Happiness Project Week 14

Standard

holiday time! 2 weeks of nonscheduled time 🙂

Getting further in with wallpapering – slow progress but really starting to come together plus we are enjoying it more

Long phone call with Mags

Fridaycrafting with Fiona – making wedding crafts and having a great catch up

Sunshine beginning to come through

Easter eggs and chocolate

Playing Age Of Empires with Dan. 

Lunch at Saltaires Terrace cafe 

dan’s resilience and tenacity 

Getting all my coursework finished and realising next Easter there won’t be even half as much!

a new sewing machine *love*

Rocking the fifties dress and biker jacket 

Having my hair cut 

Me time

Reading a lot

Terrible Trivium — On ‘The John Green Effect,’ Contemporary Realism, and Form as a Political Act

Standard

Fantastically interesing post on the John Green effect and the credit he gets for saving the teen lit world from vampires.

http://anneursu.tumblr.com/post/85826165638/on-the-john-green-effect-contemporary-realism-and

Poetry Friday: The Darkling Thrush (Thomas Hardy)

Standard

Thomas Hardy’s poetry often has some gorgeous images in it, and I certainly feel at the moment that, with ice on my car in the mornings in March, we are experiencing the “dregs of winter”! In the first stanza here there’s plenty to feel sad about – the broken lyres, haunting of mankind, the scored sky. Yet then, through it all, comes the song of the thrush singing its “full hearted evensong / of joy illimited”. I love the line that the thrush “chose to fling his soul / upon the growing gloom” – the idea that no matter how dark it is, and even when the darkness seems to be increasing, this tiny thrush is singing his old heart out into the darkness because he knows, somehow, that spring will come again, Even though Hardy ends with the slightly doubtful thought that he “was unaware” of the Hope which caused the thrush’s song, he knows that there IS hope, because of this bird’s song.

The Darkling Thrush

DarklingThrush

I leant upon a coppice gate,
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

 

The land’s sharp features seemed to me
The Century’s corpse outleant,
Its crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind its death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervorless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead,
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited.
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small,
With blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew,
And I was unaware.

Thomas Hardy

Creative Writing inspiration: Romeo and Juliet

Standard
An unexpected meeting....fancy dress....a ball.....forbidden love.....arch enemies

An unexpected meeting….fancy dress….a ball…..forbidden love…..arch enemies

Avoiding the spiral of doubt and shame

Standard

I was directed towards this post on gamasutra – http://gamasutra.com/blogs/EthanLevy/20140320/213611/Escaping_the_Indie_Shame_Spiral.php – which has some really interesting things to say on motivation and  how to start to avoid the “shame spiral” that I think anyone who sets themselves goals and struggles to achieve them will be familiar with.

It goes something like this:

Start something with excitement, ambition and impossible goals. Fail to meet impossible goals. Beat self up about not meeting them, think work done so far is rubbish and you’d be better off anywhere but here.

Sounds familiar! There’s usually a stage in a project when you think everything you’ve written or created should simply go in the bin after all, or when you’re trying to lose weight, and don’t meet your target so go out and get a doughnut to make you feel better!

Reading the post and some of the comments is a great idea. There’s some really interesting points in it, like:

  • Allocate ‘points’ to projects which represent time. nothing should have more than 3 points, which is half a week. It’ll help you be more realistic about what you can do in the time you have – so you won’t set impossible goals.
  • Allocate points to personal tasks too, so you don’t get a false sense of achievement when you’ve balanced your cheque book and emptied the laundry!
  • Track what went well and what didn’t. No judgement, just hard data.

I also really like the idea of a commitment device – basically, promise to deliver something publicly and then doing so. If you’re trying to get in shape, make it a sponsored run, if you’re writing a novel, post on Wattpad regularly. I’ve been trying to do that more on this blog, making sure I post more often, and would like to extend that to writing fiction for both it and perhaps Wattpad as well. Short story competitions are also great – but remember not to set the impossible deadlines!

What would your ideal commitment device be?

