Fairy Tales

Turnip Princess

Some time ago I received this book as a gift.  As with so many of the books in my To Be Read heap, it has taken a while to get to it.  I am finding it to be an intriguing read.  Many of the tales are familiar, but some have a bit of a twist and some I’ve not read before.

I am also finding it fairly frustrating.  This is a collection of fairy tales collected in the 1850s by Franz Xaver von Schonwerth in northern Bavaria.  As with the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault, they were spoken tales, recorded verbatim.  Unlike Grimm and Perrault, they have been left unvarnished and unpolished and this is the root of my frustration.  I want to know more!

I don’t know if it is the reader or the writer in me that is making me shout at the book.  Things like, “What was he called?”, “Why didn’t she…?” and “Why tell me all about the knife in the tree that will let the sister know if he is well or ill and then never mention it again?”

Sometimes the lack of logic or any source of motivation irritates me as reader.  Quite often I want to know more detail about the who, what, why, where, when and how of things.  I know that traditionally fairy tales are very bare-boned, but some of these tales are only a page and a half long and have plenty of room for more information.

On the other hand, I’m finding them quite inspirational.  All the questions I’m asking myself led onto more questions and, sometimes, answers.  And one or two of those answers may be the beginning of a new story or two.  I had already started working on a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin before I picked up The Turnip Princess.  Maybe there will be more fairy tale inspired stories in my writing future.  Watch this space?

On Trying to Feel Grateful

This week I have been feeling a bit grumpy.  It started last Saturday when, just as I was getting ready for bed, my wife discovered bulging walls and dripping water in the kitchen.  Cue late night telephone calls to insurance company and British Gas (who maintain our hot and cold water systems).  Also cue switching the off the water supply (after filling the kettle and a couple of buckets) and turning off the boiler.  The electrical controls were in the same wall as the leak, as was the plug for the fridge freezer.   Eleven o’clock saw two short, middle age women trying to re-position a large electrical appliance until the (surprisingly short) cable could go into another socket.

On Sunday the very nice man from Dyno-rod (on behalf of BG) came and found the source of the leak – the hot water tank in the airing cupboard.  He managed to isolate it and restore running cold water to some parts of the house – all appropriate places, thank heavens.  Since then we have had no central heating and only cold water from the taps.  Hence, me being in a grump.

My Name's Not Friday, Hardback This morning, lying in bed under a warm duvet with extra heat generated by two dogs and one of the cats, I finished reading ‘My Name’s Not Friday’ by Jon Walter.  It reminded me a little of ‘Twelve Years a Slave’ by Solomon Northup, but with a lot less violence and a lot more religion.  It was a good read.  I put the book on my bedside cabinet and pulled my chilly hand back under the covers, tugging them up over my slightly icy nose, and had a serious word with myself.

I am not the first person not to have central heating.  We certainly didn’t have it when I was a child.  When I had my first home, heating was from a very dodgy gas fire and only in one room.  Later, we only put the heat on when we could afford it.  Now I am lucky enough to have the luxury of heat at the touch of a button and hot water whenever I turn the tap.  Samuel and Solomon would have been delighted to have any sort of soft mattress or warm blanket during most of their stories.  The idea of a full larder and a well stocked fridge-freezer would have been miraculous and heaven-sent.  The freedom to visit any of those wonderful things without permission was a prospect only to be dreamed of.

Daffodils in parkYou only have to turn on the news to see people who struggle to live their lives without things we in the western world consider to be basic – running water, fresh food, warm shelter.  I walk the dogs and have time to enjoy the spring bulbs showing their faces to the sun without scanning the sky for planes carrying bombs or searching behind every hedge for aggressors with guns or knives.

So today I have given myself a swift kick up the mental backside, thrown on an extra layer and got on with things.  It’s much easier to keep warm when you are doing something than when you are sat on your bum feeling sorry for yourself.  With luck, this time tomorrow we will have heat and hot water back on tap but, if we don’t, I’m determined not to let Grumpy Kim back in.

 

Ex-Machina

A while ago Judith Heneghan posted something on Twitter – I can’t remember exactly what it was now – but it made me really miss being at college and studying for my MA. It wasn’t just the brilliant friends I’d made or the totally supportive critiques they gave. It wasn’t even the lectures and speakers. It was all of those, plus the driving impetus of having to produce some words every week and doing so as part of a writing community. I sent a tweet back, suggesting she set up a group or forum where graduates of Winchester’s Writing for Children MA could get in touch and maybe even meet up every once in a while. We both thought it was a great idea but, between the University and the Writing Festival, she couldn’t contribute more than support, encouragement and a few email addresses.

