Tag Archives: learning

Always Something New to Learn

I have always been of the opinion that it should be possible to refer to a decade – 1960s or ’60s for instance – without the use of an apostrophe between the number and the s. It is something that seems to have crept in over the years and I notice that spellcheckers sometimes pick out the non-apostrophe version as incorrect.

The shop owner always uses 1960’s and I have always written it 1960s, assuming that I am once again out of step with modern thinking. However, I’m just finishing an article and I thought I’d better check a few things. As it’s for a numismatic journal I downloaded the Guidelines for the British Numismatic Society. I was happy to find that they say “The apostrophe is not used in dates or in the plural of abbreviations ‘the 1960s’, rather than ‘the 1960’s’.”

I didn’t really learn this, I suppose, as I already knew it, but it’s nice to confirm it. It also reminds me, when looking into the background, that I have grown sloppy at the other end as I always forget to add the  apostrophe at the beginning of the shortened form – ’60s. All this is, of course, just a prelude to the subject of possessives. How about ’60’s music? I thought about putting that in quotes, but I fear my head might explode. You can see why style guides advocate recasting sentences to avoid situations of confusion. So, “music of the 1960s” it is then. I often do that when working round constructions I’m not confident with, and am happy to see that serious style guides suggest it.

 

Thoughts on Rejection

I’ve had five rejections in the last month and have had several different reactions.

A feeling of being rejected was, strangely, not one of the reactions. A rejection, in this sense, is only the expression of one editor’s view on that particular day.

One of them was quite interesting, as it involved haiku. I don’t usually write them, despite them being an essential part of a haibun, and it’s something I should do more often. I’m resigned to them being rejected but every so often I submit some anyway to see what people think.

My most recent attempts bounced back with the news that only a third of submissions had any success, and telling me which two had been considered the strongest candidates. I don’t feel too bad about rejection when I know two out of three are rejected.

Two submissions bounced back within days, which I always take as a sign they weren’t even close. There’s not much you can say about that. I probably should learn to be more analytical and to send things that match the content of the magazine. I can do that in one case.

The other case was a guest editor, and it’s slightly more difficult to guess what they want, particularly when they don’t give you a clue. It can, of course, be tricky working out what they want when they do give you a clue. They told me they weren’t a good fit for that issue. I am as wise after reading that comment a dozen times as I was before I read it the first time.

I suppose it’s difficult finding ways to reject people without insulting them or giving them something to argue about.

One of the other submissions was returned with no further information. That was fair, as the submissions weren’t particularly good. It was another guest editor job and I’d sent two pieces which weren’t really finished because I thought they matched the style of the guest editor, an error I won’t make again. I hate being made to look unprofessional, even if I do it to myself.

The final one was returned with the observation that the haiku didn’t add depth to the prose as they were too similar. That’s a comment I’ve had before.

The other comment I have had before is that the haiku don’t harmonise with the prose and therefore fail to add depth.

It’s very difficult knowing what to do. Are your haiku too similar or too dissimilar? And will they be the same tomorrow? Maybe I just suffer from shallow haiku. It just occurred to me that my fascination for improper acronyms could have a field day with Shallow Haiku. As they generally come at the end, I could say that the trouble with my haibun is that they are Shallow Haiku in Termination.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Only one day after saying I was waiting impatiently for news from two editors, one got back to me.

Not only did they get back to me, but they told me they were going to pass on the haibun which, it seems, lack depth, as the haiku fail to take the reader on a step beyond the prose.

This is slightly depressing as I was just beginning to think I was getting the hang of things. About a year ago I had several haibun returned as the haiku were felt to be a step to far away from the prose and were not related enough.

Rejection I can cope with. It is, as I recently said, simply an indication that one particular editor, at this time, doesn’t think that the work is right for publication. It isn’t personal and it isn’t necessarily an opinion shared by other editors.

