Welcome to another Writer/Blogger Interview with Micahel Grogan of Morpethroad: Random, Meaningful, Words. Please check out his wonderful blog. As a writer, Michael is versatile and has a wicked sense of humor. I’ve blogged with him a number of years. You can also find him on the site: Mind Loves Misery’s Menagerie where he hosts a writing prompt or two each week.
1. Michael, Please Tell Us About Yourself? What is it Like Where You Live?
I live in a beautiful part of the world. The Hunter Valley is a rich and diverse region with farming and coal mining being the predominant industries. I also live on the edge of a floodplain, and behind my house is a rich farming area where once-market crops such as potatoes, cabbage, and watermelons. But nowadays, it’s used for feed crops and the raising of some beef cattle.
I’ve always enjoyed writing. I worked for 39-years as a teacher of Drama and English, and during that time wrote a lot of pieces to help my students. In particular, in the 1990’s with the introduction of drama into the school curriculum, I wrote material for my students, and at one time, produced a book of performance pieces.
As a teacher, I liked to provide my students with opportunities to perform. I wrote four musicals, the first one was basic and I’d like to think my musicals improved from there.
2. When Did You Begin Blogging and Writing Outside of Teaching? What Has Blogging Taught You?
By the time I retired I had started to blog. Initially, blogging was a place to release my writing. While blogging I discovered the opportunity to write and write in a more ordered way. I learned to address prompts on a daily basis to explore my creativity. The creative side of writing is what I love.
I don’t write for profit or anything like that. I’m not all interested in publishing, but I enjoy exploring the writing process. I’ve become engrossed in the process of ‘story.’ I produce the best effort I can. Then, I put it on my blog and link it to the prompt (or another blog), if necessary, and I move on to the next exercise (prompt).
So, I guess I’d say I write predominantly for me. If others enjoy what I write, then great. The other lesson I have learned from blogging is that your audience fluctuates. You might have 500 followers, but only 10 might on any regular basis read and comment on your work.
“I don’t write for profit or anything like that. I’m not all interested in publishing, but I enjoy exploring the writing process. I’ve become engrossed in the process of ‘story.’ I produce the best effort I can. Then, I put it on my blog . . .” Michael Grogan
3. When Did You Begin Writing and Blogging, and Why?
My blogging began in about 2012. At the time there was an Australian blog site and I posted my work there. The only issue for me was that I was the only one there. An occasional reader might come by, but I was looking for a wider audience and that brought me to WordPress.
WordPress provided access many wonderful writers and a whole new world of writing opportunities. I was so blown away by other people’s comments on my work, and I thought it was so rare that anyone would like what I was writing, that I used to cut and save the comments. I don’t anymore.
3. What Do You Enjoy Writing About On Your Blog?
Initially, I used my blog as a place to post work exploring sexuality. Summer and Tommy were two characters I invented to do that. After a time, I ‘got over’ that phase of my life and moved onto other writing.
If you read my blog you’ll find I write a lot of character-based material. I enjoy ‘character’ and so characters such as Miss Marble, Cyril Rum, and Wayne and Greg, have allowed me the license to explore and develop these characters and others.
To me, ‘character’ gives substance. My characters are never perfect — they have flaws, but they also have a sense of humor. That sense of humor allows me to comment on society, to explore satire, and for my characters to develop. I don’t pretend to make them politically correct.
For example, I know my Wayne and Greg stories about the angels from Heaven and Hell do ruffle a few feathers, but I think writing can and should do that. It should make us think about what we are on about. I think people take themselves far too seriously at times. Sometimes its good to stand back and have a good laugh at our behaviors and beliefs.
“If you read my blog you’ll find I write a lot of character-based material. I enjoy ‘character’ and so characters such as Miss Marble, Cyril Rum, and Wayne and Greg, have allowed me the license to explore and develop these characters and others.” – Michael Grogan
4. What Else Does Blogging Mean To You? Where Do You Find Your Inspiration and Motivation for Blogging?
Well, blogging to me is about exploring ideas in the form of a story. Also, when I started blogging a good friend said to me, that ‘my blog was mine, and that what I wrote was what I thought.’ He said ‘I shouldn’t get caught up in what other people might think.’ So in a nutshell, what blogging means to me is to be able to express myself, and be pleased with what I write.
