I am a huge fan of the NYC Midnight writing competitions. They run annual contests for writers of short stories, flash fiction and screenplays. Entrants from all over the world are placed in heats, and are allocated elements they have to include in a story. These might include a genre, a particular character, a location or an object. You then write a piece that meets a word limit in a set period of time. Each contest has a number of rounds. It's highly competitive and there are usually several thousand writers at the beginning of the competition, who are gradually eliminated round by round.
I enjoyed the short story competition earlier this year and made through two rounds, and have just completed the first round of the Flash Fiction competition. I'm thrilled to say I won my heat, and I thought I would share my winning Flash Fiction (1000-word) piece here. It's called Flame.
The rules for my heat were: write a drama, set in a library, featuring a scented candle.
I hope you enjoy it.
You wouldn’t have noticed it, just as you wouldn’t notice any building you never go into, unless something was different. There are several long tables on the sidewalk outside the library, laden with books. A handwritten sign is taped to the front edge of the middle table. BOOK SALE. They have to get rid of outdated stuff to buy new volumes, you suppose. People are browsing, running desultory fingers over the spines.
You cross the street, hesitantly. Behind the tables, you can see the steps that lead up to the doors. So many versions of you have climbed those stairs – the excited five-year-old, one hand sweaty in your dad’s big fist, the other clutching your stiff, new library card. The diffident, plump ten-year-old, haughtily ignoring the children’s books and stalking to the adult section to pluck George Eliot and Daphne du Maurier from the shelves. The tense sixteen-year-old, running in to escape the shouting at home, the calculated indifference at school and the swirling, sticky, black anger within – the sense that none of this was turning out the way it did in books.
You don’t go up the stairs now. You don’t need to. You know exactly what is behind those doors. You know that if you walk between the shelves, three alcoves down on the left-hand side, there’s a window seat with a cracked plastic cushion, where the afternoon sun falls golden and warm on the back of your neck and your legs stick to the plastic when the summer heat is strongest.
That’s where he found you, knees drawn up, a thumbnail in your mouth. You sensed his shape at the end of the row of shelves and glancing up, saw a tall, hollow-eyed boy, older than you, with thick dark hair and wide, bony shoulders, as if he might one day grow wings. Boys at school treated you as a joke, so you dropped your eyes to your book, hoping he would go. But he came down the aisle, and without speaking, flipped your book closed on your thumb so he could see the cover. Plath. You looked up surprised, but he wasn’t looking at you. He was frowning at the title.
“No,” he said, “No. It’s not enough for you. You need something more. More.”
He walked away quickly, and you stared after him, thinking he was crazy, but still feeling the weight of his hand on the book. You didn’t open it again. A minute later, he returned, holding a slim, hardback volume between his palms. He plucked away your book and replaced it with his own. The back cover faced up and you saw a fierce, hawk-faced man with a shock of grey hair.
“This,” the boy said. And he came to sit at the end of the window seat and watch you, his eyes hungry and attentive, as you opened the book and began to read.
He saw you. He told you you were beautiful, brilliant, passionate, insightful. He brought you books like offerings to a goddess. He listened, enraptured as you talked about them. He liked to sit on the window seat and rest one cool hand on your ankle as you read, and then hold your hand as he walked you home through the darkening evenings. He took you to his room, which was piled with books and papers, a jewel-colored Oriental rug on the floor. He read to you in hushed tones and listened to you when you told him you wanted to be a writer, were a writer. Wrote.
“Me too,” he said, “I write too. But you, with your deep eyes and your brilliant, bruised spirit. You’ll be great. I will make you extraordinary.”
He opened a drawer and took out handfuls of candles. He arranged them around the edge of the rug and lit them. The room filled with the scent of cinnamon and spices. “Like a souk in Rabat,” he said, and he laid you down on the rug and covered you with his body.
You blazed inside. You sparkled and the words spilled onto the pages like water and you stayed inside, writing for days.
You looked for him to give him what you had written, but he was not at home. You found him at the library, in your window seat, looking out at skies now heavy with cloud. His eyes were flat when he looked up at you.
“Where have you been?” he said. “I needed you. I needed you here.”
“I was writing,” you said, and handed him the pages, so crisp, so carefully typed.
He nodded, took them and left.
No word for days. You fretted, watched your phone, went to the library. You went to his house. He opened the door and looked surprised to see you, as if you were an unfamiliar relative or a door-to-door salesperson. You followed him to his room. Your pages lay, indifferently tossed on the floor, creased as if they had been folded in a pocket.
