I am in sombre mood today. Death and sadness seem to have been following almost everyone I know, in the last few weeks. I’m also struggling to keep my courage and strength up because I’m being consistently kept awake at night by a noisy neighbour.
Those of you who know me will know that I went through a terrible bereavement three and a half years ago. I expected to write about it all the time, but found myself completely unable to do it. The Isbourne Foundation, in Cheltenham (where I taught creative writing, as Biddy Samson), have just published a piece I wrote about what happened. You can read it here:
To move on to brighter things… I am still writing a lot, but don’t want to reveal much at present… It is a huge relief to me to be able to write, and not to have to do workshops, readings etc… I loved doing them, but they did take all my energy. I will reveal more about what I’m writing as soon as I can.
Pippa 🙂 x
I had to share this. Someone who read my post last week sent me the link to Mr Bean doing the ‘Ode to Joy’, or European Anthem. My father and Mr Bean obviously had a lot in common. 😀
I think my Dad actually got there first, but the Mr Bean clip is refusing to allow me to write anything else underneath it… OK, Mr Bean, you win. My Dad was funny, but not that funny!
Now I want to write wise thoughts about Europe, which is kind of fitting when it comes to the European Anthem. I’m going to content myself with linking to this excellent, up-to- the-minute, summary from We Are European.
And now I’ll leave you with Mr Bean, and the hope that we get over our insular British nonsense! (How long does it take for people to wake up?) Incidentally, I understand the European Anthem symbolises not only the European Union, but also Europe in a wider sense. A beautiful thing that we have been privileged to be part of… and that I sincerely hope we can be fully part of again.
If you’re following this blog you may think I’m not doing much at present, but you couldn’t be more wrong. The trouble with writing is that it just goes silently on in the background, and there’s not often much to report.
The only things worth putting here are the articles and reviews I do, and I’ve been doing less than usual, because I’m focusing on bigger projects.
If you’re not tired of my pieces in the Guardian (which are becoming a bit of a habit!) I had another one in yesterday, about Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. You can see it here, underneath the piece about the teddy 😀 :
I’ve also written a couple of letters, including one that has just gone into Writers’ Forum magazine, and I’m doing an article for the same magazine at present. It’s been commissioned, but I’m not sure which edition it will go into.
And for the rest… silence for now!
See you all again soon,
This post is a bit different from usual, because I want to write about something I do more or less as a hobby. I love walking, and even when I’m not really well I try and get out into the hills, as that is what makes me feel better. I’m no expert on the things I see, but I was taught quite a bit in childhood, as my mother used to record for the Wild Flower Society, and we used to go on expeditions to see what we could find.
I’ve been a fan of Pinterest for a while. As many of you will know I had head injuries about 25 years ago, and they affected my visual recognition. (I couldn’t recognise my own children for a long time.) I play on Pinterest quite compulsively; in theory collecting pictures as background to stories, but in practise, just enjoying the saturation of beautiful images. My boards are constantly being reorganised and refined, and this morning I decided to branch off my usual ‘Plants and Trees’ board, and create one uniquely for the plants and trees of the Cotswolds. I’d taken photos of three different orchids on Cleeve Hill yesterday, and many other things… though some, including two of the orchids are still waiting for definite identification. (Must take the flower book next time!)
This is the link to my boards, if anyone is interested. I just happen to have been saving some black and white images, but most of the pictures are in colour. You’ll see the Cotswold Plants and Trees board in the list.
I’ll look into creating a group board next, so that other people can post (or if you find a way to do it you can do it now.)
See you all soon,
After writing that blog post yesterday evening I read most of the rest of the book, and found that it wouldn’t suit me at all. I’d be bored stiff working with the index card plans that the writer suggests.
What is excellent is the information about character building. You’re recommended to think of an incident in childhood which has started the character on their first world view, and then to build in three more incidents which reinforce that belief… before the actual story that will change it.
This is why we devour whole books… to find the little nuggets that matter.
My laptop battery is about to die, and I don’t want to get out of bed, so I’ll leave you here.
Thanks for visiting, and see you all again soon,
Here I am again, wanting to discuss the mechanics of full-length plays…
I know many of you came to see the 45 minute version of Chips (the robot play), but I have been trying to fill it out, to make a full-length play for some time now. I’m finding it quite frustrating that, in all the teaching I’ve had in writing for theatre, nobody ever discussed the problems of moving from writing short plays to writing full-length ones.
In desperation, a couple of years ago, I paid for some private tuition from David Lane, who I have huge admiration for. He gave me some very good guidance… told me that he could see immediately that I was more used to writing short plays, and said that the main thing I need to do is to put in a lot more work on character. He advised me to draw up a plan to show what each character thought they were giving to another character, and what the other character thought they were receiving. I found this difficult, without knowing the history of my characters, and I decided that I needed to sketch out the lives they’d had before the play, if I wanted to present more fully developed characters.
Other work took over, and the play languished on the back burner. Then I noticed that David Lane was again offering individual help with plays, so I decided to send him my rewrite. That’s what I’m working on at the moment (prior to feedback).
The problem is that I have been bogged down in the character work. I didn’t know how much of it was necessary, and sometimes it felt as if I was making the characters up all over again. (The problem of having written something when you had inadequate knowledge!) I searched online for a book that might help me be more focused in my character work, and found ‘Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel’.
