Tag Archives: open university

Death by Sound

That’s the last time I finish a blog with ‘What to do?’  Had forgotten my wife always reads them.  So spent most of last week treating the back garden fences with preservative.  Best make sure I have lots of OU work to do in the future…

Talking of which, the forums have pretty well died completely on A363.  Even the cafe, where anyone in the world taking the course can join in, has been remarkably quiet.  There have, of course, been the usual ‘When do the results come through?’ question and answer sessions.  I have to admit to being totally daft here, because already I’m checking the home page to see if they’ve arrived, even though I know they won’t be out until early August.

One thing I must work out before the next course starts, is how to set up an index on this blog.  Previous attempts haven’t met with any success, and even though I successfully posted a picture a few weeks back, whatever I did then, no longer seems to work!  Clearly I must try harder (where did I hear that before?).

Thought I might occasionally post some of my A215 and A363 work here.  Why?  Well, it’s probably the only way it will be read by more than a dozen people.  And it might just spark some ideas for creative writing students who have reached that dreaded state of blank brain syndrome.  Sometimes, just thinking ‘I can do better than that load of rubbish.’ can be very helpful.

Death by Sound

Ear worm, what pleasures do you find

inside my head?  Your constant hiss

of steam, when all around is quiet.

To wake in silence, just a dream.

 

Your autumn rustle all year through,

with tuning strings perpetual

cacophony.  A prison term,

a life of  jangling symphony.

 

Like ocean waves on shingled shore

ensnared within an empty conch

to dance, with dream-world music spinning

rapidly in abstract trance.

 

Must flee this never ending shriek

that fuddles minds from deep inside

one’s ear with constant clamour.  Might

you be the final sound I hear.

 

I originally included an epigraph with this, to help the reader understand what I was writing about, but thought it might be fun to let you guess.

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One huge clearout later…

The study is unrecognisable.

For the past three years there have been piles of books, discarded story drafts, stellar maps, music scores including the complete orchestral score for the March from The Little Suite by Trevor Duncan (the theme from Dr Finlay, should anyone be old enough to remember that), various calculators including one that I still have to check out the instructions for in order to use it, heaps of graph paper sporting unlikely curves of equally doubtful looking equations, results from an experiment to calculate the water content of a potato by nuking it in the microwave, company account trading summaries spread over pages and pages of Excel spreadsheets, family history references, photographs…  You get the picture?

Three years of OU modules, from book-keeping to maths, science to astronomy, music technology to creative writing in various guises.  Loose papers neatly filed away, text books carefully shelved, notebooks ditto.

One BA in prospect come A363’s result.

And an empty desk.

What to do?

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A363 EMA, A Good Yarn is what’s needed

I really, really should not be writing this.  What I should be doing, is polishing the final A363 assignment until it shines like a button on a Grenadier’s uniform.  Trouble is, I need a button to polish, and all I have at the moment is a plastic popper.

TMA06 came back early in the week with a plethora of comments and advice from the tutor pinned to the 1000 word extract, which was very encouraging.  In fact, the whole piece has gone pretty much to plan.  Except that I am left with the crunch flashback.  The one that the whole point of the story turns on.  Been working on it all day, but it’s drivel.  Not just drivel, either.  Tripe comes to mind, as does hogwash, gibberish and twaddle.  The words simply won’t do what I want them to do.  I suppose that’s what being a writer is all about.  Moulding words into sentences so they reflect the image you want to paint.

Maybe it’s because the piece is life-writing.  Not just life-writing, either.  It’s a piece of family history where a course of events resulted in tragic consequences.  Because there are no surviving family members who I can talk to, much of the writing is fictionalised around facts I know to be true.  I confess to finding reading history as dull (not the history itself, just the books) as our weather has been for the past week.  That’s probably it.  I need to forget about the ‘life-writing’ aspect and just think about what would make a good yarn for the flashback.

