Looking Glass Language

a word bird reflects on life & language

Archive for the category “Writer”

The importance of dash placement

The Economist

 

Thanks to The Economist, for demonstrating how an unfortunately placed dash can change the thrust of a story…

Mistakes like this are why I always try to insist on seeing my signed-off copy on the page (whether digital or printed) before it’s published.

It’s particularly frustrating when clients tinker with signed-off copy at the last moment, as a ‘tiny change’ can so easily throw a line or a paragraph out of whack.

 

26 Atlantic Crossings

Canigou

When ‘The Unseen’ (shown below), a painting by Canadian artist Barb Hogenauer, pinged into my in-box last May I felt a sharp pang of homesickness for the dramatic landscape of Céret in southern France, my home for seven years, where the view from my window was of The Canigou (above), sacred mountain of the Catalans.

‘The Unseen’ was my artwork – produced by Barb for 26 Atlantic Crossingsa collaboration between 26 Canadian visual artists and 26 writers based in the UK. You can read my poetic response to ‘The Unseen’, below.
my artwork the unseen

The Unseen

The squall hits at dusk, blackening the sky

Like a three-day bruise,

Shrouding the mountain in sulphurous mists

Red sandstone runoff bloodies the sea,

And icy flames of phosphorescence –

Blooming phytoplankton and disturbed crustacea –

Flicker on the ship’s churning wake

Old World émigrés cross themselves,

Filling with foreboding for their journey’s end,

But Canada holds no Ellis Island-like inquisition:

This is home.

Of course, everyone’s response to art is different: I’d be interested to know what Barb’s painting evokes for you. The painting was recently sold, along with a framed copy of my poem, so is now gracing the home of some second generation Canadians, for whom the combination of my words and Barb’s painting had particular resonance, and evoked profound emotions.

If you’re curious to learn how such a geographically challenging collaboration came about, you might want to read this blog post by project originator, Faye Sharpe. Of course, if you had, by chance, been in Prince Edward County, Canada when the project went live, you may even have visited the 26 Atlantic Crossings exhibition, which featured all 26 artworks alongside their matching sestudes (poems of exactly 62 words – a playful inversion of 26, the writing group’s name, inspired by the number of letters in the alphabet).

26 Atlantic Crossings is the latest in a series of fascinating projects I’ve been lucky to be involved with, organised by writers’ group 26: these range from 26 Treasures, a collaboration with National Museums in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (which resulted in a beautiful hard-backed book), to 26 Characters, a project celebrating favourite fictional characters from childhood, at the Oxford Story Museum. You can see more about these projects on my website.

If you’d like to know more about the project, why not download the lovely little 26 Atlantic Crossings e-book free, HERE? (You’ll find ‘The Unseen’ on pages 36/37.) On the same page you’ll find a link to a gorgeous paper version of 26 Characters, for sale at just £5…

Design Week | We Like | 26 Characters

Design WeekSo great to see that a project I’m involved in, 26 Characters, is this morning’s Design Week We Like pick… Having received my copies in the post a couple of days ago, I’m not surprised – it’s a lovely thing, with beautiful illustrations.

 

B is for Borrowers.

The book sees 26 children’s literary characters – from Mary Poppins to Merlin – reimagined by 26 writers (of whom I am one – see A Father’s Duty) and 26 leading illustrators. 

This book came about thanks to The Story Museum’s 26 Characters exhibition in Oxford. We writers were asked to respond to portraits of leading authors taken by celebrity photographer Cambridge Jones. The author subjects, including Malorie Blackman, Philip Pullman and Julia Donaldson, were dressed as their favourite childhood literary characters for the portraits, which featured in the museum’s inaugural exhibition.

Our written responses to the portraits had to be in the form of a sestude – a poem of 62 words exactly (26 in reflection – 26|62 – a form of verse invented by writers’ collective 26 to reflect our name, itself inspired by the number of letters of the alphabet). Each of us was given a letter of the alphabet as our starting point, and the completed sestudes were then passed to the illustrators.

My letter was B, and Paul Pateman, aka Pâté, did a fabulous job illustrating my sestude about Pod & Arrietty from The Borrowers – illustrating the B with a giant pencil clasped in a Borrower’s hands. ‘B’ is for beautifully done, Paul…

 

Pic by Cambridge Jones

Pic by Cambridge Jones

Here’s the portrait which inspired my little poem: Ted Dewan and his daughter Pandora dressed up as Pod and Arrietty. I’m looking forward to visiting the exhibition proper in a couple of weeks’ time but I’ve already relished seeing authors throw off their inhibitions to personify a favourite character from a childhood book – just look at how gleefully Malorie Blackman embodies The Wicked Witch of the West!

