Friday, 24 February 2012

Sad Old Man - a short story.

My story Sad Old Man, which won 2nd prize in January's Writing Magazine competition began life as a 500 word monologue that I wrote as an exercise in an Open University Creative Writing course some time ago.

I've often recycled odd snippets worked on in a class exercise or as a warm up when I get writer's block, into something new. I might just use a character, a line of dialogue, or a setting and the original idea might change beyond recognition but keeping all those bits and pieces is invaluable.

Sometimes I look back at old work and cast a critical eye and see plenty of faults, but just occasionally I surprise myself by finding something that was fresh which stimulates a new story.

My story was published online, but is no longer available. It is also published in Greenacre Writers Anthology Vol 3.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Mslexia, Kiva and me.

I had some good news today. My second Kiva loan has been repaid so I was able to re-loan it to someone else.

In issue no 50 of Mslexia, there was a small article on p.24 about Kiva, a US based charity which administers micro-loans. People can lend as little as $25 to those in the developing world who are struggling to get a business off the ground, or expand it, but are unable to access conventional bank loans. This is not so much aid as enabling trade. I logged on to to discover more and made my first loan to a group of women in Senegal.

Each borrower - an individual or a group - requests an amount which is made up from any number of lenders - for example, a $1,000 loan might be from 40 lenders each lending $25, or just a few each lending larger amounts. The loans are managed by carefully selected ‘field partners’ in the relevant countries.

A few weeks after I made my first loan I learned that a piece I had submitted to the ‘Monologues’ section in Mslexia had been chosen by Val McDermid (clearly a lady of great taste and discernment) for publication in issue 51. I received a welcome cheque which I used to make a second Kiva loan to a group of women in Mali, a country I visited 5 years ago in my quest to see Timbuktu.

The e-mails from Kiva telling me the loans had been re-paid, the second just this morning, brought me great joy in the knowledge that I had helped to make a difference. I was able to recycle that loan immediately. Priscilla and Susan who are both aiming to expand their farms in Kenya are my current loan recipients.

Friday, 17 February 2012

World Book Night 2012 - April 23rd

I'm so pleased to be chosen as a giver of books again this year. This time my book is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. My own copy is a bit battered having been read and leant out a couple of times.

The story of 9 year old Leisel, whose parents have been taken to the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, is narrated by Death. Death will visit the book thief three times, but who is the book thief?

Last year's World Book Night launch in Trafalgar Square on March 5th was a fantastic experience, meeting fellow book enthusiasts and listening to actors and great authors reading extracts of their books and those of other writers aloud. It was bitterly cold, but was such a wonderful atmosphere, we didn't mind too much. This year it should be a bit warmer!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

A Romance made in Heaven - or not...?

Following the adventures of Xanthe. The course of true love is distinctly rocky.

I emerge from the tube five minutes early to see numerous people wandering around selling red roses. There are hordes of women waiting. I am by far the oldest. Gradually each one is scooped up by a male bearing a red rose. Twenty five minutes go by. The flower sellers begin to look at me pityingly. Paul is generally so punctual that I’m beginning to wonder if he’s really just a bastard who thinks it would be fun to dump his girlfriend in a public place on Valentine’s day. There are no messages on my phone. I’m about to leave when I see him clutching a shiny carrier bag, weaving through the throngs of embracing couples.

‘Sorry I’m late. Problems at work and couldn’t get away. I knew I could rely on you to wait. I hope they’ve held our table.’

He leads me away from the Covent Garden crowds and we arrive at the restaurant. It is packed to the seams with tiny tables for two. We are stuffed in amongst a couple who are practically having sex over their dinner and a girl with grubby blond hair who keeps examining her phone while her boyfriend is surreptitiously texting someone. She doesn’t seem to be receiving any messages so presumably he isn’t texting her.

The special Valentine’s Day menu boasts oysters, which I hate, and has given unremarkable dishes very silly names like ‘The Spice of Love’, which from the blurb is really ordinary Thai curry. The place is hot and crowded and the waiters are run off their feet. We wait ages for someone to take our order and even longer for our food to arrive.

The texting guy on the next table jabs me in the side a few times while he figures out how to eat and text at the same time. At one point he tries to programme his fork so I can’t wait to see him take a bite out of his phone.

It’s so noisy that I can hardly hear anything Paul is saying and think perhaps we should start texting too.

‘Oh, I forgot this in the rush,’ says Paul pulling an envelope and package out of the carrier bag. I open the most embarrassing Valentine’s card in the history of mankind. Red satin hearts feature rather a lot. There is also a box of chocolates - all heart shaped, but at least they’re chocolate which can never be bad.

I had sent Paul a card which I thought was tastefully amusing and have bought him a book he was saying he wanted to read. He doesn’t mention the card and seems under-whelmed with my gift. Obviously Bill Bryson isn’t romantic.