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three little pigs

The Irvine Valley Writers’ Group (IVWG), the writing group I belong to, periodically host internal “assignments”, just prompts to get the creative juices flowing.

Our assignment for February was a re-write of the classic children’s tale The Three Little Pigs. I found it difficult to get a handle on this one. I just couldn’t come up with anything I thought was fun or creative enough to present to the rest of the group.

I knew I wanted to write something which was a parody of the current economic times, turning the big bad wolf into the big bad credit crunch. I knew I wanted to turn the pigs in to people.

So, in the spirit of full disclosure (also, it will be published on the IVWG website before too long) I hereby present my re-write of The Three Little Pigs. It was by no means the best or most creative example within the group, in fact I’d say it was near the bottom, but it was interesting and fun, either way.

Oh, and by way of explanation, I’ve chosen the format of a morning radio show with the DJ named Chaz interviewing a man named John Porcus (see what I did there?). So, here you go:

Sure, we’ve all heard about the dire economic state of the world – The Big Bad Credit Crunch, as it were. While everyone undoubtedly knows about the housing crisis, we here at KCRW wanted to know more; we wanted to explore the personal side of The Big Bad. So a few weeks ago we went out to find someone who could tell us their story. Enter my next guest, Mr. John Porcus, the youngest of three brothers who have all been affected by the fall of the housing market. I’m happy to say that John has agreed to come on the air to tell his story; good morning John.

-Morning, Chaz, thanks for having me.

-Not at all, not at all. Now, in your e-mail you said it’s not only yourself but also your whole family who were affected.

-That’s right, Chaz.

-Sounds pretty awful, why don’t you tell us what happened…

-Well, I imagine it’s all just been a result of some rather bad timing. About four years ago our mother met an married an Australian man and they emigrated together to Australia, following the sun, you see, which meant that my brothers and I no longer had a place to stay.

-Tricky situation.

-It wasn’t the best, no. So we all went out and bought our own homes. It seemed perfect – we had a few months of freedom before it all came crashing down… We’d all done it differently, you see. My oldest brother, Jack, is in banking. With a secure job in a major bank he stretched himself a bit beyond his means, bought a lovely, grand stone house in the country. Then there was Joe who is a structural engineer and at the time was working for a fast-growing construction company with building sites all over the place. He moved in with his girlfriend but they bought a brand new house off-plan, one of those wood frame house, in one of his company’s developments which was scheduled for completion near the end of the summer. I was a bit more cautious. I’m a teacher, you see, on a much smaller salary than my brothers.

-So, John, what did you do?

-I convinced our Mother to keep the family home and I took over the payments on the mortgage.

-Sly.

-Yes, well, it’s a nice house. A cottage, very old – been in the family for generations. Thatched roof…

-Right, and the monthly payments…

-Small. Very small.

-Sly! So now you and your brothers are all living in your new homes, enjoying the peace and quiet. Then what.

-Well, then everything went to heck, Chaz. Jack lost his job at the bank within weeks at the beginning of the economic crisis. On top of that, all of his investments were now worth very little and his glorious stone villa lost a lot of value. Was worth less than what he paid for it, anyway. Which would have been tolerable had he been able to continue payments, but, of course, being unemployed, he couldn’t.

-So he lost his house.

-So he lost his house.

-What about Joe?

-Well, the company Joe was working for shut down and he was made redundant. His house never got built past the wood frame. He got some money back from what he paid, but not enough, really. Oh, and his girlfriend dumped him.

-Jobless and homeless. Like Jack.

-That’s right, Chaz.

-Terrible. What about you?

-Well, I’m fine. I was the lucky one. It’s strange, really. Four or five years ago my family were all on my back to get a better qualification and a better paying job with more security. *chuckle* If only they’d known…

-Does your story have a happy ending, then?

-Well, all of our stories do, really. I mean, the housing crash put a dent in all of our plans. Jack lost his stone mansion. Joe lost his brand new wooden house. Thankfully, though, I’ve still got the family home – our lovely thatched cottage that my great-great-great-great grandfather built with his own hands. We’re all living together again, of course, because they have nowhere else to go, but it’s working out OK for now.

