Yesterday was my regular writing group that I run. I was a bit disappointed because only two ladies came – though this had led to me deciding to change venues and return to running the groups around my own table. My business name is Barefoot At The Kitchen Table so running it at home is probably where it is meant to be.
So I decided to make the most of the area around the centre I’ve been using and the lovely weather and sent my ladies outside to gather ideas for a poem along the lines of how I write poems. Note my PDF on this.
They went outside to get some notes and then I worried that they would get bored. Above are photos of my ladies engrossed in their writing and note taking. They came in reluctantly. They had enjoyed their 10-15 mins that they had had outside listening and looking. Mindfulness?? Maybe!
They both said how much they had needed this and then thank me. It gave me such joy to know that I had been instrumental in helping them have a lovely afternoon. It also reminded me why I run these groups. It isn’t to make loads of money but it is to encourage others to enjoy writing as I do and connect with each other and themselves.
Here is what I wrote from the afternoon too – dedicated to my two lovely writing ladies, Dot and Vivien. And also to those who usually come but didn’t make it.
Clinging, creeping ivy wraps round fence and post and thoughts
Trying to drag all down with the help of self-conscious chatter.
Yet the dappled leaves illuminate the lady writers
So I am steadily getting further and further behind with these prompts and loving them more and more. These two clash, contradict and I think compliment each other. One is based on the horrors unfolding in Ukraine and other other was written Easter Saturday morning whilst we were staying in our friend’s house.
So this one from Day 6 was inspired by Laurie Wagner’s poem Things I Didn’t Know I Loved For me this has an even more poignant feel after I’ve read the Joel News report from Ukraine. Joel News’ remit is to show the good news that is happening in the world, to show where God is moving. And yet this week’s one talks of the awfulness of the war in Ukraine and of the coming global famine. It makes one ask “Where is God in all this?” But also one of the things I’ve learned with QEC is that to keep aligned and not get into high stress I need to be grateful. So really this poem is about what I realised I was grateful for and often take for granted. I’ve also called it Things I Didn’t Know I Loved.
This next one from Day 7 comes from a poem by Catherine Smith called Hero, about a bus driver really. But one of the prompts was ‘Where would you go to if a bus driver would take you absolutely anywhere?’. I did the prompt whilst we were staying down south visiting mothers and friends. It was a busy weekend and I was up early with the dog sitting in our friend’s conservatory enjoying some time out – something that I realise I do need to add to my “Things I didn’t know I loved” poem. So here is “Where would I go if I could go anywhere?” This one also comes with photos of the view I had.
As Brits we can have a perchance for moaning about what we do not have. Sometimes it is good to remind ourselves what we do have, but also then to remember to pray for those who do not have. We must never get smug and complacent, but I think that by being grateful one can learn to not be complacent and also to pray others can have what we too often take for granted.
I like this picture because it is a bit smudged. I took it on Friday when I was out on a long walk, which culminated in coffee and a bacon buttie, with my dog, getting away, getting some headspace and pondering the poem I had started whilst I was working in the pub the day before. The prompt came from Sarah’s Everyday Words prompt for Tuesday 5th. So as you can see I am a long way behind.
I have gone in a totally different direction to the prompt, which as I have said before is not a bad thing. A prompt is to prompt one to write something not to hold one in chains as to what to write. But it also got me thinking about God and the Bible and of how both those can be used not to prompt us to explore but to hold us in chains. How often do we get told that the Bible means X and if we don’t agree when we are wrong? How often do we hear someone’s interpretation and then worry what is wrong with us because we don’t agree?
I very much think that God allowed the Bible, and many other religious texts, to be written as springboards to get us thinking, so see what direction we would head off in. I do not believe there is a right and wrong in interpreting God’s word however it comes it us. I do believe that the base line for it is the commandment that Jesus told us – to love God with everything we have and to love others as ourselves – which is why I would disagree with any war, genocide, abuse, control, etc that is done allegedly “in the name of God”. But with that as our base line then we go onwards and outwards and explore from there.
So as well as creating this little poem that I’ll share with you from Sarah’s prompt I have also had chance to explore God. Again it is amazing what one little carefully thought out prompt can lead.