 

 

 

Link: 7 Ways to Hook Your Reader — Jennie Nash Book Coach

Standard

7 Ways to Hook Your Reader — Jennie Nash Book Coach.

Poem: Underlying

Standard

Am I in it?
He leans over to see what castles of air I’m creating today.
No.
I push him out of the way and return to my sorceress
deep in the forest, searching her way back to hope
through the black branches scratched on my page.
You are not. Why would you be?
You are here. You are not there.
He goes back to his game.

Words spill like scattered coins, rolling to their rest
Connect the dots to create a plot
Draw ideas together, chop adjectives with ruthless abandon
A mason, I chip, reshape, polish, refine.

A reflection emerges.
A minor character’s smile.
The act of kindness in chapter two.
Jokes shared. A sage’s advice, knights’ ambitions.
Yes.
He is in it.

Poetry Friday: Mirror (Sylvia Plath)

Standard

Sylvia Plath’s poem is heart-rending to anyone who’s ever struggled with self-image, literally disliking what they see in the mirror in front of them or with their perception of themselves. When she calls the mirror a “little god”, she’s absolutely right in the petty yet all-consuming obsession that can result from putting too much faith in your perception of the reflection rather than trying to see the ‘truth’ – whatever that might be. It can be destroying, looking at your reflection and seeing what you think is less than what it should be, whether you struggle with body consciousness, weight, not being able to get your hair right, or whatever – it’s never as trivial as it sounds to someone else, and can be horrifyingly oppressive.

Plath’s mirror claims to reflect “faithfully” while the woman herself reaches for “candles or the moon”, trying to change her reflection and dim what she sees – but I think there’s enough language at the beginning – “swallow”, the protestations it’s “not cruel” – to suggest that she’s aware at least in part that what she sees is not necessarily truthful after all. The woman returns over and over, watching her young self “drown” not just in age, but in dislike of herself too.

Mirror

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
What ever you see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful—
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

Creative writing inspiration: Well like an iceberg

Image

Creative writing inspiration: Well like an iceberg

Creative writing inspiration: Well like an iceberg

Find more inspiration on my Pinterest board

How to start a great essay

Standard

Essay writing is a great way to practise writing skills, whether your preferred genre is fiction or non-fiction. You need to have a clear goal in mind, your phrasing needs to be both beautiful and clear, and you need to make every word, as when writing poetry, count.

It’s always been a great art form too – although I suppose essayists were something like the newspaper editorial columnists of their day! While columnists write generally on relatively transient and personal ideas, the great essayists wrote meditations where they really thought about the big questions. William Hazlitt and John Stuart Mill wrote essays in the Victorian era on everything from the need to give women the vote, to what the study of philosophy should be or critique of individual poets.

Most of us won’t be writing anything quite that elevated just yet, but we’ve all – I’m sure! – write. As April’s fast approaching and with it Easter, quickly followed by exam season (and the two weeks’ sun that always appear the moment you set foot in the exam hall!) I thought I’d turn a little towards the form of academic writing.

What is a great introduction?

A great introduction is essential for a great essay. It’s like starting out on a journey – if you don’t know where you’re going, you might get there eventually but it’ll take way too long, and it’s not that likely. So, a great introduction needs to:

  • Set up an argument or thesis.
  • Introduce your voice
  • Give the reader a map for the rest of the essay.

Planning from a question

Like I said, essays can be on all sorts of topics – and there’s a list of competitions below if anyone’s interested! The below topics are taken from the Trinity College Cambridge 2014 prize questions:

“People who are bored cannot tell stories” (Walter Benjamin). Is there any worthwhile place for boredom in the study of literature? Is it ever interesting to be bored?

What has been the contribution to human history of domesticated animals?

Is atheism scientific?

and my favourite this year:

If you were a Muggle, living in a Harry Potter world, things might well look to you pretty much as they do in actual fact. So how do you know that you are not such a Muggle? 

Working through question to introduction

Here is a question, written in a similar tone to those set for the AQA LitA AS-level Tennyson paper:

Remind yourself of ‘June Bracken and Heather’, the last poem in the selection. To what extent do you feel that this poem provides an appropriate conclusion to the selection?

