Hope.

Hope. Somewhere in the core of my body is an awakening, a yearning. I am peering into the future, and not looking back. This is a surprise, given I’m recovering from a horrible few weeks of sickness and somehow ‘lost’ another Christmas. Hope for new beginnings, and a realisation that to leave the sadness and grief behind for a while is perfectly acceptable. Really.

Reflection is therapeutic, and timely as it is the advent of a New Year. Where to begin? It is ten months since my darling mother left this world, and the enormity of that hit me with full force during my summer retreat in the French Alps. This is what I wrote:

I am here in the tranquil surroundings of our chalet in Trossy, tucked up next to the imposing Dent d’Oche. Chantalle and Gabrielle are here with me and we are taking each day as it comes, waking up whenever we feel. I have felt the heat of the sun on my body for the first time since leaving Uganda in January, and witnessed ‘make you very wet rain’ too. I feel as if I am just barely existing at certain times. Usually it is in the late evening or in the early hours of the morning when I am trying desperately to remember or investigate something – a place, a memory that was important to you, that I struggle.
I can hear a distant rumble of thunder and the clouds are building over the mountains, and the temperature has dipped a few degrees. I am so thankful that you were our first visitor here, in August 2009, although some of the detail escapes me. I hate that – the fact that my memory does not recall all of the finer detail. For weeks I could not remember the sound of your voice, causing panic in my heart, dreading if I would ever be able to hold on to the ebb, flow and cadence of your unique voice or the sound of your laughter.
I have not looked closely at all of the old, gnarled black and white photos. It is too much of a heartache and I have not been able to cope with the feelings. It is just too sad. Yet one or two photos have etched themselves in the forefront of my memory. You are wearing white capri slacks and top, sunglasses in situ posing on the steps of a very distinctive fountain in an old square in Portugal. Another snap shows some kind of iconic church building with what looks like a building beside it, which you have marked with a x – and scribbled ‘our hotel’. I remember you telling me that Portugal was your favourite European country, with emphasis placed on the part north of Lisbon, dismissing the Algarve where you intimated all the package holidaymakers headed for.

So imagine – thanks to the internet I was able to track down the church, the fountain and the hotel to Viana do Castelo. Should I go visit one day, I wonder. It would be comforting to sojourn somewhere that obviously meant such a lot to you. I only wished you had been able to tell me more. I may soon be strong enough to go through those photographs and select one to have made into a canvas, as you were a stunning young woman and I want to capture and remember you in your prime. It will help erase some of the recent painful memories. I need to do that.
I also was thinking about your first love, Robert – (pronounced as only the French do, emphasis on the ‘ert’), your pilot who flew for the Free French. I remember a photo you kept of him for years. Dark wavy hair, swept back from his forehead a handsome smiling face. You said my father may have destroyed it in jealousy all of those years afterwards. Who knows? Anyway – we discussed it in recent years on the telephone and you did tell me his surname, but I cannot remember it at the moment. He was killed in the war and then at a later point in time you met my father.
I tell you most days, even saying it out loud, how much I love you. I know I told you and tried to show you each of those days from January through until the end of February. I am so sorry for the pain and suffering you had to endure and would have done anything for you not to have gone though all of that heartache. Now you are free and I believe in heaven living life eternal and singing and celebrating with the angels. I have questioned everything, and struggled with my own mortality like never before in my lifetime. I am emotionally fragile. Perhaps it is depression. It is grief…and that is more than I can deal with or write for today…

So fast forward six months. How am I doing on reflection?

Hopeful. I am a little optimistic. I am not feeling that stone-cold hollowness in my gut. I’m not tumbling around, flailing helplessly in a grey ocean. No. I can take control of my thoughts, with practice and turn a situation I may be dreading around, and deal with it with a positive outlook. I give thanks to my wonderful counsellor who has given me some strategies to try which have proven effective. Yay!

I was able to lay my mum and sister’s ashes to rest in a quiet corner of an English country churchyard, and feel proud that I had brought them home. That is – their remains. I had no sense of their spirit or soul being there, and I am at peace with that. Dust to dust. Ashes to ashes.  They lay in loamy soil underneath a beautiful holly tree that nudged me to look up, to reveal its’ berries in glorious abundance under the wintry sun. Tears trickled down my cheeks, quiet tears for two precious and influential ladies who left their indelible mark on my life.

