Paperback Raita

Last night I dreamed I went to the Feast of Faiths again.  It was a rather elaborate dream where I was in a series of rooms (or were they train compartments?) where tables were set out in different configurations and we moved around between them.  I left my bag on a seat and when I came back it was gone; after a while I found the bag but my wallet was gone.  Then I found the wallet but my bank card was gone.  I had to phone the bank to cancel it.

As I was walking down the corridor I passed Jeremy Corbyn and said hello; he said hello but in a very sombre and serious voice.

The origin of this dream is quite clear; last night I actually did go to the Feast of Faiths, an annual get-together and knees-up for people of all faiths and none organised by Loughborough Council of Faiths.  Last year we had a pantomime (I blogged about that here: https://wordpress.com/posts/lizardyoga.wordpress.com?s=Oh+No+It+Isn%27t+Panto)

and this year the entertainment was flinging ping-pong balls around and trying to get them into paper cups.  There was some rearranging of tables for this, then we went into another room for the Feast and I left my jacket on the chair.  The food was delicious and so was the conversation; on my table were two Hindus, two Seventh-Day Adventists and a Pagan.  We talked about the light and the dark as it manifests itself in different religions.

(Jeremy Corbyn was not there: I think that part of the dream came from seeing him at the Cenotaph memorial.)

So as well as aloo muttar paneer (curry with potatoes, peas and goats’ cheese) I had samosas with spicy sauce, pilau rice and of course raita.

Paperback raita…

Kirk out

 

Up to Here

I’ve been thinking about a post on Remembrance Sunday which this year fell with almost supernatural precision exactly on Armistice day, one hundred years after the ending of the First World War.  I sat in Quaker Meeting while outside people processed, banged drums, shouted orders, prayed and stood in respectful silence.  And I wanted to try to disentangle all the complex feelings I had about it but they proved too matted to be unravelled so I’m leaving it for another time (I did get up in Meeting and speak about Conscientious Objectors though.)

So in the meantime, where am I up to?  A rather fractured night’s sleep led to a morning assailed by a welter of ideas (a bit like being inside a meteor shower) all supplemented by the arrival of the first of my daily writing prompts.   Inspired by my son doing Inktober and producing a drawing every day (today’s is fabulous) I signed up for Writers Write Daily Prompts and my first suggestion was ‘Looking at Life Through Rose-Tinted Spectacles.’  I decided to write a hundred words; this centenary may or may not turn into something else but if not it doesn’t matter as the main point is to get the suggestive juices going (see what I did there?)

Apart from that I do my usual vocal exercises and trawl through my poems reciting them out loud to an imaginary audience.  I do this most mornings and it’s very useful; not only can I perform any poem at the drop of a hat but with the newer poems reading them aloud shows up any flaws in the writing.  (I do this with stories too; it’s amazing how you can type type the same word twice and not notice until you come to read aloud*.)

Mornings are usually dedicated to poetry but after doing my hundred words on the writing prompt I decided to polish up another hundred words I’m doing for Mslexia (this time the prompt is a photograph) then some ideas came for the novel and I wrote those up, so it’s been a bit of a mixed morning.

This afternoon I plan to tackle a totally new project.  The BBC’s Writersroom window is coming up in a couple of months and I intend to embark on a radio play.  It’s a horrendously tall order to write a radio play in two months but I work quite well in short bursts so we’ll see.  In any case a lot of the material is already to hand albeit in the form of short dialogues and stories.

Here’s Daniel’s picture:

Kirk out

* see what I did there?

