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Age 12 Stacey Pidden was diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension (PH) and given a couple of years to live unless she went on a new trial drug which, with her parents behind her, she did. A decade later and she was given two years to live and put on the waiting list for a double lung and heart transplant - that was three years ago. She blogged her story to us students here at the Open University from 2011, then a couple of years later started her public blog.  One friend with PH stopped taking drugs and died. She shares everything openly and honestly. From age 4 she underwent heart surgery and had a couple of operations every year or so. What is immediately apparent in blog is her skill as a writer and her view that “life is worth fighting for.”

Stacey is a feisty and determined and would be far weaker had she not found her voice and even a purpose in life: she is the voice of a new NHS donor card campaign.

Doing the FutureLearn course 'Medicine and the Arts' we hear from Marc Hendricks who express concern that children’s voices in medical institutions have been marginalised.

I see value in blogging as a creative outlet: it combines so much that the University of Cape Town team addresses in this course: giving young patients a voice - their voice, in a way that suits them.

Tracey, for example, is in close contact with the 17 other in the UK waiting for a double lung and heart transplant like her: this empowers her and reassures her - there are other people in her situation and she has a voice that requires no filters. Susan Levine in 'Medicine and the Arts' talks of a person’s life world.’ Tracey shares her ‘life world’ with us; whilst we may think of our community as neighbours and friends, hers includes her transplant team and regular consultants. A blog is text, voice, photos, artwork and even song; whatever the author wants in fact. It’s certain than visual metaphors as Kate Abney in 'Medicine and the Arts' found are an important way to express meaning too. While hospital radio is another way to enable storytelling as Nina Callaghan from in 'Medicine and the Arts' has found.

Creatively Stacie is a erudite, witty and frank voice representing those waiting for a transplant. Where permitted, children, not just young adults, should be given such freedoms to communicate and share beyond the confines of their ward and so give them confidence to speak their minds, improving their lives, their motivation to live and the quality of communication with hospital staff.

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Medicine and the Arts: probably the best online course I have yet come across

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I've been learning online since 2001. I took my MA ODE between 2010 and 2013. I am still here. I've done between eight and twelve FutureLearn courses - finished six 100%. I am struck by the quality of the course from the University of Cape Town called Medicine and the Arts: both as a piece of e-learning and for its content I believe it to be the best of its kind and a fine example to any university or institution planning a course such as this.

I'll run through the criteria I posted here earlier and consider what it is that makes it work. These include accessibility, variety and quality of speakers, the professionalism and quality of all things from art work, copy and video production, the 'less is more' approach that keeps things simple, the engaging conversations with fellow participants and the involved of educators too.

 

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How I write

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 1 Apr 2015, 19:11

I've abandoned the computer screen and QWERTY keyboard for writing; I think better pen to paper - in my case ink pen to refill pad.

I am using notes from Kurt Vonnegut on story shape, from Susannah Waters on scene building tips and cheats and from the zoologist and anthropologist Desmond Morris who wrote 'Man Watching'.

Between them I've been standing back from my efforts of the last few months to try to see the wood from the jungle; to give it some order, like a closely managed English deciduous copse rather than a wild and vast forest.

There is masses online to feed you with tips, hints and cheats.

And through things like the BBC Writers' Room and a regional arts organisation, such as New Writing South, in my case, ample opportunities to have a go at being published or produced.

Meanwhile, despite the number of variations I've had on 'The Form Photo' I feel there is a shape worth cutting from the growth I have laid down.

From Kurt Vonnegut I take and overlap two story shapes - am I allowed to do that? Robbie, follows the 'man in the whole' pattern - unable to thrive in the rarified wealth of her 'sinks' with some relief into a few more modest years living with his maternal grandparents. While Kizzy, is a Cinderella story shape - it has to be as she comes from some a deprived background: on the round, illiterate, abused and poor. She makes a few bids at escape and is then rescued through adoption. Any of this make sense? It does to me. Simplified it is a 'Boy meets Girl story' where Kizzy and Robbie meet and become fond of each other as kids ... then meet again in the later teens but she says she wants nothing to do with him unless he proves himself in various ways for her.

I'm posting all draft of my current writing in 'Start Writing Fiction.' 

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The shape of stories

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 30 Mar 2015, 11:13
From Writing

Kurt Vonnegut's wanted to write an MA thesis on the common shapes of stories: he was told it was too simple. He can be found in various interviews and presentations waxing lyrical about the shape stories take.

