The Girl Who Went Up…

… Is the title of one of the short stories I’m playing around with at the moment.

For some, utterly bizarre reason I haven’t yet identified and for years didn’t even particularly notice, I have traditionally oscillated between writing poetry and writing novels. (No mid-way; mid-way has been for losers; I’m all about the full-way. Or something.) Many authors, probably quite reasonably and intelligently, recommend building up to writing novels via short stories, as though they are mainly instrumental spurts of intent and skill (maybe pain-staked, maybe accidental), a bit like lifting weights before lifting a car (terrible analogy, sorry; and people don’t generally lift cars*). But I never really bothered.**

It turns out, though, that short stories are brilliantly fun. AND, any niggling concern that a collection I produce could thrive rather too well on this new and tempting possibility of structural/thematical versatility, making it too flim-flammy and incohesive (there is no necessary inter-project commitment; each story can be a completely different exploration or theme, written in a completely different style or tense, or made up of double or half the number of words as the next one; you can change story completely after a week) seems to be nicely tempered by the fact that I am clearly still obsessed – or ‘artistically preoccupied’, let’s say – by a certain type of person/situation, which seems to really enjoy infusing itself into my writing wherever I think I’m going. We’re not finished with each other yet; I’m just approaching, or temporarily being, that person through different (vivid, odd or downright impossible) filters.

My short story collection, then (and I write as though it already exists because I’m sure it does, in some form***; and I’m merely uncovering it episode by episode, by positioning myself jauntily and fatefully in front of my laptop and tapping at QWERTY with no pressure and only enjoyment), is about people on the very edges of reality, society and madness. They are all in tatters of genius; almost always lonely, obsessive, fascinated by the reality of a person or thing barely conceivable, or committed to bringing into verisimilitude something so paper-delicate, perfect and mysterious that it might dissolve under too much focus. These people are bohèmes, I suppose; music, art, nature and the cosmos; that kind of malarky. But they never give up. And they are always entirely changed by what happens.

I like writing through the eyes of men. I’ve noticed this throughout the novels that I’ve written and sometimes wondered about it; my strongest, most interesting characters, and the ones whose eyes I most enjoy seeing through, are male.

Still, The Girl Who Goes Up is based on one thoroughly autobiographical detail; when I was a ballet-obsessed girl, I dreamt often of flying and dancing, as many people do, and day-dreamed about it, too; except two small points:

1. The particular movement wasn’t so much flying as hovering. What happened was this: I jumped, with straight legs crossed at the ankles and neat, pointed feet, and, quite simply – reader, there is no other way to explain this – I simply didn’t come down.
2. Um…. nothing to see here, except that I have memories of it happening. I’m not entirely sure my dreams were dreams. I’m deadly serious here; I remember what it felt like, the hovering (just the subtlest lift of denser air beneath my feet that suspended me a second or two longer than it should have before I landed lightly back on the ground), and I don’t not believe that it actually happened in real life. (I’m having to use double negatives here because it’s a delicate reality to navigate.) It turns out that some dreams are dreams and some are more like memories (which perhaps shouldn’t be spoken about in public or civilised society).

Anyway, the Girl Who Goes Up has no patience for double negatives; she’s just doing it.


* They probably don’t write novels either.
**Apart from the endless stories about animals I wrote when I was a child, most notably the mouse family who had a pet horse, which was… problematic, and the collaborative hand-made book about a chameleon, who was decadently (decidedly and defiantly) purple and green (felt-tips of choice), so I’m not sure how good a chameleon he would actually have been.
***I nearly wrote ‘foetal form’ there, then didn’t because I HATE it when people describe their creative projects as their babies. It makes me feel slightly sick. Sorry if you do that; I’m sure you’re lovely.




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