Thursday, 27 October 2011

Short story: Untitled

This is a story that, to be honest, I like but I don't like this version.

I love the idea and the character of the little girl - but I was trying to fit it into short story format as per the course I've been doing, and it just wouldn't go. The ending isn't right and I had loads more ideas around this story that I think would make it something a bit more lengthy. Would appreciate any feedback!

Short story homework, unfinished

“NEXT!”
Josie jumped at the sudden sound. She had been absent-mindedly shuffling along in the queue for over an hour, which wasn’t as long as usual but in the damp November twilight it was long enough.
The human centipede of a queue wriggled and writhed with the fidget of stamping feet. Hungry people sheltered against empty shop fronts for the memory of warmth they once offered. Like every other High Street in the country, it had long since died.
Shop signs had been flipped to ‘closed’ in every window, fancy displays looted by the Revolutionaries. Stark red sale banners still hung like party flags, warnings of a calamity no one had wanted to hear.
A few people in the queue could remember going to those sales, thinking they’d grabbed themselves a bargain. But not Josie Whyte. At the time of the Final Crash she was “knee high to a chromosome” as her scientist dad would joke. Even though he used to be something high up in the government health department, they had to queue like everyone else.
It was starting to get dark. “We’re lucky,” Josie’s dad had told her one day, before he got too weak to queue with her. “This old town still has gas lit lamps. Fancy doing this in the dark?” She shuddered. It looked pretty dark to her as it was. The flickering light cast a damp mud glow over the rows of figures, each with a ghost of their own breath for company.
Most people came alone – it wasn’t worth a whole family catching cold for half a loaf and a tin of condensed milk. Josie wasn’t the only child, but at nine-and-three-quarters she was one of the youngest.
She knew she wouldn’t see the other kids today, because she had got here early especially. Now here she was, next in line. Dad would be pleased.
“Straight there and back now,” he had warned, pressing the tokens firmly into her mitten-clad hands. “I’ll be watching the clock.” He said it cheerfully, but she knew he was worried. It had been weeks since he last had his medicine and his cough was getting worse. Today was Delivery Day. She had to get some medicine, or they would be waiting another month and then who knows what would happen.
The ration station was an old chemist’s. She walked up to the high counter, where a flustered woman in the government issued uniform was counting ration coupons and attacking them noisily with a rubber stamp.
BAM!
“Who’s next?”
Apparently she couldn’t see Josie, who had to jump up and grip onto the edge of the slippery white counter with both her hands. Her mittens dangled at her sides from the string inside her smock coat. The one thing her mother had knitted her before she died.
“I need my dad’s medicine please.”
BAM!
“No medicine today, Missy. Can I get ye anything else?”
Josie nearly lost her grip in shock, but pulled herself up again, wide eyes just peaking over the counter at the woman’s smocked breast and the pile of coupons in front of her.
BAM!
The stamp swooped past Josie’s nose and made her blink as it landed.
She had to speak. She had to do something.
“But…”
BAM!
“We saw it. On the ration newsletter. It said today was delivery day?”
The woman put down the rubber stamp and peered at her little customer over her reading glasses.
“And who be the ‘we’, if yous don’t mind me asking?”
“Me and my dad. He’s sick. He needs medicine. It said there was a delivery today. I came early, especially.”
The stamp woman’s expression softened and she glanced up, for the first time that day noticing the cloying mist swirling around the door. Was it getting dark already? She sighed and rubbed her face with her hands.
“Ye came on yus own?”
Two wide eyes nodded. Josie clung on, the tips of her fingers now white and hurting from the effort.
People were shouting from outside.
“Come on!”
“What’s the hold up?”
“Get a move on, some of us want to be home before dark.”
“I tell ye what child, I’ll do you a deal,” said the stamp woman, looking at Josie’s whitening knuckles. “But first, come round here, or you’ll do yeself and injury and I don’t need that just before rush hour.”
Relief gushed through Josie’s veins along with the blood to her numb fingers as she let herself drop back down to floor level. Pins and needles flooded into her arms. She made a mental note to ask her dad what pins and needles was, trotted round the counter to the bit where part of it lifted up, mounted a step and came face to face with the stamp woman’s whole body. Most of it was covered with her smock, but Josie could see a nice skirt underneath and proper shoes. She must get paid alright, thought Josie. Everyone else had worn through nearly every pair of boots, and it was not even half way through the winter.
The woman crouched down and took Josie’s hands in hers. Instinctively, Josie withdrew them and clutched the tokens to her chest. The woman laughed.
“Come on now, I’m not going to swizzle ye. I just want to see how much you’ve got.”
She smiled and Josie thought it might be OK.
“Have you got any medicine?”
“You’re a determined one aren’t ye?”  She held out her hand. “Show me the money and we’ll see if we can’t help ye, and your pappy too.”
More shouts came from outside and there was scuffling. Josie knew she was pushing her luck already and that if people rushed in the woman would forget all about her and shut up shop to stop the looters getting in.
Slowly, carefully, she held out one hand and uncurled her fingers. The coupons were squashed and damp from being held under her sweaty mittens.
Still looking Josie straight in the face, the woman slowly and carefully picked up the notes.
She thumbed through them. “Ten, twenty, thirty…my! Where’s your pappy live, eh? Wouldn’t I like to know.”
Josie shifted nervously on the spot.
“Can I have the medicine now?”
The woman jumped up without warning, nearly bashing Josie on the chin. She stumbled backwards off the step onto the shop floor, only just keeping her balance. The woman was back behind the counter with her stamp.
“I’ll see what I can do,” she said.
BAM!
 “But…”
“It’s someone else’s turn now. Race home to pappy now and not say a word, if ye know what’s good for ye.”
BAM!
Josie stood, dumbstruck, on the pale shop floor, her face ashen in the low energy bulb light.
“SCRAM!”
She ran out into the damp November night, pushing her way through the cold but somehow warm legs of the people scrambling to get through the door, hot tears mingling with the ice cold mist which stung her face. She sobbed. Was it true? Had it really happened? As she ran, visions hung in the fog around her and she batted them away with her flailing arms, to no avail.
Red flapping sale signs were floating down, down, down onto a bed where her coughing father tossed and turned, moaning with pain and despair: “Josie! Josie! My Josie-Jo! What have you done to me?” She couldn’t bear his sad face, his hacking lungs, gasping for breath…she tried to reach out to him but he was drowning under the red banners which fell faster and faster…now they were turning to giant notes like the ones she’d seen in pictures with the Queen’s head on…strange, bodiless hands appeared from every angle clutching and grasping in vain at the notes as they fluttered midair.
Defeated, Josie fell to the ground, the vision evaporating into the mist.
She wept, hearing the brutal STAMP! of the woman as though it was right above her. Somewhere in the distance another victim presented their coupons to be stamped.
BAM!
“Can I help ye?”

