The Dangerous Life of a Successful Writer

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This has seriously put me off the whole idea 😀

Thanks, Tom Gauld, master cartoonist.

The Sad Case of the Bathroom Mosquito

Bathroom Mosquito

In the last few weeks, I’ve been kept awake by a multitude of marauding mosquitoes. They suck so much of my blood I’m always surprised to find I’m alive in the morning, and that the mosquitoes still look so tiny when they should have the most bulbous of bellies.

But, despite this nasty, nightly feasting, I can’t help feeling sorry for Morris the Bathroom Mosquito.

Don’t get me wrong; I hate the little buggers as much as anyone. As concrete proof of this, here is a poem a teenage version of me, driven half insane with fury, wrote in the middle of the night on a holiday in Wales with my friend, Sophie. Continue reading

One Great Photo: Skate Girls of Kabul

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‘Skate Girls of Kabul’ by Jessica Fulford-Dobson

I popped this photo in my Pictures folder a while ago now, and keep seeking it out because I love everything about it; the mix of colours, the cheeky grins, and the unexpected source of all the fun – the scribbled-on skateboards. Afghan Girl Power!

In her book, Jessica, the award-winning photographer, says: “It’s hard not to think of Afghan girls skateboarding as a remarkable and quirky clash of cultures. But when you see these girls in their beautiful, bright, flowing clothes tearing around the skate park, often yelping and shrieking with laughter, your preconceptions drop away. You realize that however unusual it may seem, they’re doing what comes naturally to them. As with girls anywhere in the world, once you give them the chance to do something they love, each one begins to discover her own personality, her sense of style and how to express it.”

Read more about Jessica Fulford-Dobson and ‘Skateistan’ here.

For the writers among you; it’s just begging for a great story to go with it 🙂

‘Do Not Mistake Love for Happiness…’

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Within a few moments, the kitchen hands had a fire lit. Free and unburdened by work, there seemed to be a magic about them tonight on the Eve of May. Sparks seemed to fly from their hands as if they were witches.

The kitchen girls produced food as if from nowhere. Their hands were empty and then suddenly full. Of things like a whole clove-studded ham, freshly baked loaves, mincemeat pies and honey cakes.

The washerwomen unfurled the largest of blankets, which seemed to float over the glade like a ship’s pennant before landing in the perfect picnic square.

The cleaning girls pulled wooden sticks from the fire and touched them to a million candles in a million lanterns. They peppered the clearing and hung about the trees, as bright as captured stars.

The village girls arrived bearing jars of jams and pickles, and jugs of ale from the tavern, their cheeks rosy and warm from the walk through the dark woods. They greeted the castle workers with whoops of joy and tender embraces. Most of them were related, after all. Mothers, daughters, aunts and cousins.

Catalina was awestruck. She had never seen anything so magical or so perfect. It was hard to connect these people with the downtrodden, subservient characters that ordinarily toiled in her world.

Someone showed her to a space on the blanket. Another handed her a silver goblet, full to the brim with ruby red wine. She drank half of it down immediately. The youngest serving girl, Joan, approached her, goaded by all the others. She brought out a crown of hawthorn blossom from behind her back.

Dropping a curtsy, she said: “We wish to crown you the May Queen, my lady.”

“Me?” Catalina replied, delighted. “It would be the greatest of honours.”

She rose up onto her knees and bowed her head solemnly. Joan placed the blossom crown on her head and everyone clapped.

“What do I have to do?” Catalina asked Maude, her nursemaid.

“You have to start the proceedings,” Maude replied. “Oh, look, my daughter’s here!”

And then Maude abandoned her. But Catalina had been waiting for many years for Maude to abandon her, so she didn’t care one bit.

“What do we do first?” she called out to the nearest girls. “And can we please do everything?”

But nobody had chance to answer her because, just then, there was a strange rumbling noise in the glade. There was a lot of ‘shushing’, and the women fell quickly silent, listening hard. Catalina stared along the hidden path to the right of The Tree as the rumbling came closer.

“It’s Boboli!” A washerwoman exclaimed.

She was greeted with disbelief.

“It can’t be…”

“Don’t be ridiculous…”

“He isn’t due this year…”

But the rumbling came nearer and, just as Catalina’s eyes were burning with the strain of staring, a black horse walked into the clearing pulling a black covered wagon, on which was written in gold the legend ‘Boboli ~ Who Knows All That Is Worth Knowing’. Continue reading

Writing and Cucumbers

Cucumber Fail

This is a picture of my cucumber crop so far. Impressed? In all my years on this planet, I have never seen such a curved cucumber. It’s a definite cucumber fail.

A while ago, I started to write a story that appeared, half-formed, in my head. And it was SO good. At least, the SEED of it was. I worked on it on and off for a few days and then it began to mutate into something that barely resembled the original idea. Suddenly I didn’t know where it was going, or even how to take it back. I was forced to abandon it.

But the thing is, you never need to throw writing away, because every piece of writing contains something useful. In the same way that the mutant cucumber can be turned into compost, I can add the disastrous story into the rich mix of practise and imagination that will nourish future stories.

As long as you keep on doing, nothing is wasted.

“Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”Denis Waitley

I found Daisy’s Bike!

Daisys Bike

Has anyone else had the odd experience of coming across their fictional character’s name in an obscure place? This is the first time it’s happened to me, and it felt like a lovely little link had been made between the real world and my imaginary one, and gave me a warm glow for the rest of the day 🙂

Daisy May’s bike was leaning up against a fence in the old (for New Zealand) town of Lawrence in Otago, half a world away from Daisy’s home. It might have been ironic, because Daisy is highly allergic to exercise, but it would be just like her to have a bike that was only useful as decoration.

Has something similar happened to you? I’d love to hear about it!


Daisy May plays a hopeless game of netball – an excerpt from ‘The Curtain-Twitcher’s Handbook’

NetballWhen I got to the Sports Hall, the teams were already being selected.

“Aah, there you are, Daisy,” said Mrs Bennett. “You were meant to be choosing today but I wasn’t sure where you’d got to.”

I closed my eyes briefly, thanking whoever was in charge of this whole mess that I hadn’t had to choose a team from amongst all these people who hated me. A small reprieve. Continue reading

The Protest

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“Mummy, what’s that lady doing?”

“She’s protesting.”

Jenny pushed Tom before her, guiding him past the other shoppers with a gentle, but insistent, hand on his shoulder. The sports shop closed in five minutes, and she had to make sure she got the right golf balls. She bought the wrong ones last time, and Mark had not been happy.

Tom craned his neck to look at the woman as they passed her by. She was holding a sign he couldn’t read, and shouting, her face determined.

“What does… ‘por-testing’ mean?”

The first spots of rain fell, and one landed on Jenny’s nose and made her jump. She reached out and pulled Tom’s hood over his head. Why hadn’t she brought the pushchair? At three and a half he was getting too old for it, but it sure made shopping trips quicker.

Pro-testing,” Jenny corrected. “When you’re annoyed about something, you can tell everyone why and ask them to help you change it.”

“Like when Daddy is annoyed with you?”

Jenny smiled and shook her head. “Not quite, Tom. Bigger things than that. Come on, we need to hurry.”

The shop was in sight now, in the distance. As she herded Tom towards it, she saw a fit-looking guy in a polo shirt come to the door and flip the sign from Open to Closed.

“Shit!” Jenny couldn’t help herself.

“Mummy!”

“Sorry Tom.”

She picked him up now and swung him into her arms, ignoring the sharp pain in her back from her fall down the stairs the week before. Mark didn’t want her to go to the doctors, but she might have to, because it was getting worse. Tom gave a cry of surprise as she began to run towards the shop, every step making her gasp.

The guy was outside the sports shop locking the door now.

“Wait!” called Jenny, “Please…”

Continue reading

‘Write What You Know is the Stupidest Thing I Ever Heard’

And when it’s someone like Kazuo Ishiguro who’s telling you that, it’s definitely worth listening.

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There was a great article on LitHub this week, with writing tips from the Nobel prize-winning author. Not only does he stick two fingers up at writing what you know – yay! – but he also tells of the CRASH approach to writing, which enabled him to write ‘Remains of the Day’ in just four weeks!

Many years ago, I took a writing night-class. I was about twenty years old and had a lot to learn about writing. Unfortunately, the people in the class were not the sort to learn lessons from. We were given a story prompt. Something innocuous like ‘The best day of my life’.

After listening to one elderly ladies story (the average age of the class was about sixty-five) about her trip to a sweet shop when she was a little girl, it was my turn. I stood up, absolutely petrified about reading out loud, and immersed them in a story of a first world war aeroplane designer who suddenly realised he was in love with his (male) mechanic.

When I finished, there was silence in the room. I balked and sat down, thinking I must have done it all wrong. And then one of the ladies coughed and said:

“It’s better to write about what you know, dear.”

 


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It’s pretty poor when your own computer – the one you’ve tapped away at until your fingers bleed (okay, slight exaggeration) and poured all your hopes and dreams into – still has no clue who you are after 4 years…

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And, look at that silhouette – it even thinks I might be a boy! 😀

Aah, computers. Can’t live with ’em. Can’t live without ’em.

 


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#3 ‘I didn’t write today because…’

Alfie the cat and I don’t get a lot done when the resident rock star is in the house. Rock on, Alfie!


When you have limited spare time, the slightest thing can put you off your writing!