Tag Archives: literature

‘Classic Friday’: Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

26 Jul

Classic Friday

Welcome to Classic Friday with Nisha Moodley, your monthly journey into Classic authors and their Literature!

Nisha MoodleyNisha is a South African writer, blogger, amateur historian, mystery-chaser and former ghost-hunter who, with a completed collection of short-stories under her belt, is currently working on her first full-length novel.

http://nmwritersbloq.wordpress.com

I hope you enjoy this ‘Classic Friday’ entry and I’ll be back next month for some more.

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ivanhoe-penguin-classicsTITLE: IVANHOE
AUTHOR: Sir Walter Scott
GENRE: Historical fiction
DATE PUBLISHED: 1820
NO.OF PAGES: 550 (My copy: Penguin Classics)

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This novel has been credited for influencing our current perceptions of the Middle Ages. A romantic medieval indulgence, Ivanhoe is also noted for perpetuating the famous Robin Hood legend and giving us the now popular attributes assigned to the famous outlaw. As a result Ivanhoe is probably the single most influential novel in the historical fiction genre.

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Brief Synopsis

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Set in the 12th century, King Richard the Lionheart returns from the Crusades in the Holy Land but is captured and taken prisoner on his way home. Of his favourite knight, Wilfred of Ivanhoe (who fought by his side), there is no news. Prior to leaving England, Ivanhoe was disowned by his father Cedric the Saxon for pledging allegiance to Richard, a Norman king, and for falling in love with Cedric’s ward, Lady Rowena.

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In Richard’s absence his brother Prince John is plotting to take over the English thrown. With the King’s imprisonment, the avaricious John is confident of his plans and makes progress in trying to secure the Crown for himself. But when Ivanhoe returns to England and makes a dramatic reappearance in a jousting tournament hosted by Prince John, the tables start to turn. And when Reginald de Front-Beouf, a Norman nobleman, and his henchmen kidnap Cedric and Rowena for ransom, the enmity between the Saxons and the Normans comes to a head.

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Ivanhoe is a story set 600 years before Walter Scott’s time and despite scholars verifying the historical accuracy of certain aspects of the novel, they also agree that the author did exercise poetic licence and the result is a romanticized fictional tale. It’s important to note that Scott himself did explicitly state that Ivanhoe was not meant to be read as a historical treatise but as a work of fiction.

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However it would not be a surprise if one had to hear that every cliché about the Middle Ages was borne out of this novel. From beautiful damsels-in-distress to jousting tournaments to comical, witty jesters, it’s all in there. However, saying that, Scott’s portrayal of a medieval jousting tournament was
one of the best scenes in the book. Beautifully descriptive, the difficult prose does not prevent us from imagining exactly what is happening in the tournament.

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Gehrts_IvanhoeIn the novel we also encounter numerous colourful characters, the most famous of which (for many reasons) is Locksley, the Lincoln-green clad outlaw, along with his forest-dwelling band of followers. The story might be entitled Ivanhoe but it is the character of the dashing Locksley (or Robin Hood) who
stands out.

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The damsels in the story might find themselves in distress much of the time but from a modern, feminist point of view, it’s refreshing to see how they stand their own. Rebecca, the beautiful Jewish healer, in particular, is definitely one of the most memorable characters in the book.

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On first impressions, Ivanhoe comes across as a typical romance, possibly an out-dated morality tale that harps on about the codes of chivalry. But thematic references to religion and the Norman-Saxon feuds points to something far more poignant and universal. The apparent racist, and religiously intolerant dialogue between the characters may be unsettling to some readers but the extreme prejudices portrayed in the novel provide some important messages (albeit subtly). Reading between the lines, Scott seems to be hitting out against racial and religious discrimination. One of the most memorable quotes from one of the characters:

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‘Will future ages believe that such stupid bigotry ever existed?”

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Even though Scott, in the process, perpetuates some awful stereotypes himself it was slightly reassuring to see that he didn’t take any sides, choosing instead to show the mindset and prejudices of each person in relation to each other. The message seems eerily relevant and familiar for a story set so long ago.

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Is this book for you? Since Ivanhoe is considered the benchmark of historical fiction, it therefore goes without saying that if you love History then the answer would be an absolute YES! Although I would not recommend you substitute this novel for a reference book, Scott does paint a vivid (some would say romanticized) picture of 12th century England and he does pass off certain passages as if they were a History lesson. But as stated above, Ivanhoe is a fictional story whose beauty lies in Scott’s re-creation of Medieval England.

