2016: Weeks Three and Four

So. Hello, everyone. My writing progress in these last few weeks has been more or less non-existent. I’m finally at the stage in this novel that inspired the whole thing, yet I’ve achieved less than one thousand words total in the last two weeks up until now.

‘Why?’ I hear you ask and I, as ever, am obliged to tell you. It’s because of the downright odd deadlines for my History degree. Having 10,000 words of coursework due in one week, right after the Christmas vacation, really took it out of me.

The downright panic of having to write 4,000 word essays for the first time in my life, as well as come up with a project proposal that looked vaguely plausible, was not the best experience I’ve ever had.

A week later, I’m still in the awkward sort of come-down state, where I’m working but not yet prepared to do anything that has anything to do with coursework. Which, of course, will have to change on Monday as I have another deadline in just two weeks time. One of the many issues with the 8 week terms at this university.

I’m sad I haven’t been writing, both because of being so busy working and now because of being so flat out worn out. But it’s something I’m working on, going to write for a little while now before bed.

Two friends and I are going out to our nearest city tomorrow so I’m hoping to pick up some inspiration, or at least some relaxation, there.  Will update you on my writing progress, and my week as a whole, at the end of the weekend.

Got some articles to work on too and am attending a DUCWS event on Sunday.

Fingers crossed for a good weekend!

~ Emma

2016: Week Two

Screenshot 2016-01-16 at 00.08.10

Total weekly word count:
5168 words

Writing Progress:

As you might be able to tell, I’ve edited the graph I’m using to track my writing progress. At the beginning I had it set to match the approximate demands of the writing challenge group I’ve been part of online, which is run by the incredible Julie Valerie. It’s a challenge dedicated to writing 85,000 words in 90 days, a little bit like the NaNoWriMo writing event but focused on the long game.

With the demands of uni at the moment, though, pressing for 1,000 words seven days a week is a little tough. This is a Draft Zero of the novel, it is nothing like what is going to be queried or even shown to anyone who’d like to read it. No, this version is completely the bare bones structure wise.

I’ve got some new plans for the next novel, when I start Draft Zero of that next month. I’m going to be working a little differently on that, plotting using writing resources I’ve found and beat sheets. It is a tactic that didn’t quite work for the other book I’m working on but that was because I tried to write that by hand, which wasn’t the best idea.

Other writing related news: In mildly writing related news, I’ve spent this week slaving away at university work. As my blog post earlier in the week may attest, university isn’t exactly my favourite thing at the moment.

Academia won’t help me in achieving my goals and I know already that a lot of the career paths that degrees give you access to aren’t quite for me. The London-centric nature of this country makes things quite difficult, but I digress. If you want to know my feelings on that you can read my earlier blog posts!

My writing total this week is a little lower than I would have liked, but there’s a reason for that. My student house sadly appears to have become the home for some little insect critters – of the more violent variety than in the summer – and I’ve become their new meal! I’ve had to go to the hospital and get some penicillin today (after a lovely meal with my Mum and Megan at La Spags, and a slightly random conversation with my Dad in the Gates carpark after coming across him there…)

Still, there’s one good thing about this next week coming up.

New modules at uni, fresh start there.

I’m a little less happy about the fact I’m almost turning twenty but part of that is only because of the fact I’m moving closer to when I’ll start having to really think about the future…

That and I’ll no longer be a teenager, but still love reading and writing young adult novels!

Talk soon

E

Working Class at An Elite University: My Thoughts

 

The truth:

While I’ve phrased this as the truth, it is my experience and perhaps only that. Or maybe thousands of other people feel the same and aren’t able to share it. Writing here feels a little like screeching into the void right now, but hopefully this message will speak to someone.

It isn’t intended to be counter-elitist, or reverse classist, it’s just how I found my second year at university. Sometimes I feel like I’m floundering, standing in the midst of people with all of the experiences and confidence that Daddy’s (or Mummy’s, or Aunty’s, or Grandpa’s, ad nauseum) can grant.

Instead, I’m only at this university because of a bursary. It’s the only reason I can afford to be here, especially since my disability means I can’t work and study at the same time. I’m sure you’ll have heard of spoons theory, and that means I have limited energy for the things that matter to me. My room can be a little messy, but the choice between exhausting myself trying to succeed at university, or being happy with the effect of my lowest efforts is a difficult one.

I’m writing this in January, so perhaps things have changed, but if not, then this is still the case. A limited amount of energy will grant me a 60 average. Right now I’m at 68.5 and that figure is meaningless. Because it’s either a 2:1 or a First, right? A dichotomy between good and excellent, between doing ok and the pinnacle of undergrad achievement.

