Articles, Non-Fiction

Things I Think I Could Write a Book About

I recently tweeted about this – apologies to any of my followers for the repetition here. It’s just that I have often, in my life, thought about writing a book. I used to want to write a novel, and actually managed to write one in my late teens, though I fear it is just over-emotional crap that should not see the light of day. I have it and several other unfinished pieces of fiction saved somewhere on my hard drive, and every now then I go and look at them wistfully, wishing I had been able to finish something. I also tried to write poetry, but that’s better left alone.

Last year, at my mother’s wedding reception, we were all a bit tipsy and I got into a conversation my with mother, aunt, and cousin about what a remarkable life my grandmother led and how her story could make a brilliant book – and my mother suggested I could write it. I admitted that I had thought of this before, but I had no idea how to approach it.

My first thought, after the hangover, was to do some background reading on where she grew up, namely India in the 30s and early 40s, at which point she came over to England with her English father and her siblings. But I failed to find any books about India in the 1940s before Partition, so the whole thing stalled (if anyone can recommend anything on that period I’d be very grateful!). I reckon I should also try to read about England at that time, to get more of an idea of what it would be like to move there as a very English, and yet not English, young woman. I know that Anglo-Indians faced prejudice both in India and England.

Anyway, my point is that I think there could be a book in my grandmother’s story. And that’s only my maternal grandmother – not my father’s mother, whose family had to flee Belgium in World War 2. That’s a whole other story, and one I know very little about. Perhaps I could just write a book about previous generations not passing on their amazing stories and how annoying this is for their children and grandchildren?

Here are my other possible topics, as mentioned on Twitter:

  • anxiety
  • dogs I have loved
  • divorce
  • mothers, both mine and other people’s
  • sex/lack thereof
  • my hair

Any takers?

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Articles

A Love Letter to… Letters

My cousin and I used to write letters to each other when we were about seven. I have always exchanged letters with my aunt who lives in Austria. I have written to my old teachers. But I don’t write as many letters as I used to – too little time, too easy to write an email, or a text, or a Facebook message. Sigh. Modern life.

Hipsters these days like old photos, taken with disposable cameras and scanned into their Macs, and posted on Instagram. And you know what, I like them too. We are saturated with new technology, and we all (right?) love to watch the Apple events. It’s a fascination – I’m not going to buy an AppleWatch, but I need to know all about it. Obviously. My point is that all this futuristic crap makes us nostalgic for the old stuff, for old cameras and record players, for quality over flash. And I, a blogger, miss writing things down. Since leaving education I (mostly) only ever write to make notes, to jot things down, and my handwriting has suffered for it. I write the odd letter; but I would like to write much more.

Through my faffing about on the internet I have discovered The Letter Writers’ Alliance, an organisation aiming to promote letter-writing and getting people ‘back in touch’ after all this time just communicating on screens. You can become a lifetime member for $5, and get access to all sorts of cool stationery and new pen pals. Check them out here. Don’t you love it?

I also stumbled across More Love Letters. It’s a very sweet project that highlights the best and most charitable side of human nature. The website lists people, nominated by those close to them, who would benefit from receiving some nice letters. They are widowed grandparents, struggling teenagers, children bullied at school – people trying to get on with life despite all the things being thrown at them. They are people that need to know that others care. It’s such a good idea, and I’m thinking about getting involved.

I’ve also been writing a few letters this week – to my aunt, to two of my friends, and to an old teacher I haven’t seen or spoken to since leaving school, but whose teaching I still value (guess what, she taught English Lit). I’m also super up for exchanging letters with you, my fellow bloggers, my ‘other’ community. Communicating on Twitter and our blogs is one thing, but nothing can beat sending and receiving letters and little notes. If anyone already does this or would like to, let me know! Who would you like to write to?

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Of course I had to buy some beautiful new stationery!! Come on.

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Articles, Fiction

An Experiment

Right. I’m going to admit it. I’m a massive cliche.

I studied English Literature, I work in publishing, and I’m a blogger. And I write. Fiction.

CLICHE.

But let’s give it a go, ok?

Inspired by Hannah of Hannah Reads Stuff and Christa of A Voluptuous Mind, I have had a snoop around writingexercises.com for, well, writing exercises. I used to write a lot, but haven’t since becoming a Busy Adult, and I’m trying to get back into it.

Writing Exercises gives you many, many options for prompts to get you going. I chose the Random Image Prompt this time. This is the image I got:

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And this is what I did with it:

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So there she was. Stuck. Sitting in a café by the water, staring at boats and wondering which of them would give her a ride for the, oh, three cents in her purse? She’d spent her last euro on a coffee, which she was both enjoying and regretting, and she could do nothing at that moment but sit there, and wait. Wait for what? Something, anything to happen, to reverse the past, to erase the mistakes; to wash everything clean with fairy dust and make the world so much better.

She longed for her bed in England. She thought about the cat, being fed by the neighbours but wandering alone through the house. She would have done anything at the moment for Kitty to jump up into her lap. She wanted to feel the soft warmth of the cat wriggling around to get comfortable, the way she did when she was sleepy and full. To hear the little mews as her ears were tickled. The only cats here were stray ones, unfriendly things with wary eyes. They wouldn’t let her go near them.

Alone. Alone, alone, alone. The word bounced off the walls of her brain like a ball, every thud producing an echo louder than the last. She lifted her legs from the scratchy wicker of her chair and looked around her at the rest of the cafe. There was a waitress inside cleaning tables, a couple ordering at the bar, and the only people outside with her were two girls sitting in the shade drinking juice and looking hungover. She looked back out to the water, and the bridge, and the boats bobbing about. She could go anywhere if she wanted – it was only money that was stopping her. Maybe she could earn some? Work in a cafe like this one and get back into life? But this wasn’t her country, this wasn’t England or France. This was some godforsaken island off the coast of Spain, somewhere beautiful and yet utterly useless to her. All she could do was wait. Because that was the plan.

They had eventually agreed it would be best this way, less complicated. There was something to be said for doing it this way. To be honest he’d had to persuade her a bit. His determination to do it this way caused a pang in her heart, a feeling of abandonment; but really it was the fear of going it alone, of having no one else to ask or to fall back on. It was just up to her and she’d just have to deal with it. And he’d had to do the same thing too, but he obviously felt better about it because it was his idea. Oh, it was useless going over and over all this in her head – it had already happened, there was nothing she could do about it, and she was here now anyway, waiting in this bloody cafe drinking the last of a cold coffee. The last of her supplies, her riches, her sustenance. Nothing for it but to wait for more from him. Not coffee though – life.

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I would say that’s almost a short story. Maybe I could add more… but that amount feels right for now.

Have you ever used Writing Exercises or anything similar? Has it worked for you in the long term and helped your writing? This is the first time I’ve used it so curious to know whether it’s worth sticking with. And also please feel free to share your writing! Let’s all wear black and talk about our writerly issues.

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