Tag Archives: Carol Fenlon

The Museum of You and some thoughts on possessions

I’ve been reading Carys Bray’s book The Museum of You and it made me think about the relevance of possessions in our  lives today.

Before industrialisation, possessions were few and most people had no need of keys and locks but now, because our economies are driven by production and consumption we amass hundreds? thousands? of objects in our lifetimes. Do they actually mean that much to us?

I occasionally sell off a prized doll from my collection but the loss of the loved object is soon forgotten in the desire to acquire something else. At the end of the day, how many of my possessions, things I think express who I am, will be valued and kept by my family?

Every weekend at the house clearance stalls at Prestatyn car boot sale I see the concrete evidence of people’s lives chucked on the ground for bargain hunters to scavenge. It’s not just the everyday objects like furniture and cooking utensils but their hobbies and interests are laid bare (books, garden tools, photography equipment, knitting wools and embroidery items etc. etc. etc) and quite often treasured birthday and Christmas cards, family photographs, even letters and bank  statements. I’ve even seen photo albums containing locks of baby hair, all carefully saved by someone  who never dreamed where they would end up.

And the sight of these pathetic heaps brings home the realisation of the sheer mass of stuff with which we are cluttering our planet. While half the people in the world starve, the rest of us waste resources on stuff that mostly has no functional value whatsoever.

The other thing Bray’s book made me think about is the way artefacts are treasured as records of history. In The Museum of You Clover mistakenly catalogues items in her museum collection as belonging to her mother or having been bought for her by her mother because that is what she wants them to be. It’s a jog to the mind that our knowledge of the past is only an interpretation of relics, not a statement of facts.

History is perhaps, like our passion for possessions, a way of  making ourselves feel important, when it is arguable that our only significance is the danger we bring to the rest of the ecosystem in which we live.

 

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First experiences with Kindle Direct Publishing

I published a short story collection with FeedaRead recently and having waited for it to appear on sale  with Amazon and other bookseller sites, I bit the bullet and published it in ebook form with KDP, choosing KDP Select, which limits your ebook to the kindle platform but pays higher royalties.

I didn’t find KDP as user friendly as FeedaRead. I got a bit confused with all the tax stuff and I think I’ve ended up agreeing to pay 30% tax on earnings rather than get something called a TIN number which I didn’t really understand. Also when I uploaded my book file I didn’t see any way of checking the uploaded content before publishing, but that may be just me getting computer overload and maybe I should have taken more time to suss it all out before doing it.

Once I’d clicked the publish button, I was informed that the book would be online in a short time but days passed with my book  status showing as ‘publishing’ with nothing happening. Eventually I emailed KDP and good enough I got a reply within 24 hours saying they would look into it and I would hear something within five days. A couple of days later I got another email telling me the book was now online but when I checked it wasn’t linked to the print version. Looking up the FAQs it said to wait 48 hours but it still didn’t link and I had to email again. KDP did then sort it out and the two were linked within 48 hours.

My main concern is that although I  uploaded the book file complete with introductory pages, dedication, contents etc. none of these have appeared in the kindle version, not even the title page. It just plunges straight in with the first story title. Apart from this I am pleased with the kindle version, it has separated the stories as I wanted so maybe there was something wrong or unacceptable about the introductory pages.

After the publication, I found it quite difficult to set up an author page as I couldn’t see how to access author central. I could only get to it by clicking on the email KDP sent me welcoming me to KDP. Eventually I discovered author central has a separate URL which I have now bookmarked. It also took me a while to find my way around the dashboard etc. but overall it’s been a satisfactory experience and definitely a learning curve.

Over the next few weeks, I expect to become more familiar with the KDP community and hope I will have solved some of these problems by the time I come to publish something else.

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A sun poem for National Poetry Day

It’s National Poetry Day and the theme is ‘Light’ so here’s one of my favourites that has stood the test of centuries.

The Sunne Rising
John Donne

Busie old foole, unruly Sunne,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windowes and through curtaines call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?
Sawcy pedantique wretch, goe chide
Late schoole boyes and sowr prentices.
Goe tell Court-huntsmen that the King will ride,
Call countrey ants to harvest offices;
Love all alike, no season knowes, nor clime,
Nor hours, days, moneths, which are the rags of time.

Thy beames, so reverend and strong
Why shouldst thou thinke?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a winke,
But that I would not lose her sight so long:
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Looke, and tomorrow late, tell mee,
Whether both the India’s of spice and Myne
Be where thou lefst them, or lie here with mee.
Aske for those Kings whom thou saw’st yesterday,
And thou shalt heare, All here in one bed lay.

She is all States, and all Princes, I,
Nothing else is.
Princes doe but play us; compar’d to this,
All honour’s mimique, all wealth alchimie.
Thou sunne art half as happy as wee,
In that the world’s contracted thus;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties bee
To warme the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy centre is, these walls thy spheare.

Who Needs an Agent?

It’s about six weeks now since I parted company with my agent. My original agent left for another agency and didn’t take me with her as she hadn’t managed to sell my work. Despite several near misses, I got the impression that my books didn’t quite fit the mass market appeal that agents and publishers are looking for.

Obviously agents are only going to deal with fairly large scale publishing houses and because I was under contract to the agency, I couldn’t submit to anyone else. All that’s changed now as once set free, I plunged into a frenzy of submissions which has already resulted in two short story acceptances and a shortlisted entry for a competition  http://www.ouenpress.com/9.html. The novels have gone out to a variety of smaller publishers so I’ve got my fingers crossed there.

However, I do miss my agent, mainly for her unwavering support in the face of rejections. Her constant encouragement and belief in my writing kept  me going when I felt like throwing in the towel. She also put in a good deal of unpaid work reading and suggesting edits to my manuscripts and I learned a good deal about tailoring my work during the time I was with her.

