Genre, What Genre?

Totally necessary or waste of time?
Totally necessary or waste of time?

I wrote last time about how some people want to pigeon-hole you, or even how you may feel the need to pigeon-hole yourself depending on what you do, wear, watch read and listen to. Unfortunately for writers, there is an added area where some people are not at all happy and comfortable unless they’ve shoved and stuffed you into a pigeon-shaped hole. This particular hole is not only pigeon-shaped but genre-shaped too.

“What genre do you write?” is a question I’ve been asked on more than one occasion. I wish people wouldn’t because I don’t know how to answer them. I am able tell people what I don’t write. I don’t write sci-fi or historical fiction or crime or thrillers or romances. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of these genres. I’ve read countless books in all and enjoyed most of them. It’s just my story telling, and I’m suspecting many other writers’ too, doesn’t fall into an easily pigeon-holed category.

The lack of an answer doesn’t go down well with the person asking the genre question either. They push and probe until, at last, they shake their heads, puff out their cheeks and look at you as if you are some sort of pathological liar who can’t possible have ever written anything in your life if you can’t even identify which genre it fits into.

Funnily enough, it isn’t other writers that want to do this. In fact, other writers have never asked me what genre I write. This could be because they are too busy with their own writing to be interested in what I’m doing. Or, maybe, the don’t see why it matters. Because it doesn’t. You write what you feel and everyone else be damned.

Chameleon

All together now, 'Let it go, let it go...'
All together now, ‘Let it go, let it go…’

I’ve written  before about how I’m perceived by different groups of friends (see Who Am I?). Some see me as quiet and a little reserved. Those who know me better and for longer see me as a bit gobby and as following my own path. I think the reason for this is probably  because I have lots of different interests and, consequently,  lots of different groups of friends. From writing to gardening, from archaeology  to sewing (my latest love), from boozey nights out to alcohol free nights in; my life is busy, varied and certainly not dull.

I’ve always been one to throw myself into new experiences and challenges. I’m a firm believer in that we only get one shot at this thing  called life and I don’t  want to reach the end of mine with a long list of ‘what ifs?’ That’s why, last week I raved it up watching The Prodigy and this weekend I’m off to the theatre to see a Frozen Sing-Along (with my daughters of course). There’s  no  wonder  people see me in different  ways!

So, who is the real me? Am I the dirty, banging baseline loving Old Skool raver or the massive Disney fan? Am I the peace-making diplomat or the ‘you’ve crossed the line so run for the hills’ mouthy woman? C

an I really love baking and sewing and be a feminist? Of course I can. I and we all can all be anyone we want.

We should never allow ourselves, or others, to pigeon hole what we are or what we do. If you really  want to do something, then go for it (providing it’s  legal & morally sound obvs). Don’t ever worry about it not being cool or intellectual. There’s no better feeling then seeing the look of  shock on someone’s  face when they thought they had you sussed and then realise they don’t know you at all. Be a chameleon. Chameleons rock!

Lighting Bolt

No longer a blank page
No longer a blank page

Being involved with the running of a theatre company for a year seriously  damaged  my creativity. Just sorting out the day-to-day details left me with very little of my precious free time and my creative juices dried up. When the company ended, I deliberately threw myself into taking a variety of online courses as I didn’t want to get sucked into another theatre venture. Unfortunately,  my creative juices didn’t  return. I seemed to have been sucked dry.

So I went back to some old stuff and worked on that for a while. It was good to go back  and see my work through a fresh pair  of  eyes but it didn’t  trigger anything new.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was at a local singer/songwriter’s album launch with some friends when something unexpected  happened.  There I was,  minding my  own  business,  when I was hit by a lightening bolt.  A line from one of the songs struck me as being unusual and beautiful at the same time. I couldn’t  get the line out of my head. And the more I thought about it, the more I stopped listening to the music and, suddenly, a story began to appear.

My first instinct was to run out of the gig, go home and write it down before I forgot it. But I took a deep breath and told myself ‘not to be so silly’ and that ‘if it was important, I’d remember it.’ So I stayed till the end and then spent a couple of days running the idea round and round my head before sitting down to write it.

And, so far so good, the story telling  part of my brain is fully functioning again and I’ve written nearly 3000 words (which may not seem a lot to some of you but, believe  me, it is for me).  I guess you can’t  force things and, when you are truly ready, inspiration will strike – probably from the most unlikely situations.

Importance

Totally necessary or waste of time?
Totally necessary or waste of time?

Conventional wisdom says writers must always carry a notebook & pen at all times so when inspiration strikes, the moment isn’t lost forever. Every writer I know does this &, for a while, so did I. I diligently carried said items around with me in whatever bag I was using. From bag to bag they went until I forgot to transfer the pen & then, finally, the notebook.

