Tuesday, 4 October 2011

On being woken up by cows

My first week at university has been rather interesting. I was worried before because when I came here on the open day, the part of the building I’m living in that we looked at had very tiny, dark bedrooms, and though I can deal with small, I really hate dark rooms. They’re suffocating. But it turns out, I actually have a really nice room that’s bigger than I thought, and has a wonderful view, which I have posted below. Yes, cows. There are cows outside my room, and actually, they’re everywhere. My university has a farm, I think. The fields all around campus are full of cows. They come right up to the fences around the campus. In spring, they are replaced by sheep.

The view from my bedroom window :)

My flatmates are great. I don’t know all of them very well (there are nine of us) but there are four I get on really well with, and for the first week they kind of watched out for me. I should mention the first night, when we all went out together to the Student Union bar, I got lost and went home by myself because I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t go out every night after, but on the nights we did go out after that, they looked out for me which was nice as I’m really not the going-out type and noise and crowds scare me, especially both together. So that makes going clubbing an interesting experience.

Most of the people in my block, as well as the building, seem to be doing performing arts. I didn’t realise before how creative my university is before I came. My flatmates (it’s not really a felt, but it’s hard to explain otherwise) are all very flamboyant and interesting, and I’m glad of that. I do feel rather boring in comparison though. But it’s great and everyone’s friendly and, so far, I think I’m doing well at making friends and not being antisocial.

In my last post I said I didn’t want to leave home. I still don’t really, and I miss home a lot, especially my family and my best friend, but I’m so busy that I don’t get to think about it much, and that helps. My mum and aunt have called me several times since I got here and they told me that my grandma, who’s been in hospital since May, is coming home next week, which is great. And I think it will help everyone because my family need something good right now. I wish I was at home too, but I think that after a while I’ll really love it here, and it’ll feel more like home. I love the city and the uni, and the people are nice, but I do really miss home.

I haven’t written anything since I got here unfortunately, but I’m determined to get back into it. Been reading lots, though, which is something I haven’t had the chance to do for a long time. I mean like reading books that are my own choice, not for school like the last couple years. My new story’s still bubbling away and stewing nicely. :)

Next week I might post some prose here and start something about my holidays. We got an assignment today to write a page-long story inspired by one of the book titles on our reading list. I’m not good with limits, but I think it’s an interesting first assignment anyway.

So umm, yeah. My first week at university.  I can’t really think what else to write.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Update on the Life of Me

Ha. Blog got forgotten. Oopsie.

Anyway, this is only a small update. I’ve actually been back from my adventuring for over a month now, but life since then has been a rather hectic mix of packing for university, cataloguing books, trips to hospital, funerals, and a new story.

I’ll write a longer post on my holiday, including some pictures, once this week’s over and I’m settled at university, because I need to go through the journal I wrote while I was away (ha, and actually find it) and sort out something that won’t be a terrible day-to-day monologue of all the amazing stuffs I was determined to never forget. It was amazing. And I know I meant to blog while I was away/when I got back, but eh. Better late than never? And besides, I only know of three people who actually read this blog and you guys will forgive me.

Anyway, on Saturday I go to university. Yayyyyyy . . . kinda. Every time I start to feel excited, I become that six-year-old who didn’t want to go camping because mum wouldn’t be there to make me a hot chocolate (‘milkies’) before bed.  It’s big and there’s still so much to do and I suck at making friends and my bike’s still broken and I’ve not found a church (not that I have a way of getting to one because of the bike) and I hate that almost all my books are going to be left at home in boxes. Right now, I feel I need to be at home. Not just because of being scared of leaving home, but because it's just a bad time to leave, I think. We need to be together, and I also don't want to be alone so far from home at the moment. It might not be the other side of the country or the world, but it's still far enough.

But anyway. I’m a wimp so this is probably all just stupid panicking and over-emotional-ness. It’s been a very bad week.

On a more happier front, it was my birthday a couple days ago. I got some cool orange headphones, a tin of rice pudding, £50 of book vouchers, a pretty notebook and a CD, and my aunt took me out for a pub meal. And my dad sent me a card, a facebook message, and an email, which is pleasantly surprising. :)

I also started a new story recently. In the first week I spent an hour brainstorming the spark of idea, and the rest writing, like non-stop. I reached the 12,000 word mark. That’s more than what I write during a NaNoWriMo week, so it kind of blew me away with excitement. I’ve never had an idea that got me writing so much and so fast. That was about three weeks ago, and since then I’ve slowed down a bit (verging on 20,000 now) to brainstorm more, so I don’t get stuck and burn out.

