Zoom Moon

I took this photo on my phone. My phone camera isn’t the best but I like how this turned out. There are so many colours, much more that my eyes could capture.

Incidentally, one of my friends dyes her own wool and asked me if she could use the colours from my photograph. What a strange and fantastic privelage. The wool will be named and sold as Zoom Moon.

Anyhoo, how is everyone? I’ve been a little bit quiet in the last week. I have begun editing my novel and that is taking up a lot of my free time. I have also been struggling with anxiety, (it comes and goes). This particular spell was bad and I think a lot of it comes from over consuming news (and public opinions). I find it difficult to identify with a lot of people politically, and in current affairs. I’m a lefty of course, and one of them damn woke people. But I have taken a Facebook and Twitter holiday. It’s only been a day and I feel better.

That’s all for now. Just thought I would check in.

Cheers for reading.

Writing advice to a friend

This advice is taken in part, from a conversation with a friend on messenger. I thought it might shine some light on my writing process. The question was, how do you motivate yourself to write a full length novel?

Hiya, I had the intention to write every day, but didn’t always manage. I didn’t beat myself up about it though, what’s the point.

Posting on Facebook was a great way to hold myself accountable, if only to myself.

I have a friend, (a non booky friend), who read each chapter after I had finished, errors and all. Her response to the writing, (and I mean response, not feedback at this stage), assured me that what I had written made sense and worked. I have a Helen too, who gives me the more honest and good feedback.

I had a loose plot, but it was loose. I let my imagination guide the shape of the novel and, regularly altered the plot line as I went. I guess the main thing for me was to think of why I wanted to sit down and write and, what I would get out of it. When I found the answer, I began to sit down and write purely for the love of writing. I wanted to enjoy the process, and have fun. I never gave myself pressure, I didn’t beat myself up if it seemed disjointed or went in weird directions, I just kept writing.

I had a rough idea of word count, but not a solid ending so that was changeable, and I did make some major changes in the last chapter and I think it gave the whole story a twist.

But I guess I went at it with a want to write, a real desire to bring my idea to life, to slow down in order to really enjoy what I was writing, and the actual act if writing itself. And with no publishing goal in site at this stage, I found the act of writing, for writings sake, fun. I guess that the process would change when working to a publishing deadline.

Summary

A maliable plot.
Facebook accountability.
A strong desire to bring my story to life.
An intention to write.
Writing for the love of writing.
A desire to enjoy each part of the process.

Another thing. Finishing each chapter on a hook is great for the reader, but also for me as it made returning to the story exciting.


I always leave myself notes of ideas at the end of a chapter too. Scrivener is a great piece of software that lets you break the novel down into wee chunks. It’s not too expensive either.
Also, I take notes of loose ends so I always tie them up.

Don’t edit as you go, it’ll slow you down and you’ll get stuck. You’re going to have to edit anyway once it is written. Try just writing and ignoring the mistakes. It is liberating. That’s when your real voice comes out and the magic happens. That’s when you’ll love it for what it is, a weird fucking delve into the unknown.

If you are still struggling, meditation is a good way to shake of expectations. Or a walk before you sit down.

Good luck.

The Outsider

This photo was kindly donated by Emma Mooney, and was also the inspiration for this poem.

I told him to come.
I put the key in a plant pot,
And a slice of Madeira cake
Wrapped in cling film, on a floral plate.

I said, ‘Please, help yourself,’
And left the porch light on,
And brown sugar cubes
In a silver bowl, and a sachet of coffee mate.

I said, ‘It’s going to be a cold one.’
And I stoked the fire with extra logs,
Folded the scarf I’d knitted last June
And left it on the armchair.

I said, ‘I won’t wait up.’
And I drew the curtains on a blinding blizzard,
Took photographs from the shelf,
Leaving eleven lines in the dust.

I said, ‘Perhaps he’ll come.’
And left well worn slippers by the fire,
A blanket folded in a plasic bag,
And a kiss on an old book from another time.