For me, inspiration comes from the writing prompts I receive most days, from different blogging sites. I don’t do them all regularly. I pick and choose the prompts I like. Most prompts that I write trigger a memory or situation from my past, sometimes from what I have read or seen.
Sometimes it takes me a day or two to get a story going in my head before I write it. For me, the story has to work and if it doesn’t I stop, go away, and do something else such as mowing the lawn.
I see if when I go back to it I can make more sense of it. If not I don’t believe in twisting myself every which way to write something but, rather, it’s best to let it go and move on to the next challenge.
In many ways, writing is a puzzle. Whatever the prompt, I find it a challenge to match my ability to its demands. Like anything in life, some days you succeed some days you don’t.
5. Where Else Do You Find Writing Inspiration? What Don’t You Enjoy About Certain Writing Prompts?
I’ve never liked prompts that involve competition. I avoid them. I don’t like the notion of feeling under threat by imposed rules. I like the freedom to write what I like to write. I once entered a Short Story competition and was so disappointed I didn’t rate a mention when I realized after reading the rules, I had broken most of them.
Also, the people and places around you provide such wonderful inspiration. You meet wonderful people in blog-land. I find I’m in daily contact with great writers, amazing people from who I draw inspiration. In particular, the people I’ve met who have been so brave in writing their memoirs. For many of them, their lives have been the subject of abuse; I find them inspirational. My life in comparison has been dull.
However, my blogging practice is significant as it affords me the chance to exercise my brain and do what I love, writing about ‘character.’On occasion, I dabble in a bit of poetry
“You meet wonderful people in blog-land. I find I’m in daily contact with great writers, amazing people from who I draw inspiration. In particular, the people I’ve met who have been so brave in writing their memoirs. For many of them, their lives have been the subject of abuse; I find them inspirational.” – Michael Grogan
6. Do You Have Any Writing Habits, A Particular Time of Day You Enjoy Writing Most?
I tend to find I write best in the mornings. It’s 5:00 a.m. now. Here I am tapping away answering questions. If something inspiring pops up in the evenings that I have a ready response for, then I write before my idea disappears.
I’ve discovered another dimension to writing, and that is the reader’s response. If I can write something you find entertaining, that gives you a laugh, and you say so — that’s great feedback. Comments are a source of encouragement and I try when I comment, to encourage people to write because I know it’s not always easy. We should encourage and support each others writing where we can.
There’s also the aspect of learning something new. In particular, reading other peoples responses is a learning experience. We are never too old to learn.
7. Do You Have Any Current Writing Projects? Have You Published Any Recent Writing? Can You Describe Your Writing Process?
I don’t have any writing projects apart from the family tree document I am working on. I tend to use my blog to respond to the prompts I feel I can do. I was also recently published in the d’verse anthology, and that was a thrill to be included. But I don’t write with the intention to publish.
I usually look at a prompt I’m attracted to and let it sit for a while. Sometimes I have nothing, initially, and then at some point, an idea germinates in my mind and I go from there. The ideas might be from things I’ve read or seen, and I’m able to put my slant on them.
My first draft will be all the ideas I can think of, and then I go back and edit. In the case of word-limited prompt, I write everything and then edit by asking myself, ‘Will the piece stand up if I take this word or sentence or paragraph out?” Usually, when I remove words or sections these prompts work better.
8. Do You Prefer Certain Areas of Writing or Reading Genre? Do You Have Any Helpful Advice for Beginner Writers and Bloggers?
I like to try my hand at all sorts of things. Fantasy is good as I often feel there are not as many strict rules or conventions to follow. I’ve tried my hand at writing horror stories, but I don’t have any compulsion to read them. As I said earlier, I do like writing character pieces the most.
