Confluence Writer Development Programme seeking Medway applicants

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Local literary arts organisation Wordsmithery has been granted funding for a year-long writing project which will allow them to enthuse and infuse Medway with words. More details about the project will follow on the Wordsmithery website,  but part of this project will allow them to offer a personalised Writer Development Programme to 6 emerging Medway/Kent-based writers as part of the Arts Council England funded Confluence: Plant; Grow; Nurture project, which starts at the end of October.

If you are an emerging writer, aged over 18, based in Medway, or surrounding areas of Kent, who has had at least one piece of writing published, you are eligible to apply for this brilliant opportunity.

Writers on the scheme will be offered:

  • 1 hour of mentoring advice for 6 months from a local writer-mentor.
  • The chance to attend a Confluence Writers’ Retreat local to Medway, with guest tutors.
  • A bursary for a short group writing visit to Sunderland.
  • The opportunity to organise and host Roundabout Nights, and on another occasion, headline it.
  • Writers will optionally be able to attend a pamphlet and zine making course (3 sessions) and a monthly drop-in workshop to learn how to produce your own pamphlets on a Risograph printer (10 sessions).
  • Writers will have the opportunity to lead/assist with writing workshops and pop-up open mics in Medway Libraries (paid).
  • Writers will be able to contribute articles to the new look Confluence website.
  • Writer Development Programme students will be showcased in Confluence.

* It is important that those applying can attend the majority of the opportunities on offer. Please email confluencemedway@gmail.com if you have any questions about the scheme or your eligibility.

How to apply:

They are looking for emerging writers with some experience, who are serious about developing their craft. You should have had at least one piece of writing published in a literary magazine or journal (online or in print), which is not your own blog. You should be based in Medway, or within an easy commute.

Please send a letter outlining why this opportunity appeals to you and what you’d hope to get out of it (no more than 2 sides), your CV and a sample of your writing (no more than 2,000 words of prose or 5 poems) to the Confluence email.

Applications will be decided by a panel consisting of representatives of the editorial team and an external advisor.

Deadline: 20 October 2017, (applicants to be notified of outcome by 27 October).

How can writers stay visible?

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On Saturday 21 March I’m running a day school in Canterbury from 10am – 4pm called The Business of Writing 2: Now you see me – how writers can stay visible.  This may be of special interest to indie and self published writers.

With more opportunities than ever before for writers to get their work out to a public readership, how do you stay visible? Is an author also a brand? And what does this mean for a writer? How do you promote yourself?

On Saturday 21 March, Kent writers, especially self published and indie authors, can explore these topics, including author websites, book trailers, blogging and blog carnivals, social networking, book signings and launches, readings, interviews, visits, getting reviews, and ways to showcase your work. What is most effective?  We will also look at creating a personal promotion plan.

The venue is the North Holmes Road campus at Canterbury Christ Church University, Kent
Cost is just £29.50 and there is FREE parking.  You can book via the link below.
https://www.canterbury.ac.uk/cae/day-schools/spring-2015/the-business-of-writing-2.aspx

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know: Rochester Literature Festival 2014

September 25th – October 5th 2014

The Rochester Literature Festival is proud to present its second annual festival, Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know.

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We’re delighted to be opening this year with an hilarious and heart-warming one woman show with actress Sunny Ormonde – the outrageous Lilian Bellamy from BBC Radio 4’s The Archers, the world’s longest running soap.

Over the course of the next ten days, we’ll be joined by as-seen-on-tv-off-his-trolley comic genius Phil Kay, master of freeform performance and storytelling, and notorious Australian, Trenton Oldfield – who served six months at her Majesty’s Pleasure for disrupting the 2012 Boat Race in a protest against elitism.

We will be hosting two wonderful authors who’ll fascinate you with insights and anecdotes from their latest books: Angela Buckley introduces us to The Real Sherlock Holmes – Detective Jerome Caminada, whose methodologies mimicked Conan Doyle’s genius, and Debz Hobbs-Wyatt, who will discuss the impact of reality on fiction. While No One Was Watching is set against the backdrop of the Kennedy assassination and the abduction of a young girl from the grassy knoll on that fateful day.

For families to enjoy together, we have Assassin, featuring the fantastic Joe Craig reading extracts from his Jimmy Coates series – part boy, part weapon, totally deadly – which will be interpreted with music by Alice composer, Jacob Bride, and exciting young street dance group CYC. Awesome Keeper of the Realms trilogy author, Marcus Alexander, who is Charlie’s Keeper, will entertain and inspire you with his delightfully wicked fantasy adventure series – get your read on!

Our interactive story game this year is Murder in the Crypt and will feature some of your favourite detectives. In addition, we’re holding a Cafe Crawl, where you can sample music, poetry, storytelling and more, in the company of, amongst others, former Canterbury Laureate Dan Simpson. Bookmark’d is a chance to buy books, swap books or just listen to books, read aloud by their authors.

Our Night at the Theatre will this year be held in conjunction with Chatham Grammar School for Boys and be presented by award winning 17% playwrights, Sam Fentiman-Hall, Sarah Hehir and Maggie Drury. The Spirit of My Dream is inspired by Byron’s poem The Dream and features new plays with a somewhat fantastical theme.

An exhibition curated by ME4Writers especially for the festival, An Assemblance of Judicious Heretics, has channelled Byron to produce work inspiring madness, badness and dangerousness in the hearts of artists. A live reading will bring the visual carnage to life!

Byron’s Teapot will be our finale – a mad mix of the unusual and quirky, featuring The James Worse Public Address Method, JP Lovecraft, Dylan Oscar Rowe and Brides of Rain.

Tickets are available here.

We look forward to welcoming you to our exciting – and only slightly scary – second full length festival!

To read full details, download a copy the 2014 programme and buy tickets, please visit rochesterlitfest.com.

If you have any enquiries regarding any of the events or festival in general, please email rochesterlitfest@gmail.com or telephone 07904 643770.

The Rochester Literature Festival (RLF) was formed in May 2011 as an information sharer, and held its inaugural event, The Garden Poetry Party in July 2012.

The first main festival, Other Worlds, Other Voices took place in October 2013.

The RLF is a voluntary group and currently receives no public funding, relying solely on the generosity of its performers, audiences, personal donations and in kind help.

The Programme Details

An Evening with Sunny Ormonde

Thursday, 25th September, 7pm – 10pm

Lords Wood Sports and Social Club

£10

Café Crawl

Saturday, 27th September, 1pm-5pm

La Toretta, Tiny Tims, Café 172 (Dot Café), Bruno’s Bakes. Rochester High Street

Free

The Queen versus Trenton Oldfield: A Prison Diary

Saturday, 27th September, 7pm – 10pm

Sun Pier House, Chatham

£6

Bookmark’d

Sunday, 28th September, 12noon – 4pm

Guildhall Museum, Rochester

Free

Marcus Alexander: Who is Charlie’s Keeper?

Sunday, 28th September, 2pm – 3.30pm

Woodlands Academy, Gillingham

£3

The Real Sherlock Holmes: Angela Buckley

Monday, 29th September, 6.30pm – 9pm

Café 172 (Dot Café), Rochester

£4.00

While No-one Was Watching: Debz Hobbs-Wyatt

Wednesday, 1st October, 6.30pm – 9pm

Café Nucleus, Chatham

£4

An Assemblance of Judicious Heretics Live

Thursday, 2nd October, 7.30pm

Rochester Library

Free

Exhibition: Friday 26/9 to Saturday 25/10 Free, normal opening hours.

Phil Kay: Wholly Viable

Friday, 3rd October, 8.00pm – 11.30pm (includes support)

The Billabong Club, Rochester

£7

Murder in the Crypt

Saturday, 4th October, 10am – 4pm

Bishopscourt, Rochester

Ticket price £3

A Night at the Theatre: The Spirit of my Dream

Saturday, 4th October, 7pm – 10pm

Chatham Grammar School for Boys

£5

Assassin

Sunday, 5th October, 2pm -5pm

Lords Wood Sports and Social Club

Tickets from £3. Family tickets available.

Byron’s Teapot

Sunday, 5th October, 7.30pm – 11pm

Lords Wood Sports and Social Club

£5

The Word Play Wagon lights the Fuse in Walderslade

Jaye Nolan, Festival Director of the Rochester Literature Festival, has been selected by the Kent Baton to open their Sparks Fuse Festival project, One Day Works.

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Jaye’s short term residence in the Baton – a vintage silver airstream caravan converted to a mobile art centre – is on Wednesday, June 4th from 11am – 6pm. It will be located outside Permark Post Office in Walderslade Village and its activities will be suitable for all ages and all abilities. No previous experience is needed, just turn up and play around with some words.