Nothing back from the OU yet on my request to unlink A363 from my degree.  Maybe I’m not the only student who has woken up to the fact that they won’t get endless chances at achieving a good Honours class now that transitional funding expires once sufficient credits have been earned for a degree to be awarded.  OK, I know, I know…  I’m only doing this for fun.  But even so, I’d like to end up with a good class of degree at the end!

So, I’m off to try out that ‘good yarn’ idea…

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A363 Week 27

Just had a look at the Advanced Creative Writing course calendar, and we’re frighteningly near the end.

Although TMA06 still hasn’t yet been returned with advice for the EMA, I guess I’m not the only one in our study group to carry on writing regardless.  Hopefully the TMA will pop up early next week, and won’t signpost a need to rewrite from scratch.  I still have 1000 words to go out of 4000, and it’s the most challenging part of the life-writing piece.  I’ve been trying to change the readers view of the protagonist’s state of mind as the tale progresses, and although I don’t intend there to be a ‘twist’ at the end, I want the reader to be slightly taken aback with how things turn out.  I know that doesn’t make much sense, since you have no idea what or who I’m writing about.

I decided during the week to try to unlink A363 from my degree.  Not exactly sure why, but it seems the right thing to do.  For a start, it gives me the opportunity to study two more modules to count towards the hons classification under the transitional funding arrangements, so the fun will last a little longer.  Transitional arrangements come to an end once the target qualification has been achieved, and I had a shock when I saw that E301 (The Art of English), one of my next study options, showed a non-transitional fee of £2500.  No way could most people pay that for leisure learning!  The other reason is that I’m having a crisis of confidence with the creative writing, and don’t feel that this module has gone all that well.  After the immense enjoyment of A173, A174 and A215 (all writing modules), A363 just hasn’t been as pleasurable.  Can’t put a finger on why, though.  It may not be possible to unlink the module at this late stage, and the boxes that would normally allow this to be done online have been greyed out, but I’ve dropped an email to the OU to see if they can help.  I hope they can, because then I can register E301 and E303, both of which look as though they have the potential to offer a couple of years of great entertainment!

Right, back to the writing.  It’s been going well the last couple of days, so while I’m on a roll…

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A363, Advanced Creative Writing – No Progress!

Absolutely nothing to report on my OU activities this week, as I haven’t even opened my notebook.  And with a little over four weeks to go, that probably isn’t the wisest of moves.  My excuse is that until the marked TMA06 is returned, with a blessing (or otherwise) from the tutor that the structure is looking OK (or not), I could be wasting my time pressing on.

Been a busy week, though.  Started clearing out the side shed last weekend to make room for the tools I keep under the stairs, so we can use that area for storage.  Actually, when I say ‘storage’, I mean a temporary stopping off point where stuff can languish for a few years, until we send it off to our local charity shop muttering, ‘I’d forgotten we had that,’ and ‘We’ll never use that again.’  The clear-out was surprisingly successful, even though it took up most of my afternoons last week and has resulted in piles of rubbish destined for the tip.  Not only is under the stairs empty, but the shed has a few bare  shelves as well, so room for more bits and bobs!

Chocolate has been high on the agenda, beginning with a free Easter egg courtesy of the Sunday Express and our local newsagent.  It was the only one I had, and it didn’t last long.  In fact it didn’t even see the end of Monday.  Then Wednesday we had a family meal to celebrate my wife’s birthday, and her sister served up a huge chocolate cake with candles.  Well, it was those ‘number’ candles that you have to use when single ones simply wouldn’t fit (I realise I’m dicing with having to live on gruel for the next few weeks should she read this!).  The cake was delicious, and they insisted we took home what was left.  Our favourite niece (I always call her that, even though we only have one) presented us with a massive box of chocolates.  By Thursday it was all getting too much for me, and I had to open the chocolates.  As for the chocolate cake, we asked some friends if they’d please drop by Friday evening and help us to finish it off.  With dollops of cream on top.