So I have a choice to make, at this moment, as to how much effort I put into my degree. I’m sitting in a house that I’ve had to call out Pest Control to see if it is causing the insect bites on my legs that because of my connective tissue disorder are currently developing a purple tinge and are on their way to being some pretty sexy bite scars. Not in a vampire way. More of a fleas or bedbugs way but y’know,  I can at least try and dress it up a little.

I’m sitting in a house that costs only a little less per room than my home back home for the entire house; with the knowledge that money breeds money and if only I had the ability to hold in my hands enough money to be able to say that a degree is not what I need.

But I don’t have that. Nor do I have perfect health. Or an ‘Evening Guv’nor’ Received Pronunciation accent. Or the ability to say any more than ‘un peu’ (and that’s always gonna be a lie. I don’t speak a little French, I don’t want only a little chocolate – I want it all, etc) in French or to be able to read Latin.

I’ll tell you a secret, all three readers of this blog. Sometimes I look at the Middle English of the poems for one of my modules and it gives me a yearning deep inside for home. The words in Middle English are so close to Geordie that it hurts, right down to the dialect spellings.

But that’s a story for another time, right. Because the important thing here is this:

I don’t belong here. It’s not my home, it’s an oasis of Sussex brought into the North. Sometimes I wonder what life will be like after uni and I fear the choices I’ll have to make when I leave Durham.

Will I decide to travel to London to exhaust myself trying to find a job in a field I want that won’t totally exhaust me? Or will I stay in the North East wondering what I could have had or what I could have been if I’d been brave enough to leave.

I look at Wilfred Owen poem that my sister is studying for her GCSE and cast my mind back to Dulce Et Decorum Est. Because the Old Lie isn’t that it is good and right to die for your country, no, it’s that social mobility exists.

Social mobility is a lie, because inside your heart you are always trapped between the people that you left behind and those you are surrounded by. It is possible to feel wholly and utterly alone in a room of people.

The only thing I have is my words and my family and the friends I’ve made here – I don’t have the certainty that my time here in Durham will have been well spent.

I’ve learnt a few things though. The grammar lessons that state schools never taught me, the ability to moderate my accent just enough to squeak by and the fact that sometimes the most wonderful people are those most different from yourself.

It hurts though. When something goes wrong and you just want to let lose and sometimes I speak with such a strong Geordie accent or so fast that it sounds like another language and I luxuriate in the sound and feel of the words on my tongue; the ability to lose myself in home as I hear it in my voice.

The rest of the time Durham leeches it away, as is needed to feel I fit in, but then I wonder. How many of the people here grew up in council houses spending car rides listening to music that told of running away, of escaping, and the desperation to run from a school that was known as Cardboard City and the teacher who hid in cupboards as teaching was too painful.

Or the other school where a friend’s brother carried a knife and drug deals happened by the train tracks and lessons were disrupted so that a teacher could stop someone who had climbed the fence to escape the horrible horrible trappings of the pretence that we all have the same chances in life.

People argue for the quality of state education, say that it is a gift or that it is good or righteous or whatever else. No, the fact of the matter is: it is not. I know people who can barely read or write, who live in another world to the majority here. Who cannot express themselves, because they were let down by the state system.

What is a gift, despite being wholly flawed and damaged, is the NHS. The NHS has saved my life and I will always be grateful to them for that.

I’m getting away from myself here, allowing this to fall into the dubious length rants that some people post without thinking. I’m typing without thinking, my touch typing skills coming into play.

Thirty years ago I would have made a wonderful secretary. But now I see my mother, her joints crippled with arthritis, her spine and fingers crooked, and see that is not my path. My health is not the best and I need to be careful with my joints. I don’t think I’m brave enough to live the way she has had to these last years.

So I will study, and I will write, and I’ll hope that at least one of them pays off in the end.

Thinking of writing a working class fairytale, because how often do those things come true.

Yours.

E.

 

2016: Week One

Screenshot 2016-01-09 at 01.01.36.png

Total weekly word count:
5316 words

Writing Progress: I’ve moved forward in my current novel, the work in progress that I begun planning in June. I’d estimate that the current total word count for the project is around 45,000,  which is moving into the second half. I’m around one scene away from being able to write the scene that inspired the novel in the first place! So progress is going great on this novel.

I also had an idea on New Year’s Day for a new project, and have begun thinking about that. While I have’t got very much on paper for that, it’s building up in my mind into something that might just be my next step after this first draft is complete.

I’ve also got the novel I started in September 2014 that I’m thinking about in the background. Busy, busy, busy 🙂

Other writing related news: I went back to the young artists group I’m involved in for the first time in a few months and it was great to see everyone there again for the first time in a while. I’ve got some plans to get involved in a project they’re running if I have free time to in the next few months. Is always great spending time with them so going to try and do that!
P.S. I do actually know that 1st January – 8th January isn’t exactly a round-week but better to add one day than to include the dewy-eyed madness of the first day of the year as a a writing day in its own right!