The overall title, The Word Play Wagon, reflects the diverse creative writing activities planned, including:

  • Turn over a new leaf: Add a poem, wish or favourite saying to a luggage label leaf you create and hang it on a Poetree.
  •  A Novel Experience: Bring your favourite book and write an original short piece based on its premise.
  • Hint: Writing micro fiction from as little as 10 words
  • Spoofing Medway: Write the local news as it didn’t happen
  • Mystery Collective Poems: Add a line to the one before – it’ll be the only one you can see!
  •  If and Then: A question and answer session with a difference.

With the Rochester LitFest aiming to make literature accessible to more people, Jaye is delighted to be running a free one day workshop dedicated to creative writing, saying: “I’m really looking forward to engaging lots of people in writing activities, and encouraging them to find their voices. Who knows, I might find the next generation of Medway poets!”

One Day Works will host a series of one day experiments throughout Medway during the Fuse Festival and its build up. From urban high streets to country villages, the project will showcase ten of Medway’s finest creative talents across a range of art forms. Along with the The Word Play Wagon, the works include an epic poem, sculptures made from found objects, archival collections, insect inspired costumes, drawings made from thread, an acoustic live music gig and a magic lantern performance. All activities are free.

www.jayenolan.com

Spoke ‘n’ Word – FREE workshops for 14-21yrs

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17th May | Times and venues listed below 

Shout Out to all budding spoken word artists, poets, wordsmiths, song writers and emcees aged 14 -21yrs.

Free opportunity for two full days mentoring by some of the UK’s most talented slam poets (during half term – 28th & 29th May) and a chance to perform alongside professional poets on our pedal powered stage onboard LV21 as part of the Fuse Festival at the Wise Words Festival in Canterbury.

Taster Session 17th May 11:00 -13:00 FREE

Medway Youth Service, Strood Youth Centre, Montford Road, Strood, Rochester ME2 3ET

Meet the Poets 17th May 18:30 – 21:00 | Tickets £3

‘Where Giants Stood’, Woodies Youth Centre, Arethusa Road, Rochester ME1 2UN

For further details please contact theCaptain@lv21.co.uk or pop into Strood Youth Centre.

Download flyer.

www.spokenword.info
www.lv21.co.uk
www.fusefestival.org.uk
www.wisewordsfestival.co.uk

Seasonally Effected – Creative Open-Mic Events – Medway

Seasonally Effected is a Rochester based open-mic night for creative and cultural exploration.  It features a diverse mix of performances including poetry, short film, comedy, short stories, original music, plays and a variety of experimental content that is less easy to define.  Usually happening at the lovely and cosy Dot Cafe on Rochester High Street, it is advisable to arrive early to guarantee a seat.  The first events for this year are planned for the 29th January and 19th February and will run 7-9pm.

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This year they are looking for performers who are up for more of a challenge. Organisers are suggesting people try something completely different from their usual practice, for example poets do a painting, singer-song writers perform some stand up, film makers experiment with flower arranging and storytellers sing a song.

The event is free to attend and there is no pressure to perform.  However, if you are interested in booking a 10 minute spot to share something you have created, whether that be film, poem, song, art, idea or other form of expression, contact them on: seasonallyeffected@gmail.com

Cybermen and Clay: objects and emotions by Jane Ayres

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Three: photo by Jane Ayres

 

We invest objects with emotional significance.  Although they are simply things, they can represent something that connects us to a person or a time in the past.  I have used objects as the starting point for creative writing exercises, and they can be useful for brainstorming ideas.

I try not to accumulate too much clutter (!) and only keep the few items that are precious, always mindful of the day when I’m no longer here and whoever is left behind will have the unenviable job of sorting out my stuff!  But on a windowsill, I keep a few “ornaments”.

My cyberman model/toy – with moving parts!  I’m a Dr Who fan and my favourite (and scariest) monsters were always the cyber men.  When I was a child, I would hide behind the sofa when they came on TV.  Something about the clanging metal, the unforgiving nature of a machine, the hollow empty space for eyes sockets – no emotion or humanity –  gave me the creeps.  The stuff of nightmares.  However my more recent developing interest in cyber technology, sci fi, robotics, and neuroscience gives me a different viewpoint. How many of us who grew up in the 70s wanted the special abilities of the Six Million Dollar Man or the Bionic Woman? (Without the pain and injuries, of course!).  Machines and technology have limitless power to transform lives for good.  I sometimes wonder, when experiencing heartache and loss, how it would be to feel absent of emotion.  A concept that is hard to imagine.

The Golem – My brother brought this back from a trip to Prague.  According to good old Wiki, “in Jewish folklore, a golem is an animated anthropomorphic being, created entirely from inanimate matter.”  The most famous golem narrative involves Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the late 16th century rabbi of Prague, who reportedly created a golem out of clay from the banks of the Vltava river, and brought it to life through rituals and Hebrew incantations to defend and protect the Prague ghetto from anti-Semitic attacks and pogroms. There are a whole host of legends and literature around the golem.  My first ever encounter with the concept was a 1966 British/American film entitled It!, starring Roddy McDowall, who was at that time one of my favourite actors. I was about seven years old when I saw it.

This model is a symbol of my fascination with creation.  I’m also intrigued the golem was associated with fighting oppression, which in turn connects to my loathing of bullying in any form. (See my post http://janeayres.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/which-fictional-character-would-you.html)

My clay horse.  And, strangely, in writing this I see there is a link between my clay horse, Ernie, and my golem – that they were both born from clay, an amazing substance which resonates with spiritual significance. I made Ernie at school in art class when I was a child.  I enjoyed shaping the clay and using my hands to create the shape.  I couldn’t do the legs however – they kept snapping off – so decided to make a horse lying down to obviate that problem! His tail also fell off, so he became a cob.  Ernie reflects my love of horses since childhood, and because I couldn’t have a real horse, I kept creating them – in my stories, my drawings and in plasticine and clay. When I left home at sixteen, Ernie was still living on my mum’s windowsill, where he stayed for many years.  After she passed away, I brought him home with me and he took up residence on my windowsill.  Ernie evokes a range of childhood memories and happy thoughts of mum.

I love the way that, unknowingly, all three of these objects are linked by common threads and themes; connections which I had never noticed before.

Creation.  New life.  Changed reality.  Words we could also use to describe what we produce when we write.  Wonderfully strange.

Related posts:

https://creatabot.co.uk/2013/09/28/we-are-stories-by-jane-ayres/

https://creatabot.co.uk/2012/11/05/the-art-of-wish-fulfilment-by-jane-ayres/

http://www.janeayres.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/my-bookshelf-and-precious-memories.html

To find out more about Jane’s creative story, visit her blog www.janeayres.blogspot.co.uk

Her recent e-book, Joyrider, is available from Amazon

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Joyrider-ebook/dp/B00F7V247Y

We are stories by Jane Ayres

photo by Roger Hyland

The concept of stories, storytelling and narrative fascinates me and is a constant source of discovery.  I’ve also explored the idea of writing as therapy for depression and grief.  In the search to understand my personal grieving process I have explored fiction and non-fiction, and recently read How we Grieve: Relearning the world by Thomas Attig (OUP, 1996) which suggests a way of thinking that I had not previously considered and which makes perfect sense – especially if you are a writer. In discussing how we relearn our relationships with the loved ones we have lost, the author suggests:

“As we come to know and love others, we come to know and cherish the stories of the lives they live…..if we have known and loved well, the stories become interwoven with the fabric of the stories of our lives.  As we relearn our relationship with the deceased, we continue the interweaving process.  In all of our relationships we have unique and privileged access to parts of the full stories of others’ lives. Our knowledge and love of the stories remain after the loss of the presence of the deceased………as with any good stories, but especially with the intricate stories of human biography, if we read them but once we fail to captures the richness and fullness of the tales. As we review and retell stories repeatedly, they return ever new and unexpected rewards each time……we can return to the stories deliberately for specific purposes (to refresh our memory or understanding or to seek new understanding) or as events in our lives remind us of them and of their continuing importance to us.”

I found this deeply moving.

We are all stories.  Living, breathing, works in progress. Whether tragically short or on a more epic scale, our lives are uniquely individual stories.  They may encompass adventure, romance, horror, joy, loss, humour and fantasy.  But however they differ, they all have in common one aspect: mystery. The unknown.  We don’t know how the story will end.  But would we want to?

Related posts:

https://creatabot.co.uk/2012/07/19/stories-we-tell-ourselves-by-jane-ayres/

https://creatabot.co.uk/2012/12/21/play-dream-write-by-jane-ayres/

To find out more about Jane’s creative story, visit her blog www.janeayres.blogspot.co.uk

Her recent e-book, Joyrider, is available from Amazon

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Joyrider-ebook/dp/B00F7V247Y

The Vision and the Voice: Part 2 by Jane Ayres

greentreesPhoto by Roger Hyland

How do you see the world? Is it ugly, beautiful, evil, good, exciting, depressing? A mixture?  None of these?  The mind’s eye is a strange expression. According to wiki (the fount of all knowledge!) it refers to the human ability for visualization using the imagination.

