Jacky Fowler's Stuff

July 9, 2010

Me and my writing

Filed under: Short Stories — jackyfowler @ 3:18 pm
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I was recently asked to write ’10 Interesting Things About Me As A Writer’. Yes, well, here goes:

I have always told tales. My sisters would say that I told tales on them as well as to them. I find that hard to believe. When we were very young we all shared a bedroom – two small beds, a cot and two chests of drawers – it was crowded. My mum taught me to read before I went to school and with the finely honed sense of responsibility being the eldest child engenders, I first told my little sisters simple bedtime stories I’d read. Given that Dick and Jane didn’t do much other than play with Spot the dog and his red ball, I started to make up stories that involved three sisters or their ‘able to do anything’ alter egos (ooh, shivery shades of the Brontë sisters – yeah, right). Every night, my little sisters fell asleep as I told my latest tale. They’re still my harshest critics.

My reading continued apace – my poor mother had to join three libraries to keep me satisfied – and fuelled both my knowledge and flights of fancy. Promoted to my own bedroom, I continued to tell myself stories before falling asleep each night. My mother says I’ve been an insomniac since birth, so the stories took on something of an ‘epic’ quality. Sisters didn’t feature in these stories at all, but an imaginary twin brother did. As did lots of ‘Cowboys and Indians’ (in those pre-PC days that’s what we were allowed to call Native Americans without so much as a frisson of embarrassment).

At Junior School I was lucky enough to have more than one teacher who encouraged me to write down the words I heard so strongly in my head. Recalling my thrilling tale of aristocratic escape from dastardly French Revolutionaries in particular is still easy forty years (oh dear, yes it really is forty years) later. Unfortunately, once I got to Dudley Girls’ High School it was all about writing analysis of set texts and creative writing was a strictly ‘in your own time’ activity, and other interests (for which read ‘boys from the adjoining Grammar School’) often took priority.

As I worked my way up the retail marketing corporate ladder, I wrote screeds as part of my various jobs. I remember at some party or other in my 20s someone whingeing about having to write a 10,000 word thesis within the next three months and thinking ‘eh, what’s your problem? I write far more than that every week.’ Sadly, the vast majority of my output was factual marketing matters although a lot of creativity (for which read ‘lies’) went into the public relations stuff. This factual output has left an indelible mark on my writing. To ensure that our 226 branch managers did exactly what they were supposed to do (the triumph of hope over experience) it was necessary to dot all the’ i’s and cross all the ‘t’s. It’s a very hard habit to break now that I’m concentrating on fiction, but I read intelligent fiction, which allows me to do part of the work, and that’s the kind of reader I aspire to write for too.

Ah, but then there’s the facts in the fiction. Learning to take liberties with history is new to me too. It’s a lesson that has to be learned though, along with so many others – such as leaving a blank and finding out a detail later if you really need it.

I still cannot write poetry – not even doggerel. However, this does not worry me too much.

I like to read fiction with distinctive voices (Hilary Mantel and Kate Atkinson are among many favourites) – and I want one of my own. Now I can write for my own pleasure (although there are many times that pleasure is the last word I’d use to describe the process) I’m in the very early stages of developing my own ‘voice’.

I have a novel in the planning stages, and have written a few short stories with which I’m not completely unhappy. I’m still only a little way down the road to publication, but I definitely want to commit to going all the way down that difficult road. Reading has always been a source of pleasure to me and I want my stories to be read and enjoyed.

I think I forgot to mention that I’m no good at maths, so I’ve no idea if that’s ten facts, or more, or less. What I do know is that the word count on Word says ‘enough’.

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