Heroes and Villains

I went into town today to pick up a few things because it is my sister’s 21st birthday on Monday. When we were in a particular shop (yes, I am not recounting my exact whereabouts on the chance that my sister will read this) I was talking to someone working there about a new writing activity book that has come out as part of the merchandise related to the new Beauty and the Beast movie. The book was aimed at children but it was super cute and part of the idea is that the activity gets you to create a ‘bad guy’ and a ‘good guy’.

As a child we’re taught that there are two kinds of people in the world: Heroes and Villains.

Yes, you can say that it’s more complicated than that but being introduced to shades of morality via the idea of good guys winning the day and bad guys who go without dessert is how it’s explained to a child who is learning about the world from scratch.

As you grow older motivations become more complicated and morality becomes much less clear cut.

Saturation. We are exposed slowly and we are gradually introduced to subjects that become ‘grey areas’. At some point we don’t see heroes and villains anymore, instead we simply see people.

Heroes and villains are the bread and butter of a writer’s craft. I remember many exercises in English class as a child where we used this to write little stories.

Of course, I can’t remember the last time I read a story when a villain was just a villain and a hero was just a hero because life doesn’t stay simple and neither do stories.

Sometimes that means that everything slides too far in the wrong direction. When does it become predictable rather than an interesting plot twist to follow a character who is not what they appear to be at first? (If you really want to know then I could give you examples.)

I remember a few years ago, during my first year of university, when I went to an event at Seven Stories at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Holly Black and Sarah Rees Brennan were doing a reading and Q&A. They were both hilarious and so much fun. After the reading, we had the opportunity to chat with the two authors as we had our books signed and the topic of heroes and villains did come up. (You should probably know that Tom Hiddleston as Loki was a recent event at the time) To my happiness as a result of our conversation, Sarah signed my book with this message:

Sarah Rees Brennan signing

Thanks Sarah, I still love this.

By this point I was well acquainted with the idea that villains tend to have very interesting backstories and a plain-old hero didn’t seem to really exist. Like I said, we don’t live in a simple world.

How do we define a villain? By acts or reasoning?

How do we define a hero, by the same measure?

Yet, back to the bread and butter, using a little bit of the hero and villain mentality makes a story interesting. Where would The Lord of The Rings be without it’s heroes and villains? (I started thinking of more examples but I don’t believe that you’d be too impressed with the amount of stories on the list.)

So, if you’re having a bit of trouble with characters then start with the basics and create a hero and a villain.

The motivations for why they do what they do can come later if need be. I’ll do the exercise as well. I’m going to try and write these without stopping to edit so I imagine that there will be plenty of rough edges to smooth out later, or even leave in as the case may be.

 

Hero:

Aggie swung down from the beam and took a moment to appreciate her artistic talents before she was running away like the hounds of hell were snapping at her heels.

It would likely be up to a week before somebody called it in to point it out to the authorities but she wouldn’t be in a great position if she was caught at the scene. Luckily she was in time to catch the ‘rail to the West End and with her dreadlocks bound back and paint staining her fingers she looked like just another art student amongst the rest of them. She did well to time her visits to the Centre.

Her day had gone so smoothly that she was bouncing as she let herself into her girlfriend’s apartment. Grace looked less than happy to see her but it didn’t slow Aggie down at all.

“Have you even left the house today?”

“We need milk.”

“So, that’s a no. I have had a great day.”

Grace slumped down further onto the table top, “You’re going to get us arrested.”

“We all have the right to freedom of speech. I just happen to express my opinion…”

“By vandalising the T.O.W.E.R. in the Centre.” Grace interrupted.

“I didn’t go anywhere near the T.O.W.E.R. today. It was the Dome.”

“Aggie!”

“We have a right…”

“I know our damn rights. That doesn’t mean that they care! You would think that you of all people…”

“Me? Of all people? That’s cold Grace.”

Grace slammed her hands down on the table, “Bethany was taken just last week and sometimes I think that you actually want them to take you away!”

“I need to stand up for myself and for all of you. Do you think that I want to be painting the walls of the city because nobody will take notice of me otherwise? If we let them, we will disappear one by one until there is no one left to stand up for what is right.”

Grace stood up, “Did you mean what you said last night?”

