Tuesday, 4 October 2011

No Newts Is Good Newts

Last week I got to revisit one of my childhood haunts. A lot has changed, but much of it was the same, only with taller trees and steeper riverbanks. It still felt as wild and overgrown as it did when I was a kid. It still felt big. And it felt calm, too. Something I maybe hadn’t thought about back then, but it was there, in the long days spent lying in tall grass, the slow afternoons of dipping my feet off the boardwalk into the water, letting them gently splash against the background hum of dragonflies.

In all my years of going back home to visit family, I’d never even thought about this place. Or of going back there, at least. Because as I write this, I realise I think about the place a lot. My stories are littered with the things I experienced there: the freedom of youth; the warm sun freckling my face; the sky seen through a carapace of trees; and ponds and canals teeming with life in all its slimy glory. Newts and frogspawn and leeches. And sticklebacks, caught and kept in coffee jars, pond water spilling out onto dusty tarmac as I made my way home.

As a writer, I’m constantly pilfering my own (and other people’s) experiences. Hiding truths in fiction and fictions in truth. It was amazing to go back to the place where so many summers were spent, summers that have found their way into story after story, and find that it’s all still there for others to immerse themselves in and perhaps let it become part of their own stories.

And on that note, I have a couple of new stories to tell you about. Sadly, there are no newts in either of them. The first is at there was nowhere to go but everywhere. It's part of a word association game they’ve got going on, which is an amazing idea, and lots of fun. I've just read Dave Schofield's piece, The Screams of Victory and Near Misses, the title of which is a line from my own story, and it gave me such a brilliant giddy feeling to see a line I'd written turned into something else entirely. Dave's piece is wonderful, full of so many great lines, so I can't wait to see what comes next.

My other story, Overexposed, is in the latest issue of Word Gumbo, which came out today. The theme of this one, issue three, is ‘light’, and I'm really excited to be in it. You can download it for free here. Maybe even sneakily print it out at work and take it down to the park to read while you sunbathe? In October? Yes, in October. We're not gonna get snow for at least another week.