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Writing at last – sort of

Just a quickie. Yes I know, you wait weeks for a post then two come along at once. Maybe I’ve had too much caffeine.

Anyway, today I handed over a book I’ve written!

A dear chap called Robbie celebrated his second birthday on Sunday but we didn’t get to see him until today when we presented him with his very own story book, written about him. I printed it off and hand-stitched it into a cardboard cover adorned with photos of our hero. He seemed pleased but was rather more taken with the chocolate buttons wrapped up with it.

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Posted by on March 7, 2014 in Struggling Writers

 

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Shhhh, I Think I Can Hear My Muse.

Where the hell has he/she been?

I don’t want to raise false hope but I found the last issue of Mslexia hidden in a cupboard. I hadn’t read all of it so I settled down with a mug of coffee and my feet propped up on the dog to enjoy being inspired (or rather, desperately hoping for inspiration) and guess what? I am inspired – well, nearly. Submissions for the next issue will be set in exotic places and this reminded me of a short story I wrote a few years ago that’s set in West Africa. Mm. It’s unlikely I’ll rework it time to submit it but it got me thinking. I’m very fond of that story and I know it needs work so … I’m going to work on it! Ta Da!

Could this be the moment when Lorraine gets back to her keyboard and makes her MA worthwhile? I do hope so. Watch this space – but don’t hold your breath as you might go blue.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2013 in Struggling Writers

 

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You Just Had To Be There

You got a bit of cabin fever, I expect.’ ‘Yes, I suppose you could say that. I had the 4 – 8 watch and I found it hard going.’ ‘Did you see dolphins though?’ ‘Oh yes, there were lots and lots of dolphins.’ ‘And phosphorescence? Did you see that?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Did you see dolphins in the phosphorescence?’ ‘I did.’ ‘It’s amazing isn’t it?’ ‘It’s fantastic, they look like torpedoes and … wait a minute. How do you know all this?’ My sister, St Francis, was chatting with an acquaintance this morning. Having very recently returned from a sailing trip to Bermuda he has an evangelistic need to share his experience that all first-timers get. His wife, who didn’t go on the trip and who hasn’t been sailing in tropical waters is already full to the brim with his stories. In St Francis he sensed a kindred spirit. ‘We sailed boats down to West Africa when I was a kid,’ she answered his question. ‘Did you?’ ‘Yes. And I was in the Merchant Navy.’ ‘Were you?’ He’s only known St Francis for ten years. No reason he should have picked up such details in that short time.  

There is a picture of St Francis, windswept and tiny, on the deck of our motor boat. In front of her our mother is frozen in the act of slicing the first piece from a birthday cake. St Francis is three and she’s celebrating mid Biscay. She’s already experienced Breton women in traditional dress clucking over her. Later, in La Rochelle, she’ll see her first dead body which will drift across the harbour between us and the toy sailing boat that she got as her present. My father will cast the little yacht adrift when next we put to sea because none of us want to play with it any more.

And so on, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Western Sahara etc., etc., until, one day, she and I will be standing in the market in Banjul, The Gambia, gazing up at a very well-built pink-eyed albino woman as she sold our mother some fly attracting mutton.

Three years later, we were living in Nigeria and two years after that we sailed another boat down to West Africa. This time via Sweden.

St Francis has had cabin fever. She’s seen flying fish, whales, dolphins, and dolphins gliding through the eerie glow of phosphorescent waters on dark nights when the coast is an unlit shadow on the horizon. She knew exactly where her friend was coming from this morning just as she understood the wide-eyed, inarticulate little girl from across the road when she returned from a trip to Kenya, a few years ago. St Francis hasn’t been to Kenya but she knows the heat, the noise, the smells of Africa. And she knows that, unless you’re talking to someone who has been there, you cannot communicate the experience. No matter how many stories you tell and no matter how many pictures you take.

Which brings me to an awkward thought – I fancy myself as a writer and if I accept the truth of what I have just written in the last paragraph …

 

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When It’s Quiet

Eric the dog was restless tonight. We spent the evening at Little Sis’s and he cavorted all over the place with the other dogs Ernie and Floyd – well Ernie anyway, Floyd isn’t much of a cavorter – but when I got him home, instead of settling down for a snooze, he paced, played and pranced. Finally I asked him if he wanted to go out. From his reaction I guessed that he did.

My back garden has no fence at the end. I can walk up some steps and out into a field where a barn owl glides low over the tussocky grass and pheasants keep a wary eye on the neighbour’s cats. As his homing instinct is unreliable, Eric must be tethered. I made him a nice long lead with my best sailor knots but my garden is small and full of obstacles so I have to hang around and untangle Eric at regular intervals. Tonight, I thought he’d pee and ask to come in again but, no, he went up the steps into the field and stood stock still. Hovering in the pool of light by the back door, I watched him. What could he smell? What could he hear out there in the undergrowth? I held my breath and listened. The air felt fresh after yesterday’s rain and it was warm enough for me to go outside barefoot in t-shirt and jeans. There was no breeze but I did pick up the rustling of small mammals scuttling through the grass. A couple of fields over a sheep bleated and another member of the flock replied.

