Monthly Archives: July 2016

It was just a…

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My sad tale opens with what is considered to be the worst closing sentence for fiction known to man:

It was just a dream.

I must have been less than eight years old when everybody around me started to assume I had a glittering literary career ahead of me. When I think back, I realise that I can’t be sure that it was my idea in to start with – I have a memory of longing from a very early age to weave the kind of magic that writers wove, but I may have put that memory in place afterwards. However it began, by the time I was nine, I took it for granted that a writing career would fall into my lap when I grew up. Nobody told me that I’d have to work for it, and it may have been that unpleasant realisation that put me off. I didn’t like school because the other kids thought I was weird, so I didn’t fancy college.

From the age of fifteen I enjoyed/detested a range of interesting/not so interesting jobs, and in between work and sleep I did all the things humans do, including writing for my own pleasure.

About six years ago I decided I would be a writer. I got a computer, and  obsessively wrote children’s picture books and adult stories. After about a year I sent a reader’s letter to a health magazine, just for the practice. It was published, and was the star letter – I won £100 worth of posh cosmetics, which, I may add, I never received. However, my little success made me brave. I researched publishers and agents, contacted an agent who sounded right for me, and got an automated reply: the publisher was not taking on new clients. Any normal, sensible person would have been disappointed, shrugged their shoulders and found someone different. Not me – reason flew out of the window. I took the response to mean that I would never have any success in my venture. I knew I was being irrational, and I kept writing, telling myself I’d look for an agent next week or next month.

Four years, and many, many pages later, I still haven’t made any effort to be published. Last week, my thoughtful friend Lynn at Word Shamble suggested I submit to an agent who’s currently promising to read and respond to any work submitted on a particular date. I decided to submit something. Since my chosen genre is picture books, which contain few words, the agent asks for three stories. I knew immediately which stories to choose. I wrote all these stories between three and five years ago, and haven’t looked at them for a while.

I got the first one up on my office programme, read it through and hated it. The wording was all wrong. I edited it until I was happier with it – although I still wasn’t sure – and then I went to the next story, which is about a baby bird that doesn’t want to leave its mother’s nest. It’s a lovely tale, but again, I didn’t like the way it was written, and I had to play with it until it felt better. There was another problem – I wasn’t submitting illustrations. In itself that’s not a problem. A book without illustrations is more likely to be accepted than one with them, because it allows the publisher free rein with the choice of artist and layout. but it stirred up added uncertainty. I have a clear vision of the layout and the illustrations. Without my layout, at least, the stories don’t ‘feel’ right to me.

Having edited two stories, I wanted a rest from it, so I researched advice on formatting, and went back to the first story to format it, so I could attach it to an email, and leave it in drafts while I did the next one.

That’s when the real problem came to light. I had not considered my silly little rebellion
against the capitalist machine; my stubborn refusal to buy Microsoft word.My Open Office software can’t fulfil the agent’s exacting requirements for manuscript submissions. This may be something to do with my computer. I don’t wish to go into the reason I think this, but I’ve tried to put another Open Office issue right, and found my nose scraping a brick wall. The issue I was faced with yesterday concerned headers, and there is no way around it.

Although the agent guarantees that they will give my submission attention, I don’t want to send an incorrectly formatted manuscript.

I was so frustrated by this time that I got up and kicked the sofa a few times, then I went into the bedroom and kicked the mattress of my futon – it would have been silly to kick the futon, because it has a metal frame which would have hurt my toes. Believe me, I know…

It didn’t help, so I returned to the living room and kicked the other sofa.

This was getting me nowhere. So I calmed down, and meditated on the problem. That’s when the answer came to me.

Because my head has been so firmly rammed up my own backside in the clouds, I haven’t faced up to the truth, which is: for whatever reason, something inside me is blocking me from making any real effort to succeed. It may be that the success I fantacise about is not right for me, or it may be that I have to smash down the wall. If that’s the case, I’m not ready, so for the time being I am saying I don’t want my work to be published, because however my conscious mind sees it, this is the truth. I write. That’s what I do, and that’s fine.

As for the rest –

(wait for it, here it comes… my astoundingly original closing phrase…)

It was just a dream.

The end

©Jane Paterson Basil

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Haiku chain doodles

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Last week I took part in Safar’s Haiku chain. My haiku had to begin with the word Me, and I wrote several duds before piecing together something I was happy with. Today I’m treating you to a glimpse of the ones that I scrapped.

