My Monster’s Name is Harry

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This is the second installment of the story of Harry and Emily. It was harder to write as I had to decide where to go next and what part of their lives I wanted to show you. I hope I have entertained and planted some seeds along the way!

windowsill painting 

My Monster’s Name is Harry

II

It’s sunny today, so Harry and I sit at the window and spy. There are lots of things going on; all it takes is a little bit of watching. Where we live is a cul-de-sac with all the houses in a circle like the fat end of a thermometer. In the old tree outside robins are building a nest. They’ve been at it for days and it never seems to get any bigger. Mainly because the bigger one always throws out what the other one brings, leaving a puddle of stones and plastic at the bottom of the tree. Then when the smaller one discovers this, it rips at the nest undoing all the work of the bigger one. After that they shriek and dance around each other until they both get worn out, and have to start all over again the next day. I get tired just watching them.

Then there’s Mr. Matterface who shuffles everywhere as if his feet are stuck to the ground. He has wild eyebrows that grow out in hairy hooks that make umbrellas over his eyes. Every morning, even when it’s raining, he waters his garden by standing in the middle and turning in a very slow circle. In the evenings he sits on a wooden chair and reads beneath a lamp that dangles over him like a giant flower. What he reads I don’t know, because for the past few Christmases I’ve asked for binoculars and got none.

“I draw the line at helping you invade people’s privacy Emily,” dad said after I’d asked for the third time. When I said all people need to do is draw their curtains, he told me to stop being such a smart arse.

Harry doesn’t like the sun, so he’s wearing a pair of heart shaped sunglasses. Plus as all the black fur makes him get hot, he’s waving a magazine I’ve folded into a fan in front of his face. He’s puffing and moulting all over the place.

“You look stupid.”

Harry stops fanning. “Well they’re your stupid things.”

“Well excuse me for not having stuff meant for a monster at the beach.”

“Or for the rain, or snow or even going outside.”

“What does that mean?”

With a hrmph he turns away from me and bites at his lips.

We’ve been arguing a lot lately. About the noises Harry makes when he sleeps that keep me awake. About when he leaves the window open that makes the room freezing. About when he stands behind me in the mirror and makes horrible faces. I turn back to the window and try not to cry.

A vroom vroom breaks our silence. It’s Conor from next door on his bike. He’s loud and annoying and twelve and the only boy I’ve kissed. He’s wearing a cowboy hat and zooming around in circles. At the end of each circle he sticks out his legs and leaves the pedals to turn on their own in a strange clickety clack. I get dizzy as I watch him, each circle getting wider until he’s on the pavement. With a huge vroom vroom he goes wider again, this time into front gardens, flattening grass and ripping the petals off flowers. Harry and I grasp hands, the argument forgotten. It’s the most excitement we’ve had in forever.

Another circle and the wheels go so fast, the spokes twinkle in the sun. Out of the shadows of his over-fed trees, Mr. Matterface appears. Conor cycles, hat wiggling and legs peddling. His shouts get louder with each whirl of the wheel. Harry and I lean forward, our muscles tight. With a big whoosh Conor is thrown off the bike. He lands on the concrete, his clothes dark with damp patches. The bike topples to its side, the pedals still spinning. Conor screams, a loud howl that brings his mother running out of the house. Mr. Matterface and his hose disappear into the shadows.

Harry laughs first, in spits that hit the window and dribble down the glass. His fur shakes, the fan drop and he falls from the windowsill onto the carpet. My giggles turn to roars and I roll off after him. We lie beside each other, me screeching, Harry hooting. I wheeze and cry and creak and feel like a person again.

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The Nearly Writer’s Diary – January was a bit like wrestling a crocodile

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January

January was a bit like wrestling a crocodile

It’s been a month. A strange, protracted, deluged four weeks since my last diary entry that seemed to fly and drag all at once. January was a difficult beast, a crocodile in the mud that needed wrestling into shape. I started off 2014 with an appetite, a renewed determination to write and write and then write again. Better pieces with poignancy that once read made someone sit back, think and try to figure out where the words brought you.

