options and alternatives

Yesterday I talked about choosing what to read at a Live Lit event. There are hundreds of pieces of writing to choose from in my files, and such decisions are made even more difficult by the fact that some pieces exist in several different forms.

Not only is there an almost infinite chain of drafts and re-drafts preserved from the writing process – and all too often not properly labelled, so I end up wondering which is meant to be the final version; there are also versions resulting from adjustments made to what I thought was a polished piece, when I need to cut a few lines or words so it complies with competition rules, or adjust the length to suit the time allotted for a reading slot. And, as I showed with yesterday’s fairy tale, the same idea may occasionally be shaped into different final forms such as a short story and a poem.

At times, then, even when an open mike event has a specific theme, the options are numerous and decisions are difficult. Which is probably why my attention was caught by the sign in supermarket the other day.

After giving it some though, I reckon a world “free from choice” might be simpler, but I don’t think I’d like it very much.

decisions, decisions, decisions…

We had another Live Lit event last week. The theme was “Once upon a word” and, once again, the decision about what to read proved problematic.

Naturally, given the theme, my mind turned to stories and fairy tales; but fiction isn’t my strong suit and I don’t usually write what I would call narrative poetry.

It’s just occurred to me now that I could have told the story about little Johnny in class when the teacher is explaining the four elements of a good story:
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beginnings and endings

The long hot summer is forgotten, the grass is green and straggly again and there is a distinctly autumnal nip in the air.

The horse chestnuts seem to have really suffered from the drought – rather than turning colour with the season, their leaves are all shrivelled and mottled – and I’ve hardly seen any conkers, though there are at least some sweet chestnuts.

There’s also more beech mast than I thought possible, and a fair number of acorns, too, so hopefully the squirrels should have a reasonable chance of surviving the winter.
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parenthetical

Mushrooms, toadstools, fungi, moulds, yeast… neither plant not animal, whatever they are, they are quite fascinating and often strangely attractive.

Perhaps I like them because I was an urban child and never came across anything more exotic than the button mushrooms and flats that we could buy at the greengrocer’s. Anything that was found in the wild was labelled as potentially poisonous, so had to be avoided.

As I got older, the flat mushrooms in supermarkets got larger and larger, perfect for stuffing and serving as the inevitable home dinner-party starter of the Seventies.
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words and birds

I mentioned recently that I sometimes need to ‘top up’ my supply of words by reading voraciously just about anything I can get my hands on. It doesn’t have to be anything of any great literary value; indeed, I think what I’m really looking for is not so much words as such, it’s colloquial and fluent usage and phrasing that can perhaps be repurposed so that not all the clients I work for in a particular sector end up with the same wording on their websites and marketing collateral.

Since then, I’ve been wondering generally about vocabulary knowledge and learning: how many words do we know? Do adults continue to learn new words and, if so, how many?
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fruitful thinking

There are certain things we take for granted in life.

Like the fact that certain fruit – cherries, apples, oranges, peaches etc. – are more or less round; and the fact that others – lemons, mangoes, kiwi fruit, strawberries – aren’t. And that there are fruit like plums that can be round or not, and others, like pears, that are so special and specific that they have their own shape name: pear-shaped.

Sometimes the things we take for granted are in fact not true.
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eternal sunshine

It’s a long time since I first came across Sydney Smith’s comment to his brother, “We have reversed the law of nature: you have risen by your gravity, and I have sunk by my levity.” And probably just as long since I first heard it suggested that we should repeal the law of gravity.

Somewhere in the same space in my brain where I access those ideas is a link to the idea of climate change, in particular to scientists’ warnings that, despite its name, global warming will bring harsher winters.
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