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…

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Initial reflections

keep-calm-and-carry-on-writing-164

I have been absent for a few days; my conclusion is that can be considered a wise move. I may have been over enthusiastic, and in the euphoria made a number of elementary errors. I analyse, perhaps even over analyse, ten days later. An example being my critique of the second sentence, and wondering if I inadvertently used a little alliteration. You tell me…

This writing malarkey is far from straightforward. There is so much preparation, in terms of reading and research before so much as tapping words into the laptop. I must not allow the obstacles to deter me. The technical battle is still raging. I am fathoming out where to write, and what time of day to write. I am finding my way around the WordPress site; deleting posts, editing others, removing widgets and so on. A little progress, but this is not even remotely close to how I dream the final product will look. A lot like writing, methinks.

I still wonder if I should be blogging at all. I have started to follow a number of blogs; I aspire to reach their clarity and professionalism. Mine seems almost cringeworthy in comparison. I need to go check a few spellings and definitions in the Oxford English (an expression I use frequently.) Then there is the ‘hyphen, em dash en dash’ conundrum. I understand, kind of, when to use them. What is frustrating is my keyboard is QWERTY, but the laptop a present from Europe, so no symbol for the good old English pound, nor the em, or en dash. And yes, I have tried to search ‘help’ and dear old Google.

I tell you my thoughts, trials and tribulations, because I imagine there are many wannabe writers out there, experiencing the same. I would love to hear from you. If you have overcome your own demons, why not post a comment? I would find that really helpful and encouraging.

The good news is I posted my first assignment to the Writer’s Bureau. The bad news is, I used a free word-processing programme, LibreOffice and am uncertain if they will be able to read my attachments. I did not use double spacing either. One step forwards, two backwards, n’est pas?

Conclusion? I most likely need to invest in Microsoft Office for Mac…

The Battle with Technology


Never mind technology; I seem to have a problem with my short-term memory — or lack of. Yesterday seems light years ago. Really! For someone who has not used a computer regularly, — not needing to know my way around its little foibles, nor really having the inclination — this was never going to be an easy induction.

So try to stifle your urge to laugh, whilst I paint the scenario. Capiche? I have to complete a personal profile form, which I have downloaded. The first problem I encounter is that it is a ‘view only’ PDF Adobe doc. ( or something along those lines). Could be an Adobe PDF.doc? It matters not, from my perspective. I copy it and try to save it somewhere else, to no avail. Try again. Somehow I manage to copy it into ‘Scrivener’ — progress, I tell myself.

Crap! The paragraphs (or indentations or whatever), seem to have a mind of their own, resembling anything but the crisp, clear form I had initially received.

I email the faceless ‘help desk’ and receive an attachment in ‘textedit’. Really? Sounds easy peasy. So rather than retype everything again, I attempt to cut and paste said Scrivener jumble, into ‘textedit’. Bad idea. Very bad idea. Same problem with those infuriating little arrows at the top, that seem to move on auto-pilot, as soon as you paste, or write anything in the available space. I try, and try, and try again. Then I ‘move to trash’. Not me, you understand, the wretched document. This is all detracting from what I am trying to complete, and I am getting more and more frustrated. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry! Trust me.

As if that is not enough to contend with, my Macbook Air, decides to communicate with me, completely unprovoked. Being such a naive and trusting Apple customer, I do what it implores me to do. Wait for it. Something to do with setting up iCloud,  so I enter my password — hardly onerous. Bad, very bad mistake number two!  The screen seems to go into beach ball mode, and no way out for a good half an hour. Then there seems to be another screen inviting me to sign in again. Phew! I’ve cracked it! Wrong again! Spinning ball reappears, and keeps on turning. A bit like my brain cells.

Yes, I do all of the usual things. I google a variety of terms. I try to access the Apple online forums. I fail. I give up. Technology – you win! Just this battle, mind. I cannot be defeated. I have a story to write and the journey of that process, to blog. You, technology do not possess the capability to overcome adversity.

Tomorrow is a new day. I am writing my blog. I am trying out the ‘Morning Pages’ exercise. Today I wrote them at lunch time (say nothing), but wrote them, I did.

Apple dropped the ball. Head stops spinning.

Kudos to me.

Obstacles and Frustrations

So you are still here, with me, as I take one or two steps forward; however I need to spend a little time on the amount of steps that I have taken backwards, or round in circles. ( I did initially write ‘concentrically’, but thought that was showing off.) Memo to self – go and read the ‘supplementary grammar notes’. I am having self doubts. No change there, then.

