Revising and Editing Zalon

The Zalon: what a great idea for Kellie Jackson to take her Words Away salons online with Zoom.

I was the guest at Monday night’s inaugural Zalon, when over 80 writers of the ever widening Words Away community (now playing simultaneously in California and Oregon and Portugal) showed up to discuss Revising and Editing.

Some things we talked about:

* The distinction between plotters and pantsers is one I don’t really believe in: any writing needs both planning and freer-style composition.

* And while we are at it, can I add that I truly loathe the words pantser and pantsing? They feel like demeaning descriptions for an intuitive and exploratory stage in writing.

* First drafts are not shitty, but precious – even if Anne Lamott’s essay ‘Shitty First Drafts’ is essential reading. No draft along the way is shitty if it gets you where you have to be: again, why cloud your thinking about your early forays with such negative terminology?

* Editing is just as creative as writing your first draft: a holistic approach.

* Clarify your intention: decide what the pay-off will be – for you in the writing, and for the reader in the reading.

* Really take the time to take stock of your narrative content (characters, settings, dramatic situations), and work out what’s at stake before you dive into detailed and committed work on narrative style and form – unless, of course, style and form are what’s really at stake, i.e., they contribute significantly to the pay-off. To help, sometimes it makes sense to do exploratory work on the side, away from the main body of your manuscript: writing experiments, freewriting, journal writing, reading.

* Understand the difference between writing and publishing. Something else I forgot to say: much about revising is about technique – commanding craft in ways that gives your writing greater energy and force. But, too, much in publishing is about taste, however much you polish your manuscript. If you are interested in being published, agents and editors will be assessing your writing based on personal preferences and fashions too.

* It really helps to find trusted readers with whom to exchange work: writing partners or writing groups. Not only do you get a fresh pair of eyes on your writing, but you develop editorial skills to bring back to your own work too. I wish there were a good place for writers seeking writing partners to meet, but social media often provides a starting point. To be revisited …

* Something I never got to say: of course we proofread our cover letters and submissions, but doesn’t it get a bit prissy and gatekeepery when, during presentations to budding authors, agents and editors scold writers about typos? Of course we know we have to proofread our work! But in the age of the autocorrect even the best of us make ducking mistakes. And we have to save something for the ducking copyeditor, don’t we?!

Be professional, of course. But to me it is far more important to pay attention to: not being boring, and writing something that makes us want to READ ON. When I am reading a cover letter or synopsis, I’m looking for signs of life, not carefully chilled prose.

Things I find more of a turn-off: comma splices and run-on sentences (which unless you’re writing stream of consciousness can suggest a lack of clear thinking): convoluted syntax; opaque writing (a catch-all term for many forms of dull prose); writers who are looking for ‘a blueprint for publication’ (a big red flag for me – my usual reply being ‘Sorry, I’m busy for the coming year slash rest of my life’).

Thanks again to Kellie for asking me along – I look forward to attending other Zalons, which are a great way of sustaining connection and community while we are forced to stay at home.

I hope to run an online course on revising and self-editing later this year – subscribe to my blog if you’d like information in due course.

 

Blog posts on revising and editing
The posts linked below describe in more detail exercises useful in revising as well as other practical tips for drafting:

Revising: A Craft Checklist

Suggestions For Self-Editing – various practical tips

Childhood Revisitations – a writing experiment I mentioned in the Zalon

A Gift on Every Page – including a few ideas for formatting your manuscript for reading and editing your own work

The Retype Draft

Spring Clean-up – thinking symbolically about revising, in this case using analogies from gardening

Great Annotations

Working With Feedback on Your Writing

Tell Me A Story and A Book Is Not A Film – popular posts on my blog about choices in narrative style, which are often important decisions during revising

Rejected, Or Declined?

When Does A Writer Need An Editor?