His are: 1) Cinderella: needs no elaboration. Applies to implemental steps of progress, radical failure then absolute glory.

2) Boy Meets Girl similar: we know it. Applies to any story of desire for something, its loss, then recovery. Also romcom territory. 

3) Man in a Whole: things go bad, then you get out of your whole. Shawshank Redemtion. Martian. Haruki Murakami wrote a novel in which the protagonist was really down a well much of the time. I feel I'm most inclined to relate to and to write this one.

4) New Testament: like Cinderella–gifted things, which are then taken away before being returned with interest.

5) Old Testament: gifted things that are taken away forever.

6) Creation Stories: God made Earth in seven days ...

7) From Bad to Worse: And it never gets better. Says it all. Fallen.

8) Which Way Is Up: That ambiguity in life where we don't know what is good or bad from actions and events. Probably the hardest to sustain. Hamlet. 

What you get if you use a plot generator smile

 Have a go with Plot Generator

Of far better use is TV Tropes, which is a cross-media analysis of story types, with examples and links to the authors. 

 

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Do you have a Christmas decoration that is still out?

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From Xmas Decorations

Every year we find, over the course of several months, a Christmas decoration that is still out: fell behind the sofa, on in this case, it has made itself at home and is innocuous enough to look as if it belongs there forever - now it does

There's a tinsel ball no bigger than some fluff on top of the bathroom mirror: I think that's made a permanent home for itself too.

Do you have decorations that never get put away?

When do you get rid of the Christmas tree? Ours only made it to the dump, in bits, a week ago.

 

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Posting fiction at Startwringfiction.wordpress.com

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I set up www.startwritingfiction.wordpress.com at the end of the Start Writing Fiction course from FutureLearn adn the OU in order that some 8-12 of us could share our writing. It very quickly worked out easier for us each to manage our own blogs so I find myself landed with 'startwritingfiction.' 

Here I get the same pleasure, feedback and community feel that can exist here. You get to know a few people well and respond to each other's work on a regular basis.

Connectivity should equal support, not just access to information. 

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Reading and writing with fresh eyes

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 25 Mar 2015, 07:37
From Writing

Fig.1. Philip Pirrip is confronted by the 'fearful man, all in course gray ... '

Start Writing Fiction is a FutureLearn Course. Its content makes up part of an OpenLearn Course. It is a thread in the Creative Writing Course here at the OU.Three months on having completed the course it is about to repeat. I'll be there.

From E-Learning IV

Fig.2. How we learn in the 21st century. J F Vernon E-learning (2011)

We learn through repetition; not simply learning by rote.

We learn through passing through the same loop over and over again. There is nothing so special about graduation, gaining an MA, a PhD or achieving the lofty status of 'professor' so long as you are willing to climb, as if on a thermal, one focused ever ascending loop seeing the same thing over and over again in new light, until, through insight or height from the ground you see something new and have something new to say.

There are some key lessons to learn from 'Start Writing Fiction; (SWF)' though it is never the whole story - for that you need to sign up to a graduate course on Creative Writing. There's plenty to work with though. I look forward to being reminded what matters. It kicks off again on 27th April and runs for three months. 

Reading matters as much as writing.

The precocious child who read copious volumes and gets into literature in their early teens has an advantage. I was slow to read and reluctant to read. The only novels I may have read as a child were forced on me through school. Even in my teens as I read 'Great Expectations' and 'Silas Marner' for O' Levels and 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' for A' Levels I did say like a parrot: If I picked up an 'B' grade at both levels it was only because I regurgitated precisely what I had been tutored to put down.

Over three decades later, 33/35 years later to be exact if I check my diary from that time, I am reading Dickens with fresh eyes.

My late mother bought me a second hand edition of all the Dickens novels. I never read one. I now have 'Great Expectations' for free courtesy of 'Project Guttenberg' on my Kindle. I am reading it with lessons from 'Start Writing Fiction' in the front of my mind. SWF concentrates on the key, though not only component, of good writing: character. I am chewing over every line of Dickens with a rye smile on my face: I see what he's doing with Pip, with the escaped convict from the hulk, his older sister and her husband Joe the Blacksmith, with Miss Haversham and Estella. If 'character is plot' then the plot moves, in a series of steps, over the heads of each character. We are carried by Pip with repeated moments of laugh out loud insights to a child's perception and feelings for the world. How had I not see this before?

