Monday, 29 June 2015

Flash: Sleep Tight


Everyone has their phobias; I don’t like cables. And yet everything seems to need to be plugged in. Around the bedside table are tangled leads for my hairdryer, chargers and lamp. I have woken with my headphones wrapped around my neck many times. Leads loop and knot around each other when I’m not looking; a snaking orgy of wire.
When I lie in bed I hear them writhing.

Then one day at work I see the solution; along my office walls are tamed cable-tied leads. I stop at the DIY shop to buy supplies. When I get home I lay all my leads out on the bed, then sausage them together. There will be no more saucy nonsense; now they are married.

In the night I listen and hear nothing. They are restricted and I can sleep easy.

Until
I wake up
unable to breathe.
My rope of cables is coiled around my throat;
I have made my own noose.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Eyes bigger than my Intellect


I am a collager. I write in fragments, sometimes only a scrap of conversation, sometimes a scene in my head that may or may not be relevant. I now have quite a lot of these bursts, many are completely incoherent; a few are polished standalones. I do have a diagram somewhere of how the story goes and several of my sections relate to the intended plot arc. But quite a lot I haven’t placed, and more dangerously, some are impossible and contradictory.

Novels have beginnings, middles and ends. Books are linear, lineyer than how I’ve been working. I am excited about playing with the possibility of less conventional narratives but I was beginning to panic at my expanding chaos.

Then, at Loose Muse last week Jeannie Waudby was speaking to us about her debut novel One of Us, saying how she wrote in exactly the same ‘bits and pieces’ way. I asked how she drew these together and slightly shyly she rustled in her bag and got out a concertina of old-fashioned printer paper with different coloured post-its stretched over it. ‘This is the beginning,’ she told us. Then she got out another piece, similarly decorated, ‘This is the end.’ Finally she got another sheet, twice as long, about three metres, ‘And this is my middle or muddle as people call it.’

It was a wonderful opposite extreme of an elevator pitch.

I spend my working life staring at a screen, I spend a lot of my writing life staring at a screen and I spend an embarrassing amount of my leisure time staring at a screen. So I don’t want to use novel-writing software. I know it works for some people, but for me it is oxymoronic. Training people how to use software has been my bread and butter in the past and however clever it can be I don’t want my creativity sullied with it. I want to be mad and free and when I do (and now I do) have to pin myself down I want to do it in the real tangible world, with handwritten fluorescent post-its that I can move around and draw pictures on and screw up and throw for the dog to chase.

Thank you Jeannie; I can’t find printer paper anywhere but I’m off to buy me a big roll of parcel paper.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Flash: Let Sleeping Dogs



I love watching my dog dream. His eyelids flicker, his legs twitch and he does volleys of high-pitch woofs in his sleep.

* * *

I sit at a table, napkin around my neck. I lap a little at my bowl of 2010 Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Pape, a good year. Then she comes in, puts my plate down, removes the metal cloche and bows.

‘I do not want dry dog food, Mummy, especially not the diet kind. I want roast beef, parsnips and Yorkshire puddings. No Mummy, this will not do.’

I grab the plate in my jaws and throw it across the restaurant. Other diners are pelted with tiny bone-shaped biscuits.

‘If you cannot feed me appropriately Mummy, I see only one solution.’ I jump onto the table, knocking cutlery to the ground and in one gulp swallow her up. Now there will be no more nonsense about diets and dry food.

* * *

My dog gives a big satisfied snore and licks his lips. It must be a good dream.