About Me

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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Monday, 27 December 2010

'Tis the Season ...

to run around like a headless crazywoman, snapping at anyone who suggests it is in fact the season for rest and calm?  Preferably not.  I must say that since I discovered (and initially obeyed) Flylady a few years ago, I've managed to enjoy this time of year a lot more.  A little planning every day through most of October and November means that it's not a scary thing that creeps up on you from nowhere.  I remember seeing a brilliant catalogue cover a couple of years ago (a Hawkins one) that read something like "We would like to remind our customers for whom it is often a surprise that this year Christmas will fall on December 25th".  Funny, but often horrifically true.

So, if you've driven yourself (and/or your family) mad over this holiday period, I'd strongly recommend having a look at the Flylady's advice.  As a typically reserved Brit, I find some of the American sentimentality a bit 'in your face', and the christian flavour sometimes comes across as a little heavy-handed for my taste, BUT the woman is annoyingly right about many, many things.  Although her focus is on housekeeping and home organisation, the effect of following her system and reading her daily emails is much more about self-esteem and feeling on top of things, rather than being constantly vaguely overwhelmed.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Working out is always worth it

The workouts I'm referring to are, of course, writing exercises.  I'm always impressed with how refreshed I am after such work, and even if it takes me away from the big WiP, the effect of my increased enthusiasm on the work rate demonstrates that it's worth it.  Without fail.

I think sometimes we can be too focused on our word counts, targets and long term plans.  We daren't take away our writing time to play - yet often it's the very thing that would invigorate both us and the current WiP.

Some of the exercises I've had fun with have come from:
The Five-Minute Writer, Margret Geraghty
The Writer's Idea Book, Jack Heffron
The Write-Brain Workbook, Bonnie Neubauer

It can also be good to do exercises based on your current WiP.  You can write extra episodes in a character's life to help you understand them - or to exorcise an idea that just doesn't fit in the novel.  Or you can try out different scenarios for getting your characters where you need them to be.

So, to stretch (sorry ;-)) the metaphor to its fullest, writing exercises can be like a warm-up, flexing your creative muscles and easing you into the real work.  They can also help you to avoid burn-out by adding variation to your schedule.

Here's a couple of fun exercises I devised with my creative writing group for Hallowe'en:

  • Practice 'show, don't tell' by writing a paragraph in which a character is scared.  You must demonstrate their fear as many ways as possible and avoid the word 'scared' and its synonyms.
  • Write a poem, a brief monologue or a flash fiction piece inspired by an unusual phobia.  A handy list of phobias is available online at the phobia list.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Bookette Becky's British Book Challenge

Having seen this challenge mentioned on Lucy Coats' Scribble City Central blog, I knew I needed to sign up.  So I am!  I'll be starting with Terry Pratchett's I Shall Wear Midnight, once my eldest has read it and I think I'll have a YA/kidlit theme, but I don't want to commit myself to titles for the whole year just now - so many books to choose from!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Joined up thinking? ...

I cannot believe that our libraries are in danger from the same government who claim to want a return to a 'traditional' curriculum and 'traditional' values in teaching and assessment.  How can this be?

On the one hand, we are told that spelling, grammar and punctuation should be assessed on all GCSE and A Level papers with marks deducted for errors, whilst on the other, the rich resource of reading is being pulled out from under our feet.

This is such shortsightedness and an incredible threat to our culture.  While I could not wholeheartedly accept the 'return to tradition' rhetoric around kings and queens and Dickens and Austen, it's lunacy to deprive people of access to good and varied reading material.

Yes, Michael Gove and Ed Vaizey, I blame you.  Maybe you should speak to one another - like the writing blogosphere is today.

As a parent, I use the library regularly with my two girls (currently 7 and 12), who value it for its offer to try something new, to take a risk in your reading with an author or genre you've never come across before.  And now that real bookshops are crowded off the highstreets in our cookie cutter shopping malls, libraries are more important for this than ever.

As a teacher, I often encourage my students (sixth formers taking A Level English) to use their local library - to encounter a dictionary that fills a whole shelf, to access a wide range of written language for analysis, or to use the internet or even just a quiet place when it's tricky to work at home (you try studying for A Levels when sharing a bedroom and having no online access at home).

These are just the immediate concerns that I as an individual have - where will my girls find those happy stumbled-upon treasures, and how can our college library offer everything my students need?  Others have eloquently blogged about wider concerns - see the links below as a starting point, and/or check out the #cftb (Campaign for the Book) threads on Twitter.


Wednesday, 1 December 2010

So I've got this blog now...

and what do I do with it?  I hope this will become a place where I can share thoughts about a wide range of subjects that interest and affect me: mostly writing, language, teaching, family life, paganism and tarot (although I'm not ruling out the possibility of other subjects!)

This first post will need to be short.  Beginning is always harder than continuing, and I'm up to rewrite number five already.  Clearly, it's time to just get this 'out there' before I completely paralyse myself and abandon the blog altogether.
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