A great night at the New Writing Showcase

Last night I was part of a writers showcase at the Glasgow West End Festival and I was able to read two of my poems at the event to around forty people.

I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome three years at the tender age of 51 and recently I have been inspired to write about and reflect on my life with Asperger’s. Much of my writing on this topic has been poetry and the one below is one of those I read out last night.

To be understood

What do I have to do to be understood?
In this maddening world of the bad and the good.
Where confusion, anger and despair seem to rule
People look at me and think me a fool.

The truth is I’m much cleverer than most
I’m just saying the truth, not meaning to boast.
They look and they stare and are too quick to judge
As if somehow they harbour a grudge.

But I am in pain and cut up inside
For the gulf between us is millennials wide.
Dejected, neglected and ignored all the time
I stand alone and pretend I am fine.

If only you knew what its like to be me
The Asperger’s kid worn down socially.
Instead I just can’t wait to be alone
Like a dog on the floor playing with a bone.

There’s little for me in this world that we live
Despite all the things that I know I can give.
I just need the chance to prove I have worth
Instead of regretting the day of my birth.

It’s down to you to change your perception
Of the strange little kid you met in reception.
It’s up to you to see all the good
Only then will I be understood.

A big thank you to the organisers and to those who came along to read their work and support other writers.

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Scenes from a park bench, part 2

It’s a more peaceful day than it was last week because there are fewer gulls and pigeons flying about. A gentle breeze caresses my face as I sit and watch a courtship ritual between 2 pigeons that ends in a brief coupling before they both fly off.
Single men walk by, some with dogs, others not so. Perhaps they walk to clear their heads from last nights excesses. A couple canoodle on the bench opposite and a jogger struggles to do another lap of the pond.
A child shrieks from the play area away to my left with a cry so hard you would think his leg had been bitten off by a crocodile. There is no alarm and no fuss, just another false alarm that all parents are conditioned to take note of. I turn away as a proud grandparent pushes a pram past me.
There are as many single people as there are couples at the park today, a ratio that will change dramatically later in the afternoon as picnic bags, Frisbees and dogs chasing balls and sticks descend upon the open space.
Cars roll by behind me, some of them hitting the pothole by the bus stop, other missing it. The bleep of the pedestrian crossing breaks that moment only for a bus to hit the pothole with a loud thud and shudder. I pity those with a bad back who are sitting on the bus, jolts like that can result in days of pain and misery that they will bear with strained smiles. A fast car speeds away from the pedestrian crossing as though he is on the grid at the races and the red lights go green. One day it will all end in tragedy when a loose child escapes its parents grasp and is in the firing line. Thankfully, not today.
Another couple of pigeons do their courtship ritual just a few feet away from me, the larger male strutting and cooing around the female. She isn’t impressed by his efforts and flies off. The male looks up at me and I am sure it is a sad face that greets me, before he too, turns and flies off after the female.
More mothers and babies in prams saunter by and a fit man in a striking lime green and bright pink leotard rushes past at great speed. Someone starts to feed the ducks, but they are mobbed by gulls and pigeons that appear out of nowhere and sweep down on mass to steal what they can.
Although I have been sitting for quite a while, a dizzy turn grabs me and makes me feel uncertain about standing. I decide to wait a while as a dog barks in the distance.
Everyday life continues unabated in the park and eventually I decide to head home. I just hope my balance holds. It does, but I am reminded of something someone said to me once. “You walk like a drunken old man.”
Thanks for that, just the boost I need.
Keep observing and keep writing.

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Write something dramatic.

I am often asked by fellow writers how to keep ideas fresh and maintain interest in your books. Often, they are writing in a specific way that fits with their genre and sometimes, those “restrictions” are actually stifling the creativity and writing.
My recommendation to them is to have something dramatic happen, an unexpected event. It could be anything that brings in, or takes out, a character or introduces a situation that will spark the interest of you as the writer and your readers.
Such events could be a storm, this can work well in literary and historical novels where technology is not as advanced as it is today, perhaps a free falls and bursts through the lounge window when the family are having a crisis meeting of some kind.
Think Beau Geste by P.C Wren, the family are having dinner, the lights go out and when they are put back on again, the famous family heirloom, the diamond, has gone and the story takes a new direction from there.
In more modern writing, have someone come to the door unexpectedly, maybe a woman with a baby needs help, or a car crashes through the bay window into the lounge. These are both dramatic and introduce new characters.
Let your imagination go, allow yourself to think of something different and see how you can weave it into the story.
Other dramatic events could be the sudden loss of all technology, everything stops working. What do people do? How do they manage? Perhaps someone digging in the garden discovers something and when it is finally unearthed, strange things happen. Think the Tommyknockers by Stephen King, or someone gets stuck in the middle of nowhere like in Misery.
The scope for that dramatic event is endless, it is your job as a writer to make it believable and gripping.
Keep writing.

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What I do at the end of a writing session to keep the flow going.

As a writer I am lucky in that I can sit down in a disciplined way and write. I always have ideas and they flow onto the page without much trouble at all. One of the things I am sometimes asked by fellow writers is how do I keep the continuity going from one day to the next when there are breaks between writing sessions.
For me, that is as easy thing to answer, I never finish a writing session at the end of something. If I have reached the end of an action piece or the end of a chapter, I always start the next part or chapter. It gives me a pick up point and I can get back into the rhythm and flow of what I was writing before I stopped. If I am pushed for time for some reason, I will write a few sentences and add in bullet points of what is to come so that the thread of the story continues as seamlessly as possible.
It is a tool that has served me well in my writing and may help you to, so give it a try and see how it works for you.

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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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