Writer Susan McCartney is becoming something of a local celebrity with her feisty poetry performances. And here she is with copies of her books containing her poetry and stories – many of them written in the Creative Writing course at Kinsley and Fitzwilliam.
Can you believe that before attending the course she had never written any poetry at all!
Well it was more a headband than a hat really. She was going to a 1930s evening in June, dancing to the Palm Court Orchestra – not that she could dance, but she’d have a go at a waltz, and the chance of being asked to dance would keep her happy between now and then. I mean, you never know what type of beaux might turn up to this kind of thing; it wasn’t exactly a run of the mill Friday night out, now was it?
Anyway, she’d done a bit of googling to find out what the evening fashions were like for ladies of that era, and she’d looked up evening gloves, handbags and headgear. She’d even checked on whether fans were used – she was pretty sure they would be – in all that heat. Then she’d visited Oxford by train, stayed a few days and found the most gorgeous dress in a charity shop in the covered market.
The sales lady had been really helpful, urging her to try it on, saying, “Oh yes, it could certainly pass as 30s with its figure-hugging body and slightly flared hem.”
When she’d come out of the changing room, just a corner of the shop with a curtain across, the lady had complimented her figure and said how much it suited her, just the right colour to go with her eyes. A young Polish man who was buying literary fiction agreed, smiled warmly and said how the colour accentuated her hair. That had made her feel all giggly inside – a young man and a compliment all in the same day – things were looking up!
The sales lady had looked around for an evening stole or jacket that would go with the dress but then she’d remembered the maroon feathery stole she’d had for her 60th birthday bash and knew instinctively that it would go. A little later she’d also remembered the light maroon dolly-bag that friends had bought for her birthday and realised her outfit was taking shape.
She got the dress home, wrapped carefully in her nightie so as not to catch on any of the suitcase fittings. All the way there on the train, she dreamt of dancing in the 1930s style, the music and the dress. She felt quite warm when she arrived home and instantly ran upstairs to try it on all over again with the accessories that she’d earmarked all those miles away. And now she knew the shoes she’d wear too – those chocolate brown ones she’d bought for £2 from the charity shop in Knottingley for the 1940s events she’d taken part in – wouldn’t they look just grand? And they did, and she had those lisle-look stockings that she’d worn on stage, they’d do too. Oh this was going to be a night to remember – if only for the outfit.
Next day she had a friend over and they went back to the same Knottingley shop on the hunt for scarves in the same colours as the dress. Because it was multi-coloured it gave her plenty of choice. There was pale green, chocolate brown, a hint of purple, dusky pink and those turquoise sequins that twinkled in every light. Boy was she going to outshine all the other ladies on that night in June. And if she could just find a scarf or two to create some kind of headgear, that would be magnificent.
She and Jen didn’t have far to look as scarves were on the end of every rail of clothes. Straight away, she saw a fringed greenish-blue one that would certainly work as a shawl or might make the base of a turban-style hat. And then, just two rails away, she saw the most exquisite scarf imaginable – it had a satin edge and the rest was semi-transparent in pinks and blues and greens. She had never seen anything like it. It was so delicate and feminine – like nothing she’d ever had before. She bought them both, ideas already brimming over in her mind.
Later on that day, she assembled the outfit again but this time, turned the fringed shawl into a little evening cape to hide the tops of her arms – she couldn’t imagine that any ladies in the 30s had “bingo-wings” and she certainly wasn’t going to show hers! No, everything had to be as authentic as possible. The satin-edged scarf worked well as a tight fitting hat that she could tie in a bow at the side of one ear – very much like the flappers wore in the 1920s. “That’ll do,” she thought.” Women often wear things left over from a previous decade and this will be no different. All I need now is a brooch to embellish it and maybe a feather.”
And the opportunity for those presented themselves that weekend when she went with Jen to a local Antiques Fair and bought, for very little money, two delightful brooches in turquoise and all sparkly, and at the last minute – when the stall holders really wanted to pack their things away- she found a pair of longish gloves in pale blue and spied in the bottom of the lady’s box a dark brown feather, a little dog-eared perhaps but certainly enough to create a stunning feature on her hat.