That’s how it started.  I set up a closed Facebook group and called it Ex-Machina (EX-MA CHildren In Absentia) – probably not the best name, but it was all I could come up with at short notice.  There seem to be some quite unusual groups with the same name.  Oops!  I added all the people I knew on Facebook who had completed the course and emailed the people Judith had suggested.  A couple of posts later we are up to 16 members without really trying.

So – did you graduate from the University of Winchester with an MA in Writing for Children?  Would you like to be in touch with other people who did the same course?  If you are on Facebook, please ask to join us.  If you avoid social media, please contact me via this blog and I’ll add you to an irregular email update.

I hope to make contact with some more of you over the coming months.  Writing doesn’t need to be a solitary occupation.

I don’t mean to sound old but…

… where does the time go?

I have received a notification from WordPress congratulating me on two years of blogging.  Intellectually I know this to be correct – I started my blog as part of the Publishing Project module of the MA course.  Emotionally, sometimes it feels like just last month and other times it’s more like a decade.

However long it’s been, I feel like a bit of a fraud. ‘Keep up the good blogging’ the notification said, making me study my fingers and shuffle my feet in shame. I’ve hardly been near my blog this year. The poor thing is fading away from lack of content and pining for attention.

Sorry, little blog. I will try harder – honest!

Lost and Found Giveaway by Kathryn Evans

Have you seen this fabulous competition? Lots of brilliant books and chocolate. What more could you want? Lots of award nominees in this lot and one writer has just won a great big prize. If you explore Kathryn’s blog a bit further, you’ll find out who and what.

Have fun!

Kathryn Evans

Boom!14469297_10211233376100109_854896666_n

Wow! In a weekend you smashed all our follow targets so – true to our word – the WORDS, will all be revealed.

What can you win?

Signed copies of all of our books including:

Sue Wallman’s Lying About Last Summer – one of Zoella’s Book Club choices for  autumn 2016!

Olivia Levez The Island – star reviewed in Publishers Weekly.

Eugene Lamberts The Sign of One – shortlisted for AM Heath’s Irish Children’s Prize

Patrice Lawrence’s Orange Boy nominated for the 2017 Carnegie Medal

Kathryn Evan’s More of Me – also nominated for the 2017 Carnegie Medal

Meemee – a little blue cousin of Peepee from More of Me.

A mug and hot chocolate

A torch ( for reading under the covers)

A bag of Hotel Chocolate buttons

A lovely Books Are My Bag bag – donated by Waterstones Islington

Post cards and books marks and temporary tattoos

And everything packed…

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Graduation Day

I handed in my dissertation last month so, with luck, I will be celebrating my graduation this time next year. Congratulations to Damon, Amelia, Jezz, Ele, Claire, Alex, Phoebe and everyone else who had their ceremony this week.

If you haven’t checked out Damon’s Unbound page yet, please do. I was privileged to read some early drafts of this work and can highly recommend it. I’ve signed up to support him and I hope you will, too.

Damon L. Wakes

Before Ten Little Astronauts was launched by Unbound – submarine promo video and all – it formed the bulk of my work for an MA in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Winchester. The way the course was weighted, that one project was just about as important as every other module combined. On top of that, in a move that I can only assume was intended to keep postgrads up all night to finish the thing, that final project would dictate the upper limit on your results. You could hand in the greatest works of literature ever devised for the smaller modules, then still end up disappointed on results day if the big one didn’t measure up.

Well, on Friday I graduated with Distinction.

Second from right: me. Also pictured: some of the greatest writers I’ve ever met.

It’s been a long time since I actually got my…

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Writing Without Motivation

This arrived via my Twitter feed just when I needed a good kick up my writer’s bottom. Thank you, Gwen! I am now stepping away from social media and heading back to my WIP.

Gwen C. Katz

This post is part of the Writers Write All Blog Hop hosted by A Writer Named Charley. Thank you for organizing, Charley.


It was more satisfying in the era of typewriters It was more satisfying in the era of typewriters

One of the hardest shifts I had to make as I moved from being a hobby writer to a professional was having to meet deadlines and put words on the page whether I feel like it or not. It’s quite a shock for someone who previously put about as much dedication into writing as I did into playing video games. We like to imagine writers moodily smoking cigarettes and staring out windows into the rain as they wait for inspiration to strike, but inspiration tends not to strike on a very convenient schedule, and unless you’re someone like George R. R. Martin, you can’t let your career languish for years on end as you wait for the right feeling…

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