ENDS

Short story: The Videotape

For the aforementioned short story course I was doing, we had to work on a 1,000-word story to read out in the final week. This was my story. It's sort of adapted from an idea I had for a collection of stories about people with sad tales to tell. The collection would have more impact than one story on its own (well that's my idea anyway) but this had to be butchered quite a bit to get down to the word count, and in order to try and put into practice the tips I received on the course I gave it a 'twist' which on reflection, I probably wouldn't do in the final story.

But anyway, here it is! Comments/constructive criticism as always, much appreciated:

The Videotape

The day I found the videotape had been just like any other.
Breakfast, put some washing on, think about what to do with myself in those long dead hours in the afternoon, between lunch and the six o’clock news, when my tea would be ready. I found myself envying the vegetables I was chopping as I put them into the slowcooker, knowing each carrot, parsnip and swede cube was nestled safely and purposefully in its own place, only one eventuality to become them all. Ha! Silly old fool, I told myself. Envying veg. What next? Better to put the long afternoon out of mind, work on your cross stitching, watch the news, and count your blessings before bed.
Except this Wednesday, I never got to the news.
A report on the radio reminded me of the talk at last Thursday’s social. Something about technology. As if a dozen or so widows cared about new technology! But it made me think about Bill and his love of gadgets.
In that instant I could see him, in his armchair nearest the telly, slapping his hands down on the arm rests and shaking his head.
‘It’s no good. We’ll have to get a new one.’
And that was it. I never asked why, or a new what? Just nodded and let him get the catalogues out to start comparing prices and models and specifications with faint pencil notes in a tiny red notebook.
I don’t know why I remembered the notebook, but I had a sudden urge to check – check that it was real, not imagined, that something tangible of dear Bill still existed. Before I knew it I was rummaging around in his precious Back Room.
Piles of books, magazines, papers and old boxes nestled together conspiratorially in the musty darkness. We’re safe, they seemed to say. Nothing ever changes in here.
As I tugged at one of the drawers in the old fashioned bureau that belonged to Bill’s father it came out clean in my hands, bits and bobs flying everywhere. My heart leapt – what would Bill say? Then I remembered, with a funny feeling in my stomach, that he couldn’t say anything because he wasn’t there.
So I ploughed on.
Old receipts, shopping lists, instruction manuals, light bulbs, screws and nails and wall hanging hooks. It was all there, just where he’d left it.
‘What on earth were you planning on doing with all this?’ I found myself wondering.
Instinctively, I started sorting things into piles, until I realised I was clearing out this bureau and I intended to do a proper job of it.
The notebook still hadn’t appeared when something else caught my eye. Hidden beneath ancient alarm clocks, radios and floppy discs was the old video player.
‘Videos? Pah. It’s all about digital versatile discs now love,’ I remembered him saying. But it was the only bit of kit I was interested in using. I used to tape old films to watch in the day, whilst ironing or stitching or the like. I didn’t fancy re-training to the new DVD player.
Now, with no accusing eyes watching, I grabbed it with both hands and pulled it free from its hiding place. Grabbing a few videotapes from an adjacent mountain I triumphantly bundled my booty back to the living room. After a few minor rearrangements of plugs and sockets, I heard the blip telling me the video welcome screen was running, clear as day. Where had this tech-savvy woman taking over her husband’s beloved technology come from? I barely knew myself.
In a daze, I shoved the first tape into the player and waited. The machine whirred and hesitated and seemed to get stuck, and I suddenly felt tired. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. My knees ached and my heart was racing with the sudden burst of activity. There was all the rubbish to put out and I’d have to unhook the damn thing as it looked so cumbersome and out of place in my neat living room.
Giving up, I left the machine clicking away and put the kettle on. Suddenly, I heard music.
Faint at first, then louder, but not like a film soundtrack, more like it was being played inside some other room. A voice, slightly muffled, was speaking in a few short sentences at a time. Curiosity got the better of me and I went to see what this strange film could be.
It wasn’t a film at all. It was a home movie. People, wobbly and faint with the passing of time, were dancing in pairs, in some kind of community hall. Then it twigged. Our anniversary party! I knelt right in front of the telly and turned the volume up.
Ahhh, look. The happy couple! It was Bill’s work colleague, Ian something or other. As he spoke, the shaky zoom focused and refocused again on a couple, dancing awkwardly in the centre of the room. It was me. Cradled in Bill’s arms. Clutched, more like. He always held on too tight, but I didn’t mind. We span amateurishly across the floor, all the while Bill catching people’s eyes, ever the friendly neighbour, chit chatting and making jokes with his friends. I basked in his being, allowing myself to be spun and twirled and shunted around the dancefloor like Cosmo dancing with the dummy in Singin’ in the Rain.
Then, as abruptly as it started, the screen flickered and was gone – replaced with static.
I struggled to rejoin the room. Where was Bill? What had happened?
It was just a normal Wednesday. Yet now it felt like the days and weeks and years had melted and merged and were swimming around in my vision like the black circles that formed when I looked away from the snowstorm of the screen at the disappearing sunlight. I closed my eyes and let my head sag down to my bony chest. That chest. It had been so close. So wedged in to Bill’s ample torso, squeezed until I could feel his heart beat against my bosom. Together we span, one person, never questioning the closeness that bound us, never contemplating how fragile that moment was, how quickly it would be gone. By the following Christmas, he was dead.
Slowly, carefully, I unplugged the wires and buried the video in its place back in Bill’s room. I shut the door, went back to the kitchen and made a cup of tea to drink before the news.
The last thing I remember is a warm, solid pressure against my chest. I imagined it was Bill, squeezing me tighter and tighter until I knew that my last breath would take me to him, I would be safe in his arms once again. When they found me, I was still smiling.

ENDS

End of the short story writing class...and other things

Wow it's been a while since I updated this. Technology at home is one of the reasons, plus any spare time I had was devoted to various writing and other assignments for the Writing a Short Story course I was doing at Leicester Writing School.

Now that's finished and I'm still deciding how I felt about the whole thing. Overall it was a positive experience, I met some really nice people and I felt that it was a very good use of my time.

I'm not sure what I expected to happen. I think I hoped that it would ignite a spark to write that would produce a never-ending array of new works in progress which would eventually satisfy my desire to 'write something worth reading.'

In reality I wasn't all that pleased with most of the stuff I wrote. I am still struggling with WHAT to write about. And I'm not sure I can do the whole 'story arc' and 'satisfying ending' things that publish-able short stories apparently need to contain.

