Welcome to my blog

10 02 2009

Having had a few stories published here and there, I gained a place on the University of Glasgow’s Creative Writing MLitt.

This blog charts my progress as a fledgling author and mature student.  Feel free to have a nosey around…

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Practice activities

10 03 2008

In this exercise, write about a trapped character but show this through the setting rather than to name the feeling.

She’ll be home from work soon. I look around at the house and try my best to assess the damage. In the far corner of the sitting room the brand new TV lies on it’s side but it hasn’t even been dented. The plant pot’s contents are poured across the beige carpet and the Aspidistra is lying down in the tipped soil as though the wind has been knocked out of it. There are shards of glass on the other side of the room. The angry remains of the mirror that scolded me for questioning the face looking back at me.

I don’t know what came over me. She’ll be home soon, looking for an explanation. I could tell her we’ve been burgled. I’ve lied so much already. What harm will one more do? Or I could try my best to tidy up. But it won’t be enough. She’ll notice the stain. She’ll know that something is out of place. She always does. The books will be in the wrong order or the plant won’t be sitting the right way round.

I know she can’t help it. Mike says I would be better of out of it but how could I leave? Everything looks so bloody perfect. The outside world see us, see our home. The pristine white of the net curtains. The kitchen with it’s sparkling sink. She’ll come home from work. Her hair and make-up will still be perfect; she’ll carefully cook a nutritionally sound meal. Her mouth will make the shape of a smile and we’ll pretend to make polite conversation and then, long after I go to bed, the cleaning and the scrubbing will start. Only her hands give her away. Her nails are brittle and her fingertips worn out from three years of bleach and chemicals. The angry red mark around her wedding ring.

I want her to come home and find the mess. Maybe that’s what she needs. To see the way normal people live. Mike’s house is so comfortable. The cushions are never straight. The kitchen sink is often full of dirty cups. The sheets are only changed once a week. He doesn’t have to worry if he leaves his dirty socks by the bed or forgets to rinse out the basin after brushing his teeth.

I step over the debris through to the kitchen to get the dust pan and brush from under the sink. The cupboard is stacked full of cleaning products, neatly arranged with clinical precision. I need to remember to wipe it down after I tidy up the plant and I focus on exactly where everything is sitting so I return it all just so. She’ll be home soon.

I remember we used to have fun. The house was warm and the tidiness a comfort. But then she never stayed up cleaning all night. That only came after the accident. If Dad hadn’t died I’m sure things would be so different.

Books that were important to me and why

8 02 2007

I was one of the fortunate ones in my street. Our house was full of books. I think this was the fault of my maternal Grandmother. Her house was not full of books. In fact the only book I ever remember seeing there was the Holy Bible. But I believe she may have been the first generation of her Irish Catholic family who had the luxury of free full education. The first generation from where she came from in County Cork to fully read and write. And she raised my mother to have a reverence for books and for the education possessed within them. Books=education=escape from poverty.

Without much money growing up mum spent a lot of time in the library. Of the books she acquired early in life I would guess many were either secondhand or much longed for gifts. When she met my father they discovered a shared love of Science Fiction. I can vividly remember our family bookcase at home. Full of the bright yellow spines of the genre. I can’t recall the name of the publisher. Authors like Asimov and Arthur C Clarke.

I remember too the characters on the spines of books bought for me as a child. The ladybird and later the penguin. Our family motto still looming large. Books=education=escape from poverty.

It wasn’t until I was much older that I began to realise that there are many homes where books are not treasured. A lone dictionary perhaps, or an extravagant leather bound set “for show”. Never read. In wealthy peoples homes too. It still perplexes me.

Now that I am grown and have children of my own, my own love of books is still strong. When I met and married my husband we reluctantly culled our collection for want of space. It was a torturous process, trying to decide which we could part with. Shipped off to the charity shop. In the end though we parted with many we still had to build more shelves to accommodate this shared love of reading. And I’m proud that my own children are carrying this torch, each of them, a corner of their bedroom devoted to the shrine of the written word.

My favourite friends all have large bookcases. Many joyful, wine filled nights discussing plots and characters and turns of phrase. Friendships bonded as tightly as the paper bound tomes we enjoy. Books swapped, borrowed and lent out again and again.

My bookcase holds more than just a history of what I have read. In a very personal way it is as much a history of who I am.

430 words

Jenny Love

February 2007

This is in answer to an exercise where we were asked to reflect on our experience of books as a child. Did we have a favourite author or was there a specific book that inspires us?

I couldn’t think of an author or a lone book. My first thought was, “it’s too difficult. It would be like being asked which of my children do I love best.”

But books were nonetheless a hugely formative part of my childhood as I hope I have conveyed in this piece.