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Ludicrous Nostrils

My year laid bare.
Or, 2011: everyone else is doing it so why shouldn’t I?

Me

Me

I had no idea how to sum up my year. So I went through my blog month by month and this is what I’ve come up with:

2011 has been all about me taking myself more seriously. Getting learnéd, finding my own way and trying to accept myself for who I am.

In January, I had some short stories published on the Ether Books app, and I took part in a River of Stones. I felt like a fraud. Me? A writer?!

In February I began a Health & Social care module with the OU – overlapping it with the Advanced Creative Writing module I’d already started in October. It was also, very sadly, the month my father-in-law died and I wrote a poem for his funeral.

In March I started to really assess myself as a writer. I began to worry less about what I had to do to define myself as a writer and instead I found myself thinking and writing about what kind of writer I was and realising that success for me simply meant writing what I wanted to write. I felt I had advanced from budding/wannabe/potential/whatever and was giving myself permission to say, ‘I am a writer,’ instead of waiting for some sort of golden ticket to Writer Land.

In April I struggled with unwelcome feedback on my blog and began to see how when people read your writing they can sometimes try to own a bit of it. They see things you didn’t intend, they offer alternate ways of writing, and they can criticise where it’s not wanted. They can even dare to tell you that you are wrong! I also noticed how people can wave experience or credentials in your face and try to beat you down. When people say something you really totally disagree with you absolutely have to stand your ground and I find that difficult.

In May, after a whirlwind of juggling two OU modules, I finally submitted my final assignment for my Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing. I wrote freely and experimentally away from the course and really enjoyed the release. I decided to stop entering competitions – which made me write total cardboard crap. I think I’ve entered three and also submitted to one magazine and when I look at that work it is the worst stuff I have written!

In June I wrote a blog post about my own late father for his seventieth birthday. I wanted to commemorate everything he was to me and how much of him has been passed down to me. He would have liked the me in my early forties that I am now, and it was a comfort to write positive things after two years of bad memories. I also found myself writing a lot of other non-fiction in reaction to things I saw going on in the world.

In July I wrote blog post after blog post after blog post, loaded with opinions and observations. Some fiction, some non-fiction and some a combination of the two. I was enjoying the freedom of owning my own words and knowing they were just to be read and not graded by an academic marker. I began to feel confident that I could say what I wanted on my own blog without fear of being judged. People that didn’t like what I wrote could bog off.

In August I found out I had passed my diploma and the realisation that I was only one module away from a degree began to sink in. I had taken courses to look at things more closely, discover things of interest, and on the way I was getting a degree. It is, to me, a wonderfully fulfilling way of learning – without a specific end goal. I sent in my final assignment for my final module a month early and celebrated the achievement. I wrote a blog post about the experience and had dozens of comments. I adore that feeling, like no other, of sharing and connecting that comes from writing.

I received my course materials for my Twentieth Century Literature module in September and have really enjoyed reading about other writers’ struggles, the way their writing was received in its time and how there is so very much disagreement between critics and writers about what is good and bad, right or wrong in writing. It’s quite reassuring really. I also turned forty-two and began to notice how much I was ageing. I couldn’t help noting how late I’d come to writing compared with famous and successful writers and it upset me. It still upsets me that I didn’t start sooner.

October was a time of more realisation. I started, and then pulled out of, National Novel Writing Month. I took part last year and managed to reach my target but think perhaps once was enough for me. For now I am a short story writer. The way my life is arranged and the way my head explodes with thoughts seems to suit the short story and flash fiction format. I was also very flattered to be invited to take part in the first National Flash Fiction Day which takes place next May!

In November I finally learned how to deal with negative feedback. I realised that if someone doesn’t “get” your writing you can’t make them. I realised that if you like something and don’t want to change it, even after taking onboard someone’s feedback, then you should get a second opinion. I realised that I mustn’t overreact or take feedback personally ( I’m still working on that one. I find comments about my writing very personal!) All writing needs a cooling off period. As do writers.

In December I haven’t really liked my writing. I’ve been bogged down with Christmas and a very demanding literature course (well, I think it’s demanding). There’s something about tension in my real life that screws up my creative flow. Having looked at December’s posts just now, I’m not very proud at all. It’s great to take nationally enforced time off with the family but I’ve had enough now and am starting to stress about everything I need to catch up with.
I had my degree confirmed this month, though, so I am now officially intelligent even if my writing has got worse!

