Tag Archives: your own voice

Daring not so greatly

Daring Greatly

Maybe we don’t realise how daring we are being when we write.

We just sit down and write words, don’t we? We write them in such a way as to make an entertaining story for our readers. We have a market in mind. There’s a particular women’s magazine that likes to see short stories about ordinary people with problems to face and how they overcome them. Another magazine prefers stories with a hopeful ending.

Blog readers want to read about the subject we’re known for. So we write blogs on topic and perhaps we do it with some humour and we add photos and memes and illustrations to make the whole thing attractive to the eye.

We want to connect

With our readers. With the world. We give of ourselves in our writing, not in a conscious way, I believe, but without deliberation. We are who we are and we give it. Give ourselves.  And by doing this we are exposing our vulnerabilities.

daring to be

daring to be

We give our opinions. We can’t help doing that. We don’t want to lecture but it’s almost impossible to write without giving opinions. They’re there in our writing whether we like it or not. Even when we don’t realise it, our opinions are hiding in the spaces between the words, between the lines.

My subtitle under the name of my website is ‘write from the heart’. It used to be ‘writer in Languedoc’ because I’d fallen in love with that part of France and couldn’t wait to write about it. I’d given my heart to a man and his son and moved there with them. After ten years he replaced me with another woman.

But I still love Languedoc and want to continue writing about it. I’m not strong enough to do that yet. Imagining the places I loved visiting or looking through my photographs still hurts me so I avoid it. I can’t write my Wicked Stepmother Chronicles now either because as well as losing my partner and my home, I’ve lost my stepson as well. Only insofar as I don’t get to see him everyday, though. When he comes to visit family in England he comes to see me too. So, you see, I wasn’t really Wicked. I made jokes about our differences. I gave my opinions on too many hours spent online gaming and the harm I thought it was doing. And my stepson understands this. He knows I was doing my best to help him make healthy choices. But it hurts that I can’t write either my Wednesday Vine Report or my Wicked Stepmother Chronicles because I’m somewhere else.

So today I’m writing something that isn’t hurting me.

daring courage

daring to be courageous

But it’s still from the heart. According to Brené Brown writing from the heart makes me courageous in the original sense of the word. I feel the things I write. And that makes me vulnerable. Here’s what Brené says:

She is FABULOUS. Watch all her videos. We can all learn from them. We can learn that it’s okay to be vulnerable. That it’s a necessary part of being human to feel our emotions. It saddens me that there are people who don’t have the opportunity to feel; people who are not only wearing shields or armour to protect them from their emotions but simply do not feel them in the first place. Or they experience emotions only in a shallow and fleeting way and to them vulnerability is the greatest weakness of all.

When I’m not writing posts for my website I’m writing about the people I’ve just described. I’ve known one intimately. He almost destroyed me. I thought I was weak, faulty, deficient in many ways. I was not enough of the things he wanted and too much of the things he came to despise. I know different now.

daring vulnerability

daring to be vulnerable

But I’m keeping my silence on the subject here on my website. For now. The book is coming along nicely and one day I’ll publish. Writing the book is giving me an inner strength and, encouraged by Brené Brown’s research, I know I’m doing the right thing.

daring strength

daring to be strong

It takes nerve to be vulnerable. It makes you nervous. You’re taking such risks in being human. Opening yourself to all manner of manipulation by deceitful people. But I have always been one who could cope with whatever life throws at me. I just wish it wouldn’t throw so much my way. Well, I’m still here. I’m still writing.

And now I can stop beating myself up. I’ve made my decision. I’m more informed. I’m not walking away from all the things that ‘give purpose and meaning to living’. I give of myself. It’s who I am. I want to continue loving life. I want to continue loving people.

daring to love

keep on loving

And keep on daring to be vulnerable.

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A pain in the Arts.

Pain shut off my creative spark. I didn’t have the faintest glow. Not even a hint of warmth, never mind sparkle. So, I got to thinking where does creativity come from? And where has it gone now that I’m battling this CRPS diagnosis?

How can we measure suffering?

pain scale

on a scale of 1 to 10 where would you place your pain?

Doctors usually ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10. What I’m looking for is proof that there’s a connection between pain and creativity so I can understand why my light went out temporarily.