Did I miss said items? No, I did not because the truth is I never used them. I thought this was because I am lacking somewhat as a writer. ‘No pen?! Nothing to write with?! And you call yourself a writer?!’ are words I’ve often heard so I’

ve always felt a bit of a fraud for not scribbling feverishly into a notebook I expertly pulled out of my bag the moment the light bulb flicked on.

That was until last week when I went to my local library’s ‘Meet the Author’ event. The evening followed the usual format of the author talking about writing and the book they are trying to flog, reading a passage from the book they are trying to flog & answering Q&As. And, of course, someone asked if they carried a notebook & pen around with them at all time. And, of course,  I was expecting her to answer, ‘Yes, of course! How on earth can you call yourself a writer if you don’t? ‘

Imagine my shock then when she said, ‘No.’  My new best friend then went on to explain that she never had & she didn’t find it necessary because if it was important,  then she would remember it. Hallelujah!  And it’s true. You are not going to forget the moment inspiration hits you as you’ll be too busy thinking about it until your story proper gets underway. So the next time some smart-arse comments on my lack of writing paraphernalia,  I’m going to smile knowingly & say, ‘Don’t need any. If it’s important,  I’ll remember it.’

Sweet Krampusnacht

After banging on about my Krampus Cracker story, thought it was time to share it with you all. The inspiration came from the commercialisation of Krampus in Europe and the States with chocolate Krampus being made and Krampus parties being thrown. I tried to imagine how Krampus would feel about this.

 

Krampus sighed as he bit the head off the mini chocolate replica of himself. How has it come to this, he thought. I used to be feared and dreaded. People were terrified of me. Mothers told their children terrible stories about how I would haul them kicking and screaming off to the underworld if they weren’t good.

For years the stories had been repressed, first by the Catholic Church and then by the fascists, as the tales were believed to be too frightening, too horrifying to be heard. Krampus had been forced to hide away in his cave, biding his time until he was heard and remembered again. He knew the time would come. Stories of demons and devils and bogey-men were never forgotten for long. So he had waited patiently until, finally, the moment arrived.

Krampus had shaken with delight when he heard his name being whispered once more. He’d dusted off his chains and bells. He’d polished his horns and sharpened his fangs. He’d even bought a new bunch of birch twigs from a woodsman who lived nearby. Krampus could hardly contain his excitement when the whispers became louder and louder until they had turned to shouts which hurt his ears and set his fangs on edge. But, somehow or other, he’d managed to control himself and keep his emotions in check. That was, until tonight – Krampusnacht.

As the sun slipped away over the horizon, Krampus had rushed out of his cave with a deafening roar, whipping and thrashing his chains and bells around his head with a ferocity not even he knew he possessed. He had stomped into town baring his fangs and brandishing his bundle of birch twigs at all he passed. But no-one had been scared. Nobody had screamed, trembled and tried to run away. Instead they had laughed, pointed and taken photos of him on their phones. One child had even dared to hand him the mini chocolate replica of himself with not just a smile but a hug.

I’ll show them, Krampus muttered, ripping off the replica’s arm and swallowing it whole. They’ll be sorry when they see who I really am, he growled, stuffing the mini chocolate Krampus’ legs into his mouth. Just let them wait. I’ll make sure they’ll never sleep soundly in their beds again, he snarled, ramming the remainder of the sweet-tasting figure between his lips. But first, he said, licking his fingers, I’ll have to have another one of these.

 

 

More Krampus Crackers

Krampus Cracker!
Krampus Cracker!

I wrote previously, in my post Launch Night, about my experience of being involved in Krampus inspired writing project in Leeds. I had a fantastic night listening to many of the other authors’ take on the Krampus tale and sharing my own too.

 

I’m pleased to say that two other blog sites have and are currently publishing all twelve of the Krampus tales, complete with the fantastic illustrations that go with them. If you have five or ten minutes to spare, put your feet-up, grab a cuppa and a biscuit of two and enjoy. You can find the stories at:

http://www.bigbookend.co.uk  and http://www.thestateofthearts.co.uk (which includes my story).

Another very unexpected and massive bonus was the Liars’ League in London selected two of the stories to be performed at their Christmas evenings. Liars’ League take fiction and have it performed by actors, which makes a fantastic change from writers having to get up and read their own stuff. But I guess it’s easier to do that in London where there are a plethora of actors than in East Yorkshire where there are not so many. I was very excited, proud and pleased as punch to be chosen as one of the two. You can see the reading of my story on their website where there is a YouTube link. Just check out their website at http://www.liarsleague.com and look for Sweet Krampusnacht.

