Friday, 8 May 2020

V E Day poem

.
V E Day 2020
by Jan Jones

Today I woke early to order flour
sorted out spare plants for a friend
walked up the road for potting compost
and my aunt's paper
I watered
dug a row of vegetable garden because there's
no one else to do it
I tied red, white & blue ribbons and sang on the doorstep
I cried for all the happy stories
I cried for all the loss

I feel very alone
and very connected

Thank you V E Day 75
.


Monday, 4 May 2020

Different Rules



.
2020 has been a very strange year. At the start of it, to celebrate the end of my two-year Regency immersion in the Furze House Irregulars, I decided to spring-clean my writing brain by diving into a new contemporary series of cosy village crime.

Almost instantly, my personal circumstances changed, which made writing a lot trickier, but still doable.

Then Covid-19 came along. Now, self-isolation for a writer is not so very different to 80% of my normal life, so I didn’t think it would make that much difference to me. Wrong. Very, very wrong. I turned out to be not at all good at coping with shortages, restricted movement and immense uncertainties in the real world. (I also still can't get my head around only one big shop a week rather than two normal-sized ones.)

Burying myself in writing was equally challenging. The new book I was writing was a contemporary. I flinched when my characters stood too close to each other or didn’t cross the road to avoid their friends. I broke out in a sweat when they went out for meals, popped into each other’s houses for coffee or had a pint in a crowded pub. It wasn’t just that, though. I found it actively impossible to write my whodunit ‘into the mist’ any more. I simply couldn’t cope with uncertainty inside my book as well as outside it. As I have never been able to plan my novels (I get bored with the writing once I know how events are going to pan out), I panicked. How was I going to write?

The answer for me was quite surprising. I went back in time. Different Rules has been waiting patiently on my To Do list for a very long time. I wrote it early in my writing career in what seems another lifetime. I loved it desperately, but after a couple of near-misses with the publishing world, I sensibly put it away to look at later and got on with other writing projects instead.

It was now later. I hauled it out from the depths of my hard drive, blew the dust off it, read it from beginning to end and still loved it. More to the point, I could see where the weak points were. 

Different Rules has been the absolutely perfect book to get me through this period. For a start, it is set in the 1990s, when times were gentler. It features a heroine who is flawed and loving and endlessly generous. Just inserting myself into Maggie’s skin made me feel better about life. Best of all, the book was already finished. I didn’t have the anxiety over where the story was going or how I was going to structure it. I’d already been through that angst. What I needed to do now was craft it into something more cohesive without losing its energy, its hope, and its promise that - eventually - all would be well.

I did it. I feel very much better about life. I hope reading it helps you as much as writing it has helped me.

The problem now, of course, is what to write next...
.