Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Writing Marathon and Pantomimes

Around about this time of year, for the last five years, I have taken part in a 12 hour writing marathon with an international online group of writers, all in aid of charity.

This year it will take place on Saturday, 30th October. We will start at 2pm GMT to allow for time zones around the world. With people joining in from UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, all over Europe and far and wide, it's difficult to find a 'right' time to suit all but we try.

We have previously raised funds for Children in Need, Alzheimers research, Jeans for Genes, Volunteer Reading Help, and a Cancer charity. It's difficult to collectively raise money around the world for a single cause so this year we are choosing our own special group. I have selected the Ehlers-Danlos Support Group. I guess you know why ; )

Writing marathons are great fun but hard work, especially around eight hours in  - the mind is flagging, the fingers are weak and the urge to collapse is strong. A tot or two usually helps at this stage. Last year I managed to write 33 pieces of poetry/short stories. I hope to improve on that this year - but with a break-off for food and Strictly and having to listen whilst the kids watch Xfactor, I might be struggling!

This year though, to help us through, I have added a special, exciting twist - I have collected prompts for inspiration/ideas from some great writers - Ian Rankin, Katie Fforde, Nicola Morgan, Colette Caddle, Jan Jones, Leigh Russell, Jane Smith, Gillian Philip, Sally Quilford, Nik Perring, Jon Pinnock - and more if I can get them. How inspiring is that? To write to a prompt from a great?

If you fancy joining in - all you have to do is sign up for free membership to the Write Idea forum

http://www.helenwhittaker.net/phpBB2/index.php

and create a just giving page (like mine above) for your chosen charity. It doesn't matter if you can only contribute an hour, three hours, ten hours or less - every little helps. The idea is to write poems/short stories (up to 500 words)/non-fiction - in fact, anything you want. You can start a novel if you wish! It's also a great way to write - it produces some fabulous ideas and work that has gone on to greater things. I've used writathon pieces as background for much longer stories that have gone on to be published.

If you aren't a writer, please consider encouraging me on the day with messages of support and perhaps a donation. I promise to write something just for you!

And whilst I build myself up for Saturday, I really must make some moves on the pantomime I hope to pen for my nursery - The Christmas Footprint - think Cinderella meets the three bears and Father Christmas and the three wise men - or something like that - after I've tackled Mount Vesuvius that is my ironing.

Have a great autumn week everyone.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

A Matter of Degrees

It's all relative and a matter of degrees. That's today's philosophy anyway.

Yesterday I sat my final exam for my final course for a BA/BSc hons with the Open University.

I started studying with them in 2002 when I was in the police force. I fancied social policy/children's studies as I worked in Child Protection but when I left that field, I decided to change to creative writing. This allowed me to work towards an Open degree so I have ended up with modules comprising of social sciences, counselling, creative writing (fiction/plays/poety) and working with children and families - a mixed bag of courses but all relevent and worthwhile to me.

I'd always wanted to study for a degree. I was brought up believing I had the skill and ability to do so. I'd wanted to be teacher and hoped to be the first in our family to go to university. When I was seventeen my parents moved to East Anglia which meant I had to either leave school and go with them and get a job or leave school and stay in Hartlepool and get a job. I couldn't continue with my A levels as all schools/sixth form in Norwich did different syllabses and if I stayed in the North, I couldn't fund myself to stay at school. So I stayed, found a job and moved into a seafront flat over on the Headland of Hartlepool. It wasn't a good time.

I turned my life around and moved to London in 1985 to join the Metropolitan Police. But I still didn't have that degree.

My clever little sister went off to uni and I was so proud when she earned her degree in psychology (with maths/statistics as components - told you she was clever!).

At thirty six, with three children 6,5, and 3, working full time in a demanding job and a husband who worked shifts, I started my first OU course. I knew it would be tough. I knew I would falter at times and wish I'd never bothered. I knew that when I'd finished, it would all be worth it.

Yesterday, 11th October 2010, I sat my final exam on my final course to complete my degree.

They've already offered me a choice of either a BA or BSc and said I can accept it now but given my grade of pass after the results on 17th December. I think I might wait - wouldn't want to attempt fate. Besides, I'm still trying to work which is better - BA or BSc. But you know what? It doesn't really matter. I've now got that damn elusive degree.