-For now.

-That’s right. For now.

-What a great story. Thanks so much for sharing, John. I wish you and your brothers all the best.

-Thanks for having me Chaz, it’s been fun.

-So, listeners, what do you think about John’s story? What about yours? Did the Big Bad Credit Crunch cause you as much grief as the Porcus family? Get in touch via e-mail or text message. Or you can visit the website where you can leave feedback on today’s story. And now back to the music

When I get the others’ pieces published on the IVWG website I will link them. They are all excellent. One in particular will have you laughing so hard you will struggle to get oxygen to your brain. I am quite blessed to have found such an excellent, supportive group of people who share a passion for writing.

Our next assignment was actually one that I thought of. I printed off some famous first lines from classic novels and everyone had to choose a line at random. The task is to use that first line as your own first line and create a story from that.

The catch? Our word limit is 200 words!! Of course, the 200 word limit does not count the famous first line, otherwise some would only have a few words left!

Fancy having a go? Choose a number between 1 and 100, go to This Website and find the corresponding famous first line. Then think of an additional 200 words that tells a story following on from that first line. If you are familiar with the novel from which the line comes try to go in a different direction than the plot of that novel.

My line?

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.”– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

I haven’t written my 200 words yet, but as soon as I do, you’ll know about it!

xo
A

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Sandie at A Bloggable Life has come up trumps again with another unusual writing prompt!

Just like the last time, Sandie posted a picture on the site and urged readers to use it as inspiration for an original piece of writing. This time there was no stream of consciousness suggestion, so I went my own way with it.

Here is the picture:

photo credit - Sandie @ A Bloggable Life

Here is the description of the photograph from A Bloggable Life:

Last summer, my family and I were out for a leisurely weekend drive, exploring some of the small towns that surround Kansas City. After a particularly flat and barren stretch, I noticed my hubby and kids had fallen asleep in the car, leaving me to experience portions of northwest Missouri on my own.

An hour later I happened upon this strange sight, stuck smack in the middle of a field: a lone tree, perched curiously upon a tall mound of soil. There was nothing else around for miles. Striking me as odd, I pulled the car over and snapped this photo from the side of the road. To this day, I wonder why that tree was left like that.

Here is my (written on lunch break at work, so forgive the roughness) story:

The old man trudges resolutely, bent low against the violent storm. He is dressed in ill-fitting clothes which blow behind him and snap like a banner in the wind. His sparse hair is filthy, framing his head like a halo in the dim light. One gnarled hand clasps an old rag against his withered face – his only capitulation to the invasive dust although it does not stop his coughing. His other hand clings desperately to the frayed guide rope which struggles against his weak fingers.

It is not a great distance but his strength is waning and it takes him the better part of an hour to navigate the path from his house to the barn. From where the rope is anchored he turns right and walks three shaky paces, hand held out until he feels the rough tickle of branches against his palm. In the storm he dare not open his eyes.

He tucks the cloth away to free both hands and then creeps blindly forward until his toes bump against the circle of fence posts– a protection he has built around the base of the tree. He kneels as if at an altar, feeling down towards where the posts are buried in the earth. It is as he thought it would be; the wind has worked its black magic; only a few of the posts remain buried.

He gropes around beside him until he grips the handle of the hammer. He stands, positioning himself for the next task. He takes very careful aim, raises the hammer and brings it down against the top of one post then judges its depth by its neighbour. The posts slide roughly into the dry earth. When he has finished the circle he lays the hammer down and once more covers his face with the cloth from his pocket.

As he struggles his way back to the house he considers again the futile nature of his actions. He knows that the tree is dead; there has been no rain for too long. The earth is disappearing beneath him and he knows that the wooden enclosure he has built does nothing but prevent the wind from carrying the tree away, roots and all, to blow across the countryside.

He also knows that it was her tree and that he cannot bear to lose it like he lost her.

The old man trudges resolutely, bent low against the violent storm.

****

His sons arrive after the rains come, but they are too late; the old man has died. The house and the barn have collapsed yet their foundations rise above the ground like grim monuments.

