Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Shall I Be Mother? - a 50 word photo-story

Although no-one now living has tasted the forbidden drink called Tssh, there are places you can go to for a pretend Tssh ritual. Decadents in particular like the suggestive shapes of the objects involved, to imagine pouring and stirring the hot fluids. Experienced Tssh servers charge fortunes for private sessions.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Duke - a 50 word photo-story

And Susie says that this one insisted that the lawn be perfectly cut. Each piece of grass had to be the exactly the same length. Every day, all day, he would lie outside and measure it. When he died, they planted seeds over his coffin. A meadow of wild flowers.

Duchess - a 50 word photo-story

Susie has started to make up stories for the visitors. ‘This Duchess once ordered the chef to cook the family dog,’ she lies. ‘And then she had the chef barbecued.’ She spots the current Duke rushing towards them. ‘It’s an old family habit,’ she screams. Everybody runs for the door.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Celebrity - a 50 word photostory

He says to meet at 7pm. He’s going to show her a film of the people she’s hurt, the lives she’s ruined. Finally she’ll understand it’s not a game. But she just laughs. By 6.55pm she’s waiting for it to start. At last she is the star of the show.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bull - a 50 word photo-story

Your boyfriend says the signs are to stop walkers crossing the fields. That’s why it’s essential to ignore them. He’ll go behind you to make sure you’re safe. It’s only in the middle of the field, when there’s no turning back, you realise the thudding steps following you aren’t his.

Monday, June 22, 2009

If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it.
Anais Nin

Sunday, June 21, 2009

French writing trip...

For the last two years, I've been lucky enough to facilitate a writing retreat in Limoges - I raved about last year's trip here. Well, I've just agreed to teach another in October this year, so if you think you fancy it, and would like more details, email me. There are still places, although I gather it's booking up fast.

I'm a Winnie The Pooh Fellow

Several people have asked me recently about my teaching, and I think I can announce this officially now, so here goes - from September this year, I'm going to be the Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the London School of Economics. I'm looking forward to it for so many reasons, not least having a proper job, meeting new people, getting to know the LSE, being able to take the fear out of writing for students, helping people to express their thoughts, and also having the thinking time for my own writing that teaching creative writing doesn't always allow you.

On Tuesday, we all (the new fellows to the scheme this year) met up in London to be 'inducted' and I came away with two new reasons to be grateful - firstly, I learnt that the scheme gets its money from the sale of the AA Milne estate to Disney. So we are really 'Winne the Pooh Fellows'. I used to love the Winnie the Pooh books when I was a child, not just the words but the physical bookiness of them (and also because I could see how much my parents enjoyed reading them to me. It's a lovely thing to share that real enjoyment with your parents, even if you're too young to recognise exactly what it means.)

And secondly, I loved hearing about the importance of the one-to-one consultations between the fellow and student that are at the heart of the scheme. For some students apparently, this might be the only time they are offered an hour of one-to-one talking about their course during the whole of their degree. It feels like a real privilege to be in the position to offer that.

It's interesting about nerves. Because as well as being excited, I've been nervous about the scheme - would I be good enough, what did I know about economics, or politics, and heck, all the students at LSE were bound to be cleverer than me because all I am is a jumped up ex-fashion student after all.... I'm sure you've all been to what my friend, Shaun calls 'that place' in different guises and at different times so you'll know what I'm on about.

But after Tuesday, I've been thinking about it differently. Cor blimey, Sarah, it's not all about you and how bad (or good) you are. No, it's about the student, and what they want to say. And I'm looking forward to hearing them talk about their studies, and what they need to make it a bit easier for them in terms of writing skills.

Plus I'm going to have my Quick and Dirty Grammar tips handy (as well as a pot or two of honey!)


Another good thing from Tuesday was reconnecting with the Scottish writer, Linda Cracknell, who will be the RLF Fellow at Stirling University. We found we had so much in common, not least a passion for short stories, walking and writing, small books, and much much else. We'd even just bought the same book about designing and producing your own books - do I need to say more?

