Chinese Space Stations and Literary Agents

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A month ago, I was pretty convinced a Chinese space station was going to fall on me.

The space station was due to return to earth, any day in an out-of-control descent. According to the experts, no one knew where it was going to land. Chances of it landing on a human: one in a trillion. Well! thought my brain. That means it’ll definitely land on me!

Because, you know, logic.

I spent the days before the landing imagining how you might outrun a space station, like, if you saw it coming, could you dodge? On the day the station was due to plop down to earth, I followed its trajectory on a somewhat-reliable site, and read scientists’ tweets about the landing—everyone in the dark and trying not to seem in the dark. Who would win in the great Space Station Landing Game? A mountain? A mountain goat? The sea? A woman in a suburb in Australia, patting her cat?

The station dropped into the ocean on April 1st. No one was hurt (including the fish, hopefully). Life went on. And I didn’t get hit by a space station, because people don’t get hit by space stations.

What I didn’t map the trajectory of, and what I wasn’t expecting, was an email five days later from Catherine Drayton, literary agent with InkWell Management, responding to my query about my YA novel.

Catherine very kindly asked to see more pages; I sent thirty of them on a Friday evening, fully imagining a no, any second, in reply. The very next morning, her assistant asked for the full manuscript. I sent that on, and then, well—of course the answer would be a no, because space stations don’t land on people and how were these not exactly the same odds?

Five days later, I got a phone call from Catherine. She loved my book, she said. She would love to represent me! she said. And there I was, completely landed on. And it felt incredible. I accepted her offer the next day. And now we’re working together. It’s amazing.

The moral to the story is (if there’s any moral at all!): It’s a whole lot more likely that someone will fall in love with your book than you’ll be hit by falling space debris. That is, as long as you keep writing and you don’t spend too long in bed, worrying about the sky.

 

 

Photo image source: Greg Rakozy snapwiresnaps.tumblr.com

 

We are the storm

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The thunderstorm today was wild and completely wonderful. The sunset came in a thousand colours afterwards.

Before the storm, I worked with a student. We laughed and made plans for her future; it felt like all these paths were dancing in front of her and we were playing, moulding her options into shapes, because sometimes it feels that way, that the future is something you can build with your hands. That’s true, and… it isn’t.

Sometimes the future comes at you and says, “Here, catch this.” Sometimes the future is something you never planned, and suddenly you’re sitting inside it going, “What just happened?” And then you have a new path to walk—it has trees you didn’t expect to see and a prickly underbrush, and different earth under your feet, and around the corner are caves and cliffs and maybe bears.

I don’t know what I’m saying exactly other than this: I sat with someone extraordinary later, after the storm, and told her she was loved.

I sat and talked about points of light and how love can feel like that, lanterns floating through the dark, surrounding you as you travel. I talked about mountains and how sometimes the only way to climb one is to not look at the mountain. I talked about small, good things. About the feel of your hands around a cup of tea and toweling your face after a shower. I—we— talked about love and sorrow and emptiness and music and painting and writing. We talked about holding on.

I could have talked about the storm, but I forgot. I forgot to talk about how the wind came up like witches were taking off on all their brooms and the water slammed into the windows sideways and how the sky turned electric and the garden blurred. And how the dog leaped up as I opened the back door and she came hurtling in, her whole body a thank you. How everything outside felt like it was shouting, “Here I am! Wild, uncontainable, impossible, indescribable. Here I am, all my parts and pieces, look at me, I’m whole, I’m everywhere, I am glorious and startling and alive. Here! Here! HERE.”

Here we are. There was a storm. Wasn’t it extraordinary?

Here we are—we are the storm, and all the colours afterwards.

Here we are. Here you are. You are loved, loved, loved.

 

Flash fiction: the marvels

 

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We dance under the wires, fairy legs, fairy feet, can’t touch, won’t touch! Here we are, making our way through. They think the wire can keep us? We are the Folk; we are the ones with dreams and sight. We are the makers of wonder; we slide into the children at night.

Put up your wires, just try, we will still come.

You can’t end or break us; we are spun silver, we are riddle, we are gold.

In the morning, the children sit at their desks and under the drone of This and That, they draw the marvels we gave them last night.