Definitions of Editing: Structural Editing; Copyediting; Proofreading – a series of posts describing editing from the points of view of both writers and publishing professionals

 

Resources and books useful for revising that I mentioned (or meant to)
Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
Ursula Le Guin, Steering the Craft and The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction
Stephen King, On Writing
Nina Schuyler, How to Write Stunning Sentences
Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey (a great exercise: applying its ideas to a favourite book or a work that somehow influences your own writing)
Ronald Tobias, 20 Master Plots
Susan Bell, The Artful Edit
Scott Pack, Tips From A Publisher: A Guide to Writing, Editing, Submitting and Publishing Your Book  (which includes an excellent discussion of models of publishing – not directly relevant to revising quite yet, but a context all authors need to grasp)

 

The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction (and Life)

I’m interested in ideas about story that deviate from the usual nagging about conflict – ‘Where’s the conflict?’ ‘This narrative arc lacks conflict’ etc., etc. The idea of conflict works well for many books, and especially for the visual media of films and plays. But too conflict can account for an awful lot of formulaic writing. I often raise this matter in workshops, quoting St Ursula from her classic writing guide Steering the Craft.

Conflict is one kind of behavior. There are others, equally important in any human life, such as relating, finding, losing, bearing, discovering, parting, changing. Change is the universal aspect of all these sources of story. Story is something moving, something happening, something or somebody changing.

The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction is an essay by Ursula Le Guin that explores some of these ideas in more detail. It has recently been republished in a bijou volume by Ignota Books. Le Guin posits that ‘the novel is a fundamentally unheroic kind of story’, even if the hero has frequently taken it over. She critiques the linear ‘Time’s-(killing)-arrow mode of the Techno-Heroic’ where fiction is embodied as ‘triumphant (Man conquers earth, space, aliens, death, the future, etc.) and tragic (apocalypse, holocaust, then or now)’.

For Le Guin, that sort of story is represented by weapons – ‘long, hard objects for sticking, bashing, and killing’. The killer story.

Instead, Le Guin proposes a different object to represent the novel, and opens a space to discuss a different type of story: the life story.

The daughter of eminent anthropologists, Le Guin draws on the idea that the earliest cultural invention was a container that held items that had been gathered: ‘A leaf a gourd a shell a net a bag a sling a sack a bottle a pot a box a container. A holder. A recipient.’ The mammoth hunters might ‘spectacularly occupy’ cave paintings, but in reality it was the gatherers of seeds and nuts and leaves and berries who provided most of the food consumed in prehistoric times (they worked less hard than we do today, apparently). Thus we reach the Carrier Bag Theory:

A book holds words. Words hold things. They bear meanings. A novel is a medicine bundle, holding things in a particular, powerful relation to one another and to us.

And working out the nature of the things held in that container often relies on something other than resolving conflicts, or even finding them in the first place. This container (or life story) can be ‘full of beginnings without ends, of initiations, of losses, of transformations and translations, and far more tricks than conflicts, far fewer triumphs than snares and delusions; full of space ships that get stuck, missions that fail, and people who don’t understand’. For writers, negotiating the nature of those relationships within the life story often forces us to dig deeper in the writing, drawing out greater feeling and purpose as we interrogate connections.

I relate this to something Ocean Vuong says in a 2019 podcast, where he is critical of the dominance of conflict-driven plots in the conventions of creative writing:

The way we move through the world … tension and drama happen simply by proximity. The way chemistry works, you have oxygen and hydrogen: fine on their own. Put them side by side and all of a sudden: water.

I often prefer to look for tension rather than conflict in writing – a subtle difference, I feel. The tension of anticipation: what’s coming out of the bag next? The tension of loss: how will what’s left behind adapt when we take something out of the container? The tension of newness: what happens when we add something to our bag of tricks? 

Such questions are, I feel, often more interesting and sustaining than asking who’s fighting who, or demanding an inner conflict. Warfare is soooo 20th century, after all, and don’t we have enough neurosis already – do we really need to add more?!

I jest – but only a little. Conflicts and inner turmoil are the substance of many of our stories. I’m just inclined to think they are often not enough, and that we emphasise conflict at the expense of other things and at the risk of creating further conflict in the world.

My friend Bhanu Kapil gave me a copy of Carrier Bag Theory as a gift as we sat in the café in Foyle’s on Charing Cross Road just after Christmas; what a different world that now seems! This great epic we currently find ourselves in – a vast public health crisis with the potential for economic calamity – could be framed as a war against a virus, and certain politicians and pointless rentagobs are certainly playing to type as their first close-minded response is to cast blame at other politicians or at people from other countries. 