You can read one of Linda's stories here, or buy her collection, The Searching Glance from Salt Publishing. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Competition - A Fifty Word Photo Story

The mayor of our small town has become obsessed with the Olympics. Children have to sprint everywhere. Trains stop down the line so commuters have to pole-vault or long jump aboard. And at council meetings, dressed only in swimming costumes, the politicians are learning to synchronise their actions to perfection.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Keeping the dream in mind...

So, to be honest the new allotment is a tad disappointing in how much work there is to be done...

Although I have plans to steal that digger at the end if it all gets too difficult...

And in the meantime I keep coming back up to this spot where I plan to have my writing shed so I can just look at the view and think it will all be worth it one day ...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Philip Ardagh

Not only does this man share my birthday, live in my hometown, but watching this video interview makes me happy. What an imagination he has - the perfect antidote to the idea that good writing = gloom and doom ... click here to see him too.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Lose Yourself

Happy to tell you that my feature on the advantages of getting lost is out now in this month's Pyschologies Magazine, and so to celebrate, I'm treating myself to the poster above!

(This, and other beautiful cards and posters are available here, at the Keep Calm Gallery, but DO NOT BLAME ME if you end up getting carried away - just like I did.)

Roots - A fifty word story

Many called it cruel, but every child born into the village endured The Graveyard Sleep. Their parents nestled their newborns amongst the gravestones on their fifth night of living. They’d be collected in the morning. Mothers crying, fathers praying. The ancestors chose. Either way, the babies found their way home.

(ps I have been debating about whether to put up more of these stories because I've found recently that some have been copied word for word on other sites without any credit. Please can I remind you that while you are more than welcome to use the photos and stories as prompts for your own work - and if you publish these elsewhere, it would make me happy if you could acknowledge where the original idea came from - BUT the stories and photographs published in the main body of this blog are my creative work, and if you want to reproduce them, I'd be grateful if you could email me to ask first. Thank you!)

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Peony Paradise

Sometimes my life feels like a gift, especially when I have meetings - like yesterday's - which take place in gardens just when the peonies are in full perfect bloom.

I wish I could transport you all to Penshurst Place for a picnic with me today.

We'd sit on benches, drinking elderflower champagne and nibbling on cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off.

We'd have to stop talking sometimes because the bird song is so beautiful, and the bees so busy, and the smell so heavenly. And afterwards, when we've finished our slices of lemon cake, we can throw ourselves - rock star crowd-surfing style - on top of this peony bed. Just for fun.**

(**Don't worry, Penshurst Place police, we wouldn't really. Please don't bar me for life! It was those naughty blog readers who had the idea, not me. I promise. I tried to persuade them otherwise .... )

Monday, June 01, 2009

Minding your P's and Q's

There used to be a ghastly girl in a kids story I remember who had cut outs of the letters P and Q on her dress, and every time she forget to say Please or Thank You she would have to take one of these off. I wish I could remember more but somehow that image has stayed, not least because we all thought she was such a loser and not the example the nuns obviously thought she would be! Anyway, I have to take more than one Q off my dress today, because last month something lovely happened to me TWICE and I have been remiss in following it up.

Both Tania Hershman and Annie Clarkson have given me a Kreativ Blogger award, and I'm really happy about that. Thank you both.

So, what I have to do is to write seven things I love, and then nominate seven blogs I love. Here goes ...

I love ..

1. My family. All of them.
2. growing things from seed, particularly vegetables.
3. that there are people like Julia Cameron, Kim Addonozio and Natalie Goldberg around who inspire a particular kind of writing in me, and that I have friends I can discuss their ideas with, even the weird ones (ideas, I mean, not friends, although....)
4. an English summer day
5. ticking things off a to-do list
6. clean ironed sheets
7. making a difference, however small.

And I now need to pass this award on to seven blogs, so in no particular order please step forward ...

1. Gardenhistorygirl
2. Bookshelf
3. Cornflower
4. Me and My Big Mouth (although I'd like even more photos of the MOTC's pots and tiles, they're beautiful)
5. Kathryn's Take on Things
6. Stepping on Cracks
7. A Longing for the Impossible