Doctor Joy Madden who’s the self development editor for Bella online says that, actually, we might need suffering because it can have a positive effect on our creativity.

(Not mine, Doctor Joy)

Indeed, her article goes on to say, and I quote:  “Some of the most famous creative works have been accomplished when experiencing the greatest pain.”

(Oh dear)

In Pain and the Creative Process, author K. Ferlic says:

Although pain is not inherent to the creative process, it is integrally tied to the creative process as performed by humans because of how we create our experiences. Pain and the creative process are related in several different ways.”

Similarly, in Pain and suffering and developing creativity, 

Cheryl Arutt, Psy.D., a psychologist specializing in creative artist issues, says “Many creative people carry the belief that their pain is the locus of their creativity, and worry that they will lose their creativity if they work through their inner conflicts or let go of suffering…”

(Oh, double dear)

It seems to me that in articles such as these they’re talking about the need to have experienced pain of depression, loss, longing and desire to fire up the creative processes.

I’m not talking about the ‘tortured’ artist who creates on the agony in every brush stroke or word of what it felt like to be dumped by her precious ‘other’. I think it’s only common sense to see that if you want to write about heartbreak, it helps if you had it yourself at one time.

I’m talking about having CRPS right now.

CRPS pain scale

CRPS pain scale

It hurts. It really hurts. Now. And now. And NOW. Over and over like Groundhog Day.

‘Look out! Your wrist just got broken,’ mine tells me. ‘Look out! Your wrist just got broken. Tell your arm your wrist just got broken. Tell your elbow your wrist just got broken. Tell your shoulder your wrist just got broken. We’re all broken. NOW. Broken. BROKEN.’

You get the picture. But other people don’t. They’re so happy to see you out and about they slap you on the shoulder or they rub your arm and don’t realise they’re putting you through agony. I try to anticipate and turn to the side but I’m never quite quick enough.

Chronic pain is tiring. Exhausting. Medication gives you nausea on top of everything else you’re putting up with. You can’t sleep so you’re even more fatigued. You begin to avoid going to places where people will rub your arm and tell you they’re glad you’re all better now. And, yes, from time to time you get a little depressed.

With all of the above going on, how could anybody find the energy to be creative?

So where do ideas come from?

Read Neil Gaiman’s thoughts on this. I like his thinking. I like the reference to daydreaming. I like how he says ideas come often when you’re doing something else.

But, when you’re in real, excruciating pain, right now this second, you don’t do something else; you don’t do daydreaming. You’re not relaxed enough for those things. All you can do is try to cope with your pain and get through the day, the hour. When you are relaxed it’s because medication got you there and you probably wouldn’t even remember how to write a shopping list in the state you’re in, never mind write the next five thousand words.

I found I could edit, though. I could look at what I’d already written and reshape it, get it ready for publication. So there is a positive to come out of it. Maybe without the enforced limitations on my capabilities I might never have got around to editing Patterns of Our Lives. I’m pleased and proud it’s out there and selling.

But, don’t tell me pain is conducive to creative arts. It only works in the past tense.

Arse(d) Ends. Great reviews on Amazon

Mick’s crowing about his latest reviews for Arse(d) Ends, his first collection of darkly comic stories. I have a soft spot for the old boy, so I thought it might be an idea to give him a little update on MY website.

Arse(d) Ends

I know it’s a weird title. I know some people don’t like it, but Mick does and he’s sticking with it. You can’t deny the title suits the mood of each story. Mick is Celia’s alter ego. Remember him? You can find out more about him here.

One reviewer, Juliet on Amazon.co.uk has said the stories in Arse(d) Ends are ‘ a cross between Alan Bennett and Tales of the Unexpected.’

Wow!

We like that. A lot.

Arse(d) Ends story collection

comedy with a twist

There aren’t many words in the English language ending with the letters a.r.s.e. Mick took six of them as inspiration: Parse, Sparse, Enhearse, Coarse, Unrehearse(d) and Hearse.

These are stories with a twist. Humour with a hidden dagger. (Metaphorically speaking)

Mick says,

Even good people have a dark side that comes out every so often.’

Of course, Mick is more highly tuned into the things that are likely to go wrong, so while Celia moves on with her women’s fiction, Mick gets free rein in his own favourite shadowland.

