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.
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 “Waving, not drowning”→
So, in the new tradition of a post every two months, here’s one that is not about global news. Back to the good old days of updates about life, home life, projects, the little bubble that I live in. That sort of thing.
I’m musicking, these days. I’m musicking the fuck out of my life, in a way I haven’t since I was many many years younger. There are songs written and being written, and I am working with a lovely producer (though that title really stretches to collaborator) and recording songs. There’s one song out. It’s even had airplay on BBC Introducing, which is nice. And on local interweb radio show The Grind. It hasn’t had airplay anywhere else, but then I haven’t sent it anywhere else. It has a pretty video and a couple of fans. I have a Facebook page and perform under the name that I’ve used for the internet since I was about twelve.
There’s an EP on the way, too, which basically means I’m recording a little cluster of songs and sending them out into the world together next year. Truly, if I never do music again after this, I’ll be pleased that I did this much.
Hell, I’m doing a gig at the end of January. Yep, this is the woman who had ‘play an open mic’ on her to do list for something in the region of 15 years. I haven’t figured out the logistics of gigging and instruments, but I will. I have to, because I already said I’d do it. The biggest upside to putting the fucking fear of whatever into myself by saying yes is that open mics seem even less scary by comparison.
I don’t think I’ll ever be a person for whom the world and the unknown isn’t scary as hell. I’m just a lot better at throwing myself at the scary stuff and not worrying too much about landing on my face. Speaking of said face, I think I’m going to have to get over my general dislike of mine and start putting it out there a bit as well. I’ve been meaning to get a couple of reasonable photos done for the writing side of things for the past few months. I think I probably need a couple of the music side of things as well. I wonder if I can get away with the same photo for both?
God, but asking for portraits is weird though, isn’t it? ‘Please do not make me look like me. A more musical version, please. A more writerly one. And also unrecognisable. Can I wear a mask?’ There are some rather brilliant pictures of my sister-poet that were taken last week. We look slightly similar. I’m toying with the idea of just stealing those and pretending it’s me.
Anyway. Photographer suggestions welcome. The whole art and marketing side of things continues to baffle me, but again, I’ll figure them out. I know what I don’t want, and that’s a start.
Writing – I’ve levelled up. I’ve been shortlisted for Bristol and Bridport this year, which feels like a breakthrough though I also haven’t managed to complete a short story since. But then I also haven’t completed a blog entry (duh), a letter, or a poem. I’ve managed a song. I’ve managed articles I had to write. Writing’s been tough, is what I’m saying. It seems like a selfish act in a world that needs loud voices and less selfishness, and less hot-takes and more action. So it’s not been happening. Except for right now, because I am sat in a café waiting to catch a train.
Shit, guys, I feel as though I should be making this more of a call to arms or something. Or some sort of perky lifestyle inspiration. But neither of those things is my bag (honest to god, the aforementioned portraits should be of me looking slightly tired in slightly dusty dim surroundings, if they’re going to be at all honest. Just please – reduce chin. Add cheekbones.)
Reading over this with my editor eyes on (and Editor Me is sniffing and saying that this really isn’t good enough – but traditionally I have just thrown words on to the screen when blogging. I’m nothing If not giving the honest-to-god thoughts from my brain) and here’s the thing tying all of this rambling together. Some point in the last year, my voice kicked in. Writing, singing, speaking up. Turns out I have one after all. I mean, obviously I always did, but it was kind of squeaky and deferential. These days, it does better. It can hold the tone and hold the note, and it’s got power coming from the core and it is very much all my own work – and it has taken work. Feels kind of good to use it.
It’s that time again – the time I should be getting some freelance work done, so I write a blog post instead.
Last weekend I went to York for a friend’s birthday. Sorry we went, and had our first experience of being recent-test-passers on the motorway, in an old old (borrowed) car with no power steering which coughed and hrrrmed its way from 30 to 70 in about ten minutes. Speedsters.
Anyway, while in York, I had my fortune read for the first time in my life. For £1, by an old man with a monkey puppet, in the middle of the street. Definitely legit. Definitely accurate.
He did the whole ‘swing a necklace over my hand and it’ll answer a question’ thing, which failed dismally to move much at all. “It’s a very faint possible yes,” he said, as we all stared at the motionless pendant. My question was ‘Will I buy a better car than the one we drove down in?’ so, you know, hopefully he’s right. It’s possible the answer hinged on whether we survived the trip back.
Then the fortune telling cards, where card#1 claimed that I have a friend not to be trusted (is it you?). No one has noticeably screwed me over yet, but now I’m braced for it, untrustworthy one.