In the morning I said, ‘I wonder.’
As I counted the sugar, dusted the crumbs,
Then drew the winters curtains
To size eleven footprints in two inches of snow.

Telephone Box

Taken on Killin, Scotland

This is a working telephone box yet I’ve never seen anyone use it. We used to have one at the top of our scheme. It was red too, but a bit on the grubby side and with peeling paint. I remember the inside of it, the cigarette burns in the perspex windows, that kind of melted brown tear shape. I remember the ground was always wet and smelled of piss. I remember the air reeking of cigarettes and stale beer. We used to call the operator for a laugh. Pretend we were trying to get the number for Mr C Fax or Mrs C Saw. I rarely used it to make an actual phone call, but when I did, it was a hungry wee machine, eating up my silver and leaving me to say my goodbyes during the pip pip pip’s.

Do you have a telephone box in your town? What is it used for? Can you remember using them before telephones were in the house ?

This isn’t quite a prompt, but a request…

Imagine you you passing a telephone box and it begins to ring. You pick up the phone and I say. Hi, I’m Eilidh from Killin in Scotland. How would you greet me in your language?

I’ve had people visit me from 40 countries this year so far and don’t know who is from Scotland, Hong Kong, India, Vietnam and so on.

I’ve listed all of the countries that have visited my blog below.

Thanks as always for visiting.

Toothache

I wanted to write a blog about the many ways that writers identify themselves as writers, but alas, I have toothache. It started through the night last night, swollen gums and an ache that won’t go away. I’m almost 49 years old and I can’t recall ever having toothache before, and I would have remembered this pain. So, I sulked quietly today. I even cracked open a can of lager in the hopes of dulling the ache, but it’s given me a sore tummy instead. So I’m miserable.

On the plus side, I have managed to read a chapter of my book and write 1100 words of my novel. I’ve now written 64,947 words. That’s 29 chapters. I can almost see the finish line and I reckon I’ll have a first draft by mid February, (providing my head hasn’t exploded with the toothache first). But I wanted to check in and say hello, and thank everyone who stops by my blog and gives me a wee like or interacts with a comment. It means a lot.

Onwards.

Ring Box

This photograph was taken in CRUK Stirling

Pick a ring, any ring. Take a moments to feel it in the palm of your hand. Now look closely, at the colours, the patterns, the tiny clasps that hold the stones. Now bring the ring to your nose. Smell it. What does it smell like? Where did it come from? Who once owned the ring that you hold in your hand?

PROMPT

Write a poem or a story about searching for the perfect ring in a charity shop. Who was it for, what was the occasion or, was it just a random purchase. Now tell the story of where it came from, perhaps the cashier told you, or you found a name inscribed inside it and looked it up, perhaps it was stolen and you found an article online while you were trying to find out what type of ring it was. Will you keep the ring, give it away, or return it?

Happy writing folks.

Hitchhiker

Taken at Harmony Fields animal sanctuary

Imagine driving along a quiet country road and seeing this little guy with his arm out.

Would you or wouldn’t you pull over and offer him a lift?

Prompt

Write a story or poem with only two characters, the driver of a vehicle, and a hitchhiker. The story should involve these items or scenarios:

  • A baby’s rattle
  • A tiny mouse
  • A song by Neil Diamond
  • The French National Anthem
  • An upside down road sign
  • Donal Trump
  • And breaking wind

Good luck and happy writing.

Inspiration or Magic?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Where does a poem come from? Where does it begin? When does a thought become a creation?

The same applies to prose. Where does that unplanned story strand come from? How, in a split second, can a character fall in love without first consulting it’s creator?

Is it inspiration?

Or Magic?

I was walking the dogs yesterday. We went to our usual haunt which is generally the big field down by the river. The weather was average for Scotland in January, dreich, windy with a wee bit mizzle in the air, and damn cold. I was trying (and failing) to stop the dogs eating rabbit shit, while being careful not to step awkwardly on the uneven ground. I wasn’t thinking about anything in particular, in fact, I was just looking. I was looking at my feet, at the dogs, at the snowy mountains, and the people on the old railway in the distance. Suddenly, a sentence popped into my head.

