Category Archives: nanowrimo

Rectory Towers: The Work Situation

I’m getting into a routine now that I’ve been here a week or so.  The first few days were taken up with other people; sister was here till Friday and from Friday to Monday the house was taken over by a horde of thirty-somethings celebrating nephew’s birthday.  As hordes go they were very gentle and caring; they chatted to me, stacked the dishwasher and put their empty bottles and cans in the recycling, but by Sunday they were all distinctly bleary-eyed and headed off to their respective lives, leaving me to begin mine here, in this house.

I’m settling in to Rectory Towers now, finding a groove that fits with my usual routine.  I do my best writing in the mornings so the hours after breakfast are devoted to the new novel.  I don’t want to say too much about it but the theme is gender and like the TV series it’s called ‘Boy Meets Girl.’  At least that’s the working title.  For the first time I can see myself actually finishing a novel, as opposed to ending it, if you see what I mean.  Previous novels have been forced to a conclusion by sheer marathon efforts, sometimes using NaNoWriMo (http://nanowrimo.org) as a spur, sometimes giving myself a time-limit.  Last year’s novel was written in about 2 1/2 months and though it was valuable no-one could say it was finished.  I got satisfaction from bits of it, but not from the thing as a whole.

This time it’s different.  I don’t know how many novels most writers have to complete before they get one they’re happy with, but I suspect it’s a few.  I’ve written maybe seven or eight over the years – I can’t remember now – some for NaNoWriMo and some not.  If you want to write a novel and can’t quite begin, I recommend NaNo – the time is coming up soon, so get with it.  The thing is to just write, get the words down, without thinking about what you’re writing and (above all) whether it’s any good.

I know I’ve said this before about poetry but I think it holds good for prose too – you don’t want the critical voice in there when you’re writing.  When you’re revising, fine – but when you’re doing the first draft, it needs to butt out.

So the first novel I ever wrote – as you’re probably tired of hearing – was about a woman stuck in a nuclear bunker.  She imagines there has been a nuclear apocalypse (it was written in the late ’80’s) and that other people will soon come.  When no-one does she believes they are all dead.  In order to survive the boredom and loneliness she begins to write what are basically her memoirs – and in coming to the most recent past, realises that the apocalypse was not real at all but the product of a mental event (there’s more to this but I won’t go into it now).  The novel is called Seven Days because she’s in the bunker for seven days; creating (or re-creating) herself; and on the seventh day she realises that the bunker isn’t real.

I wanted the story to parallel the timeline of life on earth, which I read somewhere began 300 million years ago.  In order to give myself some idea of what 300 million years was like I began to rule strips of paper into a timeline broken up into spans of a hundred years.  I started to paste them round my wall.  Progress was very slow, and in the end I worked out that if I did this for eight hours a day, seven days a week it would take me three years to complete.

So I guess you could say I got an idea of an idea of what 300 million years is like.  But no more than that.

But enough of this: so far, ‘Boy Meets Girl’ is going well; I’ve written the first few chapters already and I’m ready to plan the next lot.  Each day I put the words from the day before onto the computer and then write another section.  When I’ve done that it’s usually lunchtime; then after lunch I write a blog post or some thoughts in my diary.  Then about three-ish I take the dogs for a walk; then when we come back it’s time to suss out the fuel and wood situation and think about lighting the range.  Once I’ve got the range going I read or write some more for a while and then it’s time for dinner, over which I usually listen to whatever’s on at 6.30 followed by The Archers.  Yes, I’ve got back into the Archers again.

There’s TV in the evenings, or pub; and so to bed, having let the dogs out, checked the gas obsessively, given the dogs their bedtime treat and tucked them in.

Kirk out

Leave a comment

Filed under friends and family, my magnum hopeless, nanowrimo, novels and longer works

Here’s the first chapter of a novel I’ve been writing for several millennia.  Its working title is ‘Leuka’, which is the name of the main character – or MC as Nanowrimo folk call it.  These people are scarily jargon-y, full of acronyms and abbreviations and expressions I can’t understand.  What is a ‘plot bunny’, for example?  I think we should be told.  Anyway, here it is.  Please read and comment:

Chapter 1 – Brown

Gene Rummy

There were 47 couples on the dance-floor that night. He had counted them all – or rather, not counted, exactly but ‘seen’ them in that way that autistic people do. Not that Leon was exactly autistic; he was far too connected; too engaged with other people, too emotional and simpatico. Leuka was watching him as he observed the dancers: in a moment he would notice her looking and would turn and mirror her smile, and perhaps they would dance. Twist. Or perhaps he would object that they would mess up the DNA of the dance floor and so they would have to wait for another couple to retire. Stick.