“What did you think,” you said, not daring to add a question mark.
He talked then. Oh, he talked. Indifferent, he said, banal. Derivative. Female. So disappointing. Not deep after all. For the first time, you noticed the stretched, white skin around his nostrils. You looked down at his fingers and imagined him pinching the wick of a candle, snuffing out a flame. You left.
Years later, you would learn the candles came in polythene bags of 50 from IKEA. The rug too. You would laugh about it, but the light remained extinguished.
You cross the road now, and join the ranks of browsers. It takes time to find it, but there it is. You pull it free from its companions and pay for it.
At home, you light a candle, cinnamon-scented. You pull the pages from the book one by one and burn them till they rain black ash on the table. The cover, with the hawk-eyed, grey-haired man, refuses to catch light.
Wow. The book blogging community is truly amazing, I can’t say a big enough thank you to Rachel Gilbey and the brilliant bloggers who contributed to the What She Left tour. After ten days, my twitter mentions are still smoking from all the likes, retweets and support, not only from contributing bloggers but from others in the community! My book and I are really feeling the love!
So here’s a round-up of some of the great stuff that came out of the second half of the tour.
Steph of Steph’s Book Blog wasn’t familiar with my work before, but her review made me hope she’ll read more! Steph says “I loved the ending, I don’t want to say too much about it but it made me smile through the tears. Just lovely.”
If you’re looking for some sneaky peeks at what’s in the book, Melisa from Broadbean’s Books, Carole from Carole’s Book Corner and Steph from Literary Flits shared intriguing extracts.
For the lovely Anne, from Being Anne… I wrote a post about writing for multiple voices… a good one if you’re looking for writing tips!
Gorgeous Grace from Reviewer Lady –Good and Read-y gave the book a stonking review. I loved that she thought: “… there are more than a few surprises in store. Whatever you may think has happened, and wherever you think this story is heading, you’ll probably be wrong!”
Next up was author Lucy Hay, who asked me to write a post on my three favourite literary fiction reads. What a oy that was!
A stonking review came from Nicki of Nicki’s Book Blog, who said. “I won’t give anything away but towards the end there are some very true, reflective words in a stunning piece of writing which made me stop and think about my own life and journey.”
Lou from Waggy Tales Book Blog (a mixture of dogs and books, what’s not to love?) said that the book was “An enthralling read, (it would make a great TV drama) strong characters, and a plot that just flows seamlessly. I can’t think of anything negative to say, I just loved it!”
Yvonne from Me and My Books said, “This is a book I got into very quickly and kept a grip on me right through to the end. By the end of the book I had discovered secrets, past histories and missed opportunities. With a chance for new ventures and new beginnings, and Rosie has pulled together to make a real cracking read.”
I really loved the comment from Heidi of This is My Bookshelf, who said, “Each character has a distinct voice, and all are very morally grey, giving them a very real feeling.”
And the blog tour ended with a bang, with Abby of Anne Bonny’s Book Reviews. I felt she summed up what I hoped to with the book brilliantly: “Between the secrets of the past and the burdens of the future, the truth is finally revealed.”
My biggest emotion after this ten-day rollercoaster is awe. Book bloggers are superhuman, wonderful brings, who are so generous with their time, and so generous in their love of books. I salute every one of them.
The amazing Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources has been an absolute star, putting together a blog tour for What She Left. The bloggers have been utterly fantastic, and I’ve been so thrilled with the great reviews, social media buzz and attention the book has been getting. Here are some highlights from the first days of the tour:
The tour kicked off on 12 January, with lovely Linda from Books of all Kinds, who gave the book a rave review, saying: “WHAT SHE LEFT by Rosie Fiore is a brilliant story that will really get under your skin and make you realise that looks can be deceptive, and I think it would portray perfectly on our tv screens.” (Anyone who fancies turning it into a TV drama, feel free to give me a call!
Kelly from Love Books Group, said: “It’s fast-paced, engaging and cleverly written. It has been a long time that I have read a book in one sitting…. A refreshing fast paced edge of your seat read! If this book was a movie it would get an Oscar! Ticks every box of my reading wants tick tick tick BOOM, it definitely started my reading year with a bang!”
I was also thrilled to get a review from Chandra from Where the Reader Grows, who called What She Left “A beautiful character driven domestic, contemporary drama that drives you to hate and love the characters all at once.”
