The Return of the Lost Daughter: Over to You

person holding fountain pen
Photo by Janson K. on Pexels.com

 

Natalie Nera

 

I have been honest about my self-doubt, struggles with rejections, the thoughts that are destructive in any walk of life but especially when you are a creative beast.

We have to be sensitive and wear our hearts on our sleeves when we write, we have to do our research, study hard, look at what other writers do but when it comes to the other side of the business, we have to toughen up. Forget sensitivity, emotions, cry on your pillow or on your friend’s shoulder because of yet another rejection. Cry because someone was harsh in their critique but then wipe your tears and keep going. There is a pile of manuscripts that have been accepted, look at the successes not failures to find your strength. And then, with a clear head look at your failures to improve your craft, how to do it better.

Sometimes it is about sending your manuscript to the wrong publication at the wrong time. Sometimes you go through hard times that don’t allow you headspace for a lot of writing. It is OK not to be OK. That is life.

Now, it is over to you. Natalie Crick and I will keep producing our blogs but will happily replace it with observations and experiences from other writers. Moreover, we are also open to accept essays, prose, and poems, all of which can be previously published provided there are no restrictions on re-printing it online (some magazines and competitions stipulate that you are not allowed to use your work elsewhere for a period of time, so please check).

Here are our guidelines:

  • Send us a Word document to fragmentedvoices@gmail.com. On the subject line please write “Submission” followed by the type of submission, i.e. “Submission Poems”. The usual formatting applies: 12 Times New Roman, spacing 2 for prose, essays, and blogs; spacing 1 for poetry.
  • Please include a brief biography, no more than 80 words. Do not forget your contact details.
  • Blog entries: on aspects of writing or writer’s life (including poets, scriptwriters etc.). Around 800 words.
  • Essays: creative essays or essays related to any interesting subject. Up to 3,000 words.
  • Prose: short stories, flash fiction, microfiction, creative non-fiction. Up to 3,000 words.
  • Poems: no more than 5 poems, up to 14 lines. Any topic.
  • Illustrations. images and photos: send in a format that is printable online.
  • Unfortunately, we are not able to pay for these submissions at the moment. This is not the rule for our book publications where the usual contract agreements will apply.

 

Many thanks. We look forward to hearing from you soon. Keep creating and keep smiling.

 

 

 

 

NATALIE CRICK: On Writing ‘Changeling’

 

Changeling[29619]
Changeling, J.P. Lynch, 1986
Last year, a poem of mine, ‘Changeling’, was published online at Stirring: A Literary Collection. You can read ‘Changeling’ alongside another of my poems, ‘Garden Witch’, here: https://www.stirringlit.com/vol-21-ed-p-changeling-and-garden-witch-by-natalie-crick1

I’ve provided an insight into the thoughts behind my writing process and inspirations for my poem, ‘Changeling’.

Listening to Ailbhe Darcy read poems from Insistence in The Culture Lab, Newcastle, 2018, I was both disturbed and fascinated by her choice of words: ‘I’d a snip cut in his tongue. / Blood scissored down his chin’.[1]

The scenarios I invent in my poetry are often uncomfortably tragic because I wanted to encourage an emotional response in the reader. I write with an air of intimate disclosure towards the reader.

‘As a child, relatives wouldn’t hold her. She was splintered wood and sea water. They said she reminded them of the war.’[2]

Warsan Shire’s harrowing disclosure about this child in her poem ‘The Ugly Daughter’ initiated my strange ekphrastic story, ‘Changeling’; a tale of a horrifying child (though more a parasite) growing inside a weakening mother and beginning to advance in power.

I wanted to establish a physical closeness between parent and parasite as well as the duality behind the origins of the traditional folklore surrounding changelings; the ‘sickly, evil, or precocious substitute’ left instead of a real child who is ‘kidnapped by supernatural beings’.[3]

The child is seemingly questionable child and the parent mild-mannered, in contrast to much of my poetry when childhood innocence is essentially stolen or kidnapped by cruel motivations of dominant adults.

 

 

[1] Ailbhe Darcy, ‘After my son was born’ in Insistence (Hexham: Bloodaxe, 2018), p. 41

[2] Warsan Shire, ‘The Ugly Daughter’ in Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth (London: flipped eye books, 2011), p. 31

[3] Seamus Mac Philib, ‘The Changeling’, Béaloideas, 59 (1991), 121

The Return of the Lost Daughter: Do what You Preach

 

 

black ball point pen with brown spiral notebook
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

 

By Natalie Nera

 

I am very bad at taking my own advice, such as write every day for at least fifteen minutes. I have not done that for the past two months. Writing a blog at least once a week is a good incentive to keep going even though muses are not with you. When I say muses, I mean in actual fact, I don’t have a headspace to be creative.

