Oh, the horror! An afternoon with H. P. Lovecraft and Stephen King

On a gloomy late October afternoon some of our network members gathered for a fun Halloween-themed online writing workshop.

The attendees were divided into two groups and each group received an assignment: they first analysed a sample of a well-known horror author’s writing with the help of some prompts and then they set out to write their own piece in that author’s style.

One of the teams worked on a Victorian story in H. P. Lovecraft’s style, while the other one had to imitate the contemporary American writer, Stephen King.

And… Here are the results!

King impersonators

Written by Fiona Gray, Holly-Anne Whyte, Alanah Reynor and Afra Madkhana

It was 15 minutes after midnight and Burt Fitzgerald had just dozed off when a loud crash had awoken him from a fitful dream, the kind you have when you’re sleeping in a bed that’s not your own. It was the old bed in the attic room that creaked and groaned in harmony with the wind outside. It was the last week of October, the run up to Halloween, and houses along the street were decked with dollar-store cobwebs and jack-o’-lanterns, their flames flickering and sputtering out as the storm picked up. I’d just gone out for the third time to relight the candles purchased for the occasion, yet more paraphernalia, a tribute to the Gods of the consumer season that my wife had worshiped as a devoted disciple. Each year she had filled her cart with Walmart’s finest from mid-September through to the new year like a magpie gathering shiny trinkets for his mate.

Love-crafted lines

Written by David Stockings, Laura Elvin and Anikó Pető-Mordovski

There is no arrogance greater than keeping a journal of the mundane and workaday thoughts of the average man; the compulsion to capture the most trivial detail of human existence against the grand significance of the cosmic cycle is pitiable. And yet, when one happens to chance upon the diary of a truly transcendent mind, one cannot help but be enmarvelled. Such was the case when I opened the mysterious brown package delivered by persons unseen and with no postmark to my office at the College. I was amazed to recognise the singular handwriting of my late colleague, Professor Emeritus Archibald Homer Augustus III.

The journal contained oracular but alarming statements about the universe and human existence; at least those parts that had not been scratched out with frenzied penstrokes, which grew greater in number as the journal progressed. These unnerving revelations – which I shall not burden you with – were still weighing heavily on my mind as I drifted off to sleep. I found no rest in my slumber, plagued as my dreams were by shapes that my mind could not interpret and echoes of the esteemed professor’s words ringing out in the dark.

Jolted awake by a sudden rapping at my chamber window, I hastily sprang out of bed and flung open the windows, struggling against the gales that battered the walls of my abode. Spying nothing amiss, I battled to close the casements, and attempted to return to my fitful rest; futile, of course. The rapping came again, more insistent than before, but seemingly at the tradesmen’s door this time.

Arming myself with the third volume of Dictionary of the Semitic Languages in one hand and a brass candlestick in the other, I hastened down the stairs, not even pausing to throw on my house coat. Once in the kitchen, I gathered my resolve and prepared to throw open the door and catch the miscreant off-guard. But the heavy oak portal swung open to reveal…nothing; no sign of a living being, neither animal nor human. Feeling somewhat foolish, I was about to turn to fasten the door, when all of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed a dark anthropic ectoplasm lingering beneath the skeleton of a lightning-stricken apple tree. As I narrowed my eyes to focus on the figure in the stormy gloom, my blood ran cold in my veins as the realisation struck me: the shadowy figure was, beyond a doubt, none other than the journal’s author, Archibald Homer Augustus III!

You can read more about the workshop in the January-February 2023 issue of the ITI Bulletin.

Working alone together… and working together

A guest post from our member Holly-Anne Whyte on our first business retreat.

Laura Elvin, David Stockings, Holly-Anne Whyte, Frances Clarke and Anikó Pető-Mordovski on retreat

We all know that freelancing can be a lonely life and we can easily get stuck in a rut. Fortunately, we have a fantastic local network of colleagues with a wealth of experience and our first joint business retreat was a great opportunity to make the most of it.

Following the retreat we prepared an article for the Bulletin on how it worked and what we achieved. I won’t repeat that here. And while I was tempted to go into the logistics of organizing the event (and wrote a few hundred words on the topic), I scrapped that version in favour of some more general reflections.

What is a business retreat?

Put simply, it’s an opportunity to work on our business, rather than in it. An opportunity to consider what we want from our business, what it looks like now, what we want it to look like and how we might get there.

While I had always taken time out to work on my business (easily done in the early days when projects are few and far between), the idea of structuring the process more formally was inspired by the Deliberate Freelancer podcast: https://deliberatefreelancer.libsyn.com/3-host-a-solo-business-retreat. (Host Melanie has done a few more episodes on her own business retreats, so I’d definitely recommend checking them out.)

What do you actually do at a business retreat?

I tend to split the “behind the scenes” of my business into four main categories, each of which has several sub-categories:

Services and training

  • Service offerings
  • Side projects
  • CPD audit

Market:

  • Clients profiles (current and desired)
  • USP and value proposition
  • Market analysis
  • Marketing
    • Branding
    • Online presence
    • Etc.

Operations:

  • Tools and technology
  • Physical infrastructure (desk, etc.)
  • Daily routine

Finances:

  • Analysis of current situation
  • Goals
  • Rates
  • Expenses

A business retreat gives us the time to analyse some of all or these areas with a critical eye, to think about what works – and what doesn’t – and to set SMART goals to shape our businesses the way we want.

Working alone together…

For much of the business retreat we worked alone. So what was the point in meeting up? There’s something about working in a room with other people (people to whom you’ll report what you’ve actually done) that holds us accountable for actually focusing and doing those things.

The change of scenery helps too. It puts our brains in a different mode, one more prepared to think outside the box, innovate and take risks. I think that’s really important when we want to find new ways to move our businesses forward or get them back on the right track.

… and working together

Being able to bounce ideas off people who “just get it” was, for me, incredibly invigorating. Whether it was a brief interruption during our solo working time or as part of group activities, everyone’s enthusiasm for sharing ideas, relating and helping each other was palpable. We are social animals after all and or brains weren’t designed to solve problems alone (see https://youarenotsosmart.com/2022/05/29/yanss-234-how-to-create-better-online-environments-in-which-arguing-and-deliberation-is-more-likely-to-change-peoples-minds/).*

What’s more, it’s always heartening to know that others share your struggles and take joy in your successes. Who better to understand our lives than other freelance translators. Online is really no substitute for the buzz of someone finishing your sentence to build on an idea, seeing them roll their eyes in sympathy when you talk about a nightmare client or sharing that relief in hearing everyone is wrangling with the bigger picture.

The aftermath

Since the retreat, I have found I am more focused, more purposeful and more productive. I’m getting things off the backburner that should never have been there in the first place. I feel more connected to our translator community and beyond grateful for it.

I can’t wait for the next edition. See you there?

*Yes, I love podcasts…