Month: March 2013

Choosing my mind wanderings…

ImageOn such as chilly day I decided to use a photograph taken two years ago in France on a roasting hot day in my friends garden, lunchtime with home grown tomatoes, fresh bread, olives, cheese, rillette and wonderful Pelforth Brune beer, hoping soon warmer weather will arrive!

So why is it so pleasing to have a piece published by someone else?

In the latest issue of The Centrifugal Eye is one of my poems, Macbeth at the Writers Group, was chosen for publication, and that has made me very happy! It is hopefully quite amusing, certainly when I have read it that is the reaction I have got. It was primarily written for performing, there are great opportunities for using a number of voices, some double entendre and points that attendees at a writing group would appreciate. I enjoy performing and have no qualms about reading to any size of audience, if I had any ability to memorise lines then I could have been an actor (hmmhmm) or not.

I was very pleased a couple of years ago to have another piece in The Centrifugal Eye, A Tale of the Children I Never Had. Again a piece that I initially wrote for performing. One day soon I will record these and put mp3s on my site.

I wanted to be published by The Centrifugal Eye as I could see it had a high standard of writing, it was obviously somewhere that people serious about their output were happy to be published, and it was looking for something a little out of the ordinary, which I hope these two works could be seen as.

A couple of weeks ago I put an interview with the editor Eve Hanninen as a blog. I was interested in the process she worked through and in her background as a poet and illustrator. Perhaps I was still amazed she had chosen my work. That choosing creates a warm glow to me as the writer, a feeling that I am not just writing for self-gratification, someone has seen worth in my mind wanderings, especially when they have a very personal meaning as with Tale, which was initially written when I was going through some therapy at Mind in 1998 and finding it hard to explain to the therapist who had 5 children why I had no wish to be a father! The final version is massively different, partly because I lost the original when I lost a usb stick with all my writing on and no back up or print outs!

Being published gives all writers a boost, as does being chosen to exhibit for an artist. We may try and show a ‘cool’ outward reaction as if it is an everyday event, but inside we are delighted, and who hasn’t turned to the pages and read your own work? It is a natural reaction, we all look for praise, in the same way we do as small children. Now all I need is someone to take up one of my novels, perhaps I should start trying.

 

Learning the steps…

ImageToday’s photograph is a panorama of part of the wall around the wreck of my ‘garden’ taken at 10am on a white cool day.

A couple of months ago I was asked by a friends son to ‘teach me everything you know about film making’. That is quite a task. He has already made a few short films which are very interesting and have a unique ‘voice’ of their own. So our online discussion (he lives nearly 200 miles away) has been about films he has seen and that has encouraged me to watch some that I hadn’t considered watching, such as Hugo, which I thoroughly enjoyed as at the heart of it is the story of Georges Melies. Having watched that I can see how it would encourage anyone to want to make films, Melies’ films were magical, he created films which not just filmed what was around but created a world of wonder (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTEODB_s87M).

So where do we start in any art form. There are of course the technical considerations, when I was starting to make films in the early 70’s video was very basic, so it was all film based. I began using Super and Standard 8, I preferred Super 8 as I used long single shots and I liked the film ratio, Standard 8 (which was half a 16mm film) was too square for what I was looking for and you could only shoot a total of around 2 minutes before the film had to be turned round. When I moved to 16mm the costs of stock were much higher, something that the digital filming now has almost removed from the equation. But the most important aspect of learning about film-making for me as with all the other art forms I have been involved in was watching films and reading about how film-makers created their work. I saw everything I could and a friend and I ran the college film society, I don’t know how many actually liked our choices, but we showed all sorts of films and were able to watch them over and over again (this is before VHS or DVD!).

It is no different in any other art form, if you want to paint then go and see paintings look how the artist has used their materials, the brush strokes, the development from drawings, sketches and so on. Then learn how to handle brushes, palette knives, paint, canvas. In my writing I use the reading I have done for years and years and go back to passages to see how the writer has worked an idea up.

