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Kissing Frankenstein & Other Stories

Kissing Frankenstein & Other Stories


Back in October, a strange man approached me on Twitter and asked me to follow him.

Even though I had my own puppy and don’t particularly like sweeties, I did.

He beckoned me over and said he’d heard I was good at writing flash-fiction and he wanted me to join in with some brand-spanking new flashing idea he’d had.

Me? Good? Spanking? Flashing?
(okay, maybe he didn’t say “spanking”…).

Must be some other Rachel, I thought, but I decided to see what he had to say.

His name is Calum Kerr and I, for one, had never heard of him before (sorry Calum). He said he was organising the first ever National Flash Fiction Day in May 2012 and wanted to get a few fellow flash-fiction writers on board from all over the country. Did I want to be part of it?

Well, I love being asked to be part of something. I always say, ‘yes,’ and think later.

So I said, ‘Yes.’

And thought later…

When I got an email, a few weeks later, asking all writers to provide a short biography about themselves saying where in the country they were and a brief bit about themselves, I got a knotty, twisty feeling of doom and failure in my stomach. I left the email for a while, wondering what on earth anyone could be interested in about me! You see, I have no Credentials. I just like to write.

Another few weeks later, another email came, saying could those writers who hadn’t provided a bio about themselves yet, please do so.

So I looked online at the National Flash-Fiction Day site, read a few of the bios already there and got that knotty, twisty feeling of failure and doom again.
I didn’t belong there. Other people had Credentials. So I emailed Calum and told him I thought maybe I wasn’t what he was looking for to promote his venture. I said something daft and pathetic about how I’m not anyone – I’m just a mum in Devon who likes to write, I’ve only being writing for 3 years and writing flash-fiction for 2.

I get the ‘I’m worthless rubbish, you don’t want me’ thing from my mother. We don’t believe in bigging ourselves up. We’re much better at listing what we’re not good at. (Which is why Mum never got past the interview to be an Open University tutor…)

So, anyway, Calum would email me back and say, ‘Oh, okay then. What a shame. Maybe next time?’ Yes?

No.

And this is where my faith in decent human beings was restored (and continued to be for several weeks)…
He told me to stop being so silly and write a truthful bio, and he would put up on the site whatever I came up with. He told me that numerous people had told him I was good at writing flash-fiction and that’s why he asked me to take part.
Thank you, “Numerous people”, whoever you are!

So. I did as I was told and this is what I came up with: National Flash Fiction Day – Rachel Carter

And then…
And then, what?

Well I looked at me on the site just sitting there and saw that other people were doing things in their own area, and I wondered what things a shy person like me (with no Credentials) could do in my own area?

By mid-February nothing much seemed to be organised for the South West and, noting that it was only 12 weeks until National Flash Fiction Day, I felt a bit guilty. So I decided that the least I could do was provide an online place where people from the South West could send their flash-fiction. It would be a way for writers to showcase their writing whilst also publicising National Flash Fiction Day and awareness about the genre.

I emailed Calum again and said, ‘How about I do this thing I’ve thought of?’
And he said, ‘Yes! Do it! Let me know if you need any help.’

So I did it.

I wrote a blog post and asked for readers and writers and 15 people offered to be readers immediately and people started sending stories immediately and emails were coming in every day and Calum promoted it on the site and people started trusting me to do this, to get this sorted, and – whoosh – I did it.

I did it.

I said if there was enough interest I’d make a published anthology (Interviewer: ‘I see. Have you ever done anything like before, Rachel?’ Rachel: ‘NO!’) and there was enough interest and the readers kept reading and the writers kept writing and I kept sorting and flapping and emailing and squeaking, ‘Help!’ and. And we made an anthology.

I did it.

We did it.

I’ve made mistakes (at least 3 people are nodding their heads now…) and I’ve learnt a lot. But, above all, I’ve learned that people are prepared to be helpful, supportive, reliable, and to be all those things for free, for nothing, simply because people like to do good things, to be part of things.

Thank you to those 15 readers who stuck with it – you’re amazing, thank you to all the writers who threw stuff madly down the Internet into my email inbox – including brand new writers and experienced, published writers! – thank you to all the people who have been available to reply to my strange, flappy emails: to my mum, to Martha, to Pete, to Gail, to Calum, to Elizabeth, and to Natalie ( – the world’s best retweeter!).

We did it. We have a flash-fiction anthology, written by writers from all over the west country to celebrate National Flash Fiction Day 2012.

