Magical tortoises

My latest module has been a joy to study. Uncovering the history of the short story, from early myths and fairy tales to the joy of magical realism and the simple beauty of post modernist work. Work for my degree covered many of these aspects, but never in relation to short fiction. I’ve read so many great stories, Gogol, Poe, Katherine Mansfield and Raymond Carver are just a few that spring to mind. I’ve also revisited my beloved Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who has a gentle yet fierce way of expressing the reality of oppression and of mental distress. Reading so much and so widely has given me a new excitement for the power of short fiction.

My own work for this module was a struggle. So much inspiration left me not sure where to start, as well as rearing the ugly notion of inadequacy. Writing is the only way through this and after dozens of false starts which saw me producing pale pastiches of my favourite stories, I’ve finally created something I like. Many of my stories focus on what I feel is a forgotten voice. There is a generation of silent,often compliant women who are at best ignored and at worst derided, with little understanding. The recent #metoo campaign has highlighted the scale and reality of sexual harassment and accepted abuse of others. Ensuing discussions are dominated and diluted by arguments based on a previous culture of silent acceptance and we seem to be faced with a situation where women are being pitched against each other and a weird scale of ‘seriousness’ is being developed. The reality and impact of daily abuse rarely attracts attention.Often it becomes so normal that we do just put up with it. It is these scenarios that populate my current short fiction.

I’ll see how successful I’ve been when it gets back from my tutor. And yes,this particular tale does feature a magic tortoise.

I’m reading and writing more poetry too. Two new books from Nine Arches Press are giving me great joy. I’m struggling with my health at the moment, averaging one/two ‘up’ days out of seven, which is much less than last year. The poetry in these two books is short enough to be manageable, and challenging enough to be satisfying. And the obvious consequence is that it sparkles up my poetry writing brain too. It’s incredibly frustrating not being able to do all the things I want to do, but I am determined not to give up, even though progress is so painfully slow.

Thank you for reading. Please comment or leave a like so I know you’ve seen this. Your waves and hellos cheer me on!

Sending peaceful thoughts.

Find out more about the wonderful Nine Arches Press here

Looking up

I’ve learnt a lot from my feedback for assignment three of Writing Short Fiction. It wasn’t as glowing as previous feedback, and looking back through what I had submitted I can see why. You may remember from previous posts that I’ve been struggling with everything lately. In hindsight I should have taken a break earlier, rather than pushing myself to beat a deadline that exists for no one but myself.

The main things I’ve learnt are

  • Don’t get distracted by form. The story has to be king.
  • Write what you know. Yes, I’m still trying to write in a way that I think is perhaps a little more clever, or literary. I need to stop it.
  • Be authentic.
  • Stop when I know I should stop.

I think I’ve read so many things saying there is no such thing as writers block and I should just write through it ( which I agree with), that I have tried to apply the same to M.E.. Foolish. As a wise woman said to me, “you rest your body, so you need to rest your mind”. Those who know me know my mind is full of four hundred and eighty-seven things at once, so this is a challenge. I have taken the challenge up, and now spend ten minutes each morning watching the birds from my window. Just watching the birds. Not thinking about things I wish I’d said, or what I need to put on the shopping list. Just watching the birds eat and flutter and fight and generally be wonderful. Pulling my mind back every time it wanders is hard, but I hope it will help me to learn to focus on one thing. Ridiculously, the only time I truly focus is when I write. Not resting stops me doing the one thing that means my mind is less fragmented.

I am seeing benefits already my brain seems to be coming back to itself. I’ve given myself a less punishing schedule for the rest of my course, and I hope that I will be writing well again soon. The nagging pressure of trying to succeed is still here ( as it should be), but I feel I have cleared a pathway that was getting overgrown.

Please comment, feedback, share and like at will.

One year on……..

It’s my anniversary. Twelve months since I started putting thoughts on paper and sending them out to be read. By rights I’d like to be shouting about my acheivements. I’d like to be telling I’ve been published or that I’ve won twenty seven competitions. After all there’s no point in all this if I’m not successful is there?

But there is. And I’ve only just realised it. You see, I’m the kind of person who says nothing unless spoken to. The kind of person who gives little away unless I’m asked a question. I am someone whose voice is crowded by those who are confident,those who are noisy and those who simply can’t bear silence. It’s not a trait I like, and I find many social occasions leave me frustrated and cross with myself. I am used to it and I am happy to be a listener for eighty percent of my time. I just long for the chance to be heard in that other twenty percent.  This is what I have here. It’s not a particularly loud or flamboyant voice, or place but it is a voice nonetheless. Realising that is my success.

I believe am writing some of the best work I ever have. It’s not visible, mainly because I can’t afford to enter any competitions at the moment and I really want to save the work for when I can. I think I’m afraid I’ll never write anything else half decent. The down side is that I’m experiencing brain fog more powerfully than I ever had. Writing creatively seems to exhaust a whole new element of me. Interacting with people is becoming harder and my body is not in a happy place. I’m resting my brain, as advised by the two people closest to me. They also have the dubious accolade of being possibly the only people that I’ll actually listen to. Don’t tell them .

I am still working on my OCA work, but not at such an intense rate. I was rushing to finish, rather than working to learn. My intention is to have a body of work ready for submission to comps and publications by summer. This gives me time to research my market which I find incredibly challenging. Perhaps I’m just a bit intimidated.

A year on I haven’t hit dizzy heights. I don’t even feel that great about the prospect. I’m not going to stop though, and anyone who knows me knows that is a sign that I think there’s something worthwhile ahead.

Thank you for reading. Please follow my blog on here and please, like and share on Facebook. They’re mucking about with the settings again, so make sure you’ve clicked the button at the top of the page that says you would like notification when I post. If you could invite your friends to like my page, that would be absolutely tremendous.

Peace and kittens x

In praise of the stick

I have inherited two traits from my Mom and Dad that make handling a chronic condition particularly silly. I have my Mom’s belief that “I mustn’t bother the doctor” and my Dad’s belief that despite two hip replacements, spondylioarthritis, ankles that don’t work, and a heart condition, using a stick is only for very special occasions. Combine this with my own desire to hide from the fact that I need the blooming thing and my desire to never make a fuss, and you have a person who gets themselves in an unnecessary pickle.

Why am I telling you this? Quite simply because I experienced something recently that illustrates our response to visible or invisible illness. I travelled abroad a couple of weeks ago, which is a challenge, but it’s something that means so much to me I will do it for as long as I can. Seeing new places makes me feel alive. Anyway, this meant I had to use The Airport. I hate airports now, they are noisy, bright, confusing and involve lots and lots of walking. Special Assistance is available, and is useful only but if you remember to book it. I was in a lot of pain because I’d ended up walking further than I anticipated the weekend before which left me quite poorly. Combine it with an early morning and I was in a situation where I needed to swallow my pride and use my stick*.  I hate the thing. It’s not the right size (I’ve never been measured), it gets in my way and it makes me feel like I’m making a fuss. In reality using it was it was the best thing I could have done. I was directed to the fast track aisles (no queuing, lots of seats,helpful faces), I had doors held open for me and people smiled. Best of all, I didn’t have people tutting and chuntering as I walked too slowly. Seeing the stick seemed to mean that folk understood and could modify their behaviour*. It was nice. And awful.

You see, I don’t want to have to have a symbol to experience patience. I’d like it if I could move at my own pace without feeling embarrassed or troublesome. I’ve been in a grumpy hurry enough times to know that manners sometimes run away but that grumpy hurry, or plain ignorance has an impact.  Like everything, it just comes down to being actively kind.I often shy away from writing about the day to day of my illness, I’d hate folk to think I’m mithering or seeking pity, but the difference in people’s behaviour when they saw me using a  stick astounded me. It made me reflect on my own behaviour and all the times I’ve been impatient with folk. And it made me wonder how I’m going to handle things in the future, so I don’t end up ploughing through a situation and making myself worse. A very wise friend told me I need to get my asking for help head on, I’ve always been the fixer, so needing help is a tricky thing. Asking for it is pretty much impossible (what if people think I’m just looking for attention?), and receiving it brings me out in a rash*. She’s right though. I do need to. Next week.

Anyway, I had a smashing break and saw a lot of interesting ruins and mountains, a tortoise and this weird thing called sunshine. It made the flight and the complications and extended recovery worth it. I’m full of inspiration and ideas and can’t wait to get back to writing creatively. Trying to feel normal is a tricky thing. Trying to navigate the ignorance of others is even trickier. As ever I owe so much to those who make the effort to help me to carry on being part of things, and who see past the brave face. You’re smashing .

Normal writing blogs will resume soon. Happy Thursday everyone x



*I know I’m lucky to have a choice.

*I know that many people have rotten experiences when using walking aids and wheelchairs and I don’t intend to dilute that. I was just shocked at how kind people were to me that day.

*this isn’t entirely accurate.P1050467