Relatively Speaking

Rob stood outside the Dog and Duck and stared at the door. The paint was chipped and he could see the dirty brown colour underneath the current grey. He’d never looked at it before, always eager to get in and greet his friends. He’d never looked at his father before either. Not that he remembered anyway. He wasn’t sure that he wanted to see him now but he deserved to know why he’d walked out on him when he was a baby, didn’t he? Why he’d never been in touch for all his twenty-five years? Rob lifted his chin up and steeled himself. Clenching his fists by his side he pushed the door open with his shoulder and marched into the familiar bar. The man was sitting by the window. His future, older face smiled back at him. It shocked him. Took the wind out of his sails. He turned his back and faced the bar.

‘A pint please Jack.’ His voice was high.

‘Sure, Rob. You ok?’ Jack spoke to Rob but looked at the man by the window.

‘Fine.  I’ll be fine.’ Rob replied. His mouth was suddenly dry.

Rob drank deeply from the pint glass before turning to face his father. He strode purposefully towards him and sat down. His father looked nervous. So he should be.

‘Hello son.’ He held his hand out. Rob ignored it. ‘It’s good to finally meet you. I’ve been waiting a long time for this.’

‘Surprised you could spare the time.’ snarled Rob. What did he expect? Open arms? Tears?

‘I don’t blame you. I’ve a lot of explaining to do if you’ll let me?’

‘You’ve got ten minutes, and then I’m gone.’ Rob couldn’t wait for it to be over. There was nothing this man could say to change things.

Advertisements

The Last Crush

I have been given an exercise to do where I had to use a given sentence ‘I secured the last available space’. I decided to make it present tense and an image of the London Tube came immediately to mind. I wonder what you would have written about?

 

The Last Crush

I secure the last available space as I squeeze myself onto the eight-forty-five tube from King’s Cross. I hadn’t even attempted to get on the last three. I’m late again. I won’t be late back to my empty, lonely flat tonight, though. Maybe I can talk Cath into a night out without Jack. I don’t think he likes her going out with someone single since they moved in together.

Facing the sliding doors, I hang on to the overhead strap for dear life. Gagging and desperately trying to hold my breath as the man next to me showers hot, thick garlic breath down on me. It snakes its way across my cheek and curls up my nose. Closing my eyes, I concentrate my thoughts on the day ahead. I’ll be pleased when today is over. It’s going to be a bit awkward.

How will Mr Bailey react to me handing in my notice?  I can see him clearly, standing up from his desk, eyes pleading, saying how sorry he is. How he didn’t know what had got into him. How he didn’t normally drink at the office party.

I relive, with slight revulsion, last night’s episode. He’d sobbed on my shoulder, spluttering and blowing his nose loudly. The last thing I’d expected from the strict boss who looked down his nose at all his staff. He had told me that Mildred had left him for the window cleaner. She had said that he could give her what her husband never could. I hadn’t intended to laugh but the picture of grey, stiff-lipped, Mildred Bailey being seduced and thrown down on the bed by a hunky, bare-chested window cleaner and whipped by his chamois leather, popped into my head.  He didn’t understand what she saw in him. How all the neighbours had been whispering and sniggering behind his back.

‘You’re sho b-beauuutiful when you shmile,’ he had slurred, his glass of wine slopping over onto the pristine, grey carpet. ‘Dooo you …can I…?’ Mr Bailey had grabbed my face and tried to kiss me, slobbering wet lips that missed my mouth as I jerked my head back. Saliva slipping across my chin.

No! I will say. I’m not prepared to think about it. I’ve made up my mind. It’s time to move on. I’ll clear my desk and walk away. Start again.

 

 

We’re slowing down, must be Warren Street. The doors whoosh and hiss as they open and someone almost knocks me over, trying to get off. A woman with a small suitcase on wheels yanks and pulls it past me, banging my legs. I yelp and she turns back and glares at me, daring me to say anything. Her creased face, a sunset orange, glows alongside the flames of hair streaked with red and gold. I watch her push her way through the shuffling, suited,penguin colony desperate to board. There isn’t room, a voice inside my head shouts as I close my eyes again.