So, even though I’m enjoying the freedom at the moment, especially being able to write whatever I like in whatever genre and offer it to a variety of publishers without being typecast, I think I may eventually look for another agent. I’m hoping to find joint representation for an autobiography I’m currently ghostwriting and once that’s finished I’ll be taking stock and deciding which road to take next – maybe even dipping a toe into self-publishing waters though that’s something I’ve been afraid to tackle so far.

Fishguard Writers’ Holiday 2015

Just returned from another wonderful week at Fishguard Writers’ Holiday. Okay, I was actually running one of the courses so it was a bit of a working trip but I had such a great time with  such a lovely bunch of people that it hardly seemed like work at all.

Fishguard Bay view from the hotel

Fishguard Bay view from the hotel

The Fishguard Bay Hotel is a fantastic venue for a writers’ conference, overlooking the bay with a cliff at the back which you can walk up fairly easily, or catch a bus if you are less mobile, to the top where the views are stunning.

Once you arrive at the hotel, everything is laid on for your stay down to morning and afternoon tea and coffee. A welcome drink before dinner introduces the hosts, Anne and Gerry and the course leaders and provides the opportunity for old friends to meet up and newcomers to mingle and make new friends.

Hotel bar terrace

Hotel bar terrace

The courses are smallish groups, max 12-13 and there are loads of choices of genres to work on, from fiction to poetry and non-fiction. You can even do a painting course, ideal for  the non-writing friend who came with me.

Writers’ Holiday was held at Caerleon university near Cardiff for many many years and I had such happy memories of it that when it moved to Fishguard last year, I thought it was the end of an era. In some ways it was; the hotel is much smaller than the uni which means that not everyone who regularly came to Caerleon could attend. Additionally the hotel’s location, right at the westernmost tip of South Wales made it too long a journey for some. However, if you are determined to come you will get there.

Enjoying an evening event.

Enjoying an evening event.

One of the great pleasures for me is meeting up with other writers I have got to know over the years; people from all over this country and from countries across the world whom I would never otherwise have met and catching up on their writing news. Although Writers’ Holiday has become smaller its atmosphere has changed to a more tightly knit group, many of us keeping in touch on social media throughout the year.

It’s not cheap at around £500 but competitive with other themed holidays and it’s great value; a grand old hotel, full board in midsummer, stunning views, lovely food, great company, time to conenctrate on your own writing, maybe try a new genre and lot s of networking with  other writers, (mostly done in the bar of course). Anne and Gerry Hobbs have been running Writers’ Holiday for many years so they know what to provide and how to make newbies feel at home.

our balcony room with lovey sea view

our balcony room with lovey sea view

As soon as I was driving home last week, I was thinking about coming back next year. Luckily I’ve been asked to run a course again (The Serendipitous Writer)  and I’m planning lots of writing fun and games for it. Meanwhile I’ve lots of lovely  memories to keep me going till I return. Maybe I will see you there?

http://www.writersholiday.net

Moon over Fishguard bay

Moon over Fishguard bay

When is a short story collection not a collection?

When is a group of short stories a collection? I have the honour of being on the shortlisting panel for the Edge Hill University Short Story Collection Prize which is given annually for a published single author short story collection. After several years I still haven’t come to terms with the question of whether a book of short stories should be bound together by something more than the cover: should there be some kind of joining thread or theme, other than the fact that they have all been written by the same person?

Collections by established writers often consist of a gathering up of various stories which have been published in magazines and anthologies, or which have won prizes. In some cases this leads to stories, which work perfectly well as stand alone pieces, becoming tediously repetitive when put together in a collection due to the author’s conscious or unconscious frequent use of similar settings or motifs.

I’m not talking here about the recurrent themes that run through every writer’s work. Such themes  and devices are expected and pleasurable factors which enable the reader to identify the writer’s voice but what pokes you in the eye with some collections is the overuse of settings and situations. For example, in one collection I read, 7 out of 10 stories were about  lesbian couples with a dog, living in virtually identical domestic settings. Published singly, this would not be noticed, perhaps even by the author him/herself but put them  all together and by the time you get halfway through the book, you are becoming bored with the lack of freshness, no matter how good the individual stories.

On the other hand, maybe themed collections too can be repetitive. It’s difficult to find fresh angles on a specific theme to give surprise and delight to the reader. Having to write a dozen stories on a single theme such as the sea, can also constrain the writer, with the result that such ‘commissioned’ stories may not be as good as their best work which comes from their own creative direction.

Sometimes short story collections are so tightly themed and interlinked that they might be read as novels so that further questions arise as to whether they should be considered collections at all.

Personally I used to feel that lumping together a lot of discrete stories doesn’t constitute a collection but I’m beginning to change my mind. It’s a different matter when the works of a dead author are collected together and I can see that it is helpful to the reader who admires a specific writer (dead or alive) to be able to access their work in one or two volumes rather than having to do extensive research to track single texts down. But I still have a love affair with theme; still feel that handled well, a themed collection makes so much more of a satisfying whole.

25 years of Edge Hill poets

Robert Sheppard, professor of poetry at Edge Hill University has created a poets’ showcase on his blogspot  to celebrate poetry students who have passed through the creative writing department at the uni.

It’s an honour to have my poem ‘Troublin Mind’ published alongside these poets. ‘Troublin Mind’ is a tribute to Big Bill Broonzy and was first published in Erbacce poetry magazine, a Liverpool press run by poets Alan Corkish and Andrew Taylor, both ex-Edge Hill creative writing students.

You can check out my poem and also all the other poems on Robert’s Pages at http://robertsheppard.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/twenty-five-years-of-creative-writing.html