Tuesday, 29 April 2014

It's Monday, 5.43 am.

Daniela Pesconi-Arthur

Monday, 5.43 am.

           'Great! Fucking great!'
            I look at myself in the mirror, my eyes barely open, but I can still see it. The massive, yellow, disgusting, painful beast. A spot, right below my left nostril.
            I can't believe it. It has to be there, as an affront; an alien to my face, just to tease me, knowing how panicky I already am; how insecure I can bel how my self-esteem lives permanently in a swing, and that it can go down as quick as a wink...
            I has to be there on my first day at school... What's worse... High school! As if the bad belly isn't enough; as if last night's dreams of getting it all wrong haven't scared me enough.
            I don't want to go. I don't want to go. Please, can I just disappear? 
            No, I can't. I'm the substitute English teacher.


          I'm starting at this new school today. My first time as a "proper" high school English teacher. At least I'm going to the same school all week, with the possibility of being there until July. Fingers crossed.
             I've been a teacher for about 15 years. I did most of my teaching in Brazil, in language schools. I still keep in touch with some students from over 10 years ago. It's just brilliant! Especially when I see how much they've grown and what they're doing now (uni, living abroad, married with children). I've taught high school, university, young (very young) children and older people too. 

             Still, the first class with a group is always nerve-racking, but this is the first time I'm doing it in the UK. Yep, a Brazilian teaching English to high school students in the UK. Cheeky? Mmmm... I'd say brave. I've been in the classroom with 46 fourteen-year-olds once. Some of them were really well behaved; most of them weren't. 
             I get to school, sign in and wait to be given directions. About 15 minutes later, I am also given my timetable for the day and a supply teacher manual! Yay! And that's all I'm given. No worries. I can do this, I say to myself. I wanted so much to be here, that I won't let anything upset or stress me. 
              First thing is registration. I'm so happy to see that I'm suddenly surrounded by about 30 tiny people from Year 7. They are so cute, and I'm glad that I'll be seeing them first thing in the morning for the rest of the week... I love being called "Miss"...   :-)
                 Ok, I won't make this too long. What have I got to say after the first day:

              1) Students/teenagers will always be teenagers, no matter what country they live in.
                2) Most of my students so far are very well-behaved. (phew)
                3) In period 3 (the 3rd class) I saw myself in the Hall with 32 noisy teenagers for Drama class (What? Did I sign up for that???) and I didn't know what to do. So, I "improvised" (after all, it's a Drama class) and ended up with groups of students performing a car crashe, a zombie apocalypse, another car crash, a zombie attack to a bus (I guess someone has been watching too much "Walking Dead") and the last group had a girl in crutches who whacked a thief on the head. And then the bell rang to announce break time. I survived.
            4) There was also a student who shouts in the classroom, without warning, making me jump every time.
            5) I also had a teacher assistant in my class for the first time.

            In the end, I guess I just loved all of it... Masoquist? I wouldn't say that. It's hard, especially at the beginning, when you don't know your students and what they need. Actually, they're no even my students! I'm just a supply teacher. But one that's hoping to stay. :)

Daniela Pesconi-Arthur


Monday, 28 April 2014

Just One More Shot - Guest post by Ruby Holmes

Daniela Pesconi-Arthur

Hi there! I hope you are all well! Today's post is another guest post. It was written by a fellow writer and Creative Writing (TWICE!) classmate, Ruby Holmes (click her name to follow her on Twitter), and it touched me deeply. Having taken Creative Writing classes together, I'd listened to a few of her writing, and always adored the way she uses the words... I hope you like it too...


Just One More Shot

I woke up in clean pyjamas, the bed still made around me. I sat up and stretched and marvelled that I felt positive and energised. I peed then went into my unusually tidy living room. No pizza boxes stamped on the carpet, no broken wine glasses, no over-spilling ashtrays and, as I’d peed, I’d noted that there were no remnants of vomit on the porcelain. I had drunk at least two bottles of wine a night for the last ten years, often more but until now never less.

I flipped the kettle on and readied my mug. Steaming coffee in my hand I sat at the table and began to journal, as has been my compulsion for years. But there was an A4 sheet of paper, typed, with my signature at the bottom. I sipped my coffee and read. ‘Ruby June Holmes Is hereby banned from the premises of Asda, Walmart and all its conglomerates’.

Er, um, what?, er…sips more coffee…what in the hell?

The rest of the piece of paper was full of legal jargon and at the bottom the number of my local store. I picked up the phone and dialled.

‘Hi, I seem to have a form here that says I’m banned from your stores, er, what?

‘Is this Ruby?’ came the reply.

‘Er, yes’

‘What is it you want? ‘ the gruff man said impatiently.

In my finest English accent that betrays my upbringing in poverty I said ‘Well, Sir, I’d like to know why I have it.’

‘You came into the store last night’ He said.

‘Are you sure? What time?’ I enquired.

‘Round about 3am, you were stuffing things in your bag.’

‘What? I’ve never stolen in my life! What did I say?’

‘We couldn’t determine if you spoke English’ he chuckled as he said this. ‘We called the police after you’d paid for some stuff then tried to leave with the rest.’

Ok, I have never committed a crime in all my life. I wouldn’t even add a penny sweet to the bag in the village newsagent in case they counted, thought I’d tried to add one extra and sent me to Holloway Prison for fifty years.

‘Ok what can I do? I asked, still in my most educated sounding accent that I can put on when waitressing or getting refunds from Vodafone.

‘Love there’s nothing you can do’ and he hung up.

I had a cigarette and put the butt in the bin. Upon doing so I saw a clue as to how this had all come about. Two empty bottles of wine and an empty bottle of vodka. I’d remembered driving to Nash Point Lighthouse in the day and until now thought the sea air had helped me sleep so well. I had no recollection of drinking any of it, going to Asda or coming home. To this day I have no idea how I did the three mile trip. And then, by the front door was a bag for life with a pole sticking out of it. They had let me keep what I had actually paid for. What I intended to do with, and how I got home with, three bottles of mouthwash, femfresh and a mop remains a ridiculous mystery.

