First Assignment

How did I do? Hmmm… So I need to review how I think I have done against the criteria and make notes… Let me go look at the criteria… I’ll be right back…

Okay so I am to be assessed on the following:

Presentation and technical correctness

Because of my job as a secretary my grammar and punctuation are good (but working in the USA for many years has introduced variations from the UK way). While writing sentences so full of description, I think I might have left out a comma or two. I am a little unclear when writing sentences that are unusual if they follow the same rules or if rules can be a bent a little (for example, poetry can be written without a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence).


I have an ear for language and rhythm. I can tell when it is working and when it is not. The problem at times is I can hear it is not working but I am not sure how to change it. In Steam Train for example, I feel that the beginning was full of description but then when we got on the train, it feel it goes into more telling instead of showing. I still am not sure how to change that. I guess I need more practice.


I definitely experimented with the pieces in this course and I think I tried to let go and bring something different than what I usually write. I am pleased with the creativity in them especially with Meerkat. I think I was able to bring that animal alive with my words which I found quite exciting.

Contextual knowledge

Reading Patti Smith’s M Train inspired me during my assignment, but I am not sure that this shows in my writing. Except for the fact that I was inspired by how she brought poetical language into her stories – into her prose. The same with Lauren Slater’s Welcome to my Country. And I have tried to do the same.

Craft of writing

In Steam Train, I like how I was able to go from the garden to the train via memory. Meerkat shows movement and the way that the animal stands proud – I was able to do this with describing a line at a time – adding layer upon layer. My favorite is York Minster – those eight lines came from about 30. Continuing with free writing even though it is tough and frustrating, I have found some gems. I do think I am at the beginning with this craft and have a lot to learn.

Reflective Commentary – Assignment 1

We have covered a fair amount in Part One. It was a rocky start and I felt a little inadequate, but despite my constant perfectionism I have produced writing that shows a loosening up and an ability to describe objects and scenes uniquely.

I read M Train by Patti Smith as an author’s notebook and found it inspiring. She is always writing (sometimes on napkins) and uses the perfect words for her story. She shows me how writing poetry can help with writing stories.

In Clearing your Throat (the coursebook), Julia Bell likens writing in a notebook to exercise and limbering up. This made sense to me and helped me through the times when my notebook seemed to be full of rubbish. Freewriting is also a form of that limbering up.

My first experiment with freewriting was frustrating. Having continued with this practice, I started to see progress and a reason for doing it. My problem is that I try to write stories or at least something interesting rather than just describing or making associations. I need to stop taking myself so seriously and have fun with this. I have difficulties letting go and trusting in the process.

I have never used a commonplace book before. I have started clipping stories and pictures from magazines but am a little sceptical about this because I think I can probably find all the photos, ideas, and stories that I need using a search engine on the Internet. I will try to remain open-minded.

When writing descriptions, I find it halts my stories. I need more practice with this. The exercises in describing objects and scenes were difficult but I found myself getting into the swing with wild descriptions, e.g., the nave of York Minster as “Ladies clothed in cream silks and golden taffeta lifting up their arms in praise and ecstasy.” Paul Magrs in Clearing Some Space (the coursebook) says, “What tends to hold people up in the first placed is their determination that the first line they write down be brilliant.” That describes me perfectly.

I have difficulties with this course’s instruction on creating drafts; highlighting the good and a line through the bad. It stops my creative flow. How I usually draft feels more organic. I write a story and save as draft one. Then I make revisions: reading what I have, moving parts around, adding bits, taking bits away and save as draft two. As this works for me, I feel bound creatively when I try to do it the college way but I will keep practicing.

To sum up, I am finding I am a little resistive to taking on these exercises on a daily basis; some of this is to do with discipline and some is to do with having a fixed writing practice already that works. I am willing to remain open however and practice these as I have seen how especially with description they are producing interesting pieces of writing.

Steam Train – Assignment 1 – Prose

Cobwebs tickle my ears as I rest amid smoky creosote in the shed at the bottom of my garden.  Watching the foxes’ forsaken playground while aeroplanes howl above like tempests: one fades away into silence as another snarls. Light wind strokes my face like walking through fine silk and icy air slips up my nose attempting to obliterate smells. I chew on my cigarette.