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.


(Ta-dah)

Detergent

This is my “reject” flash-fiction that I wrote for the Flash-Fiction South West anthology* and submitted anonymously. The readers put it through but, as editor, I rejected it on the grounds that it was not quite good enough!
Oh, the thrill of wielding my own power over myself! 😉

DETERGENT

This one was more like his mother, he noted, tasting ironing starch on the air and inhaling the heady commercial washing powder aromas rising from his crisp shirt as he tightened his tie. He didn’t have to do anything for this one.

He thought back to the times he used to take breakfast up to his first wife in the mornings and the way she planned her gardening jobs in bed, her soil-ingrained fingers curled around the tea-stained mug; long, dark whorls of naturally moulted hair decorating the pillows and un-vacuumed carpet, washing left uncollected until the weekend.

These days his dirty underwear, toilet splashes and still-warm, half-drunk coffee were disappeared before he had a chance to feel mortal. Artificial scents masked the “real” and the repeated pish, pish of ‘A hint of spring breeze’ into the air replaced opening a window. Vases of plastic flowers sat watching Gardener’s World with them each week, while this one tutted at the women with filthy fingernails.

‘Just like “she who must be obeyed” hey, Tony?’ She would dig him in the ribs with her elbow. ‘Just like your ex with her filthy boots in the house and inability to do her own laundry or cook a decent meal.’ Echoes of his mother’s ‘Above and beyond the call of duty – what you do for that woman.’

Now the slap on the back of the hand, dressed up as playfulness, when he was caught making a sandwich in his own zero-point-zero-zero-one-percent-chance-of-germs-kitchen.
Now the silence of invisible glass doors, once noisily, nosily marked by playful dogs.
Now polishing the cooker hob with a tissue for fear of being discovered if he fried an egg when she was out, and hiding the frying pan before it could be used in retribution.

Oh no, he didn’t have to do anything for this one.
He didn’t dare.

As he walked to the bus stop the crack of his backside itched, raw with dermatitis.


(*The chosen flash-fiction, written as our contribution to National Flash Fiction Day can be read here: flashfictionsw.co.uk)

Too Nothing

Not my words

Not my words!

I don’t usually get involved in this sort of thing. I find comments about appearances mostly pretty tiresome. I also try not to get involved in fat/thin conversations because I have been both very skinny and overweight. I know how both feel. And I know how being skinny comes with the same pile of judgemental, hurtful comments – if not more – than being overweight.
I think women have always been interested in other women’s appearances. Heterosexual women probably see other women as competition – even if they don’t realise or admit it. If someone has physical attributes that we wish we had, if we’re honest we probably envy them. Let’s face it, when we strip back all the social pleasantries and constraints we’re all just a bunch of animals at the mercy of our hormones, instincts and insecurities.
You only have to look at the way teenage girls treat the girls they are jealous of at school to know that we are not that far away from our primordial ancestors after all. (Is primordial the right word? Must remember to check that)
But although I accept this insecurity and constantly comparing ourselves with others and with how we used to look, and with how we could look if only… has always been around, I think it’s got worse. Due to magazines, television and the Internet we now have more access to less of a socially accepted vision of beauty. It’s been narrowed down and narrowed down and narrowed down until most of us feel inadequate. And we’re rightly unhappy and insecure about that. It makes some of us angry. And who do we blame? Well as the lower class looks-wise we blame the upper class. They have it. It’s their fault. We must go into battle with them. It’s beauty capitalism and we don’t like it. Slay the bitches, we say.
Only … hang on … It’s not like capitalism. Because those who “fit”, those upper-classes in the looks world, didn’t actually take anything from us. They are not to blame. The media are to blame and we are to blame. We’ve let ourselves think we must must look a certain way, straighten and dye our hair. (Jeez – I LOVE curly hair. I’ve always wanted curly hair), flatten our looks with cosmetics and surgery, spend time and money on things that don’t last instead of on things that do. We are to blame. If we are jealous of the way someone else looks, that’s our problem, if we think someone else is too fat, too thin, too hairy, too curly, too tall, too short (that’s another one: how is it you can tease tall people and not short people?!), too pale, too dark, whatever, that’s our problem too. It’s not fair to judge. The only time a person’s looks are important is if they are an indicator of an underlying health problem.
Most people are beautiful in some way or another. When people are loved they are beautiful. They have a look in their eyes that supersedes any bland face I’ve ever seen staring out of a magazine at me. When people laugh and their eyes wrinkle at the corners their attractiveness draws you in. We’ve let ourselves get concerned about this, we’ve let ourselves think it is more important than it is. Telling people you love they are beautiful is important, conforming to a notion of beauty is not.
So what made me get on my soap box to join in with this particular bandwagon?