I live in fear that one day I’ll settle down with a cup of tea, watch Worlds Dumbest Criminals and see me wondering the aisles in my fully addled state. I would say it wasn’t my finest moment but you know, it may well have been.

I had long since ceased to function in day to day life. Dysfunction had become my Dystopia. But I had never stopped dreaming of what my Utopia would feel and look like.

My name is Ruby and for twelve years I was a writer and a hopeless alcoholic.

I wanted to be great, and all the greats drink or drank right? Well, seeing as I was already a pathetic drunk I was halfway to success. My idea of my future, as I said I still dreamed of one, was full of reading and writing. The former sober and the latter whilst spectacularly pissed. Alone I drink and alone I write! I am a cliché and I’m embracing it! I relied on the drink (usually cheap wine) to ‘unlock’ my mind, tickle my imagination and call forth a manic rush of inspiration. I’d write on my laptop (if it wasn’t being repaired after another wine-on-the-keyboard incident) and more often in notebooks. The fancy type with patterns of butterflies, birds and flowers guarding the genius that had poured forth as the wine did the same.

And so it went by. Twelve years of being fecked every night and so many full journals and computer files that lay as evidence that I was indeed a writer.

Then I started to die. Physically and mentally I had one binge left. My friends were tired of my announcements, every other day that ‘TODAY IS THE DAY I QUIT ALCOHOL’, the frequent suicide attempts and the FaceBook statuses hollering out my thoughts on the Human Condition and song lyrics that were fit for a funeral.

So it was on June 25th 2011 I gently washed up my glass and tipped away the remainder of the bottle into the sink. Eight weeks later I phoned my dearest friend and told her I had two months sober. I was adored. I got off the phone picked up a notebook and did something I thought only alcohol gave me the permission to do: I started to write. By giving up the shots I was given one more shot.

This June it will be the three year anniversary of the end of my drinking career, and three years anniversary of the start of my writing career. For shits and giggles I’m beginning to read over some of the work I have done sober. It is in no way ground breaking but there’s a definite improvement in content, style and, well, coherence. I’ve also begun to revisit the pages of ‘work’ I produced when drinking and thought that I sounded quite profound, sometimes a literary genius, an example of which I give below.

I had believed that alcohol and writing, for me, were intimately entwined, one a parasitic twin to the other. If volume was the aim then my alcoholism worked. But who wants diarrhoea when you can have a perfect shaped and relieving poop?

I’m a lesbian, obsessed with lighthouses and talking about poo. Freud is leaping up out of his grave and dashing to get his white coat.

My reality now is that I am sober and I write and I have something to write about now that I am living instead of just existing. I meet people and actively engage with them without worrying that I am drinking faster than them. I listen to people and read their faces instead of them being human shaped wine bottles dancing in front of me. I do what I hadn’t done in twelve years: I learn. And I write. I write therefore I am. And I write because I am lucid.

Example of my ‘genius’ (No spelling, grammar or punctuation has been changed from the original piece.)

To live in the old house. To throw grenades on stately lawns in their nascent green.

The bus driver, for whom we had a whip at the ferris wheel. I need to deny myself so that I lose weight but its bigger every day and the sound of ducks annoy me. And you, five hundred years old and young as the lawn.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Inspirational quotes (today is one of 'those' days...)

Daniela Pesconi-Arthur

Ok, this is a very different post. I don't feel like writing anything but moaning about life and everything... I guess it might be my "time of the month"... and I don't think this grey, cold Sunday morning is helping a bit.

I'm a teacher, right? An English teacher and Portuguese teacher and even adventured myself teaching Academic Skills and soon will be teaching a Foundation Course (for foreign students who come to the UK to go to uni). Do I like teaching? Yes, I LOVE teaching, although I prefer to teach IN English to people who already know it, rather than English, if you know what I mean.

Tomorrow I'm going to this placement in a school. My first one as a "real Secondary English teacher". Wow! It's a very good school too, and although I'm a bit aprehensive (first day at a new job, anyone?), I can't wait. This is something I've wanted for such a long time, to be able to teach at a secondary school in the UK.

So, what's the problem, you  must be asking yourselves. Well, it's a loooong story. This placement is initially for a week and if they think I'm good enough (I know, not much pressure, right?) it can be extended till July. Great, you may be thinking. And then I ask you: yeah, great, but what happens next? I don't know. I have a job to start in June (which is not guaranteed to continue after the summer), I have a private student who will finish in October... and I've applied for a couple of  non-teaching jobs. This is killing me.... I NEED a job that is NOT temporary!!!!!

What to do with so many options??? Do I stay with the secondary school if they offer me to continue? Or do I carry on with private lessons and take the June job, or even, (wishful thinking here) hope to be invited for another interview and then I'll have one more thing to choose from???

Aaaaahhhhh.... my mind is just racing, I can't focus on basically anything else, I keep thinking of what I REALLY want to do with my life... what job I really want to do... and it all goes back to........... WRITING. Oh, well, writing (at least now) won't pay my mortgage or put food on the table, so I MUST make a decision. (Selling coconuts at a paradisiac beach in a Caribbean island would be great!)

Please, let me know your thoughts. I could do with some "unknown people"'s wisdom... :)
Before I leave, to the ones that have too many thoughts about decisions like me, here are some funny/serious inspirational/motivational quotes....