They are amazed at how much of the earth has vanished, the destruction is devastating. Still, there is life on the old farm; their mother’s apple tree, brought with them from back East so many years ago, has survived the drought and the dust both, though they cannot imagine how.

The men stand for a long while staring at the tree, its fresh green shoots defiant in the barren landscape. They do not need to dig far to free the roots from the ground. They work silently as the wrap the roots in burlap and load the tree into the back of their truck.

With one last look at the ruination and a quiet acknowledgement of grief they get into their truck and drive home to Missouri.

So, yeah, I went with the Dust Bowl. I like the idea that the tree is a relic of bad times past which was saved as a reminder of good times. I had to relocate the tree to an area devastated by the dust bowl, but solved that at the end by having family members moving the tree to its current location.

I had a lot of fun writing this piece, picturing the sad old man walking back and forth every day to protect the tree, an homage to his late wife. I just like the image, I suppose.

What about you? What do you think that tree in the picture is doing stranded on top of that impossibly tall stack of soil? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Thanks again to Sandie. I love her blog and you all should, too. (That’s an order!)

xo
A

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using the unusual…

A blog that I follow regularily may have inadvertantly helped to solve my writer’s block. Thank you Sandie (A Bloggable Life)!!

I subscribe to this blog and therefore get automatic updates every time she posts anything. Which is a good thing, because I’d hate to think I’ve missed something.
Anyway, during my lunch break at work today I checked her website for updates and lo and behold, I read the about the following: Using The Unusual, Prompt 1, in which Sandie encourages fellow bloggers to take an image or event from their every day lives, that they would perhaps have totally ignored otherwise, and use them as prompts for writing exercises. She’s focusing at the moment on Stream of Consciousness writing, which is always fun.

This week she has posted this photo on her site to use as a prompt:

photo credit - Sandie @ A Bloggable Life

 You can see her creative stream of consciousness piece on her website HERE, and I encourage you to go visit because you’ll be there for a few hours enjoying all her blog has to offer…

Here is what I came up with:

There’s a Tide detergent box up in that three. Why? How did it get there? Do you think maybe someone threw it up there as a laugh? Maybe they were playing a game with a friend – what’s the name of that game where you try to stop the other person getting the ball… Keep away! That’s it – do you think maybe they were playing keep away with the Tide Box and tossed it up into the tree as a joke? Maybe their friend is super eco-conscious and they were teasing them about littering when, accidently, they littered by throwing the box up too high and out of their reach? Maybe no one put it into the tree on purpose. Maybe they left it in the parking lot and a strong wind came around and caught the edge of the box launching it into the tree. Either way the box was left alone and in the parking lot…

I bet its enjoying the view from way up there, though. Lording it over all the other detergent boxes…look how high up I am! It’s funny to think of the world through they “eyes” of an inanimate object, it is weird the ideas you can come up with when you don’t need to follow the rules. For instance I have an old coffee mug beside my computer at work that holds my pens and pencils. It has sat there in the same spot since my first day at this desk. I wonder what the world looks like from its viewpoint:

She’s back again. Hello! Why doesn’t she ever say hello back to me? It’s been like a year and a half since we met and she still ignores me. Never mind. Oh! She’s opening the blinds, thank goodness. I hate it when they’re closed; I have nothing interesting to look at then… It’s raining outside again. Again. Still, the sun is trying to come through, you can tell because there are little purple flowers out there pushing their way through the… oh, she’s sat down now and I can’t see the window any more. She doesn’t look like she’s very awake this morning. She does look busy, though. There’s the computer getting switched on and yes, there it is, the day planner. Now she’ll search the desk around me in vain for a writing utensil and come to me after finding none. I have all of your pens!!! I always have all of your pens!! Why do you look around the desk first when you know I always have all of your pens!! Hello? Hello!!!

See? It can be funny to see the world from a different perspective. I like that. Maybe others would find it foolish to waste time writing about what the world looks like from the point of view of a pencil jar, but I disagree. If we all started trying to see the world from different points of view then maybe it would be a better place? But I digress…

So that’s my contribution to Sandie’s prompt exercise this week. A fun photo that is sure to spawn many fascinating stream of consciousness pieces.

