Block Transfer Computation

Some things I want to blog about straight away. Usually things which excite me or small victories.

Others I have no desire to blog about at all. No reader here is my therapist.

Some others I want to blog about but can’t due to it not quite being the time or having other people on a project which would mean blowing cover for them also.

Rarely am I faced with the situation of wanting to blog about something but trying to word it right. Mainly because something has gone a bit wrong. It’s also my fault and nobody else’s.

Earlier this year, around January, I had an idea about creative writing. Mainly an idea to get people into writing stories. I often meet people who perhaps want to write creatively but feel they can’t (anybody can) or people who do write but lack a nurturing audience to show ideas to rather than people who might make them feel ‘silly’. I wanted to take people and show them that writing is a wonderful, human thing to do and there ain’t nothing wrong with it.

So I tweet a local artist’s collective about this idea back in January. It’s a fairly casual ‘I want to get people writing’ kind of thing. They wanted to talk about it but were currently waiting on being let back into their building as it was being refurbished. It was decided that it was wiser to wait until all that was over. In May this year I had a meeting in which I pitched this idea to them. Even as I was going through it on that day I began to realise something was underdone about the whole idea. I had images of being a far less attractive version of Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds. I’d stand in front of class fulls of ex-convicts and troubled youths and show them the wonder of writing from your imagination. Then we’d have some stories at the end. This obviously completely ignores my previously detailed fear of teaching anything.

But then what to do with those stories? At the time of this meeting I was thinking about taking them on a multimedia route by making short films, photography projects and short audio plays. I was fixed on the idea of taking a product of somebody’s imagination, getting them to set it free and then turning that into something we can display. In my head there was a fantastic exhibition with all this on walls or through headphones.

Then came the issue of who would do the multimedia pieces? Like a stupid prat I hadn’t thought of that bit so I initially figured they could be given to students on media courses locally. ‘It happens all the time in the industry’ I thought ‘it’s a lesson you’d have to learn quickly’. The question then become one of wondering if people would want to just hand over what might be the first story they’ve ever written for somebody else to take charge of. Yes, it’s a lesson you’d need to learn quickly but maybe not straight away.

I attended a poetry night in Dumfries in April and the woman who organised it is also part of the collective. We meet each other for coffee and discuss more. We agree on a dry run first with any school pupils/students who might be receptive to the idea. We would run hour long sessions, probably about six of them before coming up with stories we would then make photo books out of. Photo books like the ones you get in newspapers for problem pages but less women sat around in their underwear. We also have the thought that the stories should somehow involve Dumfries to give them some kind of common link. We don’t limit what year the stories are set nor do we say they have to stay in Dumfries but it has to be involved somewhere. The photo story idea is selected because it’s the least labour intensive of all the multimedia options. It does however rely on students who are involved in writing with a passing interest in photography as well. Obviously these people are in absolute abundance across this region, wandering the streets with notepads and cameras.

That last bit was sarcasm.

This is all because I didn’t think this through properly.

A few week’s later the artist collective refer me to somebody who works for the local council in literary development as they have other projects they’re working on right now. This is fair enough, they do some fantastic stuff locally and rightly aren’t going to hand money over to a dithering idiot who has an idea which keeps changing every day. I email the council with this idea. The woman I was meeting before has now moved away, I take fright at teaching any classes on my own so I therefore change the whole thing again by trying to gather up stories from local people, putting them online and having a site that becomes an archive of these stories in which you can click a map to get audio readings or text. I type breathlessly about all this and send it away. With a day I receive a response with ‘Sounds great but what are you asking?’.

Fair point, what exactly am I asking?

I have no clue.

I have yet to respond as I genuinely have no idea what to say. Am I asking for money? Probably but then I’d need to have the time to do the actual task in hand. Am I asking to support? Yes but to achieve what? Am I asking for resources? Yes but what resources exactly?

Essentially I’ve seen the end result, thought that looked great and not thought about what I have to do to get there. It’s a very common theme in my entire life I think.The whole idea has been put very much on the back burner for now and it’s something I might come back to in the future but there are things that I reckon I need to do first regarding my own personal writing career before undergoing a project which involves others.

There’s a phrase about fools rushing in here. Feel free to use it.

