Writing Out the Storm (With Pen and Paper)
I had an upsetting experience at work today – doubly upsetting because I was at fault – and I need to write it out.
Yes, write not ride.
Some people let their emotional storms blow themselves out. Alas, I’m not so stoic. When troubled I have an urge to put pen to paper, and I wonder why.
Does writing help me learn my lesson, like copying out lines does at school?
Is it a self-imposed punishment, the page being a paper voodoo doll I prick with my pen to inflict pain on myself?
Or do I write to purge myself of evil emotions, in a kind of ritualistic ink-letting?
Your guess is as good as mine. One thing is true: when the turbulent toss of my handwriting has subsided, the cool calm clear blue lines of the page will remain, and the storm will have passed.
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[Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay]
Self-Made Men (And Other Leaps of Faith)
It was a weekday and I’d cycled to work.
On the way to the change room I found myself wishing I’d meet someone new. And so I did, in the locker room: a big blokey-looking bloke with muscles and a chin.
I instantly switched into masculine mode.
Hey, I said. Hey mate, he replied, going one better.
A blokey-sounding conversation ensued, one in which Luke – for that was his suitably red-blooded name – told me he was going jumping later that day.
Flummoxed, I froze. Jumping? Visions of the Dufflepuds from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader flashed into my head.
Mountain-biking, he said.
I felt like a fraud. When put to the test I’d thought of a child’s storybook rather than the trial of a man’s derring-do.
Enjoy, I squeaked, and rushed off to work. I’d got changed but I hadn’t changed at all.
Signature Moves (Authors and Their Autographs)
I’ve been writing – my signature not my novel.
Too many writers, I’m told, suffer from autograph-induced RSI, all because they didn’t simplify their signatures before stardom arrived.
At the start of the session my head spun and my arm ached; signing my name was like clinging to a roller-coaster. By its end, though – well, more of that in a minute.
Some novelists made the move early on. Hemingway’s autograph morphed into cross-hairs, while Jonathan Franzen flattened his out so he now signs with a stroke.
Here’s food for thought: we’re told to sign on the dotted line but what if one’s signature is a dotted line?
I’ve always wanted to write about a character who forges his own signature. Some kind of murder mystery?
My new autograph looks like an arrow. The only way is up now that I’ve streamlined my signature.
Looking For Love (In All the Wrong Places)
I know a boy whose name is Adam.
The teachers at Adam’s school gave out prizes today. Adam had never won an award and he thought his time had finally come. He’d worked hard every day and although he wasn’t the fastest of learners, he was diligent, never leaving his desk until his work was done.
The ceremony was held in the hall. The winner’s names were read out one by one but Adam’s was not among them. He was devastated; afterwards, he ran into the bushes at the bottom of the school, fighting back tears.
Adam wanted to leave. And yet as he turned to go, the cries of his friends came to him from afar, seeming to say that if he went now he, like his namesake, might never truly return. So he stayed.
I know a boy whose name is Adam.
Frankly, My Dear (I Do Give a Damn)
Here’s the thing about writing a novel. No-one will care if I do it.
I mean, who reads novels these days? Hardly anyone I know. A couple of my colleagues maybe, none of my mates, a precious few friends and family. That’s not many folks.
Of course if I write something that sells, then people I don’t know might care. But what’s the good of that? As the least famous Churchill (Charles, the poet) wrote, ‘Fame/is nothing but an empty name’.
But why do I even care if nobody cares?
Because I’m human and humans crave unconditional love.
‘Growing up involves accepting that we’re not as special as we thought,’ Nick Hornby once said. ‘But artists have to keep that feeling alive.’
Come to think of it, I do know someone who will care if I write a novel.
And that someone is me.
The WunderKindle (Making Books Better)
Read all about it: Kindles are the best thing since printed books.
They’re compact, for starters. I once took mine on a five-day walk, slotting it into my pack without any trouble. Thus I was able to while away the evenings reading Clive James’ Complete Unreliable Memoirs, the book of which resembles a brick.
Kindles are food-friendly too. I like to read as I eat and yet most paperbacks make this an impossible feat, even with a sauce bottle on hand to help out. An open Kindle, however, never snaps shut.
The instant free samples are another fine feature, one which has led me to books I wouldn’t have otherwise read. Books like Michelle de Kretser’s The Life to Come, my novel of 2019.
The best thing about Kindles, though, is the fact they’re not books.
By being so different they make books even better.
Sitting Still (Friday Flash Fiction)
They won’t find me out here. Not like the last time. Or the time before that. And was there a time before that? My memory is going so I can’t be sure.
I can remember one thing, though, and that’s my name. I’ll tell you it in a minute if you don’t rush off.
There goes another aeroplane, slicing up the sky. I don’t understand all this travel. You can go a long way by sitting still, the world’s turning so fast.
I mean, look at that sky. Nothing in it now but clouds, all twisting and turning and changing around. Doesn’t look the same from one second to the next. No need to move an inch to see something new.
They want to take me away but I won’t let them. They won’t find me out here.
My name’s Bruce, by the way.
They Called Him Herman (Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’)
‘Call me Ishmael.’
So begins Moby Dick, Herman Melville’s classic tale of whales and whaling, first published in America on this day back in 1851.
The brevity of the book’s opening line is misleading: Melville’s masterpiece has 135 chapters and more than 500 pages, making it a whale-sized story by anyone’s standards.
Was the novel the ‘draft of a draft’, as Melville himself supposedly suggested? If so, his editor ought to have taken a harpoon to the text.
Melville had a tough time as a kid. Money was short, his eyesight was weakened by fever, and the lad had trouble impressing his father, who described him as being ‘backward in speech and somewhat slow in comprehension’.
Melville’s success might be attributed, in part, to an early lucky break. Unlike his brother, who wrote nothing, he was not given the name Gansevoort. He was called Herman instead.
‘Old Things Are Awesome’ (An Interview with Harmony Higgins)
Me: When did you start writing?
She: When I was seven I wrote reviews of my mother’s meals and stuck them on the fridge.
Me: How did they rate?
She: Poorly. Especially the steak tartare.
Me: I meant your reviews. Why historical fiction?
She: So much of it is set in the past. Old things are awesome.
Me: What’s the oldest thing you own?
She: A brooch worn by Henrietta Stubbs.
Me: Who’s she?
She: Don’t know. She sounds ancient though.
Me: Do you do much research?
She: Loads. I use it as mulch on the garden.
Me: What are your hopes and dreams?
She: To write the perfect novel. Again. I’m joking, of course.
Me: Of course.
She: I’d like to become a yoga instructor.
Me: Good luck with that.
Riding the Waves and The Crestfallen Tailor are published by Penury.
The Oldest Trick in the Book (A Review of ‘Polar Bears’)
Ever laughed until you’ve cried?
If you haven’t, try reading ‘Polar Bears‘, a story by arts journalist and author, Gareth Hipwell.
This vicious but very funny vignette tackles a serious subject by stealth. Even before you’ve had time to wipe your nose its end has arrived, and the story, like a bear, has bitten off your head – only half of it, mind.
The story concisely captures the dichotomy in the ongoing debate about climate change: Tom and Jess have ‘polar’ opposite opinions and never the twain shall meet.
And although the story didn’t bring me to actual tears – is crying a conspiracy? – the plight of the planet is well worth weeping over.
‘Polar Bears’ was published at Flashers, the ‘online home of Australian flash fiction’, which is currently in hibernation. Here’s hoping global warming will bring it back to life sometime soon.
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