Category Archives: On words and writing

A Writing Contest and a Chance to Save the Wolves!

Wolves in a snowy landscape

Writer and wolf-lover extraordinaire, Kate Johnston, aka 4am Writer, is running a fun writing contest over on her blog. Help Kate save El Lobo, the Mexican gray wolf, and write a 250 word story which features a wolf in some way. But I’ll let Kate tell you the rest, so hop on over there, and hurry, the deadline is 31 March – Contest link.

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Writing Competition Alert!

Sully the award presenter

Alert! Alert! Just a quickie today to alert you to a fabbo writing competition over on the wonderful Mike Allegra’s blog. Join in, write something, win some prizes – click here.

I’ve closed comments here so that you can comment over there if you have anything to say.

The Playground

Howdy folks, today I’m lit (that’s uber-cool young people speak for fired-up and excited, because I’m so down with the kids) as we have a special guest. Please join me in welcoming the very gorgeous Lisa Burton! Lisa is author C.S. Boyack’s spokesmodel, and let me tell you, she is one glamorous and feisty chick. You may recall that Craig Boyack previously visited me himself, and we made bread rolls together  while chatting about his book, Will ‘O the Wisp. Lisa and I aren’t going to do any baking today, but I do have a little challenge for her. Hi Lisa, welcome…wait, is that a bust of Craig himself you’re leaning on there?

Lisa leaning on bust of Craig Boyack

Hi Vanessa, yes it is, I miss him when I’m travelling. Sigh. Thanks for inviting me over to talk about his newest book, The Playground. But what’s all this about a challenge?

Don’t worry about that Lisa, it’s easy. In the meantime, I hope you don’t mind taking the lime?

Taking the lime? Is that more cool kid-speak?

No. Notice how I’ve made your words lime green? L is for Lisa, and L is for lime, see? This is a clue about the challenge coming up.

Oh I see…I think.

Well let’s crack on Lisa. What can you tell me about the book?

Book cover of The Playground

This one is another paranormal tale, but Craig’s making me tell people it’s paranormal with science fiction sprinkles on top. There is a bit of near future technology in this one. Mainly the Playground Dolls, and the social network they contain.

A social network contained in dolls? Why dolls?

The network is marketed to children. They tell parents their kids can make friends all over the world, get help with homework, and learn from other cultures. That’s a bunch of bull though. The man behind it all is using the network to brainwash the children, and grow his own army.

Oh my goodness, sounds chilling. What are the characters in the book like?

Craig went with three main characters this time. It’s almost like three short stories, but they weave together to tell a bigger story. Chloe is a little girl who gets a Playground doll for Christmas. Her job is to illustrate what all the children are going through.

Gina is a doctor who just had her own brush with the paranormal. She really doesn’t want anything to do with it, but could be the only person who can bring down the network.

Then there’s Clovis. He’s a giant of a man, and he’s calculating and brutal. He’s working for the bad guy, and has a head start on Gina. He grows on you after a while though.

Sounds great Lisa. I can’t wait to read it, in fact, do you mind waiting while I read it now?

Waiting while you read the whole book? Erm…well…ooh! I can’t believe I’m bringing this up myself, but didn’t you say you had some kind of challenge for me Vanessa?

Oh yes, the challenge. Okay, we’ll do that first. Then I’ll read the book while you wait. Right, so the book is called The Playground, what I want you to do is tell me something about the book for each of the letters of PLAYGROUND.

Okay sure, let’s see…

– P is for parasite. There is only one, but it’s really important to the story.

– L is for Gina’s lamp. It allows her to see what people are really like.

– A is for angel — of death.

– Y is for youth, that passes for the children.

– G is for GTO, as in Pontiac GTO.

– R is for regents, the kind that are in charge.

– O is for oracle, there isn’t one, but– well, you’ll see.

– U is for the underworld.

– N is for New Orleans.

– D is for the dog. There’s only one of those too, but he makes a great sidekick.

That was tough. I could have used some of the letters multiple times, and others were hard.

