Friday, 29 May 2009

Flash Fiction: His name was not important

Su and Ian gawped through the glass of the Intensive Care Unit at their newborn son. They'd been awake for 72 hours now, always waiting to find out if he'd make it through the next few minutes. Each hour gave them new hope that he'd start to breathe on his own. Each hour they fell more in love with him.

Su was determined that they'd call him Louis but Ian wasn't so keen. Squabbles on what now seemed a trivial issue had abated ten hours into labour when they began to realise that their son might not survive.

Nurses with limited assurances faded in and out of their lives as they considered a lifetime never knowing him. Ian considered the many hours of football coaching his son might never have, the lost opportunity of teaching him new things, watching him marvel at buses and trains and butterflies landing on petals. Things Ian had stopped noticing but would experience again through child's eyes. Ian already missed his son.

Su was taking it hardest. Inexplicably, she was blaming herself for her son's struggle to draw breath. He was early. Su wasn't prepared for his arrival and she was even less prepared for his departure. She wasn't thinking about what she'd miss out on if her son died; she was thinking about all the things Louis would never experience. He'd never love, be angered, feel sad or know the joy of doing something well, even if that was just scrawling unintelligible lines on a piece of scrap paper. She was overwhelmed with love for this child she'd been unable to hold, or even really touch. This child who'd missed out on the first crucial hours of bonding.

Su and Ian didn't know that I had been there for him in their absence. When they went home for a few hours every night to try to sleep, I would creep into the unit and comfort him. They didn't know that I loved him or that a friendly nurse helped me to feed him and kept watch for me. They didn't know that I'd held him when he'd seemed stronger this morning and that he'd clenched my finger in his tiny hand. Maybe he didn't want them as his parents. Maybe he knew I would be able to look after him after all. Despite what we'd all agreed. I didn't want to break it to them before we knew that Oliver was safe. I knew it would be hard to be his mum on my own. But I was keeping him.

In response to the Internet Writing Workshop's exercise: A Child Is Born.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Why Susan Boyle won't (and shouldn't) win Britain's Got Talent

There can't be many people who are unaware of Susan Boyle. Type her name into Google and you'll find 7,270,000 results related to this 'singing sensation' (Times Online). The single, 47 year old woman from Blackburn has taken the world by storm since her first appearance on Britain's Got Talent on the 11th of May.

Susan's first rendition of 'I Dreamed a Dream' from Les Miserables shocked the studio audience, the judges and viewers at home after she walked on the stage, wiggled her wide, middle-aged hips and proclaimed that she'd 'never been kissed'.

The introduction pieces to camera just before venturing on stage clearly set up viewers with preconceived ideas; cute kids and young adults with sob stories are almost definitely excellent and get the necessary 'yeses', whilst the old and middle-aged are mocked with clownish music and shots of them saying how 'this is their dream', telling Ant and Dec how brilliant they are and predicting victory.

Susan's introduction immediately fell into the 'sad case' category as we listened to comedic music playing over shots of her munching a sandwich and standing awkwardly backstage as she waited for her cue. Viewers looked forward to another freak show to laugh at as she walked on the stage in her drab, gold dress, ungroomed eyebrows and bird's nest hair.

With Simon calling her 'darling', we could be forgiven for thinking that this would be another deluded contestant to provide hilarity in between the good acts; after all, she'd declared that she'd 'make that audience rock', and as we've seen before, those with too much confidence often fall flat on stage.

Well, we were wrong. In contrast to her appearances, Susan did have talent indeed. She wowed everyone and was given a standing ovation.

Susan now has a fan site ( and has been name-checked by Homer Simpson, who marked her as 'a great singer'; one he'd aspire to. She even appeared across the pond on Oprah Winfrey's show, where she twirled for America.

She's hounded by paparazzi and over the last six weeks, the tabloid newspapers have documented her transformation from 'hairy angel' to coiffed and made-up woman about town.

So why were people so inspired by Susan? Everyone knows these are hard times; people are tightening their belts and spending less on entertainment and grooming. Perhaps the two activities of personal grooming and television, when negatively correlated, have produced the Susan Boyle effect? The more time we spend at home, watching reality television, the less time we spend out of the house and the less time we take to dress up and put our slap on. Perhaps we appreciated the every-woman quality of this anti-narcissist Scottish woman and the shock of a beautiful voice resonating through the lungs of a - let's face it - rotund, hirsute woman, made us realise that there's more to life than how we look. Don't judge a book by its cover: beauty is only skin deep.