All in all, I truly wonderful experience and I am so glad I submitted despite only ever writing one piece of flash fiction before. I guess that’s all you can do – keep doing what you do and, fingers crossed, someone, somewhere will like it.

 

Launch night

Krampus Cracker!
Krampus Cracker!

IMG-20141204-WA0000

Last night was the launch of a Christmas writing project which was conceived by Tiny Owl Workshops and brought to life in the UK by a lovely lady called Vicky Pointing. The project took the story of Krampus as the inspiration for twelve pieces of flash fiction, which have been written by twelve different authors. If (like me before the project) have no idea who Krampus is, he is the anti-Santa Klaus. A goat-like demon who would frighten children into being good or else haul them off to the underworld.

I was really happy, excited and proud to be chosen as one of the writers. The stories have all been illustrated by professional artists and have been put into Christmas crackers which are to be left in cafes around Leeds. If you are in Leeds this Christmas, look out for them!

Apart from the obvious high of being chosen as one of the writers, I was pleased because this was only the second piece of Flash Fiction I’d ever written. I love Flash Fiction. It’s great to read if you only have five minutes to spare with a cup of coffee. It’s also great if, like me, you would love to write a novel or full length play but find that after a week or two (maybe a month if I’m lucky) you get fed up, bored and want to start something new. That’s why I like blogging. It gives me a finished piece in one sitting. I think you have to just accept the kind of writer you are. I’d love to be able to write long, beautiful prose but that’s not who I am. No matter how much I try long and want it, I could never do that.

The launch night itself was fab and not just because of the three free glasses of wine I drunk. Nine of the authors were there and it was amazing and interesting to hear their takes on the story of Krampus. The venue, Outlaws Yacht Club in Leeds, was amazing too. It was a quirky, shabby-chic kind of place, with art work on the walls and home-made Christmas decorations hanging from the ceiling which made me want to replicate them but knowing that there was no way I could. I’m definitely a writer not an artist, more’s the pity.

The end of the night meant a mad dash to the train station to catch the last train back to Hull. Lots of running with a big Mary Poppins type handbag on one shoulder and a bag with a full set of the Krampus Crackers in the other. As I was doubled over, huffing and puffing when I finally made it to the platform, I realised that I couldn’t have done either the writing or the running two years ago. To quote Fat Boy Slim, “You’ve come a long way, Baby.”

The last moan

"I don't know why she thinks she's so special. "
“I don’t know why she thinks she’s so special. “

In my last post, I wrote about how some writers annoy me with their tendency to speak only about themselves. This, unfortunately, isn’t the only thing that annoys me about some writers I have met. I promise that this will be my last moan, whine and act of bad-mouthing other writers. Well, for this year at least. You see, the other gripe I have about some writers is their inability to be nice about other writers. They clearly weren’t listening when their mothers told them, “If you have nothing nice to say about someone then say nothing at all.” Probably too busy talking about themselves to hear Dear Old Mum.

This inability to be nice seems to manifest itself in two ways. Firstly, in the inability to admit that they might even, just a tiny bit, like another writer’s work.   I’ll see a play or listen to a piece read at an Open Mic night and express my admiration of it and all I’ll hear in reply is, “It was alright.” To start with, I thought this was just me. That, perhaps, my tastes were a little different to everyone elses’. I mean, when you hear “It was alright” a dozen or so times, you do start to wonder. However, I soon saw the real way of things when I went to see a play and sat next to someone who was laughing along heartily with me (luckily, it was a comedy) and then afterwards said, “It was alright.” It’s almost as if these people feel that by liking someone elses’ work it takes away from what they do. I don’t understand that at all. If you like something, say so. It’s good to like. It puts a smile on your face instead of making you look like a bulldog chewing a wasp.

The second way the inability to be nice raises its head is in the inability to be pleased for other writers’ successes. I recently had to sit behind two older male writers (who I didn’t know) who were talking about a third male writer (who I also didn’t know). Now, what they were saying was really none of my business but we were all crammed so tightly into an Open Mic night that it was impossible for me not to hear them.  Also, I like listening to other people’s conversations as they are usually much more interesting than mine. On this occasion, however, I wish I hadn’t bothered. All these two writers did was bad mouth this poor third chap in a nasty, snide, passive-aggressive way. It would have been better if they had just been honest and said, “I’m so bloody jealous that John (not his real name, or it might have been as I didn’t catch it) has got his book published. It should have been me!” But they didn’t. Instead they said things like, “Well, it isn’t very original” and “I won’t be reading it as I only read things I like”, which begs the question, “How the hell do you know it’s not very original then?” I would have liked to have said this and much else besides but, unfortunately, I couldn’t. This is the downside to listening into other people’s conversations.