So you might have noticed I’ve popped a novel rewrite coutdown metre on my side bar. Madness i hear you cry. I know. That’s why I’ve changed my header image…a mad hatters tea party is something I know something about. Ludicrous conversations about words and ideas, frustrations and a right old merry dance…a lot of which goes on in my head [on my own in a solitary room] as did arguably the whole of Alice’s adventures [not a room of course but a pleasant outdoor nap on a summer’s day]. But then even that sleep was born of a mind. Imagination knows no boundaries and goes where it will. But I am hoping a deadline will help it go where I will. This is my hope. Will be posting various ups and downs and reads along the way. Wish me luck. 🙂
I love this project from Scottish artist Katie Paterson: Future Library Project. What an honour it would be to be one of the invited authors. Margaret Atwood is such a fitting first contributor and even such an established literary figure as her feels delighted to be taking part. The idea of commissioning an author a year to write a novel that will then only be seen in 2114 when it is published on paper made from trees planted a few months ago is simple and prompts the ‘that’s an obvious idea’ response when first heard that all great ideas do. Of course someone should do this. It’s a creative and almost magical celebration of the imaginative life of books and the power of libraries as exquisiste collections of all that the human mind is capable. A perfect artwork as its form matches it concept ‘deliciously’ – a word Atwood uses herself to describe her involvement. I only wish I could be around to see it’s realization. But the fact I’m wont somehow only heightens the project’s allure.
This novel was suggested to me by my PhD supervisor as I began my research in to the impact social media is having on experiences of motherhood. The women and mothers in this novel don’t make use of social media, nor does their author to communicate who they are so it wasn’t for that that my supervisor suggested the book. Rather it was for its precise anatomy of the struggles of women with the daily divided tertories of men and women’s work. they way Cusk describes lives where the politics of gender should be alive, kicking and screaming – but isn’t. These women are bright, intelligent but most exist as if feminism hasn’t happened. As if The Feminine Mystic, Female Eunuch, A Room of One’s Own and the many other conscious raising tracts of the politics of sexual inequality hadn’t happened nor the movements they inspired. Cusk and her characters are dissatisfied in their housework and child rearing duties and wonder what’s changed for women now compared to the past. Certainly not much as far as they see. Some accept this as the way of things. Some find it less easy to stomach. But what to do? Crop your hair the only answer one woman comes up with. Cusk relies on a conventional third person narration to detail the thought, dreams and actions of her characters with a genome scientists precision. The shopping trips, school runs, neighbourly dinner invitations that make up their seemingly similar suburban lives in desirable Arlington Park the landscape in which they must thrive or sink. As we move over the lives of these characters Cusk gives us a wide tracking shot of their lives, intercut with well place close ups – but she keeps us at a distance and at times I found myself reading on as a matter of duty rather than desire. I think the distancing effect of her writing is due it part to its eloquence. Dare I say over eloquence? Although I admire and enjoyed her prose the impact of the characters lives feels backgrounded as a consequence of Cusk’s prose style somehow. Cusk writes with acuity and if you are a wife and/or mother it is likely you will find something to recognise in these pages. But don’t expect any solutions to the problems of domestic life it raises.
How We Become Who We Are is the working title of my doctorate novel. Today I had a bit of breakthrough with voice and character perspective – always a major challenge when beginning a novel and the answer to the most important question of all at this stage. What kind of novel am I writing? So far I’ve tried third person past tense, first person present tense – fortunately i’ve been able to exclude other options for this particular novel – sometimes the mind edits subconsciously – for this I am thankful. Neither on their own has felt right. So today after 4 hours of dissatisfactory reworking of the first 10 pages I come up with the mind shatteringly brilliant solution [please hear the sarcasm] of trying both. And I like it. I spent way too long on my previous novel writing in the wrong perspective – third person past tense – when what works best for it – and how it is now – is first person present. Somehow everything I wanted to say about the main character, her predicament and the themes/ideas suddenly sounded true when I’d found the right POV in which to present them. Spending so much time on finding the voice or perspective of your novel can feel like you going nowhere slowly. You might gaze longingly as your word count objectives for this week/month as they pass by ludicrously out of reach. But in fact the work you are doing is in many ways the most important work of all. Words on a page is what you can do. You are a writer. Putting the RIGHT words on the page – well that takes a better writer and that’s what you want to be isn’t it? With each novel you want to become a better writer. Better answer that question of what kind of novel am I writing then. Because when you have the voice everything else follows – form, structure, language not to mention your background research to do list. Then you can really start putting words on the page.