I miss the sea.

This was followed by:

I miss the sea fi when a wis wee

Fair enough, I hear you say. Don’t we all miss what we can’t have at the moment in time, the pandemic has taken so much. And besides this, I’ve seen and heard references to the sea over he past few days through various mediums, so perhaps this subconsciously inspired me. The thing is, I haven’t written any poetry or prose since the start of December 2020. There is a number of reasons for this, (as discussed in previous posts, and I’m not going to bore you with them now), but I wasn’t looking for inspiration, or magic for that matter. And perhaps you don’t think the above lines could be classed as poetry, I mean, the two lines are statements aren’t they? Perhaps. But then the next line came to me in a rhythm so perfect, that I pulled my phone from my pocket and recorded it. This is written in Midlothian vernacular.

I miss sand
stickin to ma broon sauce piece

Is it sounding as epic to you as it is to me? Try saying it out loud, with a pause after sand, and the second line rolling of your tongue.

Or if you understand measuring meter in poetry:

I miss sand (strong, weak, strong)

Sti-ckin to ma broon sauce piece (strong-strong, weak. weak, strong, weak, strong).

Okay, you might not be as excited about the birth of my new poem as I am, but watch this space.

Back to my question though…

Did the poem arrive because of inspiration, or was it magic? My opinion is that it’s a bit of both.

Let me give you another example. Whilst working on my current novel in progress, Little Red Rowing Boat, I have become more and more aware of how often a new thread/strand appears during the writing process. This thread is unplanned, it might be an unexpected character appearing, a childhood flashback, and often a key plot line that materialises from no-where. I often find myself in a trance like state when I’m writing, or deep writing. This is when the magic begins. I generally do plan my writing before I sit down; I pretty much know the direction the story will flow, but regardless of my intention, there’s a genie in my head that sprinkles star dust on my fingers while I write and weird shit happens. Is it just me?

Photo by Julia Filirovska on Pexels.com

I would like to know your thoughts on this matter. Please leave a comment.

One Sided Telephone Conversation

Below is one half of a telephone conversation. The person in the photograph is the person talking. The caller is a mystery.

Hello…

Yes, speaking…

They found what in my laundry bag?

Who found it?

I can assure you it doesn’t belong to me…

Yes. I’ll hold...

How could I have been so careless? It must have fallen into the bag when Harold was around. If only I’d left him on the doorstep instead of being sucked into party politics again.

Oh shit. What if Harold planted it in the bag.

If the team find out…

No, what if the family discover who I really am.

They’d never believe it.

I am so dead.

I’m still here...

Could you stop shouting…

Look it isn’t mine. You see, this morning, there was a man…

I understand that, but if this was anyone else…

I’m only 34 years old, why on earth would I be interested

No. No. Please don’t , I can’t…

But if my mother finds out there was a...

I’ve never been on a cruise ship. In fact, I’ve never been on a bloody rowing boat...

Yeah, but that doesn’t count. Does it?

I think you’ll find I normally carry a red one. I usually keep it in the car though...

Is this a sick joke?

Hello...

Who are you? Put the other bloke back on, I don’t want to deal with someone else

You’re Kidding. Pat?

Thank God. Can you just pop it into the pocket of my jeans once they are dry? Your a babe...

Thanks. And tell Alan, I’m laughing now, but wait til I see him...

This is a one sided telephone conversation. It is a great way to add mystery to a scene. Perhaps someone is listening in on the conversation and trying to put the pieces together. Perhaps the protagonist is concealing the other half of the conversation. It is a fun way to write. This is also a great writing prompt.

Writing Prompt

Write the other half of the conversation.

Happy writing folks.

Allergies

How colourful is this photograph? It was taken in the garden of our old house in Bannockburn. I was trimming the roses when I looked up and saw Buddah, and he looks like he’s sneezing. It made me smile.