When I first started out, all I had was a scene and two characters. Now there’s a circus troupe, a brother, a pet elephant, a bratty fairy, and a host of magical items I’m having serious fun making up, as well as a half-worked plot that’s unravelling as I explore more characters. So all’s going well, and it feels amazing to be writing a children’s story again. I was afraid I couldn’t write them anymore after so many attempts at ‘grown-up’ stories that are still floating in the periphery of ‘to research/planandbrainstorm/actuallywrite’.

Poetry, as seems to always be the case whenever I get back into prose, has taken a liking to the cupboard of my mind to play shadow-butterflies on the door with a torch. It may be there a while if this story keeps going as well as it started, so this place (now I’ve remembered it) will probably be full of ramblings and holiday photos rather than the usual poetry-dumping.

Anyhoo, I’m done. Be back next week sometime to tell you about my first week in university and Berlin.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Gone Adventuring

Today I will be going on holiday with my best friend. I have bought a cool new travel notebook just for this holiday, and in it I will be doing what the cool kids do and writing about everything I see and do and hear and eat and all that kind of fun stuff. Also drawing and maybe painting, though I have proper paper for that.

 I intend to find internet access at various points and post edited versions (my notes won’t make much sense without de-nonsense editing) of my adventures in Berlin, Athens and Rhodes, here. I will be gone a month.

There will also probably be pictures of obscure or pretty things, me and my friend, my scribblings, and maybe some drawings, if my camera behaves itself.  So really, this blog’s transforming into a travel-blog until mid august when I come back and once again saturate this place with poetry, probably inspired by my travels.

But anyway, this is short because I forgot to do it earlier and am due to leave the house for the airport in an hour. Devon is sunny and warm today, and hopefully it’ll be the same in Berlin.

Anyhoo, turrah for now! :)

Friday, 8 July 2011

After the Poems

I have immersed myself in poetry for hours,
and now my head wanders like a traveller
with a broken compass, through loves
and lives and the things people collect
to make themselves happy.

Every word is a picture of someone –
the electricity between thoughts and colour
– and every ending is a breath of cloud
plucked from the place dreams sneak out from
like naughty children. They are loosely tied
together and rarely double-knotted.
I wonder what happens to them once
they are done and forgotten,

whether part of the magic is that mystery
of forgotten things and the words
we write with our fingertips in their dust.
We can touch someone else’s scribbles in a margin
but like a mirage, we waste the play
of imagining who they were by stepping so close
that we see the sand falling between the pages.

At school we analyse and deconstruct
these glimpses into the swirl of another’s iris,
forgetting they are more than captions
beneath photographs, clinging to context.
We pull them apart like the same old
Lego bricks, and restack them again and again
in different shapes. Sometimes we create
windows. Done, miss.

But after the poems I see an ocean tossing
up the colours of a hundred choirs,
the light of a mid-afternoon fracturing them
like stained glass projections throughout a room.
I’m dizzy. Read me again, they say,
and look through a different moment,
in a different time, and see the reflections
of a thousand voices and shadows in a rainfall
which once filled my poet’s mind.


More of a musing than a poem, but whatever. I've been reading lots, writing less, and have spoken to some inspiring people about poetry and all the strings people tie it with. Found a love of graffiti poetry - I love the idea of writing on walls.

Also, Tumblr is to blame for the neglect of this blog. :3

And hello to my Russian readers - you're now the greenest place on my readership map, congrats. :)

Thursday, 9 June 2011


Today's been a rather dull day. It’s funny, I only noticed today that I’ve never actually posted anything personal, about me, on this blog, whatsoever. Sure, my drafts are full of musings I’ve begun about Life or Specific Crisis or the occasional Unfairness Rant, or just Rants in general. None have been posted longer than four minutes before I’ve deleted them, most never even got posted in the first place.

So here I am, with something personal, sort of. My mum said something today about expression. She wanted to know why I write poetry about things that don’t matter to me, or are about me. I told her that my poems are all, in a way about me. They come from my mind, so I guess they must be, anyway. She didn’t press for a further explanation, even though I don’t think she thought my reply actually answered her question, but it got me wondering about my expression of myself.

I personally, don’t think much of myself. The world is bigger than I am. Muchmuchmuch bigger and people who think the world is small always seem to end up bitter about their life, or disappointed that they didn’t live enough. Nobody can live in a space that’s too small or live enough in a space that’s too big. Look at the stars, look to the horizon – the edge of sight is flat, the curve of the earth so subtle in its extent that we cannot see we are on a sphere until we no longer stand with our feet on the ground – remember how small you are, explore the vapour you’re apart of before the wind blows, and be happy. It's as simple as that to me.