For the umpteenth time I am doing what doesn't come naturally to me: I should be painting, not writing.

Intellectually I feel like the child who is left handed who had than arm tied behind his back as a child to force him to write against his will with his right. I have managed well enough, but it is against character and it is too late to correct? I need to work with words as the text that describes what I see. Text has other values too of course. It can carry a story beyond a single canvas.

A creative writing tutor, editor and author - former opera singer and opera director - Susannah Waters in reviewing my writing on a retreat last September gave me more than SWF can do on its own. An A4 sheet torn in half offers the following tips on 'Scene Building:'

  • Who am I?
  • Stay in the person's head
  • Put me in the place

She expands on these.

Every line of 'Great Expectations' is in Pip's voice, written as autobiography much later in life, in the moment, capturing for now, his wonder, fear, feelings and hopes. It helps me enormously as I try to construct a story of my own set  in the couple of decades 1966 to 1986, rather than 1820 to 1860. Characters don't change, technology and society does. It helps me to contain my imagination and fears as I feel it falling apart. Character will hold it together; each character needs to surprise. 

I wish I could find the link to the BBC Radio 4 programme in which an author, Michael Morpurgo or Alexander McCall Smith talks about writing; it was on over the last three weeks. Or was it on TV?! Tips and devices were spoken of, but what had most resonance for me was the idea that an authors wonder at even the most mundane creates interest for the reader. 

I used to discount Dickens as old fashioned; I now feel that I am reading Dickens with the same wonder of someone who has broken through the fog of a new language and is becoming fluent. Can I now translate this into my own writing? For now the juggling game I am playing is my writing in one hand, Dickens in the other.

Sharing where I stand matters hugely. Knowing that others are following my journey and are supportive matters: it keeps me going. Being online matters. It is the next best thing to standing on a soapbox in the local park and reading passages from my efforts. Feedback matters as it guides you.

On this retreat last September we read out our work, actually Susannah read my piece for me as I wanted to hear it from a different voice. We were around an open fire in a cottage in Devon. Telling stories around a fire takes you back to the origins of storytelling; what must you say to hold their attention, to keep them entertained, to make them cry (I did with that one), to make them laugh, fear, hope, clap, get angry ... and ponder, even panic over the outcome. In that story I had a soldier in the First World War slowly sinking into mud, up to his chest and neck ... screaming for life.

 

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Recreating that OU student feeling

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 24 Mar 2015, 12:13
From E-Learning VI

Need to plug a gap between courses or just can't stop e-learning?

I'm currently fighting my cerebral way through:

The Mind Is Flat

Understanding Drugs and Addiction

Community Journalism

Medicine and the Arts

Each has something to recommend though the humdingers are 'Understanding Drugs and Addiction' and 'Medicine and the Arts' : beautifully and thoughtfully done. Education as entertainment? 

 

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The Seven Sisters towards Beachy Head from Seaford Head

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 25 Mar 2015, 07:42

 Fig. 1 Jeremy Irvine (War House) and Dakota Fanning (loads of films) on Seaford Head looking towrds the Seven Sisters.

This gem of a film is also from the director of "The Magnificent Marigold Hotel.' Dakota Fanning is a 17 year old dying of cancer with a wish list. Her performance is wonderful and she totally credible as English.

What's odd here is that the bench is pointed away from the view towards some gorse bushes and lacks a dedication which all such chairs have up there. I know because I walk the dog here often. Today I stumbled upon the largest camp of film lighting, catering, wardrobes and other support services I have yet seen. Are they filming Iron Man IV down there?

I have thus far stumbled upon the filming of a scenes from Atonement, what I was told was an Eastenders special, a TV commercial and picking up shots for Harry Potter (It's where the World Quidditch game is played).

Do you live next to a regularly used film location?

As a boy we had Alnwick Castle up the road. Long before Harry Potter they filmed something called 'King Arthur and the Spaceman' in which I was an extra all one summer. I was 16. I was the 'King's Guard Special' to Kenneth Moor's Arthur.

 

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The Brian is authentic, the mind is a squiggly line?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 17 Mar 2015, 17:26
From E-Learning VI

Fig.1. Grab from The mind is flat. 

