Category Archives: Writing

Pog Games – Statues

The games in Pog are memories of games we played on the street outside our homes. The looming monument in the centre of Stanton is the Corona cinema on the corner of Radstock road. Looking at the black and white picture of the cinema in its hey-day, I find it hard to believe how those steps towered above me. The guardian at the top peered down on the line of children below.

Each child stood frozen, waiting for the chance to edge closer. The guardian at the top of the steps had to turn their back and cover their face. After a short count they could then turn around and try to spot somebody moving.

From tea-time to bed-time the evening flew past. To a dozen kids, the steps of the closed-down cinema were our playground.

Part of what I wanted to create with Pog was the pleasure of playing games, physical games where the players jostled for position; ran jumped and froze. We didn’t have goddesses gleaned from mythology. We had big sisters and younger brothers. Some grew too old to want to play, others came and went.

Those steps, that time – magical.

What is Poetry

I’m working through AA100 on the OU and I have never paid any attention to poetry – ever! When I realised how much I didn’t understand I had a look at the Openlearn parts of the OU website and found a twelve hour module ‘What is Poetry.’

I tried the activity below and it really helped me to start looking at line breaks and stanza.

Whilst I am not suggesting anybody is as bad as I am at this, I thought it might be good to throw this open for a few days and see if anybody else fancies trying their hand.

Activity One

Find two or three sentences of prose from a book, newspaper or magazine. Now transform this prose into poetry, by inserting line-breaks in the text in order to highlight whatever you consider most important or interesting. A line can be as short or as long as you want. You can change the original order of the sentences, but not the order of the words of any one sentence. As a mercy, you can repeat one line once. You are allowed to cut out words, but not add any.

One of the lines, or a word from one of the lines, could be the title.

Order the lines to direct the reader’s attention.

Does any particular line immediately suggest itself as an opening or final line?

What strikes you as the most important section? This should be your focus. Let the words tell you what the poem is about.

Activity Two

Now take your ‘instant poem’  and divide it into stanzas. You may change your mind about line-breaks now, and you may also add or take away words, if this helps. This time you may want to repeat another line or a word.

Can you locate a meaningful transition between the first and second stanzas, or the second and third?

A stanza can be as long or as short as you’d like, but make the length of the stanza appropriate to what’s contained within.

Try to free yourself from expectations about how it ‘should’ go. Instead, experiment, and see what ideas arise from the structure itself.


My Attempt:

Burmese Gems

They are revered amongst aficionados
for their rich deep hues
and mesmerising sparkle.

However, Burmese gems
are now the centre
of an international outcry over
the persecution of Rohingya muslims.

gems are now the centre
of an international outcry over
the persecution of Rohingya muslims.

Why is Pog important?

Pog is important to me because I make no secret that ‘Pog and the King’s Armour’ is my homage to CS Lewis’s Narnia series.

In an interview, Lewis said that part of his inspiration to write the Narnia books was a desire to create a story he would have enjoyed as a boy. He described a lonely boy perusing a library and losing himself in the tales of Norse gods.

This resonated because my own first brush with fantasy came from these same stories. I loved them and as well as listening when my father read them, I went in search of more. I confess at a young age I found some of the tales dry, but the ethos remained within me. Towering giants conspiring evil, and heroes struggling against the odds.

I believe Pog is a story I would have wanted to read when I was young.

Should it be read or listen to?

In creating Pog I have tried to maintain a vocabulary not too challenging for a young reader, but also not patronising. If they have to skip or ask about a word, that is, in my opinion, to the good. More than this, I have attempted to keep the flow easy to read out loud. How else is a young reader enticed to investigate books further except by somebody reading to them?

For many years I lost the magic of the written word. School did nothing to awaken it for me. The texts they suggested might have proved academically correct, but for a boy whose mind wanted dragons and giants, they were awful. If ever I became empowered to make changes, I would overhaul school reading policies

I hope you find Pog is both right for you and for your children.


Where Did Pog Come From?

I am rapidly approaching the launch of my children’s book:

Pog and the King’s Armour.

As well as being a departure from my normal fantasy realms, it is a genuinely important book for me.

Over the next few weeks, I want to blog a little about Pog and how the story developed.

So where did Pog come from?

Back in 2014 I came off my motorcycle and mashed my shoulder muscles. The surgeon did a great job of putting me back together, but that meant I had to rest and gradually strengthen my arm. So, instead of our usual Greek holiday riding a scooter all over the place,  I had to sit by the pool and rest.

I watched the kids. Most of them were more interested in going back to their rooms to play games on their phones, ipads and tablets. They had no interest in  the playground near the pool. I listened to exasperated parents pleading with them to ‘Just stay outside for a time.’

I started trying to plot a world where games were more important. A place where everybody had to play them. Not computer games, but games involving physical movement.

I then needed a boy to take into my new world.

Perry was born.

A great kid who loved his grandmother, loved visiting her and loved playing in the woods.

The brakes went on and the sound effect of a needle scratching across the record played in my head. How boring was this?

Boom, Perry vanished and  Pog appeared.

He hated outdoors, hated being at gran’s and really disliked activity.

Meet Peregrin Otis Grimshaw. This was a kid I could write a story about!

More Scrivener

Travelling with Scrivener for IOS

With our first trip away I had two projects to consider:

The first is an edit of a story reaching beta reader stage. I had to do some major hacking and took this as an opportunity to break it back up into smaller files. I suspect that larger files might take longer to synchronise and out in Greece, it’s best to anticipate on having a flaky, rather than solid connection to the Internet.

The second is a completely new project. A set of short scripts for some videos I am planning to release on a youtube channel.

The findings during this trip have been that for editing work, the separate keyboard isn’t required. I love the additional edit buttons L&L have added to the keyboard. These are available for both the bluetooth device and the on-screen keyboard. Cursor keys, a really useful select button and a delete key that deletes to the right, rather than the left. With these and the on-screen keyboard it is easy to dip in and out of mentally reading mode to edit a clumsy sentence.

For originating work, I can’t achieve anything approaching the speed or accuracy using the on-screen keyboard. This is where the bluetooth keyboard comes into its own. I previously wrote about picking up a Sandstrom keyboard from PC World. I did almost no market research. A friend had raved about the Logitech device, but I stood in the store and tried each one they had in stock. I like the key spacing and the tactile feedback the Sandstrom offers.

Of course as a Microsoft user I have the problem of the location of the “ and @ keys. I kept finding hints on the Internet that changing this was possible. I spent an age trying to reprogramme the keyboard and called the PC World helpline to see if they could help. Their response was that these positions are where the keys are on an apple, get used to it.

As this device is my only keyboard for a couple of weeks, my head doesn’t need to flip-flop between layouts and therefore, I can get used to the key positions.

I am not sure yet if I miss having a mouse. I started using word processors such a long time ago, I learnt to work before the concept of the mouse came into existence. In fact my earliest writing was done using TED, the CPM line editor programme. I did a lot of work on pre-windows systems as well as spending a huge amount of time cutting code with the good old Unix vi editor.

When I originate work, I tend to blast the words in, ignoring spelling and typos until I reach a point convenient to go back and reread. I suspect this means I don’t miss the mouse that much.

If I see a low cost blue tooth mouse I might give it a try, but it is an extra piece of tech to carry, lose, and keep charged.

Am I happy with the result?

Of course I am, Scrivener for IOS plus my keyboard proved it can fulfil all of my requirements to stay creatively productive whilst travelling. Even with the poor internet connection some Greek hotels offer. Scrivener plus dropbox synchronising gives me the confidence to edit and create work whilst on the move.

Did beloved feel threatened by it?

She just thought I was checking Facebook.