More Early Works

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This would have been written in about 1971-2, when I was fourteen.

Again, this is exactly as it was originally written. Now, of course, I can see the nonsense of having the girl taken out of school for a funeral. For a rush to hospital maybe, but for a planned event like a funeral, they would just have delayed her enrollment by a day. Sigh.

 

Through the eyes of a child

Helen Boitoult

Form 4W

 

“If all grown-ups are like them, I hope I stay just as I am!” she said to herself. “They just can’t make up their minds. ‘Go to school’ they say, so I go. And what happens when I get there? ‘Come home.’ They’re crazy!”

She looked around her at the huge faces of her relations, all dressed in black, with red eyes and wet handkerchiefs.

“Why doesn’t one of them say something?” she asked herself.

“Where is Uncle Henry?” she asked aloud suddenly.

The faces loomed down at her in obvious disapproval at her interruption of the solemn silence.

“What did I say that was so wrong?” She just couldn’t understand what was going on. Why were they all dressed like that? Why had they made her dress like that? Her brain was bursting with questions she dare not ask. Maybe this always happens on your first day at school. But the other children of her age had stayed when the woman in the funny hat and cloak had come in and taken her away.

At the mention of Uncle Henry, her mother had burst into tears again. Why should she cry because her brother’s name was mentioned? Her father put his arm around her mother and said something that she couldn’t understand. She looked up at her mother, not daring to speak again but wanting to know so many things. All she had been told so far was: “Not now, dear. You’ll understand one day, when you’re a bit older.”

What was it she was too young to understand? As time passed the questions mounted up until she couldn’t keep quiet any longer.

“Mummy, what’s in that big box, and where is Uncle Henry?” The tears rolled down her cheeks and she started to sob so loudly and so hard that she could hardly breathe.

Her grandfather stood up and addressed his son. “Don’t you think we ought to tell her, Adam. She probably won’t know what it means anyway. She’s only five after all…”

“Nearly six >sob< Grandpa,” she put in indignantly. No one could resist a smile despite their grief. She became wildly happy as she discovered she had broken the strained atmosphere.

“Do >sob< tell me, Daddy, I won’t understand if you don’t want me to.” She was eager to please now as laughter broke out at her words.

Her father knelt down and kissed her. How could he tell his only child that she would never see her favourite uncle again? It would be a difficult task, he knew, but it had to be done sometime.

Suddenly, she broke away, remembering something she had heard somewhere.

“He’s on a trip to Heaven, isn’t he, Daddy? And he won’t be coming back.”

 

B(+) Good, Helen. You capture the child’s mood and innocence well, and there is a sense of shape.

 

What grade would you have given me?

Early works

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Since I’m having such trouble with my current writings, I’m going to revisit some old stuff.

And I mean really old stuff.

I’ve been sorting out cupboards and drawers. We’re thinking of downsizing, so I’m making a concerted effort to declutter. It hasn’t been going very fast, but I have made some progress. I’ve cleared a whole drawer of my filing cabinet to make room for newer stuff. I’ve shredded about ten years’ worth of old bank statements that were more than ten years old.

I’ve also found some very old ring binders, from my school days. Old essays and stories and poems. Most of the essays have just hit the recycling bin. Although I have found some that I did in the Lower Sixth Classical Literature class that I got A or A- for, that I may just read again before I retire them.

Looking at the stories and poems, I’m surprised how obsessed with death I seem to have been around that time. No reason for it. No bereavement during that period or anything. Oh well. Just a phase I was going through I guess.

I thought I’d publish some of these early works here. If only to show the journey I’ve traveled as a writer. I’m going to reproduce them exactly. No editing whatsoever, no matter how much I may be tempted to ‘correct’ or ‘improve’ them.

I also found the items I’m going to start off with. We were set a homework to imagine we were an agony aunt, giving advice to characters in the Greek Literature stories we were studying. This is what I turned in:

Dear Jocasta

Well really, my dear, all I can say to you is that you don’t want to believe everything you hear. Can you really remain convinced of the truth of this Delphic oracle? You must admit it is a bit far-fetched. Are you sure you haven’t been reading too many science fiction and horror stories?

Well, anyway, there are other solutions. Don’t you think it is just the tiniest bit drastic to have your little boy taken out and chained to a mountain like a common Spartan?

Surely if you just bring him up like any normal boy with love and understanding he won’t want to go through with the thing. He must see he can gain nothing from it.

