Love Letters #36

Dear Tom,

It was Anne Shirley who told her darling husband-to-be Gilbert that she was ‘alone but not lonely’ one beautiful evening whilst walking through the graveyard of Summerside, that year she was away teaching there. A mighty dreadful time she had with those Pringles, I tell you. I was reading of her walks on the train; the countless descriptions of wind surging through the tree lined avenues of the most wondrous places on P.E. Island, and I felt the cool breeze on my face, I saw the violets in their numerous beauty, I smelt the flowers in bloom and the voice of Rebecca Dew echoed uncomfortably close to my ear, that I looked up abruptly, only to see the heads of my fellow modern train passengers, oblivious to my rapture, in raptures (or otherwise) of their own. I laughed loudly at some point, her characters do come up with the most curious things! A rather stern Aunt Mouser told her niece to not quote the bible flippantly, and then turned to Anne and said, ‘You must excuse her, Miss Shirley, she just ain’t used to getting married.‘ Tom, forgive me when I tell you that I found this so funny that tears streamed down my face!

When I turned the book over, there was a little ode to Montgomery, saying that her work ‘continues to draw countless visitors to Prince Edward Island each year.’

I will be very frankly honest with you, dearest, when I say that my heart sank when I read that. I imagined the Prince Edward Island will not be as I imagined it if I ever do go. I made up my mind then and there to never go. I don’t want to see roaring cars and buses and city roads with white paint. I don’t want to see areas of desolation and corrugated iron roofs. I don’t even want to see people wearing modern clothes. I don’t want to see tourists. Granted, they may be like-minded tourists, but tourists they will be nonetheless. I want it to be just how Anne and Emily and Pat describe it, and my heart aches to know it will never be so. I was born too late, I suppose.

I last read Anne of the Island at the age of fifteen. I was reading the first three books over and over again, and only recently did I stumble upon the fourth book, all these years later.

I was trying to fault Anne, I found, whilst reading the fourth book of the Green Gables series. I was trying to fault her for being ‘too perfect’ or ‘too beautiful’ or ‘too well liked’. She is well liked enough, and is able to deftly turn everybody and make them adore her, sure. However, I couldn’t help but fall in love with her adult self again, all these years later as an adult myself and not a child.

Anne is timelessly incredible. She is not too beautiful, because she doesn’t see herself so, and many others pointedly tell her of her carroty hair. She is not too perfect, because she tells Gilbert in an epistolary fashion that she has to accept that not everybody will like her, when certain people very vehemently do not. She is not too anything, and yet she is perfect. She is who I aspire to be.

She is hopeful, she is resourceful. Her words dance with life and laughter, and I imagine her grey eyes to be starry and full of light. She talks to everybody, is friendly with everybody, tries to help all sorts of people. She even cancelled her trip back home to sit with forty year old Pauline Gibson because she knew Pauline was lonely and henpecked by her grumpy old mother. How selfless is that? I don’t doubt that a lot of people were like that at the time, and didn’t think twice of being so generous with themselves and their time. Nowadays everybody is so ‘busy’, so ‘private’, so ‘personal’; never talking to strangers or even trying to find out who one’s neighbours are! Nobody just calls on a newcomer anymore, nobody sends each other cake, nobody calls each other over for supper unless they know them very well, and that is why, I suppose, a lot of us are so lonely!

A little sprinkle of Anne makes any day brighter. I found my day to bloom after reading a few chapters of her, and my heart ached a little, because I would never be able to meet her or become chums with her or wonder the nooks and crannies of the Island with her. She makes a small town like a little heaven here on earth.

I learnt from her to find joy in every aspect of my life. I learnt that even though I don’t live in Avonlea with her, I can find my own little Avonlea just where I am.

I love Anne Shirley, and I can see why others do too; and I am excited to finish following her journey through the eight precious books penned by our very own Lucy Maud Montgomery. Over and over again, delving into the land of magic, spirits and the most eccentric little characters one could ever dream up. She makes my heart yearn for something I can’t quite touch.

Yours most truly,

Amelia.

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James Hill

  

On the production of books.

