Write on The Edge

belfieAs of June 2014 our mind bogglingly advanced world is fit to bursting with attention seekers sharing all manner of intimate details about themselves. Only in our generation has it become widely accepted as ‘normal’ for young women to proudly post pictures of their derrieres (belfies) in the public domain for the sole purpose of gaining the adulation of millions. Feuds that would once have taken place in private are now paraded across twitter and other social media platforms presenting ample opportunity for complete strangers to enter the fray. Even the moment of birth is not a private affair. Women give birth on live webcams for all to see. And what about Lindsay-Lohan’s much talked about sex list? I shall sum it up for you in just one word. Yuck!

Yes it’s true. Things that would once have been considered deeply private have now become acceptable to share. Sure, all it takes is the click of few buttons. So what about writer’s? Do the same rules apply to us? Can we put pen to paper now and write about whatever we want? And more to the point – should we?

Well unless you’ve been living on a desert island with nary a book in sight you will probably know that writers have been doing just that since the year dot. Take for example Susanna Kaysen’s book, Girl Interrupted published in 1993. That documents her two year stay in a mental institution and the suicide attempt that lead up to it. Her story is intensely personal and was no doubt difficult to write. Thankfully though, she did not let that hold her back from telling it. Not only has her story been made into a highly successful film starring Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie but it has also helped countless people who have been through similar situations. Book forums are full of people who are thrilled to have found a story they can actually relate to.

Then there’s The Confessions of Saint Augustine. These are a series of books written in AD 397 by Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis which many regard as the first Western autobiography. Although it was written a long time ago, Augustine did not shy away from documenting what he regarded as his ‘sins’ – even those of a sexual nature. The main themes of the books are his intense regret and subsequent enlightenment upon converting to Christianity.

In light of the passing of Maya Angelou, I could hardly write this article and fail to include her. Over the years she wrote four outstanding autobiographies – all of them candid and unflinching in their narratives. Amongst other things she wrote about prostitution, rape, divorce, family and incest. Not exactly subjects for the faint hearted. These are stories of survival and strength and I’m sure I speak for many when I say that the world is a richer place for the telling of them.

mayaThere are many books that tell difficult stories, where the writer bravely opens up their heart to public scrutiny. But why do so? What can be gained by reading or writing such accounts?

Why?

Christine Wilson, author of The Kimmy Diaries also asked herself this question…

“Why would anyone want to write anything sad – something we’ve locked away and tried to forget? Is it a writer’s vanity that says I must use every experience in my life in order to be a better writer? Or is that I hope it will help me to ‘unload’ and for a reader to think ‘Oh, I felt that way too’. We all love a shared confidence. Writing the ‘sad thing’ meant writing up to it and beyond it but I just couldn’t write ‘it’. I felt like a racehorse refusing Beecher’s Brook but having cantered around for several chapters I had no choice but to write ‘it’, and I did it fast – at a gallop. I took no pleasure pulling the memory from my mind and trying to take a literary photograph – capture that moment in time. Forever. It felt like I was taking an ice cold bath but with a warm towel waiting for me after.”

Memories of the past can be like a prison without walls. When life treats us harshly it’s difficult to detach from the pain no matter how much we long to forget. Providing it doesn’t become an all encompassing obsession, writing about what hurts really can help. Many use it as a therapeutic tool to cope in the aftermath of abuse, bereavement, ill health and addictions etc. From 7/11 survivors to war veterans, literally millions of people cope by putting pen to paper.

Whitbread and Orange prize-shortlisted novelist Jill Dawson kept a journal since the age of nine. She had this to say about her reliance on writing;

‘It has helped me personally and also made me a better writer,’ she says, ‘because going over and over something eventually makes it clearer. A dream you don’t understand may make sense two years later. Obviously, it undergoes radical transformation before it becomes writing that you would want published, but it is a part of the process. You can find feelings by writing in this raw way that you can then explore using different events in a story.’

Believe it or not, studies have shown that there are even physical and immunological benefits to written disclosure whether in the form of creative writing or therapy. Professor James Pennebaker, author of the books ‘Writing to Heal’ and ‘Opening up’ had this to say on the subject;

“Emotional upheavals touch every part of our lives. You don’t just lose a job, you don’t just get divorced. These things affect all aspects of who we are—our financial situation, our relationships with others, our views of ourselves, our issues of life and death. Writing helps us focus and organize the experience…standing back every now and then and evaluating where you are in life is really important.”

Martelle McPartland, a poet and writerwho runs a creative writing group in Northern Ireland had this to say;

“When facilitating groups one has to be mindful of a safe space. Some stories, especially in Northern Ireland where we are still dealing with the legacy of the conflict, are too traumatic for the participant to deal with, which is why topics need to be kept neutral to maintain and establish a safe space where creativity is allowed to develop without the attachment of residual trauma.

