When it comes to any kind of sport, unusual ones in particular - I'm a total plonker. But I've tried, ....

A surveyor came to my home the other day and he was telling me about his obsession - parachuting.  He'd learnt it in the army many years before.  He was 74.  Which just goes to show ..... something or other.



As he described jumping out of an aircraft 3-4 thousand feet up, I shuddered and went slightly green.  That's beyond all reason to me.  But, I told him some of the things I HAVE tried and how I felt about them afterwards ... on a scale of 1 - 10.  I didn't want to appear to be a total wimp  (but maybe I am).  I was totally useless at sport throughout my school days. But over the years, I've come to the conclusion that although I like adventure, I'm a person who operates best with both feet firmly on the ground.

Mountain climbing, gliding, water skiing,
paragliding, scuba diving, boating trips,
surf-boarding, extreme hill walking  ... all the things I've tried and well...

I'm going to have to describe this to you in two parts  - its too long for one blog.

Part one

Water skiing


I tried it in Malta when I was 16 (a lo..o..o..ng time ago). The man in the speedboat had given me rudimentary instructions on how to stay afloat while having two heavy wooden skis attached to your feet. Then he jumped back in his boat and waved - I was fighting to stay afloat, to keep my head above the waves and my skis seemed to have a mind of their own, - they didn't seem to want to stay parallel. Suddenly the boat leapt forward and flew over the water. ..I was up on my feet for a split second. Then I arced up into the air, arms and head first. My arms felt like they'd been wrenched out of their sockets (they had).  Then I came down face forward with a crash.  He circled back and yanked me out of the water.  My arms and shoulders were rigid for days. 
Scale 1:10  Verdict: Never again.

I remember my Dad telling me some time later about how he'd tried it - someone he knew had a speedboat moored at Swansea Yacht club.  They were all pretty tanked up when he'd decided to have a go. He said that as the boat leapt forward, his swimming shorts were yanked clean off and there was cheering from the jetty, 'a large appreciative audience', he said, as his naked bottom bobbed along the surface of Mumbles Bay.

Gliding 

A Buddhist friend organised a group of us to go gliding at a small local airfield not too far from London.  How exciting I thought, what an adventure, how lovely to be slowly and silently swooping over the beautiful English countryside on a lovely summer's day. 

This poem is about flying.  It's by John Gillespie Magee Jr. who was a fighter pilot in WWII, killed in 1941. My Dad was a WWII pilot and this was read at his funeral.  It's called

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, --and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of --Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew --
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Well my gliding experience didn't quite live up to that. ...

Have you ever wondered how gliders get up in the air?  No?  Me neither.  Never thought about it, except vaguely.  Well here's how it works.  The nose of your glider is attached to what looks like a giant elastic band. This is attached to a contraption on the ground a hundred metres away, a bit like a catapult with a switch. 

There were about 8 of us that day and we took it in turns with 2 gliders and two instructors.  You sit in the front with a harness on and a small instrument panel is before you, but you're instructed not to touch anything.  You also have a sort of steering wheel.  The instructor sits behind you, in their own compartment and basically does everything.  Its a bit like dual control car driving.  He/she will let you have a go steering (they say) when you're up. The space you occupy is about the size of the space in a small canoe. I had no idea at this stage how this thing would get up into the sky (this was before Google).

I'm sitting waiting for something to happen when someone (who?) must have activated the catapult.  Suddenly we are shooting up towards the sky vertically (or so it seems). My stomach never caught up.  I now notice the brown paper puke bags beside me, but I'm too terrified to move to get one. I clench my teeth. We fly around a big hill several times.  Each time that we're not flying in a straight line, but curving round the hill, I think I'm going to be sick. I'm not, but come close. Lovely country views?  Don't remember.  All I remember is wanting it to be over and enduring it.

Scale 1:10 Verdict: Never again

Mountain climbing. 


Me and then husband Dave, climbed Table Mountain in South Africa in 1976.  Our friend Nigel, who was an enthusiastic climber told us he'd take us up Table Mountain 'the easy way  ... it'll be a nice walk'.  He drove his jeep to the lower slopes.  It was going to take a couple of hours.  We'd come down in the cable car. Lovely, looking forward to it.  Spectacular views etc..etc..

I began to feel slightly worried when he started off-loading coils of ropes and carabineers and harnesses from the back of the jeep,  This was before trainers were invented (yes, really).  I was wearing light canvas plimsolls.  I wrote a whole chapter about this climb in my book -


We climbed up crevasses, sheer rock faces, overhangs.  I wanted to die, no I wanted to live, so I could go back to my 3 year old. So I mutely followed instructions, roped up to Nigel - Nigel and his scarecrow, dope smoking friend, both of whom seemed to know no fear whatever. Nigel who before each section/slope said things like, 'Oh this bit's fine, not difficult at all', and after each slope he'd say, 'That was an F1 slope (whatever that means) - lots of climbers in the mountain club wouldn't attempt that one.'
 
As we climbed my headache developed.  By the time we got to the top it was a full blown migraine.  Nigel kept up a cheerful commentary, reminding us to look at the view.  The painful pounding in my head and sheer terror, meant that I didn't give a shit about the view. (I went back many years later - it is truly spectacular.  I went up and down in the cable car that time). 

I just wanted to get to the top and get the cable car down.  When we got there finally, Nigel's friend hop skip jumped across the flat rocky top to the other side, to check on the cable car.  He came bouncing back and told us the appalling news - the cable car was cancelled due to high winds. 

We would have to 'belay' (ie roped to each other) down again.  The weather had turned grey, windy and nasty, it was getting dark and we were dressed in light summer clothes. My head was crashing.  Somehow, hours later we made it back to the jeep. 

My daughter had barely noticed my 6 hour absence - she was playing with her friend - although friend's mother had noticed. 

We went home and I took to my bed for 3 days.

Scale 1:10  Mountain climbing.  Verdict: Never again.

I'll tell you all about my experiences trying to scuba dive, hill walk in freezing weather, paraglide off a hill top and .... well next week OK!



STORYBOARDING

Storyboarding
 

My organisational skills are very variable.  Sometimes I make long lists and when the list is done, I put it away and don’t look at it for a month.  Hmmm.... I do love lists but sometimes it’s better to operate from a short list of 3-4 things.   At least you feel you’ve achieved something in your day if you’ve knocked off half your list.

My organisational variability extends to book planning.  I have sometimes planned a book chapter by chapter, from beginning to end but then put it on the back burner for years.  Stephen King cheers me up by telling us in his book, On Writing, how he doesn’t plan. ... he lets the story unfold gradually, lets the character’s reveal themselves to him little by little.  It’s almost like he has a personal relationship with his characters and is an observer, watching what happens to them, as if it’s unfolding in front of him.  He describes feeling like an archaeologist with a trowel, scraping away the dust and debris little by little to reveal the hidden object.

I started my second memoir about 8+ months ago. I was also writing my first ‘How To’ non-fiction book which I completed in January, published last month.* This meant the new memoir was kind of on the back burner, but being in a writer’s group helped push me along. However I’ve now decided to drop out for a few months.  This is so I can focus all my attention on writing for a bit.  Plus there’s the marketing for the newly published ‘How to’ book.

The extra headspace made me focus on the book and I could see i was stalled, it was directionless, I needed some shape and organisation.  Where is the story going, where will it end? There were several possible places to end the story.  I bought a large piece of black board and found several wads of different coloured post it notes and started laying it all out.   I’d already written 13 chapters, but the story had stalled.  You have to keep up the drama and suspense even in memoir, well especially in memoir or your reader will lose interest. 

The story involved me dropping everything and flying to Indonesia at very short notice to get my ex husband and father of my children out of a rat and cockroach infested police cell. I took ten thousand pounds in cash in the bottom of my suitcase.. I shan’t damp your enthusiasm for finding out what happened by telling you the possible endings.  I remember my last book - working on the ending was very difficult.  I think it’s the hardest part of writing a memoir.  You have to have an ending that satisfies the reader somehow, but is not a happy ever after.... well not usually in real life, an ending that draws the story to some satisfactory conclusion.

Using the storyboard I could see immediately where the gaps were in the story, where I needed to write extra chapters. I looked at chapter length and these were wildly variable. Some of the long chapters needed to be split into 2 chapters.   A couple of extra chapters need to be written to fill in gaps in the story, identified by my writers group.. Soon the 13 chapters that I’d started with now covered 20 (well they will once I’ve written the ‘extra’ chapters.  How many chapters will I finish with?  Around 25-30 I’d say.  The shape and scope of the book has unfolded to me now due to the use of storyboarding.   It may not be Stephen King's method, but it certainly worked for me.

I phoned my ex husband, the main character in this story, quite pleased with myself. He now lives abroad with his second wife and son. We talk on Skype every now and again and are good friends. He’s just finished writing a fantasy fiction novel.  (It’s really good).  I thought I’d give him the low down on my newly acquired ‘storyboarding’ skills.  ‘Oh yes,’ he said sounding bored.  ‘You should have seen my storyboard for my novel.  It went across our bedroom wall and out into the corridor.’ Then he changed the subject.
* Writing Memoir.  How to Write A Story From Your Life
  `







The Writers' Maxim



Show don't tell is an important part of a writer's rule book. 
I realised the other day that it's also an important life rule. 

Generally it's older people who want to impart their knowledge wisdom and experience to younger people.  Younger people often resent this and raise their eyes to the ceiling.  But I've also noticed that the young expect older people to know nothing about,  for example, technology and are dying to give the old folks the benefit of their knowledge. 

Frequently, this is the fault of the older generation, some of whom make a religion out of being luddites, boasting about their lack of expertise and/or interest in technology.  This then means that younger people tar all with the same brush. 

This luddite behaviour amongst older people really annoys me, because as a result, younger people have an excuse to patronise and 'be kind' to older people and treat them like idiots in the technology department. For someone like me who taught IT in the 90s, often before many of these were born and who knows quite a bit more about technology than they do, it's especially annoying.

The other subject area where everyone (I mean everyone) nowadays has become a self professed expert is nutrition. 
I read a lot about nutrition in my younger days to counteract my children's various ailments. I was aware that I knew more than most people about vitamins, minerals, sources of B vitamins, protein, carbs etc.  I switched to wholemeal bread and bought organic potatoes, onions, carrots from the late seventies.  I became a vegetarian in 1983, having studied how to balance proteins properly in a veggie diet (pulses, soya products, cheese/dairy/eggs (if you eat it) and nuts).  I was considered by most friends and family to be a bit weird and somewhat annoying.  I didn't talk about it or lecture about it, but I didn't eat meat. There were no vegetarian restaurants.  If you went for a meal out and said you didn't eat meat, mostly the response was ' ... er we've got salad?'   Attitudes began to change in the early 90s - now  a lunch venue might have ONE veggie option  '... er we've got goat's cheese?'  Goat's cheese has always induced nausea in me ... I can't eat it.  Besides if you're vegan, what do you eat?

Where, you may well ask, is all this leading to?   Well today, have you noticed, that now EVERYONE has become a nutritional expert.  Vegans and vegetarians abound. Facebook is constantly full of nutritional horror stories.  Don't you DARE put up a picture of a nice meal you're having somewhere.  You will be lectured about the dangers of eating soya, fruit (pesticides), cheese, rice, potatoes, anything.  Those eggs you're eating are they free range organic, no REALLY free range from a small farm where chickens peck in the open? Is that bread gluten free? Gosh all that sugar in that cake! Many of these recent 'experts' drink large amounts of alcohol in the evenings. This won't stop them lecturing you either face to face or via Facebook about what not to eat - mostly anything except raw organic carrots.

What's all this got to do with 'show don't tell'?  I had a light bulb moment, listening to myself talking to someone a lot younger the other day.   When you tell someone in that tone, that let me tell you how it 'ought' to be done tone'  .... they stop listening. Their eyes glaze over.  If someone does it to me, I stop listening.  

I've come to the conclusion (yes it's taken me this long) that the only way to impart your knowledge to others of any age is to (1) wait to be asked - accept it's not going to happen very often or (2)  just demonstrate by your own actions the way you do it. 

Show don't tell – the writers’ maxim. In writing it means don't tell a long boring story. Bring your piece of writing to life by making it unfold, scene by scene, so it's happening here and now, with dialogue and action.  

And in everyday life? Demonstrate by your own actions, the way you do it and hope they take note. Ultimately you can't change others or the way they do things.  You can only change yourself. . . .


..........................................................................................
Out now on Kindle or in print, my latest publication
 Published January 2018.

Writing Memoir.  How to Tell a Story from Your Life.

You can buy it on Amazon. available on Kindle  - CLICK HERE
       by Anna Meryt

Got a true story to tell?  Want to know how to write about it?  Read this book.







Keep calm and keep going


    


     I started writing my new book over a year ago.  Unlike the best-selling self published crime writer Mark Dawson, I'm not able to knock out a book every three months.  And his books are good too - I love his John Milton series.   Not only does he write best selling crime fiction he puts out a constant stream of useful webinairs for other writers and runs courses (if you can afford them) to teach you how to market your book AND there's free talks on You Tube too.
     Meanwhile back in my world ... it took me a year to write Writing Memoir.  How to Write a Story from Your Life, which has just been published.

My previous book, (A Hippopotamus at the Table) a proper memoir, took me 5+ years. 

     So maybe I'm getting faster... but I don't think I'll ever be in Mr Dawson's speed league.
     Of course  (I'm not criticising him, just jealous) he has, I believe, a wife who presumably does his cooking and cleaning and washing. Male writers frequently do. They can lock themselves in their study and their meals are brought to them.  They've put on clean clothes that morning - ironed too no doubt by the wives/partners. Or even, if they are in Mr Dawson's best seller league, they can pay others to do their chores.
     So I'm looking for a male 'wife' to do all that so I can concentrate entirely on my writing.  He must be well off, perhaps early retired too, so he can support me in times of scrabbling around for pennies to fund my writing enterprises. Any takers?  I'm putting it out there.
     By the way, if anyone is buying my book, perhaps you would like to write a review. This would be immensely helpful.  If I can build up 20-50 reviews, I can put my book forward for promotion on BookBub and GoodReads and that would give an enormous boost to book sales and my writing career.  Here's a link to the review page Amazon Review page for my book
*****
    Moving on ... I'm about half way through writing my second memoir. 
     And I'm floundering somewhat.  A proper memoir should be structured something like a novel.  It should carry you from chapter to chapter.  Each chapter should end in a way that makes you want to turn over the page. I've just written a new chapter and it seems ... well  ... somewhat lacklustre.  It needs an injection of oomph, it doesn't inspire me to carry on writing into the next chapter, let alone inspire a reader to carry on. 
     What to do?  Should I tear it up and start again. Too drastic. What would lift it from bumping along the silt at the bottom of the pond to being a silver fish, bursting through the water and jumping into the sunlight full of energy.   I think I'll read it through and see if I can jazz it up, restructure it, add more colour, sound, smell. 

Any comments or suggestions gratefully received - to my website or to anna.meryt@ameryt.com.