Tag Archives: Writing

Part of the furniture

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I was never a big fan of creative writing exercises. Maybe it was because whenever took part in them at school I always felt as though the teacher wasn’t quite understanding what I was trying to say. Maybe  little arrogant part of me thought I was a good enough writer that I didn’t need to practice. I think a big part of it was the idea that such exercises are somehow overly indulgent. Playing with words just for the sake of it.

But, since I’ve been part of my fabulous writers’ group, Sapphist Writers, I’ve changed my mind. Funnily enough, every time anyone suggests an exercise, my brain freezes and I think “I can’t do that!” If they told me to write a novel over the space of the next month, I could. But experiment with words in a limited amount of time? Create something distilled, something with stands alone, something which follows the rules of the exercise? That scares me.

Which is why I want to share the results of last night’s exercise here. Not that I think my piece of writing is especially wonderful. But because it still amazes me, and makes me feel grateful that I can produce such a piece. That I had more than a blank piece of paper at the end of the 15 minutes we gave ourselves. And because it was such a simple exercise too, to produce what were deeply felt emotions. Once more, I am indebted to Nicki for suggesting the exercise–thank you! 😀

The exercise: If you were a piece of furniture, what would you be? In 15 minutes, write about the piece of furniture you are and the way you feel.

My writing:

I am a desk, of indefinable age. In some lights, I look antique, experienced, as though many have rested weary elbows and pondered here. But look again, and my lines are strikingly modern and, despite the marks on my scratched surface, you will see I am, in fact, quite youthful. With a kindly hand to polish me, I could be like new again. But no one thinks to polish me.

I am strong, but not showy. I don’t have a place for everything, like some of my kind. My drawers can hide secrets, but you cannot always lock them. Sometimes the lock jams and you can’t open them again.

I support people. Paper and pen, laptop, wax crayon and colouring book; I am here, holding firm, for them.

I’ve been sat on, even stood on once to paint the ceiling. I still have the splatter marks to show for that. I’ve had weary heads on folded arms, sleeping peacefully. I’ve been talked across, hidden under. Always I’m here, sturdy, strong, unnoticed. I listen and support and help as much as I can.

But sometimes I wonder. What if I wanted to be noticed? Silent and supportive no longer. What would they do to find my surface skewed, or one of my legs buckled? If my tired wood began to creak and groan and they were forced to hear me?

I worry, for what would they do without me? How would they write cheques and essays, surf the internet, do homework, write letters, draw their pictures? If I started to make a noise, or my weary slanting made their writing irregular. I am useful and necessary and proud of what they achieve because of me. I don’t want to be cast aside as firewood.

But still, I am scarred, paint splattered, and tired. I fear, before long, something will break. And they will hear me.

Have a go at the exercise yourself. Tell me what you think of mine. 😀

Oh and just a reminder…Ghosts of Winter is already available as an ebook here. And the print version will be out this month!!

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Keep the date!!! Bold Strokes Books’ event 2011

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I am very excited to share the first flyer for Bold Strokes Books’ second UK event. It’s a chance to meet lots of lovely Bold Strokes writers, editors, and other book fans. And takes place in my beloved Nottingham. I couldn’t be more proud!!
I can’t wait, and I hope to meet lots of you there!!

Bold Strokes hits the UK again!

When a writer isn’t writing…

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I haven’t blogged for a long time. I haven’t tweeted, nor have I been a great correspondant with any of my online friends. I’ve been a bit removed from politics, been reading the same book for months… And I’ve hardly written a sentence. Which, considering I describe myself as a writer is quite shocking. Okay, my book is still on the way: Ghosts of Winter will be released by Bold Strokes Books in April this year. A short story came out in Bold Strokes’s Breathless: Tales of Celebration anthology in December and I have a short story in Best Lesbian Romance 2011 released by Cleis Press this month.

'Ghosts of Winter' (April 2011)

'Ghosts of Winter' (April 2011)

 

So, in public, I’m still a writer. But I’ve not been writing. What I’ve been doing is mostly working as a Sales Assistant in HMV (that’s a music, film, video game and technology store in case you didn’t know…) over the festive season. I’ve done other things too. I’ve volunteered at The Galleries of Justice museum as a Victorian prison matron. I’ve met a whole lot of new people. And more…

Sometimes I even forget I’m a writer. Someone says “so what do you do?” and my first thought isn’t always of my published–and to be published–works. It’s worse when I’m not writing. Am I really a writer if I spend more of my time selling CDs and not understanding customers’ questions about their new Playstation?

But writing isn’t an occupation or a label, I realise. I can’t stop being a writer. In a dull moment at work I can imagine a scene for a novel set in a record store. A walk down the street on a snowy day brings adjectives, even whole paragraphs of description to mind. A new song on the radio sets a mood I want to capture in words. Meeting new friends gives me new perspectives, new character traits, new ideas. I might not be getting home and spending hours at my computer every night, but I am still a writer.

Being a writer is a state of mind. It’s a way of being. It’s something you just are. It’s why I would never sneer or laugh at a so-far unpublished writer who describes themselves as a writer. Even if you spend your working day in an office and don’t get time at night time to write, you can still be a writer.

