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

 

 

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Will I still be a Writer?

There’s been a lot of change floating around my world lately.  In the processing of downsizing to a smaller home with my family, attempting to simplify life, taken on part-time paid work and contributing time to a charity.

I’ve plodded along with my writing for the past couple of years, experiencing some really positive successes, such as publications, paid writing work, editorial work, and competition wins.  I’ve also experienced much rejection.  If you’re going to put yourself out there in a creative field, you are going to face inevitable rejection.  I’ve even got to the stage where I don’t take it personally.  Well, mostly.

The loss of some lucrative editorial work I had last year, together with a slowing down of paid reviews, meant I took on more paid part-time work outside of writing, as well as Yoga teaching.

Now, an opportunity has arisen that’s shaken me up a bit.  A more involved role with the charity I volunteer for has opened up.  It’s something I love.  Something I strongly believe in.  But my hesitation at jumping straight in is partly tied up with my idea and image of calling myself ‘a writer’.  What is one, specifically, and can I still call myself one if I’m dedicating more time to other paid work?

The idea of claiming the term ‘writer’ is a tricky one, I think.  Many of my writerly friends will say they can’t even begin to call themselves that title unless they are earning a living from their writing.  Yet, if you are writing, and especially submitting work, doesn’t that qualify?  Does it only count if you’re published; and does online count, or just print?  Or does it depend on whether you’ve been paid for your efforts?

If you don’t need to do another paid ‘day job’ in addition to writing, or you are on the bestseller lists, then it’s pretty cut and dried.  But as with many things in life, there are lots of grey areas.

The dictionary definition of a writer includes many variations, including: “a person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, especially as an occupation; a clerk or scribe; a person who commits his or her thoughts and ideas to writing”.

So in this respect, perhaps it’s time to let go of the pretensions and hang-ups over who can and who can’t say they are a writer.

If you: blog, write letters, journal, act as scribe, apply for grants, scribble poems, submit flash fiction, write reviews, write essays, publish online content, publish in print, or are working on the next bestseller: you are committing your thoughts and ideas to writing.

You Write.  You are a Writer.  Own it.

 

 

Nice Girl

The girl – the other girl – is pushing the stripy pushchair along the pavement. Aldi carrier bags swing from both handles. She almost walks into me. The baby is playing with its feet. The eyes of the child in the pram are his eyes, green and bright.

Those are the eyes that I once fell into, coiled together on that old sofa with the stuffing bleeding out, our hands exploring one another for the first time.
Their baby has snot snaking down towards its lips. They’re his lips, too. His warm lips on mine on that sweaty sofa, the teenage mingle of sweat and aftershave, stolen from his dad’s bathroom cabinet.
I’ve replayed this scene a thousand times – bumping into him, or bumping into her, bumping into them both. Showing him I’m fine, I’m over it. I’ve done all right for myself, thanks. But the baby, this baby with his eyes and his lips has stalled me.
He was a big fish in our small home town, once. He reeled me in, threw his affection around for a while. Before unhooking me, letting me go. Now he’s just a minnow, pulling this other girl and baby along in his wake.
The baby with his eyes, his lips.
I was just a nice girl, he said. She was more adventurous than me, he said. Now she looks like the stuffing’s been kicked out of her, like the stuffing on that sofa, where I first tasted lust and excitement.
In her dead eyes I see my alternate life. The one that got away. Her adventures confined now to a snotty child and budget chicken korma.
When we meet on the pavement, him and the girl – the adventurous one – and their snotty child, the one with his eyes, his lips, I don’t say any of the things I thought I’d say.
I don’t tell him what a success I am. I don’t say Remember me? I just smile. I just stand there and smile, politely.
I’m the nice girl, remember?

First published on Cafe Aphra

Father’s Guitar

Father’s Guitar

His guitar stands resplendent,

Statuesque.  His muse – ethereal,

awaiting him to place it into its tomb-like case.

He strokes it with long, practised fingers,  

caressing the taut strings.

I watch as he takes the instrument into his arms,

gently placing it into the case lined with purple velvet,

as one would place a newborn,

holding the back of the spine until last.

Clicking silver clasps shut, he leaves.

I crawl from my hiding place,

lying myself down on the cheap carpet beside it.

I am the same length exactly

as my rival.

I move close, closer still –

and, like osmosis,

try to absorb a piece of his affection.

Kate Jones ©

Previously Published in sicklitmaagzine.com

Arrivals

She keeps her eyes lowered, as she’s been brought up to do. She remembers the strap her father used the time her older sister dared to meet his eye during a conversation on marriage.

She longs for her sister now; for her reliable presence beside her; for the familiarity of another woman wearing layers of hand-sewn clothing and headscarf.

Women, even young girls, race past in their summer clothing. Bare ankles and sleeveless tops revealing alabaster shoulders. She wonders at how they do not feel the cold of this place. She hears strange words emitting from the railway tannoy; she understands very little of what the words are saying. She feels the sharp intake of breath of the young man beside her, in his best suit, a tiny suitcase in one hand, eyes roaming the station platform for a glimpse of his uncle, who is to meet them here.

