There’s nothing more boring than other people’s dreams…

I dreamt about my dad. I was in a large block of offices full of people and saw him at the top of some stairs. He was wearing a suit, shirt and tie. He looked more 70’s dad than anything (maybe my subconscious translating the priests’ assertion that dad would have a “new and glorified body” and assuming pre heart attacks would be a prime point in time.)

I said “I really miss you.”
And he said “I really miss you too.”
And we hugged.
He said, “You’ll be coming to the thing tonight though? I’ll see you again there.”
And I said, “Yes.”

Then, in my dream, I thought, I mustn’t forget this. Remember.
I went up to dad and I said “I really miss you.”
And he said “I really miss you too.”
And we hugged.
He said, “You’ll be coming to the thing tonight though? I’ll see you again there.”
And I said, “Yes.”

But I didn’t know what the thing was. I didn’t know how to get there. I retraced the conversation over and over, looking for clues.

I went up to dad and I said “I really miss you.”
And he said “I really miss you too.”
And we hugged.
He said, “You’ll be coming to the thing tonight though? I’ll see you again there.”
And I said, “Yes.”

I went up to dad and I said “I really miss you.”
And he said “I really miss you too.”
And we hugged.
He said, “You’ll be coming to the thing tonight though? I’ll see you again there.”
And I said, “Yes.”

I went up to dad and I said “I really miss you.”
And he said “I really miss you too.”
And we hugged.
He said, “You’ll be coming to the thing tonight though? I’ll see you again there.”
And I said, “Yes.”

And this looped on for who knows how long. And when I woke up I thought I mustn’t forget this.
I went up to dad and I said “I really miss you.”
And he said “I really miss you too.”
And we hugged.
He said, “You’ll be coming to the thing tonight though? I’ll see you again there.”
And I said, “Yes.”

I really miss my dad.

The grief underpins everything. Sometimes it feels dormant, but just when I think it is safer now, less spiky, it washes over me like an unnoticed wave that I have my back to, plunges me right back into salt and panic.

Last week I spent time with two gorgeous women who reminded me of who I am. This is what friendships should be like; time spent with people who don’t judge, who don’t monologue at me, who don’t insist everything has to be funfunfun, who understand that life is complex, who don’t leave me exhausted and drained, who don’t put me down, but instead lift me. I am so grateful to know these smart, thoughtful, ace people. Thank you KG and KM!

(Photo taken from Worthing pier yesterday. A beautiful day with Si. Calm waves, blue sky, love.)


4 things

I read my new story – “The Mothers” – at Sparks and it is now available to read here. 

I am chuffed to have a story in the second issue of Fractured West. It’s a delicious publication – cute but with bite.
This is how gorgeous my short story case at Brighton Waterstone’s looks:
And this is what’s in my new “Brief Live’s – Unforgettable Words” case. (I prefer to call it Dead Brilliant but yeah, that’s probably bad taste.)

Catch up (or at least hello)

I’ve not had much to say lately. It’s school summer holidays so my days are busy with the boys. I’m still ill with my pyoderma gangrenosum, and a chest and ear infection which has lasted 5 weeks so far. (I’m waiting for yet more blood test results/autoimmune profile etc.) I’ve been taking large amounts of steroids and antibiotics, I think they rather drag one down. Off everything for the moment, except some steroid cream, and I’m hoping to shake the infection, start eating more healthily, take vits, maybe slowly exercise again. Gotta keep moving forwards.

I haven’t been writing.

What I have been doing is reading. Yay for words!

I’m now a reader for PANK, which you may recall is one of my favourite magazines. I’ve been finding it utterly fascinating being on the other side of submissions and noticing some of the recurrent themes and images. It’s so cool when you read a story or poem that dazzles. And it makes me feel that in some teeny (very teeny) way I’m putting a little (very little) back into the lit community.

I returned to work yesterday after 4 weeks absence. I was feeling rather shaky but ooh, it was lovely to be back. And there were some delicious books waiting for me. Yippee! Thank you to Joe for my copy of the very enticing Bristol Short Story prize Anthology (Volume 3). We haven’t yet got copies in store but they are on order. Plus I have a couple of proofs of books that I really want to read. Result.

Speaking of new publications, edition 1 of Fractured West is now available and looks super scrummy.

