About Me

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I am an aspiring writer living and working in Hull. I working on a novel, as well as writing short stories to keep my writing skills fresh. I decided to start a writing blog to connect with other writers. So please, take a look around and leave some comments - I'd love to read some of your writing blogs too. Nari X

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Poetry - The Art of Language

Hello again you beautiful people. My goodness it has been a while. I do still exist and all is well on my side of the screen; my apologies for being absent from this blog for a year. I became full time at Danny's Dream and also completed the final stage of training as a Local Preacher, so I am now fully accredited. As you can imagine, I have not had a huge amount of time on my hands. 

I have thus not been able to do much writing or blogging, though I have been reading a lot. In other news, I am now on Twitter as @LizJackface. Not much else has changed for me, though I know some of my fellow bloggers have had a much more eventful year.

What I wanted to talk about today is poetry. It is one of those things that is like Marmite; most people either love it or hate it. Many of us were force fed the stuff at school (poetry, not Marmite) and were expected to dissect it in a similar fashion to biology lessons with frogs and pigs eyes. It is understandable why this experience left many people detesting poetry. 
Other people just don't like poetry. This is fair enough. 

I would like to talk about my experiences with poetry and why I feel it can be a highly therapeutic, expressive and releasing art form to engage in, both as a producer and a consumer. 

I first came across poetry from children's poetry collection books that were bought for me. One of the first favourite poems that I remember was called 'The Friendly Cinnamon Bun' by Russell Hoban. What I liked about this poem was the description and personification of the bun - I found myself both hungry and charmed by this character. The words make you lick your lips and imagine sinking your teeth into the sticky icing. I also felt a little for the friendly bun, and felt a weird sense of betrayal when he gets eaten by the protagonist. It was a short, simple story told beautifully by concise, well thought out words. I have always been a slow and impatient reader, you see. I resent wading through a load of words unless they really mean something. In that respect, poetry hit the spot. 

Another poem I remember from primary school was 'Chocolate Cake' by Michel Rosen. This poem was written to be performed. One of our teachers, Mr Brown, did a fantastic performance of it with all the voices and actions and tension, and he used to perform it in assemblies. It was everyone's favourite and we often requested it. By the time I left primary school I could almost recite every word. Again, one of the things I loved about the poem was the vivid description of the yummy cake (I did like my food...) and the way the story was told so imaginatively. Here is a link to Michel Rosen himself performing the piece. 
I used this poem recently in a service for my children's address during lent - it makes a great analogy for temptation. 

I remember a writing exercise in primary school where we had to personify the wind; we had to choose a 'character' for the wind and write about it as though it were that character. This exercise was so much fun to do. I already loved creating characters and descriptive writing and I had so much fun writing about the wind as this mischievous character. 

I could tell you my life story in the context of poetry. I realise I'm beginning to go down that line. Needless to say, poetry has always been very important to me. As I became more inquisitive and interested in philosophy, I began to write this into a kind of expressive poetry. 

I discovered along the way that the beauty of poetry is that it isn't all about rhymes. It's about how you feel. It's about the patterns of words you can't express in prose, sensibly or formally. I think poetry was really unlocked for me when I started to use it as an expressive tool - when I began to pour my inner feelings into it. I won two competitions as a kid, one of which was published in one of those awful anthologies that only family members ever saw. 
What made these poems so special and so powerful was that I wrote about the feelings I couldn't talk about normally. It became therapeutic, an outlet for the things I couldn't say.

I've never been one to go by the rules in poetry. This has perhaps stunted my competition career, but quite frankly I don't care. I don't write poetry for other people anymore. At the most, it helps me to convey to others how I feel. I recently (in the last few years) entered a poem to Writers' Forum magazine and asked for a critique as well. Of course, I did not win, and the feedback would have been useful. But I decided there and then that that was the last poem I would likely enter. My feelings aren't there to be marked. 

So, when the minister of our church announced a poetry competition he was running for the local community, I was both excited and terrified. I was excited and wanted to be involved in some way, but nervous because of my decision about competitions. I was relieved when he asked me to be a judge, as a Creative Writing graduate, because I can still be involved and part of this exciting venture. 

I'm very excited to see the entries we get. My perspective as a judge will not be based in structure and form but in language and expression. The competition is for those in the Newland area in Hull and closes July 31st 2014. I will let you know how it all goes. 

What are your thoughts and views on poetry? Do you like it or loathe it? 
What were your first encounters with poetry like? 

Thanks for reading. It's good to be back. 

