The Inside Story

By Penny M

One of the most fascinating and frustrating facts of life is that you can never really know a person. I mean who are we really? You might believe, as I do, that you are a soul living in a body. The soul is the essence of who we are. It’s kind of amazing how our external features can camouflage our real selves and often keep everybody fooled. Every now and then, I get this impression that I’m sitting inside my earth bubble, hugging my secrets and nobody knows, except my Father in heaven and He won’t tell.

How I would love to explore the uncharted territory beyond the façades and unpack the hidden treasures of hitherto undiscovered hearts and minds.

Not only that but we are each unique. No two humans are the same. Oh yes, there are identical twins and even clones but life changes them. Whilst opinions might be concurrent, our thinking has been gouged from history, flavoured with experiences, dusty days and dreaming nights. And what potential!

It’s thrilling to think that I could be sitting beside the next Nobel Prize winner. The lady scanning bar codes, at the library might one day be a movie star and the little girl begging at the intersection could stand for election as president in a decade or two. But then I could be having lunch with another ‘Jack the Ripper’. We are surrounded by limitless possibilities.

How exciting to know that the words we write and the actions we engage in can change lives and make a difference to the world around us. One small act can have a profound effect on a nation or a generation.

During a dark phase in my life, a faceless stranger left a magazine at the bottom of my hospital bed. The leading article was just what I needed to encourage me at that moment. My mystery visitor will never know how that act touched my life.

I am constantly in awe of the potential of people to unconsciously and consciously impact the world around them.

A smile can change a heartbeat, a touch can heal, and a tear can touch.

Will something that I have written here change the way you look at your life? If so, you have to thank the person who placed hope at the end of my bed on my day of darkness. If not, then that very fact has impacted your life. Think about it; I did.

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Tempting Temptations

By Sue Trollip

Disney Channel announced a few weeks ago that it is banning all junk food ads during kiddies programmes. So while they have no qualms about encouraging a viewership of couch dwellers, they obviously feel it is their duty to ban any junk food or drinks (according to their definition of “junk”) aimed at viewers under 12. No doubt many find this encouraging and consider it “one for the health nuts”.

New York’s mayor, Bloomberg, announced a ban on “large servings of soft drinks” shortly before Disney’s burger bombing. New York is a wonderful place to walk so what if you’ve just puffed into Penn Station all the way from Central Park (20 blocks), I think you’re going to be thirsty. If you can’t order a large soft drink can you order two medium sized ones instead ? What if the customers begin to think that instead of the large soft drink they’ll order an apple pie along with their “healthier” medium sized drink?

To me it reeks of a nanny state and that frightens me. When did we no longer become accountable for our actions? While Disney may have the right idea, don’t we rather need to teach our children how to resist temptation. If parents never have to say no, then teachers are always going to look mean, and what about bosses when they start work? “No” is an intrinsic word and people use it all the time. We have to learn to say it to ourselves too.

We need to teach that if you cannot resist temptation you will pay in one way or another, so before you yield, consider the options. What about the adults in NYC? If they don’t know that drinking a litre of soft drink is bad, then teach them because removing one thing from temptation will merely create room for another.

I wonder if there are less smokers in the world today. I certainly see less of them, but somehow I think it’s got more to do with the strongly enforced no-smoking zones and high prices than that they removed cigarette adverts from our screens and magazines. Smokers are still smoking, even when I can’t see them. Why not make the salad options at all those Junk Joints more reasonably priced. What about giving away “SpongeBob” with the milk and chicken and not with the soda and chips option? Is it really the happy meal that’s causing obesity or is it the number of happy meals consumed a week combined with the hours spent inert on the couch in front of the TV, at the computer or on the phone?

You may wonder why I’m prancing around on my high horse here. Truth be told I’m terrified. One day some governmental figure is going to say we’re all too fat because we eat too much ice cream and without further ado remove it from our shelve1340131756s in order to slim us down. We’ll then turn to cupcakes, until they too disappear from our lives. My nightmares have already begun. How long do we have before the chocolate is gone? Slabs and slabs with bright packaging and delicious fillings tempt me. Sometimes I say no, but more often than I should I say yes and because I live in a free society, the decision and its repercussions are all MINE!

Just an Old-Fashioned Gal

By Susan Roberts

A few weeks ago I chatted with a man whose mother is now 104 years old and still of sound mind. What wonders she must have seen in her lifetime! I can only claim to half-know what she feels like when faced with the modern world. Frequently I find myself being referred to as “the oldest one” when in the company of my workmates. I have mixed feelings about this. Yes, I am the only person in my department who has reached fifty, but with age is supposed to come respect and the reverence with which young people view their elders …

Hah – dream on! It’s bad enough that my body now struggles to do the things it used to do so easily a few years ago, but to be mocked by those younger than me is a bit harsh. I mean, isn’t one’s skin supposed to thicken with age? Or have I gone beyond that and started the downward slide to disintegration, like the Egyptian mummies of old when unwrapped? Hmmm, moving on …

Perhaps worse than physical ageing is the galloping pace of technology. Who knew that things would turn out like this? I remember how impressed I was when fax machines were invented. The idea that you could send a photocopy of the piece of paper in your hand to someone in another city via a telephone line? Wow, that was cool, huh?

