Shared Ownership

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.

 

<<SOUND ON>>

 

Nice pipes Tamika

The book I’m writing (very slowly as it is becoming quite personal) now has snuck its way into the first person plural. I loved Eugenides’ Virgin Suicides written in the ‘we’ and ‘us’ voice but I dunno if I’ll be able to pull it off.

My work practice is sneaking into my writing too. I’m writing and talking a lot about movement, memory, the performed and the moment of disappearance in the live. D and I made a kind of comic book ages ago together: kind of to try out the Cage/Cunningham model of creating something in different but related art-forms without the art-forms being subject to one another… so for Cage/Cunningham the choreography and the music were on equal ground. Neither one were in the ascendant to the other. So with the book/pamphlet/artist leaflet that D and I made. It’s since turned into something a little more concrete now tho. Stars Dots and the New Junk contributed a CD to go with it and it’ll be sold in Orbital comic book shop in Soho, London til the limited run we made is all gone. I shan’t tell you what it’s called though, as my involvement was always supposed to be a mute form of writing seen from the corner of your eye. The original object was meant to be anonymous and left around to be picked up by strangers, so if possible maybe it can still have some of that despite its 15 minutes of fame this evening at the music launch.

cool poster

Let me know if you think the first person plural is going to be a really bad idea.

If you’re going to be up North, then go to this exhibition. I had something to do with it. Despite that, it is very good.

Writing seems to be urgent now. What else can I do but document.

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.

Tentacles

You know that feeling when you have worked on a story so much that it is now lifeless, and you think, ‘Did it ever live?’. It’s like, it’s like, it’s like when a fisherman pulls an octopus out of the crystal Mediterranean and takes it to shore and beats it on a rock until it’s dead and what was jewel-like in the water is now jelly on land and what was beauty is now death and what had potential is just wet and slimy flesh grey on grey rock.

But maybe it can be salvaged.

It doesn’t have to be dead.

 

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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)

 

November: waiting in line

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

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

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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June: Listening

Nice people have agreed to read my book project as it is at the moment to help me see it for what it might be. I think that it is in perhaps its third draft, a true horrorshow of lumps and knots. A tree growing around obstacles. I wrote it in fifteen minute bursts on trains, waiting for meetings, at lunch, at gigs. It isn’t very jointed at the moment, or maybe it is double jointed which is too many joints.

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March: Moon Duo

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.

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