Today I am 37, or so my husband says. Last week I started to believe I was turning 38, which led Husband to inquire what exactly were in those drugs the doctor had put me on to deal with the most recent injury.
Been a funny year, good things and terrible things. The book being published was – undeniably – a good thing. Yesterday a piece I'd written for The Spark was published on Books Live. The writer is required to explain what sparked the idea of the novel. Yesterday, I sat there reading it and thought, How far I've come.
I'm no longer the person who wrote This Day. It isn't that I'm better. (I'm writing this wearing two wrist braces, my neck is taped to prevent my jaw from dislocating after an incident and there is even more tape on my shoulders and back. The back brace is sitting at my feet – ever ready - should I have to put it back on, which I've had to do from time to time over the last two weeks.) The difference is I'm armed with knowledge on how to cope. The difference is that I'm no longer flaying in the deep. The difference is that I no longer have the fear: I know what it is and it can't kill me.
I'm also better. – You just said you're not better. – I know. I am, yet not. The Fibromyalgia, managed with meds and a slight change in diet – is no longer causing parts of my body to simply not work, while the burn races along unchecked. Little breakouts occur and I now have tricks, which allow me to stamp it out before it runs rampant. Hypermobility Syndrome has also been helped in numerous ways. We've sorted out nutritional deficiencies (my body doesn't seem to believe making vitamin D is its job, nor is it interested in absorbing B vits from food). Exercises – based on where I am at on that day - improves stability and keeps me strong-ish (I can now cut my food and turn the car on without feeling like a hero). I now know which braces provide support or prevent over extension of joints, without over restricting me and causing knock on problems. My nearly magical tape eases muscle spasms while, often, doing what a brace can more comfortably with less bulk.
The most useful tool, however, has been learning to read pain. The most serious signal doesn't even hurt – a tightness in the body if left ignored, eventually results in serious injury. I had one very bad 'whoops', and now know if I ever feel that again it means 'Call the physiso, now!' at we nip it in the bud before it becomes a major incident. Some pain, however, I simply put in its place and work through. Other bits tell my diet has gotten out of whack. Another – rest more. Another – rested too much. Some pain signals injury. Some is simply the body complaining that it was built (mostly) for 33 years of living-the-life-I-had, and I've gone past it. Overuse: too much, too much, too much. Should have led a gentler life. Ah, hindsight, you always arrive too late.
Now is better. Life is no longer spiralling ever downwards. It is a series of ups and downs, much like owning a jalopy. My 'front bumper' might become too loose, so we work on fixing that; meanwhile a tire goes flat, so we patch it up, only to have the rear bumper fall off, so we strap that on, then my rear viewer mirror cracks. I won't claim to be a cheery person. But I am, as my physio wished, now living my life. It is a good place to be. Here is to 37 years: some jalopies don't quit; they simply gather a bit of rust.
Originally appeared on Books Live
‘If your story had a soundtrack, what would it be?’
I commonly ask fellow writers this question. Writing – good writing – moves to a rhythm and flows in the same manner as music. This staging of words is most easily witnessed in movies, where the pacing of the tale is echoed by both the lens and musical score. Thus action lovers steer clear of flicks full of scenes filmed in soft focus and set to Pachelbel Canon in D.
I write best to silence. But before I begin laying down the words, I must listen to what my characters have to say. These imaginary souls begin whispering while cooking dinner, exercising and taking a shower. As their stories unfold and shift, their actions begin attaching to music. The songs are played while the research gathers.
We hear how we feel. Empathy is strung along the notes. This is what I hope to achieve in words: the tone, the tempo, of the writing portraying the mood of the character and the emotion of the storyline. But my mornings begin with the clutter of the everyday: feeding a dog, taking kids to school and working through my physio routine. When I do reach my desk, I am greeted by a plethora of cyber duties. By the time the e-noise has been damped, my brain is far from the awaiting manuscript. It often requires another cup of coffee (or three) and music in order to sink back into the words. When my head is in the right space, the music is turned off and I begin to type.
The songs I played during the course of creating This Day shifted with the hours of the tale. The music put in me in Ella’s head. It helped me connect with Bart – he, who, by the time the reader meets him, is closed off to the world, even to his wife. It would be cumbersome to mention every song I used over the three years between idea and publication. But if I were to pluck a chunk of the music and try to arrange them along the storyline they’d go something like this: Tracy Chapman’s At This Point In My Life, P!nk’s Try, Florence and The Machine’s Shake it Out, Pentatonix’s Say Something, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, Billie Myers’ Kiss the Rain, Bastille’s Overjoyed (Acapella).