Well done Lisa, you passed the challenge! Very intriguing, I guess we’ll have to read the book to understand some of those. Speaking of which, you sit quietly now while I read it all…

Well er, before that, part of my job is to hand out posters for the book. I brought you a picture of me hanging Gina’s blunderbuss up in the writing cabin. Craig thought it was so cool he had to display it permanently. I’ll just put the poster up shall I?

Lisa Burton poster

Ooh, what a lovely poster, please do! Wait…you’re not trying to distract me from reading the book right now are you?

Not at all. Can I just say though Vanessa, I love your hair. Ours is almost the same color. Would you ever consider playing me in a book trailer? Craig has a book of short stories coming this Fall, and you could read one of the micros.

Me? You guys would want me to do that? Oh wow, oh YES YES YES!!! I would love to! What fun, I can’t wait, shall we set a date now before you go? We’ll be best friends, we’ll have sleepovers and braid each other’s hair, it’ll be so much fun! Hang on a minute…wasn’t there something else I was just going to do?

I don’t think so Vanessa, that was it, well I must go, thank you so much for having me over, bye!

Bye Lisa!…I’m sure there was something I was going to do before she left…what was it? Oh yes, read the book! Lisa! Lisa come back, I haven’t read the book yet! Darn it, she’s gone, she’s going to be SO disappointed when she remembers.

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Well folks, I hope you enjoyed Lisa’s visit, I know I did. And finally, here are all the essential links:

The Playground on Amazon and on Amazon UK
The Playground on Goodreads
Find out more about Craig and follow his blog
Check out the rest of his novels here
Follow him on Twitter
Craig’s Facebook
Lisa Burton’s Facebook (Oh yes, she has her own)

The cover for The Playground, and all the Lisa Burton images were created for Craig Boyack by artist Sean Harrington.

Line in a Rock

Every man, woman, and child, of every race, that ever lived,
Every elephant and rat and donkey and sheep,
Every horse that won, and the ones that didn’t,
Every theatre that was ever built,
And every stage that was ever danced on,
Every bed that bore witness to conception,
Every phone that carried news; joyous, tragic, mundane,
Every great work of art,
Displayed in every gallery around the world,
Every mirror that helped us decide how we should feel about ourselves,
Because of every magazine that told us how we should look,
Or how we should live, and feel,
Every flower and blade of grass,
Every photograph that helped us remember; people, places, adventures,
Every book that was devoured,
Every hand that was held,
And every shoulder that was cried on,
Every traffic light that stopped us, or let us through,
Every road that was ever built,
And walked on by every shoe,
And driven on by every car,
Every hospital that healed, and didn’t,
Every curtain that closed out the light,
From every window in every house,
Every swing that carried laughing children,
Every school,
Every courtroom,
Every church,
Everything,
Will one day all just be,
Another line in a rock.

Vanessa-Jane Chapman, 2015

Rock

Here’s a List of Things You Can Buy for 99 Cents

Do you have 99¢ to spare? Then let me help you spend it. Take your pick from one of the following:

  • Three quarters of a small serving of McDonald’s fries.
  • A manicure for one of your fingers at a cheap backstreet salon.
  • 9 minutes viewing of an average length movie in an average priced Manhattan movie theatre (yes, I did the math).
  • Anything from the 99¢ store.
  • A book comprising a collection of science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal short stories to intrigue, surprise and entertain you. WHAATT?! NO WAY! Yes way! Only 99¢. Courtesy of author C.S. Boyack, who you might recall helped me make bread rolls a while back.

The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack. Don’t you just love that title? And don’t you just love the cover? Designed by Rachel Carrera.

Experimental notebook cover

I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of this book and really enjoyed the range of stories. Some of the comments I gave Craig were:

“This story is deliciously macabre!”

“Ha! Good unexpected twist!”

“I’ve never seen something like that before, I think it works really well.”

“I could imagine this as part of a full novel that I would want to read.”

“This story really carried me along, eager to find out where it was going to go!”

Tempted? Then why not pop along to Amazon, and order your copy now? (UK residents go here to buy). Unless of course you’d rather have three quarters of a small serving of McDonald’s fries, but quite frankly they’re cold now, whereas Craig’s book is hot off the press!