A writing streak of two weeks was interrupted by moving, packing up all our possessions and relocating to a place so quiet, I now cough just to make sure I’m still there. It’s peaceful, smack in the middle of Dublin and a perfect place to muse and write. Saying that, all of this is hyperbole, because since moving in a week ago my laptop has stayed as firmly shut as my creative mind. So today I am breaking through that and resuming the Nearly Writer’s Diary, month by month.

I had a few successes in January. The first was a flash fiction piece Five Birds’ Worth being accepted for publication in The Dying Goose. Then two more pieces were snapped up, both to be released in a few months for exciting publications that I’m very happy to be part of. I also got the coolest rejection e-mail I have ever received, a “so very close” with the suggestion of a rework. It was still a no, but one I’m proud to have in my inbox.

Another success (albeit an unrealised one as of yet) is I have finally figured out what to concentrate on and try to get published. It’s a flash fiction collection, a world I have inhabited for the past few months and thoroughly embraced. It suits my style, my brevity, my economy of words and I love the punch a mere 300 words can give. To me it’s creating something that crawls slowly up your spine and pulls on your brain stem. Aspirations aside, I wonder who will be interested in publishing it? Is there interest out there? Is there a market? Will it be of interest to an agent or publisher? I guess these are questions I ask myself and don’t know the answers to. I need to find them out along the way, and cross all that’s crossable someone bites. Either way I’m going to enjoy creating it and will have something at the end of it, which can’t be a bad thing.

One thing I wanted to do this year was sign up to some courses. I find them a great way to look at writing from a fresh and different perspective and meet other writers. So in February I have signed up for two; one that will examine how fiction works and the other is scriptwriting for animation. Writing for film is something I have wanted to do for a long time and the beauty of animated films is their humour, something I struggle to do convincingly. So I’m intrigued to see what nuggets I can learn from someone working in that area.

So it’s been a great and bumpy start to the year. Now in a new abode, I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things and lay the words where they choose to fall (or where I make them!) Who knows what the month of Hallmark love will bring…

Wings

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I realised that I hadn’t written about nature in a while (one of my favourite topics) so decided to revisit my grandparents place in the west of Ireland, and channel some of the memories. I hope it brings you to a place you wouldn’t have been otherwise.

butterfly made out of crushed beer cans

Art by Paul Vilinski from Scampbell’s blog

Wings

We hid behind briars, looped with angry branches. Baby blackberries, green and scaly were out, safe beside long thorns. Donal breathed loudly just like a horse after a race. His breaths smelt of gum and garlic. In the field, cows snorted and chomped grass that left green bubbles at the sides of their mouths. Whenever we popped up our heads, they turned and stared with marble eyes. It was our Saturday morning ritual, one my brother loved, that got me a punch if I said I didn’t want to go.

“There’s one.” Donal pointed at a patch of sky, grey as the ash in a burnt out fire.

“Where?”

“Over there. Beside the trough.”

And there it was; a brown and red pair of wings fluttering over a patch of buttercups.

“C’mon let’s go.”

He held the net in his hand, a big one that our dad used to scoop up fish. Gravel scrunched beneath our feet. He vaulted over a wall while I climbed the gate. As I clambered up the bars it squeaked, a noise that got a Donal eye roll. “Hurry up will ya, it’ll be gone before you get your fat bum over it.”

On softer ground, our steps sunk. I scanned the grass, careful to avoid the sloppy cow pats, while Donal balanced on the tops of his wellies and tiptoed. A few steps from the trough we stopped. The wings glided above the flowers, silent and calm. I stood and watched, afraid to breathe. With a dip the wings landed, spread out across a yellow buttercup. Ignoring my brother’s hiss, I moved in and bent down. The wings were the colour of chocolate with red puddle-shaped spots and specks of cotton wool white. They twitched softly while the flower swayed. I had never seen something so beautiful up close.