So that’s brief snippets of my year. In summary: I am older, wiser and a kind of graduate-on-hold while I try to up my degree to honours.
I also noticed today – whilst trying to get a photo of myself, that I have started to sag around the jawline, I have a face that is too fat for my upper body and I have ludicrous nostrils.
Ludicrous, I tell you.

I have to write a writer’s profile for the National Flash Fiction Day site now and have no idea what to say… Should I mention the nostrils?

If you’re reading this, thank you. There are some fantastic people who I have met through Twitter that have given me much encouragement and support this year. I had absolutely no faith in myself or my own abilities and you have changed my life by reading and commenting on my blog/and/or my blipfoto journal. I can’t mention you all in case I forget someone but hopefully you know who you are.

If you’re a stranger – Hello!

The photo is a brave one for me. I usually like a facefull of makeup before I can even open the front door. It’s me, at home, at my usual end of the dining room table, in my favourite black jumper. (Check out the nostrils!)

Sweet Charity

A flash fiction

She was. And then she wasn’t. And then she couldn’t.
But she knew she could. And she knew she shouldn’t.
But what else could she do?

So she did.
And she did it again.

And then she waited. And she listened.
And slowly…

…the words were aimed at her and not anyone or anything else.
The problems were due to her and her alone.

She became the focus of…

Well, of what?

And that’s where the problem lay. There was a problem and she’d been made to feel as if it was her problem but when it roared drunkenly across the room at her it looked like it wasn’t her problem at all. And the looks on people’s faces told her it wasn’t her fault either.

The problem was hate.
And cunning and concealment.

And spiking a drink with alcohol in order to prove all that to a roomful of people was the worst – and best – thing she’d ever done.

Despite the rumours.

Imagine: go deeper, wider, further…


I caught a snippet of this quote on Twitter this morning and went looking for the complete version:

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.

ALBERT EINSTEIN

I frequently notice how some people criticise those who apply instinct and imagination to their daily lives and instead quote statistics and ‘facts’ without really knowing what they mean or being able to apply them far and wide. I think there is a danger of being ‘stuck in facts’ without questioning them. It’s always seemed to me to be more progressive to look deeper, visualise further, and imagine how things could be different or better. I find imagining things to be a much much more thorough way of looking at the world.

Just a thought.

And here’s another one:

Many live in the ivory tower called reality; they never venture on the open sea of thought.
Francois Gautier

Incompatible

A flash

She said:
‘I prefer the brain and the personality I have now to the one I had when I was younger…
What a shame the body I had when I was younger was better than the one I have now…’
She shrugged.
‘But maybe the two were never compatible…’

He said:
‘What a shame we can’t go back in time.’

She said:
‘I wouldn’t go back even if I could,’ and opened the empty suitcase onto the bed, satisfied she was doing the right thing.

Midnight musings

I notice regularly how we quiet, reserved or socially awkward  people are recreated by those that don’t know us. There’s either the village gossip to fill in the gaps, or an exaggerated picture built up from only one encounter. Sometimes – if I’m really unlucky, people  remember (badly) a conversation from 20 years ago and have formed a strong, and yet almost entirely inaccurate opinion of me over the years. People don’t like incomplete characters; people they know and yet they don’t know. It makes them suspicious. So they make assumptions, listen to rumours and unfortunately believe hearsay. People can repeat and pass on stuff over time so that it starts to sound like fact but if you didn’t hear it from me maybe it’s not true. People can misinterpret my actions too and create a character who has done things that I haven’t done. I know, it’s happened to me. I’ve been told I’ve done things that I haven’t done. I’ve even been accused of spending money I haven’t spent. I wish I was one of those brave people who present themselves in public announcing, ‘This is me. Take it or leave it.’ But instead I write a blog and hope that people will read it

The Room

A short story/ flash fiction

Ducking her chin to catch limp, yokey toast, Chloe watched Audrey Jeffries slip out from ‘that room’ across the hall again, glancing bird-like towards the dining room to see if she’d been noticed.

