my head. Then his cup.

The baby drops his dummy 27 times over the back of the chair. I contort my cramped body 27 times to pick it up. I am very patient.

The mother of said infant has a hair-do like a pineapple. It impedes my view of the overhead screen. Okay, so it doesn't take much concentration to watch 'Parental Guidance' (The irony doesn't escape me...) but I get crick in neck endeavouring to see it. I am very patient.

Then mother stands up. My view of the screen is completely obscured. I give her an icy British stare. I clear my throat. She is oblivious like a fence post. I say (politely)  'Excuse me, I can't see the screen.' 

Mother mutters a grudging apology, thinking 'intolerant bitch!' under her breath.

She sits down. The pineapple impedes my view of the overhead screen.

I wish for a pair of garden shears.

Holiday blog: Oblivious like a fence post: Part 1

With apologies to all sentient fence posts everywhere.

(And put this blog down to time zone change and lack of sleep.)

Some people could try living outside their own headspace just occasionally, you know, just try it; it isn't so bad. You never know, you might strike up a, like, relationship with one of your customers, dear shop assistant. No? Oh, sorry. Not in the manual?

Boots. Gatwick Airport. Me at till with waterproof mascara and green sparkly nail varnish. Shopping in airports always makes me rash to the point of lunacy.

Girl at till: Would you like a bag?

Me (in full eco-warrior mode): No thank you. I can just pop the items in my handbag. As long as I have the receipt.

The girl takes a plastic bag and puts the items in it. I look at her. Her eyes are blank.

Me (politely): That's kind but I said I didn't need a bag.

Girl at till: Oh yeah. I did it out of habit. (Pause) Have a nice day!

That too?

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Holiday Blog: To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,

To gain all while you give, 
To roam the roads of lands remote, 

Hans Christian Andersen
Today, my birthday, is going to be one special day, one special and very long day. My birthday is going to be, by my calculations, THIRTY FOUR HOURS LONG!

We are flying ten hours to Vancouver, then driving to Whistler, to see my son Laurie and his beautiful girlfriend, Irene - and meet Irene's mum, Serena, over from Perth, Australia and...

experience the magical moment of seeing our grandbaby, Matilda Asa, for the very first time.

I am utterly blessed.

Note to my blogees (Is that a word? I just made it up, if it's not): I WILL be blogging. It won't be about writing, I'm guessing, and will have the usual iPad annoyances of formatting and image paucity. Normal service will be resumed on August 22nd when I get home.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Creative Writing: "All my life I've looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.”

...said Ernest Hemingway and I said that too yesterday...

I thought I was seeing, or rather hearing, a word for the first time. In fact, I didn't even think it WAS a word. (How little respect I have for Mayor of London Boris Johnson's intellectual capacity!)

Yes, hmmmmmmmm!
The word was ACCULTURATE...

'Boris Johnson is sending Prince George a tricycle modelled on London's hire bikes as a gift to "acculturate him to the joy of cycling" at the earliest opportunity.'

The radio presenter was of a similar opinion. 'Did he just say acculturate?' he said.

Some words are just plain UGLY and that is one of them. I won't be searching for opportunities for slipping it, all casual-like, into conversations.

I'd much rather make up my own words.

I'm working on a word to describe someone who uses the word acculturate.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Creative Writing: Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.

Inspirational  Pema Chodron said this, not referring to creative writing classes but to life. But then, a creative writing class is a microcosm.

A wee planet by Alexandre Duret-Lutz
All human life was there. homework of yesterday, my damned inspiration, my piece entitled 'Hidden' which I wrote in one mad flurry.

I didn't think too deeply about those words on the page. They were very personal, very black, very revealing. The irony doesn't escape me...there was the title and I was left anything but hidden once I'd read it out.

More...a bit shell-shocked.

So, the lovely people of Lewes asked the question, 'Where did that come from?' and I floundered.

'You don't have to answer that if you don't want to.'

