Monday 29 February 2016

‘Do you remember Rose?’

I was having coffee in a pub with my friend Ann, just back from her house in France. We’ve been good friends since we started teaching together decades ago - two very green optimists with a shared sense of the ridiculous.

Ann had been telling me about the Midlands-based grown-up daughter of a friend of hers who lived in France. Despite severe disability this daughter is a vibrant and interesting person who lives a full and connected life. She’d written a book about an aspect of Midlands history and had asked Ann if I would
 take a look at it and comment. I was pleased to do this. It looks like a very good piece of work and has great possibilities.

Then Ann said to me, ‘It’s like Rose, Wendy. Do you remember Rose?’

 I scrambled through the years in my mind and remembered Rose again. She too suffered from severe disability. She was tiny for her age but clever, vivacious and witty. Her home-teacher – two afternoons a week - for a year or so,. I was a young woman with small children at home and accepted this job so that I could earn some money to pay someone to clean my house so I could write.

In my years with Rose I wrote my first published book, a young adult book called Lizza, published by Hodder & Stoughton.

Visiting Rose in her two up and two down house in a side-street very much furthered my own education. Teaching her, I learned something new every day.
Rose’s mother adored her. She was the centre of the household. She was clever and witty, often talking like a forty year old, echoing her mother. She eagerly grabbed any new learning experiences I offered. She was good company
A joy to remember.

When Ann rushed away I stayed a while and scribbled my memories of Rose in my ever present notebook. I later copied it ‘in neat’ in my precious blue notebook.

Here it is

Remembering Rose
The room, with its blazing fire
is too hot. The mother hovers.
Rose sits in her chair
tough as old boots.

Her eyes sparkle, she wears
her dense black hair
swept back. Her almond skin is flawless,
her fragile hands like fern fronds.

An old head on young shoulders.
A sturdy intellect. Books galore.
Best on wheels. Uncomplaining
queen of the house.

Being twelve, looking nine,
talking like a thirty year old
Rose is an old soul
Sharing her unique world view.

Her mother says, ‘Teenagers! Our Rose
needs some new clothes.
She’s growing right out
of all that children’s stuff.'

©Wendy Robertson 2016

For more memories take a look at my book
          The Romancer: A Writer's Tale 

Friday 19 February 2016

The Last Writing Parade with Forward Assist.

‘the sentence, the paragraph, the chapter/The journey has just begun…’

Last year the remarkable organisation Forward Assist approached Avril Joy and me
Forward Assist
with a request to run a series of creative writing workshops for military veterans – or ‘vets’ as we learned to call them. This was to be an opportunity for vets to feel empowered through  embark on or develop their  existing original writing.

So, every Wednesday the last six weeks, we ran a writing workshop for a diverse group of individuals within a wide age range and a with a wide range of experience - much of it military.

Our workshops were deliberately challenging, direct and high powered – a combination of information, exhilaration and writing, always writing.

What emerged was an impressive variety of writing – dramatic, insightful, meticulous and often surprising, This exceptional group was outstanding in terms of its  focus, determination and sense of purpose. I thought this might have had  something to do with their common military background.,Clearly for our writers the workshops  turned out to be a satisfying journey of increasing  skill and insight into the writing process and into their own imaginations.

During the six weeks each writer developed and evolved in significant terms. My heartfelt hope is that every one of these vets  will work on and hone his or her writing skills – reinforced, as we discussed by ‘reading as a writer’ – to the point of personal growth and public recognition.

So, David, Phil, Neil, Steve, Mike, Paul, Sarah and Jim, it was a joy to meet and work with you. I hope your writing proves to be a satisfying custom in your daily life and gives you and others great satisfaction in the future.

At our ‘last parade’ we had  a read –around which showcased the writers’emerging confidence and power in the possibility that their own words can express their  own diverse personalities, lives. attitudes, and imaginations in their won writing.

A very touching surprise on this last read around was Jim’s poem which very cleverly alludes to not to the people but the writing which everyone shared with with the group during these six weeks. Already an accomplished poet, Jim honoured all the group, including Avril and me, by paying tribute to our writing 

Avril and I were moved to tears.