So remember – no right, no wrong – no write, no wrong 🙂
It is also why I’ve just put this prompt up alone because of the “more” I wanted to talk about. But also that the prompt for 6th April has even more meat in it and I’ve been chewing that over all weekend!!!
“Best laid plans of mice and men” or “make a plan so God can have a laugh” are very much what life feels like at the moment. So I made this plan and didn’t just ask Sarah of Everyday Words permission to post from her prompts daily but also blogged that I would. But I had also put those feelers out to get some part time work that was not writing.
Well firstly I did not realise that Sarah’s prompts would be so rich and so full of meat that I needed to spend time digesting them before I wrote anything, and then had to ponder what I wrote afterwards before sharing it. But also work has got in the way.
So this week I’ve run a writing group on Tuesday afternoon and then worked 6 hours Wednesday afternoon and am working 6 hours this afternoon. But also I have been pushing for creative practitioner freelancing work and had a meeting with the local mayor on Tuesday – in the pub which was a lovely way to have a meeting. The excuse was “supporting local businesses” which is the best excuse ever. Anyway from that there is something coming. Then a couple of other feelers I sent out are proving maybe not fruitful but possible. And I’d also done a great course with Writers&Artists and one of the follow ups was to have the novel idea we’d started on looked out. Well Natalie Young was so supportive of the idea that I want to run with it. She also said to commit to writing 1000 words per day.
So the plan of posting an Everyday Words prompt each day has had to go by the by for now. But today, even though it is the 7th April, I do have prompts from 3rd and 4th ready to share.
The prompt from the 3rd came from a recipe by Olia Hercules, a Ukranian cook and writer, using foraged food. One of the prompts was to think of a time when you went foraging but instead it reminded me of a home school trip with my kids in a field of wild garlic. Here is it – Foraging
Then the one for the 4th April I wrote yesterday whilst I was working. I had an hour where I was totally alone in the pub and because it was my first full shift I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. So I clicked up the link, which I had been pondering for a while. The prompt was to look at one of the last phrases which was “stupid with smiles” and to write from there. Well this is what I got. It is a bit raw and rough but I like it – Stupid With Smiles.
When will the next get posted? Well I’m hoping over the weekend but … tomorrow I’m catching up with a friend and have to catch up with housework, Saturday I’m attending a workshop and always come back with loads of poem ideas, and also I have a blog buzzing in my head around a Godspace post from earlier in the week so …. Now I know to hold my plans lightly I am saying that hopefully soon but you could be reading April prompts well into June the way this is going.
These prompts from Sarah of Everyday Words are so wonderfully thought out and well worth the £1 per day I am spending on them. She has really thought this through. I’ve tried other prompts before but they have seemed dull in comparison.
For one who would have thought of suggesting that one gather all those poems one likes into one special place – making one’s own anthology!!! I always love it when someone suggests something that is so obvious but does it in a way you don’t feel daft for not having thought of it first.
So here is my work from 1st April. It was looking at poem but one of the prompts was to think about the author of this poem which led me to writing about “Anon of Canadian Good Housekeeping” and of what could happen when our false pride gets in the way. “Anon of Canadian Good Housekeeping“
Then Saturday 2nd April’s prompt came from a poem by Clare Best called Drive time for Freddie, about how far the school run with her son was if they just kept going. It caused me to have a couple of days pondering my twice daily dog walks and how far they were in total. I think in lockdown my daughter and I worked out the dog and I dig 1200-1500 miles a year. So that gets us to roughly Australia. Here’s the piece about it – Walk Eat Repeat – not poem, not prose but could almost be described as prose poetry, maybe.
Now to get on and do yesterday’s and today’s. Though as I’ve learned with the 2nd’s prompt, it took time to percolate and see where it was going.
[Writing] isn’t a tender flower that needs cossetting and protecting. It is a muscle that grows stronger with use
Christopher Booker “Seven Basic Plots”
In my writing groups I say that writing is like running a marathon. One has to train for ages and ages, have a plan and a schedule. Stick to that schedule. Know that we could get tired so need buddies to run with. But also know that there are hundreds and hundreds of other people who will be out there on marathon day who will have been training too which means we might not win!
