Friday, 11 November 2011

A Poem for The Fallen

The website Every Day Poets has today published my poem Farewell Sweet Molly Brown written to commemorate the fallen of the First World War in particular but also those lost in subsequent conflicts. I'm usually a writer of short stories, not a poet, but this poem entered my dreams and demanded that I write it down. I don't pretend to understand how that process works or what, if anything, it means. But that is quite simply how it happened.

My poem is not something to be 'liked' but if the words should move you, please consider donating whatever you think fit to the RoyalBritish Legion Poppy Appeal, Help for Heroes, or any similar fund that honours the memory of those killed, or supports those injured, in conflict and their dependants.

If in making your donation you should mention 'Sweet Molly Brown' alongside any personal dedication, the acknowledgement will be most welcome. Thank you.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

I blame The Coward's Tale by Vanessa Gebbie

I used to think I was indecisive...
I am chewing my fingers to the bone with indecision and it's all Vanessa Gebbie's fault.

You see, this morning the postman brought me Vanessa Gebbie's latest book, The Coward's Tale. Yay!

But I haven't quite finished Jonathan Pinnock's hilarious first novel Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens. Doh!

I'm also dipping in and out of Tania Hershman's excellent short story collection The White Road and Vanessa's equally excellent collection Storm Warning. Double doh!

On Monday, following a discussion on SF at UCL, I purchased The History of Science Fiction by Adam Roberts, and began reading that on the train home. Triple, doh!

And… this morning's post also brought me a copy of The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse, a book I have been meaning to read for years. Doh, ray, me, far, so, la, tee, DOH!

The very worst of this situation, and the part for which Vanessa Gebbie is entirely to blame, is that having read the first chapter of The Coward's Tale I am utterly hooked. Unfair, Vanessa, so unfair of you to write such mellifluous and addictive prose. It was clear from the opening sentences that not only was The Coward's tale going to be a book I would relish, but that it is one destined to achieve heights and accolades to which few other books and authors can even aspire.

Hear me, people, The Coward's Tale is going to be BIG.

Now, I suppose I shall simply have to go cold turkey for a few hours, sustained perhaps by a final heady fix of Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens, with perhaps just a smidgin of…

Hang on a moment. Wasn't there something else I should be doing? Ah, yes. I'm a writer, allegedly.

Just one more chapter? Oh, please?

Damn the woman, why can't she write take-it-or-leave-it rubbish, like me?

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

WRITING: The Joy and The Sadness

There are few truths about writing that can be stated with absolute certainty but this is one, and this is part of the sadness of writing: A writer can never experience what he has written for the very first time.

Undeniably the writer is the first person in the world to see his individual words as they appear on the page, but he is cursed never to experience that magical (tragical?) first discovery of his completed sentences. Obvious? Yes, but in that truism lies the joy and the sadness, plus endless potential for self discovery and life enrichment. In my opinion that potential for self discovery and life enrichment comes from the act of subjecting writing to the honest scrutiny of others – writers and readers – and from the need for any serious writer to get inside the heads of his characters and his readers. In short, I believe that a writer needs to cultivate a thick skin, an ability to listen and above all the magical ingredient of empathy. The writer without empathy must be a lonely person indeed. But for the writer with empathy the world is his friend and his inspiration.

Speaking of loneliness, blogging is a strange and mysterious adjunct to writing. Writing this piece I have not the slightest idea whether my words will ever be read by a single living soul. I do hope one or two living souls do drop by because I’m writing my chuffing heart out here. (Do please leave a comment if you visit, even if you’re simply lost in cyberspace, just to give me a little reassurance. If you have problems with the comment function, tweet me @OscarWindsor). Whilst I have nothing personally against bots of  the benign information-collating ilk, bots and I really don’t have a lot to say to one another. Come to think of it, perhaps bots do speak to other people. Maybe it’s only me? Hello… Hello… Calling fellow travellers in interblogetary craft… Nothing. Still, at least they don’t nick my biscuits and go away leaving the lights on like human visitors… Hang on though… Look, whoever – whatever – you are, it’s all very well to say you’re human. How can I possibly know? I’ve heard about a recent upsurge in Turing-test Pass certificates. Do bots eat biscuits?

Anyway, where was I?

Oh, yes. There is one chink of light in the darkness of a writer’s inability to get that magical (he hopes) ‘first view’: On occasion - it must happen by chance, otherwise the effect doesn’t work - a writer may discover a piece of writing and think, as writers sometimes do: ‘I wish I’d written that,’ and only later realise that in fact he did. In that brief moment he experiences the joy of writing.