Living My Best Life

I was inspired after reading Hadley Freeman in the Guardian to share with you, my voracious readers, a day in my life.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/10/four-hours-sleep-yoga-dawn-todays-influencers-best-lives

I do not wake; I am woken, usually before 7 am by an overenthusiastic spouse who always thinks that unlocking the front door and making a pot of tea takes half an hour instead of five minutes.  That’s on a good day.  On a bad day (most days are bad days) I wake at between four-thirty and six-thirty; sometimes I go back to sleep and sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes I think I don’t sleep but I do – so OH tells me, anyway.  If I’m awake around six-thirty I’ll sit up and meditate for ten or fifteen minutes while OH does the business; then begins our shared morning time.  I check emails and Facebook, we tut and sigh over the news; I read my daily inspirational readings:

https://cac.org/category/daily-meditations/

and begin the Guardian crossword.  Around ten to eight after Thought for the Day I nip to the bathroom: if I leave it too late I will lose my yoga window downstairs (I aim for half an hour of yoga and usually miss.)  Breakfast is either boiled egg and soldiers or muesli or toast and jam (are you still reading?  Not asleep yet?) which I take upstairs and eat while finishing the crossword.

After that it’s writing: usually poetry in the mornings and prose in the afternoons.  After lunch is often a dead time so I’ll do something else for a while; go for a walk, do some washing, dig the garden; read.  Then it’s prose all the way to dinner-time around six (usually some combination of veg and carbs) followed by my treat of the day, chocolate biscuits dunked in roibos.  Evenings are usually slumped in front of the iplayer unless I have a meeting or social event: last night it was the folk club (this featured songs from the First World War and was excellent.)

As I don’t sleep enough I’m usually tired by 9.30 and in bed by ten.  And that’s my rock-n-roll life.

Inspirational, ain’t it?

Kirk out

How to Deal With Rejections

It occurs to me, following the success of my ‘Top Tips for Blogging’ post a while back:

https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2018/09/12/my-seven-tips-for-better-blogging/

that I should do a ‘top tips on surviving rejections’ post.  After all, I’ve had my fair share of them and although unlike writers in the past I can’t paper my room with rejection slips because they come by email, I can as it were paper this blog with advice about how to deal with them.

So here are my top tips on surviving rejection.

  1.  It happens to everyone.  If you’re feeling down, look at this sample of rejections received by successful and established writers and remember that rejection is not necessarily a judgement on your writing, merely on its suitability for the outlet to which you submitted it – or, if you want to be pedantic, on that person’s opinion of its suitability (look at this link to 17 famous authors and their rejections: http://mentalfloss.com/article/91169/16-famous-authors-and-their-rejections)                                                                                                                                     
  2. It hurts.  There’s no way round this that I know of: you’re going to feel bad for a day or two, maybe longer; so use your support networks.  Tell family and friends, share with online writing groups.  If you haven’t joined any there are loads out there and my favourite is the Insecure Writers’ Support Group (ISWG) on Facebook, who are very supportive and encouraging.                                                         
  3. Do something to make yourself feel better.  Write (but don’t send!) an angry or humorous email to the editor who rejected you, as I did in yesterday’s post.  If you really want to, send the rejected item somewhere else – but I recommend letting it lie for a while and in the meantime doing something restful and enjoyable.  Go for a walk, watch a film, read something amusing or absorbing that is quite different from your own work (so you don’t compare) and realise that you will feel shitty for a while.                                                                                                 
  4. Don’t allow the negative thoughts and/or feedback to define you.  I had a comment a while back on my poetry which really rocked me on my heels.  I thought about it for a while – then I decided that they were wrong.  But even if they were right it doesn’t mean that I have no talent or that I should give up.  After all a rejection is just one person’s opinion.                                                                                                 
  5. When you’re feeling better, pick up your pen/tablet/laptop again and keep going.  There’s only one sure way to fail and that is to give up.  So don’t give up!

I’d like to hear your top tips too – please add them in the comments

Kirk out

Another Day, Another Dolour

Oh a writer’s lot is not a happy one.  You give it your best shot, you grab your lightbulb moments and painstakingly put them together into a work; you hone and refine, you draft and redraft and finally you send your stories out into the world to seek their fortune and what happens?  Pretty smartly you get an email where the words ‘thanks’ and ‘unfortunately’ stand in unreasonably close proximity to each other and at the end of it all you’re no nearer knowing what went wrong because most editors can’t or won’t give feedback and as to what they are actually looking for, the best response you get is ‘study the magazine.’  Well, dear editor, I would if I could: in fact I’m frequently tempted to draft a form letter so that I can reply thus:

Dear Magazine Editor,

Thank you for your rejection of my story/poem/flash fiction.  I understand that in spite of having no guidelines whatsoever (bar length and formatting of manuscript), my submission does not meet your mysterious and cryptic requirements.  With regard to this, thank you for your suggestion that I study the magazine.  Unfortunately due to limited space in my bank account I am only able to study a tiny fraction of the magazines suggested to me and I’m afraid that on this occasion yours did not meet my criteria for inclusion.  I wish you all the best in finding readers.

