Thievery: The Crumbling Stars
This month I’m doing a mentoring special to celebrate all the talented and diverse writers I’ve been lucky enough to work with through WoMentoring. Today we have an astrology-inspired elegy from Rebecca Harrison.
Every night, we wrote down the names of the stars which had gone. So we could watch the skies, Nora brushed the star ash from our window – our parents still called it snow. Sunset was ‘curtain close’ and then we weren’t meant to look out. So after we’d gone to bed, we lay awake listening for sleep sounds. The old space books were under our beds, but when we held them up to the window their pages had stopped matching the skies.
This month I’m doing a mentoring special to celebrate all the talented and diverse writers I’ve been lucky enough to work with through WoMentoring. Today we have a gorgeous, gory fairytale from Holly Garrow.
There were still stitches on her chest, black thorns twisting over her heart. She ran a finger over the crude threads as she looked at the thin, snowy dress waiting for her and hoped that the stitches wouldn’t show beneath it.
Bring me her heart, her stepmother had said.
And so they had.
Whatever beat in her chest now was different. She could feel it, hear it, all the time; each thump and pulse, the constant thud.
She slipped into the dress and swept her hair over her shoulder, falling like an ink-spill down her chest.
Bring me her heart.
She wondered what her stepmother had done with it. Was it now entombed in a trinket box, drained and dried and dead? Had she tossed it straight into the fire and scattered the ashes in the snow? She couldn’t shake the image of her stepmother sitting at the table, red hands and bloodied chin, sinking her lovely white teeth into her heart.
The doctor opened the door with a single sharp knock. He held out a length of red chiffon and a cream lace mask. She took them without a word and turned to the cracked, rusted mirror in the corner. She tied the silk ribbons of the mask, adjusting it around her dark eyes and draped the veil over her head, turning the world crimson.
This month I’m doing a mentoring special to celebrate all the talented and diverse writers I’ve been lucky enough to work with through WoMentoring. Today we have Emma Zetterstrom.
Annie watched her glove rollercoaster over the dunes and cursed as it disappeared into the bruised sea. From thirty feet up the wind had snatched it, and she had no chance of catching it. She’d taken it off to make the final, fiddly repairs and already her fingers were white as bone. The office had reassured her the gale would not return to land before nightfall, but from the top of the telegraph pole Annie could see the sea heaping up and spindrift forming at the peaks of the crests. They were under pressure to restore the line before another weekend passed. Trying to spot the glove she noticed a man by the waters-edge, leaning into the wind. Another daft storm-chaser, she thought.
Her first day on the job had been at the height of a scorching summer and she’d gone home with the sticky spill of creosote on her fingers and a skitter in her heart. She called it reverse altitude sickness because with each step up the pain faded. Three winters on the islands and that feeling still sustained her.
This month I’m doing a mentoring special to celebrate all the talented and diverse writers I’ve been lucky enough to work with through WoMentoring. First up is Heather Parry – and trust me, you’ll be seeing her name much more in the future.
It was a blessing when my blood came. At school they said it would be spots and strings but to my surprise it was a steady stream, dark red, pouring out from the corners of my eyes and puddling on the tops of my battered brogues. I held back a retch and when the urge to faint passed, I shouted for Daddy, excited, from the top of the stairs. Squinting into the light from the landing, he said: God bless us, Joyce, it’s a miracle. My mother, hunched over like she’d been screwed up and thrown away, strained to look up at me and screamed. As she fled back to her overcooked potatoes, Daddy took the crusty hanky from his back pocket and wiped the blood across my nose and cheeks, making more of a mess than there was before. He shoved the hanky into my hand. Grinning, grateful, I took in the acrid smell and pocketed the soaked cotton. As Daddy strode into the kitchen, I heard his giddy voice rise:
Hospital? She needs an agent, not a hospital.
There were to be no doctors. Daddy’s word was always final, not because he was the stronger of the two, but the weaker. My mother’s twisted spine—she’d been that way all my life—brought disability benefit into the house and gave her a quiet dignity; Daddy’s consistent inability to find work, despite trying, only made him more pathetic. Yet he ruled with a ceaseless sense of enthusiasm that nobody could bear to wrench from him. My first thought when I looked into the mirror and saw two trickles of scarlet running from my eyes had been Daddy is going to love this.
That night, he watched me over dinner, wads of old tea towels taped to my cheeks so the blood wouldn’t drip onto my eggs. My mother fretted over the creeping red cracks in the whites of my eyes but Daddy just stared. Sometimes he smiled, and sometimes I smiled back.
This year I read 250 books. 250! No idea how that happened. I did travel a lot for book events and festivals, which meant many hours on trains and evenings in hotel rooms. I get sent a lot of books for review and blurbs. I volunteer in an Oxfam Books and usually buy at least one book per shift. I love the library – I’m a member of four, and my local library now refers to me as a “heavy user”. Also, my job is reading and writing books, and I really fucking like books.
Here is a highly personal, not-very-scientifically-chosen list of my 50 favourites of 2016.