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If you want a bit more of Craig, and why wouldn’t you? Here are his links…

Blog: http://coldhandboyack.wordpress.com
Novels: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00ILXBXUY
Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/Virgilante
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9841203.C_S_Boyack

Most People Read Fiction Not So Much For Plot As For Company

Girl reading

Whether or not you agree with the above quote by Josip Novakovich, it’s certainly one that makes you think, and question what it is that makes you love a novel or not. It’s an appropriate quote too because today we’re going to talk about writing rules – please present your tickets to the girl on the door then come in and have a seat. Ready? Then I shall begin…

I recently read a post by JM McDowell entitled Damn The Writing Rules—What Do Readers Like? She had written this as a result of feedback she received from some alpha readers of her novel – of which I was one (I will mention at this point that I loved the story and the way it was written). Her post was around the issue of writing rules, and who they are really for. You might want to pop over and read JM’s post before continuing here to get the background on this post.

Personally, I haven’t done a huge amount of fiction writing, a couple of half-finished novels, a couple of barely started novels, an occasional short story, mainly my bits of published writing have been non-fiction. I haven’t really learned the rules of fiction writing – I’ve picked some up along the way, mainly from blog posts written by writers, but I haven’t actively sought to learn what they are. Therefore when I read fiction, whether just for pleasure, or in the case of JM’s novel, to critique it, I’m not consciously measuring it against a set of rules.

Man measuring weights

When I’m reading, the negative things I tend to notice are:

  • Something that doesn’t seem realistic within the context or world that has been created.
  • Story threads that don’t go anywhere.
  • Things left unexplained that I really wanted an explanation for.
  • Anything that seems contrived.
  • Descriptions that feel too lengthy and self-indulgent.
  • Grammatical errors.

These are things that non writers might notice too, things that aren’t particularly to do with fiction writing rules. The one thing I do notice which would come under “writer knowledge” is the show-don’t-tell issue. I can really see the value of that one, and I admire it greatly it when it’s done well, it totally breathes life into the story.

What I do wonder though is where the rules come from. I know there won’t be just one answer to that, but how evidence-based are the rules? How many of them are proven to be key to a successful novel, and how many of them were just said by someone influential at some point because they sounded logical, and have then been passed on and quoted by everyone else, but actually don’t make any difference to reader enjoyment? It’s hard to be conclusive, you could no doubt find a correlation between rule-compliance and successful novels, but you couldn’t be sure that the following of the rules is what made them successful. Of course following the rules is part of the game you likely have to play if you want a traditional publishing route for your book, and that’s probably the main driver for following the rules for many writers.

Something that comes to mind here are the TV talent shows, particularly the singing X-Factor type ones (which yes, I do watch, sorry ‘n all). So many times when I’ve watched the early audition rounds, I’ve seen people who are a bit raw, a bit rough around the edges maybe, their personality is there and it draws you in, they’re different, and there’s something special about them. But then when they make it through to the live shows, they’ve been polished up, scrubbed to perfection, turned into a formula-looking and sounding pop singer. They’ve had that raw edginess, that quirkiness, that made them great taken away from them. I understand that it’s been done by people in the industry who presumably know what is needed to turn those people into money-generators, but it’s a real shame. And I wonder sometimes if too much strict adherence to the writing rules can at times do a similar thing to the writer’s story.

I don’t really have a conclusion to make here. I’m certainly not saying that writing rules are pointless, I understand that many of them are based on solid reasoning and have value to them, and in general I’m a rule-follower, but it’s the idea of blindly following them, or thinking that they are the ONLY way that something should be done, which I take issue with. But I’m no expert, and I welcome any counter arguments below. It’s a subject that gets discussed often amongst writers and there are many different views.

Speaking of writing and novels (notice how seamlessly I work this one in), over on my Sugarness blog, I have this week started a new series of posts in collaboration with author J Keller-Ford, where I have created recipes for each of the characters in her new novel In the Shadow of the Dragon King, to be published in 2016. The first recipe is Eric Hamden’s Red Wine Apple Pie.