Several months ago we made a decision to move house and move countries. Ever since (and several years before that for other reasons), my life has been a roller coaster. As lovely as my parents are, living with them is not easy. Not having my own chair or desk, or bed for that matter does not help. I do not sleep well. When staring into the ceiling in the early hours of the morning, I constantly churn in my head if I made a big mistake.

I also work. On top of that, I try to manage the completion of an anthology back in Newcastle. My sons, especially the older one, find the transition hard.  I need to pay the property tax for the apartment we are moving in January,  completing a form that is barely comprehensible. I still have to book appointments for my sons at a dentist. And myself. And an optician. And a GP. Plus work, cleaning, cooking and a lot of criticism for not hitting some impossible standards for a housewife. And a mother.

It is a place from which it is difficult to start working creatively and believe that somehow you are good enough, or at least all right. You cannot use your precious half an hour with a mindset that tells you that you are a complete failure. How do I survive this? Just keep writing even a blog entry once a week. Or a letter. Keep reading. And keep waiting for the storm to be over and to have your own desk and chair that would give you the happiness of creation and return of your own self.  For it is easy to lose that sense when everybody demands a piece of you and everybody expects perfection.  It is safe to say that I am beginning to look the way I feel.

So for those of you who recognise these struggles, please do not despair, there are many of us like this. There are many of us who have had struggles, pauses, breaks or even breakdowns. You bounce back. You always do.

On that hopeful note, I would like to open our blog to submissions. Please watch our website this week for the guidelines.  Natalie Crick and I will make an announcement about our projects next year soon.

Natalie Crick: Versioning

Edvard Munch 'Inheritance'
Edvard Munch, Inheritance, 1897 – 99

Discussing his own collection of ‘versions’, Don Paterson muses that ‘versioning allows a poet to disown their own voice and try on another’.1

I enjoy experimenting with extremes of theme and language in my drafts. My habit of the autobiographical ‘I’ is sometimes cushioned by borrowing material from inherited sources.

Despite writing often in the first person, my poetry is not to be read as autobiographical. Instead, I often write in the voices of damaged people; a form of ventriloquism.

Like Paul Muldoon, I feel that ‘form is a straitjacket in the way that a straitjacket was a straitjacket for Houdini’.2 Having always written in free verse, I find writing in formalistic structures to be ‘strange company’.3

Writing in Poetry Review, Philip Gross comments, ‘There’s a mask behind a mask’.4 Paterson goes on to ask ‘Who was that masked man?’, or girl maybe, when referring to myself. I enjoy writing poetry loosely inspired by my own creative inheritance. Are we actually referring subconsciously to our own little ghosts of truths when conjuring make-believe stories? Writing some of my more triggering poetry can be thrilling and disturbing in equal measure. Why does it provoke such a feeling?

As both a writer and reader, my favourite poems exist in word-worlds where ‘the dark and against the grain stand out’5 and, like fiction writer Ali Smith, I do enjoy deploying ‘edge’ which ‘can cut. It’s the blade’.6

I am, however, mindful to use the ‘blunt part of the knife too’7 to provide contrast and variation in my poetry. I employ visceral, sensory language to give light relief from violence in other areas.

I feel that alluding to prose strengthens implementation of the first person ‘I’; a story is being told.

 

1 Don Paterson, Orpheus: A Version of Rilke (London: Faber and Faber, 2006), p. 84

2 Ian Kilroy, ‘Transatlantic Poet’ in The Irish Times (19 April 2003), 8

3 Paterson, Orpheus, p. 84

4 Philip Gross, ‘Wriggling on a Pin’, Poetry Review, 83.4 (1993/94), 57

5 Robert Lowell, Imitations (London: Faber and Faber, 1962), p. xi

6 Ali Smith, Artful (London: Penguin, 2013), p. 126

7 Smith, Artful, p. 126

 

 

The Return of the Lost Daughter: The Way In

By Natalie Nera

black and white city electric train electrical wires
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

There are many ways you can be inspired to write your story.  Inspiration comes from perception but ultimately, it differs from person to person. Naturally, I read a lot and every day. I am not restricted to one genre because you can learn a lot from reading crime, thriller or romance even though your goal is not to write in those genres. However, there are many of their techniques you can use as building blocks.