The Dark Side

We’re not talking horror or fantasy or sci-fi. No. It’s more fantastical sic-fic. (I just made that up. Do you like it?)

Real life settings with real life characters but with some very odd situations – just like real life where dark and light and funny and sad can happen all at the same time.

So there are some unusual combinations in Mick’s stories.

Feral cats,

Arse(d) Ends feral cat

watch out!

and deadbolts feature in one story in the collection.    According to Mick, it’s often these unusual combination of elements that make for the liveliest stories.

Arse(d) Ends deadbolt

In another of Mick’s stories, Ted is sick to death of his wife’s hobby – making Teddy Bears. Who knew Teddy Bears could be so offensive?

Arse(d) Ends teddy bears

dangerous?

A reviewer on Amazon France says there’s something Dahlesque about the tales in Arse(d) Ends. A wonderful compliment, but if you don’t believe me, the review is there for all to see on Amazon. fr. It’s a pity all the reviews don’t show across each platform so that whether a customer is buying from .com., .uk., or any other Amazon site, they’d be able to see all the reviews if they wished.

Here’s a link to the Amazon UK page where you can click to read a sample of the first story.

Alternatively, you can listen to a short reading here.

Should I mention Arse(d) Ends would make a lovely stocking filler?

Oh, go on then.

Arse(d) Ends would make a lovely stocking filler.

Till next time,

Cheers!

Celia

Does your face match your genre?

Are authors and their novels comparable with dog owners and their dogs? Do writers look like what they write? If you’re not sure what your genre is could you simply check in the mirror? Would there be a certain look in your eyes that told you what to write? Does the way you smile give you away?

Do authors look like their genres?

Do romantic fiction writers look romantic? Are thriller writers thrilling? What can you say about the way horror writers present themselves? Do they look horrible?

Some of the authors I’ve read.

Here are some famous faces. I’ve read all of them. Not always everything they’ve written, but the following faces have played their part in my growing up with reading for entertainment. I make the distinction here between reading for pleasure and other reading. I have therefore excluded all the authors I’ve read for study and the many classics I’ve enjoyed.

Enid Blyton

when I was a child I read everything she wrote

Does this lady look friendly? Would she be a lovely mummy? Does she look as if she adored children and loved to entertain them with her stories? Or does that strong jaw speak of something heavier than nodding toys and goblins with large ears?

I know more about her now than I did when I was a child, but I think I would have been in awe of a lady who wore that kind of jewellery.

Daphne du Maurier

my teenage favourite

As a teenager I read everything I could get my hands on from the second author in my gallery. Maybe you’ve read a previous post where I explain what I loved so much about this author and the power of her characters.

Only recently have I gone back to catch up with short stories of hers which I missed when I was young.

(Edit 26/04.2014)

I can’t imagine what she’d think about a recent BBC television production of one of her novels where we couldn’t see what was happening in the dark and we couldn’t hear what was being said.

John Wyndham Sci-Fi genre

he introduced me to Sci-Fi

At school we read one of this next author’s books. I loved it and went on to read everything else he’d written too.

His works of science fiction appealed to me because they were about how extraordinary circumstances affected ordinary people. I think they’d feel out of place and dated now, but at the time it was fascinating reading about alien children or plants that captured and ate people.

A new genre had found its way into my reading. I wanted more. I looked for even darker stories and found them with the next author on my list.

Dennis Wheatley horror genre

dark tales of devilish horror

I was hooked. If my mother had realised what I was reading, I think she might have banned this author’s books. I couldn’t get enough. I think I became a Goth before Goths were invented.

His words thrilled me to bits, I suppose much in the same way a different generation of teenagers thrilled at Edward Cullen.

Eric van Lustbader thriller genre

high octane dramas

Here’s where I went next.

I had a husband by now and we had started a family. This author’s books were primarily written for a male audience, but I lapped them up. Well, haven’t I always said how much I love variety in my life? I continued reading action thrillers, horror and science fiction for several years, interspersed with books by the following author.

Harold Robbins

sexier stories

His books were best sellers. I tried books in a similar genre by female writers of the time, but didn’t rate them as highly.