Besides, you obviously know better and he can’t do all that much without your consent. Believe me, my dear, you have some rights and there is no way he can make you marry him. I’m sorry dear, I know it isn’t what you wanted to hear, but I really cannot condone such drastic measures, it can only lead to grief and heartache, I assure you.

 

My dear Jocasta,

Hold everything and phone the Samaritans. I can give you their number. I’m sure they can comfort and advise you. It surely can’t be as bad as you seem to think. I realize what you must be going through, and it must destroy your faith in a widow re-marrying, but my dear, stop blaming yourself. You couldn’t have known who he was. Besides, suicide won’t alter things, it will only add insult to injury. And remember, your children need you. Is it fair to punish them too? I know how you and your husband – I’m sorry, I should say son – must feel about his children, oh dear, um brothers and sisters, but once again I say that they are innocent. If you disrupt them now, it can only lead to worse trouble. Don’t you want your little Antigone to be a normal happy little girl? Think what effect your death could have on her.

No dear, you must take a deep breath and try to start again. What has happened is in the past. Remember that you cannot change the past, but your reaction, and that means whatever you decide to do now, could well change the future,

Best of luck dear

 

Dear Cassandra

I know it must be hard for you to pull up your roots and move to a foreign land where you don’t know anyone, but I’m sure it won’t be as bad as you fear. It is only natural to be apprehensive about change, but you seem to be obsessed with this silly notion that it will be the death of you. Calm down dear, stop ‘seeing things’ that aren’t there. It is just your imagination working overtime because you don’t want to leave home. Look on it as an adventure. Personally, I envy you. These days I can’t afford to travel, while you’re getting a trip abroad for nothing. You’ll get to see all the sights, no doubt. Lucky girl I say. And a handsome boyfriend thrown in too! I wouldn’t mind changing places, you’ve got it made!

What grade would you have given me? Remember, this was written back in 1974!

The Elusive Nature of Inspiration

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One of my most popular fan fiction stories arose from a throwaway line from a stand-up comic. So yeah, Inspiration can come from absolutely anywhere.

Justine Manzano ~ Author

“Where do you get your ideas?” is a question I often get when I’m discussing the nature of my latest story, usually with a person who does not write. Any writer knows that writers don’t know where their ideas come from. In his writing book/memoir “On Writing,” Stephen King said, “There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

It’s true. We have no idea. However, we often remember our line of thinking when we’ve come up with some of our ideas. So where have some of mine come from? How different are their origins? Do some story…

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Checking in

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Oh dear.
Having made regular monthly entries here all through 2016, here it is April 1st 2017 and I’ve not made a single post.
I haven’t had the impetus of resolutions to bring me here, but I think it is more than that.
I feel as if nobody outside family and one or two really close friends bothered to read the blog at all last year. It wasn’t all that interesting or engaging so I can’t blame people for not interacting. But that leaves me feeling ‘why bother writing if you can’t say anything worth reading’?
I’ve hit a bit of a slump with my writing in general.
The crossover story I was so confident of finishing has hit a huge snag and I’m really not sure how I’m going to get around it. The numbers just don’t add up for the solution I’d devised for one problem, and I can’t reduce them enough to make sense in terms of the rest of the story.
So I’m having a crisis of confidence and not feeling like a writer at all.

On the other hand, in a small way I’m now a published author!
My contribution ‘Big Ben’ [a fan fiction version of a proposed but unwritten QL episode] made it into Matt Dale’s ‘Beyond the Mirror Image’ – an Observer’s guide to Quantum Leap, which he self-published using Kickstarter. This is a wonderfully comprehensive companion for fans of the series, and can be obtained from http://www.tmebooks.uk
In fact, my name features several times in the work, and I’m quite proud of it. It is surreal to see my name in print like that. I have achieved a tiny degree of immortality!

In other news, I have sent my 12th pitch off for ‘There’s a Dragon in my Soup!” . I was delighted to find out that Nosy Crow publishers are currently accepting unagented pitches, so I worked one up and emailed it on 26th March. Their website says to allow 6 months. Putting a positive spin on the wait, I told my friend that at least while it is ‘out there’ I can dream that the answer will be ‘yes, please!’. Fingers crossed. I know I’m never going to become a billionaire from these books, even if they spawn a heap of merchandise {Which I believe they could}. A certain amount of pecuniary reward would naturally be most welcome. Far more important for me would be the knowledge that my stories were giving pleasure to children. To read one at StoryTime at work and have the kids say they enjoyed it, then telling them “I wrote that!” – would be a dream come true.