But in truth, isn’t the best resolution to such a crisis not one based in conflict but one that relies on cooperation? See Roosevelt’s New Deal in the US in the 1930s. See the foundation of the United Nations after the Second World War. See the foundation of the National Health Service in the postwar era. See the GI Bill. See the ingenuity and expertise of scientists collaborating in the creation of a vaccine. See the sacrifice and public-spiritedness of health workers and supermarket staff and community volunteers. These are not stories whose primary drive is conflict. These stories have a utopian impulse, and require kindness and openness and truth (and certainly not spin or lies). These stories require imagination.

The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction is a short book, and the Ignota edition adds a scintillating preface from the publishers Sarah Shin and Ben Vickers, as well as illustrations. It also has French flaps! (We love French flaps.) It also includes a thought-provoking introduction by cultural theorist Donna Haraway, who tells the stories of three bags she has brought back from a trip to Colombia. One is embroidered, one is intricately knotted, one is crocheted, and all three carry the stories of the activists and artists and environmental campaigners and craftswomen she met there. For Haraway, each of these bags ‘grows from, and demands a response to, the urgent questions about how to tell stories that can help remake history for the kinds of living and dying that deserve thick presents and rich futures’.

Ursula Le Guin has touched on these ideas in several essays gathered in the collection Dancing at the Edge of the World, which is where I first read ‘Carrier Bag Theory’ (and thanks to Ignota for sending me back there). One very short essay, simply called ‘Conflict’, is critical of the ‘gladiatorial view of fiction’, and finds Le Guin asking us to locate the conflict in EM Forster’s classic definition of plot: ‘The King died and then the Queen died of grief’. She even questions whether the plot of War and Peace ‘can be in any useful or meaningful way reduced to “conflict,” or a series of “conflicts”?’

Another essay, ‘Heroes’, takes Le Guin’s critique of the conventions of heroism and heroic stories further. As the author of one of the greatest pieces of winter literature – the trek across the ice in The Left Hand of Darkness – Le Guin has long been fascinated by accounts of Antarctic exploration. But then she comes across an entry from Shackleton’s diary – ‘Man can only do his best. The strongest faces of Nature are arrayed against us’ – and she startles herself with an instinctive reaction: ‘Oh, what nonsense!’ 

What is false is the military image; what is foolish is the egoism; what is pernicious is the identification of ‘Nature’ as enemy … Nobody, nothing, ‘arrayed’ any ‘forces’ against Shackleton except Shackleton himself. He created an obstacle to conquer or an enemy to attack; attacked; and was defeated – by what? By himself, having himself created the situation in which his defeat could occur.

Plenty of stories have conflict to the max. I love looking at the Hero’s Journey. And I love horror movies and westerns and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and the tortured psychodramas of Tennessee Williams.

But sometimes we need more than goodies and baddies, or triumph and defeat – not least as in someone’s defeat lies resentment and the seeds of future conflict.

We need life stories, as well as killer stories. We need truths. In storytelling, conflict is not enough.

 

Related posts and further reading/listening

Plotting: Conflict, Complication, Curiosity, and Connection  

Only Connect

Ursula Le Guin: Steering the Craft – interviewed by David Naimon for the Between the Covers podcast

The Worlds of Ursula Le Guin – tv documentary (on BBC iPlayer while/if you can get it)

Great Lives: Ursula Le Guin

Ursula Le Guin at 85

Ursula Le Guin at 80

A Novel is a Dark Bundle by Abi Andrews

Towards a Carrier Bag Theory of Videogames by Edwin Evans-Thirlwell

 

Food in Writing

On Sunday I taught for the first time at the Victoria and Albert Museum: a workshop on food in writing called Food: Bigger Than The Page.

We started off talking about food as a genre or genres (plural) of writing. Some books of food writing have an investigative or campaigning approach, such as Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and then there are works of food history such as Dorothy Hartley’s Food in England and Mark Kurlansky’s Cod.

Someone also brought up the name of one of the great food writers: MFK Fisher. And I forgot, oops, to mention Julie Powell’s Julie and Julia, which was inspired by the blog she wrote cooking her way through Julia Child’s classic cookbook – if you are interested in the publishing process, you might enjoy this piece from the publisher Knopf on The Making of … Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Moving on to the use of food in fiction and memoir, we discussed the role of food (and hunger) as symbol and driver of plot in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, then explored the part that food plays in activating memory, using Joe Brainard’s I Remember and Nigel Slater’s Toast.