The lovely Marianne from Books, Life & Everything said “I found this to be such an enjoyable read, with a variety of believable characters, all with their own stories. The story really focuses on the devastation left behind in Sam's family and the ripple effect Helen's disappearance causes in people's lives.”
Kate from Portable Magic gave me a double whammy of coverage, with an interview and a review. She noted that: “Fiore creates a unique voice for each of the characters, and this helped me to understand their mindset and connect with them more easily.”
Joanna from Over the Rainbow Book Blog featured a Guest Post from me, which tells you all about my plans for 2018 (spoiler, I’m going to be doing A LOT more writing!).
Elizabeth from Chicklit Chickadees said the book kept her up till 3am (sorry Elizabeth!). She also said, “If you liked Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train, you will love this book. If you’re a fan of domestic drama, you will love this book. I was enthralled.”
Fab Sheri from Ticket to Everywhere offered this review: “This was a wonderful read - it always feels like a slight risk volunteering to review an unfamiliar author, as you’re never sure what you’re going to get, but What She Left is very well written, engaging and often surprising. I was engrossed throughout and really did not know how it was going to end.”
Karen has a gorgeous blog called My Reading Corner, and she was kind enough to feature a guest post from me about why a woman might choose to walk away from her family? If I’m honest, I wrote the book because the thought has crossed my mind…
I visited The Secret World of a Book Blog, and was excited to hear her say, “When you manage to finish a book in one day, it’s a pretty good sign that it’s a good book.” She also said, “This is a must read book, and one I would highly recommend. I have had an amazing start to my reading in 2018.”
From across the pond in Ohio, Teresa from Book Babble said, "I was grabbed by this story from the first chapter and could hardly bear the times I had to put it down. Seeing how the family members grew and developed through the story was a joy."
What’s Better than Books? Nothing, I would argue… and I loved the fact that this wonderful blog found What She Left to be “Absorbing, intense, and immensely sobering!”
Sue from Read Along with Sue enjoyed the book, and said “The epilogue blew my mind. What a fantastic book.” To find out what she liked about the epilogue, you’ll have to read the other 300-odd pages!
If you want a glimpse of my luvverly face, you can visit Ms Felicia over at Nesie’s Place, where there’s a video of me reading an extract from the book!
Book Ink Reviews featured a guest post I wrote about writing in the voice of a child.
And finally, Anne Cater, book blogger extraordinaire, at Random Things Through my Letterbox, said, “I have been completely and utterly absorbed in What She Left, it's been a real roller-coaster of a read; one of those books that when you put it down you continue to think about the story, eager to get back to it and constantly intrigued by both the plot and the excellently created characters.”
I cannot thank all of these bloggers enough, and of course, Rachel, who organised the tour, and all the many, many other bloggers who have liked, retweeted, shared, and helped to build the buzz! The tour continues tomorrow, and I look forward to sharing more!
It’s always good to start a new year by doing something you’ve never done before, I think. So a week ago, on a chilly January afternoon, four months before my 50th birthday, I got my first tattoo.
My older son has loads of tattoos. He got his first one as soon as he turned 18, and I was extremely resistant to him doing it. A tattoo is a permanent signifier, a mark you choose to say something about yourself. I argued then (as I would now), that at that age, it’s hard to choose something that you can be certain will always represent the person you are. He doesn’t seem to have regretted doing it though, so what do I know?
2018 is a momentous, life-changing year, and I felt I wanted to acknowledge that in some way. I’ve chosen a symbol which I have loved for many years and which I feel expresses what 2018 means for me.
The ampersand is the graphic representation of the word ‘and’ (et in Latin). I’ve always loved its looping ‘figure 8’ shape, and have a few pieces of jewellery that incorporate the symbol. I love typography, and it’s a freestyle glyph where type designers can really strut their stuff. For me, I have always seen it as a signifier of writing as an art form. I also like the word and… it suggests that there’s more to come, a continuation, a building on, as it were. And of course, the ‘ands’ in my personal life, my husband and children, are the most precious people in my world.
I looked at literally hundreds of ampersands online, but finally chose this one. It comes from the logo for Child & Co, an old British bank (now swallowed up by one of the big high street banks). I loved its shapely lines and the historical feel it has. The ampersand is an attempt to graphically represent the Latin word ‘et’, and in this one, you can see the shape of the e and t, which I rather like. Many modern ampersands have lost this distinction and are more graphic.