People, however, seem to think a lot of me, which I can never really get my head around. I find compliments hard to deal with. My friends say I’m smart. I’m not. I absorb things that interest me, bits of stories, ideas, quotes, poetry, history. But I struggle every day with lessons and understanding. Odd that I find I can understand people far better than I can understand what they say. I don’t like speaking out loud and I don’t like it when people think more of me than I am, it means I’ll always end up disappointing them.

Expression, though, is not something I’ve thought much about before. Art, in itself is expression. I paint, write, isn’t that expression? But if I’m expressing myself in these mediums, then what is it I am expressing about myself? My mum thinks it’s nothing. Just meaningless, hollow poems about things and stuff and nothing. Yet there must be something of me going into them -- I spend hours writing just one, and while I’m writing, I do find myself thinking about things that do matter to me. The people in my life, the past, my childhood, worries, regrets, the usual ‘stuff’ I suppose. How much does content reflect the writer, though? I’m pretty sure that Stephen King, though he writes about murder and horrific-nesses, isn’t actually a murderer. He’s probably a really nice guy. So what does his writing show about him?

I’m studying William Blake at college at the moment (I’ve had readings of his poems on a loop for the past four hours . . .) and Blake, is one of those people who always seemed to write about things that really mattered to him. If anyone’s read his work, a lot of it is about how children were treated in his time, the corruption in the church, poverty and other such issues that not many people in the upper classes at the time gave much thought for. His opinions on these issues are very strong and apparent in his work, which shows a lot about the kind of person he was and, supposedly, that he was a caring person who thought a lot about people below the poverty line.

One theme in my work a couple people have mentioned to me is fathers. Several people who’ve read my work have told me I must have a good relationship with my father because I write about good relationships with fathers or have some kind of nostalgia thing going on. The irony is, I haven’t seen my father for well over a year and I really don’t think much of him at all. Fathers aren’t important to me. So, how true is it that Blake really thought much of the issues he wrote about? Did he perhaps just think they were good subjects to write about in a similar way I think father-child relationships are? Or maybe it was a kind of absent thing? Or perhaps he really did just write about what meant a lot to him and this is a bad example. Who knows.

At this point I’m aware there has probably been some big Blake-inspiration research-y thing and comparing my vague inspirations to a famous poet's who was part of a movement, probably is a seriously bad idea . . . Also, I don't believe Blake’s writing came of absent ‘what shall I write today’ musings like most of my stuff does. So yeah, bad example.

Anyway, my point was simply that, how do we know what we read in poetry is actually important to the writer? How much of ‘you’ do you express in your work, and how?

In prose, I think it’s maybe easier to express yourself. What kind of person you are might depend on how well you treat your characters, the kind of relationships they have, how morals are presented, the way people communicate and how actions are used to illustrate stuff, what angles and biases you may purposefully or absently use to make something seem good/bad, etc, etc. But then again, these might also not be expressing ‘you’ (such as horror writers), especially as everything that is written – prose, poetry, whatever – can be interpreted differently by whoever is reading. So what do we express about ourselves when we write?

Ha, rambling is fun.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011


Chaos-6 ~ by Narcisse-Shrapnel (Deviantart)

A child, with arms wide, paddles
in the slosh of a shallow brook after rain,
humming, humming,
and wondering
how far waves can roll upstream from the sea.
Everything is grey.
Her hat is too big – it covers her ears
and makes her tune hollow
and far away.
The forest doesn’t listen anymore.
When she was smaller, her father hung
yoghurt pots in the branches
to amplify her voice. On a shingle beach,
crashes of waves
e c h o a n d e c h o ,
trembling through plastic, roots and bone.
Now the trees close themselves
around her and shake their rusted leaves,
trying to shed
their ashes.
She carries a bucket of red paint;
one hand bleeds the bank-side bushes
with a sable-hair brush, like rapping
a stick along schoolyard railings.
Marching now, she imagines the city
with waters running through its streets
and the beaded amber streetlights paddling
in a shimmer
of sliding reflections.
Fallen from her pocket, dried apricot pieces
float by, half-coloured red
like flowers timid for summer.
In noisy places,
it is hard to remember a half-forgotten tune,
though it might murmur with the patter of rainfall
and whisper like a boat along threads.

