Saturday, 18 September 2010

PhDs, Stories and Memories

I am very disappointed that my computer won't allow me to put links to music on my blog. There are so many pieces I would like to put up particularly as music is a large part of my life. I like to think that I have my own sound track - perhaps that's just me ;-)
I have been working on my PhD novel today. Doing some rewrites and tightening bits up that needed it. I have left the big thing until tomorrow. My DoS suggested chapters 8,9 and 10 were talking heads. I read them again today and realised other than providing bits of back story or incidents that might or might not link to things later they are actually irrelevant. It is going to be a case of 'killing my darlings' tomorrow as I rip these chapters to pieces. Writing is rewriting, rewriting and rewriting again.
I have been working on the novel as I needed to break the day up a bit. I have been clearing my Mum's house again. The downstairs this time. The place is full of stories. The photo I have put up is my Mum and my three sisters sharing my graduation when I got my MA. My sisters and my brother are joining me at my Mum's house in two weeks as we finally sort it out before the house clearance person goes in. I have been trying to get rid of stuff that could be thrown - why would a person want 12 packets of imodium? Best not answer that.
I have been going through various boxes and envelopes full of photos and documents. Today the most poignant piece was a tiny scrap of paper that looked like it had been torn from a diary. It was dated 1918. It was written to my grandmother by my grandfather before they were married. It just said 'thank you for a perfect day.' It is good to know everyone has perfect days. But to me, as a writer, it is an image that is now filed away. I am sure a story can come out of that piece of paper. Then there is all the documents between the same grandmother and the person she worked for at the House of Commons. I think there may have been more to that too. Another story waiting to be written.
I have laughed and cried today, a photo opens the door to so many memories. We have a lot of photographs. This is partly because one of my sisters has a degree in photography. But also there are all the programmes - for graduations, for dinners at Woburn Abbey, medal ceremonies. Bits of newspapers carefully clipped out announcing the death of a famous aunty, of a sister who was arrested for putting jellies by parking meters (yes you did read that right), for a journey to Camp America, announcing success as head teacher or head injuries nurse. Blueys from another sister who with the TAs spent several months in Iraq. These snippets equal stories and memories. They are part of the patchwork that makes my family what it is. They are a rich source of stories but not stories that tell family tales but stepping stones to fictional ones. This is what we do as writers. This is what I am doing with my PhD novel. It doesn't relate to any family tales but other memories that have stirred a moment of inspiration. It could be as simple as seeing a single cross with a poppy on by a gravestone. There is a whole story behind that poppy.
OK that's enough for now, it is back to 'killing my darlings'

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