Thursday, 23 September 2010

The first day of autumn

I am a child of change. I always have been. Life can be as harmonious and bountiful as you like but if there is no room for change, then I just can't be happy. It's not that I'm ungrateful for the joys I've been given. It's just that I don't like to sit still for long - on to the next project or improvement. That's why I like autumn - it's a sign of change.

Like spring, autumn heralds a turn in the year, a handing over from the summer's long days to winter evenings that wrap us in their shades of darkness. The autumn equinox marks the second day in the year (the first being the spring equinox) when there is a balance between light and dark, a brief harmony before the world carries on towards winter.

Today is the autumn equinox, the first day of autumn, called Mabon by pagans. For me, it's a day of being thankful for what the year has brought me (my harvest), looking to see where I'm out of balance, and finding ways to bring harmony into my life and to those I care about. I plan to do some baking with my children (buns and breads - maybe even an apple cake), get in touch with friends I haven't seen in a while and raise a glass to the gods of the vine.

May I wish you all a bountiful Mabon.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

End of Day

The cool, sharp tang of the sea
carries on the evening breeze
as the husky sigh of the wind rises
to drown the murmur of shallow waves.

Final echoes of the sun
lay weary on the water,
auburn dimming to grey.

Like dust before a broom,
the clouds disappear,
leaving only the solitary moon
to watch over the night.


I wrote this in July 2000.

Untouched, yet felt,
a guilty glance offered
with the knowledge that
once accepted,
once succombed,
there is no going back.

Untouched, once more,
we talk around the heat
that hangs between us,
levels of meaning
silently entwining,
warm in our minds' caress.

Untouched, we part,
and sigh that friendship
held our hearts in virtue.
Regret is sweet,
and yet I wonder.


Another poem I wrote in 1991.

Laughing with shared secrets,
we sprang across the moors -
boots heavy with peaty-earth,
faces radiant with the winter air
and each other.

The heather was our sampler,
where new joys,
unwrapped in the shivering air,
were offered, tasted and savoured.

Too impatient, our eyes too naked,
we could not see what would become
of our wilderness shared.
The eager cold, goose-pimpling us,
would numb our emotions,
and the the moors would be scorched grey.

The School Gates

Written by me and included in an anthology called 'The Write Moments' in 1990/91.

She left me at the school gates.
Alone, with a multitude of lost faces
I watched, we watched, as she, they, waved,
and the gates closed like a final sentence.

I, we all, turned to the tarmac wasteland,
precisely traced  with circuits of white paint.
Our new parent, hovering, twittering,
bird-like behind immense round spectacles,
gathered us up in her nestling embrace,
trapping our backward glance.

We became a form, as the minutes tumbled by,
of black and blonde, and brown and blue.
Wellies, coats, bags, hooks marked with duck-shaped
stickers, and words,
our names gloriously written in rainbow crayons.

She was forgotten, our home maker.
She did not enter our minds,
was pushed out by new textures, new tastes.
She was not now, but later,
when we charged into the afternoon.
She was waiting where we had left her,
or she had left us,
by the school gates.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Great way to start the week

BERLIN - NOVEMBER 05:  Bono of U2 performs dur...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
On my journey home from the school run this morning, I listened to this song on the car radio. What a brilliant sentiment for a grey Monday morning.

Beautiful Day by U2

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Friday, 17 September 2010

Hoarding with Pride

Yesterday I wrote an article on my family history blog called Hoarders Anonymous. It talks about how the habit of hoarding has become a negative concept but that to geneaologists, the hoarded clutter of a relative or family can provide a treasure trove of research clues and information.

The collected clutter left to me by my parents sits under the stairs until I can free up a cupboard for it all. I've already filled one cupboard with photographs (note to self: must buy photograph albums and put these all in order) but I need more cupboard space for old family bibles, my parents' love letters and documentation that stretches back a number of generations. To this end, I started going through the cupboards in our study.

What I found was an interesting mix of craft materials (mainly for the children), the aforementioned photographs, an over abundance of candles (bring on the power cuts - no, don't, please - I need my computer), a graveyard of old gadgets that my husband hasn't got round to rehousing, a massive amount of stationery (did I mention that I'm a bit of a stationery whore?), and file after file of my writing dating back to my teens. It provides for some interesting reading, charting the growth and maturing of not only Fiona but also my writing skill. I doubt that I have thrown anything away since I first put creative brain cell to paper. There is the writing exercise inspired short stories from a creative writing course run by Pat Borthwick whom I've mentioned before on this blog. There's a bound copy of a novel written when I was twenty years old which forms the basis for the fantasy novel I'm currently working on, and a ring binder file which contains a children's novel, written when I was going through a difficult patch in my life. My favourite find amongst it all is a list of story and character ideas.

I have hoarded all of this over the years as a pool of creativity and inspiration to be dipped back into when my muse has evaded me. I have encouraged the gathering of dust and laughed in the face of minimalism. Like my parents before me, I am a hoarder and shall continue to hoard with pride.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Roald Dahl Month

Portrait of Roald DahlImage via Wikipedia
 My daughter has developed a penchant for paperback novels. She can devour one in a single sitting. Not unusual for an adult but this eager reader is only eight years old. It was her birthday this weekend so I treated her to two books that I loved at her age, James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, both by the wonderful writer, Roald Dahl (pictured), an apt purchase because September is Roald Dahl month.

This celebration of Dahl was originally launched on 13th September 2006 on what would have been his ninetieth birthday. 2010 sees this celebration stretch to embrace an entire month of festivities.

