Another amazon author review

In case you fancy a read of Marriage, A Journey and A Dog this is an example of an independent #review and the latest:

on 20 March 2017
I have been MIA for a while. Now I’m back with another wonderful author I have discovered- Brenda H. Sedgwick. I’ve been sharing my reviews of books by Indie authors on my blog. And I must say, I love to share the good ones. This is an enjoyable story about life; and let’s not forget the travel. The title is just right for this book. In the beginning, Natalie comes across as a scatter brain with little confidence. But as the story progresses, I begin to admire her and her journey. Let’s be clear here- she is on more than one journey and they make for an interesting story telling experience. I loved spending time with her new friends and the travel spots. As Natalie’s story was drawing to a close I felt a little sad at how things had ended at her 40th birthday. But you know what? I never liked Gerry anyway. I was lifted by her handling of the situation and I have to say, pretty proud. You go Natalie.
I love independent reviews, that’s why I don’t ask for them, and I love to know that people enjoy my book. http://tinyurl.com/l23v994
Happy writing to all those following the writing blogs.

Writing and Mental Health

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Seeing the world through a Mental Cage

I read this on the internet and it reminded me of the time I spent working with Mental Health patients an experience I think it might be worth blogging about:

How often do you sit at home and wish someone would ring you and suggest, well anything rather than these 4 walls? How many of you have had a night out planned, or arranged coffee with friends and suddenly “these 4 walls” seem the only safe haven because it’s the only place you don’t have to pretend you are ok, so you cancel. Or when you are invited out you tell them how terribly sorry you are but you’re already booked up that weekend, when you are actually just really busy holding it together in your safe box. And so the first problem starts, all by itself , people stop asking you and the isolation that at first wasn’t true becomes your only truth.
Mental Health Awareness!!

20 years ago Easleigh mental health unit got in touch and asked if I would run a writing class there. Happy to take on a challenge and with nothing to lose I started classes that continued for three years.

Moving, clever, sad and funny, the students turned up every week. I lacked understanding of mental illness so I went in with ideas and the group set the pace .

The results ranged from an apparent cure for agoraphobia to the sad loss of  two students through suicide. Somewhere in the middle was a great sense of achievement and a lot of laughter. These wonderful, brave, people gave a performance, reading their work at a local theatre,

Writing is more recognised as a therapeutic tool than it used to be, but there is lots more that can and is being done. If you have the opportunity to help someone by suggesting they write and share, is there anything to lose?

I greatly believe that life’s problems that affect us all can benefit from writing things down. Please read my earlier  six blogs on Writing for Therapy.

I’ll write blogs about the other groups I worked with – in prison and with the homeless.

Writing  two novels the second to come out in June, has provided a means of escaping into characters’ lives. Poetry is a means of expressing myself and the main goal with my writing is to entertain myself and other people. Perhaps you can do the same. If you teach Creative Writing in mental health areas, please do link up to this blog and share your experiences.
I loved writing this. It gave me so much pleasure to share it with so many people around the world.

Starting Creative Writing 5 of 6

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Poetry and language skills.

If you want to write creatively don’t underestimate the importance of writing poetry. Whether you are good at it or not there are benefits to be had from experimenting with this language skill regularly. People who write a poem every week, but are not recognised poets, do so because they know the advantage it gives them with all aspects of their writing.

This is why.

A poem should not waste words. It should not tell the reader everything, but leave them space to think. It is a medium to communicate a lot with a few words.

A poem is a place a writer can play with language skills and experiment with the use of words and punctuation.

Google ‘what is a poem’ and ‘how to write a poem’. There is no point in going over what is readily available online.

Find a small group to work on your words and improve your language skills with. When people critisise poetry or your writing it can feel like a personal insult – it isn’t, it is holding your hand on the stepping stones across a river of learning about how to write well.

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Writing a novel is an enormous challenge. Don’t believe the sites that tell you ‘you can be a writer’ without experience and years of hard work. You can write whatever you like and everybody should, but to be a writer is a profession that comes with a huge learning curve.

