What’s the Cringiest Poem You’ve Ever Written?

“orator fits, poeta nascitor”
An orator is made, a poet is born.

Mine is less of a poem and more of a song. I am in my early 50s now, and wrote it back in those idealistic days when I was all of sixteen, thought I knew everything there was to know about the world, and when new age travellers were constantly in the news.

If you want to read something that will make you cringe even more than David Brent from ‘The Office’, you just need to take a look inside the songbook that’s been with me since the age of fifteen.

For those of you who can’t look in person, I’ve typed it up this particular corker here:

https://www.scottmartinproductions.com/pastpresenttense

Just scroll down to ‘Peace Convoy Partisans’. You won’t regret it, if only that you view your own writing more favourably.

And with that in mind, I challenge each and every one of you to fight back with an even more cringey contribution. Don’t be afraid. We’re all friends here!

Ten Tips to Rub Out Writers’ Block

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Do other professions have similar issues to writers’ block? Is there such a thing as Doctors’ Dread? Opticians’ Obstruction?  Grocers’ Groan?

And how should it be written? Is it a block applying potentially to all writers, therefore “Writers’ Block” or does this debilitating condition specifically refer to the struggles of solitary individual writers, therefore “Writer’s Block”?

Or should it even be “Bloc”? As in a collective, alliance or coalition? Doesn’t that put a different slant on the concept? It truly is a unifying condition because, whatever it means, and however it is written, I know one thing for certain. Pretty much all writers, often at unexpected points in their writing lives, will suffer from writers’ block.

Fundamentally though, it doesn’t matter as to the whys and wherefores of the name. What does matter is what it does to us. It can be truly paralysing. Time-wasting.  Annoying.  And frustrating enough to make you want to pack it all in and find yourself a far less demanding pastime or career.

It isn’t necessarily a short-term problem either – or something that happens when you’re sleepy or can’t concentrate because you’re attempting to write on a busy train. It can creep up in an environment of perfect calm. It can pounce when you’re well-rested and have set time to one side for the purpose of writing. It seems to relish planting buckets of self-doubt into your usually fertile and industrious mind.

It can hit before you’ve even set pen to paper, part way through a paragraph, or even when you’re speeding to a piece’s conclusion. One of my most frustrating moments involved my feeble attempts to name a character in a chapter’s final paragraph. It took more than three days to get it right. The silver lining to this particular cloud is that this particular occurrence of block forced me to change my writing technique and routines for the better.

(Incidentally, if you’re the type of writer who needs to complete sentence one to perfection before allowing yourself to move on to sentence two… and if you’re struggling to get something right, just try leaving a gap and moving on. I often make a note and highlight it, for example – ‘This is where they walk across the beach and end up at the Neolithic site’. I almost always come back the following day and shake my head in puzzlement at my previously frozen state.)

The great thing about the universality of this terrible condition is that almost every hobbyist or career writer can identify with how it makes us feel, and how crippling it can be. That means empathy, and it also means community.

So, here are a few bits of advice that all of us could potentially find useful. Some/all may be obvious, but there’s no harm in re-stating the obvious. We’re only human. We forget. And sometimes it is the block itself that loves to sabotage our creativity – by forcing that forgetfulness.

