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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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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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A363 – Week 19

The CO is still not firing on all cylinders, and I just cancelled our trip to the local theatre next weekend.  If they can re-sell the tickets, we’ll get a gift voucher in return after 10% has been deducted from the ticket value.  I’m embarrassed to say who we were seeing, but hope those still going have a dick-a-dum-dum time!

Finished the 105 lines of poetry for TMA5.  I’d like to post them on the TGF for comments, but a) I’m filled with self doubt after the mediocre mark on TMA2, and b) I don’t really have the time at present to critique the work of others, and would feel I should reciprocate.  Mind you, there’s scant activity on there at the moment, so maybe I’m not the only one feeling like this.

No feedback on the plan for the EMA (submitted as TMA4) yet.  It’s over two weeks again since submission, and if the last one can be used as a measure, it’ll turn up about Wednesday next, just before three weeks is up.  Now TMA5 is ready to go, I want to get on with the research needed for the EMA, but some of that will mean spending money and it’s a precious commodity these days!   Will just have to be patient *sigh*.  But the course finishes in a little over two months *gulp*.

Oh, yes, the dining chair re-upholstery.  One word.  Disaster.  Ordered some high quality foam for the chairs, 50mm thick, fire retardant, the whole works.  But the first chair I tackled looked as though I’d buried a paving slab inside the new material.  So, ordered some 25mm foam instead.  Looked OK.  But not quite right.  Decided the problem was that the new foam is simply too firm.  So off it all came again, and at present all the chairs have returned to their original status.  Next step is to just cover the existing foam and material with the new stuff and see how that turns out.  Good job I ordered a thousand staples for the gun!

The Toblerones have gone.  Not via me, before you scream ‘8000 calories!’ at the screen.  I cut out the middle man, if you see what I mean, and sent them on their way.  Well, I did munch the one given at Christmas by some close friends (in case they read this!), and polish off another after getting stuck on a re-write of the middle sonnet (you try writing a Shakespearean sonnet about a couple of fried eggs), but the rest went down the drain.  It’s actually a huge relief, as when it comes to chocolate I have absolutely no self control.  So, Toblerones, RIP.

Right, what to do.  Think I’ll continue with the EMA planning and early drafts.  If TMA4 comes back with the message that my idea is pants, I’ll just have to start again.

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A363 – Week 18 and TMA5

Last weekend was a bit fraught with un-wellness in the family, and the one coming up doesn’t promise to be much better, hence this midweek post instead.

A363 has come to an abrupt halt.  My books, usually spread open around the desk, are on the shelf and not a single word has hit the page in my notebook all week.  TMA5 is looming fast, only three weeks to the deadline, and that commentary I started, then again and again, is still looking distinctly not in progress.  BUT I now have a New Plan.  Since I’ve written three types of poetry for the TMA, I can just launch in on any one of them and start commentarying on whichever takes my fancy first.  Then a wrapper comprising an introduction and a conclusion will complete the job.  That sounds like so much more fun.

As it happens, I’m now having doubts about using the poetry option rather than fiction.  Somehow, 100 lines of poetry doesn’t seem as ‘hard’ as 2500 words of prose, and I’m wondering if the poems will have to be tons ‘better’ than the story option in order to achieve the same level of marks.  Mind you, they did take a long time to write (especially the suite of sonnets) and I put a great deal of effort into them, probably as much if not more than I would have  a short story.  I think I’ll take the chance, though.  Having been inspired by the villanelle and pantoum forms, it seems a shame not to find out whether the tutor considers them to have merit.

Took the SLK for a spin this morning.  It’s three weeks since it’s been out of the garage, and much longer would have seen the battery getting very low.  Last winter, it went completely flat twice and those heavy duty batteries they use on Mercedes  are heavy to lug to the charger!  And while I’m on cars, the Octavia passed its MOT yesterday with nothing needing to be done.  We’ve had it four years since new, and keep thinking it’d be a good idea to change it, but we’d only buy the same model again (it’s an Elegance TSi 1.8 turbo estate), so it’d just be newer.  Apart from tyres and two services, the car hasn’t needed anything spending on it.  Thought I was in for a big bill next month for the four-yearly cambelt change, but when I called the garage they told me the 1.8TSi engine has a chain.  The Octavia estate with that particular engine is the world’s best kept secret.

Back to A363… TMA3 was returned last week, and it seems I did a good job of the critique.  It was a challenging but enjoyable assignment, but I’m not sure I like the idea that I’m obviously better at preparing a critique on someone else’s work than I am creating my own writing!  No sign of TMA4 yet, though.