Across FutureLearn videos the name caption always come up right of screen whether or not there are one, two or more people featured. Does this kind of thing bother you? There are no fewer than THREE opportunities to brand this as 'The University of Warwick' - one would do, none are necessary. We know that this entire course if from Warwick. See them: Branded watermark in the top right hand corner, on the strapline (the least necessary and most erroneous) and yet again in the video time line ... there is a fourth if you include the page this grab came from. 

Other amateur antics include surreptitiously reading off notes, glancing away at the camera operator, having a second camera or wobble cam as if this a Jamie Oliver cookery course, that's before we have to think about the antics of the video editor who wants to prove that they should be cuttin pop videos.

Otherwise I love the learning and discussions and the argument for multimedia being 'good enough' rather than of TV broadcast quality is largely right: overly produced is just as bad as amateurish.

Anything that gets in the way of the message is wrong. Otherwise the above is perfect: an authentic exchange and share. So, authenticity rules? Mistakes and all. Speak the language of the fluid internet conversation. Keep it simple. Employ people with experience who know what they are doing. 

From E-Learning VI

 

Fig.2. Nick Chater and Jess Whittlestone. Co-stars of 'The Thorny Birds'.

 

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How many people have started the MAODE because of this blog?

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Two years in a contact has signed up, others I know have, along the way, at least done a course from the MAODE with me. Whilst posting all this content externally at www.mindbursts.com and here hasn't earned me a penny I'm glad the OU are getting students as a result. Perhaps they'd give me a course gratis as I can longer afford it. I have 60 credits towards a history MA and 60 credits towards an M.Ed. I rather fancied Creative Writing though smile 

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Inspired by The Thorn Birds

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 14 Mar 2015, 15:36
From Writing

Fig.1. The Thorn Birds. From my iPad

Every few weeks my writing output collapses as I wonder where on earth I am going with it. A few weeks ago I thought 30,000 words along the lines of 'Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging' would be good enough and about the standard and tone of what I was producing as I wrote up the antics of a 15/16 year old with his eye on any pretty girl. 

A second character appeared and grew. She took over the lives of two others and developed a life of her own.

I have both these two age six or so onwards.

Somewhere I got a whiff of 'The Thorn Birds' and so have had a couple of days reading what I vaguely remember as a TV series of Rachel Ward. It was on in 1983. I picked up bits of it. I had assumed it had been on far earlier than that, more like the mid 1970s. 

Anyway, this story told over sixty years has its appeal as a model. There is more sense to it as the lives of the immediate family around the central characters are brought to life than my determined efforts to thread together a group of girls from a Form Photograph. 

 

 

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One day all TV will be like Euronews

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 10 Mar 2015, 12:49
From E-Learning VI

The transition to a mixed media approach to news that is neither print magazine or old style TV news coverage has finally been achieved by Euronews. You don't know if you are reading, listening or viewing as the total experience merges all three.

One day all information sharing will be like this. You read it or view and/or listen all in one go seamlessly rolling between formats to suit your head's needs. 

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Life Logging and education

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 8 Mar 2015, 03:34

The idea of recording our daily lives is an ancient one: records, journals, letters and papers have been kept for centuries. Only recently has it become possible to keep digital versions of our day. There are reasons why we forget though; there are reasons too why our perceptions of the world aren't that great either. 

I happen to be one of those people who started a diary when I was 13. I had the misfortune of being sent away to school from the age of 8 too. As well as the diaries I have bundles of letters I received from the age of 8 to 16 - I refused to return to the 'institution' my parents were subjecting to me and got it to a 'normal' schooling.

Only in the last couple of days have I taken a close look at a diary I started almost exactly 40 years ago, or at letters I was receiving at the time. When my mother died I received a bundle of letters I had written to her as well. I never expressed to anyone, or was asked, how I felt about being sent away to school, though I remember my first night as vividly as my last. Reading back feels as if I was subjected to a prison sentence. For all the privilege, tenderness, trust and love was removed. Something as simple as a hug became a rare thing for holidays. There was, thankfully, none of the abuse, you hear of. Though boys were caned, and slippered. The torture was bottling up feelings and learning to deal with problems in your own way - even friends could, if given too much information, turn against you.

