Monthly Archives: April 2016

Writing

Short Something: Track Meet

This is kind of a short story, inspired by the photo below.


 

Track Meet

Syd bounced from one sleeper to the next, making a game of it. Her breath puffed out in little clouds, blending into the fog around her. It was still early, too cold to be out. She pulled her thin jersey tighter around her.

A twig snapped deep within the trees, the sound deadened by the fog. She peered forward, looking for a human shape amongst the silhouettes but not finding it.

She kept moving to fight off the cold spreading from her toes.

Five more minutes. If Chloe didn’t show by then, she’d go home and climb back into bed. Or  at least have a hot shower before school.

yaff_muse_train_tracks

photo credit: Andrea Boldizsar

A splash of pink stood out between the dark tracks and rotten leaves. A hair clip with a plastic ladybird, half-buried in the dirt. Syd crouched down to pick it up. Chloe would love it. She’d wear it ironically. And proudly. Because the school uniform code only allowed black or brown. Syd licked the hem of her sleeve and used it to clean off the dirt.

Thudding steps echoed behind her, but before Syd could turn around, someone crashed into her. She sprawled down onto the tracks, scraping her palms. Her knee poked through the hole in her jeans and bit the cold ground.

Chloe plopped down on her back.

“Get off,” Syd said.

“Make me.”

Syd pushed up, but Chloe’s weight was too fluid. Each time she got a shoulder or a hip off the ground, Chloe would slam her back down.

Chloe’s lips brushed Syd’s ear. “Say I win.”

“Piss off.”

“Say I’m the queen of the castle.”

Syd slapped at her, but Chloe caught her arm and twisted it behind her back. Syd bit down on a cry.

“Say–what’s this?” Chloe’s fingers plucked at Syd’s closed fist. “What are you hiding?”

“Say I win,” Syd said. Her cheek, pressed against the ground, had gone numb and the words came out slurred.

“No way.” Chloe tried to get Syd’s hand open, but she clenched it tighter.

“Say I’m the queen of the castle.”

“Queen of the basement, maybe.” Chloe grunted. She let go of Syd’s arm, a sign of surrender.

Syd squirmed around until she was lying on her back, Chloe’s thighs against her waist.

“So?” Chloe said, pouting. “What’s the big secret?”

Syd opened her fist with a flourish and presented her gift.

Chloe’s eyes lit up. “Ooo, pretty.” She swept back a lock of her hair and clipped it in place. “How do I look?”

“Beautiful.”

Chloe leant forward, placing her hands on the ground on either side of Syd’s head. “I suppose you want something in return.”

Syd shrugged and put on a posh voice. “Your happiness is my reward.”

“Yes,” Chloe said, leaning closer, until her breath warmed Syd’s lips. “It is.” Then she laughed, clambered off, and jumped from the tracks, discarding Syd the same way the trees dumped their leaves.

Syd stayed between the rails. Being hit by a train would hurt less than this.

 

Writing

What it’s like to not win an award, or, Where do we go from here?

I may have mentioned my novel Grow was shortlisted for the Storylines Tessa Duder Award. But I didn’t win. That honour went to Gareth Ward and his novel The Sin Chronicles: New Blood. (A steampunk novel set in Victorian England.) I can’t wait to add it to my collection of TD winners.

I didn't get any good photos
of the awards ceremony because I
grabbed the camera without checking
the battery and it was flat.
And my husband was sitting in the
audience in a place where the angle
was all wrong. But here's one of me
at the pub afterwards. I almost
didn't post this photo, because I'm
doing that weird squinty thing with
my eye. But that happens when I smile,
and I'm happy damn it!

I received the email on a Friday afternoon, and upon seeing the subject line I though, “Well, I haven’t won.” Because they’re not going to tell me I’d won via email. I’m pretty sure that would warrant a phone call. But then I read the email and it said I had been shortlisted. SHORTLISTED!!!

I probably should’ve been sad I didn’t win, but I was too damn happy about being shortlisted. It’s very validating to have someone say your novel is pretty good. Especially one I’d been working on (on and off) for seven years. Ack, seven years seems so long. But it’s true. I started this version of Grow in 2008. (Wee nugget of info: The first time I wrote about these characters was way back when I was 16. It was sci-fi then. The genre changed but the core premise didn’t.)

Then I spent the next week having conversations like this:

Me: Hey.
Husband: What’s up?
Me: Shortlist!

Me: Guess what?
Husband: Shortlist?
Me: SHORTLIST!!!

I decided to go to the Storylines Awards Day, because if I was going to get a certificate I could stick on the fridge next to my kids’ merit awards from school, I was going to get it in person, damn it! I bought a pretty dress, I painted my nails, I woke up with a weird red patch on the tip of my nose because of course I did. (I think fate was reminding me I write YA and I had my own big-pimple-just-in-time-for-an-important-date moment.)

I’m really glad I went. Barbara Else (who was awarded the Margaret Mahy Medal) gave an awesome lecture about her writing. (Gems included balancing self-belief vs self-criticism, and questioning what right one has to write.) (And, of course, when I bumped into her afterwards, I had a total mind blank and couldn’t tell her what really resonated with me.) And it was really touching to see the award winners who were on the verge of tears because their dreams of being published were coming true.

So, I have a MS that’s in pretty good shape, I have kudos and bragging rights from being shortlisted, but I don’t have a published book to direct people to when they ask.

Where do I go from here?

(If you’re a Buffy fan, I hope you’re singing along.)

The only answer is to keep going. I’m close, and all this practice is paying off. And I have to keep putting myself out there. Because I wouldn’t have been shortlisted if I hadn’t believed in myself (and my writing) enough to enter.