But none of that is the fault of the lovely tutors who I really respect and appreciated their advice and encouragement. I think Bead shouting "Just write something! Anything!" at me during one of the exercises the first week of the course will stay with me forever!

Maybe THAT'S the best thing I got out of it........just to keep trying!

Argh.

Will post a couple of new things as a follow on to this, sort of stuff i worked on during the class.

T

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Writing School Leicester short story course, Weeks 2 and 3

Yes, I know. I missed a week. It's been busy. To recap:
The homework got done and handed in, albeit I had flashbacks to school when I left everything to the last minute and had to hastily re-write it during the break thanks to not having a printer. In the end I continued my imaginings from the group discussion in class and sort of grafted a description of my nan's front room onto a character called Barbara Morris, who was loosely based on the idea of that woman who insulted Gordon Brown that time. The piece had an MP - with an appropriate sounding name, as learned in the lesson - visiting The Morris woman's bungalow to heal the breach. If I get round to typing it up I'll post it. it was good practice in just DOING some thing and then handing it in, rather than my usual doing it then hiding it away becausse I fear it's not good enough.
To my complete and utter surprise and delight, week two of the course started well with good feedback from Bead - hooray! - and an opportunity to do some free writing in class which I was brave enough to read out to good response. I hope this does not sound like boasting, but it is so great to finally get some encouragement after what feels like forever writing into the wind.
enthusiasm suitably increased, boldness mustered up, I left week two abounding with ideas and...promptly did not do my homework. life conspires against me yet again. or is it just laziness?
still, week three has offered another twist in the road - poor Bead has a problem with her eyesight and has had to withdraw from the rest of the course. Her replacement, Rachel, is completely different and has a very different style. she's lovely quite quick-moving which I like and very open to discussion. she encouraged us to share and work in groups as she doesn't take homework home and give personal feedback. I have to say this is disappointing as surely that's the main thing new writers need? But it motivated us as a group to share our work, so I have set up a forum for us to do just that. my fellow course members are turning out to be a lovely bunch and there s a lovely sense of camaraderie by the end of the leson which I really hope continues.

homework this week is mixed, nothing that really inspires me so I'm going to return to something I started for Bead but didn't finish. It's the story of a dystopian future middle England, where the financial crash has landed society in post war conditions, with rationing, shops shut down, electricity turned off, disease rife. we pick up the story from the viewpoint of a little girl, queueing to get some medicine for her sick father, who we learn was once a government scientist. Like the idea of a child caring for a parent and at the same time coping with extreme adversity with stoic, childlike acceptance. but of course, and I already feel sorry for the poor little thing, something has to go wrong.

It's actually good because in the class this week we discussed short story structure and the used of conflict to move a story along. I really needed this because this idea I feel has potential but when I first wrote it there was no conflict, no idea of where the climax or resolution would come. I discovered from the group work in class that unlike some of my fellow students I struggle to find the resolution in plot planning. Rachel suggested that maybe I'm the kind of person who can't Decide in advance and just needs to keep writing and see where it takes me. I like this idea although I've always thought it's not very productive. but she has given me confidence to give it a go, so I will see where it takes me.

Until next time, then.

P.s. Sorry about poor spelling, punctuation etc. In this post! It pains me not to amend it but I'm using a borrowed iPad and it's a nightmare! Can't work out how to edit! so will have to amend another day! SO much for 21st century gadgets......

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Writing School Leicester short story course, Week 1

The plan is backfiring.

This morning was the first session of six with the lovely Bead Roberts at Writing School Leicester. We’re writing a short story. Or few. And already I’m floundering in a sea of unimaginative excuses as to why I have writers’ block, even when the other nine individuals in the room can come up with SOMETHING, upon request. Whereas I can’t. Or won’t. I’m still not sure which.
It’s like Scrabble. All my friends and family have always assumed I’m great at Scrabble. And crosswords! “Oh Tash, she’s into books, she MUST be brilliant at Scrabble.”

Couldn’t be further from the truth.

I’ve always thought it’s the reporter instinct – give me a happening, an event, or whatever, and I’ll re-tell it. I’ll make it sound better or more pithy or more entertaining or just straight if that’s what you want. But ask me to INVENT something, for no reason at all, other than for the purpose of inventing, and I just draw blanks. Which as dedicated Scrabble players will tell you, score nothing.

The other students in the class are a varied bunch, some brave, others shy but everyone, every single one of them, when prompted, came up with something they weren’t so embarrassed not to share with the group.

Still, it was fun, and everyone was nice, and Bead, the tutor, is lovely in a sort of no-nonsense Radio 4 play writing sensible shoe wearing good humoured academic kind of way. Which is a good thing – as already covered on this blog, I’m a big R4 fan.

So I want to please her, I really do. Impress her, even. But I won’t do it unless I get over this stupid “I can’t think of anything” phase. A phase which has lasted ooh, YEARS now! Ridiculous. I listen to radio. I read newspapers. I speak to people, real people, all of the time. I have been places and seen things and observed and commented and memorised just like everyone else. So why can’t I recall any of these things and use them creatively when prompted?

Hopefully this course will help me find the missing link. If nothing else, the sheer brutal experience of being asked to come up with something in minutes then speak it to the whole group without chance to self edit or prevaricate or equivocate or any of those lovely words, and this week after week, should bludgeon my reluctant brain into something approaching obedience.

So then, what better place to start than homework?! Which, if you're reading this to see if you want to do the course, I should point out is optional and given in the kindest and most constructive terms possible, with a promise from Bead to give personal feedback which is actually the single most terrifying and yet desired outcome of this whole exercise. What does someone else, a professional storyteller, THINK of my writing?

Gulp.

The homework is to imagine a familiar setting, then have an unexpected character (for whom we have to get the name right, see earlier post) walk into the setting, notice three things, and react. Additionally, we need to write a paragraph or so in that person’s voice, first person, explaining what they want and what’s standing in their way.

Simple you may say. Endless possibilities!

That’s what I’m struggling with.

I may post the results, and Bead’s comments, here. Seems only fair.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Short story course starts tomorrow!

The bullet has finally been bitten. Tomorrow I start a course with Writing School Leicester in 'How to Write a Short Story'. I'm mainly interested in getting some feedback and tips on how to define my personal style of writing, and hoping I'll meet at least one like-minded individual to share the ups and downs of writing with! Well, I can hope.

In the meantime, although this blog hasn't been updated, I have been working on the first short story from a collection I hope to write based around little stories about people I've picked up in recent times. I'm calling it 'Nomads', as these are people in that weird middle ground between 'normal' and 'freak', not necessarily in the depths of despair or bizarre lifestyles but people who are lost, for whatever reason, and have a story to tell that deserves to be told.