Monday, 22 April 2013


My current task for my novel is reviewing and planning. It feels like a really big task and I'm beginning to realise how big a project I have given myself, but I think I am starting to draw some order from the chaos. 

To the left is a picture of some of my sugar paper  plans - they are A2 so I have plenty of room to fit everything on. The first is space for the main premise - the story idea, the setting and the protagonist. The idea was to get it all down onto paper in some form of visible plan to see what adds up an what doesn't, what works and what doesn't. 

Then the second is called 'story remedies'. This is essentially my idea edit. I've done a lot of free writing for his novel, working with the setting, the characters and the story ideas and themes, and though it is nowhere near where I want the story to be, it has given me a feel for all these things, given me an idea of what works. From there, I can address the plot holes, the character problems, the things which just don't make the story flow.  

It's funny - in figuring out the problems and thinking of solutions, I have, for many of them, returned to some of my original ideas from years ago, particularly with the protagonist. She has become too innocent, too simple, too whiny. Looking at the character as she is in my free writing, I have realised she is boring. She is not a strong heroine, but she has every potential to be. And I seem to have missed out half of the conflicts originally in her character, and conflicts drive a story forwards. 

So I am finding this approach to be very helpful in purifying the chaos of ideas and refining the raw free writing. 

What planning tools do you find helpful? 

Monday, 25 March 2013

Lost In Translation

I have just finished reading a book of short stories called ‘The Elephant Vanishes’ by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. It was written in Japanese originally and I read the English translation.

Overall, I thought the book was good, though a little odd a times, with elements of the surreal weaving through each story. This was mostly in the form of magical realism – surreal or imagined things presented as perfectly regular.

I like magical realism for the most part – it can be fun or poignant, or both at the same time. My criticism of the book is that many of the stories seem to end abruptly, or have an odd structure to them. I also found the central protagonist in each story to be much the same character – young man, womaniser, drinks a lot of beer. I don’t know whether this link was intentional, but it didn't work for me. If it was intentional, it wasn’t obvious. If it wasn’t intentional, I shouldn't have noticed it.

There were a few occasions where I wondered if my confusion or lack of understanding of an undertone or hidden meaning may have been lost in translation. For example, one of the stories made use of the word ‘kit-chin’, italicised to emphasise the spelling. Having studied Japanese, I understand how some western words are adapted to fit with Japanese pronunciation, so I presumed that was what was going on, though I was unsure why there was an emphasis. Later, it transpires, another person in the dialogue says ‘kitchen’, and the writer identifies that she used the Japanese word. The person is corrected, as this particular firm like to use the English word ‘Kit-chin’. You can see why this particular part of the story didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. However, I think the translator probably did the best they could while keeping the integrity and original meaning of the story intact.

It made me think of other works I have read in an English translation rather than the original text, for example, Jostein Gaarder. Jostein Gaarder, author of Sophie’s World, is a Norweigan writer whose work has been translated into English  among many other languages. I began to think about how much work the translator had to do on his books because of the many deep philosophical concepts, ideas and metaphors that won’t translate directly or easily. I’ve always felt the depth and philosophy in Jostein Gaarders translated works shows that little, if any, can have been lost in translation. But it occurs to me – how would I ever know?

Which brings me to one of my old lecturers, Dr Mariau, who taught a module in Metaphysical fiction. He is French, but speaks fluent English, as well as a fair few other languages. This gives him an advantage in translated works, because he has enough understanding of each language to gauge what is lost through translation. We studied The Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille (I don’t recommend unless you have a strong stomach and a very, very open mind). The version we read was a bad translation from the French according to him. He said that the language used in the translation changed a lot of the impact and focus of the story, making it a lot more explicit. 

So how far do you think the quality of translation affects a story? Do we give enough credit to the translators of works we know and love?

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

An Evening with Peter V Brett

Yesterday evening, I had the privilege of meeting and chatting with Peter Brett, author of The Demon Cycle books. As you may have gathered so far in this blog, I am a very big fan of his, so it meant a lot to me to finally meet the man himself. 

Peter Brett is currently on a UK tour, which started yesterday at Waterstones Deansgate in Manchester with the event 'An Evening with Peter V Brett'. The date was added as an extra to the tour due to high demand, and I think I can safely say Peat did not regret it. The turnout was great and the event sold out. Peat told us it was his biggest crowd so far (from the US tour). 

