Like a lot of people I go through phases of wanting more privacy that my social media use affords me. I deactivate accounts and vanish for a bit and reappear and it’s usually a sign that I’m struggling with something else in life. I’m not very good at admitting to the people I know and love when that happens, let alone the world at large.
As I start writing this, it’s 12.15am. In about six and a half hours I will be crawling out of bed to make a Pokémon cake for my nephew’s 10th birthday, before he arrives for a day of being spoiled. (‘What flavour?’ ‘Pokémon flavour!’ Vanilla will have to do.)
Anyway, he and his mum and her boyfriend came over earlier this afternoon. He fed the dogs lettuce until they were near ready to mug him for his pasta. He became best friends with Dog 1, who pinned him down with a paw and attempted to clean his head. After that they were inseparable. Dog 2 – less boisterous, likes her space – wagged her tail from a safe distance.
At some point in the evening he looked up at our mantelpiece, where everything gets stacked in a way that could be considered ‘decorative’ over the fake fire that we never plug in, and spotted my A Monster Calls print.
That print was my first (possibly last) ‘big’ art buy, after I met Jim Kay’s agent at a launch Q&A (I think) for the book, with Kay and Patrick Ness. 2011. It was clear, then, how completely this story – this publication – would be a classic.
‘Look!’ says Nephew. ‘That’s the monster from A Monster Calls! It’s a good book.’
‘Yes, it is’ I say, meaning both yes, it is the monster, and yes, it is a good book. ‘That picture’s signed by Jim Kay, the illustrator.’
Nephew looks at me with great satisfaction. ‘I’ve got the book, and it’s signed to me, by both of them.’
‘I know,’ I say. ‘I got it for you for your second birthday. I think they thought I was a bit nuts, asking to have a book signed for a two year old.’
‘I wasn’t two!’
I’m not sure he believes he was ever really two, but he smiles happily and leans back into his seat, goes back to his game. And I think – it doesn’t matter who got the book. It’s his – his story, signed for him, and always has been in his life as much as he remembers it.
And tomorrow he’s ten, and he’ll be rereading that book when he’s 20, and I hope it’s battered and loved and the ink has faded slightly, and that whenever he comes across it or any reference to it, he has a little jolt of special-ness – I have that book, and it was signed for me, and I have always owned it.
I am kicking myself – we peaked at birthday presents when he was two years old.
Books are brilliant, though.
Tradition, isn’t it, to write a post summing up the year? I’m getting it out of the way a few days early, because 1) I’m having a little flap about the current Work In Progress right now, and so this is a nice procrastination and 2) in a couple days I am seeing my family and will have no time for posts, only for them and actually finishing a reasonable first draft of the WIP.
OH GOD I’m in imminent danger of being a writer bore, I’m so sorry.
Here’s a quick list of good and awful things that have happened over the course of this year, as much as I can remember on a mid-holiday day when I should be doing something else.
Yesterday I signed up for the Edinburgh half-marathon. I often tell people that I do well with deadlines, and I really do. I need the pressure to get me going in all areas of life, from writing to exercise to… well, spending time with people even. Otherwise I just lie around stagnant, like water in a pipe waiting for the tap to be turned on, probably growing mould and smelling a bit funny.
The pressure works really well. I get motivated and creative and I DO stuff. And then I get carried away and sometimes I accidentally put a bit too much pressure on myself and water-me sort of blurts out everywhere in panic, and lands up as a useless puddle on the sideboard, waiting to be wiped up.
Autumn’s properly here, isn’t it? Outside the sky is a lightening blue (it’s 7.30am), and there’s a nip in the air that’s making it awkward to type because I have the circulation of a stone – the sort that people try to get blood out of – and can’t really feel my fingers. Yesterday at work we looked out of the window and realised that the leaves on the trees in the little garden had apparently overnight gone very orange. I would have taken a photo, but all the building work happening behind the trees ruins the shot slightly. Continue reading
Note: this really is not a review. My about-a-book entries are never reviews, just me gushing about books I’ve absolutely loved and have time to write about. Take it for granted that if this was a review it would be a five-star thing, though, because I’m coming out of the tail-end of a migraine right now and shouldn’t be looking at a screen, but am compelled to write this. Continue reading
Day three of relentless sunshine, and I have taken to hiding indoors. I’m a cold-weather person. I like blue skies and light, but I also like the temperature to be cold. And dry. I’m actually (it turns out) ever so slightly allergic to sunlight. I wear a lot of suncream but will still get little ‘aaaaargh UV LIGHT!’ welts on my forearms after a day doing stuff outside. Continue reading
The evening before Easter weekend, I deactivated my primary Twitter account. In the great time-suck that is social media, Twitter is the Big Boss. Facebook has messed with the algorithms of the newsfeed to such an extent that it’s barely worth looking at it, because everything is advertising or repeats from three days earlier. Instagram is a pleasant skim-through, done in five minutes. But Twitter – especially what I think of as my Big Twitter newsfeed – is intensely literary, political and oft-times angry and once I open it (which I mostly do without thinking) I sit there reading and feeling shittier and shittier.
I’m writing a blog post, which is how you all know I’m procrastinating. We’ve got this massive whiteboard propped against the fake fireplace (the furnishing skills of myself and CM are such that our home permanently looks like a long-con grifter HQ crossed with a bric-a-brac stall. This morning I woke to find that the Giant Toy Hedgehog that we use as a pillow for long car journeys had been propped on a shelf in our room between a rarely-used Gothic chess set, and my TBR book stack and necklace stand that I made by warping a cooling tray. It was staring at me. I nearly had a heart attack, and our room looks more like a storage box than ever…)… Continue reading
So, update time. Nothing but Writing News in this post. I’ll do a more general entry later this week.
Last time we were here I’d just won a Northern Writers Award. Which was (is, still) pretty exciting, after it sunk in. In the classic way of all things writing, there was a whirl of a few weeks with tonnes of activity – followed by weeks of quiet, just me, in a room, swearing at a screen.
First up was a pitching workshop, which was invaluable and taught a group of us how to network, essentially. Which is a skill no one actually teaches, I don’t think, except for maybe finishing schools. There’s an art to strolling up to strangers in a crowded room and being able to smoothly introduce yourself and why you’re there and be able to pitch/promote your book / project without umming and erring and feeling silly.