Do you remember those few special – and very rich! – individuals who had the first cell phones? Oh how I envied my boss with his trademark sagging hip on one side. Green with jealousy I watched as he detached the ringing brick from his belt, pulled out the aerial and said hello – usually very loudly and several times – to someone who wasn’t even connected to him via a real phone line. Only for a few minutes though – it took about eight hours to charge the battery for a talk time of less than ten minutes. But what an impressive ten minutes that was. Not for him the frustration of searching for a call-box that hadn’t been vandalised.

Now all the mobile phones are tiny. My old eyes can no longer read the increasingly small font, and I find myself yearning for the days of the brick. A similarly-aged friend recently got her first Blackberry. Unfortunately her arms are not long enough for her to hold it at the right distance to be able to read the messages she gets, never mind type a reply on that dwarf keyboard.

Reading brings to mind a much more user-friendly invention. I have been an avid reader from as far back as I can remember. As a child I never went anywhere without a book, and as an adult I managed to collect an awful lot of books before I ran out of space in my miniscule cottage. Of course I can no longer read most of them because the print has shrunk since I first bought them. Yes, the print shrinks every year, but the books themselves still occupy the same space. I wonder why that happens.

Anyway, I digress. Despite being old and getting everything too late, some kind soul invented the Kindle – just for me, I am convinced.

What a pleasure to be able to adjust the font size of my Kindle to suit my eyes! And in addition to the convenience of carrying my current book around with me, I have instant access to the bookshop in the clouds if I finish reading it and need to buy another. In fact, I love my Kindle so much that I seem to be getting nothing else done at the moment apart from reading. The book I was supposed to finish writing by the end of May is still languishing somewhere in my hard drive. I think it was the late Douglas 1339771557Adams who made that marvellous comment about loving deadlines, especially the whooshing sound they make as they rush by.

While my deadlines rush, I clock up ever more reads on my Kindle. Nothing fires up my imagination like a good read. And perhaps this is why some of us take our first steps along the writing path. With one novel already for sale as an e-book on Kindle, the feeling has seriously infected me, and to that end I actually managed to meet an important deadline last week. My novella, From Daisy with Love, which I started as a writing project in 2009 and self-published in June 2010, has now been successfully uploaded into the Amazon Kindle Store. You can click on the link in the right hand column to look at it if you like.

Whatever books you choose to read, I hope they give you the pleasure you deserve, inspire your mind and take you on wonderful journeys. Enjoy the ride!

Inspiration

By Michelle Dennison (AWA Julianne Alcott)

Growing up, I would often hear this pronouncement of doom from those who had studied this sort of thing … “TV will stunt creativity”

Even now, ‘cultured’ people often shake their heads and say disdainfully, “Well we don’t even own a television.” Among some writing groups, to admit that one is going to watch a movie would earn one scandalised stares.

I’m sure that TV does stunt creativity. I’m sure that the mindless imbibing of low-grade movies would be the equivalent of staring at the wall, until our couch potato selves started shrivelling and beginning to smell.

Maybe I’m just strange, but I have always found that visual entertainment was one of the inspirations for my creativity. When I was younger, I would imagine amazing adventures based on the TV program I had just seen.

I was an integral part of the Airwolf team (second season, not the first season with irritating Stringfellow Hawke) I even flew the helicopter a few times, on those occasions where the stars of the show had been kidnapped, and I had to rescue them. I perfected my technique of inching the helicopter out of its mountainous hiding place in Monument Valley.

I was a Ghostbuster!

Now that I’m older, I relish a well-made TV series or movie for different reasons. They are tools to make my writing better.

Movies may be visual, but they all have something to do with writing; they all have a screenplay. So if we think of a movie as just another form of expressive writing, it really isn’t far removed from a novel, and we can learn all sorts of interesting things from them.

1) Every movie or TV program (like every book) starts with a good idea …

A man and a woman fall in love while e-mailing. In real life however, they are enemies. Then the man finds out that the woman he loathes is actually the woman he loves–

A lonely widower meets an amazing woman in a bookshop. He goes home to tell his family that he met someone special, only to find out that she is his brother’s new girlfriend–

And one of my favourite teen movies, based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

“Everybody has a secret…

Duke wants Olivia who likes Sebastian, who is really Viola, whose brother is dating Monique, so she hates Olivia, who’s with Duke to make Sebastian jealous, who is really Viola, who’s crushing on Duke who thinks she’s a guy.”

2) You can listen to examples of clever dialogue.

The snappy one-liners and banter in the Avengers movie brings humanity to action, and makes it more than just another two hours of explosions and sword fights. It will be the dialogue that will probably be remembered, more than the special effects.

And in a movie, you can pause and listen more closely to dialogue than you can in real life.

“Excuse me, Total Stranger. Do you mind saying that again? I’m trying to copy it down.”

3) Memorable characters.

Studying what makes movies characters lovable or villainous can help our writing. Some movie and TV characters will live on for decades; a good thing to try and emulate with our book characters.

4) Show not tell

Advice always given to writers, and so easy to see with visual media. A good exercise is to take a very visual scene from a movie, and describe what we see. It’s good to train our minds to be able to paint picture with words.

5) Movies are economical

In a movie, every second counts. Every action by a character is important.

By remembering this, we can make our writing tighter, and remove unnecessary padding.

 

Blog inspired by The Avengers, during a busy Saturday evening at the Pavilion Shopping Centre.