Today I am at home, with a throat infection, feeling sorry for myself.
Luckily, this most excellent blog post from Jenn Ashworth has cheered me up. I have long contemplated doing a creative writing MA course – and this one includes free tea, gin AND humiliation.
Love it, love it. Now the only question is, where am I going to find a pink dress and a kitten?
… today I thought I would post this piece that I wrote back when I entered the Vogue talent contest in 2005. Entrants had to submit three pieces of writing, one of which was an autobiography in 600 words, and this is what I came up with. It’s not strictly an ‘autobiography’ because most of it isn’t true, but it could be the autobiography of a fictionalised version of myself. Of all my work, it was the piece which seemed to appeal to the judges most: when I went to the finalists’ lunch at Vogue (my very own “Carrie Bradshaw” moment) it was definitely the one that they remembered: people kept saying, “oh, you’re the red shoe girl!” Yep, that’s me!
And it’s true that I am strangely compelled to wear red shoes (the ones above were a present from France). Even though this piece is now over three years old, it seems particularly appropriate to post it here, given the title of the blog and all. After all, it’s all very well to talk of going off to follow yellow brick roads, but how much better if you’ve got a pair of kick-ass ruby slippers to do it in?
So here we go:
The Red Shoe Diaries
1. Red Sandals
They glistened and gleamed, the red shoes. They were perfect, everything a shoe should be. Red, glistening and perfect, like something out of a dream.
She lay on the rug and rewound, just to see Dorothy skipping along in the shiny red shoes. “Their magic must be very powerful, or she wouldn’t want them so badly,” Glinda the Good Witch said. Her own shoes were black, patent-leather, round-toed and squeaky: shoes her mother chose. They were cartoon shoes, something Minnie Mouse might wear, nothing remotely magical about them. At school, the other girls had proper, grown-up shoes, with little heels that they click-clacked importantly in, up and down the playground. But they weren’t magic shoes, either: it was red ones she wanted.
She had a book of fairy-tales with a story in it called ‘The Red Shoes’. The shoes were treacherous but they were magic too. After all, she read, there is really nothing in the world that can be compared to red shoes.
That summer, she finally got them. Red sandals to wear with her white knee-socks and gingham school dress. They didn’t dazzle like Dorothy’s, but she knew they were magic just the same. They were sandals to skip along unknown roads in, shoes that could take you anywhere. They looked quite ordinary, but she knew better. Sometimes she surreptitiously practised clicking her heels together, once, twice, experimentally, just to see.
2. Scarlet Shoes
No one else had scarlet shoes. Their feet were all the same, in their identikit fashion trainers, and they looked scornfully at her in the red velvet high-heels she had bought from a charity shop for a handful of pennies. Back then, they had seemed enchanted shoes, exotic, otherworldly: shoes to wear to a smoky jazz club or a fabulous party in some faraway foreign city. Now, they were giving her blisters, and the other girls were looking down their noses and saying nothing. The drunk man in the corner kept leering at her across the room. “You know what they say about girls who wear red shoes…”
After that she kept them to wear at home: she wore them to do homework in, to dance around the bedroom to David Bowie. Put on your red shoes and dance the blues. Years later, she found them at the back of her cupboard, still waiting for another dance. She thought of the film The Red Shoes with Moira Shearer, which had, for a brief time, made her long to be a prima ballerina. She remembered: The Red Shoes are never tired… Time rushes by, love rushes by, life rushes by, but the Red Shoes go on….
3. Ruby Slippers
They glistened and gleamed, the red shoes. They were perfect, like something out of a dream. Beyond the haze of the shop window, they stood waiting for her. The perfect ruby slippers: crimson Marc Jacobs peep-toe shoes with tiny bows on. They were everything a shoe should be.
