This rewrite I’ll break the back of, at the cost of thousands of words of the old version of the book. Probably about 40,000 words. They weren’t, or aren’t, bad words. It’s not their fault, but they don’t work together, not as a whole. The great white whale of the novel is being gutted, with the blubber cut away.
Some of the waste words I’ll put up on this blog now and then, so that they have some kind of after-life. Maybe they’ll turn into stories of their own, part-buy, part-rent. Part old, part new. Part lost part found. And still not enough in the bank.
Here are a few of them:
It’d been at least twenty years since the last time I’d seen Aunty Maggie and dad’s funeral.
I picture her by the graveside, her dyed-red hair pulled back into a ponytail so hard it lifted up her eyebrows. I spotted her between the bounces of light reflecting from my Nigerian aunties’ lip gloss; I caught sight of her between their Hayes head-dresses; Aunty Maggie’s brown eyes set into a face drawn with lack of sleep and a lot of eyeliner. Her lips disappeared into her mouth. Her black cotton blouse still carried its shop creases. Her black skirt was pulling itself apart at its seams. Her legs ending in patent black high heels.
I could smell overturned earth. I could hear traffic going by behind the cemetery’s trees and wooden fence.
Maggie accepted my other relatives’ remembrances of my dad while she destroyed an order of service between two wrung hands.
Hello everyone. Happy new year to you all, peace and long life, health prosperity and joy.
I began this blog in 2011 when I moved to London in order to start concentrating on my writing. It’s been amazing, and a big help in focussing me, making me brave enough to share my writing exercises and in generating stories that I can use to submit to places.
Now I’m ready to move on to whatever is next for my writing development. I don’t know what that is but it isn’t this blog in the format I’ve been following so far… Maybe a podcast! Or a youtube channel! Or a collective! Or maybe even just getting things published by other people in traditional ways.
The manuscript (typescript? what do you call it if it exists digitally? I think still a manuscript, hand entered, not typescript until it’s printed out) is away, fermenting or maybe seeding itself over again like a Plathian mushroom. It’s away with agents as well. I think what the writing needs is a good, strong dose of rejection. I think that will do it wonders as much as a glug of whiskey and honey helps a sore throat. Not that it’s getting much rejection so far. One very, unexpectedly, kind and nice and supportive ‘no’, and one blessedly quick plaster-rip ‘no’. And apart from that a winter silence – like a fog on a playing field. Like the fog on the playing field that I can see from my window.Continue reading
The baby is nearly thirty months, not truly a baby any more. He can climb stairs, pedal his tricycle, put words together in groups, although only his mother is very good at understanding him. He pronounces words using only half of his mouth, making the sounds fluffy and intimate. Only if you spend a lot of time with him will you understand his way of speaking. His mother likes this. It’s nice for her that they have this almost secret communication. She’s the one who explains the world to him. She knows that soon he’ll get better at speaking, and soon enough he’ll be at pre-school, and he’ll have other people to explain, and he’ll need her less and he won’t want her so much and this soft time they’re sharing will change into something else.
Dancing to Hole’s album with the sea coming to our feet, I became friends with my sister again. With the night stars pinning the sky up above us, we danced off the sharp tequila that had shaken us. We shared headphones and one cassette tape in a cheap walkman. We were still kids then, sort of. We were old enough to drink tequila, but young enough that we didn’t have anyone counting on us. It makes you selfish, being young. It makes you be inside yourself as the centre of your world. It makes looking back from an older age have this filter of wonder, of the strangeness of yourself, of your younger self.
Two people, at not quite their first meeting but coming together out of boredom and as a result of the deliberate steeping of their own hearts in salt, in a squat-style nightclub in East London at the beginning of Spring, will medicate each other’s wounds only partially successfully and, kiss.
The car shakes us as it travels over gravel. I watch the bushes at the side of the road. My head is against the glass of the window. The seatbelt is at my neck. The bushes have spiky leaves in yellow, light green, dark green. We pass a set of bushes with fuzzy red berries, long spindles of branches. ‘What are they?’ I turn to ask Martha. She doesn’t look away from the road.
‘Just bushes,’ she says.
The house at the end of the drive rises. Its white columns are like the bones of another house, a house that has long ago withered into this one. It’s a sun bleached carcass of a house. Martha’d said that she’d found it last minute. That the reviews were good. That the pictures were good. We’d spend a few days here then head up to meet the others at the mountain lodge. My ex was going to be there, at the lodge. Christmas isn’t the right time to break this to her, we both think that, so we’re stealing a few extra days stolen before we have to be just friends.
‘Spooky house,’ I say.
Martha shrugs as she pulls our bags from the boot. ‘You think everything in the countryside is spooky.’
‘Bring me to a city,’ I say, ‘I’ll be happy.’
‘New York next year then,’ she says, slapping my arse. ‘Here, help me with the keys.’
I knew her mother. A woman who didn’t like other people much. You wouldn’t ask her to take in a parcel for you, to watch your kids while you popped out, for any kind of favour. I didn’t know she even had a boyfriend but she must’ve. One day she was ‘showing’ and took to wearing smocks. I asked her about the dad, a few times I asked. She said he was away, said he wasn’t into commitment, said he wasn’t interested. To be honest I think she was just saying things off the top of her head, getting rid of me kind of thing. Anyway the bairn, when she got here, was right bonny but a wild thing.
I usually write about autumn in October but this year, even though autumn is finally here, in the difference in the air itself, in the wetness of the air, in the russet twilight, I won’t write about it. Things are changing. I can’t spend my life looking back. Always staring into myself like Narcissus into a lake, although actively listening for Echo, re-working things that float around in my own head, taking twigs of experience and twisting them into some kind of wicker metaphor for something that could be universal. I should write a story about what is going to happen, or what is happening right now in this moment, unravelling at the speed of an eye over text. That’s what I should write. Even using ‘should’ begins to play into the past tense, but maybe doubt is the mood of the present tense, maybe ‘am’ has embiggened its role in our tensual state. No, I think I’m wrong. ‘Should’ is the moment before the present. But what can you say about the present? I am writing this. I am writing this to you. You are reading this. You are thinking, what will happen at the end of this sentence? Or maybe I am thinking that and in thinking that I reach the end of the sentence. Become the moment between the present and the future. Where are some characters to accompany us together riding this to the end, we’re both here, but is there anyone else?
I’m still working on my dissertation and creative project story fans (as of writing only 2000 words and lots of edits to go). Next month normal service resumes but until then please enjoy this guest post by the very talented Sue Oke. She blogs over at susanmayoke.com. Pop over and say hello!
North to South
It’s the voice I hear first, a baritone with the unmistakable soft edges of a Yoruba accent. We turn at the same time, tentative smiles of recognition blossoming as our eyes meet. And then he’s grinning, wrapping me in bear hug, his enthusiasm temporarily infectious.
‘How are you? How are the children?’
I grab a breath, the rote , ‘We’re fine,’ slips out of my mouth.
He barrels on, ‘And what of Oga?’
Oga… chief… boss… master… he’s using a title to refer to the man who, twenty years ago, used to be my husband.