Helpful advice: You need to understand why you are doing what you are doing. Do you like writing, and who might your audience be? Your blog should also be for you. You don’t have to answer to anyone; you write what you like writing about. Also, don’t be disappointed if you receive few, if any, comments when you start.
As well, flash fiction prompts are a useful way to attract followers as they often have huge numbers of blogger submitting stories. Don’t blog as a way to make money; you’ll be disappointed. I imagine few bloggers make any money from their blog. Once you start seeing other bloggers are following you, its normal for a few of them to comment. But don’t expect others to comment on a regular basis.
Its also a blogging fact, the piece you write that you consider brilliant and a work of literary merit, may not receive any or many comments. Why? I don’t know. Most bloggers also have a short attention span and so blog posts over a thousand words won’t be read as much. It’s why 100-word flash fiction is so popular.
Lastly, be prepared to read other people’s blogs with the intention of learning something from them. There are many amazing writers out there.
9. Is There Anything Else You’d Like to Share With Us? Do You Have Any Favorite Blogs or Reasons You Follow Certain Bloggers?
If writing doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, then you aren’t doing it right. You need to stop and evaluate what and why you are doing what you do. We all do it differently and whatever process works for you is a good guide. That people read and comment favorably is proof you are doing something right.
Favorite bloggers: I found this a good question in that it reminded me that during my blogging years, people I admired have disappeared for one reason or another. It has always been sad to read of the death of a favored blogger. Some of my favorite blogs are from people who rarely blog nowadays. Some bloggers develop a unique style and voice, and I like their approach to what they write, so I keep wanting to read more.
“You need to understand why you are doing what you are doing. Do you like writing, and who might your audience be? Your blog should also be for you. You don’t have to answer to anyone; you write what you like writing about.” -Michael Grogan
10. Can You Please Share With Us A Few Links from Your Blog?
Having written a number of posts about Miss Marble, the Witch on Grimace Street, here is a link to one that says something about her origins:
November 29, 2016.
Last week’s Tale Weaver was a piece I wrote about Miss Marble and the aliens. In the end, I mentioned galactic dust and following some queries as to what the dust is, I have written the following, which may shed some light on where Miss Marble has come from, what Marble Juice is, and the significance of the galactic dust. Here is the link to that post: HERE!!
The Klator people had been visiting the earth for many millennia sourcing jupjup berries. They came to earth every two years as part of their orbit through the universe. In the beginning, there had been several spaceships arrive. The earth had the perfect climate for the jupjup berry and they were plentiful. For the Klator the berries provided sustenance. Their home planet was now uninhabitable and they were forced to live a nomadic life.
Their stopovers on earth were about harvesting and preserving as many berries as they could. With each visit, they became aware of climatic changes on the earth. They looked for new locations to plant seeds in the hope that by the time they returned the berries would be in fruit.
As time wore on, the places the berries would grow diminished for a variety of reasons. The climate did change, some years were poorer than others in terms of rainfall, heat, and cold. As the human population spread they took over fertile lands previously planted with the jupjup berry. To the humans, the jupjup berry was nothing more than an inedible pest and they destroyed as much as they could.
By the time of the middle ages, with the human population spreading and growing in numbers, the habitat of the jupjup berry diminished. Farms were expanding due to the need for more produce to feed the growing population.
This was a problem for the Klator. The issue of not being able to source the berries was looming closer and closer.
When they landed they avoided all contact with the humans. They saw the humans as a dirty, disgusting race content to live in their own squalor and offering little to the Klators.
One day, they happened upon a young woman gathering herbs in the forest near where they were harvesting jupjup berries. Curious that this young lady should be gathering herbs in that particular part of the forest they watched her.
The young lady lived in a small house in a street that was long and stretched away from the main town. She had inherited the house from her mother who had passed on her practice to her daughter. They were known in those times as witches as they dealt in all sorts of potions and medicines. Most of the townsfolk feared them especially when they had cures that actually worked. Many of these women had suffered the fate of the dunking stool. In many people’s eyes, it was only a matter of time before this young lady suffered the same fate.