  1. If you always write on your laptop at the kitchen table, try moving the laptop to your bed, or to the sofa, or try attaching a keyboard and monitor and sitting at the desk. Or if you always write on the laptop, get yourself a little notebook, write in longhand and type up later.
  2. With whatever writing tool/s you prefer, get yourself comfortable. Put on the radio and just write down a few lyrics, or make notes of the DJ’s inane drivel. Or put the TV on and extract what you can from whatever you find. I also go through songs inside my head and write alternative lyrics. Often by the end of all this copying and daft wordplay, I’m ready for the more serious stuff.
  3. Take a break, even if you don’t think you need one. It’s a very obvious suggestion, but it does work. Twenty minutes is long enough to get yourself a drink, and to wander round your home giving your eyes and your body a change of scene.
  4. Eat something. Preferably something juicy – like an orange. There’s a good chance that as soon as you get those fingers mucky, your brain will suddenly rebel and switch itself back on again. Pesky things, these brains of ours.
  5. In preparation for potential bouts of block, keep notepads and pencils in every room and jot down abstract thoughts that jump into your head. That way, when you’re struggling for ideas in the future, you can just gather up your notepads and see what you can find. The chances are that if an idea connected with you in the past, it may also mean something in the future.
  6. I’ve had great results from opening a reference book at random and taking some words from that page. Perhaps pretend your character is speaking those words. Not so long ago I used this technique and had my character saying ‘Fear and Loathing in Birmingham? More like Lustful Loathing in Liverpool’. In the end, I didn’t use it in the piece, but it made me smile and was enough to get me going again.
  7. Do some physical exercise. Preferably something that gets the body and soul tingling, and out of breath.
  8. Spend some time with animals or children. I don’t know the proper term for this, but it certainly isn’t a form of ‘dumbing down’. To me it just encourages more of a non-intellectual response to life. It can help simplify what’s going on in your head and in your writing. Perhaps you could put yourself into the same position as the creature? How might two cats converse? What goes on in the mind of a toddler?
  9. Just write – even if it is complete rubbish. You will probably produce unreadable trash for the first few paragraphs or so because your mind isn’t yet in the right place. But it isn’t impossible that some of it may be useable, or even be pure gold. But the important thing is to write without demanding anything of yourself. No perfectionism and no preparation.
  10. Ask a fellow writer to read your work. Supportive writers are the best writers. This isn’t a competition. There’s room for us all, and the more we give, the more we get back. I’m not ashamed to say that some of my best ideas began their lives in the comments of my writing buddies.

I would love to hear your views. We’re all different and we all discover our own solutions to our own specific problems.

So, please comment. Who knows? Your comment may be exactly what a struggling writer-to-be is needing to hear.  And on day, you may be that struggling writer.

More on Wednesday. Please follow, and don’t miss any more writing-related revelry in the future!

“Every puffling is precious.”

http://www.scottmartinproductions.com

Eleanor Duvivier, author of ‘Helios Sphere’ – interview

Eleanor Duvivier is publishing ‘Helios Sphere’ with Scott Martin Productions – due out in mid-2019. She was also a contributor to ‘Survival’ – and the winning competition entrant.

Eleanor Duvivier, author of ‘Helios Sphere’

‘Survival’ is available for purchase here. Special offer £4.49!

Keep an eye on http://www.scottmartinproductions.com for updates on the publication of ‘Helios Sphere’.


Read a pre-publication interview with Eleanor below

Q1: Hi Eleanor, it is so good to have this opportunity to speak to you… First of all, I was wondering where the idea for ‘Helios Sphere’ came from. I know you’ve an interest in running and the classics, but it’s such an unusual story and has been told in such an engaging manner… Perhaps you could let us know the background to the story and how it came to you.

Hi Lesley, thank you for asking! The story of Helios Sphere manifested itself due to a couple of reasons.  Firstly, in 2014 I went to Athens to run the marathon and genuinely stumbled across the artefact itself in the museum that Ben visits.  I love the idea of giving ancient artefacts and mythologies a new spin.  The character of Ben was created during my degree in Classical History and Creative Writing.  Ben and The Sphere seemed to fit so well together, both sons with long lost or unspoken powers trying to make their way in the world. 


Q2: Did you write any of the manuscript while in Greece, or did you perhaps make notes during a holiday, with this story in mind? Did you always know the conclusion to the tale or did the story emerge organically?

I did a bit of both.  I was the first of my group to arrive at Athens, my two friends due to arrive a day late.  I spent the first day prowling the museums and then I sat in the Café of the New Acropolis Museum in which I wrote my thoughts on The Sphere of Helios.  I started writing on the plane home.  A year later I revisited Athens to gather more information for correct scene setting for the Cape. 
I didn’t always know the conclusion and the conclusion changed as the characters grew. 

Q3: Five words that describe you. Five words that describe your writing…

Quirky, creative, aspiring, active, learner.
Evolving write what you know.

Q4: Do you find Greek architecture, statuary and art particularly inspiring?  

I absolutely do!  My mum used to read me stories like the Iliad and the Odyssey as bedtime stories when I was younger.  I grew up loving Greek and Roman history.  I remember being terribly bored in history at secondary school as it all focused modern history.

Q5: I’d love for you to tell me more about what the bombweed means to you. Also heliotrope and poinsettia – why did you choose those plant names for your character families? Does heliotrope have connections with the helios sphere?