When you look at an object, or a place, do you see what is there – or beyond this? Can you see what it means, or meant; its place in history?  Does it evoke the past?

Recently, I spent an absorbing few hours catching up on programmes I recorded on Sky Arts (a brilliant source of material) which began with a film about my favourite artist Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) the Dutch pioneer of abstract art. Mondrian is my favourite artist. He sought through his work to find essence and truth using horizontal and vertical lines, to create a new kind of beauty through geometry. His art is about structure, distillation, order and emotional connection and he wanted his art to be part of a greater whole. Not surprisingly he saw architecture as living art.  On arrival in New York in 1940 he commented, “They told me New York was a hellish place, where you grew old before your time and gangsters made the law. That may well be true. But that is not the New York I saw, the one I loved and thought of as my own.”  He saw beauty in the lights, the sounds, the skyscrapers and the vibrancy. The film, called Dans L’Atelier de Mondrian (in the studio of Mondrian) shows the artist’s studio as a working art installation and moves me to tears every time I see it. Mondrian lived in poverty most of his austere life and did not receive critical recognition until he was in seventies. (A familiar story for so many creatives, regrettably).

The next film was a documentary called Hitchcock on Grierson, which offered further insights into the ways other creatives have seen the world. It’s always interesting to see what one film director thinks of another and how he was influenced. I admire much of Hitchcock’s work but knew little about Dr John Grierson, who I discovered was a prolific, influential and pioneering Scottish film director and producer (1898-1972) who used documentary to express his distinctive way of seeing the world, utilising stunning shots to find patterns in objects not usually considered art, such as scaffolding and cranes, and seeing beauty and meaning in geometric shapes and structures and feats of engineering. It reminded me of Mondrian, and also the French composer (and one of my favourites) Edgard Varese (1883-1965) a visionary who had been dreaming of new sounds and electronic music a generation before it was technically possible, and whose astonishing blocks of dissonant sound are incredibly beautiful. Listening to his music, it is not surprising to learn of his fascination with architectural structures.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8FcxVKIAwo  extract from Octandre by Edgard Varese

Reflecting on the way that these contrasting but connected artists saw the world, I was also reminded of doing art classes at school, and learning about seeing the light and shade in an object like a pot or a piece of cutlery. For a long time, I just didn’t get this. I couldn’t see it.  Then, one day, I did and it was like a revelation which has never left me.  Like being let in on a wonderful secret.

Finally, I watched a deeply moving and hauntingly beautiful film called The Way of the Morrishttp://www.wayofthemorris.com/

Written and presented by Tim Plester (who was also co-producer and co-director) it is a personal, heartfelt journey, both physical and spiritual. Every shot was like a painting or photograph, with amazing lighting and stunning landscapes. Subtlely observed, like Grierson, this film used documentary to convey something profound about community, ritual, and the human soul, and what tradition and shared history can mean to us.

To see beauty is a gift. I’m a natural pessimist.  I get angry about injustice and passionate about causes I believe in. But I can get emotional about beautiful landscapes and wild birds; about music, art, film, and literature.

In the 1940s, Mondrian wrote: “Art today is condemned to a separate existence, for present day life is essentially tragic.  But in some distant future, art and life will be one.”

How do you see the world? Consonant or dissonant? Can you find beauty easily? And has your view changed over the years?

Links:

https://creatabot.co.uk/2013/08/13/the-vision-and-the-voice-part-1-by-jane-ayres/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Piet-Mondrian-Mondrians-Studio-DVD/dp/B004754TF6/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1374505365&sr=1-1&keywords=mondrian

http://go.sky.com/vod/content/SKYENTERTAINMENT/content/videoId/718a084b7c0ea310VgnVCM1000000b43150a________/content/default/videoDetailsPage.do

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind’s_eye

http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/198800.html

http://www.pietmondrian.com/

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Edgard+Var%C3%A8se

To find out more about Jane’s writing and publishing experiences, visit her blog www.janeayres.blogspot.co.uk

Her recent e-book, Beware of the Horse, is available from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Beware-of-the-Horse-ebook/dp/B00BEJTDUE/

The Vision and the Voice: Part 1 by Jane Ayres

Photo by Roger Hyland
Photo by Roger Hyland

If I admire a writer, it will be for two reasons.  Firstly, their vision and the ideas expressed and explored.  I came to sci-fi late in life but I am astonished by, and drawn to, visionaries such as Asimov and Philip K. Dick and their prophecies.  Secondly, I am attracted to elements of style, structure and craft.  Sarah Waters, Lydia Davis, Mark Haddon, Frank Cottrell Boyce are wonderful examples.  You don’t always find vision and execution in the same piece of work but when you do, it is sheer joy.

Most writing courses and manuals will talk about the way a writer has to find their “voice”, and for some writers, I imagine this might be a natural process; instinctive and deeply embedded.

I’ve been writing for nearly 40 years, been regularly published – even had a bestseller – but still don’t feel like I’ve found my voice.  Maybe I never will.  Maybe I don’t have one.  Or maybe I’m afraid to let it loose.

Reading through some of my older work, I can see that my writing style has changed and, hopefully, improved.  But I don’t think I have a style that is distinctly “me.”

When I was in my twenties, I trained for 8 years to be a classical singer, and I enjoyed singing, but never had the dedication to pursue it as a career – nor the talent.  And crippling nerves made performing a struggle.  So I gave up.

Recently, after a twenty year gap, I had a singing lesson again.  I loved it.  Maybe, all these years of different life experiences – pain and joy – will help me to find my voice.

Singers express their art through a physical means, drawn from their breath, their essence, their life force.   They create their own sound, externalised from nothing, from within.  The way a writer creates something from nothing, by plundering the imagination.

A writer has to find that inner voice, that essence, and make it tangible through the choice of words and the patterns they create.  But more than that, a writer must reveal what makes she or he unique as a human being and give it form.

It is a mysterious process, this fusion of vision and voice.  A fluid, reactive journey of discovery – and it requires honesty and guts.

And how we see the world plays a major role, which I will explore in Part 2.

Have you found your voice?

To find out more about Jane’s writing and publishing experiences, visit her blog www.janeayres.blogspot.co.uk

Her recent e-book, Beware of the Horse, is available from Amazon.

The Value Triangle and measuring the value of culture by Jane Ayres

P1030561The Big Cheese  (Photo by Jane Ayres)

Earlier in the month I attended a conference about using the arts to regenerate East Kent coastal towns, a topic dear to my heart, after spending 4 years as Marketing and Outreach Co-ordinator for University Centre Folkestone (which, sadly, is no more).  Listening to the speakers made me realise that I was still angry and upset about the loss of UCF (and I did make my feelings public, and then had a bit of a rant in the ladies loos afterwards!).  However, I learned a lot from the conference, and one of the speakers, when discussing the way that the arts and culture are measured and valued, referred to a concept called The Value Triangle, which I had not heard of before.

The phrase, it appears, originates from John Holden, an associate at the independent think tank Demos and a visiting professor at City University, London, who has been involved in numerous major projects with the cultural sector ranging across heritage, libraries, music, museums, the performing arts and the moving image.  We were shown a You Tube clip taken from the PARTicipate Conference in Belfast, which questioned and explored how the value of culture and arts impacts on the regeneration of Belfast. John Holden describes models of cultural value, and the value triangle of intrinsic, instrumental and institutional value. He then went on to discuss social return on investment and measuring change.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2QPHapOlSI

Having previously written a post for Creatabot on valuing art https://creatabot.co.uk/2013/05/12/twenty-dollars-worth-of-art-please-by-jane-ayres/ I found this quite fascinating.

The topic is one I will doubtless continue to explore.  The relationship between artists, and how they value themselves and are valued by others, is an important issue, especially when arts council budgets continue to be cut and so many are struggling to survive.

I had my first short story published in a UK magazine at the age of 14. I got £10 and will never forget how it felt to have earned what seemed a lot of dosh for something I had enjoyed producing.  This was 1974 and normally I would have needed to work for 9 hours washing up and waiting on tables in my cousin’s café to earn that much (My Saturday job). No wonder the life of a writer seemed a glamorous option!  Oh, how naïve I was….

Other links:

http://www.belfastcity.gov.uk/culture/participate.asp

To find out more about Jane’s writing and publishing experiences, go to her blog www.janeayres.blogspot.co.uk

Her recent e-book, Beware of the Horse, is available from Amazon.