Linktastic stuff!

I keep forgetting to mention that I am in The Best of Every Day Fiction 2  – an anthology from those EDF peeps. It’s available in hardback or softback. Thanks to EDF for including my wee story “The Collector of Shiny.”

I was pleased to be in the debut issue of kill author and I am pleased that they have been voted best new online magazine or journal in the storySouth Million Writers Award. Woot woot! Speaking of the Award, kudos aplenty to all the writers who have been listed in the notable stories list. There’s some really good, good writing there (special mention must surely go to Roxane Gay who has, what, six stories nominated?)

And tooting my own (plastic, red and yellow, imaginary toy) trumpet, it’s been brilliant to get my writing mojo back after a long time being ill and brain fuddled. I have been writing words that please me, and feeling pretty good about it. I started subbing again (after a long time of not) and yesterday I got acceptances for 5 pieces of work. Five! In one day! (Though if I break it down, four pieces were accepted by the same place, does that count? But – I sent four hoping that they might find something to like amongst them and am THRILLED that they said, yup, we like, and took them all.) The other piece found a home somewhere I have really wanted to be published, after a requested rewrite. I spent some days nervously checking my emails, and hoping that my rewrite was solid. So yay!

And – the best words to hear on going into work?
“I saw a rep. last week, he had some new short story collections so I took them for you.”
Yup. Life can be good.

Waiting for the good news, not the bad

Sending work “out there” means waiting for responses. I’m not so great at subbing. I know writers who constantly have lots of work out at one time and just send that baby straight back out the minute it comes back to them. I understand that, I just don’t do it myself.

Thing is, I choose really carefully where I want a story to go. I’m not “this must be published no matter what” I’m, “Ooh, I think my story “You say Grigio I say Gris – who knows why?” would be perfect at THAT PLACE, so I send it off, and stay hopeful, and if it comes back unwanted I feel a little sad for “You say…” and I write down the date of the rejection and any comments I got in my skull notebook, and that’s it. 
A month or so may pass and I’ll look at the story again, edit a little, and realise, “Ooh, no, THIS PLACE would be superb for my story” and so it goes.
While something is still being considered there’s a gorgeous feeling of possibility. For ages I had a really high ratio of successful subs to rejected ones. I think that’s gone now. That sucks. But that was happening when I was writing fresh words regularly. Illness and family responsibilities have cut my new words way down but hooooo-rah, recently I have written a couple of brand new stories. It feels so good to have actually made some stuff up! I am now in that world of hope again and feel like good news may be just an email away. I am doing that too frequent email refreshing.
Anyway, there have been a heap of top tips for writers around the blogs but none pleased me as much as this wonderful list by Laura Ellen Scott “Get out of that slushpile, what are you crazy?!?!?”  Perhaps if I follow her advice faithfully I’ll boost my success stats.

Making things up

I haven’t been doing much bloggy stuff lately, but that’s because I’ve been busily making things up and it’s been taking up my computer time. Yay, it’s like I had forgotten what fiction could be. It’s great fun – I think imaginary things in my head and then write it down and create stories. Woot woot!

I will stop banging on about Ted Hughes eventually but I am still savouring the Collected Letters, and it seems to have been the key to unlocking my words again. He struggled and went months without writing at times, he sweated over stories, he abandoned ideas and ranted and tried to find his mojo again. It’s done me such good to read. It’s as if someone has said to me “Whatever way you do it is okay.”

I have entered a couple of comps, subbed a couple of bits. Health-wise I am feeling improved, not totally ok, and I have good days and bad, but yeah, getting there I think.

Aren’t words fabulous. I’m grooving on “palpable” at the moment.

New year resolution thingybobs

I like New Year the same way I like a new diary or notebook. It’s the promise of a fresh start. I make resolutions all year round, I strive to be better always, but it’s like New Year is an especially potent time to make those wishes (that’s what they are right – wishes?)

I will try to stay alive in 2010 if at all possible.
I will try to love and cherish, nurture and support my family and friends.
I will try to be a brilliant writer.
I will try not to be ill.
I will try to be a good person.
Oh yeah, and lose weight, get fit, be BETTER.

I want to be a better wifemotherfriendrelativepersonwoman.