'It was...from my past.'

A strange experience to be able to visit my past, an itinerant memory-catcher, and then to leave as quickly as I arrived.

By Steven Puetzer

Was it cathartic? I suppose, yes, in so far as it was a powerful experience to know I could go to a dark place and not be trapped there.

I found something indestructible.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Creative Writing: How to find inspiration #37b

Soooooooo...tonight is my second creative writing class. Remember the homework?

I do. Hidden. No, I haven't hidden my homework. That's the subject. And it has been. Hidden. As hidden as a very hidden thing in Hiddenville.

I have been searching for inspiration like Sir Galahad on the quest for the Holy Grail...

By Alice Popkorn
 only with less success. And no maidens in distress. Except for me.

This morning, I decided to give up, slink into class and make myself as small as possible so Roddy might not notice I was there.

Half and hour later,  inspiration came while waiting at traffic lights, not thinking about anything in particular.

Creative Writing: How to find inspiration #37b: Stop looking for it.


Now I'm going to have to write something.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

About Me: The music that helps connect my brain hemispheres

Of course, I don't know that's what it's doing. All I CAN say is that there are certain pieces of music that have the effect of making my brain EFFICIENT.

I suppose I could play them all the time...

"Listening to music stimulates the whole brain through diverse neural circuitry that stimulate better brain metabolism," says Maximised Living doctor, David Jockers. (Maximised Living doctor? Uh?)
The article is interesting, nonetheless.

Here is the Number One Piece of Efficient Music for me:
(I apologise to people looking at this on an iPad which doesn't support Flash, if that proves to be a problem. Blooming Apple!)

Well, must something efficient...

Saturday, 3 August 2013

About Me: “Why is a raven like a writing-desk?”

“Have you guessed the riddle yet?” the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.
“No, I give it up,” Alice replied: “What’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said the Hatter”

(I won't insult your intelligence by attributing this quote.)

 I'm not sure why I'm telling you this but if you want to drive me insane, here's how you could do it: Ask me questions to which I don't know the answer and deprive me of all access to Google and reference books.

I think I've mentioned this obsession for Knowing Things before, but this week was particularly bad. My mind just WON'T let up until I've found the answer. All this meditation and yoga...oh yeah, I'm a master (not).


First, on the radio, we heard the expression 'For Pete's Sake.' It didn't honestly register but then dear husband Pete said 'I wonder what's the derivation of that expression?'

Then a friend mentioned that she was struggling to remember all the lyrics of 'I like a nice cup of tea in the morning'...

 From that second...SO WAS I.

 Finally,  this morning we were listing to Farming Today (yes, we lead such an exciting life) and there was talk of Double Gloucester cheese and Pete said (I'm sure he does it on purpose) 'Why did they use the word Double?'

Now to me, the answer was obvious, I thought: that Double Gloucester was twice as something or other as Single Gloucester...


I wasn't absolutely SURE...

For answers to any of the above questions, just ask. I might have time to tell you when I've finished researching online to see if this obsession of mine is A Recognised Psychological Disorder.

That's if the men in white coats haven't dropped by already.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Creative Writing Class: Homework, I have discovered, involves a sharp pencil and thick books and long sighs.

Aside from the thick books (perhaps replace the word 'books' with 'head'?) I would concur with author Katherine Applegate.

I have homework to do for my creative writing class. Ironically, the theme is 'Hidden.' Yes, that would be about right. Hidden somewhere in the recesses of my imagination.


Here's what I'm going to do. Find an image that inspires me. Go from there.

Come on inspiration. I know you're in there somewhere.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

If I had more time, I'd write shorter,

said Mark Twain, my hero (well, one of them) who UNDERSTANDS what it is to be a writer.

It is a paradox, to be sure, or one of those riddles wrapped up in an endless enigma...

Salvador Dali's The Endless Enigma
 ...that to write short copy is so very much more time consuming than writing longer pieces.