Card #2 says I have good news coming in the mail, apparently. “Definitely by post,” said the fortune teller. “Not by email.” Nothing’s come yet, mind. So far just a ‘leave’ leaflet, of the type we seem to be getting daily. I ripped up the last one and left it stuck out of the letter box on the other side of the door hoping whoever is dropping them in will take the hint. Rebellion fail: it escaped the mailbox and blew all over the garden. Really, though, campaigning is fine, and I’ll listen to factual information, though you’d better believe I make the effort to research that ‘facts’ I’m told (unless a fortune-teller says it. Then I’ll believe every word). But this is the sort of sneaky pamphlet that starts out with ‘You’re probably wondering how to vote. Here are some not-at-all skewed, completely unbiased facts that we have re-worded slightly and left out important details from’ and ends with ‘if you had this information before we even joined the EU, would you have bothered to join WOULD YOU WOULD YOU HUH IT’S A WASTE OF SPACE OBVIOUSLY VOTE LEAVE’. Not biased at all. No. *rolls eyes*
I will freely admit that I am biased on a totally personal level, and the clarified facts keep me that way. But beyond that the idea of the bunch of self-involved government wankers that actually were elected having total power – without the unelected folk from other countries enforcing useful things like human rights – scares the shit out of me. I could go on. I won’t.
Anyway. Cards three-to-five basically said I ought to be coming into some money. Lots of money. I’m susceptible enough that I actually started hoping maybe this meant I was getting a writing grant I applied for. Ladies and gents, I didn’t even get shortlisted. So. *sob*. But if you want to rebuild my dreams and faith in street-corner fortunes, please do send me some cash. Safe to say, by the way, that that particular no-win stung a bit. I wallowed for, oooof, at least half a day (am Teflon, these days. Feeling so brave that I even, in an email regarding music, wrote the words ‘I’m thick-skinned, I promise’ and then wondered if that really applies to the music stuff yet.)
The wound also healed quite fast courtesy of a couple of things. One – a new story out! On the brilliant Loss Lit site, no less, which is full of the sort of sad, strange, dark, lyrical writing I adore, so I’m pleased to be in it alongside such fab writers as Vanessa Gebbie and Josephine Corcoran. You should, of course, go and read the entire Bumper Issue 3.
And then the wonderful Georgia Bellas, of Mr Bear’s Violet Hour Saloon, got in touch to say she’d picked out a couple of previously published stories to read out on Boston Free Radio that evening. (You should listen to the podcast every week, by the way, if you like stories and poems. It’s a gem.) I was especially chuffed that she chose to read ‘Lost to Dolly’, which was written as a radio piece, really. The other story was ‘Sea Monster’ – it was a creature themed show (there’s links to the published versions of both stories on my stories page). God, but your words sounds different when someone else says them, don’t they? Sentences there that I’d forgotten I strung together, but they were just right. Anyway, have a listen HERE if you wish.
Back to the fortune: so, loads of money apparently incoming. Also an opportunity I should grasp immediately because it will not come again. This was translated as “you’ll see something I want to buy, but when I go back it will be gone, so you should by it straight away”. But I think fortune-speak is flexible, so I’m twisting it to my own ends and using it as a kick up the bum for things that I’ll save for later entries.
OR maybe that money comes from a change in jobs! A fork in the road, says the fortune teller of the seventh and final card, a new opportunity, a new job, a life alteration. I mean, this could just be that the Mega Project is at the printers now and will be in people’s hands very very soon, and if I’ve somehow got something very wrong I could be out of a job? [As I, perhaps unwisely, admitted to a board member, I’m torn between it being a success because I worked so bloody hard on it, and it crashing and burning horribly so that I never have to do that work again. (I want it to be a success, of course. My name’s on it for heaven’s sake – and that thought makes me feel a bit nauseous, so moving on…)]
Huh. I think that actually the fortune teller might have told my 2015 fortune. Job, money, opportunities, untrustworthy friends. Yup.