Having a tattoo done
… wasn’t nearly as painful as I expected. Maybe I’m more hardcore than I realised, or maybe it’s just that I had a very small one done on a fleshy part of my arm, but I found the pain quite manageable. I’ve suffered more having my eyebrows threaded. I emailed the designer my image and he printed it out on transfer paper (rather like those temporary tattoos you buy for children). He applied that to my arm and then ‘traced’ over the lines. It’s scabbed over now, but should be completely healed within a week or so.
A symbol of what I am
What tattoo would I have had at twenty? Or at any age before this? I don’t know. But I do know I love the one I have had now. In this, the year I become a fulltime novelist, I’ve chosen a symbol of what I hope I have become. I’ve never felt happier in my work life than I do right now, more absolutely sure about where I am and what I’m doing. After years of mumbling about what I do for a living, I want to claim what I AM. A writer. It’s not just a job. It’s an expression of the human being I am and want to be for the rest of my life.
I couldn’t be more excited to announce that the amazing Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources has organised me a block-busting 30-stop (!!!) blog tour for What She Left, starting on 12 January, The schedule for the tour is pictured above. I’ll be posting about it daily during the tour, and I hope you all enjoy the variety of features, reviews and videos we’ve put together!
On the twenty-first of this month, I will celebrate an anniversary that means nothing to anyone other than me. It’s exactly 15 years since I first typed “Chapter one”, and began my first novel.
In an almost literary coincidence, January 2018 marks a significant new chapter in my life. I have left my full-time job as a copywriter, and, for the first time, if someone asks me what my job is, I can confidently say “I’m an author”. And that’s all I do.
While this is a lifetime’s dream come true, it brings with it a series of new challenges. I have to work out how to self-motivate and to manage my time. I have to build in time for research, publicity and a million other things that come with being a writer, while still preserving the hours I need for real scribbling.
I am utterly certain I won’t get it right at first, and my schedule will need tweaking. I need to remember to say no to non-essential things and keep my focus on the main prize – a new book and a new publishing contract. I might lose my way and have to correct and readjust, but I cannot wait to see how it goes.
In August 2000, I moved to the UK with my son Matt who was then eight. I came over with a job, but my real dream was that one day I would be a cool, sophisticated, London-dwelling author of bestselling novels. I have failed on the cool, sophisticated and bestselling aspects of that aspiration, but managed to meet the entry-level aspects. I live in London (Zone 4, but it’s still London okay?), and I have managed to publish some books.
In 2003, without the slightest idea what I was doing, I launched into writing my first novel. I’ve often told the story of how I began – I was on a train to a business meeting in Leeds, and the opening of a story came to me. I began to type, and wrote the first 1200 words before my laptop battery gave out. I had a novel in my bag, and I counted the words on a page and did a rough calculation. It was around 120,000 words long. “If I write 1200 words a day,” I reasoned, “I’ll have a book in 100 days.” It was a clunky, simplistic methodology, but oddly enough, has worked for me through this book and six subsequent novels. I still, superstitiously, write 1200 words a day, every day, seven days a week until I have finished a first draft.
The novel I began was This Year’s Black – the story of a woman who gives up her successful career and full life in South Africa and tries to make a go of it in London. We meet her as she goes for a job interview for a temp job, way below her skill level, and we see her struggle to make it in London, a city which is relentlessly heartless to the poor and unemployed.
They always say your first novel is autobiographical, and yes, there were similarities between my life and Ronel’s, but fewer than you might imagine. However while I was writing This Year’s Black, a lot of things changed for me. I left my job, confident that I would find another one quickly. This was very much not to be, and the next six months of my life were some of the most stressful I have ever experienced. Life definitely began to imitate art, and I learned first-hand how hard it is to live hand-to-mouth in a city like this. I (briefly) claimed jobseekers’ allowance (which Ronel is too proud to do), and took any temp job I could get my hands on. I always remember the low point, standing in the toilets of a freezing cold warehouse where I was working in DVD returns, looking at my reflection, dressed in a high-visibility vest, wondering how the hell I had ended up there.
While I was writing the book, I was working wherever and whenever I could and was a single parent to a ten-year-old. The only time I had to write was late at night, after work, dinner, homework, housework and bedtime. On more than one occasion, I fell asleep, hands on the keyboard and my head resting on my hands. I developed back-ache from my nasty wicker and chrome kitchen chair. At weekends, Matt got used to me yelling to him as he watched TV in the living room “Give me a name for a man.”
“How old?” he’d say.
“Nick,” he’d yell, and go back to watching Power Rangers. Matt has, I think, named a very high proportion of the characters in many of my books in this way.