Red wine apple pie

What are your views on writing rules? Or if you don’t know much about writing rules, what things turn you on or off when reading fiction? Do you like apple pie?

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photo credit (red-headed girl) : Girl and book via photopin (license)
photo credit (measuring weights) : Checking Accuracy of a Scale in a Feed Mill Establishment (FDA 117) via photopin (license)
photo credit (apple pie) : Me!

Will O’ the Wisp

Vanessa pointing at Will O the Wisp book

Today I’m joined by blogging author friend extraordinaire, Craig Boyack. He’s here to talk about his wonderful latest novel, Will O’ The Wisp. Well he thinks he’s here to talk about that, but we’ll have to see how that works out. Welcome Craig!

Thanks Vanessa. What did you mean we’ll have to see how that works out?

Don’t worry about that. Now, I thought it would be fun for us to do a little activity while we chat. So, if I say “Book” to you, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?

Reading.

Wrong!

But you asked for the first thing that comes to my mind.

I know I did Craig, and you got it wrong. Try again.

Erm…writing?

Wrong!

Ok Vanessa, well why don’t you tell me what the first thing is to come to my mind when you say “Book”?

Baking.

Baking?

Yes baking. Book begins with ‘b’, baking begins with ‘b’. You and I both like baking. So books make you think of baking. See how it all makes sense now?

Well…er…I guess so.

So we’re going to bake some bread rolls while we chat, yay! Come on Craig, let’s get stuck in. You measure out the flour and tell me this – In Will O’ the Wisp, your protagonist Patty Hall is fifteen years old, but what were you doing when you were fifteen?

Patty is about a year older than I was at the time the book is set. I’m also from a small agricultural area, but it was all ranching in my hometown. We used to camp under the stars, and watching satellites was a regular thing. My friends and I were very close, and there are similarities in the story. Patty wasn’t a band geek, but I was.

Ok great, now you measure out the rest of the ingredients and start mixing it all together while you tell us something about yourself that you’ve never mentioned on your blog, and then you can start kneading the dough.

That’s quite a challenge, because I’m pretty open. I’ve discussed medical issues and all kinds of things. As a blogger, I’m always looking for something to post about. I’m going to have to go back in time for this one. In 1990, I was in the desert northwest of Las Vegas. I found a desert bighorn skull and brought it home. I used one horn to make some pretty grips for a Colt six shooter I own. My brother and I worked on them together, and I treasure them.

Gosh! Now come on, I said to start kneading the dough.

Out of interest, which part of making the rolls are you actually doing Vanessa?

It’s not about who does which part, it’s about sharing the experience. Now come on, put some effort in, and then you can leave the dough to rise. While you’re doing that, I’d like you to select three adjectives to describe your book.

Only three? Here we go: suspenseful, magical, and thrilling.

Rather like making these bread rolls with me then. Don’t forget to time the rising of the dough, then it’ll need a second rising after you’ve shaped it into rolls. I always say you can tell a lot about a man by how he shapes his rolls. Also by what he has on his desk, so tell me something you have on your desk that doesn’t really belong on a desk?

I have a live shamrock on my desk. I also have a couple of stress balls, but those probably belong there.

I was going to guess a shamrock and stress balls! I’m very intuitive like that Craig. Now, every story has some kind of moral, so what would you say is the moral of your story?

Me? Write a story with a moral? This is a coming of age story, and it’s a very big part of the story. Patty has to deal with all the issues any teenager has to deal with, plus deal with something that wants to kill her. She isn’t allowed to hide behind her parents and let them deal with her problem. The moral is that nothing good can happen until the hero acts. I know two specific people who could benefit from less analysis of problems and more action, so I’ll stand by that moral.

That’s an excellent moral, exactly what I would expect from a shamrock and stress balls type of guy. Right, I’ve saved the best question till last. This one will take some thinking about, so you can finish off making the rolls and putting them in the oven while you think. I want you to choose one sentence, just one, from Will O’ the Wisp that you think will really pique people’s interest.