 

Malorie Blackman as The Wicked Witch of the West

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 26 Characters booklet is available here, priced at £5.

Related articles / sites:

http://www.designweek.co.uk/we-like/26-characters/3038329.article

http://www.26.org.uk/index.php/2014/04/26-characters-at-the-story-museum/

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/sara-sheridan/childrens-books_b_5153274.html

https://www.facebook.com/events/599353783488397/

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Belatedly: The Mysteries of Christmas…

Sestude by Chris Bird

26 Stories of Christmas

The mysteries of  my Christmas 2013 include…

  • Why I thought it was a good idea to eat my own body weight in turkey & trimmings
  • How I imagined that, after all that turkey, some Christmas pudding and a glass of port might be a good idea
  • How, after combing my sister’s house for our possessions, and doing a thorough sweep under the bed and behind the sofa, I managed to leave behind the bag of presents she gave me for the children
  • And how I could have forgotten to post up a link to 26 Stories of Christmas , on which my sestude, The Mysteries of Christmas, written in response to a wonderful picture drawn by a young cancer sufferer, was  featured on Chrsitmas Day…
  • The advent calendar was produced in support of wonderful charities, It’s Good To Give and The Teenage Cancer Trust, and if you’d like to see the site in action, and donate to these worthwhile causes, the Day 1  plus donation link still works… As the Christmas Day one no longer seems to, I’ve included my poem and the great drawing that inspired it, at left. I’ve also included some background on the project, below…

The story behind the idea

At the beginning of September 2011 Sam Gray had an idea. What if we, the writers’ collective ’26’ challenged our members to create an online advent calendar of words and images? In its first incarnation 26 Stories of Christmas paired writers with design students, inspiring 26 short stories.

How the idea grew

In 2013 we wanted to build on what we’d achieved. During our 26 Treasures exhibitions of 2011- 2013 we piloted a new literary form – the sestude. This comprises 62 words written in poetry, drama or prose. We decided this year to write our Christmas advent messages in this, shortened form. As it’s Christmas, we wanted to add an emotional core to what we were doing so we teamed up with two worthy charities – Teenage Cancer Trust and Its Good 2 Give – who asked some of the sick children and young people they help to draw us 26 inspirational Christmas images. As it turned out, the children and young people themselves proved as inspiring as the Christmas trees, snowmen, elves, reindeer, stars and even Santa submarine they came up with. And we added the ability to donate to the charity of your choice to make everyone’s daily dose of 26 Christmas stories feel even better…

#shelfie, #26xmas

Twitter #shelfie

#shelfie, a glorious, literary take on #selfie (this year’s word of the year, according to the Oxford Dictionary), has been trending on Twitter for the past couple of weeks.

It’s the kind of trend I’d normally be right on top of (see Wordy Wednesday: Selfie), and the fact that I’ve been reluctant to add my bookshelf pic to the mix doesn’t reflect the busyness of the season, instead demonstrating that ego plays as much part in a #shelfie as it does in a #selfie (in fact, since I’m no longer a teenager, possibly more…). Ok, I admit it: I want a #shelfie that suggests erudition and hidden depths of character – who wouldn’t? Read more…

Wordy Wednesday: sestude

Rebecca Dowman's sestude: The Snowman ShowWhile this week’s word, sestude, may not be one to set a Scrabble enthusiast’s pulse racing (unlike muzjiks, for instance, the highest scoring game opener), it’s still a word that aspires to big things..

If you’re wondering how ‘sestude’ passed you by (and/or getting frustrated by my failure to supply a definition), I’ll put you out of your misery. Although, technically, sestude is in the Collins Online Dictionary, it’s in there only as a new word suggestion… 

Read more…

Wordy Wednesday: vinegar stroke

vinegar stroke: the face you make as you're comingI’m a woman of the world.

I’ve been around a bit, read a lot of books and have a particular interest in language (after all, it’s the premise behind this blog, particularly my Wordy Wednesday posts)Yet this was the first I’d heard of the term ‘vinegar stroke’. 

