Thursday, 8 November 2018

Grammar Grump

Look away now if you are of a sensitive disposition. You may find these photographs disturbing.

A gift for that special someone you really want to annoy?
Like many of my writerly friends, using correct spelling and grammar is important to me.

The office joke was to warn folks not to leave their shopping lists lying about as I would amend them. I’m sure I wasn’t really that bad (was I?) but I admit to rubbing errant apostrophes off chalk boards in cafés.

M&Co making sure your stationery
never leaves the desk.
I try very hard not to make mistakes in my own writing although sometimes I fail. Inevitably I spot one 10 minutes after hitting ‘send’ on a submission.

But when I come across glaring errors on commercial products and posters it does upset me. Words are the tools with which we communicate. Surely those involved in the signwriting, graphics and advertising businesses should get it right?

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Fairy Tales

Fairytale toadstool
(Amanita Muscaria,
Fly Agaric - highly toxic)
I have a story published in the November edition of Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special. It’s the tale of Ashley, a lowly gardener who finally wins the heart of the college girl who he had thought was too good for him.

It is based on the classic Cinderella tale. With a change of gender Cinders became Ash, a change of occupation kitchen skivvy became gardener, the good fairy became his best mate who thinks of a way for Ash to gatecrash the masked ball, the midnight chimes became a call on Ashley’s mobile and the glass slipper became a scrap of card dropped from his pocket as he ran away. 

(Photograph by Readly)
Last Wednesday on the Twitter #writingchat discussion (8pm every week, all writers welcome) we talked about rewriting stories. Tweaking our own stories is something that many short story writers do, adapting a rejected story to meet the guidelines of a different publication. 

Rewriting someone else’s story is another matter entirely. There is of course no copyright to a storyline and on the basis that there are only a limited number of plots some similarities are inevitable. But how much has to be changed before it becomes a different story - names, gender, setting, era? 

I would hesitate to rewrite someone else’s story. But fairy tales are fair game. 

Friday, 19 October 2018


Can a 🖼 🎨 a 1000 words? (Musical question asked by David🚪🚪of 🍞 in 1971.)

In the interests of linguistic development:

The stunning new desk
(Photograph by Jesmond Library)
Tomorrow at 🕘 I shall be on duty👩🏼‍💼in the 📚🏫. My duties include 🖨 🖥 🗂🗄📖🗞📆 and making ☕️.

It is the perfect job for a 📚🐛

I may do a lot of 🤷🏼‍♀️ but will try not to do much of 🤫.

Emojis? Sorry, they’re not for me. Words are better. Books are cool. Libraries rock!

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Date with a Date Stamp

Reading maketh a full man
Conference a ready man
And writing an exact man
- Bacon
Breaking news - I’m a librarian! 

To be exact, I’m a volunteer in training at the wonderful Jesmond Library. I’ve been considering getting involved for some time and yesterday was my first attempt at wielding the date stamp.

Happy 5th Birthday!
Like many local authorities, Newcastle City Council decided to close down several branch libraries. 

However a group of volunteers set up a charity to manage Jesmond Library as an independent venture. 

October 2018 marks the fifth anniversary of Jesmond Library and celebrations are planned.

Not only is it a functioning library three days a week, it also acts as a community hub with many activities and groups. I’m glad to say it is well supported. 

I’m delighted to be part of this fabulous library and look forward to many happy hours of volunteering. 

Now, hand me that date stamp, please.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018


All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts.

My local library has a Play Reading Group. It’s similar to a Book Club in the sense that we all read the same text, except we read the plays together, each picking up the various parts as the evening progresses. 

Last night we read ‘The Chain’ by Jack Rosenthal, a comedy involving the joys and disasters of moving house as viewed by several different households in the same chain. 

I read several parts: an upper class gent who before he moved out of his old home removed all the light bulbs and unscrewed the door handles; a young woman who was hoping that the adage ‘new house, new baby’ would apply to her; a removal man who had nothing to say apart from a few grunts and expletives.

It made me think about the value of effective characterisation. For the audience, the actors add actions and facial expressions, accents and variations in speed and volume of delivery, all of which give an individuality to the dramatis personae. As play readers we had the benefit of the playwright’s stage directions. But in prose the ability for the reader to distinguish one character from another is down to the skill of the writer.

Yesterday’s Play Reading Group was a useful reminder for me to consider speech patterns and ‘voice’ when writing my short stories. 

And as I had a good time and enjoyed meeting new people, I shall continue to attend just for the fun of it

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Benedick and Beatrice

Much Ado About Nothing
I ended my trip in style tonight watching ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ at Jimmy’s Farm in Suffolk. The play was performed in a forest clearing by just six actors from the Red Rose Chain Theatre Company. Open air theatre has a magic of its own but when produced, directed and acted with such skill as was the case tonight, it rises beyond magic to something truly majestic.

The magic of open air theatre
Somewhat fittingly, considering last week’s #Swanwick70 also had a 1940s theme, tonight’s play was given a wartime setting. 

‘Much Ado’ was my set text for A level English. I remember being taught that in Shakespearean times ‘nothing’ was pronounced as ‘noting’, which double meaning is appropriate for a play where much of the mischief, for good and for bad, is caused by people overhearing conversations and spying on others.

Benedick and Beatrice, so in love (well, maybe)
Listening to strangers frequently provides a good prompt for a fiction story. As I return home I must pay attention to the conversation of those around me in hopes that I will find inspiration to get back into my writing. And in the imaginary world I can create as much mischief as I like, as long as no one recognises themselves in the story.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Awesome People

Ziggy the Dragon-Slayer
I have had a super time staying with my fabulous family. We have played amazing card games, walked Ziggy the wonderful dog, eaten incredible food and drunk marvellous wine. 

And together we have watched three superhero films: Iron Man 2, The Incredibles 2 and Spider-Man: HomecomingThey are all classic tales of good versus evil, of the fight for what is right. 

But for all their heroism and special powers, the superheroes are portrayed as ordinary people with human failings. Iron Man is depressed, reckless and a drunkard; Mr Incredible struggles to cope with fatherhood; Spider-Man is naive and conceited.

The villains meanwhile have their good points. Vanko acts out of misguided loyalty to his late father; The Screenslayer was traumatised by her father’s murder; The Vulture is a man who took his responsibilities to provide for and to protect his family too far.

By coincidence, ‘Heroes and Villains’ is the theme for the current 1500 word short story competition being run by Jesmond Library, closing date 29 November 2018.

Time spent relaxing with family is an excellent thing - it needs no excuse and is never wasted. But with this coming competition in mind, I can also claim that a weekend immersed in superhero films is vital research.