Again, she returned home and worked wonders with the feather and the brooches. It was just enough to set the whole outfit off. She fell back on the bed exhausted but happy that her outfit for June was now complete. Later as she was hanging it all up on the door in her bedroom, the phone rang, but she couldn’t quite get downstairs quickly enough to take the call. By the time she reached the lounge, there was a message on the answer-phone: “Sorry about this, but the 1930s night has been cancelled due to lack of numbers. To get your money re-funded you need to phone this number.”
“No!” she said over and over, “No. No. No!” It had been the one thing that had been keeping her alive. She wasn’t interested in the money. She stumbled back upstairs, put the outfit on for the last time and sobbing softly, cradled herself to sleep.
Getting published is every writer’s dream. It’s what keeps us creating stories and poems and what keeps us going creatively, even when we feel nobody may ever read what we’ve written.
Used to be that agents and publishers were the gatekeepers but that’s not the case these days because the digital age has made it an achievable dream for many. Of course, that’s not to say it’s easy to become an indie author – there are so many options that it can be daunting and confusing. Where do you start?
The creative writing group at Kinsley were lucky to have help at hand in the person of indie author and local entrepreneur, Roy Lacy. His book, de Lacy Chronicles, has just been published on Amazon priced at a very reasonable £6.99. It’s a fascinating look at history through the eyes of the de Lacy family.
Roy took us through the whole process of publishing on Createspace from writing through to editing, proofreading, selecting a title, creating a cover and then marketing the book.
As he said himself, there is nothing better than holding your own book in your hands, unless it’s seeing somebody reading it.
Did you like school? Hate it? Endure it? Maybe you loved it or you couldn’t wait to leave. School is a nerve-wracking and embarrassing place for many but if you suffer from dyslexia, it can be so much worse.
In an emotionally charged piece this writer really captures the feelings of a child struggling to cope with reading difficulties and how those experiences impacted on her for the rest of her life.
The doors of the school swallowed up my tiny body. I froze as if I was going into a trap. So many times people have tried to trap me with words and puzzles, so many words. I would sit quietly and hope nobody notices me. Please don’t notice me. My mother walked beside me and I try to hide behind her full flowing skirt but don’t feel comforted. She will tell them to make me study, she is against me too. Why don’t they understand how hard it is for me?
As I enter the room there are numbers and words, letter and faces. The faces that will end up judging me in the end, laugh and jeer at me later as I twist my words. How can I stop it from happening? I wish I were somewhere else and not in this huge room that scares me so.
Years go by, I walk down the daunting hall of Junior High. There have been no answers as to why I am who I am. I just sit and cry. Most of the kids that I grew up with are here. Years of jeers and laughter weighing down on me. I sit in the back of the room and hope no one notices that I’m there.
It was the day I had to stand in front of the class and speak: My history presentation. It was the day and my name was called. I walked through the aisles to the front of the class. I try to make myself small. Insignificant. I want to get past this quickly. My face rises red through body heat. My project chart shakes in my hands.
I am an academic, social and emotional failure. In my inability to hold a conversation I twist my words and phrases to the point of mutilation. I look away from all of them, make eye contact, that is what they tell us to do, but I can’t. Trying harder will not help. I get frustrated and aggressive and anti-social behaviour results from these tensions. But I can’t blame myself. Don’t hate myself. Don’t fight myself. Don’t strike out.
I drop my chart and begin to shake again. I look at the door and feel trapped. Can I make it to the door without anyone stopping me? Another girl shakes her head and asks the teacher if we can get on with it.
I want to take control and tell people. I want to communicate. If only they can be patient with me. I have something to say. It’s not my fault. The words jump off the page. It’s not my fault. My hand moves around the paper. Searching for the words. The words change on you and go blury. It’s just not my fault.
And to that one teacher that passed back my history grade and told me in front of the class, marry well in response to my grade for the presentation. I say, it didn’t kill me and it did make me stronger.
Another great piece of work from the Wakefield Creative Writers.
A glass half empty or half full? There’s a melancholy air to this poem by Neville Raper that perfectly catches the mood which sometimes follows Christmas and New Year.
Xmas all concluded
Now I sit secluded
Good thought occluded
Monday is so blue
It’s hard to start anew
January say adieu
Roll on springs renew
15-1-2017 (the day before blue Monday)