Tag Archives: writing

Life update #14

Why hello! Fancy you reading this! I suppose I’d better apologise yet again for the lack of blogging that has gone on this past month. For one, I haven’t had a lot to blog about, but also life, work (it’s GCSE time again!) and sleep seem to have taken over. We’re looking to move house soon (have I already mentioned this?), but are having real issues finding somewhere- in part because landlords and estate agents don’t actually seem to get back to us when we inquire. We did have a viewing arranged for last weekend at the most perfect house, but then it turns out to have been let before we even had chance to see it. To say we were (and still are) pissed off is putting it mild. This is dragging us all down at the moment, and sleep seems to win out over staying up late at night and worrying/fretting/typing on a temperamental keyboard that takes five times longer than it should to type a sentence on. However, it’s half term now (the joys of working in a school!), so this has provided a small window for catching up on some much-needed posting time. I’ve had to borrow a laptop from work though so as I can get some work done and get these posts typed up more quickly.

Talking of work- I may be going to Oxford next month on a conference, which should be pleasant, and which I’m secretly looking forward to. Neither my wife nor I have been down since my graduation in September 2013, so we’re both pretty homesick for the place. We’ve been wanting to go down for a few days every holiday, but haven’t either had the time or the train fare. I’d feel a bit bad going without the rest of the family, though. It’s bad enough for them that in July I’m going down for two days with work to stay at my college, St. Hugh’s.

What else is happening in my life? Oh yes- it doesn’t seem as though my poetry submission has got anywhere, as I still haven’t heard back and it’s been a number of months now. Is that how long it usually takes to hear back, or will this silence be a permanent thing? I s’pose I may as well bite the bullet and just send them on mass to as many publishers as I can, but I am still fearful of rejection. I know all wannabe writers go through it, and that I’m just being a wimp, but- my work’s shit, and I don’t need other people’s rejection to tell me that. I’d intended over Easter on beginning the next book of poetry (I’ve got the odd line, poem title and fragments scribbled down ready from when I wrote my first collection, but haven’t yet worked them into some sort of order), but despite buying a brand new notebook, I didn’t get anywhere. Not so much as a word written in it. I’d also planned on getting some more of those short stories and fragmenty/sceney/vignettey things down on paper, but to no avail. I’ve got these planned alright- I’ve got two novellas and a full-blown novel planned- I just can’t be arsed to actually write them. Okay, that’s not strictly true. It’s more like I’m scared to write them as I don’t feel as though I could write them either as well as they seem to be as they are at the moment in my head, or as though I will be able to write enough and quickly enough. It usually takes me a long time to write prose. I can bang out a poem (on a good day) in about ten minutes; some of my best are written like this. But prose has to be teased out at the rate of about a line a day. I think I need a big kick. And some coffee. That usually helps.

Anyway. Back to the blog. I’ve got a not-so-new-by-now book haul to post next and a few other oddments that I’ve come across, so hopefully I can get these up soon. I also intend on making headway with my book reviews soon, as I’ve got books that I read at the start of 2014 to still review…

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Preparation for rejection

…I still haven’t heard anything either way regarding my poetry submission. Perhaps no news, as they say…

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One resolution down! Life Update #11

Well, it’s often the case that resolutions made at New Year never seem to last much past January, and indeed it seems that the first resolution I made has already been broken. You may notice that this is only my third blog post this year, and I still haven’t got any more book reviews up. Sorry. However, there is one that I have already done- the tattoo. No I’m only joking. Last weekend though I did submit some of the poems from my completed book to a publisher. If you’ve been reading this blog since I started it, you will know that this is quite a big thing, as I have up until now never had the courage to actually take the plunge and do this. I don’t think I’ll actually get published, but still- I’ve actually submitted something, which is further than I’ve ever got with it before. Wish me luck!

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Resolutions 2015

Image: facebook.com/lego

Image: facebook.com/lego

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

I suppose these should really be made on New Year’s Day, but they’re not too late.

  1. Get more blog posts up on here! I’ve got about 12 book reviews to get written, so I’d better get cracking!
  2. Bite the bullet and submit my book of poetry to publishers. That’s the one I finished editing in January 2014.
  3. Finish writing the book of short stories and random prose pieces that I begun in early 2014.
  4. Begin writing the novel I have planned.
  5. Return to archaeology in my spare time- it’s become a bit neglected of late. It may help that we’re planning on moving to a different (nicer) part of the city soon, which should enable me to actually get all of my Arch & Anth texts (and my uni notes and essays) in some sort of usable order and actually on SHELVES, which they are still without at the moment.
  6. Get my ear pierced and have a tattoo. Okay, maybe I’m joking with that one…
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Thoughts on Donald Barthelme’s ‘Forty Stories’

Forty Stories

 

It is perhaps interesting that for me the best part of this book was the introduction written by somebody else.

