Monthly Archives: August 2015

A Prayer Utters Itself

I saw the risen Christ on Crosby beach.
He stood, stilled by all that we had done.

 

I prayed to the risen Christ on Crosby Beach,
anointed him with my Everyday Tesco Larger.
I asked him for peace for my soul.
He answered not, only stared at all that we had done.

anotherplacesunsetAug15

His halo sank with the sun.
His cheeks rusted with the wind.
Fermenting seaweed and tanker oil perfumed,
the Christ risen on Crosby Beach.

 

I slept in his iron embrace.
I drowned in the salt ocean of tears
he wept as he understood all that we had done.

Photos by Mark Vesey. Poem by Kate Evans
Title ‘a prayer utters itself’ from Prayer by Carol Ann Duffy

 

 

A Writing Life: empty nest

The Art of Survival, the second of my crime series set in Scarborough, has just gone to the proof reader. I feel a little flat. I wonder if this is partly akin to an ’empty nest’ feeling parents might get when children leave home? I don’t know for I have never been a parent of a child, only a book.

I think it is also partly to do with the process. Getting the copyeditor’s comments back was exciting, and some of the work that had to be done was creative. Some of it wasn’t, like decreasing the indent on paragraphs because what looks fine on an A4 will look strange on a Kindle or in a paperback. I meant to do this from the start of writing, but forgot. And from here on in, I know from my previous experience, the fun, for me, wanes somewhat. The proof reading corrections, the formatting for the various versions (paperback printed locally; createspace paperback; and Kindle), the marketing, I find most of it a bit of a graft.

Then, perhaps, I am depleted creatively. Bringing forth a novel is no small enterprise. I could just be tired. While The Art of Survival is away, I have turned my attention from novel writing in an effort to replenish. In a couple of weeks time I will be doing St Cuthbert’s Way (a 100km walk from Melrose to Lindisfarne) and I am exploring ideas around movement and creativity. Mslexia (https://mslexia.co.uk/) has commissioned me to contribute to their blog on this subject from October to December, so this has given me a focus, though I may want to develop something further after that.

Today I spread our dinning room table with books, notes and articles which I have already collected on this subject. I wrote with a pen, free writing, free-wheeling-words, no plan, no direction. Being away from the computer and the space offered by the table, appeared to give me permission to wander.

I was reading some Edward Thomas, a poet who walked. I love this little snippet from ‘Over the Hills’

……………..Recall
Was vain: no more could the restless brook
Ever turn back and climb the waterfall
To the lake that rests and stirs not in its nook,
As in the hollow of the collar-bone
Under the mountain’s head of rush and stone.

I’m interested in other writers who walked and also narratives/poems where walks are significant. Do you know of any? What connection do you feel between movement and your creativity?

Why I’m thanking my therapist by Anne Goodwin

About eighteen months into my therapy, the death of a relative almost rent me apart. We were talking about my tendency to prioritise caring for others above caring for myself, when That Woman (as she’s identified in the acknowledgements to my novel) said that I probably didn’t even know what I wanted for myself. In those early days, I was loath to contradict someone who was so unusually attentive to my needs, but this time I did. Yet I think I was as surprised as she was when I proclaimed that I wanted to be a writer, so successfully had I put my whispered youthful ambition out of mind.

I’d been scribbling stories on and off all my life, but my professional training and practice as a AG at jesmondclinical psychologist had consumed most of my time and creativity. I’d vaguely planned to pick it up again on retirement, but That Woman nudged me to make space for what I wanted there and then. She helped me realise that I didn’t need to justify the time spent writing with prizes and publications (which was fortunate, given that it took much longer than I’d imagined for these to be forthcoming). It was extremely liberating to discover the world wouldn’t come to a halt if I indulged myself.

We didn’t discuss so much what I was writing at first. It was more a matter of tackling the barriers to taking my apprenticeship seriously, being picked up from the knocks and disappointments along the way. But the larger focus of our conversations wasn’t about my writing at all.

One of the themes of my therapy was my traumatic adolescence. I’d gone to That Woman thinking myself lacking for not having put the past behind me (as Diana is urged to do in Sugar and Snails). Now that I recognise the enormity of my experience, I see that as a ridiculous pressure to put upon myself, compounding the original trauma with the blame and shame of being unable to toss it to the side. Not that, outside the therapy room or wrapped in the arms of my husband, I showed any indication of not coping. I kept my wounds hidden from the wider world.

So perhaps it’s inevitable that my first published novel should feature another traumatic adolescence. I’d had other ideas, other novels begun and abandoned, one even getting as far as the second draft, but it was always Sugar and Snails to which I returned. Not that it was easy to write: from inception to publication, this novel consumed seven years of my life. My therapy has been equally epic, the successive transformations of my novel proceeding in parallel with my increasing understanding of myself. While each would feed into the other, That Woman helped me maintain the boundary between my own biography and that of my character. She also provided a container for my frustrations with the publication circus, that Kafka-ish world in which logic seems not to apply, and encouragement to claim my author authority as publication date approached.