Leuka sighed.

‘What’s the matter?’ He turned to her now, a look of concern on his face – but suddenly, it felt ridiculous to explain. ‘Shall we dance?’ she said, and instead of arguing, he took her hand and let her lead him onto the floor where she supposed they made 48 couples now.

Twist – and bust.

That night in bed she lay and thought about the spiral of DNA; how a baby grows from a little knot inside, a knot tied, as it were, between seed and egg and how the wobbly ladders of DNA start to form inside the cage, to twist and climb and twirl and expand until the imprint of that person is everywhere – on every lip, every finger, every toe, on the nose and eyeball and intestines and hairs and everything. And once the knot is tied, it all starts to grow: not just the arms and legs but the stomach and buttocks and ribs and eyeballs and vagina and everything! It grows not by fits and starts but slowly, stealthily; secretly in the darkness of the womb. The eyes! She blinked as the pages of her book were going out of focus and tried to imagine the eyes growing – the jelly and the eyelids and retina and wide-open pupils, open wide in wonder at its growing world. She blinked again; there was an eyelash in her eye and she rolled her finger inside the eyelid to get it out. There it was, tiny like – what was it the poet said? the spine of a tiny fragile animal. Imagine, if just one tiny part of that tiny body failed to grow – just think of the problems that would cause! She wondered if there were children whose eyes or stomachs or hearts refused to expand at the same rate as the rest of them, and what would happen.

She thought about Leon’s eyes. They were large and brown; she thought they were brown, though she rarely noticed the colour of people’s eyes; like Maria’s, which were green. Leon thought that odd, but she couldn’t account for it. Perhaps she was too aware of the soul? ‘Thy face in mine eye, thine in mine appears.’ That poem had been read out at their wedding. She thought about their wedding tree, the one they’d been given and had planted in the garden of that house where they’d been married, as they had no garden of their own. She wondered how much it had grown. One day they would have to go back and look, maybe take a cutting. Once they were settled. If they ever were, if they could ever stop wandering and find a place of their own.

Leuka’s first word was hernia, or so she liked to tell people; though in reality it was more likely her seventh or her tenth or her twenty-first. The news was on in that cold bare vicarage where they lodged with the vicar and his wife while Luke was a curate. It would have been the radio news, and out came the sentence: President Truman has had treatment for a hernia. And in all that welter of words Leuka Farrell picked out just one, held it to her lips, swallowed – and repeated it. Hernia. Hernia-hernia-hernia. Hernia-her-her-hernia. She repeated it over and over, and once she had digested it, she put it next to other words, piling them up, laying them end to end like bricks.

Hernia-book. Look-hernia-look-book. Look-a-book.

Look-a-book was her first phrase – probably. Leon always said it’s a matter of interpretation and the parents decide which of the child’s indigestible sounds is actually their first word. What is a word, after all? In later years Leuka was to bang her head against the study of morphology which asks precisely that – and, like most philosophies, gives no answers.

In the beginning was the word.

Then Luke got his first parish, in a different part of London. The church was at one end of the street, the school which was Leuka’s eventual destination, at the other. The vicarage was a huge dark house at the back of the church and down the path between the two, came and went the flapping, crow-black figure of her father.

Leuka was just three when May was born; this tiny reminder of what she herself had once been. Squat and square with a frown below a fringe, Leuka’s dark hair contrasted with her sister’s almost white-blonde wisps. Looking over the cradle at the tiny scrap within in a yellow cellular blanket, she could not believe she herself had ever been so small.

Later when Ivy was born she felt the same sense of exclamation at how tiny she was. And yet how much Ivy had grown just from a knot; a globule no bigger than a gob of spit, spiralling outwards in 47 different ways.

Books and their worlds, their languages. How these are reality to her, how the ‘real world is pale.

Leuka’s name was an oddity. She had been named for a Danish ancestor of Luke’s, but by some blunder the two vowels had been swapped round on the birth certificate. Luke and Jeanne, ever-timid in the face of authority, baulked at the idea of complaining and, rather than cause their child problems in later life, they adapted their spelling to the mistake. No-one in England knew any different, anyway. When she got older, Leuka tired of explaining it and developed a sort of telegraphic answer to questions: ‘Danish ancestry – name spelled wrong on birth certificate’, as though that were her telegram to the world. But she secretly enjoyed the frequent puns on her name and eventually came up with a few of her own, leukaemia being her favourite, at least until Grandma Trentham succumbed to that particular scourge.