The Buzz Killer

Order For Burning went up on Shooting People’s pitching emails last week and since then I have been bowled over by the sheer masses of emails coming my way.

No, not really.

Apart from it being read by a friend of mine from the college days there has been pretty much deathly silence from all around, so much so that I begin to run down all the reasons why it might not be clicking with anybody. Firstly, historical set movies are a tough sell but this one is even more so because it’s an event based in South West Scotland which not many people outside the area know about. It’s a great story to work a film around, I’m still very much in that belief. As far as recognition goes though, it’s not Braveheart.

Sorry Mel.
Sorry Mel.

There’s also the matter of appealing to producers who will probably not have the budget for a movie set in 1659. A modern setting is obviously easier to film, getting everything looking as it would over three hundred years ago would cost.

Also, my synopsis probably wouldn’t have been the best. Perhaps it seemed rushed? Did it fully explain the story? Was I getting my message across well? Probably not, if it did I wouldn’t be writing this.

It’s tempting to think it’s a year of my life down the pan and a few years ago I would have certainly spent a long time thinking this. The positives are that finishing any script is part of a learning experience, no matter what you’ve written you can always take something from it to improve the next one. The trick is to keep going.

Secondly, all is not lost by any stretch. I shall put the witches away for now and concentrate on the next thing. When given a few months to mull over, Order For Burning shall be brought back out and polished up before trying again. It exists now and that’s the main thing. If I was still, one year on, planning out a first draft and fretting over positions of scenes that don’t currently exist then I’d be far more worried.

So what to do now? Well, write the first five minutes of the next thing. It’s exactly the way I started Order For Burning and it works fine for me.

We keep on rolling.


Who Shot The Sheriff Eric?

I’m a writer with a day job, I don’t get out much.

Apart from occasional nights.

This was one of those occasions.

A couple of weeks ago I drove through to Dumfries after finishing work in Carlisle (30 miles, for those who don’t want to Google Map it) to attend the ‘Open Mouth‘ evening in the new building The Stove Network have on the High Street. Regular readers of this blog may remember this as the event I declined doing workshops at. It became apparent very quickly that, because of the high level of talent on show, I had made the right decision. I’d have been hopelessly out of my depth if I’d have ran alongside these guys. There would have been zero chance of talking my way out of that one. There was also the fact that it was more poetry based and script so not only would I have been up over my head I’d have been in the wrong pool to begin with.


Personally I don’t do poetry well. When I was doing a creative writing A-Level back in college I attempted some as part of the coursework but I just couldn’t grasp it. My stuff never flowed, always sounded juddering and fell into traps of trying to make words fit when they really shouldn’t have. I also had a strict refusal to tackle anything ‘heavy’ via poetry so I wrote stupid stuff like betting on Elvis still being alive and preachers in the street. It was described by my tutor at the time as ‘poetry lite’. I don’t use that phrase as something to hold against him, he was speaking the obvious truth and I agree.

I got to The Stove around 7pm and there was plenty people there. All the way during the drive there I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I’d seen the outside of the building last summer whilst my day job had stationed me in the town for a few weeks but I’d never seen inside. The building itself is a former retail premises bang in the middle of town. Dumfries, like many other town of its size, has suffered during the economic downturn and many shops have closed their doors. The theory The Stove have is that it’s time for a change. Rather than the local council attempt to woo large companies into a town centre they can instead prevent the slide of boarded up windows by having a hub for culture there instead. From the looks of it they’re doing something right.

There’s an exhibition in the room about Rock Against Racism with various posters and articles on the walls. I spent a few minutes looking around to get a feel for the place. It wasn’t long until everybody sat down for the performance part of the evening.


Now I’ve heard of poetry slams before but never looked into them that much. Tonight though we were in the presence of Bram E Gieben, the UK champion. It’s safe to say he blew my mind. Whilst I don’t have footage of the evening (I’m always worried I’d put performers off by taking out my phone and filming) he’s on YouTube so here’s a sample.

See? The words just pour out of the guy and he does it all ‘off page’ which is another thing I could never do.