“Twenty dollars worth of art, please.” By Jane Ayres

photo credit Jane Ayres
photo credit Jane Ayres

Growing up in the 60s and 70s it was a treat after school to stop by the corner shop and buy a penny’s worth of sweets.  Lemon bonbons were my favourite.  They were scooped out of the huge jar and carefully weighed out, measured to the value of a penny and then placed in a paper bag.

Fast forward around 40 years.  I’m a big fan of the US TV series Parks and Recreation, a wonderfully observed, funny, warm character comedy  which centres around the employees of the parks and recreation department in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana.   Season 2, currently on BBC 4, featured an episode in which office staff were invited to produce a design for a mural contest. Declaring he has no interest or talent in art, the seemingly shallow character called Tom decides to cheat and approaches a professional designer to do the work for him. Believing art to be simply another commodity, he requests “20 dollars worth of art”. I laughed out loud at this. (The irony is that he later falls in love with the abstract work produced, forming a deep emotional connection with his piece of art).

It got me thinking about how we measure the creative process in monetary terms.  How do we /can we value art?  And our time as creative producers?  I wonder how many artists have had clients asking how much art they can get for £10? £100? £1000?  Interestingly, commission guidelines for composers are often based on cost per minute of music, and writers can be paid per word for articles and features.

My e-books are priced between £1.95 – £3.98. Many e-books cost just 99p.  They could have taken 6 months or several years of work to produce.  What else can you get for £1.95?  Not even a cappuccino.  Is my latest book worth less than that?

Pricing and charging is a tricky arena.  Especially since creatives often do a lot of work gratis (and are often expected to do stuff for free).  I’ve done plenty for free – sometimes willingly and happily if I know that funding was a problem, other times not so much.  What is my time worth?  If no-one pays me is my time worthless? Would you ever assume that a plumber or mechanic or solicitor will work for free?

The arts make money. A recent report in the Guardian highlighted the fact that, “Analysis by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) shows that the arts budget accounts for less than 0.1% of public spending, yet it makes up 0.4% of the nation’s GDP.

The report is published amid fears that the arts will take another big hit when George Osborne announces his spending review in June.”  (Click link below to read the article).

We are all consumers.  But, as a creative, how do you value your time?  And that of other creative producers?

Links: http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2012/nov/22/parks-and-recreation-bbc4

http://www.impulse-music.co.uk/commission_fees.htm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2013/may/07/arts-worth-millions-uk-economy?goback=%2Egde_4148866_member_238627525

Related posts:

http://janeayres.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/is-book-simply-commodity-should-you-be.html

Writing, therapy and positive outcomes by Jane Ayres

photo by Jane Ayres
photo by Jane Ayres

When I was younger, writing poetry which described and explored my state of mind during major depression may have saved me from a nervous breakdown.  Artists and writers can, and do,  use their art as a form of self-therapy. Reflective writing with a purpose, intentional or otherwise.

Writing is how I express myself.  I can struggle with words when I speak.  Writing everything down first provides the chance to ensure clarity.  I’ve been doing it all my life.  Fiction, non-fiction, copy-writing, blogging, emails, to do lists……So why am denying myself this proven therapeutic tool now? When I am still coming to terms with losing both my parents to pancreatic cancer in the space of 6 months. Burying the grief, the profound, deep sadness. The anger.  Why do I feel uncomfortable writing about it?

I don’t have children of my own.  Years ago, my maternal instincts found an outlet through caring for a special, adored young cat and when I lost him, I channelled my grief and helplessness into volunteering and fundraising for the Cats Protection League.  Eventually I was able to write about it. Over the past year, I’ve raised funds and tried to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer.  When I lose loved ones, I have a desperate need to find a positive outcome from all the tragedy.  It’s a useful way of focussing creative energy.

There is currently a high profile media campaign running which promotes the importance of cancer research.  What it doesn’t say is that not all cancers are equal.  To quote from the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund:

“Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all cancers – just 3% of those diagnosed survive for five years. It is also the only cancer that has seen no improvement in this figure over the last 40 years.

Overall, half of all those diagnosed with a cancer now survive for five years or more. For many cancers, five year survival rates have increased hugely since the 1970s. For breast cancer – where large amounts have been spent on research – five year survival rates have increased from 50% to 80%.

Yet despite its high death rate and lack of improvement in chances of survival, pancreatic cancer attracts little research funding in comparison with many other cancers.”

Although I’m not yet ready to write about my feelings,   I’m glad that I can use what I write as a tool to raise awareness of issues that concern me which relate to my bereavement.  So if this results in even one reader making a donation to, or getting involved with, these charities, then the words have done their job.

Links:  http://pancreaticcanceraction.org/    http://www.pcrf.org.uk/

On therapeutic writing:  http://www.lapidus.org.uk/about.php

Jane’s recent e-book, Coming Home, is available from Amazon, with all author royalties going to the charity Cats Protection.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00AGZV9WM

www.janeayres.blogspot.co.uk

Play, dream, write by Jane Ayres

IMG00249-20121028-1209
photo by Jane Ayres

On the bus to Tunbridge Wells today I became aware of a dad with his toddler sitting at the front of the upper deck, both father and son playing at being bus drivers, with their pretend steering wheels and pretend brakes, laughing and shrieking.  It made me smile and reminded me of my own childhood and the way that we create our own stories and roles through play.

We can become anyone. We can do anything.  Our imagination enables us to explore new worlds.

One of my favourite toys when I was a child comprised of a host of plastic farm animals. My model farm provided me with hours of fun. I made up stories and adventures for the world I had created, and my imagination enabled me to become the tiny plastic figure with pigtails and jodhpurs with the cute Shetland pony. I made choices about what happened to my characters and landscapes, controlling their destinies in a way that isn’t possible in reality.  Like being a storyteller.  And I thought of what playing had in common with writing and my reasons for writing, for creating stories.  I sometimes wonder where this need comes from, why engaging our imaginations is so important.

I used to daydream a great deal as a child. It was all practice for writing my stories. I’m still practising.

This is my last post of 2012 for Creatabot – here’s to a creative 2013!

To find out more about Jane’s publishing experiences, go to her blog www.janeayres.blogspot.co.uk

Her trilogy of Matty Horse and Pony Adventures books for pre-teens and teens (and nostalgic older readers) are available for kindle on Amazon.co.uk. All profits from these stories are going to Redwings Horse Sanctuary. 

For the journey by Jane Ayres

design Klaus Harteben
design Klaus Hartleben

So many great stories are about literal or spiritual journeys, in which the protagonist is changed by the process, whether she has experienced incredible dramatic adventures or pursued more reflective contemplation.  Journeys seem to be a recurrent theme in my writing.  More than 20 years ago, the first novel I had published, Wild Horse Island, was about a horse taken from his familiar environment, his subsequent quest to make his way home, against the odds, and the people whose lives he changes in the process.  Always in my Heart, which comes out next year, revisits this idea, but in a different setting and on a deeper level. I was dealing with a major bereavement at the time and, inevitably, this affected how I told the story.

After a life-changing few years, the theme of journeys is very much on my mind at present, and my recent book, Coming Home, explores familiar territory for me, although this time it’s about two Norwegian Forest cats who are accidentally separated from, and seek to be reunited with, their grieving owner, encountering a host of creatures on the way.

As a human being, we each undertake our own personal journeys, whether or not we decide to analyse the process.  Where do I want to end up on mine?  I don’t know the answer yet, although we all arrive at the same place ultimately.  What matters more, the journey or the destination?  For now, I find the act of motion, whether that is walking, running, or being transported in a machine, triggers off my imagination in a way that rarely happens if I am staring at my computer screen.

Travelling by train or car provides great creative space, if I am a driver or passenger, and ideas fire off unprompted as I eat up the miles. I recently re-read Rumblestrip by Woodrow Phoenix, a monochrome graphic book all about what happens when we get behind a steering wheel.  The layout cleverly simulates a car journey and as you read, you feel like you are on a virtual car journey. I sometimes dream that I’m driving a car, and, strangely, when I drive at night, I sometimes wonder if I am dreaming.  Woodrow Phoenix describes it perfectly:

“There is a dreamlike quality built into the experience of driving.  A car windshield is a big window.  And also a screen….locations unwind on the other side of this rectangular glass almost as they do on a movie screen….you sit cocooned in your cabin….everything outside your windows is contained, the rest of the world an arm’s length away…..you glide through location after location as if they were erected just for you to drive past.  Every journey is a narrative with you at the centre.”

As writers, each time we imagine, create and produce a story, we are embarking on a journey of discovery, which our readers continue and reinterpret, each word illuminating the path and teaching us, deliberately or unconsciously, about the human condition.