Aggie had to put her hands behind her back to hide their shaking, “Did you?”

Grace headed for the door, “We need milk.”

She was gone before Aggie looked at the colourful flyers strewn on the table, obviously drawn with a great deal of care, and admitted weakly, “I didn’t mean it.”

 

Villain:

“What’s wetworks?”

“My kind of work.”

“Oh. Ew.”

Nathaniel smirked, amused as always by Bella’s reactions to his job, and regarded the stranger in the doorway with a wary eye. He’d make a suggestion but, Bella had already stood up to leave.

The stranger entered as soon as Bella had slipped off to her bedroom but Nathaniel could see him well enough so he didn’t bother to get up from where he was lying down on the couch.

“Well, this is new. Don’t usually have you fella’s dropping by to say hello before I’m paid. Or after, for that matter. Must be quite the job.”

The stranger sat down, looking out of place amongst the bold, pink, flower-y pattern of the armchair (Bella’s choice, Nathaniel would like to point out), “Your girlfriend is quite beautiful.”

Nathaniel snorted, “Not mine. I should point out that I already know who you are, by the way, and if you think that you can get to me via her then you’re barking up the wrong tree and you’re just plain barking. Now, if you have a job for me, get on with it or I’ll bill you for this consultation as well.”

Nathaniel had been left alone for a few hours before Bella appeared and asked, “Are you leaving for a few days?”

He shrugged, “Places to go. People to kill.”

Bella’s nose scrunched up in displeasure, though it made her look adorable rather than weird, “Who is it?”

Nathaniel chuckled and pulled her down to lie against him, “None of your business. Might be gone for a while though so don’t let your boyfriend move in while I’m gone.”

“Okay. I’ll help you pack a lunch for tomorrow.”

Try to write and try again

Not every week is a good week for writing.

Even this blog post has taken me a long time to get to this week.

My days aren’t exactly busy at the moment as I’m looking for a new job and as much time as I have to write, it’s just not been going well for the past couple of days. It’s easier to doubt yourself when you have plenty of time to think. I barely left the house last week and didn’t realise until the end of the weekend when someone pointed it out – not so healthy.

That was rather melancholy :/

Getting stuck in a rut can happen but if I don’t stop thinking about the fact that words aren’t coming easily then I’m not likely to write ever again.

I’ve got my fingers crossed that it’ll change. Sometimes you’ve just got to endure the slumps.

Can I pick up the mood of this blog post? I think that it might be worth it to try. I was trying to think of some old stories or snippets to see if I had anything to share.

I did find a recent part of a story I’m writing called No Superheroes Allowed.

 

Cutting across the quad, Neil almost made it.

The doors were in sight but then, his luck ran out.

“Neil.”

He froze in place when he heard his name bellowed and more than a few people were staring. Even before he turned on the heels of his feet he knew that there was no way out. He trudged back to the doors he’d just left and tried (he mostly failed) to summon a smile for his boss.

Neil knew that it was futile but he tried it anyway, “I was about to take my lunch break.”

His boss turned and strode away purposefully. Swallowing a sigh, Neil followed. Lunch would obviously, and unfortunately, have to wait.

The S.A. Ward loomed ahead of them and Neil would’ve begged to be let go if he’d thought that it would’ve worked. It was the only part of the hospital which made Neil regret accepting the job. His boss stood in front of the dark green doors until Neil had trudged through and he was out of sight.

Neil had only dared to walk straight back out again once in the earlier days. His boss had not been impressed.

Neil approached the nurse’s desk with trepidation. Sonya beamed at him from behind her desk but he couldn’t muster up more than a sickly smile in defence. She was used to it. He’d never looked happy to be on the S.A. Ward for the three years that she’d known him.

She passed him an unusually thick file and he walked as slowly as was physically possible towards the room at the end of the hallway. He stopped in front of the familiar door, took a deep breath, and then knocked.

From the other side a deep voice practically purred, “Enter.”

 

Read it again

Despite the new, unread books I may own sometimes I can’t resist picking up and reading a book I’ve read before (usually more than once). I love re-reading stories and it shows in the amount of physical copies that I own (I haven’t gotten into the swing of buying more ebooks than paperbacks).

