The ‘me’ interview, part 2

Yesterday I shared an interview… an interview with me; this may sound strange but there was a reason why I wrote it – and here’s the explanation:

On my other blog which I share with two writing chums, we are continually trying to reach out to other writers and engage with them, and would love to share their work on our site – all properly linked and credited of course!

We wondered how we could offer our readers more about ourselves in a different way than just writing short biographies, and we came up with interviews; however, instead of interviewing each other, maybe we should interview ourselves! It wasn’t an attempt to rig the information, we thought it might be fun, and we thought it might be a way of having a moment’s self-reflection… there’s no reason why later we can’t interview each other!

So… trying to think of questions which would allow me to share some of my thoughts about me as a writer, I eventually, after a lot of thinking and pondering came up with ten questions.

Yesterday I shared the first five, and my answers, now here are the last five questions, and their answers:

  • You often have a woman as a lead character, are any of your ‘heroines’ based on yourself?

No, not at all. Some of them share aspects of my character, quite a few are teachers because that is what I was and it’s a world I know. Most of my characters are much more determined and focussed than I am, and don’t have a silly side to their personality, which I definitely have.  In actual fact, the character nearest to me in personality isn’t a woman at all, but a man – Thomas Radwinter!

  • Which of you published novels are you most proud of?

I’m proud of all of them; however I am proud of my first published novel, Farholm, because it was my first, and my Radwinter series because I never ever imagined I would write a sequel, let alone a series!

  • Why do you self-publish with Kindle Direct Publishing?

Like many, many writers, I have sent off scores of manuscripts to dozens and dozens of publishers and agents; I have entered competitions, I have done all I can to get my stories into print.  I have never had any luck (because I’m sure luck is the main part of the business) and have been ripped off a couple of times. KDP allowed me to put my books out in the big wide world, and I really appreciate it… however my continued dream is to be taken up by an actual publisher and to see my name on the shelves of bookshops!

  • You’re a writer – are you also a reader, and if so what do you like to read and what are you reading at the moment?

Yes, an addicted reader. I like books which contain some mystery or puzzle, so often they are crime books and police procedurals; I particularly like Icelandic authors such as Arnaldur Indriðason, Ragnar Jónasson, Viktor Arnar Ingólfsson and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. However at the moment I am reading ‘Perverse and Foolish’ by Lucy M. Boston (author of the Green Knowe books for children) ‘South: The Story of Shackleton’s 1914-1917 Expedition’ by Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton and ‘Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy’ by Robert H. Frank… So no fiction! The last fiction I read and really enjoyed was ‘The Red Tent’ by Anita Diamant. I am really not very keen on ‘women’s literature’, and I am very intolerant of pretentious writing – and novels written in the present tense!

  • What advice would you give to anyone who says they think they have a book in them but don’t know how to write it?

Don’t worry about the first sentence and the beginning – especially with the technology we have now, it is so easy to go back and change, alter, rewrite – not like it used to be with a pen or a typewriter! Just start – even in the middle! Get something down on paper and keep going. Joining a writing group can be really helpful – there are plenty of on-line groups if you aren’t able or are shy of meeting others. There is no set way to write, everyone has their own style so don’t try and write like anyone but yourself, but at the same time if someone offers kindly constructive criticism, listen to it, think about it and then either take it or forget it! The main thing is to write! Just that! Sit down at your computer, laptop or desk, with your keyboard, pen or pencil and get writing!

 

If you would like a look at our blog, ‘The Moving Dragon Writes’ and maybe send us some writing to share there, here’s a link:

http://somersetwriters.wordpress.com

… and if you do have any submissions, here is our address:

themovingdragonwrites@Gmail.com

Here is a link to my books:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_3_6?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=lois+e%2Caps%2C144&crid=X501FNJTSG1S

The ‘me’ interview

A week or so ago, I mentioned that I was going to interview myself… you’re probably, no definitely thinking… ‘what?? why?? …interviewing yourself??’

This is the introduction to what I wrote:

On my other blog which I share with two writing chums, we are continually trying to reach out to other writers and engage with them, and would love to share their work on our site – all properly linked and credited of course!

We wondered how we could offer our readers more about ourselves in a different way than just writing short biographies, and we came up with interviews; however, instead of interviewing each other, maybe we should interview ourselves! It wasn’t an attempt to rig the information, we thought it might be fun, and we thought it might be a way of having a moment’s self-reflection… there’s no reason why later we can’t interview each other!

