GUINNESS

–It’s Welsh.

— It is?

— What is?

— It’s Irish. Obviously.

— Most people think it’s Irish. The man who’s famous for creating it –

— was Irish

— was Irish, right but was actually travelling from Wales to Ireland when he

[SOUND OF A CAMERA SHUTTER]

— Guinness. We’re talking about Guinness?

— he came across a nice little Welsh pub.

— nahh

— it’s a well known fact. Loved the drink so much he asked for the recipe.

Pause. 

bought the recipe and took it with him to Ireland.

— I don’t believe it.

— It’s a well known fact.

— I like real Irish beer. I want to go back to that place that did the free pint. the two pints for the price of one deal

— paddy’s lock

— yeah that one but i want to go with people who don’t like beer so i can get all their free ones. like rich does.

— rich does that?

— yeah he goes around the pub asking people for their spare pints when they don’t drink them

— nutter

— and he just says can i have that pint –

— and they let him/have it

— they let him have it!

Beat 

— what was that place in brighton? they did American shakes kinda thing…

— can’t remember

— it was nice there/wasn’t it?

— really nice

— how long till we’re

— 20 minutes

— home

— no less than that. if we’re…no less than that…10 minutes i’d say

— got your purse?

[SOUND OF A CAMERA SHUTTER]

— reckon the barriers are open

— we could jump the barriers. jump em and see if the police come running after us

— i’ve actually done that before

Beat.

— in paris. with fifty kids. cause we were on the wrong er

— you didnt!

— the wrong er

Laughter. 

— we got the wrong tunnel

— its illegal

— no its not. its ingenuity. resourcefulness.

— listen to her – it’s illegal

— not as illegal as telling fifty kids to jump a barrier so they could see the Louvre

— in paris!

— paris!

— only me

beat.

— we didnt see the Louvre

— anyway, youre the criminal

— me

— yeah

— me

— yeah

— wheres my wallet

— honestly i reckon its…

— yeah but just in case

— …open

— hang on. me? criminal?

— yeah. you. the true criminal.

— what on earth for?!

— for saying its Welsh, duh.

8 Things to Look for in a Writing Mentor

I have a confession to make: I have never actively sought out a writing mentor. So what – I’m sure you’re thinking – am I doing writing a post advising others on writing mentors?

Well somehow, I have been blessed enough to have some great people in my life who, once I reflect upon it, are not only friends & inspirations but are actively my mentors. We’ve never sat down and had The Mentor-Mentee conversation. I’ve never specifically asked them to be my mentors, which seems counter intuitive to all the advice out there. I remember reading an article when I was younger which encouraged you to ring up an author you admired and straight out ask them. My fourteen year old self had dreams of an hour long conflab with Anthony Horowitz on the phone (landline of course – back in the day mobile data was EX-PEN-SIVE).

But honestly, I never asked anybody to be my mentor. I didn’t intend for it to happen but I’m glad it has. And anyway,  this isn’t a post on how to FIND a writing mentor (although if you’re interested, I could do a post on that); but rather a post on the key qualities you should look for in one.

First of all, let’s start with a definition of the word “mentor” shall we? This will help us to decide upon the qualities one should have.

“A wise or trusted adviser or guide” who…“gives a younger or less experienced person help and advice over a period of time.” (Source: A mash-up between dictionary.com & Cambridge dictionary)

When we put it like that, the definition of mentor in itself is not too complicated. I always thought it was. “Mentor” was this weighted word which conjured up images of Yoda or Master from Kung Fu Panda. How was I ever going to find that type of relationship? But when I looked at what a mentor truly is, it became easy to understand that I already had these figures in my life.

But whilst the definition of “mentor” is seemingly straightforward, the role itself is not. Here are some things to look out for…

 

  1. YOU ADMIRE THEM

Yep. The first step is on YOU. Sorry buddy. I know this seems obvious but it’s not. Why? Because as a young writer (or even an experienced writer seeking advice in a particular area/looking to venture into something new) it can be tempting to want advice from someone super famous just for the sake of it. But I don’t think this is a great idea. Refer to the above definition. A mentor is your guide. This means, for good or bad, you will inevitably follow in their footsteps – at least a little bit. So if they are not somebody you look up to, somebody whose work you respect and admire, then this is going to be an issue down the line.  I’m not saying you have to work in the exact same genres or move in identical circles  however, you should be able to genuinely enjoy their work, respect their advice and respect them as a person…otherwise what can you truly learn from them? And why put yourself in their hands if you don’t trust them and their work anyway?

