It was clear to me in the months after Lee, the love of my life, passed away (and so young too) that the profound effect of such a life-changing event was going to seep through into my writing. I had seen its effect in others, in the kind of poetry they wrote, the stories they wrote. Now it’s true to say, as writers, we often like to dwell on the sad and the painful and that’s why I so often suggest the use of pathos, the sad and the funny side by side.
So I guess the idea of missing someone did come into my writing a lot and probably still does, but it’s different now, less raw, more humorous.
Some of you will have read the story that won me the Bath Short Story Award, Learning to Fly, and indeed, as you may have read in my interview, it did take many elements from personal experience. Read the interview and the story here if you haven’t:
Of course I also made sure, as you’ll read, the story had a message — and one I will repeat here in case anyone reading this needs to hear it. Things do get better. They really honestly, truly, do. So the story itself is a metaphor for coming to terms with grief.
In the same way Rats In The Attic, that won the Sunpenny Press competition some time ago, also dealt with a child coming to terms with his sister’s illness with humour and hope.
When we have lost everything — we always have hope.
Hope is the last thing to die.
A story I also wrote around this time was one that has a darker edge but still ends with hope.
It’s called Rush Hour. It’s in essence how a girl deals with the suicide of her friend, but I like to think it’s a whole lot more than that. I felt, when I returned to work after Lee’s death, that I was trapped in a job and a life I was desperately unhappy with. But at such a difficult time it was hard and perhaps ill-advised to make life-changing decisions. Because we’d worked together, at least in the same place, I had a whole other hurdle to climb. But I always believed, and still very filmy believe, that life is too short to waste a single day of it doing something that not only doesn’t make you happy — but makes you darn right miserable.
We need to eat, we need to breathe. We need to pay the bills — so it’s far too idealistic to say walk away. It’s not Hollywood, it’s real life, right? And trust me I know what’s it was like when I once had a brief stint of claiming jobseekers. I hope never to have to do that again! But I hung in there, somehow, clinging to the dream I knew one day would be my escape. And it was.
In the words of a proverb that came of a fortune cookie (and found itself pinned to my notice board once): Success is your best revenge. And now, well I somehow created the dream job for myself. Sure pennies can be so tight I live on beans on toast (I love beans on toast!) but gradually that is less and less the case and I am so happy. Richness is not measured in pennies, but in quality of life, right?
So, why all this preamble? Let me tell you. I saw that old life as being part of a rat race — I always had this crazy notion I wanted to turn around on a busy street and go the other way. Be the exact opposite to everyone else.
Rush Hour is the story of just that. Choosing to live. And like the girl in this story, she learns from what she saw happen to her friend — life really is short — so take a chance — while you still can.
So that’s my message for this Friday morning.
And why is today another first? Well Rush Hour was selected and TODAY has been published in a literary journal! And being published in such a prestigious place really is a great honour and a first! I hope of many!
Here is the link and you can read Rush Hour on page 65, my bio at the back. Looks like there are some great stories, poems and art pieces in here so there’s my weekend’s reading.
What a year 2013 is.
And the best is yet to come. That my friends, is my motto for life. Wave the banner, print it on the t-shirt. And the best is yet to come …
Cannot wait to see wait to see what 2014 will bring but it promises to be even better.
Have a wonderful weekend everyone!