Most of the time, if I’m picking up a book to re-read then I’m just in the mood or I was reminded of something in the book. Then there are the stories that’ve become the books I re-read annually. There aren’t many on this list and, generally, I don’t set out to read a particular book at specific times. I highly doubt that keeping a rigid schedule for reading would suit me.

There’s something nice about reading a book that’s familiar but I tend to find something new about it at the same time, especially if I’m reading it every year or so, which is great.

You’re never really the same person, a lot can change in a year, and I know that I never read a story from the same ‘frame of mind’ each time I pick it up.

I was about fourteen years old when I first read Anne McCaffrey’s ‘Talent Series’ and I thought that it was brilliant. I still do. Back then, I vaguely remember thinking that the idea of ordinary people having extraordinary powers was so enchanting. It was science fiction like I’d not read before. It didn’t begin on a far off planet or in the distant future but it was realistic while it stretched the boundaries of what was possible.

I know now that the story was written more than twenty years before I was born. I borrowed, and continue to borrow, the books from my parents. They’re both fans of Anne McCaffrey and I believe that there is a photograph somewhere of me as a very young child holding onto a copy of ‘Powers That Be’ by Anne McCaffrey. I doubt I could understand many of the words at the time. We had a look for the photograph, but we couldn’t find it although we know that it is around somewhere. It was nice to see old photo’s though.

talent series reading (05/04/2017)

Especially the ones I’d forgotten about. Since we couldn’t find the photo here is one of me now re-reading ‘To Ride Pegasus’, the first book in the ‘Talent Series’.

Honestly, I don’t vividly remember than first time that I read ‘To Ride Pegasus’. The book is so wonderfully detailed but there’s a lot to remember about the world that is created and introduced in the first book so it makes sense to me that I remember the book better from re-reading them semi-frequently. Yet, there is a quote from the first book that has always stuck with me, from the first time I read it, “I can see horizons wider than mortality but I cannot always see the sparrow fall” (Page 48). Here, in the book the character is worried about the fate of a friend as well as the future but the quote reflects something much bigger than a single event. I find that it’s about the divide between the big picture and the small moments. It always seemed to remind me that becoming too focused on one or the other can mean that you might miss something on the other side.

The second book in the series, ‘Pegasus in Flight’ is the book I remember falling in love with. I still find it extraordinary when I read it now. Even if I just look at it as a feat of storytelling it is beautifully crafted and complex in the best way. As a reader we’re presented with a multi-lingual and achingly real world despite the fantastical limits of the science fiction genre. I’m not sure that I can pinpoint just one thing that led me to falling in love with this book but I thoroughly recommend it.

The final book in the series is called ‘Pegasus in Space’ and follows on more or less immediately from the events in ‘Pegasus in Flight’. (There is a series, ‘The Tower and The Hive’ based in the same universe but it is set in the future, a few generations down the line, after the end of the third book of the Talent Series. The first three books are commonly referred to as the ‘Pegasus’ series to try and distinguish between the two series set in the Talent universe.) ‘Pegasus in Space’ is slightly longer than the first two books and it continues to tell the story of characters who are working towards the goal of a better future, a precedent which was set from the very first pages of ‘To Ride Pegasus’. However, it’s not just a culmination of the events that’ve occurred in the previous books. Anne McCaffrey tells an amazing story throughout the arc about what can be achieved if there are individuals who do not give up hope.

If there’s one thing that I like about all of the books it’s probably that they’re so vivid. Everything from the problems – overpopulation, lawsuits and public relations – to the hopes – safety, legitimacy and friendships/relationships – are all realistic. I have no problem immersing myself in the world because it doesn’t take an extraordinary suspension of disbelief to believe in the events of the book even if it does sit comfortably within the purview of fiction.

talent series

Even now, as I’m glancing through the book to check that I’ve got my references right I’m getting pulled into the story and my fingers are itching to open the book at the first page. I’ll finish writing this post before I succumb to the temptation.

I find a lot of truth in fiction. Fiction writers may tell stories that don’t always mesh with reality but there is a lot to be learned from the way that a fiction writer sees the world. More often than not, they see people better than anyone and that kind of knowledge about the way that people act and react works its way into writing. I spend a lot of time reading, no surprise there, and sometimes that’s because I appreciate the honesty of a fiction book more than anything else.