BOOKS: I have finally (after ekeing it out) finished Beastings by Benjamin Myers, which is so richly written I had to read it a bit at a time, then digest. The ending made me want to be sick and also cry. Hell of a combination. And I’m halfway through Terry Pratchett’s non-fiction stuff, and I’ve started The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. Can’t speak highly enough of that last one. I had to read the first three pages out loud because they are just so *nnnngh* (<noise trying to relay total perfection). I need two copies so I can underline stuff. It is also, unfortunately, the sort of book that’s written so much the way I want to be able to write that it’s simultaneously inspiring me and crushing me. (Sample convo with Coffee Monster, after I made him read the first three pages. ‘It reminds me of your stuff.’ ‘It’s exactly how I want to write.’ ‘It’s like how you write, but distilled, like the between parts are gone that aren’t like that.’ ‘You mean edited?’ ‘No. Yes? Wait…’ ‘But I DO edit my stuff!’ ‘Um.’ *sulk*)
MUSIC: I pulled out the Southway CD we bought off them on the street a couple of years ago and have been enjoying. Also very recent (like, this morning) discovery of There There, who are synthy and lyrical. Also more Eve Conway ‘cause she sang her EP a week or so ago at an open mic night and I adore her voice. And for Gothic ennui and historical, wonderful weirdness, The Black Sheep Frederick Dickens just shared their single Shrines.
Today my hands were blue with cold and I wore a heavy winter scarf for the journey to work. Seasons are not real.
I’ve always been pretty good at fading into the background – I have a face that manages to be both politely vaguely familiar and completely unmemorable. It suits my wallflower tendencies. It’s also something that comes in handy on trains where, I’ve discovered, if I don’t move to get my ticket when the ticket inspector comes by, they assume they’ve ticketed me before and don’t bother me. (I am not avoiding buying train tickets – I have a month pass that doesn’t need stamping.) Now, though, I wonder if they’ve seen me often enough that they do recognise me, and know that I’ll have a pass and it’s not worth asking me. A train regular. Can’t decide if I like the idea of being invisible or often visible better. Continue reading “A shambles of thoughticles”→
It’s a bit of an unpopular, defeatist sentiment (especially in this web-world of pinspirational quotes and nature pics) to accept limitations. Throwing your hands up and saying ‘I can’t’ tends to come across as either defensive, or is read as a need for some reassurance, or as fishing. This not any of those things.
If you’re lucky enough to have been raised in a household where the attitude has always been that nothing should stop you, that you can and should be able to do anything, then admitting that you have limitations to abilities can be a bit of a head-f*ck, actually. Genuinely. Not being able to do something comes with the additional shame of thinking you should be able to do it.
Not being able to do something when you really, really want to be able to do it, is worse.
The problem with this blog, I’m discovering as I get more and more lax about updating, is that the longer I put off writing anything for it the more there’s a jumble of things to write about. And then I can’t find a solid topic for a post – or even any kind of hub for the mess to revolve around – and it becomes bitty and a rubbish read, and that puts me off writing, and the cycle perpetuates.
Over the past two weeks I’ve developed a crush on the entire Costa coffee staff at my local train station. In the way that a really good musician, or someone really good with words (or, combine the two, a bloody good lyricist – oh WHAT I’m a cliché and a pushover, I know it) can get my heart thumping, apparently so can anyone who hands me coffee with a smile in the morning – at the moment, anyway. And it doesn’t even need to be with a smile. It can be the nervous shrug of the girl who’s still learning the ropes; the slight scowl of the dude in the beanie who is clearly a rock star when he’s not working; the super efficiency of the fellow with the beard who reminds me a bit of one of my uncles; or the jitteriness of the skinny raver who calls me petal. Continue reading “Love and impatience”→
Have to be honest, I haven’t missed writing blog entries. My domain ownership actually ran out a couple of weeks ago, and it took me longer than it should have to renew it. I was half-heartedly considering shutting this place down – maybe starting a new site, a more professional one with my name in the address and whatnot. Bookworms is a hodge-podge after all, with a misleading title and not enough control over the layout to keep me happy. But I’m giving it another year (if you keep reading).
I haven’t slept properly for the past four nights and, since I can’t pin the blame on caffeine, stress or much else, I’ve decided that part of the problem might be lack of decent exercise.
The Thursday after the Great North Run, I took myself off up to Scotland for four days alone. I stayed at an incredibly romantic and quite fancy shepherd’s hut (and completely recommend the place). No electricity, so when night started to fall, that was bedtime. After the first day, if I wanted a fire I needed to chop wood; if I wanted water, I had to fetch it from the next field over and slightly up a hill. Point being that even making a cup of tea involved some measure of effort. And I decided, in between reading a lot and writing a bit, to go walking. I bought a map of the area with trails marked on it, and went for a short explore on Thursday evening, and for longer walks on my own (six miles and ten miles each on Friday and Saturday. Sunday was a lazy day involving cake and a dog-sitting for the lovely people I met there).