Creative Writing Course

Ah The Nostalgic Feeling Of A Summer Break

I did it!

I completed my first year of university with about twenty-four hours to spare before the final assignment deadline and i’m feeling pretty pleased with myself.

I haven’t ever studied at university level before but, whilst I have found this first year suitably challenging, I have thoroughly enjoyed myself, and the marks I have been getting for my assignments mean that I am set for a grade this year which is only just short of the 1st class degree level. Whoop!

That isn’t what this post is about though. I wanted to tell you guys about the weird nostalgia I feel now about having a summer holiday from study. I’m getting that heady feeling of pleasure knowing I can spend my evening watching TV whilst snuggled up with my fiance instead of hiding away upstairs in my study at the computer. It’s mixed with a slight tinge of guilt, however, that I should be studying something, somewhere, somehow. That might be why I appear to have enrolled onto several free short courses over the summer. They keep emailing me updates. I don’t even remember doing that!

I also have a list of things that I have planned to do until uni starts again in October. I haven’t started any of them yet, naturally, and if i’m being honest, it will probably remain that way as I waste my free time just like I did during the summer holidays when I was at school. I want to write more stories for submission to publications, I want to write to you lovely people much more frequently than I have been, and I want to read. Oh I have so, so many books to read… Of course I also have a full time job so it’s not all going to be fun and games. Hopefully I will be able to get some things done this summer… I’m not going to hold my breath for the whole list though.

What can you remember about that magical summer holiday feeling? Is there anything that takes you back to that nowadays?

What plans do you have for summer 2016?

 

 

Batman Vs Superman – The Insecurity and Arrogance of Mankind *Spoiler Alert*

Please note that the below post is my own personal, rambling opinion and I welcome alternative view-points in the comments.

As you already know, I started studying for a degree in October last year and I can honestly say that it has caused me to look for deeper meanings in my interactions with media, literature and the world around me.

I went to see Batman Vs Superman at the cinema with my fiancé this week  and where I would previously limit my analysis to whether or not I enjoyed the main plot, this time I found myself talking about ‘the insecurities and arrogances of mankind’ on the way home. There is a theme throughout the movie about how human beings view themselves as the dominant species on the planet and how the concept of super-humans threatens their superiority. My fiancé argued that Batman never intended to kill Superman but just wanted him to know that he could be killed. This is how it was in the comics, but not in the movie. There is a long standing discussion about the amount of damage that is wreaked on the cities that suffer in superhero movies and how it never seems to be mentioned. This movie was probably conceived because of that discussion and I think it was an interesting exploration. There would be large scale consequences to superhuman battles and it would have been naïve to keep ignoring this in superhero movies. In Batman Vs Superman, Bruce Wayne loses a trusted employee and friend when Superman battles General Zod. Whilst feeling his own loss, Bruce rescues a girl who has just been orphaned during the battle. This brings to Bruce’s mind the trauma of losing his own parents and he projects his pain and hurt onto Superman, using him as a scapegoat to direct his inner demons. He makes a  plan to build a suit capable of withstanding Superman’s strength which takes years to complete. (Think IronMan but black and clunky looking.) It becomes an obsession far beyond the damage inflicted during the great Superman Vs Zod battle. This is an important catalyst, I believe it is merely an excuse for much of what happens in the movie.

In my opinion, Batman also felt threatened by Superman’s clean-cut image and by his superior power. Nothing makes Batman feel more like an inadequate human antihero with gadgets than a superhuman hero who is almost invincible by human standards and who doesn’t like to go around killing and branding people. Even Alfred was concerned by the path Bruce was taking and kept reiterating that Superman was not the bad guy. Batman was battling with a sense of inadequacy that poisoned his mind and I think he most definitely would have killed Superman to take out the symbol of everything Bruce failed to be if he hadn’t found out that they both had mothers called Martha. (I saw that particular plot twist coming from a mile away.) Of course, Superman isn’t perfect.

There is a comparison of Superman to God and what it means when ‘God’ actually shows up. In the movie it is postulated that humanity wants a saviour but also wants to have ultimate control over the saviour to allay their fears that he may turn on them. This interests me in the fact that my understanding of religion highlights that we should behave and appease our God or face his wrath/spend eternity in hell, but when a superhuman or ‘God’ shows up, aka, Superman, theory appears to be that the overriding desire will not be to appease them, but to control them. I wonder: If God truly did exist and if he showed himself on earth, would humanity expect to be able to control him and bend him to our will?