 

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  1. THEY “GET” YOUR WORK

Even though you may not work in the exact same circles as your mentor, you’ve got to make sure that they “get” your work. By this I mean your mentor should understand what you are doing (or trying to do) regardless of their own personal preferences. If you write horror fiction and your mentor never reads horror, can’t understand your intentions and constantly advises you to write something ‘more light-hearted’ then evidently she/he is not the mentor for you. However, if you write horror and your mentor’s favourite genre is romance, yet they can still articulate what exactly is working in your writing and why, then I personally see no reason why this can’t be a set up for a successful mentor-mentee relationship.

 A good mentor shouldn’t enforce their preference – rather they should respect your goals and help you work towards them. Your work should be the starting point for their criticism. Look out for people who “get” it.

I once wrote the opening to a crime novel. Being heavily inspired by Karin Slaughter, I knew I wanted my book to have a really entertaining plotline but also very in-depth character development and truthful relationships. I sat down and thought, ‘Okay girl, your goal is to somehow show all the relationships between these characters within the first two chapters WITHOUT negatively impacting the pacing. Somehow the gruesome murders need to happen alongside stunning character development. Even if no one picks up on that, that’s YOUR personal goal.’

So that’s what I worked towards. And when I received my feedback and mark for the story, my tutor at the time had written something along the lines of:

“You’ve done a great job of maintaining the needed pace of a crime novel whilst developing all the characters and letting us understand their relationships.”

I remember being quite shocked – at no point did I think that was something anybody would notice; it was simply a personal goal. But it felt really nice that someone had noticed.

I remember sitting and thinking, “Okay so…he gets it.”

 

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  1. THEY GENUINELY WANT YOU TO SUCCEED

So the writers who I look up to/have and are helping me out in terms of my writing are people who genuinely and I quote, want me “to succeed.” You don’t need them to verbally express this or get their well wishes in writing;  it should be evident in the way they act around you and the sort of things they offer to help you out with.

There’s a little girl who I mentor. She’s amazing and I CANNOT express how much I love that kid and will help her to succeed. I offer to read so much of her work & point her to new authors. I am so happy about all her achievements!

I recently met with this amazing playwright who, without me asking, told me to send her my writing and any applications to competitions I might be considering; in other words, she was invested in my work and wanted to actually help me achieve my goals.

I have another mentor who read about five drafts of my Masters application, helped me out by writing my reference, and even invited me round to her place for a cup of tea and a chat about my future. She also points me to people who can help me out and offers advice and a listening ear. You just don’t do that if you’re not an amazing person who cares about the mentee’s future.

(This goes both ways, I should add. You should be so completely 100% invested in your mentor, which shouldn’t be difficult if you’ve already nailed point number one. I once had a mentor tentatively ask if I would edit his book for him. He was tentative because he knew I was super busy. But OF COURSE I was super happy to do it. It should work both ways when possible!)

tenor

  1. THEY CONSIDER YOU WHEN THEY DON’T HAVE TO

I have a super nice mentor who sends me links to writing competitions which I qualify for. Often times, I didn’t even know that the competition existed. He doesn’t have to do that. Not only is that nice but that’s like…awesome mentor material right there (y)
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  1. THEY CAN ARTICULATE WHAT ISN’T WORKING

Sometimes when I’m writing I can sense something is wrong even if I don’t quite know what it is yet. I once approached my old lecturer with my play and explained to her what it was about. Without even reading it herself, within ten minutes she had NAILED exactly what my issues with it were. (HOW?! I kid you not when I say that all I did was very vaguely explain the plot).

In other words, you’re looking for intelligence, understanding, patience and articulation.

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  1. THEY HAVE EXPERIENCE IN THE DEPARTMENTS YOU DON’T

This step also requires *you* because if, unlike me, you are going out to find a mentor INTENTIONALLY, I reckon this is pretty important: decide what exactly you need from a mentor. Make sense? Do you suck at character description? Well then get somebody who is awesome at character description. Do you suck at marketing? Well find someone who is so good at it their middle name might as well be “Brand.” Is your only goal to be published? Well then, you should probably find somebody who has been through the process of getting published.