What does concern me a little with this rejection is that the specific objection is one that I thought I’d addressed. It’s not about my ability to write, it’s about my judgement of what is good and what is bad. I actually thought I was getting better and was moderately happy with them. (I am never fully happy with any submissions, even when they are published, I even went over yesterdays Limmerbun to alter a line this afternoon).

I have just been and looked at about twenty haibun in a couple of magazines. About a third of them had haiku attached which were stronger than mine. Another third featured haiku much the same as mine. The final third featured haiku which bore little relationship to anything that had gone on in the prose – my previous problem. This, of course, is just my opinion, and as we have just seen, my opinion may not be correct. I would however suggest that on another day, with another editor and a different magazine, these haibun could have been accepted,

This all goes to show that there is no good and bad in haibun, just things that gain approval and things that don’t. Today, I didn’t. Watch, learn, move on. I will tweak them over the next few days. It’s not so much improving them as moving them more into the area where they are likely to be accepted for publication. Or does that sound too cynical?

I will leave you with these wise words from one of our great, but unappreciated, philosophers.

“When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

 

 

Why Bother Blogging? (Part 2)

Joking aside, (and I wasn’t entirely joking about my desire for fame and fortune), I needed the writing practice. My writing had come to a halt and my brief career as a poet had fizzled out. It wasn’t a concious decision, I had about a dozen poems published, I was just getting into a better class of magazine when I let it all go. It was a combination of children and poverty, as I recall. There just wasn’t enough time for everything and I spent the next eight years writing match reports for various junior rugby teams and hiring myself out as a jobbing gardener.

Then, while I was working on the farm with Julia and the Quercus group I decided it was time to start writing again. The blog was my first step back into regular writing. After two thousand posts and establishing a habit which I am seemingly unable to break, I think it’s safe to say I write regularly.

I also like the company. I know it’s only virtual company but that’s good enough for me. WordPress friends are better than flesh and blood friends as they don’t disturb you in the middle of doing things and they don’t come round and eat your biscuits.  They also let you blether on without telling you to shut up. This is a model of behaviour that Julia could do with adopting. In WP there is also a touch of the feeling you get when you look into people’s back gardens from the train. (Or is that just me?) I’m curious to the point of being nosey.

The other thing with WP friends is that I was till able to visit during lockdown.

Apart from a disturbance in my shopping habits, and a morbid fear of sniffling strangers, I hardly noticed any difference between lockdown and my normal life,  This, I feel, says nothing good about my normal life.

Blogging is also a reason to get up in the morning, go out, observe things and set targets. You can say this about many forms of writing, but if I hadn’t started blogging there’s a chance I wouldn’t be doing any other writing. It’s a chilling thought.

I wouldn’t be doing any photography either, because I started that to add photographs to the blog.

You frequently see people making the same point about writing haiku, and it’s true. If you are going to write a lot of Japanese style poetry of any type you need to keep looking out for details.

If you get into the habit of observing it becomes easier to see things and, this gives you more to write about so it’s a sort of virtuous circle. (Julia saw a weasel today in the Mencap Garden. A real one, that is, not a jumped up school caretaker or a cowardly manager. It must be hard being an animal when your name is used as a term of abuse.

It’s particularly hard on weasels, who are quite affable, and don’t really deserve the opprobrium they get. When you think of the personal habits of the stoat, it’s the stoat that should be the term of abuse. The word itself sounds more like a snarled insult too. Weasel is a bit of a woolly word.

You also learn a lot from blogging – particularly as you browse Wikipedia looking for links for the blog.

I’m sure it does other things too, like keeping my fingers flexible but I’m starting to tire now and it’s time to go and read my new book. It’s a Kindle book about how to be an autodidact, and before anyone asks, yes, it’s a Teach Yourself book…

I’m going to use the penny picture again to tie this to the Part 1 post. I’m not sure if I’ll use any others as it’s too much of a faff on the old editor.