After writing that last paragraph I became unsure as to how to finish this blog post. I talked about how the books focus on ordinary people with extraordinary abilities and I found a quote in ‘To Ride Pegasus’ on page 20 that, for me, sums up the idea. So, I’ll happily leave you with the words of Anne McCaffrey.

“Talent, gentlemen, can include something as simple as being a born mechanic. We’ve all known or heard of the guy who just listens to the sound of an engine and knows what’s wrong with it. Or the plumber who can dowse the exact location of a break in water pipes. Or the pyromaniac who “knows” when and where a fire will break out and has so often been accused of starting it; the woman whose hands ease a fever or soothe a pain, the worker who knows instinctively what the boss needs, the person who can always find what’s been mislaid or lost. These are everyday, but valid, evidences of the parapsychic Talent. These are the people we want to include in our Centres – not just the more dramatic mind-readers and clairvoyants. The Talented are rarely supermen and women, just people who operate on a different wavelength.”

Learning About Revolutionary Women

Last Friday (as mentioned in my post last week) I was at an event in Sunderland led by two speakers, Dr Laura O’Brien from Northumbria University and author Dr Mary Talbot.

The event titled ‘Revolutionary Women: Imagining Louise Michel’ was great. As part of the Sunderland University public lecture series the event was held outside of the university campus in the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, allowing members of the public as well as students and staff to have the chance of attending.

The inspiration for the joint talk that centred around French revolutionary history circa 1789 onwards came from the graphic novel ‘The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia’ by Dr Mary Talbot. The graphic novel is illustrated by Brian Talbot and focuses on the historical figure and story of Louise Michel. The talk began with an overview of the perception and reality of women involved in political protesting from 1789 onwards by Dr Laura O’Brien before Dr Mary Talbot narrowed down the focus to Louise Michel and the graphic novel.

It was fascinating to hear about the perception of women campaigning for various rights. One particular quote during Laura’s presentation, “Let women become citizens so they can raise good citizens” really stood out to me. Previously, I didn’t know much about that particular period of history – it was something I was never taught – but there was nothing completely intangible about it when it was spoken about on Friday. It was obvious that the stereotypes formed during that period have unfortunately lingered – particularly when related to modern feminism.

Instead it was always, and is, about equality.

When it was Mary’s turn to speak she began with audience recognition. She spoke about how she’d written the book for what was likely to be a mostly British audience who would not have previously known about Louise Michel, I know that I didn’t, and so she started her book from the end before going back through the years to where the story began. As a writer, this technique is fascinating, particularly when it is used to introduce a real historical figure. Seeing the end of a journey can often stir intrigue and lead to wonder about where the story began.

Mary went into some detail when it came to the first portion of the book and learning about history through the use of a graphic novel was interesting. The book is filled with accurate references where possible. There are snatches of real, documented speeches from the period and the illustrations were taken from real places that Mary and Brian visited during their research as well as photographs available.

I was fascinated by it all, and yes I bought my own copy of the book which was signed by both Mary and Brian (thank you both again for that. It’s lovely).

The Red Virgin and the vision of utopia

I had a busy day on Friday (I went to see Beauty and The Beast earlier that day with a friend which was great) but I am so glad that I went to the Revolutionary Women event. The long train ride home was worth it.

 

On Sunday I posted my very first guest blog, Patronus VS Spirit Animal by Cara De Sausmarez and I was thrilled that she’d written something so good for me during her free time. As you can probably tell, she’s a big Harry Potter fan.

 

There are only a couple of days left before the April CampNaNoWriMo begins and I’ve submitted my project for the month on the website. At the moment I’m calling it Modern Mythology since that the project needed a title and I’ve set the word count at 35,000. We’ll see if I get there.

One day I will write…

It can be a strange thing to acknowledge the pressure that you can put on yourself.

It’s unfortunately easy to worry that you’re not doing everything that you could or should. Whether it’s a product of a society split by generations or not there can be this impression that if you’re not successful when you are younger then you will never be successful. As children we’re always asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s great to have goals but may I just point out:

It is ok not to know.

Maybe you just haven’t found your niche yet.

Maybe there is more than one path which will make you happy.

Sometimes I can’t help getting lost in my own head, worrying about all of the things I haven’t done yet.

