Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Taking time for creative writing


I was recently lucky enough to provide a poetry inspired writing workshop for a young writer's group at one of our local libraries. Some brilliant work came out of it, so I thought I'd share the workshop with you, to spread the joy of a bit of inspiration.

I was thinking about time. FYI Salomé (which is currently on hiatus due to illness) is hoping to have a theme of 'time' for its Spring issue. Check out this link to their submissions page to see when they're back up and running.

I was also thinking about our communications with ourselves at different times of our lives, the 'if I'd known then what I know now' moments. In poems, these can take the form of advice to our perhaps younger selves, statements of intent about how we will behave in the future, or observations of people at a particular stage of life to share some kind of truth about it. I shared a few poems with the young writers group to give examples, making sure we had time to chat about the poems - not to take them apart in depth with meter and rhyme and all that, but to talk about how they spoke to us, or didn't, and what we liked in them.

I had to share the wonderful, crazily well known poem by Jenny Joseph, best known by its first line, 'When I am old I shall wear purple...' - Warning. Here is its, read by the poet herself. She'll be sadly missed.



I also shared Kathleen Jamie's poem Old Women from The Bonniest Companie (Picador). It has been shared on Dave Poems here (it starts 'Thon tree', if you're scanning through for it). I love that start. The word thon - meaning far over there (a bit like yonder), is one I hardly come across any more, but it would be such a shame to lose it, plus I'm obsessed with trees, anyway, the poem is about spring and burdens and not losing hope, and it's about the carrying of life that women do, and it's really rather fantastic. The young writers didn't think so. Perhaps you need to be nearer the tree to make it out.

They did enjoy the fantastic poem Giraffe, from the new collection of the same name by Bryony Littlefair, published by Seren Books (buy it here), and the winner of this year's (2018) Myslexia poetry pamphlet prize. It first appeared in a magazine that I love called Popshot. See it here. It's an amazing poem, which Popshot describes as being about recovery from mental illness, which it is, I suppose, but to me it spoke of adolescence, a hideous experience for me which I wouldn't wish on anybody, and I feel for any poor soul going through it, as well as those they live with! I love the specificity of the poem, and the little details, like the plastic spoon, because they're important when you are able to finally look around you and get your head out of the horrible cloud.

The young writers were really nice about my poem, 'I am not yours,' which was originally published on The Fat Damsel. Find it there (first poem on the page, under the pictures). It imagines me meeting up with an ex-lover at a time after the hatred has gone and time has moved on and I haven't even thought about him until there he is, and it's weird that our time has gone. I was delighted that one of the young writers said the poem spoke to her and made her feel more optimistic about mending.

Anyway, enough reading, time for some writing. I asked the young writers to think of an epistolary (like a letter) poem for their older selves. I was thinking that I'm constantly hearing advice about enjoying this moment from older people and it can get annoying, perhaps instead young people might have some useful advice that could go the other way.

The young writers shared what they wrote in the group, but didn't want to share it externally, which is understandable, considering it's just the beginning of something, but it's a shame because their words were inspirational, intelligent and beautifully moving.

If you fancy giving it a go yourself fetch your writing gubbins and get ready to write. Use a clock or a timer and give yourself just five minutes. You can always go back to it later. For now, just GO! 

...tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock...

What you write might be brilliant. It might be rubbish, but there might be little wonders in it. If you're lucky enough to have a supportive group like the young writers, share what you've written with them, they'll help you to spot what's good. If you can't see anything good then put it away and go back to it when you're having a more positive day/week/year because you do have good stuff in you, it's just sometimes hard to spot.

If you feel brave enough, share some/all of what you've written in the comments. I'd love to see what you come up with.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Right now- gender bias in The Guardian

I've been re-reading Laurie Penny's book, Bitch Doctrine, just lately. In it she claims that women and people of colour tend to write the most popular, most viral articles, even on news sites such as the Guardian, but they are not the most prominent or well paid.

I decided to take a quick snapshot of The Guardian right now, 8pm on Saturday 9th December, to see what it looks like.

I guess there's more sport because it's Saturday, but just looking at this has raised some issues for me.

First up, here's a summary of those most popular articles just now:

1) A story with a video about a polar bear starving due to climate change. Contributed by a woman. No photo of her.
2) A football story about Newcastle Utd vs Leicester City - the mens' teams. Written by a white man, photographed on his page.
3) A story about Bradley Wiggins not making it in rowing. Written by a white man, photographed on his page.
4) A story about a man held hostage while criminals raided his parents' home. Attributed only to the Press Association.
5) An interview with comedian Bill Bailey, written by a woman for whom no details are provided.
6) Live feed on the Strictly Come Dancing semi final, written by a white woman with a picture on her page, where it notes she is part of the liveblog team.
7) An opinion piece on Jared Kushner by a man of colour who is photographed on the byline.
8) A story about banking scams, focusing on a young woman victim, written by a white man, photographed on his page.
9) A story about a low level fight in a bar between male cricketers by a white man.
10) A piece on Johnny Hallyday's funeral in Paris by a white woman, photographed on her page.

So to summarise, of the ten stories, seven are about men. The only one focused on a woman has her as the victim. There is a fairly even split in the writers between men and women but male writers are far more likely to have their picture provided (and one even has it on the byline). White people outnumber people of colour.