 "Roald was a great believer in birthdays being filled with treats, so he would be happy that this tradition seems to be becoming an annual event," said Dahl's widow, Felicity.

Events this September include:

  • 'Fantastic Mr Fox' performed at the Little Angel Theatre, Islington
  • a staging of  'George's Marvellous Medicine' at the Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea
  • a roadshow called 'Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Roald Dahl', and
  • a chocolate decorating workshop (a'la Willy Wonka) at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, Great Missenden.

You can find out about more Roald Dahl month events here.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Muse calling. Come in, Writer!

Where do you get your inspiration? Where does your muse strike you on the head, shouting "Oi! Numpty! Try this on for size."

As a busy mum, my brain is often on multiple tasks, for instance, making packed lunches while getting my children breakfast and ensuring my husband is out of bed. Even in bed, I'll be mentally planning the day ahead.

However, there is one place where I concentrate solely on the task at hand and hence clear some space in my mind - the shower. Whilst soaping up this morning, I had a moment of clarity about my novel, a realisation of what was missing and how that could be solved. What was a two horse race has found itself an additional runner. Bricks have fallen into place and although it may mean that I have to rejig my chapters and plot, I'm confident that this new development will add richness and a new appeal to my novel.

What about you? Where does your muse coming calling?

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

7 ways to get over writer's block

  1. Step away from the keyboard (or pen and paper). Do something completely different for twenty minutes then return to your writing. This usually helps me reboot my imagination.
  2. Re-read what you've written. Of course this only works if you have actually written something already.
  3. Look over your notes or synopsis. Try to work out what it is that you're attempting to achieve with this piece of writing. Is your synopsis at fault? Would it be better to change the order of events? Is there a knowledge gap that is preventing you from taking the next step? Are you trying to make your character do something that they just wouldn't do?
  4. Write something different. You're stuck on chapter three so write chapter four. Act three is being a pain, so move to act four. Alternatively, if you're a blogger, go write a blog article (perhaps about writer's block). If it's your blog article that's causing your writing muscle to cramp, then revisit that novel or poem that you've been working on.
  5. Do twenty minutes research related to your writing. I say twenty minutes because it is not my intention to provide you with an excuse for spending half the day surfing the internet. We all know how reading one blog article can lead to a related newspaper article which in turn... You get the gist. It doesn't have to be anything as material as researching how to cremate a body when your story is set at a cremation. It can be as simple as looking at images of the sea if you're writing about a day at the coast or reading a book in a similar genre to your own story.
  6. Ring someone. No, I don't mean send them a text. Pick up the telephone and ring a real, living individual. If nobody is available, then go out and find a real person to talk to. I'm not suggesting that you accost a stranger in the street. It might be that you have a family member at home. Perhaps your neighbour is in their front garden. Failing all that, go down to your local newsagent and chat to the cashier as you pay for your newspaper (probably best to buy something rather than just go in and strike up a conversation). The point here is that listening to a real human interchange relinks you with the rhythm of living, breathing speech which after all is what we are trying to portray in our writing.
  7. Just write. If everything else fails and your muse still refuses to get out of bed, then simply put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and write. It doesn't matter if it makes sense. I don't care if it's complete twaddle. For twenty minutes, write what comes into your head and your heart. You never know. You may surprise yourself and find a masterpiece in the chaos.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Season of Bounty

Yesterday I wrote about my affection for the month of September but  autumn in general is a favourite time of the year for me. Like the harvest from the fields, orchards and hedgerows, this season always feels like a time of reward and fruition. As I mentioned yesterday, autumn brought to me my daughter and my husband. This was also when I got married.

In her '52 Qualities of Prosperous Writers' newsletter, Christina Katz wrote this week about being 'bountiful'. She writes,

Bountiful implies that your cup is already overflowing so you simply tip your abundance into the hands of others. No sainthood required!

One thing I'm always thankful for is the abundance of ways in which I can apply my writing. There's this blog of course, the plays I write for Murdering The Text and the ideas I have for novels too. More recently, my writing 'cup' has overflowed and with the help of my husband (who is also my writing partner), we've taken the scenario and cast of one of our plays to create a sitcom. Sharing our creative natures, we've found a quirky voice that perfectly reflects our relationship.

Something that has come to light over the summer holidays is that my enthusiasm for writing has overflowed into my daughter. She has always been an avid reader and very imaginative. Now, one of her favourite pastimes is to write stories and illustrate them. To say I'm a proud parent is one of the most immense understatemants that I've heard this year.

Thursday, 2 September 2010


'Mellow' is the word that always comes to mind when I think of September. The days are still warm, there are flowers in the garden and we have time after school or work to go walking. And yet the way the colours of the garden and countryside have faded and the drawing in of the nights remind us that autumn and ultimately winter is on the way.

I like September. My children return to school and I can reclaim the house from a battleground of toys and abandoned socks. The extremes of summer (the long days, the brightest colours and cloudless skies) give way to a kinder, less challenging season.

I met my husband in September, an unexpected and warmly remembered encounter that set me on this well-loved path. My daughter was born in this month and my father was taken from me too. It has always been a time of change and fresh avenues into the future.

This September is no different. Today I posted off our sitcom pilot script to the BBC. My husband is in the midst of writing a second script for television, this time a quirky drama. We have a taste for this newly chosen writing vehicle now. Whatever route we take, there's no turning back.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Murdering The Text Autumn Newsletter

The autumn newsletter for Murdering The Text is now available online.

With details of our latest play and autumn productions, have a look at the newsletter here.