Monday, 13 October 2014

Day Three

1. Go Fund Me

I have been so encouraged with the response to this blog so far.  Thank-you. People have told me they have been moved by the writing, sometimes inspired. That’s why I write and what this is all about. I’d also love to know if you have signed the organ donor register or had a chat with anyone about organ donation as a result of something you have read on here.

Yesterday, someone suggested that I do more with this. That I could produce an anthology of work from it at the end and that I should think about making it into a ‘Kickstarter’ project. Kickstarter is a crowd sourcing platform but one that only enables you to get the funds and start a project when you have secured all the funding. If you don’t get the whole amount pledged, you son’t receive any of it and can’t start the project. I’ve already started this and have committed myself to my three pieces of writing a day, every day we wait on the transplant list. But, the idea of earning something from writing this blog is a good one. It is difficult for me to take on organised work at the moment, even freelance, because I don’t know what each day will bring; how William will be, whether I’ll be tied up caring for him at home, what kind of a night sleep I’d have had the night before with him, how I’ll be feeling, whether I’ll be able to concentrate… or even if we’ll get THE call. I do my best but it is a lot easier for me right now to be able to concentrate on the creative writing that seems to flow so much easier somehow when you are living challenging and emotional times. I’ve always found that when something is not sitting right in my spirit I write so much more openly, freely and prolifically somehow. But, even if the novel is picked up by a wonderful agent, and then a fantastic publisher and all goes as well as could be, I wouldn’t earn anything for months, if not  a year or two from now. So, the idea of making this into a paying piece of work got me thinking.

I decided to set it as a project on Go Fund Me because, there, you the funds are dripped to you as they are pledged, rather than having to wait and see if you get the target and then receiving it all in a lump sum. I don’t like to get something for nothing and, as this blog is free, I needed to give something in return. So, I have decided that, at the end of this blog, when we get the transplant call and I stop writing in this space in this way, I will spend some time looking over all that I have written and pick some short poems, extracts or quotes. I will then design and produce a set of 10 postcards with these depicted on them. These will be available within the first couple of months after William’s transplant - once we have come through the most difficult and critical stages and I can relax and think creatively. During William’s recovery in hospital, I will look deeper into the work on the blogs and take some poems, extracts, ideas and stories and work on them more to turn the unedited, raw material on here into finished works. I will select some of these and put them into an anthology, together with images and photographs from our journey. I will only make 100 of these at the most. The postcards and anthologies will be available only to those who help me crowd fund this project. An investment of £5 will get you a postcard, for £10 you will receive 5, for £20 the whole set of 10 and for £50, the set of postcards and the anthology. I’m sure I will add in other goodies as I think of them.

I had to come up with a target for the Go Fund Me page. I would rather have just left that blank as it’s difficult to put a price on writing. If I was to set the target at what creative writing should be worth, or what I get paid to write features in magazines, it would have been much higher and totally unrealistic. Instead, I found out that the average waiting time for an intestinal transplant last year was 188 days. I priced each piece of writing, three a day, at £10 each so £30 each day for an average wait.

If you are enjoying this blog, please think about helping fund it. I can promise, the postcards and books will be as lovely as I can make them and my thanks will be as heartfelt as can be.

2.  An Honour Above All Honours

I thought I’d share a story I’ve been working on today. I wrote an early version of this just after the 7/7 bombings when there was so much shared fear on the tube that you could almost taste it. This story was originally more about the way people fed off each other’s fear when a train paused in the tunnel or there was a strange sound or flash from the wheels on the tracks. I’ve been working on ideas and styles for magazine short stories and so have played around with this,  re-writing it to make it more about the main character and told in her voice. I thought it is relevant at the moment with the new wars in Iraq and Syria. I’d love to know what you think of it

An Honour Above All Honours

The delayed north bound train rushed into Highgate Station with a gust of hot, musty, sooty air. The carriages were already swollen with sweltering bodies but I had to squeeze myself in somehow. It would take about twenty minutes to get to Leicester Square and at least another ten for me to walk down the road into Covent Garden. It was already 8.20.  I couldn’t afford to waste even the four minutes separating this over crowded train and the next. Even though that would almost certainly arrive with more breathing space, maybe even some seats.

I had been beyond excited for this morning to arrive almost every minute of the six days that had passed since I had received the email.