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Q: And why was this?

A: Because it was the most entertaining part and made the most sense.

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-Surely not?

-Why yes.

-Really?

-As sure as eggs is eggs is eggs. With bacon. Fried in chocolate for the delectation of the discerning middle classes.

*

The expectation that was assumed to be in evidence was not proved to be as such when the reading actually commenced following the cesation of the previous tome which previously I have reviewed and thought upon prior to this thinking and musing and thought about, leaving the reader in no doubt as to what this reader thinks re: this forty-storey book of stories (not as tall as first thought- blame the government and the recession and the teachers on strike along with the bloody airport staff) that you may or may not have come across. Therefore the sense of what I write (along with the logic of illogical executions, randomly placed lions and latter-day saints living in apartment blocks) will either be all perfectly sensible or unknown to the extreme.

*

-So is he like Kafka?

-What?

-Kafka.

-Who?

-Kafka.

-Yes.

-How?

-They’re both dead.

-More specific…

-Is that not specific enough?

-No.

-Not like Kafka, no. More scatological and less obvious. And without the questionable presence of insects. But similar in some ways-

[insert b&w engraving of a Victorian lady in a bathing costume, a woodlouse and a Greek temple]

-Even better, let’s use a bold black circle as a discussion point. You must reference Ghandi, the Buddha and Jacques Cousteau. In any order. Your time begins once the porcupines have registered and taken their seats on the plane. Any second now…

*

Kaboom and kaballah. Bismillah and bar mitzvah. Etcetera. Etc. Et. E.

*

And so on.

And a bit more.

-Did it inform you about the present state of the state’s present president? Or Global Warming?

-No.

-Did you enjoy it?

-Ask me another question.

-Did you derive pleasure from it?

-That’s the same question.

-But different wording.

-I don’t know. Yes and no.

*

Q: Why yes?

A: Because some of the stories were interesting and surreal but in a good way.

Q: And why no?

A: Because some of the stories were unintelligible and surreal but in a bad way.

*

Some of us had been threatening our friend Colby. That was a good one. As was The temptation of St. Anthony. And Porcupines at the university. And Lightening. And Sakrete. And The genius.

*

Somebody else = Dave Eggers (as per Penguin Modern Classics edition ISBN on request. Send a postcard.)

*

I may read this book again at some point but at the present moment I know not when but I do hope to at some point as then I may learn to understand the intricacies of the many texts [40 to be more or less precise- Ed.] in this book cut and spliced from other Bartheleme books of short tales and stories and vignettes and randomness that I will never bother to read due to the bad taste and headache this volume left upon the counter next to the coffee mug i drowned my sorrows in, and which was not as good as either the cover (always judge a book by it) or the introduction (never judge a book by it) made it out to be.

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Now go and make me an omlette using only the words on this page and the pages of fifteen separate newspapers from the day on which your favourite uncle turned into a teenager. Then tune in next time for the next exciting installment. Leave your comments and likes and etceteras below, above, behind and all around like love. Here is the author:

tentacled man

Image: Dan Hillier

Now enjoy with a selection of chocolates from around the world, presented on a seaweed platter. And don’t forget the bacon.

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Ideas for writing projects

You may recall that I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve finally completed the poetry collection that I’ve been working on, and just need to re-read it a few more times to make sure that I’m happy with it. Well, now I’ve been thinking about what I should write next, and have decided that- whilst I have another book of poetry planned out and begun in snippets- I will begin a novel that I came up with an idea for a few weeks ago, and which I have subsequently planned in quite a bit of detail. I’m also going to write a series of short stories, vignettes and fragments a la Kafka on a variety of topics and in a wide range of styles but with an overarching theme with the intention of putting a book together. Hopefully, these will allow me to experiment with styles and narrative voices, as well as providing stimulating breaks from the novel once I’ve finally taken the plunge and written the first sentence in my new notebook. I will keep posting fairly regular updates on my progress, and hope to be finished by some point next year so I can then pester publishers once I have been rejected copiously with my poems. Wish me luck!

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Done editing!

A brief note just to say that I have now finished editing the poetry collection that I have been working on intermittently for the past three and a half years or so, and which I really stepped up with over this summer. I will keep reading it through over the coming month to make sure I haven’t missed anything, and hope to try to submit it to various publishers in the new year.

