Thursday, 28 January 2010

Here comes the pun!

They can't kill you for it - but they'd like to.

I have a genetic tendancy towards the dreadful pun - let's blame the parents (well, dad anyway, mum just sighs). And it's hard, you know. People don't always appreciate your little gems. You find yours bons mots greeted with groans. It's even described (mostly by people not clever enough to pun well) as the lowest form of wit.

It was late in life that I discovered 'I'm Sorry, I Haven't a Clue' but was always frustrated that there wasn't enough time to join in when they had to come up with, for example, Welsh films like 'Dai Hard' or 'Where Eagles Aberdare'.

But hurrah, hurrah and thrice hurrah! I have discovered my spiritual home in Twitter.

I was at first confounded by this concise (140 characters) and sometimes inscrutable social networking site. Then I discovered hashtags. In Twitter the '#' symbol helps you to search for specific subjects. Anyone 'tweeting' about the iPad would include #ipad in their tweet and if you search #ipad you'll get a million tweets about it. But it isn't all political commentary and teccy chat - there are hashtags for people like me

The first one I stumbled across was #filmsmadescottish and here are some of the gems that people were coming up with:
  • Glenfiddler on the Roof
  • Nevis say Nevis Again
  • There's Something About Moray
  • Perth Girls are Easy
  • Sporrandipity
  • Ayrplane
  • Och Aye, Robot
  • and (personal favourite) Cheaper wi' ye' Cousin
I thought it was a one off, but it goes on. Next it was #ozfilms:
  • Mortal Wombat
  • Digeridoo the Right Thing
  • Melbourne on the Fourth of July
  • Outback to the Future
  • Look, Roos Talking
  • Possum Unmissable (one of my own, ahem)
Then #scifipop... then #ITVroyalmail... oh and I forgot about #middleclasssongs (Everybody was Feng Shui Fighting, Chim chim chiminera, Hove is a Many-Splendored Thing etc etc)

I could go on. Come and join me! @ClareKirwan

Monday, 25 January 2010

It really IS 'Poet's Day'

Visiting the hospital, I stopped by a bed and asked the woman how she was feeling.

'It's a braw bricht moonlit nicht the noo,' she said.

I nodded sagely and moved on. The chap in the next bed smiled . I enquired after his health.

'Wee slickit tim'rous cowerin' beastie,' he said. 'A man's a man for aw that.'

Hmm, I thought.

Then I realised. It was the Burns Unit.

The Scots have some dire things to answer for - the Crankees, the word 'Hootenanny' and obviously Rab C Nesbitt (I don't include the deep-fried Mars Bar here, as they're rather good) - but they've brought us good things too: I've no complaints about whiskey or haggis, I like the accent and I'm a fan of Annie Lennox.

But the best thing the Scots ever did was to have a national holiday celebrating a poet!!

Not been to a Burns Night? You imagine a mysterious event shrouded in the skirl of the pipes, the swirl of tartan, the swill of 'the water of life'. It is all of this - but more. It's all about Burns. A poet. OK we're easily frighted by the daelect. But he's worth pursuing. And anyway that's not the point. He's a poet. And he isn't shut up in the back room of a pub, missed off arts listing pages, considered an embarrassement, of no value. No - he's a Poet! His words are celebrated. Even at the moment you bring out the steaming pile of offal that is the 'Great Chieftan o' the puddin-race' there is a pause for 'To a Haggis' (the poem the line 'Devil take the hindmost' is from). Fantastic.

Hurrah for the Scots! and hurrah for Haggis! and hurrah for my hurdies* which really are like a distant hill now.

Happy Burns Night everyone!


Friday, 8 January 2010

The Road

I haven't seen the film based on Cormack McCarthy's novel The Road yet - and neither should you. Read the book first.

It's hard to make it sound positive - 'A light-hearted romp through a post-apocalyptic landscape' - but the novel is beautiful, poetic, harrowing and makes you think about the fragility of our exsistence. That's something that's been crossing lots of people's minds during the Deep Freeze of these early days of 2010. How close are we to apocalyse? The shops are already running out of basic necessities - bread, milk, easter eggs.

I digress. If you only want one reason it is this: you always have to read the book before you see the film. The other way round is just wrong

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Don't Panic

Twitter told me the other day: There's a problem. Don't panic.
I hate being told not to panic when I’m not panicking. It's like a parky yelling: 'Don’t walk on the grass !" when you were nowhere near it or being told not to pester your brother when he clearly started it. Oh the injustice of the world, the unfairness.

I’d probably hate it if I WAS panicking, because I'm sure I’d feel at the time it was an appropriate response. I just don’t like being told what to do. And the only person allowed to tell me not to panic is Douglas Adams – in large friendly letters on the back.

And there’s something else – a pet hate. It’s the way computer programmes are designed to communicate with you as though they were a helpful chum. "Hi Clare!" my laptop pops up with each morning, and "Oops, there seems to be a problem," and "We can’t connect you right now". Who the hell is ‘we’? Do they want you to think there are more of them than there are of you? Are they hoping to perpetuate the myth that communications technology is powered by tiny people inside the hardware working diligently on our behalf? It’s the pathetic fallacy taken to its logical extreme, ascribing character and helpfulness to a lump of metal with electrical bits (stop me if I get too technical).

Which just goes to show, yet again, how far ahead of his time Douglas Adams was. "Keyboard error, or no keyboard present" mine said to me once. "Press F1 to continue." It could be straight out of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

How to get gigs abroad

The lovely people at Write Out Loud have published my article 'How to knit your own World Tour' on how I planned and executed my recent 'Dead Good Down Under' tour of poetry gigs in Australia and New Zealand.

Here's the link: and check out the rest of their excellent site while you're there.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

7 New Year Resolutions for Writers

1. Write. Every day. No excuses. Nothing cultivates creativity more than developing the habit of being creative.

2. Hone your skills. Use the many resources out there to help you improve your writing, whatever stage you are at. Don't settle for being as good as you are now - vow to be better!

3. Determine your goals for 2010. What do you want to achieve as a writer this year? Be realistic but ambitious. Break these goals into a series of smaller actions and commit to doing them. You don't have to be a slave to your targets, but I find having them definitely spurs me on to do more than I would without them. Give yourself rewards... or punishments if you prefer!

4. Strengthen your web presence - it's a powerful marketing tool and your writing CV. Start a blog or a website, get active in online forums, submit your writing to online zines so if someone Googles you they are sure to find you!
TIP: Poets can build up a free profile at

5. Find a critical buddy. Not someone who tells you 'You look shit in that!' - I mean another writer whose opinion you respect. Their objective look at your work can identify weak areas, plot malfunctions and self-indulgence. Offer to do the same for them! If you don't consort with other writers, try online writing forums - can anyone recommend good ones here?

6. Get organised! You don't have to get obsessed with spreadsheets like I am (ahem!) but sort out a way of recording your submissions etc that works for you.
TIP: I recommend - a free database of markets which you can personlise with your own submissions and favourites.

7. Keep reading! Expand your horizons and step out of the story to read critically more often - what works and what doesn't? How has the author given back story, showed a state of mind, used dialogue.

Have a great writing year! And let me know what your writing resolutions are!