So… trying to think of questions which would allow me to share some of my thoughts about me as a writer, I eventually, after a lot of thinking and pondering came up with ten questions.

Here are the first five, and my answers:

  • When did you first start writing, and who inspired you?

I told stories before I ever could write them down; I guess I got this from both my parents who were wonderful story-tellers, imagined tales as well as incidents from their own lives, vividly told to me and my sister. I can’t think of a time when I didn’t have stories running through my mind!

  • What is a typical writing day for you?

Lois: The first thing I do in the morning, fortified by tea, is sit here and write… maybe blogging first and then onto my current ‘project’, or maybe if I’ve been puzzling over it, straight into my actual writing. I continue through the day, in between going out, meeting people, teaching my writing classes, doing housework, shopping etc., and then most evenings I work until bedtime… which maybe 1 or 2 in the morning!

  • You write one blog and are very involved in another… does this not take you away from your ‘real’ writing?

Lois: I started my blog as a way of publicising my work – as a self-published author, I don’t have anyone else but me to try and get my novels ‘out there’. However, I have found that writing blogs has been a great way of practicing my craft (if you want to call it that) and writing in different ways and on different topics; I have also ‘met’ some great fellow-bloggers! It has forced me to get over ‘writer’s block’ – which has a positive effect on my other writing.

  • What are you working on at the moment?

Lois: While I had my day job, before I was liberated, writing was tucked in odd corners and at odd hours and although I write several novels, I wrote them in bits and pieces – they need a lot of editing! I am at present working on an unfinished novel from that time… but I also have other plans in mind too!

  • You have just published the fifth novel in your Radwinter series… do any of those writing plans involve more adventures for Thomas Radwinter?

Lois: Yes indeed! When I have finished the editing of the novel I was telling you about, I will get going on the next Radwinter book – to be honest, I can’t wait! Very excited about the new one!

 

I will share the remaining five questions tomorrow, in the meanwhile, if you would like a look at our blog, The Moving Dragon Writes’, and maybe send us some writing to share there, here’s a link:

http://somersetwriters.wordpress.com

… and if you do have any submissions, here is our address:

themovingdragonwrites@Gmail.com

… and here is a link to my books:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_3_6?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=lois+e%2Caps%2C144&crid=X501FNJTSG1S

More about Moving Dragons

It was just over eight months ago that some writing friends and I got together to try and promote our work, and to share the work of others too. We knew people in writing groups who for various reasons did not have their own blog but wanted to put their writing out in public view. We called ourselves The Moving Dragon Writes, and we started a WordPress blog as a sort of writers’ community blog. It’s called Somerset Writers, because that’s where we are, but it is a notional rather than actual  name, there are no county borders in our group!

Earlier today, I published  a piece about using social media to share and promote and publicise.. This is what I wrote:

One of the driving desires of a writer, as with any artist,  is to get work before an audience, to share what we have produced, to have people read what we have written. I guess we are fortunate these days in living in a world where we can show strangers our stories and poems and other writing and get feedback and comment – and often appreciation!

Social media gives us a wonderful stage on which to parade our characters and scenes. Yes, there can be a dark side to it – but odd things can happen anywhere in real life too – when you sit next to a person on the bus, or get into conversation with someone you don’t know very well in a pub or café, or encounter strange and sometimes downright weird folk in other situations.  We usually can deal with that as part of life, and have strategies and know how to find help – so it is with social media. Yes, there are stories in the press about unfortunate things which have happened from on-line encounters, but there are far more wonderful stories of friendships made, opportunities explored – and for writers and musicians – audiences reached!

We Moving Dragons share our work, and those of friends here on our blog – (and if you have a short story, article, poem, or anything which fits our eclectic group, then please get in touch!) and we also promote it through our Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/TheMovingDragonWrites/?ref=bookmarks

and we tweet too –

https://twitter.com/brimdraca

… and here is a link to our WordPress:

https://somersetwriters.wordpress.com

The Hypercube Journey

I am really thrilled and excited to share a story from a favourite writer, writing group friend, and fellow Dragon on our Moving Dragon Writes blog, Richard Kefford. Richard is a tremendous writer in many genres, but there is a quirkiness and originality in his stories and poems (and euphonic writing) which I really enjoy and admire.

So here is…

The Hypercube Journey

He noticed the advert while flicking through the Birmingham Mail. There was to be an architectural  and building exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre in six months time. He sent off for full details thinking this might be just what he needed to get his architectural practice out of the doldrums of designing self build homes, designing and specifying sun rooms for already oversized family homes, doing sub contract work at cost and drawings for the little box house builders, squeezing more and more people into less and less space.