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The language however might prove problematic. Scott’s English prose can be difficult to follow sometimes. You will end up re-reading passages for clarity. It’s not what you would call ‘light-reading’. It does require concentration and variant spellings of common English words needs getting used to. If you’re used to reading old Classic novels however, then I would highly recommend this novel.

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NM

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About the Author

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Walter Scott was born in 1771 in Edinburgh, Scotland. He trained as a lawyer after leaving school but started writing professionally at the age of 25. Scott achieved fame as a poet first before turning to full-length fiction. His first novel Waverly was published anonymously in 1814. Many more novels were to follow, most notably Rob Roy (1817), Ivanhoe and Redgauntlet (1824). In 1820, the same year Ivanhoe was published, he was knighted by King George IV. One of Scotland’s most celebrated writers, since his death in 1832, numerous monuments and plaques have been constructed in honour of Sir Walter Scott, not only in Edinburgh and Glasgow, but across the Atlantic in New York as well.

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Classic Friday #7: Louisa May Alcott

21 Jun

Classic Friday

Welcome to Classic Friday with Nisha Moodley, your monthly journey into Classic authors and their Literature!

Nisha MoodleyNisha is a South African writer, blogger, amateur historian, mystery-chaser and former ghost-hunter who, with a completed collection of short-stories under her belt, is currently working on her first full-length novel.

http://nmwritersbloq.wordpress.com

I hope you enjoy this ‘Classic Friday’ entry and I’ll be back next month for some more.

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Louisa May Alcott

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Louisa_May_Alcott_headshot

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She is most famous for her iconic novel Little Women but Louisa May Alcott was a prolific writer and the author of many other childrens’ novels, poems and short story collections. She was an amazing, strongheaded woman whose beliefs and values seem to have been far ahead of her time.

Early Life

Louisa May Alcott was born on 29 November 1832 in Germantown, Pennsylvania, USA. Her father Bronson was a Transcendalist philosopher and teacher while her mother Abigail was a social worker and women’s activist. In 1838 the Alcotts moved to Boston and then on to Concord,  Massachusetts two years later. Louisa May received most of her education from her father, although she was also given lessons from famous
family friends such as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne. She apparently had a fiery temper and was famous for her mood swings. She also preferred to climb trees, ‘leap fences and be a tomboy’ rather than be the model child her father tried to mould.

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The Alcotts were often plagued by periods of financial difficulty which forced Louisa, at a young age, to seek employment. She took on any job she could find to help support her family. In the meanwhile however, she discovered her passion for writing and her literary endeavours would later release her family from their poverty-stricken state.

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Writing Career

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As a young girl, Alcott wrote plays in which she and her sisters would act out. She also wrote poetry and at the age of 20 she had her first poem Sunlight published in Peterson’s magazine. Three years later her first book, Flower Fables – a collection of fairytales, was published. In 1860, Alcott started writing for the Atlantic Monthly for a small remuneration. Her stories were published under the pseudonym A.M Barnard. The following notable works were also credited under the same name: A Long fatal Love Chase (1866)(only published in 1995), Behind the Mask (1866) and The Abbot’s Ghost (1867).

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In the midst of the American Civil War, Alcott volunteered as a nurse in Washington D.C. As a result of this experience she wrote Hospital Sketches which was published in 1863. Afterwards she wrote a few novellas, namely Moods(1864) and The Mysterious Key and What it Opened (1867).

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These works got Alcott some public recognition but her biggest breakthrough came in 1868 when Little Women was released. Part Two of the novel titled Good Wives was published the following year. This was followed by An Old-Fashioned Girl in 1870, Little Men (1871), Work: A Story of Experience (1873), Eight Cousins (1875), Under The Lilacs (1878), Jack and Jill: A Village Story (1880), Candy Country (1885) and A Garland For Girls (1888).

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Background to Little Women

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LittleWomen_RobertsBros_tpAfter reading Hospital Sketches and being impressed by her writing, Thomas Niles from the Roberts Brothers publishing company approached Alcott and suggested she write ‘a book about girls’. This was initially a daunting task for Alcott for she barely knew or kept company with any girls or young women. So for inspiration Alcott turned to her own sisters who would end up serving as the prototypes for the now famous Little Women characters Meg, Beth and Amy. The main character Jo was based on Louisa May herself. She also based the setting of the novel on her family home in Concord, Mass., Orchard House, which still stands today and is now a National landmark and museum.

