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Category Archives: Homework

Wordles

Here’s the link for creating word clouds that many of you wanted…

http://www.wordle.net/create

Just paste in a load of notes you have, or a story, press go and it creates a cloud of words of different sizes based on how you have weighted them.

It’s a great perspective to have, once you get your list of observations from the homework (similar to day six at napowrimo.net if you missed it).

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Exercises, Homework, poetry

 

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I’ve been thinking about taboos…

…and how they shift and turn throughout time. One thing is constant though: whatever the hatred of the moment is, it is taboo to speak out or act against it, a crime in its own right. I wrote this piece for another prompt (a daft prompt about nudity, 650 words, that I wanted to try and flip) but it fits in with the taboo theme so I thought I’d share it here.

 

From all sides 

In those hours after midnight the dark seeps deep like the treacle I still dream of. Yet I crept home in the precautionary shadow of buildings, more afraid of being caught out after curfew than anything. Anything, except hunger. With little enough available, and even less for me, I skulked about at night with sewer rats, supping on gutter scraps.

That night the planes were audible long before the siren. I turned straight home, hoping to get back before the strike, but the blast hit me on a neighbouring street. Silence preceded a screech that deafened, and a cloud of dust obscured the night. Pushed forward, and flattened by the heel of an invisible hand, the strangest thing was a sudden realisation I was naked. Once my mind registered the explosion, the next thing to follow was socially conditioned shame at being unexpectedly and quite publicly nude. It surprised me to realise how deep it went, and how much I cared, in spite of it all.

My feet were the second shock, as I regained focus. Both my shoes were still there, tied tight, but only one moved with me as I pulled both legs towards my stomach and tried to stand. I contemplated what that meant in deep slow breaths, the ringing in my ears phasing out to be replaced by busy, angry sounds. My place in those sounds was unclear and the pain pounded deep and bone-piercing within my phantom leg.

A hand touched my bare elbow and I flinched as it steadied me; a movement that would have given me away to the anonymous face and blanket any other time. We moved through sirens and dust clogging air, and all around my neighbours were scattered through the debris: some part, some whole, some soaking into the streets, but all of them moving senselessly, clamouring at each other. It would be years before I ever saw a zombie movie — not until America — but I tell you, there was nothing fictional about those soulless tides of flesh after wartime life.

I bit down on my lip and tried to breathe, and my aide joined another. Their steady, careful touch, educated by this city life, made quick work of a tourniquet as the sirens dulled and the immediate threat passed. My pain burnt hotter and hotter and I concentrated fiercely to stay conscious as an ambulance arrived. Canvas stretchers swarmed through the scene and lamp-bearers made background trails for my hot new fever. The ache was unreal and the scene surreal as people scrambled the notion of survival, but then I saw him: Heinrich.

My old Lieutenant arrived to take charge of the guard, and in my pain-addled mind we were back behind enemy lines together, fighting for the Kaiser. The pain I felt became his own lost limb, and I carried him back to the trenches again. I broke a smile for him of long-lost sorrow-bonded brothers, yet as our eyes locked I watched his face steer through recognition and into coal-black hate. The word ‘Jew’ spat from his lips to echo off the fractured housing shells. It spread from person to person, face to fearful face, and reached the ears of those occupied bodies who stood binding me together. They dropped me like poisoned meat.

Their next kindness was neglect. Dust and dirt from the streets and skies became a pile that shielded the gutter where I lay, slipping cold into unsteady consciousness. Soon the end of the night became the next morning and blackened tears stained my body. The iron-rich taste of my own blood kept me feeling warm until night fell again and operations moved on; life tidied back into neat piles. I’m never sure now whether I found help or help found me, but I was recovered eventually, resolute: World War One veteran, World War Two survivor. I would fight for my country both times.