Bombweed is a wartime novel by my Great Grandma Margaret Smith which was published by my Great Aunt Gillian Fernandez Morton and Grandmother Maureen Armstrong.  The novel was written in 1947 and published in 2018.  It seems that writing was passed on to the generations of this family and it is an honour to have a book that I’ll be able to put on a shelf next to hers.  Bombweed grew rapidly on bombsites in World War Two.
Poinsettia and Heliotrope are witch family surnames.  Poinsettia was a surname assigned to Ben as I created his signature look.  He enters the book with a Poinsettia flower adorning his waistcoat and the family links itself to the bright colours.  The flower is a star-shape which seemed appropriate to link to a pagan family and I started to write properly during the Christmas period of 2014.  The Poinsettia is a favourite Christmas flower.
Heliotrope is the name given to the Priestess of Helios.  It means ‘Sun’ and ‘to turn’ due to the direction of the flowers growth.  The flower is named after Clytie, an Oceanid scorned by Helios.  It seemed in keeping with her power and ultimate fortunes.

Q5: So, what’s next for you and your writing? Have you got any further works in progress? 

At the moment I’m doing a Masters in Creative Writing with The Open University.  This means there is little time for ‘pleasure’ writing.  There is the beginnings of a second book: Ben finds out his biological history and the true legacy.  But that will have to wait until the Masters allows me the time.  I also discovered another little written about ancient artefact in a museum when I last went away which I would love to write about one day.
Thank you for reading.


Thanks so much for answering our questions. Look forward to seeing what happens to Ben in the next book!

Interview between ‘Bound’ author Hannah Pike and Scott Martin Productions 29/03/2019

Q1: Hi Hannah, good to have this opportunity to speak to you… First of all, I was wondering where the idea for ‘Bound’ came from. Perhaps you could give us a brief precis of the story and why you felt it was a tale that needed telling…

The idea for where ‘Bound’ came from was a bit of a strange one! I was working on the first draft of this novel when I was sixteen and was introduced to the concept from many different TV shows and some films,  but never really knew what it was called.  However,  after a bit of research everything was a lot clearer for me to proceed with writing.
The story follows Emma Winters,  a seventeen-year-old that has had quite a traumatic childhood and always felt like a bit of an outsider.   However,  her life begins to fall apart once again when she is abducted and faces new challenges that she shouldn’t have to face at her age.
I think it’s an important tale to tell mainly because situations like this do happen in real life.  I’ve seen all sorts of things in the news lately about students going missing who were in their early 20s and it is something that’s quite scary to think about!

Q2: How long did it take you to achieve the first draft manuscript? Was it difficult to fit in with all your other commitments?

It took me roughly around one year and three months to complete the first draft.  At the time,  I was attending college studying IT, so it was quite hard to fit in writing and college assignments.  But I did manage to finish all of my work early most of the time,  so I spent the rest of the lessons writing!

Q3: Are any of your fellow students also published authors?!

Not that I’m aware of! Although I do have some budding writers in my friendship group that are absolutely brilliant at writing,  even if they don’t hold that opinion themselves!

Q4: Which other authors do you find inspiring? Other art forms? I, for example, love Pre-Raphaelite paintings, Art Nouveau, true crime programmes, and British comedies from the 50s-80s. Perhaps not a mix that anyone would expect, but all these things make us the people we are.

Tabitha Suzuma is one of my biggest inspirations! She writes some really intriguing novels on controversial themes and mental health.   I remember being introduced to her writing in secondary school by my librarian,  falling in love with it and discovering my writing style along with what type of genre I wanted to be mainly associated with.
Another art form that’s especially important to me are films and media.  I am especially influenced by European and international films,  in particular their uses of colour pallets,  cinematography and some of the storylines! One of my favourite European films is Suspiria by Dario Argento,  mainly because of the gorgeous and vivid colours!

Q5: Five words that describe you. Five words that describe your writing…

Five words that describe me would be:   Optimistic,  Perseverant,  Ambitious,  Driven and Eccentric!
Five words that describe my writing:  Unconventional,  Thrilling,  Gripping,  Descriptive and Emotional

Q5: So, what’s next for Hannah Pike and her writing? Have you got any further works in progress?

I am working on something new at the moment,  another tale of forbidden love but with a fusion of genres….

Thanks so much for your time, Hannah. Let’s talk again soon…

Rainhill Nursing Hospital Student Magazine from Spring 1968!!

This is amazing, and a true blast from the past. Take a look at magazine number 1 of a Rainhill Hospital nursing students’ magazine dated from spring 1968. Our featured author, Peter McGeehan was heavily involved in putting together this little piece of history. Click on the front cover to be taken to Peter’s featured page, and you’ll find a gallery of the entire magazine at the bottom of the page!