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me? write a haiku
beginning with the word ‘me’??
you must be joking

#aaMakingitwrite

aaMakingitwrite

                                                   me with my silence
you with your indifference
we could be strangers

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me and you, silenced
by the evening sky light show
dreading the darkness

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aaMakingitwrite

me? write a haiku
beginning with the word ‘me’?
I’m flattered, but stumped.

aaMakingitwrite

aaMakingitwrite

me – in relation
to this planet, what am I?
insignificant

 aaMakingitwrite

aaMakingitwrite

me talking turkey
turkey stares back angrily
turkey says “Gobble”

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aaMakingitwrite

me and the old oak
in silent communion
breathing the forest

aaMakingitwrite

©Jane Paterson Basil

Oak

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me and the old oak

communicate silently

at one with the earth

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©Jane Paterson Basil

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Safar over at Blisters, Bunions & Blarney came up with a Haiku Challenge, and passed it on to Calen, who has now handed the baton to me. The way it works is:

Person 1 (Safar)
1. Create a haiku – no constraints
2. Pick a person to create the next link in the chain.
3. Person 2 (Calensariel)

Person 2 (Calensariel)
1. Create a haiku with one constraint
2. The first word of the haiku you create is the last word of the previous haiku
3. Pick a person to create the next link in the chain

Persons 3-20
1. Repeat the instructions for Person 2

Person 21 (that’ll be the last person in the chain)
1. Create a haiku with two constraints
2. The first word of the haiku you create is the last word of the previous haiku.
3. The last word of the haiku you create is first word of the first haiku in the chain.
And so the circle is closed.

A couple of ‘rules’ so that we get to keep track of the links in the chain:

When you participate, you agree that others are able to share your haiku, using the credits and the link back to the post that you provide.
Post all previous haiku on your blog, including all the credits and links provided.  Add your haiku to the chain.
Credit yourself, and include a link back to your post.  You might need to edit your post and add the link in retrospect.
Create a link back to this post.
Have fun!!
OH! And if you’d like to join in, please leave a note in the comments!

Raili, at Soul Gifts, says she’s no good at haiku. We’ll see about that Raili – I’m asking you to be the next link in the chain, and I know you won’t want to let us down 🙂

So shall we see how far we can get??? Here we go!

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Mountain of paper noodles,
earthworm fodder to
keep mycelium running.

(Safar Fiertze, Blisters, Bunions & Blarney)

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running down life’s path
many trails beckon my heart;
which one leads to me

(Calensariel, Impromptu Promptlings)

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me and the old oak
communicate silently
at one with the earth

(Jane, Making it Write)

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The virus that saved the world

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When the virus first hit, nobody knew what was going on. The characters of certain hard-nosed bankers and ultra-right wing politicians changed overnight. One of the early “victims” was Nigel Farage, who opened his house to a family of vulnerably-housed immigrants, suggesting they invite their friends to stay.

Office workers and shop assistants who’d previously turned their morning faces away from the homeless men and women sleeping in doorways, dashed to the cafes to buy them breakfast in a bun, thrust Lattes in cardboard cups into their dirt caked hands, and pulled little packages of sugar of of their pockets, asking “Do you…?”

The country was thown into chaos – those who had not yet been infected struggled to maintain the status quo, while their families, friends, neighbours and colleagues, were carrying out uncharacteristically good works. If they were rich, they ran around giving their shares to the poor, and their money to good causes. If they were poor they invited those even more unfortunate than themselves around for dinner and hugged strangers in the street.

As you can imagine, the economy collapsed, but it didn’t matter, because the movers and shakers who were infected – and there were more of them every day – lost interest in amassing yet more truckloads of money, insread turning their attention to taking care of the populance. The richest and the most intelligent got together to finally make the country work. All our services improved dramatically, and the nation became happy again – happy as they had never been before. Crime ceased to exist, hatred became extinct, and anger became a rare emotion which was easily dispelled.

Everybody in the country had caught the pandemic, and it’s currently spreading around the world. Donald Trump kicked up a fuss, screaming that an antidote needed to be found quickly. Naturally, as soon as he contracted it, he changed his tone. Now that there’s no need for a President he keeps himself busy carrying out charitable works in developing countries. It’s rumoured that he’s currently working with orphans somewhere in Africa, but nobody seems to know for sure. These days he’s a modest man who likes to keep a low profile.

Who would have thought that compassion was a virus? And who would have thought that a virus could save the planet?

Written for The Sandbox Writing Challenge #49. This week Calen says “Imagine yourself floating among these clouds in harmony with everyone and everything. What can you do to make that happen?” My answer is that I can try to create a compassion virus which is so virulant it’ll infect everyone on the planet.

I’ll need  a chemistry set…

©Jane Paterson Basil

The years pass

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In the beginning
it is like this:
you are little and it is.
There is no will be,
no was in your memory.
Your existence is.
You are in this minute.