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The book was written in less than 3 months and was separated into two volumes. The first part was published in 1868 and the second volume, Good Wives, came out the year after. The novel became an instant success. It was so popular Alcott was requisitioned to write a sequel, which she subsequently did. The sequel, titled Little Men, was published in 1871.

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Alcott the activist

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Like both of her parents, Louisa May Alcott was an abolitionist who hit out against slavery and was active in propagating women’s’ rights. She belonged to the suffragette’s movement and on 29 March 1879, Alcott became the first woman in Concord, Massachusetts to register to vote in the school committee elections. Her beliefs on the slave issue and gender equality are clearly expressed in some of her writing as well. Behind The Mask and Work: The Story of Experience, for example, both deal with womens’ issues of equality and treatment in the workplace.

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Later Life

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Louisa_May_Alcott
While volunteering as a nurse during the Civil War, Alcott contracted typhoid fever. The mercury treatment that cured her would ironically lead to chronic side-effects that would plague her for the rest of her life. She continued to write however and was still active in political and women’s movements. Two days after her father’s death, on 6 March 1888, she suffered a stroke and passed away in Boston, Massachusetts.

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Legacy

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Even though as a child she claimed to hate playing with girls and preferred the company of boys, Louisa May Alcott as an adult and writer became an inspiration to a generation of women and a symbol of progression and anti-establishment. However despite all her other literary and humanitarian endeavours, Alcott will always be known for her novel, Little Women. The book has since been translated into over 50 languages and countless movie adaptations have been filmed. It’s safe to say her impact on English Literature was far from little.

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REFERENCES

http://www.louisamayalcott.org/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisa_May_Alcott
http://www.louisamayalcott.org/louisamaytext.html
http://www25.uua.org/uuhs/duub/articles/louisamayalcott.html
http://womenshistory.about.com/od/alcottlouisamay/p/l_m_alcott.htm
http://www.greatwomen.org/women-of-the-hall/search-the-hall-results/details/2/8-Alcott

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Classic Friday #6: Frankenstein

24 May

Classic Friday

Welcome to Classic Friday with Nisha Moodley, your monthly journey into Classic authors and their Literature!

Nisha MoodleyNisha is a South African writer, blogger, amateur historian, mystery-chaser and former ghost-hunter who, with a completed collection of short-stories under her belt, is currently working on her first full-length novel.

http://nmwritersbloq.wordpress.com

I hope you enjoy this ‘Classic Friday’ entry and I’ll be back next month for some more.

_______________________

NB. Because Nisha is busy with exams this month she would like her readers to please note that the following piece is an old post from her own site, so it may well feel familiar to some of you. She will be back in June with a completely new piece. 

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THE MOST IMPORTANT NIGHT IN THE HISTORY OF HORROR

Frankenstein 1In the summer of 1816, a couple holidayed with their friends at Lake Geneva in Switzerland. The man, Percy, despite being married to another woman, fell in love with a girl named Mary and the two lovers eloped to the Europe subcontinent together. They were joined at Lake Geneva by their friend Gordon and his personal physician John.

The Swiss summer that year was a wet one and one night, all four companions found themselves in front of a cosy fire in Gordon’s private villa. Outside, an angry tempest provided the perfect backdrop for the reading of ghost stories. Their reading list for the night consisted of various German stories from a book called Tales Of The Dead.

 As the night progressed Gordon came up with an idea.

 We will each write a ghost story,” he imperatively began.

 Thus began a competition to see who could come up with the scariest tale. The rest of their holiday seemed dedicated to this endeavour.

Percy started a story based on his childhood experiences but with his forte being poetry, he struggled with straightforward prose and failed to complete his tale. Gordon also failed to complete his story about a vampire and John’s efforts, constituting a “skull-like” ghost bride who takes revenge on her faithless groom, failed to impress and he was forced to abandon his creation as well (the good doctor was, however, very impressed with Gordon’s blood-sucking character and intended to write a novel based on this vampire, which he subsequently did).

18-year-old Mary struggled to produce anything at first.

 But having recently suffered the loss of her first child and having to listen to discussions about galvanism between the 3 men, the Muses soon took over and Mary wrote a reanimation tale about a monster so chilling and macabre, that when she eventually submitted it to a publisher in 1817, they could not believe that a woman had written it.

Mary named her novella ‘The Modern Prometheus’ but later changed it.

