Wednesday, 31 October 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012

 *Takes a deep breath*

Okay, so this year I am actually going to try and complete NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month to the uninitiated) which basically means trying to complete a 50,000 word novel in just the 30 days in November. Less than one hour to go and I am beginning to sweat… I have a four page plot outline, visual references, coffee at the ready and I have told nearly everyone I know what it is I am about to embark on – in the hope that the fear of failure will spur me on.

But, now I am faced with the possibility of the first blank page and the many many hours of blank pages to come and I wonder… what if my story unravels? What if my carefully engineered plot devices and lovingly rendered characters with all their hopes and flaws revolt? What if? What if?

I still have to do washing, see friends, remember to eat, acknowledge my (wonderfully supportive and probably about to get to see my crazy face a whole lot more) boyfriend. I still have to show up to work each day. But my mind will be whirring, shaping, weighing, moulding, itching even, to keep writing until it is done – until this world I am about to create has taken form on the page and my story is done.

I am hoping all of my planning in advance will pay-off while still allowing me the freedom to invent on the hoof and have wacky fun with the characters, maybe even bid a few a premature end if my head gets too busy.

30 days of just eating, sleeping and writing ahead and I must admit it is more than a little bit daunting. I am either entirely mad or I am about to find out finally what kind of writer I am (or could be) if I stopped procrastinating and just applied myself. I guess here’s my chance.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Pervasive Pink-ness

So, I happened to be browsing the net the other night, bouncing from site to site and came across something that made me go “hmmm”: ‘Pink Stinks’ is a campaigning site devised by two mothers horrified at the abundance of pink in the world and the way girlhood is being portrayed and stage managed by corporations determined to paint everything pink. More than that they shed light on the way many of the products targeted at young women and girls in mainstream culture are capitalising not only on pink but notions of a hyper-sexualised norm that involves domestic chores, make-up and glamour. They believe that this sends a decidedly dodgy message that girls as young as toddlers are listening to and buying into as they grow-up. The site attempts to campaign against the more disturbing elements of consumer culture – particularly appealing to common sense from parents ready to eat-up cosmetics and other inappropriate items for girls under ten.

I myself came to pink very late in life. I was a dungarees and t-shirt kind of kid too busy reading books and climbing trees to buy into pink things. I was too busy running around (and clumsily falling over) in the fresh air and riding my red BMX to take notice. My sister on the other-hand had a plethora of Barbie’s, My Little Ponies and make-up sets; she was painting the fingernails of dolls while I read inspiring tales of heroines on intergalactic voyages and witches casting errant spells. Although the both of us experienced a somewhat difficult and sheltered existence I spent time in the library while she went shopping with mum – hand-holding cohorts running errands together. It was me who followed books all the way to University, believing (as I still do on a good day) that I can be anything I want to be. My sister sadly, hides her true beauty – her funny sense of humour and her gentle kindness - behind cosmetics, hair extensions and false nails. Battle armour for a world that is harsher than the Disney Princesses made her believe.

I was a hoodie and jeans girl, focussed on study all the way to University and then a funny thing happened: I struggled to fit in with the other girls and so the group geek was given something of a makeover. It was the stuff of a John Hughes film montage set to a song by Simple Minds; my hair chopped and dyed blonde, make-up applied and lacy pink tops accessorised. Then another funny thing happened: I liked it. I bought perfumes and nail polishes in every available shade, I wore heels (despite my inability to walk in them) and went to clubs and laughed in all the right places as men tried to chat me up, delighted by their sudden interest. Then I would inevitably drink a little too much and seek refuge in the club toilets and feel absolutely miserable. But why? I was doing what the other girls did even believed that I had found what I had been missing out on all those years and yet I wasn’t satisfied. It took me the best part of a year to figure out that whoever this be-pinked, girlish creature was, was definitely not me and so I found my real self somewhere in between these extremes.

That is not to say I abhor pink – far from it. Pink and purple are two of my favourite colours… and so are red and turquoise and blue. But, having viewed Pink Stinks it really got me thinking and made me reconsider the products I own and the reasons why they are the colour they are. Is it some corporate conspiracy selling me a version of womanhood predicated on being innocent, unthreatening and meek? Is it as Naomi Wolf maintains, a way to keep us ladies preoccupied from rebelling and overthrowing patriarchy?

Hmmm… One look at my bathroom has me wondering if they might be onto something…

Pink... because I'm worth it?

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Writing Exercise #2: Write as much as you can on a random topic for five minutes...

Three attempts:

Garden furniture

Garden furniture comes in all shapes and sizes, like people. Some of it is very permanent, made of heavy wood and unmoving, screwed deep into the ground. Other items are light and temporary, like deckchairs which threaten to buckle under your weight. It can be fun to bring the inside of home into the new space of the garden, to get ants onto a nice rug, drop an ice-cream on a dining room chair that has been liberated onto the patio for an afternoon.

Does garden furniture secretly wish to be inside at night, once the sun has gone down and the family are safely ensconced into duvets and bedrooms where large wardrobes watch over them? Does garden furniture look around in the silent midnight hum of the garden and see insects and rodents and next-doors cat on the prowl and secretly wish it were a faithful chest of draws made of mahogany and holding a collection of miss-matched socks and baby photo’s?

Does the smell of soil and feline defecation get too much? Or is it happy to just be there for us on the four sunny days of the year when the rain holds off for just long enough so the family come together in the open air and stretch out on those trusty, slightly rusty, red deckchairs?


Eagles frighten me. These aren’t sweet little birds that pop into the back garden for a bite of a worm basking itself in the sunshine, they are predatory, large and magnificent. The wing span of an eagle is truly terrifying – larger than a paraglider I’d imagine. Eagles soar in the air with a freedom that captures the imagination – especially that of the American people who supplant it into their national consciousness to represent strength and individualism. Eagles peer down from cliff-top roosts watching us tiny mortals; the size of ants. I wonder if they judge us, mock us with a dismissive flutter of feathers, if they playact ‘human’ to each other, smiling beaky disdain for Hank in his black SUV on a boiling day in the Canyons, listening to soft rock on his radio and wearing a baseball cap to cover his ever expanding bald patch – with a large eagle symbol emblazoned proudly upon it.


Fireworks remind me of the autumn – the smell of gunpowder and bonfires and the old ‘remember, remember’ rhyme. Do I remember my first firework show? There was a festival once where everyone stood around, freezing in the crisp early evening, waiting with a tired anticipation. The crowd was hushed, occasionally giving over into excited bursts of hysteria from children. The music looped to the greatest hits of Queen, everyone drinking a beer and buzzing with the celebratory feel to the air.

The moment the first one fizzes into the sky you are struck by several conflicting emotions: anticipation of the ‘big one’ the moment when a ten tonne firework will wreck the sky with its flaming aura; fear of the din of noise that is about to assault your senses; the sense of preserving your cool (you won’t ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ with the masses, it takes more than a firework to make you smile!). But, then before you know it you are swept away with the music and the spectacle before you, all of that beauty and terror merge into a feeling of elation. You experience a feeling of lifting up, of letting go, of your body exploding into the sky.

© CT, 2012.