Kitty Bagheera – House cat in eldest son’s student digs – miniature bundle of loveliness with fruit-bat ears, drill-like purr, lethal claws and teeth sharp as hypodermics. I wear the scars.
On prolixity, grandiloquence, garrulousness, expatiation, sesquipedalianism and logorrhea –
Don’t worry, I haven’t had to make any surreptitious trips to the STD clinic recently… I’ve actually been battling with a couple of short stories over the last few months. They’ve been quite taxing, which feels like a good thing – the sense of achievement somehow sweeter when they’re finally finished. It’s quite a rare feeling actually, for me anyway, to truly know that a piece is finished. It comes more frequently with a poem, but more often than not a story can always be improved, even if it’s just messing about with a comma, colon, or dash, or removing a superfluous adjective on a read-through, particularly after some time has passed.
I really enjoy the editing process. Now.
When I first began this story-telling malarky a very experienced writer was kind enough to look over some of my work and he circled endless words, phrases and several complete paragraphs, scrawling ‘NN’ in the margin. When I asked him what ‘NN’ meant he said, ‘Not needed’ and I said, ‘But I like that bit,’ rather petulantly no doubt. He peered at me over the top of his spectacles and said ‘I don’t care if you love it. I don’t care if it’s the best sentence you’ve ever written or are likely to write, you don’t need it. Save it for another story.’
That was a good (and difficult) lesson to learn. Now I relish hacking out great swathes of words and it feels every bit as satisfying as pruning an out of hand rambling rose, which although pretty when in bloom, has probably taken over the whole garden and is strangling everything in sight. And it never ceases to atonish me how a first/second draft 5,000 word story can withstand losing a fifth of its content, sometimes even more, and become better in the process. Or, when writing to a word limit for a competition or commission, in re-working it becomes clear that quite large passages need to be added, initially taking the count well over the upper limit, yet with the trusty delete button under my finger, it can soon be cut back to fit.
It’s good to bear in mind this quote by David Gaffney however – on writing short, short fiction of which, in my opinion, he is the master – “The habit of reducing text could get out of hand too; I once took away the last two sentences of a story and realised I had reduced it to a blank page.”
You can read the rest of this excellent piece, published in the Guardian, here.
I have a new role and I’m extremely excited about it…
I am working with The Word Factory, run by Cathy Galvin, ex Sunday Times Journalist who originally introduced fiction to the newspaper and instigated the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award.
And my new title is Associate Editor – how cool is that!
Cathy runs a wonderful Literary Salon at The Society Club Bookhop in London’s Soho where, on a monthly basis, up to four of the very best comtemporary (obviously…ahem…) short story writers share their work. It is a delightfully sociable, stimulating and stylish affair and we are bringing the event to Leicester, which is, of course, where I come in…
Our inaugural Word Factory Leicester event will be held on:
Monday 21st October 2013
The Case Restaurant, 4-6 Hotel Street, St. Martins, Leicester LE1 5AW
0116 251 7675
in the beautiful second Floor Private Room
7 for 7.30 – 9.30 pm
And have we got a line up for you… Click on the authors names to read their full profiles on the Word Factory website.
A very gorgeous looking quadrilogy, if ever there were such a thing.
It’s going to be a fantabulous night for a story. Do come and join us. As soon as the invite and facebook page are sorted I will share. Pre-booking will be required and the cost will only be ten british pounds.
On perusing an emptying nest…
Eldest son back Oop North to Uni, middle son off to Hong Kong, (gap year jaunt) youngest son back at school for the sixth form and boarding half the week. It’s quite strange after the long, hot, (and wasn’t it fanfuckingtastic) relaxed summer months – when rarely a day went by when there were less than six hungry mouths to feed, long-limbed and surprisingly-hairy bodies languished over every sofa, we worked with a constant aural backdrop of loud music, Friends on loop and/or multiple explosions and the combined artillary of COD – to be left in peace for more than half an hour at a time. But it’s quite nice too. It’s also wonderful to know that they’re managing – more than managing – they’re having fun, and making their way in the world without us.
Some people I talk to are scared by the prospect of separation, change and loss, but I can’t quite see it like that. Since I first set eyes on each of my babies I’ve felt that the best I could do would be to get to know them as they gradually grew into themselves and glory in their individuality. It is still a pleasure each day and the older they get the more they show me, the more they give me and the more we share. I love that they send me links to music they think I might like ( I usually do) or amazing images they’ve found, or stuff they’ve read, or clothes they’ve bought/seen/want, or photos of meals they’ve enjoyed and, increasingly, cooked for themselves. And in return I love that they’re interested in what I’m doing, working on, thinking about, loving, hating, listening to, reading, wearing, eating.
Earlier this week I followed my eldest up the M1 to deliver 2 full car loads of stuff in readiness for the start of term and the new academic year. I stayed over in his shared house (along with my own sleeping bag, towels, pillows and hand sanitiser, I hasten to add) and we, plus three of his housemates, enjoyed an evening of Thai taste-orgasms, shook off the ensuing food coma and embarked on a night on the town. It’s a long, long time since I called a taxi to take me out at 11.30! I was led into numerous bars, suffered Whisky Wednesday, was cajoled into downing a Jaegerbomb, (I sipped) and met a plethora of hilarious nutcases. When we made our way home the clock read more like ‘wakey wakey’ than ‘sleep tight’ and I was struck by how little students have changed in thirty odd years. It was strangely reassuring and I was relieved to discover that there’s just enough life in the old dog yet.
So… that’s where we’re at, and it feels OK. Work. Love. Play. Good Times.