You need to understand the question first – it’s asking whether this particular poem has the same themes and ideas that you would find in Tennyson’s poetry elsewhere in this selection by Michael Baron. If you gave someone this poem, would it be a true reflection of what Tennyson does?

From there, obviously you need to decide your broad answer to that question and, because it’s this particular exam board question, you need to compare it to some other poems so you meet the assessment objectives. My initial thoughts on the question would be:

  • It has some similar themes, like love (In Memoriam, Mariana, Lady of Shalott)
  • But it treats those themes differently, not thinking too much about grief (In Memoriam is grief-stricken)
  • It’s a much calmer, more beautiful and accepting poem – a lot of his are about loss (but Crossing the Bar is similar)
  • There’s a broader range of male/female relationships (Merlin & Vivien)

Breaking down an introduction:

That, actually, is a fairly decent essay plan. In a literary essay you have to do other things too like explore language, form and structure, but essentially, that is what I would be talking about as I go through the essay. So the introduction comes next, which I’ve broken into its parts:

“June Bracken and Heather” is an interesting end to the collection as it provides a calm, even serene, ending to the often-anguished discussion of loss, grief and death that frequently epitomises Tennyson’s work.

An opening sentence which shows immediate involvement with the question – gives the writer’s opinion of the poem itself (calm, serene) compared to the rest of the collection (often anguished). It has a very distinctive voice, using some very precise and thoughtful vocabulary (serene, anguished, epitomises) which tells me the writer has a strong opinion on this question and knows what they think of the poetry too.

As Tennyson himself suggested concluding his collections with “Crossing the Bar”, it seems likely that he wanted to end on a reflective note at peace with his age and the events of his life, rather than a more tumultuous emotive poem.

Here’s where we’re bringing in some of the points from the bullet point plan – mentioning Tennyson’s own wishes is interesting, because most people answering this question won’t know that, it suggests some background reading which indicates again you’re really thinking about this. There’s more descriptive language (tumultuous, reflective) which shows the writer’s response to the poetry.

“June Bracken and Heather” similarly portrays a man who is at peace with himself and his relationships, despite the difficulties he has experienced and written about in poems such as In Memoriam, exploring not only Hallam’s death but the subsequent doubt he experienced, or his mythology-inspired works such as Merlin and Vivien, where he explores more complex male/female relationships.

Returning to the original question to add some of the other bullet points – which means I have a very clear idea immediately what this essay is going to cover. The comparisons are interesting because they raise both similarities and differences with the other works, and a range of different themes to be explored later.

The introduction in full:

“June Bracken and Heather” is an interesting end to the collection as it provides a calm, even serene, ending to the often-anguished discussion of loss, grief and death that frequently epitomises Tennyson’s work. As Tennyson himself suggested concluding his collections with “Crossing the Bar”, it seems likely that he wanted to end on a reflective note at peace with his age and the events of his life, rather than a more tumultuous emotive poem. “June Bracken and Heather” similarly portrays a man who is at peace with himself and his relationships, despite the difficulties he has experienced and written about in poems such as In Memoriam, exploring not only Hallam’s death but the subsequent doubt he experienced, or his mythology-inspired works such as Merlin and Vivien, where he explores more complex male/female relationships.

In proportion

Introductions should also be in proportion to your essay. If you’re writing 2-3 pages, a lengthy paragraph is plenty. If you’re writing a page, then a couple of sentences may well be appropriate. In a dissertation, you might well spend a couple of pages setting up your ideas, definitions, and initial thoughts. When someone’s read your introduction, they should have a very clear sense of what they will read next. To follow the metaphor from earlier, it’s like getting in the car and giving the passenger the map with the directions – they’ll know where you’re going, and enjoy the ride more without trying to work it out alongside you.

Competition entries

Cambridge University – range of subjects, for Year 12 students

Commonwealth essay prize (under 18s)

Connells Guide essay prize (sixth form)