From new girl to “writer”

A creative breakthrough at my local writing group; promotion from “new girl” status to “meeting chair” albeit for one session only (for now, but I can dream!)

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Is this validation that my writing and knowledge has reached a point worthy of sharing with other writers? If so, couldn’t be more thrilled!

Last year, I joined a writing group; Stockport Writers, based at the very beautiful Stockport Hatworks Museum. We meet once a month to write with various prompts to help stir the creative juices. 

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One of the charms of this writing group is it’s ever-changing attendee list. Some group members have been attending since the group first formed, others have joined over the past year; some new members are just beginning their writing journey.

Each writer has their own unique skill set, genre, preferred writing style. From the impact of short stories, to the challenge of a novel, everyone has their own path. Whether editor or poet, college student or student of life, who writes purely for the pleasure in doing so, all are welcome. It’s a magical mix.

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Each month, a writer leads the group through the session; from free-writing warm up, to a reading of last month’s homework (or any other piece) through to the use of prompts, followed by more readings, and finally the closing prompt or exercise to close.

When I was asked to step up to the role at next month’s meeting, I was honoured to do so. It’s an absolute privilege.

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Now all I need to do is come up with a plan of what topics we can cover. Errrrmmmmm…

Any ideas from fellow writers? 

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The Ham Sandwich Incident

I’m human. I confess. Not only did I miss yesterday’s Napowrimo challenge, but as my response will show, when trying to please everyone, I usually get it all wrong!

Please note, unusually for me, there are religious references, but please don’t misinterpret my jest as an intention to offend anyone… if I do, add it to my list of imperfections and please accept my deepest apologies. I merely make light of today’s struggles to keep the faith (particularly mine).

Please could I also ask anyone reading this who knows me personally, please don’t tell my Mother-In-Law I posted this across the entire world wide web, I’m in trouble enough!

Napowrimo Day 20 

The Prompt:

Write a poem that incorporates the vocabulary and imagery of a specific sport or game.

My Response: (with a very loose reference to a card game)

The Ham Sandwich Incident

It was Jack’s 5th birthday

I had everything;

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Bouncy castle, candles,  

balloons, ribbons and bows. 

Birthday cake and presents,  

a great big gazebo.

I had buns for hotdogs,  

pizzas and lots of treats,  

when I was reminded;

no-one will eat meat!

“Today is Good Friday,

everyone eats fish!”

“Your buffet looks lovely

but was fish on your list?”

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Fish finger sandwiches!

Yes, they will surely do.

I pre-heated the oven

and hurriedly set to.

I saw her pick the ham

off the pizza that I served.

Ate fish fingers, hungrily.

Was that a tiny burp?

The party in full swing.

The buffet went down well.

Hotdogs and ham sandwiches

devoured without hard sell.

Mum in law picked her food.

No meat touched her hands.

Eyes darted to the buns,

filled with freshly carved ham.

Yet she was adamant;

It was a day of fish!

Nothing would persuade her

to pass meat across her lips.

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At 5pm I walked in,

her mouth full of ham barm!

She hung her head in shame,

asked; would it do her harm?

“It was only one” she said

“I’m sure you’ll be forgiv’n”

I reassured her more,

that God will surely listen.

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The card game that evening;

she couldn’t win a hand.

She was sure of the cause

“Eating that damned ham!”

She was being punished

for lack of discipline.

Bad juju on her game.

She’d never win again.

As I was the tempter,

I suggested we atone.

Back into the kitchen,

Produced the hot x buns.

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This will surely fix it,

cancel wrong with a right?

She agreed and ate it

with one almighty bite.

I’m glad God in Heaven

was pleased with her once more,

but it was a reminder;

He’s always keeping score.

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The Uncomfortable Middle

Again today has been a busy day. More birthday parties and social gatherings. I actually wrote this poem whilst sat beside a bouncy castle and a fully grown Imperial Stormtrooper! It may not be my finest work, but I’m still completing the Napowrimo challenge.

Day 15 of Napowrimo 

The Prompt:

Write a poem that reflects on the nature of being in the middle of something. The poem could be about being on a journey and stopping for a break, or the gap between something half-done and all-done. Half a loaf is supposedly better than none, but what’s the difference between half of a very large loaf and all of a very small one? Let your mind wander into the middle distance, betwixt the beginning of things and the end. Hopefully, you will find some poetry there!

My response:

The Uncomfortable Middle

Too far from the shore to swim back.

Destination still out of reach.                     

The initial energy that pumped

through your veins has faded away.

b;og7Success and glory is yet unknown.

The middle is where we stretch and grow.

Dig deep and persevere.

Cultivate a belief in your abilities,

your unlimited potential.

Aching limbs, heavy muscles, heavy hearts.

Tired, we must pull ourselves up.

Clarity has left us.

Confused, muddled, blurred.

Search your mind. Search your heart.

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Seek out that elusive vision.

In stillness, listen for the quiet,

muffled voice amongst the turmoil

struggling to be heard. A whisper,

buried deep within, pleads “Try again.”

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Find the glowing ember and fan

the flames with courage. Let desire burn.

Allow hope to shine through. Stand tall.

Be heard.

Try, try, try.

Validation and Illustration

In reply to my resubmitted manuscript, the publisher sent a brief email back, saying “Well done… we’ll go forward with that.”

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It may be the best email I have ever received. I printed it out and shared it with anyone I could find. If I was athletic and if I wasn’t sat in a very busy corporate office at the time, I would have done a lap of honour. As it was, I paced around a lot with a ridiculous grin across my face, pumped with adrenaline. Success!

It’s a strange experience when you receive an acknowledgement that what you have produced is good enough to print.

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It’s a validation that your work is viewed by at least one person as acceptable. The strangeness comes from the unfamiliarity with that approval. When it happens, it doesn’t quite seem real. It’s almost an out of body experience. I’d love to hear from other writers if this is how they felt, or if I’m alone in this!

So back to practicalities: The next step was to secure an illustrator.

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I submitted some samples a good friend of mine had created, and the publisher had requested samples from illustrators they had worked with previously.

After comparing all samples, a choice was made.

I opened an email one day, simply saying “What do you think of this?”  

When I opened the file, I saw my main character staring back at me on screen. Only this was the illustrator’s interpretation of my character, not the image I had been carrying around in my head for months.

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It was like meeting a friend for the very first time, combined with the surprise of opening a Christmas present.

I was thrilled. The colours were bright, the characters friendly and the overall feel fit perfectly with what you would expect from a children’s picture book.

I wanted to show the world, but knew I had to keep it to myself. The publisher had been very clear that they manage the release of information about the book, to maximise the impact of the marketing. So I kept the concept illustration close to me and just peeped at it every hour on the hour for a number of days. I smiled to myself each time. This was really happening.  

The next communication from the Publisher was “We need to talk contracts.”