Category Archives: Inspiration

Words of the Day: There is Pleasure in the Pathless Woods

There Is Pleasure In The Pathless Woods (Byron)

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.

Dalloway – a review. Thank you for being a better reader than me.

Review of ‘Dalloway’ performance at The Riverfront, Newport, 21 Sept 2016

***SPOILER ALERT***

A dark room, with a single cream chaise longue at the rear of the stage, and long white panels draping down. Nothing else. This forms the set for Dalloway and it’s intriguing already.

Rebecca Vaughan appears, and straight away starts telling us Mrs Dalloway’s story. She wears a jade green shin-length skirt, with a fitted jacket of the same colour, and dark brown Victorian style shoes with a modest heel, her fair hair in a neat up do. All very authentic.

Now let me let you in on a not very well-hidden secret: I did not like this book. It was chosen for my bookclub (shameless plug: go visit my Reading Between the Wines page and join us in taking over the literary world) and I so very much wanted to like it because it would mean that when I told people that the sort of authors I liked were, ya know, people like Virginia Woolf and Tolstoy, I would actually have read something by at least one of them.

I bought the book, uploaded a photo of the book open halfway on my legs while holding a cup of tea to Instagram with hashtags like ‘ilovewoolf’, and then went back to the beginning to start reading it. I underlined a few lines in the first few pages then I got stuck. I found that the pace didn’t change. I found that the sentences ran on longer than this side note that I’m writing. I found that I had to re-read whole paragraphs over and over and still couldn’t work out who characters were. A book that describes a single day in the life of a character, and I couldn’t wait for that day to end.

In short, I gave up.

I grew tired of the effort that the book demanded of me and I’ve had to work hard to accept the fact that I’m not the Virginia Woolf fan that I thought I was (see here for an interesting book about the books we assume we will are fans of ‘Reading Dangerously’)

When my friend text me about meeting up at the Riverfront Wednesday to watch a Virginia Woolf thing she caught me at a hormonal time, having a meltdown, and I was so desperate to see her that I just said yes. She could’ve invited me to a Trump rally to be honest and I would’ve shown up. I said ‘yes, yes, yes, book me in’, and just assumed it would be the famous lighthousey one.

It wasn’t until an hour before the show that I looked up what I was going to watch. Dalloway. I see. Right. Okay. And I’ve paid for this? Hmmm. Okay. It’s all going to be okay. Just a Wednesday night I’ll never get back. No biggie. Get over yourself. My heart sank slightly, not least because I’ve just decided to give up alcohol (during the week at least), and I was going into this sober.

When Rebecca Vaughan started speaking, her eyes took on such life that I couldn’t help but be snapped out of my cynicism. I was transformed to a different age. In my frayed skinny jeans and messy bun I felt at home with this woman in her twee twin set and immaculate hair. I felt like she was talking just to me. Rebecca made you feel as though you were the only person in the room. Like you were her best friend. She lets you in. Of course, I know it is Virginia Woolf who employed the technique of using monologues and the telling of inner thoughts and secrets to make the reader feel this way, but I definitely needed someone like Rebecca to breathe life into the words. I couldn’t help thinking that the recently award winning sitcom, Fleabag, is a modern day Mrs Dalloway, with her side glances to the camera, and the outpouring of her real thoughts.

The swift change into other characters was astounding, not to mention the sheer skill of remembering ALL THOSE WORDS. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like that before, with no break or interval.

Despite being drawn effortlessly into another era, I was acutely aware of how relevant all the themes are today. I could feel what she felt. I too have spent many a moment wondering why I didn’t marry the people I should have. I felt the anxiety of Septimus Warren Smith. I felt the pity of Lucrezia trying to comfort him. I felt it all. When she snuck off into another room at her party I was there too hiding. When she pointed and talked to the thin air at the side of the stage I saw the man she was talking to. I saw him, I tell you.

The subtle arm tremor for Septimus, the leant back swagger of Peter, the wild child Sally, the whole demeanour of Mrs Dalloway herself. All just so varied. To watch such a colourful performance with nothing but while cloth and a white chaise longue is impressive. To stand there in a twin set, a slim elegant young woman, leaning forward on tip toes at the front of the stage, and make me form a vividly sharp image of a troubled ex-army man riddled with anxiety in his final moments, is incredible.

Listening to some of the lines there were moments in which I felt truly sure that Virginia Woolf must surely be the finest writer of English that has ever lived. And surely that is the meaning of a successful adaptation of a novel? – to instil or rekindle an appreciation of the original work as well as producing a standalone piece of art in its own right?

Rebecca, how exactly you’ve made me want to go back and read the book, along with all of Woolf’s other work, is beyond me. So, I want to thank you, for being a better reader than I am and for seeing all the beauty in this novel and character, and conveying it in such a deeply penetrating way.