It was a long time before I trusted female writers again. I discovered a woman who, although she was way before my time, spoke to me in a voice I knew well.

Dorothy Parker

sharp as bitter almonds

Oh boy, I loved her wit, her sarcasm, her pain, her fury. I devoured her short stories.  She was clever and scathing and thoroughly magnificent and I wondered what she would have written had she been born in my generation.

John Grisham thriller genre

a new kind of thriller

I can’t include every author I’ve ever read in this post – I’m sticking to the ones I read most. It’s interesting that there are more male authors than female. Maybe that means something: maybe it doesn’t. But I read everything the man on the right put out until the one about an American football team in Italy. And don’t say I objected to him changing genre. He’d already done that before and I loved A Painted House. I would never object to an author writing in a different genre.

Dan Brown thriller genre

I’ve read them all . . .

This is the man who took over. He’s the only author I’ve ever bought in hard back because I didn’t want to wait for the paperback.

I’ve read them ALL.

Does his face say ‘best-seller’?

Oh, yes.

And now it’s time to hear from the girls. Do they look like the kind of books they write?

Martina Cole crime genre

would you argue with her?

I tried reading the woman on the right. I’m including her in my list because I really did want to like her. I wanted to understand what makes her a best-seller. Really, I did. But, I can’t read her. Sorry. I couldn’t ever read J.K.Rowling either, for different reasons. Sometimes you just don’t get on with the way a writer writes. That’s okay. You can’t please everybody and I’m sure Martina isn’t the least bothered that Celia Micklefield doesn’t get on with her books. In this photo, though, she looks like what she writes. Wouldn’t you say?

Jodi Picoult

Earth mother?

I found characters to really get behind in this author’s books. She’s great. Love her to bits.

Just bought her latest.

Wouldn’t you want this lady for your sister?

I would.

Val McDermid crime genre

hard as nails?

Another face you wouldn’t want to argue with. If she didn’t write crime fiction, she’d be a butcher. Or a wrestler.

Joanne Harris

magical?

 

 

This author’s magic has bewitched many a reader. She probably had her fingers forked behind her back when the photographer took this, though.

Anne Tyler

my favourite female author

My current favourite female writer. Look at her face, those eyes. You just know she’s holding back.

And my current male author?

Lee Child

creator of Jack Reacher

Ah, Jack Reacher. Say no more.

So where would I fit in with all this?

DSCN0038

what genre?

ProfilePic

what genre?

DSCN0734

what genre?

Three pictures – all me – all different. Which genre do these faces belong to?

I don’t know.

If you do, let me know.

 

Authors in order of appearance:

Enid Blyton, Daphne du Maurier, John Wyndham, Denis Wheatley, Eric van Lustbader, Harold Robbins, Dorothy Parker, John Grisham, Dan Brown, Martina Cole, Jodi Picoult, Val McDermid, Joanne Harris, Anne Tyler, Lee Child, Celia Micklefield x3.

Feel free to comment. Maybe add your own suggestions to the list. Do you look like what you write?

Till next time,

Getting on the writing piste. Talking to myself.

I’ve wandered off my writing piste. The weather’s fine, but I’m lost in heavy going.

Maybe I’m on the wrong horse. No point in riding a fast sprinter when you’re in it for the long haul. Sprinters are for short stories, writer in Languedoc, but you have something else in mind now, don’t you?

writing piste direction

which way?

I do.

But which way to go?

There’s no worn track to follow. I’m going to have to make my own way.

See, the thing is, it doesn’t matter how many times you read how other people do their thing, how they organise their time for writing, whether they pants it first and sort it afterwards. Some of them will tell you get your outline, plot your scenes, follow this rule, follow that one. Get the backbone straight before you give it legs. It’s got to have a sound skeleton (structure) before it can run (be good enough to publish).

Yes, yes. I know, I know. And I’m grateful to all the wonderful writers out there who freely give of their experience and time to help others. Well, maybe they do want you to buy their How To book, and why not? What they have to say has helped other writers find some measure of success in this fiercely competitive world we want to break into.

However, dammit, it doesn’t matter how successful all these other writers are at following their path, because when it comes right down to it –

THAT WAS THEIR PATH.

You are on YOURS.

Let me take stock of my writing journey. It’s September and through my year so far I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.