People on your level are not mentors – they are buddies. Writing buddies. Which are great. But again, look at the definition of mentor and you will see that “experience” is a necessary part of it. So make sure they have experience in the departments YOU personally want to learn more about.

TJMAA2t

  1. THEY KNOW WHEN TO PUSH YOU

So I like to think of myself as a pretty hardworking person but there have been LOADS of times where I have simply slacked off when it comes to writing. I remember once moaning to someone I now consider to be my mentor and excusing my lack of writing by saying, “What I’ve written isn’t good enough to hand in to you yet. It just isn’t.”

I think I was lowkey expecting some sort of sympathy.

I kid you not, this guy just looked at me, all deadpan and went:

“Then make it good.”

It’s a good job he said that too. It was a kind of “tough love” statement that kicked me into the right gear and I finally finished that work I had been procrastinated for weeks in just a couple of days.

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BONUS;

  1. THEY IMPROVE YOU AS A PERSON

I guess they don’t have to do this but if you find someone who improves you PERSONALLY, then that’s awesome. Example?

I once had a teacher tell me I was far too shy about my faith and that I should own it. (I had written a book which was, for all intents and purposes, a Biblical allegory). Not only was it really cool to have somebody who – as far as I was aware – was non-religious, tell me to be proud of my Christianity, but this comment fundamentally changed how I approach my writing and improved my own confidence and artistic practice as a whole. And of course, this wasn’t a comment on style, structure or even the story itself. However I needed to hear that and it ended up being such an integral comment to my practice.

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So that’s it. Let me know if you have any questions xx

My Favourite Writing Quotes

As I sit here feeling ever so slightly under the weather, I thought it might be nice to inject some positivity/motivation into my surroundings. And fortunately, I can do so from my bed (the joys of the internet) 😉 Here are some of my favourite writing quotes. I hope you find them as encouraging as I do…

  1. You can’t edit a blank page – Jodi Picoult

This is number one for it’s sheer brilliance. Every time one of my friends shares their writing woes with me (from insecurity to plot struggles or just general frustration) I refer them back to this quote. I know, it’s so simple that the pure genius behind this mantra might not resonate yet. Take a moment and let the message permeate you

As writers, we must finish our work because the work will never be any good until we finish it. People procrastinate work (myself included) because they’re scared the finished product won’t be any good or the time it’ll take to refine is too long.

But the time is going to pass anyway.

2. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better – Anne Lamott

Well, it’s true…

3. Don’t tell me the moon is shining – show me the glint of light on broken glass – Chekhov

These words are  moonlight – both illuminating and beautiful. Chekhov doesn’t simply state ‘show don’t tell’ and leave it at that. He shows us just how it’s done.

  1. No man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. ~CS Lewis.

I like this because it’s a real reminder to stay HONEST with yourself. This also removes the pressure of having to be original as well as the pressure of trying. Here we are encouraged to just be

  1. Know that the Creator lives and moves and breathes within you. So those dreams? Risk them. Those words? Write them. Those hopes? Believe them. ~Elora Nicole Ramirez

Words are powerful. With words, God spoke creation into being. God loves art and therefore so do you. Never waste love.

6. I find that discussing an idea out loud is often the way to kill it stone dead. –  J.K. Rowling 

I’ve never agreed with anything more. In the age of social media I think it’s so tempting to post every little thing we’re engaged in but as Rowling has said – why kill ideas stone dead?

7. Write with the door closed – rewrite with the door open – Stephen King

Always helpful to be reminded of how to write and edit a book- you know, the fundamental part of authorship.

8. ‘I want to be a writer when I grow up. Am I insane? ‘Yes. Growing up is highly overrated. Just be an author instead’ – Neil Gaiman

INSERT ALL THE CLAPPING EMOJIs. This is great and I think every child should hear it.

9. ‘Be ruthless about protecting writing days’ – J.K. Rowling

You can shut yourself away from the world and focus on your passions. J.K.  Rowling says so.

10. Unless the lion learns to write, every story will glorify the hunter – African proverb 

Let’s tell our stories and our realities.

