Hiatus

Hey there,

Long time, no write. It’s been a strange few months, as I’ve been adjusting to a big house move, new job and new school for my youngest. I have to confess: writing and creativity have been languishing on the back-burner somewhat of late.

I don’t know about you, but I always feel out of joint if I’m not in the middle of creating something, writing an essay, researching for ideas. I generally have too many ideas and projects pushing themselves forwards when I’m at my busiest. But yet…at this busiest of times, I’ve found myself at somewhat of an en passe.

Carving out some time at last to write, I’ve sat down and…not written. I’ve tried the usual remedies: new notebook: check. Warm coffee shop: check. Walk amongst the trees first: all checked. But still nothing remarkable happening.

I’ve ruminated about this, felt annoyed at myself, irritated, helpless. But ultimately, I’ve come to the conclusion that this has happened before, and that I really just need to let the effort go a little. A lot has been going on this year, and that’s ok. It’s good, in fact. I like to be busy. When something interests me again, I’m sure I’ll run with it. But for now, I’m trying to practise some much needed self-care.

The result of this has been that the past two nights, I’ve dug out my new notebook and scribbled for ten minutes or so. Nothing sparkling or showstopping, but marks on the page at least. Progress of a sorts.

In the meantime, two pieces I wrote a while ago have coincidentally been published today. If you’re interested in a little flash fiction, head over here https://spelkfiction.com/ and if you’d like to know a cool collection to get over the weekend, have a look at my review here https://www.thenottinghamreview.com/reviews/florida-by-lauren-groff

For now, I’m planning on keeping warm, resting lots, and riding out the winter hiatus.

Kate

 

 

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Live Simply

Hey there,

Just a quick link to my latest offering in the brilliant Sunlight Press.  This month, they’re taking a bit of an unusual tack and featuring essays, fiction and poetry on the theme of ‘Your Tech Life’.  They’ve already featured some interesting pieces, and today is my turn!

If you want a quick lunchtime read, follow the link:

https://www.thesunlightpress.com/2018/10/14/keeping-it-simple/

 

Magic 8

After a bit of a dry spell over summer, I’m pleased to say things are looking up a bit.

So I just got an acceptance from one of my favourite flash fiction sites Spelk! The new piece will be published in December, but to celebrate, one of my earlier pieces for them is at the bottom of this post.  Check out more of their stuff over at https://spelkfiction.com/

Also, another great favourite online magazine of mine, The Nottingham Review, have started releasing quarterly print editions, and I’ve somehow managed to blag a place with them as Reviews Editor! Am chuffed to bits about this, as it means I get to read loads of books and write about them – imagine! : ) If you’re interested in reading them/writing for them/or buying their next print issue, have a look here https://www.thenottinghamreview.com/  (They are currently open for submissions…)

Finally, I have an essay coming out this month in the brilliant Sunlight Press, which all this month is running a special feature called ‘My Tech Life’.  They’ve had some great essays, fiction and poetry on this subject already, check them out: https://www.thesunlightpress.com/

Now for a bit of flash! Hope you enjoy reading : )

Magic 8

I had this Magic 8 Ball when I was a kid.

One semester, I used it to make all the big decisions. “Should I ask Amy Glick to the Spring Ball?” Without a doubt. “Will I get past first base?” Very doubtful.“Will I die a virgin?” Most likely.

I asked Amy to the ball anyhow. She said no. Said she’d rather go with her mom. Asked her best friend Martha instead. She had buck teeth in desperate need of braces. She said Hell yes.

I didn’t get to first base, but second, with Martha. I didn’t even need the Magic 8 to predict that one.

When I packed for college, I took the Magic 8 with me. I’d realised it wasn’t that scientific, but kinda liked the way the blue dye displaced, the clear white letters. It let me off the hook of making decisions.

Maybe I should’ve asked whether my wife would leave me. What could it have said? Signs point to yes?

I hear my ex-wife upstairs now as I move a box of vinyl records from the pile in the corner of the basement. They’re piled on top of a rusted up exercise bike. An ill-fated fad to get fit back in the ’90s.

