Jonathan Gibbs, author of the novel Randall, a wonderful re-imagining of the world of the Young British Artists in the 1990s, has set up a weekly newsletter which generously offers an opportunity to any of us to draw up a personal anthology of 12 short stories. I jumped straight in and my personal anthology was sent out by Jonathan last week.
I relished the chance to revisit stories which have stuck in my mind since I first read them, some many years ago, others more recently. My chosen stories are:
At Sea, Guy de Maupassant
Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, Rudyard Kipling
The Luncheon, W. Somerset Maugham
A Child”s Christmas in Wales, Dylan Thomas
Curl up and Dye, Fran Landsman
Ernesto, Juana Adcock
Wires, Jon McGregor
The Semplica Girl Diaries, George Saunders
Tiger Palace, Kirsty Logan
Sound Waves, Lane Ashfeldt
The Cruellne, James Clammer
Two, Joanna Walsh
Read more about my choices here – I also give links to where you can read and/or buy them.
A dear friend of mine, Anna Schiff, died not long ago. I offered to draft an obituary for her and send it to The Guardian for them to consider for inclusion in their Other Lives.
This was a new writing challenge for me. Capturing the essence of a life within 400 words is not easy! I was lucky in that I didn’t have to do any research, having not only my memories from many years but also a copy of all the material read at her funeral, as well as a chronology of her working life. However, getting an appropriate combination of key facts and anecdotal details was tricky.
Another friend offered an editorial eye, and polished up my work without compromising it – a great skill for which I was very grateful. We asked if it could be published under both our names, but The Guardian insist on a single byline.
They also asked for several pieces of additional information, including Anna’s mother’s maiden name. I realised why – an obituary is about recording information about a person for posterity as well as being a pen portrait. Fortunately, the inclusion of the additional information in the final edit done by the paper was not at the expense of all the fun bits.
The piece is in The Guardian online and I have just heard that it will be in the print edition tomorrow – 16th September. I’m so pleased – Anna deserves that recognition. She was, as one of her other friends said to me, a one-off, and we will not see her like again.
Sometimes the process of writing is clear; other times less obvious. There is a period of collection, or collation, of material. Then a period of gestation before a way forward presents itself. It is good to be patient.
Travelling produces material, willy nilly.
I have been in Cornwall this weekend. What will come of it for my writing remains to be seen. I am sure that there will be something. Meantime, here is an inspirational image. Feel free to make use of it!
I’ve been experimenting with black and white photography over the past few days. Using a setting on my camera called ‘high-contrast mono’ I’ve achieved some unexpectedly pleasing results.
Wheelbarrows in the walled garden at Croft Castle
It’s also got me thinking about how working in monochrome can translate into writing. We often talk about introducing colour into our work, but what about stripping it away? What about, instead, concentrating on shape, pattern and contrast?