I'm hoping I'll be able to develop some of these ideas at the writing class.

Well that's progress, isn't it?

The Battered Suitcase - Winter 2010

The Battered Suitcase - Winter 2010
In the never-ending quest to find like minded souls in this lonely world of 'secret scribbling', I've found this. Might be worth a pop...

Saturday, 9 July 2011

New stuff #1: The Day I Donated My Body To Science (I Got It Back) [semi-autobiographical]


Nervous med students prod two chunky legs of raw meat on the slab next to me. I gulp. “What’re they…?”
“Catheter training,” interrupts my trusty expert. “Don’t worry, we only use dead meat for that.”
Is that what a joke sounds like in this mysterious quasi-sci-fi academic universe?
“They’re remarkably life like,” I comment, screaming: “I may not be clever but I am am proud to be the interested sort, suitably fascinated in your worthy - yet baffling to a layman! Ho ho, silly me - pursuits.”
Trusty Expert doesn’t seem to hear. He’s fiddling with an ultrasound monitor.
“Lie back.”
Terse commands. To be a feature of the day.
Over in the communal area I hear my mates laughing. They haven’t been called to their station yet. When I go back at mid morning break (apparently even the quasi-sci-fi-academics haven’t invented an appropriate substitute for coffee) I will entertain them with my experiences, as any self-respecting ‘Nam veteran would – with an air of martyr-like matter-of-fact grace.
“Well, Martin says I have a below-average size heart for the size of my ribcage.”
Sympathetic gasps.
“But the good news is I’m not pregnant. Hahahhahaha.” Pause for reluctant laughter.
“Really though, it’s pretty uncomfortable. The bed’s really hard and half of them don’t seem to know what they’re doing with the probe. One guy fair pierced between my ribs. One of the nurses said I’d have bruising for days…”
Nic bustles up.
“Thanks so much everyone, all OK? OK? Great. Help yourself to teas and coffees. Are you warm enough? We have more gowns if you need one. Oh is that the bell? OK back to your stations. You need to be back at your stations. BACK AT YOUR STATIONS. Dr Heidenfelder? Of course! Mwah.” And off she goes, German doctor trailing his hand luggage behind him across the conference floor.
“Duty calls,” I sigh with a brave, self sacrificing smile.
‘Please move to your next station for the next stage of the Pan-European Ultrasound in Anaesthesia Conference 2011. Please try to stick to the timetable to ensure the day moves….FEEDBACK…Sorry. Please…are we on? Ahem. All delegates please move to your next station.’
Back on the gurney. Or is that just something off ER?
“Can anyone identify kidney? Anyone? OK, you. Yes, you. Here you go.”
Another blob of freezing gel is squidged onto my exposed abdomen, which is creamy white in the fluoro conference light and vaguely heaving with each intake of breath. I think of the last time I lay exposed like this…no. Focus. Fat doctors with coffee breath are looming over you for important medical research purposes. Do not muddy the lines of professional lump of meat, I mean, specimen – no, what do they call us? Volunteers. Do not muddy the waters of professional volunteer for medical science with lewd references.
“There!”
Amateur. Even I can tell Trusty Expert is slightly fatigued by these so called colleagues.
“Not quite. What else might we find in the left upper quadrant? Anyone? Anyone? Yes, you.”
“…spl….spleen?”
“YES!”
Everyone jumps.
 “OK so it’s not kidney. If you...” he takes matters into his own hands, reaching across my chest dangerously close to my heaving ribcage and I politely look the other way so as not to embarrass him.  So as not to embarrass HIM?! I’m the one half naked on a bench in a floodlit arena of medical nitwits. I draw breath.
“If Natalie could just stop breathing for a moment, so we can get a clear view…”
I stop.
“Ah! That’s it. Thank you. There we go. Left kidney.”
Mild ripples of appreciation.
I’m still not breathing.
“So you can see…” he rotates the cold metal probe and gently but firmly explores my left anterior ribcage. “Spleen…diaphragm…kidney. Who’s next?”
“Can she breathe yet?” Top marks to the nurse with the bedside manner.
More ripples – this time laughter.
“Of course. Sorry Natalie.”
Exhale. Relief. This is tougher than I expected. I’m Natasha though. But anyway.
‘Five minute warning!’
Rock’n’roll jobsworth is back with her feedback.
Trusty Expert looks irritated. His lecture is cut short.
“OK we better skip to any questions?”
Bedside Manner has her hand up. “What if the injuries are too severe to perform ultrasound techniques?”
Six pairs of expectant eyes focus on Trusty Expert and I assume this is quite a good question. WhaddoIknow?
“Let’s put this in perspective. You’re in ER. You’ve got a level one trauma, severe bleeding, unconscious, air bag, surgeon breathing down your neck, wants to send him for an MRI. If you send that patient to MRI you lose what, ten? Fifteen? How about you want to convince this surgeon you don’t need that? The patient has internal bleeding and needs  to go straight to OT. Ultrasound lets you do that. Next question.”
Silence.
‘PLEASE MOVE TO YOUR NEXT STATIONS.’
They shuffle on, put in their place. I am proud. “Is that true?” I feel I can talk to Trusty Expert.
He nods. No words wasted.
“Cool.”
He kind of smiles. “Yes. Yes I suppose it is ‘cool’.”
Later on, de-gowned, I bump into him coming out of the toilets.
“Hi!” I beam.
Nothing. He doesn’t recognise my clothed body. Just the heaving lump of meat.
I don’t care. These people…they’re like…something from a sci-fi novel.
One of my mates bumbles up, drawstrings on his scrubs trailing behind him, face all red from where he’s been suspended half upside down for gluteus maximus inspection.
“Coming to the pub? We’re going to blow the earnings?” He triumphantly waves a fifty in my face.
“Nah. I’m gonna stick around. Nic says we can check out the evening lectures. Might be interesting.”
He snorts and patters off to don his everyday uniform.
Rock’n’roll feedback pipes up.
‘WILL ALL DELEGATES PLEASE REPORT TO THE BUFFET…SCREECH…SORRY. WILL EVERYONE PLEASE MOVE TO THE BUFFET AREA. THANK YOOOOU.’
I slope off at a modest distance behind the Intelligent Ones and snatch a line or two of conversation.
“…of course the problem with that is the training budget was slashed again this year, so I pretty much funded the trip myself…luckily my aunt lives over in the road…”
“Really? No. Honestly? I’ve never had that. The worst I had was the guy with the Lego brick stuck in his….yep. No really! Well he was about 30 but of course he blamed the kids…”
Into a phone…It’s me…Hope you’re OK. Sorry about the mess. Had to dash off to this conference. Catch you back at the hotel. We’re going to dinner now. Buffet. Your fave. OK, well. Catch you later…
Gurneys lie bare of paper roll on the half lit carpet tiled floor, suspended in stillness. Ultrasound machines sleep, awaiting more specimens…more volunteers to prove their worth. Scrubs are piled in Bags for Life, ready for washing. Domestic bliss meets medical research. Life saving techniques meet lacklustre lifers in the public health prison of inefficiency and neverending change.
I walk away on my own two legs, freestanding, thankful.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Another one from the vaults

I don't do poetry. I never have. I don't have a reason, just that prose always seemed more...precise. The young me thought that poetry, with it's limitless imagery and apparent lack of form or rules or quality control (!) was a lazy way of expressing things. Like text speak - short form for what you really mean.

