When I finished reading, there was silence in the room. I balked and sat down, thinking I must have done it all wrong.
The ‘Publish My Book’ button seems to be a multitasking piece of HTML. Not only does it somehow transfer all your words and pages into a proper book that people can buy on the other side of the world – wow! – BUT it also opens some kind of hidden tap in your brain through which all your creativity magically begins to drain away.
There you are thinking, ‘right then, onto the next book’… You have so many awesome ideas, all written down in a pile of ragged notebooks. There is even the odd chapter or three of a shiny, new project hidden away in your computer. It’s calling to you in a polite ‘excuse me’ kind of voice. You look at it. It doesn’t look quite as good as you thought it did, but you read to the end. You raise your fingers above the keyboard, ready to carry on. And…
The previous post – ‘First Day Nerves’ is connected to this one. Both come from the same story, which will probably be called APPLEHEART.
It will be a long time before I can call it a book, and, to be honest, it’s already been stewing for a good number of years. Checking back, I wrote the Appleheart excerpt in 2014, and First Day Nerves is from 2016. It’s now almost 2018 and I have the best part of four chapters. Four years to write four chapters!?
This is what I like to call a ‘slow-cook book’, and they’re often the best. I’ll keep adding to it, and all sorts of ideas will get mixed in along the way. It should make for lots of flavour, just like a long-simmered stew!
My mother said I would regret choosing art as a career. My father couldn’t care less what I chose. He was, however, worried about Ned and drama. If he’d ever seen any of Ned’s acting; if he’d bothered to go to the school plays or the drama group productions like I had, he wouldn’t have been so worried. My brother was a natural. We were still in nappies when he began to people his world with characters from his imagination. They occasionally took him over so that he became someone else entirely. Many times, over the years, his acting made me laugh so hard I was sick, or cry until I had a headache.
As kids, we would sit together in a tent pitched in the middle of the room we shared. It was like a wigwam, but one we’d made by haphazardly stitching old sheets together and stealing bamboo canes out of the garden. Only we two were allowed in. No family. No friends. Because, inside that tent, was our own little world. A stage for Ned, a studio for me. We would sit together for hours, forgetting empty tummies and full bladders and all the boring routines of life. I had my drawing pad and my coloured pencils on my knee. Ned told me all about the people in his world. I drew them for him.
“Draw an apple for Murphy. He loves apples more than anything.”
I drew an apple for Murphy and tilted the pad.
“No. He only likes red apples. Not green ones.”
I rubbed out the apple, picked up the red pencil, and started again. “What about Mia Emilia? What does she like best?”
“Mia Emilia doesn’t like anything anymore. She’s always sad. She has a face like this.” He pulled the saddest face I’d ever seen. “And she only ever talks in a whisper.”
I remember we were at a friend’s house. I must have been about four. They had white blinds hanging in long strips at the windows, and I spent a long time pulling (‘Gently please, Jojo!”) at the plastic, beaded cord, twisting the strips open and closed. Letting the sunlight into the room in bright stripes across the beige carpet.
Then the TV came on. A children’s programme for us little ones to watch. We planted ourselves, cross-legged, on the carpet. The grown-ups were chatting, their existence stripped to knees and feet, hands holding steaming mugs of tea and reaching for biscuits. Faceless. Just background noise.
But on the screen… on the screen was a woman clothed in a dress of cream and gold that came out from her narrow hips and took over the whole corridor of a sumptuous palace. She was like a doll, with white hair piled up high and unmoving on the top of her head, red lips and a black spot painted on her lip. This, the narrator told us, was ‘Marry Ann-twan-ett’
A short story inspired by the horror of the first world war.
Your ‘4 Agreements’. Read them, take them on board, work at them, make them habitual. Good advice for life from Don Miguel Ruiz. (Thanks Graham)
I was a Saturday Girl once. There was a small cafe in our small town, made popular by a long-running TV series. So many girls from school undertook their job-baptism of fire here, and the kitchen was a seething microcosm of alliances, hostilities and hormones, interspersed with coke floats and cheese and pickle sandwiches.
They pushed me to the top of the stairs and handed me a torch.
“Go on,” said the girl called Suzanna, “They’re on the top shelf.”
I peered down. It was pitch black at the bottom. The light from the cafe filtered down, reducing with every step. I flicked the torch on and gritted my teeth.
This was clearly the beginning of some kind of war.
“Come on, new girl.”
An hour into the job and I was already losing.