Here are some things I am doing recently;

 

  1. I am finishing my last module towards my English Language and Literature degree. It is called ‘Creativity in Language’, and examines the different approaches in the analysis of creativity in language, and also in other modes of storytelling and performance. It raises interesting questions about the originality of creativity, and whether or not creativity is fundamentally political – whether that be intentional or unintentional.
  2. I am also writing a book about a girl who stops growing. I am trying to make it a masterpiece, but it is hard to make a masterpiece when your brain feels like an empty room. I am noticing that I waste a lot of time not gaining knowledge, and I mean to change this by consuming more books and exploring different parts of the world. I have acquired a cover designer for my book, someone who is also willing to do some small illustrations for me. This is spurring me on to finish by my deadline in October.
  3. I have signed up to a website called AgentHunter. This website is one where you can find a suitable agent in order to get your book published. I am aiming to submit my manuscript to several agents by October 15th. I will be writing a review about this website in the next few months – just in case anybody is interesting in hunting for a suitable agent online.

That is all, really.

What have you been up to, recently?

 

2016

I don’t have any resolutions for 2017. I think it is ridiculous because I never keep to them anyway. Does anybody?

The truth is, I don’t have anything to be really proud of this year. I have achieved nothing. In fact the only thing I remember being truly proud of is a 98% on a creative writing assignment for university.

I did get a job, but I can’t stay there because of my husband’s job. I loved the job because I was teaching and I did really well at that. Lots of colleagues told me I had a knack for it despite not being trained. I think I do well with kids. I think kids like me. I taught kids from age 5 to age 17 and it was incredible and demanded a phenomenal amount of brain power and enthusiasm and energy and it was draining but also so wonderfully fulfilling and enjoyable. I love the kids. I loved the kids. I had lots of plans and ideas for this job, and I am so bloody sad to leave it but sometimes in life you have to make sacrifices.

Everything else was pretty much a flop.

2016 was a massive learning curve. But then again, every year is. Every year we grow and change, and we have different lessons to teach us different things and frankly, every year the lessons we get are harder than the lessons from the previous year. They have to be. Life is a constant challenge. It is funny how it works out like that.

I hope 2017 will be better. I hope I can be a better person, and a better wife. I hope I can be wiser and more intelligent. I hope I can be spiritually better, and have more faith. I hope I can finally get the body I want, and treat the problems I have with my hair. I hope that I can have a brilliant relationship with my family and stop being so bloody negative about everything. And lastly, I hope I get a first class degree and FINISH THIS GODDAMN BOOK.

There.

What do you hope to see in 2017?

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Finding Inspiration

I have my timetable from work, finally. I am swamped. With no breaks. Busy busy. Every minute. Which is awesome yay.

But also means I do not have any time to think. Or any inspiration. So I am still uninspired. Which bodes terribly for the novel I am currently writing. With a deadline in December. I just don’t know how this is going to go down.

I know a girl from college who is a freelancing graphic designer. She designs so beautifully and uniquely. And I really desperately want her to design my book cover. But since I have made zero progress in the last two weeks, I might have no content to present to her for her to design anything!

I really must buck up, if I am to produce anything. And if I am to produce anything close to what I see in my mind.

Lately I have been watching the film ‘Coraline’ on repeat. The making of that film was extremely complex because it was all done by hand, everything, down to miniature knitters and a number of puppets with replacement limbs and different faces with an assortment of facial expressions! Can you imagine the laborious effort it took to create such a detailed movie all by hand? That is so inspirational to me. I watch it and I sometimes slow it down to see movements clearly because it fascinates me how they could pack so much fun detail into a two hour stop motion film. It stands out because it is so unusual, and the story behind the making of it is incredible too. You can read more here if you are interested.

Didn’t they get tired of it, or fed up? I know I would. Their dedication in the end produced something so beautiful to watch and re-watch multiple times.

So whenever I watch Coraline, I let the artwork seep its dainty tendrils into the folds of my brain and maybe spark something there. It almost always produces an idea or two.

So, this is what this uninspired girl has resorted to. Where do you go to find inspiration, when it evades you?

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The Age of Miracles

This is a review.

The Age of Miracles is a coming of age debut novel by Karen Thompson Walker.

As debut novels go, this one was outstanding. Walker did not waste a single moment getting to the point, which I found refreshing and mesmerising.

The tale followed the story of an eleven year old girl ascending slowly and painfully into adolescence, chronicling all the awkwardness of the age, in an apocalyptic time when the earth begins to slow, rendering the days longer. With each cycle around the sun, more minutes are added to the day, and this phenomenon is called the ‘Slowing’.

It was a new idea, and what made it plausible was that it was backed by scientific theory – which gave life to the events unfolding.