This doesn’t mean we don’t try, that we don’t put in the work. But we need to be like the woman in the above picture – enjoying ourselves as we go. The goal is to finish and to better oneself but also to have a good time
Writing is a muscle one must use regularly. So we do need to put in the time every day if possible. WritersHQ suggest 20 mins per day. We can all find 20 mins per day if we want to. Then we work that muscle. We give ourselves goals of 500-1000 words per day and we work that muscle. From that maybe a novel will appear. Maybe something like The Little Yellow Boat materialise or like my poem. If you read my stories behind those they took a lot of time and effort and using that muscle.
Of all the creative activities writing is the one that fits differently. People go to pottery classes but don’t expect to become potters. People do bead making and most do not set up stalls to. People paint not expecting to set up a gallery. But many people come to writing groups expecting to be published. It is a great goal to have but I do believe that first and foremost one needs to be working that muscle and enjoying the process, producing lots of work that sits in files on the laptop or in notebooks in boxes under the bed.
Yes I do know that if you go to pottery or art or beading groups you can make Christmas presents for friends and family and with writing groups it isn’t quite the same. Though I often write one of stories or poems for friends and family and think I might start doing it more often.
But I do think writing first and foremost has to be for fun, for exploring ones own thoughts, feelings or as I did with a story about a terrorist, entering someone else’s thoughts and wondering the why of what they do. Winning a competition or getting published being a lovely outcome but will not come without working and working at that writing muscle – a muscle that includes editing and reworking as much as the process of writing. The Bell Jar is only 6 lines long and less than 80 words. It look me three weeks of editing and reworking to get to the point of sending it to the competition. This is why I had to enjoy what I’d writing and enjoy the process of editing it.
So when I say to groups make sure you write for fun and that most of what you do will sit on your laptop I want to introduce them to the reality of writing.
On another ponder – which I will not answer – I wonder why so many people will say to someone who write “what have you published?” when they wouldn’t say to someone do went to an art class “what have you sold?”
As a writer, not a dancer or a singer. I am going to steal this quote and give it a tweak – “Write like no one will read it, Write like you’ve never been badly criticised/lost your confidence/felt like it’s a waste of time, Write like it’s heaven on earth”
I am a writer who runs writing groups and writing projects. I spend a lot of my time writing. Some of which you can read on the pages of “My Writing”, other bits you can find here on my blog page. I also do all the exercises I set my writing groups. But I got to thinking – how do I write when I know no one will read it? Not as in journaling but just writing a story for myself.
I know we all talk of the first draft not being perfect, or of those exercises we do in writing group being rough. And I don’t want to aim for perfection and be criticising my work as I go because that would make it static and lose the flow. It was more a question of how do I write when I’m just writing for fun.
I am part of a group of writers who used to meet regularly in Frome but then who met online over lockdown and now are a hybrid of in person and online, which is great for me because I’m now living in North Wales. I find meeting with this group very beneficial, so much so that I pay a bit extra to be able to be virtually in their writing room during the week as well as the monthly Sunday gatherings.
Well this Sunday I had booked into write for the morning and felt I “ought to” be ploughing through my collection of short stories of the backstories of some of the women in some of the Mabinogion tales. But I wasn’t wanting to go down the angsty route that I had allowed these women to do down. So I had a choice – either make their lives less angst or write something else. I didn’t want to change their lives as most days I like where they are, so in the end I used one the wild writing prompts we’d started the session with and wrote about how this guy had become a male stripper and exploring his relationships. I will not do anything with this tale but realised that I was “writing as if no one will read it”. I found it fun and very releasing. I can also see how it could help with me how I construct short stories. But that wasn’t the point. I was just writing.
When I allowed myself to move into that place of “writing as if no one will read it” and letting go of all the guilt, negativity, criticism, inner voice telling me I was wasting my morning, and allowed myself to feel like it was “heaven on earth” I took my character on a great journey. Him and I had fun together and enjoyed our Sunday morning. He is now filed away with other unfinished pieces in my “Cloud”.