Someone’s chest is pushing against my nose. I can’t breathe. Ooh, nice. A clean, sharp scent fills my squashed nostrils. A warm cotton shirt brushes soft against my cheeks. Bliss. I can’t smell Mr garlic breath anymore. A large hand joins mine in the overhead strap. It’s warm, comforting. Electricity sparks from his palm to the backs of my fingers. Tipping my head back, I look up to find a pair of large, nut-brown eyes smiling down at me. Long dark eyelashes and thick brows frame these mesmerising, fathomless eyes and below them a long narrow nose and full lips. The lips part as a pink tongue licks them. I shiver as my heart skips a beat. Olly Murs is singing in my head and I can’t shut him up.

The mouth starts to move and a rich, chocolaty voice speaks to my face. ‘Sorry. Wouldn’t normally…late you see.’

‘No problem,’ I croak.

The tube rattles along, pinning us together and I think I’ve died and gone to heaven. I let my face rest back into his chest and inhale deeply.

‘Rick,’ he says, his finger stroking the back of my right hand as it still clings to the strap.

‘Sadie,’ I mumble, into the shirt. I can feel his nipple under the cotton, hard against my lips.

‘Very pleased to meet you, Sadie,’ he whispers, pushing himself closer. I feel so light-headed. What is happening to me? Me who never speaks to strangers. Me who never even kisses on a first date. Even when it’s someone, I know. ‘Where do you work?’ he asks, lifting my chin up with his free hand.

‘Green Park. Hospitality,’ I gasp. ‘You?’

‘Brixton. Marketing. Do you think we-?’

‘Yes,’ I almost shout.’ I mean…that would be nice.’ My face is burning.

The tube stops, he puts an arm around my waist and holds on tight as people push and shove their way past us. I don’t notice the vacant red seats.

The tube rattles on.

‘What time do you finish work?’ he asks.

‘In eight hours time.’

‘Very precise?’

‘My last day,’ I answer

‘Redundancy?’

‘Definitely. No further use for it.’

I watch his brow furrow as he looks down at me. ‘Pastures new?’

‘I do hope so.’

He smiles, his white teeth almost twinkle with brilliance. ‘Me too.’ he says as if he fully understands.

I return the smile. ‘My boss thought I was available. Silly man.’

‘Very silly man,’ he concurs, stroking my cheek. I lose my balance as the train slows. His arm pulls me close again and his face comes down and covers mine as he kisses me. Long, slow, delicious. I can taste his spearmint toothpaste. I barely hear the woman tut and say…’For Goodness sake!’

The tube moves on again as we hold each other close. His lips part from mine and I sigh.

‘Ah! Pastures new,’

‘Sorry?’ I whisper.

‘Pastures new, ‘ he repeats, nodding in the direction of the automated station indicator that is repeating NEXT STOP VICTORIA. I’ve missed my stop.

I grin up at him. ‘Pastures new.’

 

 

 

Writing Fantasy

Just doing the Fantasy Assignment for Writing for Children module with the OCA and it’s so nice to revisit fairytales and myths etc. I have found it quite hard to write a story of my own invention in this genre but fascinating all the same. Trying to think of appropriate character names, places. What my fantasy creatures look like. What sort of a world they live in.

It came to me while looking at different stories that, I absolutely loved ‘The Ugly Duckling’ story by Hans Christian Anderson as a child. I think everyone can relate to that. I think we all feel like the Ugly Duckling at some point in our lives.

Getting ready to meet someone you really fancy for the first time.

Comparing yourself to your best friend when going out for a night on the town or a party.

I realised quite a long time ago, after years of worrying about it, that the ‘swan’ is not what people see on the outside of a person but what they see inside.

I’m still looking for the swan in me which may be a bit of a wild goose chase now that I am in my sixties but I am definitely enjoying the journey.

back to my research for fantasy writing. I found a list of unusual place names in Britain that had me howling out loud with laughter at times. Have a look and see what you think.

http://www.ashton-under-lyne.com/placenames.htm

The Senses

While studying with the OU there was a particular  poem I read when learning about ‘the senses’. It has stayed with me ever since and I treasure it. I have read nothing since that has affected all my senses in the same way that this poem did. It reminded me of my childhood in parts and it opened the door to:-

  • sounds that you can hear
  • textures that you can feel
  • odours that you can smell
  • flavours that you can taste
  • objects that you can see

Enjoy this poem by Shamus Heaney

 

Death of a Naturalist

All year the flax-dam festered in the heart

Of the townland; green and heavy headed

Flax rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.

Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.

Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles

Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.

There were dragonflies, spotted butterflies,

But best of all was the warm thick slobber

Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water

In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring

I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied

Specks to range on window-sills at home,

On shelves at school. And wait and watch until

The fattening dots burst into nimble-

Swimming tadpoles. Miss walls would tell us how

The daddy frog was called a bullfrog

And how he croaked and how the mammy frog

Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was

Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too

For they were yellow in the sun and brown

In rain.

Then one hot day when fields were rank

With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs

Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges

To a coarse croaking that I had not heard

Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.

Right down the dam gross bellied frogs were cocked

On sods; their loose necks pulsed like sails. Some hopped:

The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat

poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.

I sickened, turned and ran. The great slime kings

Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew

That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.

 

Writing a Film Script

Here is a film script I wrote when studying with the OU. Although it may not be perfect it got me my highest mark. I hope it can be of help to anyone attempting something similar. Some of the layout may have been affected when I copied and pasted it on to here so don’t take it as gospel. I have used montage to convey flashbacks and they will be in black and white and without sound to highlight and add drama.

NURSING A GRUDGE (A Film)
By
Carole Richardson (2014)

CAST:
Laura Connor: A forty year old nurse with career ambitions.

Jack Connor: Self employed engineer. Family orientated.

Molly Connor: Five year old daughter of Laura and Jack. Daddy’s little princess.

Rufus Downs: Retired accountant and father who left Laura when she was only five.

Gracie Downs: Rufus’s daughter from second marriage.

Sally: Staff nurse and friend of Laura.

Mr Hobson: Patient

Jenny: Care Assistant.

Isobel: Laura’s mother

Katie: Nurse

FADE IN:
INTERCUT – INT. MODERN KITCHEN/ EXT. BACK GARDEN. SPRING EVENING.
A light and airy, galley style kitchen with units down one side and a breakfast bar running down the opposite wall. Off screen distant sound of a lawnmower, birdsong and the sound of a man and a child laughing and talking can be heard through an open window. We see Laura, side view, leaning over the sink and gazing out of the window. She is wearing a pale blue nurse’s uniform. CU to Laura’s face then camera pans round to show view through window of well tended back garden. Jack is kneeling down beside a pergola. He is mending a trellis that is supporting a large pink Clematis. Molly is by his side trying to help. Laura taps on the glass of the window.
LAURA
I’m off now.
(silence)

JACK
Pass me another tack please, Molly.
(combs fingers through his hair)

MOLLY
(bends down and picks up flower head)
Careful with my flowers Daddy. They die when they’re
broken.

JACK

(stroking her face)
Sorry princess. I’ll try to be gentle.

LAURA

(taps glass again and speaks louder)
I should be home early enough to give Molly breakfast and take her to school.

JACK
(continuing to fix trellis)
Let’s hope there won’t be any emergencies then.

LAURA
(frowns and mutters)
I’ll just tell all the patients not to be ill and come home just when I fancy, shall I?

MOLLY
(waves and smiles at Laura)
Bye Mummy.
(blows kiss and turns back to Jack)
LAURA
Bye Molly.

(CU Jack and Molly. Off screen, we hear the sound of car keys being picked up, followed by door slamming. Jack glances back towards window and frowns before smiling at Molly and continuing his repairs.)

FADE OUT

FADE IN:
INT. HOSPITAL WARD. EVENING
Laura is standing at the nurse’s workstation with Sally. The workstation has a desk and two chairs. Behind this is a small staff room with a couple of chairs, a small table, sink unit, kettle, cups etc. Sally is doing the handover for the night shift. The ward has a main section with eight beds down each side. There is a side ward just off the main ward. The lighting is low and the blinds have been drawn so that patients can sleep. Katie is attending to a patient at the far end of the ward.
SALLY
Mr Hobson’s eaten well today. Obs are fine and he’ll
be going home tomorrow. Moving in with his son…poor thing…won’t be able to sneeze without an inquisition.

LAURA
I know. He’s a right old woman. Still, better than not being wanted at all.

