Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I am word of the day, FAST, on wordia today.

I would just like to point out that my voice is NOTHING like this ... in my head anyway! But I do smirk well, even if I say so myself. Smirk, smirk.

Seven words....

Take the words - refuse, note, row, light, case, wound, fast - and give them to various writers to put into a story of not more than 500 words and what do you get?

An amazing number of different interpretations of the same group of words.

I was really pleased to take part in this recent project, hosted by the East of the Web short story site - it's just the kind of word play I like, and now I have just spent a happy hour clicking the different links and reading yet another story. Mine is here if you want to get started.

Or, of course, you can always write your own!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Patterns - a 50 word photostory

He only eats white food, never steps on grass. Every sneeze means turning round three times. He kisses his front door when he leaves the house and turns the television on and off three times before watching. If you ask why, he’ll tell you. He likes to keep things simple.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Where am I?

Wednesday night, and just off a plane from Washington I find my twitter account has been spammed. Apparently I'm sending out DM's to people offering them a chance to earn hundreds of $s. I'm not too anxious about friends - they seem to know instantly that anything involving successful moneymaking couldn't have come from me, but the strangers I'm getting to know via Twitter - I'm worried they might have clicked.

But I also feel dirty. As if someone's been reading my diary (cue today's writing prompt!). I hate the idea that someone's using me for their own purposes. Sending out their scams under my name. It's the problem with the internet. It becomes part of our lives, and then suddenly - with something like this - we realise that it's not actually real life. That something as important as our online identity can be taken away from us this easily. With a few clicks of the keyboard.

So yesterday, I needed something special to take the bad taste away.

And luckily I got it.

I'd booked on Tristan Gooley's Natural Navigation day course the minute after I finished nterviewing him for a recent feature in Psychologies Magazine, and I've been looking forward to it ever since.

Of course I had to get lost on the way to the venue, The Royal Geographical Society, but blame the morning sun, the walk through the park, the benches dedicated to dogs, the outdoor swimmers in the Kensington Lido. I wasn't complaining.

It was the perfect start to a perfect day. Tristan is a great, enthusiastic teacher that somehow makes you feel you 'can do it.' Even me. Mind you, he'd got me from his introduction when he asked whether natural navigation - navigating by the stars, the sun, plants etc - was really necessary? Is any kind of art necessary? he asked. Well, as he said himself, it is if we want the richest possible life.

We spent the day looking at how the sun, the stars and the moon work. Stars rise and set! I'm sorry but can I repeat that - stars rise and set. Like the sun. Am I the only one in the world who didn't know this? I can't tell you how happy it's made me. My life is certainly richer now. I watched them last night. The little sparkly blighters. Rising and setting away as if no one was watching them.

Hah. Take that Twitter worms. This is the kind of rich, possible life you'll never know about.

And if you want to watch the stars rise and set yourself, you can start to learn how to identify them yourself through this software, free to download here. Or if you want to go on one of Tristan's courses, and join me and the other 200 or so people who have learnt this rare art, check his site for the next course coming up.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Looking at things again and again ...

... and every time seeing something different. A new angle, an alternative point of view, a detail missed that somehow pulls everything together in a new way. Is there anything better?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

PYO - a 50 word photostory

She dreams of a dark-haired husband but when she gets there, only blondes are left. “He can always cover it up,’ the farmer says, giving her a discount. She tries not to let it worry her but ten years later, she still makes him wear a beret in bed.

How to write

The best thing you can do as a writer is to find out what kind of writer you are.

And that means forgetting the set of rules which tell you that there is only way to write.

Some of us are slow burners, we carry a story or an idea around with us for days, sometimes months, and it has to find its own way of getting out. Try to force it and the story will just shrivel up.

Others prefer to be pushed. Set the timer, give us a starting light, and watch us go.

Some of us like writing in groups. Or the feeling of groups. On-line, in classes, with friends.

Others need complete hermit-like solitude. Even sitting in the same room as another writer freezes us.

None of these is wrong. In fact, I am and have been all of these. Sometimes it depends on what I am writing. Sometimes it depends on me, the writer, and how I feel.

But, over time, what I've come to realise is that I like a warm up before I start writing. Owen Sheers called it 'letting the rusty tap run clear.'

There are two ways I do this.