I am only 22 years old.

I have time.

It is okay that I am not yet the writer that I would like to be. Being an author is all about potential.

When I worry about what I haven’t done it’s usually because I’m too focused on my short term goals. It can be helpful to plan in terms of days but it narrows down my focus a lot and anything which jolts me out of that mind-set can be extremely jarring – that’s usually where I start getting tangled up in my own head.

So, I’ve been thinking about long-term goals lately. Those ‘one day’ kind of plans that I really love to think about.

One of those goals – since I was a young teenager I’ve wanted to write a musical. At school I loved doing theatre productions (although it was the backstage moments I liked the most) and I’ve studied music at various stages before studying English and Creative Writing at university. The combination of two of my favourite things plus, the idea of doing something exciting that I have never done before is a great thought. I’ve not written anything down for this dream yet, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t think about it. Writing a musical is one of those long-term goals that’s fun to think about and toy with when I get too caught up in the short term.

 

I’ve received Cara’s post for the guest blog and I’m thrilled to say that it will be uploaded this Sunday. It was lovely of Cara to write something for me and I’m excited to share it. I loved talking about her idea when she was planning for it so seeing the finished post is great.

This Friday I will be attending an event (which I had a small role in helping to organise – which included creating the poster) with speakers Dr Mary Talbot and Dr Laura O’Brien and I am really looking forward to hearing them speak about Paris history, Louise Michel and the creation of a graphic novel. The event sounds so interesting.

revolt

Yesterday was world poetry day and I only wrote one piece late last night. I shared it with the Spectral Visions Press members (publishers of the Spectral Visions Press Tarot Collection) and it felt appropriate to share it with that particular group initially since that the poem felt quite gothic in nature and that is their specialty. I’d like to share it here as well.

You will have caught a glimpse
of a Kingdom, not yours,
that lies beyond the mirror
and houses creatures with claws
and eyes with almond pupils
and hair as thick as fur and
the dance is always for them
as they glide across the floor.

They bare their teeth and smile
and smile and smile until their
partner tumbles, their feet bloodied,
unable to stand any more and
they cannot find themselves,
if they ever could, in the reflections.

I / You / They

Recently, a few of the friends I met at university and I re-started our online writing group. We used a Facebook group back when we were all still studying for when we needed a bit of advice or we just needed someone to read what we’d done and catch any elusive grammar mistakes (there is only so many times you can look at a paper before it starts making no sense at all).

Now, there may not be any strict deadlines looming but what we all seemed to miss was the support.

There is something immensely satisfying about chatting to writers like yourself who simply get the struggles, the frustrations or, sometimes, the insecurity of writing. Plus, it’s just nice to chat about ideas.

I’m the kind of person who works well when I have someone to brainstorm ideas with (even if it’s just because I need to hear the idea out loud before I can decide if it is any good after all). When I can’t do this in person, social media isn’t perfect but it goes some way to bridging the gap.

The other day, one of our group members asked for our opinion as to whether they should write something in first person or third person. Most of us answered along the lines of “go with what feels right”.

I realise that this is both helpful and not helpful.

Before I went to university I wrote more in first person but that seemed to change dramatically while I was studying at Sunderland. I think that all of my creative pieces were in third person although I hope not – I’d like to think that I had more variety than that. University was all about short submitted pieces and if you’re trying to squeeze in plot, character and atmosphere into a couple of pages then sometimes third person can allow you to open up more of the world to a reader in fewer words – show them the bigger picture – depending on the topic.

Occasionally, I’ll start a story and there will be a character’s voice strong enough to determine the point of view of the speaker. It’s not a trait of my writing that I consciously think about very often – I’m usually more concerned with what my opening line will say rather than who is saying it.

I rarely write in second person when it comes to fiction. To me, second person tense strips back too many layers between the character, the writer and the reader for me to write a longer story but it makes an interesting writing exercise if you’re practising or if you’re experimenting with style.

I remember a moment a few years ago when I was having the problem of “which tense do I write in?” I received this advice:

Write the opening of your story multiple times – one version in first person, one in second person and one in third – and then decide which version you like the best/ are most comfortable with.

Personally, I think that this is great advice and the changes that you can see by doing this exercise can sometimes offer insight into the story that may be highly relevant later on.

