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Part 2 – Post-assignment homework: Returning to the bedroom

I knock on Jesse’s front door and a few seconds later her mum answers.  She tells me that Jesse is busy in her bedroom and that I should go up.

I remember the journey I took a few hours before and skip up the stairs, again two at a time.  Turning on the landing I take another flight up before seeing the chalkboard on the door.  Jesse’s door.

I knock on it and a small voice answers.
“Who is it?”
I smile. “It’s me, Jesse, Amy.  I’ve brought your notes back.”

A few seconds later the door opens and Jesse is standing in her room, her long blonde hair tied in a plait.  She’s wearing jeans and a t-shirt and dock-style loafers on her feet.

“Hey, Amy.  Thanks for popping round.  Come in!”

I walk into the now familiar room and Jesse returns to her desk, pulling her chair round to face me.  She pats her bed gesturing for me to sit down.

“I love your room, Jesse.  It’s so cosy and really interesting!!  How long have you been into stuff to do with the sea?”

She looked surprised.

“I thought everyone knew I was into ships and stuff?  Gosh.  Well, ever since I was tiny.  My grandfather used to own a really big yacht and I used to go out with him around the bay.  He even let me be skipper once.  It was amazing.  I was standing at the helm turning the big wheel, which steered the boat.”

I didn’t know what to say.  I didn’t really like sailing or boats so I couldn’t make any sense of what she said.  It was like another world.

Jesse noticed my confusion.

“But don’t worry, I do like other things too.  I really like looking at the stars.  That’s when the clouds aren’t getting in the way!  Have you ever looked through a telescope, Amy?”

I nodded.

“Great isn’t it?!  We must go out one evening with my telescope and see if we can find some of the constellations. ”

I nod.  I’m not sure what to say.  I feel out of my depth but I love the way that Jesse is so passionate about it.

“Would you like a drink?  I’ve got two cans of lemonade?”

“Yes please” and I take one from her, tapping the top of the can to stop it from spraying drink everywhere when I pull the ring on the top.  The last thing I wanted was to spoil her immaculate, tidy room.

“Did you use those notes for your essay?” Jesse asks.
“Yes I did, they were really useful.  Thanks for letting me look at them.”
“That’s okay, Amy.  I was really glad that you asked me for some help.  Nobody does that at school….just pick on me,” and for the first time Jesse looked sad.

I felt really awkward and didn’t know what to say.  I thought it was probably best I didn’t say anything and just carried on sipping the lemonade.

“My mum says dinner will be ready soon. Do you want me to see if there’s enough for you?”  Jesse got up from the desk and walked to the door.

“That would be really nice.  But only if it’s okay.  I don’t want to put your mum to any trouble.”
Jesse smiled again.  It was nice when she smiled.
“It would be no trouble, Amy.  I like your company a lot.  Let me go and ask her.”

And I was now on my own again in this tiny room.  And despite its small dimensions, it felt the most cosy, inviting room I had ever been in.  I felt safe.

I stayed with Jesse for tea and we sat and talked about the stars and about the harbour all evening until I made my way home.  It was a lovely afternoon and I hope that we can do this again soon.

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Part 2 – Post-assignment homework: Visiting the bedroom

The Bedroom Exercise

Jesse is out playing with her friends at the moment and she left me the keys to her house so that I could pick up her homework notes; she’s letting me borrow them for our next essay due.

She told me that they are in her bedroom.  I’ve walked past her house before many times but never actually been inside.  It’s a beautiful old townhouse on the side of the main hill. The views are amazing; you can see right down to the harbour and the quayside from here.  She’s so lucky.

I turn the key in the front door and it opens revealing the long hallway.  To the right hand side of the hall is the stairs.  Jesse told me that her bedroom is on the second floor, first door to the right.

Carefully closing the door behind me, I take to the stairs, two at a time because they’re so small.  When I reach the second floor, it becomes really obvious which room belongs to Jesse.  Her name is written in chalk on a little board hung from the wooden door.  Bits of driftwood frame the chalkboard and a piece of rope acts at the hook upon which it suspends off a little nail.  How very nautical.

The door latch lifts up with a “clunk” and I step into her bedroom.  It’s tiny.  She warned me it was rather small and she wasn’t kidding.  I close the door behind me to maximise the space I have and look round.

It’s a very bright and airy room, painted a pale cornflower blue.  There is a small fireplace in the middle of the main wall and her single bed lies along the window wall to my right.  A driftwood framed mirror hangs above the fireplace and a small mantlepiece runs across the top of the fireplace displaying an amazing array of shells and pebbles.  Beach combing treasures!

