Thursday, November 30, 2023

Memory lane

Sorting out my digital archive and legacy this week has made me revisit my early publications, and remember the excitement of having my first pieces published in The Times. I've also been collecting and filing the digital texts of the books.

I've often dipped into sections of Plotting for Grown-ups when I’ve been feeling low and needed cheering up, but Plotting for Beginners has been closed to me. I think it’s because we rewrote it and edited it so many times, I couldn’t bear to look at it again once it had been published. This week, however, I did pick up the paperback and I’ve been amazed by how much I’ve enjoyed it.

At first I was struck by how unfamiliar my voice was from 20 years ago, and by how slow starting it is. But once it picks up speed and once you also realise and accept that it’s the journey not the destination that counts with this book, it’s fun. I’ve even been laughing out loud at my own jokes, much to Dave’s bemusement. Sometimes, of course, they were Jane’s jokes. 

There are definitely parts I would cut out or pare down if I were writing it now, and there were other bits I had forgotten, and that's weird. 

It’s also been a nostalgic trip. The thread of Sally's dealings with the newspaper she sends her pieces to has taken me back to my first exchanges with the editor of Times Weekend where most of my own pieces appeared. 

There was the time that my piece appeared in the place where Libby Purves usually had her regular column, and I was beyond excited. This is from Sally’s diary but it is exactly how I felt at the time.

Thursday 16th October


Bugger the moon! KayWh has accepted the piece I sent about talking at breakfast.

If I carry on like this I’ll soon have a column. The first stage I suppose is to understudy for a columnist when she’s on her hols. I’ve seen it—they put in a sentence in italics—Janina Lemon is away.

Friday 19th December

Janina Lemon is away. Janina Lemon is away.

I am on page three of the features section—in the place reserved for Janina Lemon. I am impossibly proud. At the end of my piece it says in italics Janina Lemon is away.

I am beside myself with excitement. Thank you KayWh for forwarding my piece, thank you Daphne Vicars for printing it. Thank you Janina Lemon for being away.

Janina Lemon is away!

And when she is invited to the Recorder (The Times in my case) drinks party and has kittens about what she is going to wear, and what she is going to say, etc, this is drawn completely from life. Actually that whole story line is as it happened to me, including the bad news.

But the bits I’ve enjoyed the most are the conversations Sally has with her brother Richard (dialogue straight out of Dave’s mouth); the emails from Sally’s writing buddy Kate (sometimes verbatim from life); and lastly the characterisation of Ian (Jane’s creation) and the development and denouement of Sally’s relationship with him. 

The whole experience has made me feel nostalgic for those exciting days of publishing success. “Dave, Dave! They’ve accepted another piece!”

But now I’m a painter. And here’s me yesterday, standing next to my painting in the current exhibition ‘Winter Warmers’ at The Fronteer Gallery in Sheffield.

The painting is called Landscape Quilt.

At home, I’ve begun a very tricky painting. It’s based on this photo I took of a corner of our garden in September. Please wish me luck…it’s hard!


Anonymous said...

You’ve always been an artist, Sue!

Thea xx

Sue Hepworth said...