Celtic Illumination, part 299, Vive la difference!
I have to admit that I am a little unsettled as I sit down to write today’s blog. Usually three thoughts go through my head, as I wait to build up a good head of steam on my Massey Ferguson belt driven computer, no Clancy, not booze, boobs and babes. First off I try to recall enough events, in chronological order, that when cobbled together will make a wee story. Second off I need to produce fifteen hundred words and finally I need to plant a couple of smile explosions throughout the piece. So thankfully this ancient computer does the word count for me, which I have to admit is so much better than the old pen and paper days of counting every word you write, as they say, by hand, even though this contraption counts in furlongs. It’s seventeen words to the furlong as you asked. So you hit the publish button and pray that someone will like it, and then you hope someone will leave a comment that suggests they enjoyed it or found it funny. Normally this will be Ken Clare, but after a while you begin to wonder about the fellows sanity.
But this morning when I fired up the old machine there was a comment from Brad Fonseca http://bradfonseca.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/setting-a-writing-schedule-with-a-busy-schedule/ . I most certainly did not expect to see someone write, “It is one of the more moving pieces of prose I have read in a while.” He even referred to me as “an entertaining writer.” And you can’t ask for better than that. But what do I do now, for creative writing, I mean real creative writing and writing a daily blog are two very different types of writing. Creative writing has hard and fast rules that must be observed, although I have to admit that occasionally I break them. The blog is written in a more ‘conversational’ way. It’s, or at least should be, easy going, chewing gum for the mind that releases the odd smile. So thank you very much Brad for your kind observations, it’s nice to learn that you think I am ‘entertaining’ and will strive to continue to do so. I just wanted to point out that there were two very distinct forms of writing in the previous blog, Kate, the short story, is pure creative writing, and the blog, well; that’s just me and my steam driven computer trying to make you smile.
As for the rest of you, sort yourselves out and I shall return to my days at Lumb Bank. And yes, I will write louder, as Peter Browne over there on his bombing range in Saudi Arabia has requested, as it’s difficult to read with all the big bangs going off! We had entered a serious section of the writing course now. There were three important events taking place, well four, if you count the other one. First off we had to produce a course magazine, which was part Arvon tradition but also formed a keepsake for ourselves. There was the end of course party, which although had been planned to contain the basic component of loads of drink, also contained a performance element where we each had to write something entertaining. The third event was a special guest visitor who would be spending the day, and evening, with us. All we knew was that it was someone important from the world of media.
The other event, the fourth one was where we would each spend some time with both facilitators and discuss our work. Apart from the work they would have seen us produce while at Lumb Bank, they would also have been given at the start of the course, a file of work from each of us that they would have read through and formed some sort of opinion. This for me was the crucial part of the course. This is where the professional writer could offer to introduce you to their literary agent; this would be the stepping stone that would carry you from apprentice, or novice writer, to the elevated status of professional writer. It was something that I knew I had no control over and I can tell you I was worried.
For the end of course party I was writing a ditty, I shall not call it a poem for I would not wish to insult the world of poetry. It had four line verses, alternate lines rhymed; it was a ditty, with each stanza referring to an individual member of the course and the two facilitators. The sun was out and most people were lounging about on the huge grass veranda but I was content to sit in the cool of the library with all my friends. To think that within a few days a magazine with my work in it, under my name, would be sitting on a shelf next to Seamus Heaney was far too exciting. Shields and one of the girls came in to the library with an electronic typewriter intending to work on a piece they had planned for the end of course party. I went to have some lunch and met our special guest who had just arrived.
It was a BBC television producer. I made him a cup of coffee and brought him out to the veranda where the rest of the course assembled. We had a question and answer session lying in the strong sunshine, which I have to admit was quite informative. Then, as the questions began to die away, he asked us what we were working on, outside of Lumb Bank. Most participants were quite vague but I was actually planning a series of three novels and I loved talking about my project as it helped me think and plan it out. He asked me to talk about my project and I leapt at the chance. Not in my usual sense of listening to myself and sorting out kinks in the story, but to gauge the response of fellow writers and poets and of course the two facilitators and television producer.
I wanted to contribute to the peace process in Northern Ireland. I wanted to highlight and show that there was no difference between a Protestant and a Catholic, I wanted to highlight the stupidity of the situation but I knew that a heavy and detailed historical novel would not cut the mustard. I needed to be historically accurate but I knew that to reach the maximum audience it would have to be funny. I had already spent a good few days wandering around graveyards in and near the town of Drogheda in the Republic of Ireland and had collected various names and dates from the gravestones. By using real people in my story I had hoped to debunk the naysayers and critics or at least put a decent swerve in the story before they could start dismissing it.
There would be two main characters, one, a Protestant would have moved through the ranks of the masonic lodge and was now a member of its top secret society. My police mates were a great help pointing me in the right direction for research on the Masonic lodges. As for the Catholic he too would have come up through the ranks of Opus Dei but would now be a member of a secret society. The story surrounding these two men would begin at the Battle of the Boyne and their relatives who were there, following the family line throughout history to the present day. Both men, through their secret societies, would be dedicated to acts of good and kindness, yet because of their tribal upbringing in Northern Ireland would be bitterly opposed to each other. Until I would bring them together and show how alike they really were.
It was quite an undertaking, although so interesting that even though at the time I had no idea I was to become the King of Ireland, I was still trying to think of ways to bring peace to that troubled part of my Kingdom. The television producer was creeping closer to me and began to ask specific questions about the period it was set in and the locations. I couldn’t believe the fellow was so interested in my story until he handed me his business card and told me to contact him when I had finished the books, as it was the sort of project he would love to make for television. All I had to do was finish the manuscripts and he would make sure the project would happen.
I was excited to say the least, I knew I could physically write one book but was I capable of writing three? I couldn’t see my luck holding out much longer. So I was a little excited and confused when I was invited to go and spend some time with Carol Anne Duffy and John Barton Harvey. It was late afternoon; Carol and John were seated on a garden bench at the far end of the veranda. I lay on the grass before them and waited for their opinion on my work. I knew that I needed John Barton Harvey to support me but I knew it was something that probably wouldn’t happen. He said that he thought my writing was very good but I needed to concentrate more on style, get more experience. As he spoke all I could think of was that he would make a very good air trafficker, he was a bullshitter of the highest order.
I made an appointment to give myself a real good telling off later on as if I had not criticised his writing I may have been in with a sporting chance. John finished his critique of my work and handed over to Carol Anne Duffy. I knew that I wasn’t in with a chance; I truly did respect Carol Anne and the way she approached language and used words so precisely. She really was a master of the craft and had opened my eyes to poetry and the way that language can be both beautiful and meaningful. Carol had read most of my file and asked about certain specifics in various stories. She then asked about the television producer and how interested he was in my project. But it was at this point that I shall never forget the look on John Barton Harvey’s face. Carol Anne Duffy, the next Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom, handed me a piece of paper. “Here are the contact details for my literary agent. I shall be telling her that she should represent you. Give me a few days so that I can contact her and set the ball in motion, give her a call in about a week.”