Ray Bradbury’s ‘Metal Book’

I fell in love with Ray Bradbury’s beautiful poetic prose and his sharp psychological and socialogical insight when I picked up Faranheit 451.  Although known as a science fiction writer, it seems to me that the alternate worlds he creates in order to render his discourse and express his love and fear for humanity are predominately settings/landscapes in which to explore his philosophies as another writer might use New York, Africa, a particular historical period. Having said that. science fiction creates the ultimate ‘what if’ scenario that allows writers like Bradbury and Margaret Atwood (who is seen to write both literary and science fiction) to extend the possible scenarios in which characters must grapple with challenging and unique psychological, physical and philosophical conundrums.

Now reading Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, it is a delight to explore with him a series of scenarios that bring into focus questions about topics including the nature of reality, religious belief, cultural imperialism and self serving biases. Above all it is told convincingly but with a sense of wonder and as I have said with this gorgeous prose, particularly in the opening chapters, the scenes and emotions of which have already made a lasting impression. I’m purposely not discussing the subject matter apart from the fact that the book charts a series of expeditions from Earth to Mars but does it from the viewpoints of both the explorers and explored.

What particularly struck me is that the prose and manner of storytelling is absolutely modern, told in succinct bursts – each a short story in itself but informing the larger whole, the tale of what happened in humanity’s attempt to colonise Mars. But what is also remarkable is the prescience shown by Bradbury in a book that was published 60 years ago, in 1951. True the concerns are human and political ones, ever enduring down the ages and are absolutely relevant today.

But is was a specific prescient detail that stopped me in my tracks in the early pages of the book.  We move through a Martian house to a close up of it’s owner Mr K by himself in his room reading from a metal book. Immediately the Kindle sprang to mind! While the Kindle has E-ink to render it more apparently tactile, this one had ‘raised hieroglyphs over which he brushed his hand, as one might play a harp’. Bradbury goes on to describe that a voice sang stories as the fingers brushed over. Perhaps not an e-reader then but an audio book, extraordinary and other worldly but rooted in the physical. Still the initial impression of the ‘metal book’ displays the extent of Bradbury’s imagination, his prose and intelligence testimony to all the possibilities (both creative and destructive) of humanity.

To the social media anxious: ‘It’s okay…’

It’s okay if your blog stats dip from time to time

It’s okay if you don’t blog post everyday or even every second day, people will probably be quite relieved

It’s okay if you lose a follower on twitter, this is the way of the world, you will keep some friends and lose others and most of the time it’s only a marketing affiliate or a girl in a bikini who tweets nothing

It’s okay if you don’t friend everyone on Facebook who asks you or Linkedin or any other social networking site that seemed like a good idea at the time. Nothing bad will happen.

It’s okay if you don’t follow back everyone on Twitter. Would you go out in real life with your 2000 plus best buddies and what would that be like?

It’s okay to sit in the garden and wiggle your toes.

It’s okay if your Klout score drops or if your Farmville fields go unplanted

It’s okay if you haven’t yet had a chance to Digg it

It’s okay if you don’t monetize your blog, your internet presence, your social media savvy, well today anyway.

It’s okay if you aren’t retweeted, people still might have enjoyed what you said

It’s okay if you aren’t on Google+ or if you don’t know what Tumblr is or if Stumbleupon is something you’ve never stumbled upon

It’s okay to look at people when talking. It’s okay to look away from your phone.

It’s okay to look at the sky, even if it’s raining.

It’s okay to leave your social media friends to themselves sometimes, they won’t disappear when you’re not there, like imaginary people in a made up world. They will still be around,  in their safe little boxes, sailing down the twitter stream or fluttering through the pages of the Facebook.

It’s okay to power down

It’s okay to run through the fields barefoot except in case of cow pats

It’s okay to share this blog post (but it’s also okay if you don’t!)

School Hols & the writing parent: Week 1

I baked a cake

And what a long week that was!

I want to keep these posts short and I want to be realistic. What is possible when you have four children between the ages of 10 and 3 in the house, one of whom is a night owl, the others who are larks? I’ve had this dream for many years of a continuous span of writing time, a writing retreat perhaps, or a weekend lost in the corridors of my novel. In reality, I work best in shorter bursts with an energetic and engaging activity in between.  I am not a fast writer, even though I wish I was. I do manage to do the 1667 required for the novel writing month by doing odd things like getting up in the middle of the night if I wake up or writing 7000 words in one day when the kids are elsewhere.

But what is the reality of this week since the holidays began?

I am a little adrift to be honest. I have been up early several times (although the children soon joined me) . I have begun to read through my newly stuck together novel and one morning to write a new scene. But I’m too full of thoughts about what my novel might need and all the other projects that are lined up. I have stepped back from Twitter and moved back into life a bit.  I think my novel needs more stewing and I have been giving myself stewing time, taking walks, relaxing (for a change), watching the telly, reading the sunday magazines, listening to the radio.  I have found several ideas along the way. I have written 700 words of a short story or flash about a bug.

