Wednesday, 8 August 2012

You never forget...

Devizes Book Shop
This week I have been caught up in Olympic fever, in particular, the three-day eventing, the dressage and the  show jumping. Unfortunately I didn't manage to get tickets but as I watched it on tv it took me back years to when I was way younger than I am now but to a time when I was passionate, no obsessed, with riding. The weirdest thing was that as I sat watching I found myself clenching my knees and calves just as I would if it was me on the horse and I was about to jump. It was exactly what I used to do when I was riding and also I used to do it when watching the Horse of the Year show. I lived it and it was still there. It was a totally unconscious action. My body just did it automatically. It had remembered.

When I noticed what my body was doing it triggered a whole load more memories. I was never lucky enough to own my horse. My parents kept telling me I would get one when we moved to a house big enough - we never did, we just kept looking at them. But I had a great friend Jojo who I used to ride with, plus I had regular lessons and took part in gymkhanas etc. At that time it was my life. The chance to escape into the countryside and experience the total freedom. There is, and was, nothing like it. I also spent a lot of my very young life riding 'pretend' horses in the garden and jumping numerous bushes, convinced in my head I was on this beautiful, brave pony. I could really see it, feel it, hear it. Oh the joys of imagination. Perhaps it is this strong imagination that I still use when I write because I live my story in my head as I write it.

I am still in contact with Jojo and our lives have continued to touch though not via horses so much. To be honest I don't think Jojo is known as that by anyone else but me these days. She is a proper grown up now but still rides! She owns the amazing Devizes Bookshop (see photo above provided by Jojo). Go and visit it,  it is a wonderful independent book store, which includes a gallery space.  It is a place you can get lost in....think of all those books and stories that you can delve into!

What has this got to do with writing I hear you ask, well, I was also reading Candy Gourlay's latest blog post, where she is talking about 'writing who you are'.  When you write there will always be a bit of you in there, sometimes you need to let in a little bit more but, as with all writing, there has to be a balance to it all. You must also watch that you haven't put too much of yourself in a story. It can stultify the narrative. It needs to be hints and understanding whilst also realising that being a child now is very different to when you as the author was a child.

Candy says  'It is not just writing about what you know, it's about writing who you are.' Maybe it is time for that pony story to make its way onto my screen instead of it hiding in the corner all the time. And perhaps that pony will need to be called Kelly, eh Jojo?

Just to take a few people even further back including my sister Jacky....this is just for you as you celebrated a special birthday last week ;-)


  1. I was fascinated and caught up by your description of growing up with horses - which demonstrates I think how putting yourself into your writing can draw a reader in.

    I think when I say Write Who You Are, I am not just talking about autobiography but trying to make your characters feelings and reactions feel real. There is nothing more gripping in a story than the realization that there is truth behind the fiction.

    Thanks for the mention!

    1. Candy I think you are right it goes way beyond the autobiographical but it was your ideas that added to the memories that I had trawled up earlier in the week.I think it goes beyond culture too but is really hard to really pinpoint. I am not sure I could really explain to a writer how to do it.

  2. White Horses was one of my favourite programmes! And I too grew up horsey, though my sister is the only one to carry on the tradition. And oddly, I've put a lot of horsey stuff in my latest novel so perhaps I'm writing who I am. Go on, Ness, give us a horsey story! xx

  3. Can't wait to read your new novel Sue, sounds wonderful. I used to love White Horses, always a sign it was the summer holidays. I have this story bumbling around so maybe I will try and make it take form. I'll keep you posted;-)