Tag Archives: tutor group forum

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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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, 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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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 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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Creative Writing, Shito and Seven Sonnets

Been a strange writing week, with seemingly little progress. Yet when I just checked back, I did actually finish the next assignment, TMA03, and made a good start on some drafts for TMA05.

Bit disappointed with TMA03, actually.  It’s a 1000 word critique of another student’s writing.  We get to choose what to use, but have to go for something that’s been commented upon in the forums, and subsequently changed by the author to show how the comments affected the creative process.  That’s fine, and it’s done and dusted.  Only thing is, there is nothing in the course module that instructs on writing a critique.  Well, there are some guidelines in the assessment booklet, but we haven’t actually been taught how to do it.  That’s fine as well, except if we have to search t’interweb and the local library for ideas, why did we pay £700 for the course?

Oh, shut up me.  Actually I’m writing this in a foul mood.  We decided to repeat the success of last week’s Saturday night meal treat; you remember; the seafood stuff.  All well and good, and it was, once again, totally delicious.  Except we found a half finished jar of Shito (black pepper sauce) at the back of the fridge – pronounced ‘Sheeto’ in case you’re offended – and decided to stir some into the mussels.  Mussels aren’t inherently all that tasty, poor things, and we felt like cheering them up.  Now this isn’t ordinary strength Shito.  Oh, no.  It’s HOT Shito.  And I stirred in a bit too much.  I’m pretty sure it’s found its way up to my brain and left me utterly useless for the day.

I need to make a public apology after upsetting our best friends with my comment last week about Toblerones.  Well, I was given four huge bars as Christmas gifts, and they do add up to 8000 calories (four days’ worth of food), and I shall need to ration them out over the next few weeks.  But I didn’t mean you to drop me a note saying sorry for giving them to me!  I LOVE Toblerones.  They are, by far, my most favourite choccy treat.  So no need for an apology.  Just make sure I have another next year.  Please!

Back to what I’m supposed to be blogging about.  A363.  Oh, yes, those drafts for TMA05.  The assignment is a 2500 word short story, fiction or life writing, or 100 lines of poetry.  I had in mind a plot which I’ve been hatching over the last few weeks, and started to write up.  But then I suddenly had an inclination to write poetry instead.  Might be a mistake, as my offerings on A215 didn’t go down that well.  Two did, but the one about chocolate cake, which I made come out the shape of a cupcake, turned the tutor cold.  I digress.  Chocolate again, you see.  The bottom line is that I’m drafting out a themed series of seven sonnets, that’s seven times fourteen lines, giving me a total of near enough 100 lines all up.  My theme is food through the day.  The first sonnet (getting up), the last (end of the day) and breakfast (you try writing fourteen lines about eggs) have been drafted, so only four to go.  Not sure if they are going to work yet.  Might be a bit twee for a serious assignment.  We’ll see.

This time next week, the stage adaptation for TMA02 will have been marked and returned.  I shall either mention it or not, so that will give you some indication of how it went!

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