The maker of miniatures

I went to see the Basquiat exhibition at the Barbican. I don’t have anything clever to say about it. It made me think again about identity and who we think we are, or might be, or become. It seems to me that Basquiat was between more worlds than only being the black artist in the white scene, homeless to famous, private school to sleeping on a bench, between languages, between forms of expression.

Maybe the most punk rock thing to do is something that you think is a good idea and probably everyone else will hate. Has anyone read the Stephen Millhauser story, In the Reign of Harald IV? What do you think is going on at the end of it?

Here are some more discarded words from the old version of the book.

My head thuds. ‘Set me off again?’ I ad-lib, ‘That was a long time ago.’ I hold my breath. Don’t push too far. Let it come. What more there is, let it come.
‘Yeah I suppose so. I mean everyone’s a bit nuts when they’re kids. I’ve done my share of wild things,’ Debbie says. Her attention is somewhere inside her head. She laughs.
I laugh too, clipping it, trying to cover up clipping it. Act natural. I have my hands shoved into my jeans pockets and I feel your hand grow inside my fist. A tiny baby hand becoming fleshy. I jerk my hand out of my pocket. Debbie doesn’t notice. I flex my fingers, find a glove in my jacket pocket and put it on.

Sundays

Time seems to move so slowly on Sundays, and at the same time it has that urgency, that sense that Monday is about to happen and that this laziness will not stand. So when you’re hungover, like I am now, with a work-writing and self-writing to do list as long as it ever is that’s when the self recrimination really sticks in your ribs. Coulda woulda shoulda.

 

I know I’ll get it all done, eventually, but it’ll be painful. The new book is in omniscient third person, with four characters followed in focus and connective tissue of their interactions with each other. So that’s five narratives to write, sort of. I’ve done one and a half. The half is part of the connective tissue narrative. The next one I’m writing is actually a first person voice via her blog. You can read it on Medium if you want to.

I wrote an academic article, that needs a lot of revision, gak.

I’m writing an online exhibition, gak.

And some other stuff needs editing. I am going to overhaul Patience and Bridget’s story – mainly P’s part.

Rolls up sleeves.

Goes back to bed.

What I’m learning

My work life is tsunami at the moment. It’s fun, though. I went to Atlanta, Georgia, to talk about the dance archive at a conference held at Coca Cola. All of the drinks there were Coca Cola brand. There were vending machines in every doorway and corridor. You didn’t need to put any money in them. You could get fizzy drinks from all over the world (made by Coke). All of the attendees were buzzing with sugar/ caffeine/ aspartame/ secret ingredients. I went on my own. The furthest I’ve been alone. I took a book with me (well I took a couple) – Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full. It’s set in Atlanta so I thought it could be my travel companion.

What an amazing book. I should say tome. It is pretty hefty. I finished it in Austria weeks later when my boyfriend and I stayed in a techo-condo which had its own lawnmower robot. Oh airbnb.

A Man in Full was perhaps the best guide to Atlanta I could’ve read. I went to the streets, neighbourhoods and galleries Wolfe described. I saw class structures where I would’ve just seen wood or brick. I mean, the book setting is out of date now, but still. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book with such a wide scope of characters, plot-lines, historical, political and geographical depth. The book was more than words on pages. It was in 3 dimensions, 4, 5…

I’ve been writing these little stories, these highly intimate narratives, getting really deep into the minds of my characters. I think I need to take a page from Wolfe’s book (-_o) and learn to put my head above the water, to swim across the waves so that my books and stories can have more narrative depth. After all the times we’re in now are such unsettlingly rich gifts for writers: 2016 is a horrible year for deaths, politics, climate change and social equality.

Can we make better please? Artists? Humans?

Progress notes
Edit #5.3 of book one;
15,000 words of book two;
three stories out in the ether;
idea for a screenplay nibbling at the back of my mind.

Asking

It’s an ‘Ask’. It’s what you write so that someone says ‘Yes.’

Proposals I’ve written in my dance heritage job sometimes don’t have a strong enough ask, or clear enough. They don’t help someone see why they should care, never mind give money or other kinds of support. It’s a skill to figure out what sort of Ask leads to getting what you need. I’ve been improving. Sometimes the swell of support has even breached its banks and I flip like fish unrivered until I get my regain my bearings.

What inspires a bound from No to Yes?

This week gone I’ve had to think of different ways to ask for a work trip abroad, to write a job description and, most difficult of all, I’ve had to think of a way to ask an agent whose client list I adore, ‘Will you read my work? Will you please?’

I went to the 2016 Curtis Brown and Conville and Walsh Discovery Day at Foyles, first page of Outrigger curled in my bag and a 30 second pitch memorised. Amelie* and I had the same time slot. We met first for lunch to calm ourselves down. We talked about work, about career moves, about trying to live in London when you’re not an oligarch. Becalmed we went to Foyles. Too calm. We were convinced that we were early when in fact we were about to be late, oops.

Foyles is a beautiful bookstore. We queued in its well dazzled by books. I was holding it together. Then I was shown to my agent, turns out she is my dream agent, ahhahaha yikes. And she asks me to pitch my book and my memory slips away, and I somehow reel it back and I am floundering but she likes my page and she says, ‘Send it to me.’

I can’t ask for more than this.

 

*(superstar writer you’ll read a lot about one day)

 

October: Layers

We turned the heating on. We don’t want our energy bills to go up, but it’s cold. All week we have been yawning or awake too early. The clocks have gone back, re-gifting the hour that we gave for springtime. I was excited that I could walk home in twilight. London’s autumn evening light was rose. The buildings looked like deep sea creatures lighting up in the dusk. But the hour we’ve gained makes me walk home in darkness. London is now jewels in the dark. I have to wait until after the winter solstice to see the underwater creatures of London’s tall buildings again. Continue reading

August: Going to an un-named end

A difficult first third, or at least 80odd pages, that’s what I’m hearing. That’s all right, useful. I’ve begun my edit now. It’s startling to see what I couldn’t before. The distance has done its work. My writing was or is a huge mess of typos, an entire missing section, awkward phrases. The Story is all there, though. And eventually it’s a “page turner” according to some readers who have ploughed through. I think they must love me to get to the end of this draft. It’s pretty hard work with all the errors of style and judgement the readers’ first draft contains.

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July: time isn’t holding us

If I put into google “agents debut novellists commercial fiction” will I see some miraculous future? I’m becoming more nervous as the reading period for my ‘beta readers’ drags on. Some of my readers are reading it through twice to make sure they have given me as much feedback as possible. Others have gone Very Quiet which suggests that it is perhaps difficult to read, too shoddy to read, to shoddy to give feedback to. ERK. Or perhaps they’re busy. Or perhaps they don’t know how paranoid I can be.

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May: Next thing.

Hello, I’m addressing you directly. Some of you will have noticed that I didn’t post in April. The blog has been running for three years of monthly fiction posts. It’s time for a change. Now that I am beginning to submit work for other people to publish I can’t put as much on here. Where there might appear to be gaps in the archive of posts that’s where stories have been reworked from the stump of blog post beginnings for possible publication. Perhaps one day the archive of this blog will be completely denuded. So the blog needs something else. This year I went through two drafts of my first novel-length work. My book project. So I’ve been a bit busy.

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February: The Grand Tour

In this story a young man, older than a boy but not so mature that he would be expected to have as many regrets as he in fact carries around with him, leaves his home town, Hull, for an odyssey he himself cannot see the end of but in which the reader or listener of the story thinks they can predict where his story will take him.

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