I miss her. Yet I am so grateful to have had her as my mother and for all the love she invested in me. I am inspired to visit Viana do Castelo and discover what charms it holds. Best I put that in my diary for 2017, don’t you think?

As for the writing journey, it came to an emergency stop, brake pedal full on the floor, hissing, burning and then silence. Neutral, then first gear. Time to gather a little more speed and change up. Bear with, my friends.

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Grief

Grief. The Oxford English definition is ‘intense sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death’. I realise that this grieving malarky – and I do not intend to trivialise it, is something me, myself, I have to go through. Toute seule. I am not enjoying nor finding the process an easy one. One of my closest friends described her grief and beginning to deal with it as ‘opening the lid of a box of treasure, just a tiny bit, then having to close it quickly because it is too painful to go there.’ I so get it…

Life goes on. I have felt barely alive these past months having had whatever share was apportioned to me, and for whatever reason. My creativity and willingness to go deep inside myself to understand the meaning, the why, the why not — all but vanished. Yet here I am. I did not know if I could ever write again, feeling so numb. Faith and reading have stirred me, prompted and nudged me to look at this huge emotion and face it head on. I have been averting my eyes, not daring to go there, knowing the pain was almost unbearable. I do try to get things into perspective, cognisant that there is always someone in a worse situation, yet still I am experiencing profound sadness deep inside.

I am not particularly pro-active in raising my paw and asking for help. I enjoy analysing, even over-analysing about ideas, feelings and situations. This is something I feel ill-equipped for. A number of important people in my life have passed away within the last couple of years. It has scorched me inside and left me smouldering, those ashes so very very fragile but preserving the memories they evoke. I had never witnessed someone I love dearly suffer before and go through that whole shutting down of a human body scenario ever. I do not wish to do it again.

Even as I write I am only allowing myself to go so far beneath the surface. The depths are too black, too morbid to even contemplate and not something I am able to fathom, yet alone share with my readers. My expectation is that I will be churned out of this cycle better equipped, wiser and more empathetic to the needs of other souls who are struggling to keep their mouths above the meniscus.

So here it is, my first trembling step back from the brink. Forgive any grammatical errors and such like. Thank you for reading my rambling thoughts and to those of you who love and support me, bisous… You know who you are, and I love you.

 

 

Progress! My First Published Article

I have had an article published on FrenchEntrée.com and I am still pinching myself. A very little article, of 800 words. Now here’s the thing – the piece was written and targeted for this particular online publication as part of my creative writing course. I have yet to receive the feedback from my tutor. I still need to let him know that it has been published…

Isn’t that hilarious? Here it is:

Learn French in style on the Côte d’Azur
By Sheree Rose de Witte Community Contributor

Villefranche sur Mer
Villefranche sur Mer

Immersion in la langue française began from birth. Mother intended to name me Chérie, spelt the French way, but instead went with Sheree penned the Irish way. It means darling, in both. Couple that with Charles Trenet singing ‘La Mer’, Edith Piaf ‘La Vie en Rose’ – et voila! And so the sounds and intonations of the most beautiful of languages permeated my soul.

I discovered French boys on a day trip to Calais, managing to miss the hovercraft home on account of having photographs taken with said boys in a little photo booth. Oh la la!

I dabbled with the language in my working life, and spoke my limited schoolgirl French on numerous holidays to France. I acquired some specialised vocabulary during the building of our chalet in the French Alps, and on account of a two-week stay in hospital, but that is another story…

I was not totally submerged. I longed to go deeper to reach the next level. After some research I found the perfect programme to study; a four-week full immersion course at L’Institut de Français in the south of France.

Landing at Nice airport nestled along the Baie des Anges, a line of small private jets lay casually abandoned; I smelt the lingering parfum of their former occupants. The sky was clear and blue, despite this being November, the arrivals terminal echoing, virtually empty.

