Tag Archives: tma05

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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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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