MA Journey Part 5 – 2016/17

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Communities in Practise

Communities in Practise was not only my final module (apart from the dissertation) of the MA course, but also my favourite. Part of the remit was to find a residency and I chose Worth Park, a local Victorian Park.

I discussed with the project manager what they would like from me and also what I needed to provide for my creative piece for the module. It was agreed that I would conduct poetry workshops for adult beginners and an Open Mic, ‘Hoops and Haiku,’ where Poetry met Crochet.

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For my creative piece I chose a fictional timeline of the park dating back from when the Montefiores owned the mansion. The timeline was split into four sections.

  1. The arrival of Sir Francis’s bride, Lady Marianne.
  2. Mansion owned by School.
  3. The demolition of the mansion and a high-floored block of flats built in its place.
  4. Returning to nature.

Below is one of the poems I was inspired to write for my collection, ‘In a Delightful Country,’ which I hope to publish some time next year.

Poetry in the Park

Pulham fountain flows,
children clamber
on stained Jersey cows,

finches flit from tree to tree.
ducks dive,
coots and moorhens chug.

Yarn bombs cuddle bark,
kiss orange fiery branches
under liquid amber’s umbrella.

***

I thoroughly enjoyed teaching and operated my workshops in an informal manner: rather than sitting at a desk we’d stroll around the park and I’d prompt the students to talk about what they could see and hear, and what things reminded them of, encouraging similes and metaphors.

For instance when we walked along a stony path, I likened this to the same sound made crunching on a cookie.

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We finished off at the local pub, drank coffee, ate cookies and cake, testing for sound, taste, and texture. The students did some free writing to act as a prompt in writing a poem for their homework.

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As part of the module we had lots of informative seminars and even a symposium. We met with lots of local artists and writers. Before starting this module, it scared the life out of me, hence one of the reasons I left it to the last, but it was truly rewarding and certainly helped me to gain confidence as a person and writer.

Next time – Final part to the journey – The Dissertation

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November 1st – NaNoWriMo Kick off

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Are you planning on having a go at NaNoWriMo this month? I know I am. My new Mac Book Air is set up and rearing to go, in fact making a start is my next job on the list.

Today my special guest is Jon Rumens. Jon is founder of FocusMe.

FocusMe sell a product to help combat distractions. If you haven’t heard of them check here to read their story. They are very proud to be sponsoring NaNoWriMo this year.

So how can their product help you with distraction-free writing?

Here’s what Jon said.

Distraction-free writing?

6 writing hacks you can do right now

 

It’s that time of the year again.

No, I’m not talking about growing a mustache. I’m referring to that month when hundreds, if not thousands, of writers create their own novels around the same time.

The National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is upon us again. And while creating a novel in a month is no walk in the park, just taking on the challenge of producing a beautiful masterpiece in a short period is a win in itself.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Before we can even close this chapter (pun intended), we’ll have to start magically weaving through a story. In 50,000 words. In a month.

Nineteen years of NaNoWriMo have found many writers facing the brain-wracking challenge of reaching the target number of words in 30 days.

But especially in today’s time, the trickiest part is getting that elusive thing called momentum. Hit it and watch thousands of words fly by. Get sucked into the black hole called Netflix or World of Warcraft and you can say goodbye to your day.

Distractions are all over. You can blame technology or lack of willpower. But believe it or not, it’s totally possible to type up x number of words – nonstop – without so much as a glance on your smartphone.

Want to know how? Here are 6 writing hacks that you can do right now for a distraction-free writing.

Writing Hack #1: Identify your monster and know how much time you spend on them. Use the FocusMe Time Tracker

You can’t solve a problem without knowing who the monster is. Ask yourself – what are your favorite distractions?

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Accept your distraction and if you have to, list them down. To help you get started, here are some of the common distractions writers face:

  • Technology. This can be as simple as the appliances at home, i.e. TV and Alexa, to something as ubiquitous as your smartphone, computer apps, and time-wasting websites.
  • Multitasking. Just Google the words “multitasking” and “productivity” together to see how this strategy isn’t the most efficient. When we talk about writing, always go for quality over quantity.
  • Anxiety, stress, and deadlines. Do you get anxious about being anxious? Can’t stop counting down to your deadline? We’ve all been there. Shush the noise inside your head and focus on the task at hand. (More of this later.)
  • People. Clients, family, friends, and chatters in the cafe can all distract you from writing. Think of ways on how you can have your “me” time, even for only a few hours.
  • External environment and noise. Honking cars and cute cats on your workspace can kill your train of thought. Isolate yourself from them and create your haven for writing.