 Frankenstein’, as it’s now known, is considered a classic masterpiece and according to some, gave birth to a new genre – science fiction.

MaryShelleyAs some of you have probably guessed, the characters in my little story above were none other than Mary Wolstoncraft Godwin, her future husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, Dr. John Polidori and Gordon was none other than Mr. Controversial himself- Lord Byron.

When I first read about this true-life incident I was completely fascinated. I love reading about how authors got inspiration for their famous novels. But what made this event at Lord Byron’s Villa Diodati even more remarkable was that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was not the only horror classic that owes its existence to that historic night.

 As I mentioned, John Polidori was very impressed with the vampire character that Byron had created. And even though the doctor’s story proved a flop, he later wrote a novel called The Vampyre (1819) based on Byron’s creation.

The novel’s main character Lord Ruthven is considered by some websites* and literary scholars to be the first aristocratic vampire in English fiction. More than 70 years later, an Irish author named Abraham Stoker would write a ground-breaking novel whose main character is now deeply embedded in the psyche of popular culture. Stoker listed Lord Ruthven as inspiration for this very character. Few people I think would dare disagree with me if I said Dracula, even after a century, is still the most famous vampire novel ever written.

How is it that one night, one prompt from a competitive literary genius like Byron, one night spent by the fireplace could give birth to a horror classic and also indirectly inspire another?

This question intrigued me, so much so that I went on a studious quest to recreate that memorable evening (in my head of course). Unfortunately, there are so many different versions of what happened that night in Lake Geneva and in the subsequent days and months that followed, that I almost became frustrated with the lack of consistency.

Luckily my copy of Frankenstein (OneWorldClassics) contained an Introduction written by Mary herself, chronicling (albeit vaguely) her experiences of that night (my little retelling at the beginning of this post is based on her account).

So what does it take to inspire a great horror novel? Or any great novel for that matter?

Is nature important? Atmospheric mood and the natural elements seem to have played a key part in Frankenstein. And the influence of Switzerland’s natural beauty is clearly evident in Mary Shelley’s writing.

Maybe pedigree plays a part? Both Mary’s parents happened to be distinguished writers in their own right. Or just maybe that age-old advice about surrounding yourself with the right type of people rings true?

frankenstein-mary-shelleyPercy Shelley and Lord Byron were both considered poetic geniuses. Byron had already played his part in the creation of Frankenstein by prompting the creativity in his friends, and Percy, not only proofread and edited the first draft of Frankenstein but also supported and encouraged his wife with her writing career up until his death(like any good literary husband should!).

Maybe it’s a combination of all these factors that results in the writing of a great ‘ghost’ story. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not taking anything away from Mary herself. There was no doubt that she had talent and was hailed in even higher esteem than her colleagues but inspiration has to come from somewhere. Something magical happened that night in Lake Geneva which cannot be explained.

If not, then is it just one big coincidence that two of the greatest horror novels ever written find themselves linked by a situation as innocuous as four friends sitting around a fire telling ghost stories? I leave you to decide for yourselves.

Whatever the case may be however, if you are a writer or in a creative profession, I hope inspiration comes to you, situations favour you and luck finds you in all your endeavours.

Happy writing!

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References to check out:

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Author’s Introduction to the Standard Novels Edition. OneWorld Classics. 1818 (last ed. 2008).

http://www.angelfire.com/jazz/louxsie/polidori.html  John Polidori and the Vampyre Byron

http://www.rofmag.com/folkroots/vampires-in-folklore-and-literature/ Folkroots: Vampires in Folklore and Literature by Theodora Goss

 

The Tiniest of Things #3: The Warehouse

14 May

box people

Welcome to The Tiniest of Things, A monthly mix of ‘writerly’ observations and poetry from poet Tiffany Coffman

Tiffany3

My name is Tiffany Coffman, and I’m a poet. I know. It sounds like quite the declaration of an addiction, and in some way I suppose it is. I have no formal education or a degree hanging on my wall, but what I do have is the breadth of my life experience and the appetite for creativity that drives me to write. Poetry has been with me since childhood, a curious cohort that has permitted me to get absolutely lost in imagination and disclose what I absorb through the senses, through memories. As a creative, the ability to bend words to my advantage, whether in rhyme or by natural flow, then revel in the middle of it all is the stuff of magic. I write from an organic place, a place of fidelity, wherein I attempt to gift the reader with imagery and storytelling so inviting that you’ll have felt you’ve shared something with me. I don’t write for myself. I write to take you along with me on a ride of emotions and confessions, whether they’re mine or yours. So we’ll take the top down, throw the map away, kiss the asphalt, and roll.