Ouch, Vanessa. You said these would be challenging, but I thought it was in a “ha ha, let’s have a drink” kind of way. I pride myself on short direct sentences too. Here you go:

“The tea leaves left the shape of a perfect open book, like someone pushed them that way with a spoon.”

Ooh, intriguing. Let’s have a look at those rolls now…

Vanessa and Craig with bread rolls

Well Craig, seeing as you were such a good bread roll making assistant, I will now let you give us the book blurb and relevant links.

Thank you Vanessa, here goes…

There is something evil up Bergamot Holler, and it’s been targeting the Hall family for generations.

Patty Hall is fifteen years old. She loves stargazing, science fiction, and all things related to space exploration. This leaves her perfectly prepared for the wrong problem.

Patty is afraid her mother will send her to a care facility if she tells her what she’s seen. If she doesn’t figure things out soon, she’s going to join her father in the Hall family cemetery plot.

Patty has to come to grips with her own physical handicap, survive the wilderness, and face an ancient evil all alone if she’s going to survive.

Will O’ the Wisp is suitable for young adults. It involves strong elements of suspense, and is set in the mid 1970s.

– Follow my blog: http://coldhandboyack.wordpress.com

– Check out my novels here: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00ILXBXUY

– Follow me on Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/Virgilante

– On Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9841203.C_S_Boyack

– Buy Will O’ the Wisp here (for those in Northern American Continent) http://a-fwd.com/asin-com=B00UPH6BNS

– Buy Will O’ the Wisp here (Rest of the world) http://a-fwd.com/asin-com=B00UQNDT2C

What fun we’ve had today, thanks for coming by Craig.

Thank you Vanessa.

Probably the Most Contrived Story You’ll Ever Read

A rose and an open book

On my last post I provided a list of 21 really bad analogies (or mostly similes, but whatever). A few commenters suggested I should write a story incorporating all 21 of them. At first I scoffed at the idea, but then I pondered on it and decided to take up the challenge! I’ve made the font green for all 21 so that you can easily see how I’ve included them. I give you…

The Case of the Unsolved Mystery, Like a Mystery that Remains Unsolved

Some say it was fate that they ended up seated together that night in London. You wouldn’t believe it if you’d seen them but John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met. They were strangers before that night and yet there they were together, laughing and chatting like old friends. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up. I sat two rows behind them. I was drawn to them, compelled to listen in a way that unnerved me. When the curtain went up, they became silent and I turned my attention to the stage. The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant. It was breathtaking, and for forty-five minutes I was focused on the stage alone.

The applause signalled the end of the first half. John stood. He was tall. My guess is that he was as tall as a 6’3″ tree. But as soon as he moved I could see that he was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame. Maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

“Gee, you’re like really sort of like tall ain’t ya!” she said. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever. Yet as I listened to her talking about the first half of the ballet, I could tell that her artistic sense was exquisitely refined, like someone who can tell butter from I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. It was an interesting juxtaposition. I moved with them as they walked to the end of the row.

“I should probably look for my wife,” he said. There was a sense of reluctance to his words. I studied her face as she turned away from him towards the back of the theatre. I could see that her eyes were like two brown circles with big black dots in the center, and they glistened with moisture that spoke of intense disappointment.

“Yeah,” she said. “S’pose you should.” I could tell that it hurt the way your tongue hurts after you accidentally staple it to the wall.

“We said we’d meet in the attic bar during the interval,” he said pointing at the staircase that led up to the attic bar. The staircase was set in a wall at the side of the auditorium. The red brick wall was the color of a brick-red Crayola crayon. “Perhaps you could join us if you…” he trailed off, uncertain of his own suggestion.

“Don’t fink that’s a good idea, she might like, you know, get the wrong idea or someink,” she said.

“Perhaps you’re right,” said John. “Actually no. Do come. I’m grateful for the mix-up with the seating this evening because I got to meet you. I’ve actually had the loveliest time I can remember for years. To tell you the truth Mary, my wife has been cheating on me and so I don’t care what she thinks! Can you believe it? 30 years of marriage and it might all be over!” Seeing the surprise on Mary’s face I could tell the revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM. She wasn’t sure how to respond.

