Scenes from a park bench.

Yesterday was the first decent day in Glasgow this spring. Now, I sit on a park bench in Queens Park watching the world pass me by in its time honoured fashion.
The gulls and pigeons swarm about, using mob tactics to get what they want while a duck sits on a nest, barely big enough to fit her, in the southern end of the pond. Three men walk by, oblivious to the world around them or where they are putting their feet as they are transfixed by the phones in their hands. They might as well have stayed in bed for all the attention they are paying to their surroundings.
I watch a lady in tight blue leggings (there is probably a fancy name for them that justifies their over inflated price tag), she is going about her exercises with step ups, side steps, squats and all sorts. I am diverted momentarily to look down at my notes and when I look up she has disappeared. Gone, not there. Vanished.
A father and a toddler approach slowly, their pace dictated by the little one who looks like she is only a week or so into walking. Her smile at her achievement is obvious. Just then, Mr Fit blazes past with an ease that I find disturbing given my own limitations. In but a few seconds he is a distance away.
An elderly person approaches, using their cane to aid them in their walk. They whistle a tune as they pass me, but given the coat, hat and scarf they wear, I am not sure which gender they are, or whether it really matters.
Most of those walking around the pond are on ones and twos. A lady in a shocking red jacket, dog walkers a plenty and a young couple who walk for thirty paces before turning back to sit on a bench opposite me with their coffee in hand.
Another couple of couples converge near me and then I spot the man feeding the pigeons. There must be fifty of the flying vermin at his feet, then, bag empty he turns and walks away, swinging the bag as he goes. A cloud of pigeons rises from the ground and scatters.
Someone on a bike with a full jacket sized high viz vest scoots by in a whirl of wheels.
I look up again to find the coffee couple have disappeared, right at the same spot where blue leggings lady vanished too. Maybe there’s a portal there to another world or the watchers have beamed them up as good breeding stock. It makes me curious and that, for me as a writer, is where the magic begins.
I’d best be going, I have a webinar to watch in a couple of hours’ time and lunch to fix before that, so, my fellow writers, keep watching, observing and keep writing.

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A poem about my Asperger’s Syndrome given at the Sudden Fame event in Glasgow, 2018.

Andrew Marsh at the Sudden Fame event 2018

Last night I gave a reading of some of my poems at the Sudden Fame event in the Mitchell Library as part of the AyeWrite! festival in Glasgow, 2018.

It was a fascinating evening, listening to such talented poets and storytellers sharing their work with the audience.

I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when i was 51 and this poem is a reflective look back for me as a child.

Are you that someone?

What do I have to do to make them believe?
I am not playing up or trying to deceive.
All I want is for my voice to be heard
A confused little boy with only his word.

I’ve had pains and problems most of my life
Living in that house was just such a strife.
No one believed when I said I’m not fine
“Oh, just shut up boy and please toe the line.”

In our family they always would say
When we were together and I was at play.
They said, “Sit, down, shut up and be quiet, boy”
“Why don’t you just go and play with your toy.”

Imaging the pain and hurt that they caused
Year after year it was just reinforced.
With everyone around I was alone in the house
Trying to be as quiet as a mouse.

Now I know why I behaved as I did
And not just because I was the last little kid.
I have Asperger’s Syndrome and all it entails
The tears, the pain and sometimes the wails.

So next time you see a kid playing up
Don’t just assume he’s a bad little pup.
It may just be he’s not like the rest
And really trying not to be such a pest.

He may be different and need someone to care
For someone to listen and try to be there.
He has so much to give, so much to become
Go on, tell me, “Are you that someone?”

Thanks to Janet Crawford from the Federation of Writers Scotland for the photograph.

