Sunrise and Sunset

Sunrise and Sunset are getting closer together, the days are getting shorter and up here in Orkney we are saying goodbye to the last of the tourists for the time being and getting settled in for winter. This is the time of year that I always think of as the start of new things. Probably because usually I’d be welcoming new students and raiding stationery shops.  However, this time is different and I’m getting ready to send out my novel to see if any Agents out there will take me on. So fingers, toes and eyes all crossed. I’ve also got a couple of other ideas and projects bubbling away.

One of which is – NanoWriMo – National novel writing month in November, which will be a chance to explore the idea that has been rolling around inside my head for a couple of months. I find this method for writing a first draft really helpful – and not just for writing fiction – in fact you can use the method for just about anything. A month is a do-able length of time. For Nano, it’s a case of 1,667 words a day for 30 days (which adds up to 50,100 words), not a full novel, but a workable draft. I used this method of writing for my non-fiction book and for writing my thesis – adjusting the daily word count accordingly.  It works. I don’t know how, but it does. Actually, that’s not true, I know why it works – you get into a habit. It’s the focus of your day for 30 days, to get those words down, to do that thing that you spend the rest of your life procrastinating about and never getting round to. Because, you know that once you’ve done that daily task, got those words down, the day is yours. And, the beauty of it is that it doesn’t even matter what those words are! Yup – you have permission to write anything you like in any way you like. To be, in short, as crap as you like. And this, my friends, is the great secret of Nano – it takes away the dreaded editor and frees the creative side of your brain to just go out and play.

One of my other projects is the workshops I’ll be doing on Screenwriting for Xpo North/Emergents , which I’m excited/terrified about. The first one will be in Stromness on 21st November followed by Inverness on 28th.  I’ve done these all day sessions a couple of times before in London on other writing-related topics. They are exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure, but very rewarding.

So, I’m looking forward to November.  While all around me folk are looking up at the sky and bemoaning the fact that winter is coming – shorter days, horizontal rain,(we do that exceptionally well in Orkney), gales and fog – I’m making little notes and itching to open up fresh new documents.

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Rackwick, Hoy

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Rackwick, Hoy

Meanwhile, I’ve been exploring. We had a wonderful day out on the island of Hoy (I know, I know, I’ve been very remiss in keeping you up to date).  Saw the poignant and romantic grave of Betty Corrigall, a small monument set amongst spectacular scenery. The Dwarfie stone and the wonderful beach at Rackwick – which reminded me so strongly of the film Brigadoon, I half expected it to disappear as we left. Apart from the midgies, it really was heaven on earth – which I know sounds a bit soppy, but I challenge anyone to go there and not feel moved by the place.  Stunning and my photos don’t do it credit, not by a long chalk.

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Betty Corrigall’s grave

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The sad story of Betty Corrigall

This rather, lovely, late summer has been generous with the sky with red, orange and purple sunrises and sunsets bookending each day and the occasional night of Merry Dancers (local name for Northern Lights). A friend from Winchester was up with her partner who was diving in Scapa a couple of weeks ago. I spent a lovely day driving her round and had the chance to not only show off some of the delights of the islands (I felt almost like a native!) but was able to do so in bright sunshine. She was suitably impressed by pretty much everything, food, history, scenery and people and is eager to return. It’s lovely to be reminded why I moved and for friends to ‘get’ Orkney.

And in honour of National Poetry day and because we’ve been talking houses lately.

The Finished House
In the finished house a flame is brought to the hearth. 
Then a table, between door and window 
Where a stranger will eat before the men of the house. 
A bed is laid in a secret corner 
For the three agonies – love, birth, death – 
That are made beautiful with ceremony. 
The neighbours come with gifts – 
A set of cups, a calendar, some chairs. 
A fiddle is hung at the wall. 
A girl puts lucky salt in a dish. 
The cupboard will have its loaf and bottle, come winter. 
On the seventh morning 
One spills water of blessing over the threshold.
George Mackay Brown
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Sunset

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