Sunday 31 October 2010

What happened to weekends?

When I was a child my Father used to come home from work on Friday night and that was it, the weekend started. He never brought work home with him and weekends revolved around him playing golf Saturday and Sunday mornings (my Mother must have been a saint!), my Mother and I shopping, visits to the pub and long drives to visit places - does anyone ever just go for a drive any more? The visits to the pub were more when I was a teenager and my brother who is seven years older than me was still living at home. If this was planned the traditional roast went out the window and my Mother would decide to do a steak pie which sounds great but my Mother's expertise at making pastry always became suspect after several halves of Guinness (it was before wine was generally being drunk at home - she became an officienado (sp?) of that much later on when her favourite phrase was 'Is it wine time yet?'). When we got home she was inevitably a little tipsy and as I said would make (and I mean make not just pull out of the freezer) pastry which was fine but it was when it came to rolling it out and placing it on the steaming pie. Inevitably it always ended with floating islands of pastry on a sea of gravy but it tasted delicious.

Why am I reminiscing? Because I seem to have lost sight of weekends. For example this weekend should have started Friday night but what was I doing I was marking? Then yesterday the only time I left my room was to act as a taxi driver for my son other than that I was battling with two papers - one for a symposium and one for a conference. I thought I was happy with the symposium paper until I re-read it and realised that there was no cohesion to it. In fact it was pretty crappy. And the conference paper is about something that is way out of my comfort zone. Even now I have no confidence in either of them. From there I went on to more marking - I need to stay on top of it as there is more coming in this week and the week after. I ended up doing a bit of reading for my PhD - the only bit that was really for me whilst listening to the Elton John concert - yes that triggered quite a bit of reminiscing too. Please don't misunderstand all this work is not because I am slacking during the week just that I don't have enough time in the days to fit it in. Today we got an extra hour in bed but I was up just as early and started marking. Just have to plan classes for this week and if I can manage it I want to do more on my PhD. I think I am still on track with it but get the feeling it could be swept away at any moment. Tomorrow is the first day of November, it is a month when a decision has to be made as to when I am going to submit. I have no idea which way it is going to go.

Hope your weekend let you find the child in you again.

Note to self: must remember what a weekend is for.

Sunday 24 October 2010

Chicken House and Imogen Cooper - reminding us why we love to write

It is Sunday morning and I have just been reflecting on the week. In some ways it was a very long week as it was my first week back having been ill and by the end of it I must admit I was exhausted. I did do some stupid things too - like forgetting that I am now feeding during the day so have a backpack and tube running from the back pack to my stomach. And yes I did the inevitable I caught the tube in the door and snapped it. Luckily no major damage in that it didn't pull the tube out but I did have to rebuild it! I need to become aware of my surroundings again. Something I had got very lazy about when feeding overnight. There were no concerns then about walking into a crowded place or watching out for potential tube snatching traps. I am sure I will get better at remembering I have it there. I have to say the students have been absolute stars about it and so supportive. Bless them all.

In other ways the week was short. I had a meeting with AM re the journal which I am currently pulling together and is beginning to look really good again. But the pressure is on to get it sorted by 1st November - not easy when the software I use is only available at uni and I am teaching so much but I will get there.

Another important part of the week was a visit by the wonderful Imogen Cooper, who is the editor at Chicken House. A publishing company set up by Barry Cunningham ten years ago which focuses on children's book. Imogen very kindly came to talk to our MA students. She was an absolute joy to listen to and made the whole scary world of publishing a lot less scary and a lot more understandable and approachable. One of the highlights for me was how Imogen explained that they believe in the old fashioned way of editing and developing a good relationship with any author they work with. It reminded me of the reason I write - because I have stories to tell that I want to share. It was wonderful to hear that here was a company who were interested in stories and their authors, who wanted the best for their readers and most importantly did not appear to be driven solely by profit, though obviously this has to be a major driving force but it was delightful that it wasn't the be all and end all.

Chicken House are forward thinking and are always looking for new voices. They run competitions to encourage new authors (One with the Times and one for postgrad students - both of which have deadlines this week - check their website for more info) and make the effort, as did Imogen, to come out and meet MA students who are studying writing for children. I am probably also biased as my friend Lucy Christopher (she is also doing a cw PhD) is published by them as is Sarah Rubin who did her MA at the same time as me at Winchester and is just such a lovely person. Imogen left us feeling so positive about the whole process of writing for children. We all know it is never going to be easy but at least we know there are people out there who appreciate our work.

I ended the week remembering why I write and how much I love it. Let's see what next week brings.

Saturday 16 October 2010

Curved Ball

Have you missed me? I've been gone a while. As from my previous posts you may be aware that things with my PhD were going well, as was teaching, and as was life in general. Did the alarm bells ring? No, I was happily complacent, secure in enjoying my life. But as I've learnt in the past things like this can't last and often it is my body that decides it is going to rip the rug from under me. It did it again. This time with an inflamed and infected gall bladder...and I've not known pain like. I would give birth any time in comparison to that.

Anyway enough of that. It has taken me away for a while but I am back possibly moving at a slightly slower pace and less complacent. I haven't touched the PhD for a week and it has been agony. Ideas kept popping into my mind, thoughts and moments of inspiration that I wanted to act on immediately but I did as I was told ( a rare thing if you ask both my children and my Director of Studies who all ganged up on me in hospital). But, and this is so hard to admit, it has been good and served a purpose. I have been able to step away and think things through. I have come away from the week with loads of thoughts for both the novel and the critical piece.

I have been contemplating meta-narratives and micro-narratives, representation and just the creative process in general. This last part was partly because I have been dipping in out of a book called 'Home at Grasmere' which was extracts from the journal of Dorothy Wordsworth. It was given to me by said DoS, I think in an attempt to shut me up. I expected detailed insight into how her brother William wrote. It wasn't to be instead it offered tantalising exerts of their day to day lives. It made me think, do we as writers share our processes with anyone or is it something that is so individual that we keep to ourselves for fear of lack of interest from others? As a lecturer of creative writing I must share some of my processes but am not sure I share them all.

I probably should also point out the week wasn't all a bed of roses. Strong painkillers and antibiotics can do dreadful things, allowing all your daemons out to haunt you night after night. I am glad I am off both now perhaps I can get back to some form of reality that isn't as a complacent as before but is looking to the future not backwards.

Stay well and oh how I wish I could drop in some music here...sorry you will just have to imagine your favourite song of all time