Thursday, 10 April 2014


Like most angst-ridden sixteen to twenty-somethings, I wrote poetry.  Some of it was drivel, and some of it was agonisingly heartfelt, and some pieces had an elegant turn of phrase, but mostly - let's be honest - my poetry wasn't very good. Interestingly, I still have most of it. I've kept the little journal wherein I poured out the troubles of my heart.

(Although I can't put my hands on it right now; and that's a problem. So there's no photograph.  Arghhh. I'm losing my mind.) 

In the novel I'm cobbling together right now the female character - her name is Helen - writes poetry. Helen is dark-haired and dark-eyed, and has big breasts. And she's a strong woman. Helen's a good name for a strong woman, don't you think? Anyway, for better or worse, I've put some of her poetry in. I wanted to use it to illustrate how distressed she is by the break-up with her husband. She writes him a poem, you see. An angst-ridden poem.

Have you guessed what's coming? 

Yes, I've used the poetry I wrote when I was sixteen. Eighteen, actually. But who's counting?

When I passed it around my writing group I was waiting for them to say, This is appalling. Where did you dig up this rubbish? But they didn't... So I asked them, What do you think of the poem? Isn't it terrible?  Well, they said, actually it's not too bad. We don't expect Helen to be a Sylvia Plath after all, do we?  She's just normal, like you or me, and she writes normal poetry that is sometimes excruciatingly bad, and sometimes okay. So while this isn't a masterpiece it fits with her character.  Sigh.  Aren't my writing group lovely people?

Later, that night, when I was lying in bed I was still thinking about it. And what I was thinking was I wonder what my eighteen year old self would've thought of her poetry being used in a novel? 

And then my sensible self kicked in - she's such a killjoy - and said, Go to sleep, you moron.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Tread softly

Had I the heaven's embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

                                           William Butler Yeats

Nobody could have said it better. 

I'm talking about dreams this morning. 

I calculated that I've been writing with serious intent for over twenty years.  I went to my first writing class (with the admirable and splendid Carmel Bird) when I was pregnant with my first child. He's now twenty-six. The thing is I've never given up. I've never relinquished the dream of having my novel on a shelf in a bookstore. Of being able to say, I'm an author.

I've written several books over the years. I have at least one in my bottom drawer, and a couple of others that were learning curves, and a couple that I began and put aside. I have one that I self-published (Adrift), and I have another (Sargasso) which is currently with a publisher. Gulp. 

What's got me going on dreams this morning, is that today the results of the Fish memoir competition come out. Yes, I know it's also April Fools Day, and you may read into that whatever you like ...  

I've been entering various Fish competitions for a number of years. Thousands of writers enter the Fish, and it's a humbling experience. Sometimes I've made the long list. Once, I made the short list. Hooley dooley. And while I'm not holding my breath over the results coming out today, I'm also mildly excited. 

Because I have dreams... Tread softly.