Paying attention to the ways in which all five senses create images that bring writing to life, we listened to some poems by William Carlos WilliamsPablo Neruda, Seamus Heaney, Galway Kinnell and Meryl Pugh. (Meryl teaches popular courses at Morley College and the Poetry School, should you be interested.) Some of these poems celebrate food or everyday life in very straightforward ways, while others have more layered meanings.

And then, after a brief palate-cleansing meditation, we became hunter-gatherers: we created Word Hoards of our sense perceptions by getting intimate with mint and star anise and kiwi fruits, and carrots and lime-blossom tea, and a fancy tiny pear called Piqa Reo (Waitrose, we salute you – and you’ve even given us a further way to use the Q tile without a U in Scrabble) (though the lime-blossom came from Gaia in St Margarets – support your local indie!).

We then paid a visit to supermarkets in California with Allen Ginsberg and Armistead Maupin, and created some characters of our own by thinking about the ways in which food acts as a social marker.

We fitted in a snack-sized look at recipes in food with Heartburn by Nora Ephron (and Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel also got a mention here). And then we finished off by discussing recipes as a form for poems with ecopoet Jack Collom – something to try at home?

I had a lot of fun putting this workshop together – see the links and titles above and also below in the list of resources. Thanks to the V&A and everyone who came along – and especially to Stacy for thinking a writing workshop would be a good idea (I first met her when I attended a V&A book club for The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver – I’m going to tell myself that Frida Kahlo led me here). Thanks also to Michelle for the photos (and the kind words) below.

 

Further resources

Sandra M. Gilbert and Roger J. Porter, eds., Eating Words: A Norton Anthology of Food Writing

Mark Kurlansky, ed., Choice Cuts: A Savory Selection of Food Writing

Jill Foulston, ed., The Joy of Eating: The Virago Book of Food

Dianne Jacob, Will Write For Food (practical advice on writing about food)

Diana Henry, What Goes On Behind The Scenes Of A Cookbook (for more about the creative and production processes, and Diana Henry is an inspired writer and cook too: I have enjoyed many of her recipes)

Lynda Barry, Syllabus and Making Comics (great on creativity – you might also enjoy this interview with the genius herself: at the least, watch the first five or ten minutes)

Plus, just because, a gorgeous piece of food/cookery writing on candied oranges I read earlier today.  (Will edit for candied oranges: a trade, anyone?!)

 

And before I go: as I type, I believe there might be one space left on the day-long Four Elements workshop Water Ways on 8 February, which explores how we evoke feeling in writing, and I’ll also be looking at food among other experiences of the earthly realm in Earth Works on 21 March. More info via the links at the Words Away website.

 

One of our frondy inspirations.

 

Such a grand setting!

Syllabus for an Indie MA in Creative Writing 2019

In an earlier post I discussed how writers can assemble their own self-directed programme of studies: a DIY MA in creative writing.

Following further posts about that on Twitter last week, and inspired by my inner teacher as well as Lynda Barry’s wonderful book Syllabus, I’ve put together a syllabus for anyone who might want more specific guidance on what a good writing programme might need to include.

Follow this link for a PDF of the DIY MA in Creative Writing for 2019-2020 (version 1.3).

(This is very much a work-in-progress. As I tweak and add updates or corrections, I’m amend the date and version on the final page, just in case you too are a little obsessive about such things.)

A brief overview: it has four modules:

  • Craft Seminar
  • Writing Workshop
  • Manuscript Project
  • Professional Development Masterclass

I’ve chosen four textbooks that are in my experience the most helpful (and affordable – at current prices their total cost is less than £50):

  • Janet Burroway, Writing Fiction (tenth edition)
  • Constance Hale, Sin and Syntax
  • Stephen King, On Writing
  • Ursula Le Guin, Steering the Craft

The content is based on my own teaching in MA and MFA programmes as well as craft masterclasses and workshops I’ve taught such as the ones that I run with Words Away; it’s also informed by my intuition and experience from over thirty years of working as an editor and mentor.