Quickly hiding her face behind a huge bowl-style coffee cup, Chloe flicked her own eyes to the other two tables of B&B guests as they mumbled enthusiastically over their adventurous, only-when-on-holiday style eggs.

Dad had his maps out again, and Mum was talking to no one as usual, while Josh nodded in time to an indecipherable Ka-tick, ka-tick. Ka-tick, ka-tick. Katickatickatickaticka from his headphones and piled whole hash browns dripping with combined cooked breakfast goo into his gob.
Chloe responded with a safe, neutral, ‘Yurp,’ at whatever caused her mother’s voice to rise questioningly and looked again at the door across the hall. She squinted, thinking she could see a key still in the lock.
Yesterday Mrs. Jeffries had locked it every time, and, with habitual deftness, had slid the key into a front pocket on her clothes. Maybe she’d forgotten something and was coming back with one of her mysterious bundles.

‘Right!’ Dad was up, wiping his face. ‘Are we ready?’
‘Loo folks,’ said Mum. ‘Everyone go to the loo. And no texting this time, Chloe, please. Leave your phone here, will you?’

Chloe was alone in the hall. Just inches from the door now she could see that, yes – the key was still in the lock. Mrs. Jeffries must have been intending to bring another of her cloth-covered bundles but got sidetracked by breakfast. Why did things go into the room but nothing ever came out? And why all the secrecy? Maybe she was a kleptomaniac and was stealing from the residents. That would explain why she did it at mealtimes.
She heard her father whistling in the front porch. He would be re-lacing his walking boots again. From the kitchen clearing-up sounds clattered. Chloe put her hand on the handle and the door opened six inches. ‘Whoops,’ she whispered, feeling around the frame and snaking into the dark room.

It was warm – beautifully so. She shut the door behind her and headed instinctively to a wide, open fireplace. Without quite knowing why, she settled herself into a large old, high-backed armchair, angled so that it had a view of the door and the rest of the room but so that the occupant would still catch the warmth from the fire. She heard herself groan deeply and felt an ache lift from her muscles as her back was supported by the firm padding. She hadn’t realised how tired she was. A clock was ticking with the hollow richness of old wood and the enormous log fire blazed ferociously, with more logs freshly laid at the sides. That was a good fire. Just how she liked it. She lifted her feet onto a raised hearth surround and grunted approval. As she closed her eyes, she could smell animal… A dog?
That’s okay, it was just old Bruno.
‘Been tracking fox scents again, have you?’ she asked, without opening her eyes. ‘I know you. Don’t think I can’t smell it.’ She laughed a low, chesty laugh that made her cough weakly. She patted her chest and wasn’t surprised at all to find that she no longer had breasts. She reached down and touched Bruno’s head. He licked his master’s hand lovingly.

Rose had done a good job of the fire. Chloe must remember to tell her. Where was Rose anyway? They needed to talk. They couldn’t have Audrey going off with that Jeffries boy.
Ah, there she was. She’d been sitting opposite all the time.

‘How are your hands today?’ Rose smiled. ‘Up to a little tune? How about a wee rendition of Father O’Flynn?’ Rose fetched a fiddle from its case on a side table and passed it to Chloe, whose hands were bent with fingers bulging at the knuckles.
‘Is the rheumatism bad today old boy, would you rather the whistle?’
‘This lovely heat has fixed me fine dear, don’t you worry,’ replied Chloe, taking the fiddle and warming up. An old man’s boot on the end of Chloe’s left leg began to tap a 2-beat jig and the fingers played the simple old tune from memory.

There was a voice in the hall and Chloe dashed from the room handing the fiddle back to a disappearing, smiling Rose. She shut the door behind her just as Audrey Jeffries appeared from the kitchen with a cloth bundle. It was obvious now that it was an armful of logs wrapped in a traycloth.
Her mother was already in the hall.
‘Chloe! What are you doing?’ her mother asked.
‘Oh nothing,’ she answered brightly, heading to the porch, and singing, ‘Taahhh… Dee da da, dah da da. Dah de da, dah da da.’

‘Mmm… I must have smoked haddock omelette for breakfast when we get back,’ belched Dad, happily. ‘What’s that tune you’re humming?’

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