Thanks for your help, even though you didn’t know you were helping!

My lunch break is over which means I need to get back to work. Now, if I could only find a pen…

xo
A

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block

I am suffering from a bad case of block.

I have writer’s block. Badly.

I also have reader’s block. Very badly.

I can already tell that I am not going to come close to my goal of an average of a book a week this year. I know this because I have only read one book this year and that was a re-read. I have book shelves half-filled with unread books and every evening before bed I go into the office, turn on the light and stand, barefoot, until my toes go numb with cold trying to find a title I actually feel like reading. I have started six or seven books this year but have no desire to finish any of them.

I would ask you all for some suggestions but I probably wouldn’t read them. What I will take are suggestions on how to get past my reader’s/writer’s block.

xo
A

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poems? yes, poems.

We had a meeting of the Writers’ Group tonight and it has inspired me to post a poem for your enjoyment. It is not the poem I wrote this afternoon to read at this evening’s meeting (because that one is all the way downstairs and it’s cold in our house), but it’s one I wrote in 2001 for a poetry class at B-W.

*ahem*

Boy, Age 5

He struggles with the tying part,
His chubby fingers in a losing battle
For a chance to grip the dirty cloth.

Quite easily he forgets the task,
And runs along to play with an
Untied shoelace left trailing
Behind.

OR, for a bit of much-loved symmetry, the following poem which, according to my records, I wrote exactly 10 years ago today:

rainy flowerpot thoughts

i left my flower pot out in the pouring rain
but there were no umbrellas in sight
now my yellow blooms may die before they
have a chance to grow i wonder if my car
will start this morning if it doesn’t i’ll
have to take the bus again there are people
on the bus who haven’t had their baths yet
i think they need the rain more than my flowers
i think i need a nap i have never caught my Zs
before i wonder where they are hiding
if i do catch them i’ll call my taxidermist
and have them stuffed so i don’t have to tell
stories about the one that got away to polite
company who still put their elbows on the table
look there goes the neighbor’s teeny tiny
puppy dog Mandy who has black fur and white
fur and floppy ears who names their dog Mandy?
isn’t Mandy a gir’s name? maybe the dog is female
if the dog is female then it’s a bitch *gasp!* my
daddy told me never ever ever say that word
oh no another flower fell much too much water
i think i’ll bring them in from the rain i think
i can see some Zs running by in the distance
but i think they are too shy to come any closer
and i think that i am too tired to catch them.

Also somewhat cyclical considering I can’t sleep.

Tomorrow, if you’re lucky, I’ll post the poem I wrote today. If I can remember. If I can drag myself out of bed and get it done.

xo
A

p.s. Both poems above are original works written by myself. Please do not steal them. It would make me unhappy. Trust me when I say you don’t want that to happen. It’s very bad.

p.p.s. I hear there’s quite a bit of snow out there in the good old US of A. Good luck with that. The high temperature here today was 46*F. Balmy.

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why not?

I know Halloween has been over for weeks, but I thought I’d go ahead and post the scary story I wrote for the Come Dine With Me edition of the Irvine Valley Writer’s Group. We met at Jolyn’s house for dinner on 6th November and all brought “scary” stories. Mine is a ghost story. You may recognize the setting.

It needs work. I know it needs work. I think it’s a pretty good start, though. Tell me your opinion! Oh, and I don’t have a title. Any suggestions would be welcome!

As always all work published on this site is the sole copyright of me. Do not steal, it’s not nice.

It all happened the summer I turned sixteen, when I went to visit my father. That was the first time I heard them. Of course, I didn’t know then what I was hearing; I didn’t know what it meant. If I had known, my story would undoubtedly be different.
The house he was renting backed directly up against the chain link boundaries of the abandoned amusement park, and my father took great care to warn me away from playing there. It was far too dangerous – nearly falling down, a kid could get lost in there…

These warnings did not stop me. I was reckless, fearless. Every morning, being careful to avoid the poison ivy, I would lower myself to the ground behind the sycamore tree and stomach crawl under the fence. Once on the other side it was only moments before I was swallowed up by greenery and impossible to spot.