Eric turned. He came back down into the garden and followed his nose sniffing in all the corners. He spent a while staring through the fence into next door’s garden (hoping for some entertainment from their cats, I imagine) then went back up to the field. I watched. For twenty minutes or so I sniffed the air – just like Eric. And I listened to the night – just like Eric. In the clean, country quiet, the white noise in my head subsided and for the first time in an age the fist of tension inside me eased. I felt calmed. I felt the writer in me take a breath. She’s still alive then. I don’t know if she’s out of her coma yet but those precious minutes in the garden watching my dog brought me into contact with her and I’m thrilled. I hope she wakes up soon and I hope she wakes up hungry.

We came inside shortly after that, Eric and I. Now he’s fast asleep, curled up like a puppy and snoring like a chainsaw but I forgive him. He led me into an oasis of peace out there in the dark so I owe him. Cheers, Eric.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2013 in Musing, Struggling Writers

 

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Our ‘ilary and Me

So after writing Fed Up, ****** Off and Far From Happy, I was dragging about, tripping over my bottom lip and generally feeling depressed until my sister forced me out of the house, deposited me in my favourite café and told me to do the crossword or something. Well, I can’t argue with her when she’s in that mood can I? I bought a newspaper and sat with a bucketful of latte in front of me and puzzled over the cryptic crossword. I may have completed four whole clues before I got bored (and stuck) and so decided to actually read the paper instead. And guess what I discovered? Hilary Mantel’s only gone and won the Booker prize. Again. Well done, that woman! I was lucky enough to attend a talk/interview she did at my university just after her novel Wolf Hall had won the prize. I liked her. I learned from her. And I was well jealous. A friend and I christened her Our ‘ilary, and I’ve felt quite attached to her since then so I’m really very happy she’s done the double. Well done ‘ilary, Bring Up the Bodies is definitely on my reading list.

Then …

My nephew, Semtex, had asked if we could get our dog Floyd (Short Legs, Deep Puddles and From Grey to Green) a ragger. Raggers are bits of knotted rope. You hold one end, the dog takes the other between his teeth and a tug of war breaks out. Unfortunately for Floyd, whilst raggers are widely available, they are generally made for dogs with bigger mouths than he’s got so when I’d sloshed down the last of my coffee, I went in search of some suitable cheap rope. I found some, sat on a bench and made a bespoke ragger. Floyd’s ragger is nautical in style because I used sailor’s knots to make it. His end is a monkey’s fist, Semtex’s end is a double sheet bend and I’m very proud of it. Dog and boy like it too, which is the main thing.

And then …

As if crosswords, Booker Prize winners and raggers weren’t enough to cheer a grumpy old woman up, I got home to find that I’ve had a story accepted by a well-known magazine.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2012 in Struggling Writers

 

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Fed Up, ****** Off and Far From Happy

What sad, desperate daydreams have filled my head today.

I’ve been thinking about university – my tutors, my fellow students – and missing it all. I didn’t want it to end. I didn’t enrol just to get an MA. I wanted to learn, to listen, to mix with other writers and make contact with people who could sustain me after the course.

Well, I got my MA so, obviously I did listen and I did learn but now the course is over. I had to move away before I graduated, meaning that I left behind my fledgling acquaintance with a literary society. I don’t mix with writers now. I’m under intense financial pressure (I can’t even afford ink for my printer) and my office is becoming a place to dump stuff (Currently it’s occupied by a large papier-mâché statue from my nephew’s school – long story). How the hell can I get ahead?

It’s pointless to wish I could turn back the clock to my first day at uni but …

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2012 in Struggling Writers

 

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Damp, Unoccupied, Unloved

I went into Shedward today for the first time in several days. My papers are curling at the edges and notes have come unglued from their Blu-Tak and drifted to the floor. I picked them up and placed them on my desk. Are those notes important? Will they have any relevance to future work on the novel I’ve started? Do I have any enthusiasm to get back to work on it? On any writing?
Well, I have written a couple of blog posts recently so that’s a good sign. And I looked up dates for submissions on the Mslexia website, so the bug is still in me.
My novel is ticking away in the back of my head – with every novel/story I read my mind is Hoovering up all I can learn from the style, characterisation and point of view of the author. At the moment, I’m in the middle of Dubliners by James Joyce and, while I’m enjoying each story, I’m also picking it apart and trying to absorb Joyce’s skill. I hook out certain passages or phrases or descriptions and hold my own words up against them. At the same time I’m pondering how to bring about the changes that my work-in-progress needs. None of that means I have any clue what I’m going to, though!
When economic and time pressures let me up to the surface to breathe, I need to sit down at my desk, reread the feedback on my dissertation, take some notes and then let my writer-psyche bubble up into my brain. She knows how to get this narrative going in the right direction. I believe in that. I believe that the answer already exists inside me – my biggest problem is self-doubt. Someone (who certainly knew what she was talking about) once told me that I have a fear of success. While the idea of being afraid of success makes no sense to me at all, I know she’s right so I must ignore or conquer the little voice in my ear that says ‘You’ll never finish this, who are you kidding?’ and jump into the glass half-full-camp. This would be aided and speeded up by finding a bag of cash under a bush but I’m not holding my breath on that one! It’s down to me to earn the money to buy the time at my desk so I’d better get on with it and head off back to sea. And the first thing I’ll do when I get back is give Shedward a dust and a de-cobweb (yes, again. Eight-legged fiends!) and make him a part of the family again.

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2012 in Struggling Writers

 

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