Now I know that some poetry has as many, if not more, rules than prose, and is by no means lazy expression. It might even be the only way of truly capturing some states of emotion. But I don't really know anything about it so I've never tried.

The only thing I've written that's approaching poetic in terms of form and style, is what I am about to post here.

I wrote it - or rather, it forced it's way out of me onto the page, against my will - just before I got married about a year and a half ago. My mum died three years ago and her absence seemed heightened by the approaching nuptials to the point where I  was worried it would be the elephant in the room and would stop people enjoying themselves....So I decided that if anyone should tackle the problem head on, it should be me, thereby getting it out of the way so that the other people who made speeches didn't have to worry about it. My dear husband agreed to read it out, as I knew I wouldn't get through it.

Although it's hardly Keats, and probably doesn't follow any poetic rules, it sort of said what I needed to say at the time and for that I am proud of it.


It's called: What did I miss?

I can see her now, awaking from sleep,
And the first words on her lips, “What did I miss?”

I’ll say “Not much really,” but she won’t believe me.
Because the years will have passed, but it might go like this:

Well mum, I married the man of my dreams.
“Oh I knew that would happen,” she would say, “What else?”

Dad moved to Cyprus, “Without me?! How dare he?!”
Jase had a baby, “Wow that was a first!” With a poke in the ribs.

Haha mum, you’re so funny. “What else? What else?”
Well, we watched this old system buckle and groan,
We did our best not to falter, although we missed you so,
We laughed and drank, and cried some too,
And so much love was shown for you, and because of you.

And although on my wedding day, I knew you would have looked the best,
I was content just knowing you were at rest.
Because safe with my Nicholas I knew the days would fly by,
Until you could wake up and say, with a smile on your lips,
“Tell me, tell me – what did I miss?”

Friday, 1 July 2011

Getting over it...

Thanks to a good chat with a good friend, I have reminded myself that:
1. I can't expect to not write anything for years, then suddenly write something perfect.
2. Most authors say they write a lot of dross before they write something they are happy with.
3. Being undecided about what I want to write is not a good reason not to write.

These are really three aspects of the same problem I suppose. And while I still don't feel massively motivated about this whole writing lark, I think I can maybe write a bit more dross without getting *too* frustrated and hanging up my proverbial writing hat forever.

Argh. Stand by - some more dross coming this way soon. You might want to duck.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Short story #1: A Very Lucky Girl

Major confidence crisis.

As per my previous post I have been working on an entry for Writing Magazine's short story competition.
Having worked at it the last few weeks alongside the continued quest to find a suitable writing course to begin (no time, no money, no idea what I want or why), arranged to meet with a local writers' group then chickened out, and generally got to a(nother) point of complete frustration and lack of confidence in my own skill, I have decided to top all that off by not entering the competition either. It just isn't good enough. I don't even know if it's how I want it to sound or if it's a story I particularly want to tell. I can't really be bothered to change it all that much becuase there's no substance to it that stands amendment. I'm questioning if I even have the concentration I need to write something other than a loosely threaded story for the sake of telling a story. I'm really getting stuck.

So for what it's worth I may as well put it up here and leave it behind. Although where to go next? It's all seeming rather futile at the moment.

Here it is:

A Very Lucky Girl

‘Is this seat taken?’ asked a quietly spoken man whom Veronica had never seen before.
Silly question, she thought, as it was the only seat left in the room, and he sat down anyway. Grown ups did funny things like that.
‘What’s your name?’
Veronica didn’t answer. JJ was sat right next to her, talking to the judge, and she didn’t want to get told off. Like before, when they were in the room with the camera and she asked the man if he used that camera for his kids, like on days out or on holiday or whatever. He was nice about it but JJ told her to be quiet.
That was JJ’s job, to look after boys and girls like Veronica – take them from the home to the court or the hospital, or sometimes to the cafĂ© by the boat lake. They weren’t real boats, just mini electric ones, and Veronica was never allowed to have a go, but she liked them anyway. JJ also made sure they were neat and tidy and had breakfast. And most importantly, she helped Veronica remember what to call people. Like, the judge was always ‘sir’, but she didn’t talk to him unless he asked her a question. Everyone else was Mr or Mrs This or That, but JJ was always JJ. The other kids at the home called her Jane, but then they hadn’t known her as long as Veronica. She liked it that way.
Did the quiet man have a nickname, she wondered?
‘I’m Paul,’ he said, as if he knew what she was thinking. She hadn’t noticed before but he was wearing green trainers, the kind with the white rubbery bit at the end and white laces. She liked those.
‘Mr Paul?’ she asked, with a small smile.
He smiled back. ‘Just Paul.’
JJ was talking a lot louder now, leaning forward and pointing at pieces of paper on the judge’s desk.
‘Is she always like that?’ asked Just Paul.
Veronica nodded. ‘I don’t mind.’ She thought for a moment, then asked, ‘Don’t you ever have to talk to the judge?’
Just Paul shook his head. ‘I’m not very good at talking. I try to help people in other ways.’
‘Me too. Stency isn’t very good at talking either, because her mummy never spoke English. So I helped her when she came to our home. JJ said I was the best at helping and gave me a sticker.’ She held up a tatty rucksack, Peppa Pig peeking out from behind a mosaic of stickers, corners curling where bits of dust and dirt and crumbs had gathered.
Right in the middle was a big holographic star declaring, in bright bubble letters, ‘I’m a good friend’. Veronica pointed it out, in case Just Paul missed it.
‘Peppa Pig comes with me everywhere. This is the one I got for helping Stency and this one for tidying the common room and this one for being brave at the doctors…’ she trailed off. ‘It says ‘Brave girl’, and I was, because even though I had to have stitches, I didn’t cry much and I got to look in the doctor’s thing that he puts in your ears. And this one is for when I came here the first time, and there were a lot of people outside by the steps so JJ made the taxi man pretend to drive past, but we weren’t really, we were coming to talk to the judge and the man with the camera. Have you got a camera?’
Just Paul laughed and shook his head.
‘Well this man did and he gave me a sticker for sitting still so he didn’t have to keep moving it. I had to tell JJ all about my stitches, so she could tell the judge, so he can make it better. But I think he keeps forgetting because we’ve seen him lots of times now but JJ has to keep telling him the same things.’
She paused again, checking on JJ and the judge.
‘Once JJ said that it was all a load of bollocks.’ She giggled. ‘But I wasn’t supposed to hear that bit. Do you ever say things you don’t want people to hear?’
Just Paul shook his head.
‘That’s good then.’
She looked back down at her bag.
‘Would you like a sticker? I’ve got ever so many!’ And before Just Paul could stop her she peeled one off and stuck it to the closest bit of him she could reach.
‘Thank you’ he said quietly, looking down at the yellow and purple circle on his leg.
‘That’s for being a good listener,’ said Veronica, ‘which JJ says is the hardest thing to do. I think she’s right because when Stency tries to tell me something I don’t understand and I wish she could talk to someone else, but all the other children are much older than us.’
She scrunched up in her chair, Peppa Pig wedged between her legs.
 ‘I like this turny chair. When I get to my new home I hope there’s a turny chair like this one, and CocoPops for breakfast and somewhere for Stency to sleep if she gets scared. She’s the same age as me but JJ says she’s not as grown up, because she still wets the bed and has to sleep with the light on. So sometimes I let her stay in my room on the bean bag, but I don’t always want the light on so I have to hide under the covers to go to sleep. Can you go to sleep with the light on?’
Just Paul laughed. ‘Sometimes. But I think you’re right. You’re much more grown up than Stency.’
Veronica beamed.
JJ started shuffling papers on the desk.
‘It looks like it’s nearly time to go,’ said Just Paul.
Veronica sank a little and felt something in her throat, like when you swallow your dinner but you haven’t chewed it properly and it gets stuck.
Things happened so fast. She would have to remind JJ about Just Paul, as JJ had so many things to think about. Like now, she was clicking her phone and sorting her papers and talking to the judge all at once. The judge looked up from his laptop and his phone and his papers and suddenly spoke, which made Veronica jump, because she was used to Just Paul’s quiet voice.
‘Well young lady. You might not have to see me again after all.’ He smiled but Veronica didn’t smile back. When would she see Just Paul if she wasn’t coming back?
JJ was smiling too. ‘You’re very lucky, Veronica,’ she said. ‘Mr Justice Lawford is a very clever man and he’s going to help you, just like I said he would. What do you say?’
Veronica knew she was supposed to say thank you but she couldn’t speak because the more she tried to swallow whatever was stuck in her throat the bigger it seemed to get. So she nodded instead.
All the grown ups laughed then, except Just Paul, who sat quietly in his chair. Maybe he had a lump too.
They were talking about her now, like they always did, thinking she wasn’t listening.
‘I’m sorry, sir, she’s had a long day of it…well, a long two years you could say!’
‘Not at all, not at all, she’s a brave young thing and I only regret this has taken so long.’
‘You’ll forward all the papers to the DSS then? And copy in Val, as I’m off on leave but she’s up to speed and will make sure it gets to the top of the pile. V’s my number one case, we’re throwing all our resources at it. The last thing we want is the press picking up on it again…’
A voice came from the corridor. ‘Cab’s here! Round the back.’
‘Come on then madam,’ said JJ, in that tone that Veronica knew meant they had to walk quickly. ‘Thanks again.’
‘My pleasure. Goodbye young lady. Look after Jane now, won’t you?’
Veronica shook her head. ‘I already have to look after Stency,’ she almost whispered.
JJ and the judge laughed.
‘Charming!’ said JJ, hugging Veronica slightly with one arm.
‘Ah, she didn’t mean it,’ supposed the judge, walking them to the door. ‘She’s a very lucky girl, and she knows it I’m sure…’
Veronica looked back over her shoulder to where Just Paul sat, waving and smiling. She had a sudden urge to scream, and it must have helped because the lump in her throat vanished and she cried:
‘What about Paul?’
The judge and JJ stopped.
JJ kneeled down. ‘Paul, Veronica? Do I know Paul?’
Her face was very close to Veronica’s now, which was good because Veronica didn’t need to scream.
‘We have to come back or I won’t see Paul. He said he’d help.’
‘When was this, sweetie?’
‘While you were talking. Just Paul, he said. His name’s Just Paul.’
Even as JJ and the judge followed her outstretched finger, the lump returned and it hurt so much she gasped for breath, tears streaming down her face so that she couldn’t even see whether Just Paul was still waving at her or not.
But JJ and the judge could see.
Where Just Paul had been sitting, a yellow and purple sticker clung to an empty chair.

Inspiration #2: Does Happiness Write White?

This fascinating programme on Radio 4 (am I only inspired by things I hear on Radio 4? Eek, hope not) explores the idea that authors don't want to, or can't, 'write happiness'.

It reminded me that I've long held the view that to write, for example, a happy song is much more worthy than a sad song because the latter seem to come so much easier. The same goes for poetry and prose, it would seem, and I found Helen Simpson's comments at the end of this programme particularly interesting. I intend to read some of her short stories as soon as possible.

Maybe this is a challenge I could take up - can I 'write happiness'?

Watch this space.

BBC Radio 4 - Does Happiness Write White?

Thursday, 16 June 2011

First one from the vaults

It's been a while. But I'm back. I've been ferreting around trying to find some examples of my writing, to share, for comment and to perhaps inspire some re-drafts or re-writes.

Here is the first one I want to share. It's a children's story although I'm not sure what age it's aimed at. Probably age six or seven. Before they get too clever, but when they're old enough to appreciate a few subtleties. I wanted to write something that grown ups might enjoy reading aloud with their child. I used to work in a primary school and it's one of the loveliest things, hearing children shout out the words to their favourite book at story time. So I wanted to try and write something that would make them do that.

The idea was to create a series of short stories based on the 'characters' on my bookshelf at home. I'll try and post a picture at a later date, but you get the idea. I'd love to know what anyone thinks. This is a first draft so it would need a bit of work. I've included notes on where the page breaks are and where illustrations might be, to help the story along. You could probably include additional questions at the back for teachers reading it out at story time. Like, 'What does hollow mean? What else is hollow? How does Peppa feel about Hungarian Lady at the start? How does he feel at the end?' etc. etc. I liked the idea of using Hungarian Lady as a metaphor for how children should treat the foreign-language speaking children in mainstream schools. I hope it's not too glib. I worked with children who speak English as a second language and with this now being the norm in most schools it's an issue that might make a good 'carpet time' discussion point. But hopefully the story is just fun on other levels too!