I sit on her bed, which has a very sweet light blue duvet and matching pillow set on it.  Hundreds of little boats are printed on the cotton.  Above the head of the bed is a pin board upon which are lots of photos that Jesse has been taking in and around the harbour.  A veritable “boat spotting” wall with all manner of different shipping vessels photographed for prosperity.  Small dinghies, trawler boats, fishing nets, yachts; they’re all there.  There is also a small piece of netting attached to the side of the pin board, again a probable “find” from the harbour.

On the opposite wall is a map of the world and various places marked with round, red stickers.  Little bits of string draw countries together and as I look more closely, I see that Jesse has marked out some of the major shipping expedition routes; the Mayflower, Cutty Sark, Mary Rose, S.S. Great Britian….they’re all here.  Amazing.

A small bookshelf stands on the cream carpet to the far corner next to the fireplace and next to that a small wooden chest that I guess doubles as a clothes box, because I can see the arms of jumpers poking out.

The room is immaculately tidy, but then being so tiny, I suppose it has to be.  I look up and see a simple blue light shade suspended from the ceiling.

At the end of the bed is room for a little desk, stool and table lamp.  Piled upon this are lots of books and notepads. That’s probably where her essay notes are.  I must remember to take those before I leave.

To the side of the bed on the floor is a small wooden box.  I listen carefully.  There’s no-one here. Can I peek inside?  I’m certain that I am on my own.  I pick up the box and slowly open the lid.  It creaks; must be old.

Inside are strange little pieces of rope, all different in length and size.  Some of them have been formed into knots, different fastenings that vary in complexity.  There’s even one at the very bottom of the box that looks like a ball of rope.  It’s beautiful.

I decide to close the box quickly as it feels like I’m really prying now.  I walk to the desk and pick up the notes which are on the top of the other papers.  Bless her; she’s written me a little note to say “Here they are, Amy.  Help yourself!  Hope they’re useful”.

I’m quite surprised by the lack of computer, television.  I can see a charging lead next to her bed for her mobile but other than that, there are no signs of technology anywhere.

I take a step over towards the bookshelf.  Every book that you could imagine to do with sailing, boat keeping, chandlery suppliers, nautical charts, and astronomy.  She could open a book shop in the quayside and make a fortune with all this stuff!

Aside from the little box on the floor, there are no other boxes or places that she could hide things in.  The only other place that I haven’t explored in here is under the bed.  This feels very sneaky but I’m convinced Jesse would do the same if she was in my room.

To one end is her two cameras in their cases, one small and one slightly larger with a long lens attached.  At the other end of the bed is a telescope lying on its side attached to a tripod.  Wow.  She has a telescope!  She must like looking at the stars; ah, and that’s why she has the astronomy books.  Gosh.  I didn’t realise that she liked stargazing as a hobby.  But Jesse is very quiet.  She doesn’t give very much away at school.

I better get going.  I have the notes, I mustn’t be here too long.  I clamber to my feet and open the door and let myself out.  When I leave and close the front door behind me, I send Jesse a quick text to thank her for letting me go in.  She texts me back really quickly to say that she was really glad to help and that she would be home in a few hours if I wanted to pop round and say hi.  I might just do that….

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Part 2, Assignment 2 – Tutor feedback

Herewith the link to my tutor’s feedback on my second assignment:

Amy Balcomb (510035) Assignment 2 Tutor feedback

Summary feedback points:
1) My character didn’t have a name, which keeps the reader at a distance.
I didn’t give enough time to develop the character fully, hence much of the story and the character had contradictions.  This has taught me to get really under my characters’ skins before writing about them.

2) The character should be hiding from someone, otherwise they’re not hiding!
This seems so obvious now but at the time, I felt myself drifting around, probably because I hadn’t gotten to know the protagonist properly.  Big lessons learnt on this assignment.

Areas for development in story:
1) The fishing village setting
2) The girl being a “watcher” who loves learning the inner world of others, which demonstrates a rich imagination.
3) The tiny room in an upper floor of an old house.
4) Her parents needing to get away from her – is this in her imagination or for real?
5) The parents rowing.
6) The seagull.

Homework to be done before Assignment 3:
1) Write the “bedroom” exercise.
2) Consider the “personal voice” of a character; revise Part 4 from Writing Skills.
3) Always bear in my casualty, which is linked to motivation and personality traits in the character.  Again, if I had spent longer on the characterisation, this may have been more consistent.
4) Remember not to use the RC to summarise all exercises in the next part.  Use it instead to document my experiences of my own writing process, from initial idea to final polish.
5) Include in the RC the characters that I am working on, any structure and content, my thoughts on my ability with dialogue, description, narrative, characterisation and its relation to plot, how a piece can be tightened.
6) What I did with the previous assignment in the redrafting process.
7) Any problems that I have had, which may include the course materials.

Further suggested reading:
Read some Zizou Corder, Michelle Paver, revisit C.S. Lewis’s “Magician’s Nephew” and Nina Milton’s books.