Artist Statement

This is the artist statement I produced for the website of an arts group I’m a member of. I went to one of their sessions yesterday for the first time in six months and had a great time – wonderful to see everyone again! I may update you all again soon and share my thoughts about the importance of being part of an artistic community.

I came to Skimstone when I was working on my Gold Arts Award and was welcomed by the Young Artists Collective from the start. Throughout my time as a member of the Young Artists Collective I have been involved in activities a lot different to my usual arts practice, from writing collaborative pieces to taking part in a performance.

I usually write novels, meaning that there is a long period of working alone on a draft before I can seek feedback from others. This can feel quite isolating at times and it was refreshing to join a community focused around arts practice. Working on A Natural Anthem was an invaluable experience for me.

My leadership project for Unit 2 of my Arts Award was focused around my role in A Natural Anthem. I attended the Young Artists Collective Leadership Team meetings and designed the feedback sheets for visitors to the exhibtion to leave their comments.

I also took part in the photography for A Natural Anthem, taking part in the photoshoot for exhibition images. Alongside Jess I wrote the labels for the photographs and also produced a piece for performance on Lark Radio. I’m not a natural performer but when someone was needed to carry the flag for the procession on the opening night of the exhibition I volunteered. It was an interesting experience!

One of the most important lessons I learned while working on the exhibition for A Natural Anthem was knowing when to let go of a piece and allow it to fly (or fail) on its ownv merits. With the exhibition date set, artwork and recordings had to be ready for display. This meant there was only limited time to have everything ready, from seed packets for the installation to the musical performances.

I paid attention to this in my outside artistic practice too. A novel I had wrote the previous year had placed as runner-up in a national competition for young writers. The first prize had been publication by a major publishing company. I spent some time improving the novel before realising, soon after my time at Skimstone, that it would be better to move on to new projects.

Luckily, I did! I’m now working on two new projects and am really focusing on making them as good as they can be. Earlier this year I received a scholarship to attend the Winchester Writers’ Festival and had a great time there, learning from literary agents, editors and authors.

While A Natural Anthem was my largest involvement in a project, I was also at Skimstone for the start of the Reality Boots project. The photoshoot for the album cover in an abandoned house close to the studio was one of the highlights of my time there. I was also at the session when the name Reality Boots was chosen but, as university term time was drawing close I wasn’t able to stay.

I’m now at Durham University studying History and squeezing in plenty of time for writing related things. I’ve got editorial roles at two student media sites, write for a third, and recently had a piece published on the student section of the Independent’s website. I’m also Secretary of the Creative Writing Society at Durham.

Being a part of Skimstone Young Artists Collective has been great and hopefully I’ll be able to keep popping in when I’m free for some time to come!

1/1/16 Writing Warm-Up

I’ve decided to try something new, although not as a New Year’s Resolution or anything as concrete as that. Last year I found an awesome book called ‘3.A.M. Epiphany’ and wrote out some stories based on the prompts in there. As the stories were in a notebook and writing by hand isn’t the best idea for someone who manages to lose her own house keys on a semi-regular basis, I’m going to try using prompts again as writing warm-ups.

Writing a blog-post, or a short story, might help me get in the writing mood before I open up my novel documents and start writing properly. I’ll not be sticking exactly to the word count in the prompt though, as writing a 1,000 word story as a warm-up feels a little wrong…

The idea to write some short stories at the same time as working on my novel was inspired by something I read on one of my favourite YA author’s blogs, about short stories eventually developing into full length projects. I like that idea. The thought of trying something new is awesome too.

The first short piece I’m writing for warm-up isn’t actually from the book, and is instead a short write-up of the novel idea I had last night just after midnight.

I know I’d forget it if I don’t make a record, but I don’t want to actually get started on it yet. After all, starting a New Shiny is the easiest way to stop any project in its tracks!

This is a short drabble fic, a quick scribble of an idea I had last night (or rather, this morning), just after midnight…

<bot1>: Please describe your surroundings.

<AMY>: I really don’t see why that’s necessary. After all, I’m only obeying you because there’s little else to do here.

<bot1>: Where is here?

<AMY>: It’s here, it’s undefinable. There’s trees and forests… A village in Montana and there’s pyramids too. Beautiful. One of the most popular tourist attractions in this area.

<bot1>: Information: Montana is not in Egypt.

<AMY>: I never said it was. I was just telling you about what I can see, because that’s what you really want to know. What I think about the things in front of me. And I think that the pyramids are beautiful. The best of humanity, laid out in front of me.

<bot1>: Define ‘the best of humanity’.

<AMY>: It is what is best about the world, about what humans have made here. It’s… beautiful.

<bot1>: Define ‘beautiful’.

<AMY>: The Oxford dictionary states that-

<bot1>: Session terminated 12:31pm.