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I want to hear about it… the odder the better!
I’ll start you off…
Most odd jobs are summer holiday jobs. Students with a chocolate addiction, like me, had to make enough money to feed their habit with Cadbury’s Buttons, Mars Bars and Double-Deckers. They are generally not fussy about what they do because it’s only for six weeks, after all.
Funnily enough, I often get a bit nostalgic about my summer jobs simply because a few of them were so very odd, and odd things don’t happen quite as much any more.
Here are a couple of my oddest jobs:
“Mummy, what’s that lady doing?”
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.
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…”
And when it’s someone like Kazuo Ishiguro who’s telling you that, it’s definitely worth listening.
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.”
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…
If you are writing a book and want it to stand out amongst the stiff competition, you could do worse than give it a really bizarre title.
The Diagram Prize is an annual literary award which recognises and rewards unusual book titles. It started originally as a sideshow at the 1978 Frankfurt Book Fair, and is now a much-anticipated competition, decided by public vote. Occasionally there have been years when no winner has been announced, due to the entries not being ‘odd enough’!
Past winners include:
Strangers have the Best Candy by Margaret Meps Shulte (2015)
Managing a Dental Practise: The Genghis Khan Way by Michael Young (2010)
The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America by Julian Montague (2006)
Bombproof your Horse by Rick Pelicano (2004)
How to Avoid Huge Ships by John W. Trimmer (1992)
But my personal favourite has to be Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop by Reginald Bakeley (2013)
from the Amazon description:
Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop is the only complete manual on how to identify, track, defend, and destroy those bothersome brownies, goblins, dwarves, scheming flower-fairies, and other nasty members of the fairy realm.
The Editor said of the triumphant win: “Reginald and I take this as a clear sign that people have had enough of goblins in their chicken coops. Our campaign against the fairy kingdom continues.”
A very deserving (and useful) winner! 🙂
by Dr Melchior Williams (Co-Author of ‘The Blackwood Crusade’ a medieval fairytale based on his discovery of the intriguing Blackwood Archives)
In the 15th Century, Blackwood is plagued by malicious faeries, as everyone who lives there knows. Everyone except the Lord of Blackwood, that is, who refuses to believe there is such a thing.
Looking back through the archives, there are hundreds of petitions from the villagers to the Lord of Blackwood (via his Castellan), begging him do something to make their village a safer place. The Castellan does not even pass many of them on. We can read from this that he knows very well what his master would say if he presented them. The gravity of the matters mentioned in the petitions varies and, indeed, some could be attributed to vivid imaginations at work. Other, like the tragic case of the Crumb family in 1413 are harder to dismiss.
I will be sharing some of the appeals with you here (edited for the modern reader). You can make up your own mind.
Petition presented to Thomas the Castellan by Balrick Broadback:
Soldier Broadback reported seeing strange lights flashing in the Black Wood whilst on watch on Monday eve. The lights continued all through the night. He requests a patrol of the surrounding area.
(The Lord of Blackwood was informed of this petition and Soldier Broadback was dismissed from service for drunkenness.)
Painting by John Anster Fitzgerald
‘THE BLACKWOOD CRUSADE’
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…
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.
“You are my champion,” Silas told Christina, blushing a little. “My family all died, and here you are seeking revenge, not just for yourself, but for me, and others like me. You have enough courage for the whole of Blackwood. I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ because I may not have another chance.”
She looked flattered and amazed at the same time, then examined the remains of her flower. “Nobody has ever said anything as nice as that before. I thought everybody saw me as a blood-hungry madwoman, driven insane by my curse.” Continue reading