Learning comes
from beyond your consciousness;
you have no recollection
of being unable to do what you can do today,
no expectation of future ability,
and when you are happy or sad
that moment
of elation or pain
is all there is.

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Time passes all around you
and you don’t know when the knowledge began,
but it is as if you always understood the passage of time.
You think your memory stretches back forever
but you are only five
and though you try
you can’t recall
a time when you weren’t alive,
and you can’t imagine
that some day you will die
or even that you will age.
Life is a series of days that stretch on forever
in a complex but unchanging pattern.
You dread your sister’s Monday temper
but look forward to her weekend games
You have discovered your past,
know there is a future,
but mostly
you breathe the moment.

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You are eight.
When you don’t understand long division
you remember how reading
was once so difficult
and yet now it’s easy.
You think of all the changes that have taken place in your life,
all the things that you have learned.
You are clever and you know that one day
you’ll attain teenage status,
but thinking ahead to a time when
you’ll no longer be under the protection of your parents
is too distant,
until that horrific day when your friend
turns up looking miserable and you ask her what’s wrong.

She tells you her mother has died.

Something crashes, noisily, in your head
spreading crimson through your brain
thickening, blocking your ears,
constricting your throat.
There are no words
and when they finally come they are the wrong ones,
thrown out in panic, because all this is outside your experience,
and because suddenly you know that one day
what has happened to your friend
will happen to you.
You will be alone. It could be forty years from now
or it could be tomorrow.
You could come home from school
and find your mother dead.

At night, when you lie in bed,
the fears crash in
like vandals breaking the windows of a vacant property,
and they don’t stop kicking until you have cried yourself to sleep.
They won’t let you alone, and yet
you still don’t think of how it will be when you are grown up.
You tell people you want to be a journalist
but it isn’t real.
There is only the past, the present, tomorrow, next week
and your terror.

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Your teens
are driven by twin needs for excitement and love,
complicated by unsettling hormones
setting up battles in the brain.
You trip again and again,
rarely regaining your balance before a further fall.
You turn blind corners and scale forbidden walls.
You scale, you tire, you fail, you fall.
You scale, you tire, you fail, you fall.
it becomes boring, but you cannot stop
because you are lost in a lonely shadow
looking for something which you think
is out there.

Somebody says
you won’t find it until you find yourself,
You catch the the words as they tumble from his lips,
but they get jumbled on the way to your mind
and although you try you cannot untangle them.

You want to find your way in life,
but amidst all the confusion
you do not have the vision
or the time.

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On your twentieth birthday,
looking back at your errant teens
you think you have learnt all your lessons
and there are no more mistakes to be made.
You’ve escaped your most recent error
and you’re having a good day.
You assume you’ve cast
a healthy pattern for your future,
but when you try to imagine the rest of your life
you picture yourself cartwheeling through a sunny meadow,
arriving at the other end with skin still fresh
and energy fizzing.

You don’t know you have just hit
that quintessential moment of youth.
You walk down the street feeling the spring of your feet.
Your spine stretches and the sky tickles your chin,
and when you laugh
your laughter scoops merriment out of a void,
pulling it from the throats of strangers.
You feel like the chosen leader
in a land you have freed from
the tyranny of misery.

You think the planet is turning
just so it can look at you from the best angle,
but for five minutes you own the world.
For five minutes you think that life
will always be that way.

You will live long enough to learn
that those five minutes were worth more
than your finest rose-petal romance.

< < <>

Forty years pass.
Forty years of missed prizes and misdirected action,
of rubbings-out and scribbled correction,
resulting in good and bad things,
many of them enduring long enough
to cheer or chill you as you age
and when you ponder it,
you know that if at any stage
you had seriously thought about your future,
you would not have dreamed that so many of your days
would be so infused with pain.
But then, if you had thought about your future,
it probably wouldn’t have.

You enjoy the better things you’ve made
and you’ve learnt from your mistakes.
It would have been no education
to have come through life unscathed.

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Posted for The Daily Post’s One Word Prompt: Clock

©Jane Paterson Basil

New look

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I’ve given this blog a fresh header, and as I was admiring it, it occurred to me that it would look smart if I had a matching rainbow half-frame on the left side of each post. I planned to try the idea out with a haiku. This is the haiku:

playing with new look
nervous about posting this
take a deep breath – click

When I tried to arrange it I discovered a couple of technical difficulties – the first one being that I can’t line the vertical and the horizontal one as I would like. The second problem is that as my posts are all different lengths, if I wanted both parts of my frame to be the same width I’d have to crop the rainbow a different length for each post. As you can see, this vertical line is not long enough for the whole of the post, so that’s a third problem. I think the only thing I can do on a practical level is to throw away my lengths of frame.

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©Jane Paterson Basil