I chose to post this photograph today because not only have I been clearing out my writing study/meditation space, but I’ve also been sneezing. To be honest, I think it was the dust from the tumble dryer filter that irritated my nose, but I have done a bit of rearranging so it might be that.

I love having a clear space to work. I find that along with regular meditation, and an uncluttered work area, I can sit down at my desk and write easily. I began writing a novel on 1st April 2020 and am now 63000 word into it. I haven’t written since the beginning of December, my partner had a relapse of her neurological condition, NMO, feel to look it up, then we both thought we had covid but, it turned out not to be, and obviously there was Christmas. Now I’m ready. I have the rest of the novel planned out, I reckon I could complete it in a few weeks then begin the editing process.

But I’m ranting now.

PROMPT

Write a short story or a poem in the form of an email. The email should be an apology for not going on a date and, the excuse should be allergies.

Happy writing folks

This Old Silhouette

I’ve just finished watching the opening concert of Celtic Connections 2021. What a show it was. I love music. I love hearing it sung in many languages as well as in my own tongue. Music brings people together, joins the dots between this land and that, builds bridges and, forms connections. Tonight’s prompt isn’t entirely a prompt, it’s a: FINISH THIS.

Writing challenge

Write a poem, story poem, flash fiction or short story beginning with the line,

Let me sculpt music from this old silhouette

The only thing I ask is that, if you use this line and then post it on your blog, please credit my blog. Plus, I if like your post, I’ll share it.

Happy sculpting

Hidden Garden

Taken in Arbroath Scotland

We were on our first caravan holiday in Arbroath, me, Helen and Kimber (we didn’t have Millie at that point). It had been a hell of a week, Kimber was stung by a jelly fish, then a bee the following day, but was treated to her first ice cream cone by the harbour while we tucked into some greasy chips.

It was our first time on Arbroath. The seaside town looked tired, ramshackled in parts, but with pockets of charm dotted around and we fell on love with the place. The beach was long, and at one end flies buzzed around slimy seaweed, rotten and stinking. But in the opposite direction, it was wide, flat and when the tide slipped away into the distance it left silver mirrors in the golden sand.

Famous for its Arbroath smokies (smoked fish), we expected the harbour to reek, but instead, we were greeted with the smell of the salty sea spray that lashed the rocks and soaked our faces. The smell of garlic from a nearby restaurant hung in the air, and as we passed fishing boats tied to metal cleats, a waft of engine oil. I was struck by how much colour was to be found on the coast, from the lobster crates stacked in piles, to rows of washing flapping in the wind above a small cove, to the pretty white lighthouse, stark against a blue sky. One night, we even saw a supermoon.

There was one place that stood out above the rest though. It was close to the end of our holiday and we were wandering. We’d climbed a hill above the harbour and had a picnic while looking down at the orange roof tops and the grey sea, then we strolled by the abbey, and shortly after, into a hidden garden. It was tucked away, between Arbroath’s high street, a park and a rural area. We wandered through an archway into a beautiful walled garden. The garden was in bloom with red roses, white roses, trees, a manicured lawn and a variety of shrubs. There was a wooden bench where we sat for a while. All around us, birds sung in bushes and trees, butterflies fluttered and insects buzzed, hovered and jumped. It was a lovely day and the garden offered shade and a pocket of quiet and stillness, a rest from the world outside.

I have such fond memories of this trip, and I never intended to write such a big post.

But perhaps a prompt?

Okay. Write of place of tranquility, somewhere hidden amongst the hustle and bustle of busy life. Was it found by surprise, why was it there, what did it look like, smell like, sound like, feel like? Was it surprising and did anything happen that changed you or your character? Now hide something, bury it, hide it in a wall or a tree or amongst shrubbery? What was it and who will find it?

Happy writing and thanks for reading my post.

A Scottish Jig

Taken at Bannockburn House

There is so much going on in this photograph and that’s why I took it. It was taken outside the 17th century mansion Bannockburn House. Notice the man in his traditional Scottish dress, the wheelchairs – one neatly placed, one abandoned. Then there is the bike propped under a window beside a 1980’s wire bin.

