Cheerleading movies: WTF or OMG?

Cheerleading movies? They have it all. Dance routines, gymnastics, untrammelled positivity. They have cheesy storylines, bitch fights, conversations in acronyms and Californian sunshine. The stars are girls who are fit and strong, who have leadership positions they are not embarrassed to lead from. They are brave and funny and they think of boys only after the team. And they have the swishiest, dishiest ponytails.

Sure, there’s a pattern. Each film starts with a nightmare, pitches into the daytime world of ‘practice’ and friendships and sisters. Each lead is a squad captain on track for All Star triumph when she is forced to change schools or her squad gets injured en masse, or when she is placed in the most basic form of moral dilemma; be a jerk or fight for the team.

Continue reading “Cheerleading movies: WTF or OMG?”

On being sporty. I’m not, if you were wondering.

We started lined up against the wall, firing squad-style. Usually I watched my feet; then I gazed into the middle distance. I pretended to be interested in what was coming past in the road. (Once there was a lorry that burst a tyre on the bend.) There was always, you see, an element of hope; a hope that maybe this time it would be different. So I waited, while pretending not to care. But it always was the same and always shame rose in its familiar flood. It didn’t even take that long.

Do kids still pick their sports teams like that? Do the captains still take turns at choosing, still make no attempt to hide their disgust at being forced to take a share of the dregs? Is that still how it works?

Continue reading “On being sporty. I’m not, if you were wondering.”

How personal is too personal?

My most recent blog on this page was my most popular yet by a factor of four. The words went far beyond my usual networks and they went there fast.

The blog worked because it was honest, because it was personal, and because I am not alone in thinking what it said.

So there was a payback to my honesty, not just in reach but in connection. But I was still left with the unease that maybe I had been too personal, maybe I had revealed more than I was comfortable having out in a public space.

So how much is too much? Continue reading “How personal is too personal?”

Slim Hope of Perfection

In the year before I broke down I was thinner than I am now. Noticeably so, as far as I am concerned. I have clothes from that period that I don’t throw away. They hold in my mind all that I remember as good. I was thin (people commented on it). I was carefree, professionally successful, and impressing people with my achievements.

I was also suicidal, but denied that even to myself. I would joke that I’d wanted to walk under a bus to avoid having to go to work. I never noticed that that being true was a problem. I flipped between personality states: the depressed, crying myself to sleep every night, and the party animal, drinking champagne out of the bottle on the dance floor long after midnight and being first into work the next day. Continue reading “Slim Hope of Perfection”

A Book in Search of a Cover

Meet Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Maybe you’ve heard of him. I hadn’t. He was an Expressionist painter, German, early twentieth-century. He painted the work on the cover of The Storyteller.

Readers love that cover. They keep asking how we chose it. Haphazardly, is my answer. But that haphazard was a jagged journey; it was not a success merely through chance. Here’s what I learned:

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The Life-Changing Miracle of Publication

November 2014: Holland House Books offered me a contract for The Storyteller. June 2015: I accepted that contract. Seven months of indecision over an offer that should have been a dream come true. One simple reason: I didn’t believe in the novel or myself.

There were other, smaller, reasons as well that I could use as an excuse for procrastination. Aspects of the book were too personal to share openly. I worried I would hurt someone else. I couldn’t explain it at work. Perhaps I should be completely rewriting the text as the Penguin editor so charmingly suggested. Continue reading “The Life-Changing Miracle of Publication”

Should we all be writing short stories?

There are so many people who want to be published writers, and who believe that to do so one must start with short stories, that short story competitions have sprung up as plentifully as the literary festivals to which they are often attached. If you’re a writer primarily of short stories, this is a good world to be in. You write the stories you would write anyway, and there’s an increased chance of recognition. If you’re a writer of novels I reckon it’s better to keep well away. Here’s why.

Continue reading “Should we all be writing short stories?”