Martha’s voice, sharp as cider vinegar, calls my name.

“I’m in the basement,” I call back.

We’re clearing the house. Her orthodontist boyfriend’s keen to marry. Ironic, she finally got those buck teeth fixed and made herself pretty. Now she’s gone.

I find the box, slightly crushed. Stick my hand to the bottom, feel the smooth, spherical object, pull it out. I sit back onto the cold stone floor.

“Is there a chance Martha will take me back?” I ask in a whisper, shaking the ball to release the dye.

But the fluid’s begun leaching. No answer floats to the top.

(Previously published on https://spelkfiction.com/)

 

 


Mono no Aware

Mono no Aware – Definition: the awareness of impermanence or transcience, and a gentle sadness or wistfulness at their passing.

Red.  The colour of our youngest child’s puddle suit.  It’s like a second skin to her that winter. Puddles are an irresistible draw.  Ditto mud.  The post box red soon turns to sludge red, to brown.

The first summer we take her to the little bay on the coast, we have a wet day.  The suit comes out. The waves kiss the bottoms, leaving white surf marks along the legs.

Eventually, the puddle suit legs become too short.  Her denim-clad ankles peek out of the bottoms, and the top of wellington’s leave a gap.  Time to let it go, along with her pushchair and soother; the baby words she uses that we have, as a family, adopted.

*

A hot summer at the bay, the puddle suit replaced by a Hogwart’s t-shirt, cut-offs, and Crocs.  Her older sister, now a teenager, is soon reduced to a child again as the shore works its charms.  The unusually warm weather has brought in jellyfish.  Purple, blue, pink, fading into translucent gooey bodies.  The smallest the size of a fried egg.  The largest specimens sprawl on the rocks, brought in by the tide.

The youngest is thrilled.  We tromp around, rescuing the stranded, after the lady in the Coastguard museum tells us they will soon dry out and die on the warmth of the rocks. She now makes this her mission: she must rescue the jellyfish.  She has one in her yellow sandcastle bucket, one of the larger ones, which I notice she seems reluctant to return to the sea.  We peer over the rim of the bucket, examining it together.  It is pink, its tentacles bent to accommodate the smallness of the bucket.

She has named it Bella, she tells me, because it’s clearly a girl, it’s so pretty.  I gently explain that it will die without returning to its home in the waves.  That it cannot survive as a pet.  That we are lucky to have held it so close; been allowed to share in its beauty at all.  That eventually, we have to let such beauty go.

We tiptoe to the water’s edge together.  She tips the bucket gently, prodding Bella out with the end of her spade.  The jellyfish merges with the water and begins to move away. We watch together, sea rippling gently over our toes, until we cannot see it any longer.

Heading back up the beach, hand in hand, she tells me her heart hurts a little bit because she really wanted to keep Bella safely with her.  I tell her I understand.  I understand completely.

The Fifth Element

I have a stone beside my bed in the shape of a heart.  Dark grey slate, there’s no mistaking it, it’s perfectly heart-shaped. 

The first day of our holiday, walking toward the retreating waves, about to explore the scaurs reaching out into the wider sea, I walked over the stone.  Bending to pluck it from the sand, it was as though it had been placed there deliberately.  It has laid beside my bed ever since, like a talisman.

I didn’t know the term wabi-sabi then, a Japanese term celebrating the beauty of imperfection. Recognising the beauty of natural objects: the gnarly knot in a fallen log; the raised ridges of time etched on my heart stone, representing the years it has been tossed in waves and buried in sand.

How wonderful that the Japanese have a term for celebrating imperfection.  This is what I love about Eastern philosophies: they often tend toward recognition of nature, and of human beings, as being beautifully imperfect, and ultimately connected.

Buddhists, for example, believe we are all interrelated, interdependent.  When a tree in a forest is at threat of being felled, Buddhist monks often dress in their orange robes and dress the trees in their own vestments, to indicate their spiritual connection to all living things.