The heating outlet hums vapour above a window wherein orchids of yellow and pink speckles pose. A sudden car alarm twitters. Insects buzz as the leaves faintly rustle. Soft scuffles trip through the air like lovers dancing or sweeping and the warmth of wintery sunshine tickles the tip of the trellis.

My eyes follow the stone flags that roam randomly stacked unevenly along the ground. They bump into an abandoned iron birdbath that drips rain water onto dusty compost putrefying. Birds chatter quickly and hop over dark earth. The birch steps among box and yew and weeds ready to be plucked.

Dirty green plastic chairs, discarded until summer, sit in the corner where the ivy-laden fence leans. Lichen spreads at the edges of this dank world: moss perfume that smells like a damp coat after a bonfire or rain on the platform of a steam train. Almost immediately I am drawn back to happier times: the day we travelled vintage style.

Under a cream, maroon overhang on Platform One, the adventure began. Thrilled to be travelling back in time, we dashed to a compact, wooden hut on the platform and ordered tickets. The air smelled of smoke and tar: fragrances of a 1930s film.

Suddenly there was a whistle and a choofing. Wooooo! It wailed. Wooooo! It rattled and huffed into view. The engine was a brute of a machine: black with silver pistons pushing furiously as charcoal steam blasted from the funnel. The cabin was sturdy and colossal with chains and knobs and levers and bolts. Blood red, shiny carriages with curved doors tilted towards us and we chased the curtained windows. The beast came to a halt and the engineer piled coal into the fire. Clambering on board, we were greeted with wood panelling and musty pongs and sat on thinly padded chairs; brass luggage holders, too small for our backpacks, sat above our heads.

The train moved slowly out of the station repeating its song – a long, low whistle. Steam floated by the window and the station slowly receded; replaced with oaks and Yorkshire grey-stoned houses, and flat streaky clouds in cool cobalt. Wandering, we come upon the old restaurant car with pine dining tables and chairs. A curved bar leaned at one end where Bob served tea. Bald and retired, volunteering on the railway was Bob’s life. He guided us to a sturdy table covered with Fat Rascals the size of a man’s fist, éclairs oozing cream, and sugary triangles of spongy delight. We dripped red jam onto our Rascals and munched. A gentleman spread opposite, who spent his days traveling the railway drinking beer and talking with travellers, informed us that the entire train is like it was back in the day and even has a proper loo with ceramic toilet and sink! 

At Haworth, we waved goodbye to the gentleman and the train and exited the station. Walking along cobbles over a curved bridge, we watched the train puff underneath us leaving a sooty muss on our clothes.



Haworth High Street – Assignment 1 – Prose

The Black Bull pub looks out to Top Withens with white framed windows that blink diamond frost out of sooty bricks. Lichens sprawls upon its head while petunias and impatiens in stone troughs tickle its toes. Oak and pine spread their branches to embrace and carriage lights welcome visitors in to sit by a warm fire.

Down the hill along the cobbles, grey-stoned buildings stride; tilting chimney pots on moss covered rooves and clenching baskets of crimson blossoms under eaves while misty cotton floss clouds the milky blue sky. Tanned hills rise from the dale lined with oaks hiking over green yellow moors and stone fences divide brown ridged fields like patched blankets. Nuthatches dance from shoot to sprig.

A sporty Toyota pushes its silver nose from beneath the road’s downward curve, while a red poker dotted lady bobs her curls. She sits at a table under the archway leading to an alley behind the clothes shop. Around her ankles and up a strong uneven staircase that leads to the parsonage, a tea poodle races.

She cups an apple in her hand. It feels like a little cricket ball but without the ridges: even, spherical and cool to the touch. Bringing the hard green apple up to her ear, she shakes it. Clattering like a baby’s rattle, it is a smooth, never-ending ball of roundness. At opposite ends of its circumference sit a cheeky dimple and a course, ratty nodule. Putting the silky curvature to her nose, she breathes in an icy aroma that reminds her of lemons.  A citrus, damp, fragrance like winter: cold and sharp. She tosses it into the air and catches it deftly in her little hands. Tossing it again, she misses and it plonks loudly on the floor causing a splosh of juice to hit her leg.