The character of Superman, however, is not a god, but an alien who was raised by human parents to love Earth as if it was his home planet. Underneath all that, however, is not the infinite wisdom and knowledge that humans believe a god possesses, but the limitations of man. Clark Kent is essentially just an alien man in love with a human woman who seems to keep getting herself into trouble. Sure, he’s almost invincible and has a pretty strong moral code, but he’s not all knowing and his love for Lois Lane is portrayed as a weakness that leads to him behaving with his own interests in mind, rather than just the good of the planet. Since he’s been revered as god-like, this scares the crap out of humanity who expect him to ignore his own interests and desires in case those desires cause him to randomly murder everyone. It all comes down to power and control. Superman has a great deal of power but is pressured to hand control over to humanity because they fear him. Humanity wants to have power and seeks to control Superman as a way of harnessing his power. Possibly to delude themselves into thinking they are still the dominant species, but for some, it is likely to be an attempt to raise themselves above the rest of humanity through him.

This brings me back to Bruce Wayne, and also brings to mind Lex Luther. It could be argued that both Bruce and Lex have been able to raise themselves above the rest of humanity in terms of power and control through their technological brilliance and strength of will. Indeed, it appears the only people who could challenge either of them, at the beginning of the movie, is the other, and Superman. Lex uses Batman’s feelings about Superman to aim the two at each other, and it works. Right up until the Martha twist, anyway. Of course this movie also serves to setup further movies for the Justice League of America, so Batman learns that there are meta-humans, another level of potential power, if you will, between the likes of himself and Lex, and Superman. That’s got to hurt the ego; especially since he has flirted with one a few times and never knew who he was talking to.

Lex Luther, in a bid to make himself yet more powerful, creates a monster – Doomsday – out of General Zod’s body, and his own blood. Talk about symbolism for his internal monster! Fortunately Superman, Batman and WonderWoman are able to work together to take him down, using the kryptonite spear Batman made to use against Superman. Happy ever after, right? Well, except the part where Superman gives up his life for the planet that can’t decide whether to revere or fear him. It looks like Superman wasn’t after controlling the world after all.

New Beginnings…..again.

I have been a bad, bad girl.

This blog was meant to be all about my journey to become an author and so far I’ve written very little about it. Hopefully this post will be the beginning of a change. Studying for a degree on top of working full time is quite the challenge, not to mention moving house and maintaining a relationship with the man in my life. I’m engaged now. Yes! Engaged! I’ll tell you about it some other time. Anyway, I don’t want my other writing habits to just fall by the wayside, so this is me trying to juggle as many commitments as possible.

My degree started in October and so far I think i’m doing pretty well. The current module is a generic Humanities module so as well as subjects related to English, I am also studying elements of History, Art, Art History, Philosophy and Music. at first I felt slightly impatient that the module wasn’t more directly linked to my degree subjects but then I realised that I am actually one of the lucky ones. When it comes to creative writing, pretty much everything is inspiration. History gives you things like wars, rulers, defiance, Stalin, Cleopatra, Ancient Egypt, multiple deities, Ancient Rome, pyramids and statues and Pharaohs and treasure and all sorts of amazing wonders to write about. Art gives pictures which provide scenes to base your stories in, and statues give you characters to write about. Music gives you emotions to work into a scene or a story. Philosophy gives you conflict and dilemmas for your characters to deal with. Everything in the world helps you when it comes to creative writing.

That is what I love about my degree so far.

Next year I look forward to an assignment or two involving some creative writing but for now I am happy to just soak up all the inspiration being thrown my way.

It’s Official – I am a Student!

I FINALLY received confirmation that my Student Fee Loan had been approved yesterday.

YAAAAAAYYYYY!

I am now officially a student with the Open University and will begin studying for a BA (Hons) In English Literature and Creative Writing from October 3rd.

This is a huge deal for me because i have alreadys regretted not going to Uni and studying for a degree when I was younger. It was the right decision, because I had no idea what I wanted to do with myself, but it is something I feel is missing from my life experience.