PROMPT

Using the photograph above, write a short story or poem about arriving late to a party and finding yourself back on 1984. When did you realise and how? Who was there that you haven’t thought about in a long time? How was everyone dressed, what music was playing and what was on the buffet?

Have a ball and happy writing.

Home

Barbed Wire

Taken at the Battle of Bannockburn site in Bannockburn.

What are the first words that spring to mind when you see this image? Danger, security risk, unsafe?

Barbed wire is a barrier, a rusty knotted, a twisted barrier between YOU and IT, or visa versa. But what is IT, why does is IT need to be segregated, and what would happen if the barbed wire was cut and suddenly YOU and IT were confronted with one another?

Writing Prompt

Write of a character confronted with a barbed wire fence. What is behind the it? Why do they want to get beyond the wire? What are the risks? And what will they do when they get through?

Point of view

I love a mirror in the garden

If you are struggling to write about something from a particular point of view and not quite hitting the mark, or if you are stuck in a certain scene – change your perspective. 

Example: I stood at the back door and watched the sunset. The orange sky stretched across the horizon, widening the earth. From where I stood, the hills were on fire. I want to put my trainers on and run. I wanted to run into the sun and far away into those glorious orange hills.
I looked to Joanna, who sat drawing, her chair turned away from the dazzling light. She smiled.

Now change perspective.

Joanna sat with one foot resting on the table, and a drawing pad balanced on her knee. She’d drawn the framed mirror first, then carefully sketched the lines of the six-foot fence. The plant pots were easy, but those damn lanterns, she just couldn’t get them right. In the mirror she could see that the sun was setting, the colours in the frame changed, adding pinks and purples to the fence, and the silver pot rims were dazzled with orange. She heard Bella at the back door. Wow, she heard her say, and Joanna guessed it was the sun set that caused the reaction. She wondered if the hills looked epic, like that time Bella had taken her to the park at dusk. She smiled, not only at the memory but at how beautiful the garden looked in the mirror. She took the brake of her chair and turned around.  

By changing perspectives we now know more about the garden, about Joanna, and about Bella. Now if we were to go back to Bella’s pout of view we could expand the scene:

I stood at the back door and watched the sunset. The orange sky was stretched across the horizon, widening the earth. From where I stood, the hills were on fire. Wow. I said. Joanna sat in the garden. She had one foot rested on the table and a drawing pad balanced on her knee. She’d stopped drawing and I could see how hard she’d worked on the picture, each fence slat was perfectly aligned, the curve of the pots and even the lanterns looked perfect.

How does it look from up there? she asked.

You’ve done a brilliant job. I said.

No silly, the sunset.

Incredible. I said. Turn around.

I can see it from here. she pointed at the mirror. 

I felt a familiar gnawing in my stomach as the guilt of what had happened crept in. I wanted to put my my trainers on and run. Run into the sun and far away into those glorious orange hills.

Joanna smiled.

Now the story has a new slant. Changing perspective opens up opportunity. Why not have a go yourself and be sure to let me know how it goes.  

Friends on the Sea Wall

Taken in St Andrews Fife

I haven’t seen the sea for over a year. Living in Killin, I am close to several lochs and rivers, but there is something special about the sea. For me, it’s a feeling that wraps around my ribs like a hug. It’s that feeling of wonder, the mystery of nature and the universe. The sea is a place for contemplation, for stillness and a place to feel whole.

I love this photograph , I snapped it while walking on the beach at St Andrews. The photo is of some teenagers huddled together on the sea wall. I couldn’t hear their conversation but I noticed the long pauses where they all looked out into the endless grey water. Perhaps they were thinking about their studies or their future, perhaps they were lost for a moment in a memory. I like to think they were contemplating their place in the world, their responsibility to the earth and her future

PROMPT

Write a story with two characters, each going through individual difficulties in their lives. The characters should not talk out loud to one another, but sit together on a sea wall watching the sea. The story should record their thoughts, perhaps scattered like a stream of consciousness, or like an internal conversation or monologue. Notice the difference between the characters voices. Did the sea calm them or increase the storm within?