Right, where are those poems.  Think I’ll dive into the villanelle section of the commentary before I do anything else…

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A363 – Week 17, and the table’s back!

Dropping a few words into this week’s blog is a diversionary tactic.  I should be writing an illuminating commentary to go with the seven poems drafted for TMA5, but don’t seem to be able to move past the first paragraph.  Which, incidentally, is utter nonsense.

But never mind, because the dining table and chairs are back.  Not that the patio set wasn’t doing a grand job, but it did feel a bit odd with a thick blanket of snow the other side of the French windows.  The wood (Afrormosia, or Afro Teak) has regained a fabulous rich tone, and the polishing has brought out the distinctive grain in a way we have never before seen it.  Difficult to believe that we bought the suite second hand in the early 80s for about what we now pay for half a tank of petrol, and here it is looking as good as, if not better than, new.  I can confidently recommend Richard Parsons in Knebworth if you need any furniture restoration carried out (http://www.rparsons.com/).

Next job is to re-upholster the seats.  We have the material and replacement foam, and the staples dropped through the letterbox this morning.  Or so I thought.  I didn’t order heavy duty ones (although it’s a heavy duty staple gun), because I wasn’t planning on them holding up the Bayeaux tapestry.  And they don’t fit the gun; a millimetre too wide.  A new order has been placed, double-checked by the CO.

Still no sign of TMA3 being returned, and it’s coming up to three weeks since the submission deadline.  A few students have queried this on the TGF, so it’s not just me.  I was beginning to wonder if my assignment was so poor it wasn’t even worth marking <grin>.

TMA4, the initial plan for the EMA, was uploaded yesterday, four days early.  I hope the tutor likes the idea I’ve come up with, but it’s early enough to change tack if necessary.

Which just leaves the poetry commentary.  Think I might dump that first paragraph and start again.  Again.

Anyone want 1000 Draper 6mm NOT heavy duty staples?

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A363 – Pantoums and all that

Definitely a better week for the creative writing, although once again I was unable to make the tutorial in St Albans.  Just hope no-one thinks it’s because I don’t care!

Finished a couple of villanelles, one of which might just be suitable for TMA5.  So, with the themed set of five sonnets, I have 5×14 + 19 = 89 lines of poetry ready for a severe redrafting.  The TMA needs 80-100 lines, and 89 is about whack in the middle.  So why did I think it’d be a good idea to add in a pantoum?  The form doesn’t really work with less than four stanzas (and they need to be quatrains) because of the line repetitions, so that will take me up to 105 lines.  But that’s OK, with the 5% leeway which is allowed in length.

I found writing pantoums to be great fun.  Maybe it’s the engineer in me coming out, but they seem a bit more technical and not completely ‘arty’ like most poetry.  It’s a simple set of rules: The second and fourth lines of the first stanza become the first and third of the second; then the second and fourth of the second stanza become the first and third of the third, and so on (as many as you like) until the last stanza.  This follows the same rules, except in addition, the third and first lines of the opening stanza become the second and fourth lines of the closing one.  So the first line is repeated as the last.  The scheme sounds complicated but isn’t.  The difficulty is getting the lines to make sense in different contexts while also making the rhymes turn out correctly.  See what I mean about engineering?

TMA5 is, of course, getting well ahead, although I have to confess to jumping on to the poetry section in the course book.  I think I wanted to do something different for a couple of weeks, and feel sort of refreshed by deviating a bit.

No result yet for TMA3, the 1000 word critique.  Good marks or bad, it was an interesting exercise and I think it helped me pick out a few points about my own writing which should lead to an improvement.

Still reckoning on life writing for the final EMA, although haven’t made any further progress on the plan (TMA4).  It needs to be in by 16th February, so just over a week to getting it finished if I want to upload it with a few days to spare.  Best start doing some more work on it.

The nice man has taken away our dining table and chairs for repolishing, and we’re using the patio set.  Inside, that is, what with all this snow about!  It should be back next week sometime, and fingers crossed it will look a million dollars.  Well, eight hundred quid’s worth at least…

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A363 – Creative Writing and a Spot of Polishing

Right, I’m on the case having bounced back from the depths of despair after the scriptwriting malarkey.  Having looked again, I can see that I went a bit too far with the ending, and turned what was essentially a sitcom into a melodrama.  Still a bit surprised though that a wrong turn like that had such a major effect on the overall mark.  Oh well, it’s in the past and hopefully, a lesson has been learned.

