Monday, 18 November 2019

Running Away

The darkness in the shadows that always seems to follow you has woken up. Cold and rain and danger and never ever being safe. Until, coming up for air, an oasis of calm, or was that just the cusp, the forgetting, the false security. Yes, because there is the gnawing, soaring sensation again and all will never be well. 
Others deliberately turn their backs, glad it is not them singled out. So you run, down the rain-soaked streets. Relentless running and a stitch and then in breathless exhaustion, you are forced to slow, even though you know that might well be the end.
Inevitably, we are all running from something; a visceral, indescribable evil that is the other side of ourselves. Maybe that is the creature pounding after you, just your shadow reflection. Just everything you don’t like about yourself.
Silence follows your revelation, you stop and turn slowly, ready to confront. The other sadder, angrier, more dangerous you stands there, an unfriendly mirror. There is only one possibility, only one way out. You walk forwards with outstretched arms. It is time to accept, to forgive, to be whole.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Novelists, Go Back to School!

Writing a novel can be lonely, if you don’t count the made-up people walking around your head and clamouring for attention.
After three terms off, I’ve gone back to my creative writing evening class and it’s like coming home. Over the years the group have unwittingly become good friends. We bond over our common drive/love/sickness to write. We get excited about and share books. We go to the pub afterwards. The class are an eclectic lot, from romance-writing accountants to Daoist bus drivers to dystopian opal miners. Yes, I know, less plausible than the characters in your novel but that’s reality for you.
Nicky, the charismatic and endlessly inventive teacher leads us through exercises, discussion and homeworks. She helps us hone our writing skills and stretches us in different directions. Poetry, flash fiction and reviews refocus my novelist approach to rhythm, cutting surplus words and integrity.
With the homeworks, I complete, I finesse, I finish and as they’re only a page long, it’s almost instant gratification. What an antidote to scaling 80,000 words! When sharing writing, any praise, of course, is lovely but more crucially, the constructive feedback is gold. For example, on my own, there was nobody to point out my blind spots. In class, somebody will ask, ‘Are your characters floating in space?’ and I’ll remind myself to include an indication the story is set in a coffee shop.
The class is also a wonderful distraction from my current phase of researching and sending out to agents. The waiting and hoping game might have been eating me alive right now, but it’s not because I’m considering how to interpret my next homework. I’m also reading a borrowed book many miles out of my comfort zone.
Most of all the class is fun. And isn’t that why we pick up our pens in the first place? It’s easy to forget that when you're on the third draft of your novel and discover a gaping plot hole. The class helps me get back to those simple motivations; to create, to entertain, to connect.
So, novelist, don’t sit in your garret with only your protagonist for company; remember the real world! I wish I’d come back sooner. In class, I’m always learning, and it’s always fun!

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Thirteen Seconds Before the Story Starts

A dark side street. An orange streetlamp from twenty metres away turns the trees grey but doesn’t give enough light for clarity. There is undergrowth, there are lurking places, there are puddles and cracks on the ground. What light there is, picks out imprecise diamonds of smashed glass and a sad rainbow of oil where a car has leaked. No honest person would stop here long. It is a place that causes the hairs on your neck to prickle, it is a place that makes you wish you were home. And now a gust of harsh wind brings litter with it and the start of smattering rain.  

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Lost Yesterdays

‘It was just stuff, after all, just things. Belongings don’t make a home, people do,’ she told him, gripping his hand.
‘In a strange way, it’s liberating, cleansing,’ he said, wiping tears from his eyes.
They moved back from the heat and she thought about her melting memory sticks. She looked up at the sky and wished she’d saved to the “Cloud”.
He sniffed wood smoke and wondered if he was inhaling his piano.
The fire engine came and doused their shared history.
When the building was declared safe they went back in. They argued about what was salvageable. He said nothing was but she kept picking up blackened twisted remnants as keepsakes.
They were insured, their house was remade and they could buy everything new.
He got a more expensive piano that didn’t stick on B flat, but somehow lacked the personality of his old one.
She started saving to the “Cloud”. She missed her dress with the pink spots she’d worn for their wedding day.
‘I didn’t think I was materialistic,’ she told him, sitting on their garden bench, the only thing that had escaped the blaze.
‘We have each other,’ he said.
‘That stuff was part of my heart,’ she replied.
The doctor came and told her she had to go away.
He looked around the empty house. Things didn’t matter, people did, he told himself. But now the only important person had gone too.
He knew what he had to do. He hunted car boot sales and charity shops and Ebay to find exact copies of what they’d owned. When he couldn’t find items he drew pictures of them and hung them up. He wasn’t a very talented artist, nor did he have great visual recollection but he drew with determination and passion. He drew each ornament on the mantelpiece, he drew the rickety armchair she loved, he drew their wedding photos, he drew everything that was missing except her.
After a month she returned, thinner and tired-looking. He took her hand and guided her into their illustrated home.
‘What do you think?’ he asked.
A breeze ran through the house and all the drawings on the walls rustled and shivered. ‘I love it,’ she said, then looked up at him with glistening eyes, ‘No more matches?’ she asked.
‘No more matches,’ he agreed.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Part of my Heart Belongs to a Dog

My Labrador lies by me and snores
He slumbers more and more
He dreams and twitches and sleep-woofs
When he wakes, yawning and yowling
He demands blueberries and carrots and love
A can-be cantankerous walker
Occasionally puppyish and playful
Old and lumpy and mad
He is my strange baby

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Song Request for my Funeral

I wasn’t supposed to like this song, I was supposed to like melancholic lyrics, songs that people who wore purple and black liked. But this baby leaked through.
One, two, three, four! There are some songs that make my soul dance. That transport, that dissolve, that create joy. There are some songs that are silly and must be played at every opportunity, every party, every wedding, should be on every iPod. Even sober, this makes me leap about like a moron. Part of me is in 1990 again, hearing it for the first time. Groove is in my heart and I dance with deee-lite.