Writing

The Sea Children

New Stories and Sir Peter Ustinov

I’m writing this after a long hiatus of not writing. I feel like I’m always saying I’ve not written anything for a very long time but… and then very little happens. I blame this phenomena on studying and a sudden, inexplicable lack of confidence over the past year and a half.

So.

I’m writing this after a long hiatus, but, there have been movements, and I should celebrate them instead of focusing on the negatives.

Back in February, my short story ‘Automaton’ was accepted for the fourth issue Phantaxis Magazine February 2017of Phantaxis Science Fiction & Fantasy Magazine (see a handy illustration nicked from the Phantaxis website to the right). I loved writing this story (lots of virtual window shopping for increasingly ridiculous products) and was inspired by Mac McClelland’s article over at motherjones.com. In the piece, McClelland goes undercover and describes the back-breaking and thankless work for what she calls “Amalgamated Product Giant Shipping Worldwide Inc”. Wink wink.

Also this month, my contemporary short-story ‘The Sea Children’ found a home at The Saturday Evening Post for their Fiction Friday slot. This started life as a fisherman-themed competition entry for Writing Magazine and gradually evolved into a longer story after positive feedback from Granta and other publications. You can read it online here.

In other news, I finished up my latest uni module with a staggeringly bad exam. My answers were… lacking. Despite this, I’m glad to see the back of forced reading for a while; on my to-read-for-fun list this month is Expanse: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey and Flannery O’Connor’s Complete Stories. Like most people, I binge-watched The Expanse on Netflix and pinched The Great Beta Reader’s copy (she’s heavily into space operas now, and wants to be a Space Pilot; nothing else will do).

I’ve also set myself a seemingly impossible goal of writing a pilot script for this year’s Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award, starting now with a July 1st deadline *gulp*. I won’t lie, I’ve spent a lot of today staring out of the window, eating a Pot Noodle, inwardly freaking out. I’m telling you lot so I can be held accountable. Happily, there’s the flickering image of a potential opening scene in my mind, so things are in motion…

Onwards and upwards.

 

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4 Weirdly Positive Blog Posts For Anxiety-prone Writers

“You probably know to ask yourself, ‘What do I want?’ Here’s a way better question”

This blog post by Mark Manson takes a well-worn life question and turns it on its head. Instead of asking ‘What will make me happy?’ he suggests asking yourself ‘What am I willing to struggle for?’ The more I read the more I thought about my own struggles, the sacrifices I have made and the invitable struggles to come to devote myself to writing. I thought about it, and realised that although I’ve been struggling, I’ve not done enough hard graft, put in enough sweat, blood and tears, to justify my sulking.

“15 Things You Need To Know About People Who Have Concealed Anxiety”

I’m not one for writing about what I like to call my ‘black cloud’ – in fact, this might be the first time. I’m also not an advocate of self-diagnosis on the internet; it can lead to trouble. But when I stumbled on this post about concealed anxiety via that lecherous uncle that is Facebook, I got excited. In a way not dissimilar to having someone else see solutions to your problems more clearly than you can, this easy to digest blog post had me ticking off all the things I recognised in myself. It doesn’t necessarily cure the thing, but seeing it laid out logically made me think logically about it. And it really helped.

“To Be Happier, Start Thinking More About Your Death”

I love this New York Times article from Arthur C. Brooks. My sisters, my mother and I talk about death all the time: our top five funeral songs, what the most environmentally friendly burials are, coffin preference: wicker or mahogany? We even discuss who’ll go first, as casually as other families might discuss who’ll have the first baby, or their own mortgage by the time they’re thirty. Morbid? In some circles. Practical? Absolutely. We’re pretty proud of it.

“25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing”

Or any of the blog posts on Chuck Wendig’s website really. He doesn’t mince his words. And he’s funny, which helps immensely.

READING & RUM

This blog post started life suffering from depression.

It opened with the sentence “Let me begin by saying that 2015 was, for me at least, like a silent fart in an elevator.”

There was a completely asinine title: “New Year, New Me (Or Something to That Effect)”

There were cliches: “picking up the broken pieces” and “dotting the i’s”.

There was evidence of failures taken to heart: “I made big plans at the start of the year…”

There was passive voice.

It wasn’t working. It read too much like someone else, some cookie-cutter type who Googled the phrase ‘a deep and never ending sadness’ and regurgitated the results verbatim into a text box.

I became twitchy, easily offended, a touch insane. I asked a friend to read a story of mine. He said “Sure – but I’m busy right now.” I stomped around the house for a bit. Drank two glasses of milk and ate three Drifter bars in quick succession. I belly crawled to the Playstation for help, diving into GTA V and unleashing an artistic rage bomb on the artificially intelligent people of Los Santos. I drove around aimlessly, got a terrible haircut, smashed up a bus stop with my (Michael’s) bare fists. I lit an oil tanker on fire at a petrol station with a jerry can. I met up with two members of the Epsilon Program in the mountains, was abducted, drugged, robbed of my clothes and left in a field in the hot sun, stumbling around like a sick antelope. I got a text from Marnie of the Epsilon Program asking me to donate $500.

I donated the $500.

Then I switched it off. Nothing seemed to appease me.

Then I picked up a book and started reading. I’m a writer. I should be reading, a LOT. Or at least a lot more than I’ve been doing.

But, Netflix. You know how it is.

FUCK IT, I said. Off went the TV. And I felt sort of, kind of, a bit better. Also, I held a games night and got people I liked round and drank rum and shouted and let off steam.

So let it be known:

READING (& RUM) SAVES LIVES.