Sunday late morning and La Promenade des Anglais is teeming with people on foot or on wheels; casual walkers, serious joggers, young adults on rollerblades, children on scooters all navigating the wide pavements. The journey continued past Hotel Le Negresco, the old marina, skirting around Mont Boron, along the lower road down to Villefranche-sur-Mer, my home for the next month.

L’Institut de Français has an impeccable list of former students, including royalty, lords and ladies, diplomats, doctors, lawyers, teachers and writers. And me.

The school is housed in an imposing Provençal villa perched on the side of a steep hill. The day begins with le petit déjeuner, with baguettes fresh from la boulangerie, croissants, jam, yoghurt, cheese, flasks of coffee and tea. All you hear is the incessant chatter and tinkling of china as new friendships are forged, all in the French language.

Villefranche sur Mer
Villefranche sur Mer

The views through the huge windows are of the bay; sailboats bob gently in the marina below the hillside scattered with red-roofed villas and pastel painted walls typical of Provence. The peninsular of Cap Ferret is visible protruding out in the azure sea.

Day one is spent mainly with domestics, sorting out which class you are best suited to, from debutante to avancé. Names of ‘who’s where’ are announced the following day and off you go with your prof.

Finally the immersion begins. Rules of engagement are made perfectly clear. Everything is spoken in French and if you are caught speaking any other language there is a €2 fine, the money contributing towards the cost of champagne at the final graduation ceremony. The classes are small, on average containing ten people or less.

Our Intermediate IV class started each day with a French song. After studying the lyrics and listening together, we each were invited to contribute our thoughts on said song. Next we would study a particular tense or use of prepositions, with the conversation swinging rhythmically from one side of the room to the other, with the occasional pause, as Stéphane, our prof, went into detail about a particular point of grammar. Over the course of a few days my ear really tuned in, despite having the occasional brain freeze.

Déjeuner is not to be missed, because it is a three-course culinary delight. Nathalie the chef and her team tempt the taste buds with locally sourced produce presented with precision and care. A prof joins each table and expertly engages all of the students in conversation, while serving each in turn.

After lunch it was our turn in the language laboratory – le labo. It began as a love-hate type relationship, which I grew to look forward to. You quickly absorb the melody of the language, the nuances through listening and repeating the answers to questions that you have already been prepped with in class.

The variety of activities and teaching aids is diverse enough to ensure you do not get bored. These include séance-pratique where two classes join up in a role-play session or quiz; a cheese and wine dégustation and cultural excursions. There are short breaks morning and afternoon, with tea and cakes served before everyone sets off home, to attempt their devoirs (homework).

After four weeks total immersion in all manner of things French, I was drenched and sad to leave. My senses were intoxicated with the sound, sights, aromas, tastes and textures of the Côte d’Azur. Parfait!

So please be encouraged by my tiny success. I wrote from the heart about a subject that I am passionate about. I was brave enough to submit the article. Maybe I just got lucky. The thing is the editor has said he would welcome more. Now I am having doubts as to what he wants. Do I ask him, or just submit something else and wait and see? Decisions, decisions…

On reflection I researched the market and compared two similar publications, in terms of readership, style and content. It was a struggle and during the process I wriggled, procrastinated and almost gave up. Once I had written and edited the article there was such a sense of satisfaction, especially after staying up all hours of the night (as seems to be the norm, of late when writing). I sent it off to my tutor. In the ensuing euphoria I visited the website and stumbled upon the community contributions page, had a chat with a sub-editor and had a moment of madness. It paid off. I’m uncertain if I’ll ever have enough imagination to write a fictional novel, but I am stimulated by real people, their lives and my own. I can, and do write about those things that matter to me, especially Human Rights. My last three blog post testify to that.

I have also been participating in a free online course run by the Open University, ‘Start Writing Fiction’. I recommend it highly, if like yours truly, you are just starting your writing journey. The course runs for eight weeks and is varied in how the content is delivered. I find the immediacy of interaction with your fellow peers and tutors stimulating and really encouraging. I share that sense of collaboration with fellow writers at ‘TheWritePractice.com’ and ‘The Writer’s Bureau’. Thanks to each of you who reads, critiques and encourages me every step of the way.