Rob and I with Peat
Rob and I made a day of it, took time off work and headed to Manchester around lunchtime. We spent a lot of time in Forbidden Planet geeking out, and of course, in Waterstones. It is an impressive bookshop, far bigger than our one in Hull; it even has 3 floors. 
I found myself in my element, sat on the floor in the philosophy section flicking through books. I love a good bookshop. It’s just not quite the same, visiting Amazon and clicking a few buttons.

We were lucky enough to get front row seats. I say lucky – we had been lingering on the first floor of Waterstones for an hour and a half. We had spotted many other lingerers clutching copies of The Daylight War, so were slowly edging our way towards the door. There was a point at which a collective decision was made. We needed a queue. Things were not quite tidy enough, and a queue materialised in a matter of seconds. Rob and I were third in the queue, and thus, we ended up in the front row. Forgive me, but as a Brit, I love a good story about a queue.

We got chatting to some of the people around us – one guy called Robert had come from Germany, though it had been a happy coincidence as he didn’t know about the signing before. It was lovely to be around so many of Peat’s fans.
When Peat arrived, he seemed very excited that so many of us had turned up and took a picture of us all on his iPad to show his Mum he had a ‘real’ job. You can find this picture on his Facebook page (though unfortunately, rob and I were cut out.)

Myself with Peat
Then he did a Q and A, which was absolutely brilliant. Everyone asked decent questions, and he gave fluid, detailed answers to each of them. Questions ranged from ‘What do you like to read,’ to ‘If, God forbid, anything happened to you, who, if anyone, would you trust to finish your books?’

I would love to break down each question specifically and detail his responses, though this would a) take hours to write and read and b) require a much higher memory capacity than the one fitted in my brain. I guess this is why I am not a journalist.
So I will instead give an overview of what I remember and what I took away from his answers.

Peat began by speaking about what books he likes to read, and told us how George R.R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series had changed a lot about the way he looked at writing.
Brett uses several different points of view in his books, and he spoke a little about how this came about; the story was originally from one POV only, and it became clear that this would not work for the story. It helps keep the story going to introduce a fresh perspective every now and then, and also gave him a break from each character as he wrote.

He also spoke about some of his other works, including the novellas, Brayan's Gold and The Great Bazaar, The comic Red Sonja:Unchained, and a short story featured in an anthology called Unfettered, put together by Shawn Speakman. This is due to be released in the Spring, which I am very excited about. There are many other great authors in there too.

Peat was also asked some questions about how he writes, which of course had me listening very intently. He explained how much detailed planning goes into each of his books, including bulleted summaries of each chapter and an ending in mind. He always knows where it's going, and will not set out with a story until he does, because he finds that free writing presents the danger of 'writing yourself into a corner'. He made it very clear, however, that this is how it works for him; there are those for whom free writing works, however it has been his experience that the key to a story is knowing what it is leading up to. 

I plucked up the courage to ask him a question myself. Rob had challenged me to come up with a good question and ask him. Sounds simple, I know, but this is the kind of opportunity I have often missed in my life through hesitation and nervousness. This time, I did myself proud. 
The question I asked him was this; 

'Do you remember the point at which writing became more than just a hobby - the point at which it all became real for you?'

He had been writing for a while and had a few pieces in the works including draft of a novel. Working in publishing at the time, he became friends with an agent, who, upon hearing he had work he hadn't shown anyone, thoroughly told him off. 'You don't decide if something's not good enough, I tell you if something's not good enough,' he had said. So he looked over Peat's work and did just that. The novel draft got completely rewritten and, though I am cutting out some of the story, is now The Painted Man. 

I think he must have twigged why I asked, because he went on to give some writing advice; don't be put off by the rejected work that will never see the light of day. It is not wasted time, it is practice. The key to any craft is practise, practise, practise. It will be hard work, but by the time you do get published, you know it will be good quality because of the hard work that got you to that point.

Hearing advice like that from someone you respect and admire has a way of making it really sink in.

Peat signed books after that, making time to have a nice long chat with each person too. He is such a humble, down-to-earth guy, but 100% confident in his work. Someone asked him if he had any regrets about any of his work, and he said he wouldn't have let it go to print if he wasn't 100% sure about it. Quite right too. 

I took every single book by him that I own, and bless the man, he signed them all. What a lovely man. 

I have been so inspired by meeting such a great writer and a wonderful man, and have taken so much home with me (as well as all my signed books). This has been the boost I've needed.

So thank you, Peat, for an absolutely brilliant evening.

You can check out Peat's blog about the event over at his Peephole

Me in my 'jamas with all my signed books. This was a good night.