My bestie is also starting Uni this year to become a Nurse. She’s going to be going full time and i’m mega excited for her. We became friends in College (the UK College, not the same as Uni) and studied together so it’s great that we will have someone to share our mature student experiences with. I will still be working full time with part time study on top so this spells the beginning of a hugely busy time in my life.

I am extremely lucky that I have an awesome boyfriend to support me. His dad is donating a desk to me so I don’t need to buy one, and he is already making sure that I have planned out study time (whilst allowing for a weekly date-night that is dedicated to spending with him.)

It has been a REALLY long time since i have felt this positive about something. Long may it continue!

Looking Forward to 2015

I know i have been largely absent from my blog for a while now, and I apologise. One of my resolutions for next year is to plan regular slots for my blog to keep it working for me consistently. I am also planning new content so it’s not all stories but more about me and my journey into writing.

I have not, however, been stagnating during my absence. 2014 was the Year of the Creative Writing Course (which i passed! Certificate – Naomi Harvey) and it has completely changed my life. I was bored out of my tiny little mind back in January 2014, when my brother mentioned that he had seen some courses on Amazon local. I went to have a look and a creative writing course caught my attention. As it was reduced right down to 90% off, I decided to give it a go. I was very quickly hooked. I started this blog as part of the course and not only can I see the improvements I have made throughout the year, but i have met some amazing people. I can’t wait to get to know you all much better in 2015.

I took part in Camp NaNoWriMo in July and wrote the first draft of a Novella which I aim to have published by the end of July 2015. I have been spending a lot of my time on this, as well as one or two other stories that are much bigger than my usual flash fiction offerings. Watch this space!

More recently, I went to a training and development session run by the HR department where I work. With the help of a woman who is amazingly good at her job, I admitted that my current job did not satisfy me and I wanted to do something as a career with writing at the heart of it. My company currently has vacancies for a Copywriter and a Scriptwriter and whilst I am aware that I lack the credentials and experience to take on a role like that right now, it has opened my eyes to the opportunities that are out there to write for a living, whilst still earning a regular salary. This would allow me to have a career doing what I love, and I would still have my free time to myself to explore my love of fiction. I have requested some time with the manager of the team advertising these roles so I can understand what I need to do to be in a good position to get myself a job like that in the future.

Another thing that I realised through this personal development session is that I regret choosing to work instead of going to university to gain a degree. After some exploration, I have found an online BA (hons) in English Literature and Creative Writing with the OU. I aim to begin in April. As I have never studied at university level before, I can apply for student funding through the government and because it is available to study online, I can continue to work whilst studying.

So 2015 is the year that I stop waiting for things to happen to me, and go out there and make them happen. Every year I have told myself that things will change, but it wasn’t until i found that creative writing course that i realised that change doesn’t just happen. You have to make it happen.

be-the-change-you-are-looking-for

Picture from here

So! My New Years Resolutions (which i’ve kind of already started) include all the mundane “I will eat better, exercise more, lose weight and look fabulous!” but also include “I will start studying for a degree, publish my first novella (even if I self-publish it), take steps towards changing my career path to something that involves writing and transform my blog into something I can be really proud of.”

How has 2014 changed your life and what are your New Year’s Resolutions for 2015?

Patience and Commitment – Where Can I Find Them?

I keep seeing all these amazing writers on WordPress with their published novels, or talking about Camp NaNo and their finished/almost finished first draft and I can feel the excitement bubbling inside me and threatening to spill out. I want to write a novel! The problem is, I only have one or two vague, half-formed ideas on what I could write a novel about and I want to just jump right in and start writing. The over-excited little girl in me is jumping out and down, squealing and clapping her hands. All the while, she is telling me “We’ll find the plot line as we go. We’ll make up the characters as we go. We’ll work out if its a good enough idea to become an actual novel as we go…” I see a pattern emerging. She’s impatient and over excitable and needs to be reigned in. A lot.

Yoda Patience

Image found online here.

I am new to the whole writing ‘thing’, I only started writing in January with the exception of one or two made up stories on the fly. Because that is what I did when I didn’t take writing seriously, that is what my inner child wants me to do now. The thing is, I take my writing rather seriously now. I don’t want to go at this half-baked, I want to do things properly. That means making preparations. So my over-excitable inner child needs to be subdued a little and I need to look at this in the most organised way possible.