1. New Year’s Resolution – get a website. Check.

2. Blog regularly on said website. Check.

3. Learn about SEO and other wizardry. Check.

4. Tweet regularly and support other authors without always peddling your own stuff. Check.

writing missions

on target so far

5. Get Mick’s collection of short stories out on Kindle. Check.

6. Prepare Arse(d) Ends for paperback version. Check.

7. Finish that Airport short story and submit it. Check. Sold it.

8. Keep up to date with new ideas for more short stories. Check.

9. Have another go at writing something for serialisation. Half-check.

10. I didn’t have a tenth thing on my must-do list.

So, what’s the problem, Writer in Languedoc? It sounds to me like you’ve been busy.

writing maze

which way?

Oh, I’ve been very busy. But, I’m in a maze. That’s the problem. I have a decision to make about which way to go now.

I have three novels ready for final edit.

I’m going to choose one of them and get it out there.

But which one?

The family saga – an epic 140,000 words spanning 1934 to 2010? The psychological drama? The one with the theme that hides itself?

Hmmm!

I’ll probably write a few more short stories while I’m thinking.

keep writing

 

First dark humour collection published on Kindle.

Mick Alec Idlelife. Writer of dark humour. MICK ALEC IDLELIFE. Who?

He’s just an anagram- that’s all he is. So what if he got a book published first? He couldn’t have done it without me.

Here’s the cover.

dark humour

dark humour for upgrowns

The title is as irreverent as his surname. That’s how he likes it. He doesn’t want to be categorised in a genre. The closest he will come to assigning a category of literature to this, his first collection, is to call it dark humour.

But, some of it is quite shocking. Endings can be quite a surprise. Other tales have an underlying sadness beneath the brash exterior. That’s life, according to Mick. There are no clear boundaries on feelings, he believes. It is quite possible to experience many conflicting emotions all at the same time, so why shouldn’t fiction reflect this?

There are six stories in this book, 48,000 words in total. As long as a novella. 140 pages or thereabouts depending on how large you like your font on Kindle. Mick would say it’s excellent value for money. He’s just paid £2 for something 12 pages long.

The title is wordplay in itself. There aren’t many words in the English language ending in a.r.s.e. Enough for this and a possible second collection. That’s going to depend upon the success of the first, of course.

So, it’s over to you now, people. One day I hope to be able to call you fans. Download fingers at the ready?

Here’s the page on

Amazon

-and here’s a link to my Amazon author page.

I hope you enjoy the characters and situations in Arse(d) Ends. I don’t think you’ll forget them!

Cheers!

Celia

 

 

People watching in the market. Inspiration for a story?

People watching is a favourite pastime of mine.

We’d been to the Wednesday market and sat at the same café as my previous French market post on a terrace overlooking the crowd where I like to do my people watching. I snapped a few more nice shots of people passing by.

no cicadas here

every picture tells a story

This would make a lively practice piece for character development. Who are the main characters? What is their relationship to one another? What is their background? Are they wealthy? Are they visitors to this area, or do they live here? And so on and so on.

You could use the secondary characters in the background, too. Who looks happy? Who doesn’t? Why? Is there a face that looks apprehensive? Why might that be?

Before you realise, you’re writing a short story.

Maybe you’ll follow some of these characters home to develop their story further. What would their home be like?

Here’s another people picture.

melon people

giant basket of melons

Opportunities for creating setting and character development are staring you in the face.

You can let your imagine run riot. You can write down lots of ideas. You don’t have to keep them all. Keep the ones that work best.

What are these children thinking? Why do they put their fingers to their mouths?

After every visit to the market, I come home with new characters to think about. Maybe they’ll find their way into a new short story. Perhaps I’ll keep them for something longer.

It doesn’t matter whether you write romance, fantasy, mystery, horror, sic-fi or thriller. Whatever genre you write in, or avoid becoming labelled as, most stories have one thing in common: people.

Go people watching and take a notebook. Your camera should be with you at all times, too. You never know what you might find around the corner.

People watching must be popular. There’s even a WikiHow to page about it. So, if you’re not sure how to begin, here’s a link with some ideas.

watching

Alien in my garden? Don’t look if you’re squeamish.