* All photos taken by my lovely husband Rob on his iPhone (except the one he's in, taken by Topher Knowles.)

Friday, 15 February 2013

Pushing Forward

My manuals, which thudded through the door...

Last time I spoke about reassessing my life; well the biggest outcome of that reassessing is that writing has been brought very much into the foreground again. There was a moment a few years back at which I declared to myself  that I was serious about writing; that it wasn't going to be 'just a hobby' as everyone had always told me it would. Well, I may be into the second wave now. 
Why should writing be a footnote to my life while I work a 'real job'? 

So I have been writing something every day, not just on my novel, but gathering ideas for short stories, composing letters to companies and that sort of thing as well. I have been making sure I have time for me every day, even if it is sat up in bed with my laptop. 

But, perhaps the biggest outcome of this reassessment is that I applied to a Chapterhouse course for Proofreading and Copy Editing. Some of you may have heard of them. The course came through my door with a thud and it's all very exciting. 

You see, I figure at the very least, I will come away from the course having learned how to refine and improve my own writing. But other than that, it's a starting point for applying for jobs in the publishing industry, which you can't just walk into. 

Does anyone have any experience of this course? If so, how have you found it? 

I'll let you know how I get on.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Sky Arts

I have discovered the Sky Arts channel. After hearing that I had failed my interview for a permanent contract with my company, where I've been for a year and a half now, Google and I sat down to reassess my life. This, of course, needs background telly. 
I flicked through the channels, hoping to find something other than endless repeats of Friends (though there is nothing wrong with endless repeats of Friends), and I noticed a program called 'Screenwriting Lecture Series'. I stuck it on.

It was really interesting and helpful - BAFTA and Sky Arts had got together to create a series of lectures by various screenwriters, sharing their experience and giving advice about screenwriting. The first was lead by William Nicholson (writer of Gladiator), and his words were very interesting and inspiring. 

He talked about the role and responsibility of the screenwriter, bursting the illusion that they 'just write dialogue'. He spoke about the importance of knowing characters well in order to really capture their emotions and let us in on his personal trick of always knowing the ending before he starts to write. He spoke very strongly and passionately about the discipline of writing, which I really needed to hear.

The series was actually first broadcast in August last year, but it looks like they are repeating it on Thursdays. I thought I would mention it, if anyone has access to Sky, and hasn't already seen it, it might be worth a look. 

Tuesday, 29 January 2013


Hello all. It has been a very long time. Unfortunately, in the big juggling game called life, the ball that gets dropped the most is writing. I've decided I'm not happy about that. So I'm trying to fix it.

For the past few months, my writing has been a bit of a wasteland, writing one or two lines a week on my novel if it's lucky. I'v decided I'm going to do something I did last year for a while - committing to writing for 10 minutes every day. It doesn't sound like a lot, which is why the psychology is good. When it's a word count, or a longer period of time, I am less likely to do it because there is so much other stuff that *has* to be done.

10 minutes is easy. And it's progress. So in the sight of whoever has not yet given up on my blog, I declare my commitment to 10 minutes writing per day. No going back now.

I have good news, though. In the wasteland of my writing mind, today I found an oasis. An idea has been trickling through my thoughts for a few weeks now, and today it crystalised into a story. I have been writing for 3 hours, and I now have a first draft of a short story. This rarely happens for me.

I want to tell you the story of the story. I walk to work most days, and a fair few of my shifts require me to go down The Avenues. These are a series of interconnected streets between Chanterlands Avenue and Princes Avenue in Hull. As I was walking one morning, I noticed some rosemary on the path. Not just a little bit, as if someone had dropped some, a lot of rosemary. It trailed along the path for a long stretch. there were heaps of the stuff about as well, all over the avenues.

I couldn't stop thinking about the rosemary. I found it really odd. Why would there be a trail of rosemary? There must be a story behind it. I've seen trails of blood down Newland Avenue before, and it doesn't take much imagination to work out the story behind that. Sometimes you see a trail of sand or compost, where the bag must have torn without anyone realising.

But rosemary? I couldn't imagine anybody carrying enough rosemary to drop that much. Rosemary isn't something one generally carries about by the armful.

I imagined somebody carrying a rosemary plant down the avenues and started to think about what would drive somebody to do that. Today, a story was born.

It sounds odd, I know. It may not even be any good. But I wrote it, and I'm proud. it ha been far too long.

Anyway, I will try to blog more often, to let you know how my 10 minute writing plan is going, and if anything becomes of this little story.