I'm about to print off the first 2/3 of the novel I've been working on. I'm excited! So excited that the urge to CUT CORNERS comes over me.
E.g. one scene needs a change of location, before I print it. It'll only take twenty lines so and some proofreading but I'm so tempted to take a lesson from fanfiction preambles and just put 'OK RIGHT THIS BIT IS SET ON TEH EIFFEL TOWER RITE'.

There was a joke on The Adam and Jo Show about the film The English Patient. From shonky memory:

Chap A: Look at these ancient cave paintings - these people lived amazingly communally, sharing everything, with no property...
Chap B: What does that mean?
Chap A: It means I'm going to have sex with your wife.

I thought of this while watching the updated Upstairs, Downstairs, set in the late 1930s, on the telly on Monday. I'd feared that the episode would be all about the sauce, because people tend to make things new and updated and 21st C by adding sauce. 'Dickens... with the sex!' say the cover blurbs, as though what was really missing from Chas. D. was the word 'moist'.
Upstairs, Downstairs was much more restrained than I'd expected, but every line felt to me like the Adam and Jo parody:

Posh girl: You know, Fascism is going to break down class barriers. I'm glad.
Chauffeur: What does that mean, Milady?
Posh girl: It means I'm going to have sex with you.

Refugee maid: Marriage makes a woman holy to her husband. But with the distance, I feel - less holy.
Art Malik, playing a secretary: What does that mean?
Refugee maid: That eventually I will accept your offer of tea, and we will have sex.

That was just a drop in the ocean of loaded lines compared to the episode of The Archers I've just heard. It was the show's 60th anniversary, and every other line seemed to stamp doom on some much-loved characters' head. I think my favourite was 'I'll get us to the hospital, if I have to run a few red lights to do it!' but hyper-vigilance started to colour even lines like 'What is Kenton doing with the children?' (THRESHING MACHINE). I feel toyed with.
In the New Year I'd like to add some formality to my creative writing. Has anyone had good experiences with:

- courses in London - I don't think I want to go as big as an MA but anything up to Cert level including non-HE stuff.
- writer's groups (in London, or any that you've been to elsewhere that helped, and how to spot which ones might)

I know about Arvon courses but am not sure I can (or want to) shell out for them.

I would like something that involves criticism and discussion and a minimal amount of artsy mumbling - I'm not really finding my voice and freeing my imagination, more rigorously editing my voice and working out the key flaws of my imagination so I can stamp on them.

I understand that structured creative writing sessions can be very useful, and have only been put off by previous experience of:
- an undergraduate course with a Marxist playwright tutor ceaselessly complaining about the right-wing conspiracy which kept his work from being published and performed.
Originator of a very bad in-class writing exercise: 'Have twenty minutes, you're going to write about... HOLOCAUST.' [Stunned incredulous looks.] 'I mean, it doesn't have to be THE Holocaust. Remember at the end of The Great Gatsby when it says 'The holocaust was over?''
I am annoyed that I had not the nerve (or maybe didn't want to throw the man a rope) to point out that Gatsby was written before THE Holocaust, and that since the article became definite, people have been less cavalier about chucking the term around.

- a creative writing group which would nod thoughtfully and send up a sonorous Hmmm if you read a shopping list out with sufficient gravitas.

Any recommendations gratefully received.
I have no wintersparkle decorations and I want to make some. I favour biodegradable and/or scrap materials. I'm reasonably handy. Any ideas?

Also, any ideas of nice shapes, signs, motifs or symbols? I don't have a faith; this impoverishes my symbolic landscape a bit, when I'm staring at some felt and wondering in what pattern to glue the glitter. I like stars and labyrinths and ampersands. I wouldn't say no to runes. Any other ideas?