On occasions, I've been sent six A4 pages of densely written background information and a page long brief. When I respectfully enquire how many words are required, I'm told "Oh, only about a hundred or less..." with the implication that this will a) take very little time, and therefore, b) cost very little money.


(That reminds me. I worked with one designer, who shall be nameless, who, if my copy was too long  for the allotted space, simply cut the last few words or sentences to make it fit!)

Writing short copy? Easy-peasy?  No it isn't.
Let me refer you, dear readers, to Thoreau, who said "Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long time to make it short."

Or to F. D. Roosevelt, who asserted that it took him an hour to write a one-hour speech and two hours to write a half-hour version.

It's not easy to fit complex marketing messages and a call to action into very few (compelling) words, but that's part of my job and I love it.

AND it takes time.

Believe me.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Some people have a way with words, and other people...oh, uh, not have way.

Thank you Steve Martin for bringing an extra large smile to my face on this rainy morning. (I say extra large because rain doesn't stop me from smiling at all!)

As an editor of brochures and articles for different companies, I have developed some pet peeves.

(No, surely not, Caroline. You are so linguistically tolerant, as we all know.)

from Sorcha's Haven

When people write, often covering difficult topics very well, the one thing I wish they wouldn't do is use a long word where a short word would do. Not just 'do' but be better and provide more clarity. I can't stand any form of sesquipedalian loquaciousness.

Here is the Number One pet peeve of the moment, guaranteed to make my nimble fingers reach for my editor's machete and slash without mercy.

UTILISE instead of USE.


I'm sure it's because people want to add gravitas to their work but utilising utilise (see what I did there?) simply has the effect of making it sound pretentious and over-written.

So when WOULD you use utilise then?

Here's what Grammar Girl says (except I changed the z to s because I'm proud to be British!)

"Utilise does have very specific and valid uses, mostly in the scientific world. The word “utilise” often appears “in contexts in which a strategy is put to practical advantage or a chemical or nutrient is being taken up and used effectively.”  For example, according to the American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style, you might hear “utilise” properly used in a sentence such as “If a diet contains too much phosphorus, calcium is not utilised efficiently.”

Lifelong learning...

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Creative writing class - a Dam-Burst of Dreams?

 A Christy Nolanesque tumult of poetry? (Note to self: Must read Dam-Burst of Dreams again.) A Joycean stream of consciousness?

My Emotional Dam Burst by Astrid Dahl
In my case, more of a damn burst of dreams. These dreams I have; this idea that writing comes easy.

It most often doesn't, let me tell you. It especially doesn't when faced with a timed writing challenge.

It was a lovely group of writers, reassuring and welcoming. I felt cherished. Roddy, the main man, made me a cup of peppermint tea. And still my brain froze.

The exercise was to choose a couple of words at random - words which were completely unknown to me and turned out to be Yiddish - and craft a story round them, giving them meaning, any meaning. Oh and in your spare time, the theme was...

Title still from the movie by Shueti
 My words were Tsuris and Plotz. Their meanings, it transpired, were trouble/woe and to burst/explode. How wonderfully ironic!

I froze... and then I thawed a bit. It was SUCH a good exercise. There were some brilliant writers there who, in twenty minutes, produced complete stories with beginning, middle and end. I managed the first half chapter of something a lot longer starring Uber-Captain Zincbath. Yes, I know...

Then everyone read out wot they had wrote. It didn't feel too threatening at all.

I learned that I CAN write even when my brain is telling me it wants to crawl under the duvet with a hot water bottle. That it's important just to keep going, no matter what.

Like Ray Bradbury says, in Zen in the Art of Writing: "An athlete may run ten thousand miles in order to prepare for one hundred yards. Quantity gives experience. From experience alone can quality come."

So thank you Roddy Phillips ,and all the members of the Lewes Creative Writing Class, for an inspirational and thought-provoking evening.

I will return. And I will do my homework. Honest.