I have just started Module 5 of my creative writing course which conveniently looks at novel writing. Modules 6 and 7 are also dedicated to the subject. That alone lets me know that there is a lot to cover. The basics of story writing was covered in previous modules regarding writing a short story, and there are STILL 3 more modules to do with turning that into “How to write a full blown novel”. The first part of the module is all about commitment. What do I define as commitment? How do I stay committed when I realise just how long it can take to get from an idea to a full blown fully written, re-written, re-written again, edited, edited more, edited to within an inch of it’s life manuscript that is ready for publishing? What will I do when my famously impatient inner child gets bored of waiting and starts jumping up and down, clapping her hands and telling me all about this other great idea she’s had for me to do?

My answer so far is….

 

I don’t know. I have never attempted anything of this magnitude before so I don’t know how I will handle it. I suspect it will involve arguing with myself, alcohol, chocolate, and some lovely nagging encouragement from my new writing friends to make sure I keep moving in the right direction. How do YOU keep yourself motivated during the long and arduous process of plotting, planning, writing, re-writing, editing, crying in frustration, marketing and publishing your precious work of literary art?

Themes

I have just completed module 1 of my creative writing course. Essentially, module 1 is all about…well…writing. The importance of writing regularly, how to go out and be inspired, and how to draw on your own experiences for ideas and themes for your stories. One of the exercises was to write a timeline of my life, with significant events marked out on it and identify recurring themes within those events. This could be anything. Births, deaths, breakups, moving to a new place, travelling etc.

At the end of the module there are a few self assessment tasks to make sure you have taken in what you have been taught so far. One of those tasks is to pick a theme from your timeline and write the opening scene of a story, a poem, or an essay supporting this theme.

I chose death and loss as my theme. (Cheerful, I know, but I wanted to pick something challenging.) this is what I wrote. Please leave comments below with what think of it, and what themes you can think of that would feature in your timeline.

I ran across the hospital car park towards the entrance to A&E with my heart in my throat. The fear and panic was bubbling up inside me and escaping in small terrified whimpers. The ambulance containing my father had already pulled up outside the doors as I scrambled out of my friend Gary’s fiesta. By the time I reach the ambulance, my dad has been whisked away through the doors. Gary catches up with me at the reception desk inside. I am a mess; tears are streaming down my face, my long wavy brown hair has been blown into knots by the wind and I am wearing Gary’s huge hooded jumper over my t-shirt and jeans. “My dad was just brought in by ambulance. His name is Andrew Parker. Can I see him?” The last on reception checks her computer and for my father and pauses, before looking up at me kindly. “The paramedics and doctors are with him at the moment. If you would like to go and sit in the family room, someone will be along as soon as they can to talk to you about your dad.” “Family room…” I mumble to myself as my head starts to spin. The family can’t mean good news. They don’t separate you from the rest of the waiting room to hear good news. I pay no more attention to the woman on reception, leaving Gary to answer any questions and find out where the family room is. He leads me off through a door to the left of the main waiting area. I walk into a plain white rectangular room with the door in the wall at one narrow end, and a plain frosted glass window opposite. It smells strongly of disinfectant in a way only a hospital can. Plastic chairs like I remember from school are lined up along the two longer walls. In the far corner there is a small square table. On it sits a pale blue plastic vase full of silk flowers in blue and white. There are a couple of watercolours on the wall, tranquil scenes of a meadow and the sea. I pay little attention to them and sit on the chair furthest from the door, staring silently at the floor between my feet. Gary sits next to me and takes my hand. It’s comfortingly warm and I look up to flash him a brief attempt at a half smile before resting my head on his shoulder and staring at the floor once more. As I sit waiting, my thoughts turn to my mum.

