Short Fiction: To The Boy of My Heart

To the boy of my heart,

    • Because you said the world would be an easier place if it could be simplified to a list of dot points. Words, more often than not, confused you in their random collisions and duplicitous nature. You read silence like I read Calvino.
    • Because we danced for hours beneath the sway of hundreds of delicate paper lanterns before you spoke to me. My heart beat in your chest as we sat side-by-side on the ancient breakwater and watched the sunrise. The briny dawn was more than a new day beginning.
    • Because the salt of your skin was the same salt in the sea air, heavy on my tongue. And your absence tasted the same as your presence. It amplified an unquenchable thirst I carried half the time as longing, the other half as ecstasy. I ignored warnings that too much salt was bad for the heart.
    • Because what you lacked in books, you made up for in music; a citadel of vinyl we adventured through, with you as my guide, until I almost knew the byways and hidden alleyways as well as you. So the right song, at the right time, became our most devastating weapon against each other.
    • Because you forgot anniversaries and birthdays, never arrived on time and sometimes not at all. Then appeared with oriental lilies, for no reason other than you liked to watch them open beside my bed. Over the years, I came to imagine you around the corner every time I caught a hint of their perfume or the promise of coffee. My order was the first thing you learned and the perfect coffee became the great equaliser, olive branch, and space in silence, which never required days to bloom ‘I’m sorry’.
    • Because you pushed too hard and I pulled too hard and somehow, in the disastrous pas de deux of dissatisfaction and disaffection we thrived. The disequilibrium energised the current of our love. We always found our way back to the safe harbour of music and dancing, sheltering there from the worst tides we inflicted on each other.
    • Because it is impossible to tether the sun. We did not need others’ conformity and certainty. We bound ourselves to each other in our own way, because I already had a ring, and paper and ink burn. We believed love transcended all if we needed it to.
    • Because for all your faults, your ‘hello’ and ‘good night’ arrived without fail every day, at the right time, no matter where you were in the world. And every time we ended it, those texts kept arriving. Now I send myself ‘hello’ and ‘good night’ from your phone and pretend nothing has changed.
    • Because death is simple and you are not. You hollowed to a husk in days, not over months or years. Your light faded like the sunset before me and now you sit in the flesh of a doppelganger. The endless night is a pool of tears I bathe in alone.
    • Because I believe if I write a thousand letters, fold words like cranes into missives of hope, there will be a moment when you can read them and recognise me. All I have left are my time capsule words and the memories they protect.
    • Because I want to believe I will once again feel the rush of you through me. Because I refuse to accept I have felt it for the last time.
    • Because I am willing to bet against tomorrow, knowing I loved you then and I love you now.
    • Because you have not gone and I cannot leave.


The girl of your heart

Published here for the first time.

(And for anyone with a sharp eye, yes, that’s Adam Byatt’s handwriting, and an old photo from the writing of Postmarked Piper’s Reach in 2012!)

21 Tips for Writers of All Forms and Genres

These 21 tips are as relevant now as they were when I first compiled them in 2010.

They are road map for all writers: journalists, novelists, songwriters, essayists, academics, film makers, poets and anyone who shares their creative vision and heart via words.

1. Arrive late and leave early: get straight to the heart of the narrative.

2. Defend your work and keep your creative dignity: learn to say no/no way/go f*ck yourself – because no one else will stand up for your work.  Remember you cannot write someone else’s vision.

3. Don’t show your work to family and friends: you will erroneously become attached to what they think is brilliant, which in fact is likely to be absolute crap.

4. Go out and live your life: do not allow yourself to become stuck in a hole of your own creativity – especially when you’re creatively blocked – being in the real world is the best antidote.

5. Make up the rules for what you want to produce: in a global market there are an infinite number of possible niches with people willing to pay for your work.

6. Build an audience online: utilise a website or a blog to connect with readers – capture them through a mailing list. Don’t be afraid to give away free stuff.

7. Back yourself: don’t ask others for permission to do what you want to do.

8. Know you can do it yourself: you do not need the backing of major publishing houses/production companies – the rules are changing. Look for those you know, who want to work with you, and your idea.

9. Persevere: your yell is someone else’s whisper and whispers are pervasive, it will get heard – work on several projects – this keeps you energised and working creatively even when one project isn’t firing.

10. Utilise a multi-media approach: there are audio books, podcasts, youtube as well as thinking further afield such as combining/selling photos and music with writing. (Jessica Bell’s String Bridge–novel and soundtrack–is an excellent example of this)

11. Embrace festivals: nothing is ever to small to be part of.

12. Look after yourself: writing will ruin your health – so take care – consider writing standing up (apparently Hemmingway did this) and making use of pen and paper rather than chaining yourself to a computer.

13. Get to know your process: work out when and where you work best and do it your own way – try to write every day, even if just for a few minutes and carry a note book with you so ideas don’t escape you.

14. Trust the intuition of your readers to know where something doesn’t work: but don’t trust their advice on how to change/fix it.

15. Don’t write to a presumed audience: there is no point in second guessing your niche market – just write!

16. Promote yourself in public: but allow space to doubt yourself in private.

17. Write simply and vividly: specifics paint the best pictures on the page.

18. Don’t hold back and don’t protect yourself: say things no one else has said before – turn off the inner critic/editor

19. Collaborate: work with new people and don’t be afraid to change circles of friends – there are always new opportunities out there.

20. Be professional: submit on time, to the required word length, to the brief agreed on – editors like writers who they can rely on.

21. Cultivate a community of writers: writing can be a lonely enterprise, but it doesn’t need to be – other writers understand where you are, what you’re thinking and feeling.

First published May 2010 at Pursuing Parallels.

*This list was curated from a session given at the 2010 Emerging Writers Festival, distilled from the 35 ‘best writing tips’ shared by the Festival’s ambassadors Guy Blackman, Natasha Campo, Jill Jones, Sean Riley and Julian Shaw. Fast forward 12 years, it is amazing how little the basics change!

Original image by Max Burger via UnSplash