To find out more about Jane’s creative journey, check out www.janeayres.blogspot.co.uk

Her recent e-book, Coming Home, about cats, people and journeys, is available from Amazon, with all author royalties going to the charity Cats Protection. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00AGZV9WM

 

Rewriting, Editing and Patchwork Quilts by Jane Ayres

Quilt cushion cover made by Mrs Brenda White. Photo by her niece Jane Ayres

Writing is hard.  Creating something from nothing, from the recesses of your imagination, can sometimes feel a bit like pulling teeth.  Your own.  But when you’ve overcome that painful first stage of the process and you have pages of words in some kind of structure, you can sit back and reflect.  Then start editing.

I love editing.  It’s fun.  It’s all about refining and sculpting the words until you have the perfect combination.

Rewriting, on the other hand, is different.  And for me this often comes after work has been submitted to a third party, such as an agent or publisher.  This is when you get feedback that indicates that some substantial work is required to improve the piece and make it acceptable for publication.  I always groan when this happens.  Rewriting can be like unpicking knitting.   And a bit like doing a cut and paste in your head.   A mental jigsaw puzzle.

It is especially tough when you might have to sacrifice that special sentence that you felt so pleased about because it no longer works, or rewrite – or even delete – the character you were so fond of.   Or restructure the first section of the book.   The thing is, each change has a knock-on effect for everything else in the story.  You might solve one problem, but create another.

But then, writing is all about problem solving, especially in fiction. You invent the characters and then set them into an imaginary landscape with a host of issues and situations that will change them and their lives.  But you do it with love.

I often think of writing a novel as a bit like creating a patchwork quilt.  You have the pattern and you have selected the fabric of your story, and now you have to patiently connect everything together, piece by piece, blocking and layering the colours and textures of your characters and their journeys, until you have created a beautiful, unique work of art.

To find out more about Jane’s publishing experiences, go to her blog www.janeayres.blogspot.co.uk

Her trilogy of Matty Horse and Pony Adventures books for pre-teens and teens (and nostalgic older readers) are available as ebooks on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. All profits from these stories are going to Redwings Horse Sanctuary. 

Matty and the Racehorse Rescue is FREE TO DOWNLOAD from 23rd-27th November!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Matty-Problem-Ponies-Adventures-ebook/dp/B0094KJEVI/

The Harshest Deadline Ever Levied – By James Bovington

(From Google)

I’m writing a novel.

I know, I know; who isn’t? Go into any overpriced coffee-delivery chain-pit in the world and you’ll be able to spot at least three people with Moleskine notebooks, or typing on Macs, who when prompted will spew words at you about their novel. About how it explores the deeper significance of caramel biscotti, or it’s about non-conventional love dodecahedrons in tribes of scholars living in log cabins in Alaska, and every character is called Jim, even the women, because conventional naming is just holding us back, man.

These people will usually be wearing tweed ironically or skinny jeans un-ironically and all of them will be plastered with that smug look that makes your rage-glands twitch. Some of them might even close their eyes as they describe a scene from their novel in great detail, like it’s transporting them to their own personal Nirvana and they can’t bear to look upon the real world while they frolic in it. This is your cue to punch them as hard as you can right in their awful neck, pour their mocha-frappe-London-fog-flat white-fuckwit-latte onto their Macbook (because it will be a Macbook) and run, howling, into the misty night.

Except in November, when you might just spot a nomadic tribe of Wrimos, bedecked in nothing but pieces of fruit; weary, harrowed eyes; frantic caffeine jitters and normal clothes.

‘Wrimos’ are what people refer to themselves as when they are participating in National Novel Writing Month, which I’ve mentioned before. (You can see it by clicking the second instance of the word ‘here’ in this sentence, here.)

So, as I say, I’m writing a novel, but far from taking me years to craft a pretentious masterwork with infinite layers of detail, none of them funny, I have precisely thirty days to write 50,000 words. Any less and I have not ‘won’, any longer and I have not ‘won’. I have one of the harshest deadlines ever levied on a person, and it’s self-inflicted. Not just by me, either; there are currently thousands of Wrimos busily scribbling or tapping away at their own 50,000 word minimum and at this exact point in time (which I suppose is in the past, from your perspective) there have been precisely 942,626,284 words logged by everyone combined. To put that into perspective, the entire Harry Potter series comprises some 1,084,958 words.

We are eight days into November.

It’s mind-boggling the amount of people who throw themselves at this challenge, and the enthusiasm with which they metaphorically flagellate themselves with this ridiculous deadline.

So far I’m 7,845 words in, which at this stage is ok but not great. The average by now is about 11,000 but I spent a weekend doing things with my friends and a day training someone at work (I essentially have to write at work, since it’s all I do during the week), which is three of my days spent not writing at all. A couple of days I wrote about 1000 words, some days nearer to 2000. I’m writing a near-future-sci-fi-murder-mystery. Not by conscious choice; it’s just that when I started writing my main character (a journalist. Write what you know.) found himself at a crime-scene and some facts didn’t click together properly. I thought I was going to be writing a pulp sci-fi drabble, all smooth chrome spaceships and laserguns and whathaveyou. I’ve ended up with a subcity slum under London, twenty minutes into the future in a subtly totalitarian police-state.

That’s the trouble with this kind of writing. There’s no time to force your story back onto the track you picked for it. It’s a brilliant exercise in compromise. For example, there’s a character who I intended to be throw-away, maybe two or three lines of dialogue, but she’s ended up building a nest in my head because I like her so much. I have resolved to kill her at some point, purely so she doesn’t derail the story. Her fate is sealed, as far as I can tell, but characters can be fickle.

There’s also the need to kill your inner editor. If a sentence is clunky or overwrought you have to leave it. There’s no time. You can’t listen to the voice in your head telling you something is stupid. I had to slip in a justification for something that happened pages later because I couldn’t go back. That’s another interesting exercise; you have to make things fit together coherently without being able to go back and rewrite sections. Murder-mystery lends itself to this, luckily: Agatha Christie used to just write the whole story and pick the least likely character to be the murderer, making all the evidence fit together right at the end.

The last thing I wanted to discuss before I stop writing this and go back to writing that is that I’ve gone bloody mental.

Only really in terms of writing (maybe you’d noticed?), but still it’s almost a problem. For example, I was just skimming my work and noticed I’d written the word ‘corners’ as ‘carners’, but instead of actually realising there was a problem I proceeded to read the rest of the paragraph giving the voice in my head an Irish accent.

I spent an entire paragraph explain how ‘regarding’ and ‘looking at’ are different.

I was physically unable to stop myself from writing an awful pun, then giggling at it like a schoolgirl.

One of my recent Tweets reads: ‘The Information Superhighway has no cycle-lane.’ I don’t remember why.

And

While typing the above sentence literally milliseconds ago I put my electronic cigarette down and now I have absolutely no idea where it is.

I’m not sure if I’m coming out of this unscathed, but at least I’m having fun.

That’s 978 words I could have typed for my novel. Oh god, the deadline is coming! It’s almost here!

By James Bovington, a writer of things.

The Art of Wish Fulfilment by Jane Ayres

ceramic horse by Jane Ayres
ceramic horse by Jane Ayres
ceramic horse by Jane Ayres

When I was a child, I longed to have my own horse.  This was destined never to happen, because apart from living in an urban area, my parents couldn’t afford it.  So I created my own private horse world.

I drew horses in pencil and ink, mostly copied from photographs.  I collected pictures of horses from magazines and stuck them into a series of scrap books, often thinking up stories to go with the pictures.  In my art class at school, we were given a lump of clay to create a ceramic piece.  Obviously, mine became a horse of sorts.  I struggled with the legs, so the solution was to have the horse lying down.  His tail kept falling off, so he became a cob with a stubby tail.  He was glazed and taken home proudly to my mum.  He occupied my windowsill for years and I still have him, 40 years later.  Maybe he wasn’t exactly a work of art but he had been born from my imagination, moulded into shape and was mine.

Drawing horses, collecting pictures of them and making them from clay was not enough.  It was natural that as I developed my passion for creative writing, I would write stories about them.  I created the horses, characters and the experiences I desired through my fiction.  The ultimate wish fulfilment.

I would love to know how many other writers or artists create the fantasy world they would love to inhabit through their art.

To find out more about Jane’s publishing experiences, go to her blog www.janeayres.blogspot.co.uk

Her trilogy of Matty Horse and Pony Adventures books for pre-teens and teen (and nostalgic older readers) are available for Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. All profits from these stories are going to Redwings Horse Sanctuary.

Matty and the Problem Ponies is FREE TO DOWNLOAD from 7th-11th November!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Matty-Problem-Ponies-Adventures-ebook/dp/B0094KJEVI/

Mare and Foal by Jane Ayres – still having trouble with the feet!

Garrets and Gatekeepers by Jane Ayres

Photograph by Chris Ayres
http://scubabeer.uk.to/jalbum

More than 30 years ago I wrote an article for the now defunct Composer magazine called Starving in Garrets.  It was all about how painfully difficult it was for composers to get their work performed and heard, and even harder to make a living from writing music.  In many ways, I don’t believe things have really changed that much for artists and creatives. There is still that struggle for discoverability.