Hope to get some feedback!

In My Room

Introduction (Inside cover of every book): 

Hello! This is my room. (picture opposite)

In my room, there’s lots of stuff. I like having lots of stuff because it looks cosy and colourful. How many colours can you see? That’s right! There are lots.

But more exciting than all the colours, is the Big Secret about my room.

You see, in my room are all my magical friends. Would you like to meet them?

I thought so!

Let’s meet two of them now…

NEW PAGE
Picture (Salt and Peppa Panda Pots)

Salt and Peppa Panda Pots are salt and pepper pots. Can you see them? They don’t have any salt or pepper inside them. They’re just hollow. So they’re always hungry!

And they’re always arguing over who looks the most like a panda.

Salt has one white ear, which is very unusual for a panda.

Peppa has two black ears, but no feet because someone forgot to paint them on! So he’s always grumpy.

Can you tell which is which?

NEW PAGE
Picture (Hungarian Lady)

Salt and Peppa live on the book shelf. 

Hungarian Lady is their downstairs neighbour, but she can’t see Salt and Peppa. She likes Peppa, even though he’s grumpy! She’s always trying to cheer him up, but she doesn’t know that he is just a panda pepper pot.

NEW PAGE
Picture (Peppa, sneezing)

One day, Peppa was arguing with Salt, as usual.

“Of course you’re not a real panda!” Peppa shouted. “You only have one black ear! You would never survive in the wild.”

And then he sneezed.

“A-CHOO!” This happened a lot. Peppa said it was because of the leftover pepper inside him.

Salt laughed. “Silly Peppa!” She said.

She didn’t mind that he was shouting at her, because she was too busy laughing.

NEW PAGE
Picture (Hungarian Lady crying)

A little voice floated up from below.

“Bless you, Peppa!” It was Hungarian Lady. “Are you alright?” she asked.

Peppa huffed.

“Who’s snooping on OUR conversation?” he shouted.

Hungarian Lady started to cry.

“Now look what you’ve done!” cried Salt. “It’s OK Hungarian Lady. He’s always grumpy.”

NEW PAGE
Picture (grumpy Peppa, sneezing)

“I AM NOT!” said Peppa.

“You are too. Can you cheer him up with a song, Hungarian Lady?”

Hungarian Lady stopped crying at once. She loved to sing.

“In my country, when we are sad, we sing this song…” And she cleared her throat. But Peppa was too grumpy.

“In YOUR country?” he bellowed. “You’re not from another country! You’re just a toy! You live here on the bookshelf with us. That’s where you’ve ALWAYS been! A-A-A-CHOO!”

Hungarian Lady started crying again. “Well at least I’m not a grumpy old pepper pot!” she sobbed, paint running down her delicate doll’s face.

NEW PAGE
Picture (Peppa falling off the shelf)

Salt frowned.

“Naughty Peppa,” she said. “Apologise at once!”

But Peppa was still sneezing. He sneezed and he sneezed and he sneezed again, until Hungarian Lady stopped crying to listen to the sound of him sneezing. “Are you OK?” she whimpered, wondering what was happening. “I wish I could come up and help you!”

But Peppa couldn’t even speak, he was sneezing so much.

Poor Salt didn’t know what to do. She tried holding his nose, but he still sneezed.

She tried patting him on the back, but he sneezed again.

Soon he was falling over and bouncing off books and knocking over candlesticks, all because he was sneezing so much.

“What shall we do?” cried Hungarian Lady from the shelf below, but it was too late.

With one almighty “A-A-A-CHOOOOOOO!” Peppa went flying off the shelf and landed with a thud on the floor below.

NEW PAGE
Picture (Peppa on the floor)

Salt and Hungarian Lady peered over the edge, hardly daring to look.

“P-P-P-Peppa! Are you OK?” whispered Salt, already crying as loudly as Hungarian Lady.

From way, way down on the floor they heard a sniff. Then a clinking sound. Peppa was moving!

“Hoorah!” shouted Salt and Hungarian Lady. But then Salt saw what had happened. Poor Peppa had broken both his ears. They were nowhere to be seen. He looked up at Salt and Hungarian Lady. They looked down at him. No one said a word.

“I’m OK!” cried Peppa, beaming! He didn’t realise both his ears had gone.

NEW PAGE
Picture (Hungarian Lady parachuting off the shelf)

Salt giggled. “Well done Peppa. NOW what are you going to do.”

But she didn’t get a reply. As Peppa looked up at Salt, he saw Hungarian Lady teetering on the edge of her shelf. “I’m coming to help you, Peppa!” she shrieked.

And before anyone could stop her, she too jumped off the shelf. But this time, her pretty skirt billowed open like a parachute and she elegantly floated to the floor.

NEW PAGE
Picture (H. Lady and Peppa meeting)

Peppa was speechless.

Salt giggled.

Hungarian Lady looked at Peppa and his broken ears, and decided that she loved him more than ever. “Hello, Peppa,” she said, holding out a dainty hand. “I’m Hungarian Lady. It’s so nice to finally meet you.”

Peppa shook the dainty hand, still speechless. He had never seen such a beautiful doll. “But how will we get back onto the shelf?” he finally stuttered.

“Do we have to?” said Hungarian Lady, with an even prettier smile. “We can live just here, on the carpet. That way we can ALL see each other. And you’ll never fall off the shelf again!”

Peppa smiled.

Salt shouted down to the happy couple: “You were going to sing us a song, Hungarian Lady!”

“Oh yes!” she said, and cleared her throat. “Now Peppa, try not to sneeze…”

THE END

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Getting somewhere...

Last night I wrote the first draft of my first attempt at a short story competition. Eek! It's for this month's Writing Magazine and I wrote it in one go, by hand, in my front room, while my delightful husband made macaroni cheese.

I can't publish it here because entries must be unpublished but I'm pretty sure I'll near re-write the whole thing anyway so I may post the first draft once I've done that. But I have to say it was a relief to write something from beginning to end.

The competition is based around an opening line as follows:
"Is this seat taken?" said a softly spoken man whom Veronica had never seen before.*

Not exactly Shakespeare, but still. It's a beginning. So I brainstormed a few possible scenarios, trying to avoid cliches (I hear they're rife for new writers), predictable situations (doctor's waiting room, blind date, etc, etc) and anything with the whiff of implausibility (he's a spy! An alien! etc, etc).