This connection to nature isn’t exclusively the proviso of Eastern brethren.  I remember my grandfather, years ago, predicting the rain by placing a fir cone on the windowsill of his home.  When the cone closed up, he would look out of his net-curtained window gloomily: rain was coming, preventing his escape to his rose garden.  The opening of the fir cone indicated sunny weather, changing his personality along with its changing shape.

We often wander into a wood and comment on the wonderfully dense thicket of tress; or the way the river surges rhythmically over rocks.  But it is too lazy simply to recognise these natural features as merely ‘trees’ or ‘rocks’.

The leaves of our many varied trees, for example, distinguish its species, each silhouette representing a way to identify it, just as fingerprints identify the individuality of human beings.  The rings around their trunks are often used to date them, perhaps similar to the wrinkles we all develop as we age; and their long roots spread through the woods, making up a connection referred to recently by scientists as ‘the wood-wide web’, feeding other plant species, similar to the communities we belong to.  Even their seeds eventually leave the branches to pollinate and procreate new saplings throughout the woods, just as our own saplings grow into adults and lay down their own roots.  We are far more connected than we realise.

Our trees are legendary, magnificent, and necessary.  Standing steadfast, used for healing, for hanging a tyre swing, for kissing under as young lovers, carving initials in for future generations. Planting new trees is a way humans can touch the future: an oak tree planted on the birth of a human child will still be standing, growing steadily, when that child is a grandparent, or great grandparent, and so on.  Once we begin to look out for these connections, these examples of interconnectedness, we find them everywhere.  It’s a clear case of reticular activation: the idea that you notice more of something when you become interested in it.

To enter a wood can be to pass into a new world, where we find ourselves, as with the natural elements of our environment, transformed.  The healing and transformative powers of immersing oneself in nature – given the official term of shinrin-yoku, or ‘forest bathing’, in Japan – is now widely recognised, treating a variety of conditions including depression and anxiety.

The Chinese count wood from trees as the fifth element, recognising them as our barometers of weather, just like my grandfather with his fir cones.  They relate to the changing of the seasons; we tell the time of year by them.  Who is in any doubt that autumn has arrived in the Northern hemisphere when they take a walk in a wood, observing the myriad changing colours of the leaves?

I heard a story stating that woodland people, communities unaffected and untroubled by hectic city living, can often tell the species of a tree from the sound it makes in the wind.

Perhaps this is a lesson for us all: perhaps if we begin to slow down and listen, to breathe once in a while, to separate the umbilical cord of the Smartphone, we too will begin to pick up on the messages the natural world is sending us.  

Happy September! – Get out and breathe in the trees : )

 

#flashbackFriday

Looking for inspiration for my own writing this morning, (which has been in short supply since my recent house move/job change/life getting in the way), I went back to my bookshelves to hunt out some of the stories and writers who give me hope that I’ll get my writing mojo back.  My first port of call was Grace Paley (as so often it is), so I thought I’d share an essay I wrote for Thresholds short story website on her awesome talent:

http://thresholds.chi.ac.uk/two-ears-three-lucks-a-profile-of-grace-paley/

Hope it inspires you to pick up her books, if you haven’t already found your own way to them, and then to pick up your own pens.

Now, back to my writing…

 

 

Symbiosis

Hi all,

Just had a little nature inspired, creative non-fiction essay published on the fantastic lit mag website The Sunlight Press.  If you fancy a quick read, here it is:  https://www.thesunlightpress.com/2018/06/17/symbiosis/

I’ve had several pieces published on this site in the past couple years, and have to say, to anybody wanting to submit work, they are a wonderfully supportive and professional literary website.  They accept all types of writing, and even photography, and unlike most places, they pay for work.  I’ve found them to respond quickly to submissions and give excellent editorial advice.

As a writer, it’s often difficult enough to find the time to write, to come up with good ideas, then to have the confidence to send out work.  You can then often come up against a brick wall with regards to magazines and websites.  It can be very disheartening to new writers.  But when you come across a website such as The Sunlight Press, run by two great editors and writers themselves, you really appreciate the effort they put in to make writers feel they respect your work; regardless of whether the work submitted is accepted or not.

If you’ve come across any similar wonderful resources, please share!

Best,

Kate