Some weeks, the world seems to be conspiring against you. And when one of those weeks rolls around, I often find myself repeating the title of a book by one of my favourite authors like a mantra: When Will There be Good News? When? WHEN?
Then I have to remind myself that, really, I already have my share of good news. True, I could have done without cutting my finger on the recycling cans, chipping my tooth on Friday night’s dinner, losing my hat at the museum, getting a reminder for a smear test, receiving some disappointing writing news and finding out about hassley flat stuff all within the space of a few days. But overall, I am a lucky duck.
I get to spend lots of time making up stories and earn my living by putting some words beside some other words, I know some very lovely people and I have tested all of the cafes in a two mile radius and rated them for coffee and treat excellence (in my head, anyway). Last week even had a few highlights of its own, including mother’s day fun, gossip with a pal and a flash fiction of mine in The List, thanks to lovely literary editor Kirsty Logan.
That’s enough to be going on for now and fingers crossed this week is going to be just a touch luckier when it comes to minor injuries and annoyances!
I’ve spent the last three day in a beautiful, bookish burr, thanks to the annual Portobello Book Festival. It’s a local literary event that run on the generosity of performers, volunteers, readers and writers and I’m thrilled to have been part of the committee this year. Not least because it’s reminded me just how wonderful and generous people can be.
From writing craft to independence debates and tunes from the Ladies Guerrilla String Quartet to breadmaking, we covered all kinds of topics this year. However, we opened with a gala evening that celebrated the fact Portobello Library is 50 this year and as part of the birthday party, we asked local people to write us 63 word stories on 1963. The response was fantastic and while I’m not able to share all the stories we heard on the night, I can share my own.
Flying in the Spotlight
The modern era put the spotlight on sex, love and glamour. And just like our new friend Dr Who, we were taking a fast track to the future. We welcomed the new and our hemlines showed it. We said hello to knees and goodbye to high necks. Bonjour to bikinis, au reviour to baggy smocks. We dressed for flight, rising above the turbulence.
Screw you, Sindy
Sindy looks good for her age. 50 years since she was first pressed, a fully formed woman ‘made in England’, she’s as wide eyed and slender waisted as always. But don’t be jealous of her smooth skin, you have the memories and experiences that make five decades worthwhile, be proud to wear them. Also, be thankful your hair grows back when it’s cut.
The wee group of nurses comes in every Thursday night. They’re all pretty girls, but he’s taken a shine to the redhead. Twenty years ago he would have told her so, now he just watches. Plenty punters do crack on, they get a bit of banter and some lovely smiles but that’s it.
The nurses laugh a lot, which Paul likes, and that time one of his boys slit a finger open on the lime knife, Paul’s redhead bandaged it up for him beautifully.
For them, Paul has started adding a case of those teeny tonic bottles to his beer order. Not that they drink so many G&Ts, no Friday hangovers allowed.
This Thursday, there’s a new nurse.
‘You work in the hospital as well, love?’ Paul said.
‘You like the nursing then?’
‘The rest of the girls there, seem to live for it.’
‘They told you they were nurses?’ she said, jerking her head towards Paul’s favourite table with her lips twisted up. ‘That’s a medical physicist, two nuclear medicine consultants and a radiology specialist.’
Paul looks at her, then back to his wee group. They’re chatting and laughing just the same way they always do.
This is an entry for the Mookychick blogging competition, FEMINIST FLASH FICTION 2011. Enter now.
If I was a little richer, I’d be on my way to Manchester right now to help the FlashTag crew celebrate the launch of Quickies, a book of flash fictions that’s sure to be a regular smut fest. A have a wee story in there myself, and would’ve loved to join the nice people I met back in for an evening of raunchy readings, but sometimes the bank balance has other ideas.
Luckily, I am somewhat consoled by the fact I’ll be reading with Illicit Ink in Edinburgh on Sunday, as part of Monsters, Ink. Looking forward to hearing what spooky fare the line-up is planning on dishing out.
So it’s a week of smut and monsters, and is likely to turn out to be more exciting than most.
I’m kind of missing in action this week. On holiday from work and yet running around so much I feel as though I could sleep for a few days straight. And I probably would, if I didn’t already have a bunch of things to do on those days.
On Sunday I had an excellent time chatting away to some writery folk, getting some great tips for my next short story purchases and reading in the Book Festival Speigeltent. I was pretty nervous I have to admit, but a bunch of my lovely friends and family came along and it was amazing fun. These are the stories I read.
Me reading at Edinburgh City of Literature Story Shop
Other book festival highlights so far have to be Gutter’s McHigh night which featured some amazing readings and a highly entertaining Neil Gaiman and Audrey Niffeneger event. Sigh, grand times, if only there could be a book festival every month? Although I suppose too much of a good thing is always a terrible idea.
When it comes to writing, there are times when months and months go by and it feels as though nothing is happening, nothing will ever happen. And then there are times when suddenly, everything happens at once – this is one of those times.
I feel as though I’m at the centre of a veritable flurry of literary things, and I’m loving it.
