I was asked to write what it is like having a writer as a partner. Where do you start? In the past four years my wife has started an OCA course, which challenged anyone’s initial fear of putting pen to paper: being judged. I can emphathise with this, from the Open University courses I have taken and from writing and performing my own songs. I saw an amazing talent for poems and prose based on walks that we had taken together and from her life experiences. In the passing couple of years she discussed plans for books and stories with me. I found them inspiring, and her stories so imaginative.
Then two years ago she announced that she wanted to do the MA. This meant ten months living apart, me here in Devon and her in Winchester. It enabled Reb to concentrate on the course , getting the most from the taught sessions and freeing up her days from all the chores of running a big house and family. She also started an Open University course in creative writing and took two of the boys with her so they could do courses at the local college. While it seems now that the ten months went past fairly quickly now, it seemed like forever at the time, with Rosie (our youngest daughter) and I driving the 167 miles after I finished work, to steal a few quality days with them all.The house, oh, I have to mention that. It was the coldest house in the world. Many times through the winter I travelled down to Winchester, only to find them with several pullovers on, fingerless gloves (so they could type on their laptops) and the heating on full, not really making any impact on the winter.
It was an amazing journey, watching my wife craft poem after poem, short story after short story and each chapter of the novel. Every draft would see tweaks to a sentence or a word, fine tuning it into a finished piece, for whatever assignment was coming up. There was nothing whimsical about taking on the MA, and the results and marks speak for themselves. Then following the distinction for the OU course, Reb took on another one, to get the Creating Writing Diploma. All the time I was treated to the latest instalment of whatever assignment was next. I especially loved the feminism module, and all the books that came with that. Ah, the books. I am not even going to speculate the number of these that are in our house. This has resulted in the need to build more bookshelves. But then, what is a house without books? While it is not the ultimate goal to sell a book, I am secretly hoping to look up one day and see my wife’s book with her name on it amongst the A’s on the shelf.
The book that was written for the MA, seemed to be really good. I say ‘seemed’ as I do not read fiction, but the story was original and the characters compelling, and I was sucked into the alternative world. From the discussions of each chapter as the novel grew, I was able to get to know these characters, then, in a depression of a backspace, a scene was gone… just as I had had got familiar with a particular strand, the plot changes, and a new thought process starts.
Then the Mslexia magazine dropped through the front door and in it was the literary novel competition. The MA novel would be entered. I thought Borrowed Time was an amazing novel, but I hadn’t read it, as it wasn't yet complete. So Reb rewrote the first few chapters and off it went. Then I got an e-mail. The reason I got it was because I had taken out the subscription on the magazine as a present for Reb. I do not look at my e-mails often and it was only after the long list for the novels had passed and we hadn’t heard anything, that I checked. Oh, it was long listed and the full novel had to be in asap. That was long few days. Reb, fuelled by lots of tea and meals prepared by our daughter and I, completely revised and tidied up the novel to get it to the judges by the following Monday. There were a lot of candles burned that weekend. While we were all thrilled that the novel had been long listed, we thought that the Mslexia competition was a ‘literary’ prize and this was a genre novel, so don’t get too excited.
So, the weeks passed and a lot of checking of e-mails was performed. While there was an air of optimism from myself and the kids, we were aware that from the 1800 entries, 100 were long listed and 12 would be shortlisted, so the chances of being winning would be remote. I cannot put into words how proud I was when an e-mail was opened saying that it was shortlisted and then when it was placed in the top three, I was as excited as Reb.
I cannot begin to quantify all that effort spent learning the craft from the OCA, OU and the MA. All those hours hunched over a monitor, a lot of it in freezing conditions in Winchester, and I haven’t even mentioned the excruciatingly, bad back that she had at the time. The rewrites, the research on the historical strand, the way points of view and chapters were amended to make the novel flow and be more readable.
This has been quite an amazing journey… so far. Now an agent is interested enough to want to meet Reb and see the novel.
In the meantime, a new novel has been started, and I am privileged to be part of the creative process as I am included in the thought process for this plot, the new characters and their adventures.
Who needs soap TV when you can live out the dramas of all these amazing people brought to life in front of me in our house? I love it. What will be the next deadline and what will tomorrow's writing bring? I am so proud of my writer wife, following her natural talent, with amazing results.
Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Unusual guest - my (usually) silent partner
My creative efforts are supported by a creative man. Without his support I don't think I would be anywhere near as productive as I am, and certainly not confident enough to enter a competition. He's a sounding board, facilitator, enthusiast and, when needed, the man in charge of carrots/sticks. These are his words: