Month: October 2012

#fridayflash Ode to Morrison

This is one of many many interrelated flashes. This is for lovely Morrison from The Solid Table Fallacy.

If you’d like to see me reading it instead Click Here. Ignore the robot time check near the end.

I suppose it won’t surprise you to know that I’m a little bit in love with Morrison Pentworthy. He is a poet who bends towards the otherwise forgotten things; sandworm castings on the shore and the fractal repetitions of trees. He is Morrison, a little bit in love with everything. So a story, a story for him.

It was just a year or two ago, many years after everything that happened. Eddie was now Edward White, Photographer. He had tried to make sense of things too – those strange stories from old men and children about lights in the sky, fishy goings on, people from nowhere and flugtags that flew right up to the sun. He had taken pictures, pictures that my father might have called ‘life fancied up’; photographs that made the everyday extraordinary.

There was an exhibition, small scale. One of those where the force unimaginable is contained in a municipal building, slinking quietly into the background of polystyrene cups and industrial carpets, no hype, miles from the Tate or the Turner prize. Of the lights themselves he captured, somehow the hovering, the held breath beautiful and the hope of them. Despite himself Edward White had created something great. Only a handful of people would ever know. But this is Morrison’s story.

Morrison liked to ride the buses, sometimes randomly. He would take a 42 or an 11b or a 49A from the city centre and find out where they ended up. Later he might take the train back and admire the view over Killiney Bay or look into back gardens with clotheslines and old trikes and fashionable extensions. Sometimes on the bus he would have his notebook on his lap. He would awake from this reverie and alight the bus; emerge blinking into some foreign thoroughfare, some anonymous corner of brick and juxtaposition, enjoy the sensation of making sense of it.

Serendipity was one of his touchstones. We all have them. Whether its magpies, astrology, anniversaries, betting odds or Gods or our favourite jersey or bugbear, we all need something to give us a guide rail.

Serendipity. He went out of the bus and in front of him was the small door on which was fixed, modestly, quietly details of this photography exhibition. Inside, moving through the exhibition he felt his chest inflate, words ramming against his vocal chord. His fingers hummed. Yes. He went home and wrote this poem on a scrap of paper and his mother nearly threw it out when she was hoovering later in the week.

Send

Send me a secret story in a song just for me
Send me a grain of dust
Send me a heartbeat flipped, squeezed with lemon juice, soaked with sugar
Send me the sharp stars
Send me the winks in the water
Send me
Send me songs, photographs, breaths, petals, kisses, muddy puddles
Send send
Send send me the satellites and the lights of Japan and the sizzle of electric eels
Send send send
Send me the weave and the weft, the ragged starts and endings
Send

And between the lines, if you could see as microscopically as I do, yes, you would see the word Emily repeated over and over as if it was the shape of his breath. For since he had seen her in the furniture shop three and half years ago, with her children and her disgruntled husband, Emily had become another of his guiderails.

Emily too had gone to the exhibition. She was there on the opening night. She had seen a small write up in the paper and although she hadn’t rung Eddie since he’d handed her his business card at the supermarket when they’d met after all those years, she knew he’d be pleased to see her.

It felt grown up, standing there with a glass of wine and listening to the speeches, watching Eddie from a distance when she’d only ever been wrapped around him, lips, ideas, interests, limbs, kisses, kisses. She felt like a person, away from the children. She went out into the fuzzy evening with a more solid feeling.

She would not have gone back, only it was her mother’s anniversary and she was thinking about the sea. The sea healed, her mother had said, although for Barbara the healing had been only in the head. Eddie had taken some pictures that made the sea look like metal, rising, like the arc of a spaceship or the rim of the earth from space. The way she had felt about Eddie, all that potential was like the sea rushing in but now, (years later) it was all too late. The crest of the wave had fallen and the sea had gone out again.

Morrison with his notebook, his poetry and the secret codes for his sightings of Emily and yet that day, fated, at the exhibition he didn’t recognise her. She was so still, naked of the trappings of life, buses, bustle. Then he saw her hand and remembered the way she had placed it on the dining table in Furniture Land.

The leaf of the poem fell out of his book. There were red and gold highlights in her hair as she bent to pick it up. It was Autumn then and everything was tumbling. A slow light was coming through the window. She did not mean to read it but ‘Send’ she said as she held in in her hand. He watched her as she kept reading.

‘Send,’ she read and the rest and she thought of all the things she wished had been sent.

‘We met years ago,’ said Morrison ‘You wanted me to sell you a table.’  And there it was, that quiet beginning. Later they sat together in a café with plastic flowers and dreadful coffee despite being run by a middle-aged Italian with slicked back oily hair. There were plastic tablecloths so they could not see the grain of the table underneath and the whispers between the grain that silently said, ‘I love you’.

But many years later Morrison Pentworthy stepped down from the podium at a reading of his poetry, now popular and admired, to the steady, constant arm of a white haired lady with eyes like the sky; that strange, inconstant blue. Emily, Emily, Emily. Can you imagine their kiss?

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Send

Send me a secret story in a song just for me
Send me a grain of dust
Send me a heartbeat flipped, squeezed with lemon juice, soaked with sugar
Send me the sharp stars
Send me the winks in the water
Send me
Send me songs, photographs, breaths, petals, kisses, muddy puddles
Send send
Send send me the satellites and the lights of Japan and the sizzle of electric eels
Send send send
Send me the weave and the weft, the ragged starts and endings
Send

#fridayflash Reunion

They met again in a supermarket. It was Christmas Eve and everyone was there. All around the shop assaults of memory, surreptitious sightings of people from the past, back, nasty girls from school now snapped and pummeled, lost boys made good in chinos and suits, friends of her mother patting her arm in the biscuit aisle, their shortbread faces softening because they had been fond of Louise.

Eddie had a trolley. It had been abandoned in the car park. Now he wished he hadn’t bothered.

The Jingle Bells playing over the tannoy had the musicality of scraping nails.

Emily had a basket; Cream, cream cheese, crackers perhaps and mincemeat for mince pies. She’d found a jar rolled on its side behind the sugar. The basket crashed against her, the metal mesh fighting, there was a tailback of trolleys and a crush for the cheese boards.

So it was there, beside the cheese after, what, twenty years? All those many kinds of cheese both melty and hard, cheese with holes and mould and cranberries and apricots. In slow motion you could see their hands both reaching for the Wesleydale.

In a flash you could see their hands now older but familiar, touching like the so old days. In a moment, a place and time where Christmas crackers didn’t matter, everything here and now so close, the chill of the cabinet, the solid resistance of the floor tiles, the glare of the fluorescent lights, the past racing up, a train with flickering windows. Emily and Eddie baiting forked lighting on the quay, her hands around his waist driving on the motorbike up past the Hellfire Club to the view of the night town like stars. Emily and Eddie flinging plums into the sea on the day before he left. Why did he leave?

“Emily,” he said. A woman pushed passed with a chocolate assortment. Emily said nothing. She could not choose a word out of so many. She couldn’t pick out which thread to tell him.

“How are you?”

“Fine.”

“It’s been…”

Ages.

“I didn’t know you liked Wensleydale.”

The basket was digging into her fingers. The girls were with her father. He sometimes got nervous.

“My mother died,” she said.

He nodded, mumbled.

“I have a daughter,” he said.

Her hair was darker, shorter.

His eyes hadn’t changed.

The woman with the chocolate assortment came back the other way. They were truffles with many luscious centres.

“I’m a photographer now,” he said. His hand disappeared. She waited. Over the tannoy came a plea for more checkout operators. He gave her a card.

Edward White, Portraits, Special Occasions she read. There was a phone number.

“I have two girls,” she said.

“I live in Blackrock now,” he replied.

On the train that day, it had been him she’d seen. It was like the folds of paper coming together.

She looked at the basket with the Wensleydale on top. Her ex-husband had refused to make the trip to see the girls at Christmas. He said he would Skype if he got the chance. When Eddie had left he had said he would write her a letter.

“My number is there,” he said pointing. Emily put the card in her bag among the rest of the debris.

He wondered whether he should kiss her on the cheek. People were pushing to get round them. Good to see you Emily and Eddie said and smiled at each other.

Then Eddie turned the trolley and headed towards the milk.

Self-published in a bookshop

On writing.ie I share what I have learned so far about getting your self-published book into a  (I am stocked in Dubray books in Bray and in Hughes and Hughes stores in Dublin) and about bookshop launches, as well as the success of a self-published author in the UK at getting his book stocked at Waterstones. Click here for more

I recently joined Wattpad. It’s a platform for writers to share work (both sample chapters of published work and new writing). The aim is for writers is to connect with other writers and find new readers and for readers to find new work they’ll enjoy. They have some high profile advocates such as Margaret Atwood and some serious investment – I’ll give more details in a later post. The advantage for writers is that there is a huge audience in the millions already signed up so your work has the potential to be widely read. However like all platforms you have to attract readers and followers, so work must go into your involvement there. This is a consideration when we’re already stretched keeping up with many platforms. However if you want to have a look it’s www.wattpad.com and here is my page if you want to read any pieces (I have two short stories and an extract from Housewife with a Half-Life on it) or connect if you decide to join.

