Sunday, 29 November 2009


I started writing as a hobby about four years ago. To start with, I wrote a lot of poems. I don’t know if there is a reservoir of them in us all just waiting to be tapped, but in my case once I started it was like a crack in the dam and a whole tidal wave flooded out. These poems were often to do with places I have visited and in particular, places that have inspired me, which have often been in the countryside or beside the sea. There were poems about family and loved ones and some that were just a play on words or a reflection of the things on my mind at the time. It didn’t take long for me to start reading poetry books and I remember Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes and Leonard Cohen figuring prominently. I made a great discovery of the poetry library in Edinburgh and I joined Jim Wilson’s poetry evening class at Edinburgh University. There are a lot of people out there writing poetry, and like many skilled people, good poets hone their skills over many years. I think that at the heart of a good poem is a truth that resonates with the reader. It is, to some extent an exercise of discovery for the writer and the audience.

Another discovery was the Tyne and Esk writers group, which I found on the Midlothian web site. I went along to the Dalkeith group and found a mix of people who brought their poems, short stories and novels to read. They are a great group who listen, offer advice, and are prepared to share their own work. Before long, I was impressed with the quality of the short stories people read and so I tried my hand at that genre. As I found with poetry, I had a lot to learn about writing good short stories… I’m still learning. Luckily, there are great resources to help you on your path. I have found some extremely useful writing web sites, including writers circle and authonomy. There are also any number of good books on ‘how to write.’ I rate Stephen King’s ‘On writing’ one of the best I have come across. People write for all sorts of reasons, but at the core of them all is a desire to communicate. If you write stories, you want to entertain and you want people to read what you have written.

I am amazed by the number of people who write. I only come across a small proportion of those who are published but looking at the web sites I use, people from across the world are eager to tell you their stories. In order to be published you have to develop a whole host of new skills and start to put your stories out there. This year I have been doing that. So far, I have had two stories published, ‘Odd Ball’ on the Southpaw journal and ‘Sunset dog beach’ on Pearl Luke’s web site. This week, I sent a letter, a synopsis and the first fifty pages of my novel ‘Mirror Lines’ to Jenny Brown associates. Their blurb states that if they don’t get back to you in eight weeks, forget it. Here’s hoping.

A quirky poem I wrote in April 2005 (Port Patrick is at the west end of the Southern Upland Way}


I’m tired of drinking in the usual way
I think I will drink with my eyes open today
Drinking in beauty on the edge of the lawn
Sipping in seagulls just before dawn
Letting sensations seep into my skin
Soaking it up and letting it in

Over the road is a much darker story
Clogged up pores cry out for mercy
Suffering sights assailing the eye
Thirsting for freshness and wanting to die
Drink till you’re merry; drink till you’re full
The path to Port Patrick was never so dull.

Ray Harris   © 2009

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