“You can’t be serious,” said Emma. “You’re going to spend a month’s rent on shoes! When will you even wear them?” But she wasn’t listening. As she slid her foot inside, she felt the enchanted transformation take place. They were powerful magic shoes, shoes that would never be tired. There is really nothing in the world that can be compared to red shoes. It was true, she reasoned, as she skipped out of the shop and off along the unknown road, going who knows where.
What do masking tape, sandwich bags and Derrida have in common? You may well ask…
At the weekend some of us from the Salford Restoration Office Reading Group got together with the intention of making a publication in two days. The feeling was that we wanted to do something more as a group beyond our activity so far, which has been largely reading and discussing texts and inviting speakers to the fortnightly Open Sessions. When we talked about possible ideas and projects, making a publication was a popular suggestion which we all felt would be interesting for the group to explore. The plan was to make something deliberately low-tech with only very minimal forward planning: we would just turn up on Saturday morning and get stuck in!
Well, I think we may have been a little optimistic with our plans: our final ‘publication’ wasn’t perhaps quite what I had expected (and yes, it did involve masking tape, sandwich bags and Derrida!) but we did have some fun in the process, including experimenting with an old letter press, reading about Collage Party, the odd trip to the pub and making a pinhole camera from a cardboard box, taking photographs and developing them in our very own improvised dark room. The picture above is one of the photographs taken in the office as we’re all working: I like how ghostly and mysterious everything looks.
I’d been really looking forward to getting stuck in after a long and tiring week at work. Since I started my current job three months ago, I have had very little time or energy to do anything creative for myself, so it was great to put a weekend aside to play, even if the end result wasn’t quite what I had anticipated! I was also supposed to be attending a two-day writing course this week, but disappointingly, it got cancelled at the last minute. I didn’t know whether to be sorry or relieved when I found out: I have never taken any kind of writing course or class before, and I was quite terrified at the prospect of showing others my work, though I do think it would have been very good for me. I am trying hard to find a way to kick myself back into writing regularly at the moment but it’s surprisingly difficult! But hopefully writing here will be a good start.
follow the yellow brick road
is named after a kind of diary I had when I was little, which brought together writing, drawing and all kinds of different things I made. It was mainly stories and poems (my personal favourite is entitled “greenfly” – “i am a greenfly/I live on a rose/I eat all the little bugs/And I am as happy as a greenfly”) but also collections of stickers or pressed leaves, drawings of animals, slightly strange “fashion illustrations” and all manner of other things. I kept it all together in a big blue and red ring-binder with the title ‘The Yellow Brick Road’ on the front in peeling Lettraset.
I would like to think this space can be something similar – a place for writing, but also a collage of ideas, thoughts, images, general amblings and meanderings. I’m just going to see where it leads…
Today I made a decision to do something which has absolutely terrified me for years. I have signed up for a creative writing workshop – a two day novel-based course coming up in the next couple of weeks.
To anyone else that might not sound so scary, but I have always been petrified by the idea of sharing my writing with strangers. I don’t know what it is I am so afraid of, but the very thought of it gives me The Fear. However it’s far too late now – I’ve decided to take the plunge. Also I have already paid, so I’m going to have to go through with it and be brave.
With that in mind, I am back here again. It’s not so very adventurous I know, given that (so far!) I would estimate my current readership to be a grand total of nil. However, it’s still a step in the right direction.
In view of all this creative fear and angst, I’ve unearthed my copy of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way for artistic inspiration and support. I always find it a particularly peculiar book – perhaps just because I’m not always comfortable with the terminology used and the approach Cameron takes – there’s a bit too much about God and it has that slightly discomfiting ‘self-help’ quality to it. However, there’s no doubt that it’s a great source of inspiration to get going or to carry on when the going gets tough. It’s a good place to go for straight-to-the-point advice that always hits home: today I opened the book to read mistakes are necessary… progress, not perfection is what we should be asking of ourselves.
Couldn’t be better advice. As The Fear looms like a nightmare monster, I’m taking a quote from Henry David Thoreau as my motto: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!