The newsreaders look like half-drowned children, they look like scared little puppies. They look sad and sodden. They tell the viewers at home that they had waited in their cars, waited for the deluge to stop, but it just never did. So they had to run into the studios, holding newspapers over their heads but the newspapers just became drenched and useless. They sound as if they are on the verge of tears as they tell their story. The viewers at home understand. This has been going on too long, everyone agrees this has been going on too long. It becomes tiring just turning on the television each morning, the viewer begins to dread what they think they might see when they watch the news.
She was dancing round in her bra and knickers, on the top deck of the school bus
Twenty years later I saw her on the news
Taking part in a debate about self help books,
A discussion I ignored as I ate my breakfast
She was grown-up, fully-dressed and self-helped
But not so famous that anyone cared about my story
And really it was no story at all
Fruit shopping at night,
the plums were polite but firm,
slow, swollen full stops
Adventures in Reading and Writing, Part 14
There’s nothing better than finishing a piece of work and feeling as though I have written exactly what I wanted. Once stories are finished they are mine forever, they cannot be undone and my insides feel very full of themselves.
Back in about 1992, my plan for a career in writing was to live in a Mitsubishi Shogun, and drive round selling books from the window. This was before I realised that you couldn’t fit everything you need in a Mitsubishi Shogun and that girls prefer living in flats and houses to living in cars. This was also pre-internet – and the internet would surely have played a part in my plans had I known about it. Note to eight year old me – imagine this, you can write stories and stick them on your computer and people anywhere in the world can read them. You don’t need to drive about in a Mitsubishi Shogun to distribute them, in fact you don’t even need to learn to drive.
So where are we now? What is the plan twenty years on?
Well, I set up this place about five years ago, and spent some time settling in and getting everything as I wanted it. Being a bit of a hermit, it took me a while to leave again but recently I’ve been getting out and about a bit more, sending work off in my digital Mitsubishi Shoguns to try and get it featured in other parts of the internet. I’ve also started entering competitions again – I put in for the Bath Short Story Prize and for the Bristol Short Story Prize this year – but I’m not entirely comfortable with competitions, sometimes they make writing feel like sport, which it shouldn’t.
It strikes me that my Mitsubishi Shogun Plan would have involved a fair bit of self-promotion (I probably didn’t consider this at the time, I probably expected the reading public to be queing up at the window to my Mitsubishi Shogun – why wouldn’t they?!) and that this is my least favourite part of the whole process, the part that seems important but which I just can’t get along with.
I want to read writers who get excited about forming sentences, writers who write because they have to, writers who will carry on at it until they are spent, regardless of whether they meet success or not. I’d probably love to read a novel written by someone who lives in a Mitsubishi Shogun. And I realise that I probably would never have had chance to read some of my favourite writers were it not for the fact they are comfortable promoting themselves – but this is not a strategy, more a gut feeling.
Perhaps a more measured version of this would be to write that I think it is important there is an environment in which those writers who are not comfortable with self-promotion are not completely passed over, that there is a place for writers who want to get on with writing and not be expected to be performers or publicists, or at least that performing/ publicising does not become an essential part of writing because I think a lot of good writers are the kind of people who are not good at those things (they are just good at writing). Perhaps this is all null and void because I have a vested interest, but I think (and hope) it is a point worth making anyway.
Writing excites me more than ever before. I don’t know what my plan is now, but I feel like the stories I have in my head are better than the ones I have already put on paper, and that seems like a good position to be in (and a better position than living squished in the back of a Mitsubishi Shogun).
Even when you are sitting still, eyes closed, mind clear,
Even after years of attempting it, willing it, still you
Remain unable to dematerialise at your discretion.
Even to fade out for a second, even for less than a second, even for
I am pleased to tell you that I have a new-old short story called What The Hell Is A Bread Van? which is now being featured in Issue 43 of Jersey Devil Press.
I ate the peach over the sink
So I could see the fireworks
You sent from the kitchen window.