I’m a writer, primarily.  But I’m also a musician and have worked with contemporary composers.   I recently read some sobering statistics for writers.  For example, in 2011 there were 211,269 self-published titles and out of at least 1.2 million titles published by the entire industry over the course of a year, almost 80% sell fewer than 100 copies. (source: http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2012/09/7-book-marketing-mistakes/)

So how on earth do you get people’s attention? If you are a writer, it’s pretty tough.  If you are a composer, it’s even harder. We measure success by fame and celebrity status, regardless of quality.  So if you aren’t yet a “name” you are largely invisible.   How do you get the “gatekeepers” to listen to your music, or read your work? For anyone to take you seriously? If you are lucky, maybe 1 in 30 people you contact might reply and follow up your work. Many years ago, I decided to speculatively contact film production companies about one of my books.  I sent 35 emails with a pitch, had 2 replies, and this resulted in one meeting with a producer.  I was told this was a pretty good result!

The more successful you are, the busier you become.  Famous people have a whole raft of assistants (gatekeepers) which make it even harder to be heard.  Even a negative reply is a response, which acknowledges your existence.  You have been read, listened to.  Your creation is personal and precious and being ignored is far worse than rejection, though you may not agree.

But negotiating huge organisations like the BBC, for example, can be like scaling an impenetrable fortress.  If anyone knows how you manage to get a Proms commission I would love to hear from you.

Of course, the internet provides a global shop window on an unprecedented level.  Writers can publish without publishers, artists can create online galleries, composers and musicians can put their work on platforms like You Tube.  We can let the public judge.  As Natasha said in a previous post, artists don’t generally follow their calling for the money.  But they do need to be acknowledged, and better still, enjoyed.  They want to share their work.  That’s the whole point.

And so, with Xmas looming on the horizon, I’m including a recently discovered You Tube link to a moving performance of a haunting  Carol which a Canadian choir have used for their candlelit procession over the past 5 years.  The music was written by a UK composer who should be far better known.  Simply beautiful!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIyhg8e04cI

To find out more about Jane’s publishing experiences, go to her blogwww.janeayres.blogspot.co.uk

Her trilogy of Matty Horse and Pony Adventures books for pre-teens and teens (and nostalgic older readers!) are available for Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. All profits from these stories are going to Redwings Horse Sanctuary.

Writing in a Cupboard – by Jane Ayres

Photo by Jane Ayres

A dear friend recently reminded me that I once wrote in a cupboard.

In a previous home I rented, space was very limited but the bedroom had a large walk-in wardrobe. Since my clothes only took up a fraction of the space, I realised my computer desk would fit in perfectly, with a stool tucked underneath and I could close the doors on it. This became my writing space, and very successful it was too. I was both prolific and productive during that time.

When I got a new pc with a small flat screen, I decided that maybe I would be even more productive if I relocated to the downstairs living space, wedging the desk between my piano keyboard and the TV. If I wanted to write, I only had to move from the sofa to the chair. One stride! Had to be even less effort than going up stairs? Big mistake, but it was months before I realised this. It was much harder to focus in this environment and too easy to leave the TV on and get distracted. My output dropped.

Yet, in the snug and encompassing cupboard I felt safe enough to write. When I feel protected, there is no need to worry about what is happening in the world around me – I can then safely enter the creative space. I realised that in order to write, I need to feel secure in the outer world before I can enter the inner.

To find out more about Jane’s publishing experiences, go to her blog http://www.janeayres.blogspot.co.uk

Her trilogy of Matty Horse and Pony Adventures books for pre-teens and teens (and nostalgic older readers!) are available for Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. All profits from these stories are going to Redwings Horse Sanctuary.

Matty and the Moonlight Horse is FREE to download until 23rd October 2012.

Are You a Bad Enough Dude to Write a Novel in One Month? – by James Bovington.

Don't open with this. Except sometimes. But just don't. Maybe.
Don't open with this. Except sometimes. But just don't. Maybe.
(Creative Commons)

We’re fast approaching November, which is important for a number of reasons; It’s almost December, which means Christmas and New Year’s Eve are coming up, bonfire night is always good fun and it’s National Novel Writing Month.

Admittedly, if you’re not a writer the last one probably isn’t that important to you, but for those of us enamoured with words it’s a pretty huge deal.

A quick jaunt to NaNoWriMo.org lets you know what’s going on: you are encouraged, by what is essentially a charity, to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. Any genre, any plot, almost anything you want (although I think erotic fiction is out, I’m not sure) in thirty days and nights.

This is a tall order, as anyone will tell you; some people, usually the less writerly-types, will baulk completely when they spot ’50,000 words’, but it’s a fantastic creative exercise in that you essentially have the freedom to do whatever you want and a very tight deadline in which to do it. You must cast off all frivolous thought in order to produce better frivolous thought. Interesting.

I haven’t done one yet. I signed up (for free) just after last year’s ended, so I’m looking forward to this year’s immensely.

Here are my worries, though:

Do I start planning the story in my head now, a month before writing begins, or do I wait until November 1st and fully commit to dreaming up, planning and writing a novel in exactly one month?

How can I split my time effectively to make sure I maximise the amount of words I write per day? Should I splurge 10,000 in one coffee-fuelled all-night binge? Or should I do a more manageable couple of thousand every other day or so?

It’s a lot to think about.

I urge you to take a look at it anyway, even if you don’t consider yourself to be writer. You never know what may come flying out of your head when you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), and everyone has a story to tell, whether they think they do or not. Don’t be put off by the projected word-count; it’s not set in stone after all and as most writers will tell you, if you hit on something you really like, a scene, a character or a whole story, you’ll eventually glance at the clock and notice it’s four in the morning and that you’ve written sixteen pages. You’ll also be dimly aware that you’re starving and that you have to be up for work in four hours.

It’s a labour of love.

I look forward to reading yours.

By James Bovington

 

P.S.

Now I must ask something of you:

I have awful trouble naming characters. I try to avoid using the names of people I know, on the off-chance they think I based the whole character on them (which is only sometimes true), so I’d very much appreciate it if the lovely readers of Creatabot (or the lovely contributors, anyone really) could leave me some suggestions down in the comments below. I’ll probably even credit you as ‘The Namer’ or ‘The Name Giver’ or some such needlessly grandiose title.

Thanks very much.

A Self-Hating Bunch (or ‘A Thought Strikes Me’) – By James Bovington

Look! A Cliché!
The Scream (Edvard Munch, 1893)

Artists are a self-hating bunch.

That’s the prevailing notion among the ‘normals’, anyway. By ‘normals’ I mean people who don’t consider themselves artists or ‘creatives’, although I think Mr. Teller, of Penn and Teller fame, put it best when he said art is “…whatever we do after the chores are done.”

The most common conception of an artist is a brooding figure in a dark room, slashing yesterday’s paintings with a steak knife. It hasn’t been helped by the sheer number of artists ‘back in the day’ that committed suicide or spent their lives in self-inflicted exile and hermitage, or the vast number of people these days who seem to think that by pretending to be psychologically damaged or dark they can join some exclusive ‘Artist’ club and their work, no matter how lazy or bad, will be somehow ‘valid’.

Enough inverted commas. All of that is wrong anyway.

What some people see as loathing directed inwards is in fact something entirely positive. Here’s an example from my own life:

I used to be rubbish. I was a terrible writer; an ok poet, but my prose was bad, plain and simple. Reading back through some stuff I found fairly recently proves this to me. I’m not going to post any here, it’s too painful, but trust me. When I see the kind of dreck I used to put out it makes me ashamed and angry. This is where the disconnect happens between ‘creative’ minds and others; the creative doesn’t see that as a negative emotion reflected on oneself, they see it as a negative emotion cast solely on the article in question. It’s a realisation that you used to lack the skills you now have, and that you have improved and, crucially, will continue to do so.

I’m pretty sure a few years down the line I’m going to come across a notebook filled with scribblings from around now-ish and hate them with a passion.

I know exceptional artists who basically refuse to draw because they aren’t ‘good enough’. This might be a confidence issue, but I know these people, so I know it isn’t. It’s a desire to constantly improve. An attitude that is entirely healthy for a creative person. If you have a set point in your mind where you think ‘I want to be THIS good’, you’ll eventually reach it (slowly, I might add) and then stagnate. If your desire is to improve on your work all the time, you can only get better. When struggling uphill the only place you can end up is on top, so to speak.

The most important thing to remember is that people change, and that includes you. You might really like a certain style of painting one year and then find yourself thinking it’s awful the next. Your psychological state is never the same as it used to be because you learn to deal with, or let go of, issues that used to inform your art. Here’s an experiment you can try if you’re lucky enough to have left puberty behind;

Look through some of the stuff you did during that period of personal turmoil. How much of it would you say is empirically ‘good’? 10%? None of it?