With a quick arm the net was thrown, a blue string cage across the ground. The wings tried to flap, while its furry black body squirmed like a worm in soil. With a “gotcha” Donal moved towards the net, a smile streaked across his face. I watched the wings, now still and stuck to the buttercup, its wiry long ears bent in half.

I thought of our shed. Shelves lined with bottles and jam jars full of upside down wings and tiny legs in the air. With a roar I stood and charged, Donal’s mouth now a circle of surprise. I pushed him back and we fell, arms wrapped round each other like snakes. He pulled at my hair, a big clump right near my ear. I clawed at his face, fingers sinking into damp holes. He screamed out words he wasn’t meant to use. Lines of red started to appear, on his neck, across his cheeks.

“You have to let it go. You have to.”

He grabbed my hands and clamped his fingers round my wrist. “What the hell’s wrong with you?”

My heart went buh-duh, buh-duh. “We can’t kill it.”

He scrunched his face, a criss-cross of my scratches. “What’s the big deal? It’s only a bug.”

“I don’t care. I don’t want to catch them anymore. Let it go.”

I clamped my legs tight round his sides, with all the strength I had. He pushed out his lips, the way he did when mum told him off. “Fine. But, just this one.”

I pulled away from his grip and rushed to the net. The wings were too still to be good. I leaned over and blew. Donal stood behind me, arms crossed. “Well, that’s not gonna work stupid.”

I blew again, harder this time. “C’mon Puddles, you can do it”. With a twitch the wings drew back, closed so it was just one, its red puddles now eyes. “That’s it. Flap again”. With a shiver it flapped, so fast it made the flower patch shake. The wings rose up and up, and stopped right over my head as if dangled by string. “Goodbye Puddles.” Then it flew, past the trough, over the shed and into the ash coloured sky.

Mission Improbable

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I’ve been reminiscing a bit this week. About where and when my head over heels love for writing fiction really begun. Granted when I was a child I had a diary and worked as a science journalist for a number of years, but my real foray into the fiction world only really started just over three years ago.

In 2010 I decided to put ideas onto paper with the hope they would come to something readable at the end. The first story I got accepted for publication was a quirky one that just seemed to wriggle onto the page. I clearly remember reading that ‘yes we want it’ e-mail from wordlegs and jumping around the place, the smile etched on for a number of days afterwards. It was my first acceptance and I was hooked. Three years later I’m still here, writing different things, experimenting, trying to find my way and as determined as ever to keep on going. So in that vein, here is that first published story about a deadly race with only one possible winner…

Race track

Mission Improbable

Alan, Carl and John are positioned at the starting line. The three have been friends for as long as they can remember. Now they face the ultimate test. The difficult terrain and dangerous obstacles mean that the chance of success is slim. Despite the high risk a mass of bodies pour out and around the ticker tape. Anticipation pulses through the crowd and determination masks the face of each competitor. This is what they have all been waiting for. In fact it is what they were born to do.

The trinity have agreed that friendship will not get in the way. The race is wide open and each plan to play to their strengths. The largest and oldest, Alan is broad and strong, a formidable opponent. Tall and muscular, Carl is built like an Olympic athlete both in agility and stamina. The smallest of the group, John is lean but speedy making him difficult to overtake.

The tension is palpable as starting time approaches. Each contender casts their line of vision from left to right, sizing up the myriad of opponents.
“Welcome to the race of your lives gentleman.”
A melodic voice booms from deep within the cavern ahead. Consonants and vowels rebound off the thick walls. “As you know, only one of you can win. Rules do not exist, and it can be ugly and brutal. The only piece of advice I can give you is to use every advantage available.” The voice pauses for effect. “The majority of you will not make it. Get ready and good luck.”
The stark pep talk seems to unnerve the crowd, and disgruntlement spreads like a virus. Not to be distracted, the three friends use the opportunity to weave through the throng and position themselves in the front row.