 

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A writer’s inspiration with a difference.

britany sept 08 042 (2) - Copy

As a writer I am often asked where I get my inspiration from. The answer is everywhere and everything. I use my senses to see, hear, feel, smell and touch what is going on around me and my imagination does the rest. When out and about I pay attention to the big and the small. How are people behaving as a group and are there people in that group who are not in tune with it? Why?
Are people holding hands but their faces tell a different story? Watching what animals and pets do is a great source of material. They done have agenda’s like humans, their needs and wants are much more primal; food, shelter, play, companionship.
One of the things that I have discovered relatively recently is that I have Asperger’s Syndrome. My brain is wired differently from most and that makes me think about how you, the neurotypical see and imagine things. For me, my brains is never turned off, it doesn’t have an off switch and is constantly active. It is as though I am seeing a thousand television screens in some kind of panorama around me and at any moment; one, five, twenty of them will surge towards me filling my head with the images being displayed.
It if often overwhelming and it can take a great deal of discipline to turn those away that I do not want or like. But, on the other hand, those images are so full of their story that to connect to one of them for a short while can be truly enlightening.
When I get an idea, I write it down. What happens next can be exhilarating. I start with that basic idea, one or two sentences. But when I start writing, that one or two sentences becomes a few paragraphs. My brain is going so fast I can’t keep up typing. It is as though the door to the room of inspiration has been opened and the floodgates let loose a deluge of wonder.
It keeps on growing and soon I will have several pages of notes with a plot outline, the basic premise of the story, the key people and maybe some important dialogue. It just keeps on coming.
At this point I am not interested in spelling, grammar, sentence structure or anything other than getting the bones down on paper. It can be tidied up later, and is. That re-visit then becomes a pick up point and more ideas flow.
The “trouble” with this is that I have so many stories “started” in this way that I have trouble keeping up and writing them. I had an inkling to re-visit one such draft outline yesterday and was amazed how rich the story was. I know the story is growing and developing in my head, along with many others, so for me, finding and idea to create a story is easy. The “hard” part is prioritising which story I should give my attention to.
A nice problem to have, wouldn’t you say.

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Scenes from a coffee shop part 8

Feeling a bit stir crazy at home this morning I decided to go for a walk. It turned out to be quite eventful. The main street was mobbed with people, many more than is usual for a Saturday morning and a lot of them men. Then I found out why.

I walked passed a throng of men smoking outside a pub and overheard them talking about “The Football.” In Glasgow that can only mean one thing, Rangers v Celtic and kick off was in less than half an hour at noon.

I can certainly pick’em.

So, with some business in the Post Office to take care of, this took a while with a queue of twelve people, I evaded the masses as best I could and found a coffee shop. My ‘usual’ was stowed out, with people queueing out of the door and blocking the pavement, so I chose another I occasionally visit.

And here I sit, with the white blouse and coffee and cake brigade all around me I laugh inwardly when a man asks for brown sauce with his food only to be given tomato. If only the problems of the world were as trivial as that.

A very loud talkative lady in denim comes in with an older man, her father perhaps, maybe/maybe not. On reflection after a few moments I would say not, but then, the world is a curious place these days.

I look around and survey the scene. A couple of ladies are peering over a mobile phone, another ‘couple’ are looking past each other and I realise that denim lady may not be as young as I thought, or maybe she is. I can’t tell without appearing to stare, I decline.

Elsewhere, a mother nurses her child and another ‘couple’ are sitting as far away from each other on a large leather sofa as is possible. Their conversation is low and limited.

Well, I’d better go before the half time rush for a rag blocks the streets, until next time.

Keep writing…

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The value of community for writers.

Writers know that writing is for the most part a solitary occupation. There we sit, in our den, office, shed or wherever doing the hard yards, knocking out the words. Line by line, paragraph by paragraph, page by page and chapter by chapter. Then there are the edits, revisions and a whole plethora of activities that draw the process out to the limits of elasticity until at some point, the end means the end.

Book drafted, beta read, copy edited, formatted, printed off and stored in a folder somewhere close to the workspace. The data has been backed up and all that can be done is done, even the dreaded synopsis and blurb.

But still, the writer stands alone. From my experience, with the exception of brief contact through e-mail or some other kind of digital communication to beta readers etc, the whole process has been undertaken without the contact of another soul.

This is why the writer must venture out into the big wide world and make contact with people, situations and nature. Not only will it start to fill up that resource pool of ideas for future work, but it will also make the writer feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves.

