Thursday, 5 February 2015

A failed challenge ... or is it really?

My good friend, Polly, blogged some weeks ago and challenged me to write 300 words a week in hope that it would get me writing again.

You see, September 2013, I suffered a head injury and as a result lost my energy to write, either creatively or otherwise.  I still struggle today to sit down and plan a good story, even though I have several ideas on the go and on the proverbial drawing board, I just cannot find the strength to get moving when it comes to writing.

I have to say I have failed her challenge ... well, at least I have on this blog.

I also write another blog each week http://goodnewsofjc.blogspot.co.uk, which currently has no followers, but there are people who read it from America and Europe (including the UK), so at least the words are getting read.  Each of those blogs constitutes three A4 pages in word, and so are more than 300 words.

But it got me thinking ... what is the point of writing a blog that nobody wants to follow and only a few people read from around the world.  I mean, as a teacher a piece of work is given with the intention that it will be read, whether by me, the student or another student, but it will be read, that is a guarantee.  But there is no guarantee that anything published online will be read - not even this blog!

What is the point of writing your thoughts down (yes, I am still going!) in a blog on proverbial paper that are probably not much interest to anyone else in the entire universe - or at least that is what it feels like sometimes.

Well, I think I have the answer.

Students complete work (when they do!) to impress the teacher and get a good grade.  A journalist will write an article to impress the editor and so an author will write to impress the reader.

You have to aspire and hope that someone will find it interesting.  If you write something thinking no one will be bothered, it will soon become tedious and a chore.  If you write believing someone will read it then you will enjoy it more and more.  You will want to write some more and so on and so on.  The student will write even more if they think the teacher will give them a good grade and the journalist will write more articles to be published as often as they can be in the newspaper or magazine.

Likewise, a creative writer should write because he or she ENJOYS writing.  they should not get bogged down with worrying if anyone will read it, they should not be bothered if what they write is a flop, write something else, continuously write and one day, just maybe, someone will meet you and recognize your name and let you know what an awesome you wrote.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Race to Space 2014 with REACT Engineering

As a teacher I enjoy the opportunity to affect young minds in a way that may help them achieve success in their own lives.  The way I see it, I have gone through the same thing, there were some men and women (some more notable than others) who took their own time to ensure I succeeded and in many ways I have ... I am a qualified teacher, I am married with two fantastic young boys, I am also a published author, as well as an OK musician and singer, but the influence I received from the teachers of Thurso High School during my time has stayed with me ever since.  And because of that ...

I am in the perfect position to help young people do exactly that - aim for success!

In school, over the past few months, I have been meeting with a small group of fantastic year-11 students (boys and girls) who have one goal, to get to space!

Yes, you heard me, to get to space.  They are designing a payload to attach to a weather balloon and sending it off into the lower atmosphere (OK not strictly space, but they are on the doorstep and it is that that counts!).  I am over the world that I have this opportunity to direct these leading minds in the school toward things like this.

This is by no means a small feat!  Think about it, these young people are learning how to project manage, design and build technology (including electronics), liaise with outside organisations such as their sponsors, REACT Engineering and the REACT Foundation, film making, photography, website design, funding applications, weather analysis, aeronautics, computer engineering and programming, in addition to actually sending something (it doesn't matter what - it is something!) into SPACE!  Oh and they are printing T-Shirts!

This is something that a lot of people only dream of, I know I used to dream that I would one day fly off in some Startrek space ship, indeed I used to write fan fic based on Startrek (next best thing!), but nobody like you and me (unless you are in fact an astronaut!) ever gets to send things up there!

So, even if these fantastic year 11 students fail to win the competition, they have achieved huge success.

So, the competition ...

They are one of three schools in the area that have been given £400 from REACT foundation to help them design and launch a weather balloon into the lower atmosphere, where it will take continuous photographs on the way up and back again.  Once up in the atmosphere, it will take a picture of the curvature of the Earth.  It will also take other readings, the current ideas are, at least, temperature and humidity (however, that may change later!).  The balloon will pop and return to Earth (somewhere!) and they will use an onboard GPS signal to track the location of the payload and go and collect it.

