29 October, 2013

Libra by Anna Lickley

Welcome to Part Eight of my 12-part Zodiac Blog Series. On Tuesdays in autumn I'm posting a story or poem each written especially for this blog by a different author. Each piece of writing has taken one of the signs of the zodiac as its inspiration. For the full list of participants - from established authors to first-time writers - plus the posting schedule and links to previous stories and poems, please visit the Zodiac Blog Series Page.

This week's story is by Anna Lickley and is inspired by Libra.

 Anna is new to writing. Until last week she hadn't had anything published, then Simon published one of her stories on his blog, thus pipping me to the post (more on this on Friday!) Anna has just sent her self-published semi-autobiographical novel, Catch It Any Time You Can, to print. After being deafened at the age of 20 through illness, she developed an interest in deaf education and thought Libra would give her a chance to balance the scales in exploring whether deaf people will ever get an equal chance at learning. You can find Anna on her blog.

(I also promised her I'd point out that she gets a gold star for being the first person to get her story to me!)

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Balancing the Scales



April 2079



I was sitting between Frankie and Jaime in the semi circle, facing our teacher, Jim who was teaching us biology. It was the last class of the day and I was bored. My eyes wondered along the semi-circular loop. We had an academy uniform with a number of items we could choose freely from. Most of the boys opted for a knee length, pleated skirt which was much less constricting to their anatomies than trousers. The girls generally seemed to wear whatever their friends were wearing that day.



Tomorrow was a national holiday as, at the age of only 66, George vii would be crowned as king. His father, William had stepped down from the throne at 96 to spend more time with his wife. Mum said that before I was even born, everyone thought he’d stop when he reached the national retirement age of 76 but he’s carried on for ages!



George is giving his speech afterwards in British Sign Language  as he has always been an excellent signer so switches between English and BSL quite fluently.



I will probably come in to school to watch it on the ‘big slab’ in the auditorium although we are able to see the ceremony anywhere at anytime and in any language, watching our personal slabs.



Most of the class had their slabs set on VR so that the interpreter’s voice was automatically recorded in print and provided live captions for any deaf people who preferred English. Some were using the video setting to record Jim’s signing and their slabs could later transcribe this in written English too if they wanted.



Jim wasn’t deaf but he preferred teaching in BSL, he said it was easier to explain things visually.



We had all been learning BSL from an early age and I found it astonishing that just over 100 years ago, deaf children had been taught orally where so much time was  taken on forming the correct sounds to make speech that they learnt very little else. These children were called ‘the deaf and dumb’ and used to have their wrists tied to the desk or knuckles rapped if they used sign or gesture to communicate. I think it’s criminal to have inflicted that!



I think there was also a time later when people thought you had to choose between English and the ‘hearing world’ or BSL (‘Deaf world’). That seems crazy too but we haven’t really studied it yet.



At 14, I would be taking some of my B- levels next year and then majoring in BSL and Deaf studies, disability theory and drama.



Signing really is my favourite subject and then I will probably train as a BSL interpreter because everyone learns English or BSL to different levels and so nearly all academy classes (apart from sign only zones like Deaf studies), conferences, theatre shows, all slab broadcasts etc are interpreted both ways. There’s not really any situation that disables a deaf person.



Welcome to Part Five of my 12-part Zodiac Blog Series. On Tuesdays in autumn I'm posting a story or poem each written especially for this blog by a different author. Each piece of writing has taken one of the signs of the zodiac as its inspiration. For the full list of participants - from established authors to first-time writers - plus the posting schedule and links to previous stories and poems, please visit the Zodiac Blog Series Page. - See more at: http://madebythepotter.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/cancer-by-simon-p-clark.html#sthash.HamLZCrx.dpuf

22 October, 2013

Scorpio by Derek Thompson

Welcome to Part Seven of my 12-part Zodiac Blog Series. On Tuesdays in autumn I'm posting a story or poem each written especially for this blog by a different author. Each piece of writing has taken one of the signs of the zodiac as its inspiration. For the full list of participants - from established authors to first-time writers - plus the posting schedule and links to previous stories and poems, please visit the Zodiac Blog Series Page.

