Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Climbing

Interested in lifelong learning? Here is a website beyond all websites: a treasure trove of delights. Teasing out the non-verbal qualities of my current heroine I was browsing for inspiration and affirmation when I strayed and happened upon http://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/ladder-of-inference.html  Only one interesting page of many. Absolutely brilliant. So good I want to say thanks and share. 



Monday, 7 December 2015

Symbols

Floor tiles from a country church near Cirencester. 
1. The Green Man seen as a motif on pub signs, as architectural decoration and as modern-day branding for 'green' products. Wild Nature symbolism part of folklore through the ages and religions across the world;

2. The Fleur-de-lys, a lily or lotus flower associated with the mixed bag of French royalty, the branding of runaway slaves and heraldry representing the values of perfection, light and life; 

3. Celtic knotwork suggesting the intertwining and unending circle of life. 

What is the significance of these repeated images for the casual visitor today? What did these symbols mean for Indian worshippers, Byzantine builders, and Celtic travellers? Literary tropes and visual symbols can enrich and deepen meaning enabling greater connection, recognition and understanding. These are universal waymarkers and fingerposts to help with journeys. 

Thursday, 26 November 2015

My Adlestrop Moment

I was travelling in Somerset today and stopped at traffic lights on the edge of Taunton. Through the car window and above the sound of idling vehicles I heard a bird singing. A tiny robin sat in a silver birch caught in song. 

I wound down the window and listened to a voice pure and true. The lights changed and the traffic moved on. 

Edward Thomas wrote this poem so wonderful and poignant; I cannot begin to do justice to the layers of meaning. For me, this was a magical moment where I held my breath and knew kinship with a traveller a hundred years ago who listened to a blackbird while waiting for his train to move on.


This article may help with the context: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/10821831/Adlestrop-a-lost-station-but-words-that-still-beguile.html

Yes, I remember Adlestrop -- 
The name, because one afternoon 
Of heat the express-train drew up there 
Unwontedly. It was late June. 

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat. 
No one left and no one came 
On the bare platform. What I saw 
Was Adlestrop -- only the name 

And willows, willow-herb, and grass, 
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry, 
No whit less still and lonely fair 
Than the high cloudlets in the sky. 

And for that minute a blackbird sang 
Close by, and round him, mistier, 
Farther and farther, all the birds 
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.


acknowledgement: http://www.poemhunter.com/

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Flow

Being in the zone. Fully involved. Joy. Suspended existence. Any of these words/phrases resonate with you?  I'm talking about flow. 

I'm talking about a child rapt listening to a story, a fisherman deciding at which precise moment to cast his net, a cat watchful ready to pounce, a woman absorbed applying make-up...

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi puts the case in this TED talk and explains his own theory used in self-development, education and learning:

https://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow?language=en

Not only the province of creatives, this state can be the stuff of everyday. Imagine the potential. 

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

A Weekend in Amsterdam 

Great to be in Amsterdam for the weekend; so much to see and do. I deliberately saved The Fault in Our Stars - John Green, to read on the trip, starting this YA masterpiece on the short flight from UK to Holland. During the three days of friendly Dutch hospitality, cafes, canals and bicycles I devoured the book. Delayed gratification, the sights and smells of such a vibrant city and the thoughtful poignant  love story between Hazel and Gus were a heady and potent mix eliciting a deep emotional response.
   
As the reader I chose to add the extra dimension of place to the reading experience.When 'Anne Frank House' was announced as a stop on the Number 13 tram I was literally transported to the scene where the young star-crossed lovers in the John Green novel also faced their random nemesis.
  
A couple of summers ago I re-read My Family and Other Animals - Gerald Durrell, in Corfu. The riotously funny read initiated a search for the strawberry-pink villa, a delight in the sun-ripened grapes, warm turquoise water and our own 'Spiro' the taxidriver.

Clearly, we don't have to read Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey among the magnificent ruins, but it's quite something when we do. 

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Pink Trainers

These are definitely going into a story. Strange, I have spent my life avoiding pink, bubblegum and Barbie, but this pair was the perfect fit. I don't care. Rain or shine, night or day I'm happy to put the trainers on and go for a run. Previously not my favourite recreation after those wet splodgy cross-country runs at school; now I love getting out there. Worse, I miss a day and am all at sea, in a dither and out of sorts. Thanks to c25k. If you think you might be a latent runner, want quality thinking time while doing something active, enjoy movement and pushing yourself or even think you hate running, try this link:

 http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/c25k/Pages/couch-to-5k.aspx 

A 9-week series of podcasts get you onto your feet, moving forward and enjoying the challenge. Free and fun. Doesn't get better than this.  

Monday, 12 October 2015

Writing Time

A moment in time is captured: a sunny day, clear skies, the onset of autumn, tide out... 