“How’s did yous twos, like, you know, meet and stuff?”

“I was a boxing promoter back then. One day she walked into my office like a centipede with 98 missing legs. She had her brother with her, a young man with great promise. She’d heard I was good and wanted me to help his career. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while. I took him on, and-” John was in the middle of his story when from the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

“What was that?” Mary instinctively reached for John’s arm. I couldn’t help but notice that John didn’t look surprised by the noise. And maybe I even saw a slight smile. Maybe.

They ran up the stairs to the bar and I followed. A small crowd had gathered around the body of a woman. I heard the words, “She’s dead.”

I pushed my way through. “Let me through!” I said, “I’m a lawyer.” Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master. Blood pooled around her head, and next to her was a broken lamp. The lamp just sat there, like an inanimate object. Somehow I knew right away that the woman was John’s wife.

A voiced pierced through, “It was him!” The barmaid pointed at John. “It was him! He hit her over the head with the lamp, and then ran off, I saw him, he killed her!” As if to punctuate her words, a clap of thunder rumbled outside. The thunder was ominous-sounding, much like the sound of a thin sheet of metal being shaken backstage during the storm scene in a play. Others nodded and pointed, “Yes, it was him! It was him!” The voices were unified in their accusation.

Mary shook her head. “No, no! He’s been wiv me all night, it can’t be him, he’s been wiv me I tell ya!”

I gave John my card, “You’re going to need a defence lawyer,” I said. “Call me.” He took my card and nodded. Some say he must have had a twin, but they never found one, nor did they ever find any other evidence to support the witnesses and so John walked free. He and I kept in touch. John and Mary had become close after that fateful night. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli and he was room-temperature Canadian beef, and before long they were lovers. And yet their love was doomed. Not six months after their relationship began to blossom, Mary’s mother, who lived in New York, died, and Mary was forced to move there to take care of her younger sister.

That could have been the end of John and Mary except for one thing. Black Friday. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools. John had heard of Black Friday, and as an avid shopper, told me he had decided to make the trip from London to New York to scoop up some bargains. He had not long arrived when he chose to take a stroll through Central Park. In the distance, across the grass, he saw her. She saw him. They were motionless for a while, each unsure of what to do, and then they ran. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

They spent a joyous afternoon together in Central Park, running and laughing. They bought food and sat at the edge of the Turtle Pond to eat. John made a boat out of his sub wrapper. “This is our love,” he said, “drifting and free, where will it go?” He set the boat on the water and gave it a push. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.

Some say John confessed to the killing of his wife that afternoon. Some say that’s why Mary walked away and told him she never wanted to see him again. Some say that. But he couldn’t have done it…could he?

THE END.

Paper boat

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photo credits:
Atilla1000 via photopin cc
John-Morgan via photopin cc

Bad Analogies

Anna Loggie (Analogy) being reprimanded

I had planned on announcing the winner of Come and play with Lorna to win an Amazon gift card today, but I can’t yet as I’m waiting for the winner to get back to me about something first. But in short, if you haven’t received an email from me, then you haven’t won. Sorry!

By way of consolation, I have an amusing list of collected bad analogies for you, although wait…most are similes, and…is that a metaphor I see there? Anyway, if you’ve seen these before, then I’m afraid you will be inconsolable around here today, I have nothing else for you…

1) Her eyes were like two brown circles with big black dots in the center.

2) He was as tall as a 6′3″ tree.

3) Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

4) From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

5) John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

6) She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

7) The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

8) He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame. Maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

9) Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever. (Vanessa’s note – I object to this one being classed as bad, I think it’s actually rather clever).

10) She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

11) The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM.

12) The lamp just sat there, like an inanimate object.

13) Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

14) The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.

15) She walked into my office like a centipede with 98 missing legs.

16) The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

17) It hurt the way your tongue hurts after you accidentally staple it to the wall.

18) It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

19) The thunder was ominous-sounding, much like the sound of a thin sheet of metal being shaken backstage during the storm scene in a play.