Dear Sophie,
Thank-you so much for sending me your wonderful drawings. I would very much like to meet you and talk more about the exciting ideas you have to bring my story to life.  I will be in London next week. Unfortunately, I have a pretty packed schedule but I could manage to to squeeze in a meeting for half an hour at 9.00am on Tuesday. Could you get to Starbucks on Covent Garden Piazza?
I’m really looking forward to meeting you.
Best Wishes
Bella Symthson

Bella Smythson was really looking forward to meeting me! I had adored her stories for as long as I could remember. I must have read and re-read her mail over a hundred times just to check it was true. The thought that I could be working on a book with her was just incredible. It couldn’t have come at a better time too. I’d be leaving the office in a few weeks and needed a break from fabric design. Spending the rest of the Summer in the garden painting adventures for Candy Carly and her friends couldn’t be more perfect.  

The train doors opened and people spilled out onto the platform. I found myself being rammed into the train before everyone had finished leaving, then jolted around as people pushed past me in all directions. A further pile of bodies crammed in behind me before the doors finally closed.

I travelled two stops down the line with an elbow digging into my back and my nose pressed up against someone’s frothy Starbucks latte. The milky, syrupy smell was nauseating. Finally, at Kentish Town, the throng subsided slightly. Those of us left were able to shuffle into sufficient space to open books and papers and breathe free of the pungent smell of too close up body odour combined with a cocktail of assorted perfumes and aftershaves.

I had woken with a niggling headache and the last five minutes of commuter hell hadn’t exactly helped! I leaned it against the cold metal on the aisle post next to me and closed my eyes.

“Here, take my seat love.” As I looked up, a man with a blue suit and red tie rose from his seat and held his arm out to me.

“Ah thank-you so much.” I said.  Along side my headache, my ribs were now sore from the crushing and I was relieved to be able to plonk my body down on a chair.

A disembodied voice reminded us to keep all our personal belongings with us at all times to avoid a security alert. That was another reason why I tried to avoid The Tube. I never really felt safe and these announcements made me feel particularly uneasy.

I checked my phone 8.30. We’d just left Mornington Crescent. Five stops to go. “Come on!” I urged the train.

I leaned back and closed my eyes again. Suddenly I could hear a voice rising above the rattles and squeaks of the train bouncing through the tube;

“Labeeya labeeya suri.
Laneeya labeeya suriay.”

The sound was beautiful but why would someone sing like that on a packed commuter tube. The voice continued, getting closer to me. I recognised the language from news reports and felt sure it was Arabic;

“Labeeya labeeya suri.
Laneeya labeeya suriay.”

It was music straight from the heart. Penetrating, encompassing, intoxicating. It was intoxicating. I felt hot, sticky, itchy. What was this? I thought of an article I had read about ‘black widows,’ women who bombed and killed for their country and their religion. Apparently, giving up their own life in an act of terrorism was an honour above all honours. The Metro always had articles about preparations and rehearsals for ‘inevitable’ chemical and biological attacks and The Tube was nearly always seen as the most likely target.  Was this happening now? Was this woman singing a final prayer for our drowning souls? Or an anthem of hope for herself as she gave the ultimate gift to her God? I felt sick from the contaminated air. I tried not to breathe it in but could not help but gasp. The pain in my head was agonising. Searing. A red hot band of iron was expanding inside my skull. My heart pumped faster and faster, thudding thoughout my body. Still she sang;

“Labeeya labeeya suri.
Laneeya labeeya suriay.”

Her song sounded muffled now, the sound travelled through the poison as it would through water. I was under water. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t breath. I looked up, desperate to see what was going on around me.  But I could no longer make out anything familiar in the haze of the gas. The pain in my head was unbearable. I heard myself groan as my body begin to jerk uncontrollably and I fell to the floor.

The train had stopped. There was silence. The singing had stopped. Was it over? I opened my eyes and saw spirals of colour spin around me. Something loomed towards me. I could just make out a white scarf topping a figure in a long black dress. Was this the singer? She held something out to me. What was she doing now? I felt something cold being rubbed on my face. Some kind of anointment? Was I the first to be dying? My body felt rigid. I was shaking violently. She was whispering to me now. I couldn’t make out what she was saying. I couldn’t move. The air was no longer breathable and I felt my lungs sucking in desperation for oxygen. I felt her press her face against mine, smothering me. A kiss of death. Her final act before the fading colours turned to black.

Suddenly, it was his voice I could hear, calling into the void.

“Sophie. Sophie baby.”

I wanted to reach him, to comfort him. To tell him never to forget me. My eyes were heavy but I wanted to see him one last time. I prized them open. The light was glaring and uncomfortable. I was in a new place where everything was bright and airy. I could breathe.

“I...can...breathe.” I heard myself say in a laborious whisper.

“Ssssh my babes. You’ve been through a lot in the last two days.”

