Monday again – and for once it isn’t a Bank Holiday!
I went over to Helmsley for my aunt’s funeral the other weekend. She was 99, and lived a full and varied life – including working as a welder in Goole in World War II! My late mother was the eldest of eight, and this particular aunt was the second eldest. Sadly there are only two of the eight siblings left now, but they must possess good genes because those who’ve departed this life have all reached a good age. I have seventeen cousins scattered around the UK and Europe, so it was really nice to get to see a few of them at the bun fight in the old schoolroom. I never got to know any of them very well in the past – my bad – but I feel strangely closer to them now that we are heading towards being the oldest surviving generation of the family.
This is the only Monday I’m working in May, as I’m going away for a week on Friday to the North York Moors, and then it’s a Bank Holiday yet again! I’m looking forward to some good food, some long walks, and meeting up with some old friends.
I also have a fabulous pile of books ready to read, one of which is my contributor’s copy of The Nature of Kyoto, which is the new anthology published by the Writers in Kyoto group. I was more than a little bit pleased to discover that my poem, ‘Love on a Low Flame’, got a mention in the foreword, which was written by renowned essayist and travel writer, Pico Iyer. I love Pico’s travel writing about Japan, Cuba and elsewhere, and have read several of his books. I also found out last week that I have won the Writers in Kyoto Mayoral Prize this year – so I will have a short piece in the next anthology too!
I have another piece of great writing news, but sadly I can’t share it just yet. (It’s so annoying when people say that isn’t it? Why mention it at all if you can’t share it? Lol!)
Thursday 29th June at 17.00 – Publishing and Producing Anthologies (Free online event)
I’m getting in early with this one, but no harm in planning ahead! If any of you out there are interested in advice on how to put an anthology together, or if you’re just curious to know what goes into publishing one, then join TogetherintheUK for this event chaired by Adam Feinstein.
“Learn the secrets of putting together an anthology. Chaired by Adam Feinstein, in this exciting event you will learn from four different examples. They are:
Professor Marius Turda: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/cultural-history-of-race
The Other Side of Hope: https://othersideofhope.com/print-editions.html
Christopher Fielden on: https://www.christopherfielden.com/books/81-words-flash-fiction-anthology.php”
You can book your tickets here through Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/publishing-and-producing-anthologies-tickets-623621417447?keep_tld=1
(And look out for Hear Our Stories, an anthology of migrant writings, to be published in August by Victorina Press in conjunction with TogetherintheUK, and available to pre-order now on this website.)
There’s also a new Exiled Ink event on June 8th between 18.00-21.00 at Camden Art Centre, Arkwright Road, London NW3 6DG
Exiled Lit Cafe: Let’s Get Together
“Exiled Writers Ink is proud to host the London launch of Welcome to Britain: an anthology of poetry and prose published by Civic Leicester and edited by Ambrose Musiyiwa.
Too often, the stories we are told about our history and our place in the world are incomplete, inaccurate, or even fabricated, perpetuating a cycle of prejudice, ignorance and injustice. At the heart of Welcome to Britain is recognition that the myths and fictions Britain likes to tell about itself need to be contested and subverted.
Come and hear some of the contributing writers, both established and aspiring, at the beautiful Camden Art Centre.
Sandra Agard, Max Fishel, Marsha Glenn, Natasha Gordon-Polomski. Patricia Headlam, Ziba Karbassi, Yessica Klein, Esther Lipton, Jennifer Langer, Jacob Lund, Walid Marmal, Karen Morash, Nasrin Parvaz, Barbara Saunders, Andrew Staunton, Elizabeth Uter, Michael Walling”
Here is another extract from Tutorial Five of my short story course, The Heart of the Short Story.
SENTENCE LENGTH & TYPE
As we’ve already established, rhythm is partly controlled by stress patterns, but it is also controlled by sentence length.
Long sentences sound smoother, but too many can be overpowering, while short sentences make your prose snappy but can feel rushed. When each sentence follows the same structure and rhythm, your writing becomes boring. You need to vary the length strategically, emphasising important points with shorter sentences, or sentence fragments, and slowing things down with the longer sentences, discovering the rhythms that suit your writing voice.
“Polly went to the stables. She fed the horse an apple. She let him out in the field. She came home and cooked dinner. She waited for Danny. He was late. At ten p.m. she scraped his dinner into the bin.”
Here’s an alternative:
“Polly went to the stables to see Dragon. She rested her head against his flank as she groomed him. He took an apple from her hand, his muzzle soft as velvet, and after she led him to the field she walked back and cooked dinner. She waited for Danny, checked and re-checked her phone. Nothing. At ten p.m she scraped his dinner into the bin with a heavy sigh.”
Often, one of the hardest things to spot is repetitive sentence type. As with sentence length, overusing a sentence type can hamper your reader’s engagement with your story. So vary the complexity of your sentences too.
Also note how each of your sentences and paragraphs start. Writers often overuse the same word, particularly pronouns and characters’ names. Try to vary the way sentences begin by adjusting the placement of words so that the subject doesn’t open each sentence.
PASSIVE & ACTIVE VOICE
Using the active voice gives your writing a strong, clear, direct tone. The subject is something, or it does the action of the verb in the sentence, and a good rule of thumb is to try and put the majority of your sentences in the active voice, unless you really can’t phrase your sentence in any other way.
Forming passive voice requires the verb “to be” and a past participle, and the subject is acted upon by some other performer of the verb. It can distance your readers and result in static prose, and is usually less succinct than active voice.
However, passive voice isn’t a grammatical error, it’s a style choice, and there are times when it is called for or required.
Here are some good examples from the Grammarly blog, where re-writing the sentences in active voice makes them awkward or contorted:
Passive: Bob Dylan was injured in a motorcycle accident.
Active: A motorcycle accident injured Bob Dylan.
Passive: Elvis is rumoured to be alive.
Active: People rumour Elvis to be alive.
Passive: Don’t be fooled!
Active: Don’t allow anything to fool you!
And here are a couple of examples of my own, showing when active voice works better:
Active: Peter decorated the cottage to help it sell.
Passive: The cottage was decorated by Peter to help it sell.
Active: Sophie carried her baby in a sling.
Passive: The baby was carried by Sophie in a sling.
Next time we’ll look at dialogue.
Word of the Week…
The Italian word for the permanent round mark left on a wooden surface by a wet or hot cup. A beautiful word for something really annoying!