Oh – and if you are a complete Francophile and really want to reach the next level in speaking French, then enrol at L’Institut de Français. For me it was a once in a lifetime experience…

Separating my posts on Human Rights

I am trying to set up a separate menu or category for my posts relating to Human Rights, from those relating to my writing journey, which was the original intention of this blog.

This may turn out to be an epic fail, as I seem to have lost the ‘About Me’ heading and cannot seem to reinstate it. So I am not holding my breath in anticipation of a ‘Human Rights’ one appearing.

If I make an absolute hash of it, I shall delete it fairly pronto. Bear with me…

Who cares what I write? Who dictates what I read?

Is there anyone out there reading this? My last two posts have been about issues that I sincerely believe matter. Rape. Murder. Yet both posts were read by fewer people than previous posts about my writing journey. I don’t understand why and have given it some thought. I am left feeling uncomfortable, because the conclusion that I have reached is that the media is to blame. Blame may offend you, especially if you are a reporter, a journalist or work in the media in whatever form. How about the media being culpable, in that they have such tremendous power about what we read, or maybe more importantly what we don’t get to read, or to watch, or to listen to. Who dictates what you (or I) read in the media? Pause for thought…

I continue to be shocked by news reports from a variety of sources in relation to human rights. A ten year old rape victim refused an abortion in Paraguay. Migrants are drowning daily in the Mediterranean. Nepalese earthquake survivors are targeted by human traffickers. Burundi in a state of unrest, with protesters killed on the streets, and thousands fleeing the country.

In the midst of this suffering there is too much coverage, in my opinion of the General Election in the UK. It is a sorry state of affairs when only 34% of the population vote for the future Prime Minister. Time for change in terms of electoral reform, maybe. Dare I say that the other item covered in the UK, in terms of overkill, was the birth of HRH Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. Don’t get me wrong, I am passionate about our British culture, including our Parliamentary System and the Monarchy. I question the balance in terms of what is being reported and how.

I digress. A big forward step in this my writing journey has been the belief that I can make a difference by writing about those important issues. Sadly I had a reality check knowing that very few people have read those posts. It almost halted my journey, but not quite. I would welcome advice as to how to make this blog more visible and attract more readers. I too, am culpable in not having the expertise in raising my blog’s profile.

I imagine you can sense my frustration. I hope so. That was the intention…
Please leave a comment on my blog, rather than on Facebook.

Paying The Ultimate Price

Have you heard of Sabeen Mahmud? If you read a decent broadsheet newspaper, watch an informative news channel or regularly read articles about Pakistan chances are you will know her name. Remember it, please.

This intelligent, caring, outstanding woman activist was shot dead in Karachi yesterday evening. Murdered. Assassinated. Killed.

Why?

Sabeen was a founder member and director of ‘The Second Floor’ – affectionately known as ‘T2F’ in her liberal circle of friends, under the umbrella of an NGO called ‘PeaceNiche’. How tragically ironic. The venue serves as a place to meet for coffee, to debate and as an arts venue. It does not sound threatening to me, far from it.

On Friday evening, an event was publicised to be held at T2F, entitled ‘Unsilencing Balochistan Take 2’. A number of high-profile activists, who had made a march from Quetta to Karachi in October 2013 to pressure the authorities into revisiting their policies and actions over missing political Baloch activists, were invited to attend. This included Mama Abdul Qadeer, who together with Sabeen organised the event.

His son had disappeared in the region in 2009. His dead and mutilated body was found in 2011. As a parent would you walk 1200 miles to protest against missing people, one of whom is your child? Qadeer, 73 years old did just that. I admire and respect his brave protest.

The event had been scheduled to take place at a university in Lahore. On advice from the Inter Service Intelligence Directorate, it was cancelled. Hence ‘Take 2’. Surely Sabeen knew the risks? Yet she was prepared to go ahead with the event. It cost her her life.

Shortly after the event an unknown gunmen fired a number of shots into Sabeen’s car, killing her and critically injuring her mother. A number of journalists have been killed in Balochistan too, not to mention a list of 12,000 (yes 12,000) missing people that was handed to the UN three years back.

