‘How was your summer?’

I think this sort of pleasantry, at the beginning of any academic year, is of the same ilk as the daily ‘How’s it going?’ A greeting for which the only reply expected is ‘Fine thanks, how was yours?’ Nobody really wants to hear what the summer holidays were like for anybody else, not really.

Fortunately for me, I have this little blog to which I can reveal all of my activities without fear of boring anyone to tears. Anyone can read or not, no worries. But if you had to listen to the recitation, man, you’d want to be anywhere else, wouldn’t you? Anyway, perhaps some day I can come back to look at what I got up to this summer, and weep with despair at where I’ve got to since. Or just laugh at myself, who knows?

  • Well, I took the last admonitions from our writing group wrap-up session in early July to heart, and tried to value some of my own work for its own intrinsic worth, rather than depending on external validations which, in any event, have not been forthcoming.
  • i.  So I created my own eBook of my prose attempts from the past two years of writing group, ’Travels to a Different Place,’  which I hope to maintain as an ongoing  work-in-progress as time goes by.
  • ii.  This ebook is a companion to an eBook of my collected poems, that I started a few months ago, collating all my efforts from the same two years.  These two compilations are really for myself and perhaps my family at some point, but not for any public sharing at all.  They have a value to me, and I just felt, wait a moment, these will be lost and unretrievable in the various nooks and crannies of my laptop if I don’t compile them.
  • iii.  Thus encouraged by these eBook forays, I re-configured  my Allendale Diary paperback (the year-long blog also known as ‘A Year in the Life of a Northumbrian Community’) into an eBook as well, and it’s now served for sale on the Amazon platform, along with my novels.  So I have a little author’s bookshelf now but there’s a catch:  none of these efforts are currently attracting any readership, though the online Allendale Diary as well as its tangible manifestation as a paperback available locally, are still a viewed presence.
  • iv.  I decided to try to lie fallow for several weeks over the summer, especially as competitions I’d entered elicited zero response, and also especially on the heels of one excoriating review of my Prequel novel by a UK reader, all of which set me back emotionally.  Eventually, however,  I did write a short story based on an idea floated by my brother in response to my joking daydreams, and entered this story, rather prematurely and certainly vainly, in a literary magazine competition (Chiasmus from Tortive Theatre, with the specification of ‘precisely 1001 words, neither more nor less’). This competition closes at the end of October.
  • v.  I have been maintaining this ‘writer’s blog’ which is a kind of confessional of despair and sometimes optimism and excitement, but which has vanishingly few readers.  Never mind, I write this for myself as well.  I do try to jolly myself along.
  • vi.  I joined AbsoluteWrite.com to try to participate in a community of writers, but haven’t found this to be particularly useful at all.  I don’t seem to get the point in a lot of the discussion, and mainly the participants seem to be jostling for beta readers of 1000 word segments, which don’t work if you’re into a novel format.
  • vii.  And finally, at some low ebb this summer, I created a report card for myself of my work in writing group over the past academic year.  This report to me was both devastating and thought-provoking, as I tried to think how I could go forward in writing terms.  I hope, during this coming academic year or at least this autumn term, to work diligently and with humility on short pieces, and mindful of our last session,  to try to avoid discussion of my continuing efforts on my third novel, while I  seek to improve my fiction and poetry capacity according to pointers from peers and tutor.  Just to forestall any questions, my conscious plan in terms of that third novel is to finish a first draft by early ’22, and then seek and pay for professional mentoring/editing advice on that front, eg Cornerstones.co.uk .
  • And that’s been my summer, really, apart from having a fall and injuring my leg, which has laid me up for over two months of pain and hobbling around, but which finally seems to be healing, and then there was a delightful week looking after our grandsons up near Inverness, which I’ve added to my ongoing travel blog that recounts our adventures in Harry Hymer.  But I did have to laugh at myself as I worked on the little piece for Chiasmus.  It really was a case of valuing the effort just by itself, having fun and thinking.

And that’s how my summer was. Or, to put it another way, ‘Fine thanks, and how was yours?’

By Larry Winger

Retired scientist, devoted diarist (AllendaleDiary.org), community-minded aspirant novelist, I've lived on a smallholding in the East Allen Valley for the past 30 years, delighting in watching our family grow up, in experiencing the development of our grandsons, and in taking care of our small flock of chickens and garden.

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