This syllabus is never going to be a substitute for a classroom, physical or online, where you can speak and listen to a teacher and interact with other writers. But it does suggest readings and activities for anyone who wants to develop knowledge and skills not only of the craft of writing but also of the business of publishing.

One unit of five classes of the Craft Seminar, Styling Your Prose, is devoted to style, syntax, and grammar, which is something that doesn’t get much focused attention in most MA programmes I’ve investigated in the UK; these are the aspects of craft that really help a writer develop a stronger voice, and for me (and many readers and publishing professionals) voice is what defines a piece of writing. This unit is where I recommend reading (and rereading) Constance Hale’s excellent Sin and Syntax.

An important part of an MA is being part of a writing community and getting and giving feedback on writing, so it will be important to seek out writers who can help with this. On another occasion, and in collaboration with others, I hope to share more tangible suggestions for how writers can, e.g., find writing partners or create a writing group, and locate more specialised resources on genre. But for now, if you have any ideas on this or anything else that would be suitable for someone embarking on studies in writing, perhaps you could post them in a comment below?

 

A few tips for getting started

* Practise some (or even all) of your writing away from your masterpiece-in-waiting. Sometimes we put a great deal of investment in ideas for books, and this can get in the way of the actual process of learning. There can be greater freedom in using exercises and writing flash fiction or short stories; fresh and powerful things often emerge too. Spend some time developing the craft and your intuition as a writer – then tackle your novel. Your passion for a project will still be there.

* Develop writing as a regular practice. Julia Cameron recommends morning pages: three pages of freewriting. Natalie Goldberg gives lots of prompts for you to tackle in a notebook. Robert Olen Butler insists that you write every day to maintain the creative energy in your zone or dreamspace. Explore for yourself; find what works for you, but – as with any craft – regular practice will make writing come more easily.

* Write in short spurts. Timed writings of ten minutes using prompts can generate a lot of material. You might want to edit it later, and you might not even want to use any of these words – but good stuff often surfaces in these short bursts of writing, particularly, e.g., in the last minute of a ten-minute write. And then you can take this good stuff and make even greater stuff with it later.

 

PS and while I’m here: if you are interested in an in-person workshop, we still have spaces in the Everyday Magic workshop I am running with Words Away on Saturday 28 September. Using the idea of the Four Elements, it looks at craft and creativity through the lens of Fire, Water, Earth, and Air. It’s a day full of reading and writing and listening and talking that, I hope, brings fresh perspectives on writing and new inspirations for writers.

 

Workshops for Autumn 2019: Four Elements, Food, Fire

Here towards the end of the summer break comes a post with info on writing and creativity workshops I’m leading in the autumn:

* Saturday 28 September, 9.45am-5pm
Everyday Magic: The Four Elements of Creativity, at London Bridge Hive, in conjunction with Words Away

* Sunday 13 October 2019, 2pm-5pm
Food: Bigger Than The Page, at the Victoria & Albert Museum

* Saturday 9 November, 9.45am-5pm
Finding Your Fire: A Four Elements Workshop on Theme and Voice, at London Bridge Hive, in conjunction with Words Away

You can follow the links above for further information plus booking details (and early bird rates for Words Away workshops), but here is a little more background on each of them.

First, I’m very excited to be teaching at the V&A for the first time. The 13 October workshop is inspired by a truly innovative and highly recommended V&A exhibition called Food: Bigger Than The Plate.

I’m not sure the writing experiments we’ll be doing will be as wild as some of exhibits you’ll find there (communicate with a tomato! coffee cups made from … coffee grinds! plant pots made of … cow shit!) – but we can try. We’ll consider some of its themes of composting and trading and cooking, and we’ll pay particular attention to food for its symbolism, and its ability to evoke the senses, and its power to conjure up memories. Food can play a central role in many types of writing – not just cookbooks and food writing, but fiction and poetry and memoir and film and stage. Fancy a madeleine?!

Oh: and the V&A classroom is AMAZING. Not that that is the only lure, of course.

I’m also excited to be working with Kellie Jackson of Words Away once more. We’ve worked together before, and I think we are a good team. On 28 September, we are revisiting Everyday Magic, the workshop based on the Four Elements I’ve run several times before. And later in the autumn and then into the winter, spring, and summer I am expanding this into four entirely new workshops devoted to each of the elements: Fire, Water, Earth, Air.