I loved how Walker combined the coming of age with this almost sic-fi plot line, and wove them together seamlessly. This was a girl, growing up, going to school, experiencing what we have all experienced with friends and parents and troubles that might seem insignificant to an adult but could make or break a child struggling to make sense of their rapidly changing world – and to have that world very literally change around her too, is remarkable.

Walker, I felt, took a great idea and delivered it excellently. I did not feel as though I was reading words. I felt submerged in the tale and when I was jerked out of it at one point because it had got so dark out that I literally could not see the words on the page anymore, I felt as though I had resurfaced from another world.

It takes a great deal of skill in writing to make you feel like that, and I think Walker has delivered this very well. I would say it was the defining factor of this book. It is a beautiful tale, tragic and extraordinary. I had me thinking about it days after I had turned the last page, and I found myself wanting a bit more.

I would give this book five stars out of five, and would love to read more from Karen Walker.

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Dream

This is my current dream:

I am walking past a huge Waterstones. And there, in the glass display, is a book written by me. Yes me. You see that? It says Lenora Sparrow on it. The cover design is simple and elegant. No pictures. Just a dark blue cover with little yellow dots all over it and the title in handwriting that is not too airy fairy and not too serious either.

And the blurb on the back makes me so excited because.. well.. I don’t know. I just love it and them and want to share them with you.

And there are lots of my book in stock. And all the signs say, ‘Hurry up and grab this book!’ and inside my heart is surging with joy because that is all I have ever wanted since I was seven years old writing stories in my dad’s university exam answer booklets.

I said to my parents, ‘Just you wait, I will have published a book by the time I am fifteen.’

They used to tease me and take my exercise books and read them to each other!! The audacity.

I wrote it, folks. That book I swore I would write. From age 11 to 14, I wrote it all out using dozens of pens. Seven massive notebooks, filled to the brim with words. Three huge folders with family trees and calligraphy signs and characterisation sheets and land naming and maps and paintings of what I think my characters look like.

I still have them. Shoved in the back of my gateway to Narnia.

I want to write a book that blows your socks off. I want to write a book that makes your heart ache with nostalgia and joy and the pleasure of meeting my people.

I want to write characters that will walk out of the pages and live in your mind and haunt your dreams.

But can I? And will I, EVER?

I walked past Waterstones today and there was a new book in there by a young woman not much older than me, and it’s famous already because she is a relatively well known Youtuber and it looks like a decent book, you know, because this girl actually has something decent to say.

And I felt so excited because it looks completely gorgeous and I have a feeling it is a heartbreaker, and I picked it up and read a few lines and well, I am happy for her, of course, but I am also a little bit jealous. I will definitely read her book because I like her content, and will support it.

It’s called ‘On the Other Side’ by Carrie Hope Fletcher.

I was jealous of Christopher Paolini who published Eragon at age fifteen. I thought, ‘I gotta beat this guy’ because I was thirteen at the time and I had two years ahead of me and I had three books under my belt.

But I didn’t send them to anybody. Because they weren’t good enough. Of course. They aren’t good enough. Nothing I have written is good enough. And I have a wonderfully electric story in my head but my fingers and brain will NOT collaborate to write it how my mind sees it and it is so FRUSTRATING because all I want is to have my books in shop windows and on bookshelves and to contribute to somebody’s childhood.

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School Trip

The week has come to an end, and so has my thunder cloud mood.

We went on a school trip today with Year 1 and 2, and despite going through four seasons of weather in one afternoon, it was an enjoyable trip. Kids are sweet, and they do come out with the funniest things.

We hiked through a forest, and mounted a summit. Some children were being blown away by the wind at the top of the hill, and their terror combined with the way they were reaching out to the teacher, but being pushed further and further away, was a pile of hilarity for me and my sister in law.

Obviously we kept our laughter in check at the time, but my oh my what laughs we had later.

I have to say, though, that I think the trip should have been cancelled, and it wasn’t such a good idea to take a bunch of six year olds on a hike because they aren’t going to appreciate that. They just want to play.

I did try to engage them by pointing out different kinds of trees and how you can tell an oak apart from a birch. We also examined animal droppings (once we got over the toilet humour!) to see which animal might have passed by before us.

