October 30th, 2009
Another week gone by and more shops being swamped by the tsunami of Christmas commercialism. I feel particularly sorry for all the staff on check-out tills and suspect that by December 24th they’d like to do the kind of things to Noddy Holder and Roy Wood that can only be accomplished with a blunt instrument or a chain saw!
OK, rant over. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that we were getting our tutors together for the annual meeting. We had a good turnout and I think everyone enjoyed it. (I know I did!) Simon Whaley gives his impressions on his blogspot and one of the newer additions to our team – Penny Legg – also gives her take on the meeting.
As you may gather from reading Simon’s post, we took the opportunity of filming some of the tutors talking about interesting aspects of their writing. They’ll be appearing on YouTube and I’ll let you know as soon as the clips are there. And if you are already a WB student you can log in to the student area to see short biographies of many of our other tutors.
Before I go, don’t forget that entries to our annual Writer of the Year Award are now being accepted. If you’ve had some publishing successes it’s well worth looking into as the first prize is £250.
Until next time…
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October 23rd, 2009
I was listening to a programme on radio recently about the demise of nursery rhymes. They interviewed a number of people who said they never sang them to their children, because they felt they were old-fashioned and irrelevant.
Usually, I’m all for keeping our literary heritage intact but when you actually start thinking about nursery rhymes they are a bit odd – if not downright scary or salacious.
You’ve got ‘Georgie Porgie’, referring to the notorious libertine George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham and lover of James I. It’s no wonder the girls cried when he kissed them! ‘Humpty Dumpty’ – a huge Royalist cannon destroyed by Parliamentarian forces in the Civil War. ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’ commemorating the War of the Roses – probably one of the most bloody episodes in English history. Even ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ apparently describes pawning the coat off your back to survive in 18th century London (pop = to pawn; weasel and stoat = coat in Cockney rhyming slang).
And that’s without the arachnophobia (Little Miss Muffet) and beheading with a cleaver (Oranges and Lemons). I could go on…
The whole subject is fascinating and there’s more information at www.rhymes.org.uk if you’re interested. It seems to me that nursery rhymes are more suitable as the basis for a series of history lessons (or articles?) to than as light entertainment for toddlers.
So if you do want to entertain your children why not write your own verses? You might not be another T S Eliot (and I’m talking about Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats here, not The Waste Land) or an Edward Lear. But I can promise you’ll be able to turn out a first class limerick before you’ve finished. And what more could anyone ask?
So for now…
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October 16th, 2009
I’m back – greatly enlightened but much poorer! I can’t say that I found standing on the glass panel on the observation deck of the CN Tower in Toronto and looking down 147 floors half as intimidating as the statistics they give to reassure you. Apparently, it can take the weight of 14 hippopotamuses (or should we be purists and go for hippopotami) – but I think the overcrowding and smell would be pretty unbearable.
And Niagara Falls? Unforgettable! But – and this is a bit but – get in there, see them, get up close on the Maid of the Mist, view the fantastic lighting effects at night and then get out. Otherwise, the ‘tackiness’ could smother you.
So, back to reality our Twitter Flash Fiction Competition Results are now available I was really impressed and thoroughly enjoyed judging it. You’d be surprised how much violence some people managed to fit into 140 characters – but I won’t spoil it for you by saying anything more. Go and read them for yourself.
Coming up soon is our annual tutors’ meeting when we get everyone together here in Manchester to discuss students…courses…students…assignments…students…you get the idea? We work terrifically hard (honest!) and then have an evening of good food and a few drinks. Just as it can be lonely being a writer, tutors can feel very isolated working from home and our annual meeting gives people the chance to get to know each other and compare notes.
So, I’m off to prepare the agenda and I’ll let you know how it goes.
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October 9th, 2009
By the time you read this, I’ll be in the air (hopefully) and on my way to Canada. It’s a weekend break (well, five nights) to Toronto and Niagara Falls. I know… it’s a long way to go for five nights but what does it matter? I’m just determined to pack in as much as possible!
According to this month’s E-Zee Writer, Toronto is home to the world’s biggest bookstore – so that definitely could be on my list of places to visit. (Quick digression here: it might be the biggest but one of my favourite, and most quirky, bookshops is Barter Books in Alnwick, Northumberland. It’s located in the old railway station and you shouldn’t miss it if you’re in the area.)
If I don’t have a book to hand I get withdrawal symptoms and I’ve just finished a terrific one – The Children’s Book by A S Byatt. It’s beautifully rich and textured, a great take on turn-of-the-century history and culture – and very ironic. It’s made it to the Booker shortlist and I think it stands a good chance of winning. And apparently, A S Byatt is also one of the judges in the Sunday Times Short Story Competition that I had a swipe at last time.
But enough of that – I’d better get on with my packing. Looking at the weather forecast, plenty of warm clothing seems to be in order. In the meantime, if you’re a Writers Bureau student, start thinking about our ‘Writer of the Year 2010’ competition. Visit our website to see last year’s winners and I’ll let you have more information on how to enter next time!
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October 2nd, 2009
I spotted the headline “Sunday Times launches richest short-story prize” recently.
Always keen to know about big-money prizes that we can bring to students’ attention I read on. The new competition has a first prize of £25,000 and five runners up will each receive £500. Apparently, it’s the latest sign that the short story genre is once again thriving after many years in the doldrums.
But what suddenly hit me as I read on was the fact that the contest is only open to authors who have already had work published. Now does that seem fair to you? Admittedly, the prize money is big so they expect accomplished work – but who’s to say that a complete newcomer can’t write a first-class story? To me it’s just another example of the hurdles that new writers have to jump if they want to get their work known.
I hope that some of you out there will see fit to pen a line to the Sunday Times’ letters page. Long live Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells!
But even the people of Tunbridge Wells are fighting back and they’ve now started a campaign to rid themselves of the stuffy, old-fashioned image. Mugs, T-shirts and postcards are being produced bearing the slogan ‘Delighted of Tunbridge Wells’. Somehow, it just doesn’t have the same resonance!
So until next time…
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