It is important that a writer feels “needed,” even if that is just being amongst other writers at writers groups or conferences and so on. Understanding that the process that they have just gone through for perhaps 6 or 9 months is also one that others have been through somehow makes the writer feel part of something bigger than just their work. In doing so, it is likely that someone will share an experience that helps the writer for future projects.

Like many things in the world, being part of an understanding and supportive community is at the heart of who we are and what we do.

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Writing essentials – the master notes and ideas file.

If you are a writer like me who needs (and likes) to get things written down, then the master notes and ideas file is one of your most important writing assets.

What is the master notes and ideas file? I hear you ask.

It is essentially what it sounds like. A single file on your computer that has every single idea for a book, story line, character(s), situation or incident (usually a funny or particularly poignant one), that you have.

So, when you have been out and about and have seen, thought, heard that gem of an idea and you write it in your notebook, this file is where you keep it. As you type up that event you will find that one or two sentences become a few paragraphs. A few paragraphs become a few pages and you will soon find yourself in full free writing flow.

Do not move, stay there and keep writing. It doesn’t have to make sense, it can be a series of bullet points or a list. One or two parts may become “proper” writing, just keep at it and write it all down. Let your imagination out on the longest lead you have and keep writing.

You will end up with the basics for a book or indeed several books. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you get it all written down in that file and you save it and back it up.

When this happens to me and I am in free flow I am in such a place that the world around me does not exist. All I do is breath and write. Breath and write and I let myself go.

Print it off and keep it safe. There is work to do on that file, later.

Sometime later, read that file. Look for commonalities, trends and themes. See how parts of the file fit together, see what parts don’t fit. Soon, you will be going through it and organising the various parts into collective ideas for your next book or books.

I have so much information in my master notes and ideas file that I have created a spreadsheet of all the different books and storylines/plots that there are. It is an extensive list and having made it, the ideas contained in it are working in the background of my unconscious mind until BAM! one comes to the fore and that particular idea grows into a story.

One of the key things that a writer must do is to write down all of those ideas, gems and situations that you can. The next step is to transfer those gifts into your master file.

Trust me, it will be the most important file you have.

 

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Researching Publishers and Agents

Okay, so you have written that killer novel, had it beta read and copy edited and you have made it as good as you can possibly make it. Every word has a place and you are ready to send it out into the publishing world.

I am assuming that you are looking for a conventional agent and publisher for your work and are not going to self publish.

Now you have very important work to do so that you give yourself the best chance of getting your work seen and read.

First up, you need to ask yourself some key questions:-

  • What genre is it?
  • is it for adults or children or is it a cross over of some kind?
  • does it “fit” the conventional length for that genre? There is no point writing a 150,000 word Young Adult novel as your first book.

Once you have established that, you need to look at the standard reference texts for agents and publishers. Two of the most popular are,

The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook

The Writers’ Handbook

If writing for children and young adults, there is also the Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook.

There are others and there are also lists and resources that you can find by searching the web.

Make sure you are using the most up to date version. The publishing world is in a constant state of flux and changes all of the time.

You need to go through these books by reading every agent and publishers entry to see if there is a match for your genre. If so, mark the book or make a separate list in your notebook. Do this for the whole listing. It takes time but it is essential.

The next thing to do is to go through your list and visit EACH agent or publishers website. Many publishers don’t accept submissions from writers. they only accept from agents. There is no point sending to them, you are wasting your time, and theirs.

Check to see if they are currently accepting manuscripts from writers. Some now use a limited “we are open for this week, or month” procedure so you have to know when to submit to them.

If you are sending to an agent, look up each agent and see who your work best fits and send to them, or as directed by their website.

Most agents and publishers now accept submissions by email, some do not. Comply with what they ask for. It is all too easy in this day and age of email submissions to just send it to someone on the off chance. Don’t, please do your research and only send to those that are looking for your work.

It is also useful to join writers groups on various social media. Many of these groups can provide very useful updates on what is going on in the publishing world and who and when certain publishers are open for submissions and so on.

Be professional do your research.

For what and how to submit to an agent or publisher, see my recent blog post

http://bit.ly/2vtb9xs

 

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