I still write well, keeping an bit of an eye on spelling – thank you Mr Redline Spellchecker. And I try my best with punctuation – though I have to say that is not my strong point. I blame the fact that I went to school at that time when punctuation was not taught. I’m still never 100% sure what an adjective is!!! 🙂
Also I realised that heaven won’t be heaven for me if I can’t write. If/when I get to heaven I want to hang out by the river of life, under those healing trees, with my A5 hardback notebook and the best pen ever, and write what I can see, what I feel, make up stories about the people I can see around me. But then if I feel like that then why do I not write all the time now? Have heaven on earth now? Because of feelings of “having to” produce something, use my time “wisely”, be “productive”, etc etc. But actually writing is my love, my big passion. I think via my written words.
For instance yesterday I had a Youthshedz meeting and the person I was meeting was late so I got out my notebook and pen and the plan for the next couple of months of the project flowed out of my pen.
So I am going to write more, for no other reason than to write. I’m going to enjoy hanging out with my characters whether others get to meet them or not. Yes I will still take pieces to competition or publication level but all the time I will hold on to the joy that I am going to “write like no one is watching … write like it’s heaven on earth.”
Challenge – how do you write when no one is looking? When maybe no one will ever read it? Or do you struggle with thoughts that there must be a reason why you are writing?
A question I am often asked is “How did The Little Yellow Boat book come into being?” And then the next question is “Are you going to write any more children’s books?”
In answer to the first question the idea for The Little Yellow Boat came from a series of daily writing promotes I was doing with my friend, David, a fellow writer who was encouraging me to write every day because I was struggling to focus on writing. The prompt came, from the book “A Writers Book of Days”, although I cannot now find the actual promote that started it or the original words. . But I do remember David suggesting I turned it into a children’s book
The Little Yellow Boat is very much my story. In fact I find this often when I do free writing prompts, that I explore me as much as anything. But then maybe that’s what we all write about really – ourselves?
So I am the one who was, and still is, always dashing off out to have amazing adventures but then the sea gets rough, I get scared on my own, and come back with something half finished. I have been teased about it lost confidence with it. Since moving to North Wales I have gathered round me more and more people who are real friends, who when they see me too far out and the seas getting rough come to support me rather than tell me I’ve gone too far on my own again. It is so refreshing and so empowering.
So David had suggested this as a children’s’ book but as I cannot draw or paint I put a request out on Twitter and Instagram asking for an illustrator. Interestingly the only person who got in touch with me was Danielle, who used to a friend of my daughter’s when we were living in Scotland in a Christian community. I was also friends with Danielle’s mum but we had not been in contact with each other for about 15-20 years as we’d just gone our different ways. I say “interestingly” because really the story of The Little Yellow Boat is about how she connects with friends, people she has known and not leant on, who help her to go on adventures. Having reconnected with Danielle it felt like the message of the story was being fulfilled.
I have to be honest even when Danielle had finished all the illustrations I was still reluctant to go further. My inner critic, and all the criticisms I had received in the past were kicking in, but I wanted to encourage Danielle and help her on her adventures which is the main reason I plucked up the courage and got in touch with some publishers.
I had no idea about how one went about publishing and didn’t think to get in touch with some of the writing groups I’m loosely connected with – Writers HQ, Writers&Artists, Write Day – so I just googled “children’s publishers taking submissions” and emailed the first three that came back.
This is where it starts to get exciting. All three of them got back in touch very quickly, all wanting to publish my book via contributory contracts. I pondered over them, read the contracts and then picked Olympia Publishers because they gave me the best contract and were the most communicative. I have not been disappointed with them. They are a very supportive, easy to communicate with publishing house.
It has been a long slog, especially during lockdowns, etc, to get the book marketed and out there. But I have learned so much – how to make my own website, set up two Instagram accounts, set up a Facebook page and to email various people to ask if they will sell my book. I do need to pluck up the courage to go into bookshops now they are open, and need to remember to take flyers with me when I’m out dog walking or even shopping. It has been fun signing books for people too. I love the look of pleasure in their eyes when they hold a book from an author they know. That has been a good feeling.
As to whether I’m going to write another children’s book? Well I don’t know. I never intended to write one in the first place. The prompt came in the middle of me trying to write things about female Celtic saints who get raped as part of their way to sainthood. It is female issues, voices not heard that generally fill my writing time. At the moment as well as looking into female Celtic saints I’m also exploring the things some of the mistreated women in the Mabinogion really felt when they were abandoned, raped, spent a year sleeping with a man who wasn’t their husband, were made out of flowers, etc. So exploring abandonment, lack of partnership in relationships, etc. I’m also looking at writing my memoirs but for now that is sat on the back-burner and I’m probably exploring things from it via these Medieval women.
