Tuesday, 31 January 2012

To Kill a Mocking Bird, by Lee Harper


Published in 1960, set in 1930's

The central theme is  - Prejudice - firstly race prejudice, and then class prejudice.

I've just finished reading this novel for our Book Group. As a writer, I usually look to published novels to see what made it a success. To Kill a Mocking Bird was certainly a successful book and now a modern classic.

What strikes me about it, is that the author used one character as a beacon of perfection - Atticus was the perfect father as well as the perfect lawyer, defending the underdog. As a father, he taught his children the evils of racial prejudice, and did so in a practical way, thereby forcing them to foster good attitudes to all, even those who are racist. He demonstrated to them, that people are three dimensional, and not one sided. Therefore, even if someone holds racist attitudes, they themselves should not sink to that level, but uphold their own high values.

As a professional man, a lawyer acting for a black man on a rape charge of a white girl, he did the same. Despite all the negativity and animosity he had from the townsfolk, he remained strong, professional and undeterred. The highlight being, his day in court. The children saw their father in action, defending an innocent man, who had been accused falsely, and who was a victim of racism. Difficult to prove the man's innocence, Atticus did his job well, and not only were his children proud of him, but they had a model of good to take with them through life.

In this novel, Harper Lee manages to demonstrate how racism could be dealt with from the home. How fostering good attitudes in children sows the seeds of upright, upstanding human beings for the next generations to come. She demonstrates how racial prejudice can cause twisted irrational behaviour, poor judgement, and destruction of lives, unless someone is brave enough stands up against it. Whether she needed to do with with an almost perfect hero in Atticus remains a question, but in no way detracts from the powerful message brought home in this book.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Getting the Writing done.

Sometimes it isn't all that easy to keep going at a long writing project. When it is a full novel, it is easy to become defocussed, not write for a day or two, leading to three and four..... soon loss of interest sets in, mainly because it is hard to pick up the threads of where we left off.

The easy answer is the hardest to do!


Don't stop.

This is what I try to do:

1. I write every single day.

2. Set a minimum target.

3. If I can, I go beyond that target so that if I do fall short on one day, I am not behind.

4. I write it on Facebook. Twitter it. "Managed 1200 wds yesterday. etc." It will give me a boost when others comment or like my status. It might spur others on too.

5. I keep a written record. At the end of each day, I write down date, page no, and word count. I can look back and see how I've done each day.

6. When I leave the computer, I space down, and make notes to remind myself what the next thing is. I make other notes too, about what threads I need to pick up on, when and perhaps where.

7. When I go to bed and switch off the light, I spend a few minutes thinking about where I am with my writing.   I snuggle up with my characters in my head. If I have a problem about where to go next with the plot, I think about it, and that is the last thought in my head when I go to sleep.

8. I mostly wake up the next morning with those thoughts in my head, which is good, because I might be close to solving the problem. Or it will be solved.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Voicing an opinion ....on Racism

Racism will show its ugly face, which grows monstrously until it towers like a giant triffid....IF WE LET IT....

Sometimes it is difficult and daunting to voice an opinion. Waiting for the right time is the key. There is nothing worse that a person who has a passionate belief, but takes the first opportunity to bombard others with it, even though it might be completely misguided, out of context, out of topic, and to the wrong people.

The fear of losing what is "rightfully ours", can lead to an overwhelming insecurity, that can overflow into any conversation at any time. Especially if we are overly passionate and are of the type of personality that must get things off our chest.

The topic of racism is one to watch... and so, I think that we should be watchful.  What is at the tip of the tongue will inevitably fall out of an open mouth, if a person doesn't apply safeguards, thorough thought and carefully chosen words when entering a discussion where race and nationality is concerned. The defence - "but I'm not racist, because I have a black friend" is just that. A defence meaning that we have adopted that one black person into our group. Use it as part of our defence, but let it not be everything. We should love all. Love thy neighbour as thyself. At least let our minds believe that we were all made equal.

Some say that racism is in all of us. I think not. I also think that it could be bred out of us and our offspring, by example. Rehearse before spouting. Think carefully. Racism is about the superiority of one race over another. But race is something we were born to. We did not earn it ourselves. How can we feel we can rightfully own, claim, or possess any other person, place or thing that rightfully belongs to the universe?

We born.

We die.

We take nothing out.

When racism is directed at a person, it can be shocking and hit to the core of one's identity and being.

Recently I have experienced such an outburst on a writer's forum, from someone who believes that Britain belongs to the indigenous population since the Ice Age. Words fail me. To discuss the matter with such a person is futile. To take defence fuels the fire. There is no winning.

....The ignorant spouts what is rightfully hers, what is theirs, and soon all her cards are exposed. It is clear she is racist, and was waiting in the wings to pounce upon a conversation concerning the care which writers should take not to upset the reader by using loose racial slurs, even in historical fiction. When my opponent on the forum exposes her true thoughts, the evidence is there, written in black and white.

But *black and white* in race is what causes the division.

Aren't we all maybe just shades of grey?

Sunday, 1 January 2012

New Year's Day 2012

I have spent today cooking up some fishy treats for my family, and thinking about this auspicious day of the year. Working out how to arrange my thoughts, what I should focus on, and decide on how I should spend my time this year, is no small matter. How to deal with the things that niggle me? How to use my time more effectively, and just focus on things in a positive way, and achieve outcomes, is really what occupies my mind.

I hate wasting time.

I cannot stand indulging in the negative. Or be amongst people who are.

Mostly, here are the things I will focus on this year:

1. Finishing writing The Jeweller's Daughter - 1/3 to go! About 30,000 words - 100pgs

2. Editing it - about 4 times, and finding an Agent.

3. Start writing Short Stories to send out to competitions.

4. Devoting some time to Red Balloon Charity, but making sure it doesn't overtake my main objective of getting the book finished and published.

5. Make sure I devote time to each member of the family, according to what they need from me. That includes those of my family unit who do not live with me.

6. Try to deal with every person fairly, calmly, and with respect, in the hope that they will reciprocate.

7. Continue running the Book Group even though sometimes it seems like we choose books that waste my time. The people don't. They are valuable to me as friends.

8. Nurture all good friendships.

9. Think carefully about nurturing those who depend on me, and are not yet independent.

10. Concentrate on my spiritual beliefs, and never fear to voice what I think is right, at the right time,