One of the classic pieces to study in film is the Odessa Steps sequence from Eisenstein’s Battleship Potempkin, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ps-v-kZzfec). It’s influence can still be seen after almost 90 years, if you want to learn about editing this is the piece to watch and analyse, it still has a remarkable power, which is due to Eisenstein’s artistry. It is also good for writers to study. Just look at the variety of points of view in one short scene, the changes of feel from exultation to tragedy, the use of ‘minor’ characters to enhance the effect.

In her blog today Shannon (a writing student at Kansas) writes about the importance of learning the basics of writing a sentence and how some of the other students complained that this was too simple (http://shannonathompson.com/2013/03/19/relax-read-how-to-write-a-sentence/). I was pleased to see how she felt that this was like learning how a painter needs to use a brush or as I have noted in the above how a film-maker needs to learn the basics of editing. These are the building bricks of what we do, of course we want to subvert them to develop them, but before we can do that we need to know what we are subverting.

Versions

Today there is a photograph in two versions, no great thoughts! The first is the original as taken, just processed to be smaller in size. As I was doing this I was intrigued by the shapes on the tree root, I put it through the black and white filter, taking all tone away and liked the effect, making a shape like some ancient dead animal rather than the rather sexual overtones of the original. It was taken at the car park in Tunstall next to The Wheatsheaf at 10.15am on a bright mild sunny day.

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Road

Today’s photograph is at the end of Newfield Street on a chilly but bright day at 11am, using the panorama function the other way around.

Where do our memories come from

What selects what we remember?

For many of us writing we use bits of our own lives in what we write, adapting people, events, places. We can change the outcomes so that we ‘get the girl’ or ‘win the race’, our characters can do the things we don’t or daren’t. Barry wrote about using your own experience or not in his blog yesterday (http://barrylillie.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/method-writing/) and I have in the past. I think when I write stories/novels there is far less of me than in the very personal writing I do as poetry. The character Vincent I am writing about is a million miles away from me, perhaps at times a wish fulfilment – handsome, tall, owns a beautiful Leica, everyone loves him! Though I am making him manipulated by sinister forces with little control of his life outside his photography.

In another blog I read by Shannon (http://shannonathompson.com/2013/03/15/to-my-mother/) she talks about her mother who dies when she was very young and another friend has recently lost her father. It is very moving and brought many memories back, especially of my mother always reading and my father writing music. The memory of grief is very hard to remove, overlaying the memories of happiness, but I have found that writing the poetry can force the happy memories forward. In Telegraph Hill I told about spreading my mothers’ ashes in a place she loved, a sad memory, but it reminded me of the very happy holiday memories and the safety I felt as a child knowing that my mother was waiting for me/us after the adventures of play, with a warm caravan and wonderful breakfast.

Grief is a part of life. It comes as an unwelcome shock to us but it is going to happen. I can see it as a theme in much of what I write. We cannot select what we remember, I recently read William Boyd’s Waiting For Sunrise, a disappointing book and I felt he could have done with a few sessions at Renegade Writers to improve it. In it his rather dislikeable character goes to a psychologist in Vienna in 1913, he has a destructive memory, he tells that and through hypnosis the psychologist changes the outcome of the memory, so he doesn’t feel guilt and his sexual problem is solved. If only it were so easy! So in some ways we as writers can change the outcomes of our actions, but not in reality just as a fiction, there are so many outcomes I would love to change in my 59 years the book would be encyclopaedic in length!

Huge events in our lives can be wiped out in our memories because we don’t want to suffer them again. Also I often feel memories can be warped by the fact we have photographs of something or are told a story. I look at old family pictures, I am in there standing with my grandfather or grandmother, they died before I was 5 I have no memory of them except when my mother told my grandfather off for putting a handkerchief round my moth when playing cowboys because of the germs, but the events in the photographs, they are there in black and white, but not in my memory. Of course I can adapt those and make a story around them, so is that the real memory?

Today’s photograph is to celebrate Red Nose Day taken at midday listening to the new David Bowie album, which is rather good and takes me back 42 years!

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