Tuesday 26 January 2010

Little Episodes

Here's an important thing: a venue that supports people living with depression. Little Episodes exists to 'help de-stigmatise depression and promote compassion and understanding', and is supported by Mind, and by the Little, Brown book group, among others. Check out their website as they are doing some amazing things, with some significant talent. I especially like the K's artwork. I was touched and honoured to have a story chosen for their next anthology, Back in 5 Minutes, which will be launched in London in February. They are open for submissions all year round, and invite artists, writers and creatives to send material here.

Friday 22 January 2010

Sense Creative Writing Awards

I've been on a couple of shortlists lately, but this one is special. Sense is a charity that campaigns on behalf of deafblind people. In March this year they will host an award ceremony at the Geffrye Museum where Miriam Margolyes will read excerpts from the winning stories. I've been shortlisted in the category, 'writing by any individual on the subject of deafblindness', for my story, A Shanty for Sawdust and Cotton. There are four awards for writing by deafblind people, and I'm excited to hear the winning pieces.

Wednesday 13 January 2010

Happy St Hilary's Day!

Reputedly the coldest day of the year, and a time for feasting on a Roman scale. I'm all for that while this pesky snow lasts. I feel I should celebrate as 'Hilary' is my adopted pen-name. I took it in memory of my Great-Aunt, who was born Edna Hill but was known to all her friends as Hilary. I never knew her, but I've read her letters to my Great-Uncles, including one that begins, 'Dearest Chucky, when will you gladden my eyes with the sight of you?'

Hilary was elder sister to my grandfather, Stan Hill, who died in Batu Lintang POW camp. After the war, Hilary emigrated to America, where she was headmistress of Nightingale Bamford School in New York. She married a New Yorker, Basil, Robillard, and they lived a rare old life from all accounts, in an apartment on East 92nd Street, members of the Cosmopolitan Club and a dashing pair about town until poor Hilary was diagnosed with cancer, from which she suffered for a long time before dying in her early fifties.

Here's to Great-Aunt Hilary, and to feasting.

Wednesday 6 January 2010

The heart of a story

Happy New Year! I'm late to the party, but I've been enjoying catching up with people's resolutions, all of which seem very sane and sensible. Realism is the order of the day, as I've been reading around. Who says creative people have their heads in the clouds? In fact that's probably one of the silliest myths about artists of any kind. Who gets their hands dirtier with the messy business of life than artists, of every kind? But this isn't a rant. It's a celebration. Of stamina and staying-power and sheer bloodymindedness.

Over the past few weeks and months I've come closer than I've been in ten years to giving up 'this dream of writing'. Not that it has ever felt like a dream. Ref my earlier point about mess. Then I spent a few quiet hours with some great books (I'm reading more of Alice Munro, and discovering Raymond Carver), and in my own company, asking myself questions (gently, rather than the interrogative, reproachful angle I tend to take) and I reached a conclusion that's helping me find my focus again. I'd strayed too far from the heart of what I was trying to do. In a couple of specific cases I'd been trying to tell a story from entirely the wrong perspective, in the wrong way.

I knew these were good stories, but I was beginning to think I was not the person to be telling them. Well, over the last three days I've written a clean draft of one of these - a short story that's been part of my life for years, to which I feel a debt that was probably putting too much pressure on my instinct as an artist, skewing my approach to it. I've written a clean draft and I think it's good. Too soon to say that for sure, but what I can say is that it's the closest I've come so far to telling the heart of this story in the way it deserves to be told.

In addition to this I've got a little project going on which is just a tickle at this stage but a very exciting one. I feel like a writer again, and it feels good.