The Day After the Day Before

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The day after the day after Winchester Writers’ Festival I spent the first hour walking along the shore. I didn’t think about dead bodies, or forensics. The second hour I sat in the dappled garden with tea and crumpet. I read, ‘The Uninvited’, by Liz Jensen. Just half way through and it is finally getting my attention.


I carried my camera to the shore and into the garden, and took 109 photos. I also slipped it into my bag before the festival and took not one single snap. I was unable to gather any interest at all despite giving myself a pep talk, ‘you’ll like it once you get there,’ ‘a free lunch’ . . . it didn’t work . . . ‘feedback on your novel,’ aroused some interest.


A place at the festival was my first prize for the best murder short-story last summer and I had been looking forward to going. I had just finished a 75,000 word detective story and was happy!!  Ahh, there’s the rub.blog7

blog5I had been cluttered with all four one-to-one sessions in one day, not my choice. With ME I knew I would be shattered . . . was shattered by 10.30am. Shattered after I parked the car in ‘disabled,’ a seriously angled narrow bay between two brick walls, a car-length wide.

All three agents gave completely and utterly diverse feedback: ‘excellent pitch’, ‘not long enough’; ‘Great opening’; ‘lose the opening’; ‘really connected to character’; ‘character betrays responsibility to reader’ . . . I could go on. What did I expect?

The peach; ‘An accountant, an organised person, and a good one, does not aspire to murder.’ This comment threw me. Nowhere does this character aspire to, or commit murder.Where’s the sense in that remark?


Then, I understood, either he hadn’t bothered to read the synopsis properly, or I hadn’t written it well enough . . . I doubt he had read the requested 10,000 words. Then came the ‘how to’ tip – ‘Have a picture of your protagonist’ . . . A’HEM . . . The lecture continued and I switched off, glad when it was over. For this level of feedback, I could have borrowed a book from the library. Soooo glad it was free!


Apart from that, the novel is; ‘publishable’, has ‘definite commercial viability’, all agreed it was, ‘well written’.

I was too flat and tired to hang about for the final 1-2-1 but left my e mail in order for her to contact me with feedback. Wonder if she’ll bother?

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At lunch I met and had an agreeable conversation with a young man who had completed his first novel, gained a professional critique and was a member of a supportive writing group. After the festival he planned to ‘send off’, to lots of publishers, if the book wasn’t taken up, he would publish digitally. Well planned.

I am sorry to have lost his blog address, (I lose things frequently) and if he reads this, please send it to me via my other blog; – thank you.

I have ordered a second hand forensics manual from Blackwells, a tip for all sleuth-writers from the hour of master class; ‘Bring out your Dark Side’ that I did manage to get to.

1-2-1 Feedback was personal with an eye on business. I sat next to a young woman while waiting, her novel is about a town of angels on earth taking care of us humans. I metaphorically cast my eyes heavenwards thinking ‘derivative’, while smiling; ‘lovely.’I spoke to her afterwards, the agent will read it when it’s finished. There we go.

I have seen my angel. It appeared between me and a dying woman in case death mistook me for her. The angel was much bigger than the hospital ward and gold flakes, like fish scales caught the light before it went. The woman in the bed opposite died while the angel was there. I’d like to say, ‘while the angel spread its wings,’ but I didn’t see wings.

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angel 1On my calendar, 15th March, a biro drawing of an angel (drawn in retrospect); he brought my tree home from the nursery, the tree now planted near my back fence as a barrier against my neighbour in her back bedroom window with binoculars. It’s taken 15 years and a good fence which won’t blow down to realise the potential of my garden.

devilOn my calendar, the drawing of a devil, 20th March. Banned from the writing group because I value myself (better late than never) enough to say, ‘hang on a minute. I’m not your saddled cow’. My voice was cut out before I could say, ‘goodbye’.


angel 2On my calendar, 22nd March, an angel; I bought a trellis from Jewsons; six by six. To be fixed one side of my pergola for a sheltering-from-binoculars evergreen clematis. Too heavy for me, car too small. The assistant asked an angelic local builder to take it home for me.

     ‘Being helpful is good for the soul’, he said, that’s how I knew he was an angel, and the assistant, an angel in training. My soul, squashed on the ground from having my voice ripped out, got up and took notice.

angel 4On my calendar, March 28th, three angels.

Bemused and almost out of time, my painting was shortlisted for the Royal Academy summer exhibition. I tracked down a framer and explained my difficulties. Time. I left the (blotted but still wet) painting with him.

By this time, I was parched, it was almost 10am. I had seen a notice outside a church; ‘cuppa and biscuits, 8.30 – 10’. I’ll chance it.

   Two women around a table, a large glass wall, a beautiful tree drenched in catkins.

     ‘Am I too late?’

     ‘No, come in, sit down, join us, if you like.’

     Wow, yes, conversation after having my voice stolen would be a joy. They were kind, open faced. Morning tea was intended for mums with small children but the morning had been very wet and no one had come. Yes, I had driven in a downpour which stopped as soon as I parked the car.

     Not only did having a cuppa with two angels give me back my self in bucketfuls, but one of the angels was a member of the Royal Academy, not an artist, a supporter.

     How much better can it get for me?

     That afternoon a ‘phone call; ‘your frame is ready’. An angel with real punch. He took my breath away.angel

My first experience of so many keeping me upright, my feet walking in diamonds.

I pick up my frame in the morning, has it only been 24 hrs? I tell the angelic framer the painting’s history; 23 paintings, one a day, gouache on imperial mounting board, tracing my experience after a friend killed himself . I had had a warning dream with a day’s notice. Unable to get to him in that day, I arrived early the next morning, and he had just been found, the needle still hanging from his arm (GP prescription).

     Years later I burnt all paintings except one. I am revisiting myself and painting anew.

     ‘Every painting has a story’, I finished, almost in tears, surprising myself.

     ‘Only the good ones,’ said the framer.

 So many kindnesses without expectation of material gain, but plenty for their souls, and mine. Yes! A tree was planted. It will grow and grow. I contemplated the contrast between the good and the evil. And why had I spent so much gloomy time contemplating hurt? Then because of the angels, stopped doing it and I forgot the cold-hearted, hot tempered past.    

Oh, yes, a local artist was spoken of by both the framer and the two women in the church. I was no longer isolated. Perhaps one day, we’ll meet.   

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