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Every man has reminiscences which he would not tell to everyone, but only to his friends. He has other matters in his mind which he would not reveal even to his friends, but only to himself, and that in secret. But there are other things which a man is afraid to tell even to himself, and every decent man has a number of such things stored away in his mind.” – Dostoyevsky

The Warehouse

I wasn’t raised by the warmest of mothers. My memories of her are of emotional and verbal abuse and heavily lacking in affection. I despised burnt toast as a child (still do) and more often than not my mother burnt mine. While my sister had no issues eating it, I couldn’t stand the taste, so my mother would have to make another batch. There was just something about the surface taste of burnt toast that I found unappealing and possibly a little uncaring on her part. How easy it seemed for my mother not to care.

As writers, we must care about our work even though it means digging deeper and paying closer attention to what we’re attempting to do; how we’re attempting to affect others with our writing. Staying on the surface as a writer can be unappealing and lack tremendous flavor for the reader, but for the writer it may be the safest place to reside. Herein you never have to push boundaries within yourself and can churn out work comfortably and at a nice clip with minimal reveal. In essence, there is no danger.

Every day I take the same route to work, but the past few weeks I’ve noticed a man of average age in the mornings walking the length of the block. He strikes me as odd as he walks at a slow pace always wearing the same clothes. There is nothing unusual I notice about him that would make sense of the slowed way in which he walks except that he appears to be quite content meandering back and forth. I began to wonder if he ever left the block, or changed his clothes, or if he gets a wild hair and sprints for a few. What if we do this as writers? What if we get stuck on the same length of block, never venturing beyond into danger, finding ourselves content to remain in our safety zone?

Danger is a grand thing as a writer. It’s imperative if you intend to evolve beyond everything you believe about yourself. I’m not talking necessarily about revealing your secrets in a confessional manner, but you have to dig deep as a writer and find pieces of your unique experiences to flavor a piece or add dimension to characters. You can only do this by revealing those things inside yourself that are deeply recessed. This type of self-understanding will add authenticity to your work as the reader will find you credible and real regardless of what type of writing you do. It’s all about connection between the reader and writer as you never write for yourself alone.

I’m always looking for ways to change things up as a writer as I can get stuck in a particular way or on a particular theme. By constantly challenging and pushing yourself by tapping into those raw materials you’ve so conveniently stored away in the warehouse, you will allow for the most engaging write that when exported to the reader will give them a sense of who you are. This realness that you deliver will

keep them coming back to explore your work, connecting. And it’s not about attempting with your writing to be different for the sake of being different at all. In fact, should you deliver something that feels in the slightest way faked or forced the reader will call you out. It’s not about being different but going deeper; getting off that same stale length of block and seeing what courage lies in you to move further down the road.

 As writers, it’s our job to see the extraordinary out of the ordinary – to dig up those dusty memories we’ve buried so deeply and examine and expose them. W.B. Yeats said, “Why should we honour those that die upon the field of battle? A man may show as reckless a courage in entering into the abyss of himself.” So it’s not about finding a different abyss, or scratching the surface, but really diving in to the

depths of your own warehouse that will take your writing to the next courageous level. It’s not in any way easy at times digging up old bones, but I say better to be an archaeologist than a grave digger. Fall crazy, mad in love with the abyss of who you are. That’s where the good stuff is. Take a courageous peek at what you think you believe about yourself – your recollections – and then weave it into words.

 A few weeks ago while making breakfast I burnt my toast. It was the last two pieces of bread I had left and damn it, I needed that toast. So I decided to scrape the burnt surface off to see if that removed the terrible flavor I’d always hated. Sure enough it did. In scratching the surface I’d discovered something deeper; a mother who could’ve just as easily scraped off the surface in lieu of making another batch of toast for me. And in that moment, she was the most caring mother.

 Dive deep into the warehouse.

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You can find more of Tiffany’s poetry and prose here:

http://tlcoff.wordpress.com/


Transformations Collaborative Poetry Project: Book 4 Deadlines and Optional Prompts

30 Apr

TRANSFORMATIONS

February 2013-March 2014

 17 poets, 15 months,  creating 1 contemporary reworking of Ovid’s Metamorphoses

See the Transformations Page For More Details

George Braque Metamorphoses

George Braque Metamorphoses

Transformers!