Exactly. That’s one of those periods of life where everything that is ‘you’ is jostling with what you thought was ‘you’, or what you think ‘you’ should be. Your personality is testing the waters, as it were, and art is a reflection of self.

As a result it’s going to be all over the place, some good, most bad, just because your whole self is throwing itself around trying to get a feel for the place. I know the majority of my own pubescent scribbling were confused, self-absorbed and downright bad, and it’s a good thing I know that because that has let me fix those habits over the intervening years.

So, in case you skipped to the end for a swift summary, I’d point out that what allegedly non-creative people are imagining when they hear you describe your own work with flippant ‘Oh, that was shite’-style remarks is entirely wrong, but by no means illogical, it’s just that they haven’t grasped the mindset that lets somebody critique their previous efforts.

It’s always worth adding ‘I’ve learned what to avoid’ or something to that effect, to let them know what you actually mean.

And to you ‘non-creatives’ (even though you don’t really exist), just remember; we don’t hate ourselves. We hate our work.

There’s a big difference.

By James Bovington

P.S. I find that it’s probably for the best to think the word ‘Maybe’ after every sentence of this article to achieve the best understanding of what I mean.

Maybe.

Page Fright – by Jane Ayres

Empty space. Empty place.

A blank page on a blank screen.

Fear of the unknown.  Is that what is so daunting about writing those first few words?  Why is that blank space so intimidating?

Page fright.  A writer’s nightmare.  The evil twin of procrastination.  You’ve done battle with the big P and now you are poised to dazzle with your wordcraft skills, your pearls of insight.  But wait – you hold back.  Will you censor your thoughts and strangle your darlings before they get the chance to draw breath?  What are we afraid of?  Being judged, criticised? Not being good enough?

Creation is a mysterious process.

As a younger writer, I would spend ages staring at that white page (we used pen and paper or typewriters in the 70s!), digging deep for inspiration, wanting the words to be perfect immediately.   I would get everything straight in my head before committing it to paper.

I’ve often read advice for writers that suggests writing anything to fill that space, to overcome the self-censoring instinct.  Later, you can edit what you have written and mould it into something that satisfies you.  This works for me.  The advent of technology has changed the way I compose and I can write my novels in whatever order I wish.  If I am in the mood to work on that action sequence in Chapter 9, I will.  If I feel more reflective, I will write the complex emotional exchange between the main characters in Chapter 3.  Oh, the joys of the cut and paste tool on a word processor!

The way in which we work, the medium used, does affect what we produce.  I love the freedom and flexibility that my laptop offers me.  If I want to change the middle section of my story, I can do so without having to type the whole lot out again from the beginning.  Bliss!  I approach the writing like constructing a patchwork quilt.

But when I use pen and paper, my thought processes are different.  I work inside my head more, and will cover the white space with scribbling, diagrams, lines and arrows, visually setting out the connections.  I probably dream the story more in advance.  And I love using white space to create poetry, which for me is both visual and musical.

When I teach writing workshops, I generally get participants to use paper and pen, which for many students is a bit of a novelty, especially the IT generation, because it offers possibilities that may not have been previously considered.  The results are always exciting. Especially when students have no more than five minutes to complete the first workshop exercise.  Pressure, whether real or imagined, can be a useful motivator.

So, after we have slain the fiery dragons of Procrastination and Page Fright, what other obstacles await us as we continue our journeys on the path of creation?

Marketing; An Arid, Lonely Desert – by James Bovington

Atacama Desert (Creative Commons)
Atacama Desert (Creative Commons)

Yesterday garnered an interesting new experience for me, a new aspect of the world of writing that threw me for a loop and no mistake;

Just on a whim I tried to write a little five-hundred word article to use as a marketing tool for my work, basically a little slice of my life involving the product in question, loaded with key words and phrases I could link back to our website. Standard ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ stuff.

That’s not the interesting part; the interesting part is what I felt while I was writing it.

I felt like I was forcing it out, for one, mainly because I was, but I also felt…

Dry, I suppose.

Every sentence I typed felt dry and cracked and empty, almost gritty in my mind. Every time I started a new paragraph I was struck by the mental image of an arid, lonely desert. It was very strange. Almost frightening in fact, in that ‘Have I finally snapped?’ sort of way.

I also got very annoyed with myself, at first for not being able to do the task I set myself with any real passion, but eventually it was simply for even trying in the first place. I felt like I was betraying something ethereal, like I was using my powers for evil. I felt like Superman burning down an orphanage.

I know, I know, marketing is necessary in this modern world, but I’ve conditioned myself through the years to be distrustful of it, bordering on paranoia, and to be annoyed by it bordering on outright hostility. To find myself engaging in it was a little like telling my past self to shut up (although to be fair, he really should have, just not about this), or kicking my inner-child.

I stopped, about halfway into it, and had to go do something silly on the internet for a while just to stop feeling so despondent. I went back eventually and typed a few more sentences, but the feeling came back stronger. It hit me like a blow to the soul.

So now it’s unfinished and squats in my hard-drive like an awful goblin, it’s even called ‘Stupid Marketing Bullshit.doc’, which I don’t remember typing at all.

I’ll get on it eventually. I’ll either continue to force it out or I’ll find a way to make it enjoyable again. I might even have to start over and just write something on a whim, then try to find a way to force links into it in random places. But I’ll get it done.

I don’t know how interesting this was for any of you, but to me it was fascinating that I could have such a powerful adverse reaction to what should be a simple task.

I suppose writing with ulterior motives just doesn’t suit a man who wants to write stories about dragons, crisps, people and THE FUTURE. (‘THE FUTURE’ must always be in all-caps when discussed in the context of fiction. This is a rule I’m establishing right now.) Or maybe I’m being hugely egotistical about my writing and verging on the ‘too deep for you’ mentality that ruins a lot of prose.

Such is life.

by James Bovington

Getting Published: Fifty Shades Style – By Emily Foster

Almost everyone in the publishing industry is reeling at the moment at the success of the Fifty Shades of Grey series. Last week it was reported that it has become the biggest selling book since records began, selling an awesome 5.3million+ copies worldwide. Films and music soundtracks based on the trilogy are now in the making as well.

So, while those of us in the industry are wondering how we can reach those record sales, I’m sure many budding authors are also wondering how they can pull off this major achievement through their own work – the nature of content aside for now. 

One key thing to take away from this success story is its creation. Urban legend has it, the basic framework of the story had already been written as fan-fiction for the Twilight series (another crazy-popular example) and published online by the author. The story was so popular that it got picked up by a publisher and the rest is history.

If you want to attract publishers, one way to go about it is to build an audience for your writing first. Think about it: say you have a blog or a website that pulls in thousands of views every day. There is clearly already an audience for your writing, and potentially those views could translate directly into book sales. I don’t like to talk about creativity and money in this way – but it’s true that the publishing industry is suffering at the moment, and investing in a project that is guaranteed at least some return sounds much saner than investing in an idea with little else to back it up.

If that sounds like a lot more work on the part of the writer, then think of it this way: debut novelists would be lucky to receive an offer from any publisher nowadays, let alone a decent advance. If you start the marketing yourself, and build your audience, you become a much more attractive candidate, and therefore in a better position to negotiate a good deal. In fact, if you do manage to gain a decent audience, and don’t mind putting in more work yourself, you could self-publish and receive a much greater cut of the earnings. The music industry went through the digital transition earlier than we did; just a few years ago we saw artists like Kate Nash and Lily Allen find huge audiences, and eventually record deals, for their music via their independent online presence, initially self-publicising through MySpace.

So, finally, the big question remains: have you read Fifty Shades of Grey yet? 

By Emily Foster

Area:   UK   Britain   East of England   East Midlands   London  North East   North West    Yorkshire    Scotland    South East South West    Wales   West Midlands

An ebook is for life…..by Jane Ayres

(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) By alienratt

In a previous post I quoted author Jonathan Franzen, and do so again as his views are thought provoking. Regarded as one of America’s greatest living novelists, he is not a fan of the ebook.

“The technology I like is the American paperback edition of Freedom. I can spill water on it and it would still work! So it’s pretty good technology. And what’s more, it will work great 10 years from now. I think, for serious readers, a sense of permanence has always been part of the experience. Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn’t change.”

When I first read this quote I immediately thought, what a strange thing to say.  An ebook is forever.  Once it’s out there, it’s there until the writer takes it down.  A printed book only exists while it is in print.  And paper and ink can rot, burn, fade and be physically destroyed. Therefore lost in that way.

Then I thought some more about permanence/impermanence.  When it comes to matters digital, different formats need different hardware to read.  We have a choice of formats  –  kindle, kobo, nook  – to name a few, that all vary.  But if you can read, you can read a print book without needing some special device.