Poets and writers are more sensitive than the majority of people with a percentage of them admitting to be socially awkward. Often they focus on the unseen, a mood or the memory of a mood that affected them. They see something and that something is usually transferred via their subconscious into their conscious which can be recalled years later. The writing of a story is the marking of an event; this happened; I lived through this; this is my story; I am important; I am not alone; this is my voice. The most fascinating stories come from the margins of life, ordinary people living ordinary lives and yet, sometimes something out of the ordinary happens and does not fit in with life around it. These events form the nucleus of our stories.”

She asked a small cross section of her group about their own experiences in writing about matters close to the heart.

Kate Catney: It’s therapeutic. I desire to help others and be empathetic. It makes us feel secure in ourselves to share a way of thinking that is different to others. Writers and creative people are of like mind that’s why we get together

Christina Mitchell: Humans need to express and create. On a good day it soothes and relaxes, on many others it frustrates and exhausts. Yet like an itch, no matter how we try we will always eventually scratch.

John Thompson: It benefits the writer and the people who read. A person that doesn’t write has no advantage over someone who can’t write.

Denis Linden: I have written many stories about my life, they may not be well written but what I have written is my life!

Philomena Gallagher: For me, creative writing is the lifeboat on my turbulent sea of life. In the ebbs and tides of life, often the pen scratches its own story. Creative writing has given me a lifeline and a voice, which would have remained silent and static.

Laura Cameron: Writing is like tearing out your own heart with your bare hands, pinning it to the pub wall and inviting people to throw darts at it.

Below is an example of the deeply emotive work Martelle and her group produce.

When we open up with such candour there are undoubtedly benefits for the readers too. Anything you share about yourself and your life has the potential to enrich the life of another. Ancient cultures retold each other’s exploits and stories, handing them down orally to subsequent generations. That’s how knowledge and life skills were passed on. Not much has changed in that regard. Lessons can still be learnt from history and I’m not just talking about the stuff you find in museums. Each and every second that every single one of us lives, is history in itself whether we realise it or not. We are all part of its elaborate tapestry.

Kathleen Smith, author of Marriages & Miscarriages says,

“My book about my three miscarriages was writtento help other women recognise they aren’t alone in their pain. Without me even realising it, it also helped me heal emotionally. It helped me reflect on all that I had gone through during my miscarriages and how my marriage became stronger as a result. That’s not to say it was easy. I did a lot of crying during the writing process, but the struggle was well worth it!”

But What If People Don’t Approve of Our Frankness?

Well firstly, no one has to make public what they write unless they want to. There are still benefits to be gained even if no one else ever reads it. But that’s where it stops. To write and publish a true life account takes strength and the willingness to accept whatever criticism and judgement comes your way. And that’s not easy. Not only may people criticize your writing style they may make comments about your character or choices you and others made.

In my own book, Not Your Legacy, I found it vitally important to hold onto my original motives for writing it. To some it may appear that I wrote it out of a desire for revenge or perhaps to set the record straight as it were. But in actual fact the simple truth is that I needed to tell it. And I wanted to be able to say to others ‘Hey, you’re not alone.’ And ‘Hey, keep your chin up. You can get through it.’

To be fair, there are always going to be people who miss the point or who berate you for having the bravery to put yourself on the line. So worry not about the haters and just concentrate on giving free reign to your gift of expression in the hope that something good may come out of it.

A range of books published by the authors who either contributed to this article or who were mentioned, can be found by clicking on the links below.

The Kimmy Diaries

by: Kimmy

publisher: Authors OnLine Ltd, published: 2008-10-13

ASIN: 0755204360

EAN: 9780755204366

sales rank: 6849225

price: $10.28 (new), $12.53 (used)

How to go from unwanted to most-wanted in just six months. Does your cat ever worry that he or she is not spoilt enough? Does your feline friend fear you’re not quite good enough. And do you worry that Bath Cats and Dogs Home is not making enough money to keep its doors open to the cats, dogs and small animals that it takes in every day? Well worry no more! By buying The Kimmy Diaries you can learn how to seriously spoil your cat rotten whilst helping the animals at Claverton Down. That’s because all the author’s royalties from this book will go to help the animals at Bath Cats and Dogs Home. So buy one and then buy a few more for your friends. This is the book your cats would write if they didn’t have you to read it to them. Top Tip Whiskas, Felix and even gourmet ranges are all well and good – delicious even – but a truly pampered cat will aspire to food that has to be specially ordered from a pet shop at huge expense to your Mum. It should go without saying that own-brand cat food is never acceptable under any circumstances.

Marriages and Miscarriages: One Woman’s Personal Experience

by: Kathleen Smith

publisher: lulu.com, published: 2011-02-03

ASIN: 1257104489

EAN: 9781257104482

sales rank: 3827900

price: $7.50 (new), $11.00 (used)

Kathleen Smith shares her experience regarding the three miscarriages she experienced. The trials and emotional changes, the feelings experienced when being around other pregnant woman after having had a miscarriage, how turning to God got her through them, and more. Kathleen, a mother of three and entering her sixteenth year of marriage, relates her personal feelings and emotions. As you read the book you will experience a conversation with Kathleen about this topic, and learn how one woman dealt and struggled with this topic.