Here we go month 4 is close upon us and here are the new deadlines and optional prompts for Book 4 . I’ll be posting out all the poems inspired by Book 3 throughout May.

Book 4 has a wealth of well-known stories in it; one of which, the descent of Juno into the underworld,  is one of the earliest mythic stories in ancient history. Book 4 also contains many a tale which has also inspired the likes of Shakespeare. .  If you missed the overview I did of it, you can find it Here

Again, enjoy the process! Be as free, as contemporary and as inventive as you like!

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Deadline for Book 4 Poems:

Thursday 30th May

 

Each Poet Can submit a maximum of two poems per book.

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 Optional Verse Form Prompt: 

(which you can use to inform or inspire your poetry if you like)

This month it’s :

Luc Bàt:

‘Lines of 6 syllables alternate with lines of 8 syllables – in fact the name Luc Bat means six-eight. The general rule is that each rhyme occurs three times – first at the end of an 8-syllable line, then at the end of the next 6-syllable line, and finally as the sixth syllable of the next 8-syllable line. The end loops back to the beginning. You can make the poem as long or as short as you like. ‘

>http://www.volecentral.co.uk/vf/luc_bat.htm>

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Optional Word Prompts: 

Burning, Shoulders, Held,  Lobe, Released, Hood,  Knuckles, Fade, Mortality, Passionately, Aneurysm, Closet

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 An Audio Version of  the tale of ‘Daughters of Minyas’  (should you not have time to read Book 4)

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I wish you lots of luck with this month’s poem, and if you need anything do let me know. 

If anyone missed out on the great Book 2 poems. You can find them here, here, here , here & here

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Your participation, as always, is very much appreciated!

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N.B. 1. I’ll be posting the overview of Book 5 on Tuesday 21st May

N.B. 2.  Michelle Vinciis still  running her Global Twitter Poetry Project. If you are interested you’ll find more information here.

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Classic Friday #5: The Woman in White

26 Apr

Classic Friday

Welcome to Classic Friday with Nisha Moodley, your monthly journey into Classic authors and their Literature!

Nisha MoodleyNisha is a South African writer, blogger, amateur historian, mystery-chaser and former ghost-hunter who, with a completed collection of short-stories under her belt, is currently working on her first full-length novel.

http://nmwritersbloq.wordpress.com

I hope you enjoy this ‘Classic Friday’ entry and I’ll be back next month for some more.

_______________________

TITLE: THE WOMAN IN WHITE

AUTHOR: WILKIE COLLINS

GENRE: 19th century Detective/Mystery Fiction

DATE PUBLISHED: 1860

NO. OF PAGES: 728 (My copy: Collins Classic)

the-woman-in-whiteDescribed as one of the very first sensation novels, first –time readers were captivated by Wilkie Collins’ story, The Woman In White when it was first released in serial form in 1859. Apparently, a true-life case of the wrongful abduction and incarceration of a woman in a mental institute in the 18th century was the inspiration for this classic piece of fiction, in which the complex plot leaves little to be desired for the action-seeking reader.

 Synopsis

 Drawing-teacher Walter Hartright has secured himself a new job that takes him away from his mother and sister, to the village of Limmeridge. En route to his new employment, he meets a strange woman on the road late at night. Dressed all in white, the young lady’s anxious and erratic behaviour tells of distressing circumstances which she doesn’t reveal to Walter. Instead she asks his help in accompanying her to London. On the journey a strange coincidence is revealed as Walter finds that the lady is well acquainted with the area of Limmeridge and the very people he will be working for.

 After the two part ways, the teacher learns that the eccentric woman was in fact escaping from a mental asylum when she bumped into Walter, and he inadvertently had a hand in her escape. Once at Limmeridge, Walter meets his new students: Marian Halcombe and the beautiful Laura Fairlie -half-sisters who are totally devoted to each other. As the weeks pass by, he finds himself falling more and more in love with Laura. When he finds out that Laura has been promised to another man, one Sir Percival Glyde, Walter is heartbroken.

