Wednesday, 26 January 2011

My title story still moves me


Rolfe triggers it. In the way that is the way of all men. In his case a type of athletic bragging ruined by the self-defeat he hangs his hat on. I feel a plock and, with his surprised, involuntary retreat my waters come splashing out, gay and heralding, whereby he bounds back to inspects the folds of his manhood.

My abroni baby will come this day. I roll onto my back and raise my knees in sweet excitement, the baby nestling back even though her head is plugged within my pelvis. Soon after Rolfe is agitating with a towel, peering cautiously at my dark opening. No action there, I laugh. He looks perplexed. Despite his thirty-nine years Rolfe is unfamiliar with the mulch of his own body. A fever sends him into studied ecstasy. The tumbleworm in his butt, whose head and long wrinkled body I inch into the light, is repellent and edifying.

At the apex of his growth curve I suspect I must place myself. This is the man who continues to daub his hands on my sheeny back and breasts. He told me that in Ethiopia, his last posting, they call girls like me ‘slaves’ because of our broad noses and skin a shadow cannot cross.

This is Rolfe’s first child. His wife Karina was barren. I have led Rolfe to believe that this is my first although I had two others before. They are at the village and I send them money. The midwife will no doubt perceive all of this.

(published in Pretext, U.K.)
This is the title story of my collection. I remember being possessed by it. Scribbling on the bed for days. Figuring out the last page while on a train going to Florence, needing to finish it before the train stopped burrowing in and out of the hills, transfixed by the poor man in front of me as the final scene coursed onto the page.

Want to know what happens?

Let's hope this collection finds a well-spined home.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

wind in the machine

how rotten! Now that my early burst of glee has found a warm home I was kept awake half the night by a throttling thought: I checked my email just as I dropped my book (The Scandal of the Season by Sophie Gee, very transporting) and read that yesterday's accepted story had been longlisted for a big fiction competition prize! Dammit! What the?!

Yesterday morning I'd written off to two other magazines and the friendly bloke running the competition I'd entered late last year with the same story, apologising for sending a spanner into the works with my simultaneous submission - but whoever thinks a story is on the brink of being accepted in two places? And yet what is one to do? Sit back and wait nine months for a reply or a total void? Or sneak out the same piece five or six times?

So there it swims away, flashing in the light, my first longlisting for a fiction prize. Grrr!

The only good bleep is that I even met the competition judge (glazed eyes, I know he thinks I am an ozzie wimmin's writer because of the title of my upcoming commercial book) and I have secretly scuttled under his 'serious literature' door. He longlisted me!

This is quite satisfying.

Monday, 17 January 2011

We wish to inform you

A story from the collection accepted! What lovely news as we wind down the mountain valley after a dodgy day of skiing (helicopters, snow like wet sand, broken legs a-go-go).

It will appear in Tears on the Fence, a green movement/feminist established journal of poetry and fiction.

I am so pleased. Plus the story speaks of injury, acceptance of injury, and how a woman's world softly shifts in a vivid summer mountain setting. I wrote it last year in the autumn - and whoever knows where these compulsions spring from - and remember enjoying discovering the characters as they moved on the page. I knew where I wanted to take them, but it is always a mix of knowledge and acceptance what happens in between.

That is why I love short stories. Departure is so swift, so decisive, then comes the meddling of the mind, the evolving of the characters themselves, and then the crackling at the end, the cusp, the moving away. I love writing the story behind the greater story and was delighted to read this comment once, spoken by an interviewer to Robert Drewe, whose stories I loved as a young woman:

'These stories remind me of Hemingway’s adage about the iceberg – that a strong writer only need reveal one eighth of what he knows about that story, and the reader will sense the submerged whole. Many of these stories seem to contain a novel within them, a wider story that is only hinted at. Is that accurate – do you know a good deal more about these characters and their situations than you reveal?'

Why of course.

Monday, 10 January 2011

The smooth warmth

Of the wooden jetty under bare feet.

Of water swilling around the boat the morning after fireworks, moored in a harbour bay.

How lovely to change continent, change season, change light and breath. I realise how much I have missed movement, water, light. How steathily winter has crept up. And how I am hunched and my bones cold.

I miss the water.