Click on the link to open on the Scott Martin Productions website – in a new tab. Scroll to the bottom of Peter’s page for the whole magazine. I LOVE IT!

Review of ‘Moving Times’ by Phoenix Writers

‘Moving Times’ is a book put together to celebrate the decade-long existence of the Phoenix Writers group, from Horwich Lancashire, and the contributors should be highly proud of what they’ve achieved.  

The first thing you notice is that it is a very attractive book with a simple but well-designed and effective cover. This really does the contents justice, which is something not achieved by all small press and writing group books.

As a member of three/four writing groups, I really do identify with the sentiments expressed in the book’s foreword – ‘What moves you, gets you out of bed in the morning, drives you to action? For us on a Thursday, it’s Phoenix Writers. We meet as friends, share ideas and get support and inspiration’. Yes, that’s what a strong and healthy writing group does for the usually lone creative. Such a group provides a stable and caring home for people who, by the nature of their pastime, can feel rootless and isolated. Phoenix is clearly a great base for many thoughtful and interesting writers.

This book contains just over 100 pages of stories, poetry and thoughts, and style/content-wise, there really is something for everyone. When reading a book of this type, I always begin with the poetry.

Ann Lawson’s ‘Iambic Tetrameter Rules, Okay?’ is a clever and amusing poem about the frustrations of forcing your creativity into a restrictive art form, and am sure the sentiments expressed will resonate with most poets.  With a completely different feel, ‘S is for Sharing’ is a short and life-affirming verse by Tony Nolan about all the positives in the world. This joy in living can be in short supply at times, so it’s pleasant to read regular reminders. In a similar vein, Joy Pope’s poem titled ‘Horwich Times’ made me proud to have connections with the town, and even more keen to produce my own book about Horwich – ‘a town of bustling resilience’. Kathleen Proctor’s poem, ‘Alexander, My Grandson’ is the most beautiful recollection of love for a grandchild who is ‘snuggling, nuzzling’ and ‘Chubby, chunky, comfortable’. Jeanne Waddington’s poem ‘The Contrariness of Young Love’ is about insurmountable contrasts between a young couple. It’s a regular enough subject, but the style lends it originality – ‘She’s a summer’s evening, he’s a cloudy day.’

The stories are also lovely to read and insightful. Bernie Jordan’s story ‘Time Moves’ begins this collection with a vivid recollection of a moment in the life of a crane and a railway bridge at Lostock station. 

‘Turning Left,’ Janet Lewison’s unpretentiously written tale, immediately drew me in with its endearing dialogue about a woman who ends up in a hired home that comes with its own snazzy car. She is changing her life, and the Cobra she now drives provides its own form of liberation.

‘Newfoundland’ by Elaine Hamilton is a short but lovely tale of boats, and it really conjured up a misty and weird atmosphere.

‘Going to Waste’ (by Dotty Snelson) is one of the longer pieces in the book, about recycling, hoarding, skip-diving and the make-do-and-mend ideology of a man, Gordon, his wife Sheila, and their personal tragedy. I really enjoyed this touching story.  

Barbara Oldham’s story ‘Stolen Bikes’ was about that very subject – or was it? Reading it, you really get a feel for the woman behind this very witty monologue.

Terence Park’s story ‘Wild Mouse’ tells the story of Mags and Rebecca on a day out at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. They take in all the pleasures and try to defer their ride on the ‘Wild Mouse’. The characters leapt from the page, especially their dialogue.

‘What the Spider Said’ by Phil Chrimes is an insightful tale of a conversation between Boris, a spider, and Humphrey. Their conversation is simple and so endearing. Pam Hunter provides another spider-related piece of writing as she relates the tale of ‘Little Miss Muffet’ and gives the reader the story behind it. There’s a lot to learn from how fairy tales and nursery rhymes come about.

Alan Gibbs’ piece ‘It Started Well and Just Got Better’ is about a campervan trip to Mull to view white-tailed eagles. This gorgeous personal recollection was good to read and really encourages the reader to visit this area of the world.

Lastly. Margaret Halliday’s piece, ‘My Home is in India’ did bring a tear to my eye. Margaret passed away in March 2019, and also attending ‘Write You Are’ – another Horwich-based writing group of which I am a member. I knew Margaret’s writings well, and this appreciation of her life in India was Margaret to the core, and a lovely, though unintentional tribute to her.

Thanks, Phoenix, for this book. Greatly enjoyed!