I would spend hours there in the park, wandering aimlessly. I doubt there was anyone, in the end, who knew the place better than I did. From the broken turnstiles at the entrance, to the rusting hulk of The Coaster which towered high above, wooden planks rotting and nearly engulfed by the searching branches of trees.

The ferris wheel stood sentinel over the scene, an oak tree as spinal column, blanketed by thickly twisting vines. There was a popcorn stand, complete with popcorn machine long abandoned but still plugged in. There were the remains of the hotel which had burned down many years before, looking like nothing more than a gaping mouth with rotted and broken teeth. The outdoor stage, nearly hidden behind new growth, with graffiti scrawled across the hastily painted and horrific face of a clown: “The Old fortune TELLeR Lies dead ON The FLooR, NoBoDY NeeDS FoRTUNes ToLD aNYMore”. Smouldering in the brush was the remains of a baby grand piano, white keys still shining in the gloom, impervious to the filth of decades.

The ballroom was my favourite place. In its time it had undeniably been magnificent and it stood as a reminder of summer nights spent dancing into the small hours of the morning. In the drawers of the desk at the ticket booth I found maps of the park and brochures advertising “Come Dancing at the Starlight Ballroom”. In the basement was the canteen, trays stacked neatly at the end of the stainless steel service line. A mess of mouldy paper cups advertised the park’s 100th anniversary.

On the wide, shadowed dance floor a mechanical floor polisher stood menacingly, it’s perished electrical cord snaking to the socket in the wall. Anytime I came across a light switch I would flip it on, half expecting the park to come alight and back to life.

**********

On one sultry day in July I was taking shelter inside the picnic pavilion, dangling my feet over the edge of the water, watching raindrops rippling over the surface of the lake. Suddenly behind me someone laughed, the noise ripping through the quiet afternoon. No, not someone, it was a girl – a little girl, laughing. My head turned so fast the muscles in my neck screamed protest. Yet even through the gloom I could tell that no one was there.

My pulse beat hard, rushing in my ears and my tongue tingled with the taste of a new penny. Had I imagined it? I stood and glanced around, peering as hard as I could into the thickness of shadows upon shadows. With the innocence present only in the very young I was completely sure that there was a little girl hiding from me in the darkness. After all, I had heard her laugh.

I didn’t stay long in the pavilion, preferring a fast run in the rain toward my house to the lingering fear of waiting for something to appear. When I reached the carousel I heard her laugh again, just behind me, and turned around fast, slipping in the mud and falling to the ground. This time the taste in my mouth was blood and I could feel the heat of it on my chin. Spitting and cursing I stood, not bothering to look around – I knew there was no one there. There couldn’t be.

I shouted into the rain and then again the sound of laughing, giggling. Fear coursed through me. What was that? Beside me the lights of the carousel went on and I could hear the swell of music coming quietly from rusty speakers. I backed away as quickly as I dared, blinking, unbelieving, stumbling over debris on the ground, until I came up against the cab of a decaying orange pickup truck. The door was open and, as I turned to look inside, the radio flashed on, playing the same song that came from the carousel. And still the little girl, laughing. Without thinking, without pausing, I turned and ran, stopping only long enough to throw myself beneath the fence, ignoring the scratch of thorns and finally, dripping mud, I ran into the kitchen and locked the door behind me.

********

A few days passed before I dared return, but not out of fear. The poison ivy I contracted from my careless slide beneath the fence combined with a fierce summer cold kept me confined to the house. I was old enough to convince myself that nothing had happened. Still, the image of a lit carousel devoid of horses haunted my dreams, along with the sound of a laughing little girl.

Going slowly through the undergrowth, scrupulously avoiding every green leaf, I walked, head held high, back into the grounds. Above me a bird took flight from the coaster turn, wing beats rustling the leaves, and I jumped, adrenaline rushing through me. Shaking my head at my own cowardice I continued. I thought, first, that I would go straight to the carousel but I found myself walking the familiar path to the ballroom. Taking the shortcut by the hamburger stand I began to forget my momentary fear and started whistling softly, swinging a dead branch at the tall grass. Ahead of me I saw a brief flash of pink and white amongst the green, rushing between trees and along the old midway towards the arcade, and once again I heard the laughing.

