Wednesday, October 13, 2010

New Projects

Autumn is a funny time. Yes, the leaves are pretty colours, we don’t have to worry about ugly men walking around topless anymore (in public!), and we have Halloween and fireworks soon – which are always jolly good fun. But none of this totally makes up for the fact that we’re simply too soon after the delights of summer and too far from the joys of Christmas for anything else to be truly delightful or joyous. These cold, darkening days render me decidedly fragile - and to think, I used to laugh at people who claimed they got Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) every winter. That was before I lived in Scotland.

I am trying to combat the autumnal blues, as well as my own wretchedness concerning my status as a useless unemployed person, with some writing projects. These are threefold:

1) Despite glaring continuity errors, erratic changes in plot/characterisation/time/logic, and whole sections missing where I have simply written ‘???’, I have decided that I have finished the first draft of my novel. Sort of. In lying to myself like this, I can move on and edit it, which I think is more productive than just hating its presence on my computer - and indeed, in my life.

2) I have set up a writers’ group. It is called WOW, which stands for Writers on Wine. I am proud of that acronym. The group is in its fledgling stages at the moment, but I am confident there will be much good writing and much good wine.

3) I have become a Literary Consultant.  

So the unemployment thing is not strictly true, although my bank balance would suggest otherwise. No, I have recently been appointed a Literary Consultant for a publishing company in Geneva.

This is not as grand as it sounds. It is actually a ghostwriting job. Back in May, I applied for a different role in a Geneva-based publishing company and - to cut a long story short - they offered me the Literary Consultant role instead. Getting the job was a rather long and ridiculous process, however the highlight of it all was being whisked off to Geneva for the day – the single most high-flying (no pun intended) moment in my laughably non-professional career.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Epic Fail

It’s July. It’s hot – even in Scotland. According to the Metro, that well-respected source of information, Britain could soon be facing a drought. A hosepipe-banning, bath-sharing drought. While I’m pretty sure that everyone’s favourite public transport rag is wildly exaggerating the matter, I can’t help but think that - in relation to my writing - some pathetic fallacy is going on here.

About a month and a half ago, I promised myself I would complete the first draft of my novel by 1st July. Considering that the thing is still mouldering away, neglected and unloved, on my hard drive, I would say that was a fail.

I could make excuses. I could cite all the hours I have worked recently (at the Edinburgh Book Festival Box Office, for just one more afternoon now). I could offer my crazed to-do lists for my forthcoming teaching stint in New York as proof of my industry (although however I dress that one up, going to New York always just sounds jammy). I could wring my hands about all the social, familial, televisual commitments I have had of late. But really, enough. There are no excuses.

Let us review the recent pledges I have made and their glorious outcomes:

I will finish the first draft of my novel by July – fail.

I will enter the Bridport Prize, as previously mentioned on this blog, this year – fail.

I will enter other short story competitions – fail.
In short - one epic fail.

How to pull myself from this rut? I enjoy writing. I enjoy telling stories. I sometimes think that I don’t even hate my novel that much, although those unsettling feelings usually pass. Perhaps New York will help. Maybe time away, when I’m not supposed to write will, perversely, make me want to start scribbling again. Or maybe I should take time off after the summer, lock myself in the flat, and not come out until I’ve finished the damn thing, even if it means being so poor and wretched that I’ll eat nothing but Riveta and talk to nobody but the woodlouse that has taken up in the bathroom.

There is also always the rain dance option. I could choreograph some sort of inspiration-seeking jig. However, considering the quality of my bog-standard boozy party dancing, this idea should be filed under ‘Last Resort.’

Thursday, April 29, 2010

“We’re off to see the Wizard…”

I am currently experiencing something of an Oz obsession. Not for all things Australian, you understand, but for somewhere even further away: the fantasy land of Frank L Baum’s imagination.

I have always rather sniffed at The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Perhaps, having been brought up on a strict diet of Barrie, Carroll, Tolkein et al, I was snobby about the American Baum and his land of Oz. Indeed, I am still of the opinion that the plot – more the book’s than the film’s – is rather holey and not entirely deserving of its literary status. However, on revisiting both book and (superior) film, I have come to the conclusion that there are many aspects to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that are, well, wonderful.

Wonderful, and useful. A few months ago, I decided that there were rather a lot of nice parallels between Baum’s story and my own burgeoning novel: the importance of home versus whatever’s over the rainbow, a black and white world versus a technicolour one, plus storms and dreams and – most importantly – the idea of a seemingly great man who is not as quite as he appears. It all fits rather well into (the currently titled) Meeting in the Middle. So imagine my joy, on re-watching the film, of finding this little gem:

“The Great Oz has spoken. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”

This is currently the new epitaph to my novel. This and some quotations from Hawthorne’s retelling of the Midas myth – Midas being another famously flawed man. Coming up with potential epitaphs is much more exciting than writing the thing.

(I have also recently seen Wicked in the West End and was very impressed. Aside from a fantastic production, I was very taken by/jealous of the story – what a fantastic idea Maguire had, to put a spin on the Wicked Witch of the West, who – as the musical so rightly points out – didn’t really do anything that wicked, apart from demand back the shoes of her dead squashed sister.)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Busy Bee

These are strange times. Partly, because my current job at the Edinburgh International Science Festival is, well, strange: every day, I drive around Scotland with another Amanda and we perform a science show to primary school children over and over again. It’s called Little Giants. It’s about bees. I’m the beekeeper, the other Amanda’s the bee.

But that’s not even the really strange part. The oddest thing is that, after getting up at stupid o’clock in the morning to drive to these schools – an experience I find akin to  pulling teeth – and after doing this show three times with the energy of a couple of CBeebies presenters who have broken into a Red Bull factory, I have been getting home and writing.

Seriously, why is this? Why am I not able to write a thing after a week of languishing about in pyjamas, but when I’ve spent the day yelling at the lady inside the tomtom and jumping around singing the praises of pollination, suddenly I can get home and bash out 2,000 words of novel.


Monday, January 18, 2010

The Bridport Prize

Due to a drunken episode in which my name was googled (not by me), I have discovered that my small victory in the Bridport Prize 2009 Short Story Competition is now public knowledge. As you can see, I am one of many, many shortlisted writers, nevertheless it makes me feel rather warm and fuzzy inside.

Next year, I will try to enter this competition with sparkly new fiction (as opposed to just picking a tired old story at random) and hope I do even better. For now though, I am content just to gaze at my name on the website of this very prestigious prize.

Bridport Prize 2009