What are these faceless murderers scared of? That the truth will out? Or that liberal Pakistanis want to debate the disappearance and murder of people in Balochistan, and the political reasons behind them?

It is a cowardly way to silence an opponent. I am thankful that I am able to voice my opinion. Free speech is a privilege. Journalists worldwide endanger themselves to present the human stories to you and I. On occasion they pay the ultimate price for doing so.

Surely the debate must continue. Surely these murders must stop.

Please read something Sabeen Mahmud wrote on the PeaceNiche website : http://www.t2f.biz/some-thoughts-and-thank-yous-on-t2fs-6th-birthday/

R.I.P. Sabeen Mahmud…

Human. Right?

I cannot post this week having agonised over reports I have read from ‘Human Rights Watch’ and not express my indignation at what is happening to women and girls in Syria, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

What is the definition of ‘human rights’, I ask myself? I needed to remind myself of the United Nations ‘Universal Charter of Human Rights’.
Here is the link: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/ – if you are interested.

Women are discriminated against and abused especially in times of conflict. Rape used as a ‘weapon of war’. I hate the acceptance and use of that term. It has become a sickening cliché. I had one of those light bulb moments. My journey with words surely has to illuminate not only my own conscience, but also yours.
How can I raise the awareness of what is happening? I believe you have to be fully informed and read widely; to check the validity of the information and if the source of said information is credible. I urge you to subscribe to the newsletter of Human Rights Watch Organisation, and if you read anything this week then read this article about the systematic rape of Yezidi women in northern Iraq. It will bring tears to your eyes.

Here is the link: http://www.hrw.org/node/134203 – HRW have a very large audience. Join it.

I am totally impressed by the research methodology the organisation adheres to, which is set out on their website. I am not easily impressed. More than 80 researchers in countries across the world are conducting research, interviewing the victims, corroborating with witnesses to bring their stories into the wider domain. I have the utmost respect for these researchers and reporters. It is often dangerous, demanding, but oh such essential work.

Yet that is only half of the story. Their mission is to actively focus on impacting society at both a national and international level, to effect positive and sustainable change. That really challenges me. I want it to challenge you too. Are you?

It could be your wife, your sister, your eight year old daughter or mother being raped and sexually abused. But for the grace of God, it could be you, or me. Can you even begin to imagine the trauma of these women and girls? Raped not once, but repeatedly over the course of days, weeks and even longer. Not only do they have to live with the fallout of unwanted pregnancies, contracting STD’s, including HIV/AID’s, but also the psychological trauma. Some attempt suicide, by cutting their wrists, by hanging or by electrocution in the bath. It sickens me. I am not going to give the perpetrators blog time.

Forget your ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ fantasy and fictional world. Something far more sinister and real is happening today, in Iraq, in Syria and beyond. These women and girls must never be forgotten, nor society accept the ridiculous notion that they are ‘spoils of war’.

E.L James, do me a favour and donate some of your millions to Human Rights Watch. Now there’s a challenge! I might just have a little respect for you, should you choose to do so…

Bits and bobs.

My mind has been jumping from one idea to the next this week. I have not written anything extraordinary. Just a few bits and bobs…I am struggling to even produce something for my blog!

This is the week when the short story competition results will be announced. I have a 1 in 12 chance of being selected to feature on shortfictionbreak.com which is quite high. Whatever the outcome I have grown as a writer and as an editor as a direct result.

I managed to complete the next assignment, finally, after reading an article in ‘The Guardian’ (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/10/australian-based-doctor-added-to-ugandas-most-wanted-list) that left me with more questions than answers. I did a little digging, sought some answers and wrote a letter to them, (as in ‘The Guardian’). REALLY! Subsequently I sent said letter off for my tutor’s perusal. Hmmm, I think I did that in the wrong order, but felt the letters editor needed to hear my point of view.

Hark at me! Job done. It matters not whether the letter is published (although it would be a little notch on the bed-post) — only that I was motivated enough to write and submit it. Oh – and someone at the publication must have read it. Yay! A month ago I would never have contemplated either. I wonder where the bravado, (or naivety) comes from. Quite a step forwards, no?

