A Writing Update

by Victoria Madden

New Year’s resolutions have a way of foundering on the rocks of personal temperament and unforeseen circumstance – generally the former – which is pretty much what happened to the projects I started up last year.  I had a couple of ideas that I thought would not only help me post more regularly but also kickstart me into Writing again, and this post is in the nature of an update for anyone who’s wondering what on earth happened.

The first of these projects was based around something I find interesting and thought you might too.  I have several volumes of The Girl’s Own Annual and, reading about the things that concerned and entertained women a century ago, in 1916, I thought I’d do a little synopsis of the relevant issue each month and add scans of articles on things like the changing fashions – and particularly those on women’s involvement in the Great War.  It seemed to me that, with all the media coverage of Important Battles, it was just as important that women’s battles to keep the country’s homes and industries afloat be flagged up too – and this was to be my small contribution towards highlighting them.

Despite the Annuals being published a hundred years ago, I almost immediately discovered that there were still copyright issues involved. I’ve been in touch with the Lutterworth Press, the original publishers who are still going strong, and they’ve been cautiously helpful, but I need to run every potential quote, illustration and scanned article past them now.  So I put the project on hold until I could find space for some rather time-consuming negotiations with the publishers.  Which, obviously, didn’t happen.

The Annuals were sold as Christmas gifts so they run from October one year to August/September the next.  I don’t have the volume for 1916/17 so, if I can agree things with the Lutterworth Press, my plan is to post for the relevant month a year behind until the autumn and then move onto the 1917/18 volume.

My Writing Challenge foundered almost as quickly.  Getting up Very Early, after the initial resistance, wasn’t really a problem as it turned out – it was soon light from early on and there’s a certain smugness to be had about starting your working day at that hour. Unfortunately, any romantic ideas I’d had about drinking the early morning cup in the hushed garden and tip-toeing round so as not to disturb the slumbering house were soon scuppered when I discovered that other members of said house were naturally earlier risers themselves – so that the usual interruptions of the day merely began at some ungodly hour.

Add to this the discovery that my decades long handicap of being unwilling to submit something that falls short of what I know it could be, is still operating and I suppose it’s not really that surprising that this one didn’t get off the ground either.

However, in my continued attempts to downsize my previous life into my current existence, I recently discovered some writing projects from several years ago and have been wondering whether posting these might not be a way through the impasse.  There’s a script for a film that I devised and workshopped between 2005 and 2007, for example, and some poems I wrote around 2009-2010 when I was hanging out with a very creative type.  The film is never going to get made, so there’s no problem with making it public – the central characters were a group of pensioners who’d gone through the Second World War; most of whom would be unfeasibly old or have died off now.  The poems were partly writing exercises in themselves – trying to write from someone else’s viewpoint ‘in character’ is really good training – and the distance should help, too, with preventing me from wanting to tweak them: both script and poems belong to an earlier time.

As to the book reviews, these are still stumbling on; I am, slowly, realising that what is wanted is an impression, rather than an analysis, and have a couple of recent reads in draft at the moment.