On second thoughts, there's nothing wrong with implausibility (I'm now questioning if that's even a word...), I just want to start out writing something believable and save the wild imaginings for that comedy sci-fi novel I started writing when I was 15 (involving an upside down world where people live closer to the earth's core because the surface has frozen and all the colours are reversed - so the sky is green, land is blue, that kind of thing. I can't remember quite what was funny about it, but there was a baddie and a goodie and a love story in there somewhere. Maybe I should dig it out...)

Which leads me onto the thing I said I'd do in my last post which is put up some scribbles I've written in the past for potential feedback, self-critiquing and general entertainment. But I can't find any of them. So that might have to wait. Another good reason to start writing new stuff I guess...

Stick with me people. I promise it'll get better. The beast inside is being unleashed with every letter I type...

Woohoo!

* NB: In the magazine, it said that the possibilities for this scenario are endless, but I'd have to disagree, for two reasons (tell me if I'm being obvious/getting pedantic):
1. Names are limiting, to both era, trends and social background - could you imagine a royal called Jordan? Probably not, unless it's the Prince or Princess of...Can you imagine a mixed race, chain-smoking, 21-year-old mother of ten by four different fathers named Veronica? I think not. So already we're placing certain limitations on who the female character can be, and therefore how she can behave/what situations she might be in (incidentally I like the sound of the 21-year-old...might save that for a future story. She'd have a few tales to tell, wouldn't she?).
2. The implication of the statement "whom Veronica had never seen before" is that she is in a situation where she expects to see only people she knows - i.e. somewhere she goes regularly. Again, not so endless after all. How many places do you go to on such a regular basis that you expect to know pretty much everyone you see? See what I mean?

I'm not complaining, I just think it's interesting that a supposedly "endless" amount of possibilities can suddenly narrow considerably with just a little bit of thought...so what scenario did I choose? You'll have to wait to find out! Ha. Tease.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Inspiration #1: Good golly, Miss Molly

Image Copyright BBC

A huge part of what I've discovered from reading about writing (yep, I'm still doing that instead of actually writing...) is that, to be a good writer, it's absolutely necessary to be interested in everything. Which is interesting, because I think that's kind of what it means to be a good journalist too - and I trained as a journalist when I left college. Ever the practical teenager (yes, they do exist), I triumphantly told my A-level history tutor that I didn't need to go to university to become a journalist, it would take far too long and I just wanted to get on with it. So I did. I worked in local newspapers for two manic, eye-opening, challenging, stressful and occasionally fantastic years. My first editor gave me the confidence to write - in my interview I told him I didn't want to work in newspapers at all, that I just wanted experience so I could go off and write for the NME. Fortunately for me, he'd had the same idea when he became a journalist (although the fact that he was still in local newspapers escaped me at the time) so he took me under his wing and duly became my mentor. I still want his approval for everything I do, yet I hardly ever speak to him. It's amazing what influence the right person at the right time can have on your life...

But I found that the more I wrote news, the less headspace I had for everything else.

Now I work part-time in radio and the main thing I focus on is music local to my radio station. So all the rest of the time I have headspace for the 'Everything' needed to feed the urge to write.

Today it was Molly Parkin on Radio 4's Desert Island Discs - oh my, if that isn't a novel waiting to written, a film waiting to happen...Or several films. Or a TV series even! Or a three-part novel like Roddy Doyle's fantastic trilogy about Henry Smart. I loved her crackly voice, coarse with years of drinking and fast living, her way of speaking so directly, mincing no words, fearing no foe. She wrote many novels, and published a memoir about being abused by her father - but she never once sounded preachy or needy - just a woman, making her mistakes in public, turning them into art and living out a dream world of her own making because, well, because she could. Although I don't necessarily agree with all of her morals, her spirit is unequivocally the inspiartional kind us writers search for. She's my new heroine...although I haven't started writing the last one yet...more of that in another post.

For today, Molly Parkin: I salute you! Listen for yourself and you'll see what I mean...

Molly Parkin on Radio 4's Desert Island Discs

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Hello? Is it me you're looking for?

Probably not. But now I'm here I may as well write something, as the little 'no posts' sign on my blog is so accusatory I can't log on again without doing something about it.
You may realise by now that I am not an experienced blogger. This is my first blog, and as you can see from my profile I started it mainly to get me out of a prolonged period of writer's block.
Now that I'm here, I'm engaged the age old battle of the self - what do I write? What do I want to write? Can I write? Is it worth writing? Is it worth reading...? The fight goes on.
It's not that I expected to have inspiration just because I now have somewhere to 'publish' it. For years I've resisted the Facebook, Twitter, blogging phenomena. Not out of spite or snobbery, just because I always thought that my thoughts are for me and my nearest and dearest, so why would anybody else want to read them?
All that's changed is that - if you're a 'secret scribbler' you'll know this - it gets to a point when you are constantly dreaming about writing something, anything, the flow of words going round and round in your head like a whirlpool until it's absolutely got to go somewhere - so here it is. My first little puddle of inspiration. Writing about writing.
I've found quite a few blogs with a similar purpose, but I don't think that's a bad thing. Already some of the tips I've read have been very useful, like this one by Occupation: Writer (which is a better title and better design than mine - I'm working on it). I like the way she writes. It's not patronising and she doesn't assume we want to know. It's sort of reassuring, like a friend putting their arm around you and sharing something they've just learned. I hope mine can strike a similar cord.

I suppose the main thing you should know, however, is that my whole life I've had a tendency to the obscure. Maybe it's the product of being raised by Monty Python fans? I think that's what I want to explore in my writing. I've never understood the obsession with the mundane that has permeated TV, film and music for the past decade. There's a lot to be said for escapism - the ability to transport people to another situation, not just amplify the one they're already in and make it look gritty/sexy/raw (three words in connection with film that make me run for the nearest door).

So where was I? Yes, you won't find gritty realism here. But I hope you will find truth, and some sort of word-smithery, and a little enjoyment. I think I might start by sharing some of my writings which have never made it past my computer. I think that might help me understand what I want to write, how I need to improve, and it's also nice to give some credit to labours past, however simple and naive they may seem after years have passed. It's all part of the writer you are now, isn't it?

p.s. I'm surprised at how much I enjoyed writing this and how that daunted feeling of pure, terrifying fear about the blank blog before me appears to have dissipated with just one quick off the cuff post....I guess I've just discovered the joy of blogging! Ha.
p.p.s Nope, the Fear is back. I went to hit the 'publish post' button and my stomach literally turned. This is ridiculous....does anyone else have a similar experience before posting?! Am I just thinking about this way too much?! OK, here we go...