Take care,

Daniela Pesconi-Arthur

Daniela Pesconi-Arthur

Daniela Pesconi-Arthur

Daniela Pesconi-Arthur

Daniela Pesconi-Arthur

Daniela Pesconi-Arthur

Saturday, 26 April 2014

My wife is a(n) (obsessed) blogger/writer - Guest Post

Hi everyone! As you all know, I've been having a bit of a "blogger's block" lately... Thanks to all of you who have given me some brilliant suggestions. So far, I've written about my 10 favourite blogs, and soon will be creating a few lists. :)

However, today's post was inspired by my other half. My other half, my soul mate, my Mr Right, the love of my life, my partner in crime (ops, in life), the best person for perfect adventures, the future father of my children and the one who'll have to share all the scratches with a puppy (when we get one). Hehe, better speak well of him here, so he won't write so many bad things about me... Emoji

Hubby and I were having breakfast this morning and I had the brilliant idea of asking him to be a guest blogger! What?, you may be asking yourself. Is she crazy? Is he a writer/blogger too? Noooo... he's not a writer, but he's funny as hell and I'm sure he'll write a great post.

Why have I asked him to be my guest post? Well, as I've already said here, he loves gardening. And I've been helping him, even though it's not my favourite thing in the world. (Still, I love gardens). So, today is his turn to help me.

This post goes out to all the partners, husbands, boyfriends, wives and girlfriends of bloggers/writers who, as my husband, "suffer" from temporary neglect, since their significant others have accepted the Ultimage Blog Challenge (or any other blogging challenge) and is spending more time in front of a computer screen than cooking lunch/dinner... But mostly, it's a MASSIVE thank you to MY husband, who has kept himself occupied with his gardening and his rugby games. Love you, beaut!!! Emoji

Hubby, over to you...  Emoji

Hi there! This is the Husband here...

Bloody blogs! What is a blog? A German toilet? I have finally realised and accepted that my wife spends more time writing than anything else....which is fantastic she has a passion for something....if it was writing typing, making notes researching etc, but the constant checking of her phone, objects beeping and bleeping drives me nuts!!

She's very good at multi-tasking? She has no problem using a phone and laptop similtaneously to check and respond to Facebook, Twitter and her Blogs. But if I ask her to hold the basket while I transfer the washing in she finds it a struggle to concentrate....mmmmmm.

On a serious note, I have noticed that her writing skills have grown immensly (I forget sometimes she is not a native speaker) Also, my passion is gardening and she never complains when I spend hours and hours outside. Maybe I should download some gardening Apps and we can beep and bleep together :)

Love you too xx

P.S. Back to Dani. Haha... that's so true! My phone is always beeping and bleeping with all the notifications of the groups posts and all. But still, he's soooo sweet and if you (husbands, wives, partners of bloggers/writers have any comments or tips for him, leave a comment and I'll make sure he replies to all of them. :)  It wasn't so hard to get him to write here today...
Happy blogging/reading!


Bits of us...

Daniela Pesconi-Arthur


Friday, 25 April 2014

My 10 favourite blogs so far

Hi everyone... I'm back today, "burnout syndrome" long gone... I guess I was making some drama, really. I apologise... Emoji

So, as I promised yesterday to those who suggested topics for my posts, this post was the first suggestion, made by Nayna Kanabar, author of the "Citrusspice and all the things nice" blog. Her blog is amazing, with lots of recipes and also craft. Make sure you stop for a visit...

Well, as for my 10 favourite blogs so far, here they are (in no particular order):

1) Atelie Imaginario crafts. Why is this one of my favourites? Welll, I've known Camila for ages and she'd always had "maos de fada" (fairy hands, as we'd say in Brasil) for everything she made, be it chocolate, cakes, crafts, anything... She is very special and I love and am proud to be friends with such a talented and sweet person! She was a guest blogger here this month. If you missed her post, check it out here.

2) Margieinitaly. I "met" Margie on Twitter when I first posted a story (part of a novel I'm writing) that's set in Napoli, Italy. She loves Italy as much as I do and reading her blog is inspiring. She also takes wonderful pictures. I've already ordered her book, "Memoirs of a Solo Traveler - My Love Affair with Italy", and can't wait to get it! :)

 3) My Red Journals. I like this blog for the simplicity of it. The sub-heading is "conversations with God since 1983". That alone was enough to make me want to read it. She's inspiring... :)

4) The Little English Girl. As the one above, it's also the simplicity and spirituality and faith that made me want to read it. She's also inspiring... :)

5) Writers Write. It's not really a blog, but as a writer, I find this website so helpful. It's got lots of writing tips and their Creative Writing Blog has lots of cool quotes. 

6) You Made My Day. Ah, what can I say about this blog? It's just lovely, with a bit of everything. It looks like an online magazine. Amaia, the founder, has done a fab job!

7) Bruised Passports. Well, I LOVE travelling, so how can you not like this blog! ;)

8) Life Feast. This blog is so smart!!! Its author is a friend of mine from Brasil, Ana Maria Menezes. She's an EFL teacher, teacher trainer and EdTech coordinator of the best English school in Uberlandia, Brasil. I had the pleasure to work with her and learn with her. If you are a teacher and interested in technology, she's the girl! :)

9) Where are my knees? As someone who's usually on a diet, I find this blog entertaining and full of info.

10) The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl. Shauna is amazing and inspiring! I've lost count of how many times I ran to her book in searh of motivation and a reason to laugh when I was feeling miserable. Also, I love her accounts of her move to Scotland... I defo recommend her book:

Ok, this is me for today! I really hope you enjoy my choices. Just one more thing... If you decide to visit any of these blogs, can you just please let them know how you got there? ;) Thanks.

See you tomorrow.
Dani. :)

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Blogging burnout: how to avoid/cure it?

