There’s a stillness, a quietness in the air this morning as if Nature is exhausted after yesterday’s storm when the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia swept in over the west coast, fortunately not doing much damage. The apple tree in the garden though, had a good shoogle as we say here, and apples have been strewn across the garden. However, a few are still clinging on to their branches like shipwrecked sailors clinging to the mast. And there’s enough for another apple dessert of one shape or another.
And I’ve reached a hiatus too in my writing life. I need to take stock of what I’ve done and where to go next. I’ve counted that there are three books that I’ve written out in publisher land waiting for decisions about their future to be made. Information about several interesting competitions is sitting on my desk and on my calendar are two speaking engagements in the next few weeks. Plus an article hopefully being read with enthusiasm across the Atlantic.
One competition is purely for writers from Ayrshire with the theme of Head in the Clouds, a state most writers know only too well. Previously this competition was keen on the works of Edgar Allan Poe, with one of our club members scooping the prize one year. His story even yet sticks in my mind, involving as it did, a dead hand emerging from a manure heap. Grisly!
The Scottish Association of Writers runs several competitions with the results announced at its conference in March. This year I was an adjudicator and wasn’t allowed to enter the competitions I wasn’t judging, but in 2018 I shall be just an ordinary attendee and free to enter as many as I like. It’s a good opportunity to try a genre I don’t normally write like poetry or drama and get a critique on your work as well as perhaps a prize. So I shall have a think about that.
One of my talks is to residents of a sheltered housing complex about what I have been writing since I last spoke to them 18 months ago. No lack of material there, just decisions to be made on what to miss out, skim over or concentrate on.
The other engagement is for a workshop on writing the short story at Ayr Writers’ Club. I have been reading and listening to a variety of short stories – no great hardship as I enjoy that – and two have stuck in my mind. The winner of the Scottish Arts Club competition is Iain MacDonald with his story, The Gannet, an evocative piece of excellent writing.
The other one is the short story which won the BBC National Short Story Award, The Edge of the Shoal by Cynan Jones. I listened to it when it was broadcast on Radio 4 recently. I was out for a walk at the time and was so wrapped up in it, I just kept walking until it came to an end. In an interview for the New Yorker, Cynan Jones states that:
I’m not sure fiction should provide the reader with a thorough picture of a person. Reality doesn’t. We build our ideas of others through assumptions we make based on the small things they show.
Readers are imaginative, creative people in their own right. By revealing little details, implications, readers form a relationship with the character based on their own understanding, not my insistence.
Food for thought indeed. Meantime back to the apples and perhaps an apple tart tonight?