 

A Little Learning

After a day of dragging a collection of aching joints around I finally surrendered at 5pm last night and went to bed. Julia returned home from work, administered tea and hot cross buns (yes, it’s that time of year again) and left me to recover in my own time.

She applied fish and chips later in the evening with tea and sympathy and the threatened flu never materialised. That might have been because I averted illness with a well-timed nap and application of carbohydrates. Or it may have I was merely cold, short of sleep and getting old.

Today, I find myself quite perky and have returned to blogging.

We had no internet at work today. When we rang the company they said they knew about it and were working on fixing the problem. They carried on working to fix the problem for another five hours. WE couldn’t put anything on eBay, we couldn’t answer emails, we couldn’t even Google things that cropped up in conversation. We did manage to send some parcels after accessing the internet via the boss’s phone but it is not the same as sitting at a screen.

In 1973 we celebrated EU membership

In 1973 we celebrated EU membership

We had to send two people across the road to use the cash machine because we couldn’t take card payments without access to the internet. They both came back, which was good, because sometimes they just drift off and don’t come back. Fortunately our only telephone buyer of the day rang five minutes after the connection was restored.

At least all this gave me time to polish the counters and clean the work surfaces in the kitchen. I also cleaned about 1,200 photos off my memory card. I tend to leave them there, even though I won’t need them again. I really should start behaving in a more responsible manner with my stored photos.

So, there we go.

Today’s learning outcomes are that I now realise how much we rely on the internet and that I must spend more time organising my photographs and sleeping. But mainly I learnt how much more I have to learn. After a day with plenty of time to think, I realised there’s a lot of stuff out there that I still don’t know.

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Snowdrops

Another 100 Day Challenge – Haiku

It’s Day 100 of the Haiku Challenge.

I now have over 1,000 haiku of indeterminate quality. Some of them aren’t haiku, some are senyru. Some are more like fragments, or notes. And many of them are merely bad.

Having taken all that into consideration, was it worth it?

Undoubtedly. I’ve learned a lot from the experience, including that in any 100 day challenge you are going to come to hate what you are doing. Whether this holds true for my new challenge remains to be seen.

I first came up with the idea from reading this this post whilst browsing the net for haiku-related posts. I then moved on to reading this article, which is a lot more ambitious.

My “rules”, garnered from the article, were simple. Ten haiku a day for 100 days, avoiding too much censorship and writing extra to catch up if I couldn’t manage ten one day. As the article admitted that experienced writers were only getting one good haiku out of ten or twenty attempts I felt justified in taking a laid back attitude.

So, what did I learn?

Well, I became more fluent in my writing and found ideas came more easily.

I became addicted to writing and couldn’t rest if I didn’t write at least ten a day. Apart from the days I needed a rest, because there were several days where I hated haiku so badly that I couldn’t write one. That did happen a couple of times, but I soon got over it after a day off.

I also ran out of nature several times. Despite becoming more observant and making better notes as time went on, I found I was struggling with enough nature observations to keep myself going. You don’t see much nature when you are just driving through town to work and back, and magpies and bare branches are simply not enough to feed a heavy haiku habit.

Towards the end of the time I noticed I was writing three line poems with the rhythms and vocabulary of haiku.

That last point is quite important. I started with a lot of long words and details which aren’t really needed in haiku. A three syllable word in a haiku, remember, is three thirteenths of the syllables needed for a modern haiku (seventeen is now considered old-fashioned). Three thirteenths of a sonnet is near enough three lines, so you can see how condensed a haiku is, and why you can’t waste a single syllable.

That was probably the most important thing I learned.

Now, it’s time to take Number Two Son to work.

Over the next few weeks I will do some rewriting and may show you a few poems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 100!

Finally – day 100 in the posting challenge!

(Well, really day 99 out of 100, but as I’ve averaged over a post a day I’m allowing myself to claim it as completed.)