The exhibition was to be in two sections – one for architects and one for builders. These were called, respectively and somewhat predictably, ‘Architex’ and ‘Buildex’. He saw himself as a creative designer, specialising in living spacesas it said on his promotional literature so he sent off for the relevant exhibitor forms. He didn’t somehow think of himself as a brick on brick builder.

When he got the forms back, he got to work on what he did best. Thinking of and designing a stand that would showcase his abilities. The only problem was the cost. The size of stand that he wanted / needed would more likely put him out of business before he could start designing for the many new clients that he hoped to attract.

He had to think of another way, one that could be achieved at a much lower cost. So it was back to the figurative drawing board – AutoCAD – Revit 2D and 3D, in this case. He had been using AutoCAD since his time at Sussex Uni so it made sense to carry on with it. It was familiar, he knew its capabilities and shortcuts and, more important, he knew its limitations.

He did what he usually did at the start of a project – doodling while he waited for inspiration to strike.

He drew a front door – always useful to have some sort of portal to your world. Then he started thinking and playing with the 2D/3D possibilities of the software. Why were there only two dimension schemes in use. We now know the others are all around us – some scientists say that there are at least eleven. Where are they? They are here, we just cannot see them. Try this exercise. You can draw in two dimensions and represent three. One is a dot, two is a line, three is an object but what is four? OK so think of a cube. That’s an object so it must be 3D. Go down one and you have a square. It’s made of lines so it must be 2D. Go back up to the cube and add one dimension – you get a tesseract. This is made from eight cubes but the magic of it is that it only takes up the 3D volume of one cube. It can also be drawn on the AutoCAD in 2D. A tesseract has eight times as much internal space as external volume as the 4th dimension does not exist in our physical universe even though the CAD software could draw a 2D/3D wireframe representation of one. He was then conceited enough to think that, if the CAD system could draw it, he could design and build it.

He invited his mate Phil down to the pub for a drink that evening and put the problem to him. He is not one of those people who designs things on the back of an envelope, he just sat there with a dreamy look on his face for about half an hour while he kept him supplied with pints of the local real ale. After a long period of silence he said, ‘to achieve the best volume in 3D it would have to be an unfolded tesseract.’

‘How do you mean,’ he asked.

‘Well, if you drop a dimension and then ask the same question, you can cover the greatest surface are by unfolding a cube. If you do that, you get six squares. If you unfold a tesseract you get eight cubes.’

Image

They batted it to and fro for another hour and then came to a decision. He would order a square space in the exhibition hall. This would only be the standard size of one unit, which is 4 metres square. He would then design and build a cube on it which would have sides each of 4 metres. This cube would be built from wood with one door so that no passer-by could see what was in it. Inside the cube he would build an unfolded tesseract to give him an extra seven cubes that could only be seen from the inside of the base cube. This would give him plenty of space to showcase his designs and still leave space for a conference room and a kitchen.

 

The first day of the exhibition setting up week came and all the materials necessary to build the stand started arriving at the exhibition hall. There were a few startled faces when people saw how many materials were taken into through the front door of the cube. ‘It must be getting very crowded in there,’ was the general reaction. He ignored them and urged his building contractor to continue with the work as quickly as possible – there was a lot of work involved in fitting out the eight cubes.

Image

It was time for the exhibition to open. He stood just outside his cube inviting people in through the door to see his showcased work. It was difficult at first because potential customers assumed that he couldn’t show them much in the space available but the ones that he persuaded       in were very impressed by the scope of the work and how much space ‘appeared to have created from nowhere.’ By the second day, the news had spread by word of mouth so the number of visitors to the stand increased rapidly and he was rushed off his feet explaining what could be achieved and then taking and scheduling orders. His stand became the place to be.

The exhibition was to last for five days then the weekend would be taken up by taking down the stands, ready for the packaging exhibition, Packex, the following week.

Each day was busier than the day before so, by Friday midday it was getting manic with even the eight cubes in the hypercube getting crowded. The climax came at 1337. The entry counter showed that there were more people in the stand than ever before.

There was suddenly a very loud ‘Snap’. Nearby exhibitors were worried that something dangerous had happened to his stand but no, it was still there and looked entirely undamaged.

It was very different inside. The severe weight loading caused by so many people had caused the tesseract to fold back into itself. Of all the forms it could have ‘chosen’ it had formed itself into the most material and energy-efficient form so people were in some very strange shaped spaces.