Is it a Genie or a Cloud?

The night sky in Killin

One of the best things about living in the Scottish Highlands in the wee detached village of Killin, is the night sky. It’s pretty dark at night, with little light pollution and the brightest moon I’ve ever seen. When there is a scattering of clouds, however, the sky puts on the most spectacular show of patterns and shapes, it’s like art. When the days are clear and the rain is at bay, we have a new exhibition to indulge in every night, and often with twinkling stars dotted in between. That’s not to say it’s not freezing, wrapping up is essential for sky gazing. The picture that accompanies this post was taken in December 2020. It was taken on my phone and zoomed in. I couldn’t help but notice a genie smoking his pipe and pondering what’s to become of this bloody pandemic.

What do you see?

The night sky is a great place to start for writing inspiration. Perhaps on a clear night, get yourself wrapped up and venture out into the dark.

Listen
Look
Smell
Feel

By tuning into the senses, you might be surprised at what the night has to offer. For me, on a night like the one in December, I would hear the hoo-hoo of the owl, the swishing of the trees on the old railway, the creaking of the car port roof, possibly a car in the distance bit mostly not.

The sky can be anything from a yellow oil slick, to a blue fox stretching lazily between the seven sisters and the plough.

There’s usually a smell of a burning wood in the air, the smell of wet grass, sweet frost or mulch. Sometimes even the smell of laundry from someone’s tumble dryer.

I will feel the sharpness of the air as it reaches my lungs, the sting of cold on my cheeks, my feet on the ground, my heart beating, the clothes on my skin.

This is present moment awareness, a moment of mindful contemplation. All of it relevant as I stand completely alive, sharing the sky with those brave enough to be out too.

Happy writing folks.

Dregs

Being a writer means also being an observer, how else are we able to describe the world around us but through our senses. I believe we can become better writers by learning the art of deep observation and paying closer attention to the here and now.

So, what is a deep observer? It is someone who actively experiences the world with a strong curiosity, who opens up all the senses available to them in order to examine what’s happening. That might seem obvious, however, for much of the day we actually miss what’s happening in the world around us because we are lost in our own thoughts.

Photo by Katerina Holmes on Pexels.com

Learning to pause, to be still, and to open up the possibility of becoming an intentional deep observer takes time and practice – it requires the ability to be present. Presence is simply being aware of where you are, in body and in mind, and actively choosing to be fully aware of what is happening in that moment. In mindfulness practice, we would describe this as arriving in the moment.

The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness.” Jon Kabat-Zinn

https://positivepsychology.com/mindfulness-quotes/

So, how do we arrive in the moment? In a mindfulness meditation practice, we would arrive in the moment by ringing a bell or a gong. By doing this at the beginning and end of a practice, we are setting an intention to be present during that time period. Being present though, isn’t necessarily about meditation, although we can build a stronger ability for presence when we practice meditation, but we can be present at any time, we just have to do be present intentionally.

Photo by Magicbowls on Pexels.com

Setting an intention to be present is more difficult than you think. Try, for example, setting an intention to be present while washing the dishes.Try to become fully aware of where you are and what you are doing. Perhaps take a moment before you begin to say out loud, ‘right now I am washing the dishes.’ How long was it before your mind began to wander? Perhaps you started thinking of what you would like to be doing instead. Perhaps you were thinking of something that happened last week, or an hour ago. Regardless, it is difficult to stay focused for very long without the mind going of on its own journey and taking us along for the ride. This is particularly prevelant when we are partaking in something mundane or repetitive, and are happy to loose ourselves in thoughts and dreams. But the mundane can be such an important part of our writing and by actively seeking out those mundane experiences ourselves, we can so enrich the quality of our work.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

