Short Story

…about the end of everything.

Not one of mine, but by the creative genius that was Mr Arthur C Clarke. And by short, I mean SHORT. Enjoy:

siseneG

by Arthur C Clarke

And God said: DELETE lines One to Aleph. LOAD. RUN. And the Universe ceased to exist.

Then he pondered for a few aeons, sighed, and added: ERASE. It never had existed.

Told you it was short! Anyone want to try one shorter still?

[from here.]

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The Fantasist

So, in a previous post I mentioned that I took part in NaNoWriMo 09 – the National Novel Writing Month. Although, as I think I said at the time, I took part in it somewhat reluctantly.

In some ways, NaNoWriMo should have been a perfect activity for me: a challenge to write every day for a month, and one where quantity is valued far above quality. The aim is to produce 50,000 words in 30 days, and to exorcise your writing demons.

The reality, though, was that I engaged in the project because my dear friend Jacky wanted a writing buddy, and not because I had any particular desire to write myself. My last creative endeavours have been playing with my camera, or my somewhat-neglected screenplay. I didn’t have a novel to write and, in the middle of a busy time in my still new job, I didn’t have a lot of mental energy either.

Well, I started, but I did not finish. In fact, in reality, I only wrote for about a week. And what I wrote was tosh. But I did discover this about myself: although previous experiments show that I can discipline myself to write (and this one even showed that I can do that in my evenings, with sufficient motivation), I just don’t produce good work in the evening. The end result of my half-hearted efforts is a very patchy, completely disjointed brain-dump. There are a few good ideas, but a hellofalot of dross.

Still, I was prompted to share, and share I shall. This is not a good example of Andy Moore writing. Really. But hidden in there somewhere are a few budding flowers in amongst the shit. You can download it here (pdf): it’s called “The Fantasist”.

Writing

…is quite fun, actually. This week, alongside completing an application form, beginning a negotiation with another possible employer, visiting my brother in Sheffield and taking a couple of mini trips out with my parents (who are on holiday), I’ve managed to produce 21 scenes, 54 pages and 11500 words of a screenplay. This one is on relationships currently under the working title of “Breaking up is hard to do”, (but again, it probably won’t keep it).

I’ve really enjoyed the process of writing this. Thus far it has flowed quite smoothly. It hasn’t always been easy to sit down and write, but it hasn’t been quite as hard to discipline myself as I expected. I reckon that, on current evidence, I could do this, as long as it wasn’t all I did. A job in a pub, or a part-time job elsewhere, and this might actually work…

Taking up the Challenge

So, Kat issued me with a bit of a challenge: can I use the time I have, as an unemployed individual, to try out the process of writing as a job. If I can stick to it for a week or two, maybe I can work out if this writing lark is dream or fantasy…

Well, after some encouragement, I’ve made some baby steps from an initial state of being somewhat freaked out, towards actually taking up the thrown-down gauntlet. First step was actually getting out of bed.

I’ve actually had something of a routine the last few months, but a routine that involves a not insignificant amount of being in bed. Each day I would wake whenever I woke, mess around on the internet for a while, then shower, make coffee, and struggle into wakefulness. Occasionally this pattern would enable some work to be done before lunch, but most of the time, it didn’t. Instead, I would walk my mum into work (she works half days), come home, make lunch, and settle into work around 2-2.30pm. I’d then press on with the job hunting process until 5 or 6pm.

So, a working routine, but nothing close to a real working day. Part of Kat’s challenge is actually putting in a full days work, and that means dragging myself out of bed before 9am.

***

This is how it’s gone thus far. Yesterday I got up at 8am. By 9am I was on my way out of the house, walking into Harborne. I went to WH Smiths, and purchased myself an A4 notepad and some new pens. Nice, long walk home, and down to ‘work’.

The morning I used my new pad to write down the basic outlines I had for script ideas. A total of seven projects, most of them only initial ideas, or very rough outlines. But at least now there is an ‘idea’ and a working title to each locked on paper. Somewhere to start.

After walking Mum to the office, the afternoon was spent writing the precredits and credit sequence to the first idea. It’s currently running on the working title of “A Very British War Movie”, although I can assure you that it won’t keep it. It’s not even a great indication of what the film is about, but at least sketches out the genre (ish). 1700 words isn’t bad for an afternoons work, although probably still short of Kat’s target.