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2014 in Fiction, General, Homework

 

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Whole lorra firsts…

With so many of us making our first blog posts, I’ve been feeling a little sentimental about the first homework exercise I took part in with the group back in 2012. Nicky gave us the prompt ‘There is a hearing aid whining on the kitchen table’ to write from and the stories that came back were incredibly varied: Irene’s eventually turned into a much larger story all about the young boy whose character was generated by the exercise — part of which is included in our anthology — and I particularly remember Sue’s story, told from the perspective of a disgruntled hearing aid that had been left behind by its blissfully oblivious owner! I shared these two small pieces — one poem, one prose — from the exercise that, although they will never be my best work, remind of the day I remembered that I can write and the confidence that gives me.

 

Untitled

 

There is a hearing aid whining on the kitchen table, still spinning where she left it just moments before when she walked out of the room, and out of the back door. Dad hasn’t even noticed, he’s still raving on as he washes up. I can’t blame Nan, he just won’t shut up about all the things he has to do for her, and all the things he thinks she should be doing for herself. He never once stops to talk to her and just ask how she is. He needs a session with my careers advisor; learn a bit about active listening at least.

The hearing aid was his idea. He kept shouting when Nan wasn’t listening and nagging her to get a check-up in the vain presumption that she wanted to listen to him, and wasn’t just zoning out. Eventually he got her one for Christmas and expected her to be grateful for it because he’d spent so much money – never mind that she didn’t want one. But she had duly worn it and now had no excuse for not listening to his tirade of suggestions about how to live her life. I can imagine how that makes her feel, she’s not the only one he tries to organise. I know it’s well meant but at times I envy Nan, at least she’s allowed to close her door!

It can’t have been easy for her, giving up her independence like that; can’t have been easy asking her child for help. Dad just doesn’t see it though. It was never a question of if he’d help her, of course he would, he really does love her, but how and what he will do for her are still up for debate. Nan knows she must adapt to his lifestyle, knows she must now follow our family’s path, but that’s no reason to stop seeing her as an individual, to treat her like a burden. And now; now she’s just walked out, and her side of the conversation about her life has become so inconsequential to him that he’s not even noticed. Maybe I should say something, but maybe he wouldn’t care what I thought either. So I just sit back, watching the hearing aid spinning on the table, whining in the background; an accompaniment to Dad’s one man manifesto.

 

Aunt Ginny

 

There’s a hearing aid whining on the kitchen table

Attached to my Aunt, face down in the trifle.

It seems that the Merlot ran out just too soon

In the fifteen minutes while I left the room;

So, for want of a bottle, she deemed it best

To top herself up with cooking Sherry instead!

Now well pickled, preserved and soused in grape

Sound asleep in my pudding, I leave her prostrate.

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2014 in Fiction, Homework

 

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Hunger

Ling squeezed her stomach muscles tightly and stopped breathing. The grumbling sound in her stomach was relentless. She couldn’t remember the last time she had eaten properly. Her share of food went to her son.

Ling pulled out the plastic bag that she had tucked in the drainpipe. The bag was filled with lily bulbs. She checked that no one was looking. She placed the bulbs into the mortar, pounded them and added a few drops of water from a rusty food can. She fought to control the shaking of her ice-cold hand as she poured the liquid into a plastic bottle. She washed her hands so much that they turned white and wrinkly. Ling felt nauseous. Was it the wind in her empty stomach or the toxin that made her sick? She threw up.

Ling walked into the house holding the last of the crispy spinach that she had cut from her garden. She would have to wait for spring to reseed them. As for the winter, she would have to find other ways to get food. At the living room’s dining table, her son was doing his homework. Ling walked to him and took a peek at his work.

‘ When are we eating? My tummy is hurting.’ A little sharp face, all crunched up, looking at his mother.

‘ Very soon, I’m going to cook now. So how was school today?’ Ling stroked her son’s head.

‘ I have an excellent on my Maths paper and I might move up a class.’ The little boy beamed,  looking up at his mother.

‘That’s very good, your father will be very pleased. Now tidy up and lay the table. Your father is coming home soon. Don’t forget to lay matching chopsticks because different lengths means bad luck.’

Her mother-in-law had been nodding off to sleep and was now breathing heavily. Her blood pressure must have been high again, Ling thought. Time for her medication.