When I got to the junction of the midway I turned, and in the glare of sunlight reflecting off the surface of the lake I finally saw her, standing in a pink dress, with a crisp white bonnet covering her blonde pigtails, smiling and beckoning me to follow her.

“Where are we going?” I asked, but she did not answer. As we walked past the carousel the music started softly. In the periphery I could see exquisitely carved wooden horses rising and falling in time to the music, sun glinting off their golden paint, but if I turned to face the carousel head on they disappeared.

As we approached the old arcade I grew wary – this was the one building I had not yet explored. The roof was sagging heavily and the wide doorway bowed in the middle; it looked as though one stiff wind would bring it crashing to the ground. The ghost of the girl sensed my trepidation and returned to me, reaching out and taking my hand. Her touch was cold as ice, raising goose bumps on my arm. She walked ahead, gently pulling me, but I resisted.

I could smell the delicious scent of freshly popped corn and from behind me I could hear more laughing. I looked over my shoulder toward the ferris wheel, it’s metal skeleton hidden now not by vegetation but by the ghost of sparkling lights. Between its empty frame I could see the swinging form of passenger cars brightly painted in primary colours. And still the carousel turned.

Ahead of me from the darkness of the decaying building came the sound of coins dropping and the mechanical whir of arcade games coming to life. I looked into the pale face of the girl and followed her silently, carefully.

I walked slowly, fear pulsing in my veins. I glanced constantly over my head waiting for the beams to give in to the ravishing years and come crashing down upon us, but all was still.

We passed a skee-ball gallery, the tilted surfaces beckoning us to play a game or two. We passed penny peep shows and ancient pinball machines covered in layers of dust. In the remotest corner, where the light from the entrance was barely visible, sat a wizard fortune teller; the lights within were lit, casting a menacing shadow onto the cobwebbed floor. Inside the glass case the papier-mâché wizard’s head rotated back and forth, back and forth, it’s red eyes gleaming. The fingernails on his wooden hand scarped a well-worn path on the dusty velvet of his table.

The noise of the midway faded completely and in the silence I could hear the crackling hiss of a phonograph record going round and round. Behind me I felt the suffocating crush of years and a frightened glance over my shoulder revealed a hundred pale faces waiting, watching. I was so far beyond fear that I could barely breathe.

I heard the hum of wheels turning and then, with a sound so final my heart leapt, a yellowed paper rectangle dropped into the metal slot at the front of the machine. Shaking, I reached forward and lifted the fortune. The edges crumbled to dust between my fingers. As I turned it over, terror driving my actions, I realised that I could smell smoke, but was unable to comprehend what it meant. Printed on the card in bold black letters were the words “Can we keep you?” and scribbled beneath it in a child’s frantic scrawl, one single word, “RUN”.

oooOOOooo! Spooky! 🙂

xo
A

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on writing

“Writing is an unpredictable act, for with each new word that is placed on paper, the author moves father away from the original vision… Ultimately, each writer must learn to trust the instinctive direction of the work, but it is not an easy choice, for it often evokes a barrage of inner critical voices.  Fortunately these… can be countered by those muse-like angles who reside within…” – Mark Waldman, The Spirit of Writing 

 

I am re-reading The Spirit of Writing because I have decided that 2009 is going to be my year. I want to lock myself away in solitary confinement and get some writing done, finally. I have 6 or 7 ideas milling about inside my head and fear there won’t be room for many more until I bleed the system, pardon the radiator metaphor but I’m still preoccupied with DIY.

 

So where do I start?  I need my own space, for one.  We decided when we moved into the house that I could turn the smallest bedroom into a sort of writer’s paradise, because S wants me to write more than I do.  Right now the kittens inhabit that space so first I must evict them (they’re going to the vet this month to get the snip) and then I must make the room my own.

 

I have already chosen the paint color (Jane Austen Blue, I like to call it) and my brain is teeming with ideas which will make the room perfect.  I have it all planned out, now all I need is time and the £s to get it done.  Sadly, I do not have excesses of either. 