From beneath a rumble sounds. In unison they turn to each other and incline their heads in a nod. It is a gesture filled with so much; camaraderie, hope and resolve.

A series of tickling waves make the ground quake. The floor becomes unsteady and starts to shake violently. Mayhem ensues as half of the rows are catapulted forward into the darkness and the others are pelted backwards. Amidst the confusion a gun shot roars.

The fortuitous three use the forward inertia and race into the darkness. The light is dim leaving them to rely on a combination of instinct and luck to steer them. The air is damp, pungent and sweet. Carl takes the lead, ducking and diving to avoid the strong and erratic currents. In front of him an opponent fails to swerve in time, and is hit straight on by an errant ripple. He is pummelled to the ground and goes rigid. Carl flinches, but keeps moving to retain the steady pace he has mastered. From behind he catches sight of Alan low to the ground like a hovercraft on steroids.

With care, Carl manoeuvres around a sharp corner. Light floods the tunnel making an exit visible. Intuition tells him to stop and he floats uncertainly peering into the neck of the opening. Attached to every surface of the void are thousands of gelatinous sacs in the shape of torpedoes. Unwilling to be the first through he moves aside and lets those behind him pass to see what will happen.

A large swarm approaches led by John. He notices the stationary Carl and braces himself. By flattening and extending his wiry torso John soars through the air like a dart. The brave tactic pays off as he avoids the falling missiles and disappears out of sight. Thousands of contestants follow and are shot down one by one. Their desperate screams and burning flesh fill the air.

The massacre over and walls bare, Carl creeps into the awaiting ravine. A misjudged move sends him crashing into the wall. Expecting the worst he shrinks and curls his body inwards. To his surprise he is flung backwards through the air. Using the discovery he angles his body and bounces upwards at lightning speed. Within minutes he catches up to John and the pair climb aggressively.

The incline becomes steeper and muscles start to ache. Out of nowhere Alan appears and forges ahead. His slow and steady pace has helped him through, and the extra muscle he possesses is perfect for this leg of the race. The exhausted duo follow closely behind.

Up ahead the opening widens and a small crowd is gathered in front of two spiral tubes. One leads to the right, the other the left. Only a handful have made it to this point, and deep discussions are taking place. But time is ticking by. A quick decision steers John into the left passage, and surreptitiously the other two follow.
It soon becomes clear why nobody else is going through. The entrance is littered with desiccated and shrunken bodies. Undeterred, they pass over the fallen corpses. Wet heat slaps their faces and breathing becomes difficult. To share the burden they move in a triangular shape with Alan leading. Purple feathered tentacles line both sides of the tunnel, which waft menacingly as they pass. Lethargic and distracted they veer off course. In an instant a furry frond reaches out and grabs Alan. He gasps and splutters in the tightening coil as the pair look on helplessly. Convulsions rack his heavy frame and he croaks “keep going” before disappearing into the furling appendage. Moisture gathers in John and Carl’s eyes as they mourn their lost comrade.

Like conjoined twins they slowly negotiate the downward path, making sure to stay in the centre to avoid their friend’s fate. Both are flailing and unsure how much longer they can last. Beneath them something is glowing. Invigorated they rush forwards. A gasp escapes John as they look upon their prize; a large shimmering sphere surrounded by a golden halo. The sight is mesmerising. A low hum causes the surroundings to vibrate. As they move closer it becomes obvious they are not alone. A dozen rivals are charging into the sphere’s thick outer layer trying to break through. Fuelled by urgency and desire, the two circle to seek out a weak spot. Locked onto a target, they harness the last of their energy and fling themselves at the glowing stratum.

John struggles to gain momentum as the journey has taken its toll. Despite a burning ache, Carl refuses to give in. With one final surge a crack appears. Spurred on, Carl head butts the weakened surface and it shatters. Exalted he squirms through the narrow opening and makes his way inside. Immediately the sphere shudders and forms a cocoon. Wisps of red, orange and purple dance around him, each hue taking turns to stroke his tired body.