And of course, some digital formats become obsolete. We only have to think about  Amstrad (my first proper computer!), cassette tapes, video now replaced by dvd (which will undoubtedly disappear in time). Content on these formats has been lost.

When I started writing, my work was stored on big floppy disks, then smaller versions for the Amstrad (not compatible with any other format!), then pc floppies, and memory sticks.  Now we can store data on wafer thin cards and out there in the cloud.  All these changes in the space of a relatively few years.  So now I can get a handle on what Franzen is saying.   And it is so easy and cheap to alter digital content compared to amending a printed copy of a book.

Personally, I am a fan of both formats.  I love printed books and I love my kindle.   I’ve also read extended pieces on my blackberry. I can’t help wondering what the future will hold…….

By Jane Ayres

Area:   UK   Britain   East of England   East Midlands   London  North East   North West    Yorkshire    Scotland    South East South West    Wales   West Midlands

Tick Tock – By Jane Ayres

All rights reserved by picasnpoints

“Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted.”

This quote, attributed to John Lennon, will resonate with many creatives, especially writers. For some, myself included, writing seems to lend itself to procrastination (a wonderful word!). When you are exploring creative ideas, no time is ever wasted, since your mind is always active, always filtering possibilities, even if subconsciously.

But when you put off writing by doing some other, apparently unrelated task, it can lead to feelings of guilt and frustration. That you have wasted that precious commodity which we label “time.” We are taught that time should be used productively. We segment and categorise time into minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years.

I’ve always had a problematic relationship with time, resenting the way it dictates how we organise our lives. As a child and teenager, I railed against clocks, which may explain my poor timekeeping. (The expression “keeping” time is strange, it being a fluid concept that cannot be stopped or controlled. As the saying goes, “time waits for no man.”)

We are ruled by clocks. Society assumes that our time should be earmarked and that most of it (and our lives) should be spent on work, doing a paid job. And then, if any of it is left, (which we call “spare time”) we fill it with hobbies or leisure pursuits. So it is all used up. Time is a commodity and spare time is a luxury, a privilege. Does this belief system make any sense?

Having worked for an employer for most of my life, I have had to find ways to build in more time to write. For many years, this involved some very early mornings and writing most weekends and evenings. I frequently complained to anyone who would listen that there simply weren’t enough hours in the day. Yet, when, for a brief period, I did actually have some unscheduled time, how ironic that I was unable to motivate myself to produce anything worthwhile. Maybe, for some, working under pressure to a deadline, whether external or self-imposed, assists the creative process. So perhaps we can use the segmenting of time to our advantage.

Art forms such as music and film exist and move through and with time, whereas painting and writing can freeze time to create a snapshot, like a photograph.

Strangely, as you grow older, time goes faster, or so it seems. A panic sets in, that life is slipping away, and the need to create and produce becomes more urgent. Or are these just the ramblings of an ageing, fifty year old writer?

Only time will tell……

By Jane Ayres

www.janeayres.blogspot.co.uk

Area:   UK   Britain   East of England   East Midlands   London  North East   North West    Yorkshire    Scotland    South East               South West    Wales   West Midlands

New Creatabot Contributor – Emily Foster

Our new contributor Emily will be writing short diary type articles for Creatabot that discuss her recent experiences working for small independent publishing house “Limehouse Books“. Her aim is to give writers a little more insight into how things work behind the scenes and also provide ideas and suggestions as to how to progress in the publishing world. I spoke to Emily to find out more about her and how she got into working in publishing.
 
So Emily, whats your creative background?
 
I studied Graphic Communication at Bath Spa university, and graduated last summer (2011). At university I got involved with the student magazine and interned at local magazines – publishing was always a focus for me. But I’m originally from north London – it’s good to be home. 
 
How did you get involved in Limehouse?
 
I was a design intern at Limehouse Books just after I graduated, and started my part-time job here in October. The company is very small so I work in lots of areas as well as design, like organising events and press. 
 
What other career paths have you taken?
 
None so far – but as well as working at Limehouse, I also work part-time as a Junior Designer at a company called Informa. I work on some of their healthcare magazines. 
 
Who inspires you both locally and universally?
 
People with drive and determination inspire me. Working at a small start-up and watching it struggle is hard but you have to keep motivated and keep going in order to succeed. 
 
What would you like to achieve in the future?
 
I’d just like to keep doing what I love! 
 
Can you recommend a creative website you love?
 
I like the It’s Nice That website, I think they do a lot for us creatives!

Thank you Emily for telling us more about yourself!

You can find out more about Limehouse Books at www.limehousebooks.co.uk

By Natasha Steer

Area:   UK   Britain   East of England   East Midlands   London  North East   North West    Yorkshire    Scotland South East    South West    Wales   West Midlands

Introducing A New Creatabot Contributor – Jennifer Denty – Illustrator and Designer

We welcome a new contributor to Creatabot – Jennifer Denty is a freelance illustrator and designer from Hertfordshire and we are really glad to have her input on Creatabot. Jennifer will be posting articles about events and creatives in her area as well as the creative subjects that interest and inspire her. We asked Jennifer some questions to find out more about her…

So Jennifer, who inspires you?

That’s a big question!  I’m inspired a lot by what’s around me, people I encounter on a day-to-day basis, bits of conversations, vintage and retro design style.  Illustrators and artists wise, Quentin Blake, Mary Blair and Amano Yoshitaka. Mainly line artists that use bright and bold colours, I remember being awed by Naoko Takeuchi’s illustrative style when I was a lot younger.

Do you have any pets?

I personally have a Hedgehog, not the garden variety, an African pygmy breed.  But I also currently live with 3 cats and a dog (a time-consuming Malamute).

Any claims to fame?

I definitely invented the DVD player. I distinctly remember drawing a CD player that plugged into the telly..then the drawing mysteriously went missing, right before the DVD player came out!

Maybe you can predict the future…do you have any other predictions for future technology?

Haha! I do! I see a future filled with floating holographic signs stuffed full to the brim with advertisements, there will be no escape!

Whats planned in the not too distant future for you?

I’m in the process of creating a ‘Sew-Your-Own’ range, using some of the surface pattern designs I’ve created recently.  So I’m really wrapped up in getting that packaged up and finding stockists at the moment.

You can find out more about Jennifer at:

http://jenniferdenty.com

and

http://jenniferdenty.blogspot.com

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Area – Nationwide, London, South East

ME4 Writers Present: Short Encounters – Open For Submissions – Until May1st 2012

When you look out over Strood do you see lights in the sky or is the Pentagon really concealing a tear in reality?

We are looking for new sci-fi writing influenced by the Medway Towns. Submissions could be short stories, scripts or poems deal with anything from alien abduction or time travel to visions of the future. Entries should be no longer 1000 words.

Selected pieces will be collected as a podcast and may be used for a live event.

Please submit in word format to me4writers@googlemail.com by May 1st 2012

Area – South East

From Aphra Behn to the Angry Young Women – Talk By Sam Hall – 8th March 2012 – Rochester

 From Aphra Behn to the angry young women: A top ten of the UK’s women playwrights for International Women’s Day. From Aphra Behn, the first British woman to make a living from writing, to today’s new wave of angry young female playwrights, are women finally breaking through the theatre’s glass ceiling, or have they always been there? A talk given by Sam Hall, playwright and founder of 17Percent, an organisation to support female playwrights.
Thursday 8th March 7.30pm at Rochester library. 
Book your FREE place by calling Rochester Library 01634 337411 
Area – South East

Heroes and Villains: Poetry workshop for World Poetry Day – Strood – Kent

Saturday 24th March 2012

From Greek myths to fairytales, football to politics, TV to comic books: who are the heroes, who are the villains?

An inspiring creative writing workshop for new and established poets led by Maria C. McCarthy, author of Strange Fruits.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

10am to 12.30pm

 Strood library, Strood, Kent

Booking is essential for this free event by phoning 01634 335890

Area – South East

Submit your work to ME4′s ‘Short and Nasties’

ME4 writers are looking for submissions for an upcoming horror project. Submissions should feature the Medway towns and be in one of four categories: slasher, creature feature, supernatural or psychological. They are looking for short stories, scripts or poems no longer than 1000 words.

Selected pieces will be recorded as a podcast and may be used at a live event.
Please submit in Word format to ME4writers@gmail.com by 31 August.

Foundation Degree in Professional Writing – North West Kent College Dartford

One of Kent’s best kept secrets, the Foundation Degree in Professional Writing offers students the chance to develop a range of writing skills and includes a number of published writers, performed scriptwriters and professional creatives amongst its alumni. The course offers automatic entry into the third year of a BA programme at the University of Greenwich; making it one of the most affordable routes to a degree available locally.