How We Become Who We Are is my doctorate novel about the stories we tell that make us who we are online and the gaps between our real and virtual lives.
Is this myself, or are we merely fictions – David Shields reality hunger
From How We Become
‘Frankie knew the internet was a slippery thing. She knew how easy it was to get caught up. So many diversions, distractions, lies, fantasies, desires in one place. If it’s not selling you something it’s telling you something, making something, faking something. Sapping life out of the new, squeezing the value out of everything. Frankie had too often had enough. But as she watched the stats of her youtube channel pass 1 million subscribers she ascended from the merely ordinary to somewhat remarkable. It was a good feeling. A feeling she felt she deserved. For the first time in her life Frankie had assets. Assets that, if she played her hand right, could fundamentally change her life.’
Time for a little re-branding. After a bit of a break I am coming back to this blog with new enthusiasm and a slightly new angle. I am going on maternity leave in 3 months and have few teaching commitments in that time [or after for a period too of course] I am going to use this Blog to share thoughts, information and ideas about a broader range of subjects – see my strap line. I have nicked my Blog’s subtitle from a brilliant if controversial book I recently read by Canadian author Sheila Heti. Her 2013 novel/memoir How Should A Person Be? addresses this age old philosophical question in a provocative and striking way and reflects the theme of the content here. It also, conveniently, ring-fences a field of inquiry that legitimizes posting on all sorts of subjects – social, cultural, political, literary, cinematic – and post i will. I’ll be offering a short personal review of Heti’s book soon.
This week we will be looking at Writing About You Work in preparation for your critical commentary essay assessment element and Multi-Modal Story telling, Digital and E-Literature. With regard to the former you are required to submit a 1000 word essay critically reflecting on your creative writing practice [your responses to 4 out of the 5 experimental modals of creative writing presented on the course]. You should identify the key strategies presented with each model and how you have adapted and interpreted these for your own work. You should reflect on and assess your work according to the works’ achievements in adhering to and/or developing the original author’s strategy, using references and demonstrating the depth of your understanding of the methods and context of the work through close textual analysis, self reflection and critical comment [don’t forget to reference the Everyday Life Theory we covered too].
Multi-Modal Story telling, Digital and E-Literature
Digital literature is a term is used in a number of ways. It can mean anything that finds itself presented in computational form; it is the preferred term for any new writing that is generated and designed to be read digitally – in North America the term E-literature is favoured for this type of work. Basically both terms refer – in their purest sense – to work that is ‘digital born’ representing both a strategy and form of new writing that sets out to make use of the non-linear narrative capabilities of digital language. Veering away from the constraints of singular, linear cause and effects narrative relationships to more complex, network neonarratives. The latter can be said to represent the a paradigm shift in the way we understand the world and seek to make sense of it through stories. [An amusing and interesting aside – http://youtu.be/nJmGrNdJ5Gw]
Here’s an article from the NEW YORK TIMES that provides a good introduction to e-literature. It is published in 1992 – so practically ancient history – but very interesting both for its description of what this ‘new’ art form is and could be – but also as a historical object.
The form began with hypertext
“”Hypertext” is not a system but a generic term, coined a quarter of a century ago by a computer populist named Ted Nelson to describe the writing done in the nonlinear or nonsequential space made possible by the computer. Moreover, unlike print text, hypertext provides multiple paths between text segments, now often called “lexias” in a borrowing from the pre-hypertextual but prescient Roland Barthes. With its webs of linked lexias, its networks of alternate routes (as opposed to print’s fixed unidirectional page-turning) hypertext presents a radically divergent technology, interactive and polyvocal, favoring a plurality of discourses over definitive utterance and freeing the reader from domination by the author. Hypertext reader and writer are said to become co-learners or co-writers, as it were, fellow-travelers in the mapping and remapping of textual (and visual, kinetic and aural) components, not all of which are provided by what used to be called the author.” Extract from above article in NY Times.
