Did you look forward to your end of term report or was it something you dreaded?
My reports came in a yellow book and were filled in year by year at secondary school level. I only got to keep it at the end of my final year. No surprises really that I did well in English and History, less so at Maths and PE (though ironically now with the swimming and walking the dog, I’m probably healthier now than I was then!).
What a Good Report Should Do
A good report should encourage you, pick up on points to praise, but also spur you on to do even better. It should highlight where weaknesses are and, ideally, suggest ways of overcoming them or minimizing their impact.
I was never going to be a scientist so not doing so well at Chemistry, say, wasn’t going to limit me as I had no intention of going down that route. I am glad to see the encouragement of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) these days though. They were not particularly encouraged in my day (and even less so for girls). Having said that, my Physics teacher had hoped I would take the subject to CSE/GCE level (and it wasn’t without interest funnily enough but it just wasn’t where my core strengths were).
And yes I did have to take home a slip to my parents to sign to say they had actually read the report (and they were both very good at doing so. They were also great at coming to parents’ evenings. Not everyone does so. Mind, it was always a relief to get home again. Why? You didn’t really feel “off call” until you were back home again. I suspect the teachers felt the same way!). There is nothing new here!
Reports should be a guideline then to where your strengths are so you can learn to play to them and highlight weaknesses, which you may be able to improve on. Even when that isn’t the case, it can highlight certain career routes probably won’t be for you, but at least you will know.
Taking Stock at Summertime
Summer is a good time to take stock given you still have time to set goals and hopefully achieve at least some of them by the year end.
My summer term report for my writing is a good one for this year and, as a friend kindly mentioned, good years compensate for the lean ones! There are always more of the latter than the former. It is just one of those things.
What I seek to do in writing is make progress year on year of some kind. I am at the point now where some of the things I’ve worked on in the past, which got nowhere then, I am now looking at again now, in the hope that what I’ve learned as a flash fiction writer can help me hone these pieces and get them placed later on still.
It is my experience that little is wasted in writing. You do learn from what you write. You learn what you love to write for one thing but it is good to stretch yourself a bit too. The worst that can happen is nothing happens!
Writing News Update
I have entered more competitions at this stage than I did for the same period last year (and I am waiting on results). I also am pleased to share the news that three of my stories will be appearing in two different books in December. My flash fiction pieces The Art Critic and Dignity and Injustice will be appearing in The Best of Cafelit 8.
I’ve heard in the last few days that my longer story What Goes Around will be out in Bridge House Publishing’s Nativity anthology, which will also be out in December.
The Bridge House event in December launches both books and it will be lovely to have a foot in both camps when the photos of authors who are in Cafelit 8 and those who are in Nativity are taken!
My story The Professional was one of the 15 winning entries for the Waterloo Arts Festival in June and it was lovely to get to do more public reading at that event. The entries are in ebook format only in a collection called Transforming Being.
What would I achieve on a school report for writing?
There are other things going on in the background which I hope to be able to share more about at a later date. So my summer report would give me, I think, a B+ for progress this year at least.
Do you remember the debates about whether a B+ was really the same as a C- and so on? Or did that debate only happen at my secondary school? That incidentally has now closed. I was in the final Fifth Year as it was known then. I don’t think the closure had anything to do with me personally but it sounds good to say I left and then the school closed!
Benefits of Writer Networking
One of the benefits of writers networking (other than the obvious one of getting together with like minded people for a great chat over a drink!) is you find out all sorts of things from competitions to marketing ideas you did not know.
A friend has recently told me that Amazon have an Author Central set up where you can put your books on display, whether or not you are published through them. This is effectively a shop window (and a big one at that) so I’ve spent some time polishing this. I now have a page for the UK, the US, France, Germany and Japan. (I can’t imagine how my flash fiction would go down in Japan but that’s another story!). The nice thing is I can share my blog posts from my website here too and given I put my CFT links on my website, those will be shared too.
Nobody knows it all when it comes to what you can do “out there” in terms of publicity and marketing. So information like this can be invaluable. You just decide what is going to be most useful to you (or is likely to be) and go with that. I don’t “do” Instagram or Pinterest as I don’t really get these platforms but I do find Twitter and Facebook useful. I use Linkedin too (though mainly to share blog posts).
The other big reason for networking is you are always glad of the support of other writers when all that seems to come in your inbox are rejections or, worse, you don’t hear anything at all. It’s also been my experience most people are delighted for you when you share publication news and that is lovely. Given writers spend so much time on their own in imaginary worlds (and by choice too!), having something real like this is also invaluable.
What would I like to achieve in the second half of the year?
I plan to enter more competitions and I would love to be shortlisted in some. (One thing you accept early on is nobody ever gets shortlisted in all of them!). I am hoping to have my novel sent out by the autumn and have ideas for non-fiction work I would like to follow up. My third flash fiction book is coming along nicely too, though at this stage I still don’t know when my second one will be out.
So the point of a report is?
Reports should spur you on, as mentioned, but they serve a useful purpose in showing you where you are now. It doesn’t mean you have to stay there! It is just a snapshot of your life at a certain point in time.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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