Sunday 13 March 2011

Cow News, Seven Things, and Seven Other Things

My flash story, The Deconstructed Woman, has gone live on The Brighton COW website. My fellow winners and the highly commended stories provide an broad range of styles and approaches. It's always interesting having a look at other entrant's stories and putting yourself in the judges' position, trying to work out why they put the stories in the order they did. Ultimately, more often than not, you just end up shrugging and thinking, "Oh well, each to their own." Because it all comes down to personal taste, in the end.

Bridport Prize queen Teresa Stenson very generously passed a Stylish Blogger Award my way. Thanks, Teresa! Everybody seems to interpret it in a slightly different way, but the general idea is that it's a treat for list fans, as you reveal a number of things about yourself, and give people a few links to other places (usually other blogs). I don't read a great number of blogs, and pretty much all the ones that I do regularly look at are listed down the right-hand side of this page. If you haven't already, please do check them out - there's something there for everyone, I think. So, instead, here are seven things about me, and seven links to online places that I like. They may or may not be writing-related. I don't know yet; I'm winging this.

Seven Things:

  1. If my bookcase caught fire, and I could only save one book, I'd go for my (UK) first edition of A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick. Indispensable.
  2. My earliest experience of my writing being unleashed on the 'public' was a poem I wrote about snow in my third year of primary school. My teacher declared it 'lovely' and posted a copy of it up for everyone to see. It began, "Snow is soft, snow is nice / Underneath it there is ice". Ahem. In my defence, I was very young...
  3. Most of the time I write directly onto my laptop, but when I take a break from that, my writing implement of choice is the Bic four-colour biro (pictured below). It's not an expensive, fancy pen, but it's dependable, chunky and comfortable to hang on to. Four colours are useful, too - Blue for notes, black for first drafts, red for editing. I save the green for writing abusive letters to prominent public figures.
  4. After many years of writing nothing creative at all, instead getting some A levels and an Engineering degree, I got back into it via an attempt to put something together for a Radio 4 travel writing competition. I never actually managed to edit down the piece I wrote enough to fit the competition word count, but it was academic by that point, as I'd realised how much I enjoyed writing and haven't stopped since.
  5. I don't have any particular writing rituals, although I find it very hard to concentrate without background music. It has to be something I know well or it ends up being too distracting. Although if it's something I've heard too often that's just plain annoying. It's a delicate balancing act.
  6. My approach to the early stages of my work varies enormously. If I'm writing on the computer, I tend to be very organised and meticulously save each version of the draft all the way to the final one. If I'm hand-writing it, I regard it as entirely disposable and, once it's typed up or rewritten, I get a weird sense of satisfaction from feeding it into the shredder. It might just be that hand-written drafts always look pretty shoddy, with bits crossed out and arrows scrawled all over it, as I've moved chunks around. Or perhaps I'm just odd.
  7. I get the feeling this is fairly common, but I have a kind of mental block when it comes to writing in a new notebook. This probably has a lot to do with Number 6 above. Like a lot of writers I have a love of stationery, and have a number of entirely blank, pristine notebooks all awaiting that first stroke of the pen. Because when it comes down to it I seem to end up writing on scraps of paper or junk mail or the inside of old cereal boxes, anything that can be thrown away easily. I think the problem is that I see the first draft, or the notes that go into a story, as being so transient that I don't like to set them down in too permanent a way, in case I get too attached to them and can't bring myself to 'murder my darlings' as they say.
Fig. 1 - A precision-engineered writing machine

Seven Other Things

  1. Green Metropolis is a great website for readers, where you can buy and sell secondhand books. You won't get rich (a typical book sale nets you £3, from which you need to pay the postage), but it's a hassle-free way of selling your spare books and every sale raises money for the Woodland Trust.
  2. Every Click is a search engine that raises money for charity. You can set up an account (really simple to do), and specify which charity you want to contribute to. It's not as all-singing, all-dancing as Google, but if you're prepared to be a little more specific when you search, it's a way of raising money for good causes with the minimum of effort.
  3. Chapter Seventy-Nine - the writing forum I'm a member of. There are a lot of writers' sites out there, but this one is well-run and friendly and caters for all levels of ability and confidence.
  4. Duotrope is about the best listing site for writers find markets. It's straightforward to use, although there's so much on there it can be a little overwhelming if you just plunge into it. Focus, and be specific, and it should direct you to useful, interesting places.
  5. Defenestration - one of my favorite websites. They published something of mine, I love the Ben & Winslow cartoons, there's always something worth reading on there.
  6. Guernsey Literary Festival. Surely this doesn't need any explanation?
  7. And finally, some music... I've been entranced by James Mudriczki's  voice since the Puressence track "Standing in Your Shadow" appeared on the soundtrack of British crime flick "Face". Puressence make elegant, articulate indie-rock, of a similar ilk to Elbow. Despite being generally well-received critically, the band haven't managed to break through into commercial success, which is a shame. Anyway, have a listen to Don't Know Any Better and see what you think.


Teresa Stenson said...

Well done on the C.o.W placing, Dan - I just read the story - it's great.

Interesting 7 things about you, thanks for 'playing'. I am left with images of you shredding hand-written notes gleefully now. Maybe while chanting 'Snow is soft, snow is nice...'

'Bridport queen Teresa Stenson' (rolls eyes and says) Stop! Really, I'm not a Bridport queen... Hahahahah (but seriously shouldn't there be a capital 'Q' on 'Queen'?)

Dan Purdue said...

Well you can scoff, but snow is nice, so there.

Bridport Queen? Hmm... I stumbled into that phrase and I accept that it's not entirely appropriate. If you want a capital Q you're very welcome to one, though. Are you entering a story (or more than one) this year? I keep telling myself I should, then losing all confidence in my ability to write anything other than a meandering blog post. Damn Bridport, why does it have to be so huge and scary, yet massively alluring?