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It’s years since I’ve written in my blog, but now I’ve committed the next 10 weeks of my life to my first ever creative writing course I think it might be helpful to write some of it down before it all goes out of my head. Especially as already it seems to be going over my head. I mean, is it ok to say ‘I haven’t a clue what you’re on about?’ Maybe it is but I kept that thought to myself. That was this evening. The first evening, although I was terrified, in fact because I was terrified, when the (lovely) tutor, having set us a two minute writing task with the prompt ‘Why story is important’, said ‘who wants to go first?’ my hand flew up. Anything to get it over with, no going back after that, so I took a breath and read my scribbled words to the class of 18 other writers.

Here’s what I’d written:

Story connects us with each other, with the people who have lived before and the people who will live after we have gone. Story is what makes us human, the stories we tell and the stories we hear. Through the telling we share bits of ourselves that act like glue in families, between friends and neighbours and across generations. Stories make history and history shaped our world.

My tongue had grown too big for my mouth so here’s what I said:

“Gulp, nervous swallow, choke.”

No, what really happened was spontaneous applause. Obviously that was because they are a very polite and lovely bunch of people.

The 2nd week, (earlier this evening) I was even more nervous. I don’t know why but maybe it was because you can just about get away with posing as a writer for 2 hours, but another 2 hours and you are bound to be revealed as a fraud. Or simply deluded.

Tonight we learned about Semiotics / signification and the relationship between signifier and signified. The tutor (who really is lovely) talked about ‘liminal space’ and the Jacobian Axis, and although I was listening really hard I’m afraid at this point I got completely lost. So I was pleased when he old us not to get bogged down in the theory, just to get on and write.

Then he set us another 2 minute writing task in which we were to think about emotion and all the senses. My mind went blank but time was running away so after a while I just started writing, anything.

This is what I wrote:

They made me walk the line
They made me shave my head
Put bars around my bed.
They thought they’d shrink me down but
I dreamt of walking lines, of bars beneath my feet, swaying.
Buildings shifting side to side
wind on scalp, tingles, cheers
Banished fears.
Way up here.

I didn’t read it out in class so I thought I’d put it here.

Now that’s done I need to get on with writing my novel.

P.S. I googled Jacobian Axis and nothing came up so if anyone can shed some light on that, and on the signification / signifier / signified conundrum it would be a real help. Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m thinking of writing a memoir about the gardens I have loved. The light is fading yet the gardens in my memory are bright with colour and with hope. To capture their beauty in words will be a challenge. The peace and harmony I’ve found throughout my life in the gardens I’ve known I’ll struggle to convey in words, yet some impulse drives me. My story begins when I was three years old.

The light is fading. It’s my bedtime. It’s raining and I should be inside. I run across the grass to the darkest corner of the garden and crawl through the undergrowth. Rhododendrons tumble onto my shoulders, scattering raindrops on my cheeks and down the back of my neck. It tickles. My fringe is plastered to my forehead. I shove my nose inside a great crimson bloom, poke my tongue out and lick the petals from the inside. I am a bee!

I’m inside the foxes’ den. The rhododendrons tower to the sky, their huge green leaves layering a ceiling above me. I sit down. Dig my shoes into the soft earth floor. Spongy brown, damp. Insects scatter. I pile the musty leaves over my socks and shoes and legs, burying them. My blue pleated skirt spreads out like a fan. I fall to the ground and shut my eyes. It feels cold but wonderful. I’ve put myself to bed with the garden.

Over the last few months I’ve read and enjoyed a variety of excellent books. Most, though not all, have been fiction – some paperbacks, some e-books on my Kindle. A handful were published by well known and established publishers, a few were self-published and some were published by small press ‘independent’ publishers.

All had typos. Every single book. Some were blockbusters – brilliant, headline-hitting marvels that made me laugh and cry. Some had only one or two tiny mistakes that must have slipped through the final edit, some had several typos that (in a perfect world) would have been weeded out on a final, final proofread.

Please don’t think I’m saying this because I think my own books are perfect. Far from it. I recently re-read The Ripening Time and was aghast to discover that too had its share of minor typos. I was cross, but went through it again and uploaded a revised, hopefully this time error-free manuscript.