Once you’ve identified the problem, plot ways on how you can avoid them. You can start by knowing how much you spend on them and easing off gradually. You can go cold turkey, but know that this doesn’t always work. So go easy on yourself and veer away from distraction, one monster at a time.

No idea how to track how much time you’ve spent on certain websites or app? Here’s how to track your website and app usage. This can be eye-opening and some writers who use FocusMe even talk about it as “life-changing!”

Writing Hack #2: Psych yourself up.

 

Concentration is key. Clear your head of any noise like stress and anxiety. Meditate by either going to yoga regularly or using meditation apps. Visualize your goal and keep your eye on the prize. Have a positive mindset and enjoy writing as a hobby.

Organize your space. De-clutter your immediate working environment. Put materials in front of you that can inspire creativity, i.e. magazines for catchy headlines or picturesque photos for your travel blog.

Make sure you’re comfortable. Keep your environment conducive to writing by setting the right temperature and getting ample lighting. Prepare yourself physically too. Get enough sleep the night before so your mind is in tiptop shape. Take a break and go for a run to see your productivity go through the roof. Before starting your writing marathon, go to the toilet and have your caffeine fix right next to you.

Writing Hack #3: Don’t forget to take a break. Use Break Reminders!

Did you know that you can set breaks that force you to stand up from your computer or laptop and get a glass of water? Check out FocusMe’s break reminders here.

You can also manage your time by using the Pomodoro technique. This technique allows you to break down seemingly large tasks into smaller ones (called Pomodoros), and take short breaks in between them. It’s not complicated at all! Just set a timer for 25 minutes where you’ll focus on a task and that task alone. When the alarm goes off, it’s time to take a break for 5 minutes! Rinse and repeat.

This technique works because it allows you to concentrate on your work in short segments, and reminds you to relax in intervals too! Sounds perfect for writers with short attention span or those suffering from writer’s block! (Find out more about the Pomodoro technique here.)

Writing Hack #4: Zone out. Shut yourself off from the outside world

Listen to music. Try those that are easy to the ears like ambient music, lo-fi jazz, hip-hop or classical music. Or try something totally new: tune into the Rainy Cafe. It might inspire you even more.

Headphones are your best friend. Noise-canceling headphones can help drown out the loud traffic outside, excited barks from your dog, or the dripping faucet in the toilet.

Give people a heads up. If you’ve been talking to them the past couple of hours, let your clients, partners, family, and friends know that you’ll fall off the radar in the next few hours. Otherwise, they may end up calling repeatedly, which could be an added distraction.

Writing Hack #5: Eliminate distractions. Schedule your “focus sessions” with the FocusMe Scheduler.

 

Move away from technology… other than your computer. Close all unrelated apps (and no – you can’t use Facebook for “research”). Use a distraction-free word processor that’s designed to hide all the other apps on your computer.

Switch off the TV. Completely ignore that voice in your head that says “Netflix binge now.” On the flip side, tell yourself that a reward – Netflix binge soon – awaits once you’ve written your target number words for the day.

Turn your smartphone on silent mode. Or better yet, turn it off. Your phone is the first and last thing you’ll look at today (just like any other day). So what’s a couple of hours away from it?

Plan your “writing spurts” in advance. Plan your whole week ahead, allocate times when it’s just you and your novel alone, and see how much you get done!

Writing Hack #6: If you can’t beat technology, embrace technology.

 

If you’re so tempted to admit defeat and surrender to the fact that you’re surrounded by technological distractions without any way of escaping them, let me tell you. There’s a way.

To focus on your novel you can lock yourself in a room, throw away the key and write all day, but you might need a drink or the toilet at some point and also it’s not very social. We are worried about your reputation – as a writer and as a human being. So, to prevent you from wearing diapers and having people thinking about you as ‘The Vampire’ maybe you could just download FocusMeto stop you from being distracted, freeing up time to write thousands of words each day. After installing the app you will turn into a crazy productive writing machine!