Writing can be enjoyed at many levels and as your written language skills get better you find it is a process that gives you self confidence.

Try reading ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King. One reference book on grammar and writing isn’t enough, read lots, ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’ by Lynne Truss, is useful to keep on a shelf and refer to. Make grammar books your bedtime reading unless you’re a genius.

Read poetry, set a goal of at least one poem a week. Take a line or a word out of the poem and write your own.

Writing and not getting paid isn’t a waste of time. It helps life along like reading does. The more you do it the better you become.

Poetic skills that spill over into language skills;

Metaphors and similes

Assonance and alliteration

Use of unusual words

No wasted words

No unnecessary repetition only if it adds something

Show don’t tell

Get rid of those ‘ly’ words (carefully, happily, really etc, etc).

Write for a reader not always yourself

Write and rewrite, however many times it takes to get your words to the best they can be.

Don’t be in a hurry to finish a poem – it might take months or years to find just the right word or rhythm.

Ask google ‘what is a poem’ and read from some of the sites. Poetry forms and ideas can be found on this BBC website http://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/ks2/english/reading/poetry/read/5/

Look up any poem you like on Poem Hunter.

You can add a poem in the comments if you like. All poems will be read before publication and no copyright exists. Write for the fun of it.

 

From the author of Marriage, a Journey and a Dog. Women’s fiction – romantic Comedy.

The Trinket Wife is coming out in June. Women’s fiction – romantic comedy.

Starting Creative Writing blog 4 of 6

th-4The Pleasure of Making up Stories

This is National Story Telling Week – a good time to write a new story?

Stories have entertained humans since communication began, and spread throughout the world before writing and the printing press. Stories were told on street corners and in plays, they were drawn in pictures and written on stones and in sand.

Now we listen or watch stories every day. Stories entertain, but are also reflections of life and a necessary part of the human thinking process. A story can try to make sense of something that we don’t understand.

There is no evidence of fiction in the animal kingdom except to mislead in the pursuit of food. Imagination – the ‘what if ?’ question is a part of the human brain. Storytelling and understanding sets us apart from the animal kingdom. We tell true stories to mirror an event, exaggerated stories to make them interesting and stories which are the product of pure imagination.

This  blog is a precursor or opposite of  Shed Loads of Money (3 of 6). It’s about making up stories and taking pleasure in the experience and  in sharing what you’ve written if you want to.

Great works of literature have come about and stories  have been made up just for the pleasure of doing so. Some have hung around in notebooks and others been consigned to waste bins. Sometimes they exist by word-of-mouth, like a children’s story  made up in families. Let’s look at some of the reasons to write, dance, act or paint stories.

Using Imagination

Exercising Creativity

A Fun Hobby

Keeping the brain active

Self expression

Communicate a message

Can you add more reasons?  (To tell a truth, to impart an idea)

Have you read fiction thinking ‘I could do that’? Well, give it a go. It isn’t as easy as it may seem but none the less a lot of fun.

The pleasure of story creation comes in the freedom and opportunity to do so.

Use triggers – focusing on a creative outcome improves with practice.

Stories can be reworked many times to improve them or develop new ideas within the structure.

If you would like to write a story about A Story Teller add it your blog and enter a link with the title and a 100 word synopsis in the comments so that other people can read it.

Blog 5 Next – Enjoy writing poetry and playing with language skills.

 

Starting Creative Writing 3 of 6

Making shed loads of money.

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Writing can eat cash

 

Is your writing Commercial and what can you do to make it so?