SALLY
Too right. We can’t trace any relatives for Mr Freeman. He’s had another stroke today. Meds have been altered and he’s responding positively. Katie’s with him now.
(nods in general direction of Katie)

LAURA
That’s a shame. Nice man. Never complains.

SALLY
There’s a new patient in the side ward. Rufus Downs, seventy, not expected to last the night… Cancer…

BLACK SCREEN

INT. SITTING ROOM. MORNING. MAY 1978. FLASHBACK

Shot in black and white with no sound. Isobel is arguing with Rufus. There is no sound. The room is poorly furnished with a small dining table in one corner. The tiled mantelpiece has an open grate and there is a clock and ornaments on top. He is holding a briefcase and keeps looking at his watch. In front of them, a five year old Laura is sitting on the sofa. She is holding her hands over her ears and crying.

END FLASHBACK

INT. HOSPITAL WARD. EVENING

SALLY
Laura? Laura? Are you OK? Come and sit down. (manoeuvres Laura into a chair)
Are you Ill?

LAURA
No…sorry Sal. Just a bit of a turn. I’m fine…what were you saying?

SALLY
Are you sure? You don’t look fine? Shall I get you some water?

LAURA
No. Honestly, I’m OK. Carry on.

SALLY
Well… I was saying that his daughter is sitting with him.

LAURA                                                SALLY
Daughter?                                           She’s a bit distraught

SALLY CONT’D
Calling us in every few minutes. We’ve put him on a syringe driver for the pain. He’s refusing food but he’s on a drip for fluids. Everyone else no change from last night.
(takes hold of Laura’s hand)
Are you sure you’re OK?
LAURA
(stands up)
I’m perfectly alright. Stop fussing.
SALLY
Is it Jack? Still giving you a hard time? He knows how important this job is…
LAURA
He hates me being on nights. Thinks I don’t spend enough time with Molly. You know what he’s like.
SALLY
A flaming dinosaur, that’s what. Don’t take any notice. He’ll come round. Look, I’ve got to rush off. It’s Doc Martin tonight. Can’t miss that.
(hurries away along the corridor as she talks)
We’ll catch up in the morning.

Jenny races past Sally towards staff room and removes her coat.

JENNY
Sorry I’m late. Bloody dog wouldn’t have a poo. Can’t leave him in the house alone ‘til he’s done it. Anythin’ I need to know? – Laura?
(Laura stares at door to side ward)

INT. HOSPITAL WARD. EVENING

Laura is by Mr Hobson’s bed in the main ward. The blood pressure monitor is attached to his finger and she is holding his thin wrist, her fingers on his pulse. She looks at her watch to check the rate.
LAURA
It’ll be nice to live with your son, won’t it, Fred?
FRED
I’d rather live with you Laura. (he winks and chuckles) I’d die a happy man if I had you to look at every day.

LAURA
Now, Fred. You behave yourself. You’ll have my Jack after you.
(mumbles to herself)
Probably not actually. Not anymore.
(stares at side ward)

FRED
Hey! You alright love?

(She pats Fred’s arm and smiles)

LAURA
I’m absolutely fine. Now you settle down. Need to be fresh and raring to go in the morning.

Laura tucks him in and walks down the ward stopping at each bed and checking patients. She stops in her tracks as a voice calls from behind her.

GRACIE
Nurse…Nurse?

INT. HOSPITAL SIDE WARD. EVENING

The room is sparse with a small cabinet for clothes and personal belongings. There is a single bed and one chair. A drip is set up at the side of the bed opposite the chair. Rufus is lying in bed breathing heavily and spasmodically. He has little hair and his face is lined and grey. Gracie is sitting in the chair, hunched up and holding Rufus’s hand. She looks up as Laura enters the room. They both have similar coloured hair. Laura stares at Gracie before turning her attention to the drip.

LAURA
Everything see… (coughs) seems fine.

RUFUS
Gracie? Is that you?
(peers at Laura)

GRACIE
No, Dad. It’s the nurse. She’s come to make you comfortable.

LAURA
That’s right. I’m the nurse Mr Downs. Laura. My name’s Laura.

RUFUS
Laura? (he stares up at her) Laura?

