Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The challenge: write a novel in the space of one year two days a week between 9am and 3pm

I was lucky enough to be awarded a bursary from Literature Wales last year to facilitate finishing my semi-autobiographical novel. The bursary period commences in a month, and I have a four week's lead-in to break into my routine. Two days a week for six months, I will drop off my youngest son, J aged 2, at nursery at 8.45am, and my daughter, M aged 4, at 8.50am. The times are important, in case you are wondering. By the time I get home I have just under six hours at my desk - read kitchen table - to get back into writing, and maybe even finish a book by next year. Not something I have had the opportunity to do - or even think about - much with two kids at home for four years.

The book was started in 2004 officially, though I have never written about anything else, really, except my own childhood. I hope I can get it out of my system: it would be nice to populate a novel with characters purely imaginary, scenarios the product of daydreams for once.

I didn't expect to feel the sense of loss I have felt these past two days in dispatching M and J into the hands of others. Empty nest syndrome, I suppose, but labeling feelings don't soften them. And suddenly I can remember my own experiences as a four year old in getting ready for school: my own mother tugging at my hair while knotting it into plaits, demanding keep still!; the warm smell of sandwiches, having been parceled up for three hours in a hot classroom, as I open my lunch box; nice cold, ice cold milk at eleven o'clock.

Luckily, I wrote down most of the bare bones of my novel before I had children; I see, now, how we live and see through our own children once they are born. My school days feel distant in a way that they didn't when I was in my mid-20s, able to hot hoof it off to Paris for a week to write. No such luxury now. I write between nine and three.

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