Daniela Pesconi-Arthur; my writing shed
                                                              (picture source: http://heartifb.com/)

          Oh, my.... It's day 24 of Ultimate Blog Challenge and I'm here, lost in my words, staring at the wall and there's nothing else I can think of writing about than what I'm going through today: confusion.
        When I accepted the challenge of writing one post a day for the whole month, I thought it would be just like a walk in the park... Oh, noooo... I couldn't have been more wrong.
         With writing a post and trying to share it so as many people can read it (Vain, my middle name), comes the pleasure of discovering loads of other lovely blogs and witty, great writers! What happens then... you subscribe to one, than a link in that post takes you to another blog (which you also like, so you subscribe, obviously), and so on... The the next day, you not only receive a link to a new post on the blogs you've subscribed, but because you share your post on Facebook, you go on to comment on two, three new blogs and you like them and subscribe to them and... see what I'm talking about?
          I have several emails now of blogs that I love to read, but am getting frustrated because I simply don't have time to read them. Hunf! Emoji
          Another pattern I've noticed (maybe it's just me, since this is the first time I'm getting so many views and comments) is that I've become obsessed with my blog stats. Honestly, my laptop is on all day now, and I check my stats every 3 hours or so. How many views today? How many views for this post? How many comments/shares etc? Aaaaaahhhhhh...
         I wish I could just write like before. Of course our blog is for our readers, but I think our readers would rather have us sanely writing than writing any silly thing just to have a post.
          For this reason, my blog post today is called "Blogging burnout". The only thing is that, today, I'm not going to be giving any tips on how to deal with it... Today I'm desperately asking for tips on how to deal with it. Things like: how do you organise your time between reading other blogs/writing your own? Do you have a strategy to reply to all the comments without having keep checking every few hours to see if you have any? 

            Well, that's it. I can't do it anymore today. I'm going out to the garden and enjoy the sun  (while it lasts...) :)
            See you tomorrow.

            p.s. since you are in a "help mood" today, may I ask you to be kind enough to suggest a topic for me to write about? I'll mention your name and put a link to your blog in my post! (bribe!!! Emoji

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow...

my writing shed

Have you ever stopped to think about how much in life you procrastinate? I LOVE this word. It's to me as difficult to type and to pronounce as it is to avoid doing it. No, really. Stop what you're doing right now (which is reading this great post hehe) and make a little (well, we can try to keep it little, right?) list of things you put off doing yesterday. Here's mine:

1) Calling my private student.
2) Going to the post office.
3) Updating my 365reasons blog, even though I've already got all the photos I need.
4) Calling my sisters.
5) Calling my dad.
6) Calling my mother-in-law.
7) Jogging.
8) Tidying my clothes.
9) Editing the last story from my novel to post it to my blog (hence this list...).

Uffff!!! I think it's enough, isn't it? I don't want you to think I'm lazy or anything. These are such small things to do and still... This brings me to the matter of what types of things do we usually put off doing? And why do we put off doing them?

I've always loved to read about psychology, time management and how-to-achieve-your-potential  type of stuff; so the other day I was looking for time management online and found this very interesting and complete article. It even has an "Are you a procrastinator" self test. If you can't be bother to read the article (ah, I see... you'll read it later, eh? Haha!), click here for the self test.

Yes, I've done it. No way, I'm telling you my results! Ah, ok. Let's do a deal then. I'll tell you my result if you tell me yours. Just leave a comment! :)

Just to finish this post, here are some "procrastination quotes":

This is for the creative people:
"You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood. 
What mood is that?
Last-minute panic." ~ Bill Watterson

"Never put off till tomorrow what may be done the day after tomorrow just as well." ~ Mark Twain

"Procrastinate now, don't put it off." ~ Ellen DeGeneres

"Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time." ~ Marthe Troly-Curtin, Phrynette Married

"24 hours a day, ain't long anymore! But give some a century a day and procrastination would still be their undoing." ~ Nike Thaddeus.

"The scare thing is, the more I slack off, the more it piles up and the more it piles up, the more I slack off." ~ Amelia Mysko, Hold On

"The sooner I fall behind, the more time I have to catch up." ~ Unknown

"Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week." ~ Spanish Proverb

"Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday. ~ Napoleon Hill

"The worst form of procrastination is reading a procrastination quote, feeling the guilt and not doing anything about it." ~ Unknown.

Ok, that was the last one. Come on, now. I bet you have a blog post to write? :)


                                                                          (Picture source here)

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

How I write....

                                                                   (comic by Grant Snider, from Incidental Comics)

How I write - a critical reflection (MA in English and Creative Writing)

“A thousand years ago we had about 30 000 [words], now English has 500 000 and the figure is rising daily. They belong to the nation, are listed in dictionaries and each one of us has a usable store or word-hord, as the Anglo-Saxons called vocabulary, of about 15 000. This is 3 per cent of the total in The Oxford English Dictionary and only half the number used by Shakespeare.” 

(Singleton, J and Sutton, G, 2000, p.41)