I believe that my therapist has been of greater benefit to me as a writer than any of the industry experts I’ve consulted along the way. But, having paid my bills more or less on time, I don’t owe her anything, not even my gratitude. Yet I felt it would be dishonest not to include her in the acknowledgements for my novel, for my sake more than hers. Conscious that some writers are suspicious of therapy, I was anxious about this initially, but the support I received when I posted about this (thank you, Kate and others) convinced me I was doing the right thing.

It’s not easy to write about a therapy, partly because it’s such a private endeavour, partly (judging by the mistakes writers commonly make in creating a fictional therapist) because it’s so difficult to get to grips with from the outside. Maybe, on reading this, you’ll understand why I’m thanking my therapist, or maybe you’ll just have to take it on trust that this novel would never have got written, let alone published, without her. Yet because of the confidentiality inherent in the relationship, she can’t tell anyone else what part she played.

Anne Goodwin writes fiction, short and long, and blogs about reading and writing, with a peppering of psychology. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was published last month by Inspired Quill. Catch up on her website: annethology or on Twitter @Annecdotist.

Sugar and Snails is available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle: http://goo.gl/Re0aT7

 

 

Writing Experience

I’ve just spent several days with a group of friends enjoying the French countryside. On Saturday, there was a plan to go  to a ‘Go-Ape’ type place in a local forest, where the idea is to follow a kind of obstacle course – including zip-wires, tight-ropes, wooden logs – suspended between the trees at least twenty feet off the ground. We have one near where I live and I have never been tempted. I was no more tempted in France, so I said I would sit it out (preferably with a cup of tea in hand) while the others got on with it.

However, one of the women talked me into doing it. Her main argument was that she wanted someone as inexperienced as her to go round with. Always having been the last to be picked for anything sporty at school, I felt 14 again and suddenly included in the ‘gang’. Her secondary argument was that as a writer I should be open to all experiences, even ones I am not attracted to. What is there to inspire a writer but experience?

My life has been relatively eventful and varied, however, I am childless by choice, I have not killed anyone, and I experience life as a white woman. Yet in my novel, The Art of the Imperfect (http://goo.gl/z7HFgz) I write about post-natal depression, murder and one of my main characters is a black man. I can only imagine the unknown feelings and responses through extrapolation of my own experiences, plus what I have researched;  through reading, listening and observing. I have to believe at base our common humanity connects us more than it divides us, especially in terms of our emotional terrain.

I think it is highly unlikely I will write about someone completing a ‘Go Ape’ route in the pouring rain. On the other hand, I could now write with some alacrity about fear for physical safety, about being presented with an obstacle which is both psychologically and physically demanding, feeling paralysed and then doing it anyway.

What kept me going was my friends’ encouragement and the thought that the only way to get this over and done with was to keep pushing forward. Putting one foot (word) in front of the other while being scared of falling and public ridicule is perhaps good training for any writer.

I wish I could say there was a moment of enjoyment during the whole experience. There was not. Not until I got to ground level and my friend and I hugged and yelped, ‘We did it!’

Any thoughts, fellow writers, do we have to experience something to write about it?

 

 

 

On death & being a writer

For the first time ever (I think) I sit down to write my blog post without really knowing what I want to say. Without being mawkish, I want to mark the passing of two good women: fellow writers, fellow Scarborians, who approached life with wit and generosity. Jenny D and Jane B died before their time.

This has meant that in the last two weeks I have been to two funerals. Unsurprisingly these have unearthed a ragged diversity of disparate notions about my own mortality. Perhaps this is what funerals are at least partly for, to remind us our life is finite. And, in my opinion, we only have one life, after which we disintegrate to our constituent molecules.

Given this belief in ultimate dissolution, I suppose it doesn’t matter what I fill the intervening time with. Though, in the main, I would prefer to dedicate it to writing, friendship and connecting as much as I can with nature, as these are what nourish me.

Last Friday I spent an enjoyable afternoon with my sister at the Laing art gallery in Newcastle (https://laingartgallery.org.uk/). We saw an exhibition of photos from the Amber Collective which was most fascinating. Inscribed on the wall there was also a part of the Amber manifesto which struck me as apposite:

Integrate life, work & friendship.
Don’t tie yourself to institutions.
Live cheaply & you’ll remain free.
And then do whatever is that gets you up in the morning.

I am incredibly lucky to know what gets me up in the morning and to be able to pursue it with as much freedom as I have. Knowing death can be untimely is one more motivation to cherishing the pleasures this gives me.