It is exactly the book I need… or pretty exactly… I might prefer it if it was about plays instead (at the moment)… though of course it will come in for future stories and novels too. I’d recommend it very highly to my fellow Everyman writers (that were) and to those who did the Skylines course with me, and to the Salisbury playwrights I worked with. I think most of us were having the same difficulty. I’ve finally discovered how I put the missing pieces in the jigsaw. It’s going to be a lot of work, but at last I know where I’m going…
Not sure how long David is going to be waiting for this draft though…
I’m hoping I’ve managed to make the picture come back for you this time. It seemed to disappear last week.
Well, what have I been doing?… It’s been quite a busy period. I went to try out a new restaurant, for the Food and Drink Guide on Monday. I never choose the places I review; they are, more or less, chosen for me. This one, the Maison Chaplais in Tivoli, Cheltenham, was a lovely surprise. I took a friend, and both of us were a bit puzzled as to what we’d find. We’d both walked past, and assumed it was just a deli, as this is what you see on the ground floor.
In fact it is a deli, with a very wide range of foods, but there is also an absolutely delightful cafe on the floor above, run by the same people. Everything is home-baked, and I honestly thought the bread was the best I’d ever tasted… in spite of doing restaurant reviews for twelve years. I’ve just picked up a Groupon voucher for a cream tea there, so will definitely be going back. (Vouchers are still available, so do check it out!) I intend to take my play, and work on it there, some time soon. If you see me please tiptoe by if I’m writing… 😀
On Wednesday I found myself in Witney. I was speaking to a Probus group at the Methodist Church, but the only way to be there in time was to catch a bus from Cheltenham at 7am. I treated myself to breakfast in ‘The Fleece’, in Witney (also a very good eating experience :D), and then sat outside, writing a play in the early morning sunlight.
I talked to the group about the social history in Effie M Roberts’s poems, and was delighted by the feedback at the end. One man told me that Effie’s poem about the lights coming on at the end of the war reminded him of that day, in his own life. He was a small child, and his parents took him out to look at the lights, sparkling across the town. He had never seen anything like it. His voice was still full of awe at the memory.
Here’s Effie’s poem, for those who don’t know it:
April 23rd, 1945 Mark it well, - tonight, tonight We walk from darkness into light, - A symbol of triumph, victory near, Of a precious freedom we all hold dear. - In suburban street and city square Twinkling lights are everywhere, No sirens feared, no terror, dread Of approaching horrors overhead; The fearful drone of death is gone, Hurrah! Hurray! the lights are on!
That’s all for now. I’m still getting terribly tired; sleeping for a large part of every day, and I have to spend an incredible amount of time on the phone to inefficient bureaucracies. (Npower three times this week, for about an hour a time… only to be sent emails afterwards, contradicting everything that had been arranged.)
Would Shakespeare have managed more than me?
This is the link to the recipe for strawberry covered scones, and my memories.
(You’ll have to scroll down a lot when you find it).
I don’t know why… perhaps it is because, in some part of my mind, I am still half expecting to die, but I am doing a lot of memory pieces at the moment. As many of you will know, I have done reviews for the ‘Food and Drink Guide’ for about 12 years. I love food, and want to be sure that the best recipes survive. There is a plethora of recipes that are not so good, but I promise you the ones I write about are superb! Of course you get the little family stories too, which I hope are a bonus.
Well… as I wrote before, I am, miraculously, getting better, after a close brush with death. At some stage I will start believing it! I’m writing a lot… working on a funny play, writing a new ending to Pride and Prejudice (for a competition), writing proposals for articles and books, and – of course – still writing my book about the cancer (although I think it is near completion).
Now… I overslept and missed breakfast, so I think I’d better find some…
Love to all,
First of all I should say that – if you like strawberries, or maybe even if you don’t – you should watch out for my piece in the Guardian Family Section tomorrow. It includes a recipe for strawberry scones, which are a bit biscuity, and totally delicious.
Secondly I thought that all my writer friends might be interested in feedback I just had from Ebury Press, at Random House. I’d sent a proposal and outline for a non-fiction book a few weeks ago. It’s so long since I was working on books (having taken a few years doing other types of writing) that I didn’t know if it was still necessary to include a SAE. I didn’t, because I assumed they would answer by email.
In fact I received a lovely letter, posted at their expense (which was slightly embarrassing!), advising me that most of their books come through literary agents, and that they recommend I look for representation. This is quite a significant shift in the way things are done. At one time many writers represented themselves (and I recognise that some still do). Maybe it is time to start looking for an agent though… It’s so difficult when you write in so many different mediums, because most agents exclude a lot of them. I remember, years ago, when I was young and green (even more than now :D), I got myself two agents, without realising that it wasn’t the way things worked. (I presumed that I’d get a contract when my first book was sold, and that the agent who’d sold it would become my agent at that point.) I do know now that you don’t do that, but still wonder if it would be permissible to have two… both for different kinds of writing. Nobody else ever seems to ask this, but I can’t be the only person to need it.
I’m trying to think very seriously about my career at present. When I believed I was going to die (which I did – and my doctor did – at one point) I felt really angry with myself. Even though I’ve consistently produced work that has been published or performed, I’ve also consistently produced work that has sat in a file, or on the computer, waiting for me to polish it up. Having returned to my life, and knowing that I could still have a few decades ahead, I know I must be less distractable. I’ll still do the odd talk and workshop, but they will be few and far between, as I have been putting far too much energy into them. (I just find it so hard to say no when a group needs what I can give them.)
An agent would be really helpful – and might stop me scattering my energies so widely. It is definitely time to start looking. That letter seemed like the right prompt at the right time…
See you all again soon!