I shifted my body and realised I was lying in a bed. The pain in my head had gone. I felt weak and there was a new ache throbbing through my middle.

“Am I alive. Did I survive?”

“You are but don’t you dare do that to me again Soph. I nearly lost you both!”

“What happened? Did many people die? I thought I was dead. It must be on the news..”

“What are you talking about?” asked my confused husband.

“The poison...The black widow...The gas.... Poison on the tube...Bella... I was on my way to meet Bella Smythson...”

“I called her. Don’t worry. You made a huge impression on her Sophie, my little star. She’s very keen to work with you. She’s coming to see you when you’re feeling better. But that’s not the most important person you need to meet... Here, meet your daughter!”

Richard passed me a photo of a tiny baby in an incubator. I reached for my stomach. It felt swollen but flat.

“That’s our baby? She’s born? I don’t remember her being born? Why can’t I remember her being born? Where is she? Is she OK? Did the gas...”

“There was no gas sweetheart. No poison. You must have been dreaming. She is fine.  She’s beautiful. She came a little early so she’s in the special care unit. As soon as you come round a little bit more I’ll take you down to meet her. She is adorable Sophie. She’s waiting to see you.”

I picked up the photo again. My throat tightened and it felt like a ball of cotton wool was lodged at the back of my mouth. Hot tears began to stream from my eyes.

“She’s born? I missed it. We wanted...”

“...We wanted a healthy baby and we’ve got one Sophie. She’s tiny but she’s doing everything she should be. She’s breathing by herself. She’s a fighter like her mummy.”

“What happened Richard?”

“Honey you collapsed on the tube yesterday morning. You know you’d been feeling tired and stroppy and getting those headaches. Well it turns out you had pre-eclampsia. Your blood pressure must have been really high and all that rushing around to get to that meeting. I’m sorry darling, we had no idea you were so ill. It was horrible Soph. The police called me to say you had been bought here and it wasn’t looking good.  They had given you loads of drugs and had you on a ventilator by the time I got here but they couldn’t stop you fitting so they had to deliver her by caesarian straight away or you both would have died.

“I need to see her Richard. Please, can you take me now?”

“Soon honey, just rest for an hour or so. You’ve only just woken up. There’s someone else I want you to meet. She’s been here waiting for you.”

A figure walked towards me. A lady with a white scarf, a long black dress and a beautiful face with stunning bright eyes that shone with life and happiness.

“This is Sabah.  She’s a busker. She was walking through your carriage and found you in pain and struggling to breath. Sabah is a children’s nurse at home in Iran. She kept you safe when you started fitting. Then you stopped breathing and she resuscitated you until the paramedics could get to you. She saved your life Sophie. She saved both of you. Do you remember her?”

“Labeeya labeeya suri.
Laneeya labeeya suriay.”

There was that voice again, quieter this time and more gentle but still that same lullaby. It was music straight from the heart. Penetrating, encompassing, intoxicating.

“Yes,” I whispered. “I remember her. Thank-you.” I said, taking her hand in mine. “Thank-you Sabah. Can I call our baby after you? Will you come with us and sing your lullaby for her?”

“Thank-you,” Sabah whispered and kissed my forehead. “It would be an honour above all honours.”

3. A Short Writing Exercise

This is one of the writing games in my rescue tin. I picked a ‘lolly stick’ with an opening sentence on it. The sentence I was given was ‘My mother was doing that thing she did.’ I did a piece of ‘automatic writing’ which is where you take the sentence and write whatever comes to mind without thinking about it too much, without taking your pencil off the paper and without editing in anyway. You access your self consciousness that way and that is where all the juicy ideas and writing comes from. I won’t share it all but I kind of like the start. It’s intriguing me. I think I will go back to this and see where it goes…

My mother was doing that thing she did. That thing with the rag in the sink. I hadn’t seen her do it for a while, it had been several months but here she was again. She hadn’t even bothered to role up her sleeves. Soapy water was seeping up her silk blouse as she stood there in silence rubbing that dress against itself over and over again. There were no tears this time. She was just staring through the window but I knew she wasn’t seeing, at least not anything that I was seeing. Not anything that existed. The sink water had become a rapid.

You could try doing a piece of automatic writing from the same sentence. Set a timer for five minutes and write. Don't stop. If you don’t know what to write just repeat what you’ve just written until you find your flow again. Don’t think too much, trust what comes. I love doing this with my writing groups. I love seeing their reaction to what they have written. It invariably surprises them and usually in a good way.

My mother was doing that thing again… Go…

And please do share what you came up with.

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