The support from fellow contestants at ‘The Write Practice’ was incredible. I imagine that all writers and artists go through periods of self-doubt, together with the difficultly of being really objective about their own work. I can be over critical of mine. Yet the adrenalin rush I experienced after hitting the ‘send’ button is something I had not experienced for a long time.

I want to encourage you, if like me you are new to this game. If you write, fairly regularly, then you are a writer. Be brave, take it to the next stage. Let someone, just one person read what you have written. Find a group in your local town, or join an online group to read, critique, encourage thoughts and ideas. Your confidence will grow. Your writing will improve.

I want to motivate you to sign-up for that writing course. Just do it! I promise a roller-coaster of a ride. You may even end up being paid for your writing. Really!

Don’t compare yourself with anyone. Just write. To begin with, write what you are passionate about, what moves you or what you have to say. The fine-tuning comes with practice and perseverance.

I am fine-tuning. I am practising. I am learning a new skill-set, and loving the experience.

I cannot tell you what a blessing it is to have a twelve year old resource. Before I go, I want to thank my twelve year old resource daughter, for editing the colour palette on the text widget…

You don’t know about widgets? Me neither, a month ago…

Anyway it is the ‘My Tags’ list on the side bar

Just goes to show…not tell. Is that funny? It was meant to be.

P.S. Has anyone noticed the odd deliberate mistake within my posts? Tell me in the comments box if you have read this far….

Upping the ante, et al., revisiting the past…

After a slow start, I am upping the ante, (whatever that means…) I am writing fairly regularly; I am reading a phenomenal amount. I am procrastinating marginally less. I have loathed and wrestled with a short story, soon to be submitted to a contest. How did that happen? I think I touched on it in my last post, so won’t reiterate, except to say that I am way out of my comfort zone. Even the names of the protagonist and antagonist have changed.

I received the feedback from my first assignment. Yay! There was a lot of positive ‘stuff’ there. Double yay! Very few red pen marks. Time to dance on the ceiling? Not quite yet.  A snippet from it:

The faint distinctive smell of smoke from invisible charcoal fires, drifts in with the cool morning air. The sun in her ascendancy, radiates amber, peach and pink hues across the pale blue sky. Exotic trees dominate the periphery in a semblance of solidarity; delicate lavender jacarandas, rosy pink tebebuia, and hibiscus abundant with clusters of poppy red blooms, all vie for my attention.
Lake Victoria is rippling, sparkling like a sapphire with white topped waves that crash onto the invisible shore. The horizon is barely discernible, endless. Spider island, sparse but for a few young acacia, and rocky ridges, breaks the perspective. A low, rhythmic humming announces the departure of a fishing boat, which is almost drowned out by the urgent, buzzing of lake flies. The decibel level is in crescendo; the invasion nigh. The living cloud, dances lightly across the lake, pushed and pulled by the breeze. There is still time to savour the view, ahead of battening down doors and windows in a futile attempt to stop the flies penetrating the house. That, or pray they come ashore elsewhere.

I see and hear too many exotic birds, trees, and animal species, living in East Africa, (not that I’m complaining) and naturally want be able to write it all down. So while may know what a fish eagle sounds like, or what a vervet monkey is, my audience may not. The forum with my fellow writers is my sanctuary; only there will I be given such advice as

“…if it’s an unfamiliar or exotic bird then describing its call in an onomatopoeic way may be the way to go.”

I adore language, words and relish the opportunity to go look a word I think I know the meaning of up, in the Oxford English.  Credit to Jamie Godsafe, (http://godsafe.net/) for my dose of relish this week.

Onwards and upwards to assignment 2…letters and fillers.

My second draft of a letter to my deceased father, has been an emotional journey into the past.

Funny how when you really focus your mind, and give it permission to go back, reluctantly even, that you can recall particular impressionable moments from childhood days, that define part of the fabric of who you later become.

I wrote that sentence a few years ago when I began gathering my thoughts and ideas for a family memoir, that I have yet to finish. It is one of my better sentences, and I challenged myself as to why. It captures my emotion; me, myself, I, on the page.

