Crazy cars and other stories

So. I’m going to walk the line between sharing and over-sharing, and tell you about yesterday evening.

Last night, the glorious Daisy Johnson had one of her short stories read at a Stories Aloud event in Blackwells Bookshop. Stories Aloud is what is says on the tin – stories read to an audience by actors. It was their third birthday and my first time at this event so I was extremely excited, and the fact Daisy had picked one of my favourite stories made it even better. But a not-so-funny thing happened on my way to the forum.

As I was crossing the road on my bike, a car came barrelling along at what felt like 60mph in a 30. I just got across, yelled that he was going too fast and righteously cycled on. Unbeknownst to me, he did a u-turn in the road behind, nearly hitting another car in the process, and came up alongside me. He began swerving into the cycle lane, and proceeded to shout abuse including (but not limited to) a very specific and detailed rape threat. As soon as the car he almost hit and Tom turned up, he drove away. The man who the crazy car almost hit told me to take his details so he could be a witness. Cue crying, the I-should-call-the-police-but-don’t-want to-deal-with-it guilt, and imminent anxiety.

But instead of heading home – a two-minute walk – we decided to carry on to the event. Now, if you don’t know me, this may be a fairly normal reaction. But I have struggled with PTSD, anxiety, and depression for years, and my usual reaction to stress/threat/unpleasantness/hunger is to find a small space and hide there until Tom has fed me/shown me enough cat pictures to get me out. So this was basically A Turning Point.

A favourite get-Kiran-out-from-under-the-desk photo

A favourite get-Kiran-out-from-under-the-desk photo

We just made it to the event in time, and I sat in a seat at the front and felt tears coming. Luckily, one of my very close friends was sitting next to me so I was able to sniffle into her shoulder and compose myself before the readings started.

The first was a short story by Tim Clare, a performance poet and writer whose first book The Honours is out now. I’m ashamed to say I was still so full of adrenaline I only followed vaguely, but the reaction from the audience was rapt and towards the end of the story I was lifted and caught up by its flow. My cheeks cooled, my fingernails un-dug. The next story, Goody Bags from ‘The Girl On The Fridge’ by Etgar Keret, took my breathing back to normal.

The break brought cake and prosecco and so much love from my friends, the knots between my ribs began to slip open. I want to pause again here to point out that this is Another Turning Point. Ever since anxiety arrived in my life, I have dealt with it in the way that many people do. I have been scared of and embarrassed by it. When something triggers me, I either hide as described above, or stay in bed until it fades, peaks, or passes. I never, ever go out in public. Yet there I was, being pulled back from the brink of an attack by other people. And prosecco. And cake.

The third story was another flash fiction from Etgar Keret called Crazy Glue. It was honestly one of the best things I’ve heard in a long time, and reading it confirms it as a favourite (you can do this on boo hiss Amazon). And then, Blood Rites by Daisy Johnson came swooping at us from Shelley Harris‘ mouth and filled the room with darkness and beauty and wit and strangeness. Her short-story collection FEN is out from Jonathon Cape next year, and I fully recommend keeping an eye on her website for updates. Then, the Q&A had me in stitches, ending with Tim Clare announcing ‘I need ATTENTION’.

After, I went for dinner with Tom and a friend. And aside from not wanting to cycle, I felt completely normal. When I got home, Tom and I read Dystopian YA tweets to each other for half an hour (click the link, it’s hi-larious), argued about politics, and drank whisky.

Essentially: the crazy car did not ruin my night.

I wanted to write this, and then share it, for a few reasons. Firstly, to have it as a record of The Turning Points. Secondly, because Stories Aloud is an amazing event and you should go. Thirdly, because I want to publicly say ‘thank you’ to everyone who hugged me, was angry for me, ate squid with me, and facebooked to check I was alright.

Fourthly, and finally, because I learned something. That my default reaction to anxiety would not have worked last night. Going home would only have led to an evening of crying and Netflix and guilt. There is no shame in this as a reaction – this is not about being strong or better or any of those words that manage to make people with mental illnesses feel like failures. The main difference is that last night, other people were not the enemy. Other people were the solution.

I felt angry, and scared. Normally, those feelings would have turned in and festered. But other people pulled the anger and fear out and directed where it needed to go – towards a horrible, pathetic man who did his best to make me feel small. Next time, I’ll think twice about bed and Netflix. But if I don’t, that’s ok too.

So. That was my night. And it turned out alright.

MUG!

Just wanted to share the most recent piece of The Cartographer’s Daughter merchandising (after the cake, now gone). My brother got me this beauteous mug for my birthday. Here it is with my own beauteous mug (hehe):

13187_10153759392232782_1547174657637389235_nPerfect outerwear for my Teapigs obsession.

You too can own the joy by ordering your own customisable mug here. Have a happy Wednesday!

Eldin Fellowship

Happy Easter everyone! I saw it in at The Clapham Grand – last night was my 25th birthday party and was made perfect by the dedication of ‘Shake It Off’ to ‘Kiran, currently shaking it over there’. Ta, DJ.