All my knowledge of nature has come from books. I grew up in the desert, and walks like these were few and far between (every ten months when we came back to the UK for summer holidays and to see our family and grandparents, obviously), so I relished things like oak leaves and pine cones and rabbit poops. The kids in books did all the things I could only dream of. These kids sure are lucky, I tell you that much.

I think they were interested, because they kept bringing me dead leaves saying ‘Miss, this is an oak leaf, see, look at all its ridges!’

They are a bunch of cuties.

I have to say, though, that I didn’t get to sit down all day and am only just sitting down to catch up on internet stuff. In fact, I have been so busy all week that I haven’t been able to wash my clothes and I am travelling to Shropshire tomorrow to have a look at the place where they filmed Narnia (Hail C.S. Lewis!), and then to Birmingham to see the places where Tolkien grew up! Who knew he grew up in Birmingham? I don’t particularly like Birmingham but after finding out about that little Tolkien tidbit I might have to change my mind. We’ll see.

I hope those clothes dry overnight outside. You know, it’s too cold for April! We have been hailed upon and snowed down on, and the sky looks mighty troubled tonight, and breath is coming out thick and fast and hanging in the air as though it was too cold to dissipate.

Which it is.

Have a great weekend and bank holiday!

Why do you Write?

Hello.

I love to write. I don’t know why. Usually I fall asleep telling myself a story. It has crackling characters, spitting with energy. They get up to an awful lot. It’s a bit like a soap opera that has been going on since I was about eleven.

It’s not really a soap opera, though.

Ugh. Who am I kidding. It is exactly that. How embarrassing to admit it. I despise soap operas.

Not that I judge soap operas or their people.

Who am I KIDDING. I do judge them. Terribly so.

I like to write because I feel like I can explore aspects of my personality through other people that I have created. I could also make them do things I could only dream of doing – although, if I really wanted to do those things I would jolly well get up and do them, but I’m too lazy, that’s what – so I just write about them doing those things instead.

I write because I could make my characters do things I couldn’t morally do, unless I am having an intrusive and unsociable thought.

I write because sometimes I have a lot of feelings and they want to manifest themselves into words. I sit back and survey these words and I think, ‘gosh, Lenora, that is exactly how I was feeling, you got it so right.’

Of course, that is only true for me. For somebody else reading my words, well, it might just be a clutter of irritation, or inconvenient confusion. Take your pick.

Then I generally have a cup of tea because tea and words get along like peanut butter and jam. (Very freaking well is how they get along)

I love words. I love how some people can twist and shape them into intricate chains that inspire fireworks of thought in my brain. Wow. That string was so amazing, how did he do that? Or, my gosh, that phrase was arresting, was she descended from the angels, to speak to my soul so?

Wordsmiths are kindred spirits. I think people who write so well must be earnestly passionate. Not sexually (although, maybe, right?), but their minds must be enigmatic. Electricity. Like a Mr Rochester (oh, I didn’t like him though.). Or.. or… well, a Mr Bhaer! Or a Ned Worthington (from What Katy Did Next). I fell in love with Ned Worthington and I still secretly harbour a literary affection for him. If I were fictional I might be awfully horrid and try to steal him from Katy. If he looked at me I would probably faint. Don’t tell my husband.

 

So, dear reader, why do YOU like to write? I am sure everybody has different reasons. Please feel free to share, I am so curious.

Dear Aurelia

I hope everything goes well for you. I hope you find the right things to say, when you need to say them. I hope the blank piece of paper is filled with your squiggly handwriting, and that you can open your mouth when the opportunity presents itself.

I hope you can protect yourself from the demon that calls himself your husband. I hope his long legs get trapped in a machine with heavy metal spikes spinning swiftly, and he has to get an amputation.

I hope he smokes his lungs to dust and chokes on the remaining ash.

I hope his hairline recedes until he is as bald as he is disgusting. Very bald.

I hope one day you start growing properly again, and your fingernails reach their full scratching potential. I hope you always wear the right clothes and eat the right foods. I hope that your children become a source of happiness to you, and grow up to make you so proud.

I remember the first day I met you, your hair was yellow like freshly picked corn.

I remember all the compound ladies touching your golden locks, but you buried your face in your hands and cried and cried for your mother. I remember when you looked at me you were terrified, but I held you and wiped your face with my apron and told you to hush, else they would sell you.

They would never sell you, not somebody as fine as you were. Fresh faced young beauty, your dress a rag. No, they wanted to clothe you and feed you and make you a queen, a celebrated woman.