York Minster – Assignment 1 – Poem

Colossus could rest beneath its gable

A silver birch forest reaching up in rapture

Lifting arms of cream and golden taffeta in praise

Mosaic tangerine tiles crisscrossed in chocolate mesh

Lay at its feet as earthy squares of wheels and leafy vines

While multi-coloured tales of knights and priests

Crown its heights in tinted glass of hearts and petals and

At its soul, amid rich ivory and crimson folds, a gilded cross

Meerkat – Assignment 1 – Poem

Standing tall on tip toes

The meerkat moves his head from side to side

Dusky snoot sniffs the air as if high blood born

Capped black ears hearken for predacious snakes

Ebony patched eyes guard for hungry owls

Paws held down in submission or prayer

Moving one limb to the ground

The meerkat bolts

A fleeting dash

Like go-fast strips on sports cars

Darting through dusty hollows

Flinging sand from craters

His tail curled

High above his risen butt

Chomping down on his pup’s scruff

He flees

Exercises in CW Coursebook

Once I realized that the exercises should be playful after doing a few from the CW coursebook, I stopped worrying about the reason for doing them. I realized that the playfulness would lead me to let go of control and to start creating outside of my mind in a realm of unknowns and uniqueness. And sometimes I need to write the first thing that comes to mind regardless of our ridiculous it sounds.

When freewriting I think I try to write stories or at least something interesting rather than just letting go and describing or making associations. I have difficulties letting go and trusting in the process.


Commonplace Book

I am buying The Week every week and have started clipping some of the photos and stories. It is a magazine that gives you a summary on the news stories for the week. I am considering buying a monthly magazine as well; the types that include hard luck and courage stories about ordinary people. Rather than subscribing to one magazine, I think I will go into my local newsagent and get a different one each month. I do not get a daily newspaper as I read all my news online.

I understand why we do this, but I have never used a commonplace book before in my writing life and I am not sure when I would. It has been suggested before that I keep photos from magazines/newspapers of different people doing different things so that I can visualise my characters but I have so far really only written about family members and I have their images in photos and my mind. Also, I can search online for images a lot easier and quicker that through a book. I do think that the internet is the biggest resource as a commonplace book.

Even though I am a little sceptical, I will keep on collecting items and hope at some time in the future I will have a need for them.

The Five Senses – Drafts

In project 6 we did various exercises using all our senses rather than just seeing. Here are my drafts:

Ex 2 – Apple

Citrus smell

Sharp smell



Bristly end

Dippy end

Smooth curvature


Damp smell

Citrus damp smell like winter cold and crisp

Like ice

Round curvature

Smoothly never ending ball of roundness

Like a small cold ball

Silvery smell

Rattles when shaken like a baby’s rattle

Plonks on floor when dropped







Like a tennis ball


Two will give you juggling balls

Ex 3 – Describe an object without knowing what it is – Strawberry

Uneven surface – like tiny nodules or pimples cover the surface evenly

Subtle sweet sour fragrance

Cold and wet to the touch

A little slimy or slippery

Indents easily

Squishes easily


Small – size of chestnut

Red with tiny yellow dots

Hairs coming out of the shiny skin

Tiny even dimples

Shiny between the dimples

Like a bulbus cone

Like a red witches hat without the rim

Ex 4 – Sit outside and freewrite

Aeroplane howling like a storm

One plane fades away into silence and another one comes

Birds twittering

Damp mossy smell

Moss or earth smells like a damp coat after a bonfire

His hum of heating outlet at back of house

Light wind on my face like walking through fine silk

Cold air on face up nose – icy

People talking faintly

Hum of London traffic

Buzz of insect

Slight rustle of leaves

Shuffle – possibly someone sweeping


Slight cooking smells

Warmth of sunshine – low in the sky – wintery

Bird chatters quickly

Dark earth in pots and weeds

Variety of bushes


Woody smoky smell in shed

Car alarm

Flags on ground – different sizes

New wooden pine sheet – white washed? Brown washed? Creosote

Bird table – full of water – no birds in it


Smells obliterated byt eh cold

Dusty dirty plastic green table

Chairs stacked int eh corner – full of water

Window to back of house – orchids on ledge inside yellow and pink (dots of pink)

Small red plant in pot

Fence mossy ivy over it

Winter rose bush over it – o flowers

Wall flaky paint

Sitting in the fridge watching the foxes playground

Abandoned but for the icy breeze that throws up my nostrils

Scents of pine and smoke from old bonfires

Air rustles the branches and leaves of a young plane tree

Moss sits at the edges of this damp world

Plastic table abandoned int eh autumn provides rainwater for the robin

Planes howl across the sky watching the wintery sun peek up above the skyline before it flees from the icy air