       Well, after this quote, I see myself ready to give up writing; writing in English, I mean. English is not my first language, therefore I believe it is impossible for me to actually have a ‘usable store of about 15 000’. However, it is odd to notice that I find it more comfortable to write in English that in my mother-tongue, Portuguese. Sometimes, I feel like I lack Portuguese vocabulary for certain types of writing more than English vocabulary. Luckily, I tend to like to keep it simple. 
     Besides being simple, I also tend to be “funny” in my writing. I don't know why but I usually have some humour in my stories somehow. I love reading girlie books (Sophie Kinsella, Mariam Keyes, Jane Costello, Cecelia Ahern, Lindsey Kelk Katie Fforde and others) and I love a good love story with hilarious bits in it. I also love crime books (Karin Slaughter being my absolute favourite, followed by Tess Gerritsen) and would love to write something similar, but I just don't think I could. Besides loving to read bloody stories and watch bloody movies, just the thought of writing something like that and having people think I'm a morbid, depressed person, puts me off it. (Well, it did. Until I came up with Twinings); or perhaps, it's just the fear of lacking vocabulary, as I mentioned in the second paragraph of this essay. 
      Short story writing has never been my favourite; actually, I was never very keen on reading short stories. During the short stories workshops I learned what short stories are about and even learned to appreciate some of them and some of the writers chosen for the course reader. More than that: I learned to have fun writing short stories, and as the workshops progressed, in some weeks I eagerly read the course reader and my classmates’ stories, while in some others I read stories that I just could not understand and asked myself ‘what’s the point in reading a story if you don’t know what happens in the end?’
      I really enjoy the way I am gradually discovering writing techniques I use to create my texts. I have always considered myself an 'intuitive, impulsive' writer. Obviously, I had no idea what happened 'backstage'. Based on the course reader I started to shape my stories, shyly at first, but trying to use some of the ‘techniques’ mentioned in the readings and present in the short stories I was reading. For example, for my first short story of this module’s blog, “Deaf, mute, blind”, I started writing it hoping it one day could become a novel. Apparently, I used one of the ideas mentioned in Burroway’s Writing Fiction (2011) about revenge: “An injustice has been done, and you are powerless to do anything about it. But you’re not really, because you’re a writer. ... Cast the outcome to suit yourself. Punish whomever you choose.” (p.12). Another author who mentions this is Jane Wenham-Jones (2007), who says: “This can be therapeutic too and great fun. ‘Don’t get mad – get your pen out’.” (.p.101) 
     Another characteristic present in my writing is experience. I usually write about things I know and things that happen to me and around me. Although Burroway says we have to be careful when using autobiography: “Probably all good fiction is ‘autobiographical’ in some way, but the awful or hilarious or tragic thing you went through may offer as many problems as possibilities when you start to turn it into fiction.” (p.8), I feel that it works for me most of the time. Also, Singleton (2000) in the chapter “The Short Story” says that 

 “Some writers think all prose, including autobiography, is fiction. Writing about self is really aliobiography they say – stories invented to explain (away?), rationalise, excuse, justify and disguise the truth. ... In writing about the self our unconscious censoring and the deficiencies of memory mean we have to fictionalise to some degree anyway, if only to make sense of a mass of confusing and fragmentary recollections. We invent dialogue for ourselves, rearrange chronology, try metaphor and assonance and rhythms to heighten emotion and dramatise, telescope events, eliminate extraneous detail, focus on key moments, images, ad infinitum. The whole tale is a careful crafting deploying a wide range of narrative tactics and effects.” (p. 100) 

      Writing “Twinings” was like watching a movie with me on it. Apart from the suicide note, I was the one scribbling in my notebook, sitting on the edge of my side of the bed, looking out of the window. I was having a bad day. Actually, I had had a very bad week.
      However, reading March-Russell's chapter on 'Minimalism/Dirty Realism/Hyperrealism', I can totally relate to Carver when he says that 'the best art has its reference point in real life.' (Carver 1990:17). “In tracing with the utmost fidelity ... characters' lives and feelings,” I usually write almost selfishly about my characters' lives and feelings, as if “to present ... reality as the only reality.” (p. 240). As I mentioned in my Researching Humanities essay, it feels like I write about what is bothering, annoying me, making me different to the 'rest of the world' in order to feel better. And in this I can relate once again with Carver's realism idea of 'literature of lowered expectations, in which transcendence is viewed as an impossible ideal' (p.240). I can write about it as much as I want to, but things will never change. Still, I have the feeling that I'm being heard and that it is more common than I can imagine feeling this way. 
      Writing 'Ex-Mrs Prince Charming' wasn't so different. I hear things, stories people tell, stories of people I know and this is an example of one of these situations. As Singleton says about recycling: “Reworking and recycling well-worn tales and narrative motifs is part of the writing process. Writing is a matter of rewriting. Try adapting a popular tale for our times...” (p. 125) ‘Ex-Mrs Prince Charming’ is a recycling of ‘Cinderella’. After writing this piece, and reading Burroway's chapter on 'Characterization' (Burroway 2011), I decided to refer back to the text and go through the punctuation marks, quotation marks, italics, etc. On her section on 'Format and Style' (p.87) I learned about the 'invisibility' of punctuation and dialogue tags such as said, replied, thought, etc and how it can make the dialogue/text 'cleaner' of unnecessary words and how to place them in the correct place to create the effect I want on the reader. 
      One particular thing I thought I hadn't managed so well was to do my dialogues. In 'Ex-Mrs Prince Charming' I struggled with whether to add more dialogue to it or not. Reading Burroway’s 'Economy in Dialogue' (p.75) I came across the 'tentative rule': “There is a tentative rule that pertains to all fiction dialogue. It must do more than one thing at a time or it is too inert for the purpose of fiction. This may sound harsh, but I consider it an essential discipline.” I'm not sure where my dialogues convey more than one thing at a time, so I tend to keep them short and not use many of them in my pieces. I guess, in the end, I'm more of a story teller. However, reading back my entries in the public blog of this module, my dialogues were quite good in “A little chat with God”, for example: 

 “He was embarrassed, 'Yes, I have, but I never thought I would join you so soon.' 
God giggled. 'Soon? Henry, you are a funny man. Always making people laugh.' 
'Well, so I want to keep on making people laugh. I don't want to go!' he pouted. 
'You don't want to go? Henry, don't be such a baby. You have no choice. This is it. You've done all you had to do. Now it's time. I'll give you 2 months.' 
Henry didn't know what to say. He was to mad at God. 
'Ah, and son, don't forget to pray as you always do. I will always be around.' 
And then, silence.” 

     Nevertheless, according to what a short story should be, and according to Carver’s minimalism, this story was far from being an “ideal short story”, with too much information “given” to the reader: 

 “He had brought up three successful children: Jen was a paediatrician, Luke was an architect and Alyson was the one who took care of his office now. He had lived with the same woman for wonderful fifty-nine years; Helen, his best friend, his lover, his constant partner in life. She'd been his first girlfriend and he couldn't be more proud of it.” 