We also had Emily Elver who was fantastic. At one point she asked if we wanted ‘a new poem about bingo or an old one about sex’. Of course everybody went for the sex option and the following piece about science fiction based fantasies was both touching and hilariously funny. I can’t find it one YouTube but here’s another.

There were other brilliant ones too, some who were performing for the very first time having attended the workshops during the day. There was a woman who did some excellent rap, another guy did one about his experiences growing up in care and somebody else forgot theirs completely halfway through and instead finished on the politest sounding ‘oh fuck’ I have ever heard in my life (and everybody still cheered). Sarah, the host of the evening, also had a brilliant one about visiting her doctor who turns out to be her cat.

I couldn’t stay the whole night, around 10pm I was reminded by my rumbling stomach that I’d come almost straight from work so hadn’t eaten anything since lunchtime so I walked back to my car and drove home for food. I had tiny blast of inspiration during the drive, not easy to contain at 60mph. Pulling up outside my house I could only recall one line though..

‘I’ll drink Pepsi through your final straw’.

It’s a start I suppose and a result of an evening that made me want to have a crack at spoken word again in the near future. You surely can’t have a greater legacy than that?

A Map Of Loose Threads

I don’t like picking at scripts, taking a few hours here and there. It means that whenever you return you have to find where you left off each time and attempt to get into the swing of the whole thing. I prefer to have long blasts at writing, spending a few long hours on it and knocking chunks off the total. It feels much more like progress that way.

I have three days off work now and Order For Burning’s first draft has sat alone for the last couple of weeks. I’ve done a rewrite of The Salesman’s Gamble in the meantime as the producer who was interested in it wanted one and I thought it prudent to get it done and away.

But we need progress, no point standing still , nobody gets rewards for standing still.

Apart from the human statue.

But that’s performance art.

After dropping off my son at school this morning I had breakfast by 9am (I usually wait to get back before I eat). Around 9:30am I’m launching back into the script, tackling the awkward middle portion. It reads like a complete mess and I’m cursing it as I type but it needs done. I’m pretty much at the halfway point . Once over the hump of setting up the ending it should be downhill from there, hurtling into our finale.

Three days.

Now two.

A Small Shard Of Midnight In The Midday Sun

Let me talk to you about the place I was born. Not the room, not the building but the town.

I’m Scottish but not from the part you’ve just thought of. I am not from the Highland Glens or the Northern isles. I have no connection to the streets of Glasgow or Edinburgh. I come from the South, the lowlands, right next to the stretch of water known as the Solway. I was born in Dumfries although I have never lived there. My day job recently meant I had to return after many years.

Carlisle, the first city over the border in England, was the place I went to as a child with my parents shopping. It was where I went for nights out as a teenager and where I studied at college. It’s also where my day job is based. Carlisle changes but I’m there when it alters. Dumfries feels like a memory I had which somebody has built on and rearranged.

The first morning I went back I parked up in Broom’s Road. I recalled the visits I used to have to the town to visit the dental clinic at the hospital. These visits were to fix my teeth which were all over the place in my youth. At one stage I had to have seven teeth removed as they were creating a second row of teeth behind the lower ones. My Mother, obviously aware of the delicate confidence of the fourteen year old male, described the look as ‘an explosion in the piano key factory’. It’s the only hospital operation I’ve ever had. It’s also the time I learnt to never have Rice Krispies for breakfast when you have a fresh new scar on your gum line. After the check ups in the weeks afterwards we’d park the car here and walk into Dumfries town centre.

I walked up to the road and crossed over, making it to the Loreburn Centre. My memory of this place features the Wimpy Burger bar that was at one end. During my last year of school we were taken by bus to a careers fair at Easterbrook Hall. Being young and deeply resistant to our futures we automatically left the hall and went down town, stopping here for coke and burgers. It’s gone now though.

I step out of the automatic doors towards the fountain in the town centre. On the right hand side there’s a building which seems empty but has a banner above. The words ‘Brave Enough To Take Risks And Surprise’ are emblazoned in white lettering on the blue background. This is a statement to live by, for all to see, in a town centre. It makes me grin and give it a wee thumbs up. I later learn it’s for The Stove, an artist collective in Dumfries.