The Guardian hasn't chosen these stories to represent it, of course, so I'm going to look at the top ten stories it has chosen to put on its website. It's now 8.30pm on Saturday night.

1) Boris Johnson is in Iran negotiating the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (White male protagonist, brown female victim). The writer is a white woman with a photograph.
2) Iraq has declared an end to their fight against Islamic State (lots of men, of course, but I am choosing to count this as a non-gendered story). The writer is again a woman, but no photo this time.
3) The story about Johnny Hallyday's funeral. (Male focus - white woman writer).
4) The starving polar bear (environmental focus - woman writer)
5) Airstrikes in Gaza after Trump recognises Jerusalem as capital of Israel. (Male focus). Story by a white man with a photograph.
6) The story about the cricketers bar fight. (Male focus, white man writer).
7) Michael Gove's latest comments on Brexit *shudder* (male focus) from the Press Association.
8) A journalist has been deported from Argentina. The journalist is a woman so it's a female focus(!) from a male writer of colour.
9) The story about the man held hostage (male focus, Press Association).
10) Roy Moore, standing for senate in Alabama, suggesting that Putin had a point about same-sex marriage (male focus, white male writer).

Do you know, the balance carries on between male and female writers, although still, the men are much more likely to have a photo on their page. And again the stories are all about men. Men, men, men, men, Sally Burch (she's the journalist), men.

Ugh, it's tiresome. And what obnoxious men they are!

Anyway, my snapshot suggested that it's a mix throughout the paper for who writes the stories, but it does seem like men have more investment in them, and the paper is really really really interested in what they do (even a man pouring a drink over another man, which is basically breakfast).

I keep hearing that if you can see it you can dream it, but at the moment all I'm seeing is a world run by men... I do hope the good people of Alabama don't elect that nutter.

What do you think? Is this a representative snapshot? And what are other media outlets like?


Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Tanka Project #44: Secrets

This is the 44th tanka of the 44 I told you I'd write for the tanka project. I actually accidentally wrote 45, but the spare one will have to remain secret for now, you might find it somewhere in the future.

I need to get my head out of the tanka shaped space. I'm yearning to go longer, I'm getting excited about stories, although I am mainly finding ways to keep writing while the house keeps getting messed up (honestly it's as if five people and four animals lived in it), and I'm working at the library.

On that, I'm loving working in the library. It's such a fabulous place to be, even on days which are a bit fraught, like today. I am also incredibly impressed with how lovely my co-workers are. I've never worked somewhere like this before!

Anyway, this tanka was something I wrote while drinking wine in front of the TV, binge watching Poldark (I finally got 'round to it, I am gutted that Ross and Elizabeth didn't end up together yet because they deserve each other, I am also dismayed at just how many books there are in the series). Anyway, I misheard something someone said about the sea, and this is where it led!




The Tanka Project: THE END

Monday, 27 November 2017

Tanka Project #43

Today's tanka is inspired by The Red Painting's song, 'You're not one of them' (as you can see - I stole that line). I love The Red Paintings, even though I think he might have said that 'time holds no bears'. My son shrugged at the lyric and said 'well, time doesn't hold snakes either.' The logic, my friends, is inarguable.


It's a good video too isn't it? If odd. 

Anyway... I am not really down with the whole binary thing, so I find the idea of 'us' and 'them' totally fascinating. Any binary division is bound to be a Venn diagram at best, a noose at worst, and really lacking in usefulness, in my opinion, so us and them, well, it's meaningless - we're all us, we're all them. It is all our fault and it is all our problem.

I know at least two people who definitely voted the way I totally think they shouldn't have done lately. Do I ditch them? No, they are us. People cannot understand my way of thinking if I don't speak out.


Sunday, 26 November 2017

Tanka Project: Guests 10

All sorts of loveliness from today's guests post people, so let's not waste time.

We'll start this Sunday morning with Ruth Long's tanka of bacon, coffee, and kisses, because how better to start your day?



Next up are two tankas from Eugenio Saenz Jr, who has a rather luscious way with layout which I would like to steal. They are also full of wistful, haunting, romance.




Have you noticed that Eugenio calls this his tanka #17006? It rather puts my 44 to shame, eh?!





Saturday, 25 November 2017

Tanka Project #42: a_e

My youngest's homework this week included a_e word spellings. We spent a lot of time with those words and so I did a homework tanka to try to use some of her spelling words too.

This may be the meaning of life. Or not.


Friday, 24 November 2017

Tanka Project: Guests 9

We're coming to the end of the tanka project. I never had as many people join in as had meant to - we're all living busy lives, that's ok, but it makes me feel really grateful for those who did take part, sharing their tankas with you lovely folks.

First up is Magaly Guerrero (previously seen here), with a fabulous tanka about using her weird. I love the celebration of using what we have and embracing it, and I love the enjambment in the penultimate line, which makes me keep coming back for more. (For non poetry types enjambment is just the way a line runs into another).



Next up is Sara from Mum Turned Mom, who is coming to the end of her Prompt series as I am nearing the end of this project. I will really miss the prompt, but I'm glad Sara is giving herself some headspace for what's next. I'll keep you informed of what I'm doing next too! Sara shared this tanka on her website here but gave me permission to give it one of my own backgrounds (all the Tanka Project graphic design on the Instagram feed is done in Desygner). to share with you all.



Last for this guest post is anelle, who collaborated with her unamed brother to create these two discursive tankas, simply presented.