But through it all, I kept writing. I painstakingly backed up on floppy disks (it was a long time ago), which meant when we were burgled and my laptop was stolen, I didn’t lose a word. I wrote in Internet cafes for a while, until a dear friend gave me another computer to use. I learned, to my surprise (although probably not to anyone else’s), that I am remarkably stubborn. I remember sitting at the kitchen table, late one night, cold and exhausted, desperate to go to bed but still a few hundred words short of my target.
“Who will care if you just give this up?” I thought to myself. “No one. No one even knows you’re doing this.”
“No one but you,” said the tiny voice of stubbornness deep in my heart. My life was in such a mess, in terms of work and money. Other than my brilliant son, this book was all I had. So I propped open my eyes with matchsticks, and I kept going.
I finished it. I eventually got another job, one I absolutely loved, which brought me into the world of books and publishing for the first time. And through a series of fluke events, This Year’s Black found a publisher in South Africa very quickly. “Well, that was easy,” I thought. "I’ll just quickly find a UK agent and publisher and I’ll have cracked this author thing!”
It took me three more books and nine years of slog to achieve those seemingly simple aims – and it was a brand-new book that got me my UK publishing deal. This Year’s Black, after selling reasonably well in South Africa, gaining good reviews and being long-listed for The SA Sunday Times Literary Awards, went out of print and disappeared.
Recently, I decided to take another look at it, and like all writers do, I cringed at what I had written a decade or so before. “I have to fix this,” I thought. I (mortifyingly) didn’t have an electronic copy of the book anymore, so I had to send a print copy away to be scanned in order to get my hands on a Word file. A lot of things have got in the way, but I have finally, finally finished re-editing the book, and will be re-releasing it as an e-book on 25 June 2015.
So much needed to be changed – some odd choices in tense and person, flowery writing, a lot of tell-instead-of-show – and an awful, awful lot of gratuitous sex and swearing had to go. I vacillated about changing the time-frame, as the text is so clearly set in the pre-smart-phone/ broadband 2000s, but decided to leave it as it was. The dates are crucial because of certain political events that took place. Of course, there are still other things I could change, and more editing I could do, but that’s always the case.
But there is something about this book I will always love. It’s the only thing I have ever written completely for myself, with no expectations, no real hope of publication, no understanding of audiences, marketing, publicity or sales. There’s a raw honesty to the writing, and it’s full of memories of the time when I was writing it, living a very different life from the one I have now. It’s a book about a journey, about doors closing and opening, about how damned painful it can be to grow. I grew with This Year’s Black, and I hope it will bring happiness to a new generation of readers.
(I’ve just noticed this blog post is just on 1200 words long. How well-trained am I?)
This Year’s Black will be re-released as an e-book by Oakhampton Press on 25 June 2015
I’m now three days PM (post-Marathon), and I feel I am beginning to understand the experience a little better.
All of the congratulations I have received in person and online have been lovely, but in a sense, I felt like a bit of a fraud: it just didn’t feel like such a big deal. Like so many life experiences which one anticipates for a long time, it was quite… anti-climactic to cross the finish line. I expected to feel some kind of epiphany, or a sense of great achievement. Instead, I just felt like I had been for a very long run.
When I finished the race, we were in a big hurry to get back to the hotel so we could make it to Gare du Nord and get our train home. On Monday morning, it was business as usual: the school run and all the tasks that make up my usual working week. I was a little stiff and sore, but I had no blisters or injuries, and I was perfectly able to go about my daily life. It just felt like I had had a strenuous workout.
However on Tuesday, I really struggled to get out of bed. I didn’t feel any worse physically, but I experienced an enormous mood crash. I felt mentally exhausted, weepy and miserable. It did pass – love and support from the family and a couple of good chats with friends and I felt better. Whether it’s a hormonal thing –the adrenalin of the race and the post-race endorphins leaving my system – or whether it’s just the realisation that after months of preparation it’s all over, I don’t know.
Still, I think that experience has helped me to make sense of my marathon journey, and this is what I will say about it. Running a marathon is 100% a mental and not a physical battle.
I assume that if you choose to run a marathon, you would make use of one or more of thousands of good training programmes and books of advice that are available. What you have to do to prepare is fairly simple: you do the training runs and cross-training to get your body in shape for the challenge. During the race you use appropriate kit, and you keep hydrated and fed. Barring injury, accident or mishap, if you have done this basic, sensible preparation, your body will be able to get you through the miles. I am nearly 47, still slightly overweight and I only started running two years ago, and I did it. It’s not impossible.