 

 

I actually posted a different story for this prompt at first, but then wrote another one because the first one made me sad. I realised I get to do that—change my mind, change the ending. I am a writer! I choose Path B.

This is a 100-word story written for the Friday Fictioneers, an international writing community hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. The photo prompt comes from Madison Woods. If you’d like to join the Fictioneers this week, click here. To read this week’s stories, please click here.

I haven’t been here for a couple of weeks, and I am sorry to have missed two whole story cycles! It is lovely to be back.

the moment you make art

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A year ago I was invited to speak at the opening of an art exhibition of three artists, one of whom was Anna Moraova, my beautiful friend. The room was filled with friends and family, and the love in the space was palpable. It was a gorgeous night, filled with laughter, music, art and celebration.

That night, we had no idea, not even close, that Anna would pass away just seven months later. We were simply filled with light. It was such a beautiful night that Anna mentioned it in hospital, a week before she died. Wasn’t it good? she said. It was. 

A year on, I can still remember standing there, speaking, with Anna beside me. Her art all around, our hearts just beaming.

These are the words I said:

The moment you make art, the second it begins, you become a storyteller.

Every mark you make—pen to paper, brush to canvas, camera to your eye—you are telling the story of yourself. You are taking note of who you are, the way you see the world around you, your thoughts, your dreams, and the things you care about. You are saying, “I have a story. I matter. I am here.”

The moment you make art, you are saying your story counts. No matter who sees the marks you make—even if it’s simply your cat, or members of your family, or trusted friends—you are telling the precious tale of yourself.

And it is a beautiful story.

What makes it beautiful?

You make it beautiful. However unusual or raw or ‘imperfect’ your art might be, expressing who you are is beautiful. Expressing what is important to you is beautiful. Allowing what is inside you out—letting go of those pieces you hold inside yourself, laying them out as you choose—is beautiful. Your story is important, like breathing is important. When you make art, you are letting yourself breathe.

Making art is giving light and life to the story of you, and it’s a lot like dancing, and a lot like watching clouds move. It is your own wild and wind-blown thing.

Making art is creation. It is life itself. Yes, it matters that much.

When Anna asked me to speak at the opening of this exhibition, my first thought was, “What an honour.” I have loved and made art all my life; I was raised to always value creativity and personal expression. I passed that love on to my children, and ten years ago, they met and began working with Anna. Anna has mentored my children since before they can remember, and she has become a dear friend to us all. I respect her hugely and am always inspired by her projects and adventures, so I was delighted to be part of this one. And through it, not only do I get to support Anna, but also meet and connect with two other art-makers, two other like-minded souls, two more storytellers. I am very grateful to be involved.

I asked Anna, Paul and Marian about the stories that brought them here today. What a privilege that was! Their stories were fascinating and important, every one of them. I heard stories of illness and obstacle, of journeys into wellness and self-discovery. I heard stories of artistic exploration and experimentation, of raising families and caring for loved ones, of study, deep personal reflection, travel and monumental change. And, very importantly, I heard about art as a spiritual and healing force.

As I listened to Paul, Anna and Marian, I kept hearing all these lovely connections between them, moments where their individual stories became one. Each of them has found solace and healing energy in art. They have been empowered; they have found their voice, and each has felt themselves becoming visible and ‘realised’ through their art.

As Marian and the others spoke and I viewed their work, I actually felt their stories, coming to me as energy. The energy felt like comfort, and wonder, vulnerability and truth. The more I listened and took in their art, the more their energy spread to include me. I became part of it, part of their stories, welcomed.

It felt like a gift.

Art, the moment it is shared, becomes in part about the giving over of the self. It becomes about forming connections: sharing stories, resonating with others, learning from and inspiring others. When we hand our stories over and let them be seen—that bold and brave thing we do when we share our voices— stories become bigger than they began. Art gives life to community.

A community can’t help but grow when art widens to include the watcher. Art is for the artist first, always, but it can also be for the person who sees the art and is moved. Art is for the viewer who says, “I see my own story here.” It is for the viewer who begins to ask questions or is affected emotionally in some way. And it’s for the viewer who says, “Yes, I get it,” and “Thank you.”

