There Just Aren’t Enough Hours In The Day, or Why I Don’t Want To Be A Zombie…

Once upon a time, I was able to do it all. Once upon a time, I didn’t need as much sleep. Now I find myself pulled in so many directions – too many directions. I can’t do it all. Last night for instance; I got into a good flow of writing, and I would dearly have loved to have just carried on. But no. I had to be up very early again this morning (Very Early), so I had to give in to my body’s unreasonable need for sleep. Once upon a time, I could race through my reading list, gallop and cavort through several volumes at a time. Now, I have to juggle my reading time with writing, and sleeping (never mind everything else, the non-negotiables that come with being a mother and a wife). Maybe it’s an age thing; that has a ring of inevitability about it. I can no longer burn the candle at both ends; not if I want to be taken seriously as a decent-looking, well behaved human being. Zombiedom does not appeal!

But the main reason my brain has wandered down this particular path is the issue of reading. I’m still ploughing through – and digesting – The Seven Basic Plots (Booker, 2005), and I’m still dipping into and loving The Legacy (Bedford, 2005). But the waiting to be consumed pile never seems to go down, and already I have more to add to it. Under Heaven (Kay, 2010) is the hardback treat I have promised to myself for when  the First Draft is completed – so a sort of non-chocolate easter egg. Then there are two new paperbacks, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (Mitchell, 2011), and So Much For That (Shriver, 2011). I won’t go on, because if I do, I won’t know where to stop; working in a bookshop is a tremendous source of pleasure, but also frustration! And if I had a penny for every customer who has looked round at the laden shelves and told me that they suppose I spend all my time reading… I gave up trying to read at work when Cold Mountain was published, back in 1997. There are only so many times I can cope with rereading the same page and then being interrupted. I’m not there to read, but to assist, to sort out, to make presentable. The shop can be quieter than a really quiet thing, and I promise you, the moment I think about picking up a book, someone will ask me something. I never did finish Cold Mountain, either… so many books, and not enough hours in the day.

But the sun shines more and more, with increasing strength. I’ve seen celandines, little golden glossy stars that twinkle in the verge. And the washing line once more billows with laundry, while the apple tree promises to unfurl its blossom in a few more weeks. Spring is bouncing around like a bouncy thing in spring, and the WIP is gathering pace. So I’m not complaining, not really.

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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.