OK, enough of the clich├ęs. Yes, it's true that Susan Boyle astounded us for all the wrong reasons and that's not really a good thing, but let's be realistic. Susan isn't going to win Britain's Got Talent, despite the hype, or, in fact, because of it.

Take away the judges, the lights and the screaming audience whose reactions are ordained by crew members holding up signs, take away Ant and Dec and the whole competition, and what are you left with?

Close your eyes and listen to both of Susan's songs. Try to forget her appearances on the news, in the papers and her mention in The Simpsons.

First audition (YouTube embedding disabled by request).

What do you hear? A mediocre singer, that's what you hear. Susan's voice isn't special and it's not particularly strong. If Susan Boyle had been on the X-Factor she'd have been out before boot camp. If she'd been a faintly attractive 30 year old, she'd have been kicked out before the semi-finals. When you boil it down (pun fully intended), the only reason she's still in this competition is because Susan is unattractive.

I don't expect you to agree with me; after all, everyone is talking about her winning the series and she's a topic of conversation all over the world. Twitter even recommended her as a search topic in my side-bar on Sunday night. On clicking, I found Twitterers extolling her virtues and posting YouTube videos of her semi-final rendition of 'Memory' from Cats.

So why don't I agree that she'll win? For the same reasons that she's become so famous - her looks.

We like our celebrities to fall into one or more of the following categories; they must be beautiful, like Angelina Jolie or Catherine Zeta-Jones, intelligent and talented like Stephen Fry or Judie Dench, or inspirational, like Richard Branson.

Unfortunately, Susan doesn't fit into any of these. We don't want our celebrities to be normal, every-man types, we want them to be someone we aspire to. Whether it's striving to have hair by L'Oreal like Eva Longoria, acting talent like Anthony Hopkins or the charisma of the late Steve Irwin, they have to be exceptional in some way.

Susan isn't exceptional enough to make money for Syco, Simon Cowell's record label. After the hype has died down, where does Susan go from there? Who is the target audience for her CD and tour? What kind of shows will she appear on to plug her new album of Elaine Paige covers? I can't imagine her being a hit on Loose Women or the kind of guest Jonathan Ross would deign to interview on a Friday night. What would they talk about?

Ms Boyle wouldn't be the first overnight success to be forgotten in 12 months' time. Where is Steve Brookstein, the first winner of the X-Factor? After 12 weeks he lost his record deal, worth £1m, and now sings on ferries. He got 800,000 more votes than this year's winner, Alexandra Burke, but he just wasn't marketable enough. Should Steve's musical demise be a warning to Susan? I think so.

**EDIT** - I know where Steve Brookstein is now - being interviewed on Sky News regarding Susan's four letter tirade against Piers Morgan's praise of Shaheen
Jafargholi. ***

No, Susan won't win. Her celebrity brings viewers and promotes both ITV and Britain's Got Talent, but she's just not marketable enough.

The very thing that made her famous will be her downfall. I just hope that Susan hasn't gotten too caught up in the hype herself. After all, Pebbles the cat as an audience just isn't the same as the Royal family.

*EDIT* - it seems that I'm not the only one who doesn't rate Susan.

So, what do you think? Will I be proven spectacularly wrong tonight, having to retract this article and erase all knowledge of it? If she does win, where does she go from there? Feel free to lambast me in the comments section below....

Friday, 22 May 2009

Flash Fiction: Scandal in Sakuoza

As Sakura watched the chocolate sauce soak into the woman's silk dress she felt a flutter of bitter satisfaction in her stomach. The woman hadn't even noticed the viscous drips hit the delicately embroidered pink fabric as she greedily hoovered up the profiteroles. The chocolate was cooling now, obscuring the pretty blue cornflowers that surrounded her flat chest. Sakura was transfixed, watching the woman spill more and more hot sauce on her wonderful outfit.

Sakura didn't consider herself a jealous woman but in this last week George had seemed distant, preoccupied; something terrible was weighing heavily on his mind. They'd only been married for a month, after four months of internet dating and two months together here in Japan.

She'd dismissed her suspicions at first but now, watching him talk animatedly with this stranger at the wedding of two of George's friends, she felt sure that something was going on that she wasn't going to like. Not only was she worried about her husband getting too close to this other woman, Sakura was nervous; she'd never met any of these English people before. Most of them didn't speak Japanese and they were finding it hard to understand her attempts to communicate. Sakura had decided to get away from everyone for a while and was standing under a Cherry Blossom tree, watching the guests mill around.

George seemed enraptured by the woman's heavy, Western features. Her face seemed so large and her hair was a dirty brown, unlike Sakura's ebony waterfall of locks. He didn't even seem to notice the small drips of chocolate that had given Sakura so much pleasure to watch. Sakura was too far away to hear what they were saying but her imagination was running wild.