They are still shy around one another. She certainly has not yet met his gaze, nor he hers. She remembers his eyes looked kind when she saw them in the photograph her parents gave to her. They told her of his plans to cross the ocean, to come to England, where a job in his uncle’s business waited. A prosperous future.

She remembers her parents phrasing the question of marriage to this young man as though there was a choice for her to make. She remembers there was no real choice.

As she stands, eyes lowered in sockets edged in thick kohl eyeliner, she has no way of knowing that she will come to respect and, yes, even love the man beside her, whose white socks she notices peek from below his trousers. She doesn’t yet know that she will come to learn every contour of his body. Couldn’t imagine at this point, four days into their marriage at the age of seventeen, when she hasn’t yet had time to dream what she might become, that she will someday delight at this man’s touch.

That she will be blessed with three healthy children, all of whom they will struggle to put through university, enabling them, at least, to have their dreams met.

But today, here on this cold and damp platform, she could happily swap places with the bearded man a little way off, who shakes a polystyrene cup of loose change in their direction.

Previously published on Spelk Fiction:  https://spelkfiction.com

 

Morning Pages

I know lots of writers and creative types advocate the idea of ‘Morning Pages’, (first introduced by Julia Cameron in The Artists’ Way).  The idea is to write three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, first thing in the morning.

I have tried the writing practise of morning pages several times over the years, without success.  My initial objection was to the ‘first thing in the morning’ part…waking up and drinking coffee is about my limit, and I just couldn’t imagine writing anything first thing.

But I have returned to it over the years, trying again and again.  I suppose it’s like any ideas put forward by writers and teachers of writing: some will work for you and some will be disregarded.

Cameron’s idea, I think, is that you can write anything on your mind, to clear out the detritus from sleep, dreams, worries and concerns.  To clean out your head before settling down to the proper writing or creating later in the day.

Modern proponents of this have said they use these pages to write anything that comes to mind, including to-do lists, shopping lists, whatever.  But this doesn’t seem to me to spark any sort of creativity.  Considering whether I need to buy bread and milk that day seems inconsequential to my writing aims.

I suppose it’s a similar idea to that of Natalie Goldberg’s, author of Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind, among other books on creativity.  She talks about ‘keeping the hand moving’, setting a timer for ten minutes and just writing.  Even if, she says, simply writing ‘I don’t know what to write’, or starting with the same statements over and over again, for example, ‘I remember…’

Goldberg’s ideas have been the ones I turn to most often, sitting and free writing in a notebook, dribbling on the page, perhaps focusing on one of her suggested starters, or just describing the colour of the sky, for example.  This, I have found, has often led to a memory or idea for a story, blog post, or something I want to research further.  Just as often, it has resulted in nothing.  Just the scrawls on the formerly blank page of my notebook.

I know there is a strong school of thought that insists that to be a successful writer, you must sit and write every day.  Again, I can see the positives in this, but equally, sometimes I just don’t want to write.  If I sat down at those times and forced myself, I think I would feel more frustrated than anything else.

I think that all this shows is that there is more than one way to write, or create, anything.  It can be useful to read books about writing, but also, it can sometimes cloud our own ideas and make us feel that we ‘aren’t doing it right’.

Whether it works for you to write every day, or binge write; write when you feel inspired, or force yourself to sit at your desk for ten minutes a day; free writing, structured practise, word clouds, mind-maps…just doing it your own way is the way to practise.

Just writing at all is moving forward.

 

The Third Thing

Natalie Goldberg, in her book on writing memoir Old Friend From Far Away, writes that “Couples need a third thing – a child, a dog, a house, a business – to gaze upon.  Side to side, not face on.”  She is referring to couples being very similar to writers, needing a ‘third thing’ to write about.

I can see this is true of writers, but wondered if this was also true about couples.  Is it not enough to just be one half of a couple?  Sometimes, when life has been too busy, too hectic with kids and family and work and all the circus of the trappings of our lives, sometimes at those times, I’ve longed for couple time.  Imagined a time when there would just be the two of us, together.  Alone.  Alone together.

But yet…this statement from Goldberg made me stop and think.  It makes clear: couples, like writers, need a third thing.  And I think she might be right.  I think of our lives so far, and the third thing that maybe we had or have, did or do, side to side:

Worked hard and had friends, gone to Yoga and Wing Chun, played squash and read books, separately but together.  Had a child, lost a mother, had parents divorce in middle-age.  Bought and sold houses, had another child, to keep the first company.  Built a business, working side to side, sold a business, and did new things.  He taught; I wrote.  We both raised two daughters.  Owned cars, volunteered.  Got part-time jobs, reviewed books, had writing published.  We both completed degrees as mature students (at different times in different subjects), and ran blogs.  Separately.

And side by side, we move onward, onward together, us two but with many third things between us.

Keeping life interesting.