 

Writing and Life: What to do when you just can’t

When my youngest child of four started school in September I thought that I would blog about that. After all this blog is called Head above Water, it’s about the years of juggling life and writing when the kids were very small. After almost twelve years, with all the children now in school I’ve entered a new era and perhaps I will blog about that in the future.

Blocked

But for a number of reasons (lack of a clear holiday downtime during the summer, the effort that goes along with getting the children settled back into their routine and other things) rather than having a new lease of life I’ve felt worn down and came to the point where I was unable to blog, to write very much, tweet, market my self-published books or any of the the things that I’d previously thought important both because I enjoyed them and because I was building a career.

I don’t really believe in writer’s block. Not the kind where you stare out the window and wait for the muse to come and can’t think of anything. I’ve used writing prompts to help me get started, walking always makes new ideas come, focused effort has worked for me: I’ve completed NaNoWriMo (the 50,000 words in a month challenge) three times.

But the air sometimes gets thin when you’re running and running and don’t take the time to figure out why or where. We talk about fitting writing into our busy lives, eking out the hours around our work but we talk less about doing nothing, about enjoying ourselves, having fun, exploring the passions and interests we have for their own sake.

Vapour

There’s a lot of talk now about marketing, building platforms, social networking, raising your profile, unlocking Amazon’s algorithms to gain visibility. But again, these activities can become vapourous when we are doing them just for the sake of keeping up, because it’s the done thing, because everyone else is running faster and faster now and we have to keep up.

Too much in the head

We know too much. We are aware of almost every tragedy and every success. We try to assimilate, to compare, to see where the world fits in relation to us and where we fit in relation to it. As writers we hear of the publishing deals, the advances, the runaway self-published successes, the wonderful word counts and so on. We are happy for others but anxious for ourselves, wondering if we’re doing things right. And publishing is changing so much, from week to week both on the traditional and self-publishing fronts that authors don’t always know if they are doing the right thing, making the right choices.

So what can we do if we have lost our way with writing and with fitting writing into a life that is rich and varied outside of our daily wordcount

What to do if you have lost your way

Don’t

Stop writing, have some time off altogether, rest, don’t even think. Just stop.
Some people say we should write everyday to keep the writing muscle going, to keep in the story. Yes, yes if you are enjoying it. Yes if you love writing your book. But if you have lost your way in general or in the project you are working on, just stop.

Read.

But only if you can stand it. Sometimes being a writer can ruin reading. But if you can find books that carry you away, that make you feel like you did when you had no authorly ambition and you were just reading because you loved it.

Refill the well

Do the things you would do if you weren’t trying to be a writer. Watch the telly, play table tennis, tie conkers with string and smash them against each other with a friend, waste time, go out, chat, dig a hole in the garden, paint a picture, watch football, go to the library for non-research purposes. These are ways of being a writer when you’re not writing but do things to that have absolutely nothing to do with being a writer at all. Why do I even have to say that? Sometimes we develop tunnel vision.

Read Karen Rivers’ blog

Karen Rivers’ blog is about the experience of living. She shines a light on how we are in the world and the odd things we do and how we get through things. She makes us stop in the middle of a tornado and find quiet in the eye of the storm.

Remember it’s okay to take time out for yourself

This post from Barbara Scully is very apt for me as a mother in the home, life is very full on from 1.30 onwards to late at night, there is little time to recuperate. This applies to everyone, male or female, particularly those who spend much of their day tending to or sorting out the needs of others. How can you write and know what you want to write and why when you are still in the headset/mindset of a clamour of voices other than your own.

Listen to all the rubbish you are telling yourself and talk yourself out of it

When there is too much noise, when we know too much, when we compare ourselves, when we are giving to other people without taking time to reestablish our equilibrium we are wearing ourselves out with everything that is in our heads. Chris Brogan gives an example of how we can listen to what we our inner critic is telling us and how it is making us feel. We can learn to talk back and stop confusing ourselves and losing the focus of what we really want to do, not just think we should.

I’ll write a related post about how we need to stay in love with our novels or learn to love them when the spark goes out but if it’s gone further than that and you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything you are trying to achieve then I hope this post shows you are not alone and that there are things you can try to help.

Related posts: 5 New year resolutions for writing parents

To the social media anxious: It’s okay