Luckily, he was quite close to the front door when it happened. The exhibition hall fire and rescue team arrived very quickly and stood there, amazed, while many more people than seemed possible slowly walked, unharmed apart from minor shock, out of the front door.

No news of this reached the papers as the exhibition hall owners didn’t want any negative publicity. He was too busy designing buildings for his new customers and none of them were willing to talk about it – who would believe them? It will take nearly four years to do all the work that flowed from that exhibition and he is now making plans to exhibit at the next one – luckily they are only held every four years – just like the world cup and the Olympics.

He is now busy getting the design ready for his new exhibition stand. He has been talking to Phil about the possibility of designing and building a dimensional hypercube in five dimensions…

© Richard Kefford 2017

You can find Richard’s writing here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_11?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=richard+kefford&sprefix=richard+kef%2Caps%2C136&crid=UZATIE630G2R

… and more from him, and me, here:

https://somersetwriters.wordpress.com

Getting it out there

New year and new ambition to write and share what we write; this is a post I wrote last year when two friends and I started a new blog. We have been amazed at its success, it has slowly been growing and more and more writers are sharing their work:

The Moving Dragon Writes

Like many writers, we have become increasingly frustrated by the fact that it seems impossible to share our work . The three of us, Richard, John and Lois met through our different U3A creative writing groups and got together to try and think of a way we could promote and publicise our work; just writing it and reading it to yourself, or to a small group of friends, is a little bit lonely, like a singer with a song in an empty hall…

We decided to start a blog; John writes mainly poetry and philosophical pieces, Richard writes funny stories, serious stories, novels, poems and euphonic verse, he writes about his travels… and writes about writing; Lois writes about writing, and shares her thoughts on writing her novels and self-publishing them.

We decided to open our blog to everyone – there are so many writers who don’t seem to be able to find an audience, and blogging seemed the way forward. Through our blog we can showcase their work to a much wider audience. We now have over thirty writers – and we are always on the lookout for more, and welcome writers of every sort; our post include travel writing, book reviews, reminiscences, stories for children, geological walks, history, family history, cookery writing, fantasy writing, stream punk, excerpts from novels, publishing and self-publishing… variety really is the spice of writing!

We have been amazed at our success; within a few months we’d had nearly 1000  ‘visitors’, and 3,000 ‘views’, that is, people who had read our work; these visitors came from literally all across the world which is wonderful, and very exciting!

We would love to share the work of U3A members from creative writing, writing, poetry, history or any other group. We always link work back to the author’s own website or blog if they have one, and we also have a forum where anything to do with writing can be discussed.

… oh, and dragons? Our site is the Moving Dragon Writes!

See our blog here:

https://somersetwriters.wordpress.com

and find us in Facebook here:

https://www.facebook.com/TheMovingDragonWrites

and also on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/brimdraca

Telling tales

I sometimes think my head is too full of words – I think this when I forget where I’m going and go somewhere else by mistake because something interesting is going on inside my head, I think this when I forget to be where I’m supposed to be, or forget to do something I’m supposed to do, and I think this as the hours flash by as I write – at the moment it’s my next Radwinter story, my ‘And the river…‘ piece for the National Novel Writing Month Challenge (50, 000 words of a new novel in November – I’m only a third of the way to that target which means a heck of a lot of words between now and the 30th!) it’s my blog here and the blog I have with two friends The Moving Dragon Writes, and something each month for my writing group (yesterday it was something about the cosmos, cosmology and/or humour) and preparation for the two writing groups I actually lead… which you must admit all involves an awful lot of words.

However, I have an idea, which I have mentioned here before about starting another writing group,. this time for people to think of how they might write their own life stories and how they might tell the stories of their family, and the ancestors – some of whom some people might have found through their interest in genealogy and family history.

Genealogy is very exciting, and utterly absorbing to those who are doing it, finding out an ancestor might have been a fellmonger, or had a deaf and dumb brother who died in prison (or maybe an asylum) because he was supposed to have murdered the village school mistress, nearly hacking off her head… But when you come to tell someone, a son or daughter, a cousin’s grandchild, or any one else in the family, then the answer is often a slightly polite ‘oh, mmm, interesting...’ and a glazed look. But creating a story, imagining what the woman who fell through the ice while skating was wearing, or the conversation between two grandparents who met for the first time – maybe sitting next to each other at a concert, or walking in the park, or strolling along a promenade (we’ll never know but we can imagine) suddenly makes the story more interesting and can put over the facts as well – embroidered maybe, but the facts all the same.