Fiction writers

  1. Have an original and exciting idea. Study what is out there in your chosen genre.
  2. Draft it and see if you think it will work and stand out in a crowded marketplace.
  3. Redraft loads of times correcting content and grammar. Edit to the bone. This will take ages. In my case months. Get your book professionally edited when it is already at a high standard.
  4. Write in an interesting style i.e. Use your own unique voice in your writing and don’t change it.
  5. You need good computer skills and constantly update them in order to prepare your manuscript publication.
  6. Discover social media for marketing and be prepared to do up to two hours a day working on it.
  7. Understanding relatives, willing to put up with your absence in order for you to follow your dream.The reality is that you will make more money going to work, at least for a few years. To begin with, it is a loss maker and ‘may always be’ so remain sober with your dreams.
  8. You need understanding friends who might get fed up with hearing about your writing and may think that to write you to at least should have a best selling book when you start out. The fact that you haven’t might frustrate you and your friends.
  9. When you start to think about giving up work to write and you have no evidence to suggest you can do this, then recognise you are dreaming, It is OK we all need dreams for the future but you can’t eat them.
  10. When you have a wonderful, well edited book with a brilliant cover (you probably paid a few hundred pounds for), great blurb on the back you need LUCK and plenty of it.
  11. Start writing your next book and be prepared to wait a year or two before seeing any results from the time you started writing. It’s called patience.

This is the way you stand an outside chance of making shed loads of money. In the mean time, enjoy writing, enjoy learning, enjoy making writing friends. I wish you ‘Good Luck’.

This blog is intended as food for thought for those starting out. If you want to ask questions do, and if you are an experienced writer and would like to add to what I’ve written I’d be pleased to have your comments and make this blog useful for writers starting out.

ebook trialing your book  is a good way to start before printing a paperback. This still requires computer skills. Take a look at Createspace.

Fact is different. Presumably you know who your readers will be.  Write for them and not for yourself. Edit, edit, edit. Know how you are going to market it and how long its shelf life might be.

When it comes to marketing I have found the books of Gisela Hausemann useful. Look her up on Amazon and she has a Facebook page. There are lots of books and articles on Google to help you on your way. Any links, please add.

Please add your comments  and let others know how you have found the writing experience, and please don’t put up a book with typos, poor grammar and a useless idea as this makes it difficult for great writers to be found.

 

Next week The pleasure of making up stories.

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Hope your writing adds  cash to your bank account.

Continue reading “Starting Creative Writing 3 of 6”

Starting Creative Writing 2 of 6

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Communicating creatively with words.

How to get a message across. – tell it like it is or use creative ideas. Creative ideas tend to engage other people and stick in peoples minds for longer – sometimes forever.

Charles Dickens stories, I’m thinking of Scrooge in particular is still putting a message across. If he had said don’t be mean to your workers no one would have heard his message in such a powerful way and the message would have been forgotten. The Help, to bring things more up to date. You can list ‘your favorite’ in comments. Stories that have stood the test of time and are still relevant.

Famous adverts we all remember and are iconic of a period.

Poems, ‘Not Waving but Drowning’ by Stevie Smith is a good one. There are so many images drawn in words through poetry. It is worth reading regularly. It’s an undervalued pleasure.

Writing a picture in words, with insight thrown in is a powerful tool.

The insight you can write about, you can choose for yourself, whatever it may be. What do you know about? What are your experiences in life?

Hand-me-down stories are the way religions and cultural stories are passed on. Who doesn’t love a good story and embellish it with the retelling?

This is such a brief intro to communicating creatively, but you get the idea.

Communication and media studies are interesting subjects and worth learning in conjunction with writing. It’s at least a two year study programme but a little knowledge goes a long way and you have to start somewhere.

Non-verbal communication is important to note. It varies according to culture, but when you are writing you have only words to convey something non-verbal. A smile, a pause, emotions etc. Put non-verbal communication in your search engine and spend an hour or two exploring. If you get round to it, look up semiotics, there is an introductory blog I posted earlier.

Writing creatively you can express your pain or your happiness and everything in between. There is a misconception that everything you write must be saleable, – of course it doesn’t. You can use it as a way of talking to yourself, sharing with friends, putting your words on the internet,  or writing a blog or article. It’s up to you. Similes and metaphors, saying what something is like or saying it is something else – methods of drawing pictures.

Photos capture memories, try writing your experiences to add to the time and the moment. Write in all the senses, smelling, touching, tasting, hearing, seeing. They aren’t there in a photo apart from seeing. Add feelings.