Anyone who’s read my ‘How to publish on Kindle’ post will know the same thing happened with Daisychains of Silence, but with the kind and speedy assistance of fab editor Stef Mcdaid at Write into Print, and a painstaking final, final proofread, a fresh and fully edited file was quickly scooted off to Amazon.

I know the big publishers wouldn’t appreciate an email detailing the typos that caught my (unqualified) eye as I read and enjoyed their authors’ books. But what about self-published writers?

If it was me, I’d want to know. If any of my Facebook writer friends or Twitter pals spotted a typo in one of my books I would leap on it and shower them in effusive thanks. But I think that’s just me.

Somewhere during this writing process I’ve got the impression nobody wants some well-meaning eagle-eyed smartypants upsetting things by pointing out typos after the book’s out there in real readers’ hands. As if, what’s the point of telling them now? As if it’s too late, like shutting the door after the horse has bolted. As if they think the messenger might be slightly crowing…

But I don’t think it’s ever too late. Yes, there are probably hundreds of copies of my books with typos already out there being read, or sitting on Kindles waiting to be read. But as a self-published writer it’s easy to correct a typo (in an e-book) once we know about it. And from then on all copies sold will (fingers crossed) be perfect. And surely that’s what we all want.

So do I tell writer friends I know in this virtual world when I spot a typo in their book, or do I keep schtum and just read on and enjoy the story? I realise the glitches I’ve spotted might already have been amended but it’s also possible they might not. As I said, if it was my book, I’d like to know.

Don’t all growl at once. :/ x

you can read extracts from it here:

‘Daisychains of Silence’ is a literary fiction novel that narrates the story of Daisy (christened Deirdre), a woman whose discovery of her husband’s treachery drives her to return to the household of her mother, Ellen. Tormented by her husband’s betrayal and troubled by her complicated relationship with Ellen, Daisy begins to reflect on the childhood experiences that shaped her.

The narrative of ‘Daisychains’ is rich with imagery of the Scottish Highlands and the motif of needlework, both of which give it a fresh and unique feel: this did not feel like a novel I have read before, which is a great start as far as grabbing an Editor’s attention goes. The opening sequence, too, hooks and engages the reader; juxtaposing the colourful picture of Daisy sewing beside her mother with the dramatic image of her stitching together her lips. There are numerous other strengths in the plotting of and characters in the narrative. The dynamics of Daisy’s relationships, particularly with Jo and Ellen, are great. I was especially drawn to Ellen, her mental deterioration, and how this affects Daisy’s feelings towards her and their interaction. Equally, I liked the parallel storylines of the young and the old Daisy.’

‘you prove yourself capable of writing skilfully and without affectation; I’m thinking particularly of lines such as “her hair, rich as peat, was swept into a careless chignon, a loose tendril stuck to lips that were mysteriously darker at the edges where lipstick met the rest of her face”.’

‘The underlying concept is strong; for the most, your characterisation is vivid and fresh; and your setting is rich. This book has a strong literary quality … I genuinely wish you all the best progressing with this novel.’

I started writing Daisychains of Silence in 2003, and the first four thousand words were lost in the depths of an old hard drive, under the inauspicious file name of ‘Stitcher’.

I opened the file early this year, something about it clicked and I carried on writing. In March, I uploaded the first 10,000 words onto Harper Collin’s website, and to my shock it flew up the charts, rocketing to number 12 in just three weeks. I was told it was the fastest rising book ever. It was thrilling and frightening – I knew it wasn’t ready to receive a review so I removed it to carry on writing.  It’s now a finished manuscript – a completed novel of 80,000 words.

I sent it to Hilary Johnson’s Advisory Bureau for their thoughts. They described Daisychains as ‘a sensitively and intelligently written story’, which I found very encouraging.

I’m also the copyright holder of all my father’s works. Alistair Mair was a successful novelist in the 1960s and 1970s and was the Scottish President of PEN from 1965 – 1970.

Add to your goodreads shelf

Daisychains of Silence

On Amazon Kindle

The Ripening Time

On Amazon Kindle

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