If anyone from Faber & Faber is reading this, then feel free to get in touch and offer me a deal!

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Thoughts on Kipling’s ‘Just So Stories’

how the elephant got its trunk

It’s taken me quite a while to get around to writing this post, as it’s been a good few weeks since I read the book. I’ve put it off for a bit as well, as I am slightly unsure what to say about this collection. Don’t get me wrong- I did enjoy reading it.

Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Just So Stories’ was published in 1902, and in general the tales included are intended to explain to children how several animals came to look or act how they do. Those stories that concern the appearance of animals are inventive and show a clever knowledge of both animal behaviours and the basis of Darwin’s theory of evolution, as each of the stories suggest that the features developed to assist in the plot of the story appear as adaptations (such as the kangaroo’s legs in ‘The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo’) or are passed on to offspring (as at the end of ‘The Elephant’s Child’). However, I particularly enjoyed the two interconnected tales ‘How the First Letter was Written’ and ‘How the Alphabet was Made’, as they provide a vaguely plausible and interesting take on the appearance of writing- even if their invention of our Latin alphabet is rather suspect. Another personal favourite in the collection is the last story, ‘The Butterfly that Stamped’, as I thought that whilst the premise was a tad sexist, the surreal nature of the tale and the sheer whimsy of the plot stand this story apart from the rest of them, with their being no particular message or meaning behind it.

I was also taken slightly by Kipling’s writing style in this book, as I had expected these works for children to be of a slightly higher lexical complexity than modern children’s books, simply from the time that they were written. However, I hadn’t quite expected the style to be such that it emulated Biblical texts (i.e. the Book of Genesis) in its repetition and use of almost identical passages. Similarly, I hadn’t realised prior to reading that Kipling produced all of the illustrations in the book, and I was very impressed by just how good and inventive these are. I have reproduced one of the most famous at the top of this post, which was included in the story ‘The Elephant’s Child’.

I think that my enjoyment of this book was tempered somewhat by having read Ted Hughes’ Kipling-esque ‘How the Whale Became’ many years ago, as I expected this to be a more faithful indication of what the original book was like than it actually is, and missed the sense of humour that Hughes added to his work. It was with Hughes’ work in mind that I produced my own such story several years ago, ‘How the Platypus Became so Weird’, which I am planning on re-editing for inclusion in a collection of short stories that I am going to begin working on this coming week (more on this to come). However, in all it was a fairly decent book, and is something that i would read again- although I think that I may ‘dip into’ the book next time, or read a tale here or there in between other books.

Lastly, I would just like to commend the cover art of the edition that I read (and which i bought a few months ago- see this previous book-purchases post):

just so stories

I can’t really put my finger on why I like this Penguin Modern Classics edition- I think it’s just the simplicity and the slight playfulness of the tail. On an interesting note: this book has now been issued as a standard black Classic, presumably because it is now over 100 years old. One to add to the discussion, if you remember one of my previous posts.

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Life update #4

It’s been a week since I last posted anything on here, and I am aware that I’ve been getting somewhat behind on my posts; there’s a backlog of 4 ‘Thoughts on…’ posts that I hope to complete, as well as several other things that have caught my eye over the past few days. It’s not even as though I’ve been particularly busy lately, either. I usually post things on here in an evening or in the early hours of the morning, and it’s simply been that I’ve been way too tired to sit up thinking strenuously about literature, archaeology or other such things. I’ve also been feeling rather miserable lately, in part due to the depressing state of the weather, and the uncertainty about my job, as the process of finding out about my hours and pay has seemed to drag on and on. However- I can now smile! I still don’t have a start date, but at least I now know (thanks to an email I picked up last night) that my hours and pay are sorted, and should start the week after next. I still feel quite lacklustre in general at the moment for no particular reason, but at least I know that I will be able to provide a Christmas for my family, and that we should be secure for the near future.

On another point, I am also very close to having edited and redrafted the book of poems that I announced the completion of in draft form in a previous post, and hope to have them completely finished by the new year. Then, I can try to get them published, but just have to pluck up the courage to actually submit. I will do, though. I just need a little faith in myself.

Lastly, not so much a life point, but this blog seems to be stuck at the moment on the number of followers I have, as no-one has followed it for quite a while now. PLEASE spread the word and tell people you know about it! Share my posts on Facebook, and ‘like’ the Facebook page facebook.com/electricpuppetblog. Thank you! And look out for a few new posts that I should be getting up soon!