I was bashed through a sausage machine and have only rarely been able to reconstruct the person I may have thought I'd be age 7 or 8. Poor little rich boy? I didn't ask for that, or the violent breakup of my parents when I was 8. At least I've given my kids stability and love. One just left the nest and it was delightful to reflect on how much time as a family we have been together: barely more than a few days apart in her lifetime. Society should above all else value stability in families and an open, revealing and liberating education rather than a closed, introverted and exclusive one. 

I am not surprised to find, even where some of them have the money, that not one person I know who either went to such school age 8-13 or 13-18 has sent their children away. There are so many reasons why it was wrong them, and no better today. Today he problem is separating young people from the world they belong to instead of mixing up income brackets, race, religion, genders and even age groups. If I had influence, or power to change the way we educate our young people in this country it would be to open it up, by legislation. Nothing destructive, but to expect and develop a better mix, rather than the current exclusivity. We should abolish the charitable status independent schools have to start; what is charitable about an elitist institution? They should be open to public scrutiny and expected to earn it: 50% fee paying, 25% on reduced fees, 25% free places? 

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Enjoyed 'Ida' - loved 'Chinese Puzzle'

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After a 12 hour + writing marathon yesterday I managed to follow two movies: the polish Oscar 'Ida' which is moving and beautiful with an actress of iconic cookiness and ability. And then the third part in the trilogy, worthy of an oscar itself, 'Chinese Puzzle' set in France and the US and happily mixing between French and English.

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Scene Building

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Who am I? (Point of view). Who is accessing this scene for the reader?

Stay in that person’s head – same applies to omniscient narrator. Stay in their age, their voice, their way of thinking/see/noticing, because of who they are and where they are, both emotionally and physically, and contextually (time of relating this story).

Now, from that person’s viewpoint, i.e. you are him or her:

What can you see?

What can you hear?

What can you smell?

What do you touch?

What do you taste?

i.e put me in that place.

What are you doing?

Show me state of mind/emotions/reactions

What are you saying?

What are you thinking?

With thanks to Susannah Waters for this.

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Like 20 EMAs in one go - and as many choice words

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I've written over 100,000 words since November, half of this in the last six weeks. Guided by the OU content I have access to: OpenLearn, FutureLearn and books I am now editing a first draft of a novel. This is only possible thanks also to a reader/editor I 'met' on the OU 'Start Writing Fiction' course on FutureLearn last year.

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What the OU has taught me

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Whilst I cannot yet see how or where I will use my OU MA I have, over five years, here and when studying, learnt to fill much of my day with reading and writing. In one respect I am back where I was exactly nine years ago: writing all the hours I can. I don't blog. I go to bed early with a story or character on my mind and as soon as I am awake I am looking at notes I received overnight from a reader I befriended on the OU FutureLearn course 'Start Writing Fiction.'

Nine years ago I worked freelance writing and editing copy for websites, training and promotional. Nine years ago I started to take professional swim coaching work. I do both of these again four days a week for a few hours at a time: the wolf is not so much at the door, as sitting at my side but I don't feel I have any choice any more.

Meanwhile I envy my 18 year old daughter who took herself off to Paris, took two jobs, has rented a studio flat and is writing fiction with the kind of enthusiasm she had devouring books when she was little. Good for her.

I am writing at www.startwritingfiction.wordpress.com

This blog I set up initially so that a bunch of us could share work to review. It turned out more practical and very easy for each of us to have our own blogs though.

I no longer blog per se. Rather I write up between 500 and 3000 words of fiction every day, sometimes 5000 words If I am transcribing things I have already written. 

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Why you should follow Stacie Pidden's blog

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 18 Feb 2015, 08:39

I've followed Stacie's story since she started blogging here in February 2011. 19 I think. She has been waiting for a lung and heart transplant for the last four years while studying with the OU and sharing life, family, friends and events like we are all buddies. Good for her. Her wit, openness, struggles, honesty and attitude is life-enhancing. Ironic given that she personally doesn't know if she'll live out the year. She refuses all approaches from boys because she can't face having to tell them straight away, or a little later, that she might not have long to live. In between frequent visits to hospitals in Papworth and Hospital she shares her birthdays and christmases, her TMA struggles and visits to the theatre, concerts and the Harry Potter Studios.

Last week she appeared on Good Morning Britain to launch the 'Give a heart' campaign on Valentine's day ... she needs a heart and lungs and is one of only 17 or so people awaiting such a transplant in the UK. Follow her blog and learn how long it took to get onto the list, and then the heartbreak as hopes constantly raised and dashed. 