My short story The Journey (about to be published by The Selkie) started with a newspaper article about the colonies of people trying to get to the USA. I ended up writing about a woman going into a lager to Siberia. It is not as big leap as it sounds. That article prompted me to look at the photos and materials I collected during my two and a half years in Lithuania (2002 – 2004). I spent several evenings pondering over the faith of those poor people in the 1940s simply picked up at night and transported to Siberia, many of whom never survived the journey. I viewed many old black and white photos of that era. History repeating itself.

When I presented the draft I was quite happy with, I was told that the love for Chekhov is palpable from the whole story. It is true that I love Chekhov, – and I am lucky enough to have read his works in the original -, he is probably one of my most favourite authors ever. I admire his modernity, his timeless style, his knowledge of the human soul. Some writers who were big in the 1980s feel dated today. Chekhov, even after more than a hundred years, feels contemporary. But that was entirely subconscious.

One thing I did in full knowledge, was the structure of the story. I used the structure of romantic novels to build sexual tension between the heroine and a stranger she encounters on the journey.  The difference is, of course, that the dubiousness of his background and doubts over his true mission never go, and there is no happy ending.

When I wrote my first novel, the first publisher I addressed said that she did not like crime stories as a low genre. She did not read more than three pages. You may say that I failed as an author because I did not engage a person who decided not to publish it. However, the publisher failed as well – she let her own prejudice get in the way of reading the novel and seeing that the crime genre was a device and in fact, if the work belonged into any box, it would be best described as social satire.

I am not the best writer in the world but I like learning from the best. And what the best writers show the rest of us is that there are no small or low genres, and there is always something new you can learn.

 

Natalie Crick: Workshopping

Workshopping

Image for 30th October Post

Folia/Folio

 

NATALIE CRICK

          I am a big fan of writing workshops. Writing amongst other creative people with similar interests to mine is rewarding and different because writing is mostly a solitary activity for me. Engaging in workshop exercises, I am compelled to fill my empty white pages. These are designated moments to write and I make time for it to happen. Who knows who I might meet at a workshop? The reading materials provided in workshops are often a treat. A booklet of poems to devour later in bed, or the next morning with my breakfast.  I discover more authors and writing styles that I had never encountered until now. If particularly enchanted, I may even decide to mimic their magic, steal something I want for my own.

One of the reasons I enjoy workshops is because of the opportunity to get feedback on my poetry. The views of others in the group can steer me to identify strengths and weaknesses in my writing. Feedback I get from a workshop has influenced subsequent drafts of different pieces. And I think the feedback I have encountered so far is always constructive. Hearing that someone enjoys my work is lovely, but I want to know why they enjoyed it. And I want to know even more what they didn’t enjoy it; why ask for feedback on something that you think is perfect.

Last Saturday, I participated in a ‘Creative Saturdays’ workshop, organised by the NCLA in Newcastle University. Saturday’s workshop was ran by Gillian Allnutt; Folia/Folio. Gillian has published nine collections of poetry including wake (Bloodaxe, 2018). She gained The Queen’s Gold Medal of Poetry 2016. She currently holds a Royal Literary Fund Fellowship at the University of York.

Gillian Allnutt’s workshop is an example of a workshop I enjoyed for a host of reasons. I sat in a room in the company of others with an enthusiasm for poetry and had lots of fun. I stepped out of my comfort zone, even singing a traditional verse in a dramatic performance with a partner. The workshop inspired new drafts of pieces and I gained appreciated feedback from the rest of the group to improve them. We sat in spellbound silence and listened to beautiful music to gratify our heads with memories and words. It was delightful to hear the often unexpected ideas from others; clearly we had all been inspired by the workshop activities in different ways.

In Gillian’s workshop we considered theme and variation in poetry and experimented with refrain and repetition in our work. We studied ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird’ by Wallace Stevens, reading the poem in a round, together as a group and discussing our most favourite moments in the verse. We wrote our own takes; ‘7 ways of meeting X’. X could be a deceased grandmother, an evil ex-boyfriend or even an imaginary someone, an X. X turned into many somethings. I left the workshop with a notebook of ideas for potential Xs, new poems quietly waiting to be written.

NATALIE CRICK: ON WRITING ‘FARM BOY’

Young Bean Farmer
Young Bean Farmer by Peter Doig, 1991

 

Lately I have enjoyed writing about uncared-for, neglected spaces. Before beginning to write ‘Farm Boy, I was struck by a line from one of Pablo Neruda’s poems, ‘Sonnet XCIV’: ‘Absence is a house so vast that inside you will pass through its walls and hang pictures on the air’.