11. Writing is the best way to talk uninterrupted – Jules Renard 

I remember the first time I read this quote and I felt so…ENGLIGHTENED and INSPIRED and felt the need to write there and then. I hope this quote fills you with the same reminder of the sense of utter freedom that comes with writing.

12. Either write something worth doing or do something worth writing – Benjamin Franklin

Ironically, a great quote about writing tells you to just go outside, ignore writing, and LIVE for a little.

I like (Y)

 

 

So that’s it! Which ones do you like with/disagree with? 🙂 Any I should add to the list? Let me know!

Nikki

x

Seek | Spoken Word

I’m beginning to treat every day like a child,

To wake up with a sense of utmost curiosity,

To see rain not as a curse

But as liquid manna pouring from the heavens

To have that childlike trust in my Father

And sleep as He takes the wheel,

As my brother slept on the ship during the storm,

To be curious and bold and true

To weave stories in the palm of my hand

To be an unabashed chatterbox who can talk her way from Birmingham to London

At just six years old (true story)

To not ask ‘How do I look?’ before leaving the house

Because I already know I look good

To let others take away the pain without the guilt attached

To have no limit to my dreams

To never wonder whether my opinion counts

To never wonder whether my feelings are real

To never wonder whether war and death are allowed

To spend hour upon hour sprawled amongst sheets of paper

Scribbling not for money but for joy

To know that the most important thing

Will always be joy

To not be nostalgic because

Ain’t nobody got time for that

To seek and stay and yearn and be perfectly content.

To be okay with grey days because indoor play is the ISH

And tomorrow will be a better day anyway

To open up more

Because betrayal only lasts as long as a graze to the knee

And we have unicorn plasters, wet paper towels, and kisses.

I’m beginning to treat every day like a child

To teach people how to treat me

To only hang out with those who make my heart soar

To make my own heart soar

higher than when I’m on the swings and Dad pushes me too hard for a laugh and I think I’ll do a loop-de-loop over the bars at the top and I scream

And ice-cream never tasted better

than it does today

because it was never about the treat

but the moment.

My brother eats his so slowly it melts

and time melts when we allow it.

I’m beginning to treat every day like a child who speaks loudly about right and wrong

A child who sings aloud because she has yet to be categorised into

Alto, Tenor, Soprano

Who laughs aloud

Because she hasn’t been taught political correctness

And who wears what she wants

Because fashion only exists in magazines she doesn’t have enough pocket money to buy

I’m beginning to treat every day like a child

Because I am His child.20170330_142054[1]

The strangest reading slump ever aka the war on narrative

This is a cry for help. I am having the weirdest (non) reading slump I’ve ever experienced in my life.

If you don’t know what a reading slump is, it is basically a phase in life where you no longer feel like reading.  You start a book and can’t seem to finish it. A reading slump is ruthless. It can last for months, or if you let it, years. It doesn’t care whether the book is excellent. It seeks…restlessness and anarchy! For an avid reader, reading slumps are annoying/stressful. (I went into a year-long reading slump during my undergrad, which was a bit awkward seeing as I was doing a BA in Creative Writing).

The trick is usually to keep on trying to read, and reading different things. If you usually read YA Fantasy, switch it up to a contemporary romance, or a crime novel, etc. It excites your brain which very often just wants variety.

Since January, I’ve been feeling very apathetic about the books I was reading. They weren’t awful, don’t get me wrong, but they just weren’t holding my attention. I tried to read a variety, but everything just annoyed me. Irrationally even angered me. I had no idea what I liked to read any more, no genre to comfortably slot into, and that scared (and kind of still does scare) me.

And then my friend loaned me a copy of Optic Nerve by Catherine Walsh. And then I began thinking about House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski, and then I began reading more and more books on racial history for my MA and then the nail hit (the pin dropped/insert random maxim here)

I bloody hate narrative.

I am going through the WEIRDEST reading phase whereby I cannot STAND narrative. Who cares about carefully constructed plots? Slaved over characters? Neatly pigeonholed themes? Solutions wrapped and tied up with a nauseating bow?

Not me.

Give me drama, give me despair, but let me think. Or don’t let me think. It’s all the same.

Which is why this is so strange. It’s not a reading slump per se, because I can and do want to read. But it feels like a reading slump because it’s characterised by me looking at 98% of the books on my shelf and thinking “ughhhh” regardless of it’s artistic merit.