Early Hypertext fiction used a writing environment called Storyspace – which you can have a look at here
A significant trend in more recent work in this field explore the narrative possibilities that exists in the convergence between new multimedia and writing. Exploring exciting new storying possibilities as sound, image and text combine to make new story worlds that reflect our own increasingly complex, multi-connected lives.
On Chris Joseph’s site I recommend tube lines [first left on grid] and i wake at eight [near the bottom far left] – lots of other great work on their too.
It is clear to see how the experimental and new writing writing strategies we have studied on the course lead us here…
This week we are turning our attention to micro fiction. Whether it’s flash, just short or macroscopically micro we are interested in what makes good short fiction great.
There is much flash fiction about. David Gaffney has made a bit of a name for himself with the form and much of his subject matter makes a good match for our investigation in to theories of Everyday Life. Here is what he has to say about how to write it:
here’s where you can read two of his flash fictions from his Book Sawn Off Tales via Amazon’s Look Inside option Your Name In Weetos and the Lost Language of Hairgrips. [more coming in printed form via hand outs in class]
And here’s somewhere to read more flash fiction and another short by David Gaffney Happy Places
He also performs words with a fellow writer – short fiction is growing a broader audience through quirky, imaginative performance presentations.
I also thought i’d throw in this link from MJ Hyland. A Guardian How To Write Fiction missive with a more general fiction writer in mind but nevertheless with some great tips and advice.
The Oulipo, or Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle, is a Paris-based group of writers and mathematicians that explores the uses of writing of constrictive form. Members include Raymond Queneau, Fran?ois Le Lionnais, Claude Berge, Georges Perec, and Italo Calvino.
The OuLiPo group has experimented for decades with various kinds of procedural writing, producing texts according to formal rules Ð inventing the rules themselves has been the primary focus for the Oulipians, producing actual texts is not nearly as important, thus the “potential literature” in the name. Oulipian writers impose constraints that must be satisfied to complete a text, constraints ranging across all levels of composition, from elements of plot or structure down to rules regarding letters. OuLiPo thus pushes a structuralist conception of language to a level of mathematical precision; technique becomes technical when language itself becomes a field of investigation, a complex system made up of a finite number of components. Constraints push writers into new linguistic territories–one might say that in Oulipian work is a sort of ongoing investigation into language itself: language is conceived as a complex system made up of a finite number of components, and constraints force the linguistic system’s itinerary off its usual well-trodden paths.
“The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees oneself of the chains that shackle the spirit… the arbitrariness of the constraint only serves to obtain precision of execution.” Igor Stravinsky ”
Above extracted text taken from:
- Extracts from Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau. You can collect a hand out from Helmore 245 [Admin office] or there are copies of the book in the library.
Writing Project 3
Experiment with Queneau’s Exercises in Style model.
- devise a simple scenario.
- write 3-4 versions [minimum] of that scenario/story using a different strategy for each.
- be clear about the strategy you have devised/chosen.
- title your works acoording to their strategy.
- BRING ALONG TO WEEK 6 CLASS
What is makes a prose poem poetry or in indeed prose? These are the questions we asked in class – among others… What makes a prose poem different from a short story? Vivid imagery? Detailed descriptions? Evocative and exact use of language? Prose poetry is a chance to hone your writing skills with these questions firmly in mind.
Extending our consideration of Prose Poetry here are the links we looked at in class for you to follow up.
Also an interesting piece on writing description with meaning from The Guardian Masterclass Series.
Remember: it is important to consider the wider historical and literary context of prose poetry. Your reading around all the experiments in form presented in the module should reflect this and enable you to reflect critically on what these influences might have on the work you study and your own work.
So once you have read the above [and Peter Manson’s Adjuct given last week’s post and other prose poetry you might find in your research]
Writing Project 2: The Prose Poem
- sit in a place of your choosing and describe in as much detail as possible what you see, hear, think, feel, do.do this using written word or video or audio recording.make a note of the exact time and place
- collect as much other information you can about that moment and time – what was going on that day in the news, with other people you know, is the day significant in any way? Anything unsignificant happened? historical event on this day? think about the invisible threads of everyday life and how you might render them visible for the reader.
- arrange this material in a piece of prose poetry.
- BRING TO WEEK 5 CLASS.