Sunday, 1 November 2009

short stories, taking it easy and clearing the plot

Things have been better this week, not out of the woods yet, but significantly better than they were the previous few weeks. I am trying to take things very easy, and focusing on the few things I really want to do...

For a start, last Saturday, I went out for a lovely short story day. A writers brunch in Manchester with Tania Hershman, Elizabeth Baines, and Melissa lee Houghton. Lots of talk about short stories and writing over scrambled eggs and toast. It was the first time I met Tania and Melissa, even though I have 'talked' with them a lot online. It's weird and wonderful meeting people from the internet, I felt like I already knew them from photos, blogs, emails.

Then, on to the Short Story Weekend at Manchester Literature Festival. My highlights were:
- hearing Adam Marek read the beginning of a very intruiging short story about school children wearing nanoclothing, in a futuristic world. And also getting the chance to meet him. I desperately want to read his collection.
- A video interview with Gazan short story writer, Atef Abu Saif, who was not allowed to leave Gaza to read in person.
- Bernard MacLaverty read a very entertaining story, and answered questions. I loved it when he answered a question by saying, 'yes, I can't remember which of my short story collections that was'. Oh, I aspire to be able to say that.
- I also aspire to be able to say the same as David Constantine, when he told us he had 'found' several novels that he had written in a cupboard recently.
- Finally, Iraqi writer Hassan Blassim read one of his short stories in Arabic, with an English translation projected behind him. It was a very brutal story, black humour, ironic.

I was exhausted after such a full on and intense day. But, how wonderful to be able to indulge in so much short fiction. If only all literature festivals could focus on the short story like this. It is very exciting to discover new writers, and enjoy the vast mix of short fiction writing out there!

I'm back to reading short fiction as well, after a brief foray into novels. I've just finished Alice Zorn's Ruins and Relics and have started Mary Caponegro's All Fall Down. I will be writing reviews for both of them, and will post links when they are online.

Work on the allotment is coming along very well...
I've planted onions and garlic ready for spring, it felt good to get something in the ground, as well as all the digging I've been doing. At least I know that (fingers crossed) something is growing. Last Sunday in the drizzle, me and my sister cleared a little more ground, and I pulled out all the big weeds in the middle of my plot. The compost heap is getting to be huge! It was very muddy and a little cold, but exciting to see how it is progressing.

Yesterday, I went to the Allotment Association AGM, which was an eye-opener. There was so much arguing! People disagreeing about water butts and top soil, and what the money is going to be spent on, and whether we should have a toilet fitted and who would clean it if we did, and whether it's better to have green bins or a skip, and all kinds of other heated debate. Gosh, I didn't know allotments invovled so much politics! I did another couple of hours on my plot, and cleared a little more space, dug it over again, and with the help of Eric (one of my allotment neighhours) built a raised bed...!

I never imagined I would enjoy having an allotment so much. Simple pleasure I mean, a slow kind of satisfaction, seeing how I am slowly getting things done, tidying the ground, digging it over, how little by little, big things can be achieved.

I find life interesting, the way this allotment was given to me, just at a time when I was really struggling, and how it is turning out to be exactly what I needed. Perhaps its sychronicity, I don't know, but it couldn't have arrived at a better time. It's not the answer, but it's given me something to focus on, it's getting me out in the fresh air, exercising more, and introduced me to a very friendly community of people at a time when I was feeling very alone.

Positive, yes?

I have much more to say, mainly about the kindness of others - friends and strangers - I've been surprised by the amount of kindness and also where it has come from. I will save this for another blog, perhaps, as I have a lot of thoughts about it that I'm still working through. But, I do want to acknowledge the kindness people have shown me, often in very simple ways, that has meant such a lot. Thank you!


Megan said...

fabulous Annie - may things keep on improving xx

Anonymous said...

What's good for the soil is good for the soul. Soil food ;-)

Hang on in there Annie. xxx

sonia said...

allotment looks great-congrats! literary brunch sounds lovely -too easy not to see people in person when you're a writer. finally put my onions in -yippeee.

Tania Hershman said...

Sorry to come late to this post, but it was LOVELY to meet you too, and next time maybe we'll get to visit your allotment too :)