They lived in the church, or so the children at school thought; Leuka liked to indulge them with tales of sleeping in the pews and eating round the altar: washing in the font. It all hung together. From a young age Leuka was able to walk down the one-end street to school on her own, her mother’s waving figure growing smaller and the school gates growing larger with every step. At school she chatted to her friends in a dialect Jeanne couldn’t understand; at home she reverted to her native tongue; and in church she spoke an altogether more ancient language: the language of God. You couldn’t use the school tongue in church: once her Sunday School teacher Mrs Kimber who was about a hundred years old and wore a hat like a ripe tomato, told them they must never ever say Cor blimey because it meant God blind me and one day God might think you meant it. Leuka did not believe her.

The church and vicarage were built of the same Victorian red-brick – consubstantial, she might have called them, if she’d known the word. Luke had taken Holy Orders a few years earlier and this broken, cold relic of Victorian glory was his reward. As a child Leuka was obscurely aware of her parents’ struggles and tried with her childish strength to fill the gap, always aware of falling far short. On Sundays the church was dusty and cold and the organ piped a high-up, out-of-reach tune. The sparse congregation all sat in the same place and wore the same hats and coats every week. Old-style coats and hats. Leuka sang the hymns without looking at the book. She was very bored by church, especially evensong and Matins: she was beginning to chafe at having to go to church in a smart suit three times a day. In evensong she would ask during the Nunc Dimittis, ‘Why aren’t we going?’

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace…

At school the milk comes every day, a child-size bottle for each of them. They can hear the clinking in the corridor, and then the milkman comes in and puts the crate up on top of the cupboard to sit until break-time. Leuka doesn’t like cream on her milk but Jeanne smacks her lips whenever she has it. It’s to make up for the war, when they didn’t have any and the milk was like water. One wet Monday, when they would have to stay indoors for break, a boy bangs into the cupboard and rocks it. For a moment the whole class holds its breath, even the teacher – and before anyone can stop it, the milk crate comes crashing down from the top of the cupboard; the bottles smash and the milk leaps out of them and spreads everywhere like soft, white fire.

In assembly the headmaster is called Mr Harvey and he calls the reception class ‘the titches’. He is huge and has a big voice which travels all the way to the bottom of the hall and back again.

There are games at the end of the year. Leuka likes spontaneous games but is wary of organised ones, sensing that she will somehow fail. The games she likes best are the ones she is in charge of; but with these games the teachers are in charge.obscure rules everyone else seems to understand without being told

There is a race. Leuka finds herself entered for this, though she doesn’t understand why: she doesn’t know what a race is. She is standing in a field in front of some white lines: the lines are like a stave of music, and to either side of her are other girls of her own age. They all seem to know what to do and they are all looking determined. They all have shorts on, shorts which they knew where to find, and matching t-shirts and plimsolls and socks. Leuka stands looking into the distance; then she goes into a dream. Somewhere in the distance a whistle blows, but she pays it no attention, just weaves it somewhere into the story of her dream. When she comes to, all the other girls have run off into the distance, their heels like little grace-notes skipping between the lines – and now, like the sound ‘coming on’, she can hear the roar of the crowd cheering – and all of a sudden, the realisation clicks into place: you are in this too. And slowly, belatedly, she picks up her feet and starts to run. She gathers speed and runs between the lines as she has seen the other girls do, all the way to where the teachers are waiting in the distance – and when she gets there the tape is lying forgotten on the floor, all the other girls are being congratulated, and Leuka looks up at the faces. But no-one sees. Back in the classroom, they are all given prizes – red or blue balls. All except Leuka. She goes round the room asking each of them if they will share with her, but no-one will. she doesn’t et the prize

Soon they are going to move house. Leuka begs to be able to see the new place and is eventually allowed to ride in a parishioner’s black Humber, all the way round the terrible North Circular Road. She is warned over and over that she will be sick and so she is determined not to be, no matter how nauseous the exhaust-fumes make her. At first she examines the car, exclaiming at its little indicator lights which flip out like tiny aircraft wings, but after a while she grows bored and stares out of the window at the lorries and cars.

‘There’s our friend again,’ says her father.

‘Oh, do you know him?’ asks Leuka, surprised. She has long since learned that not all adults in the world know each other.

The men laugh. ‘No,’ says the man who is driving, ‘we just call him that because we keep overtaking each other.’

Though she doesn’t like them laughing at her, she is interested in them using words in that sideways smiling kind of way, not really meaning what they should.