She would paint fish and musical notes
on the skyscraper roofs
where the telephone wires knot like dead lighting,
 if she could reach,
so that God might see  
her talent            and give her more colours
to paint all
that she
and all the rain washes

a    w       a          y

on a greyer

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Finding your Perfect Writing Forum

Lists of ‘good’ writing forums on the internet always seem to have the big bustly websites listed first like a popularity contest. As the list goes down, the size of the forums listed usually gets smaller, most of the forum-world gems being lost, save to those expert Googlers or those who chance across the whispers floating around the interweb grapevines.

As an amateur writer myself, and a forum-er of four years, I've found smaller forums  with closer critique values work much better for writers, especially ones just starting out or who are interested in actually getting better (believe it or not, there are a surprising amount of writers who don’t seem to want to get better at all). Absolute Write's 35,000 members may be seriously daunting to someone inexperienced with forum life, and unless you're already a freaking awesome writer and have a flashing sparkly avatar or something, you are not going to get noticed among the crowds.

If you’ve never been a member of a forum before, regardless of how long you’ve been writing, you may find it a rather different experience than you may have initially thought. Some forums can be nice happy places full of friendly people and others can be a cut-throat world of surviving out the older members. Some can be writerly havens and others can be abysmal lairs of ego-stroked pre-teens waiting for you to tell them their Twilight fanfic is fantastic literature . . . it happens. Telling the difference is easy, though, so no worries, but the main concern is what you want to get from a forum.

I joined my first forum when I was fifteen, knowing nothing about them, and I know that I certainly wouldn't be the writer I am today without that forum and the others I joined. I dread to think of where I'd be now if my first stop-off had been the Young Writers Society (YWS) which, unfortunately falls under the category of a far from constructive forum. So getting the right one for you, is crucial. If you're a young writer in your early teens, concerned with meeting writery friends, then YWS might work for you, but keep in mind the doors - if you want to be a writer you need to always be learning. There is no such things as the perfect writer and if you’re serious, you’re going to have to convince more than just your parents and friends you’re good.

If you're perhaps a bit older (should I say mature?) and more serious about being critiqued by people who seriously know what they're talking about (and not afraid of receiving constructive criticism) then Critique Circle are fabulous. However, I wouldn't recommend CC to a newbie writer - these guys mean serious business. You’ll need a backbone and decent amount of knowledge in the craft to return the favour to whomever critiques your work. Critiques for critiques, fair game, right? You don’t get something for nothing.

Also, as I’ve jumped in the deep-end with the ‘best’ sites (in my opinion) I’ve had the experience to nosey around, this one’s for poetry-peoples:  Tin Roof Alley Poetswhich, though has a few downfalls in some members being utterly awful human beings, is great for receiving genuine, honest and very detailed critiques (have a backbone, though or you’ll probably find your poetry crippled at the knees rather than manning up) and will certainly help you improve your work and educate you in poetry-ness.

Another thing I always find with lists of writing forums is that they never seem to include are forums for younger writers, which, as I’ve been a member of about twelve different forums, possibly even more, and witnessing the births and deaths of some, I think I can comment on a few.

Young Writers Online and Teenage Writers are both excellent forums (Dear any possible readers hailing from either forum: I LOVE YOU BOTH SO NO ARGUING *coughs*) for young people. Though very different from one another, in both atmosphere and community, they both offer a great community of mixed ability writers focused on helping others improve through critique. The latter also has camps where more experienced members teach others about the different crafts, and the former has many competitions and events throughout the year. There are no better forums for young writers (age 12-25) on the interwebs. Trust me, I’ve been on almost all of them. I should note that these two are *coughs* rivals, though that may be an understatement.

When it comes to forums, as I think I’ve said before, the best thing you can do it ask yourself what you want to gain from joining them. If it's just to make friends with like-wise minded people then smaller less critique and more discussion-focused sites will work better for you as you won't get lost in the struggle to be noticed, as in bigger forums. People on those forums are generally friendlier and for lack of a better word, spammy, so it’s usually very easy to fit in to these kinds of places.

Some examples:
Poet's Graves Workshop (all ages)
Legendfire (mostly younger writers, but appears to welcome all(?))
Fictionpost (all ages)
Hortorian (mostly younger writers, but appears to welcome all(?))
Kids' Writing Club (young writers, only)

Also, if you’re already a member of a critique-heavy forum, sometimes it’s just nice to pop by places like these for a little breather. A slower pace, new faces to talk to, teach, and learn from. There are many kinds of writers and you should always be looking to learn from others. I personally, like a balance, but that might be just me. I’m a member of both critique-heavy forums and more lax ones, and I find that this works for me. The thing is to find out what works for you.