The critique assignment went off on Tuesday having held it back for a couple of days in case something popped up that I wasn’t happy with, but nothing did.  That was an interesting exercise, and will help somewhat in the future.  Looking for problem areas as well as things that work well in other people’s writing is very therapeutic!

The next assignment (TMA4) is drafted and almost ready to go, although it isn’t due for a couple of weeks.  I’m hoping the tutor is going to like the idea I’ve come up with for the EMA, but if not I’m happy to change direction.  Looking forward to reading  what he says when he’s been through the plan.

Been having some fun this week writing villanelles.  Quite an interesting form of poetry, and quite a challenge since there are 19 lines and only two rhyme patterns.  The first line gets to be re-used in lines six, twelve and eighteen, and the third line reappears as the ninth, fifteenth and final line.  It’s made up of five tercets and a quatrain.  The difficulty is in getting enough words to rhyme (remember there are only two rhymes), and making the whole thing make sense having re-used earlier lines.  Challenge for this week?  Try a couple of pantoums!

Just realised this morning that there’re only three and half months left before the end of this module, the EMA being due in mid-May.  Time is flashing past like an accelerating bullet train these days.  One of the disadvantages of advancing years!

Having got the polishing bug with the stair banister last week, we decided to have a go at the dining chairs.  They’ve faded badly though, and so has the table surface, so we called in an expert to have a look.  We’ve had the suite for many years, and it’s absolutely ideal for us. Modern ones just don’t seem to come close.  ‘Ah, a McIntosh,’ said the nice man.  ‘Just look at that grain.  Beautiful.’  as he rubbed the table surface lovingly.  Then said he could remove the old coating, steam the wood to get rid of the surface scratches, sand down and repair the chair stretchers where one of our puppies had used it for chewing practice, re-polish and add a protective coating.  Wonderful we thought.  Then had to sit down.  £800 if we had it all done at the same time.  Still sitting down…

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A363 – TMAs and Elbow Grease

Disappointing week to say the least.  The mark for TMA2 was worse than for the first assignment, and that was the lowest I’d had in over two years of OU study.  I only have myself to blame, but can’t help but wonder how subjective the marking is.  With maths, science, engineering type courses, you can be pretty sure that if you’ve answered the questions correctly you’ll score highly.  With creative writing, though, there has to be some element of whether or not the reader likes what you’ve written.  And clearly, my stage adaptation was not liked very much!  So, a mediocre mark for what was seen as a mediocre piece of work, I guess.  To get back into distinction territory, I’ll need to bust 90% on every assignment from now on, and I don’t think that is ever going to happen.  Instead of aiming hard for a distinction, I’m going to find myself struggling to stay in the Pass 2 band.

Therapy came today in the form of elbow grease.  Our mahogany stair banister had lost its shine, and I dug out the bottle of furniture cleaner that’s been lurking in the shed for years.  Much rubbing was needed to get rid of the old polish, and the wood looked quite sad by the time I’d finished.  Three coats of beeswax polish later, though, and it began to smile again.  Trouble is, it no longer works to stop you falling down the stairs.  Grab it, and you just slide along….

Back to A363.  I’ve finished the critique for TMA3, which is due this Thursday.  Not particularly confident that it’s what is required, but like I said last week, I have yet to find anything in the course materials about critiquing other than what’s in the assignment guidelines.  Checking out the marking criteria, to get a Pass 1 the critique needs to ‘contain complex analysis of method, form, genre, medium and approach.  The exposition of the work will be exemplary in its clarity; there will be original, engaged and insightful examination of the issues… ‘ etc etc.  Only 1000 words to play with, so I’m not sure how close I’ll get!

TMA4 then rears its head just three weeks later, mid-February.  No marks for that, though.  Isn’t that odd?  It’s the initial plan for our final EMA, in just 750 words.  I have an idea that mine will be life-writing, based on a piece of family history, so producing the plan shouldn’t be a problem.  AND I don’t have to worry about the marks!

Still reckoning on a suite of sonnets for TMA5.  The central thread is to capture the day through mealtimes, from waking up, breakfast, lunch, teatime, dinner and returning to bed.  Five are drafted, and I need one more (dinner) to reach the minimum number of lines (80-100).  This isn’t set in stone, though, and I could well go back to a short story plot dreamed up a few weeks ago.

Well, I might be very brave and pluck up the courage to submit (still hate that word) the next assignment later this evening.  On the other hand, I could procrastinate for the next three days…

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