To offset the choccy calories, I’ve been doing a lot of walking.  The dogs go out each morning for about an hour round the local woods,

then I’ve been walking into town before lunch.  Wednesday morning I got lost in Stevenage Old Town.  With about 10Kg of bird seed, suet pellets and peanuts in my little haversack, I’d walked down to the old hardware shop to buy a tin of Sadolin for the front door.  When we first moved to Stevenage in the early 1970s, I had an evening bar job at the Prince of Wales so thought I’d walk up there and see how the place looks now.  Sad to say, it’s no longer a pub.  In fact it doesn’t appear to be anything other than an empty building.  I carried on in the general direction of ‘home’, and took what I thought was a short cut.  And walked… and walked… and walked, until after half an hour or so I began to recognise where I was.  When I looked back and saw the cemetery I realised I was quite out of puff.  Forget sometimes I’m almost an OAP!

On a final note this week, thank you to everyone who has been reading my blog lately.  Friday was the busiest day so far, although I think it was boosted by my old mate in Sydney discovering it and looking back at the previous jottings.

Now, best go and check if that latest TMA has been returned…

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A363, Advanced Creative Writing, Eventful Week 25!

My poetry assignment TMA05 came back this week, with an OK result.  Tutor comments were very useful on the whole, although places where I’d tried to include some of the stuff we’d learned like eye-rhymes (yes, I know the words don’t actually rhyme, but they look as though they should) don’t seem to have been well-received, interpretation of a few lines seemed more difficult than I thought, and there was modest disagreement on whether certain lines scanned correctly (how do you pronounce behemoth?).  But apart from the disastrous TMA02, my marks are, at least, consistent and I shall learn a great deal from the advice.

Also, the final assignment, TMA06 went off on Wednesday.  I’m pleased I posted it to the TGF, although only one student decided to pass comment and some of that was quite helpful.  I wish our group forums had been more popular.  Hopefully the tutor will like the way I’ve styled the life writing piece, otherwise it’ll be a case of starting again and only four weeks or so to go!  If you’re curious, I have a central thread which is written using first person stream of consciousness, following the protagonist as she makes her way to where she ends her life.  This thread generates flashbacks to some of the life events which have led her to take this drastic action.  I think it works, but it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.  The story is basically true, but is fictionalised (I wasn’t there one hundred years ago!) to fill in the gaps.

I asked the OU if they’d send me some old assignment questions from E301, but they responded that they didn’t do that.  Mind you, they did send me some on E300 and E303 last year, and even sent the last assignment booklet for the English MA just a few weeks ago!  Never mind.  I’ve decided not to go for the essay-intensive Art of English, and to wait for English Grammar in Context to come around next February.  That means I might even have time to tackle NaNoWriMo this year!

It’s also a big birthday week!  A close pal’s yesterday, my wife’s today, mine tomorrow and another close friend’s on Tuesday.  Much exchanging of birthday cards has been going on!  I know it’s a cliche and awful grammar, but the years don’t half pass by quicker the older you get, do they not?

Two years to the OAP…Tally Ho!

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A363 Week 24, TMA06 almost there

Just spent an hour checking through the 1000 word section of the EMA I’ve chosen to send in for TMA06 (it only needs to be in draft, so no final spit and polish yet), but instead of sending it off I decided to post it to the Tutor Group Forum.  Now I have, I’m in a state of shock.  This is the first TMA I’ve posted up.  Somehow, it doesn’t seem quite right that we can share these pieces.  I find that reading other students’ work that they are going to submit for an assignment feels a bit like cheating!  Posting activities from the course book was OK, but interest from the group in doing that waned after the first few weeks so I gave up as well.  But it’s out there now, and in about fifteen minutes I won’t be able to delete it and change my mind.  I’m not expecting much in the way of critiques, since the assignment is due in next Thursday and everyone will have their heads down doing their own thing.  But if anyone does find the time to offer advice that will be useful input for the actual EMA.

The Very Important TMA05 still hasn’t come back, although there’s been a message from my tutor to say that he’s been busy again, but hopes to squeeze in some marking over the weekend.  So, hopefully it will come back early next week.