Anyway, I have some exciting news! My WiP, which I’m hoping will be my second published book, has been longlisted for the Eldin Fellowship. This wonderful post was created in honour of Christine Eldin, an aspiring middle grade author who passed away too soon. The Fellowship supports middle grade works in progress, and serves to promote middle grade as distinct, vital literature.

The shortlist is announced soon, so I am keeping everything crossed. The official announcement is here.

So now seems as good a time as any to share the title and a brief blurb about my WiP:

BUTTERFLIES OF CULION is a middle-grade story about difference, belonging, and finding your way home.

Amihan is an eleven-year-old-girl with a beautiful way of looking at the world. She lives on Culion Island, a leper colony in the Philippines. Her mother Nanay is Touched by the disease, Ami is Untouched. Ami sees nothing wrong with this until thin, malicious Mr Zamora arrives from the mainland, and begins to make changes that shake the foundations of all the islanders’ lives.

That’s all for now, will let you know what happens when/if it happens!

Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?

I just loved that game. I’m still not sure where she is, but I’m here! And I have a lot of catching up to do.

The main reason for the hiatus is five letters long and sounds like my soul dying. Yep, e-d-i-t-s.

I have done two big reworks of THE CARTOGRAPHER’S DAUGHTER since my last post in December – one ironing out plot kinks and pacing, and another making a last minute, massive stylistic change that I will tell you all about when it’s been signed off by my American editor at Knopf. It was a stressful few months, but I really think I’ve ended up with a story that’s tighter, more engaging and just plain better. Line edits up next!

It’s so odd looking at past drafts. The main thing that has improved is the consistency of voice. Before it was a mash up of mannered/poetic/twee/contemporary, and showed clearly I was a first-time novelist learning on the job. I am so grateful that various people saw enough in these drafts to work with me, rather than leaving me to it! Now, edging towards TCD’s final incarnation, I can finally stand back and see it as a story that will exist in book-form, not just a manuscript stitched together by hopes and dreams and bad syntax.

So, apart from editing, what have I been up to?

Poetry things have been going excellently. So far this year, poems have appeared in Room, Shearsman, The Irish Literary Review, Oxford Review and the anthology Raving Beauties (Bloodaxe Books). A couple of those were ‘bucket list’ publications, so it’s great to tick them off. Best of all is to have the affirmation that my new work is…working.

The new work is all poetry in Eurydice’s voice. I mentioned Œ a while back – the retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice in collaboration with the musician Max Barton and artist Tom de Freston. In January, we put on a work-in-progress performance alongside an exhibition, at 47/49 Tanner Street (now Ugly Duck). I found it strangely emotional, inhabiting Eurydice’s skin and story. We got a lovely review in Trebuchet, and here is a trailer of the evening, filmed by Mark Jones:

Πat 47/49 Tanner Street from Unmarked Films on Vimeo.

It’s been incredible working with Max and Tom so far, and we are in the middle of deciding our next steps. Ugly Duck are helping us to find a location suitable for a longer run, so stay tuned!

The three of us are also at the start of a new project in collaboration with a lecturer at Birmingham University and the Other Place at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. Again, I can’t reveal too much about it at this stage, but suffice to say my poetry hat has not been neglected during my editing frenzy. I’m love writing across genres – it keeps me balanced and I’m definitely never bored.

Finally, I turned 25 three days ago. And my cake was epic:

19004_10153728968532782_4275762663457641639_n

Who’d’ve thought THE CARTOGRAPHER’S DAUGHTER merchandising could be so delicious?

Time to be an adult I suppose. Must floss teeth, recycle, and update blog more regularly.

 

Aisha Farr on œ

Extract:

Millwood Hargrave’s poetry was a real strength of the performance, the writing containing an awareness of its literary context, acknowledging and playing on this deftly, never labouring the point. The voice of the poems (mostly Eurydice, with some choral poems) had a directness that at points was striking and beautiful. She shortened the protagonists’ names to ‘o’ and ‘e’, turning Orpheus and Eurydice into modern shorthand, ciphers for sound even, as highlighted vowels that resounded through the poems.

The most memorable poem was ‘Host’, in which swans nest beneath Eurydice’s scalp, leaving her ‘brain full of eggs’. The images stuck afterwards, and the vividness of natural imagery brought back Ovid’s Metamorphoses, to the point where I confused one with the other until I looked them up.

In Book XI, Ovid similarly describes nature’s relationship with the mythical characters, here in grief:

“The trees that often gathered to your song, shedding their leaves, mourned you with bared crowns” (A. S. Kline’s translation)

‘Like light,/it is only at a distance/this place holds any shape’

from the poem Sapling seems to shine with the ‘light’ motifs in the paintings, positing the idea of the particular clarity the myth takes on from the viewpoint of today, so distant from its origin.

 

Full review here: