My first typewriter was a portable Smith Corona, acquired second hand in 1968.
I had to thump the keys to make an impression, and insert Tippex paper to correct any mistakes. That was no easy task if I was also producing carbon copies. My most challenging project was to type up three copies of my husband’s MSc thesis on this primitive machine. By the end of it I knew all about glass ionomer cement and had a stinking headache and repetitive strain injury to boot.
I now find that such a machine is a period piece and has a certain monetary value! Maybe I should have kept it.
In the late 1980s I graduated to an electronic model. Still a typewriter with inked ribbon, but this time requiring a lighter touch and with the benefit of a single line display. A chance to review the last few words before they were printed. A real step forward.
You know creative genius when you see it. The authors whose words transport you so easily to other previously unknown worlds with their descriptive powers. The artist whose painting captures your eyes as you pass and keeps calling you back as you try to move on. The dancer who can hypnotise and thrill through a seemingly effortless display of balletic grace and energy. Oh to have their gifts.
On my annual trip to the Edinburgh Fringe I was fortunate enough to experience two awesome performances from singularly talented writers and performers. Justin Butcher in Scaramouche Jones unveiled his creation’s fascinating character during a fast paced and richly coloured journey through his 100 year life. I hung on to every single word so as not to miss a single twist or delight.
Bob Kingdomwas Dylan Thomas for the 90 minutes of Dylan Thomas, Return Journey – amazing physical resemblance secondary to the mellifluous voice and his skilful weaving of the poet’s wonderful writing into an enactment of scenes from his latter years. I came out of the little makeshift theatre in awe of both Thomas and Kingdom.
So when Angela Jeffs asked me just recently ‘why do you write?’ I might have answered – ‘Yes, why do I? When I could never aspire to the literary heights.’
Having worked in academia and in organisational development in all sectors of the NHS for many years I (Mirren) am very familiar with giving feedback. There are recommended techniques and formulas. For example, Pendleton’s rules focus on the appraisee:
• ensure that she is ready to receive feedback;
• ask for her observations first before you share yours;
• focus on what has gone well;
• rather than count her faults, jointly identify and agree areas for improvement.
That’s all fine and well. I’ve been appraised many times and been handled both gently and harshly. One boss who didn’t like me airing my views in an open forum because they differed from his, almost reduced me to tears when he asked for ‘a quiet word’.
Recently, however, I’ve experienced feedback of a different kind. Not about the quality of my work, or my level of understanding or development. More about how I look and sound.
Jones and I agreed we needed some more recent photographs. So it started with a professional photo-shoot. John from Alyth Photography came to the house, brought a flattering background cloth, positioned me so that my best side was apparently on-show and taught me to stand with my body at an angle and my face to the front to minimise my width! I can’t fault his work but I was shocked at the final result. Was that matronly woman really me? Great photo! everyone said. Shows that even positive feedback can hurt!
Kirkmichael Summer Festival hosted a ‘Meet the Author event’ last month.
Welcome to the Diary of Mirren Jones – a new stop on the Writers’ Blog Tour. We hope you’ll enjoy your visit, and will go on to sample the blogs of other writers, highlighted below. We are part of a growing international community of writers, working to introduce each other’s blog to a wider audience. Christine Findlay, Chair of Bookmark Blair, (Blairgowrie Rattray and The Glens Book Festival) in Perthshire, Scotland invited us to take part. (see www.cfindlay.blogspot.com) We in turn have invited the writers Angela Jeffs (Scotland), Heidi Garrett (USA) and Marc Mordey (Wales).
More of these lovely people later, but firstly, by way of introduction: MIRREN JONES is the pseudonym for the creative writing partnership of Marion Duffy from Scotland and Elaine Atkins from Wales. We have been writing together for 17 years: non-fiction books, journal papers, articles, academic courses, workshops, short stories, poetry and a novel. And we’re still good friends! Marion currently works as a medical practice manager, and Elaine was formerly a senior NHS manager – our experiences bringing realism to our novel- in-progress, Never Do Harm.
In common with all writers in the Blog Tour we hope to give you some insight into our processes, plans and progress by answering four key questions.