Tuesday, 19 July 2011

tinkering and thinking

I’ve been editing too much recently, or not too much actually, a worthwhile amount, a great amount, the room is covered in flurries of paper: double-spaced, courier font, scribbled, rescribbled, printed again. I’m glad I’m editing because for a while the sentence ‘Yes, I’m working on my first short story collection’ was just a stopgap masking the fact I was doing anything but.

Spring always seems to whack me with great wallops of new inspirations: April! Poem a day! Sunshine again and bikerides and long amiable wanders with the thoughts in my own brain for company. Which is good but I want to finish something more than a story here or there, a credit on a website suspended in html, someone’s screen somewhere blinking back my words, even a finely bound anthology where I snuggle between real writers and decide I am one myself in the process.

I want a book, goddamit, and I don’t get a book until I finish writing one.

This is what I remember when I speak to Ryan and Nick; this is what I forget when I spend too much time meandering the back-catalogues and credits of other writer girls, thinking they should belong to me.

But yes, so I’m editing. It’s a new pleasure, this deep tissue editing of my own words. I’ve done it to other people but never hacked myself so thoroughly. Hack hack hack like a drunken haircut. I think it’s killing my brain a bit though. It’s making it hard to get to the end of new sentences: they seem so naked and fallible. I have to remember that this is what I am when I write -- naked, fallible -- and it’s ok.

So here I am:

Five stories finished and published in a state that makes me happy (though still to be edited again, of course, once you get started it’s impossible, nothing is ever finished, but still): The Passenger in Gutter; Flamingoes in The Golden Hour Book 2; The Parade in Jonny America; The Idea Groves in Neon; and The Cats’ Gravity as a chapbook published by Forest Publications.

Four stories finished and begging like puppies on the desks of editors: Asking For It; The Wind Turbines; The Stars of Track and Field; and Carbon. Some of these are at their fifth or sixth destination, a little bruised by such rejection, but essentially better for it. One is shortlisted in a very good place indeed, waiting for a final decision in October. This is something to remind myself of when the others bounce back.

Three stories published which weren’t really ready to be: Missed Connections in the SBT anthology; The Purse Thief in Litmocracy’s anthology; and Comet Girl in The Medulla Review. Oops. Sorry world. I'll come back to these soon with a red and heavy pen.

Two stories on a third or fourth redrafting, close and delicious, which I am enjoying the ravaging of: one about snowglobes, full of brittle, white language, viewpoints bouncing like refracted light; and one about an immortal man obsessed with a female commuter on the Roosevelt Island Tram. They are obsessive stories that have been bouncing around my head a long time. I am frightened of calling them finished.

And then there is a first draft of an erotic car crash story which is fun to play with but surely so Ballard derivative that it makes me blush. (Though there is a kernel of idea in it which fascinates me – to persuade a woman with amnesia that you were lovers and have her respond: I remember. How and when and whether would you call her on the lie?)

There is also an orange grove in Greece that smells of pith and erotic games, a girl who leaves home with the dream of becoming a whirling dervish, Rapunzel in her bathtub eating cold baked beans from the can, and the metaphor lodged in my head of a concrete mixer. All these girls, always, running through my stories, trying to escape, dreaming of whirling, dancing, dancing, terrified to stop. I am besotted with concrete mixers driving miles, always turning. If they stopped they would harden, useless, and it would be impossible to start the turning again and bring it back to life.

This is how my heart and my feet feel sometimes.

These are the things I am writing about.

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