A mammoth task for year 11 students, eh?  I think not.  You see, the team of 19 students are blowing my mind with the way they have organized themselves and getting things going.  I am immensely proud of them and cannot wait until the day of launch, when I will be wearing my T-shirt with great pride!

For more information about the project and the team, please go to their website : WHASPACE TRIP

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Literacy gone to pot or is it just laziness?

As a teacher, I have the enviable job of marking and reviewing student's school work.  When they are studying GCSEs, students are expected to be able to write in good English, indeed for a grade C (soon to be changed to numbers - don't ask!) in English language, the student must be able to write in good proper English, some call it the Queen's English.

In Science, which I teach, students always are assessed on their literacy skills, much of their exam consists of questions that require long worded answers.  But only one is assessed on Quality Written Communication, that is punctuation, grammar and spelling.  But shouldn't we be assessing them on every question like that?

I can tell you, the average student cannot write for toffee!

There I said it and no doubt that will come back to bite me on my bum, especially when some young person I have taught finally picks up on this blog randomly.

But, that being said, after 10 years of teaching in various schools across England, the country of origin of the English language, I can categorically say that the majority of young people are for all intense and purpose, illiterate!

Sure they can read.  Some chose the language of text to read (some say the worst language invented yet, a statement I tend to agree with!), and in fact, daft as this sounds, speak in text language, "LOL! (Laugh out Loud!) YOLO! (You Only Lie Once!) and the bane of my existence - SOZ! (Sorry!).  Some young people read basic words, but not the difficult ones and yet others are great readers.

But writing ...

It has got so bad, that to read a young person's piece of writing without having to correct grammar, punctuation and spelling is a great pleasure since it is s few and far between.

I blame no one here, that is not the intention of this blog.

The primary schools work hard, the dedicated teachers work hard (and I am not saying that because my friend, Paula and my wife, Jean are primary school teachers), my two boys have just gone through primary school and the teachers worked hard with their reading as well (and, of course, we did some at home!).  Reading and writing are supposedly a right for every human being!  Yet, there are too any young adults who cannot string a few words together correctly.

I know there are students who have conditions like dyslexia, autism, low reading age, etc, etc, etc...but that is a small number of the population, not everyone.

For example, I used to teach a student who was brilliant. They were bright.  They achieved A and A*, answered all the questions correctly in class, yet, if you asked them to write their thoughts down on paper, the sentence structure was appalling, the spelling was something to be desired and don't get me started on the grammar!

So, that's the problem ... what's the solution?

New governmental education office fully staffed by teachers?  Parental lessons on how to spend valuable time with their children reading?  Or should we just forget about the entire problem and hope it will go away?

Frankly, I don't know!  Do you?

From an early age, we have instilled in our children that to make a go at their life, they must read, read for pleasure, read for purpose, just read.  In fact, as a family, we have a year-long competition between us to read the most amount of books by December 31st 2015...the prize £50.00!  I am excited that the boys have taken it with great enthusiasm, perhaps the prize money is a good driving force, but also (as I keep reminding them!) think about the good it will to for them.

So far, we all have read half-way through our first book.  To prove that we have read them, we have to tell each other what it was about!

I personally believe, the only way to encourage good writing is to encourage good reading as often as you can.  Children always learn, even if they don't want to in class, they ALWAYS learn.  If you talk to them in a particular way, low and behold, you will then hear them talking the same way ...

So ...  if you read and are seen to be enjoying that reading, your children will also enjoy reading.  Simple, eh?

You would think so, but why are so many young people seemingly incapable of reading and writing in good English?

That, I will leave you to decide!

Until next time ...

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Editing ... is it really necessary?

Last time, I mentioned my struggles with writing.  I have tons of ideas yet have no time to write them down - I feel sad for not being able to do something I enjoy doing.

I also mentioned that one of my other problems is editing.

Editing is a major stage in writing and is really needed before the final publication - why?

becase if i didt edit mywork it wood seem wierd and difficult to reed (except to those who can read the sentence anyway because their brain is wired a particular way - not every will be able to read that last sentence!)

But, the question I pose is one concerning me the writer - do I really need to edit, or can I just get someone else to do it for me?

Personally, I would love someone else to do it for me, I could get more ideas out there - oh wait, no I couldn't I don't have the time...in an ideal world where I had the time, yes, that's right, I could get someone else to edit my writing and get lots out!