20) Her artistic sense was exquisitely refined, like someone who can tell butter from I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.

21) The red brick wall was the color of a brick-red Crayola crayon.

DISCLAIMER: Online these are purported to be actual analogies from essays written by high school students, but after digging a bit deeper, I discovered that they’re almost certainly not. This was after I had spent all that time creating the hilarious picture at the top of this post, so I’ve posted it anyway, because they’re still funny, not as funny as, you know, if they really were from essays, but funny anyway!
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photo credit: Original photo Paula Satijn via photopin cc, hilarious Photoshopping by Vanessa-Jane Chapman

Disconnected Reflections As I Enter The Home Straight

Equality does not mean justice

This picture is a good representation of some of the issues I’ve looked at. There are so many versions of it online I don’t know where it originated in order to credit properly

We’ll be back to some funny stuff around here soon, but not yet. I’m nearing the end of my Masters Degree, and over the year that I’ve been working on it, I’ve kept note of little facts and quotes that I’ve found interesting, or things that I’ve learned which I wanted to remember because they’ll be useful in other contexts. There are far too many to share in one post, so I’ve selected a few…

I’ve learned that:

– If I reach the point where I feel blocked in my writing, whether from writing exhaustion, or lack of inspiration, and I’m just staring at a blank screen, I can break through that block by simply changing something physical about what I’m doing. This usually means either picking up my laptop and moving to a different room, or switching to writing a few paragraphs in longhand on paper instead (yes, I still have to type it up later, but it’s worth it just to break through the block). I can’t fully express quite how incredibly effective this method is for me. Previously I would have either taken a break, or switched to a different task, but this way I can carry right on with what I’m doing which is sometimes what needs to be done.

– Goal setting doesn’t work for me. I always knew this really but because it’s repeatedly put forward as the best way to achieve things, I kept doing it, and kept feeling like a failure when I didn’t achieve my goals. During my course I read an article by Joanna Swann who is fiercely opposed to the practice of goal and target setting; she speaks particularly about the field of education, but what she says can be applied wider. In short, she puts forward an alternative method of achieving what needs to be achieved, by articulating it as a series of problems that need to be resolved rather than goals or targets that need to be met. Clearly everybody is different, but what she said really resonated with me and it’s worked when I’ve put it into practice. (I have already mentioned this to a few other bloggers individually).

– When I’ve completed a writing session, it’s worth spending a couple of minutes jotting down where I had got to in my thought process and what I was planning to write about next. It makes it much easier to get right back into it next time. It’s so easy to forget where we were in our thought process if we leave it, even for a day.

Studying

A picture from one of my study days at home – not too shabby right?

A couple of quotes I liked:

– “We become conscious of many of our expectations only when they are disappointed, owing to their being unfulfilled. An example would be encountering an unexpected step in one’s path: it is the unexpectedness of the step which may make us conscious of the fact that we expected to encounter an even surface.” (Karl Popper)

– “He who loses his crown and lives without it is more than a king: from the rank of a king he rises to the rank of a man.” (Jean-Jack Rousseau)

A couple of things that came up which made me think:

– The Chinese (as I understand it) believe that the differences in educational achievement between students are attributed primarily to the different rates at which people learn, and not to different ceilings that people are capable of reaching. Whilst I don’t wholly embrace that view, I do think it’s worth considering in part, especially when we talk about helping children to “reach their full potential” which is a term that I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with, because I find it actually quite limiting.

– If a teacher said that they had a child of 14 years old in their class who couldn’t read or write very well, or couldn’t add up simple numbers, we would probably describe that child as having special educational needs (or in the UK we would, other countries have other terms of course). Whereas if a teacher said they had a child of 14 years old on their class who wasn’t very good at composing music, or remembering dates in history, we wouldn’t attribute that to special needs, we’d just say that different people are good at different things.  So some subjects are deemed to be the deciders of whether people have something wrong with them or not. There are reasons behind that of course, but it’s still worth a little ponder before we make those judgments.

Studying with the cat

Another study day, with help from the cat

Right, better get back to those essays now…