Saturday, December 31, 2005

For the last day of the year...

.. what I'm looking forward to - the book I've written with the poet Lynne Rees ( out in March from Bluechrome ( It's called Messages, and is 300 pieces of 300 words which we exchanged by email over a frenetic six month period. More about this later, but found a wonderful website Muse to Muse ( about two women who also found their creativity in partnership.

... what I'm watching - Hoop Dreams, a dvd my son got for Christmas. I keep having to leave the room because I'm crying.

... what I'm reading - Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, published by 4th estate.

... what I'm eating - everything in sight. Diet starts tomorrow.

My resolutions...

a) To write something every day
b) To canoe with my friend Sue
c) To make myself take a risk every week.
d) To learn how to do links on this.

My writing prompt - at the swimming pool today, there was a man dancing in the water with his little daughter. I thought how sweet until I saw the almost jealous expression on the face of his wife who was also watching, and I caught myself wondering what would happen if he asked her to dance like that tonight at a new years eve party.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Someone emailed me with these words they saw on a memorial bench overlooking the sea at West Wittering - 'Sit awhile, gaze at the sunset, listen to the sea, smile and remember me.' I love the direction to 'smile'; there's something so loving about a bench too.

And to celebrate being half-way through editing the page proofs of novel 2, Tell Me Everything, I've been thinking about the joys of doing things with my hands, not just my mind - so was very happy to come across this website about 52 (and more) creative projects you can carry out here which is full of inspiration. The Four Hundred word project mentioned in the blog can be found here and looks well worth reading.

It's been interesting coming back to Tell Me Everything. I finished writing it over six months ago now and because I'm absorbed in thinking about novel 3, the relationship with TME is more distanced and I can actually read it as a finished product rather than want to change it all the time. Not that I haven't been changing it. I think it will have to be dragged off me by the publishers because I just can't see how you can ever totally say you've done all you can on a creative piece of work. I read somewhere that we keep writing because we never quite manage to write the book we set out to originally. I think that's right.

And my prompt for the day is .... The sound of snow.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

There's a new memorial bench in our local park that made me cry this afternoon. Don't know if it was the inscription 'Aright bubby it's all good', or the position over-looking the basketball court where my son and his friends play, or the age (21) of the boy, but I thought it should be recorded anyway.

A disadvantage of being a writer is how everyone always expects you to win word games or write witty comments in visitors books etc etc, and as I rarely can do either - going blank with the best of them - this is just to commemorate a famous Scrabble victory over my husband yesterday. Let me just repeat that score again - Sarah: 359, Francis: 223, cough, cough. I even managed a seven letter word - ok, ok, first one ever but still...

One of my resolutions for 2006 is to take a writing prompt for each day and write something, anything, from it. Today I'm starting early by working from a comment which comes from Toni Morrison's Beloved and is discussed in the book, Memory, Narrative, Identity by Nicola King - it's when Sethe warns her daughter Denver never to go back to where the tramatic event happened, because 'it's going to be always there waiting for you.' I find that idea of a place holding memories incredibly chilling and today's a good day to write a ghost story, or even a ghost poem.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I'm suffering from a terrible cold but what better time to be ill than this, with a fire going, films on the TV - hopefully there will be a St Trinians later, haven't looked yet - and new Christmas books to read. I got a good selection this year including On Beauty by Zadie Smith and a New Scientist book, Does Anything Eat Wasps? which consists of questions and answers from their Last Word Column. The latter is the sort of book you dip into, and find you're still reading an hour later. For instance, to the question 'Does your bum look smaller in black' - one of the answers given is that when female cast members of Star Trek use padding to 'increase their female allure', they always have to put on more padding when they're wearing darker clothes. So now you know.... If this cold continues, I will be the most knowledgeable person at any New Years Eve party, and the one you hope you won't be sitting next to!

Good story to read here on one of my favourite sites: -

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I'm very excited - have been asked to guest-edit an issue of the excellent magazine around the issue of clothes. If anyone wants to submit anything, don't do it through me but here are the details...

3 Feb: the Clothes issue - Pulp Net, guest editor Sarah Salway
How people dress can be seen as a defence or an attack; a chance to show off or to blend in; to be colourful or neutral; to say who they are or to pretend to be someone different; for comfort or appearance; personal fashion or in-crowd identity.Stories wanted on all aspects of clothes and style to by February 3rd. Please send your story as an attachment to editor at, with ‘FAO Sarah’ in subject header. Please provide your address & phone number in your email but NOT in the attachment, to facilitate contact if your story is selected. Submissions close 10am London time on 3 Feb. The fee is £100.

Or you can look up here for the guidelines etc.