The first is morning pages. Every morning I sit down - often over a cup of coffee before anyone else is awake - and just write three pages of whatever comes into my head. It's an exercise from Julia Cameron. What I write depends on how I feel. Sometimes it's a list of moans ... I'm so tired, I'm so bored of hearing myself whine, I'm really cross with xxx ... but most often it starts of as a moan, and then something starts to connect. I write myself into ideas. I write myself out of ideas. I write myself into making sense of all these ideas, and into what I can do about them. I try out characters, reject them, write scenes, remember what it really feels like to have toothache, anything and everything.

My morning pages are an essential part of my day now. (I also do a fourth page of affirmations, but I want to write about that in a different post.) It's a way of establishing myself as a writer for the day. Even - especially - if it's the only writing I manage to do that day. I don't look back often, but when I do, I'm constantly surprised. It's better than a diary because it has the same ability to bring me back to how I was feeling at that moment, but more direct. it gives me back the fleeting thought I would otherwise have lost.

The second way I warm up is through my writing prompts (see the sidebar for my daily list, or follow me on twitter). Sitting down and writing something from a random idea is a completely different experience, almost as if another part of my brain engages itself in the act of writing. If my morning pages are about drifting across the lines, bringing up thoughts and feelings I wasn't aware of, using writing prompts mean I'm wholly aware and active on the page.

I often - no, always - don't know where I'm going, even though I wrote the prompt myself. I become aware of how I make conscious decisions as I go along. Not least in the shaping of the piece. My fifty word stories engage the same part of the brain too.

With my morning pages, I often finish mid-sentence. But with my writing prompts I am constantly crafting. It's good to start to realise what both feel like, and that I need somehow to combine the two in my 'proper' writing.

I'm not going to publish either set of pieces, or even edit them, but by doing the two together as part of my practice I can almost feel my writing muscles shift into gear. To expand. And both sets feel like gifts to me. To use a vegetable gardening analogy because I'm addicted to my allotment at the moment - my morning pages are unearthing what's already planted, however deep rooted, while the other is sewing new seeds and building new beds.

And now because I'm away for the next few days, here are some of my writing prompts for you to follow if you want to. Please feel free to link to whatever you produce in the comments section, or email me if you'd prefer. It's always such a real pleasure to see how the same few words end up with such totally different results!!!

Thurs 17th - She prays he won't come and sit next to her, but ...
Friday 18th - The list of things that annoy him about her
Sat/Sun 19/20 - You've never been up so early
Mon 21st - Things we never did together
Tues 22nd - I've taken up flying

And if you want to try other exercises, then I did a different kind of warm up on Scott Pack's blog recently. Also if you want to send me your favourite writing exercises, or warm ups, to share that would be great.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hot - a 50-word photostory

It’s grows out of your control. That comfortable warm feeling overheats. You walk down the street trailing sparks. Smoke distorts everything. Every excuse, every argument, every plea. It moves beyond you. Everything stokes the flames. You long for it to burn out. You wake up in terror of the cold.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Happy birthday to...

... Karen, Philip, Hilary, and me!!

OK, none of us are 70, but I couldn't resist this mix of benches, cake and gardening!

Have a good day, everyone!

(ps, I found the cake at the Sweetart site. I love it so much that I hope they won't mind me borrowing it today!)

Monday, September 07, 2009

What are you doing, Sarah?

Well, last night I spent a long time playing with nightlights for a project I'm very keen to talk about on here but can't just yet,

The challenge was to write a poem without using traditional writing materials. OK, so mine is just one word but the lights, and climbing the stairs, and the darkness, and being under the stars, are all part of the poem too.

I hope you like it!

Shhhh - a 50 word photo-story

Retirement’s not the end of the world, his wife says. You can join a choir. He stares at her. I’m tone deaf, he says. But he ends up specialising in silent solos. Draws crowds mouthing the words along with him. Audiences weep with the relief of finally not being heard.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Beauty - a 50 word photo-story

I’d hoped my mother was joking when she entered the beauty competition. She looked ridiculous lining up next to the teenagers in her bikini, but when, she started playing on the spoons in the talent section, I knew I was doomed. The audience started throwing things. Not stones, but flowers.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Longing - a 50 word photo-story

I stock every medicine for every ailment. Townspeople complain about lack of energy while in the country, it’s all about sex. It comes down to the same thing, the nagging lonely feeling in their hearts. I’ll be back soon, I promise. But we all know it’ll never be soon enough.