Now here’s a bonus for NaNoWriMo participants – you can use FocusMe for free during NaNoWriMo!

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Thank you, Jon, for popping along today and informing us about these much needed hacks.

So if you’re worried about distractions you no longer have an excuse. You’ll find other helpful articles from Jon on the following links below.

1)

2)

3)

And remember while participating in NaNoWriMo, you can use FocusMe for free and what’s more if you decide to go for a purchase they’ll give you a discount. That’s got to be worth checking out.

One last thing, if you are taking part in Nano, then I can’t go without wishing you the best of luck. And on that note – I’m about to start mine…

MA Journey – Part 4 – Prose Fiction

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For Prose Fiction part of the remit was to write an online journal. Some of these entries can be found

here

here

and here

I think by looking at the past blogs will give you a much better idea of what the module was like than if I just pull bits out of it.

Apart from Communities in Practise, my final module, Prose Fiction was my favourite.  For my assignment I chose to do sections of ‘The Coal Miner’s Son’ which has now changed quite a lot. I was hoping to have this published by Christmas but unfortunately that was far too ambitious. I didn’t know then that the dissertation of the MA would take its toll on me so badly.

I hope you enjoy looking back on my Prose Fiction journey.

 

 

 

Sorry for the silence

 

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Hi Everyone

I haven’t forgotten about sharing my MA journey but unfortunately, or rather fortunate for me, I flew off to Tenerife for ten nights and just ran out of time before I left.

Since getting back I’m trying to catch up with  washing etc home but will be back next week with the remaining MA journey.

In the meantime check out these wonderful photos of Puerto de Santiago, Barcelo Santiago, where I stayed.

 

 

 

MA Journey – Part 3

Poetry and Research – Spring  2015

Poetry

 

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2015 wasn’t a great year for me at uni. I began the poetry module in February which consisted of two separate seminars a week. One on a Thursday with the MA literature students studying American contemporary poets, and the second on a Friday where a small group of creative writing students got the chance to workshop each other’s work.

At the beginning of March I was offered the chance to go out to Bucharest on a European playwriting course with my peers. Unfortunately while out there I managed to break my hip when misplacing a step in the metro. This necessitated me having to stay behind in Romania after the others left for the UK because I needed an operation. It was hard saying goodbye to my peers and being left in a strange country on my own for 24 hours until my husband arrived.

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Above: Timetable – The Day I tripped –  completed by my friend Sue Bamblett. 

In hindsight I should have deferred the Poetry Module as I was unable to walk so couldn’t get down to Falmer to the seminars. But I didn’t defer, instead I struggled on and probably cost myself a good mark. I didn’t receive any lecture notes on the literature/theory side although the creative writing poetry tutor offered critique on my poems.

I missed being with my peers.

This would have been one of my favourite courses had I been able to continue the seminars.

***

At the end of September I was able to return to uni – HURRAY!!

Research Module – Grand Parade Brighton – Autumn 2015

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Out of all the modules that I completed for the MA, this one had to be the worst. In fact this was the only module that I didn’t love. I particularly hated the literary review and data qualitative analysis but just about coped with methodology.

So much of this course was not designed for creative writers but more for social sciences. I wasn’t alone in my hatred of this module. Thankfully the university listened to student feedback and have now replaced it from this academic year with a compulsory publishing module. I’d loved to have taken that.

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What I enjoyed about attending the weekly research seminars was meeting up with my friends beforehand. I’d meet up with Sue Bamblett, and Liz Eastwood in Brighton around 10:30am at, Lydea, a lovely vegetarian café where we’d drink coffee and chat about our projects, followed by lunch before strolling over to Grand Parade.

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And I suppose if I hadn’t completed the research module I probably wouldn’t have researched Emily Dickinson (my chosen project) which I enjoyed.

Next – Part 4 – Prose Fiction 

 

 

 

MA Journey – Part 2 – Rhetoric

Yesterday I mentioned that I studied Narrative and Rhetoric in my first year and  talked about Narrative, today I will focus on Rhetoric.

Practising Rhetoric

When I first began Rhetoric, I don’t mind telling you that I felt out of my depth sitting amongst MA Literature students when I hadn’t even studied A level Literature, never mind a degree. However, I didn’t let it get to me and participated in the seminars as much as I could and became more confident as the weeks went by.