I’m treating it in a suitably low-key sort of way and celebrated by having a tooth extracted. It wasn’t particularly enjoyable, but it could have been worse. Next time I have a celebration I may stick with the traditional cake-based version.

They gave me a form to fill in afterwards, asking how likely I was to recommend them to a family member. It’s difficult to give a useful answer to that, as I’m not likely to recommend that any member of my family spends half an hour in the dentist’s chair with pliers and power tools in their mouth.

So, what have I learned from my 100 days of posting?

Tricky…

I’ve learned that it’s possible to run out of things to say, and that photos of flowers and cute animals are an acceptable substitute. I’ve also learned that you can grow to hate blogging at times, and that setting a target makes you more likely to do things.

However, I knew that.

I suppose the main thing I’ve learned is that it is possible to set myself a long-term writing target and stick to it. That’s not always been the case in the past.

I also need to list subjects for posts and write some in advance.

That, I think, is about it.

Now, what should I do tomorrow?

Haiku Challenge – Day 79 – Just 3 Weeks Left!

I’ve been plugging away at it for 79 days now, and have written well over 800 haiku, spread between three notebooks – upstairs, downstairs and in the car. You can’t afford to waste inspiration, and I’ve often done the daily ten whilst waiting in the car for Julia.

As a result I swear my brain is getting bigger and I’m beginning to resemble the Mekon.

Image result for mekon

(Image purloined from http://www.dandare.org.uk)

Well, not in all respects, I’m not clean-shaven and I don’t sit in a levitating lifeboat. I will probably have to start eating fish to power all this extra grey matter.

In terms of enthusiasm I’ve moved from being happy with my newly developed facility for haiku writing, to being addicted, to hating them and back to happiness.

In terms of quality, I’m embarrassed to admit that 775 of the 800 I’ve written are not very good. On the other hand, the remaining 25 are better than anything I’d written before I started the challenge, so it has done some good.

There is an editor on one of the magazine websites who is very critical of people who write haiku in “industrial quantities”. That’s me he’s talking about. At one time I was depressed at the thought, but now I’m happy with it, as I have definitely improved despite my “industrial” approach.

It’s hurt at times but I think the learning has been good for me in the end. I got myself back into writing by buying a diary and writing something every day for a year (which I nearly accomplished) but the high intensity of ten a day for 100 days is a much more intense learning experience.

Of course, telling people about it to ensure it happened was a good idea, as I’d have given up weeks ago if it wasn’t for that.

I’d also make sure there was plenty of nature to see – 100 haiku featuring fallen or brown leaves can be a bit wearing. If I ever do this again I’ll choose a different time of year and do more walking.

The other thing I would suggest is that you should keep your haiku properly filed or indexed. I have 800 free range haiku and no prospect of ever getting them sorted.

That’s it for now – the next news on this will be in 21 days.

 

Desert Island Blogs (2)

I’m thinking.

On the radio programme they used to ask the subject about their early life and such stuff.

Well, my first memories are of living in the middle of a field just outside York. A local farmer had built a bungalow in the middle of the field as a home for his cowman, but had ended up selling it. That would be about 1960-61. Out of all the memories of the time, one that stands out is of someone knocking on the door and asking to use our telephone as he’d broken down. No mobiles in those days, and no fear of strangers. I have more memories, but how many do you want?

The first blog is A Suffolk Lane by Clare Pooley. Clare has been busy recently and my insights into rural Suffolk have been more limited than I would have liked this year. When she has time to post she covers a variety of subjects – church architecture, walking, flowers, East Anglia, family, art and birds. I like East Anglia, and have a whole tribe of in-laws living in Suffolk, so this is a nice relaxing read.

I don’t think I’d be overegging the pudding to call it a rural idyll.

After York, we moved to Blackburn, which wasn’t such a nice place. There was a fascinating canal at the top of our road, which I now know to be the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. It was full of sticklebacks, which I used to net and keep in jam jars. I suppose that’s considered a bad thing these days.