So for me having my first published book as a children’s picture book is a bit of a shock to the system but I am loving it. It fits in with the serendipitous ways of my life
Normally I would do my end of year review to coincide with Christmas cards I was sending, whether physical or electronic, but this year I have decided to wait until 31st December to post, and am even tempted to wait until midnight just in case. It is not that I am fearful but this has been an “unprecedented” year.
At the time I would normally have done this post I was still laid up with bruised ribs from falling off that horse though was starting to plan what I would write, and I suppose even Different Christmas was a lead up to that. But then just as I was in the planning stages for that my husband got shingles and has been very sore with that. Then on Saturday 19th Dec Wales announced that all was change for Christmas and we were going into lockdown again – though from the volume of traffic I would say that only means that pubs and cafes have now closed. Not sure if I can see much other difference on the roads. It is definitely not back to April’s sparse traffic volume. But then on Sunday my daughter announced that she had tested positive to covid and so, even though she wasn’t coming up here for the holidays it did mean she was going to have to spend it home alone! All this in just a week!
This has been the strangest of years. Even to the point that our cat went from eating biscuits to demanding that we feed her cat meat from a tin. She now has meat twice a day and ignores the biscuits that sit waiting for her to be hungry enough. If it hadn’t been for the local cat rescue places being closed all the tins that had been in the cupboard for the last few years would have gone to them but now she’s eaten them all.
Talking of pets – our crazy rabbit died in the summer, happily of a possible heart attack whilst he was sunbathing before begining yet another digging project. He was buried inside his own warren of tunnels that he had constructed over the four years he had been living here. He is still very missed and the amount of veg peelings in our food recycling bin has increased.
As with everyone 2020 started normally enough, though it was odd for us because my husband chose to stay home for New Year’s instead of going to a youth hostel with old university friends. So actually even the start of the year was different for us with us being together when we woke on 2020. We went away as always for our wedding anniversary at the end of January, which was followed by my husband going off for a week of intensive Welsh learning on the Llyn Peninsular. He managed to get away climbing with friends in Scotland at the start of March, but by the time he went away then things were starting to change and covid was being muttered about. We had two Airbnb guests, both in the medical profession, who went from saying it was nothing to worry about to slowly getting more and more concerned about it, to our guest from Burma having to cut short his stay so he got home before all airports were closed.
I was supposed to go on my regular March writing retreat but felt uneasy about going which was just as well because suddenly things got serious. So instead of being in Gwynedd I went Cardiff to bring my daughter to stay with us when the pubs closed. We bought her some walking boots the day before the country went into full lockdown. We thought we were going to be walking all over North Wales, but then the 5 mile rule was introduced and we finished up doing lots of walks around where we live. We have seen my daughter more this year, probably a good 4 months of the year, than we have since she went off to university about 7 years ago. I picked her up yesterday, now that she is over her coovid isolation time and will spend New Year with us and stay until this lockdown lifts. So even though we have seen so much more of her this year when it comes to everyone else – my son and our mothers and our friends – we’ve seen them less than normal.
My husband changed jobs at the start of lockdown and has now been working for his new company for 8 months and never seen the inside of his office or met any of his colleagues face to face. We are so grateful for our lovely big house and him being able to work upstairs in his own office. But his is the only work going on in the house because, with all the guidelines and restrictions, it is not safe to run our house as an Airbnb rental home for the time being. Read more about that on Humility. And since not having guests coming and going it has changed how I see the house and what it is for. For now I’m not making any decisions how things will look regarding Airbnb and room rentals in 2021, but I do know I see this place much more as a family home now than a business.
We did manage to get away for a flying visit to Somerset to see our mums and a couple of friends at the beginning of August and my son and his fiancee came up to us for a long weekend in mid August. Both times we were blessed with great weather. And we managed 6 days in Northumberland in late September, though because Northumbeland went into tier 3 we were not able to see one friend who had moved there a couple of years ago, and also a friend’s 50th wedding anniversary party was cancelled. But we did manage 6 days of walking, reading, and resting together.