Picture an enthusiastic, middle-aged woman, eager to let her fingers loose on her relatively new Macbook Air keyboard. She is still becoming ‘au fait’ with all that baby has to offer, but has taken the plunge and signed up for the Writer’s Bureau Course. For reasons that are still not clearly defined, she stumbles across WordPress.com, and so begins the odyssey into the world of blog.

I gave birth to my blog baby sometime between the hours of midnight and six o’clock the following morning, a relatively short labour, if you compare it with that of bearing a child. I was completely hyper – obsessed, even, with creating and getting this blog out into cyberspace. I had no comprehension of the myriad of obstacles that would try to thwart me, nor the range of emotions that I would have to navigate either. If I were a few years (alright then – decades) younger, it would have been a few clicks here, copy and paste there, and voila! Done, tick that off the ‘to do’ list, and blog. If.

Here is kind of what really happened. I decided it might be fun to venture out into the world of blog. Naively, I imagined this would be quite simple to set up because I am of reasonable intelligence (say nothing!); it would also be a forum in which to practise. So my head is in the game, because I can write, right? Easy, surely. Wrong. What I struggle with, time after flipping proverbial time, is the technology. Please tell me that I am not alone in this.  Fellow ladies of a certain age, gentleman, even – give me some feedback. I’m not entirely sure how you do that , but there is a place to add comments, so go add.

Now I am in the maze, committed to coming out intact the other end. I hurriedly select a name, fill in a few relatively simple boxes, and off I go. It is free. A bonus because, who would want to pay for this painful experience. First obstacle. Which theme to select? I am a contemporary/classic kind of girl, so chose the ‘Penscratch’  theme. It mentions ‘pen’ – so assumed it would lend itself to the writing fraternity ( does that include me, with two x chromosomes?) All very random, methinks. Then comes an even bigger obstacle. Finding my way around the menu, the reader, the ‘blah blah’ and so on. I think it is at this point my head begins to spin.

Fortunately we live in the world of social media. There is room for a lengthy discussion on that last statement, but not here, and not now. So at silly o’clock in the morning, African time, it is very sensible o’clock in North America. I have a friend who also has a blog – frenchletters.wordpress.com – and she gave me some advice, along with another lovely lady who knows about these things. I was beyond excited, laughing outrageously loudly at my feeble attempts to set up both the ‘home’ and ‘about’ pages. I think she just about had a heart attack when I told her I had hit the ‘publish’ button! At that stage there was nothing on my ‘about’ page, and so she gently suggested I should add something there, in case people thought I was a weirdo, or worse.

I also joined a closed group on Facebook, for Writers Bureau Students in the UK. Except I am not in the UK, but I am very English. More of that another time. To date the banter and encouragement is an added stimulus, and I am finally writing. Or is it blogging?

I still have not cracked links, or blog rolls ( yes, you did read it correctly) nor the menu. However, I am about to finish this piece and review it myself. And publish. So empowering.

If I were able, I would take a photo of my feet and post it. Unfortunately I am pants with media, for now, so will try a little descriptive writing instead, so you get a feel of where I am, right here, right now:

I am sitting outside in the shade, under an umbrella on a comfy sun-bed, knees bent, supporting my laptop. The temperature is about 29 degrees celsius, and there is a breeze wafting in from the lake. I can hear the sound of pied kingfishers and other birds which I cannot identify, reassuring me that I am not completely alone. Lake Victoria stretches across the horizon, enveloping spider island. Swallows are soaring, dancing even as they are carried on the wind above. The smaller branches of the Ficus sycamores undulates gently, at a tempo I would describe as andante. Bailey, my handsome Siamese puss, is perched on the end of the dry stone wall, that separates the terrace from the garden. He is on the look out for the little lizard like creatures he tries to trap and torment. Soon the dry season will end and the rains will come, yet if you could see how green my garden is, with majestic Jacaranda trees, hibiscus flowering, you would be forgiven for thinking this was anywhere but Africa….

Doubts before I publish? Bien sur! But this is just a dress rehearsal, n’est pas?

Do I dare write?

I wonder if anyone else is contemplating taking those first tentative steps? You know the ones I’m alluding to, surely? To be brave enough to write that story, that article – or even that sentence. To dare to write and venture out into the unknown world of publishing. Or blogging…

I am inviting novice writers to come and join me, on this destination guaranteed to have its highs and lows, – tantrums, even.  Who am I? Well I am a lady with a sense of humour, for one. I have a story to tell. I need some guidance with the craft. I have signed up for a Creative Writing Course.

Do I dare write? What gives me the right (no pun intended) to even imagine that I have anything to say? Time will tell. I apologise for any grammatical errors in advance, and for my spelling too. It is 2.00 am and I am winging it, somewhat. Excited, but full of trepidation at the same time.

Here goes….