Author Archives: Margaret

About Margaret

Writer

To Go Or Not To Go in Poetry

John Masefield (1878-1967) was English Poet Laureate from 1930-1967 and published his most famous poem, Sea-Fever, in 1902. He published it originally with the title hyphenated, and the opening line of each stanza beginning, “I must down to the seas again…”. Not “go down”. Recent publications, such as Carcanet’s new edition of Masefield’s Collected Poems have reverted to his original version. But in between, generations of British schoolchildren have learnt it as, “I must go down to the seas again…” Robin Knox-Johnson, the round the world sailor – who should know a thing or two about the sea by now – learnt it with ‘go’ included, and still recites it this way.

So why did later editions of the poem change the opening line to each verse by adding ‘go’? Were publishers and teachers worried about the original being ungrammatical? Was it a simple mistake that for generations wasn’t picked up on? What did Masefield himself think about the change?

According to my brief research, it was Masefield himself who inserted ‘go’ into later versions. As well as being a keen sailor, he was also keen to promote poetry throughout his time as Poet Laureate and organised competitions, and annual recitals up to his death. Maybe he thought he should promote good grammar too?

I am not persuaded that this was necessary. Especially in a poem that is noted for its lyricism. You can read it yourself below and check out its rhythms and rhymes; its alliteration and assonance; its use of onomatopoeic words and other poetic devices. It’s hardly a show piece for soberly correct word and grammar usage; but that’s not what it is meant to be. It is an evocative poem that is highly effective at conveying the lure of the sea, with a suggestion in the last stanza of something more profound.

I prefer the original, especially for reading aloud. Insert a ‘go’ if you must!

Sea-fever, by John Masefield

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,

And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

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Do You Display ‘Writing Behaviour?’


In a famous experiment in the 1970s (the Rosenhan experiment into the validity of psychiatric diagnosis) a group of researchers faked hearing voices so as to deliberately get themselves admitted to different mental asylums across the US. Staff were not informed that this was an experiment, so treated them as normal patients: that was the purpose of the research – to see what went on behind the closed doors of such institutions.

Once admitted, all the researchers said the voices they had been hearing prior to admittance had stopped. Not one was discharged immediately. Some were detained for months and all were given drugs. Most were diagnosed with schizophrenia in remission and only released back into the community if they promised to continue with a drug taking regime when out.

Files were kept on each researcher at all the asylums, and staff members made notes of their every move. At least one of the researchers also took contemporaneous notes of his experiences whilst in the asylum. When the experiment was over, and all had been released back into the community, this researcher asked if he could look at the professional notes that had been kept on him. He was amused (concerned?) to find that his file made constant reference to the fact that ‘the patient was engaging in writing behaviour.’

So there we have it: writing is not a normal activity for a rational human being, but a symptom of a potentially dangerous psychiatric disorder.

As if we writers and wannabe writers didn’t know that already!

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Characters and colour.

Early one morning my husband and I were chatting in bed over a cup of tea (it’s the sort of activity we get up to now we’ve been married nearly 40 years).

‘Have you ever considered,’ I said, ‘that colours are always used negatively in relation to a character’s character in books? Can you think of any that are used positively?’

Then, because he wasn’t really awake and not yet ready to engage his brain, I proceeded to list some.

Blue – low mood, crude.

Yellow – cowardly, sickly

Red – anger, embarrassment.

White – fear

Black – mood, temper.

Green – envy (though I suppose having green fingers is more a plus than a negative).

Brown – study, dull.

He interrupted then, maybe just to shut me up, to offer gold (good as gold) and silver (silver fox) as positive uses of colour, but I countered that these were metals not colours. He disagreed, and decided it was time to get up, even though his tea was only half drunk.

That was over a week ago. I still haven’t thought of a positive use apart from pink – yes you can be pink with embarrassment etc. But, unlike with red, it is probably a good thing to be ‘in the pink.’

Any suggestions? Please leave a reply.

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Another great read from K. C. Sprayberry

Blaze A Team Omega Thriller is an exciting psychological thriller from best-selling author, K.C. Sprayberry. This particular story has been in her ‘to be completed’ files for sixteen years. The concept was always a group of Elementals – individuals capable of manipulating earth, wind, water, and air to control wildfires, working together and sometimes against each other. It wasn’t until she noticed a trend of brush fires in California, blazes which seemed almost unnatural, that she came up with the thrilling adventure this tale is now.

Fires ravage California for eight long years. Into the fray of taming these beasts comes a group of people with the power to control the elements of fire, water, wind, and earth. Their only duty is to subdue the flames ravaging the state, to assist firefighters, hot shots, and smoke jumpers dedicated to protecting the Golden State.

One team stands out among the others, a group of four twenty-three year olds. They came into their abilities while these blazes were at their strongest. Dakota Henderson, Cary Toronto, Fante Cyndall, and Luisa Henderson appear to be ordinary people, doing normal jobs.

Yet, when the call out comes, they dive into the belly of the beast to protect those threatened with the flames of destruction. One of them receives the ability to lead all Elementals, the powers to battle against rogues from their organization. Can this individual put a stop to these wildfires and bring peace back to the embattled state?

You can get this exciting book here:

About K.C. Sprayberry

Born and raised in Southern California, K.C. Sprayberry is living a dream she’s had since she first discovered the magic of books. She traveled the U.S. and Europe before finally settling in the mountains of Northwest Georgia. She’s been married to her soulmate for a quarter of a century and they enjoy spoiling their grandchildren along with many other activities.