As well as Airbnb all my work has stopped – no more writing groups, no more schools work, no more workshops in the library. All very strange. But I have been doing a lot of my own writing and a few of my blogs from here are being published on Godspacelight.com which is quite exciting. I have also been working with a young illustrator and we have a book called TheLittle Yellow Boat which is with BumbleBee Publishing in the process of being put together and published later in 2021. I will tell more about that once it is out in the big wide world. My plans for 2021 are to work on more short stories and other ideas and of course to blog more. I do not want The Little Yellow Boat to be my only publications. I have also been working towards an MA in Celtic Studies and have loved the modules about the Mabinogion, especailly the Four Branches. I am thinking of doing some stores around the women from the Four Branches.
Every year we do not know what is going to happen, but I think 2021 is probably the one where we have the least idea. Will the vaccine prove effective enough to bring back “normal” life? Will we have enjoyed some of the changes and not want “normal”? For some their business will never be the same again. Many will be bankrupt. For others there plans will be delayed and will be able to move forward a year or two later. But also within that not knowing are things we do have control over. I plan to continue with the Quantum Energy Counselling healing work I’ve been doing. I will work on my own writing and develop a body of work and look at being published. I will meet up with people when I walk with my dog and have great conversations. I will email my friends. And I will carry on reading. All these I have control over. As to whether I’ll start Airbnb rental again or whether I’ll be able to restart writing workshops and schools work, that I have no control over, so will hold lightly. Also I do have control over how I behave towards what is going on around me and I hope I can hold Joy and Hope in the right place and walk as God wants me to through whatever is thrown my way.
So how did I get from posting for myself to sharing?
I have always written. I remember as a young teenager writing stories and sharing them on the school bus with friends. I wrote a play about Thomas a Becket instead of an essay for my pre-O level history class, which I was told was great but I needed to get the language more in period. If only I could find that play now I would not change the language style but would go with it as it was – 11th Century drama with contemporary voices. But unfortunately is has gone. Even when I decided to do a degree later in life I went for history with creative writing. I am a writer but I have hidden that from myself. Or rather haven’t been willing to push through. I write lots but I very rarely push through and edit or try and find a publisher or a competition or any outlet for my work. But things have changed.
During lockdown I have had time to moan, to grumble, couldn’t find my creativity or my motivation, and also wondered what I’m going to do with the last third of my life. [I’ve had my 59th birthday during lockdown] But through it all I did journalling, emailing, started writing courses, met up with friends on Zoom silent writing gatherings [where we all sign on and say Hi and then mute and write for 2-3 hours then say how we’ve done and go have lunch]. But something was stiring.
I have a great friend who does amazing inner healing stuff. She lives in South of England, me in North Wales, so we meet via Zoom. She’s good at creativing a calming atmosphere over cyberspace. This last time highlighted my writing and I came away really believing that my calling is to be a writer. In fact to be an author. And from there things have started to open up. It isn’t magic. I have to do my bit. So I finished a story about “the truth of this virus” and have found a competition for it which means editing it from 3500 words down to 2000. I’m up for the challenge. I submitted 20/20 Perfect Vision to https://godspacelight.com/blog/ – and when you look you’ll see that they have edited it. Now if they had done that before I had had this time of both lockdown and inner healing I would have been hurt by it but today I am really pleased with how it looks. My work but their site, their brand.
I used to be afraid of editing especially other people doing it. I saw it as a personal attack, which is daft but that is how it felt. Like they were attacking me and not helping me with my work. As well as the editing on GodspaceLight I also recieved an email from a friend who has critiqued this “truth of the virus” story and again recieved in the manner it was sent – with love and support.
I have more work to do which I am excited about not overwhelmed; a children’s story that a friend is illustrating that it is my task to find a publisher; a fun bit about my husband builidng a eagle’s lair in his office which I shared the idea on a writer’s forum and have been given a website to share the story on; as well as this other post for GodspaceLight and the “truth about the virus” story.
And because of the clearing out of the junk that was holding me back from editing and completing any work I feel energized, creative and motivated. Finally I am stepping up into my calling – and funnily enough it is not all those other things i thought it might be 🙂 But that is for another post 🙂