My mum passed away when I was 5. My parents told me that Mummy was sick and she would have to go away because she wasn’t getting better. When my mum went into hospital I didn’t understand that I would never see her again. I remember feeling confused that she was crying because she had to go to hospital. Hospitals make people better. That is what she told me the year before when I had fallen and my parents had thought I had broken my wrist. On the day of my mum’s funeral I went to my schoolfriend’s house. I remember it was a warm sunny day in early June and Katie’s parents took us to the park. We played on the swings and had a picnic on a big tartan blanket. When I was dropped off home, it was full of my aunts and uncles and lots of strangers my dad told me were mum’s friends. Everyone was sad, my dad was crying and I didn’t understand why. He told me that mum had gone away and that that was a goodbye party. I cried, then, too but I still thought mum would come back. As time passed my dad refused to talk about her. I don’t really know how I came to realise the truth of what had happened to my mum. I just know that when I was 10 a girl joined my class at school and started taunting me, saying things like “you dad picks you up from school late every day because your mum is so fat her belly wobbles like jelly when she walks.” When I could ignore the jibes no longer I glared at her, looked straight into her eyes and told her “My mum is dead.” It was the first time I had ever said it out loud.

20 years after my mum dies, here I sit in a hospital, waiting for a doctor to walk through the door and tell me whether or not my dad is okay. It’s a strange feeling; you are impatient for news because not knowing what is going on is torture. Your mind running through all kinds of possibilities and ‘what if’s. At the same time you dread the moment that doctor walks through the door in case they are there to confirm your greatest fear. I don’t even realise I am crying again until Gary puts his arms around me and pulls me close murmuring “You’ll get through this Becca. I’ll help you through this no matter what.” I turn my face into his chest and sob into his navy blue jacket. He smells comfortingly of Armani Code; my Christmas present to him. After a few minutes my tears slow again and I pull slightly away to settle my head back on his shoulder after wiping my tears away with my sleeve. He leans his head against mine and we stay that way for what feels like hours, but is probably only about 25 minutes, when the door opens and a doctor walks in. He is about 6 foot talk with black hair, going grey at the temples. “Miss Parker?” He enquires. “That’s m-me” I stutter, my voice trembling with fear. I try to stand but my legs feel weak and I fall back onto my chair. Gary stops me from attempting again and, removing his arm from around me, takes my hand again. I look up at the doctor and take a deep breath in, holding it in as I wait for him to continue. “Miss Parker, I am Dr Collins. I’m afraid your father suffered a severe myocardial infarction. A heart attack. We did everything we could but the damage to his heart was too great. I’m afraid he didn’t make it. I am very sorry for your loss.” I stared blankly into the doctor’s face, unable to comprehend. My dad, the only real family I had left, was gone. “If you would like to see him I can take you to him.” I barely registered Gary whispering “I’m so sorry Becca” as my whole world fell to pieces around me. I felt like a hole had been punched through my chest. It ached painfully. Fresh reared courses down my cheeks. I couldn’t breathe. As my mind floundered, trying to come to terms with what I had just heard, I started hyperventilating. I tried to stand once again and instantly felt dizzy and disorientated. The last thing I remember before the world went dark is the feel of Gary’s arms as he reached out to catch me.

Creative Writing Course? Don’t mind if I Do!

I have always been a total bookworm and I would read anything I could get my hands on as a child. Fortunately my rather large family is full of readers so there were always plenty of books in the house. I was bullied as a child which led me to escape even more into the world of The Chalet School where girls from all over the world went to school together. I was also a huge fan of the Famous Five and the Secret Seven. I would go to the library and just sit and read something off the shelf there, or take books out and read them on my bed. English Literature was a favourite at school and my highest GCSEs were English Literature and History. I also loved to sing and so for some reason the thought of writing as a career never entered my head. It was singing or office work. I decided not to follow music as a career and took all the sensible subjects like business studies instead. I went on to college and studied for an NVQ in Business Administration. It was very sensible a subject and I had little difficulty joining the employed soon after. My first Job was as an Office Assistant for a Personnel Department. In the meantime I was writing silly little stories for my friends and continued reading as much and as often as I could. Every now and then I would start to write a story I had in my head but I didn’t know the techniques to plan out a plot and create believable three dimensional characters. One day my brother asked me if I had the amazon local app on my phone. He’d seen some online courses on there and thought I might be interested. I found a creative writing course and my imagination was immediately caught. It took me less than half an hour it decide to take the course and here I am! I have only completed module 1 so far. I aim to share my thoughts and experiences along the way as I learn more and more.