But is it right to get someone else to do it when they do not know the story or what is in your head?

Perhaps the jury is out on this one ... some people will be able to write fantastic novels and then send them to their editor who will read it and see if it needs work and do the work for the author, whilst the author is writing his or her next blockbuster ... However, some, like me, are unlucky with a not-so-famous name and trying to break into the market stage and do not have an editor.

You see, I cannot afford to pay an editor, I have household bills to pay and two children to look after and I don't get paid the greatest amount of money in the world, so I cannot afford to pay any editors, so where does that leave me?

Friends, family or myself.  Friends are good but can be, like family too nicey nicey, meaning that they are not looking at the writing themselves for editing but for enjoyment - lets face it, unless they are professional editors, they are not professional editors and so do not know 100% what the writing world looks for.  So I guess that only leaves me!

I published a book in 2011, perhaps you have heard of it, Black Donald ... I didn't edit it, thinking i was fantastic at writing and it didn't need editing...how wrong was I - have a read (downloadable from amazon or free-ebooks.net and find out how wrong I was ...  go on, I dare you!

I am currently reading a book by James Patterson - I'm not a big fan of his adults books because of the multitude of swearing, but this one is about ancient Egypt and is pretty good...but in the introduction, he writes that he looked at his desk and had several half-written manuscripts that he writes bits for every so often...I thought 'What?!?'  the secret is to write LOTS?

If that's the case, my friend, Piotr must have it already!  he has just publisised three books on Twitter...good books, good stories.  Just like JP, he has several on the go at once and then he stops to write another one...truly marvelous!

Maybe one day, I will be like that!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Why do I write?

This is a question that I have asked myself a few times over the past couple of weeks since I was rail-roaded into writing again by my friend, Piotr.

Easy question isn't it?  Well, actually no, it most certainly is not.  You see, there are many websites giving advice out there about writing and that everyone should if they have a story - trust I have read quite a few of them.  There are numerous writing courses out there, I even started one when I was much younger because I was dead set on writing in my adult life.  I started the course as a teenager, did a couple assignments fairly well, received my feedback and stopped...

Why did I stop?  Not because I had a mental block, not because I had had enough, but because life took over.

Life has a nasty habit of taking over things that you want to do.

Recently, I asked a very important question on Facebook, "How do people find time to write when they have a full time job and children?"  I received a varied response, but essentially the answer was 'struggle!'

STRUGGLE?  Sure not!  Surely this is not a way a budding author wants to live.  I most certainly don't that is for sure.

This is why I had to ask myself - "Why do I want to write?"

I want to write stories.  I have story ideas that beg to be written.  I have self-published Black Donald which is currently available on Amazon and various places (search archived blog entries for the web address), I have written a sequel, Black Donald 2, I have an idea for Black Donald 3.  I have written a  science fiction (my first genre love) of over 75k words, I have written 50k+ science fiction story that is not finished yet.  I have started a fantasy story but stopped when the exciting part happened and yet another genre - a murder mystery based on a Scottish Forensic Anthropologist.  I WANT TO WRITE.  I have ideas for stories, but I serious lack the time to write.

Another problem I have is editing but that will be covered in my next blog.

So, how do I write when I am so busy?  For those who do not know, I am secondary Science teacher, with all the hassle of work that goes with that.  I also lead a theological bible group once a week and more importantly, I have two strapping young boys who are growing up TOO fast.  I barely have enough time to spend with them and my wife, let alone spend time writing (although, in saying that, i am currently writing this blog!)

The answer is not clear.  You see, many writers or writing wannabes will tell you to write and write and write...some tell you to write 300 a words a day and keep writing every day - this, to me sounds good advice.  Keeping up the skill of writing every day only leads to vast improvements.

My friend, Piotr, is testament to this.  He churns out story upon story upon story (albeit they are novelettes - less than 50k, but they are stories nonetheless).  He writes nearly every single day.  He has a full time job involving advertising energy savings in New Zealand, a multitude of friends he spends time with regularly, medical appointments to help with his mobility which are regular and a girlfriend to spend time with and yet, he STILL finds time to churn out story after story.  These stories are not boring.  They are not rubbish.  They are darn good, all self-published and all well written, but this is the point ... they are getting better with each story and publication!  Piotr spends time each and every day writing.  Every time I speak with him he is working on a story.