Meanwhile, Christmas moves apace. My daughter has a new green and red brace, and I've got a new name. Trumpy naughty-elf. I wonder if I could be one of the elves on Scott Mills's excellent Radio 1 show. He's been phoning naughty children pretending to be Santa and telling them to behave if they want presents. Today's child had eaten all the chocolates on THREE advent calendars and closed all the doors so no-one could tell. You go girl. Anyway, if the mood takes you, you can find your own Christmas name on here

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A poet is for life, not just for Christmas. Came across this 'adopt-a-poet' site on the internet - - at last a present for that person who has everything!
Suddenly novel 2 is gearing up for action. I'm editing page proofs at the moment, and have just got a fab cover design from Bloomsbury. Very dark and will probably make small children cry, but I love it. I remember from Something Beginning With that this is a strange limbo time, when everything is gearing up for publication but nothing is actually happening (or on the outside anyway) - and because it all takes so long, I suspect some friends think the book is all a figment of my imagination anyway. What I have learnt from last time though is that life goes on just the same. There's a fantasy around becoming a published writer that is just that - a fantasy. I spent the launch day of SBW digging in chicken shit on my allotment and not one silver carriage turned up to take me anywhere. Will have to plan something equally practical for August 7th.

Meanwhile a celebrity has moved in to the house on the other side of the park from us. Even I have heard of him, so we're all very excited. Well, all the other middle-aged women around here are, anyway. I came back to tell the kids that he'd painted the walls of his sitting room magnolia. How do you know that? my son reasonably asked and I had to admit that a friend of mine had looked through the windows.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Had a Christmas shopping day in Harrods last week with my sister. It's a tradition which my mother started, so the first few years we met after her death felt forced and a bit sad, but now we both look forward to it. Neither of us are good shoppers so we're perfect company - we look a bit and then go and have a cup of tea, look a bit more and hey presto it's lunch time, a few more glances and time for another cup of tea. This year we met in the book dept which was a disaster as we both got heaps of books which we then had to lug round with us for the rest of the day. Still all the cups of tea were lovely. And Harrods is - even more than usual at Christmas time - a different world. In what other shop would you get an announcement telling you that the in-store ice rink was now open and in ten minutes there was going to be a demonstration by the English ice skating team? It was all a bit surreal. Have been put in charge of family cocktails and poker this Christmas. Not sure if this is a sign of great responsibility, or everyone has just given up on me, but managed to get some good cocktail sticks and lots of chocolate coins for the stakes.

Am starting to keep a record of inscriptions on park benches. There was one I saw this morning dedicated just to 'A special person'.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Looking at an old book on reading theory today, I have been involved in some reading theory of my own. One chapter is scribbled and underlined, not with my notes, but my son's. I can remember him doing it - after years of telling him never to write on his own books, he'd just discovered me making notes on mine - but what I couldn't remember is what it was he was writing. And then I got it. He'd crossed out many times any word he couldn't understand, he'd put circles round the name Woolf (and this was a chapter about Virigina Woolf so there were a lot of them) and by the side of any name he thought was funny, such as Arbuthnot, he'd drawn a star linked to the comment 'hahahah' in the margin.
I've got to say there are some theories I've been trying to work out recently that make his look positively useful.
And following this obvious academic bent in the family, my brother has just started researching as a - very - mature student in a university and is usefully filling in his times sending us links of websites featuring ugly babies and extraverts at the point of orgasm. The future of green agriculture is safe in his hands.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Not particularly proud of it, but there's something about handbags that makes my heart race. Not as much as some though. Found this wonderful handbag blog - - which makes me feel like a complete amateur. I love the fact that these women are actually watching films looking at what handbags the actresses are carrying and being able to identify most straight away. I don't think I've ever written about any of my characters' handbags. Obviously a trick missed.

Monday, November 14, 2005

One of the joys of having a teenage daughter is that early morning hunt for all the cosmetics and clothes she's borrowed from you. This is made even worse because somehow, in our rented house, she's bagged the bedroom with the en-suite shower. But this morning's search for my conditioner was put on pause when I spotted the collage of family photographs she'd made. In every single one of them, I'm eating. No one else, just me. Stuffing my red face in every beauty spot we've visited. I thought about throwing a CZJ hissy-fit but something stopped me, and that was the realisation that - come adulthood in a therapist's office - she'll obviously see me as an all-devouring mum anyway. So I left, leaving the conditioner too.
On Saturday I went to a poetry workshop on passion led by the beautiful Catherine Smith. All wonderful apart from that moment when I shut my eyes to think of objects of desire and saw, not Russell Crowe, surfers on Cornish beaches or even tanned feet in leather sandals, but the exact red I want to paint my kitchen walls.
So it's official. I've turned into a woman with wispy, unconditioned hair who takes paint samples and tap catalogues to bed. There are worse things in life, I suppose. Untanned feet in plastic smelly sandals?