Rusty Asian plant survives in a delicate pot

As a new fence bends beneath the weight of ivy upon its back

Children call faintly above the gentle hum of the London traffic

Ex 5 – Go for a walk and freewrite

Crunching leaves under feet

Sweet smell

Car noises

Cycles noises

Football bouncing


Music in house

Rock and roll

Bottle kicked over

Car door closes


Gate opening

Keys rattling

Door opening

Plane overhead

Cigarette smoke – nice smell – comforting

Cold – breath icy

Hum of traffic

Police siren – hurts ears

Chain across mini car park

Petrol station – petrol smell

Tinkle of cycle wheels going round

Starting car engine

Engine ticking over

Leaves feel like rubbery paper

Ridges on tree – hard – ripply – dusty

Flashing lights from oncoming cars

Stale cooking smells – rancid oil

Red post box

Stop start noise of traffic

Greengrocer – smell of citrus – fruits


Men talking by a car

Descriptive Prose – Draft

In project 7 exercise 2 we had to write about a holiday. Here is my draft:

Approaching the station our anticipation rose tremendously. Our normal train pulled into the station and over on platform 1 we saw the cute quaint platform of for a vintage train. We dashed over there very excited and over the moon to be We were ready to travel travelling back in time.

We bought our tickets from the ancient ticket office – a little wooden hut on the station and looked around. The air smelled of smoke and tar. The wooden hut and overhang were painted cream and rusty red. We felt like we were in a 1930s film and metaphorically pulled our fur collars forward against the chilly wind.

Suddenly we heard the whistle and the shunting of the train. Wooooo! It sang out. Wooooo! And the train rattled, huffed, and puffed into the station. The engine was a beast of a machine: black with silver pistons pushing furiously as the black steam pushed out of the funnel. My mouth fixed in a perpetual grin and my heart beat hard in my chest.

The carriages slowly halted and we waited patiently while the passengers climbed down onto the platform. As soon as we could, we clambered on board. The interior of the carriages were ancient and wood panelled. The chairs were wooden and thinly padded with blue and green squares. I notice seats in trains and buses. The covers. The brass luggage holders, too small for our back packs, sat above our heads.

We stared out of the windows impatient for the train to start.

Sitting in the restaurant car. Ordered tea and scones and sat back for the ride

Nice gentleman sat opposite us – talked for a while about the train and the railway – the history. He spends his days traveling back and forth on the line drinking beer and talking with other travellers.

Nice man in the café. He was retired. Retired man served coffee. He spends his days working in the café on the train as a volunteer. He loves it.

Hard seats

The train shunts [choose another word here] slowly out of the station. It repeats is song – woooo a long low sound

Out of the window saw the steam passing by.

The station slowly recedes and the country side with trees and houses – the typical Yorkshire grey stoned ones – takes it place. It is a sunny cool day. Clouds were streaky on the sky – long flat streaky

Walked through train – old restaurant car with proper chairs. Bar at one end selling drinks and tea/coffee. In front of it a table of cakes – proper table. Curtains at the window.

Went by the conductors room. Had a seat with rounded arms and a desk with his hat on it. Black hat with a shiny peak. A letter holder or post holder is hanging from the window with boxes and cloths. His hi-vis jacket hangs on a hook – not sure that is vintage :0)

The loo is a proper vintage loo in ceramic with ceramic toilet and ceramic basin. Such fun.

Haworth station like Keighley.

We said goodbye to the At the engine and saw the driver piling the coal into the fire. The cabin is strong and big with chains, knobs, and levers and bolts. Shiny black metal.

We exit the station and walk along cobbles over a curved bridge over the line. Watch as the train leaves the station. Puffing under the bridge.

Walk up a hill to the hotel. Through a park with an empty band stand – empty. But a man is playing the guitar further up.

The hotel is at the bottom of the high street. At the top is the Bronte Parsonage. We are in the village where Wuthering Heights was written.

The hotel is small – kelly’s head nearly touches the top of the doors. Our room has a view across the valley. Grey houses. Rolling hills – green patchwork. Oak trees. Swallows, magpies.

Our room is double bed. Heavy drapes around the bed in maroon and yellow patterns. High bed. Heavy wood – oak maybe – big bed.