 Considering the situation, he decides to leave Limmeridge after only 3 months of employment. Before he does however, curious incidents present themselves that leave both Walter and Marian anxious for Laura’s future. An anonymous letter to the bride-to-be, warning of Sir Glyde’s character, sets Walter and Marian off on an investigation to search for the sender. The search proves fruitless until one night

Walter bumps into none other than Anne Catherick – his white-clad acquaintance who had escaped from the asylum. It was Anne who had sent Laura the letter but was at the same time evasive about details concerning Percival Glyde. Anne leaves Limmeridge prematurely before Walter can find out any more. With doubts cast on Anne’s sanity, Laura’s marriage to Percival goes ahead as planned as heartbroken Walter leaves England for South America. He will return a year later however but not before Percival begins to show his true colours when it is too late. Laura’s future seems doomed. Under the influence of his best friend, the sinister Count Fosco, Percival has ensnared Laura in a wicked trap and it’s now up to stalwart Marian to save her sister from the two conniving men in Walter’s absence.

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Wilkie Collins

Wilkie Collins

Well-thought out, Wilkie Collins has woven an intricate plot, with plenty of secrets waiting to be revealed. His narrative style warrants an examination in itself. Written in the first person, the whole story is told in the form of letters and journal entries from the various characters involved- the typical epistolary novel.

Each character tells his or her version of events, slowly unravelling the mystery to the reader. It’s the same epistolary style Collins employed in his other famous novel, The Moonstone. It’s a technique that works for the purpose of the story, creating suspense and uncertainty in the reader. The conflicting reports (which often occur when multiple witnesses are asked to give testimony) are ingeniously crafted by Collins; and it all comes together as our protagonist Walter Hartright tries to piece the puzzle of Glyde and Fosco’s sinister modus operandi together.

Is This Book For You? I recommend this to ANYONE who likes one heck of a good story. And if you happen to be a fan of mystery or the Classics in general, I suggest you buy/order this book immediately. In my book reviews, I tend to point out any faults in a novel for a more comprehensive perspective but with The Woman In White, I was hard-pressed to find any. I could perhaps point out the sentimentality that is inherent in the dialogue but then again I’ve yet to read a first-person 19th century novel in which the narratives are not emotional, sentimental and often dramatic. So this is me being nit-picky 😉

Plus if you like novels that are character-driven you will not be disappointed. Amongst the others, Marian Halcombe is a worthy literary heroine, a wonderful contrast to some of the helpless, delicate female characters you often find in classic novels. Who steals the show, however, is the ominous Count Fosco. Wilkie Collins really outdid himself in creating this antagonist. I’m surprised that the name ‘Fosco’ is not a literary household name or an established eponym for ‘cunning’. That juicy mix of irresistible charm, boldness and lack of moral conscience should serve as the template for the classic Machiavellian villain, for his character is certainly hard to forget.

 With suspense and action on almost every page, and with some memorable characters thrown in, The Woman In White is certainly a difficult book to put down once you start reading…

Author Bio

For a full biography on Wilkie Collins, click here

 

 

The Tiniest of Things #2: ‘Been Around the Block’

16 Apr

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Welcome to The Tiniest of Things, A monthly mix of ‘writerly’ observations and poetry from Tiffany Coffman

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My name is Tiffany Coffman, and I’m a poet. I know. It sounds like quite the declaration of an addiction, and in some way I suppose it is. I have no formal education or a degree hanging on my wall, but what I do have is the breadth of my life experience and the appetite for creativity that drives me to write. Poetry has been with me since childhood, a curious cohort that has permitted me to get absolutely lost in imagination and disclose what I absorb through the senses, through memories. As a creative, the ability to bend words to my advantage, whether in rhyme or by natural flow, then revel in the middle of it all is the stuff of magic. I write from an organic place, a place of fidelity, wherein I attempt to gift the reader with imagery and storytelling so inviting that you’ll have felt you’ve shared something with me. I don’t write for myself. I write to take you along with me on a ride of emotions and confessions, whether they’re mine or yours. So we’ll take the top down, throw the map away, kiss the asphalt, and roll.

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Words will not come about in the lateness of this hour

tick tock; tick tock

Busy body clock

Mind your own goddamn business!

Tick tock over someone else’s clock for I have work to do

Your insipid clicking and untimely ticking

is clunking in my brain

And this matter matters more to me than to you, so…

So…

Oh! Now you’ve done it!

I’ve stopped again

Stopwatch-ing then

Why don’t you go run a few laps around the block?

Unstop the stop

And make useful knots in someone else’s clock?

Harbinger of Time binging on mine!

Take your present and gift it to the past

for there’s no future for you in the mixing

of such verbal elixirs of rhyme and reason

Do not unseat me or try to deplete me

Or I’ll…

So help me, I’ll…

I’ll…

oh, damn.