When they get to the new house it is bare and cold but Leuka doesn’t mind because it is so empty and unused. She runs all over it, taking possession of its bare rooms, its echoing floors and its dusty attic. The attic is intriguing: their other house hasn’t got one, and Luke says it’s where the servants would have lived ‘in the old days.’ The garden is very big and overgrown but the man who let them in says they will ‘strip it’. Leuka thinks that would be a sad thing to do. There’s a garage as well, at the back, though Jeanne and Luke don’t have a car yet. She wants to know which room will be hers. Luke says they’ll have to see, though the room at the top of the stairs at the back will be his and Jeanne’s and it will be decorated ‘by the parish’ along with the hall and stairs and the front downstairs study.

On the journey back Leuka dozes and then wakes while the traffic jerks around the North Circular once more. She arrives home in triumph, having taken possession of the house ahead of her mother and sister.

It’s an age before they move, and when they do the house is still bare and empty though some parts have been decorated and there are carpets on the stairs and landing. Leuka shows May all over it and while the removal men bring in the furniture they play in the wild, overgrown garden. That night when they go to sleep they can see the planes coming in to land one by one through the bare windows.

Kirk out

3 Comments

Filed under friends and family, nanowrimo, novels and longer works

I’m Mentioned in Dispatches!

Well, following on the Nanowrimo triumph, I had my quarterly copy of Mslexia in the post – and guess what?  My name is in there as one of the upcoming guest bloggers.

lizbit

 

So hot on the heels of this, I sat down to write my first blog post for Mslexia.  Then I decided to write a poem about taxes.  Inspired by Billy Bragg’s ‘Talking with the Tax-Man about Poetry’

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talking_with_the_Taxman_About_Poetry

I began a poem about my feelings when I see those deadly brown envelopes which seep into the house and cause despair wherever they go.  So that helped me to feel better.  Apart from that and a few other bits and bobs, I am having a rest this week and tackling the damp.  Oh, the damp!  I thought that living in a house with central heating would mean there was no damp, but this doesn’t seem to be the case.  We have damp patches in the kitchen and spots on the bathroom ceiling as well as a couple of unnerving splodges which have appeared in the bedroom right above our heads.  Maybe it’s the letters from HMRC which are causing all the damp…

Stand by for my first blog-post on the Mslexia blog, coming up soon:

http://mslexia.wordpress.com

Kirk out

Leave a comment

Filed under friends and family, nanowrimo, novels and longer works, poems, The madness of Mark

I Dun It! I Dun it! I Dun It!

Yessssssssssssssssss!  75,000 words completed today!  Actually the count according to my laptop was around 76K, though the family computer only made it 73.  But I suspect that computer is a nasty little liar.  So I’m feeling quite chuffed with myself at the moment, the more so since the novel actually has some sort of rough shape which can be licked and honed and generally tweaked until it’s just about pretty damn-near perfect.

Right now I’m waiting for the husband to return so that we can both lay into the potato curry I’ve made.  Potato curry is a staple of mine: since I hate following recipes (see previous post)

https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2014/10/18/when-all-else-fails-read-instructions/?preview=true&preview_id=8305&preview_nonce=9daf01a711&post_format=standard

I tend to master a few dishes and then do them over and over.  Pizza is another thing I do regularly, and from time to time we have lasagne; however since Him Indoors is in charge of cooking, I don’t get to do them very often.

Son has returned from an 18th birthday party.  I can’t believe he’ll be 18 in a few weeks too – it’s quite incredible.  As is the thought that daughter will soon have finished her first term at uni.  She’s already thinking about putting a deposit on a flat – apparently they have to do that about now to get one for next year.  Bloody ridiculous.

And that’s it – that’s all the news that’s fit to print.  Have a great Sunday – or what’s left of it.

Kirk out

Leave a comment

Filed under friends and family, nanowrimo, The madness of Mark

Fuff-fuff-fuff-fuff-fuff!

It’s fuff-fuff-fuff-freeeeezing here in blogland today.  After complaining and worrying about an over-warm autumn, I am now feeling the cold very much indeed.  Our kitchen thermometer is showing 13 degrees, which Mark claims is ‘not really cold’ but which I claim is fuff-fuff-fuff – you get the picture.

NaNo has moved from the dining room to the sitting room for the duration of the fuff-fuff-fuff, which gave me a good reason to turf infuriating sleeping son off the sofa (he sleeps downstairs ‘so that he can wake up’ – yet god help anyone who actually tries to wake him) and also a different perspective on writing.  This is often helpful, I find – you do want to have a particular spot for writing, but a change of scene now and again can work wonders.  And today I reached 4,000 words without even trying, leaving me just 1300 to do after lunch.

