On truth being stranger than fiction

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.

6 thoughts on “On truth being stranger than fiction

  1. Never, ever, ever give up! I have been on the sharp end of rejection letters. In fact, in my loft, I have two A4 envelopes stuffed full of them, both from literary agents and publishers alike. And when I say “stuffed full”, I mean it. One of the envelopes has fifty rejection letters in it! And don’t even get me started on the emails! I’ve also received rejection letters from magazines. I remember submitting a story to “The Lady” magazine. I got my submission back, no accompanying letter, but just with the word “No” written on the top of it. “Not very ladylike” I thought to myself. Then again, I have had some success with publishing. I’ve had a few articles accepted, and even got paid for a couple of them. Woohoo! I have three True Crime books published for Amazon Kindle, plus a book of poetry that I wrote with my Dad. None of them are big sellers,not by a long chalk, but they wouldn’t be there at all if I’d simply given up (and believe me, I almost did. Only the support of my husband got me through).
    I love your posts, and the way you write is simply wonderful! The world has more than enough fame hungry, money-grabbing, talentless, wannabes who want everything they think the world owes them and a bag to put it in. More storytellers is what we need. Storytellers like you.
    Oh, and by the way, days spent snuggling with cats, knitting and reading sound pretty idyllic to me! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the encouragement and advice. I must say that scrawled ‘No’ is just plain ignorant and rude – not what you’d expect from The Lady. Have to say, do greatly enjoy snuggling with cats, knitting and reading but it doesn’t seem very ‘meaningful’. 🐮

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do understand. And yet, you’ve had your work accepted and published, and that makes you a bona fide writer. So write! Yes, you need the hide of a rhino to withstand the barbs of criticism, but if someone doesn’t like your work then just think, in the immortal words of Monty Python, “Tough titty for you fish face!” It’s their loss!

        Liked by 1 person

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