A Year of Writing: Days 101-110

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Day 101 of #ayearofwriting and I have made it into triple figures. There is a sense of achievement. I have started to submit the stories to publishers, and wait, as all writers do. One has gone out and come back, rejected, but the publisher asks to see more. Often writers who receive such rejections never submit to the same publisher again thinking that the publisher is just being polite. From experience I know that publishing is not a polite industry, if they want to see more work, send it.

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Day 102 of #ayearofwriting and my old characters are grinding bones. I wonder where the bones come from, the village has only four children, too many old people live there and suddenly it is a microcosm of our own society where by the time I am 70, my generation will outnumber the young. What will happen to our bones? Something to think about on Friday the 13th.

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Day 103 of #ayearofwriting and I am back in the woods of my childhood. I spent most of my early teen years doing country running as I was exempt from football due to health concerns and several expensive operations my parents had paid. In those days I was deemed healthy enough by the drill sergeant cum PE teacher to be let loose and to run alone around Rivington which goes from dense woodland, to open farmland, to race tracks for morons in souped up cars and motorcycles. I remember coming home once with a couple of friends after we’d been practicing in a band, I was carrying an old keyboard in a heavy case and my friend was beside me and then he wasn’t. He was fifty yards away with a bicycle wrapped around him. These where the roads and lanes that where deemed safe to run around. Years later, and these woods that I ran around have become the heart of Saul’s past, rather than the castle that loomed out the woods at me or the follies and garden buildings, I borrow from somewhere else in my past and place a derelict house there, deep in the woods and think of the wolf and red riding hood.
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Day 104 of #ayearofwriting and I am working through my second draft. Like The Tin Grasshopper this story is not coming easy, and Saul is only giving up what he wants to, an inch at a time. I sit writing this listening to the swifts in the eaves who are excited at the new life they have brought into the world. I hear the chicks calling for food, the calming chittering of their parents, and realise that Saul has had none of that. He remains locked up, a survivor, an armoured grasshopper. His time is coming and there are echoes of this in the story, in the moment he walks into the revival tent, the Reverend calling out to the old and keeping the young close. There in that moment you realise that this is a dying community and dying villages do odd things to survive.
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Day 105 of #ayearofwriting and all this writing can play havoc with your spine. When my back went when I was 29, the consultant asked me what I did for a job, I told him I was a writer and he just shook his head and said, ‘You lot never learn’. It’s true, most writers I know have knackered backs, buggered fingers and wrists that sound like cement mixers. I have to get a balance between writing and moving, gone are the days of ten hours in the same position afraid that if you move you’ll lose the thread that is ever so fragile.
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Day 106 of #ayearofwriting and there is a twist in the story. I have made Saul somewhat of a coward, he runs from the wagons but tonight in the redraft I begin to realise that for him to survive so long would mean an instinct for survival. Survival is not the same just surviving, survival needs a level of brutality – that is the wrong word but the closest I can think without it making sound like I am condoning what he does. I now begin to consider that maybe they are not running from a literal plague but from people who have become a plague, in the sense that where they go, people die. These are the people in the wagons and Saul is going to meet them.
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Day 107 of #ayearofwriting and Saul’s boy is sailing away, and in my imagination I see Flamborough Head but know in this story that the harbour there is long gone. In this time period most of the East coast is under water but in my imagination I see Saul thrown up on the shale, his voice bouncing off the cliffs conning him, making him think for a moment he can hear his boy call back from the boat. It is in this moment, for Saul admits that the old and blind only look back, that his son becomes a dot not just in his dream but the memory of him, of his name. He has become so old, so lost in the world that he can no longer remember his son’s name, all he can remember is how his hand felt in his own, how he smelt when they hugged, how he laughed and cried.
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Day 108 of #ayearofwriting and between physio, gardening work, house work, painting the kitchen, going to work and writing I am exhausted. This is not a plea for sympathy but just a cry out for a bit of peace and quiet, but the days are long, the sun is shining and there is work to be done. Writing in Saul’s voice again makes me struggle with my own spelling, I easily slip in to afeard rather than afraid, nawthen rather than nothing, tha instead of the, aroun instead of around. I think of Russell Hoban having to write Ridley Walker, and how his spelling went out south. I also remember that in the breaking down of language, there is mythology, there is poetry in the everyday, there are forests that loom like giants in our psyche. Down deep, down in the core of us, there are things that we are afeard of, things that don’t go bump in tha night, things that pull at tha veneer of what we call human. Our greatest fear is ourselves and tha fact we dunt knaw what wher capable off when tha very way we speke, becomes nawthen more than a fal de ral.
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Day 109 of #ayearofwriting a reflective moment in what is a difficult story. I am exhausted but pushing through. I am exhausted because I have taken on Saul, his age, his failing memory, his very bones I have started to inhabit. I want to sleep all day, curl up with my own past and out of the past comes the old tin mission near my school as a child. I would love a photo of this, this isn’t the one, so anyone of a certain age from Horwich, who remembers the old tin mission on Lord Street, give me a shout out. I am convinced that it was a Salvation Army church but I was young and my only reference was a friend of mine by the surname of Pilkington lived across the way, and on the other side, a friend by the name of Burgess (who I still know). I’d love a photo of it.
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Day 110 of #ayearofwriting and maybe the sun has reinvigorated me, even though it is turning overcast now and the rain threatens to fall again. I find myself finding images that link Martha and Lilith together, forty years separates them, the only thing they have in common is Saul. You begin to realise that Saul isn’t a good man, he isn’t a bad man, but he is capable of both. He has developed into someone born of a climate change world, from a desert to the rapids of Ashway Gap that now dominate my story, the sound of it, the smell of it bringing him into the valley to find people waiting, picnicking, wondering when help will come. Forty years later and they are still waiting, and they are doomed for it.


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