Life is worth the fight

She has been waiting for a heart and lung transplant for nearly three years. 

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Who are you?

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For most of us, most of the time, our identity works for us so we do not question it. But when it does not feel right, or is under threat, then we are suddenly made very aware of how central and vital our identity is. Grayson Perry.

Who are you?

The exhibition on portraiture and British identity on now at the National Portrait Gallery is a fascinating way to spend an hour to 90 minutes. #GraysonPerry

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What's it like doing a free online course that works?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 9 Feb 2015, 08:24

In earlier posts I've likened the courses on FutureLearn (don't call them MOOCs) to a good hardback book. This misses a crucial element: the connectivity with other students (I prefer to call then participants). I would therefore say, looking for a few lines to explain the appeal to the ignorant, that it is like joining a book club: everyone has the same thing to talk about.

The current course that I love is "Exploring Filmmaking' - storytelling is universal, and that's what this is about. 'Boyhood' winning the BAFTA last night also reasserted the joy, pleasure and value of stories about our lives as they are without special effects, superheros, drugs or murder: Growing up is drama enough.

 

 

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Diaryland and the writer's itch

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 8 Feb 2015, 08:29

1,783,027 words, 1,879 entries over 5,091 pages if printed off. 

This how I left my first blog.

It barely scratches the surface of the memories a brain can recreate. I tried. I have in there repeated efforts to recall the very first things I could ever feasibly have formed as viable memories: or were they words and images put into my head by my mother much later? I also noticed that in the comments I have two years of conversations with the now published author Catherine Valente and, would that I could verify it, a short exchange with Norman Mailer. 

This diary is on 'Diaryland;' started in September 1999, finally ended in March 2006. It feels like landfill: there's so much stuff in there rotting away. Though it doesn't, it's digital. Closed because while I don't give a monkey's about writing on everything I have done, thought about or think where people can be identified it does cause embarrassment and pain. It took me a few years to realise that if I was receiving 200+ views an hour some of these people might know me. No one I knew ever, ever said they were there. Not for a long time. Perhaps they knew I'd close it down if they let on? I tried to obscure names and locations but that just got very confusing. I held a mirror along the Pennines and set everything that had taken place in Northumberland in Cumbria and vice versa. For people's names I tried initials, but 'JV,' for me is a give away, so I cleverly decided to change names by one letter in the alphabet, so 'JV' would become 'KW' and I'd give him the name 'Ken,' for example. I knew a lot of Sallys and Sarahs who all become 'Tamsin' or 'Tabatha' which threw my head into immediately constructing different personas for them. Ken and Tabatha sounds like the relationship between a Barbie doll and a Sacha doll.

There were a lot of 'Js' too for both boys and girls from the 1970s and there is a limited choice of 'Ks' to go with.

Only a few years later bumping into old friends from home and school have they said they knew all about 'X', and 'Y' or looked at the drawings I did of 'K' and the photo of 'T.' The greatest shock was getting into a conversation with my 'petite amie' from my school French Exchange when I was 17 - 33 years after we'd last seen each other. I'd posted a teen sketch I did of her and wrote up in detail how we behaved.

It is of greater value to me not 'cleaned up,' so I keep it closed though once again I'm drawing upon it constantly as it contains a substantial part of a diary I kept from the age of 13 to 28 and a great deal of stories that I wrote drawing on some of those experiences. These are finding life once again thanks to the OU's FutureLearn course 'Start Writing Fiction' and, once again, a close writer/editor relationship that has formed. It is, should I ever get published, a sound example of the value of keeping a 'notebook' as that diary, even as I conceived it age 13 is/was a 'writer's journal'.

What I find touching, then and again today, is that supportive friendships form with fellow writers or readers or editors that is enormously encouraging and guiding; people want my words. I feel like a kind of stand up comic on stage who carries his audience some of the time, then gets hit from time to time by a soft  'carrot' or a bendy 'stick' and subsequently re-adjusts his 'voice' to the one they want to hear. 