I find Neruda’s quote about absence melancholic but also quite beautiful and dreamlike; for me it evokes images of ghosts drifting through the absent space. The house Neruda describes is bereft of human life and structure.

I often use artwork as a stimulus to help me think of new ideas for poems. My favourite Peter Doig painting is Young Bean Farmer, a piece which motivated the composition of ‘Farm Boy’. In Young Bean Farmer, a sinister solitary blurred figure is shown running from a farmhouse across vast farm fields painted in wild yellows and reds.

Inspired by Peter Doig’s artwork, I began to research abandoned farmhouses in more detail and accumulated artwork, written notes, books and assorted research materials to inspire me to write. I found that abandoned houses are very common everywhere, particularly in the American landscape. One infamous occurrence of significant abandonment of houses in rural areas, mainly due to the growth of corporate agriculture, occurred during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

My research led to a series of new drafts of poems like ‘Farm Boy’ about ‘place’. I found that my new poems inhabited dry, desolate farmland and deserted farm buildings to compliment gloomy and often unsettling themes and a sad, slow overall tone. To slow down the pace in ‘Farm Boy’ I wrote short, repetitively blunt lines (their houses / and their fields, / their children / all burnt’, which I hope has created a sense of entrapment and horror.

Often in my poetry, objects take on human features to replace the voices of people who are absent. Ironically, the more such bodiless voices are heard, the more their absences are acknowledged. In ‘Farm Boy’ my ‘young moon’ grows a mouth; my moon is subsequently described to be ‘eating my throat’.

 

You can read my poem, ‘Farm Boy’, in Issue 3 of Marble Poetry.

 

This essay was previously published at Marble Poetry’s website http://marblepoetry.com/natalie-crick-on-farm-boy/

The Return of the Lost Daughter: How to Write a Novel

man sitting on handrails
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

By Natalie Nera

Writing is hard but persevering with writing is even harder. You run out of steam. You do not know what to write. You are not sure if what you have written is any good. All of my “writing” friends go through the same grueling process over and over again, we all have been there. We may not achieve the literary heights but that is not the point. The river of literature keeps flowing and is very broad. We can all fit in.

So if you are considering to write your first novel, here are my tips on how to deal with the challenge:

  1. Make a plan. Like with any piece of writing, it is important to understand what you are writing about, what your characters are like, their motivations and why or why now? There are plenty of questionnaires you can download from the Internet, or make your own. This work is important. It does not matter if it takes you a week or six months. It does not matter if you keep it all in your head, or write it down, or what system you use. Mind maps? Lists? Flashcards? It is up to you but you must do it. If you don’t understand what you are writing about, what chance will your readers have?
  2. Scared of the length? Everybody is daunted by the word count of a novel. Fifty or preferably eighty thousand words, possibly even more. If you have a plan, you should not be scared. It sometimes helps to segment your task. For example, if you think of your novel as twenty stories, then it becomes doable.
  3. Author’s block. Everyone hits the wall now and again. Some days everyone feels that there is nothing heavier than your pen. Write through it. Sit down with a piece of paper and write anything, even unrelated to your mammoth task of completing a novel. Describe last night, your journey to the shop and back. Don’t edit, just keep writing and then see what happens.
  4. Writing buddies. Everybody should have their writing buddies. Friends who do the same thing as you and who will understand when you are stuck when things don’t go your way when you get rejections when your self-confidence tumbles.
  5. Peer review. This sounds like what scientists do before they publish their latest discovery but we authors need it, too. Someone who can read your manuscript and give you honest feedback, which will make your writing ultimately better. No one is the best adviser to oneself. You need another pair of eyes, a fresh perspective.
  6. So you finished your manuscript? Congratulations. Now, you have to edit it, re-draft it. Perhaps even start again. If it becomes published, even better, but do not expect miracles. For most authors, first-time novels do not hail big success. Still, this is a great reason to celebrate. You have learned a lot about the craft of writing, the whole process and become a better writer.

If you are still up to the task, not put –off by the long, lonely hours, constant redrafting, constant setbacks, rejections, and low pay, then you have become a part of the family of masochists obsessed with words and stories.  Welcome!