The next selected blog is Salmon Brook Farms, the blog of Lavinia Ross.  Based in Oregon, the foothills of the Cascades, she and her husband grow apples, blueberries, cherries plums, pears, grapes, persimmons, grapes and hazelnuts. This seems a lot of work, even before you consider the music. And the cats, though the cats do help by writing part of the blog. I’ve never had useful cats. Ours just lazed about the place, eating, killing things and looking at me with contempt. That’s an example followed by my kids, though they don’t stalk the garden killing song birds.

In this month’s post she shows us wasps in the blueberries (with an inpressive shot of the nest) and discusses visiting foxes – they have three sorts of fox compared to our one.

Meanwhile Nano the cat has posted pictures of a skull for identification.

At one post a month I will be sitting on my desert island waiting eagerly, which will give me something to look forward to apart from typhoons and another meal of fish and coconut.

After Blackburn we moved in with family in the village of Chatburn, just under Pendle Hill. I was able to go to the same school as my parents and was taught by a teacher who had taught my mother. Here is the link that refers to the bombing raid I have mentioned previously, when my mother had to shelter under her school desk.

My third selection for the day is Notes from the Hinterland by Laurie Graves, author of Maya and the Book of Everything. I’m afraid I haven’t read it as I don’t read Young Adult fiction but it has good reviews so if it’s your sort of thing you could give it a go. It’s interesting to follow her visits to libraries and other events, and to see that books are still very much alive despite digital competition.

The rest of the posts cover things like ice cream, cycling, dining, farmers’ markets, French ancestry and a circus visit.

I’ve always quite liked Maine after watching Murder She Wrote, but it turns out, on consulting Wiki, that the programme is filmed in California, and the real Maine is subject to snow, mud, winter storms and, in summer, excessive heat. There’s always something to learn from a blog…

And when I’m too hot on the Desert Island, I can read the bits of the blog that refer to snow.

Part 3 will follow soon.

 

 

Learn one new thing a day

Not sure if I’ve ever mentioned it before, but someone once told me that if you can learn one new thing a day you will become the wisest person in the world. As a result, I try to learn one or more new things a day. Despite this I can’t help feeling that I’m a long way from being the wisest person in the world. Part of the problem is that the more you know, the more you realise how much you don’t know.

I suppose that’s why they say ignorance is bliss.

On that subject, the farmer is currently showing round the people who will be taking over from us. There are seven days in the week but they need to meet on one of the days that we meet. Talk about rubbing it in. But as I said, ignorance is bliss.

As if that isn’t bad enough, they came and parked near the bird feeders and scared everything off. Humph!

However, back to knowledge.

Gemma wanted to know about baked beans and, as we encourage everyone to do, asked me to check it up on the computer. We covered haricot beans, Boston Baked Beans and Heinz Baked Beans, and during this tour of the net I noticed a link from one of the recipe pages.

The link is to the Boston Molasses Disaster. I’d never heard of it, but in 1919 it killed 21 people. From that page I went to the London Beer Flood. I’d never heard of that either, but in 1814 323,000 gallons of beer escaped from burst tanks, destroyed two houses and killed at least 8 people. I won’t spoil the surprise, so if you are intrigued by the names you can click the link.

The Farmer has now been loaded onto Dave’s van (the cardboard farmer, that is, not the breathing one) and he is off to school too. He was just too tall to fit in the car with Connie, and screwed together too tightly to allow us to dismantle the frame easily. That’s what happens when you ask a mixed group of artists and engineers to make a stand for a piece of cardboard.

We filled the rest of the day with making Christmas cards and I am now, reluctantly, going across to the kitchen to make jam. I really don’t like using the kitchen these days, with all the politics and unpleasantness that it now involves, but it needs to be done and I have no choice…

Later: Jam making went well – it’s all set and washed up now. 🙂