I remember when you married him, and it wasn’t for love or for money, but because your belly was swollen with his child. His demon child, I called it at the time but when you gave birth to little Teddy I couldn’t put his fat little body down, and I had never seen you smile before little Teddy came along. You were so happy you made me cry.

I remember when he slapped you so hard you flew against the wall and slipped down, unconscious, and little Teddy ran over to you screaming at his father, who wiped the smear of alcohol from his thin, revolting lips and grumbled about his cold dinner, which he ate callously while Teddy and I put you to bed.

I remember the birth of Lilly, and how she screamed and screamed and screamed for four months straight, and one day he couldn’t take it anymore and pushed her off the bed. Thankfully there was a pillow on the floor and she was safe, but that was the last straw. I took you to my little house, then, you and your poor shivering little children, and we all huddled under the sheepskin while he pounded at the door.

Soon he gave up pounding.

“They’re all yours, Peggy,” he roared through the door, “may they be the death of you!”

Teddy with his firm little face and his knitted brows. Lilly with her hair like spun gold, long and silky, just like yours. And tiny little Emily, who had never met her father, and hopefully never will. Kind, sweet Emily with her gentle voice singing you to sleep at nights when the tears flowed freely. Gentle Emily with chubby hands on your flushed cheeks, telling you she loves you.

I want to tell you that you are strong. I want you to know that you aren’t alone, and there are so many who love you. I want you to feel the love of the small family you have created, and your strength in numbers. I want you to see your Teddy protecting you, your Lilly losing her temper with the children in class telling her she was fatherless.

“I’m not fatherless. I’m motherful.”

I want you to remember that I remember everything. I will always remember. And to never  be afraid to speak.

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March

 

The sun has not yet risen completely, it struggles through some pinkish clouds, a colourful backdrop to the silhouette of a cherry blossom tree, now downy and pink. The car door of a 2005 Nissan Micra opens, a black boot with the toe worn away is pulled into the driver’s side, the door slams shut. Engine rumbles. BBC Radio 4 starts, 7:25am with a discussion on whether or not Britain should stay in the European Union.

I don’t have many thoughts on the matter. I know most politicians are arguing their cases based on personal gain. Nobody really cares about what will happen to the rest of us. Are we safer? Are we more susceptible? I’m inclined to stay, mostly because I don’t like massive change. The last time we had such a big change, bombs were being thrown down on London.

Boots walking on the pavement. Sometimes trainers. Sometimes wet, sometimes dry. Sound of ice scraper scraping away frost off the windows of my Nissan Micra. Ice chips flying over the edge of the windscreen, breath clouding as red-cold fingers tap the ice scraper on a red brick wall, and slip it into the car door pocket.

Knocking on a wooden door.

Bags and shoes clattering down a narrow corridor. Two boys clambering into my car, shoving each other as they do.

“Don’t talk to strangers!”

“Have a nice day!”

A blue scarf is wrapped around my neck, a light blue jacket, slightly rumpled, adorns my shoulders. I carry a black backpack, containing my laptop and all my study books.

Into the glass library, hot cup of black coffee swirling, loud tapping on a keyboard.

A cough. Two coughs.

Chatter over books.

Chatter over chips about books.

A pile of books falling on the table, feverish thumbing through the pages. Hours stretched out in the Glass Library on the sofa, the light from the laptop screen heavy illumination in the dimness of the library at midnight.

The frost stops.

I say goodbye to my family who are going to visit my dad for Easter. I didn’t go with them because I am bogged down with assignments.

D and I travel to March, a small town with one high street and a quaint little museum. We have a Subway, buy some books from a charity shop, and drive on to Sutton Bridge. It’s windy and cold and barren, and nobody walks along its narrow streets. Lots of houses are run down and empty, graffiti scrawled on their broken walls. We drive to Hunstanton beach the next morning, and a storm drives us indoors, wet and shivering. We have jacket potatoes and tea. King’s Lynn  is empty because it’s Easter Sunday, so we watch Zootropolis in an ancient picture house. The seats are red velvet, and the ceilings are heavily designed, stained glass windows adorn the balcony looking out over the black and white tiled lobby.

The clocks go forward.

The sun shines.

The blossoms open their pretty pink and white petals to embrace the deep blueness of the sky.

I am again sitting in the dark, typing away, twenty two years old and not a day wiser, each click of the clock a loud, muffled thump as the last second of March ticks by.

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