Short but not Sweet and the Loss of a Super Power

Titles and beginnings are very important as are endings. I am working on a short story at the moment. As I was scribbling away, this week I was convinced that it was going to be perfect. It felt right. The idea was good. It was clever, elegant, controlled. Its flight was like an arrow, and targeted. I don’t know how overnight it morphed into unwieldy, boring, and tatty, but, sadly it did. And so the re-writing, the editing, the long walk back begins. Is it the wrong tense? Should there be a different point of view? How can I improve the language? Is it terse and exciting? God knows. It’s like life, a challenge.
I have been reading quite a few short stories over the summer. They are like poems. They need re-reading and I don’t like re-reading. I am too impatient (and a little lazy). I have to force myself. I like re-reading poems but short stories are too long! So, a short story has to capture my attention, intrigue me, tickle my fancy for it to work for me. If it does, then I may re-read it to discover its secrets. In short, short stories are hard work!
I read The Long Gaze Back which is an excellent collection of short stories by Irish women over the centuries, edited by Sinead Gleeson. It was interesting to see how the short story, its subject and form has evolved over the centuries – not too much. There is a frisson to the short story that I enjoy. The French Irish Rugby match in the World Cup last weekend felt like a short story: exciting, dramatic “with much disturbance below” (Joy Williams – 9 Elements of a Short Story). I am particularly enjoying Alan McMonagle’s collection, Psychotic Episodes. They are quirky. I find them a perfect fit. I like quirky. I am also enjoying the workshops I am doing with Alan (you probably think I am sucking up now but I’m not, honestly). We read short stories, and then discuss them and from that I discover what they are made of. It’s very useful for a cook to understand the ingredients. How to put them together to make the perfect repast is the thing I think I am supposed to come up with.
After having the poetry book published this summer, I experienced a bit of a wobble. I wasn’t sure what the next step along the road was or how to take it. So, I haven’t. Instead, I’ve been careering around on muddy side tracks, enjoying the summer and in particular the recent lovely, sunny autumnal days drenched in colour and chill. I adore autumn: the apples, the smell, the gold, brown, yellows, the burning smoke of fires, chocolate (don’t ask me how that got in there), the slow death and the encroaching darkness of winter.
In fact, my life has been a little like a collection of colourful short stories recently. Each day recollects a difference. They have been full of visits, swimming, reading, workshops, poetry, walking, launches, art, dining in London, Istanbul, Galway, Limerick, Oxford, Kingscourt, old friends, and new friends (as well as the odd glass of home made wine here and there). So the inside has been good. The outside frightening: refugees fleeing, Cameron winning the UK election, chemical weapons, corruption in banking, Inquiries, shameful politicians, patients dying in hospitals. I find it a little discombobulating that my days seem so disconnected to the real world, but am also thankful as the real world is so disturbed. More like a Stephen King novel than a short story.
So I have been busy enjoying life which is never a good prompt for writing. Agonised, meandering misery is far more intense and amusing to read, and far less irritating. There is one aspect of my life I am concerned about. The loss of my super power. I used to exist on four hours of sleep. At four o’clock am my eyes would snap open. I would turn on the light, reach out for my pen and notebook and brilliance would beat its way out. Now my eye lids may or may not unclutch themselves, but even if they do, I give Poppins a cuddle and fall back into a blissful stupor of sleep. Not good for the writing. I need to sharpen my wits. Maybe I should set an alarm! An alarming thought in itself!
Now, will I make a cup of tea or turn over…

kate asleep


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