>>

Been Around the Block

It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”

Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

I’ve been given the rare privilege of losing everything I own twice in my life; the first time at 17, and the second time at 34. In fact, I’ve lost an abundance of things in my life. There is a stripping away of one’s identity that leaves you naked wondering who you are. I’m not going to mislead you by saying it’s been easy or that it hasn’t made me question the why of things, but what it has done is made me resilient, flexible, and skilled in the art of loss. These are events that get stuck in the back of your throat trying to cut your air off, and until you master the art of loss through repeated dyings, you’ll continue to jeopardize the flow.

Oxford Dictionary defines writer’s block as “the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing”. I’m not going to sit here presuming to know why someone gets writer’s block because it’s a subjective thing. Someone may be blocked because they’ve exhausted all their original thoughts not knowing where to go next, or perhaps the responsibilities of life need more attention. Maybe one’s confidence has declined and fear has taken hold. I’m not so much concerned with the why but rather how to move through it.

In writing, there is an ever present conflict arising between the writer and the words with the writer trying to control the words and the words trying to control the writer. The two diametrically oppose each other as they vie for authority. When the writer wins, the writing is forced and flat, and when the words win, writer’s block sets in. Normally competition can be a healthy experience, but competing in a zero sum game can cause a writer to become locked as one attempts to constantly outdo their last piece. Often times, the desire to want to write too much or the next best thing can wreak havoc on a soul.

I’ve never experienced writer’s block in my life. Let me clarify. The occurrences when I’ve been unable to write have been perceived as simple disinterest in writing, i.e., I wasn’t feeling it, or I needed to take a step back, reassess. Maybe it’s my perception that sees it as something other than writer’s block that frees me from any anxiety associated with it. The only tension I’ve ever received with regard to my writing has not been over whether I’ll ever write again, but rather, will my disinterest in writing remain? Even still, that quickly passes as what is gifted or gathered through desire is rarely lost for any length of time. Whenever my desire to write lingers, I see it as Desire going out for a long walk knowing full well it will return, but should it not, I’ve always accepted that possibility as well. Acceptance can be defined as “the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered”. The ability to walk away, not fight, and exit a situation is key.

When writer’s block sets in it’s not a time to panic but an opportunity to rest; a sort of signpost pointing towards a need to do nothing in the way of forcing a write. Writers often fall into the thinking that they must always be in a state of writing, but while you’re spending all this time writing in your head or on paper you’re not listening. There’s a quiet to be had inside yourself wherein the whole world of experience rests. The noisy external, brought inward by the five senses, can erupt in a mass of confusion causing anxiety, pressure, and the control over the expectation to produce. The need to control is strong in the human psyche as it creates the illusion that you’re able to direct the course of events. To let go, really let go of something, causes uncertainty and fear, so we do whatever we can to avoid this. The upshot is that the very thing we’re trying to avoid we bring on even harder, digging our claws in it with such ferocity. If you can use writer’s block as an opportunity to be still and go softly inward listening to all you’ve taken in, the ideas will eventually flow without force or stress.

Tiny little deaths happen all throughout one’s life as you’re constantly losing things; friends, jobs, marriages – all coming and going. But all things are in a constant state of flux including a human being. Memories get old, they fade, they change, and they even rewrite themselves. This idea we as writers have bought into that we must have a muse adds to the building of the blocks. Countless times you’ll hear writers say they’ve lost their muse and with that, their inspiration. But nothing really belongs to you in the first place. Remember, all coming and going. You need no muse, no rituals, no hot tea, or special time of day. Everything you’ve ever needed in your life is contained within yourself waiting to be noticed and unearthed and spilled onto paper. The notion that you should always be writing can interfere with the moments of rest so important to a human being, those moments of introspection. You’re either writing or not writing. Plain and simple. The idea that you should constantly be writing is what damages a soul.

Don’t try to make writer’s block more than it is as that will only give it power. Use every block to rest within yourself and start listening. “Listen” to art, photography, music, or nature. Tune in to other senses such as sight and hearing that give your writing mind a rest. Attach to nothing, yet attach to everything. Feel the world around you while pulling it in to lie within your cells firing your imagination and feeding your soul. This is where your freedom resides; unbridled and unattached to doing. The writing will be there waiting for you as Desire makes its way back home. Remember; don’t be afraid to lose things. They’re either meant to stay with you or not.

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Tiffany will be back with her next entry in May .

Meanwhile you can read more of her work here:

http://tlcoff.wordpress.com/


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