Friday, 25 February 2011

Flying gerunds

A captive gerund - Gerald Scarfe
We welcomed a potential new member, Holly, who came to view us to see whether being part of our group would help her with the fantasy trilogy she is working on.

It has been part of the SVA ethos from its beginning to take the workshopping element of our meetings seriously and it may seem a bit scarey for somebody new to watch as we analyse our compatriot’s writing. I think we are good at emphasising the good parts and describing our suggestions for improvements as techniques of writing rather than finding fault in the writer.

Linda read an extract from her novel about the peregrinations of Lily – this chapter being titled Homeward Bound. There was much for us to admire in the way Linda evokes mood with her smooth-as-Guinness prose. She imparts a poetic rhythm with repetition, adverbs and adjectives shaping and counting the beats and this gives her work a lyrical, almost Celtic personality. It may sound as if this means the work is ‘away with the fairies’ but nothing could be further from the ‘life as Lily lived it’ story that Linda is unfolding.

In the discussions that followed, we examined the practicalities of obtaining permission to quote lyrics – in this case from the eponymous Simon and Garfunkel song  – and the use of apostrophes indicating possession when the ‘thing’ possessed is a gerund. Eg: the boys’ misbehaving was driving her wild. We failed to resolve this and decided in favour of changing the sentence to eliminate the dilemma.

So, Lily is now homeward bound to Shrubshire (or wherever) and at the end of the meeting the SVA members returned to their homes to dream of possessed gerunds trussed into strait jackets and flying away on the wings of giant apostrophes.

Thanks for the Petticoat Tails, Tony.

1 comment:

  1. My rather out-of-date 2002 copy of the stalwart 'Writers' & Artists' Yearbook' has the following to say about copyright and 'fair dealing' which might help Linda and others agonising over quoting song lyrics in their fiction:
    "It is normally the author's responsibility to obtain and pay for permission to quote written material which is in copyright. Permissions should always be sought from the publisher of the quoted work, not from the author. There are no standard fees for quotation: for fashionable modern writers or the lyrics of popular songs permission may be very costly, but in other cases only a nominal fee is charged. It is permissible to quote a short extract (up to 400 words, or up to 40 lines of a poem, but not more than one quarter of the poem) under a convention known as ' fair dealing ', but only for purposes of criticism or review. Fair dealing does not apply for use in anthologies. The source of any quotation must always be fully acknowledged. Although this is your area of responsibility, you should ask your publisher for advice before embarking on the clearance of permissions for any copyright material, including illustrations."

    (from the 'Writer’s & Artists’ Yearbook', (published by A&C Black).