Well, it was seeing a comment written by my 17-year-old daughter on facebook this morning. The above photo has been doing the rounds and is similar to others I have seen. I was very proud of her comments and have pasted them below (swear words included) We are far too quick to judge people on their looks and not on what they do or have to say. Too many intelligent women are caught up in the looks debate and shouldn’t be. We must stop and listen to how unintelligent we sound sometimes. Our hair is not too curly, our boobs are not too small, our faces are not too long, and other women are not thin just to piss us off so we can bitch about them.

Here are Gemma’s comments:

“i have said this before but am so fucking sick of seeing this kind of thing all over my news feed. just because she’s skinny, does not automatically make her ugly. Can we please stop with all the ‘curvy is better’ stuff now because although i am not the slimmest of people i definitely wouldn’t say i was curvy, and you should not be made to feel unattractive or less of a woman just because you are a smaller size and have smaller boobs than lovely marilyn here – especially if you eat well and can’t help the way you look. everyone says ‘bigger’ girls get shit for their body type but to be honest this kind of thing is getting really nasty. its not just this either, its all over the web. since when did it become a fucking sin to be a size 8? my point is, how would you like it if i posted a picture the other way around? there would be uproar. nobody says shit all about this. rant over”

Yes. Stop it.

Dear Children…

Dear Children,

Despite some things you might be told or you might hear or you might read about always trying your hardest, trying to be the best at what you do, and making choices in early life about how you might live your adult life, I – as your loving mother – see things slightly differently.

You see, I’ve thought a lot recently about this being the best thing and what I’ve noticed is that while people are trying to beat everyone else they are not necessarily being the best and nicest person they can be.
I’ve noticed too that constant testing makes children, parents and teachers anxious about performance. Performance? Isn’t that a word for the stage? For car engines? I don’t think you should expect yourselves either to act a certain way or drive yourself a certain way as if you are a machine.

No. I want you to be yourselves.

Over the last 2 years, the system which has taken over your childhoods, has made me worry that my youngest child hadn’t learnt to write and spell by the age of six (six?!), that my middle child was “lazy” because his handwriting isn’t neat, that my eldest child might suffer under the strain of having to choose a university and future career before she’s finished growing.
The system made me think for a time that always doing one’s best, always working hard was important.

Why?

So I stopped. I thought about this and I thought about you three and I thought about myself and I thought about those “at the top” status-wise, power-wise, money-wise, fame-wise, in all sorts of different areas of life and I thought, ‘Is that what my children want? Is that what I want?’
What do I want from you and for you? I wondered.

Well. I want nothing from you. That is my gift. It came when I gave you life.

But what I want for you is happiness, I want you to live, I want you to know about what is real, I want you to look around you and see other people and wildlife and the world you share with them. I do not want you thinking you are better than other people or lowlier than other people. I do not want you always striving for status, money, power or recognition. I do not want you worrying about performance but about reasons and enjoyment when you choose to do something.
I want you to remember that life is short and can sometimes be shorter than we expect.

I want you to remember to watch sunrises and sunsets, to listen to birdsong, to follow the waxing and waning of the moon, to fall in and out of and back in love. I want you to cry at the suffering of others not at a C instead of a B. I want you to be out of the range of judgement but because that is impossible I want you to know how false all judgement is. I want you to appreciate what you can do because it gives you pleasure not be constantly comparing yourself with others – or worse still a fake set of standards about what is better.

Striving for positions, for power, for a big bank balance, for notoriety, for the “top” always comes at a price. Being a good, genuine, caring, life-embracing human-being comes with rewards.

There are different types of respect that come with the different paths one can take in life. I can’t tell you which ones to take but I’m certainly not going to push you down one that gives you pain.

You were born with five senses and big brains on a beautiful planet surrounded by other creatures that could do with a bit more respect. I hope you come to realise that the rest is less important.

Don’t be fooled by what others – who are too caught up in made-up stuff – tell you is good and bad. Be happy, be good, be kind, be open-minded, and think of life not as giving, taking, and succeeding but as being for a while. Being you.

Enjoy.

All my love, always,
Mum

PS Please stop leaving the lid off the peanut butter

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