Marking five years since I started my OU degree and this blog almost coincided with a logical, deserving step into the legitimate world of e-learning as I completed an 'in-tray' exercise ahead of a second interview. As I prepared to mark this 'Five Years' (a totemic time period for any David Bowie fan) I thought I could be announcing this literal step onto a 'platform'. Though I also had in mind my response to it not happening:

  • no more job applications
  • no more OU courses
  • back to writing with a renewed vengeance and determination. (I feel the Start Writing Fiction course on FutureLearn has refuelled me. I've been a petrol engine trying to run on diesel all y life and they fixed that)
  • once again give a substantial body of unpublished work (manuscripts for novels, screenplays, TV series, radio plays) their chance. (I have made and found the time and was for a couple of years indulged by an agent and producers enough to get interviews to discuss treatments and first scenes. On reflection I was a chef who appeared to promise something delicious but kept serving the thing up either cold or over spiced. SWF has been like a short course in Cordon Blue cookery; I may not be there yet, but at least what I'm now producing is edible).
  • and commit to a two month sailing trip later in the year: the Atlantic via the Canaries and Cape Verde to Bermuda.
  • Meanwhile I have picked out one manuscript, something I dated March 2006 when I boxed it away, that runs to around 100,000 words and 42 chapters. I am revisiting, rewriting and posting this in little bits. It'll take at least six months working 14 hours+ a day.
  • eight hours a week 'work' fails to keep the wolf from the door. I could do with at least 20. 

On verra.

This OU Student Blog, a good deal of it already migrated into a WordPress blog, is coming to its natural conclusion. Five years is long enough. Until I study here again.

Elsewhere at:

www.mymindbursts.com

Writing fiction at:

www.startwritingfiction.wordpress.com = password protected

Diaryland at:

www.jonathan.diaryland.com = password protected

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On keeping a notebook, diary or learning journal. On paper.

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Anything you might use. Think of yourself as an artist before the era of the portable camera. If you don’t sketch something now you’ll forget it. So with words and ways of expressing what you see, feel, do and think. Get those ideas and descriptions down as soon as you can.

Try to work them up that evening, that day. Within a couple of days. Think of this as nurturing a seedling that will have to be transplanted in a day, week, even in a year or five years time. It’ll wait for you, but only if you have made it robust.

Write, and rewrite, toy with it and layer it. Have you recreated a sense of the moment as it was experienced the first time? Maybe. This effort to recall the moment creates a multitude of connections in your brain, some logical, many not, some becoming fixed, some floating, all transformed every nanosecond more that you live. There is no stability in it, not on the page and never in your head.

Then use these ideas somewhere. In a short story, or in a character or context description. It’ll come in time. It’ll become easier.

No automatic recording device can do this for you. A gadget works in absolutes, in numbers. What it takes for you is fixed. Write it down.

Like many of us, I'm sure, I wordpress and go online. I conceive and store ideas on these things. None yet gets close to offering the emotional power of what I said, and where I said it forty years ago: in a school kid diary, in a letter to my grandfather, even typed up with the portable typewriter I got one Christmas. Boxed up and stored I know have a way back into the child's head, that young teenager's hopes and observations. I even printed out filed and boxed stuff from the Amstrad in the 1980s and the various MACs I had in the 1990s and that originated on the Psion in 2000. Anything I thought would be safe on a floppy disc, or Zip drive is probably lost. I can't figure out to read them on a modern device. A box full of paper is another thing.

At 53 my life has been short. At 89 my father-in-law is going through his 'archive' - an academic and educator his house has over the years become a physical expression of the contents of his brain. There are books three columns deep to the ceiling, there are bedrooms stacked with boxes of papers and newspapers. As most of his faculties fail he now has a PhD student at his side to give some order to his archive, and to his life. Sharing it with one, on paper, at this stage, has to be more rewarding and effective than doing it digitally in a blog with wiki-like affordances. 

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Five Years blogging here : time to reflect

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Why is Oxford, with the Oxford Internet Institute and a renowned Education Department not joining the e-learning revolution?

700 years of taking things at their own pace? Their research shows that it adds nothing to their successful and 'elite' model of teaching and research? They don't need to attract students. There can be over 100 applying for every available place.

They do however need to diversify.

It's taken 30 years to tip the profile of the Oxford student from 72% privately educated public school boy to around 49% privately educated and a 50/50 male/female split. By not joining in will they perpetuate the 'Ivory Towers' impression?

There are other reasons to develop massive open online courses, not least to appear open and accessible. The University of Southampton, by contrast, home to Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the only PhD programme on WebScience, have produced nearly a dozen 'massive open online courses' (MOOCs) over the last 18 months. I believe all, or most are on the FutureLearn platform; all are also embedded on the Southampton virtual learning environment (VLE) for students to do to supplement their course work. This I see as an important, valuable and better way to blend the learning experience. It would have been my prefered way of learning, offering some flexibility on the traditional course of lectures.

