Friday, 31 December 2010

another writer looks back at the year and also ahead to the new one


I've started this post about 5 times, deleting and re-doing it, unsure of how to really talk about my writing year. Thing is, it's impossible to do it without mentionning Mum. I veer away from blogging / facebooking about Mum, or about anything really personal - it's all part of my love / hate relationship with the idea that we have 'digital doubles' - the side of ourselves we choose to show online. And that I don't think I can get the words right, they will be too dramatic, or too casual, or not natural. But in leaving it out I feel guilty, and dishonest.

Overall I can't judge the 2 things together, only to say that I can't judge them apart. I can't say 'this happened/didn't happen' because of what I was going through. Even for an analytical person it's hard to detach enough to know how you've reacted to such a loss when it's still close by, and when really - you're still in it. But I do feel changed. And thankful.

And I feel hopeful.

I have high hopes and good feelings for 2011.

2011: my writing goals (don't like that word, or resolutions, or aims... can't think of a better one now though. Suggestions?)

- to write and publish something other than short stories. Although I will keep writing and publishing short stories, but I want to stretch myself and write some non-fiction. I have a few ideas for articles and places that might take them, nothing big - I'm new to it and will start small - but I've wanted to dabble in article writing for a while and it's time to add another string, I feel.

- to make good use of my agent contact. One of the most out-of-the-blue and lovely things to happen in 2010 was the offer to send some of my work to a literary agent. This is the kind of thing that you dream of happening - and although I'm not being rose-tinted about it - I know it doesn't mean that when I send something along the agent will love it and want to sign me and that will be the start of something - I am aware of how infrequently you get a chance to converse with someone in the publishing world, and I don't want to let that chance slip away. (If the agent in question reads this, please know that when I say 'make good use of' I just mean 'seize', in a very professional and normal way.)

- be less distracted by the internet. Always something I battle with, any time of year. Not much to be said about it - it's simple - get offline and write.

- and when I suddenly get a good idea, or have a breakthrough moment - don't decide NOW is the time to put the washing in, make a cup of tea, phone a friend, have a bath... odd, this one, only something I've become aware of recently - I can have a really good feeling about something, then just swan off. This is weird, Teresa: stop it.

- make progress with the 3 main projects you are working on right now. 2 books and 1 short story are edging forwards at a very slow speed. Let's speed it up.

I think that's all. It has taken me 3 hours to write this post, I've been doing things in between, but still... It's a hard thing to do though, looking back and looking forward.

I'd like to champion the present too - it never gets enough attention.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

bits of christmas

So it's that weird time between Christmas and New Year. I quite like it actually. I've always liked New Year: possibilities, ideas, reflections and goals.

I thought I'd share a few images from the last week. Christmas was okay - different without Mum, sadder, more emotional. I didn't feel Christmassy, but I had some nice experiences with Mario's family and my own.

There was also one traumatic experience; we went for a walk on Christmas Day and saw a man jump off a bridge into the (mainly frozen) river. The five minutes it took for the emergency services to get there were awful, frightening and surreal. He was okay, saved. Thankfully. It took a while to get over the feelings it conjured in a such a short space of time, made more intense because Mario wanted to jump in and help him, and I had to hold him back. There were other families around too, and maybe the oddest part of it was the silence, at first, no one spoke, apart from to call 999, I guess we were in shock. But he is out, and saved, and getting help and attention. The rescue response was amazing, how lucky we are to able to dial a number and help comes as fast as it can.

I'll write a post in the next few days that is writing-orientated, I imagine they'll be a list of resolutions and maybe some reflecting on the writing year that's passed. For now, I'll share a few photos.

East meets west:
not really, but this photo epitomises the cultural leanings of the Teresa/Mario household - my contribution: pickled onions and sausages on sticks. Mario brings dolmades (stuffed vineleaves). I love both.

Our mini disco tree, looks good with sausages and pickles a-top.

The lights and the star are up all year round, but they take on a Christmas vibe at Christmas.

I had some lovely presents, but I can't stop admiring my new slipper boots sent from Australia from Mario's sister. Now you can too.

Friday, 17 December 2010

another day

another submission.

Finally heard back from Mslexia and although my story got shortlisted for the next issue, it didn't get selected. A small exhale of curses. And move on...

So I've just edited it very slightly and sent it right back out again to here - Notes from the Underground - a free magazine with a huge readership that's distributed all around London, including on the underground. I've wanted to send something to this magazine before, I like that it's free and that it reaches people easily. Cross things for me. Ta.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

flick of a switch

I just made my first short story submission in 3 months - maybe the longest I've ever gone without entering some kind of competition or writing prize. My focus has been on my novel and a few other longer stories, so it feels amazing to have actually sent something away for consideration.

The end-of-year feeling looms, and it looms in a darker and more significant way as the anniversary of my Mum's death comes with it. This has been the hardest year of my life, and I can feel parts of me falling away, changing. I feel more protective of myself, strangely. In a short time I lost many of the things that held me together, and only recently am I realising that this new scaffolding is coming up around me. It's not like becoming hardened, I'm not that at all. But you do learn things when you go through something like this, about yourself and the people around you. Everyone deals with a bereaved person differently, and some won't deal with you at all. There have been some surprises; thankfully the good outweigh the bad.

I realised this year how much I turn to writing, and not just in the obvious way like writing how I'm feeling in my diary. If I've had a tough day, or I've been thinking over some hard or painful stuff, I'll consciously switch myself to 'writer' mode, and often it's as explicit as saying out loud: 'Okay - to writing now'. Or I'll write those words down after a journal entry, like I'm flicking a switch and going into another world.

It's not always about creating something, it can be about doing something practical, like researching places to sub to, or filing something, or sending some work out to an editor. It's probably to do with identity, and control, which I guess are two things I've been trying to keep hold of all year.

Friday, 10 December 2010

come to me, ideas

spark and light up a bulb
like ta-da!
you keep tapping me on the shoulder
and then running away

you're an idea of an idea
a whisker, a wave
from too far away

I'm walking towards you
I'm doing my bit.

That's just a bit of nonsense I wrote this week in my notebook as I worked on developing some ideas for a novel. You know that feeling when you're trying to get a plot point sorted, or you're struggling with some aspect or another, and it feels like it's there just somewhere out of reach... it was a bit like that.