Art, when it’s shared, is arms out; it is speaking in a language others are invited to hear. It is a greeting and a welcome. It is an invitation to be part of a story, and to see that we all have story worth telling.

I am extremely grateful to Anna, Paul and Marian, for sharing their stories with me—and now of course, with you. I am grateful they have trusted their stories with us, their community. In doing so, they have shared some of the most important truths about art:

Art is a journey worth taking. It is a journey so unique no path can ever (or should ever) be the same.

Art is a statement. Art says, “I am here. I have a voice. I matter.”

Art has the power to give you your own, pure self back.

Art is strange and broken and bright. It is resonant and alive.

Art is for everyone. We all have marks to make, lines and colours to lay down. We all have a story to share.

Art is breath. It is life, spirit and song.

It is your beautiful story.

 

(Art in the photo by Anna Moraova)

 

Flash fiction: free

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The first day in my new world, I thought I was free.

The streets of the city went so far, I couldn’t see their ends. The buildings were long-legged birds; it was wonderful to be underneath them. Sounds were true, not muffled through double-glazed glass. Taxis lurched and wailed, people stood whistling at the kerb, and couples bickered on street corners.

It was beautiful.

The first day, I made it half a block before I was stopped.

“Lord! Girl, put on some clothes!”

I looked down.

You’ll be naked when you arrive.

Another thing the witch hadn’t told me.

This is a 100-word story written for the Friday Fictioneers, an international online writing community, hosted by the lovely Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. The photo prompt comes courtesy of Marie Gail Stratford.

This particular story is a modified scene from my novel-in-progress. The photo fit so perfectly, the scene had to become this week’s story. In the novel, this scene is quite a bit longer. It was a very satisfying challenge to compact the moment into one hundred words.

Please go here if you would like to join the Fictioneers this week, and go here to read everyone’s stories.

Flash fiction: under stone

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The last time I saw her she was walking to the cemetery. Sunbright, arms full of daisies.

“What for?” I said. “They’re all dead!”

She did not turn; it was as if I was already gone.

Our last night, I said, “Leave with me,” and she said, “How can I? They will miss me if I go.”

I walked with her to the graves that night. I tried to kiss the ghosts from her, bring her back to life, but she kept turning to them. They called her name; they laughed at me from under their stones.

This is a 100-word story for the Friday Fictioneers, an international writing community hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. The photograph comes courtesy of Ted Strutz. Click here if you would like to join the Fictioneers this week, and please click here if you’d like to read everyone’s stories.

Flash fiction: Pull me down

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Gerta said, ‘If you’re to stay you must have the Lord in your heart.’

I thought, I’ll take the Lord, if it gives me a roof over my head and a place in bed with you. So I said, ‘I’ll take the Lord, gladly,’ and kissed her honey skin.

She said, ‘I’ve asked Preacher Bartel to baptize you on Sunday.’

So I said, ‘Right-oh,’ though I know the dark-hearted river will pull me down once I’m deep enough, and no Lord will save me. The water knows who I am. It won’t give me back once I’m in.

This is a 100-word story for the Friday Fictioneers, a lovely international writing group hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week’s photo comes courtesy of Rochelle. Click here to join the Fictioneers, and click here to read this week’s stories.

Flash fiction: A good day

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It’s not so much the rain that disappoints but that the roofs are clean.

Everything’s begin-again washed, tiles like new almost, but I’m partial to the coal grime and speckles of pigeon poo; it gives my toes something to hold onto. Now it’s a job to watch each step and it’s hard to balance, with the bag o’ things clanking against my legs wanting to send me over.

Boss says, every time: ‘If you fall, don’t be callin’ for me.’

If I fall, I’m dead, but he’d hear of it and come in a whistle. He’d snatch the fripperies and jinglies from my sack and call it a good day.

 

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This is a one hundred(-ish) word story based on the photo above. The photo is by Emmy L Gant and the story is my first for the Friday Fictioneers, a weekly on-line writing group hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

Ever since I discovered Claire Fuller and her beautiful writing, I’ve been wanting to join this group. And now that I have this shiny new website, I get to be a part of it! Lovely. Click here if you would like to join in, and go here to read everyone else’s stories.