Friday, 5 December 2008

Out on the Common with Wild Mind

Remembrance Sunday has gone and now we are deep into Autumn. The trees in London’s forests and parks have turned red and the air is crisp as I trot across the Common to the gym. I am deep in thought as I struggle across frost-encrusted grass and prickly gorse, for I am struggling with my novel at present. Everything in me wants to stay at home and sit by the laptop, battling. Yet, this is the worst thing I could do. Sometimes you have to walk away from your writing to walk deep into the heart of what you’re trying to say. As I come out from behind a tree I startle a deer – a magnificent stag. Because I am thinking about my hero Thomas and his battle to find himself, I’m not really looking where I’m going. I just blundered into his territory, a great, flat-footed human, not looking, not thinking. I must have come between the stag and his ladies, for he stands his ground and barks at me. This is dangerous stuff, potentially, but I don’t even notice because I am deep in the untamed, the wild mind. We look at each other. I see something in him, something that can never be broken. He bounds away. I run the last ten minutes to the gym.

Jennifer Pittam is a guest blogger on Eric Maisel's 'Living Creatively'website. Follow her column, 'London Calling':

Sunday, 23 November 2008

I Remember Very Well...

Well! I've come first in the Coast to Coast writing competition, October 2008. My short story, 'I Remember Very Well' was written for Armistice Day, and it was a real boost to have this little bit of success. It's true that success in anything is a series of tiny little efforts, one after the other. Some of them aren't easy. In fact, some of them aren't welcome. The Remembrance Day events were beautifully done this year - the lines of soldiers straight, the brass on the uniforms sparkling in the sun and entire new generations marching or mourning in silence. Some came to remember loved ones who died in Iraq, and some to honour a grandfather or great-uncle lost in one of the world wars. Rows of men and women, people who had to take one little step after the other, mourning a loved one. In bereavement as in writing, in sadness as in joy, it's one step at a time.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Housman's Bookshop

This week I joined a new writers' circle, which meets in the bowels of Housman's Bookshop in Central London. The place is unheated and unbelievably cold even in this rather mild winter. As we huddled around a single bar electric fire I was, I admit, re-connected to the pre-centrally heated days of my childhood. Yet, there is something very focussing about sitting in semi darkness, coat pulled around your shoulders, munching custard creams and reading a chapter from your novel. When I listed to the others' stories, focussing a hundred percent because after all, what else can you do in semi darkness, I found myself utterly captivated by the different worlds they led me into. Call me old fashioned, but I wondered whether we've lost something precious, sitting here in the 21st century, enjoying luxuries our ancestors would have associated with the idle rich. Maybe I've turned into my mother after all.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Critical Critiques

This week I got a scything comment on Chapter 10 from one of my critique partners. I took my poor battered manuscript into Trafalgar Square and sat by the fountain with a capuccino. Laboriously, I rewrote Chapter 10 while I sipped. I added lengthy descriptions, spelled out words any fan of historical fiction understands, and described scenes we covered in Chapter 9. Then, I drained my cappucino and did it all again, in my voice and with my sense of humour. Yes, I kept some of the changes, of course I did. Yet, when you write a novel you have, at some stage to trust that your reader enjoyed the earlier chapters, understood their content and like your characters. You have to act as if you believe it.