That Time Again

Meaning – it’s the point in my MA Creative Writing course where we have to put stuff in for marking.  I’m about 70% less confident this semester than I was last semester (when I was disappointed with my mark anyway).  So things aren’t looking good.  I decided to vent about it here, and to basically give you an overview of what it is I’ll be sending in.

So first of all I wrote a story called Keith; which opens –

I got home from school one day to find dad having his faced slathered by a puppy.
‘Keith?’ I shouted, when he told us his name.  Mum walked back through to the kitchen in silence and began noisily assembling the plates for dinner. 

Keith isn’t about a puppy, the puppy sadly gets run over by a bus.  The story is about family life through a childs eyes.  The mum banging the dinner plates being a subtle example.  Later the little girl telling the story picks up on her dads unhappiness, wants to tell him she’s having fun (when they go for a weekend away) and realises (on a ill fated visit to a donkey sanctuary) that like Orinoco the donkey, her dad’s getting old by himself with nothing for comfort except the puppy Keith who had just died. 

I don’t know where this story came from, but I know whenever I read it back it makes me very sad and I don’t know why.

I’m also submitting a whimsical story about a man who for a living forges diary pages from Van Gogh’s and later Winston Churchill’s diaries and correspondence.  He does get caught but the main distraction is the waitress and amateur photographer who lives across the corridor;

The next time I saw her she was wearing a pink waitress dress and a pinafore.  She smelt like fried bacon and old oil.  She wore a thick wool scarf that seemed to have lost its structure and become just scraps of cloth around her neck.
            ‘Hey,’ I replied, any new pictures on the horizon?’
            ‘She laughed like I’d made a joke – ‘Did you find a job?’
            ‘I set up a new company – ‘Winston Churchill’s secret life dot com.’
            ‘Oh yeah, the insurance company guy?’
            ‘Yeah, I think so – erm…’
            ‘The dog – the nodding dog…ohhh yes!’
            ‘Sure something like that – he was working for the Russians all along.’
            ‘Oh right,’ she smiled.  She flashed her beautiful eyes, I could tell she was oblivious of what I was saying.’
            ‘Well see you then.’ 
            ‘Bye,’ I said to her already closing door.

 This character is affected by his lack of relationship with the girl, and especially his failure to end up with her at the Christmas party – his one big opportunity.

What to write about them both.  (I have to submit a critical commentary alongside the two stories.) I guess neither of them are extraordinary.  The details are the details of everyday life and no big event happens other than in the minds and hearts of the characters.  In my essay I quote Maupassant the French writer:

 ‘The writer would find it impossible to describe everything in life, because he would need at least a volume a day to list the multitude of unimportant incidents filling up our hours.  The author should know how to eliminate, among the minute and innumerable daily occurrences, all those which are useless to him.’ 

And a quote I really liked was about Chekov’s work:

Michael Baldwin writes, ‘What his (Chekov’s) stories seem to say to us is, ‘The world is a pretty dull place, but stick with me and I’ll show you the drama of it.’

(This sums me up pretty much with my writing.)

This has been a funny submission because I published a lot since my last marks, and I did a course during the summer.  I expected to see some real results maybe and it’s hard to see it in stories.  I wrote these very recently so haven’t really had time to mull them over either, some people knew at the beginning of September what they were going to send in, but I left it till the last minute.

Hopefully I’ll do okay.  Another quote from my essay notes is: David Foster Wallace wrote ‘Fiction that isn’t exploring what it is to be human today isn’t good art’ which is another guideline which I have used – trying to understand two different characters in two very different stories.  Wish me luck!

Next blog post will be some lomo style film photos!


3 thoughts on “That Time Again

  1. 70% less confident? Nonsense.

    If you wrote an entire story just about Keith’s death it could tell me more about the world than a novel spanning decades that glosses over those ittle details that make us human. It’s all about what you decide is important. There’s an infinite number of ways of relating the same events.. The two stories you’ve chosen would both hook me in conceptually, provided the writing was real which in the little extracts you gave, it seems to be. The opening to ‘Keith’ is great; very visual. I could see the kitchen, spacious, lots of wooden counters and a wee bit rundown. Poor Keith 😦 I’ve never heard the word ‘slathering’ before.. Maybe it’s a mix of slobbering and lather?? 🙂 I like the idea of writing from the children’s perspective. How old are they? This might matter in describing what they perceive etc..
    I loved this description: “The next time I saw her she was wearing a pink waitress dress and a pinafore. She smelt like fried bacon and old oil.” Something pleasing about bacon and cod liver oil.. I think I’m turning into a literary carnivore..

    Don’t worry about ‘doing okay’. Your writing is fantastic, fluid, engaging. Grades don’t capture much but sef-doubt. Leave it for six months, then read the stories again and you’ll know whether you’re happy with them.

    Good “luck”.. 🙂

    • If you’re curious I’ll send you the stories then when I get bad marks I’ll give you my lecturers email address and you can have a go! Can’t put it away for six months, although that’s good advice, gotta hand it in next week. Thanks for the motivation though. After I wrote this I spent till 1am (i.e. now) completely re-writing my essay from scratch. I’ll take a look at Keith and the other one before I give them in Monday. Thanks!

      • Sure! I’d be happy to read them 🙂 As for e-mailing your lecturer, that all depends on the grade! Hope you’re happy with them now and that you’ve had a well-deserved lie-in!

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