GRACIE
Don’t stare Dad. It’s rude. (smiles at Laura) I’m sorry
Laura, he gets a bit confused.

(she lifts his hand to her lips and starts crying again)

RUFUS
(whispers) It’s OK Gracie. It’s OK.

LAURA
I…I need to go… (rushes from room)

INT. HOSPITAL. NURSES WORKSTATION. EVENING

Laura is leaning over desk with papers in her hands. She is distressed and has difficulty concentrating. The light is on in the staff room where Katie and Jenny are having a break and chatting.

GRACIE
Nurse…err Laura?

LAURA

(wipes away tears and looks up)

Can I help?

GRACIE

I’m sorry to keep bothering you…it’s just…it’s Dad. He … He keeps saying your name…
(looks in direction of staff room)

I know you’re busy…

LAURA
I’ll be along in just a minute.

BLACK SCREEN

INT. HALLWAY. EVENING. LATE JUNE 1978. FLASHBACK

Shot in black and white with no sound. Scruffy stair carpet and tiled floor. Telephone stand on side wall. Childs bicycle leans on wall next to tel stand. Isobel sits on stairs, crying. Rufus stands by door with suitcase in hand. Five year old Laura clings to his legs as he strokes her hair. Rufus bends down to hug her before holding her by the arms and mouthing the words ‘I love you’. He walks out of the door. Laura runs to Isobel.

END FLASHBACK

INT. HOSPITAL SIDE WARD. EVENING

LAURA
(brusquely) What’s the matter Mr Downs? Do you need the dosage upping?
(slips hand under pillow and checks syringe driver)

RUFUS
No…I need to tell you…

LAURA

(plumps pillow)

No need to tell me anything. Your family is more important.

GRACIE
Have you still got parents Laura?

LAURA
(glares at Rufus) No. No I haven’t Gracie. My mum died last year and my father…well he…he left home when I was five.

GRACIE
Oh, I’m so sorry. That’s awful. I’ve been so lucky. He’s been a wonderful father. Haven’t you Dad? The best ever.

LAURA

(snatches up Rufus’s wrist and checks pulse)

I’m sure he has. Wish I’d had a father like that.
(Tears are running down Rufus’s face)

I wish he hadn’t left Mum crying herself to sleep every night. I wish he hadn’t left me wondering what I’d done wrong.
(puts his hand down roughly)

RUFUS
(barely a whisper) Laura, I’m so sorry…I

GRACIE
Typical of Dad. Can’t bear to see anyone hurt or upset. It’s OK Dad. Laura’s fine. You just rest now.

LAURA
Don’t you worry about me. You just concentrate on Gracie. She’s the one who needs you. My Dad means nothing to me. Absolutely nothing.
(goes to end of the bed and writes up chart)

GRACIE
Would it be alright if I go and get a coffee while you’re here?

LAURA
You go ahead. No problem

(Gracie leaves the room)

RUFUS
She doesn’t know.

LAURA
Obviously. Perhaps it’s time she did.

RUFUS
I came back… your mum…she wouldn’t…

LAURA
(snapping) Don’t you dare blame my mother. You left us.

RUFUS
Please Laura. Don’t tell her. It would/

LAURA
What? Show her what you’re really like? What you’re capable of?
RUFUS
I’ve no right to ask…
(gasping)

LAURA
No right at all. Why? Why did you leave? For her?

RUFUS
No… I met June… her mum, after I left. There wasn’t /

LAURA
(voice softer) Then why? I thought you loved me.

RUFUS
(breathing heavily)
Because… I thought… my job… more important… I drove your mum away…
(coughs violently)

LAURA
(Lifts him to a sitting position)

You’d better rest…

(Gracie enters holding a paper drinks carton)

GRACIE
Dad…Are you OK?

(she helps Laura to sit him up)

RUFUS
So sorry…so sorry…

(stops coughing and closes his eyes)

LAURA
I need to get on.

(Laura leaves the room quickly.)

INT. HOSPITAL. NURSES WORKSTATION. EVENING

Jenny stands by Mr Hobson’s bed. She waves at Laura sitting at her desk to get her attention. Laura goes over to them.

LAURA
Everything OK?

JENNY
Mr Hobson’s a bit worried about going to his son’s tomorrow.