The Klator were curious in discovering the young lady had a keen interest in chemistry. She was keen to find out the properties of the herbs she used.
Sensing an opportunity, the Klator decided to engage with the young lady. Discovery they knew was a huge risk. There had been ugly exchanges in the past and they went out of their way to avoid any reoccurrences.
In the middle of the night, they paid the young lady a visit. Startled at first, the young lady found she had not much choice but listen to the tale the Klator told. Mention of the jupjup berry enthralled her. She knew of the berry and knew most people considered it a pest and tore it out at every opportunity. The Klator asked her to look at the berry and see if there was a way the berry’s secret ingredient might be made.
The young lady looked at the berries offered to her and said she would see what she could discover. For several weeks she toiled at her task before discovering an alcohol the berries contained. This explained the berry’s bitter unpalatable taste.
Knowing a little about alcohol she worked to discover its chemical composition.
It wasn’t long before she discovered a sure way to produce it and in liquid form as well. She presented it to the Klator who, upon tasting it, declared it was ideal for their purposes.
They requested she make enough for the two years they would be away. With due diligence, she carried out the task producing several barrels.
The Klator asked her name were told she was called Marble.
Marble didn’t think of them again as the next two years were a time of survival for her. Times were tough, there was much sickness and the plague was ravaging the country when the Kaltor returned. Seeing them at her door heightened her already high levels of anxiety. Right at that moment, she didn’t need more pressure. The community was whispering witchcraft as she struggled to produce the medicine she hoped would cure the townsfolk.
The Klator had returned with the barrels from the previous visit empty. They asked her to fill them again and what was the name of the substance she made. She mumbled “Marble Juice” for the want of a better name and thought about the manufacture of the liquid for the Klator. It would take her a week to create enough to fill the barrels but in that time her own well-being might come under fire. The plague was not abating, the demand for her medicine was increasing. She explained all this to the Klator who were sympathetic to her cause.
They said they would give her an extra week to help her meet their needs and those of her community.
When they returned they noticed how much Marble had aged. She had not slept well, she worked long hours and the toll was showing.
With their barrels full they were grateful for what Marble did for them and so they gave her a bag of galactic dust. Their instructions were to mix a tablespoon of the dust in a pot of water and drink a half cup each day. Their message was it would give her energy.
Marble did take as they advised and found she did have more energy and could work longer. Before long Marble realized the drink she was taking each day was giving her more than energy. She noticed around her friends and family were growing older. She could not see the same deterioration occurring in herself.
Every two years the Klator returned. They brought Marble a bag of dust and collected their Marble Juice.
As time progressed Marble found people began to build houses along the road past her house. Over the years the area became known as ‘grimace.’ It was what the workers did as they walked past her house, grimaced as if fearful of giving cause to attract Marble’s attention. There were rumors she was not only a witch but a very powerful one. It was just a matter of time before Grimace Street became its official name.
The only friend Marble had in the world was her faithful hound, Sal. (Short for Salivate) She shared her half cup of life elixir with Sal each morning.
As the years went by Grimace Street grew around Marble. Neighbors came and went and Marble became known as Miss Marble.
The galactic dust she knew was invaluable. In the modern age with space exploration expanding and the search for extra-terrestrials ever increasing she knew that should any of the so-called ‘experts’ find out what she had, there would be no stopping them in getting their hands on the invaluable dust. So the arrival of the Klator was always at night, in secret and the galactic dust always locked away.
A Few More of Michael’s Blog Links!!
- I started another lot of tales about an angel on sabbatical called Cyril Rum who started from this story: Burning Angel by Michael Grogan
- For a shorter piece, this one I wrote recently illustrates my varied approach to topics: Thursday Photo Prompt: Distant by Michael Grogan
- Another recent piece: Photo Challenge: Summer and Esther by Michael Grogan
Thank you, Michael, for taking the time to fill out the interview questions, especially, at 5:00 a.m. I apologize the Interview took so long for me to post. For those of you waiting for your interview, they’re coming! Thanks again and see you next time!
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