 I must admit that no matter how hard I tried to change this aspect of this specific short story and “hide” the information or reveal it in another way, I could not think of a good way to do it and still keep the main characteristic I wanted Henry to have: successful and proud of his family and achievements. Reading the “Short Story” chapter in Harper (2008) about the plot in a short story, what he says made me think that my short story did not precisely follow the five-element plot. He says: “Short stories often begin in medias res, or in the middle of things. We begin with the rising action or with the conflict.” (p.10). The conflict in this story is that Henry has got cancer and only two months left to live. Harper also says that “Background information is usually kept to a minimum and, when necessary, it is delivered in flashbacks.” (p.10). Bearing in mind that Henry has three children and has been married to the same woman for fifty-nine years, I realised that perhaps, this piece of writing was not supposed to be a short story after all; thinking about all the background information, added to the “list” of things he had to do in his last two months, I thought it would be better to leave it as a start for another possible novel, so I will deal more with it next term, during the Novel writing module. 
      As for the last piece of my portfolio, based on the use of technology in the twenty-first century, I have decided to play a little with the “new awareness of the relationship between writer and reader” mentioned in Henderson & Hancock (2010: Introduction). Writing a ‘covering letter’ in the shape of a short story, I have embraced the idea of “Yet no matter how innovative in ideas, trends, styles, or subjects, stories are how we communicate, how we share who we are.” 


Burroway, J., Stuckey-French, E. & Stuckey-French, N., (2010) Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. London: Pearson Education

Dent, C. Z. and  Zobal, S. D.  (2008) ‘Short Fiction’, in Harper, G., (ed.) Creative writing guidebook. London: Continuum International Publishing Group, pp 7 – 17.

Henderson, E. & Hancock, G. (2010) (eds.) Short Fiction & Critical Contexts. Oxford: Oxford University Press

March-Russell, P. (2009) The Short Story: An Introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Pears, J. and Shields, G. (2008) Cite them right: the essential referencing guide. Newcastle upon Tyne: Pear Tree Books.

Singleton, John and Sutton, Geoff (2000) ‘Words Words Words’, in Singleton, J and Luckhurst, M. (ed.) The creative writing handbook. 2nd edn. Hampshire: Palgrave, pp 41 – 76.

Singleton, John (2000) ‘The short story’, in Singleton, J and Luckhurst, M. (ed.) The creative writing handbook. 2nd edn. Hampshire: Palgrave, pp 100 – 128..

Wehnam-Jones, J. (2007). Wannabe a writer? Bedlinog, Mid-Glamorgan: Accent Press.

Monday, 21 April 2014

How to protect the content of your blog from being copied

Writing Shed

Hi everyone!
I hope you are well and that you all had a lovely Easter!

As you can see, The Potter's Shed has changed its "face"!! I thought that theme was a tad "tired", so I went on to find something more "sheddy". Also, when I asked Hubby what he thought of the new one he said he preferred it to the old one, which "looked a bit like a bedroom wallpaper"... He is well paid to always tell the truth... haha.

I've given Carolina (Loveandpizza.it) the day off and decided to write a post to help us bloggers. I'm always very curious about how things work. I'm always experimenting with my blog and love to find out new things. If I want something that my blogger (or Blogger) doesn't have, I'll Google it. I've even adventured myself in the "world of HTML code". Yeah, that huge amount of words in our blogs' templates.

About a month ago, I was reading one of my friend's blog (it's in Portuguese, but it's so cute and so worth it, I'd try to find a way to translate the pages!) in which she mentions being a bit upset about people sharing photos of her art on Facebook. This friend was a guest blogger here, and her post was amazing! Check it out here.

I very often use my own photos on this blog, photos taken on holidays, in my garden, etc. Also, I'm a bit paranoid about people "stealing" my writing. Because of that I decided to look for something that I could do with my blog to prevent people from copying my photos, texts, etc.

It's simple, simple. I'll try to give you a step by step guide. 

1) Go to your blog Dashboard. On the left menu, click on Layout.

Writing shed

2) Click Add a Gadget (it doesn't matter where you put if after, it's not going to show. I'd suggest you place it at the top or at the bottom, so you don't have a blank space in the middle of the other ones)

Writing shed

3) Add an HTML/JavaScript gadget.

Writing shed

4) Copy and paste this code and click Save.

Writing shed

 You're protected! This will disable right click on your whole blog! :)

What did you think of this post? Did it help? Is there anything else you would like to know about your blogger? Perhaps I could help...

Ah, now I remembered... You won't be able to copy and past the code... If you want it, leave a comment and I'll message it to you! 

Happy blogging!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Visiting our first “home, sweet home” in Napoli