Maybe next spring I will see if there is any interest from people to write their history, tell their stories – I wouldn’t poaching people from other interest groups, I wouldn’t be telling or helping people how to find out about their ancestors, but to suggest ways to present what they’ve found out… Maybe next spring!

PS a fellmonger used to work with and deal in furs and skins

If you haven’t read my actual sotirs,here is a link to my e-novels:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_3_6?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=lois+e%2Caps%2C140&crid=2PRKT8K657YP7

…and here is a link to our writer’s blog – if you have a story, poem or any piece of writing you want to share, get in touch:

https://somersetwriters.wordpress.com/

Every window was open wide

I don’t often  do this but I am going to share a post from the Moving Dragon Writes blog which two friends and I run. This blog is to share and promote other people’s writing, and on this occasion it’s someone from one of my writing groups.

I suggested that the group might like to take a poem and use it as inspiration; they could write a poem, write about the poem, write something just triggered by the poem. I’ve mentioned that I used Wordsworth’s poem, ‘Resolution and Independence’ for my inspiration, and another member of the group also chose Wordsworth, his ‘Ode: on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood’.

I’m sure wr all remember teachers who were really significant in our lives – who weren’t just great teachers but who had an extra something which was really life-changing. I think of Mr and Mrs Varley and all my teachers at Milton Road School in Cambridge, and I think of Mrs Johnson and Miss Guyatt from when I was at the Cambridgeshire High School For Girls in Cambridge. Truly inspirational.

Here, Ann Bancroft shares her recollections:

Good afternoon, Mrs Dee

Every window was open wide but it made little difference. The air outside seemed even hotter than the air in the classroom. It was the end of Friday afternoon and the stifling heat made the poetry lesson ahead seem even less tolerable. I was in a class of fifteen year old girls studying for ‘o’ levels. None of us really liked poetry.

The English teacher arrived on time as she always did. She was the oldest member of staff or so it seemed to us. It feels disrespectful, even all these years on, to call her ordinary, but with almost grey hair, with little awareness of the fashions of the day, there was nothing that made her stand out in a crowd. She came in carrying her shopping bag. It was how she transported, from class to class, the books she needed for her lessons.

We all stood as she entered, a mark of respect that was routine in those days. ‘Good afternoon, class. ’Good afternoon, Mrs Dee’ we chanted in reply.

‘We will continue reading the next part of ‘Intimations on Immortality’. Open your poetry books at the right page.’ At least it was Wordsworth, the one poet I felt I could connect with. He seemed to use language I was able to understand.

Mrs Dee began reading. She always read first. We would discuss our thoughts on what we had heard, and then read the passage several times more, for further discussion. Out homework would probably be to learn by heart what we had been studying. She was very keen on learning by heart. We knew all the major speeches from the Shakespeare plays we studied – To be or not to be, The Quality of Mercy, Once more unto the breach and numerous poems. She always checked our homework so there was no escape.

She used no gimmicks in her teaching. She did nothing to try to impress us. She just taught and we listened. I cannot remember her ever having any trouble with us. She never had to call us to order, yet we were not the easiest class. It was suggested that our behaviour had helped our French teacher decide to go to Uganda as a missionary!

Suddenly I heard the words ‘Trailing clouds of glory do we come from God who is our home’. At that moment she lost me. The picture created in my mind, the beauty and joy that filled my thoughts took me to a place where the heat and discomfort of the classroom no longer existed. I have no memory of how I managed my homework that day. No doubt one of the other girls would have told me what I needed to do.

The last time I saw Mrs Dee was my last English lesson in school. The ‘o’ level results were in for the staff to see, but not yet published for our eyes. She stood and looked at us, and then she said ‘I am so proud of you all. You have worked so hard. Your results are amazing.  I am very angry because all that you will be told is that you have passed. I dare not tell you your marks, so I have asked that an asterisk be put by each of your names when the list of results is published’. It was the first time I had seen her so emotional. She heaped praise on us all as if she had had nothing to do with our results.

Over the years ‘Trailing clouds of glory…’ often comes into my thoughts and brings again the feelings it did the first time. With it come memories of Mrs Dee, that ‘ordinary’ woman who taught from somewhere deep inside herself and inspired us and enriched our lives beyond measure.

©Ann Bancroft 2016

Here is the passage Ann shared with us:

Trailing clouds of glory

(from ‘Ode: on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood’)

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature’s Priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.

William Wordsworth

Here is a link to our Moving Dragon blog – if you would like to share any of your work, please get in touch!

http://www.somersetwriters.wordpress.com