Thursday, 12 January 2012

back to school....

So, the MA has begun!  I had my first online seminar this week, which consisted of everybody taking it in turns to briefly present their novel/novel-in-progress to the group.  A day or so before we’d had to post our synopses online, plus indications of the potential audience, genre, age group etc, along with any anxieties that we had about our work, and areas we needed assistance with, be it P.O.V, dialogue, pacing, the correct amount of dragons, whatever. 

Being part of the January intake (along with two others), I was a little nervous about barging into an already well established group, especially when I then had to comment on their personal work (like the equivalent of shaking hands, and then remarking, “god, you’ve got big ears, haven’t you?!), but everybody was so completely welcoming that a few minutes in I’d completely forgotten my status as a “newbie” and let myself get carried along by the enthusiasm and humour and sheer passionate creativity of the group. 

Facing the mini-critique felt a little like gawping at a malfunctioning tennis ball machine that was pelting you non-stop, albeit with questions and suggestions rather than balls; and it was difficult, under pressure, to bat many answers back, but the session is saved and re-reading it it’s unbelievably helpful, and I’m amazed at how much was squeezed into such a short space of time.  
I'm also impressed by the other ideas put forward by my peers; a wide range of material, from 'young adult' stories, to fantasy, to historical fiction, but all brimming with imaginative potential, all interesting, all viable, to my eyes, at least.  Plus knowing that you're in the same boat as a load of other people, all rowing towards the same seemingly impossible horizon, only makes you want to work your oars that little bit harder.  And oh, how I do like to exhaust a metaphor....

But I do need to learn to catch up.  The chat moves so fast that by the time you’ve answered somebody, the subject has changed and you’re lagging behind.  This can be perilous (ahem)..

Person 1:  so we’re the cool group then?
Person 2 (tutor-commenting in general): We’ll lose access at half six, we’re screwed.
Me (replying to person 1): I hope so!

Whoops. I did the same later, when somebody said something that prompted the response, “no way” from me, but as the conversation rushed past, I typed this to her later offer to accompany me to Latvia for a research trip, and it whooshed past again before I could explain myself. I can hear them now: “That new girl’s a swinger AND a bitch…”

Aside from the MA, I had this published: Mavromoth (Mavros-which means ‘black’ in Greek, and err, moth).  It’s an attempt at horror flash fiction, and the 'Mavromoth' character itself is lifted from a children’s book of mine I near finished (but never revised) years ago.  The publication of this has been an epiphany of sorts, in that while I like the general idea of it, I think it reads like an early draft, and is clearly rushed and could be a whole lot better.  The initial excitement of getting stuff published has seen me bombarding editors with unpolished work, and then either bemoaning the rejection (made worse as I know that the piece deserved it), or ruing the acceptance if it’s not up to scratch. Of course, all writers are perfectionists, so a piece can never be completely finished; and seeing the errors in earlier work IS a sign of progress, but still.  The lesson learned then is patience.  I am now intending to sit (not literally) on my stories when I think that they’re finished, and approach them weeks/months/? later, with fresh eyes. Oh, and I need to read more poetry.

And that’s it, for now. 

No, it isn't, read A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, it is wonderful. You won't regret it.

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