The key element in favourite childhood books, Tom's Midnight Garden by the author Philippa Pearce an atmospheric story where a grandfather clock keeps peculiar time in an old house in the watery Fens. The Narnia books by C.S. Lewis, tales of magical other worlds and other times where adventurous children can slip between worlds and Time. Sci-Fi and historical fiction weave and play with time. The currently trending dystopian genre beguiling YAs imagines every weird distortion.   

Timing is quintessential. Timelines are essential. Whether the plot requires big picture and Shakespearean mis-timings with terrible consequences, or remembering that your heroine couldn't possibly be allowed to fly in the last month of her pregnancy and the micro comings and goings or minor characters. Grandiose or paltry, Time matters.


Monday, 21 September 2015

Getting Out and About

One of two sentinel statues at the entrance of the walled garden at Bowood House, Calne, Wilts.

It was here that Joseph Priestly discovered oxygen. Capability Brown landscaped the parkland and there is a magnificent arboretum of global heritage. Napoleon's death mask lies in a glass case with other equally intriguing artifacts including a fancy-dress costume worn by non other than Lord Byron. Extraordinary.

Layers of history, story upon story, connections, collections and view points. 

A postcard through the letter-box... a snatch of conversation overheard... the particular choice of adjective... finding a discarded button... 

What is the story behind this beautiful statue?

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Publication Day

Published. Fancy that. I could buy my book. Friends and family could buy my book. Acquaintances, colleagues, strangers - you could buy my book. We could buy it in pounds or dollars; for the first month, in pennies and cents - a special promotion, don't you know. We could read it as an ebook or print-on-demand. 

Stuck in an airport in view of the departure board... at the hairdressers, you know, the long drawn-out tinfoil Medusa stage... in the queue, on your Kindle, in case of flu or insurance against long winter evenings. Imagine the ways, the context and settings. 

Before I get too fanciful, I'll remember my manners. Thank you to the publishing team at Rogue Phoenix Press where you can have a browse, read an excerpt from May, and buy the book:

 http://roguephoenixpress.com/

Thanks to my coach, family and friends, I value your support, comments and worldly wisdom in this and all matters.

Amazon are also selling the book. Search for May by Alicia Stone: 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/May-Many-Moon-Book-1-ebook/dp/B014YYYJCW








Monday, 7 September 2015

Cover

This was the fun part of the process; as the author I could make suggestions for a visual wraparound of my words. Imagine. The equivalent of giving caterers suggestions for a buffet spread or choosing the fabric, design and finish for that special occasion dress.

Empathetic, inclusive and collaborative, Ms. G, the cover designer asked the right questions and crafted this dreamy, almost bridal concoction. 

The result is reminiscent of the opening credits of the eighties TV version of Pride and Prejudice - yes, the one with Colin Firth. The milk jug and tea cup are inviting and homely - an appeal to the reader to put the kettle on, pick up the book and settle back in front of the fire or curl up in a hammock. 

Soft colours and the romantic flowing font are in contrast with the fresh green of the young may leaves. Stark bare branches of a winter tree and the ancient cottage in the background, hint at the possibility of a bleaker narrative and the timeless universal tradition of storytelling. 

I can't invite you to tea, but feel free to comment here and do have a look at Ms.G's website:
http://www.designsbymsg.com

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Oscar Wilde

Proofing

“I'm exhausted. I spent all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out”


― Oscar Wilde
http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/679860-i-m-exhausted-i-spent-all-morning-putting-in-a-comma

What a process! Subordinating clauses DO, co-ordinating clauses DON'T.
Relative clauses CAN, or maybe NOT. Restrictive relative clauses (otherwise known as defining relative clauses) DON'T take a comma, whereas Non-restrictive clauses (non-defining relative clauses) DO.
Then  there is the British/American thing. I'm a British author writing for an American publisher. The best I can hope for is that the reader, of whatever nationality, is not a pedant. 

Monday, 31 August 2015

Where does the urge to write come from?

This piece of fresco from Ancient Greece tells its own story. Who was the painter? Who commissioned the work? How were the colours prepared? How long has this fragment been separated from its fellows? Who found it? What was it like to stand in front of the whole picture? 

A story answers a question. A story explores ideas and helps us make sense of our lives. 

Writing the story down gives the writer time to think, time to organise ideas and answers.

Every new experience and encounter poses new questions, new ideas. Ideas and connections come together to make a story. 

 

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Seaweed

What amazing colours and textures.

That's pretty much how I've found the process of writing: intertwined, rich and free-moving. An image pops up, I play with it and see where it goes. That's the what. The how is harder. 

How to make the words work. Keeping those pesky commas in order. Follow the process. 

Learning.

Anybody else out there about to have their first book published?