Optic Nerve by Catherine Walsh is an epic poem. The words seem randomly jumbled together (and at points, are):

High wide

hand

            understand

away

          ancient gardens

wake up

                happening

Head full of

       immensities

world small

again

expansive

stretchy

 encompassing

 

sketchy

      life

 

But I love this. My brain didn’t have to think – and you know what? It didn’t want to. I enjoyed reading words for words’ sake. Letting the rhythm, and sometimes non rhythm, of the words wash over me, soothe my narrative-tired brain, and allowing me to take in words for nothing more or less than what they are. This poetry book has made me think more deeply about issues than other narrative-based books. I can’t even tell you what it is about, but I can tell you what it made me think about at certain points.

Words in any sort of logical, chronological format are really annoying. Too traditional. NEXT.

It’s so much more interesting and stimulating to have words splashed all over the page, sporadic, interrupted by an “incorrect” use of grammar. Total linguistic anarchic feast for the eyes and the mind and your soul.

I am aware, by the way, that I’m becoming that sort of weird arts enthusiast who walks into an abstract expressionist exhibition and claims to find depth in a blank sheet of paper with a single ink drop on it, but hey, someone’s gotta be that girl.

Also, let’s talk about cultural theory and non-fiction in general. This is so much more interesting than anything else at the moment. I think the reason I’m enjoying reading so much theory at the moment is because

  1. It’s fascinating. So many theories. So much knowledge out there. I’m hungry for it
  2. These non-fiction books aren’t telling me a story and I really appreciate that.

This is very much at odds with what I do as a writer. I love to write fiction. I LOVE creating a narrative. As a writer, I love and appreciate narrative so much. It’s not only my interest but my skill and my passion.

Which is why this is the weirdest reading slump ever. I’m enjoying it but I’m also wary of the fact that I need to be careful and not let this last for a year. I should, as a writer, be reading fiction too!

But then this takes us back to House of Leaves by Danielewski, which I CANNOT wait to finish reading. (I had to place it on the backburner due to being busy) but it’s fiction in a way that won’t annoy me because not only is the story so unique, but it is an example of ERGODIC literature, in which the information is presented in a unique and totally mind-boggling format, making you question your idea of what a novel can and can’t be.

I end this totally ironically sporadic blogpost with a recommendation: Everyone should read House of Leaves. Everyone.

:’)

You are Precious

Yesterday I worshipped the Lord God Almighty. I was listening to a song whose lyrics state “I sing for joy at the works of your hands”. (Shout to the Lord – Chris TomlinMy heart was filled with such joy as I raised my hands and considered the works of His hands – I thought about the beauty of nature, the miracle of trees and birds and our planet. And then suddenly God’s voice told me, “You are the work of my hands.”

That hit me. That was something else. When I listen to music praising God’s creation, I often think of nature, of the miracle of our solar system, of the grass, of mountain peaks and valleys. But God reminded me that am His creation. And if I am His creation, then I am Precious. There is no shame in singing for joy because I exist.

After this, I read Psalm 49, the title of which in my Bible was “Trusting Money is Foolish.” I therefore was expecting to read a Psalm all about loving God, rather than money. And while this Psalm had a message for both the rich and the poor, verse 7 says,

‘No one can buy back the life of another.

No one can pay God for his own life,

because the price of a life is high.

No payment is ever enough.’

Again, this really opened my ees. No one can buy back the life of another? Really?! Yes, because our lives are worth more than one hundred trillion pounds or dollars. Our lives are worth more than any amount of money. The cynical part of me kicked in. How could this be true? How could this flesh and bone be worth more than all the gold in the world? Of course, it sounds nice to think of a human as worth more than all the money in the world, but how true is that?

As I sat and pondered about how that could possibly ever be trrue, God encouraged me to break down the verse a little. I am precious, yes. But more precious than a million pounds? Okay, but how?

‘What are you?’ God asked me.

‘Made by you,’ I replied.

‘What is money?’ God asked me.

‘Made by men,’ I realised.

And that’s when it hit me. We are more precious than money in God’s eyes, because we are more precious than anything man-made. We are not man-made, we are God-made and God sees us as precious. And if the maker of the universe sees us as such, then we are.

Believe you are precious. So precious the God of the world loves you and wants to know you.

You are precious.

 

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=shout+to+the+Lord+