No themeparks. The three youngest with Thomas and an ornamental hedgehog at the DIY store

I have been a mother. I have baked a birthday cake for son 2, now 9 and arranged a little  family party with grandparents and cousins. I have run alongside my children on the Wii Fit. I have gone to the local DIY store and bought a sandpit, sand and an ornamental hedgehog.  I have done something interesting. I have taken my three older children on a walk individually, just a circuit from the house, around the local small lane, to the main road and back again. I introduced the idea of observation. I pointed out garden ornaments, poppies, cracks in the pavements, ambiguous painted stencils on walls. I listened to each one of them, noted how they were different. With one it was all about action, leaping up onto walls and gates, running fast and much talk of zombies and codes.  My daughter wanted to gather wild roses, and we did, despite the thorns. The eldest enjoyed discussing scientific fascinations.  Each of them surprised me.



I saw a rainbow in the morning before anyone was up. I enjoy seeing people catching buses in the nick of time.

My second son inspired the story about the bug through an amusing remark.

In my writing I am edging along very slowly. I become frustrated because there is so much to do. I become afraid that, although I love to write, some of the precious time given over to it may be wasted if I can’t make the novel work, if I don’t finish these projects and follow through on them. It matters, and then it doesn’t matter. It matters again.  It is all a muddle.  Sometimes the challenges of parenting (especially a child with Aspergers during less structured holiday time) can be draining.

A beautiful bouquet of roadside flowers from the walk with my daughter

I read a very helpful post lately on writing time, versus writing energy and it really made sense to me.  Especially as writing parents, we need to use the time we have carefully and maintain our energy, to put something back in, to replenish ourselves for the job of being a consistent, stable and comforting entity in our children’s lives. We need to have a life too, a feeling of vitality, a marriage, a means of income, nothing is in isolation.  As Miranda says in this wonderful post on studio mothers, there is no such thing as balance, we might not ever get everything just right.

So then what? A novel to write. A dinner to make. I sit in the early morning at my writing table. My newly nine year old boy arrives sleepy eyed and wants me to look at his Moshi cards, to chose my favourite. This is the same boy who gave me the idea for the bug story, who leaps on walls and gates, thinks of zombies, is writing his own stories about islands and adventures. I put my writing away, for now.


Get out of your (writing) head plus Mother Writer Colette Caddle news

Just a quick note today to say that I have a new post called Get out of your writing head up on Writing.ie.

And great news from one of my Mother Writer Interviewees, the lovely Colette Caddle.  It’s publication day for her new book Always on my Mind. Check out her site for a great competition to win her new book.

In other news, I have a summer cold and the kids are getting bored already.  I’m currently not an exemplary model for combining motherhood and writing but I will update at the end of the week to say what has been possible in my School Hols and the Writing Parent Series. See the first post in the series here (or below!)

School hols & the writing parent: Day 1

Day One of Holidays: Teepees. Camps, Bows and Arrows

First day of holidays which in our case last eight weeks until about the 30th of August, so maybe less of the Head above Water and more of the glug, glug, going under.

With no firm plans so far and no summer camps booked as yet, these weeks are as yet an uncharted opportunity for adventure, play, possibility, chaos and insanity.

If you want some really great ideas about how to occupy your children, please visit the wonderful blog of my latest mother writer interviewee Chris Mosler. She outlines regular activities.  This morning I wrote a list in chalk on the children’s easel

  • Sports school (outside activities)
  • Outings
  • Paintings
  • Tin Whistle
  • Lego
  • Colouring and Reading
  • Board games (remember those!)

So that’s the mother bit then. On the writing side I have a list too:

  • Finish the first draft of my novel.
  • Finish a short story in the next couple of weeks.
  • Sub some stories.
  • Take a look at my first short story collection, substitute some stories and get ready for subbing.
  • Continue to write stories for new flash collection
  • Put through beta edits on my Housewife witha Half-Life comedy space adventure
  • Query Housewife with a Half-Life
  • Finish a book review
  • Do many more drafts on my novel in progress.
  • Regular blogposts especially for my guest blog on writing.ie
  • Lie down

In September I will be in the privileged position of having all the four children out of the house for a few hours a day as the youngest will start preschool but until then I will continue to juggle the reality of having four kids around for most of the hours of the day while doing some work on the above list.  What are the ways I hope to go about this without taking my eye off the kids for too long? (One of my children has been diagnosed with Asperger’s and needs careful management.)

  • 5am starts (I am a lark) for about 2 hrs
  • Weekend writing/some holiday time writing when the other half is around but still incorporating early start for peaceful writing
  • Blog posts/notes/editing during the day when the kids are occupied
  • Make it up as I go along

I will post here week by week to report on the reality of trying to write/create when the kids are around most of the time. If you are a writing parent, what kind of strategies will you be employing as the holiday period begins?

And as you can see from the photos, we did more today than the things that were on our list. We built teepees and made bows and arrows. We had ten kids here making rival camps, dressing up and having face paints, and having adventures. This morning I couldn’t drag myself out of bed for the 5am writing slot.  So writing nil but holiday mum ten points! Oh and I forgot about the mop hockey in the morning. (After washing the floor) Another ten points!