Description using colours and shades of colours say something about people and places.

A picture is worth a thousand words – is it? Pictures can and do lie, especially now we have photoshop to show us how to make things look what they’re not. Historically, there are photos of fairies at the bottom of the garden. People believed it because the fairies were transposed into a photograph. We need to understand creativity in communication to understand if what we are reading is ‘truth’ or ‘lies’. Lots of discussion here if you belong to a group.

Making words appealing is the art of advertising and communicating. Right words – in the right place – with the right images + the right target audience = success in communication. Expand that idea to poems, short stories, blogs, and any writing.

Communication is where grammar comes in. Get it wrong and the wrong message is conveyed. Put the punctuation in the wrong place and the meaning can be changed. If you read your writing out loud it helps you notice where punctuation is needed, but it doesn’t help with apostrophes, quotation marks and speech. If grammar and punctuation aren’t your strong point start learning step by step. The more you write and correct your work the more you will learn.

Think in new ways, use a unique idea. Creative Writing for communication can be like learning another language, it’s a way of saying things. Don’t be put off by people who know more than you do. I’ve always found writers, friendly people and willing to help. Everyone has to start somewhere.

At the end of all this I hope people feel inspired.

Write a paragraph several times until it sounds better. Read and write poetry. Read great writers and ask yourself what is good about their writing.

Are you good at tweeting? Could you be better? Icould do with improvements on that one, I’m sure.

Remember, we all make mistakes and if you are afraid of making mistakes you won’t get anywhere.

Next week – Writing to make shed loads of money.

Starting Creative Writing 1 0f 6

Let’s start with a question. Why do you want to learn about Creative Writing? Here are some reasons that might be you.

A tool to learn English or another language.

To communicate a message in a creative and interesting way.

To make shed loads of money.

The pleasure of making up stories.

Enjoying writing poetry and playing with language skills.

Writing to feel better.

All of the above are possible, but what suits you? Today I am going to cover ‘To learn English or another language’, and follow through on the other topics in the coming weeks.

Why is Creative Writing different from a normal language lesson?

For Creative Writing your ideas and creativity are paramount – for a straight forward English lesson, you must learn facts about grammar and punctuation.

A Creative Writing project can give confidence with another language and you learn grammatical facts by the questions you ask as you go along. There isn’t a set pattern to the learning. A language lesson comes from books and teachers. Students learn better if they want to know the answers. For me, textbooks and teaching by instruction alone are secondary to a project that is student based.

If you are wanting to do Creative Writing start and keep going, don’t look for failures, but for achievements. You can do it alone, made so much easier with a computer to correct you on your way.

Groups work well with a creative project. A mixture of skills is of value. A student who is useless at grammar may have the best ideas. A team can feel the need to do their best to produce a worthwhile end product ready for presentation.

The spoken word is as important as the written word. If you are not good at writing try remembering and making things up on the spot.

Read plays, poetry, novels, short stories, news items, advertisements, read anything you can lay your hands on, not just a set book. Read aloud. Rewrite what you read in a style of your own.

Bring  items to prompt stories. Students are preparing for the class before they get there. If you train yourself to look for prompts to write about, you will find them everywhere.

Warning – Writing is addictive.

Groups work well with both children and adults. Find a writers’ group near you or join one online. You shouldn’t be asked to pay to join. Be aware of false promises.

My classrooms are noisy places unlike the straight English lessons. Students are encouraged to butt in and contribute. There is a listening and sharing time at the end when mistakes are corrected as a sharing experience, criticism is not encouraged. I might ask a question like ‘how do you think this would work?’ I make notes of general mistakes and we go over them. Vocabulary is ongoing.

You can work alone on your writing, it is good to have a time goal, i.e. use a prompt and write ‘something’ in 5 minutes. Write a short story in a week.

Students go home with a sense of achievement not only a list of corrections. Exploring an idea from your imagination is a goal in itself.