Yours etc

It really is a dispiriting and painful experience; one which leaves you with pain instead of cash (dolour instead of dollars).  Plus, I can never decide whether it’s better to get rejections quickly or slowly: on the one hand I didn’t have to wait too long for this but on the other hand a rejection at lightning speed feels somehow a lot worse than one which takes weeks or months; at least in the latter case you can convince yourself that they really thought about it.  You can imagine, if you will, ditherings; editorial disputes, wranglings over your manuscript taking place at the highest level.  But to receive a ‘no thanks’ by return of post does not allow any such illusions to flourish.  Plus if a rejection takes two or three months you can easily be on to other projects by then and not care so much as you do about something hot off the press.

Then again, if it’s a quick rejection you can whip it off somewhere else pronto rather than waiting.  So perhaps I should do that.

Kirk out

Peterloo

It has been called the greatest historical event never taught (in the UK at least).  The Peterloo massacre, coming hard on the heels of the Battle of Waterloo to which the name ironically refers, was one of the most infamous events in British history, and yet it’s hardly taught at schools at all.  I studied history to A-level and it wasn’t even mentioned.  Mike Leigh’s film attempts to remedy this situation.

The film is a bit of a history lesson and at times feels like one, with references to the Corn Laws and Manchester’s lack of political representation thrown in.  The Corn Laws kept the price of corn artificially high by forbidding foreign imports, thus protecting the farmers but causing great hardship to working people.  This, coupled with the prevalence of so-called ‘rotten boroughs’, areas with no political representation, led to increasing discontent and eventually to a march and rally in St Peter’s Field in Manchester.

‘War and Peace’ never felt very far away: the film begins on a battlefield where a young bugler is staggering around, disorientated and confused among the smoke and dead bodies.  Peterloo happened in 1819, just four years after the end of the Napoleonic wars, and many of the scenes were reminiscent of dramatisations of Tolstoy’s great work.

Like ‘War and Peace,’ the film is an utterly breathtaking panorama.  The action does not centre on one character or group but moves like a diorama from scene to scene, group to group, character to character, in so doing building up a giddying picture of the Dickensian conditions (fifty years before Dickens) in Lancashire at that time.  

It seems ungracious to criticise aspects of the film and in any case all doubts were entirely blown away by the final scenes; but I think it’s fair to say that dialogue has never been Mike Leigh’s strong point: much of it felt clunky and unnatural and some of the rich and powerful characters were totally overdone, again calling to mind the worst excesses of an outraged Dickens.  But all this melted away as the scenes built to a crescendo.  Henry Hunt, the main speaker and a supporter of worker’s representation and women’s suffrage, works his way towards the rally at the same time as families are marching from all corners of Lancashire; men, women and children in their Sunday best clothes in joyful mood and not so much a stick or stone among them that could serve as a weapon.  Their demands are simple: repeal the Corn Laws and give them political representation.  The response of the authorities is (inaudibly) to read the Riot Act and then to send soldiers in to disperse the crowd; to charge, injure and kill.  Fifteen people died and hundreds were injured on that day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peterloo_Massacre

Though far less deadly it reminded me of Amritsar as portrayed in ‘Gandhi’:

 

The Guardian gives it full marks:

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/nov/03/peterloo-review-mike-leigh-epic-history-lesson

although it doesn’t actually mention that Peterloo led indirectly to the establishment of the Manchester Guardian, the Grauniad’s forerunner;

https://www.theguardian.com/gnm-archive/2002/jun/06/1

And Mark Kermode seems to agree with me:

 

 

And here’s the trailer:

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4614612/videoplayer/vi3720788761?ref_=tt_ov_vi

I urge you to go and see it.  Don’t wait for the DVD – go see it at the cinema.  You’ll thank me.