I feel cuspy. Maybe I am about to become the writer I want to be, the writer I feel deep down I am. Or maybe I’ll turn my back on the whole stupid dream of it. Or, more likely, I’ll stop being so drama queeny. You know, I’m going to write sometimes, and other times I’m not, and I have to make peace with that.

I am going to try to stop bitching at myself.

I will carry on bitching at others!

I would like to wish you all your perfect 2010.

Illness is sooooooo boring.

I am still ill. It is so tedious and makes me a bore. Someone asked how my leg was yesterday and I began trying to race through my reply, aware of how dreary and dull my answer was. For those of you who care to know, my Pyoderma Gangrenosum is healing but very, very slowly. I saw the consultant last week and the PG has shrunk by 1 c.m. I have a deep ache in my leg which is because I have accompanying inflammation of the fatty tissue. Nice. I have been prescribed another couple of months worth of antibiotics. On top of that I have endometriosis and am always at the mercy of my cycle. Things have got increasingly weird in my body, and now when I have a period my eyesight gets fucksy and bloodshot, my back and hips ache, my feet hurt, my body bloats and swells, I get a headache that lasts for several days. The exhaustion I feel is of the put-my-face-down-on-the-floor-and-sleep-wherever-the-hell-I-am variety.

I am embarrassed and ashamed of being ill. Like I am failing in my duties as a human somehow. I vow to eat well, exercise, be a better person, as if that will become a useful bargaining tool. Actually the Pyoderma began when I was exercising daily, cycling for the first time in years, walking a lot, watching what I ate.

I haven’t been writing. It becomes impossible to as my brain becomes fudgy. I am trying very hard to shut up my customary inner voice, the one that berates me for being a lazy, fat fuck. I am telling it to sod off because actually, this isn’t procrastination, this is disease.

So. A catch up of tedium. It’s all I’ve got right now.

Nobody likes a show off!

I received my prize for winning the Bookseller’s Bursary yesterday. Wow, what a parcel! Champagne, a trophy, £’s, an Arvon gift certificate, a winner’s certificate, an Arvon Moleskine notebook. Superb. I am chuffed to bits. And I wasn’t going to say anything, because y’know, it doesn’t do to show off. Then I thought, oh hang on a minute, I’m quick enough to share things that make me miserable.

So –

It’s funny, I have an uncomfortable feeling of wanting to tell people that I have had some good news, mixing with huge embarrassment. I didn’t tell many that I was on the short list, I wasn’t going to mention it in fact. So when I won I had this conversation with my mum and a few others. “Oh, erm, there was this thing…” mumble, mumble. I was squirming, not sure why. Haven’t heard a word from my dad (who lives with my mum) and when we spoke on the phone he didn’t mention it. Both my brother’s are on facebook but they haven’t mentioned it either. My husband is pleased but hasn’t read a thing I’ve written for years. Anyway, I decided to brave this out and announce publicly that this is quite the nicest thing that has happened to me in ages.

I am thrilled with my prize. Thank you to Waterstone’s for being so incredibly supportive of the many writers it employs, and thank you to the judges from Simon & Schuster, Arvon and United Agents. I’ll shut up now and hope you can forgive the showing off.

Not writing, just being.

I haven’t written for a few weeks. I should never stop, stopping fucks me up.

It was my twins 11th birthdays so I spent time shopping, wrapping, baking a disastrous cake, and my parents stayed for a few days, then it it was half term. School started back this week but my husband has been off sick with a virus. There have been lots of family gubbins, stresses, worries, grr’s. I had this idea that if I worked my way through my list of Things To Do I would clear space for writing and get back to it. My list is never ending. I cross one thing off and add two or three. I forgot that there is no space. I have to ignore all the jobs and write, dammit. So, today I sit down to do just that, words on a screen, no big deal. Only my health issues are flaring and my head is full of fucked up fuzz and not much else.

I shouldn’t have stopped.

But. Whispering somewhere in me is the idea that maybe I just shouldn’t have started.

There’s a gazillion writers out there, I’m not special, I’m not any whoop whoop talent. I’m out of energy. What if I stopped trying to write The Novel and just relaxed, played with words, enjoyed the creative process a bit more. But, then I’d hate myself for not finishing. God, I hate myself anyway, and I particularly hate that I sound so fucking whiny.

Best get on.