Although George was English, he'd always said he'd preferred the bijoux features of Japanese women. They'd often joked that his attraction to Asian women was the only reason he'd decided to do business in here.

The woman was leaning in now, whispering into George's ear. Surely they knew that someone would see them? Surely they knew she was here somewhere and that she could discover them at any moment? The pair rose and wandered towards the dance-floor. Sakura followed them surreptitiously, avoiding groups of grandparents uttering platitudes to the newlyweds. Once she was safely hidden behind a group of friends, Sakura settled down at a table to plot her revenge. Would she cut up all his suits, bury his golf clubs or poison his Koi? Violent schemes turned the cogs in her mind, never revealing themselves on her pretty face. Never before had the saying 'still waters run deep' been so apt.

As Sakura plotted her husband's eventual demise, George and the stranger had disappeared back into the hotel. Sakura didn't see them leave the dance floor and was so deep in her vicious plotting that she didn't notice George's friend, who she'd met earlier in the day, sitting behind her.

"Hey Sakura! Isn't George's step-sister gorgeous? Do you think you could set us up?" he said, confused at the look on Sakura's face.

Flash-fiction submitted to the Internet Writing Workshop in response to 'What's driving (V2)'

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Why employ a proofreader/editor?

Many people think 'surely a word processor like Microsoft Word can pick up spelling and grammar errors? Plus, I'll give it a look over before I'm finished with it...'

There are two reasons why this strategy won't give you the best result:

  • Word processors will pick up obvious spelling errors like 'wrting', but won't pick up homophones like 'their', 'they're' and 'there'.
  • Proofreading your own work is nigh on impossible. I'm a proofreader by trade, but sometimes miss my own errors. A writer is too close to their writing to notice spelling mistakes - your brain is designed to take shortcuts (called schemas). These shortcuts lead you to miss certain things because you've already seen something and processed it - you don't always see something how it actually is; your brain does a lot of guesswork. It's a bit like how a website 'caches' information - it only reloads something when it's new or the original information has been deleted. That's why you press F5 to get a website to reload when something's been changed on a page. I often wish I could 'F5' my own brain after a late night!
Quickly glance at this picture: Notice anything strange? Until you find it, you won't see what the point of the picture is.

Once you've worked it out, you'll know what I mean about the difficulty of proofreading when your brain is tricking you with schemas!

If you're looking for a fast and accurate proofreader/editor, then please contact me via my website for more information.

What/who is Cam Poetic License?

Hello, and welcome to the blog of Cam Poetic License, a new proofreading, editing and writing* service for businesses and students.

I offer the following services:

  • Articles and features
  • Proofreading
  • Copyediting
  • Descriptions for products and services
  • Website content creation
Why choose Cam Poetic License for your proofreading, editing and copywriting needs?

I have been proofreading, editing and writing for about six years. I have just made the leap into the world of freelancing.

As a freelancer, I can provide less expensive services than large proofreading and editing companies.

From May 2007 to September 2008 I worked for a leading UK games company in Cambridge, providing them with proofreading services (amongst other duties). This experience of reading and proofreading at the same time really honed my skills and means that I am extremely fast and accurate. In my time in this role I never missed a typo, grammar error or language inconsistency.

In this role I also provided informative, engaging and interesting writing for employees. My biggest project was re-writing 20 A4 pages of guidelines. I managed to restructure and condense these guidelines into 3 pages, making the guidelines concise, educational and user-friendly. I also regularly proofread customer service responses on the company forums and tickets to players, providing feedback to the online moderators.

Another big part of my role was educating staff on grammar, punctuation and written communication skills.
Other writing-related jobs I have had included editing legal documents, creating Intranet sites and report writing for Lombard North Central.

I have also proofread several students' theses and dissertations, teach English to foreign students and currently have an ongoing contract with Elekta, a medical company in Crawley, West Sussex.

For testimonials on my services, please visit my testimonials page

Cam Poetic License: a work in progress

After four years living in Cambridge, in September 2008 I moved back to Surrey, where I grew up. This move prompted me to re-evaluate what my career goals and aspirations were and I decided that I would like to go freelance. Now, after a few 'normal' jobs, I am launching Cam Poetic License.

I've been doing a lot of research on setting up a home business, marketing, advertising and other important things like Search Engine Optimisation.
I will be writing about my experiences setting up a new business on this blog as well as writing articles, stories and (possibly) poetry.

If you'd like more information on Cam Poetic License's services, then please visit my website.

*please note that I do not provide writing services for students; only proofreading and editing.