 With Jim’s permission here is his poem.

         Chapter and Verse

The writing group, ideas shared, laid out to grow
Seeds planted in this greenhouse Palace of words, Library
And here we heard the scream of delight as the ball hit
The back of the German net and of a monster
In the quick sand known as steel fairy
And how there was disappointment in the Bigg market
In a bigger suit and then we visited a dodgy pub with
Overgrown ashtrays and the warped mirror and then
The sudden noise of explosion on the Afghan plain
Then shown the pain of a fellow being crying in the loo
Sobbing deep and loud
Then we heard the eager anticipation and roar of the
Rugby crowd
And then to Gibraltar and I missed heard I thought it was
About lap top computers but no it was a mini PC
Then came the fashion show of yellow skirt and the cat walk
A chair and now
Out on the lake silently, mute we look back and see
A sprinkle of houses and I am given the puzzle of Strider
And this was all observed from OP seventy one
So that all in the group realise, know
That the sentence, the paragraph,  the chapter
The journey has just begun.

(At this last meeting Avril and I were very touched to be presented with beautiful wooden pens crafted by Wooodcraft, a Vet group associated with Forward Assist..) 

Wednesday 3 February 2016

For Strange Eyes only: The Writing Process & Forward Assist

One aspect of  my workshops with Avril Joy – including the present six week sequence for military veterans with Forward Assist – is sharing our creativity, especially our writing.Our customary approach is to work in special separate bound notebooks.  

Our customary approach is to work in special separate bound notebooks.  The work in these notebooks is entirely private and I advise the writers to keep it so - especially from friends, lovers and relations whose appraisal will be informed by the relationship, not the work. Writing from the heart is risky and ultra-personal and paradoxically for strange eyes only.

Within the workshop writers may choose to share their immediate writing by reading it out loud.  This is an easy ask, as so much of the writing is original and accomplished. Nobody is obliged to do this, but we’ve found some people quite pleased to share. Even so, we respect writers who choose not to do so.The great advantage of sharing by reading out is that your tone of voice, your breathing and your pauses bring natural order and syntax to what - on the page -  may appear scribbly and barely readable, having  charged forward delightfully in the creative process.

So we will say to them:

‘... if you want to share your writing more widely to be read by strangers this is what you need to do:

When you have a good lump of work in your notebooks  transcribe this original writing onto a computer. In this process you  will incorporate full stops, paragraphs and punctuation as well as quite naturally making amendments to your prose. This is effectively a primary edit which will bring form and order to your splurge of ideas, narratives, memories and stories. It will make it accessible to your stranger- reader be she editor agent or other advisor.  

Laying your work out in an accessible fashion is an important part of this process. (See below for layout suggestions.)

It is important only to share work on the page with all this in mind. The private pages of your notebooks – hot, creative and original as they are - are for your eyes only. They are more original than if you had started your process on the screen. They are private stuff, the golden egg that will remain at the core of your long-term writing inspiration. There is no short-cut to achieving the printed version, fit to share with strangers,

There is no short-cut to achieving a final printed version, fit to share with strangers,
One good outcome is that when you finally get to the printed version of your original notebook pages is that you will read it with the eyes of a stranger-which is so very good for the self-editing process.

And this will send you back to your notebook to create further exciting, original elements to your writing, whatever form it takes/

Syntax and Layout Suggestions

Things to think about as you go on writing and editing,

·       Think about breaking over-long sentence into two while retaining the meaning.
·       New idea, new location, new story element, change of person – all these often demand a new paragraph.
·       In writing dialogue keep in mind, ‘new person, new paragraph’.
·       Don’t worry if the paragraphs are short. This creates white space on the page which allows your narrative to flow forward.

Important aspects of layout to help the reader read your document easily:

  • ·       Use at least 12 point typeface. 14 point is OK.
  • ·       Double line spacing,
  • ·       Good margins.
  • ·       Only ever use one side of the page,

        Happy writing! Wx 


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