This week's story is inspired by Scorpio and is written by Derek Thompson.

Derek enjoys writing fiction, non-fiction and comedy; finding each has its challenges and its rewards. He's carried notebooks around since his teens and ventured into freelancing in 2009. He says, "When you start with a blank page, an open mind and an active imagination, you never quite know where you'll end up." He chose Scorpio  for its associations with the darker aspects of the human condition. You can find Derek on his excellent blog or buy his fantasy book, thriller or novel The Superhero Club (Musa Publishing, 2012) on Amazon.

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I don't think you can call it stalking if we haven't really broken up - not officially, I mean. And it's not as if she has changed the locks; that extra key I had cut, for emergencies, still works. Oh, sure, I know she sees other guys now and then, but that's not important. They never stick around long after a tyre gets slashed. And it's not like I'm naturally violent, or anything, only when I get provoked...you know? We're both Scorpios, so we're both really intense people.

I like to keep an eye on things. After all, I helped pay for some of that stuff originally. The first few times, I was dead clever. If I had a cup of tea while she was at work, I'd wash up after myself and put everything back just the way it was. I did get a bit riled at the locked bedroom, but then I remembered the scotch at the back of the cupboard and calmed myself down. See, I told her I could change.

And then I got to thinking that maybe she was testing me, waiting for me to win her back. So I started leaving her little clues. Nothing major at first - a teaspoon on the table or a whisky glass in the sink. Then I left some flowers in the glass. She must have liked it because I never heard from the police like before.

I only went in a couple of times a week and never when she was there. I watched the house first - wouldn't want to frighten her or anything. And then she left me a sign, something only I would understand. A fresh bottle of whisky in the cupboard - the same brand I always drink. Well, there's no denying it, is there?

So, after a couple more times, I leave her a letter. Nothing fancy, but I let her know that I get what's going on. It's some sort of game between us. And I figure she'll call me on my mobile when she's ready.

I went over this morning and it was like being a teenager again. So excited I could hardly sleep last night. And this time she's left the whisky out on the table. I couldn't believe it - I actually shed a tear. So I had a couple of doubles there, to celebrate, and went back home to wait for her call. Only now I don't feel so great and I can barely keep my eyes open. Must be all the excitement catching up with me...


Really? That's just awful, but thank you for telling me, officer. And he had an old key in his pocket when you found him? That's odd because I changed the locks, but maybe he couldn't let go of the past. We were both Scorpios - that's an intense sign, isn't it?

18 October, 2013

QTWTAIN

Odd title, no? Or perhaps you've come across this acronym before. QTWTAIN - questions to which the answer is no - was started a few years ago by The Independent columnist John Rentoul. He started gathering headlines, mostly from tabloid newspapers, that... well... asked questions to which the answer was really only ever going to be 'No'. It's childish and entertains me greatly.

Some of his examples are include this question about a holocaust-denying bishop: "Are Bishop Williamson's repugnant views the result of a festering grudge against Marks and Spencer?" (Daily Mail) Also, "Should you bring Mom and Dad to your job interview?" (Wall Street Journal) and "Do lobsters hold the key to eternal life?" (Daily Mail).

I thought it would be fun to compile a list of writing QTWTAIN for any new writers out there wondering about the world of writing - but perhaps with more understandable questions. Here are some of mine. Please feel free to add you own about writing in the comments!