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Thoughts on ‘Metamorphosis and other stories’

Image: zombiebackrub.deviantart.com

Image: zombiebackrub.deviantart.com

Yeah… that pretty much sums it up, to be fair. I approached this book with an immense excitement and hyped it up somewhat in previous posts, but when I was actually reading it, I found the collection a bit lacklustre, if I’m being honest. The actual story ‘Metamorphosis’ is very good, in both the way it is written and in the story itself, and despite being fairly simple in plot when it is broken down (as above), I didn’t actually expect it to go how it did. I didn’t know the story before hand, and so was approaching it completely blind (other than knowing a man becomes an insect- or more accurately, ‘vermin’. The original German doesn’t state explicitly that Georg is an insect). However, I was expecting there to be some kind of moral in the story, but couldn’t find one. I will have to read some commentaries on it, but personally I missed any sort of allegory within it or greater message behind Georg’s plight. Now, I’m not saying that there needed to be a moral or that every story needs one, but to me it seemed as though it was written with this intention, but that it hadn’t quite been pulled off.

The other stories in the collection were a rather mixed bag. I could see that some of these did indeed have messages behind them, but again feel that some of these may perhaps have been lost in translation somewhat, as some of the very short glosses (‘Meditations’ and ‘A Country Doctor’) were completely lost on me. I was somewhat surprised by the way that these tales went, as they were in many cases very abstract and modernist- I knew the term ‘Kafkaesque’, but han’t realised it was originally applied to things that were quite so odd. Odd in a strange-and-somewhat-disjointedly-random way. I can’t really explain these pieces, other than to say what I already have, and that they were… different. However I do also think that they were ridiculously compelling too, due to the short, clipped nature of their writing and presentation. They have certainly given me some ideas for my own writing, and i think writing some similar pieces would be a good way to use up various story ideas that I have and scene ideas but which I can’t fashion into complete novels or stories. I suppose they could always be expanded upon later on, too, if I felt the inspiration. Perhaps this is an experiment I should endeavour to complete sometime soon. I will update this and say how I get on.

I feel that with this ‘Thoughts on…’ I should perhaps have gone through the book a story and collection at a time, giving thoughts on each, but don’t know quite how useful or interesting this would be, as some of the pieces, such as ‘The Airplanes at Brescia’ and ‘The Stoker: A Fragment’ left me feeling fairly lukewarm. However, I will produce an extended discussion of this book in the future as and when I think about it and get around to it.

Oh- a final note. ‘In the Penal Colony’ is well worth a look. I think that it is also available as a stand-alone Penguin Mini Modern Classic, and is very interesting. I enjoyed it, if only for the imagination and twisted thoughts that went behind its writing.

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Progress with Poetry

Just a quick post to say that after a little over 3 years of intermittent work, I have finally completed the first draft of the poetry book that I have been working on. I have slightly re-jigged the ‘running order’, as it were, and am soon going to re-write all of my scribblings into a brand shiny new A4 notebook so as I can cover them all in red pen, carry out alterations and produce the second draft. I will update on the progress!

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A further brief note on the threat of rejection

Another thing that is making me hesitant to submit any poetry once the book I’m currently working on is complete is the fact that I really want to be published by Faber. This comes down in part to the same thing that drove Queen to strive from the go to end up on EMI. They wanted EMI because The Beatles were on their label, and I want Faber because my favourite poets were and are published by them. I just doubt it will happen.

If anyone from Faber happens to be reading this (which I also doubt) then- PLEASE PUBLISH ME! (Just as soon as I’ve finished the book). Well; we can all dream.

Image

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Writing and the threat of rejection

I’ve said on the ‘About’ and ‘Poetry and Literature’ pages along the menu near the top of the page that I am currently writing poetry with the distant hope of getting published. The only thing that is stopping me is the fear of almost certain rejection when I come to submit my work to various publishers. Annoyingly, many companies that take on poets will only accept a handful of individual poems as a submission, rather than entire manuscripts, and so when I have finished this book I need to somehow single out the best few poems to send off. The only problem is that the book does not really contain many stand-alone poems, with most working with others to form a part of a much larger whole with a central narrative and interconnected themes- a bit like Ted Hughes’ ‘Crow’. Or, perhaps more accurately, Ted Hughes’ ‘Birthday Letters’ (Hell, I love that book).

One thing that has made me feel better about future rejections is that I’ve just read C.S.Lewis got rejected around 800 times (!), as well as Sylvia Plath, Rudyard Kipling, William Golding, Jack Kerouac, George Orwell, H.G.Wells, Anne Frank and Louisa May Alcott also facing rejection. Then of course there is J.K.Rowling, whom we all know the story of. Perhaps I shouldn’t despair before I’ve even begun…

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