Kirk out

Serious Thinkin’

Steve Wright-In-The-Afternoon (that is his name isn’t it?) has a rather baffling item on his show where people text in saying what they’re doin’ only without the g at the end.  The item is called ‘serious jockin’ – at least I think that’s what it’s called – and I’ve never quite been able to understand the point, but maybe that’s because I lack the necessary brain cells to completely comprehend Radio 2.  But I like most of the music they play; it being the aged version of Radio 1 which has, so to speak, moved over and taken the listeners with it.  But in fact it’s a lot better than R1 used to be because it’s not restricted to a playlist of the top 20 plus up-and-coming tracks with a few oldies thrown in: R2 plays a wide variety of music and treats its audience with a great deal more respect.  Even so, I used to have R1 on all day long because it was virtually all we had.  On a good day when the wind was in the right direction you could get Radio Caroline, a pirate station broadcast from a boat somewhere in the North Sea, and eventually in London we got Capital Radio which featured the wonderful Kenny Everett who had been sacked from the BBC more times than I’d had hot dinners.

Nowadays I’m mostly a Radio 4 person, but there are times in the day when I need music: when I’m driving and don’t want to put a CD on, or when I’m doing the washing up or the decorating. Nowadays there are a thousand channels you can listen to on your iphone or tablet or laptop or sound system – but back then it was very restrictive.  One of the ways people got round the restrictions was with CB radio.  CB (or Citizen’s Band) radio was very big in the States and had its own language, as shown in this terrible song:

But it was illegal over here, I think because it interfered with police frequencies.  This did not stop enthusiasts from installing them in their cars; the big giveaway being large twin aeriels sprouting from the car.  One such nutter was stopped by the police:

PC Plod:  Excuse me sir, is this your car?

Mad Eddie:  Ay, so what?

PC Plod:  It’s equipped for CB radio

Mad Eddie:  Well I’m equipped for rape but I don’t go out and do it

Soon afterwards it became legal and therefore much less fun (CB radio I mean.)

Kirk out

Time Spent Poorly?

Lately I’ve been back and forth with Facebook a lot.  On the one hand it’s my major way of keeping up with things; socialising with friends, finding out what’s going on and checking out news stories.  On the other hand it doesn’t take long for me to become either angry or depressed or both, and that’s not good.  As soon as I notice that reaction I close the tab, only to go back on there an hour or two later for the human interaction I barely otherwise get, due to writing being such a solitary occupation.  It’s very difficult when the reaction to your work from the wider word is silence (though I did have a rather nice rejection today, of which more anon) so I crave comments from other writers and thoughts like my daughter’s this morning (‘I’m still reading your novella and it’s really good.’)  I can’t get enough of that stuff.

So today I thought I’d try an experiment.  I’ll set a timer on my phone and see how long it takes me to get unacceptably depressed or angry.  But as many people have spotted, observing a phenomenon changes that phenomenon: the very act of timing it meant that I was more detached from what I was reading and able to observe both it and myself from a distance, as it were.  The result was that I lasted five minutes.  If that doesn’t sound very long, my usual time limit is (I would guess) less than two.  Unless I’m chatting on messenger it’s not long before several horrible news stories hit me and I can’t take any more.

Maybe I should set a stopwatch every time?

The rejection email I had this morning was not too bad: it said they’d passed my story ‘Heart 2 Heart’ onto the editors (ie effectively shortlisting it) but that it didn’t fit with the rest of the issue.  Since they have different editors each time I am by no means downhearted – appropriately enough, given the title (if you’re interested the story is about a woman who has a heart transplant which ends up changing her personality in drastic ways.)

I may be a little downheaded though…

Two more stories going off to The Fiction Desk today.

Kirk out

PS  Good luck to everyone doing NaNo