Sunday, 27 March 2011

Short and sweet

I began Spring to Ming Blog exactly a year ago, in a cynical ploy to gain readers and followers and hopefully sell some books. But, it wasn't long before I discovered the joys of blogging for its own sake. Like chatting with an old friend. The discipline required to craft a post helped me with my writing and my work. Searching for a topic, framing my thoughts, plotting the tale, as it were, were invaluable in developing my sense of ease with blogging, as well as my interests and niche as a writer and a coach. The truth is, as I came to discover during this past year, wanting to write is like managing a dull thirst - one is not really sated until one has the drink. And I don't mean alcohol or managing an addiction. No it's more basic than that, more instinctual and imperative, like quenching one's thirst with water alone. 

Writing has become a necessity. One is not settled or at ease until the thoughts are outside of one - whether on a page, in a post or stored on some USB stick (in case of viruses and theft and what have you). The fact that at the same time as expressing a thought one can reach strangers and have one's words read almost immediately, is perhaps the greatest miracle of the digital age (discuss!).

So at this juncture - as Spring to Mind Blog turns 1 I feel many things, like a parent whose child reaches its first birthday. Well not as tired, perhaps, but with similar feelings of pride and wonder.

Seriously, though. 

Back in the real world I have been giving thought to ways of getting my work "out there". 

Accordingly, I gave away several copies of "Spring to Mind" to poor sweaty, unsuspecting exercise class attendees at my gym. Many thanks to Barrie - the super cool and super funny instructor, who like me was once a lawyer until something better came along - who supportively announced that there were "books to be had" if anyone wanted one. I was very relieved to find that I ran out of books the first week. My fear and shyness at the thought that all those women would run away from the crazy wannabe who brought her stupid book to Total Body Conditioning (TBC) to give away (Desp-er-ate!), proved to be Totally Unfounded. My visions of having to find a new gym or face Barrie forcing me to do 2000 one legged squats the following week as retribution for driving his class away with my blatant self promotion, evaporated (faster than my sweat after back-to-back Step and TBC). I chided myself on my self-limiting thoughts and began to plan the next Give-Away Assault.

Kicking myself that I did not get out to the march in London yesterday - thousands of people milling in Hyde Park and Parliament Square - and where was I? Not in amongst them with a pushchair full of books, but at the gym!

At the risk of boring you with my troubles (again) - I did a search of writing competitions in the UK last week only to discover a dearth of contests for anyone writing lengthy prose. Instead there are many places to showcase one's skills as a short story or indeed "micro-fiction" writer.

I had one of those "aha" moments that I so love, then. All of sudden I realised that the daunting prospect of another edit, another read-through and another tome to have to give away - would not be problematic at all if one were writing micro-fiction (anything from 50 to 250 words). Hooray!

So, desperate to win a prize or two at some stage in the span of this writing phase I got out the notebook and jotted down some ideas for very short stories. I had quite a lot of inspiration during the sermon at mass, it has to be said...

So I though I would share a couple with you here. I would love your feedback - micro-feedback preferably.

Beat Butter and Sugar to a Cream
And they all begin that way – as if it could be any different. Beat butter and sugar to a cream. Add wet ingredients, add dry ingredients. So simple. Yet it doesn’t always rise. Or it comes out dry and crusty or tasteless and soggy. Though soggy at least reminds one of cooking as a child, which is sort of fun, in the sad way nostalgia is. The sepia tones of cakes long gone. 

I barely taste it anyway. And they don’t care. Take it out. Cut it up. Shovel it down. Wipe up the crumbs. Wash it all down with tepid tea. Exchange remarks, as Gran would say. Pass the time. Comment on the weather, the news, the score. Plates back to the kitchen, washed up, put away. All done. For an hour or two. Then to sit with nothing to say, nothing to do; the silence oppressive. Why can I think of nothing to say? Nothing at all. So I sit and wait and smile a little, to seem relaxed. Pick up a book. Ponder. Put it down.

Oh, is that the time? Relief floods in. "Better start dinner, how the time goes." Retreat to the kitchen. Peace again. The next round begins in the grey war of attrition. Feed them, clean up. Feed them, clean up. All week. All year.

But Sundays, at least, are sepia days – beating butter and sugar to a cream.

What do you think?

I have another I prepared earlier:

Worker Bees
He drones. Literally. Like a worker bee.

And he smells. Not of charm. Nor success, nor desirability. Not even of man. Or of a man’s lunch. Meat, gravy, Coke. No - just noxious cologne sprayed too long on stale clothes, and of arrogance. And last night’s scotch. And cheap machine coffee. Reeks of that.

He talks of tax and accounting, but what does he mean when he says “above the Line”? What Line? The line on the wall behind his shining, pale, ridiculously high forehead? The line on the flipchart under his name? All slanty and uneven, like a child slipped in over lunch and wrote it for him. Then fell asleep in the corner, when the droning began. Or is it some other Line, only he can see?

He looks at me now. Does he sense it? Can he hear my thoughts?  Does he know I can smell his breath across the room? Has he any idea that the Line plagues me night and day? His squinty,dead eyes on me should be unnerving.

But he doesn’t see me. For what is there to see? Pregnant woman, greying hair. Old yet young.

A hand goes up. The droning stops, at last. He seems calm. But it’s an act; he hates interruption. He’s locked in an inner battle. The grey men in their poorly made suits wait, glance at the clock, their phones.

“Yes?” Convention prevails. He’ll answer the question. Appear normal. He caresses his ear with a finger. Then picks it.

“What if “above the Line” is “across the Line”?” I pause. 

“It’s your baby.”

So short can be fun - like hairstyles, skirts, coffee...

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