A multi-genre author, K.C. Sprayberry is always on the hunt for new stories. Inspiration strikes at the weirdest times and drives her to grab notebook and pen to jot down her ideas. Those close to her swear nothing or no one is safe if she’s smiling gently in a corner and watching those in the same room interact. Her observations have often given her ideas for her next story, set not only in the South but wherever the characters demand they settle.

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Meet author Dawn Bolton

Dawn Bolton taught law and economics in Higher Education. After leaving formal education she started a tutorial agency. She still tutors adults and children in English, Maths, Creative Writing and French.

Recently she has started writing stories and novels. She writes historical romances under the name of Alexie Bolton and romances/suspense/crime under the name of Toni Bolton. She is an enthusiastic artist and illustrates her own children’s stories. She enjoys renovating houses and has renovated a pub which she now runs as a guesthouse. She enjoys skiing, yoga and going to the gym. She shares the house with her husband and her cats Angel and Louie.

What is the title of your latest book? Innocence and Deception by Toni Bolton. FBI agent fishes a woman out of the sea and finds she is an escaped convict claiming to be suffering from amnesia. He follows her to where her daughter is living. She hasn’t seen her daughter for years since giving birth to the child in prison hospital. A model prisoner, why did she escape custody when her parole was close?

  • What are the most challenging aspects of being a writer? And the most rewarding?Building characters in my books who have suffered abuse or have survived unpleasant situations but are still strong and resourceful.  When readers say they enjoy a book and want to continue the series.
  • What is your top tip for an aspiring writer? Build your platform on various sites like Facebook so when you publish your first book you have followers who had read your works in progress and want to review and buy the book.
  • What are you working on at the moment? Bang. A story about a veteran suffering from PTSM for CALM, a charity helping men who suffer depression.
  • What do you like to read? Romantic suspense, thrillers, ghost stories and historical romances.
  • Where can readers find you?

amazon.com/author/alexiebolton

Email kixley@btinternet.com

Dawn’s author page at dawnpbolton@Facebook

Twitter@dawnbolton2.

Series: Men of valour, women of steel by Toni Bolton


Book one, Escape from fear.

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Book two. Whisper softly or you’re dead.


Book three, Innocence and Deception.



Book 4, Saving Grace.

Vegan veto – a cock and bull story.

Welcome to 2019 – I hope you had a good Christmas, enjoyed your turkey with all the trimmings, your ‘pigs in blankets,’ or your nut loaf. Talking of food, there was an interesting story in the news during the run up to Christmas. An academic in Swansea University, Shareema Hamzah was reported to have predicted in an article (How the rise of veganism may tenderise fictional language) that meat based idioms, like ‘bringing home the bacon’ should be banned.

This caused outrage in some of the British papers – ‘Vegan war on animal phrases’ (The Star). ‘English phrases could be scrapped over fears they offend vegans.’ (The Express). ‘War on Words – bringing home the bacon could be banned to stop vegans getting offended.’ (The Sun). ‘Pie-in-the-sky animal rights zealotry’ (The Mail)

In fact there was no meat on the bones of this story. Or, to put it another way, the basis of Dr Hamzah’s thesis had been butchered in certain parts of the media. Her article was about how meat is used in literature to represent power – usually by men versus women; for example the meat stew prepared by the (female) cooks for William Bankes in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. She doesn’t call for a ban on meaty metaphors and has been under no pressure from vegans to call them out as offensive. However she does feel that as langauge is constantly evolving and, in doing so, reflects the changing mores of the societies in which it is used, there are likely to be more non-meat related analogies in fiction in the future. More potatoes peeled, than cats skinned perhaps? Fewer dead horses flogged? No more bulls to be taken by the horns?

Anyway, there are already plenty of ‘veggie’ phrases in regular use, what with butter not melting in people’s mouths and others not caring a hill of beans one way or another.

Happy New Year!

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Writing Games for Christmas.

As well as the religious significance of the festival, Christmas is a time for present giving and receiving, drinking and eating, friends and family, hearty walks and slumping in front of the TV. Yes it can all get a bit much, especially for writerly types who find everything going on around them too distracting to be able to settle down and just write. And it gets worse when the new presents start to pall (or break), the over -indulgence takes its toll on your digestive system, and all around you show every sign of getting really, really fed up with each other.

Pens to the rescue! Why not push aside the meal left overs, and gather everybody round the table for a few word based games. Never mind they say they can’t write, hate parlour games, wish you’d go and take a running jump at yourself … With a bit of coaxing grannies and grandchildren, friends and nearly new foes, will be prepared to have a go. It will be a bit different and – who knows – they may end up enjoying themselves. Any number can join in. Even if you’re on your own, you can still make it work for one. All you need is a pen and a sheet of paper.

Game number one: First Sentence / Last Sentence. Everybody writes two, preferably short, unrelated sentences down on their piece of paper and passes it to the person on their left. That person then has ten minutes to write a story that links the first sentence to the last – the more fantastical the better! Everybody then reads aloud the story they have made up and if you so wish you can decide on a winner and a reward.

Game number two: Ten word story. Choose a word, maybe Christmas or winter related (e.g. Snowflake, Present, Carol …). Set the timer for five minutes and write a story in TEN words that includes the chosen word. Read the stories aloud – it can be amazing how different each story will be.

Game number three: Brilliant first lines. Everyone knows that the best books grab your attention from the start. Just think of “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen” from the beginning of George Orwell’s 1984. Set the timer for ten minutes and write as many attention grabbing opening lines as you can think of. Read them out when everyone has finished and choose the best. (As a bonus, a great first line could be the start of your next novel – once you have time to devout to ‘proper’ writing again.

This will be my last post for a week or so. I hope you all have a great Christmas and New Year.

Links to my books and social media

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

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