Today I also managed to drag myself up before 9am, and I’ve written the opening to another project, working title “The Farm”. Only 630 words, but then there’s no dialogue.

***

So, not a bad start. Although, now things are going to grind to a halt. I really have to concentrate on an application form, over the next couple of days, and so that will distract me from writing. I hope to get back into it next week, although I may note down some thoughts in between moments of staring blankly at Job Descriptions.

The other problem, is that these two opening sequences were the only scenes I already had written in my head. Everything from this point on has to be genuine new creativity. Can I do it? Can I take these ideas and run with them? Will writing itself become a chore? At this point, I don’t know. I’ll keep you updated…

Political Stickers

This piece is my favourite of all those I’ve written over the last 7 months. It was written about 10 days before the election, and read out by my good friend Susan Heimburger, in her glorious, expressive southern accent. Like a few of the pieces I wrote this year, it’s in a female voice. Enjoy! 

Political Stickers

 

Obama Biden 08

Obama Biden 08

So, I did something foolish the other day. I was totally caught up in the election; it’s everywhere now. Every TV channel, every news programme; the posters on the sides of busses, the talk around the coffee machine at work. We’re suffused in it, completely drenched in the effluence of this war of ideas, so that it’s the air we breathe and the food we eat, and all we can think about.

 

Not that I mind, really. I mean, the last two elections were so boring! At least this time there are people you can be excited about, and ideas worth debating. It feels to me like this is a time of significance – the banks are going bust, our houses are losing their value, we’re losing both the wars we’re fighting… The election is really about something this time round.

So, after having this huge fight with Charlie at work about his stupid, redneck ideas, I went and got involved. I mean, I had to. We’d had this “you can’t possibly believe that” fight, back and forth, and he won it by going “well you can’t hardly talk; you ain’t never even voted!”

And he’s right, too. Never voted, never part of any party. My folks were Republicans, but mainly because their folks were Republicans, and their friends were Republicans, and just about everyone we ever knew back home were Republicans. I mean, that’s not exactly informed choice, y’know. And I wasn’t really anything; I coulda been Republican too, but, I mean, what was the point? And there was no real point in voting Democrat back there – they never really stood a chance.

So then I came here and… It all seemed so pointless really. I mean, what difference does it really make? They don’t make it any easier or harder to get a job and keep it, and there ain’t a politician anywhere that is going to reduce taxes for those of us on the bottom rungs of life. So I didn’t vote last time, because I didn’t care, and the time before I was too young, really, to know what the difference was.

But like I said, this time feels different. I mean, we might actually be about to get a black president! Even if that is something you’re not too comfortable with, you’ve got to appreciate the significance of it. And these days, we’re all for significance.

I like a war hero same as the next gal. An’ unlike some I respect my elders – the age thing just ain’t an issue for me. But this time. A black president! Now, surely, that is change we can believe in.

Or least as ways hope.

And if hope, fight.

So I signed up. I got on the website and looked at what I could do. Now, I’m not the most forthcoming of gals, so I didn’t right want to doorknock, but there were other options… I only went and ordered myself some stickers, didn’t I.

I mean, you’d have thought that that would be easy enough to handle. Stickers. Stickers. Vote Obama; Obama for President; Change you can Believe in. You know the kinda thing. I thought I could wear a few, get some girlfriends wearing them, give a few out at the shop (to the regulars at least). I thought, that’s make a difference; but a little, me-shaped difference…

Well, this morning a courier came with this tube. It was like a foot-an-a-half long, maybe six inches wide, and it was full. I mean, it was full! There must be thousands of the darn things in here! Roll after roll of them! I could paper my house with these things!

So, I put some on my journal, and my diary, and the workbook I use in nightschool.  I put one on each of my coats, one of each type on my apartment door, and again on the main door to the block. I cut a couple of rolls into strips and took them into work, much to Charlie’s chagrin.

I’ve cut rolls into sheets and mailed them to just about everyone I can think of. Even my folks (won’t Pa be pleased!). And there are still at least a thousand here.

Yesterday I walked round the neighbourhood and stuck the darned things on every lamppost, mailbox or fire hydrant I could find. Every. Single. One.

Obama/Biden; Obama/Biden; Obama/Biden; Obama/Biden; Obama/Biden; Obama/Biden; Obama/Biden; and on, and on, and on, and on…

I’ve got totally mesmerised by the stickiness…  I think I’ve only through this, learned to appreciate the word ‘tacky’. It’s the sound your fingers make, lifting off the sticky back.

