This evening, in the one hour hiatus between the end of Stargate SG1 and the start of the new Stephen Poliakoff drama Close to the Enemy (I never miss a Stephen Poliakoff) I switched off the TV (yes, occasionally I do), put on a curate’s egg of a Jorma Kaukonen CD (Quah – one brilliant track, one ear-wormy, the rest, hmmm….) and dipped a cautious toe into a book I never expected to be reading at this stage in my career – Writing Short Stories by Zoe Fairbairn.
I long ago grew weary of How To Write books. Also, I have had short stories published, if only a few and mostly in out of the way places. I have in the past been better at winning short story competitions than getting things published on a bread-and-butter, i.e. money-making, basis. I have very little sticking power and am easily discouraged.
For the longest time, as my Canadian sister says, I posted story after story to women’s magazines – and got them all back. Most of them are on this site as a matter of fact, if you want to know what a woman’s magazine reject looks like, though there quite a few that have been written specially for ‘here’ and have never been sent anywhere. Virgin stories – tee hee.
On the other hand I came first, second and third in one competition. Anonymous, you see – they thought I was three different people, one of them a man because the story happened to be written from a man’s point of view. And I was one of six finalists in a BBC End of Story competition. Last time I looked there was still an awful photo of me buried in their archived pages. I am very pink, not quite so old, with a terrified, lopsided grin and falling-down bird’s-nest hair.
And I did get that thing about the dying witch in The Cat that time. She was dying with a cat, of course.
But recently – well, I wrote about it a few days back – for one reason or another I stopped reading and then stopped writing. It was a kind of Old Testament feeling, like that story about Pharoah’s dream of the seven lean and ill-favoured kine (Genesis 41:27 for fellow text-obsessives). Yes, I felt as if I had entered a sort of shrivelled cow phase.
I started reading again by going back in time to young adult books, fantasy and science fiction: easy reading and my imagination’s natural home. And thinking that what worked for reading might also work for writing I ordered the aforesaid beginner’s short story-writing book.
(Sigh!) I hate all those exercises they give you. I never want to do them. However – onwards and upwards – the first exercise was What happened to you yesterday?
What did happen to me yesterday? I couldn’t remember a thing that happened yesterday. This is not, I think (I hope) down to failing memory. More that every day is the same nowadays. I have no job, Mum’s in a Home, one sister in Canada, another not requiring my company and neighbours who now view me as a hermit. I’m working on it, certainly.
So, I’m indoors in November with twelve cats and no central heating. Of necessity my days are dominated by zoo-keeping activities, and keeping warm. I heat one room and stay in it. Seven out of the twelve cats also stay in it. They rather like the plug-in radiators. In between zoo-keeping, housework and ‘admin’ I watch TV, knit, read, tiddle about with this blog. Could I be doing more? Who knows. Anyway, it’s much the same every day.
Maybe I could write a story about an old biddy living in one room with a lot of cats who can’t remember what she did yesterday, I ponder. Ah…or maybe I could write about an old biddy who discovered, in the early hours of the morning after very little sleep, that a man with an orange face and a startling blonde comb-over who used to be on reality TV and wanted to build a wall between America and Mexico had just been voted into the White House.
Nah! They’d never buy it.
Featured Image: Jorma Kaukonen in longer-haired days. I do believe he’s 75 now. Time flies.