NATALIE CRICK: Memories and Fragments

Heather Benning, The Dollhouse
The Dollhouse by Heather Benning, 2014

 

Rachel Richardson says: ‘A reader’s interaction with a poem is largely created through the collection of images that animate the language and make us feel we have just participated in an experience’. I find that memories in language create the strongest sensory experience for myself as a reader and writer.[1]

 

In April 2019 I take part in a week long Spring School poetry course at Newcastle University. Wednesday’s tutor, Tara Bergin, tasks us to observe something during our lunch break and write about what we can see. I observe a tall glass of lemonade. The liquid is clear, with bubbles collecting at the brim. A thin curl of lemon floats on the surface like a half-smile. My notes bleed into a first draft. I do not restrict myself to the lemonade I can see, the soft fizz I can hear, the sharp citrus scent, instead I allow the sensory input to trigger other images, stories and most importantly memories to give the poem emotional weight.

 

Robert Pinsky’s poem ‘Shirt’ seems to follow the same process. Pinsky observes the object; ‘the shirt with nearly invisible stitches along the collar’. The examination becomes a manifestation, ‘the presser, the cutter, the wiring, the mangle’. By the end of the poem, the shirt lives and endures a journey: ‘He stepped to the sill himself, his jacket flared / and fluttered up from his shirt as he came down’.[2]

 

 

The imagist movement called for a return to restrained and precise use of the image.

According to Ezra Pound, image is ‘that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time’.[3] I wonder if my poems are fragments of real stories. If so, can nostalgia be strange and disturbing? Reflective nostalgia, defined by Svetlana Boym, ‘meditates on the passage of time and layers of fragments of memory’.[4]

 

I find a beautiful example of a memory explored in fragments; flickers and flames of a burning dollshouse. ‘The drone builds’ and still it burns.[5] Fragments overlap in a short film Heather and Chad Benning made about the burning; The Dollhouse.

 

There is a cold crusted winter field. I can see the house; walls growing decay, lace- curtains and a girl’s portrait swirling with red fire. And the same girl’s voice drifting in the lofts where ash dusts the pillows.

 

Pound describes the excavation of the desired object in a poem as discovering its ‘luminous details’. The details in The Dollhouse are luminous; I can see them and they are on fire.[6] I search for luminous details in my own poems and cup them in my hands in case they melt. When almost gone, I paint over signs of decay to restore the image, to redraft.

 

[1] Rachel Richardson, ‘Learning Image and Description’ in Poetry Foundation (March 27th 2015)

[2] Robert Pinsky, ‘Shirt’ in The Want Bone (New York: Ecco Press, 1980), p. 53

[3] Ezra Pound, ‘A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste’ in Poetry, (March 1913), 200

  [4] Svetlana Boym, ‘Nostalgia and its Discontents’ in The Future of Nostalgia (New York: Basic, 2001). p. 22

[5] Sheri Benning, ‘Dollhouse on Fire’ in PN Review, 45.4 (March – April 2019), 62-67

[6] Pound, ‘A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste’, 200

 

The Return of the Lost Daughter: Inner Spaces

Natalie Nera

52-07 FB RGBcropped
Francis Bacon: Study for a Head, 1952, Google Images

This creative essay was inspired by Hatton Gallery in Newcastle and published in Jun 2019 in Bridges online.

 

You sit. You look. It is a quiet place. It is not your place. Screaming faces in the paintings on the walls replicate the scream you hear inside you, the rage that runs through you every time someone suggests that being a writer is your own selfishness, self-indulgence, that equates to being a bad mother and a wife. I know that is not what Francis Bacon meant when he created his images but that is how I feel.

Homer was a poet and a story-teller. For it, he was worshipped as a deity, so were his successors. Across centuries, folk story-tellers meant that the memory of the peoples remained preserved.

Stories, words are so much more than self-indulgence, they are the beginning and the end of everything, the ideas we need to formulate in our heads, news on TV, soap operas, articles that we read and make us go ‘Agh!’, or ‘Oh, no!’; adverts that sell products through a story, sometimes only loosely associated with the subject, but it makes us salivate, makes us want more. Who can resist a bank card that can ensure your family’s happiness? How can a woman say ‘no’ to a lipstick that makes her as beautiful as Aphrodite?