In the kitchen Ling poured the last remaining rice out of the sack into the pot and started washing it in the sink, stirring gently with one hand while biting her other fingernails. Her thoughts were with the last sack of rice that was hidden under the bed. It wouldn’t last them this winter.

Ling threw some logs into the stove and started the fire. The oven was glowing. The oil in the wok was heating up; she poured the spinach into the wok. The crackling sound of heated oil touching wet vegetables was so loud that it sounded like fire crackers thrown into a tin. She placed the spinach onto two plates of different sizes. To the larger plate she added a sprinkle of soy sauce, the smaller plate was without salt. Ling took the plastic bottle out of her pocket and poured the toxic liquid over the the smaller plate of spinach.

The smell of food woke everyone up, even the old lady. Faces lit up. She placed the larger plate in the middle of the table and the smaller plate in front of her mother-in-law’s usual seat. Ling’s son cleared his books and helped lay the table with chopsticks and bowls. Ling was helping the frail woman out of the cane chair when she heard her husband walking into the home, a big smile on his face. In his hand, he was holding up eight fishes. The whole family beamed with excitement as if they had won the lottery. They were admiring the fishes. Ling didn’t want to know where he got them from. The fish could feed them for many meals. Ling followed her husband into the kitchen to help him clean the fishes. They were discussing how to preserve them for the winter, perhaps by salting and drying them.

If her plan worked, the three of them would have a better chance of surviving this winter and nobody would ever know. Walking out of the kitchen, she saw her son picking the last vegetable off the small plate. Ling yelled. The rice pot smashed on the floor.

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2014 in Fiction, General, Homework

 

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If you saw me today

If you saw me today, you would never guess that I’m a bona fide, time-served, witch.

I had intended to arrive on the busy street with great decorum, but had descended at a greater speed than planned, and hit the ground like a whirling dervish.

I looked around confidently, calculating that nobody would pay any attention to me.

I casually put my aluminium folding broomstick, the latest development in free flying technology, under my cloak.

When I say cloak, I mean the fabulous designer label robe I had bought on the Salem High Street for the occasion.

I chose the cloak with great care and attention to detail. Although practical, it was stunning. The glittering flowing fabric billowed on descent. There were plenty of deep pockets for essentials: spell book, toads, miniature potion bottles.

It has the latest Teflon coating, so shiny, that any bird dross I couldn’t avoid whilst airborne would slide off as I bumped down on landing.

The neckline of the deep purple velvet dress I wore underneath was cut low to show off my eye-catching necklace. A family heirloom, passed down through generations. A solid gold chain with teeth, claws, and bones, attached by tiny gold rings.

Have I mentioned the shoes? They pinch a bit, but were a must have for a serious minded enchantress. They sparkle as I walk. The shiniest bright red shoes – the kind dreams are made of. I bought them on e-bay from a site called http://www.dorothy-kansas.com

I took out my compact mirror to check my appearance, and I was pleased to see my complexion was a teensy bit greener than yesterday.

The autonomous wart on my hooked nose, which seems to know instinctively when to grow into a hideous protuberance was at its best, or some would say worst.

I straightened up, well as best as a bent crone can, adjusted my 13th century antique conical hat, and cackled loudly as I sashayed down the street.

I dipped into my hex bag, uttered some hocus pocus and abracadabra chants, and waved my titanium wand with a flourish. I went from door to door, casting my spells, filling my pockets with gold, jewellery, and coins.

Everyone was laughing and smiling, and many complimented me on my lifelike appearance.

What a hoot, as my owl would say. It’s Halloween again. The one day a year when I can walk amongst humankind without drawing adverse attention to myself.

 

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2014 in Fiction, Homework

 

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This week…

Our homework is inspired by a challenge from Mslexia magazine, to take a butch character or occupation and couple it with something fragile and write about what could happen.

Here are some of the prompts we came up with, but feel free to use others:

Builder Baby’s bracelet
Bouncer Faberge egg
Bodybuilder Flowers
Soldier Kitten
Personal trainer Lace hanky
Marine China teacup
Rugby player Musical instrument of value
Hooligan 18th century manuscript
Hell’s angel Meringue
 
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Posted by on January 24, 2014 in Homework

 

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