The statue of Robert Burns is surrounded by workmen. They’re modernising the pathways around the monument. Burns is a hero, a romantic master of poetry. Amongst the noise of saws and hammers the big man himself looks on. Dumfries has changed far more for him than me. I look down Friar’s Vennel. This street leads down the hill towards the River Nith and The Whitesands. I think of my witches, it is after all where their story ends.

Maybe I’ve been away a fair while but there seems to be something of a vibe in Dumfries. Despite the empty shop units and the usual pawn shops and bookmakers there are events happening. Carlisle waits with baited breath as to the possible opening of a Primark, Dumfries just gets on with it with events like The Big Burn’s Supper.. It’s something that makes me quite proud to have Dumfries as my birth place.

Master Of Puppets

I’d had to pass on an earlier lunch break, the clinic was just far too busy on Saturday. Three test rooms running simultaneously, one staff member going home ill just after 9:30am and another taking lieu time back meant there wasn’t much room for breathing for the rest of us.

When my time arrived I walked through Carlisle City Centre and noticed the start of the city pageant was in full swing. 8ft high puppets walked in front of the tourist information office.

Outside the French cafe at the top of Fisher street walked a familiar looking person. I had to look for a few seconds to avoid the chance of leaping in and it not being who I thought it was. Sure enough it was indeed Kathleen from Mostly Ghostly, quickly followed by John. They were in need of a Carlisle lunch spot that didn’t need a second mortgage for a panini. Despite the fact I was born in Dumfries I’m fairly clueless getting round the place as I’ve never lived there. My need to detailed directions when I went to meet Kathleen and John in the town a couple of months back was testament to this. Carlisle is a different matter however.

We walked to the Old Engine House, a place my Dad and I had discovered one day before going to the cinema. It was the ideal place with generous portions and quiet enough to still hold conversation. We talked of many things including Metallica, my love for pro wrestling and Order For Burning.

I was pleased to inform them progress was slow but steady. It’s the school summer holidays in Scotland which has meant my son is home a fair bit wanting amused. Scriptwriting has therefore fallen behind. When I do get the chance however I am getting small chunks done.

Kathleen has been emailed the script so far. It’s not often I’ll let anybody else read first draft. They’re like lumps of clay, soft and formless. This is different in that Mostly Ghostly provided the spark of ignition for the whole idea so it’s only fair they have input even at this early stage.

My only paranoia is the thought of them reading it and thinking that this joker has taken this event they feel passionately about and turned it Hollywood. I get concerned this first draft, with all the errors and factual inaccuracy, turns them away. They say they understand this draft won’t be the finished article and I believe them fully. This does not stop the nerves jangling though.

I realise the time, five minutes until I’m back on the dispensing floor, so we bid our farewells until another day. We walk past the puppets glaring down and I feel glad that we’re busy as this chance lunchtime meeting would never had come about otherwise.

In the coming days I aim to write more. I’m approaching the join between acts one and two now, the part I anticipated to be difficult. Once past this section another ghostly meeting in Dumfries may be in order.

Micro Fiction

An e-mail arrives from The Fankle.

‘Hi Cameron
Thanks for this. We’d like to include it – but we were wondering if it
wanted/needed a title. What do you think?’

I had stupidly not thought about a title when I was writing it, I was too busy attempting to keep the word count down due to it being a micro fiction edition (stories with less than 250 words). It’s been given the title ‘The Last Drop’ which seemed apt considering the subject matter. The issue isn’t out for a little while yet but they’re will be the obvious post on here once it does land. For those in the Dumfries and Galloway area the magazine can be found here and for those not from the Scottish lowlands then you can get it posted your way by doing this. It’s 85p for a single issue, of which I’ll have written 31 words of the new one, but whilst you’re there why not subscribe anyway? You’d be getting a fantastic slice of what’s going on as far as creative writing goes in Dumfries and Galloway.

If you’re that way inclined and are from the area then why not submit something for their consideration? The theme of the next issue will be ‘Resolution’ and the deadline is December 31st 2012 so there’s plenty of time. I’m already seeing what I can piece together.

It’s been a fair few years since I was last published in print, about ten to put a figure on it, so this is a very pleasant surprise and goes on the achievement list of 2012 alongside the Henry Barstow performances.