If you are starting to write creatively, a reminder that in some cultures it is a lonely place to be. I would never encourage anyone to disrespect their culture and matching this with an unleashing of ideas can be tricky. Novelists, poets, journalists etc. have paid a big price for expressing their thoughts. If you live in a free society  or a family that is open to discussing ideas from imagination, count yourself very lucky.

Here’s a thought for you today, What is a story?

Share your answers and don’t worry about mistakes unless it causes misunderstanding.

Writing and using our imaginations keeps our brains alive. If you don’t write for a long time you can lose your imagination and your language skills. It is important for young and old to write creatively.

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Let your imagination fly

5 more introductory lessons to go.

Teaching Creative Writing in a Foreign Country

I hope you enjoy this blog about  a U.K. citizen teaching Creative Writing in Sri Lanka.

If you read my bio you will see that I have worked as a Creative Writing tutor for adults in the UK. My husband and I retired and came to Sri Lanka for 6 months 7 years ago, now for 3/4 months every year. His voluntary work is in medical research and he has studied snake bite reactions as part of a team improving the care of patients.He is based at Peradeniya University in Kandy – the hill country.

I didn’t want to sit around and I when asked to work at a private school of 3000 girls as a volunteer I was delighted. Feeling ill equipped with a young age group I started with the under 5’s but quickly developed a rapport with the upper school. The little children were so lovable and well behaved. I have always kept in touch. The teachers are hard working, dedicated and underpaid.

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Us as Santa and helper going to school
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Well behaved children in school

Faced with a large class of 9-10 year olds to teach English, Creative Writing came to my rescue. Group work was the answer. English is a vital part of education here. The main languages spoken are Sinhala, Tamil and English. The English language is used everywhere, on road signs and by the poorest of workers. It’s a common language. An English qualification is a  way into a job and  helps you find a marriage partner.

I progressed to teaching GCSE classes and A level English literature. There is a gap of three months between the exams and the next course, I was given a free hand to teach this group of students. I taught what I knew and we worked on writing projects. At the end of my time the school reported a marked improvement in the English of the students. The result was repeat invitations to work in this school over many years. I am happy to have a good relationship with them every time I visit.

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The school concert at a private school where I worked

My next task was to teach teachers, this was fun and an experiment. Rote is the preferred  method of teaching and it works well. The thing about teaching Creative Writing is that it engages the students to a greater degree. They love doing projects and sharing. If they can’t do everything in English I allow them to use their own language but to keep going and keep trying. At the end of a session we look collectively at vocabulary and grammar relevant to their project. This requires new skills from the teachers, they may be caught out on things they don’t know.

Creative Writing is a method of improving  the English of some of the teachers as well as students. Writing creatively  is a skill that cannot be totally used without guidance.

I always respect the culture and never try to change anything. For a country still recovering from civil war, facilities and resources have been in short supply but are improving. Sri Lanka was also a country badly hit by the tsunami. Both events increased the need for orphanages. Children still write about both. They write about the roll of women and  poems about their lives and emotions – this area is where we discuss boundaries and if there should be any. The teachers know their culture and children best and I don’t try and influence in any way, but I make them aware that with new freedoms comes responsibilities for the teacher.

The teacher training I was a part of was videoed  and shown over to teachers. I was invited to run a work shop at a conference weekend for all Sri Lankan teachers in Colombo.

This is about the teaching, there is more to my voluntary work than this. The teachers are wonderful people, I have made such good friends.

I visited a poor state school and threw myself into renovating a library to give the school a heart. The government is now able to put more money into schools and state schools are improving.