LAURA
I’ll have a word. Thanks Jenny.
(Jenny continues up the ward checking patients)
What is it Fred?

MR HOBSON
I don’t think it’ll work. With Tom, I mean.

LAURA
What won’t work?

MR HOBSON
Living with him. We haven’t exactly got a good track record.

LAURA
Stop worrying. Everyone has ups and downs. It’ll be fine. You’ll see.

MR HOBSON
I wish it were as simple as that. We had a massive fallout when he was eighteen. He left home it was that bad.

LAURA
You’re OK now though, aren’t you?

MR HOBSON
Well yes…he came back just before his mother died last year. More to make peace with her than me, I think. We’re trying…it’s difficult.

LAURA
This is your chance to make it right. Tell him how you feel. He’ll understand. You’re still his dad.

MR HOBSON
Not much of a dad, Laura. Too busy with my own life
back then. I wish it could have been different.

LAURA
We can all wish that. Wish we’d acted differently.
(looks over to her desk)

LAURA CONT’D
Make it right with him. Before it’s too late…I’ve just got to do something. I’ll be back …

Laura walks briskly over to workstation and picks up her mobile. She keys in a text message to Jack. CU of mobile.
‘Can you get morning off? We need to sit down and talk about things. I miss you. Laura xxx’

Gracie comes out of side ward. She stands and stares at Laura. Laura hurries over and puts her arms around Gracie before leading her back into the side ward.

GRACIE
I think he’s gone.

INT. HOSPITAL SIDE WARD. EVENING

Laura sits Gracie down and goes over to her father. She lifts his wrist and checks for a pulse.

LAURA
Not quite Gracie, but he’s very weak. It won’t be long.

Leaning over, she puts her fingers to her own lips before touching them to his forehead.
She strokes his face gently.

LAURA CONT’D
(speaking almost imperceptibly)
Goodbye Dad. I love you.

A tear slips from her eyes and drops on to his cheek. His eyes flicker open. The tiniest of smiles forms and his eyes are wet. His hand reaches out and she takes hold of it. She watches his chest rise and fall and she strokes his hand before turning back to Gracie.

LAURA
He’s not in pain Gracie. He needs you to be strong for him now. Come closer and hold his hand.

GRACIE

(stands and leans over Rufus)
Thank you Laura. You’ve been so kind. I think we’ll be alright now.

Laura touches Gracie’s shoulder and leaves the room.

BLACK SCREEN

EXT. GARDEN. AFTERNOON. JULY 1977. FLASHBACK

Shot in full colour. Rufus is chasing a four year old Laura around a lawned garden with colourful borders. They are both laughing as he catches her and twirls her around. They collapse on the grass in each other’s arms. They are very happy

END FLASHBACK

INT. HOSPITAL. NURSES WORKSTATION. EVENING

Laura sits at workstation, head in arms. Mobile vibrates. Laura lifts her head and picks it up. CU on message.
‘I miss you too. Will breakfast in bed suit after we both take Molly to school? Jack xx’

Laura wipes her eyes and smiles. She types out her response.

FADE OUT

Assignment 2 – Thoughts

It has been a bit of a struggle to get going with this assignment. What to do? One story or two?  Asking the question on the forum gave me the answer that should have been so obvious. I was so busy wondering what sort of story would fit 1500 words and which age groups to choose that I almost missed it. Choose an age category and write a story. As simple as that. As Barbara Henderson pointed out. Some stories will naturally be around 1500 words whereas others will be longer.

So I set about clustering on ‘hiding places’ bringing up lots of ideas and paths to follow. I researched hiding places on the internet but that was either Ways to hide your valuables by making secret drawers, cupboards etc or Lots of photographs of young children in silly hiding places where they are totally visible. I went back to my childhood and remembered building dens and playing hide and seek.  I tried free-writing and managed an opening page for a few different stories before choosing what I thought was the best idea.

So I started and everything was fine…apart from plot. I knew who was in my story, the setting but what was the dilemma? That was proving to be quite difficult. Looking back to the notes in my WFC assignment book and reading the advice about ‘looking through the child’s eyes’ I decided to get input from my favourite audience – my grandchildren.

