Monday 29 April 2019

The Memoirists : Part One: Heavy Duty Approaches to Writing Memoir.


 Memoirists and heavy duty thinking,
Saturday was the last event in the present series of Masterclass Memoir Workshops where more than twenty writers have met and worked and talked together. These writers were wonderful – joining me in focusing hard on what were quite heavy- duty ideas about the process of writing.  

Part One: Poets and Free-fall Writing.
This last event began with some thoughts about how we as prose-writers can learn from great poets: 

Our discussion started with Ted Hughes’ paradoxical advice on writing:

"If you do this you do not have to bother about commas. All that sort of thing. You do not look at the words either. You keep your eyes, your ears, your nose, your taste, your touch, your whole being on the thing you are turning into words. The minute you flinch, and take your mind off this thing, and begin to look at the words and worry about them then your worry goes into them and they set about killing each other."

'Words killing each other' – an amazing thought!

Reading these words reinforced something I had been saying throughout the workshops – that a writer has to develop the ambiguous skill of free flow writing (I call it free-fall writing) as the basis for memoir, which inhabits the gap between autobiography and fiction,

We have – I  kept saying -  to trust the world, the words and the logical syntax that emerge from our long lives lived – they are bedded there in our subconscious, waiting to flow onto the page.

I shared some writing which had eventually flowed onto my page;

Making Prisms of Meaning.
 This family is a square:
at each corner is a child -
the hexagon at its centre
surrounds the lynch-pin -
the charismatic mother.
The sides of the hexagon
consist of the beloved dead.
and the generations to come,
who send their own stories
whispering onwards and
backwards in time..

Child One:  Boy One
She wanted to make you brave like her -
but she should have loved you more.
You are the tender one, your bruised personality
springing out of injury and unintended hurt -
loving music, following fashion
playing out the role of victim
with justified conviction
your hesitancy hiding
a romantic heart
that crashed and broke too early.

Child Two: Girl One
You were the feisty one -
the most like her, with your hot temper
and your challenging demeanour.
She was bound to steal your cigarettes
and smoke them to teach you a lesson
You were bound to be the one to test her to the limits,
to call her grown-up bluff. In the end
you built your wall of worldly success and family life.
So, defeated, she was driven to surrender
her power and ultimately keep her distance.

Child Three Girl Two
You idolised and feared your mother
and tried to please her with cups of tea and
finally with stories inside real books
Needy and watchful, with your eagle-eyes
and bat-like ears, you tried to make sense of the words
and gestures all around you - at first with no understanding.
Even so they stayed with you. Your child-perceptions made solid
memories which you wove into stories  that both hid
and revealed a difficult  truth. To know you 
the world  needs to decode your stories  -
fact or fiction – and fabricate its own prisms of meaning 

Child Four: Boy Two
You were the last, the final product
of the  soul-mated bond cut shattered  too early.
You were her baby, her ewe lamb -
So clever and self-determined.
Normally frugal, she’d make any sacrifice for you  -
sweets and bikes galore, showing her pride
and admiration. I remember the day when,
bold as ever, after diving with too much ardour
into the stony shallow river at the bottom of
the bank and came home with
your chest all bloody .

I watched our mother pick out the small stones
And wind the bandage gently, with a nurse’s care.

Tracking the Memoirists:

To come here on Life Twice Tasted.

Part 2: Practical principles of sharing our worth with other writers.
Part 3:  Building a body of work.

Monday 15 April 2019

Perspective on Romance

I have recently been discussing the issue of  so called 'Romance' in relation to writing fiction, so I thought I'd show you again a post from 2013. Six yeas ago! Blimey!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

A Writer's View of Youthful Romance

A little bit stir crazy and crazy to write, I  found myself in a local hotel with its own ancient history but  with modern spa facilities that mean as well as  the usual through-put  of ladies lunching and businessmen meeting and lovers assignating, you are sometimes treated to the sight of women with their hair up in toweling robes resting, after having a flash of fitness. 

Writing in such neutral places - escaping, relaxing entirely separate - can be a flash of fitness for a writer too. I've posted here on the blog before about the joys of  Cafe Writing. This evolves in a changing world.
I can be invisible in such places - useful for a writer who needs to think and imagine. Here I draft an introduction to the new book. I  think of where it goes from here. I estimate its direction and audit its possible impact. I write some notes on aggression that might end up as a poem in a year or two. Probably never. But at least that aggression is expressed, which could be therapeutic. Unexplored emotion can be ugly on the page.

While I've been busy in my other writing world a young couple enter the deserted lounge. They buy a beer and a latté and play musical chairs until they find just the right place to sit before a window on a deep couch.
She has her natural hair swept up and not a speck of make-up on her face.  With his stylish specs he is handsome in that geeky way that is so fashionable these days.
At each station they flip open a miniature laptop and peer at the little screen, saying nothing - squandering,  in my view,  a clear  opportunity for intimacy.
But who am I to judge the reality of this situation? This is surely only the modern version of the back row of the cinema where you listened to the dulcet Americanised tones of stars and looked at  the iconic images of great films, This was always so useful to cover up the tongue-tied awkwardness of that first or second - or tenth - date.  I remember you would both  look hard at the screen in silence while his hand crept along the back of the seat.
But then - if I remember rightly - that screen was very big: much larger than life. This screen in the silence of the hotel lounge is very small - no larger than the palms of two hands. And this girl and boy could very well be  guests at this rather sweet hotel where there are other spaces to get closer, and to say more.
Nothing like that in the 1960s. More's the pity.WX


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