Yet when I initially sat here to compose this letter, I felt very detached. It took a couple of attempts, and reading through those old notes, to prepare myself mentally and to allow myself to go back, and relive the day he died. It was forty years ago, and I remember so much detail about that day. Maybe I’ll share the letter in the weeks to come, once I have perfected, or I should say, polished it…

What have I learnt from my journey (hint — this blog is called ‘Journey of a Writer’)?

  • The journey has deviations
  • The journey can be agonising
  • The journey is dependent on memory
  • The journey offers rewards
  • The journey is still in its infancy
  • I prefer the true story

I am eager to continue this odyssey, sitting in my Mastermind Chair…come along for the ride.

Off on a tangent

Another week has passed me by. I had just the one sleepless night, because I went off on a tangent. I do that now and again. This particular one was literary related, and my intentions were honourable.

In terms of progress, I have made a start on Assignment 2, which involves reading and researching both letters, and fillers, in magazines and newspapers. The first challenge is logistical, in that there are relatively few UK publications to be found on this peninsular, close to Entebbe. Ever the optimist, I undertake the research online. I subscribe for one month to ‘People’s Friend’ and for six months to ‘Writing Magazine’. I read quite a few letters and decide that one of my pieces will be ‘A Letter to…’ which features weekly in the Guardian.

At this point I start to veer off course. I don’t know what possessed me, but I send off a short letter to a UK magazine, asking if they were interested  in my experience of having malaria. I guess not, as I have heard nothing back from them. Whatever! Not to be deterred, I still wrote a first draft of that experience, with a view to sending it to my tutor, and submitting it to a different publication. So I am kind of back on track.

What seems to becoming a habit, is I either check my Facebook page, or look at blogs I follow on this site. I stumble across an article (oh let’s be truthful, articles), then, whoosh! Total random deviation off course. I sign up to a fantastic website, http://thewritepractice.com/members/writing-contest/ and am absolutely done for. Competition time! What am I doing?

My rationale (yes, there is an element of reasoning, going on here) is, I would have some pressure to submit a short story, once I had read up on what elements I need to include in said short story. It is not as simple as it appears, writing a short story. I have learnt a lot about theme as opposed to plot; dialogue and action, and how to ‘show’ as opposed to ‘tell’. One little niggle is, the website is an American one. I am very English. So my written work is in English English. Or am I supposed to write UK English? Well, this is my blog, and I’m not…

Monday evening I did not go to bed. I stayed up and wrote. I believe I read (and still believe that I was not hallucinating), that the deadline was midnight USA time on 23 March. Suddenly I had but six hours to produce this masterpiece. I wrote a little more. Not for great periods of time, mind. I had to get up, and have the odd piece of chocolate from the fridge. I had an idea for a short story, but all of the planning somehow took the fun out of it for me. I am not entirely sure I enjoyed it. However, I am pleased that I have a dodgy draft down on paper (or whatever you call its equivalent on the laptop). One of the conditions for entry to the competition, is that you must critique fellow contestants work. So that too was a quick brush up on ‘how to critique’. I am well and truly off the beaten track, by this time. Wrecked.

Tuesday I go to bed at the same time my husband is getting up for work. I surface late morning, having snatched about four hours shut-eye. I check the forums, and wonder why people are still posting when the deadline has passed. I endeavour to find the initial information about the competition, and…

Yes. I had the date for the deadline completely incorrect.  That means I have until Sunday 29 March to submit my polished draft, then another week to spruce it up even further. So I am not going to look at it for another day. I have asked a couple of friends to read it through and give their opinion. The jury is still out on that, but I could see areas that need some work.

Where does this leave me? I have total respect for short story writers. I am not convinced this is going to be my niche. I’m fine, with that.

So here is a possible opening paragraph:

The wind rustled leaves across the patio. Lightening illuminated the recesses of the bedroom, as thunder clapped, causing the warped, wooden window frames to rattle. Rain drumming against the glass stirred Amber from her slumber. A silhouette lurched towards her. His silhouette.
“Ryan!’ she cried.

Any comments, critique, good, bad or otherwise truly welcome, on the blog.

I am not planning on being the winner….just a participant, a player. That’s me.

Oh, and I have still to buy Microsoft for Mac…