Year of Change Challenge December Update

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Well, the year is over. It is time for the final update.

1. – Nope. Just Nope. Not a word.
2. The write more plan has ended on a trickle, but at least it didn’t fail. I’ve been doing more editing than writing these past few weeks, but at least I’ve been doing something. I end the year determined to keep writing and keep pitching as 2017 begins, and hope that there’s an agent out there who loves Sweetpea as much as I do. I WILL finish the crossover. I WILL finish the crossover. I’m gonna get back to it just as soon as I’ve posted this.
3. Unbelievably, the read more plan was a huge success. Half way through December I was afraid I was going to fall short. I had three books left to read, and I thought I might not make it. Yet in the end I read 105 books, of which 103 counted toward the challenge, and I did it with 2 days to spare! The average page count was 238 and I read a total of 22,808 pages across the 105 books. my-year-in-books-2016

I’m feeling really proud of myself for this one. I definitely won’t be going all out in the same way in 2017, though. The pressure did detract from the pleasure of reading at times, as I was constantly aware of how many pages from the end I was. I’m going to set a really low target – probably 15 books which is only one every 3.5 weeks or so. I expect to read far more than that, but at least I won’t be worried about tackling some of the longer books. Oh, and I finally reserved the second Magnus Chase. It should be in by the end of the week.
4. I’ve managed to post a blog entry every month. Nobody but me cares, but still.
5. I’m not making any resolutions for 2017, but I am setting myself the goal of finally finishing the crossover. It’s about time. [LOL Unintended pun there, since it is part Quantum Leap which a time travel show.]

Year of Change Challenge November Update

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  1. What part of ‘We’re not talking about this’ wasn’t clear?
  2. I’m reasonably happy with the write more plan. I submitted the Alphabet Soup challenge on time, and it has received quite a few hits. I have written something ALMOST every day. The exception was 18th November, and I just couldn’t get in the zone for any writing. We put our 6 year old kitty, Pixie, to bed at 10.25pm on Thursday night, and she was fine. When David went to get her for breakfast at 7.10am Friday morning, she was dead. Completely out of the blue. We were devastated. We’ll never know why, or how, but David read that female cats who have been spayed can have a tendency to embolisms. This seems as likely an explanation as any. I think I can be let off that slip in the schedule given the circumstances. Unless there’s a miracle in the next four weeks, 2016 is NOT going to be the year I get published, but I’m not giving up yet. I read recently that Malorie Blackman was rejected 70 times before she got published. And she ended up as the Children’s Laureate! So, with only 11 rejections to my name so far, I can still hope.
  3. Amazingly, the read more plan is still on track. I’ve read 95 books, of which 93 count towards the challenge. It is going to be tight to manage 7 titles in the next month, but I’m determined to give it my best shot. It would be dreadful to fall at the last hurdle. Contrary to my report last month, I now don’t know if Chatterbooks will be operating in January or not. The situation is complex. I need to prepare a title just in case. Good job I enjoy reading junior fiction. Note to self: still haven’t requested the second Magnus Chase book.
  4. I’m updating the blog again. Yay me. Next year’s challenge probably ought to involve writing something that people actually want to read!

Year of Change Challenge October Update

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  1. We’re not talking about this, remember?
  2. The write more plan is still doing okay. I seriously doubt now that I’ll finish my crossover story this year. However, this is because it is back on hold while I work on an Alphabet Soup challenge story. So it isn’t a failure, just a change of direction. It is still creative writing, and that was what I signed up to do.
  3. The read more plan is on track. I’m quite proud of myself for this one. I am reading a few shorter books to ensure I don’t fall behind again, but that is balanced by some 400-500 page books that I’m getting through as well. I think the overall page count will be more than acceptable. Not sure I’d go for a repeat next year, though, to be honest. Too much pressure takes some of the pleasure out of reading, which kind of defeats the object. I’d much rather set a target of about 50 books and exceed it if I can. Chatterbooks will be coming to an end in December, so the pressure to read a junior book a month will be gone next year. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop reading them, of course. There are some excellent children’s titles out there. Note to self: remember to request the second Magnus Chase book.
  4. The blog is a couple of days late this month, but real life has thrown us a major curve over the past week, so I forgive myself for that. My apologies to anyone who has been kept waiting. Who am I kidding? Nobody cares!