There was an alien invader on my garden wall. Coincidentally, I’d just written the post about cicadas and their life cycle. It’s certainly an alien concept, living alone underground for all those years. The video clip I linked explained why we’d been finding holes in the soil and we’d found empty nymph cases which we assume had fallen from the trees and shrubs.
So, when I saw the nymph attached to the rear wall of our house, I assumed it was empty.

alien cicada

I didn’t want to get too close

But it moved. And it split. I thought this transformation would be over in seconds, but, no. It takes a while. You have to be patient. And the longer I stood there with my camera, so close to this alien on my wall, the jumpier I got.

Can you bear to continue?

alien cicada on the move

it’s coming out!

I switched to video and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Nothing was happening. This video clip would use up all my Coolpix memory and take hours to upload to YouTube with our crappy Broadband speed. I’d no choice but rely on stills.

alien cicada

feeling squeamish yet?

Ah, Jeez, it’s like a blob of green snot. With eyes.

Can I hold on? Dare I stay here? What’s going to happen next?

cicada alien

getting really spooked now

Is that thing looking at me? Look out! It’s moving again.

cicada alien

I’m willing it onward.

Oh, help. I don’t know if I can stand much more. Its legs look slimy and its eyes are weird. If its wings come out in a hurry, will it fly straight at me?

cicada alien

a face only its mother could love

At this point, I can hear an alarm. It’s the bread machine which lives in the utility room. This is a coincidence. Only the other day, I recorded a short clip of dough going around. I called it alien bread because it looked so weird.

 

I have to go and take out the loaf. Normally, I love the smell of freshly baked bread. Now? After getting so close to green snotty insect life?

But, I have witnessed something wonderful, haven’ t I? How many people get to see the birth of an adult cicada? I dash back with my camera at the ready.

There’s a fluttering noise. Have I missed the final stage? Have I missed the chance to take a photograph of brand new, shimmering wings.

I round the corner.

The wall is empty.

But the nymph case is gone, too.

fat sparrow ate the alien

fat bastard!

I am bereft.

After all that? That poor little blob of green snot had lived all by itself in the dark, underground, waiting for its chance to emerge as a new creature with wings, to rise into the tree tops and sing its little heart out (if it’s a boy), only to get picked off the wall by Captain Fat Jack Sparrow.

I want to cry.

Its struggle for life is unbearable.

I’d never make a wild life photographer.

But you can see why I like writing stories where strange things happen.

Write from the heart. A cry from mine.

Easy to say. Write from the heart. Four words. That’s all. They take less than a second to say. writefromtheheart

Oh, but the questions they plant in my thinking. I’ve already spent years looking for answers.

How does what’s in your heart fit all those preconceived ideas about genre? Will your heart find its place on the bookshelves among other people’s writings from their hearts?

What if you’ve got a heart that keeps changing its mind? What if your heart wants to swim with dolphins one day and the next wants to stuff its face with clotted cream? And aren’t you just so jaded anyway with other people’s definitions about what kind of literature belongs where?

Matt Haig is. I follow his blog. I suggest you do too if, like us, you wonder why we limit ourselves with these outdated ways of classifying literature.

Matt’s not afraid to sell himself. He makes no excuses for promoting his work. His book THE HUMANS is out now and I can’t wait to get a copy. I love his take on the world of publishing and the naughty way he encourages us to break the rules. I admire his focus.

My focus changes. All the time. I write short stories that women’s magazines love. I also get a lot of rejections from the same magazines when my stories are too downbeat, too odd, too sad.

The January Girl who always feels short changed.

Not Rodgers and Hammerstein – an unconventional love story

The End of the World Party – relationships crumble at the dinner table

The Meter Man – living with someone’s annoying habits.

There’s a list as long as your arm of these stories which don’t seem to fit.

This is what I mean by swimming with dolphins one day etc. I want to write sad stories. I also want to write stories that make people laugh out loud. I see magic hiding in the vineyards around my home and I see danger lurking in the same places when the weather turns. I want to write ALL these things. Not something that neatly fits a place in somebody else’s categories.