Is the Open University the only one to have entire degree courses online?

Not a book, not a residential, no face-to-face tutorials either.

By the time I had completed the MAODE, five modules over 3 1/2 years I assumed many other entire degrees, let alone individual courses would be offered in this way. They are not. A MOOC delivering two/three hours of crafted, scaffolded learning a week over a few weeks is demanding enough ... but a module that runs for six months, with 12/16 hours, even 22 hours a week? Though a 'prestige' course the OU MBA programme will spend, I believe, around £3m and three years creating a single one of its modules. These are expected to run for eight to ten years.

How much therefore to design, write and produce five of these, let alone the running and administrative costs?

Is it the right thing to do? E-learning is not a feature film. It is more like a garden; it must change and adapt to the seasons and climate change.

There was no e-learning climate two decades ago; it's the ozone of learning.

FutureLearn prides itself on responding to feedback. I've seen many subtle, responsive changes: several ways through discussion threads like this one which often run to several THOUSAND comments, pooling of creation skills amongst those producing the courses and greatly improving the forms of assessment: quizzes that are masterfully written to teach and to test, tasks for peer review that are part of the learning experience and now opportunities to sign up for a written exam - you pay a fee to attend a test centre, take the exam, and submit your paper. Of course, at this stage the idea of 'Open' is greatly weakened because once again their are parameters and barriers caused by geography and cost, probably also of confidence and familiarity with the formal written exam away from the keyboard and screen.

I reflect, today, on FIVE YEARS of formally studying Open and Distance Education. My blog runs to over 2,500 posts. What next? The same again? I've neither found a home in academia, or in corporate learning and development. Have I studied the wrong subject? I hanker forever to be telling stories. I thought I would successfully make the transition from linear-based video learning and development where I'd worked for some  twenty years, but have not and to rub my face in it the demand for video is finally increasing. Though never again the broadcast like budges we had for multiple cameras and live shoots, for a mini-bus of actors and a director from 'The Bill,' and special effects from The Mill.

I have had my eye on the Creative Writing Course for at least four of the last five years, but felt, for a change, I'd finish something. Instead, I find I am back in March 2006 going through two large 'Really Useful Boxes' which contain the printed off manuscripts of two novels, a couple of screenplays, a TV play and assorted short stories. 

Is this my life? Dominated by a history of making the wrong choices?

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Why everyone should have a look at 'Exploring Filmmaking'

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 5 Feb 2015, 05:56
From E-Learning VI

Fig.1 Once I directed film ... I once directed a film. It was short, like my career.

I'm pointing you in the direction of this wonderful example of a free course from FutureLearn (a wholly owned subsidiary of the Open University) that has just started because I believe you, a friend, your kids, or a colleague may love it ... and even transformed by it.

Explore Filmmaking

This is 'e-learning' of the highest calibre: so easy to do it's like watching TV while using Twitter.

With a little guidance.

I've lived and studied online learning for five years with the OU. I've been so hooked I've kept doing MAODE courses after I completed the MA.

From FutureLearn, my platform of choice having tried and studied all the ones that matter, I can share examples of courses for PhD WebScience candidates, History of the First World War MA students, first year Geography undergraduates of Climate Change and even those in their A' Level year. There are plenty of general ones too: 'How to succeed at: applications' and 'How to succeed at: interviews' from the University of Sheffield give you what you need, right when you need it.

This one, well, go see.

I think it's one for everyone with an interest in storytelling and the magic of putting it on the screen. We've all seen a movie, right? Enjoy as a viewer, a lover of storytelling, a drama hopeful in any role, or someone who knows such a person.

I wish I was 16 again with a parent who cared about the arts as a career looking over my shoulder saying 'that's for you.' Instead, like so many of us I don't doubt, I was told 'get a proper degree, get a proper job'. Sometimes the best advice is also the worst. The 'proper' degree has never worked, it's not me. Not my first degree, not my second from the Open University. I'm not work shy. I'll work 20 hours a day if I'm fed, clothed and watered. I just lack the ability to conform, however hard I try, however much my edges are scraped off, however old and ignorant I become. 

Go see.

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