Thursday, 24 October 2013


Marginalia: notes in the margin.
Who knew this was a thing? I just thought I was a messy reader.
I suspect marginalia might be a 'marmite' activity? I have a vague memory of a Twitter discussion some time ago where Tweeps were either for or against but very clear in their convictions one way or the other. Of course, opinions are what we love about Twitter but I remember being a little taken aback by the level of *outrage* at my confession of how I *treat* books #WithNoRespect.
As a teacher I've worked with students who had to be coaxed gently into the the act of annotation. I would take in my own copies of texts to show how I had marked them up. Then, once I'd convinced them of the value of adding their own words to the sacred printed page, I would be sure to reminded they were marking (important aspects of) text not colouring it in. The availability of highlighters in the modern classroom have a lot to answer for. It's not always practical or cost effective to have students writing in books but I do think it adds something to the reading of a text, a conversation with the author, a souvenir of the thoughts you shared. Sticky notes are good - that way the reader can 'mark-up' the text they're studying but remove all the notes later to ensure the text can be passed on in good condition, and they can take the sticky notes home as a momento.
In other news I am struggling to balance writing my stories with studying for my CREATIVE WRITING MA. Ironic? I think it's just a case of balance and settling in. I also recognise that, for me, *study* can easily drift into the ultimate procrastination activity. I'm drawn to research in a BIG way, in my writing, my (real-life) work and any formal study I've ever undertaken. It's the finding-stuff-out and seeing-what-people-think that *gets* me. An extension of my pathological nosiness? That and the opportunity to colour-in other people's words!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Steep Learning Curve

The main source of my distraction this past couple of weeks has been about trying to appear vaguely intelligent as I get to know my Creative Writing MA group...
I think enthusiasm is good but, I think, there's a thin line between that and garrulous hyper-friendly which *can* be off putting so I am trying to be calm ... BUT I am SO excited to be a 'real' student studying on a 'real' campus, even if it is only for three hours one evening a week :@
Mostly we have been studying the research methods of creative writers. The Professor's main area of interest is Poetics which is (VERY basically) what writers write about writing. We have explored two key areas of research for writing: content and form. Although the two are intertwined, for the purposes of our learning we've been urged to think about them separately. My main activity of research for content is (what I like to call) 'legitimate' snooping. It's research, and therefore *technically* science which makes it legitimate? Fun anyway! Research for form, which is really what concerns our studies, is about all the formal decisions we make about our writing - whether we're going to write a poem or a short story or a novel, point of view, narrative structure. Ultimately these formal choices will, I think, determine how we shape the content on the page.
It's making my head hurt a little bit but I read an article about Melvin Brag writing a novel based on his mum's life and he talked about the only way he felt he could get to the truth was through fiction; basically discussing the formal decisions he made. This helped me to contextualise some of the more theoretical stuff we've been reading. There's an assignment on this and I already have some ideas. Interestingly the tutor reminded us it's 'just an assignment', publication is seen as much more important. This, in the context of a former student having just secured a SIX figure deal, is very encouraging!
Importantly, I feel comfortable in th group. There's eight of us and a good mix of males/females, young/older, with an eclectic mix of interests in terms of genre. All very positive ... Although I KNOW I'm going to be nervous when it comes to presenting pieces for workshop ;0

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Preparation is Everything

This past couple of weeks, the biggest distraction has been counting down to the start of my Creative Writing MA. I've been through a whole range of emotions from abject anxiety and self doubt to feeling I very well might burst with the excitement. This is a BIG step. Am I ready?

It's three years since I reduced to part time hours in my real-world job and, although I didn't know it at the time, that was the point at which I began my journey towards the MA. Being only part time in the real-world felt terrifying at first. But MrT was, as ever, fully supportive of how I might make this work for me. 'You've always said you'd like to write. You've always said the thing that stops you from writing is not having the time. Well you have the time now, make the most of it!' And reader, I have done absolutely that.

I have written almost everyday for the past three years. Sometimes just a sentence or two, sometimes pages of barely cohent drivel but I have done it (almost) everyday in the hopes of building some writerly stamina and because once I got over the initial 'this is strange' feeling, I actually really enjoy it.

I have read. As an adult, I have always read (though unlike lots of people who love the words on the page, I didn't read a lot as a child) but I have read more widely and with more of a conscious critical eye; reflecting not just on what's happening in a text but how the writer is making it so.

I've read more poetry too, at least one poem everyday - like a literary shot to shake the senses.

I have read lots about writing. I was amazed to discover how generous writers are, sharing their knowledge and understanding about their craft, generous with their encouragement and support. Joining Twitter as an aspiring writer is like joining a wonderful team of talented and friendly people who 'have' your self doubting back and know just how to push you forward.

Yes, the past three years have been a journey towards the entrance hall of the MA and with any luck, and a lot of hard work, the MA will be part of a bigger journey taking me from being a reader who writes to a writer who reads.