Saturday 29 June 2013

Working With Other People

Today, I’m Celebrating The Small Things, very softly and quietly in fact, creeping in the side door, hoping if I can just sneak onto a pew at the back with the merest of small waves only to interested parties, the rest of the congregation won’t notice that it’s Saturday and I’m a day late.

But I just had to share the love, the love of working with other people. This is not an everyday occurrence when you’ve made the dubious career choice of writing cocooned in the empty study of an even emptier house while the rest of the world is either out playing or thinks you’re actually out playing.

Ok, I realise that the rest of the world isn’t playing, rather working, albeit in grinning teams of people all patting each other on the back – oh, there I go again – but it was better for my story to paint a desolate picture.

I love to write slightly more than I dislike not being with other people so any chance to work with others I snatch up. That’s probably why I love teaching and my editing work so much.

Recently I found out that I’d had my short story, A Life with Additives accepted for publication in the anthology, Stories for Homes which intends to raise money for Shelter, the charity for the homeless. This is a charity which is close to my heart as my parents worked tirelessly for Shelter when I was growing up. So I was double delighted.

The anthology is the brain child of Sally Swingewood and Debi Alper who also came up with the inspired strategy of pairing short story contributors together to help edit each other’s stories. It was a pleasure working with my writing team mate. Thus far, he's managed to stay away from all forms of social media (what IS his secret?) so to protect his privacy, we’ll call him Bob. His story is hysterical. I can’t divulge more at the moment but suffice it to say, after stifling giggles in my favourite writing place, a well-known coffee shop in Harrogate with my extra hot cappuccino on hand, one paragraph had me laughing out loud (my children would tell me I can’t use LOL and I tend to agree) like the archetypal deranged writer in the corner.

Aside from the joys of working in a team, the process reminded me how much I relish feedback. No, really, I do. Of course it would be wonderful if your partner came back with a gasp and a scratch of their head as to how they could possibly help you to make this ground-breaking story of exquisite excellent-ness any better and by the way, had you thought of entering it for the Bridport Prize? But that isn’t going to happen. No two people will ever see the same in a piece of writing. No two people would ever write a story in exactly the same way. And that’s a good thing. That fresh eye showing exactly how the words have bounced off the page on first viewing - let’s not forget that readers of books don’t actually have the time nor inclination to pore over our missives in the same way we do - always throws up howlers and confusions. I’m so happy that I’ve received feedback on my personal howlers and confusions, if a little embarrassed on occasion.

So, I’m celebrating lots of things this *Friday*:
- that my story is to be published
- that the anthology will raise money for a vital charity
- that I was assigned to Bob and his brilliant story and for him pointing out before any readers got to it that the repetition of the musical flute and the fluted of the bowl looked like the main character had a mixing bowl hanging from her lips
- that I’ve had the joy of working with real people this week
- that, although I must work this weekend, the sun is shining so I'm off to do some in the garden.

I hope you're celebrating large and small - please, come share the love...

Friday 21 June 2013

The Staples in Life

The first known stapler was
handmade for King Louis XV
I’m worried about the future of staplers. I admit, I haven’t given mine a great deal of attention over the past few years and should have shown greater appreciation for its capability and reliability. Quietly it binds clumps of unruly papers together with little complaint and, despite a bent staple in need of extraction with the help of some long scissors occasionally or the odd stapled finger through particularly ambitious attempts at multi-tasking – but we can hardly blame the machine for that - it never goes wrong.

I fear the humble piece of paper will disappear from our lives and what then the use for a stapler? I’m typing this on my pc. I could have done it on an iPad, a tablet or even a phone. What I haven’t done is written it out on a piece of paper first and this from someone who likes nothing more than the feeling of pen making marks on a blank page. If even notebook hoarders like me are using paper less, surely its days are numbered?

And then there’s the pen. Unsurprisingly, as the owner of multiple parker pens, (each refill capable of writing 600 metres of characters, apparently, or 500 of mine, my writing being particularly large and ever more illegible) I don’t want to see them go. Where are they currently made? I have visions of a hive of industry of Charlie and his Chocolate Factory proportions bubbling and fizzing away to bring us this simple contraption. And I wonder if these factories will be turned into flats.

Will print presses go the same way? Will the printed book cave under electronic pressure and the paper versions be confined to the shelves of nostalgic old relics like me, secretly leafing through the remains of the towering To Be Read pile under the dead of night, the guilt of the trees slain for their production weighing heavy?

If the printed book goes? What then of book shelves? Granted they take up a huge amount of space, particularly for those of us who feel the need to keep a book which will never be revisited, just-in-case-someone-wants-to-borrow-it (I never read a book twice, I have too many in my TBR pile for that), but used books to me are another person’s ornaments. They’re not entirely necessary but the sight of them all lined up, the colour they add to the room, the enjoyment I associate with reading, makes me smile. It’s hard to pinpoint what makes a house a home but without the spines of books representing the worlds I’ve frequented and those where I’ve yet to go, mine would feel like something was missing.

If I took the stapler, paper, notebooks, pens and books from my study, it would look like this: 

Yes, I know it wouldn’t need dusting but I don’t do too much of that anyway. Yes I know other things would replace the missing items and I dare say I’d become ridiculously attached to those, too.

But I don’t want to.

I want a world which doesn’t need to be re-charged, which can’t be accessed with such ease that it becomes acceptable to make notes whilst supposedly also in conversation. I want a world where my children talk to their friends on the bus rather than watch YouTube clips on their iPads, where they listen to the teacher in a lesson rather than message their friends in another class. I want a world where you can eat supper and have a drink with friends and nobody feels the need to check that somebody more interesting isn’t texting them or worse, that they’re missing something at work. I want a world where people go on holiday rather than, ‘will be contactable via email’ so that they and their family life returns fully refreshed.

I’m still clinging on to most of that so, for now, I’m Celebrating the Small Things. I’m celebrating the fact that the stapler is still regularly brought out of my drawer.