The Ideas are Starting to Flow Again

It seems I’ve been in hibernation, but really I’ve been working full-time. Nothing like a stressful day to kill creativity. However, life changes and now I find myself with time to write my stories again. So it’s back to work on my next book, plenty of time, doesn’t have to be finished till late next year.

http://www.bubblews.com/news/2712018-the-resurrection-of-a-major-writing-project

I’m getting excited about the prospect of researching and writing again. Life is looking up.

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Red Faced Embarrassment for a Swimmer at the Bank

Why is it we tend to remember the embarrassing moments of our lives more easily than the more rewarding times? Well, I do anyway. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve had plenty of embarrassing moments, not that I’m prepared to reveal all here.

Some of you already know I’m a swimmer, a lapsed one at the moment, but still a swimmer. I have chlorine in my veins and so does my husband.

So, when I heard a quite common line on TV the other night, ‘I didn’t recognise you with your clothes on,’ I had to laugh. Oh yes, I’ve definitely heard that line before.

It was when I was in my thirties. My husband was manager of the local outdoor swimming pool and worked seven days a week during the summer, so I spent many of my waking summer hours there. My usual attire was either my swim suit of course, or shorts, top and bare feet. That was how people knew me and how I knew many of the people in my life.

So when a well dressed young man spoke to me in the bank queue one day, at first I didn’t recognise him. Then he smiled and the penny dropped.

‘Oh, I didn’t recognise you with your clothes on,’ I blurted out.

I can smile now, but at the time I blushed more red than any sunburn I’d ever experienced.

Isn’t is funny how a simple throw-away line on TV can bring forth old memories in a rush. It certainly did for me and now my mind is racing with other stories that may one day get told.

We all have so many stories to tell. How about you?

Do you find some things just unhatch the lid on your mind, like opening Pandora’s box, letting out more than you keep up with?

Writing the Book is Only Part of the Story

I’ve allowed myself three years to write the story of the local swimming pool I frequented as a teenager. I didn’t realize how many new skills I’d need along the way. I’m a writer and this is a story I want to tell. I thought I’d research and write and produce a book. Wrong! The reality is this book is taking me on an amazing learning journey.

My book is a local history one, a social history, the story of the local Municipal Baths from 1917 until closure in 1966.That sounds easy, gathering up information and writing. But there’s more to a book than that, as many of you wiser than me already know. I feel as if I’m undertaking a personal three year on-going education course – and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

Of course, there’s the research. This is new for me and I’m already learning rapidly. The people at my local library are amazing, showing me where to locate information and how to access it. The old newspapers are giving me an insight into community reaction to the building of the baths in their town. The Archives contain lots of valuable data. I’ve been recording my own anecdotal stories and will soon be delving into stories from people who experienced the baths long before I did.

The research will continue for a long time yet. I hadn’t ventured too far into the project when I realized I needed to put this story into context. What was the local community like at the time, especially in the 1920s and 1930s? I’m off to the library and onto the internet, gathering stories of the local community and the swimming world of the time.

All this sounds fine, but the book needs to written in a style appealing to a wide readership. I hope to blend facts with my personal stories. This will involve a different style from  my writing so far. I enrolled in an online Creative Non- fiction writing course and this is proving a wise investment of time and money. I’ve been reading a book about undertaking research. I’m also reading books, both novels and factual, which weave backwards and forwards in time, rather than tell a chronological story. I’m getting a feel for how my book will be written.

I’m now six months into my project. My writing skills are improving, I’m getting more skilled at research and I’m becoming e of a social and local historian. Who said writing a book was easy? But I can tell you from personal experience, learning as you go is lots of fun.

Writing Prompted by the Words of Others

Last night I sat down to write, having not written for almost a week. My writing brain took fright at being expected to think, to come up with something, to produce some writing. The blank page stared up at me, like all good blank pages do, chastising me for my neglect.

Something had to be done, so I wrote the following at the top of the page. “Open the book I’m reading at a random page. Choose ONE SENTENCE from the page and write it down. Then keep writing for ten minutes.”

The book I grabbed was “To the River” by Olivia Laing, the story of the River Ouse in Sussex in England. The first page I randomly opened contained a historical story of no help at all. I tried again. Still no sentence appealed. The third attempt offered several gems and I chose the following:

‘And there was the Ouse, all of a tumble, the sun skating off it in panes of light.’

A vision immediately came to me of the swimming pool I spent so many years of my teenage life in, the pool my latest writing project is telling the story of. I noted the time – after all I needed to write for ten minutes – and started writing with ease, describing the atmosphere on the night of an important swim meet, with the lights beaming down on the water and the darkened sky above the outdoor pool. I wrote for about 20 minutes.

My short piece of writing wasn’t brilliant, but the pool at night wasn’t something I’d thought about including as part of my work in progress. I made a few reflective notes to myself at the bottom on how to make improvements, turned off the light and went to sleep.

A few hours later – as often is the case with writers – I awoke, my brain having processed my scribbling while I slept. There was nothing to do but turn on the light and write down the wonderful ideas drifting through my brain. I jotted down a few interesting words, a couple of possible metaphors and a few more surprising images I recalled. That was it, lights out and back to sleep until morning.

