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Friday, 24 February 2012

Inspiration and genius - one and the same.
 Victor Hugo

Our blog site is better named than we thought. We are in illustrious company, or should that be infamous?  Arresting Prose was the title of an article in The Observer newspaper in 2004 relating to Psalms for People under Pressure written by Jonathan Aitken, the Conservative British MP, while imprisoned for perjury. Described as an oddly moving book and a commendable advertisement for poetry and possibly Christianity, the author likened Aitken’s writings to that of Oscar Wilde after his prison experiences in The Ballad of Reading Gaol.

The article drew comparisons with Joe Orton, a 1960s English playwright famous for his black comedy; Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s nest; Tom Paine (1737-1809) one of the Founding Fathers of the United States who wrote Rights of Man and Age of Reason; and Ben Jonson, a contemporary of Shakespeare, whose writings were numerous. All of these people had been in gaol sometimes because, like Aitken, they had broken the law, but more often because they were political activists or didn’t fit the social norms of the time. 

Either way their experiences deepened their writing. Literature and solitude, it seems, go together and painful personal experiences are often inspirational. It is hoped that those of us who are members of the Mairangi Writers and contributors to this blog will not have to go to such lengths to be recognised as authors with something to say.

I would prefer another kind of inspiration: the kind that Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning shared, love. Forbidden to marry by her father, Elizabeth and Robert exchanged a total of 573 letters, the first of which begins, "I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett ..."

Through this exchange of letters discussing other writers, sharing their work and having philosophical debates, they fell in love. Despite her chronic ill-health, strict Victorian upbringing and increasing age (late 30s) she and Robert married in secret and fled the country. She was disinherited and her father never spoke to her again.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology (and the enlightened project leaders at Wellesley College and Baylor University in Waco, Texas) these letters have been digitised and are available online for all to read – ‘just as they were written – with creased paper, fading ink, quill pen cross outs and even the envelopes the two poets used.’

Can you think of anything more inspirational?

Imagination is more important than knowledge.
 Albert Einstein

Vicky The Artful Adin

Friday, 17 February 2012

Modern storytelling

Bookstores and publishers are struggling to sell enough books to stay in business. But what if the product was the story?

If you simplify the relationship between writer and reader to its most basic level, it’s storyteller and listener. Conveying information or entertainment from one person to another has been going on for millennia, starting with the spoken word round a flickering fire. Every village had its own entertainers, and the most skilled storytellers attracted more listeners as word was passed around.  “Ere, have you heard old William tell that tale of the king and his daughter? It’s a real good ‘un.”

Skip forward a few centuries. Storytelling has been mechanised into books, and is in the hands of grey-faced accountants who decide which stories will be sold to the people. Costs are high so only a handful of stories are chosen, and that’s all the people have to choose from. Authors are on one side of a high wall, built by publishers, struggling to get over to the readers who are on the other side clamouring for new stories.

Skip forward another decade. Storytellers and their readers have pushed aside the grey-faced accountants and are reconnecting at last. The high wall lies in shattered fragments. Any author can be published, and any reader can find them. The most skilled writers gather a following and reach a wide audience as word is passed around. “Oh, you have to get William’s latest onto your Kindle – it’s brilliant!”

We are in an exciting new age with the most astonishing potential for writers and readers to connect. I can’t wait to see what can be achieved.

Do you think bookstores can adapt and survive? Is their expertise still relevant? What would you like to happen?

Bev Robitai

Saturday, 11 February 2012

A video to watch

A stunningly beautiful video about appreciating life. Well worth a look.

What the Dickens are we doing?

A friend said to me the other day,
“It’s amazing how times change – where once writers were considered to be eccentric persons who locked themselves away in attics – nowadays we are expected to be upfront and up to date." 

And he’s right. Today we need to be at least; computer experts, marketing managers and able to speak well in public. Eccentric may still apply – but, hopefully, we cover it well.

Now and then I ask myself why, when I could be slipping into retirement with my feet up, dozing in a rocking chair on the old porch, puffing on my clay pipe and fighting off the dog’s fleas – am I locked away in my little study with my computer, learning the maniacal machinations of ever new software packages, emails, attachments, blogs and websites, etc. etc. etc. And why?

Because I love stories, and the words that paint them in someone else’s head.

So did Leo Rosten –
‘We love by words - love, truth, God.
We fight for words – freedom, country, fame.
We die for words – liberty, glory, honour.’

We are in good company.
Two hundred years ago, on the 7th February 1812 Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth, England and through all trials and tribulations in his personal life still managed to leave us his fabulous legacy of classic works. And Charles Dickens had to learn shorthand for his work as a journalist and probably burnt many a midnight candle to get his manuscripts to print and out to the people!

I wonder if a candle might give me more inspiration and stamina!

© Jean ‘Angel’ Allen  Feb 2012

Welcome to our new blog

It’s my privilege to introduce a new blog page under the name of Arresting Prose, read that how you will! Arresting Prose represents the thirteen members of Mairangi Writers who meet on the North Shore of Auckland, New Zealand.

As you will discover, our members have chosen aliases representing the sycophants of a somewhat doubtful gang of mobsters, hence the Arresting Prose title.

Mairangi Writers
as a support for actively writing locals, was formed 30 years ago. We meet fortnightly and each is expected to read several pages of work for pretty much every meeting. We hope that 15 minutes per person of feed-back will not only help the writer but encourage him/her to pursue their publishing goal. As a result, over 40 publications have seen the light of day since the Group first got together.

Apart from a clever writer of humorous verse, (and short stories) we also have several closet poets but most are working their way through novels or short stories.

Speaking for myself, I’m presently re-writing six short stories dealing with human frailties and the often highly charged interaction between families, friends, business associates and/or siblings. My six stories explore the humour and temper of a middle-aged brother and sister who because of circumstances are forced to live more or less in the same house. While one is constantly upsetting the apple-cart, the other is doing her best to normalise his behaviour in an attempt restore their standing with the neighbours. I’m getting a lot of fun out of this and would love one day to have them accepted as a radio sequence.

Welcome to our blog.

Pam Laird

PS from the Officer in Charge
We hope you will enjoy reading our weekly posts. They will be as varied as our members, some informative, some funny, but all entertaining, as we share thoughts and insights about today’s publishing world.