And This Happened

Last Monday my no-stories-published streak of two years was broken – hurrah! Thank you, those of you who read it, and told me that you liked it. (If you’d like to read it, It’s called The Stars Shone Just For Me, and it’s a little bit magical, and a little bit strange.) After so many months of doubt and fear it’s been a huge boost. And do keep going back and looking at ink sweat and tears because they publish seriously lovely poetry and prose every day.

Last Friday, the wonderful, but oh so sadly shortly closing The View From Here published another of my stories – but I was too unwell to publicise it properly. Until now. So, tadah! It’s called Art, and you can read it here. It’s a romantic and surreal little piece about being hopeful, and looking at Art, and how sometimes, Art looks back at you. And it’s set in Tate Modern. I hope you like it.

Advertisements

Voyage and Return

You may have noticed – or you may not, and indeed, why should you? – that it’s been a while since I posted anything here. And there have been good reasons for that. Perhaps too many. But the summer was hot, and I was quiet. Books were read, stories drafted, thoughts were thought, and mostly not acted upon. Autumn was harder, but with more of the same. And I got older. And I cut my hair. That last thing is a thing I am incredibly happy about. I know it’s only hair, but still… it’s been more than a decade since I last had such short hair, and it makes me feel sassy, and sophisticated, and possibly other things beginning with s (stylish? silly? saucy? serene?).

Around the same time I discovered a little snippet in the wilds of the internet – oh all right, it was Facebook – a quotation from Carl Gustav Jung:

I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.

It isn’t a cure, it isn’t even a complete answer – to a question that is both unaskable and unanswerable – but it HELPS. So I’m choosing. I don’t pretend to have reached any particular destination on my personal voyage in order to begin the return journey. This is just a way station.

In the meantime, there is Christmas to prepare for, and satsumas to eat (the one I’m eating right now is a bit of a disappointment; too watery and not sharp enough. Perhaps the next one will be better), and words to write and edit, and I still haven’t written the Christmas cards. But my hair looks fabulous.

Taking Stock, Part II

2010 is almost done with. 2011 almost ready to begin. And what have I done with the time that has been given to me? I’ve been angry, a lot. I’ve been ridden by the black hag-bitch Depression. I’ve had rotten miserable damned inconvenient back pain. I drove a petrol car for the first – and so far only – time – my husband was terribly brave – it was our first ever brand new car! (Yes, it’s still in one piece.) I had a wonderful time at a friend’s party, drinking Cosmopolitans, and owned up to the vodka hangover the next day. (Note to self, vodka hangovers are vile horrible things, even though Cosmos are delicious.)

What else? I’ve written a lot, I’ve been rejected – and not just by editors – a lot, and I’m gearing up to go through most of all that again. I’ve watched my daughter begin to blossom from a little girl to a more sophisticated, complicated little girl, and am much amused by her frequent exasperation with me ; ‘mu-um’ is becoming a normal noise in this house. We have a lovely time together, mostly being silly, giggling a lot. I love giggling with my daughter – there will definitely be a lot more of that in 2011.

I’ve enjoyed glorious weather in Devon, and in Bulgaria. I’ve listened to music and let it take me to new places in my head. I’ve started this blog; that was pretty momentous, wondering if anyone would ever read it, and you are, and I thank you. It’s nice to know I’m not just shouting into the void. Again, I thank you.

The snow happened – I’ve had my first ever white christmas – so what if snow was not actually falling from the sky in this neck of the Cotswolds? It was still beautiful, and as long as I wear my red wellies, I don’t fall over. Perhaps they are imbued with some sort of super-power…? (Sadly the thaw has set in, and all is now sadly dank and muddy where once it was crisply gleaming white.)

I made sloe gin for the first time, and I’m drinking some now – it is truly delicious and  without the vicious nastiness of a hangover next morning. I have learned that not all friendships are equal, that not all friends are worth the wait when they say one thing and do another, make promises and consistently fail to keep them. I’m better off without them. That lesson has cost me a lot in terms of hours and days of despair; time that I’ll never get back, and can bill no one for. That makes me angry, but que sera, progress is progress, and perhaps one day I’ll achieve some sort of equanimity.

So what’s coming in 2011? Lychees. Every year begins with lychees. Otherwise the only thing I can say with any certainty is that I’ll be turning 40.

Apart from that? Who knows? Bring it on.

Taking stock, briefly

So that’s Christmas done, sorted, achieved, catered, cleared up. The tree is still twinkling, there is still a surfeit of satsumas and nuts, and my husband is suffering with the ‘flu. I however am merrily tucking into the sloe gin, and doing not very much in as slothful a way as I can possibly get away with. After all the anticipation, and list making, and baking and icing and cooking and roasting, – and now, drinking – I feel stuck in a sort of limbo. Normality will not really return until Monday 3rd January, and possibly not even then. But something is clicking and whirring deep inside my head – or that may just be the sloe gin, I’m a bit hammered now, to be honest – the burn-out after November has healed, and there’s an itch to begin writing again. 2011 promises to begin well, in that regard at least. Do I plan to make any resolutions? Probably not. But I plan to write, oh yes, there will be a LOT of writing, much more than this year. And that’s a promise!