So far, things to hang off a tree/branch:

Star twiglets (small twigs tied together with nice yarn)
Pompoms from scrap wool
Stars made from twisted paper, and other origami-style adventures
Jazzed up pinecones, if there are any still lying around in parks, which I doubt
Fabric bows with beads
Conkers on strings? Painted gold? I have a large jar of conkers
Felt shapes and figures (owls, penguins, stars)
Clay or salt dough shapes, figures, radical slogans
Painted blown eggs

And also paper chains and paper snowflake strings.
Edited to correct: I NO LONGER have two books by Natalie Goldman (author of Writing Down the Bones) which I don't want: Wild Mind and Thunder and Lightening, both on creative writing. SORRY!
It was Bisexual Visibility Day last week, and I posted this, then took it dow, fearing it was a bit rainbow-coloured-wholemeal-snowflake. But people said it wasn't as bad as that, so I'm putting it back up.

I'm interested in the way bisexuality gets used a lot as a complicating factor to show when Things are too rigid. It crops up in discussions of change, fluidity, indeterminacy (very much in books I read when I was about 21 - I recall one in particular with aquatic blotches on the cover).
It's a worthy cause: I do think that sexuality is culturally oversimplified, and that it often changes enormously along the life course. Also, that life is complex: that people's proclaimed identities have to be more clear-cut than their lived experiences. If you can point at a bisexual to make all this visible, maybe that's good, if you've asked nicely.

I find it amusing, though, because I am pretty un-fluid and immobile. I am a scorchingly monotonous bisexual. I realised I was bi at 16, and I still am, and the way I experience it hasn't changed much. I've mapped my context much further, which must have changed me, but not (that I've noticed) in striking ways.

So for me, bisexuality has never been the elusive, nebulous, shifting thing that slips out of systems and proves them too rigid. For me, it's been a fixed point.
It still proves Things are too rigid, though. I am, in minor ways, regularly wrongfooted, divided, squeezed, or not quite heard. However, I experience myself as steady, whole, solid, coherent. Like a fixed pebble that has been here for ages, which the stream seems permenantly surprised to encounter.
I went to my first festival at the weekend, in a garden built by a Victorian atheist to entice people away from church on a Sunday. He ran free coach trips from nearby towns. They'd deck the woods with Vauxhall lamps, and the writer Thomas Hardy declared it 'Quite the prettiest site I ever saw in my life' (there was a young lady involved, there usually is with Hardy). There are woods and small enclosures, bats and follies, and peacocks apparently not fussed by large crowds or basslines, including tiny baby peacocks with proud fuzzy brown crests.

Read more... )
On Dr Watson's first adventure with Sherlock Holmes, the laconic consulting detective asks him:

"Have you any arms?"
"I have my old service revolver and a few cartridges."
"You had better clean it and load it..."

A few years later, in The Sign of Four Holmes asks him:

"Have you a pistol, Watson?"
"I have my old service-revolver in my desk."
"You had best take it, then..."

Suggested reasons for Holmes' amnesia and this near-repetition:
- Conan Doyle is notorious for his continuity errors (possibly only because he has been so diligently scrutinised by his fans).
- it's been a long while since H & W needed to pack a piece: all their adventures in between the two tales have involved firm but polite negotiation and a lot of goodwill on both sides.
- whether Watson has come correct is one of the things that Holmes has forgotten in order to store more important information in his elegant noggin.
- Holmes was really hoping Watson would have bought more, and better, guns by now. "Have you a pistol, Watson?" "A pistol, Holmes? Why, I have a pocket-sized Smith and Wesson and a sawn-off Winchester! Take your pick!" Had I been Watson, always following Holmes into scrapes, I suspect I would have upgraded by the time of The Sign of Four; 'trusty' is the preferred adjective for service-revolvers, but he might have been better off with 'sneaky', 'shiny' or 'totally lethal'.

I like repetitions in fiction. I spotted one in The Well of Loneliness - a whole identical sentence on the 'terrible nerves of the invert' - and Neil Bartlett's pointed out that large chunks of Dorian Gray are repeated. They could be traces of the editing process. They could be the author returning without realising, because a phrase seemed really important, or satisfying. Either interests me.
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