The song list tells the narrative well enough, in its own abstract way. But there is one song that sums up the heart of the tale better than the rest. Oddly enough, I didn’t come across Bastille’s Flaws (Acoustic) until well after the first draft was written. It altered how I viewed my work. When I began working on This Day I thought I was writing to the mantra: pick yourself up and try, try again. Which Ella does, in her own way – try. And yes, the story is, very much, about that. But after listening to Bastille’s pleading ode, I realised there is an underlying theme to all the music I’d been gravitating towards. The song made see that underneath the words was a simple portrait of two deeply damaged souls – Ella and Bart – who, despite their privilege, have suffered through a tragedy. An experience that left them both deeply changed. Flawed. The days of covering up their faults or putting a positive spin on their failings, are over. Yet, these two characters are still reaching out to each other, in their own dysfunctional way. I didn’t set out to write a love story. But, upon reflection, I may have accidentally done exactly that.
- Alia's room was one of messy beginnings. -
- But this was his farewell performance and he was speechifying towards a legacy. The pleasure and engagement of his audience was fleeting, but the reproduction of the full text in the school magazine was forever. -
- But then, you can't put a price on overseas. Even if the fabric is poor quality, people go nuts for an import. -
- Samoosas and mind games. -
- No, she hated all sports. She didn't mind that they happened, out there, in the world, but she failed to understand why her home should be taken over by them and all their grim accompaniments: the ceaseless televisual drone of the commentators, the wasted Saturdays, the interminable post-match analysis. -
- He didn't tell Rashaad that he hoped never to stop being angry, not because he wanted to live in a state of perpetual rage, but because the anger was a way of remembering. -
For those who missed, Diane Awerbuck's 2014 Short Story Day Africa winning story is available to read. Click HERE. Also, check out the new logo and the cover of the 2014 anthology, which is due to be released soon.
- She says isn't it funny how every second, every minute, every day, month, year is accounted for, capable of being named - when time, or life, is so unwieldy, so intangible and slippery? This makes her feel compassion toward the people who invented the concept of "telling time."-
- The ice is gone now. The river is quieter. It's probably okay to put a canoe into it now if that's your only way home. -
- Do you know that people are happier when they stop trying to be happy? That's some study they did. -
- If you have to end up in the hospital, try to focus all your pain in your heart rather than your head. -
- Then we thought maybe we should get a rope and tie the tree to the curtain rod. We could disguise the rope to make it look more Christmassy.
Ah, the Christmas Rope, said Nora. A beautiful new Von Riesen family tradition.
It's really a big tree, isn't it, said my mother. -
- Elf was well aware of her responsibilities, of being demure and tender and mild even though she'd been unconventionally impregnated by an invisible force and was no expected to raise the Messiah and all on a carpenter's salary. -
This Day is a bittersweet moment in time that Tiah Beautement has captured beautifully. Although the story is slow-moving, it is beautifully rendered and, like water, is reflective and steeped in emotion.
You can read the full review HERE.
Ebook and Kindle coming soon.
As the holiday season approaches, consider giving a gift of literacy. Book Dash is trying to combat South Africa's high price of books so children in the crucial years of 5 and under can have one. You can see their website HERE and watch their video on how these books were made.
As a person who has met, first hand, children who are illiterate, this hits home:
We believe every child should own a hundred books by the age of five. In South Africa, that means giving 600 million free books to children who could never afford to buy them. Every day we lose, more children grow up unable to read and write well, and to enjoy the worlds that books open up.
They are running a Thundafund campaign, where you can buy books for children who need them. What kid wouldn't love a great books? (Hey, I have writer friends who donated their talent to make these! They're good. Yes, they are.) Donate HERE.
- It was an irony but a fact that a person had to move to New York City first, to become an artist of the West.-
- As I got closer, I recognized the familiar rounded rear corners of a Greyhound. Builds character, my mother liked to say. -
- There is no fixed reality, only objects in contrast. even the Earth is moving. -
- You didn't know how low a person could get below zero, down under the roots of it, until you found this life, or it found you. -
- Women were trapped in time. This was why men had to keep going younger...Because me, Valera understood, moved at a different velocity. And once they felt this, their velocity, all they had to do was release themselves from the artifice of time. Break free of it to see that it had never held them to begin with.
- Now, of course, this kind of thing couldn't interest me less, though it's often the artist's duty to listen to exactly these sorts of details and to pretend they matter. -
“I think in the beginning my family members wanted a miracle; they wanted a cure for my cancer.” she said. “When we all sat down and looked at the facts, there isn’t a single person that loves me that wishes me more pain and more suffering.”
- Brittany Maynard via The Guardian