HTML Giant, Ted Hughes, permission to write, privilege, education, commas.

I read online publications and submit my own stories. The standard is high (so high that comparing the weaker books for sale at work in the bookshop leaves me baffled at how they are published in print and some of these online authors are not) and sometimes that is an exhilarating thing that inspires and pushes me, and other times it kinda makes me a wee bit anxious – am I good enough, how can I get better?

There are a wealth of do’s and don’t’s scattered thru the lit blogs; advice which can help but also hinder. HTML Giant has a lot of very good writers who say things authoritatively, persuasively and thoughtfully. (And other times they talk a load of bollox, but that’s not relevant right now.) I enjoy reading HTML Giant although occasionally I struggle with what I perceive as its American Academia “in club” vibe.

Recently I have been fretting about my lack of a formal writing education. I don’t think my A level English Lit counts for much! I have begun doubting my ability to compete with all the MFA/MA students out in the world. I am pretty much self taught, and what I know I have gleaned from reading. It has got me this far, wherever this far is. Now I worry that misplacing a comma and fucking up formatting is working against me when I submit to the same ‘zines these HTML people edit and inhabit.

I took Simon to Oxford for a birthday treat last weekend. We did the tourist bus tour and looked at University sites and beautiful old buildings. Part of me felt a familiar twist of resentment – I felt the same when we visited Cambridge – a tug of longing to immerse myself in study, an unpleasant envy of those who do. Anyway, I enjoyed myself in Blackwell’s. I bought a copy of Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style” which I hope may help me. I also bought a half price copy of “Letters of Ted Hughes”. I’m a huge cliche in that I adore the whole Ted and Sylvia *thing* and have for years. I love both of their poetry (and prose) and hold them in the highest literary regard. Their story began in Cambridge, and knowing that Sylvia Plath was a genius student I have always imagined that Ted was too. I began reading “Letters” last night and was delighted to read Christopher Reid (the editor) write in his introduction:

“A more pervasive problem has been what to do with Hughes’s spelling mistakes, which occur liberally in both manuscripts and typescripts, and with his idiosyncratic punctuation and sometimes wayward grammar and syntax.”

Yipee! He goes on:

“Oddities of punctuation are even more abundant, and most of these I have preserved…”

“…Missing commas and full stops, the pairing of single with double inverted commas, lists lacking their expected commas and such like.”

Now I am in no way comparing my writing self with that of Hughes, but ooh, how lovely to know that such a hero had fucksy commas too! Plus, he swapped his English course for Anthropology and only achieved a 2nd. Ha!


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