  • Writing's pretty hard, isn't it? Nope. I can only speak for English, but 26 letters in various combinations aren't that hard to make into coherent sentences.
  • So writing is easy then? Not if you want anyone else to read it. It takes hours and thousands of words of practice to make anything worth reading. In fact, even when you are proficient at it, it doesn't really get any easier - your standards just get higher.
  • You need to have loads of spare time, don't you? It helps, but most writers get up early, go to bed late or write through their lunch hours or commutes to get a novel on paper.
  • I've written the next Harry Potter - bound to be a hit right? Afraid not. You really needed to have written Harry Potter before JK Rowling did. Understanding the market is one thing, copying the market is another. 
  • But I had the whole wizard school idea first! Surely that counts for something? No. It doesn't. Move on.
  • Is it true that everyone's "got a book in them"? Wouldn't have thought so. Pretty sure I don't have a classical concerto or stone sculpture in me. Everyone might have stories to tell; not everyone can write a book.
  • All these agents who are rejecting me - is it true they don't actually read the manuscripts anyway? No. I think I speak for most writers when I say, we feel your pain, but still no. Your manuscript will have been read either by an agent or a skilled reader employed by the agent. It wasn't for them. Plenty more fish and all that.
  •  It's not what you write, it's who you know, right? Wrong. A foot in the door can do wonders, but plenty of writers are discovered from the slush pile. The most important thing you can do is write a stunning book or short story.
  • So it's not all about luck? Nope. A little luck is needed with everything in life - and writing is very subjective - but you need to write brilliantly first and foremost. And if you write brilliantly, you will get a break. I'm not saying you will get published or win prestigious awards, but there will be some sign. If you enter tonnes of competitions and submit to hundreds of agents and never get a full manuscript request or a shortlisting, it's not luck. Don't hide behind luck. Believe me, I've tried to hide behind it with many stories in the past and it's a transparent hiding place.
  • If I keep going for long enough and never give up, my time will come, yes? I will "find a way"? No. There isn't an orderly queue you can join. This isn't Disney. Some people will get an agent in a week and a publishing deal in a fortnight, others will write for 50 years and do neither. But you know what, if you don't keep going and do give up, I can guarantee your time will never come. You need perseverence no doubt, but it's not a magic ticket.

What QTWTAIN would you add to this list?

15 October, 2013

Capricorn by Jenny Hickson

Welcome to Part Six (halfway there!) of my 12-part Zodiac Blog Series. On Tuesdays in autumn I'm posting a story or poem each written especially for this blog by a different author. Each piece of writing has taken one of the signs of the zodiac as its inspiration. For the full list of participants - from established authors to first-time writers - plus the posting schedule and links to previous stories and poems, please visit the Zodiac Blog Series Page.

And for another writing challenge, go over to Simon's blog to join in with his Halloween shenanigans.


Today's story is inspired by Capricorn and written by Jenny Hickson.


Jenny is an software engineer by day, and spends her evenings and weekends knitting, baking and trying to cuddle chickens. Having written only technical documents since her GCSE days she started blogging about a year ago, starting with stories of her hens, and now writing about all things flora, fauna and fabric along with her husband Joe. She chose Capricorn on the spur of the moment - and then wondered why she’d chosen the goat of all things.Find Jenny on the Urban Cottage blog.


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Show Time

It was time. It had all come to this moment. The training. The rehearsals. Soon the curtains would part and his debut would begin. All the stagehands had disappeared after hours of careful setup and everything was suddenly eerily quiet. The nerves ripped through him as he repeated his part over and over and over in his mind.

He was waiting with the others, all just as focussed, just as still. Waiting to be summoned into life by the opening music. They would enter together, it was their only comfort. They had practised until perfect, but upstairs had been so particular, determined to pull every string just so, as if they didn’t know what to do. He wished he could dilly-dally forever, but time was passing and it was coming ever closer.

As the audience went quiet the dread kicked in, he almost pulled out but found himself glued to the spot, waiting in the wings for his grand entrance, waiting, waiting. The lights went on. The curtain moved. The singing started. The strings twitched. It was time.

High on a hill was a lonely goatherd......

11 October, 2013

Quotable Friday (18)

A very short quotation this week. I'm sure everyone has heard the saying "write what you know" and much space and time has been given to debating it as a piece of writing advice - after all no fiction writer has experienced everything they've written about. However, occasionally a writer comes up with a great reason why sometimes it's best to leave a subject you know nothing about well alone.

Here is a quotation from legendary Irish novelist Maeve Binchy that I read in Writing Magazine this month (originally from the Daily Mail, 2007) about why she doesn't write sex scenes into her books. Claiming it's nothing to do with being holy or moral, she said...



"You see, I've never been at an orgy and I wouldn't know where legs should be and arms should be."

Fair enough.