Today I read some stories as part of the InkyFingers Mini Fest and when I got home, my inbox had three nice surprises for me – a bunch of my writing all went live on the same day!
At IdeasTap, I’ve an article about financing a writing career without feeling as though you’re sacrificing the ability to write.
There’s a wee flash piece bout a women under siege called Edith’s Voice over at The Pygmy Giant.
And Metazen also published Yonica’s Beautiful Things, which just happens to be one of the stories I also read aloud today.
Whew, if only every day was as literary! Although to be honest, I’m about ready to curl up with a good book now. Maybe until Sunday, when I am super excited to be reading as part of the Edinburgh City of Lit Story Shop at the Book Festival – whew!
August has always been one of my favourite months. I live in Edinburgh, how could it not be? Although, to be truthful, there have been plenty of times I’ve lost patience with the crowds, especially as I’ve had plenty of badly paid jobs in the centre of town over the years. Still, that’s just natural (for Lynsey’s) grouchiness and it’s normally banished with the help of some excellent comedy shows, talks and performances.
This year is looking to be even more exciting than most for me, as not only will I have a nice week off to run around seeing things, but I’ll also be doing a few readings myself.
First of all, on the 11th, I’ll be taking part in the Inky Fingers Minifest, with a lunchtime reading. I will do my best not to put anyone off their nachos, burritos and other tasty Forest fare.
I’m on in the Forest Café at 12.30, and looking forward to kicking off my holiday in style with a half hour slot.
Then, on the 14th I get to take part of the Edinburgh City of Literature Story Shop at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Having spent a couple of years helping out on the box office in the past, I am super excited about this.
Story shoppers are on every day at 4pm sharp, and we get to enjoy 15minutes of fame in the Spiegeltent at Charlotte’s Square.
Just to add to my excitement, both Inky Fingers and the City of Literature Salon (which I’ve been to a couple of times recently) have been featured as top literary picks by the Guardian. Ah Edinburgh, I do love you so!
Recently I’ve had a bit more work-related travel than usual, and you know what that means – extra reading time! In the last few weeks I’ve read a whole bunch, including The Crimson Petal and the White – Michel Faber, Not so Perfect – Nik Perring and The Stars in the Bright Sky, which were a pretty ideal mix to be honest. All very different (and not just in length!) and great in their own ways. But it’s not all been about reading quietly on the train, I also read a flash story out loud at the FlashMob event in Manchester. As always, a bit scary, but that’s the third time I’ve done it and I still haven’t burst into hysterical laughter or starting trying to scramble over the audience to escape, so I’ve chalking it up as a success. All the folks were lovely, especially Nik Perring (the guest reader who read from the collection mentioned above) and the judges, especially Roland and Sarah-Clare and Tom, who made sure I ended my journey a bit tipsy and safe in the knowledge that girls who say ‘judge a man by his shoes and I don’t like politics’ are a little scary. All of the shortlisted stories are available to read online now, including my storyand the worthy winners. Another story of mine popped up on the web this week (always a flood or a drought eh?), and you get a squiz of Chewed Blankets in Spilling Ink Review number 5. In there you’ll also find Benjamin Judge, who happened to be one of the organizers of the FlashMob event. Almost like it was meant to happen… There’s also a nonfiction piece by the super Chelsea Cargill, who just happens to be in my writers group, hurrah. It’s so nice to feel as though you are in good company, and that there are so many awesome and friendly writers out there – my faith in the community spirit of writing has been restored.
My want has teeth. Strong jaws and muscles undeterred by rejections that make fingers falter and thoughts circle like vultures. My want is in the bone and the marrow and it doesn’t matter if it’s smashed, it knits itself clean again. It pulls me forward, forages unbidden, gnaws on obstacles, knows what it’s doing.
I’m conscious of it. It speaks to me at night in spits and squeals. My want grinds things down but it makes nothing smooth. There are jagged edges ahead and but it says to pay them no heed. It takes me onwards even when eyes are covered and agnostic prayers muttered.
I tell myself I’m holding on tight to my want, but its bite is far stronger than my restraint.
When you are upset the skin beneath your eyes darkens. You move more slowly and sometimes cease to move at all, even though I know that inside you are racing. When you are upset your face is stiff and when you smile – and you do because you love me still – the line between your mouth and your cheek makes a crease that fades a few moments later. When you are upset you look older and also ageless. When you are upset it is too often my fault.
And when that expression, that nothing, appears on your face I am reminded of the danger. Each time it surfaces I have to add it to the last time I saw it, then the total to the time before that. When you are upset I can feel it everywhere, whether you remain in the house with me or not, and I know that each of the mistakes I make is something real, something tangible.
Each mistake is a stone that you pluck from your insides even as another grows inside of me. It is warmed from your palms when you cast it into a thick glass jar – it clicks off the other stones with a sound like shattered teeth. And each time I see your eyes stop and turn glossy I know you’re ready to drop another in.
I am waiting dreadfully until the jar fills and live in fear of fostering one so heavy that it smashes the entire jar. I don’t want the jagged fragments and smoothed stones to tell the story of the relationship we tried to have. I don’t want someone else to see you when you are upset.