I pick them up from school on Wednesdays and look after them until Mum or dad gets home from work. Elliot is 9 and Holly is 7 so they were perfect for the7+ category I had chosen. I asked Holly to read my opening out loud to check for suitability of words and layout. She seemed very comfortable with it and Elliot was very quiet and engaged. So far so good.

Afterwards, we had a long discussion about what the dilemma could be and how was my main character Lucy going to resolve it. The ideas were wide and varied , stimulating me to add even more. They wrote notes on all these ideas and were excited to be part f the process.

I shall take it again next week for more feedback as I progress. What a satisfying way to develop a story.

 

 

Assignment 2- Exercise 2 – Thoughts

I enjoyed writing the opening page called The Last Flight during this exercise. Trying to write for a particular age category was not as simple as I had thought. I hadn’t realised that authors paid so much attention to paragraph sizes, word counts etcetera. I have always written first and then made a quick judgement about who might like to read it rather than the age group it was suitable for. I can now look at things with a more critical eye and even if I write the piece first, I will be able to edit and adjust to suit the relevant age category.  I am beginning to understand why the length of words is so important and the way they are laid out on the page. Shorter paragraphs will not be too daunting for a child of 7 whereas a child of 12 or more would be probably feel that the book is too young for them if written in such a basic sentence structure. Having said that, books like Tom Gates, with it’s cartoon doodles and short paragraphs, are ideal for the older child who hasn’t a lot of confidence in their reading ability.

Assignment 1 – Project 3

I am currently reading Blood Ties by Sophie McKenzie.

The book is aimed at 12+ according to the book cover and should appeal to both boys and girls. The title sounds like it belongs to a ‘thriller’ but the silhouettes of a boy and girl encourages both genders to pick it up. The flashes of blue indicate a chase and therefore adventure and danger. The blurb on the back tells the reader there are two main characters, one male and one female.The book is not a stand alone project and has a follow on novel about the same two protagonists called Blood Ransom. The title catches the eye and suggests it is connected to Blood Ties. It encourages the reader to develop a loyalty to the main characters and therefore a wish for further books in the same series. The selling blurb on the back cover of the second book leaves the reader in no doubt that they will learn more about the same characters that were in Blood Ties.

The book is part of a trend to not only entertain both genders of young adults, but to bridge the gap between teens and adults and gain a wider audience. i think it would appeal to some adults because of the style it is written in. The author tells the story from two points of view in alternate chapters which gives the main characters a strong voice each and I found it easy to empathise and warm to both of them. The author manages to exit each chapter in a way that makes the reader asks questions and needs to read on to satisfy their curiosity.  The pace is fast throughout and the tension builds up as you move on through the plot.

Assignment 1 – Project 2 – Further Research

Another day out and about trying to do some research. My husband wanted to spend some book tokens so we went into Harrogate and called at Waterstones. I was armed with my notebook and headed for the children’s section where an assistant spent a good half an hour chatting to me and was extremely helpful. The shelf space was divided into a number of categories. Again, pre-school had a good space but instead of placing characters, toys and games separately, they were interspersed with relevant books on shelves labelled ‘Animals’ or ‘Things that go’ etcetera. Things that go were noisy books about machines and vehicles.

The age categories were split into ‘5-8′ and 9-12′ and 12+. The 9-12’ section, getting double the space of ‘5-8’, having 4 bookcases. There were also two table tops with books on ‘offer’ from both categories. The age categories were displayed differently. The younger age group had several book covers on show to attract readers whereas the 9-12 and over were shelved alphabetically by author. The most popular books in the 9-12 section at the moment is the ‘Tom Gates’ books by Liz Pichon. The covers give the impression of a school exercise book with lots of doodles and drawings and the theme is continued inside with lots of comic like scribbles and pictures. The assistant said that it appealed to most 9-12 year olds because it didn’t look as daunting as tackling a full length novel. She said it was the child’s equivalent of what an adult called ‘a light read’ and encouraged readers of lower ability to pick it up and ‘have a go’.

In the 5-8 age group, she said that one or two classics were still very popular, like The Magic Faraway Tree and other series by Enid Blyton. Paddington Bear had become very popular since the film was released last year. Fairy books were the main favourite with girls in this age category and boys looked for dinosaurs or monsters.