If you see the world–it’s beauty and it’s horror, the light and the dark–and feel the urge to paint it in words. If characters just appear in your head and you burn to get to know them better, to understand them. If inspiration strikes you in the most unlikely moment and you’re desperate to find a pen to record that whimsical passing thought. If words always dance in your mind and your favourite puzzle is just what would be the best way to get them onto paper, then you are a writer.

I’m lucky enough to be a published writer. I never take that for granted and am incredibly grateful for it. I am delighted to know that readers are out there, holding my words in their hands. I love the hours I spend at my computer when I manage it.

But publication and time at the computer don’t make me a writer. I’m a writer even while I’m a Sales Assistant. I was a writer before I was published. It’s just the way I see the world. It’s just what I am.

And that makes me smile.

Perfect words… (Part Two)

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Some of the words I love best are song lyrics. A song called ‘Watersign’ (by Joan Jett and Kathleen Hanna) from Joan Jett’s 2006 album ‘Sinner’ is one of my all time favourites for lyrical beauty. I’ve used this song to put me in the right frame of mind to write many times.
My favourite lines:
Rain on my soul
All shiny and wet
Bleeding all onto your skin
Take me to a place far away
Where we’d be like we’re twins


To me this reflects the ultimate beauty of love between two women. I don’t know if that was the intended meaning behind the words but it’s how I interpret it…Water and blood are both feminine and that idea of an escape where we can be twins–or like with like–is expressed in a very moving way.
Plus Joan’s voice never fails to move me!

And here she is in 1998 performing the song live:

Perfect words…(Part One)

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This is the first in a series of blogs I intend to post, where I can share some of my favourites words written by other people. As a writer, I am fascinated by words and the uses they are put to. Inspirational, arousing, convincing, shocking, moving, profound…Words touch us all in different ways. There are certain words, whether it be quotations, sayings, passages from literature, or song lyrics that I find especially wonderful and which I sometimes call to mind as I write. I want to share them.

My first quotation is from a short story, ‘Carmilla’, written by J. Sheridan Le Fanu in 1872 and published in a collection of Gothic stories called ‘In A Glass Darkly.’ It is the story of a female vampire, Carmilla, and her victim, Laura. Despite the dubious equation of lesbianism with female hysteria and vampirism (this is a Victorian story after all), the story contains some particularly well written passages, which convey very evocatively the love that is growing between Carmilla and Laura, without shying away from the darker undertones, which only serve to increase the passion. To me, as a lesbian reader, they seemed especially meaningful, but they are such perfect words, that I think everyone should read them.

I think the line “I live in your warm life, and you shall die—die, sweetly die—into mine” is one of the most beautiful in literature. Yes, on a literal level, they are the words of a vampire. But as a metaphor for the process of falling in love, these words are evocative and wonderful.

From Chapter 4 of ‘Carmilla’ by J. Sheridan Le Fanu, 1872.

She used to place her pretty arms about my neck, draw me to her, and laying her cheek to mine, murmur with her lips near my ear, “Dearest, your little heart is wounded; think me not cruel because I obey the irresistible law of my strength and weakness; if your dear heart is wounded, my wild heart bleeds with yours. In the rapture of my enormous humiliation I live in your warm life, and you shall die—die, sweetly die—into mine. I cannot help it; as I draw near to you, you, in your turn, will draw near to others, and learn the rapture of that cruelty, which yet is love; so, for a while, seek to know no more of me and mine, but trust me with all your loving spirit.”

And when she had spoken such a rhapsody, she would press me more closely in her trembling embrace, and her lips in soft kisses gently glow upon my cheek.

(You can read the whole of ‘Carmilla’ online here)

Rules for writing

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On April 14th 2010 my first novel, Truths, will be released by Bold Strokes Books. Aside from being possibly the single most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me, this has also prompted some redefining of myself. From being someone simply struggling through life with a few ambitions, I am now a WRITER. No, I’m not used to being able to describe myself that way yet, but it certainly sounds very nice.

What I’ve found quite disconcerting is that I seem to have become, overnight, an authority on writing and the publication process. Suddenly people are telling me that they’re writing books – or have always wanted to – and waiting for my words of wisdom. But are there rules for how to reach that sought after goal of being a published writer? Did I just get lucky?

At the weekend, I found this quotation:

‘There are just three rules for writing but nobody knows what they are.’  Somerset Maugham

To me, Somerset Maugham sums it up perfectly. Everyone can tell you three rules for writing. My own?

1. Believe in what you are writing. Most of the editing I had to do of my first novel was a result of being too timid while I was writing it. Have faith in your own abilities and you will be a better writer. Don’t let other people put you off.

2. Write what you know. I don’t mean that writers should limit their works to stories derived from their life experience, but that if you are venturing beyond things you have some personal knowledge of, then research is key. It will not only make the book more convincing, it will also give you confidence as a writer.

3. Love your characters. They will be your constant companions for a considerable period of time. You have to know things about them that you never mention in your book. My characters guide my plot with their personalities and I always feel sad when I have to say goodbye to them.

So, those are my three rules. But over and above anything any writer might tell you, remember what Somerset Maugham said. Nobody knows the rules for good writing and don’t let anyone, even a bestselling author if you should encounter one, tell you what they are. Writing is a creative process. Make your own rules.

My novel

www.rebeccasbuck.com