Through the tinted haze John is visible. Carl turns towards him curling his mouth into a consolatory half-smile. Graceful in defeat, John grins back and turns away to live out his final hours. The air around Carl becomes dense and turbulent. Seized by a sudden paralyzing force, he is sucked into the incandescent swirling centre and goes limp as his skin tingles and contracts. Fingers of light grab and tear at his suspended body. Piece by piece he disintegrates as his precious DNA is absorbed into the egg’s greedy core. Carl’s life as a sperm is now over and with great pride he succumbs to his reproductive fate.

My Monster’s Name is Harry

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I have decided to conduct another experiment for 2014. This time it’s by starting of a children’s story that I will continue over the course of the year (posts once a month). The aim of this is to see what I come up with, but also to focus on writing for children and have a lot of fun along the way. So here’s a monster, a child, her family, Houdini and a fireplace. What couldn’t be fun about that?!

Harry Houdini poster

My Monster’s Name is Harry

I

There’s a monster in my fireplace. He has a red and blue stripey horn in the middle of his head and teeth that are curved like gravestones. His fingers and toes are witch bony, and his black fur gets caught on the splinters in my wooden floor that wave when the window is open, which is a lot because he likes to go outside. I think the space in the chimney is too small and it makes him claus-tro-phobic. My mum taught me that word; by breaking it into bits and smushing them back together. I call him Harry, after Harry Houdini, the magician that escaped from big tanks of water while handcuffed.

When I first met Harry I screamed. So loud my dad came running in, blobs of sweat where his hair and his forehead met. My dad doesn’t run, doesn’t even believe in walking. Even when he goes to the corner shop he takes the car, which mum always tuts at him about. He doesn’t listen to her tuts. I guess he doesn’t have to.

“What the hell Emily?” Dad told me he didn’t believe in hell, which is why we don’t go to church like most of our neighbours. But he seems to go around talking about it a lot.

“There something in the fireplace. Something big and furry.”

“Could this be one of your stuffed things again Em?”

I love stuffed things. I have rows and piles of teddy bears and animals that keep me company when I sleep. Well, I used to, before Harry (the monster, not Mr. Houdini).

“It’s not stuffed. It moved.”

Dad gave me that look, the one that made his eyeballs bigger and body shrink. “Fine.” He got on his knees and looked up the chimney. He barely poked his head in and told me it was fine. “It’s all clear and correct up there. Are you okay now?” I wasn’t, but I nodded anyway.

*

Harry’s favourite food is beetroot and goats cheese. This means that his mouth is always pink with flecks of white; tongue, lips, teeth, everything. Harry is not a tidy eater. I have to pretend that I love beetroot now, just to make sure mum puts it on the shopping list.

“You want what?”

“Goats cheese and beetroot.” Mum looked at dad and back again. It was their ‘is this another phase’ look that they thought I didn’t get. Just like when they used to spell things they didn’t want me to understand like B-A-T-H and D-E-A-D. Thankfully that stopped when I gained a digit, or ‘entered doubles’ as my dad called it. According to him I am now a decade old, which feels older than it should.

“Okay… and why do you want those foods exactly?”

I was prepared for the question. “It’s good for you. That Jamie chef you like uses them all the time.”

Mum flushed. She seemed to like that Jamie guy. “Right, fine then. I’ll get them if I remember.”

Now when I pretend to eat them she tells me that I’ll be a big strong girl if I keep eating like that. What girl wants to be big and strong though? My mum is weirder than most.

Week 52 is the last, but also the first

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number 52

Week 52 is the last, but also the first

So it’s been a year in the Nearly Writer’s Diary. An interesting experiment that has charted lows and highs, which in my mind was plumper with lows, but maybe that’s just because I tend to focus on the negative rather than the positive. I’m a half-empty kind of girl, something I need to work on as it doesn’t serve to aid morale or motivation. When I started the diary I had no idea where it would go. It was a self-indulgent venture (like most diaries are!) and one I had no idea anyone would be interested in reading. But people have read it and commented and given me kind words when required, an element to the experiment I didn’t dare hope for.

Alongside the diary being a year old, my blog is too. This little bubble of my writing in the vast landscape of the virtual ether, that I’m amazed people managed to find, never mind read.  It has bolstered me to continue to write it, albeit in a different way. Over the next few weeks the blog will be changing, getting a makeover if you like, with the aid of my other half who is much more learned (and quicker) at the workings of technical things. And the diary will continue, but on a monthly basis with numbers still at the helm, but this time from 1 to 12 (so if any artist out there has great artwork for numbers please feel free to send them my way, as I am running out of doors and shop fronts to take pictures of! All credit will obviously be given). In addition I will continue to post new pieces of work on my blog, but twice a month instead of every week, which will give me more time to think and edit, and hopefully lead to a better reading experience.

As luck would have it, I have already got my first publication of 2014, a flash piece called ‘Five Birds’ Worth’ in The Dying Goose magazine. I am thrilled to have found it a home, as it’s a piece I wrote that pretty much stayed as it was and holds a special place in my heart. I hope it’s a sign of a great year to come.

P.S – If anyone is interested in collaborating, be that taking turns to write a guest blog, sending art for me to write a piece inspired by the image, or feature one of my pieces on their blog/website then please feel free to get in touch on Twitter @wordcurio or leave a comment below and I will get back to you. Working together is sometimes much more fruitful than working alone.

Nice Girl

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I wrote this flash fiction piece today, and feel that there is more to come from this character and setting. Let me know what you think.

Art from mental institution

Nice Girl

I’m not a nice girl. I bite, I spit, I scratch, I gouge, I kick. They say it’s something bad in me, something with no off button. I just think it’s coz I hate everything.

I live in a place made of white; from floor to ceiling to furniture to food to people. When it snows we are camouflaged, better than any army or secret bunker or vampire den. It’s like living in one big tooth, with me in room 302, the decay.

I have a tiny window that looks out onto one big tree. It’s so big it must be thousands of years old, and has branches that lead up and up that look like veins, the spindly ones under your skin. It never gets leaves or has birds sit in it. But still it grows and grows.

I knock on the wall to the boy next door. It’s my own made up Morse code that only we know. Each one makes a thud as the walls are so thick. Sometimes I scratch instead just to hear something else. Now and again he replies. It just depends how doped up he is.

I remember being ten. It was my favourite age. Then I had a house with a garden, not big, but big enough. We had a cat named Rumples who liked to eat tissue. I used to cook with my mum where I’d chop and she’d fry. Our favourite was crispy noodles and vegetables. We took drives to the beach and kicked at the waves. Mum loved the water. So much that when I found her in the bath she’d a smile on her face.

I used to get visitors. Priests with kind eyes and skin too soft, that sat and read to me. Their words drilled at my ears and made me scream. Then there were social workers, each time a different one, bodies twitchy with nerves. They clutched a file with my name on the spine and asked me questions. “We’re only trying to help” they’d say until I bit them. “A muzzle is what you need girl,” the last one snarled, my two front teeth imprinted into her wrinkly skin.

I sometimes wish I wasn’t like this, but I don’t know how else to be. And besides being nice is just bullshit.

Week 51 helped me figure out the don’ts

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51

Week 51 helped me figure out the don’ts

So I hold my hands up and like the white rabbit say ‘I’m late. I’m very late’. Between having brain freeze/word coma and a lot of family stuff going on, this post got put back and then put back again. Needless to say week 51 was busy and full of good things, not writing, but heart and soul nourishing things probably neglected throughout the year because I was writing or thinking about it!