Tck…tck…tck…tck…

And they smell really weird, too. It’s so hard to describe… Gluey, I guess…

They’ll stick to our clothes, but they’ll come off after a day or so. They’ll stick to glass like they’re determined to be there till Eternity. They got a similar affinity for wood – I reckon the door will decay before those stickers come off, which means someone will be remembering Obama 08 long after I’ve escaped this hellhole.

I wonder how many millions of these things they’ve printed? How many other Joes and Janes are wanderin’ round their small towns sticking stickers wherever they’ll… stick?

And where do they go when they die? The ones that fall off sweaters or melt off of lampposts in the November rain? What is the purpose of a political sticker once the politics is decided? When the votes have been cast?

Does the guy manning the printer, churning these things off by their million, their billion, does he wonder what the purpose is? What the point of it all is? Is he sad that the fruit of his labours will soon be useless, as the last weeks become the last days?

I do. I’ve gotten to wondering about it, at least.

I think I’m going to keep a few sheets, somewhere safe maybe. If I have kids one day, I’d like them to know that I was there, campaigning for the guy we all hope will make history. Win or lose, I’d like them to know that.

Right. I gotta go. I reckon there might be a lamppost down on 4th I missed yesterday…

Stories

Phil requested that I post a couple of the bits of writing I produced while at l’Abri. I spent some time writing there, trying to rediscover my abilities in a non-work-related context. I wrote several pieces, two of which were read out at ‘High Tea’, a Sunday-evening sharing of creative talents, large and small. 

This piece, Stories, came out of  a conversation with another writer about the voices we use, and where our inspiration comes from. There was also a little bit of an Andrew Fellows lunchtable discussion on the nature of communication in there too…

The 5 sections here were read out by different ‘voices’: myself as the narrator, and then ‘The Philosopher’, ‘The Scientist’, ‘The Poet’, and I don’t have a name for the last one yet!


Stories

So, I’ve been thinking a little about the nature of stories.

The other week Mary-Frances read part of a tale I remembered from my childhood. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was still fresh in my memory from parental readings by the bedside, every word, every cadence clearly remembered. But where the tale had in years past elicited goosebumps of excitement, this time it evoked a profound sadness within me. The same tale, the same words. The same build and release of dramatic tension. A completely different result.

That night the man in his twenties heard a different tale to the child not yet ten, and almost certainly a different tale to that conjured by the writer. The same words were used, but the meaning…

***

So, I’ve been thinking a little about the nature of stories.

What are these things that we write, these narratives and polemics and treatises? We take the barest form of words, the very seed of an idea within our minds, and as it flows onto paper some transformation occurs. By some strange miracle the thought is encapsulated within the strictures of language; held fast to the page by alphabetal bars.

And yet, these few thoughts, while held securely for a moment, leap from the page into the mind of the reader; and what then? Can the words on the page be said to be the writers meaning? And can that meaning be understood by the reader? What life do our words have once they pass from the confines of our minds to page, to reader, to speaker, to hearer?

***

So, I’ve been thinking a little about the nature of stories.

Is it possible for our words to exist beyond the medium through which we communicate them? How is meaning shaped by the media through which it passes?

The synapses of my brain fire, creating. My fingers move to translate those impulses into a new medium, one of symbology. Those symbols contain something, locked securely, until the eyes of another perceive them and translate their mystery into the synaptic firing of their own mind.

Can the story exist beyond the confines of the skull of writer and reader? Without those crucial electrical impulses, what is there?  And if its existence is in doubt, then what of those symbols on the page? What are they?

***

So, I’ve been thinking a little about the nature of stories.

I write. Another reads. Another hears.

What is conveyed?

***

So, I’ve been thinking a little about the nature of stories.

My brain hurts.

Redemption

Real Live Preacher has done it again.
Man, I wish I could write like that.
A story of good comin’ out of the worst of places.
Something I needed to hear right now.

So…” I left a long pause to soften the question that was coming. “Would you say that you’re glad it happened? I mean, surely you’re glad to be alive.

I don’t rightly think it’s a fair question,” he said. “The past is dead and gone and all that pain with it. A pile of manure might be lucky enough to have a flower grow out of it, but that doesn’t change its basic nature.