I will be busy this afternoon, doing Spanish followed by drumming, and then off to Peter’s for yoga and dinner and a little light printing.  The printing is for the gig tomorrow as I want to have some poems on cards to give all the people who are coming to the Twilight Gig (see poster below).  I know Peter’s flat will be Mmmmmmmmmmmm-ahhhhh! and not fuff-fuff-fuff! as he always keeps it warm.  I’m going to have to set the heating to come on earlier here, as it just isn’t warm enough at 7 am after only half an hour.  I don’t mind the cold quite so much if I’m moving around, but most of my work is done sitting down and then I get really chilled off.

NaNoWrimically, I’m up to 56,000, on target to do 75K by the end of the week.

Time for soup now, then I must get the nose back to the grindstone.  Here’s the poster for tomorrow’s gig: I’m on at 5.30.

Nope, it refuses to post it.  OK so see you at Embrace Arts, Lancaster Rd, tomorrow evening.

http://www2.le.ac.uk/hosted/embracearts

 

Leave a comment

Filed under culcha, friends and family, nanowrimo, poems, The madness of Mark

Don’t Spike Till You’re Spoken To

I went to prison this afternoon.  It was quite an experience: not my first stretch, since I’d worked at Stocken Prison in Oakham years ago on a poetry project; this however was my first time inside HMP Leicester.  Leicester, as local people will know, resembles a castle from the outside.  From the inside it’s more like Stalag 51 with barbed wire and high fences inside the walls; gates which have to be double- and triple-locked and which can’t be unlocked at all when a red light is showing (ie when the outside gates are open) – and I was informed by the member of staff who showed me out, that sometimes staff finish their shift and can’t get out because there’s a lock-down.  I wouldn’t fancy that at all – in fact the poet whose gig it was told me that he’d once been locked inside a prison overnight.  Security trumps everything.

Anyway, as you will by now have gathered, this was a poetry performance, by a guy called John Siddique:

http://www.johnsiddique.co.uk

He was good: thoughtful and entertaining and he really engaged with the prisoners.  There were about eight of them; all young-ish men apart from one older Asian man, and all pleasant and witty.  They read some of their poetry afterwards and it was quite stunning.  Once again people without a stake in society prove that they can bring a clarity of vision and an honesty to their work.

This was followed by some short radio-plays which were based on testimonies by some of the prisoners: again these were touching and amusing.  Some prisoners spoke of their regret at the things they’d done wrong and how they wanted to have more control over their own actions in the future.

When I left there were families outside waiting for visiting time.

39,000 words today!  How are you doing?

Kirk out

Leave a comment

Filed under culcha, drama, nanowrimo, poems, politics, radio, radio

Ready, Shreddy, Go!

I haven’t blogged for a few days, what with NaNoWriMo and all the other stuff that’s going on, not to mention the shredding.  Oo!  Did I tell you about the shredding?  I have an ever-growing pile of cuttings and prunings at the bottom of the garden and no idea what to do with them, so I went on Streetbank

http://www.streetbank.com

and asked to borrow a shredder – and lo and behold! some kind soul who turned out to be the gardener from the Martyrs offered to lend me theirs.  They even brought it round – so on Sunday I got it out and fired it up.  It started for about a second and then stopped and refused to do anything.  ‘Oh, no!’ I thought.  ‘It’s the lawn-mower all over again!’

https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/the-writers-song-and-a-dead-womans-handle/

but then I opened it up and saw that a wedge of wood (not Wedgewood) was stuck in the blade, and having freed that, Bob was well and truly my Uncle.  It’s very satisfying getting branches and twigs, sticking them in the top and seeing them vanish as they are chewed up and spat out the other end as mulch.  Lovely.

Back at the laptop-face, I have been keeping up with my Nano word count and I’m now up to 23,700 words; about fourteen chapters.  I’ve had a court case, an artists’ meet-up, a political meeting and a bust-up with a friend, so I’m quite happy.

What do you think of the new profile pic?  In some ways I prefer the old one, but I chose this one for the Mslexia blog.  I was going for highly intelligent and slightly scary.  Does that work?

In other news, my bid to run a workshop at Embrace Arts has finally succeeded.  It pays sometimes to ask people why they’ve rejected you!  And last night I went to a meeting of the literary caucus of the planning group for next year’s Clarendon Park Artbeat.  This is a (very) local arts festival and was terrific this year: next year I am leading a poetry performance workshop, organising a poetry breakfast called ‘Poetry on Toast’ and setting up guerilla poetry on Queen’s Rd.  All good stuff!

Kirk out

Leave a comment

Filed under friends and family, nanowrimo, poems