Both genders liked books in the ‘Adventure’ category and ‘Fantasy’ category. The author David Walliams was read by both genders. ‘Series’ books were very popular in all genres as children enjoyed reading about the same characters once they had bonded with them and had developed a need to remain loyal.

When asked about the Michael Morpurgo books in the 9-12 category she felt that they were aimed at the higher end of that category and they were often read by teens and young adults. She did qualify her statement by adding that it would always depend on the maturity of the reader in the end as some 9 year olds were particularly mature when it came to reading ability and preference.

From the bookshop, I went to the local library. The children’s section was in a separate room on a different floor to the main library. The librarian was very helpful and told me that lots of mums used the library before and after school and they had provided a large seating area to accommodate them. The pre-school children could access books in large, low boxes in and around the seating area. There didn’t appear to be any categorising.  The books on the shelves were only categorised on one shelf labelled ‘Early Readers’. The librarian said that all other books were shelved alphabetically by author. When asked which books were ‘borrowed’ most often she said that Enid Blyton was still very popular but other classics like The Wind in the Willows was rarely ‘out’. They didn’t have any Beatrix Potter books on the shelves which suggested that wasn’t asked for either. She said that ‘Adventure’ books were borrowed by both genders  and boy’s favourites included the ‘Beast Quest’ series by Adam Blade. (I haven’t read him but he’s now on my list.) Most girls chose the ‘fairy’ books.

I am sure in both visits that many more contemporary books are bought/borrowed but it is telling when both markets suggest very much the same  genres and authors when asked the same questions.

I wondered if the lack of commercial value and no requirement to sell the books as such made the library feel it wasn’t necessary to draw the children in by using the same strategies as the book shops? Is it perhaps a lack of funding that dictates these things. Libraries are being closed up and down the country. Is it because of access to e-books? Do many children prefer to read e-books? My seven and nine-year old grandchildren read physical books every day but they also like to listen to audio books together. Their favourite audio books at the moment happen to be Enid Blyton’s famous Five series. Mmm! I see a pattern forming.

Assignment 1 – Project 2

I visited the White Rose Book Shop in Thirsk yesterday. They have sections for all age categories in chikdren’sl books but also have spaces for promotions. They use the seasons to promote books and the window display was Autumn and Halloween. Books on foraging and colours and spooky themes were hung on broomsticks, laid on autumn leaves, hanging in spider webs etc.. . They covered a good range from picture books to educational to adult recipes, making sure they captured the widest audience.

The store has a cafe on the ground floor which is located towards the back of the shop. The tables and chairs were interspersed by wide square pillars that provided a perfect space for displaying themed books. One pillar was covered in Halloween books  with colourful and spooky covers aimed at young readers.

In the cafe there were several young mum’s and In full view of the diners with young children are six wide, floor to ceiling, bookshelves aimed specifically at pre-school children. The first shelves were filled with games and characters relating to the books on the subsequent five shelves. The other five were clearly marked at the top in large letters. ‘ First Books’  ‘Once Upon a Time’ ‘Stomp Stomp’  ‘Roar Roar’ and ‘Here come the dinosaurs’.  The shop had even provided an outdoor eating area with a Wendy House and a sand pit which completed the picture on what was their most lucrative market.

I was disappointed to find the age category books on the first floor where I didn’t meet another person apart from a mother taking a child for a nappy change in the facilities provided. This floor had five separate, floor to ceiling, bookshelves  which were split into ‘6-8 years’  ‘9-11 years’  ’11+ – A to Z of Fiction’ and ‘Young Adults’.  I wasn’t convinced with this space and felt it was not well sign-posted from downstairs.

The lady on the till said that they changed themes regularly so it will be interesting to go back in a month and see what is different. She also said that early years was the best seller although I didn’t get to find out any specific titles. She said the least popular was teenage fiction as “It’s very hard to get teenagers to read these days.”    I wondered if that was due to digital media, kindle, android etc. Is most reading by teenagers done on-line? A quick google when I got home reveal lots of links to articles on teenage reading habits. I need to decide which of these sites may have more dependable information before I take on board their comments but most seem to headline The decline in teenage readers.

I haven’t answered all my research questions yet but I feel as though I have made a good start.,