Sunday, February 17, 2013

Reflections on Lent

I haven't been to a service on Ash Wednesday since I married. My husband who has a phobia about death and didn't have much experience of a church community would have been horrified by the tradition of the vicar marking your forehead with ash and telling you to "remember that from dust you came and to dust you shall return."

The ashes come from burned palm leaves from the previous year and are blessed by a member of the clergy. Why? Because throughout Christian history ashes have been viewed as a mark of humility and sacrifice for the faithful who wear them.

Even in Old Testament times, ashes were symbolic of mourning and repentance.

In Daniel 9:3, the prophet shared that he "… turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes." Not that I have ever managed to finish reading Daniel or to understand it!

Fasting is common on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and I was brought up to abstain from eating meat on all Fridays during Lent or maybe it was just an excuse to go to the chip shop, who knows? I'm not certain if we are still expected to avoid red meat I know my family certainly aren't aware of the fact that it isn't served on Fridays during Lent. I'm slowly coming to terms with a more liberal view point. Although at church this morning my heart felt a moment of joy to hear a bell rung during service. Overall I'm glad that my children's experience of God is a loving father not a strict judge.

This year on Ash Wednesday I was called to a meeting of SPA (the PTA of my daughters college) it was a low turn out and as the few members drank wine and discussed fund raising and lack of support my thoughts drifted away from quiz nights and to the mark of sin some would be receiving.

On Ash Wednesday there is no need to try and be perfect, we are expected to reflect, acknowledge our frailty and sinfulness.

I seem to remember being told that "We ALL bear the mark of sin, from the youngest babies to the oldest seniors. We all stand guilty before a holy God. We all are mortal and will someday experience bodily death. Thus we all need a Saviour." I'm not sure where I picked it up. "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." Is another quote that stirs in my memory. The mental picture of hell for me is not being denied paradise but contains flames and agonies not to mention the tales of purgatory - which isn't anything like waiting in a train station for a couple of hundred years. Like most generations before me when it comes to my children, I'm doing it differently from my parents. My girls are being brought up with a pretty major BUT when it comes to sin.

The last time I was really quite ill I remember a home visit and the gift of a infant in the Lords hand and being told "if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ."

Lent is a time of introspection, solemnity and, in some penitence. For many it is a time of fasting, self-denial or sacrifice. “What did you give up for Lent?” is a common question this time of year. I'm not sure if I can every give up my guilt and demons, I doubt that I will ever feel 'worthy.' But this year I have given up setting myself to fail in the self denial arena.

My vicar Sandra encourage a path that isn't to deny but to do something extra and I have been given a text to study over Lent.

I have also written a list of extra that I'm focusing on over the Lenten period:

• Wake up 30 minutes earlier every day
• Meditate for at least three minutes, and go from there
• Limit TV time
• Reduce my internet time
• Read my Lent book
• Keep a gratitude list

In the past I have found that my writing has improved over the period. I was very moved by today sermon given by a lovely lady named Dawn who is a street preacher. She asked us to reflect not on our outside appearance but think about who we are inside. To still the chattering monkeys in our mind, to avoid the snippet of gossip we do not need that doesn't concern us. And focus on what is really important.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bagging first prize

It's always nice and exciting when you find out that you're won a prize or a piece of your writing is going to be published. I was overjoyed to get the email telling me I'd won. However, it's the first time I've ever read the judges comments about a piece of my work, needless to say that my face is still red and my tummy is doing backflips at the unaccustomed praise.

You can read my winning story on the site for free,

Here is an extract from their site.


WINNER: The Hive Mind by WriterBusinessWoman

SECOND: Romanians by valentinewilliams

THIRD : The Other Side of the Coin by baz

Here’s what our judge John Haynes had to say about the level of entries:-

All the stories were well worth reading and I had quite some difficulty in making a final decision. This was to a large extent because the stories varied quite a bit in their styles, themes and literary aims: it was hard to compare unlike with unlike.

The winning story, The Hive Mind, is exceptionally interesting in the way it combines agility of form on the one hand, engagement with people and ‘real life’ problems, and an unusual but extremely eloquent setting. The separation between the ‘us’ and ‘them’ of the story is admirably represented by the view through the telescope, both distant and yet near. The insecurity of the ‘us’ is expressed fearfully through convincing everyday family conversation mixed with social internet jargon. The story’s quasi SF quality evokes something which we can all feel already in aspects of our society."

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Letting it out

This week I have found that every time I have sat down to write a story, I've written a poem instead. I think that the fundamental reason why poems are written comes from a need to express something. So I am for the want of a better phrase 'letting it out.'


If I was a tree,
my moods would
make a colourful display.
You could hold
my feelings in your
hand. They would
be yours to inspect
or cast aside.
Until at last
I would stand bare
no place for
secrets, scars on show,
I would be revealed.

The Gift

I can feel the small
bones in your hands,
smell the scent of
your skin in the nap
of your necks.
The way you have
grown is a blur,
a sweet pain.
You have brought me
joy, sorrow, love
and pride. Emotions
which stripped me raw,
left me exposed.
Once your hearts
fluttered inside,
you were protected.
What gift can
I give to you
my daughters?
I can allow you
to do things for
yourselves. Let
you you find
your own strengths.
Experience life
on your terms and
believe in yourself.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Publishing Options

Running a creative writing class means that I'm often asked questions about how to get published or get letters and emails forwarded to me that someone believes is from a traditional publisher which is usually from a vanity press.

I found two really useful diagrams from the Writers Digest website.

Hopefully, this will make it clearer for some of the members.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Why I avoid writing poetry?

I love reading and listening to poetry. And occasionally I dabble myself but I'm alway left feeling frustrated. But the real reason I hate writing poetry is that I find that unlike writing short stories, poetry allows me to dribble on in a self pitying manner.

I find that the moment I start writing poetry I give myself permission to feel sorry for myself in the name of art. I shuddered at the thought of those lost works during my teens. The brief exploration of verse during my twenties. Those terrible stanzas after my miscarriages. And now I find that while I am old enough to know better, that once again the poet in me is longing for a voice. Some days knitting seems to be a safer hobby than writing.

Tonight I miss my husband,

Tonight I miss my husband,
I’m writing instead
of facing cotton sheets
without him.

Tonight I miss my husband,
I ache not for his touch
but the pleasure
of sharing our thoughts.

Tonight I miss my husband,
I want to divide the weariness
and delight, of being a parent,
to share the same space.

I can manage alone.
I'm competent at wiping
away my own tear. Tonight,
I don't want to be strong

I miss
my husband.