 

Why do I need my own space?  Because when I am writing I need to concentrate 150% of my brain on what I am accomplishing at that very instant.  I can not have any distractions or interruptions.  I must be comfortable and surrounded by whatever I happen to find inspirational, which may change by the hour or by the day.  When I wrote my final submission for my thesis for the MLitt, I listened to Snow Patrol non-stop for four days. 

 

“Writing is an adventure.  To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement.  Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant.  The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.” – Winston Churchill

 

When I studied at The University of London I was taking a class on myths and legends.  I think it was a literary study but I can’t quite remember.  The reason I can’t quite remember?  I was totally preoccupied.  There was a girl in my class, whose name I don’t think I ever knew, who was heart-stoppingly beautiful.  She had the most amazing hair, it was perfectly curled into pencil-width corkscrews.  And so I started writing. 

 

I have no idea how my brain made the leap from the girl with the perfect hair to beginning to write Mersey, but it did and that was the beginning.  She morphed into Treasure, one of the characters in the story.  Someday I will finish Mersey, but not before re-writing it completely.  At first my characters were in high school, I suppose because I was 19 when I started writing it and that was all I could comment competently on, but when I began the MLitt course and revised and re-wrote Mersey for that course, I changed everything and forced my characters to grow up; something that, in retrospect, did not suit them.  So I can only see two options: I am either going to have to send them all through the reality filter or I am going to have to send them back down to high school which, at nearly 45,000 words, may take a while.

 

But I will never abandon her.  There is far too much of me in the piece for me to ever cast it aside and forget about it.  I am not sure I am prepared to begin the arduous revision task just yet, but trust me it will get done.

 

“When I am writing I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness.” – Maya Angelou  

 

The inspiration for what I consider my new ideas is a mystery to me.  Sometimes I dream complete scenes from my future works in glorious Technicolor and Surround Sound and when I wake I must, must, must get them down on paper before they evaporate the way dreams do.  Often my ideas come to me in whole – the plot of an entire novel from beginning to end.  The characters of these particular tales are, as yet, unknown to me but the plot outline is complete.  At other times it is the characters that come to me as complete individuals; I know their names, appearances, charms and faults as though they are real people, perhaps simply close friends that I have know from birth.  Whatever comes to me first, scenes, plots or people, the fleshing out is my favorite part, combining all the loose threads into the single, tightly-woven fabric of a story.  How exhilarating. 

 

So now I must dredge up these new ideas, which is completely and utterly terrifying.  My past work, at least, has some recommendation.  I have a (very expensive) framed degree on my wall that says just that.  This new stuff, though, who is to say that it will be up to scratch?  Is it all 100% truly original?  Is any writing these days 100% truly original?  Will someone jump the gun and somehow publish my ideas before me?  Will anyone like what I have to say?  Do I have the right to assume and impose my thoughts upon the world?

 

What will I do when the first negative review comes in?

 

Unfortunately I do not have the answers to these questions.  Mostly because they are rhetorical, but in the long run, I don’t know the answers because thus far I have been too cowardly to find them out.

 

“In many ways, writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind.  It’s an aggressive, even hostile act.  You can disguise its aggressiveness all you want with veils of subordinate clauses and qualifiers and tentative subjunctive, with ellipses and evasions – with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating – but there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space.” – Joan Didion

 

I have decided, however, that the time has come.  I am going to brush up on my vocabulary and my grammar (no 8th grade reading level here, thank you very much) and I am going to knuckle down and see where the path takes me. 

 

I will try my best to write only what I know.

I will try my best to be believable.

I will try my best not to impose too wholly upon the mind of my readers.

I will try my best.

 

Then it is your turn.  You must then try your best.  Try your best to accept my work as professional and not simply your daughter’s/friend’s/wife’s attempts at being a professional.  Try to be completely honest without being completely devastating.  Try to be supportive without being patronizing.  Try to put up with my severely decreased social life as I lock myself away into solitary confinement. 

 

While I am asking for things, I have one further request: please try to catch all of my comma-splices; they are, without a doubt, my most favorite grammatical mistake.

 

And so we go from darkness onwards into darkness.

 

xo

A

 

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