         The next day we were at the school at 7.45. That espresso was to good not to be had. 
          ‘Ok. So are we ready to go? Signor Rocco will be waiting for us there and he can be a bit impatient,’ said Carl picking up the car keys. I hadn’t seen any cars in the courtyard, and wondered what car they would have. I giggled at the thought of a possible Napolitan-style car. 
         I wasn’t so wrong about the car. Although it was quite new, the black Renault Clio had so many scratches and dents that I couldn’t help staring and thinking how bad a driver Carl and Gwen must have been. I guess Gwen noticed my face, because she immediately said: 
           ‘Oh, can you imagine what this people in this city are like when they’re driving? We really don’t like leaving the car parked outside, but the palazzo owner only allows the motorini inside the courtyard. Napolitan people are not the best drivers, and our car has been so scratched that we don’t even bother having it fixed anymore.’ 
             ‘Oh, I see,’ Lisa said. ‘So, is this house far?’ 
            ‘Well, it’s not in the centre, but the Metro station is just 5 minutes from the house and it’s very secure to live there. Besides, Signor Rocco is already used to rent to our teachers, so there’s no bureaucracy. Trying to rent from an agency will take at least one week, and you need to move by tomorrow, right,’ Carl asked. 
           ‘Yeah, tonight is our last night at the B&B. I’m so glad you know this man,’ I said. ‘We wouldn’t know what to do otherwise. At least we can already go around to learn where our students live and start preparing for the lessons.’
             Gwen agreed. ‘Sure, and the sooner you settle in, the easier it is for you to find your way around. And you still have plenty of time to go sightseeing.’ 
            ‘I can’t wait for that part,’ I replied and squeezed Lisa’s hand when I looked around us and saw the ugly places we were driving past. Our hearts just sank. I hope this isn’t a horrible, far out from the centre place.
             We turned left into a side street, two blocks from the Chiaiano Metro station. There was a huge, heavy green iron gate at the front of the house. Carl phoned the landlord, who came to open the gate for us. 
              Signor Rocco. Vincenzo Rocco. A tall man, in his early 60s, he had a very stern, no nonsense face and only talked to Carl while showing us the house. I found that a bit strange, but made a mental note to ask Gwen about that later.
              Ok, the house. It was a massive plot of land, with three little terraced houses in it. Our house would be the middle one. There was a cute path towards our gate and we also had a little garden and a veranda. We went through the living room door. The living room was quite big and had a big bookcase in one corner, perfect for all our books and teaching stuff. There was a sofa bed and in the opposite corner there was a tiny kitchen space. It was lovely though. Compact, but cute, if you know what I mean. Then he showed us the bathroom. I couldn’t believe it! A bath! And a washing machine! The bathroom looked brand new, with light blue and white tiles throughout the walls and floor. Super easy to clean. Yeah, I hate cleaning. 
          Right next door was the only bedroom. Quite big, with twin beds and French doors to the veranda/garden. It was a beautiful morning and we could hear the birds chirping on top of the roof and in the trees in the garden. Ah, a little piece of paradise. 
         Signor Rocco explained – again, to Carl – all about the rent, maintenance of the place and other practical things. The rent was €600, which was not so bad divided by two, and it included all the bills. There wasn’t a TV and we’d need to sort out the Internet connection. Lisa and I excused ourselves while the three (well, two of them) talked. 
           ‘So, Carolina, what do you think?'
         ‘I really like it here. You?’ 
       ‘Me too. I know it’s far from the centre, but look at this place… Imagine living in the centre with all that noise and madness. It will be like holiday coming back home after work. Should we take it?'  
       ‘I guess we have to, Lisa. Otherwise, I don’t know what else we can do. Let’s just say yes, and see how it goes, shall we?’ 
        ‘Yeah, we can move in today, go shopping for food and other stuff, clean…’
       ‘If it’s really horrible, we can always look for another place, and we won’t need to rush to find one.’ 
       We went back inside and told Carl that we were ok to sign the contract. We’d come back with our stuff and all the money (a month’s rent plus a month’s deposit) the next morning before lunch. He lived just around the corner, so he’d be there waiting for us with the keys. 
        On the way back in the car, Gwen was more than chatty. 
      ‘Oh, isn’t it lovely, Carl, that they’re going to be living in such a beautiful place? I wish I could live in a house too.’ 
       ‘Gwen, Carl, before I forget… Why didn’t Signor Rocco look or talk to me, Lisa or Gwen once this morning,’ I asked. 
        Gwen was the first to answer. 
     ‘Oh, pet, don’t worry about that. Men, I suppose,’ and Carl gave her a sideways look. ‘Older Italian men, I mean’ she continued. ‘It’s either because they respect us too much or because they think we, girls, don’t know anything about anything. Haha.’ 
         We all laughed and soon they dropped us off at the B&B. 
        ‘Ok. Here we are, girls,’ said Carl. ‘So, what time should I come pick you up tomorrow?’ 
        ‘Why,’ I was confused. 
        ‘We’re taking you to your new home, of course,’ Gwen explained. 
        ‘No, you don’t have to,’ Lisa said. 
      ‘Hey now, it’s our pleasure,’ Carl said. ‘So, what time? Should we say 10am? And then we can go for lunch together, how about that?’ 
         Lisa and I were clearly embarrassed, but we just gave in. 
      ‘Ok, that would be lovely. Thank you so much, again. We’ll be ready at 10am.’ 
          ‘Okey dokey. See you tomorrow then. Ta-ta.’ 
          ‘Bye. See you tomorrow,’ we both said. And they left. 
          We went upstairs to our room. I took my shoes off, which is the very first thing I always do when I get home and sat on my bed. 
         ‘So, Lisa, what do you think?’ 
         She turned the air conditioner and I felt a fresh breeze on my face. She fell on her bed. 
          ‘Well, I guess you can ask me that again in a week or so, Carolina. So far, I’m super excited with the house and can’t wait to go around exploring. You?’ 
          ‘I guess I need some more time to have an opinion. I can’t wait to go around exploring either. Food first?’ 
             ‘Sure. What do you fancy?’ 
              ‘Lisa, Lisa… what do you think?’

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Loveandpizza.it ~ Meeting the bosses