It’s not impossible, but it is hard. Very hard, and this is why. Unless you are some super-fit machine, your body will want to stop. For me, running has always been about not stopping, about having the will to keep going for those extra few minutes, up that hill, past that next lamppost. My mind and my will have to fight my body every step of the way. Multiply that by 42km and (in my case) five hours. That is one long mind/ body battle.
The Paris Marathon was fabulous. I was lucky enough to meet up with an online friend from our Couch to 5k group, and being with her in the start-pen and walking to the start-line made a world of difference to my pre-race nerves. There were lots of lovely supporters shouting “Allez, allez, allez!” There were brilliant bands, great vistas of a beautiful city, handsome French firemen cooling us down with sprays from their fire hoses. There were refreshment stands with fruit, water and raisins. But in between, there were great stretches of road or tunnel where I felt entirely alone in the crowd. I had to fall back on my own resources to keep me going. I recited lines from Shakespeare, poetry and songs. I counted steps, promised myself that in 2km I could have another gel. It worked for 35km. I ran steadily, keeping my pace pretty even, and by and large it felt good.
But then I ran out of ideas. We had turned into the Bois du Boulogne and the road through featureless parkland stretched on and on. The refreshment stands had very little left on offer. Many of the bands had packed up and gone home. Supporters were few and far between. I got a little boost from the man in a purple wig under the gazebo singing ‘No Woman, no cry’. His “everything’s gonna be all right,” seemed to be directed just at me. But it just seemed like such a long way to go. Even though I was more than 80% of the way there, those last few kilometres seemed unbearably far. I also found my eyes were very tired. Hours of concentrating, watching my step and taking everything in had taken their toll. I found myself running a few steps at a time with them closed just to rest them.
I began to walk, promising myself I’d only walk the first 100m of each kilometre and then run the rest. But all around me, everyone seemed to have started walking. We looked like the last, hopeless refugees of an apocalypse, lurching along.
But then I took a sideways glance at a girl walking near me. The ‘GBR’ on her race bib revealed her to be English-speaking. I asked her if the five-hour pace-runner had passed her. She didn’t know, but didn’t think so. We walked together and chatted, and I learned that she was called Naomi, and she lived in France but was originally from John O’Groats in Scotland. The friend she had started with was way ahead of her. We laughed and talked, and I felt better than I had for hours. “Oh!” said Naomi suddenly, “there’s the pace-runner!” He had passed us a moment before. We were at the 40km mark.
“Come on,” I said. “We can do this. It’s just two ks.” And we did. We followed him and passed him as we got to the finish line. As it happened, I had started ahead of him so I didn’t get to break the five-hour mark. But it didn’t matter. I had a new friend to hug after we cross the finish line.
The portly French gentleman who was handing out the medals smiled at me kindly and indicated for me to dip my head. He put the medal round my neck as if I had won the gold at the Olympics. Then he said something I didn’t understand in French and kissed me gently on both cheeks.
So yes, not the transformative experience I expected, but still something extraordinary in its own way. I had a little triumph of will over body, a satisfactory culmination of months of preparation and hard work, and the joyful discovery of the kindness of strangers.
The Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green is a magical place for a day out with the kids... but in some of the cases, there are old toys which are downright sinister. It'd make an excellent set for a horror film. Here are a few toys to haunt your nightmares...
As I got dressed the other day, and saw myself, unclothed, in the full-length mirror, I had a strange and revelatory thought.
I love my body.
It is the story of my life.
I love the squidgy roll on my waist, which chuckles because I like cake, and I love to fill a table with food and surround it with my friends and family.
I love the new, powerful muscles in my thighs and calves, which sing a song about how late in life, I learned to run, and it has made me strong and free.
I love the feathery lines on my belly and breasts, where it is written that I carried two babies and fed them, and they are growing up to be beautiful, fine young men.
I also love the stern en-dash of my appendix scar, a forever reminder of my own mortality, and my extraordinary luck.
I love the freckles on my shoulders, which map my African childhood and the many hours spent in the blazing sun.
I love the knobbly bunions on my feet, just like my father’s. They remind me that however I may think I invented myself, I am rooted in my family.
And I love the lines on my face, lines written in nights of worry and tears, in hours of fierce concentration, in days of helpless, unstoppable laughter.
Would I trade this book of a body for the lithe, smooth, unmarked and pale page of my youth?
Not a chance.
I have lots of chapters still to write.
One monkey, one typewriter, seldom Hamlet.