I developed Four Elements workshops as, in my work as a book doctor and editor, I find that one of the greatest hurdles for writers is overthinking. This shows up in any number of ways that can lead us away from the act of creation: cluttered prose, procrastination, self-consciousness, neurosis, comparison, destructive self-criticism. Writers often need to get out of their heads, and their own way.

With that in mind, Four Elements workshops invite writers to gain fresh (and less overthought?) perspectives on writing: its energy (Fire), its emotional qualities (Water), and its ability to conjure up the material world (Earth). And then we return to thinking about writing with greater clarity and focus (Air). Working holistically and symbolically, we can expand our sense of what our writing can be.

My inspirations and touchstones for these workshops are varied: tarot, Jungian archetypes, meditation, contemplative approaches to learning I encountered at Naropa, inspiring teachers such as Lynda Barry and Natalie Goldberg and Bobbie Louise Hawkins and Jack Collom and Austin Kleon. Also: reading. I do plenty of reading, and I’m always thinking about the Four Elements as I read. I usually assign short reading and writing assignments to be completed before class so we have a common foundation for our discussions and activities. Our readings nearly always include, among others, ‘Brokeback Mountain’ by Annie Proulx; it’s only 10,000 words, so everyone has chance to have read it, but it gives us so much to talk about. And it’s such an awesomely good story.

So we shall be looking at craft, using examples from the readings, but we mostly shall try to avoid getting too schoolroom about such matters; lots of writing courses focus on technical aspects of writing, including our own series of masterclasses, and one of the aims of Four Elements is to find different routes into writing that are intuitive and avoid over-intellectualising. So, for example, we shall seek out the fire in a piece of writing, and use that lens to consider and feel how that energy is achieved – particularly through doing writing ourselves. There will be plenty of prompts and writing experiments to try in class and to take home.

The four new Four Elements workshops will also feature sessions led by guest gurus whose work in various fields in the arts invites further perspectives on creativity. We hope to have a firestarter from the world of theatre coming along on 9 November, and then poets and other artists coming to other workshops later.

The workshops are interactive; it’s always valuable to hear what other writers have to bring to our discussions, and I never fail to leave a class brimming with fresh ideas people have raised, as well as, e.g., lots of reading recommendations. There’s always something new to learn. And we get a great variety of people coming along: published writers and absolute beginners (no such thing!), and everyone in between; fiction writers, journalists, poets, writers of nonfiction, screenwriters, people trying new forms, other types of artist.

Each workshop stands alone – Everyday Magic (28 September) serves as an overview or an introduction, but it’s not essential to taking one of the other Four Elements workshops, and you can sign up for any as you wish, as they are designed to be self-contained. We continue with Finding Your Fire (9 November), when we will explore ways to bring energy into our writing and our practice, and pay particular attention to theme and voice as well as the symbolism of Fire. We’ll follow with (titles tbc):

Feeling Your Way: Water – emotion, tone and perspective (January tbc)

Grounded in Action: Earth – character, action and description (March tbc)

Clear Thinking: Air – symbol, structure and form (May tbc)

And in June we hope to repeat the successful masterclass The Craft of Revising, which is a daylong intensive on self-editing and revision.

Kellie interviewed me about some of my inspirations for an earlier version of Everyday Magic, and in addition here are reports on that from both Kellie’s blog and my own blog.

And meanwhile I hope you have had productive summers. I feel very smug, as without planning to do so I read War and Peace. And yes, it can be read in ten days (I was on holiday, mind). I very much enjoyed the Anthony Briggs translation – have to mention that, as I dipped into others, and though I gather it’s not for purists I found this translation the most fleet in the reading.

I so often make new year resolutions to read X or Y (this year it was more sf and fantasy, um), but I always end up feeling I’ve let myself down. But this summer I read War and Peace! And it is GREAT. Now, 1,400 big hardback pages later, I understand the raves. And, too, I FINALLY read Portrait of a Lady and David Copperfield too – both as audiobooks, in fact.

I hope to see some of you later in the autumn – at workshops, or at other events such as Words Away salons.

Meanwhile, back to the garden, where I’ve also been busy this week. Chrysanthemums always welcome the autumn, don’t they?