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An enlightening and entertaining half hour on Google followed, which told me all I needed to know and more about the vinegar stroke. If, like me, you hadn’t come across the term before (for those already in the know, sorry about the pun…), here’s a definition for you.
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The vinegar stroke is a colloquial term for the final thrust in a sexual act, the one which takes you over the edge into orgasm.  Still not with me? Imagine the face you’d pull if you were chugging vinegar. Uh huh, that’s right: THAT face…
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Once I’d understood the phrase, I realised that my friend Erin’s (LA writer, Erin Donovan) use of vinegar stroke to describe the final push towards finishing a screenplay was a stroke of genius (again, pun absolutely intended).
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Erin seemed to think it was an Englishism, but that may be because she first heard it years ago, from her English husband, Chris Long (who these days is Producer of The Mentalist). But if it’s English English, rather than American English, surely I’d have heard it before? And as it’s such an evocative phrase, shouldn’t it have made an appearance in laddish TV programmes such as Men Behaving Badly and Fantasy Football League? If it has, there’s scant evidence of this online.
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Actress Katie Aselton, from hit US TV series, The LeagueA bit of digging uncovered a reference to vinegar strokes in the cult  laddish US fantasy football series, The League. The gorgeous Katie Aselton, left, who plays Jenny in The League, gave a hilarious explanation of this and other terms used in The League, when she appeared on a talk show with fellow guest Mike Tyson. 

Other sexual terms from the show include:

  1. Eskimo brother: when guys have had sex with the same girl, they’re Eskimo brothers.
  2. Teasing stallion: a non-threatening male who you allow to innocently flirt with your girl in the knowledge that this will merely get her worked up for you.
  3. Second virginity: the faux ‘virginal’ state experienced in the immediate aftermath of a break-up, when you haven’t had more than a single sexual partner for a prolonged period.
  4. Vaginal hubris. (My favourite kind…) Talking about this, Katie says, “my character is someone with a lot of confidence in their hoo-ha.”  But when does a lot of confidence become excessive?
    I don’t know that I’ve ever thought in terms of my vagina as having moods, but I’m going to be keeping an eye on things, and if I spot it being aloof, timid or cantankerous, I’ll let you know.

Wordy Wednesday: acronym

Royal spotting at the Badminton Horse Trials

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I discovered a few years ago that acronyms weren’t quite what I’d thought they were… This brings a blush to my cheeks not only because I am now a copywriter, but also because at 14, while working at the Badminton Horse Trials (indulging in a spot of Royal watching while sporting a fetching turquoise t-shirt bearing the legend ‘NatWest is Best’), I’d laughed condescendingly on noticing ‘AIB Bank’ emblazoned on a fellow worker’s t-shirt, and – in the patronising way of a teenage know-it-all – explained to him that the acronym meant Allied Irish Bank Bank – I have a horrid feeling that I might even have attempted this in an Irish accent. Of course, as I later discovered, it wasn’t an acronym at all, it was an initialism. Oh the shame…  Read more…

Wordy Wednesday: “if they use these words, don’t buy their shares”

DictionariesAt school, maths geeks and word nerds are often to be found in opposing camps. However, financial analysts like Terry Smith, founder of Fundsmith.co.uk and chief executive of broker Tullett Prebon, and my partner, a technical analyst in a London/New York-based stockbroking firm, have a foot in both, and can recognise woolly words in copy as easily as they can spot a double top, a double bottom, a head and shoulders, a bullish engulfing pattern or a Prussian helmet* in a graph.

(*I’m assured that these are all legitimate financial patterns, rather than sexual peccadillos.) 

Read more…

‘Penis dunking’ – a fab bit of over-sharing on Mumsnet

Mumsnet penis beaker

If you thought Mumsnet was all about sharing tips on breastfeeding tips and baby-friendly boltholes (like the fabulous Villa Jalon, near Valencia, run by Sarah & Johnny Robinson), the content of the current twitter and media storm might surprise you…

The Mumsnet penis-dunking post – yes, you read that right – even made it onto Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 earlier… The original poster has kept her composure remarkably well, seemingly convinced that any moment now someone else is going to ‘fess up to having a dedicated post-coital clean-up section too...

Comments like this – “Even if you have an acid fanjo and his sperm is nine tenths itching powder, surely you can use the bathroom at the same time? You can wash your fanjo in the bath and he can scrub his cock in the sink,” – had me crying with laughter. If you haven’t yet done so, it’s definitely worth following the link and reading the entire thread.

http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/mumsnet_classics/a1875847-Do-you-dunk-your-penis

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