The end of A363 is now in sight, so I’ve been looking at what to do next.  There are two ‘English’ courses which look to be fun: E301 The Art of English, and E303 English Grammar in Context.  For me, the second will be easier since it takes a technical view of the English language and there is a fair bit of linguistic analysis involved.  That appeals to my engineering mind.  The Art of English, on the other hand, examines the different ways that English is used in a variety of situations and in a diverse range of media.  BUT, the TMAs are, without exception, ess…,  ess…,  ess… you see, I can’t even say the word, *deep breath* essays.  I don’t mind writing them, but I haven’t had much practice lately, and the technical analysis of E303 sounds more appealing.  If anyone out there has completed either of these courses I’d be grateful for some advice.

Just in case anyone’s following my non-OU jottings, I managed to remove the bathroom tiles without cracking any and have repaired the leaking joint.  And the front garden fences have all been treated with creocote (not a spelling mistake, it’s a kinder form of creosote!).  It hasn’t done the tennis elbow much good, but not taking advantage of this week’s fabulous weather would have been a bit silly.

So, where am I?  I’ll wait until Wednesday to see if there is any feedback from the TGF on my TMA06, and then send it off a day early.  In the meantime, I need to carry on writing the EMA.  About 1500 words to go, including settling upon the all-important ending.  I have three in mind, so can’t even toss a coin to decide!

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A363, Week 23, Distractions Galore

No word yet on the result of TMA5.  I’m hoping my poems (five sonnets, a villanelle and a pantoum) were considered worthy submissions, as this assignment accounts for a humungous 40% of the ongoing course marks.  So, it can bring a run of good marks to its knees, or indeed cheer up a set of mediocre grades.  I really need a good result here, if you get my drift.

The EMA (final assignment, and accounting for 50% of the overall module result) is going OK, but maybe life-writing wasn’t such a fabulous idea.  I chose a tragic event from my wife’s paternal line, which shocked us when we discovered what had occurred.   Although it can be fictionalised to a great extent, I’m feeling as though it’s cheating a bit to overly fantasise about what could have led up to the events some one hundred years ago.  Mind you, there’s no other way of doing it since there are no surviving family members who can help, and this is a Creative Writing module, after all.

Maybe TMA6 will help me get the measure of how much to rely on evidence, and what can be made up.  The idea is that the assignment presents 1000 words of the EMA, together with a commentary showing how the initial proposal has changed as a result of the tutor’s comments and advice after TMA4.  Feedback on this section will be very valuable, so long as it comes in a timely manner.  TMA6 is due in 5th April *gulp*, and the EMA on 17th May.  So if it takes two weeks to come back, there’ll only be a month left to make what might turn out to be some major revisions.

I have, ashamedly, managed to arrange a few distractions preventing me from getting my head down and writing much this week.  The front garden has been tidied much earlier in the year than is usual.  Gallons of creosote (imitation, not the nasty stuff) has been bought to treat the fences.  A nice man has been to estimate decorating the hall, stairs and landing, and I’ve fitted four guitar hangers on the study wall to hold my two electrics (one a bass), acoustic guitar and five-string banjo.  The violin, mandolin and 12-string guitar will have to stay in the corner on the floor for now.  What else?  Oh, tonight we discovered that ‘something’ is leaking behind the tiles under the bathroom sink so tomorrow I’ll be taking off bits of false wall which were supposed to stay fixed for ever to see what the trouble is.  Of course, we have no spare tiles to cover the evidence should I crack any.  Which I’m sure to do.

And the final distraction?  Why, writing this blog of course…

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A363, After the Storm

Des:  Apparently the Gordon Craig Theatre didn’t sell out for the dick-a-Des-dum show last Sunday night, although there were only half a dozen or so seats left when I dropped our tickets off for resale eight days earlier.  I popped in the Wednesday after the show to ask if they’d managed to resell for us, but they hadn’t.  That was that, then. Fifty smackeroons down the proverbial.  Next time we’re unavoidably indisposed, I shall sell the tickets myself or simply give them away.  That would have been much more satisfying.

