June 22, 2011

Alchemy Class

The other day, someone I know was all stressed out and said, "Give me some advice, Bob."

I thought for a bit and the best think I could come up with at time was "What's going on in your head right now probably isn't the reality, and it's even more likely that the person you're stressing about isn't seeing the situation the same way. Just ride the wave."

Flash forward to tonight, when in my fortnightly alchemy writing workshop the one where magic happened 2 weeks ago. This week we're basing our work on Sentimental, Heartbroken Rednecks (which I highly recommend).

We were asked write a new 'confessional' story for 20 minutes on a new 'confession', using a theme the instructor pulled out of one of three 'confessions' homework pieces we'd read before. He's a big fan of writing down the personal, and then finding ways to fictionalize it and make better stories out of the raw material. He's very good at it.

Mine was 'set up a situation and have it go somewhere unexpected.' So I started driveling on about a romantic situation that had gone, as the Brits would say, "pear shaped." The whole time I was writing it, I was thinking "this is so obvious, everyone will see where it's going. There's no drama, there's no surprise."

Basically, it was self-indulgent poor me, poor me, pour me another rubbish. If I was home I'd have crumpled it up and tossed it in the bin.

But then, of course, you're in class and there are no bins. You have to read it aloud.

None of them saw the ending coming, especially in the context of the first piece. And they picked up connections of imagery that I wasn't even aware of, but once pointed out are subtle but strong.

Just goes to show ...

"What's going on in your head right now probably isn't the reality, and it's even more likely that the person you're stressing about isn't seeing the situation the same way. Just ride the wave."

A nice little life lesson (maybe I should listen to my own advice sometimes), and some germs for new stories (that are old to me, but might be new to a reader).

Who'd have thought?

I've enrolled for the next session. Six more books I've never read over 12 weeks starting in September. And lots more magic, with cake, making something out of nothing.

June 8, 2011

Magic To Do

I sat around someone's dining room table this evening and watched magic happen.

Six people, eating (delicious, homemade) cake and drinking tea, making up stories out of pretty much thin air. Yes, there were prompts. Yes, there was discussion. Oh, and did I mention cake? But in a very short three hours (time flies) I witnessed half a dozen people create the foundations of six very credible stories (some could be short, some could be novels, some could be films), creating amazingly interesting characters in compelling situations which didn't exist when we sat down at the table.

And the most magical thing? After two days of a crap mood and another sign from the universe that it's probably time to make a work change, all I want to do is sit here and write (alas I have other work to do). Maybe it was the cake. Maybe it was the company. Maybe it was sharing more than a few laughs and watching, nay being a part of, creativity spawn creativity for the sake of nothing except making something new.

June 1, 2011

Out of the (music) loop

Started teaching a new online class that went live this morning. One of the icebreaker tasks is to post your top five anything.

One of the students posted her top five albums:

1. Pink Martini: Hang on Little Tomato - an eclectic mix of music from various countries and a stunning line-up of musicians lead by China Forbes (their other albums are just as good)

2. Mr McFall's Chamber: Like the Milk - I used to go and watch this group in my student days in Edinburgh. They're classical musicians from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra who get together with undiscovered local people to create fantastic music. The lead singer on this particular album is a guy that used to help cart all the instruments around (including piano) during concerts.

3. Farinelli: Il Castrato - not as painful as it sounds, if you like opera that is. It's a 1990's soundtrack to the film of the same name.

4. Benabar: Bon anniversaire - I'm trying to improve my French at the moment and I love the quirky and amusing lyrics on his latest album.

5. Eddi Reader: the Songs of Robert Burns - I first heard this in a local shop and immediately fell in love with Eddi's voice. Some good old favourites, like 'Charlie is my Darling', but with a twist!

I don't know any of these (and contrary to popular belief, I listen to more than rock-chick pop* and showtunes**) am I old or just out of the loop. Heading to Spotify shortly to get some edumacation.


* Hi P!ink! Hi Kelly! No thanks, GaGa.
** Book of Mormon on HEAVYYYYYYYY rotation right now, but only because I've seen it you're not allowed to ruin the show by listening before you go to watch it live.