       We found the phone shop just around the corner, but it was closed. For lunch. Until 4pm. Another thing we learned about Napoli that day. Shops close for lunch, usually from 2 to 4pm. Basically all the shops. We were a bit frustrated, not to mention annoyed, but we decided to try our luck and go to the school anyway.
       We went back by Metro; Piazza Vanvitelli to Dante, and then a short walk down along Via Toledo, then we walked past a cinema (yay!), Piazza Gesu Novo. There’s a huge church there. God, this church is so beautiful. Must come here for the mass on Sunday. And then I looked at my right. Another huge church! Oh, my God, and another one!
       I looked at my map and realized where we were.
      ‘Lisa, this is the famous Spaccanapoli!’ Remember that one we saw from the top of the castle yesterday? Look how long it is.’
      ‘I know. And look at that pasta shop. Haha I’d never seen so many different types of pasta in my life. But the map says we should turn right into… ah, here. Via Santa Chiara. And there’s a very famous church there too.
     ’ We turned right into Via Santa Chiara and walked down. Soon we were in the school street. We found the building and I was thrilled.
       ‘Lisa, we’re about to visit our first palazzo!’ 
       We were buzzed in by a man’s voice. 
      ‘I guess it’s Gwen’s husband,’ Lisa said. ‘Let’s go.’ 
     We went in through a massive, heavy wooden door, into a courtyard. Lisa and I looked at each other and we couldn’t believe how big it was inside. I had thought the whole building would be the school, but it was divided in many apartments, with balconies all around, all looking out at the courtyard. Just every princess’ dream… 
     ‘Carolina, you’re daydreaming again. Haha. Come on. They’re waiting for us.’
    We walked up to the first floor, and this doll-sized, cute woman and a very friendly looking man were waiting for us, smiling.
    ‘Hi! Come on in. How are you? My name is Gwen, and this is my husband Carl. I hope you had a good flight. Have you had time to go sightseeing yet? Is the B&B ok? What do you think of Napoli so far?’
     Carl laughed. 
    ‘Hey, darling, give them time to answer.’ And he turned to us. ‘Now, first things, first. Would you like an espresso?’ 
     ‘Er… Yes, sure. Thanks,’ I said, thinking how nice they were and hoping they’d always be that nice.
       Gwen asked us again. 
       ‘So, how have you been?’ 
      ‘Great,’ said Lisa. ‘The B&B is great. Gennaro is so funny and helpful, and he speaks a bit of English, which is great.’ 
     ‘Yeah, but we were terrified the night we arrived here,’ I completed.
    ‘Really,’ Carl asked, sounding a bit worried. ‘Why?’ 
   ‘We got here at night and had no idea where to go and we were afraid of walking in the streets alone,’ I said. ‘We had our B&B breakfasts for dinner that night, cause we couldn’t find a place to eat. We walked all the way to the port and didn’t find anywhere decent open to eat.’ 
     Gwen and Carl looked surprised. 
    ‘You two walked to the port area, at night? Oh Dio… No wonder you were afraid. Gwen, darling, can you pass me those cups, please?’ 
     ‘Why?’ I was curious now. I guess I’d had my first real adventure without even knowing. 
     ‘Tales of Napoli, Carolina. And I must say, they are not children’s stories,’ Carl’s voice was full of mystery. ‘I’ll tell you girls one day. Now, let’s have our coffee, or it’s going to get cold.’
    My creative mind had already started working. Gee, Carolina… You see stories everywhere. Stop it. Now. 
     The espresso was really good and we started talking about the school. Lisa asked Gwen and Carl loads of things. How they’d started it, students, where we were going to teach, etc. She was a real teacher, after all. I just listened, very carefully, to everything. Gwen noticed I was anxious. 
      ‘Ah, don’t you worry now, pet. You’ll do well. I know you’re not a teacher, but your English certificates are so good. Also, as a doctor, I’m sure you’ll be great at one-to-one teaching. It’s much different to teaching a big group. I hope you like children.’ 
    ‘Yes! I love children. And you’re right. I am worried. I’ve never taught anything in my life.’ 
     ‘Don’t worry. I’ll help you with anything you need. Let’s see how it goes and I can train you little by little.’ 
     That gave me a bit of peace of mind. Gwen had been a teacher and teacher trainer in the UK all her life, so I know I’d be in good hands. I just hoped I could live up to her expectations. 
    ‘Ok, so now, let’s see who and where you’ll be teaching for the next 9 months, shall we?’ 
     Gwen went into an office and came back with two huge files. School contract, school rules, students’ files and street maps. She explained how everything worked. 
       We would go to our students’ houses once a week, for an hour. Luckily our students were scheduled to us according to where they lived and the day of the week we’d be teaching. So, basically, we would walk or take a short metro/funicolare journey from one student’s house to another. She also mentioned some in-company classes in the morning. Monday to Thursday, starting in two weeks. To be honest, I so wanted to say ‘No, thanks’, but at that point, no knowing how much we’d spend per month, I put my fear aside and accepted. 
      ‘What do you think,’ Gwen asked. 
      ‘It’s all fine, I guess,’ Lisa looked at me enquiring with her eyes. 
     And then I remembered that we only had 2 more nights in the B&B. We needed to find a place to live. Soon. 
    ‘Gwen, we need to find a place to live. We’ve only booked the B&B for two more nights,’ I said. 
    ‘Oh, dear. Right, right. I’d totally forgotten about that. Carl, the girls need a place to live,’ she shouted towards the office. 
     I chuckled. Funny couple. Fun to be around, I mean.
    ‘Right, I was just checking with the people we know who’d have a place to rent. You know, we usually have a couple of back up people who are always willing to rent at short notice. I’ve just given him a ring and arranged to go see it tomorrow morning. Can you be here at 8am?’ 
     ‘Yes, sure,’ we both replied at the same time.
     Carl continued. ‘It’s not in the centre, but it’s only 5 minutes from the Metro station. It’s one of three houses in a gated plot and we’ve had a few teachers living there before. It’s even got a little garden and it’s very safe,’ he smiled reassuringly. 
     ‘Ok. We’ll be here tomorrow at 8am. Thank you so much for all your help. We can’t wait to start,’ Lisa said and stood up. I guessed we were leaving.
       Speak for yourself, I thought and stood up as well. 
      ‘Great. Well, welcome to Napoli. I’m sure you’re going to love this city.’ 
     ‘Yes,’ completed Gwen, ‘and please let us know if you need anything. We’ll see you tomorrow. If you get here a tad earlier, I’ll have some coffee ready for you,’ she winked. 
       We smiled and said our thank you’s and goodbye’s. 
       As we walked through the courtyard, I looked up and saw them waving from the balcony. This is going to be a very different year...