Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Roz Goddard and the coming of summer!

Guest speaker at our local writers' group this week was Roz Goddard. Roz is a former poet laureate for Birmingham, with several volumes of  poetry published. She also writes short fiction. We all enjoyed hearing Roz read some of her own poems, including the powerful and haunting Spaceman. This poem was runner up in Mslexia's poetry competition last year. You can find it, and other work, on Roz's website here.

Roz spoke about her sources of inspiration, such as the visual arts, and how we don't always have to try and write about the big things in life, but just look at small things in new ways. One thing Roz said, which I certainly need to hear every so often, was that we have to decide what is the actual story within the idea that's bubbling away - and whose story it is too.

This may seem obvious, but sometimes when writing longer stories I feel myself throwing more and more elements into the mix, just because I like them. It can take hours of rewriting before I see that these random details add nothing, and out they must go! Maybe this is why I enjoy flash fiction - it gives me no room for meandering down scenic by-roads and forces me into the heart of the story from the outset.

By co-incidence, today I came across an excellent post on editing at Denise Covey's blog from the other side of the world. Here again I found the questions 'what is my story about?' and 'whose story is it?' This is clearly my message from the universe this week. Focus, Jo, focus.

One editing trick I've been trying lately is recording my shorter stories onto my MP3 player. If I find my gaze wandering out of the window during playback, then it's quite likely a reader would lose interest too. I just note down those points where my attention flags, and see how I can give them more oomph. Then of course I delete everything, because it's too horrible hearing a recording of your own voice.

Tomorrow I break up from work for a whole fortnight. Yippee! This time last year I was in Paris. ("We'll always have Paris.") I am taking a little trip next week. Not Paris, but I'm sure it'll be fun in different ways. No, I'm not telling you where yet. You'll have to come back and see my holiday snaps!

Apparently we're going to have a heatwave in July. Are you planning a month of sunbathing and travelling, or will you be a busy bee like the one below? Do drop by and tell me what you're up to this summer.


Wendy's Writing said...

I will be going on a canal boat but not until the middle of august so chances are the good weather will have ended by then - which is what happened last time. I think the editing tips will be very useful.

joanne fox said...

Ooh, that sounds nice, Wendy. I like boats. Hope the weather stays fine for you.

Old Kitty said...

Please dear Lord let July be a hot month thank you and I promise to behave. Ahem! But seriously! I'm hoping these weather forecasts of a hot July are true! I mean we're in the first week of July and it's still too grey and drizzly for me! :-(

But anyway!! Thank you for sharing this thoughtful post! I'm totally guilty of throwing anything at my stories to bulk them up a little and because I want to but of course they never make sense when I re-read them! LOL!

What is my story about?!?! That's vexed me so much these past months! I really need to work on my one sentence snapshot of it!

Oh wow - where are you heading off too!?!?! How exciting!!! Have a great time! Bon voyage!!

Take care

joanne fox said...

Old Kitty, sometimes we try to flesh out a story, but then it goes further and further away from the thing we were trying to capture. Better to dig deeper into the idea than try to expand it sideways, if you see what I mean!

Anyway, I almost always have good weather when I'm on leave, so don't worry. Sunshine is booked. x

Jenny Woolf said...

What an amazing colour that poppy is! :)

joanne fox said...

Jenny, it just came up on its own.

Joanna said...

A fantastic, inspiring post, Joanne. Many thanks. I really needed that sound advice about focusing. I often lose sight of where my story should be heading and cram in too many characters and too many ideas. I don't know why that happens. It would make writing (and other things, like cooking) so much easier if I kept it simple and restrained from flinging in every ingredient that springs to mind.

Your poppy is gorgeous. The colour is incredible. I think it must be my favourite flower.

Have a wonderful holiday, Joanne, and I'll look forward to your photos very much. xx

Teresa Ashby said...

Roz sounds fascinating!

I can't believe it is a year since you were in Paris!

Looking forward to seeing your holiday snaps - hope you have a wonderful time and lots of sunshine :-) x

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Great post, Joanne, and so much with which I can identify! Enjoy your break, wherever it is. Lovely photo, by the way.

joanne fox said...

Joanna - I don't know what it is, but we seem to like making life more complicated for ourselves in every way!

Teresa, it was a very interesting and thought provoking morning. No, I can't believe it's a year since I was in Paris either. I've kept telling everyone at work it's a year already, but it seems like just last week!

Rosemary - thank you, glad you found some things you can relate to. x

Sharon Bradshaw said...

Have a lovely break from work, Jo, and enjoy the sunshine. If we look at something small when writing a poem I think we delve deeper into it and create more powerful imagery, but I agree it's difficult to restrict earlier drafts to just this. Roz's Spaceman poem is so well written, and haunting. I love your purple flower and bee too, it's a great post! Thanks for sharing.

joanne fox said...

Sharon, there are some great images in that poem aren't there. x

bazza said...

Hi Joanne. I went to have read of that poem (Spaceman). Like all of the best written word, it works for me because one has to work at it. After three readings it begins to come into focus and the power begins to manifest itself.
It must have been wonderful to hear it read out loud.
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Denise Covey said...

Hi Joanne. What a great post and lovely self seeded flower.
Who's story is this? is such a crucial question. In my latest ms, the hero's sister is so appealing and strong she threatens to take over.

Enjoy your break. I remember your trip to Paris. How can a year have passed?


joanne fox said...

Bazza, that's an interesting observation. Some poems take a few reads to see the underlying story, and are all the more satisfying when understanding comes.

Denise - that's often a hard question to decide, especially when minor characters develop an appeal of their own. In short stories it's not so bad to try writing from a couple of different points of view to see which feels strongest before you commit to your final version. But in a novel it's a much bigger task to experiment with changing perspective. I'm sure you'll get through it anyway; you work so hard!

Patsy said...

I'll be traveling - and working!

joanne fox said...

Enjoy, Patsy!

Suzanne Ross Jones said...

Great post, Joanne. Love the MP3 hint - I'll give that a go.

Hope you have a fab time wherever you've gone.


joanne fox said...

Hope it helps, Suzanne! Worth a shot, anyway. x