When we practice intentional deep observation, the present moment experience will become richer, and certainly more interesting. Perhaps, before we begin, take a few seconds to arrive in the moment (I’m not suggesting sounding a gong every time you do the washing up). Maybe stand by the sink. Feel your feet on the floor or the area where your body makes contact with the chair or stool, become aware of the temperature in the room, the sounds, then perhaps take three deep breaths. When you begin washing up, try noticing the tactile experience of washing the dishes, the temperature of the water on your hands, the feeling of the detergent, the way the water changes when it starts to become greasy or dirty. All of those experiences, pleasant or unpleasant, are knowledge. Use your other available senses too, such as your sight, what does that blob of tomato sauce look like when it is dissolving in water, look at how the oat milk in the bottom of that glass mug resembles a monkey’s face (see my post image). Try to experience the smell too, the smell of the detergent, other smells in the room, the smell of the sink once the water has washed down the plug hole. All of these observations are knowledge, material.

Setting an intention to be present, to be a deep observer, does not mean that the mind will not wander, of course it will, that’s what minds do. However, noticing the mind wandering is, or can be, part of the observation. Where did the mind wander to? How long did it last, what were you hands doing during this time? By practising these observational skills we can expand our knowledge and awareness which can only enrich our writing.

As we get more practiced, we can begin to use these skills when on the move, while walking in nature, on sitting on train, in a busy supermarket, or climbing a mountain. We can really begin to explore how to intentionally and deeply observe. We can even observe people, body language, quirks, moods, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Photo by Suliman Sallehi on Pexels.com

So, while I hope that this post was helpful, I would like to finish by saying that in no way am i suggesting it is helpful to be intentionally and deeply observant all of the time, in fact I value the ability to disappear into my own head, I like it there too much, after all, that where the magic comes from and the ideas begin.

Happy New Year and happy writing folks.

©EilidhGClark

Changing Perspective

Loch Earn on her side

If you want to enrich your story, look at it from a different perspective. For example, if this photo is turned the correct way around, what does the protagonist see? But when it’s turned on its side, the view suddenly changes. Could the protagonist be lying down, or have fallen? Have they been looking for clues to solve a mystery that is revealed from this new perspective? Changing the way wee look at a scene, by either changing where we view it from or, from a different character’s point of view, can bring a whole new perspective to the scene, and perhaps add a new strand to the story.

What do you see in this image?

Book Review – Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma by Kerry Hudson

adult blur books close up
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

‘Graffiti and scorch marks, echoes of small fires, decorated doorsteps. Golden Special Brew cans and crushed vodka bottles, bright as diamonds, collected in gutters. Front gardens were filled with mouldy paddling pools and, occasionally, a rust burnished shell of a car. I had never seen anything so beautiful, so many colours, before in grey Aberdeen.’


Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-cream Float Before He Stole My Ma

 

This is a novel with nothing held back. While the title is light hearted and the cover art bright and cheerful, both are deceiving. The cover shows a silhouette of a young girl holding a giant red balloon against the backdrop of a Scottish suburban town. It is important to address the significance of this image. Readers may recall a similar painting by Banksy, named Girl With Balloon which was originally painted on a wall in London. Beside the painting was engraved “There Is Always Hope”. While Banksy’s painting shows the girl releasing the balloon, possibly representing lost hope or lost innocence,  Hudson’s cover shows the girl being lifted by the balloon.  Considering this when addressing the text, it is clear that Hudson wished to demonstrate that one can only hold on to hope by not letting go. Critics have described this book as containing bittersweet humour and Hudson cleverly intrudes in the second chapter by saying that this is in fact a ‘humorous cautionary tale’.   As soon as you begin reading, expect to get dirt under your nails. The author launches right into the location of the novel using regional Scottish dialect and local Aberdonian vernacular.  The story begins with the birth of out protagonist, Janie Ryan. Born to Iris (formally Irene), a single, homeless mother who comes from a line of women described as ‘fishwives to the marrow’, Iris has recently returned from London after trying to change her destiny (not wanting to become her mother). After falling pregnant to a rich and married American man, the relationship breaks down. Iris is forced to return to poverty in the back streets of Aberdeen but is keen to ensure that things have changed,’ I didnae go all the way to fuckin’ London to come back an’ be the same old Irene!’ Unfortunately, Iris falls back into her old ways and for Janie; this has a direct effect on her life. The reader follows the protagonist from her first home to temporary care and then to a string of homes over the UK in some of its poorest areas. Janie watches, as her mother gets involved in some abusive relationships, including one with alcohol, and watches helplessly as her mother loses hope.  Towards the latter end of the novel, it is clear that Janie is falling into the same habits as her mother, however, a string of unfortunate event forces her to reassess her life. The end of the novel, like the cover art, is left to the reader’s interpretation. Can Janie break the cycle and make changes to her life, or is she destined to become her mother? This is not only a well-written novel but also a powerful commentary on life within the poverty trap.