Our life here has been dependent on renting a house every time we come. The first one was on the top of a hill with the jungle above. We were closer than I liked to snakes and insects. I have what I call my Sri Lankan hat on when I come here and forget my UK standards of living. That said I love the experience of living alongside the Sri Lankans. The rains came the first year and deluged down our hill for months. There was no doubt we were living in danger of a land slip. When the house was hit by a large boulder. The challenge was on. The hole made way for the jungle life to enter the house. My husband was determined to stay and finish his work, the compromise was that we went to a hotel while the house was fixed. On our return I reacted to every sound. When I heard a thud on the roof I went to investigate and found myself face to face with two 7 foot snakes. I learned afterwards they were not dangerous. I have seen vipers and cobras here but not many. The mosquitos are a bigger threat. Dengue is not uncommon but Malaria has mostly been eradicated. Rabies exists and it is best not to engage with wild animals including the street dogs and cats. Bats and monkeys can also be carriers. I console myself with the thought that there are a lot of Sri Lankan people still alive, on balance we should be. This is not a way of life I would choose if I had the responsiblity of a young family, although families do come here to work.

The food is good, we eat mostly fruit, veg and rice. The numbers of modern restaurants and the variety of food is increasing. We prefer Sri Lankan food, it’s what we are used to here.

Going home to the U.K to friends and family is a real pleasure, I look forward to it for weeks. I see my own culture through different eyes. The consumerism, and the way families and extended families don’t function in the same way are here are obvious. In Sri Lanka the elderly and sick are always cared for in the family homes. This is great when it works but there are old people mistreated as well as those well cared for. Women have to work and cannot always be at home. Family money is shared. Our house maid washes cleans and cooks for us. Her wages keeps five members of her family. When families can’t manage they borrow from the loan people who come around to your door. They pay back at 2% interest. Sickness and disability can wreck a family’s limited finances.

Our tuk tuk driver introduced me to a village where people live in shacks. Here I met a young family with three children. I decided to teach them English and stay in touch at all times. Parents and children are speaking English and the children growing up well. Twice their shack has been washed away in storms, it is now built of breeze blocks but not in a safe position.

Free health care is available to the poor. They can queue up at hospital and see a doctor. Drugs have to be bought, unless you go to the hospital for them.  People buy one or two tablets at a time and give up before a course is finished. If you have an accident you may or may not get repairs to your broken body depending on the cost. When it doesn’t happen then people languish in beds.

I am getting past teaching now and would like to be involved in sponsorship of patients that need false limbs they can’t afford. There are many young and otherwise fit men, who lost limbs in the war. There is some support for them.

Although I plan to get away from teaching and spend my time here writing, this is a country of surprises. I have been asked to teach the young monks at a temple but have preferred to teach someone how to teach them. The internet is great for devising programmes for learning and passing them on. Internet and phone connections are excellent.

I have been talking to an agriculturist about rural education, an area that interests me. The challenge is teaching farmers, especially rice growers, English, to enable them to use the internet and communicate with the wider world.

We visit swimming pools,  I belong to a book club and film club and go on tour – just in case you think our time is all about volunteering.

At the end of my teaching time at a school I gave them a Creative Writing Cup to be presented to the student with the best ideas – not the best grammar. This encouraged a different set of students. Every year book prizes are awarded in my name. What an honour.

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Winner of the 2016 Creative writing prize

If you have enjoyed this brief blog about the past seven visits  of our life in Sri Lanka, you can read my husband’s blogs on Chandlers Ford today. http://tinyurl.com/ze92jfq This is about the library I renovated in a state school but search around his blogs and you will find more about Sri Lanka.

This is a limited view of what we do, I could write a book, but not yet. If you have any questions, please ask.

In quiet moments I write for myself. My first novel Marriage, a Journey and a Dog is a romantic comedy best described as women’s fiction . Writing is what I enjoy doing in my quiet moments. It’s great to know people in Sri Lanka have read and enjoyed my book, mainly expats. http://tinyurl.com/zexovoo

I have been able to advise expats about self publishing a book and about how the traditional publishing industry works. This puts me in contact with amazing and interesting people.

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Many classes in one space

Add your poem

Please feel free to share your poem in the comment box. I will  check it out and put it up. You don’t have to be a great poet, but have something you want to say in verse. Lots of interesting poems are written, but never get shared or read. There is much talk about copyright, but what is the point of copyright on something that never gets read? This is an opportunity to share what you have written, for only the satisfaction of knowing that someone else has read it.If you want to put a link to your poetry publication you can.