Wednesday 28 October 2009

towers and turrets

Today I dismantled the towers and turrets, determined to have, at least for a short while, some order about my desk, even though it unsettles me. Things tend to go missing when I tidy up. Important things. How can that be? On the other hand, things that were once lost are found. A young friend, looking for extra pocket money, came to help. She sifted through years of magazines, pulling out my stories, stapling and filing them, with a steadfastness belying the mind-numbing quality of the task. Later she rearranged books onto shelves in such order they look positively unread, positively decorative. This girl is one organised cookie. Together we completely filled a wheely bin with paper for recycling. Now this wasn't easy. I had to be brutal but could only manage to be almost brutal. A little brutal. Actually, a few things were pulled back out of the wheely bin. Sorry, but it's too much like colonic irrigation to cleanse the place so thoroughly. Unnatural. For me at least. I was probably born untidy. I retrieved Thank You letters from school children, letters from readers, scraps of poems, snatches of prose, all written years ago. They might just come in useful. I piled them to the right of me and to the left. It feels good to have them around me. Like towers and turrets to the besieged.

Friday 23 October 2009

writing hamsters

Sock drawers! In answer to Sophie's post, which I've only just discovered, (whoops) everything turns up in sock drawers except matching socks it seems to me. But I'm glad that some bedrooms are as messy as my desk. Never tried to sleep on my desk though. The next thing I write will feature a mess and someone trying to sleep in it. I had a hamster once which did just that. The sleeping bit. Not the writing. I've never met a hamster that can write.

Apparently I have two followers, Julie and Lucy, so what does this make Sophie?
I'm a blog newcomer and it's great to have anyone dropping by, only I can't find anything written by them. Help required.

Friday 16 October 2009


Just bought a kneeling mat and gloves for the garden, and some yellow dusters, not for the garden. Those who know me will laugh, perhaps even wonder at this, but you see, there was a Hawker at my door. He interrupted the last blog-posting with a polished, if rather nervous, doorstep routine, featuring feather dusters, podietal cheese graters and a truck load of other things nobody can pretend they want. I felt the need to need at least one of these things, and do, whenever a Hawker arrives at my door. I'm not impressed by my actions, don't feel holier than thou, but did feel a kind of empathy with him, being a hawker myself, of far more useless items i.e my stories. Only my hands aren't blue with cold, I haven't lost the gloves someone kindly bestowed upon me just last night, and I haven't perhaps fifty more routines to perform on fifty more doorsteps. I hope fifty more people need something, and buy from him, and that his day isn't depressing. Because the weather is turning and there are selection boxes and tinsel ribbons in the shops. And soon I'll feel the need to need them.

bull, horns and books

Taking the bull by the horns, as no-one else will, I'm actively seeking shelf space, other than my own, for 'Headlines and Other Growing Pains'. Why? Because the only mainstream bookshop in England happy to take local talent (which makes us sound like an unwelcome treatment for a terrible ailment) has sold out, or so it appears. The last time I tried to find a copy, to shift to a more prominent place instead of behind a book of Local Recipes, there wasn't one. Perhaps they really have sold out, and not just dusted the shelves recently, binning any unsold barnacles. And if that is the case, why haven't they come hot foot to the door of my publisher (how very grand that sounds) demanding at least twice as many copies as before, to display in front of the doorway as a Must Read, or even Title of the Month? Either would do. I'm not proud.

Haven't quite worked out my strategy on the Shelf Space Issue, but helpful hints and comments gratefully received. A chance for folk out there to add a sparkle to a deserving cause.
For now I have a librarian fighting my corner, in schools. Watch this space.

Saturday 10 October 2009


Sold another story this week, and they like a second if I could tweak the ending, which must mean they've finally got to the pile I sent - way back when. Obviously there's a lot landing on their doormat. This is my commercial arm: though I write for just one magazine and have done for around ten years, so it's an anniversary, right about now. And it's thirteen years since I started the writing group south of the river.
All these anniversaries.
I can feel a cake coming on.

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Writing's hard enough but...

So there we were, twenty of us, at Northumbria University, the other night, reading from our various pamphlets, novels and collections, which were produced either by Biscuit or Red Squirrel (two independent publishers based in the North East). I have to commend them both for putting on a show, keeping our names alive, so that we don't turn into cobwebs, but of course it's up to us to make it a show. And it's a mine-field.

Take microphones. You love 'em or you hate 'em, and it's to do with technique. There's an art to using a mic, sometimes it's best not to bother, especially if your piece is peppered with Ps and you think that sucking the thing is the best way to be heard. Well you will be heard, if that's your inclination, but it's like listening to popping corn in a hot pan. Not a good sound.

Take the words we've all slaved over. Sadly, there's an art to reading out our work, which most of us (including me) probably haven't quite mastered yet, and perhaps should. If you can perform, rather than just read a piece, then it's got to be better. Apropos that, ten out of ten to Tom Kelly. No popping, great presence. If clapometers were still in use, he'd have won, in this competitive world of ours. Thank God we writers are above that sort of thing...

Anyway, I'm pleased to say that I bought a book (not one of my own...though it was tempting...) and sold a book (which was one of my own) so I came out no poorer, no richer. But you know you're onto a loser when the audience is mainly writers. We're a mean lot. Or maybe just poor. Perhaps we should just swap books at these events and promise not to drop them in the bath or let the dog pee on them, or mark the place with a bit of bacon. It's been done, incidentally, though not by me. What a waste of bacon.

Saturday 3 October 2009

tidy desks

My desk is growing towers and turrets. Soon it'll be a fortress. I could hide behind it all, dodge the slings and arrows. But I have shopping to do.

Thursday 1 October 2009

About the books

OK. The books. For those of you out there who are still my friends, after so long. One finished (re-drafted a zillion times and a zillion typos erased) and now in that other world, which dangles like some mobile just out of reach...And I thought writing the thing was hard. No way. That was just trekking the foothills, ambling over a few grassy slopes. Now it's the mountain and all its sharp edges and rock falls. Beyond that, another. Higher still and colder. Agents. Publishers. I'm waiting with the flag tightly furled, the spike sharpened, just ready to drive it home. It's non-biodegradable, it'll survive the wait.

So, the other one, finished but for the next and probably the next draft, lies waiting patiently, and I can't touch it. My head just won't let me. So instead I immerse myself in more research, so that when the time comes and the flag is unfurled, flapping noisily in the breeze, I'll be ready to take up where I left off and add ten thousand words.

And the picture book. Oh how I wish I was an artist. The words are there. On paper. The pictures are in my head.

Everything's just juggling around. All three projects.

Which is where the earrings come in. So simple. Just choose a pair. Like breathing in and breathing out. Easy. Today they are full of sparkles. Just what I need to remind me that there is somewhere, something other than sitting behind a computer.