Kerry Hudson, Tony Hogan Bought me an Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma, 2012 published by Vintage Books

©Eilidh G Clark

 

Bringing Life to the Poem

As a poet, I feel I have to invest parts of my own identity into my work in order to build a relationship with the poem – I need to feel it tug on my sleeve.  This means that prior to writing about a particular subject I have to take an emotional journey. This might mean simply touching parts of my mind that are easy to reach, however, it often means scouring through dark and lonely emotions that I have tucked away. I find this process is an essential part of my preparation. The emotional link, for me, is the most honest way to bring the subject to life.

The uniqueness of any poem comes from the link between the poet and the poem. The truth is the soul of the poem. The truth is etched into the poems conventions. Without an emotional link, language is flat, motionless, and stale. If I were to write about a tree, any tree, the tree is lifeless unless I can create an emotional link. A link could arise if it was planted as a remembrance for someone I love, or if the tree provided shelter during my first kiss. If a leaf falls from the tree and brushes my face, it may spark a memory of a loving touch. The tree might have a knot that resembles the face of an old school teacher or smell like the time I smoked my first cigarette in the woods. The swish-swish of the branches might bring to mind a road sweeper cleaning up litter, and my anger at people’s disregard for the environment. Without an emotional connection, the tree is just an object, an image, a flat word on a page. Poetry, ‘opens a corridor between the head and heart,’ (Andrew Motion, 2012) a statement I fully agree with.

In my own work, I use truth and personal experience in addition to the poetic conventions as an art form. In discussing the making of poetry, Jamie said that ‘just as much as sound and rhythm, what makes a poem is its relationship with truth’. (Kathleen Jamie, 2012).  I believe that truth allows the poet to work more closely with form, imagery and most certainly tone.

I am greatly influenced by poets such as Carol Ann Duffy, Chris Powici, Raymond Carver and Kathleen Jamie an. Duffy’s relationship with truth is evident in ‘Stealing’:

Part of the thrill was knowing

That children would cry in the morning. Life’s tough.  (Carol Ann Duffy).

The blunt words and lack of emotion from the speaker actually give the poem an emotional feel. The tone is sombre, almost desperate.

Truth for me is found in reality, my own reality, and in experience, emotions, and a connection with the natural world. Finding the truth in the everyday, and exploring language, form the basis of my work. Therefore, the need that I have to invest parts of my own identity in poetry means building a relationship with the poem – I need to feel it tug on my sleeve.

©Eilidh G Clark

Bibliography

Duffy, Carol Ann, ‘Stealing’, in Emergency Kit: Poems for Strange Times, ed. by Jo Shapcott and Mathew Sweeny (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 2004)

Jamie, Kathleen, ‘Holding Fast – Truth and Change in Poetry’, in Strong Words: Modern Poets on Modern Poetry ed. by W.N. Herbert and Mathew Hollis (Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books Ltd, 2012)

Motion, Andrew, ‘Yes and No’, in Strong Words: Modern Poets on Modern Poetry, ed. by W.N. Herbert and Mathew Hollis (Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books Ltd, 2012)