The prompt of a random sentence from another’s writing hadn’t occurred to me before. Although the book I read spoke of a river and my book is about a swimming pool, the water and reflection of the light gave me enough similarities to get started. I’ll certainly use the words of others as a prompt again if my writing is shy about revealing itself to me.

What about you? What tips do you use when the words refuse to come?

Let the Story Begin

Once upon a time, about fifty years ago, a young girl made a trip to the local swimming pool. The water, the dressing sheds, the concrete surrounds and the people all recognised another victim and cast their magic spell, pulling her into their family.

Without stopping to think, she cast off her former life and allowed the magic of swimming to possess her. Day and night during the summer months, for many years, she plunged into the water and reached out for her dreams. Even the winter months beckoned, with only the land fitness and strengthening programme keeping her warm. The girl knew her life was perfect.

But all good stories come to an end. Fortunately for the girl two events coincided. She developed an interest in boys and dating at the same time the City Fathers decided the old baths no longer served a purpose. The old pool had come to the end of its useful life. A new, modern swimming complex was opened across town and the doors of the old baths closed forever.

Now, nearly fifty years later the girl has rekindled her passion for the old brick building which once enclosed the passions of her teenage years. She recognises a story needing to be told, the story of the place the old swimming baths held in the hearts of the town’s swimming community.

Yes, my new writing project has begun. The minute I opened the first archive box of treasure yesterday, I trembled with anticipation. This box held material enabling the fifty year story of the baths to be brought to life. The pool was a grand old lady, opened in 1917 and closed forever in 1966. Her story deserves to be told. Over the next two years or so I intend piecing the story together and recreating the magic that once existed for so many of the town’s young people.

Let the story begin.

Is there a place holding passionate memories from your past that no longer exists?  Why not record your memories, enabling it to live yet again in the hearts of others.

Remembering Brylcreem Vending Machines

The local swimming baths, or Munies as the Municipal Baths were known, was the gathering place for all the local teenagers on a hot summer Sunday afternoon where I lived. Everyone flocked to the pool, either to swim and cool off, or to flirt with the opposite sex. At times the crowded water looked more like a wall to wall carpet of wet bodies. To find somewhere to sit on the wooden seating above the dressing sheds on both sides of the pool meant stepping over swimsuit clad bodies stretched out on towels.

The Brylcreem vending machine sat on one wall of the pool surround, attracting quite a following during the early 1960s, especially with the lads hoping to attract the girls’ attention. After their swim the lads would dry off, flick their hair into place and head for the Brylcreem machine. For one brown penny, or maybe it was twopence, the machine  spewed out a dollop of Brylcreem into the waiting hand, enough to smooth through the boys hair and tame their wet locks.

Girls hung around the machine as well, also hoping to be noticed as the boys sleeked their hair into place with the greasy white cream. Imagine healthy young, tanned teenage bodies clad only in swimsuits on a hot sunny day, the girls eyeing the lads as they put on impressive grooming shows. Teenage hormones ran rampant.

I remember one sad summer when we arrived back at the pool after the winter closure to find the Brylcreem machine had been removed. The longer and more unruly hairstyles heralded by The Beatles and other pop groups caught on with the boys and greasy swished back hairstyles with every strand in place lost their popularity.

A little bit of recent research reveals Brylcreem was the first male hair styling cream invented, having been introduced in Birmingham UK in 1928. Its popularity lasted until its demise in the 1960s, but much to my surprise Brylcreem is still available in small red containers today.

Do any of you have early memories of Brylcreem to share? How did effect your social life? Can you remember Brylcreem vending machines?

Writing Memoir Combined with Local History

My first published writing project, a 1950s school memoir, has proved a success and left me wanting to stretch myself further. At first I thought I’d work on another memoir, one set in a place close to my heart when I was growing up.

Competitive swimming occupied my teenage years in the 1960s and my time spent in intensive training coincided with the last five years of the local community baths, before a new impressive swimming complex was built and opened. The old baths became like a second home to me and I wanted to write the story of its last years.

The school Centenary I attended in the weekend brought me in contact again with two swimmers from those teenage years and, as one does at a school reunion, we got talking and sharing stories, not just of the old baths but of swimming in our small province. I didn’t realise at the time, but our conversation became a turning point. A new idea crept into my head, planted itself and started the life of a new book.

Next day I shared the swimming conversation with my husband, also a swimmer from the same period. It became obvious a larger story needed telling. I now need to stretch my writing skills and try something a little more challenging.

The story of the old Municipal Baths in my town needs to be told. The baths first opened in 1917 and lasted just short of fifty years before the new swimming complex was opened in 1966. 2016 will mark fifty years since the closure of the special place in my heart.

The baths story will be told through a combination of local history and memoir. My own life story will be intermingled with the life story of this very popular meeting place for the young people of the town. Three years to research, write and produce this story should be more than enough.

I’m quite excited at the prospect of extending myself. I’m hoping my idea of combining the story of my connection with the baths in the last five years along with the wider community story of the baths through its short life will work.

I know challenges lie ahead of me, especially the extensive research needed. I’m looking forward to sharing my story here, both snippets of my life stories and the things I learn about writing along the way. If any readers have attempted this combination of writing memoir and local history before I’d love to learn about your experience.