Why can't I?

Which leads me to that question I keep asking myself - Why do I write?

Saturday, 27 December 2014

New ideas, new thoughts, new things...new year!

Hey folks,

It has been an unbelievable amount of time since I last updated this blog.  Some of you may have wondered if I had died?  No?  Well, no not really!  Since I only have 7 followers (and since my good friend Piotr has added himself twice, that means there are only 6 followers) of this fine blog, I can imagine that these thoughts did not, in fact, cross your mind, or indeed whether you were bothered I had not updated the ethernet since 2012!

I aim to make that change this year.

No!  This is by no means a new-year resolution, not in the least.

You see my other good friend, Paula (I only have a few it seems!) and fellow teacher and author has recently started her own blog.  This new fantastic idea of her's serves, I imagine, to get her name and musings out there to her adoring authorial fans, or at least those who like her works that have already been published.  Her blog can be found here http://iwantlotsofthings.wordpress.com/, I strongly suggest you pop along and read the two entries already there (incidentally, my good friend does ensure she will add more as often as she can).

Together with my other good friend, Piotr Mierzewski (whose blog can be found here http://mierzejewskiaspiringwheelchairbuilder.blogspot.co.nz/) and who regularly updates his blog, putting me to shame tremendously, I have been bitten, or is that re-bitten by the blog world.

But why?  Why should I succumb to sharing my thoughts to the world when there is a good chance not many people would want to know what I am thinking?  Why should I spend time at a computer to write my musings?  Isn't that a waste of time, effort and webspace?

I am beginning to think not.  All the big names in writing have a blog.  In fact, all the big names who want their adoring fans to follow them have a blog, some update it regularly, some not so.  Some are never away from their blog, some every week, maybe every month ... depending on what they have to share, I guess.  Perhaps, and this is likely to be the reason I will accept from no own, blogs are kept by writers to keep them writing.

Some of you may know I self-published a book in 2011, called Black Donald.  I have not sold a great many, although I have had on several websites, including smashwords report that there have been thousands of downloads ...

Perhaps that book was not good enough?  Perhaps it did not fit into anybody's interest, perhaps i did not research enough into the readability of the story ... These are all important when writing a novel-length story.  I must admit, I am a little disappointed BD did not do so well, perhaps when I get time I can update and revamp it, with a spiffing new and attractive cover, but that is the problem ...

TIME!

I am a full-time teacher and father, I have little time to write let alone edit, publish, design covers and advertise my latest!  My friend, Piotr, has been writing more or less non-stop whilst holding down a full-time job, yet I cannot seem to find the time, effort or thought-process to do anything ...which is why I am starting this blog.

I love typing and I love writing.  I do not want to stop.  Perhaps, this blog is the way forward ...

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

So Long Since I last updated you all!

Hey folks,

You are small in number, yet you are still here following this blog.  I wouldn't blame you if you had decided to leave, because my loyalty to this blog has been rather diminished since Sept.  For that I apologise.  Lots of things have happened.

First, I finished SYSTEM FORCE ALLIANCE and am now looking for a couple beta readers to check it out and make suggestions before I edit it, and boy, is that going to be a job and a half.

But there we go.

Sadly, I have not been able to get anywhere with writing recently and I am struggling writing this to be honest.  I  just found out that I need some sort of glasses, will find out more tomorrow.  Hopefully, I can get straight back into the writing and perhaps continue with my sequel to BLACK DONALD.  Which is another thing I have been concentrating on.

The name of this sequel is still eluding me yet, but it is, like BLACK DONALD, based around an ancient Celtic folklore, Jack O' Lantern.  Of course, like BLACK DONALD, this sequel will have a struggle between good and evil in the Spiritual Realm and it spilling out into the normal realm, but it will be set a few years after BLACK DONALD.  Its all in my head, just need to sort my eyes out to get it on my proverbial paper.

Well, I am going to sign off now, with the mental note to visit more often than I have in the past few months, hopefully when my eyes are better and not giving me a headache.