Day 11

Day 11 dawned a while ago and I’m doing all right. The words are coming, some of them in the right order, which is always encouraging. Even more encouraging is that I have finally caught up with the projected target, after losing 2 valuable days where no words would come. At all. Once they began to trickle through I felt as though I was chasing the purple target bar without hope of success. As each midnight hour came and went, and that day’s target was just missed, it was as if the goal posts were being moved further and further apart. I’m not one of these writers who can sit down and churn out ream after ream of chapters, even with my inner editor metaphorically bound and gagged. But I’m there now, I can relax just a little. In another couple of days I should be well above the bar, and maybe, just maybe, gliding. Tonight’s installment involves a huge fight  – between some dragons, with a little help from a pesky fire nymph with ideas above her station – such scenes are always a hoot to write, especially when random snippets of silliness make their way in. For example, is it wise to play I-Spy with a dragon? During last year’s effort I managed to get in the Pleiades playing poker, and a broken chair slapstick gag. Will these scenes survive the brutal first cut of editing, next year? Probably not, but that doesn’t matter. They are words on the page, and I had a good giggle writing them.

Apart from that I have nothing profound, or insightful to offer. Even when out in the real world, my head is busy with the words that must come later. Expect more coherence from me come December, when I’ve caught up with my sleep – burning the midnight oil is my modus operandi, even though I can’t quite bounce back from it like I used to. But the midnight peace suits me perfectly, and I find it helps to mooch in the garden for a few minutes, under the wintery sky – even in the rain – the cold air clears my head. If the sky is clear, the stars and the silhouetted trees make a perfect foil for thought. The Leonids should be raining down soon too – because of NaNoWriMo I see far more shooting stars than I would otherwise. And owls too. Owls are good, as the Log Lady used to say…

An evening just after Midsummer

Lose some, lose some. After rewriting the thing I was rewriting, it has been rejected by a different editor from the same zine. This editor didn’t get the beginning, although she says my writing is ‘ambitious in a good way, but…’ <head desk>… Ah well. I’ve already sent it on elsewhere, more for the sake of something to do, than in any real hope. Moving on.

It occurred to me recently that my writing seems to involve shoes a great deal. Not a conscious decision, they just seem somehow to become important to the narrative they find themselves in. I even wrote a poem about shoes, way back in 2006 – a golden year when I discovered that I could write, although I’m certainly no poet. Am I a shoe fetishist? I’d certainly like to be! I have been known to while away the time gently browsing Manolos on the Neiman Marcus website, especially these… One day I will own a pair, preferably while I’m still able to walk in them – it’s important to have dreams, yes?

After some umming and ahhhing over whether to have a bash or not, I have decided to at least attempt something for the Terry Pratchett Prize. I have a little something emerging from the echoing caverns at the back of my head. Even if I decide not to submit it, it will at least be another iron in the fire, and will have got something out of my head and onto screen/paper that has been niggling me for nearly a year. So, another week or so to percolate, and then writing in earnest will begin in July. In which case I may as well do this. In for a penny, etc.

The weather has been rather lovely here this month. Last night I had the pleasure of listening to the blackbird’s evensong; he was perched on the top most branch of the ash tree behind our garden, and above him rose the golden moon, three-quarters full. The scent of philadelphus wafts from other gardens, and mingles with the honeysuckle and roses in ours. Midsummer is one of my favourite parts of the year. It was in Midsummer, back in 1979, that I first read The Wind in the Willows. And it is at this time of year that my favourite romantic novelist, Katie Fforde, annually brings out a new book. I am lucky enough to know her, to count her as a friend – she is truly lovely – and, in my bookselling capacity, I get to run the Stroud Bookshop stall at the Farmers’ Market, where Katie signs her latest hardback. We had a particularly good event this year; the advance publicity was excellent; the weather was good, so plenty of shoppers and fans were out and about, and this year Katie’s husband Desmond was also signing the book he’s edited. (And my small daughter helped me to set up the stall, then quietly drew some lovely pictures until it was time to pack up the stall again, in between hugging me whilst no-one was looking. We had a lovely lovely time.)

And finally, to bring this rather long post to an end, this week I finished reading Alison Weir’s excellent biography of Katherine Swynford, and Katie’s latest, A Perfect Proposal. The former is a fascinating account of 14th Century romance, politics and intrigue; the latter a delightful romp set in the West Country, New York and Connecticut (with shoes), that exactly hits the right spot for an enjoyable light read with some laugh-out-loud lines. And now I must fetch in the laundry.