Wednesday, 30 July 2014

polari book prize longlist & good company

Writing a novel isn't about a craving for success, it's more about a desire for people to take a journey with your narrative and share the fruits of your hard work, tears, laughter and sometimes even moments of exhilaration. Actually, it's not just a desire it's a need, a compulsion to bring your characters to life and tell their story to anyone you can pin down long enough to take the plunge and read it. Finding people who want to read it can be a challenge and to that end whilst Book Prizes aren't everything they open people's eyes - fresh eyes - eyes that one minute were unaware of your existence and then suddenly your novel title is dancing in front of them, asking, no challenging new readers to come forward and, well, read and laugh and cry and take that journey with you.

I'm thrilled therefore, to have made the Longlist for the Polari First Book Prize 2014. It's a fine list and I'm on it, woo hoo! Previous winners have been awesome writing talent and to be in the fray along with people like Pippa Goldschmidt is really exciting. Pippa was also shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize in 2012 (she came second in the end) so it's really lovely to see our writing being recognised across the field. Following the competition Pippa was published by Freight, and myself by the lovely ThunderPoint publishing who were keen to take a chance on a wee unknown such as myself. I'm really grateful to them for putting their trust in me and my Birds That Never Flew as they are doing their best to get off the ground and spread their wee wings.

One other exciting thing. Kerry Hudson, whose writing is exquisite and adorable, made the shortlist of the Polari in 2013. How good is that for keeping outrageously talented company. A happy day.

The shortlist will be announced on the 8th of September and the winner on the 8th of October. Exciting times and the best thing is I already feel like a winner.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

at the scene of the sweet-sworn vow, humanists & new life

As days go, this was one of monumental status, my son Daniel marrying his gorgeous bride Emma, two kindred spirits promising their hearts and souls to one another in a ceremony so rich with love it crackled like candy apples. It was a beautiful day, the rain pissed down (all day) never removing its wee shiny pouches of glittering wetness from the scene for a second. It was a welcome visitor all the same, we totally understood why the rain that had fallen on their lives, wrapping them in the love and guidance of their developing relationship, wanted to be part of such an important, life-defining, event.

Their love for one another was blessed and bound at a Humanist ceremony, the same Humanist Celebrant who had conducted the farewell funeral ceremony for Daniel and Emma's stillborn son Tommy almost two years ago to the day. It was beautiful, personal, funny, moving and extremely emotional. The tears were flowing and the love was bursting from the blossoms in the trees in wee petals of the sweetest pink that fluttered and strayed before settling on the scene. Before Daniel and Emma spoke their vows I took to the stage and recited a wee poem I had written especially for them as part of the blessing. A personal tribute, it went like this...(ach, I know it's not very good but it's from the heart!)

At the scene of the sweetly-sworn vow

wife and husband bind body and soul in a wind-stilled hush

The boughs of their summer-love

Gently teasing hearts that fall and rise

Soaring to salty white sky so worldly wise,

the palest purple clouds saluting the glorious gush

At the scene of the sweetly-sworn vow
birds sing, a soft song grasping the moon,
the child long since remembered peering from the brightest star
His glittering rays catching golden sun,

where husband and wife become one,

anchoring hearts and souls amid waters strong and far

At the scene of the sweetly-sworn vow

hope soars on button holes and waistcoat
and circular bands  as fresh as wind-driven snow

We gaze as the dreams of wife and husband grow
pledge and passion scattering on scarlet berried

sycamores and soft leaf’d elms that sway and float

At the scene of the sweetly-sworn vow

Those trees stand still, breathing the summer silence

blossoms of toasted friendship lingering in a clearing sky,
black swan clouds ruffling into the distance high

The be-all, the end-all, the everything-all where art thou
husband and wife, wife and husband, sealing their sweet-sworn vow.

The ceremony was sealed with the beautiful news that Emma is expecting their second child and in the new year they will welcome new life, a brother or sister for the never to be forgotten Tommy. It's a new beginning and they deserve all the happiness in the world. Daniel is dealing with a horrible genetic illness, and now we have discovered that his sister Siobhan has the same disease, however if love can make their world an amazing, powerful place then they're all going to do all right. I am truly blessed to have such a wonderful family. Being a mother is such a privilege and one I live for. Let's raise a wee glass for all the beautiful kids out there, I hope you are healthy and happy and above all loved.


Monday, 7 July 2014

and still the sycamore sings

Yesterday I was sitting on the swing in the garden in Mullindress a few minutes after a heavy downpour of rain so grey it swallowed the silver sand on the strand and for a moment at least we were all lost in the lining of the clouds. At the end of the din the clouds scattered, the sky shone blue and the sun tickled rooftops, sending pockets of light from chimney to thistle and off on to the horizon.

Just before the silence that only an island hillside can bring- a noisy quiet that is shrill and sweet in equal measure- the rain had pounded on the patio, its words a language I couldn't quite understand.

And then the tree began to sing, its rain-soaked melody cracking the bough of the sycamore, its light chasing the sea spray, its song like magic. There is a powerful music in that tree and one day, soon, I hope more than anything else that we'll speak about its sweetness.