As for reading, I want to offer a recommendation of a book written with first person narration rather than third: Shadowmagic by John Lenahan.

Shadowmagic is the first book in a trilogy (Shadowmagic, Prince of Hazel and Oak and Sons of Macha) and I was in college when I first found the series. I bought the first book on kindle when it was on offer for free and I had no idea of what to expect. I didn’t even know that it was written in first person until I started reading.

I fell head over heels for the book – which quickly turned into a love for the entire series – from the very first line. I own them on kindle and in paperback (the omnibus edition of the series was too pretty too resist).

They are beautifully easy to read (almost everyone in my house has read them now), they are packed with the clever use of mythology and legend and I probably cannot recommend them enough.

Looking towards Camp NaNoWriMo

April is the first Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) of the year (July is the second camp).

For those who’ve not taken part in NaNoWriMo before: November is the main event with writers from all across the word attempting to write 50,000 words in one month (I’ve never reached that particular goal yet. For some reason November never seems to be a good month for me). It’s all a lot of fun to take part in, but I like the camps.

For the month of April (and July) each writer gets to choose their own word count target from 30 to 1,000,000 (I’ve reached 30,000 before) and it doesn’t matter what you want to write in particular – everyone is welcome. I love the fact that it is non-profit, flexible and so inclusive. During the camps you get the chance to talk to other writers about your projects as you become a part of a ‘cabin’ and I’ve had a lot of fun with it in the past.

I’m not sure what my project this April is going to be. I’ve got a little bit of time to think about it but, when it comes to a challenge like this preparation in advance definitely helps. There are a couple of ideas I’ve been toying with lately, I’ve written the prologues of both, and I’ve spoken to different people about the separate ideas. I like both ideas so I may decide to focus on one of those or maybe I’ll tumble into something new between now and the first of April. It has happened before.

I don’t do the projects every year although I do try because I like the idea but I’m really excited to attempt the challenge in April.

What will my personal target be? Maybe I should pick a project first before deciding on that but I know that I’d like to be ambitious.

If you’d like to give it a go, and you could write anything that you wanted to, the website is here where you can sign up: https://campnanowrimo.org/sign_in

 

In other news, the weather is getting better (the sunshine is so lovely) and I wrote a poem about it as I was walking home yesterday because I could:

Early morning blossom unfolds in its salutation to the sun,
Though the wind chill remains the light is warm.
Greeting the bright days with early morning rising
And I, beside you, whisper of the fruits in the days to come.
The sharp-sweet burst of raspberries on my tongue.
Strawberries dipped in sugar crystals, laid across your lips.
The sticky-sweet juice of nectarines dripping between our fingers as we laugh.
Promises for a future bathed in sunshine.

All of the poems by me from February – 28 poems for 28 days – are typed up here: https://teganstevensonwrites.wordpress.com/february-2017/

 

It is also International Women’s Day today and I hope that it was a good one for everyone.

Talking about publishing

Yesterday afternoon I attended a seminar about careers in publishing at the University of Sunderland.

I graduated from this university last summer with First Class Honours in English and Creative Writing. I loved my third year there and thanks to the connections I made in my third year with the people around me I now have opportunities like attending talks such as the one from yesterday.

The speaker Neil Morrison who works for Penguin Random House was there on behalf of The Publishers Association and what was really interesting was how the focus of the talk was about the current publishing industry and the admittance that the industry is changing rapidly. There was a constant, mostly unspoken, undercurrent of ‘see the potential in what could be next’.

Thanks to my experience with Spectral Visions Press while I was at university I developed much more of an interest in how the publishing world works. The majority of my experience was related to the editorial side of the production.

I knew bits and pieces about what else was involved in the creation of a book but Neil made it clear just how new some of the roles are. For example, due to rapid changes in technology promotional methods have changed and are still currently adapting.

I liked being at the talk, it was interesting and the Q&A session afterwards was very informative as questions came from the perspectives of writers and aspiring publishers.

 

As for other news, I’ve started reading Shatter, the second book in the Unbreakable Bonds series, by Rinda Eliott and Jocelynn Drake (like I promised 🙂 ) I’ve not read a lot of it yet but wow, that opening was eventful.

My internship finishes this week. Eight weeks is really not a long time and I liked where I was working but I knew from the beginning that, unfortunately, it wasn’t going to be a permanent position. I’m not sure what’s going to be next but I’m excited to find out. I learned a lot where I was and I hope that it will lead on to good things.

Most of the poems for February have now been typed up and put on the February 2017 page which you can find via the ‘Poetry’ option on the menu, but I’ve not quite finished yet. I’m working on it. As for my first guest blog, well unfortunately I wasn’t able to post it in February like I’d originally planned but I’m still looking forward to posting the first one soon.

Poetry

I’ve been thinking about poetry a lot lately.

I suppose that’s no real surprise considering that this month’s aim is to write a poem per day.

I like writing poetry. I always have despite long periods where I haven’t written anything so much as a stanza.

I use a pen and paper more often than anything else when I’m writing poetry. There is something incredibly personal to me about writing, or even reading, a poem even if the content isn’t personal at all. Typing it up on a computer once I’ve written the poem down elsewhere doesn’t feel strange but typing it up directly does to me. It’s probably just a quirk.

The thing is: Nobody ever told me that I could be a poet.

If you walk into a bookstore you will see novels, maybe even a few short stories but I always find the selection of poetry to be small even if it is interesting. There are many books/ other forms of advice on becoming a novelist but becoming a poet, to me at least, seems like a distant, almost improbable concept. Poetry is a skill, a talent although learning the format is definitely possible, for me poetry is more about the feeling.

There’s something classic about poetry. A weight, almost, that comes with knowing how old and ever-changing the tradition actually is.

Great poets – W.B. Yeat’s, Robert Frost, Carol Ann Duffy, to name a few – stand the test of time and stand out amongst their contemporaries but how many poets faded into obscurity beyond the shining light that picked out individuals? How does someone ordinary face up to what seems like dizzying heights?

That might be a little self-depreciating. Ordinary? I try to avoid the word but, I’ll be honest, my life is comfortable and sometimes feels very ordinary indeed. We are what we are used to, I guess.

I truly adore poetry. I imagine that it would be extremely difficult to continue writing poetry without feeling passionate about it.

Working on publishing a book of poetry as I did last year (Spectral Visions Press Tarot Collection), made me consider that sometimes a poet just needs an opportunity to show their work. Like most writing, poetry is incredibly subjective and two people may never see eye-to-eye about how they feel for a piece of poetry. That’s okay. It may even be purposeful on the part of the writer.

What is good poetry?

I have no answer.

I know what I like. My favourite poems are ‘Silver’ by Walter De La Mare, ‘Jabberwocky’ by Lewis Carroll, ‘The Highwayman’ by Alfred Noyes and ‘Strawberries’ by Edwin Morgan (In a competition I once read this out loud in front of an entire room of people – go and read the poem and you will see why I was both amused and slightly embarrassed by the amount of compliments afterwards). I like a good story. That doesn’t really change for me no matter what the format is.

I like what I’m doing right now. Writing as it comes to me and not dwelling too much on whether or not anybody else will like it (although it’s always nice, of course, to receive positive comments). I may not be confident in describing myself solely as a poet but I do love writing poetry.

I’m not sure if the point of this particular blog post is that part of me wants to be a nomadic poet roaming the wilds and swapping words for a place to stay for the night or that I just like poetry. Take of it what you will.

Today’s poem:

I slip from path to path,
never lingering too long
as I sing loudly and laugh
at the words of the song
which falls from my mouth.
There are the sad people
who trudge wearily South
and look for a gold steeple
that signals a better life
free from all hardships,
but all that waits is strife.
So song falls from my lips
as I try to turn them back
but my warnings fall flat
and I cannot change tack,
so I stopped dancing and sat
while I kept on singing
and the people passed by
with no chance of winning.
It is not in my nature to lie
though they heard no truth.
I watched them for a while,
it niggled like a bad tooth,
the line went back a mile
I gave up and left to walk
upon another path that led
to people who did not balk
to hear the truth being said.

I’m happy to announce that my first guest blog will be written by Cara De Sausmarez, currently an intern with Spectral Visions Press but I’ll let her introduce herself properly later. If all goes well it will be posted and accessible from the ‘Guest Blog’ menu at the top of the page on the last day of the month so there is not long to go.

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