Tuesday, 18 February 2014

A Logophile's List: Words to Fall in Love With

I love words, don't you? As a writer, it's a kind of given - but not always. I'm talking about real obsessive love here. The bordering on OCD kind.  As I see now, the logophile kind.

I love the look of words. I love the sound of them. I love the feel of words on the tongue, how some dance, while others fizz and dissolve, some click and clack, and some skip, hop and spill into a smile. And I love how all these aspects relate to the meaning of the words.  

I love spelling words. (When I was younger, I used to continuously split words into two halves and spell them out with my toes. Weird, I know. But I never got less than full marks on any spelling test! ) I love guessing words. I love learning about the etymology of words too. I love comparing words in a different language (I especially love every single foxtrotting French word!)  And I just love, LOVE finding the perfect word for the perfect sentiment - the instance that pushes the universe into perspective.

That's why I want to tell you about this blog: Otherwordly. It showcases all kinds of weird and wonderful words, from all different languages, (including Old Saxon English). Words that define vague states in black and white. Words that tether whimsical abstractions into the real world. Words that delight in nature's spectacles. Words that will make you stop and marvel at the power of language.

Anyway, here are some of my favourites, words that I feel are a necessity, not just a luxury, words that should exist in every language, in some form. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do:


Now, don't you feel as if you've seen the world anew? If words translate the world to us, then surely new words must shine a new light on our interpretation of it? We are forever discovering and re-discovering the world, why not language too? These words show just a glimpse of what language is capable of and its inherent alchemy.

If you like these selections, do check out the Otherwordly blog. It's also available on Facebook & Twitter. The words are also on the Writers Write Facebook page. (View them here)

~ Siobhán

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Eat the Paté Then Meet the Duck?: On Meeting Writers

Question: Have you ever met your favourite author? In real life, face-to-face, palm-to-palm? Have you ever met with any authors? I'd love to hear how you found it. Because frankly, I find it a bit weird.

I've never hankered after meet'n'greets with authors. Not like, say in the way I'd want to meet a favourite musician or celebrity. Writers just aren't the same. Musicians are used with meeting and greeting their fans, as for any kind of celebrity, it comes with the job description. But with writers... I don't know. Although they're not all reclusive, they're not the chattiest bunch of people either. Meeting with them can sometimes be...awkward. 


I've met a few writers, one or two at book signings and talks, and others as part of workshops. Not huge famous names, but masters of their trade nonetheless. The most famous of them I suppose would be Irish/American fiction writer Colum McCann (above). He was doing 'an interview' with a journalist in my local setting. 
 There was about 20 people at it, and come the end, we had the opportunity to meet Colum and have our books signed. Despite being an extremely interesting talker, well-articulated and intellectual, serious but capable of cracking a joke or two as well, the talkative and genteel interviewee seemed a bit tongue-tied when up close and personal with his fans, amicable yes, but a little... awkward. I wouldn't imagine it to be any other way I suppose - a writer's work is an intensely solitary occupation after all. And me,  I have to admit I was a little star-struck, not in the sense of meeting a celebrity but meeting the mere man who put all those great words together, who created another world so grandly and easily. All you really want to ask is : 'How the heck did you do it?!' I was a bit surprised to have him turn all my questions back on me again then - 'Who are your influences? How would you describe your style?' when he surmised that I was a wannabe writer. Well, it was nice to be taken seriously by a serious writer. But unexpected, to say the least!

A while back I met Rita Ann Higgins, a poet from Galway, at a small poetry reading and had my book signed by her. But with no chit-chat. She signed the book and smiled and that was that, and again, seemed a little awkward, like a fish up a tree. Although, while she was reading, she was perfectly at ease. Strange isn't it?

I went to a poetry reading a few months ago of Carol Ann Duffy, the Poet Laureate of the UK, and one of my favourite  poets. I felt like I should have taken a book or two for her to sign, (seemed a sacrilege not to)  but then decided against it. I realised I didn't want to meet her, I just wanted to hear her read her work. That would suffice entirely. Anything else would be like going behind the curtain to see Oz, which only dismantles his (her) great and powerful aura of course.

As Margaret Atwood says, 'Wanting to meet an author because you like his/her work is like wanting to meet a duck because you like pâté.' She has a point! There's no correlation really. The writer is the person behind the product of their books, the medium; it's the book, the completed work we adore, not so much the behind-the-scenes writer. It's different with the other arts - musicians for example are more involved with the music - they are the faces of it, the personification. Joyce Carol Oates echoes this sentiment, stating that 'the individual is irrelevant to art.' It's the art, ultimately, that matters.

The workshops were better. The writers are nearer their natural element there. And when you're doing a workshop with them, you're attuned only to their writing skills - not personality, or ability to converse - gleaming wisdom from their every word. There is no need for awkwardness on their parts. And if you can get over the intimidation of revealing your work to them, you might be pleasantly surprised. But once again, when it came to the end and you approached them to sign a book for you, the bashfulness returned. One poet facilitator was all talk in the group, and quiet as a clam then in front of one person. And instead of flogging their books, they would go super shy and modest when it came to mention of them. Of course, every writer is different, but this has been my experience with the ones I've met.

I don't know about you, but I never know what to say to writers, except of course to gush my praises about their work, which only makes their demeanor more demure, suggesting that they aren't solely responsible for it. Of course, I know what they mean, know what they partly owe their success to: the writing genie. The force. The inspiration. That power we tap into on occasion. The alchemy that happens in pen and paper. The real star of the show.

Although it's great to say you've met your favourite writers in real-life, and can show-off your signed book whenever the occasion arises, I'd rather just meet them on the page, in their natural habitat, where they excel. Or read what they have to say about writing, instead of prod it out of them in person. On the page, there is a private dialogue between writer and reader that just can't be equaled in person.

How about you? Do you feel the same?  Any writer meetings ah, worth writing home about?

~ Siobhán

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Sunday Morning Musing: Night-Time Volts

Now here's an invention we could use! 

Night-time is the best time for creativity. Especially those fuzzy moments just before sleep, when the receptors of the brain are relaxed and ideas seem to flow quickly and easily. 

Did you know that 4am is supposed to be the optimal time for creative thinking? It's when the mind is at its most open and uninhibited. If you've been privy to such wee hours inspiration then you'll know exactly how it is. Like striking gold after digging in a muddy river for weeks, or suddenly turning to Technicolor when all you've had is black and white, from 2D flat words to 3D dynamics. There's a current in those wee hours that is available for us to tap into - a problem-solving, eye-opening, idea-generating volt. Tune into it, either accidentally or deliberately, and the mechanical side of creating vanishes. It's all energy and flow, exclamations and Eurekas!

It's all great when you're riding this flow of ideas, but then there are the times I've been hit by a few zinger lines and too tired to reach for the pen and paper, muttering sleepily, 'it's okay, I'll remember this in the morning...' But of course, I never do. They're fleeting, these night-time lines, and need to be caught immediately on paper or they float off to die a death in some ghost-yard of the mind, never to surface again.

That's why one of these contraptions would come in extremely handy. You never know, they might even invent an App for it yet...

~ Siobhán