I demand the right to write from my changeable heart. No, that’s probably too strong a word. I assert the right to write from my changeable heart. There, that doesn’t sound so angry. It’s nobody’s fault I crave so much variety, that my heart goes off in all these different directions. Maybe I should have been an octopus. They’ve got three. The extra arms would be useful, too. Do octopi sing, I wonder?

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Square peg stories – a revelation

I didn’t realize I had square pegs in nearly all my stories.

squarepeg

square pegs don’t fit round holes

It has come as quite a revelation. Most unexpected. I thought I knew pretty much all there was to know about myself. Just goes to show you; you’re never too old to learn a thing or two.

See, I’ve always felt like an outsider looking in. A watcher. A rememberer. I remember the strangest things: the colour of the upholstery in a certain restaurant in Aberdeen; what the skinny guy on the train to Barcelona in 1964 was wearing on his feet. (I saw something funny in espadrilles WAY before Victoria Wood)

On that same trip to Spain with my mother where I saw the man in espadrilles, I had my first shattering moment of self- awareness. Hurtling through French countryside on the sleeper train, I would stand in the corridor and watch fields of sunflowers zipping by. I’d wave at lines of motorists and cyclists waiting at level crossings while unfamiliar, foreign bells clanged and wonder about their lives. These foreign people. How was it that just the other side of this glass window I had my face pressed against, there were hundreds of other lives that for one instant, as the train flashed past, met and became one? How exciting and uncontrollable was that?

But more than that, the face pressed against the window thing was a perfect image of myself.

outsider looking in

face pressed against the window

When I went back to school after that man in the espadrilles holiday, I wrote poetry and had some published in the school magazine. Mother was over the moors. ( see what I did there? Yorkshire wit? Never mind.) And Miss Jones, who had served jury duty at the Penguin/Lady Chatterley court case only a few years before, said to me, Celia, she said, you are so metaphysical my dear. This is your forte.

outsider

not quite fitting in

I looked it up in my school dictionary and decided she was right. I was a serious child, given to wearing dark colours, usually navy blue and bottle green at the same time, so I suppose I always looked like a square peg. Someone different. An outsider. Not quite fitting in with the crowd. Now I had a reason. I was metaphysical. Miss Jones said so. I wore my bottle green cardigan as a totem of my new-found faith and stopped worrying about my naturally curly hair.

I wrote more poetry. I wrote short stories. Years passed. I had suitcases full of manuscripts and grandchildren on the way. My brown curly hair was turning silver, and my parents had passed. I wrote little ditties and kept them in an old exercise book.

moongazingrabbit

a popular garden ornament

The Moon-gazing Rabbit is the victim of someone else’s mistake. He’s invited to the wrong party and finds himself in the Arctic circle:

He gazed at the moon and he pondered the sky. He felt rather foolish and uttered a sigh. And then, in his loneliness, started to cry, for someone had got it wrong.

More years passed. Grandchildren nearly teenagers. My hair all silver with artistic streaks of whatever’s on special offer. More short stories. Three novels. A family saga. A psychological drama. Part one of a trilogy about a woman in a man’s world. Trobairitz, telling stories to find her place.

But I hadn’t realized there was a common thread, an element of estrangement going on in my writing.

Until. Two things.

One: I read someone else’s blog. Nan Bovington takes an hilarious look at the world of publishing. We should have been sisters. Sometimes strangers’ opinions resonate, don’t they? You feel you’ve missed something in your life because they haven’t been part of it. Nan made me laugh out loud with her irreverent pokes at publishing.

Two: I uploaded Not Rodgers and Hammerstein as my short story of the month and I read it again for the first time in, oooh, ages. Even in a romance, it seems, I write about people who don’t quite fit in. People who are looking for that special place where they might. It could be a physical location; it could be alongside another person; it might be something they have to sort out in their own head first.

They can’t always have happy endings. Life doesn’t always deliver them on cue. That’s why not all of my short stories will find their way into women’s magazines where at least an uplifting ending is hoped for.

I haven’t found the right agent or publisher yet for the things I write, but at least now I recognize the essence of what I’m writing. Am I getting there?

iceberg

the tip of . . .

My moon-gazing rabbit had it all worked out years ago.

But wait, what is this? Now can it be so? Yes really, the truth is that no-one need know. He can sit on an iceberg and go with the floe, though someone has got it wrong.

I wish he’d told me then.