Unlike other years where I have made New Year resolutions and failed to keep them, this year I am going to focus on what not to do instead. Not in a negative way, but more to be aware of bad habits and work to change them, rather than set ridiculous goals that fade by June and gather dust only to rear their ugly guilt-ridden heads in November. So for 2014 here are my don’ts:

* Don’t be too hard on yourself. If writing was that easy everyone would be doing it.

* Don’t indulge so much that your brain is mashed potato the next day. You do not write well hungover!

* Don’t compare yourself to other people. We all evolve at our own rates.

* Don’t let doubt, guilt, laziness, tiredness get in the way of getting some words down on paper. There’s always a gem in the dirt.

* Don’t succumb to missing out on opportunities or supporting fellow writers. Say yes to events, festivals, book launches, open mics etc. (within reason of course!)

* Don’t stop experimenting. An insane idea may lead to something wonderful.

* Don’t watch TV instead of reading (or the mashed potato head will reign).

* Don’t forget to listen. There’s a world of stories out there to be discovered.

* Don’t feel bad about feeling bad. Live in it and then let it go.

* Don’t dwell on rejections. Just get better.

* Most of all don’t forget it’s meant to be fun. Enjoy creating characters, plotting twists, writing a phrase, paragraph, sentence in a way nobody else has, creating something.

It’s a new year with challenges and opportunities along with the pitfalls of the list above. But it’s new and fresh and in my bones feels like something good is waiting to emerge. Happy 2014 all!

Void

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On my way to work one morning I saw a man lying on the street outside a shop, oblivious to the blazing sunshine and swarm of people that passed by. It inspired me to write this poem. As usual, all comments are welcome. 

Homeless man photo

By Patrick Smith

Void

On concrete feathers

he lies, beneath

a raging sun

eyes slack with sleep.

 

Around him pound

scorn laced feet

that make a chalky

trail, a body wide.

 

Awake he dreams,

mares of day that

shake in screams

hoarse with need.

 

Plaques of his past

invade his head

like tangled caves

glossed in crystal snow.

 

He is Pompeii;

a man of ash

moulded into

an addict’s shell.

Week 50 capped off a fruitful 2013

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50

Week 50 capped off a fruitful 2013

2013 is coming to an end and so is the Nearly Writer’s Diary, at least in its current form. This last blog of the year has made me think about what has gone before, the highs and low along with the achievements. A highlight for me (and one I could never have predicted) was the reading of my poem ‘Kisses’ at the funeral of the people it was dedicated to, and the subsequent publication of it across Irish newspapers and radio. It was an insane experience, a bittersweet recognition that I still have not quite taken the time to comprehend. Another highlight has been getting that elusive e-mail from editors who have liked my work enough to publish it, or get back to me with helpful criticism. Rejections can be a blow, but it is something a writer needs to live with and learn from. All of them will serve to make you a better writer.

Something that opened my eyes this year was NaNoWriMo – the writing of 50,000 words in a month (which if you read this blog regularly are probably bored to tears of hearing about!) – but for me it made me realise that if you really put your mind to it and make the time, the words will come; good, bad and ugly. It is something I hope to take with me into 2014 and recall when I am struggling or just unmotivated. In addition, being given the opportunity to read other people’s work and having an input into what features in a great online publication is a privilege, and I thank Michael Naghten Shanks for trusting me enough to work with him on The Bohemyth.

I don’t know what 2014 holds and I kind of like it that way. My plan is to do a writing course (hopefully in young adult fiction), keep writing flash fiction and short stories when they come to me along with continuing to submit work. The main aim though is to start a novel; a visceral tug on your jugular kind of story that is yet to come, but I am going to do my damndest to find and finish with the aim of sending it out to agents and publishers by the end of the year (or earlier if possible). I believe I can do it now, in fact I know I can with two novel drafts under my belt. Now it’s just about finding that character and voice that crawls so deep into my soul I have to write it out.

Most of all I have loved writing this blog and thank everyone who took the time to read it, follow my musings and press that elusive like button from time to time. It’s been a pleasure.