If what you want is to get better at writing, learn something and be critiqued, then you need to look carefully before joining a forum. Many forums may boast awesome critique prowess, but rarely do they deliver *sigh*. A swift glance through some of a site's fiction and poetry forums is usually enough to confirm whether or not they are worth your time. Questions to ask yourself: are the 'critiques' mostly/all one-line comments or a couple sentences, do they say anything constructive or just stuff like 'zomg I love your work, post more!', or even worse . . . do they tolerate chatspeak? If so, these are the places to avoid posting your work, for you will not improve, and the people there are probably not overly interested in improving or already think they’re the best thing since Marshamallow Fluff. So it will be a waste of time joining. Look for places that more often, or even always, give good, detailed and honest critiques. By ‘honest’ I also mean, harsh where necessary.

I have little experience with bigger adult forums such as Absolute Write, so I don't feel I can accurately describe their services. I know YWS is lost in its own size, which, though is nowhere near as big as AW, comes under the description of a site filled with prospect, but saturated with no learning, no effort, ego-stroked members, and generally awful critiques, meaning that their prospect is mostly sadly wasted (can you tell I'm biased? :3). I guessed this could be the case with super-sized forums such as AW, but after joining and having a poke around I found the critiques were mostly helpful, and most work did actually get looked at, though navigating that place was interesting. It wouldn't be my cup of tea, but I suppose it depends on who you are. Size shouldn't be a deciding vote one where you join though.

Look around before joining somewhere that will get you nowhere despite years of posting, unless you want to join a forum more for the friends and discussion than for betterment and helping others. On that note, I must say, most of the places I've linked will require you to do your fair share of work to receive critiques in return, even the less critique-focused places require you to comment on others work - but critiquing, especially detailed critiquing will help you grow as a writer, too, so that shouldn't be a problem, should it? :)

Anyhoo, this is getting rather long and rambly. Feel free to contribute your opinions or any info you have on sites mentioned, or any others.

EDIT 12/12/12 (ha): Someone asked me for the link to this today, and reading it back, I'd like to just unreccomend teenagewriters.com (TW). Unfortunately last summer the place was taken over by a businessman who kicked all the staff and older members off, killing the site. There's still a lot of useful stuff in the archives I recommend looking for, if you want to learn about writing, but the site is no longer active and has nobody moderating it.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Waking up in Venice

Haven't posted in a while, gave up on Nano (usual excuses), here's a new poem I wrote at lunchtime on Thursday, when I should have been revising. Usual meh-ness.

We woke up in Venice, once.
Spent lanterns hung from threads in the doorways
like failed nightlights, doused by arteries
we traced on a map, noting where they split
from the body and became sewn in with the fabrics
against our skin. You always liked simple linen
because of the heat.
Straw hat and sunglasses, such the tourist.
Our breakfast in bed was disturbed
by an early-riser, singing from a boat below to the lady
in the room above us.
She closed her window,
and told us later she preferred the voiceless Einaudi,
direct to the soul, you know?
That morning, some of the neighbours hung
bunting between the houses, window-to-window
like little Chinese washing lines,
tying the fourth storeys.
I sent a postcard home (hello, Albion, miss me yet?)
and bought some olive bread
you said tasted like the smell of cut grass.
I remember the bar: a pokey little place
beside a bridge grown green in the centuries,
and like everything, barely floating.
Two glasses of flat wine each. Risotto, just because
it’s what’s done.
Outside the wind tore at the colours
flapping in their zig-zags and pulled them from the windows
so they streamed in ribbons down the streets.
Poetry for the rejected lover in his boat.
We fed the birds with baicoli crumbs,
watched the canals grow dark,
and counted the fireflies burning holes in Venice’s
new curtains. We fell asleep and woke up
in someplace old
where aeroplanes flew overhead,
and the jet streams faded
like the memory of dreaming.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

4. Silverskin

tiny white flowers grow in the gash
of a silver birch, tendons split between the reaching
of roots which traverse upwards over old scars,
towards a branch shadowed with grey
and flaking skin.

leaves fall from origami twists
into the lap of a prince who, as an old man,
sits beneath this tree to confess his years into the quiet
of summer: loves, lives, losses
and a lingering thought
that his name means nothing.

in mornings passed, the prince would climb trees
and wade through the froth of sky, searching
for a fortune stories told him he’d find in the heights
of life. he’s a man with eyes
as old as the tree he sits beneath,
only he doesn’t look,
he breathes.

but this tree misses youth, too, and if it had eyes
it would gaze at each new shoot – green as eve
– with wonder. silver skin peels like the scales of armour
or notes on battle for excited archaeologists.
but beneath it all are the wounds
of old men, old crowns, and old hearts,
and a thousand rings of silver dust.