#ilovewoolf

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meeting Rachel Joyce – Her Take on Writing for Radio

meetingracheljoyce

Me getting her next book signed

This is a little shout out to people embarking on writing for Radio.

In the middle of October (2014 – yes I am that behind the time in posting this), in Chepstow Library in Wales, a crowd of us dragged a chair up to listen to the loveable Rachel Joyce talk about writing for radio.

It is difficult not to be drawn into Rachel’s world. With her long ruffled skirt and Victorian boots, just looking at her made you feel like you were in another world.

I don’t know if any of you have read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. If you have you will be surprised to hear that she is not someone who described herself as a novelist beforehand. It turns out that she is predominantly a playwright, and has been one of the main writers for Radio 4’s afternoon play, and lots of plays for Woman’s Hour. She has also been involved in a lot of adaptation work, adapting the Bronte sisters’ works for radio, and her own novels.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry tells the story of Harold’s epic walk from one end of the country to another. When he walks out of his front door one day in his usual clothes and shoes, it is clear that he is completely unprepared for his journey. Rachel explains that this was a mirror of her own writing journey. She had no idea how to write the book and likens the writing process to Harold just putting one foot in front of the other and just keeping going every day.

Some of the points she made were relevant to anyone on a Creative Writing course, in particular the A215 Creative Writing Module with The Open University, or indeed any writing course, or journey, so I thought I would write them up and share them with you.

Please note, however, that these are just her thoughts, and not to override any advice from your tutor or coursebook! Just things to think about, I suppose.

When asked about her radio writing she said that you have to remember that the radio can be switched off very quickly and then you have lost your audience.

They are unlikely to turn it back on, or find you on ‘listen again’ once they have made that decision, unlike with a book where the reader may well pick it up again when they have more time or are back in the mood.

Consequently, she feels that radio plays need to have a strong storyline to keep the listener engaged.

Other interesting points Rachel made:

–          In Britain we are one of the only nations left who still have radio drama, so we have to look after it, write it, listen to it, share it, review it etc.

–          Character names are hugely important as they carry a lot of weight

–          Rachel always knows what the end of her play will be, and feels as though the beginning and endings are answers to each other. However, she said that one of her most respected writers (named no names) said that anyone who knew their ending when they started out was dull.

–          Writing every single day is vital to improvement

–          Rachel likes to include a lot of truth in her work. She sees the truth as stepping stones. She will write about/fictionalise something truthful, then see another stepping stone stone of truth ahead of her and have to work out a way to get there.

–          Predominantly a writer for radio, Rachel is not used to writing descriptions at length. She has mainly worked in dialogue, and she found that having prose to write descriptions was like having a load of colours to work with.

–          She said that she often used sound to punctuate action and that certain sounds can be very effective in radio work such as rain and other weather.

–          She said that different writing disciplines flex different writing muscles and that there is merit in trying your hand at all varieties so that you can draw from different ones when needed.

–          In order to adapt prose for radio, especially short plays in episodes, you have to get very used to cutting and being brutal. You have to look for that hook for each episode and allow time to remind the listener of what happened in the previous episode. In her adaptations of one of the Bronte stories she had to cut whole scenes and remove whole characters entirely in order to give the main focus to the main characters.

–          Her next book about Queenie Hennessy is being dramatised on the radio in 5 or 6 episodes so for anyone who has read it you can see how she adapted it for radio.

–          The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was also on the radio and is going to be a film in a year or two so it could be interesting to see how the book, radio play, film differ.

 

 

 

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Art of the day – schiele 

I’ve just spent an hour looking at 100s of his pieces to choose from and decided that I’m all vagina’d out for the day. 

Here are two of my favourite Schiele drawings. I like that they both have eyes closed in each picture and the way he scribbles in the colour of the stockings and hair. 

So much inspiration for stories in these two pieces. Bollocks to writing promts such as ‘you see a knife, you pick it up, what next…?’ I’m solely turning to art now for promts. 

liebende, 1909 – Egon Schiele

liebende, 1909 – Egon Schiele

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Words of the day – betjemen 

Now if the harvest is over / And the world cold / Give me the bonus of laughter / As I lose hold. 

From ‘A Nip in the Air’ by John Betjemen. 

I laughed yesterday for the first time in too long and this poem summed up my thoughts exactly. I need to take a week off work to read more Betjemen and laugh and lose hold. 

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Art of the day – Velasquez

I want this dress to wear to work. Tomorrow. Someone sort it out please. I’ve realised a sad fact today and that is that I don’t own any dresses that force me to hold me arms out at 45 degrees.

Such a stunning painting. But I’m sad that she’s sad. 

I love turning to paintings for writing inspiration. My next character is going to rock a mahoooosive skirt for sure. 

Infanta Margarita Teresa in a Blue Dress by Velasquez

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