Oh, yes, A363:  Remember I sent off TMA5 early last week?  Well, it was actually due in Thursday, and I was casually checking out the A363 cafe Thursday evening when a post popped up asking how many words the ‘Commentary’ had to be, as they couldn’t get access to the course website.  (All the creative pieces have to be followed by a scholarly piece of writing to describe the technical ups and downs, reasons for decisions taken, etc).  ‘750’, came back the reply.

‘Nooooooooo,’ I shouted at the screen, ‘It’s 1000 words!’  And checked the assessment handbook.

‘Nooooooooo,’ I shouted at the handbook, ‘It is 750.’

Right.  I’d written too many words, which would have scuppered my marks completely for the commentary.  The assignment deadlines are mid-day, but there is an understanding that they will be accepted up until midnight in case of emergencies.  I have never edited a piece down so quickly in my life.  Knocking 250 words out of a 1000 piece doesn’t seem too difficult, does it?  But it is, if you want to retain the original flavour and feel of the original writing.  Surprisingly so.  Especially trying to do it in half an hour!  To be honest, although I read it through very carefully  a couple of times before re-submitting, I haven’t dared look at it since in case it’s pure gobbledegook.

Transitional Arrangements:  The OU emailed me back about the Transitional Fees and confirmed that if I ticked the BA box it would also cover any modules needed to make it a BA(Hons).  Thank you to Jaydin Starr for putting my mind at ease by leaving the comment to my previous post.

Finally, did you know you could get tennis elbow by using one of those ball launchers when chucking for the dogs?  Well, you can.  I know.  Although, luckily, I can hit the keyboard without a lot of pain, I can’t lift a teacup or squeeze the toothpaste tube.  And cleaning your teeth with the ‘wrong’ hand is harder than you’d think!

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Busy week on A363, Advanced Creative Writing

Should have been at the theatre in half an hour (remember, dick-a-dum-dum?), but since they haven’t phoned to say they’ve resold our tickets I guess there’ll be two empty seats.  Hope he doesn’t take it personally.

This has been a busy week on OU stuff.

TMA4 was returned on Monday, and not only was the EMA plan acceptable to the tutor, but it also shows up on the score record as 100%!  Such a shame it doesn’t count when aggregating the bottom line.  Mind you, the tutor did point out that I had bitten off quite a big challenge with the life-writing I want to do, but I think I’m up to it.

TMA5 whizzed off to the OU via that awful submit button yesterday.  Not due until next Thursday, but last night I cracked the thing that had been bugging me for weeks.  It was in the villanelle.  Although using the strict form the refrain gets repeated throughout the poem, I really really wanted to give it a subtle variation the final time it appears on the penultimate line.  Changing punctuation would have worked, and I changed it, changed it back, changed it again (get the picture?), but I wanted more than that.  At last, I found that simply swapping two words around did the trick and I suddenly felt this huge sense of relief.  So I wrapped it up and sent off my 105 lines.  Even if doing poetry turns out to be a huge mistook, I’ve absolutely enjoyed writing it, especially those foody sonnets!

Last night, I noticed a message on my student home page about transitional fees.  Apparently we have to indicate now, which qualification we are going for under the transitional arrangements.  Easy for me, because I’m now just one (but a big one) module away from my BA(Hons).  So I clicked confidently on the button to register, but the only choices open were BA or ‘Something Else’, no BA(Hons).  Now, the rule for the TFs is that they allow you to complete your undergraduate qualification under the existing fee structure (for me, £700 instead of £2500).  So now I’m wondering if the TFs only last until the ordinary degree is complete, and the Hons year isn’t covered.  Email sent, awaiting reply, biting fingernails.

A clear path to the A363 EMA, then!  TMA6 is the Mk2 plan, due in on 5th April, and the final EMA submission has to sent by 17th May.  I’m about halfway through and currently have brain block, but there’s loads of time and this is a piece of fictionalised family history I want to write for me, never mind the EMA, so all will be well.

Like I said, a busy week!

 

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