Some of the works we studied:

I can’t say I’m a particular fan of Jane Austen and I certainly didn’t enjoy Kathy Acker, however, I liked Lolita and loved A Girl is a half-formed thing. If you’re going to read the latter then may I suggest you read it like a poem. Lots of students struggled to get through the novel and initially I did too, until I noticed McBride’s poetic language. I went back to the start and approached it like a poem, reading aloud, and discovered a wonderful piece of literature.

The remit for Rhetoric was to present a persuasive speech and write a 3000 word creative piece.

For my presentation I invented a charity, Melody’s Music Makers, and my speech was to convince the audience to become a volunteer.

Melody provided entertainment to local care homes and handed out instruments to the residents so they could join in with singing and tap a tambourine, jingle the bells, or tinkle a triangle. I must have been convincing because the tutor thought it was my own company rather than a work of fiction.

For my creative piece I used a couple of extracts of persuasive speech from my debut novel, House of Grace, A Family Saga. I won’t provide the excerpts as I don’t want to spoil the story for those that haven’t read it yet, but I can say the scenes were set with Grace and her mother, Lady Granville, and taken from Chapter 4 and 5 in Part II.

Here’s a link for anyone that would like to read House of Grace.

http://mybook.to/HouseofGrace

House of Grace KINDLE COVER web promo

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Next time Part 3 – Year 2 – Poetry and Research Modules  

 

My MA Story 2014 – 2018 – (Part 1)

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Me and my lovely mum before she got poorly. 

In July 2014 my lovely mum died. To help me fill the void my husband suggested I took an MA in Creative Writing. I’d completed a BA in 2013 via the Open University. My initial reaction was I didn’t want to do anything. I wasn’t sure I even wanted to write anymore. I didn’t know who I was. I felt like I’d lost my identity.

In September 2014 I  came across a brand new MA Creative Writing course being run by Brighton University. This really grabbed my interest. I spoke to the course leader, sorted relevant paperwork, and within a few days I had an offer from the university to study the MA. I was going back to uni but this time a brick one.

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My first trip down to the university was terribly tiring, walking to the station, changing trains at Brighton and then climbing the huge volume of steps at Falmer. To top it all it was pouring with rain. Thankfully I soon got used to the journey.

In my first year I took two modules, Rhetoric and Narrative, as they were both on Mondays, it made sense to save on train fare. For today’s blog I will concentrate on Narrative.

I really enjoyed Narrative. The remit was to complete a creative piece and perform a presentation. I’d never done a presentation in my life before so I was learning something new.

During the weekly seminars we were privileged to wonderful guest speakers including novelists such as Paul McVeigh and Matt Haig.

For my creative piece I opted to write poetry and produced a sequence of fictional poetry on ‘Lost Identity.’  I found this great therapy as in giving my characters pain it took some of it away from me. The presentation was conducted on a collaborative basis where we partnered up with another student. This was a great way to learn.

Completing narrative and writing the sequence of poetry was my first step to finding out who I was.

Today I will share one of the poems I wrote.  ‘Recognition.’

‘Recognition’ has been previously published in Reach magazine and on  Oapschat.

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Recognition

Black and white prints
cover creased hands.
Eyes narrow, dazed,
not seeing…

We slung satchels over knitted cardigans,
slammed the door,
grey pleated skirts hitched high above the knee.

We stood to attention at the bell,
split from my look-a-like,
a whistle insisted we march
into separate classrooms.

In the sixties we explored
Brighton Laines,
rummaged antique stores,
picked up gold leafed books,
bought treasure boxes
to hide shared secrets.

We sank into striped deckchairs,
flipped off our tops to reveal
psychedelic swimsuits-
plastic sunglasses concealed our faces.
We lazed by gull-grey waves,
pebbles chattered at our feet.

We sniffed salt from the sea,
cardboard cones on our noses,
read Jackie in the sun.
A transistor radio blurred Cathy’s
Clown, from the Top Ten charts.

I sit by the iron framed bed,
wait for a flicker of recognition.

Chubby Checker
blasts from the box
high on the wall

Lillie looks up,
whispers my name.

‘Freddie – The Twist.
you and me that day
down in Brighton.’

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Next blog – MA Journey Part 2 will be on Rhetoric – watch this space.