Imagine if the world as we know it, finished today. What would you do? What would become of all the ‘useful’ IT managers and business graduates, overpaid high-fliers with vague job descriptions? You would make a fire, you would build a shelter, you would prepare your meal and then lie down in the darkness, listening to rain drumming on the roof of leaves and twigs. You need stories. You also need music, dance around the campfire. You need to laugh, you need to find a cave to paint a picture. There would be no need for shareholders, capital gains or bonuses. It is who we are, it is our soul, the essence of our existence? For if you forbid people from telling stories, they lose their sanity. They lose their history if their stories are not passed on. And with it, their ability to comprehend the world they live in wanes. The meaning of our being will be gone.

One can only take a look at the people who suffer from mental health issues, people traumatised by war experiences, and how they respond, how they get better through taking up a ballet class or life painting class, through being encouraged to write a journal, think of a verse that expresses their pain. Shrouded in mystery of who we are as entities, as animals, what is our brain, why does it need to be creative, why does it suffer when it is not? The healing begins.

Recently, I have watched one of the TEDx talks on YouTube. Sir Ken Robinson asked if schools kill creativity. I was shocked but not entirely surprised to hear that a five-year-old is forty-nine times more creative than an eighteen-year-old. So the question is not how do we learn creativity but how do we stop unlearning it? Based on this evidence, it appears that we are already born with creative brains but the educational system perceives it as threatening, squeezes it out of us, sidelines creativity in favour of memorizing timetables. You draw a person in uneven lines, the grass is purple and the sun green. You are told that this is not how the world looks like. You feel guilty and ashamed of not conforming to the idea of the world.  This explains why a six-year-old will start telling their parents why they cannot draw any more although they were perfectly able to express themselves in that way only several months previously. Eliminating the creative self thus equals an institutionalised act of self-harm.

Creating is breathing, it is being but when practiced well, it also becomes a craft. We are craftspeople. The technical skill behind any successful creative act cannot be underestimated. It is not an easy job for it takes daily practice to master.

We accept that it takes many years of training for a gifted athlete to win Wimbledon; we accept that a bright person has to study and work hard to become a heart surgeon, so why is it so difficult to accept that the same is true for poets, writers, painters or other artists? Why do we think that there is some magical device, like a sort of Nuremberg Funnel that enables art to happen? You somehow conjure the results out of thin air, without any effort or time?

Maybe we can blame the Byrons, Baudelairs, and Rimbauds of this world, absinthe drinking van Gogh and Manet, the pop stars in the infamous 27 Club, meteorites with wild ways and insane talent that shone briefly before crash-landing with fatal consequences. We can blame even the likes of Katie Price who is credited for writing several books although it is known that her ghostwriter pens the stories, she lands the brand name of a TV personality to shift the copies.

Creative people need to spend hours and days in solitude, working on their pieces, chiselling every word, every stroke of their brush. But that’s not what general public sees, or perhaps even wants. They notice a self-promoting media star who spends days fashion shopping and self-pampering whilst somehow also remotely and telepathically creating all these bestselling books. How difficult can writing be, right? Because anyone can write. If it so easy, why should anyone be paid for it?

The myth of an artist. No one wants to hear of a married woman with a house, a husband and two children, who does not drink, does not smoke and does not take drugs, who is, in fact very boring and ordinary, who however sits at her desk, works relentlessly on her stories, in constant search for the right words and expressions. She gets up at five in the morning to iron her kids’ school uniforms and her husband’s shirt. She makes porridge. She makes sandwiches for lunch. She puts a washing machine on. She hoovers. After the school run, she sits and writes until it is time to think of cooking the evening meal and pick up the kids again. By eight the kids are in bed. By eight-thirty she is falling asleep on the sofa. She has not stopped for thirteen hours. She is not glamorous. Or beautiful. Or seductive. Or hedonistic. She lives in her head, with her stories, obsessing about getting the words right. But that is not the portrait of an artist the public want to see.

Why do you need to be attracted to the perceived personality of an artist? Shouldn’t the artist’s work be enough? Surely, if I thought I am such an interesting person, I would have written an autobiography. Instead, I collect stories of other people, like a magpie, picking the best and most shining jewels I can see. I display them but I am not one of them. I am the greedy bird, I am the observer in the corner.

I retreat in my inner space, scream inside my head and splay myself across the pages. Is this self-indulgent? Why do people have the need to judge it, label it, dismiss it, put me down for who I am? Why do they take the time and energy to make me feel guilty? Would my story-telling be justified if I also worked in the local Co-op or cleaned toilets for living? Would I be seen as more deserving, a martyr of art, whose self-sacrifice has earned her the right to write? What do they know about the life I have lived, things I have done, jobs I have held? Time to accept that is who I am. And time for the others to accept me for who I am.