Not Your Legacy

by: Samantha J Wright

publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, published: 2014-05-28

ASIN: 1499711492

EAN: 9781499711493

price: $10.69 (new)

After a chance meeting at the age of sixteen, Sam leaves behind her father and her reformed alcoholic mother and moves to Northern Ireland to set up home with a man she barely knows. The two of them continue to practice the religion they were both raised in but scratch below the surface and life’s not what it appears. This story documents her battle with depression, abuse, the aftermath of suicide, a troubled marriage, and most of all her disastrous involvement with the Jehovah’s Witness church. It’s a journey that cost her dearly and as many of her readers have already discovered, Not Your Legacy is far more than just a series of real life events. It retells the story of one woman’s metamorphosis of mind, body and soul.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

by: Maya Angelou

publisher: Ballantine Books, published: 2009-04-21

ASIN: 0345514408

EAN: 9780345514400

sales rank: 8

price: $3.52 (new), $3.43 (used)

Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age–and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns about love for herself and the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.

Poetic and powerful, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a modern American classic that will touch hearts and change minds for as long as people read.

Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions

by: James W. Pennebaker

publisher: The Guilford Press, published: 1997-08-08

ASIN: 1572302380

EAN: 9781572302389

sales rank: 43306

price: $8.96 (new), $0.72 (used)

Anyone who has ever entrusted a troubling secret to a journal, or mourned a broken heart with a friend, knows the feeling of relief that expressing painful emotions can bring. This book presents astonishing evidence that personal self-disclosure is not only good for our emotional health, but boosts our physical health as well.Psychologist James W. Pennebaker has conducted controlled clinical research that sheds new light on the powerful mind body connection. This book interweaves his findings with insightful case studies on secret-keeping, confession, and the hidden price of silence. Filled with information and encouragement, Opening Up explains:

*Why suppressing inner problems takes a devastating toll on health

*How long-buried trauma affects the immune system

*How writing about your problems can improve your health

*Why it’s never too late to heal old emotional wounds

*When self-disclosure may be risky–and how to know whom to trust

lynda

Today I got the chance to speak withLynda Tavakoli, author of Attachment and Of Broken Things in the hope that I could find out a little more about her and her writing.

1. Welcome Lynda! I really appreciate you coming along to chat with us today. Perhaps you might like to start by telling our readers what got you into writing in the first place?

“I have to hold my hands up and admit that in my younger days I was never one for reading much; neither did I pay a great deal of attention to English literature or language at school. So I can’t say that I’ve always wanted to be a writer but some of what I digested during my education must have stuck. My first real piece of serious writing was actually an obituary I wrote about a friend of mine and this was followed by a series of human interest articles in the Belfast Telegraph. Eventually I became more interested in fiction, particularly the short story, and it all went from there.”

2. What sort of things motivate you and provide the inspiration for your stories? I was thinking in particular about your novel Of Broken Things. It’s a very vividly written book. What did you draw on to achieve that?

My first novel ‘Attachment’ came totally out of my imagination although I was asked several times after it was published how I knew so much about narcissism! Honestly, I don’t actually know anyone quite as dysfunctional as one of the female characters in the book and I’m quite relieved about that. ‘Of Broken Things’ was completely different in that it was set in an environment that, although fictional, was based on a real place. The characters and their situations were only loosely based on stories that had been told to me from childhood and I allowed them to evolve in their own way through the writing. As far as inspiration goes it’s happening around me all the time – the people I know, strangers I don’t know, stories from the newspapers etc etc. You don’t have to look very far to be inspired; you just need to look.”

3. Your characters always seem so life like and unapologetically human. How do you accomplish this?

“Thank you – that’s kind. I suppose to make a character believable they’ve got to have flaws. Nobody I know is all good (or all bad either) and that’s what makes us human. Some of the characters in my stories seem almost damaged beyond repair but I try to give them the opportunity to redeem themselves eventually. I don’t believe that people can change overnight but they can change – it’s this process of metamorphosis that I enjoy painting on the page.”

4. What are some of your own personal literary favourites?

“Ah, the leading question! I’ve just finished reading ‘Stoner’ by John Williams, a revived classic, brilliantly written in just about every way. I found myself going back over the prose trying to learn from the use of language and the storytelling. Of course I would have to put ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ (Harper Lee) up there with ‘Damage’(Josephine Hart), ‘The Sea’ (John Banville)and any Thomas Hardy but my favourite book is, and probably always will be, ‘Star of the Sea’ by Joseph O’Connor. I love that book.”

5. The next question is very personal. Why do you write? What does it mean to you personally?

Why do I write? Because there is some unfathomable urge within me to put pen to paper. Sometimes it lies dormant, like after my mum died and I found that I just couldn’t and didn’t want to write anything. Sometimes it emerges in the middle of the night and I have to scribble blindly on a notepad beside the bed. Also, I suppose, it allows me to reignite that gift we can so easily lose sight of from our childhoods – imagination. When writing journalistic pieces though, the writing process gives me the freedom to say in print what I’m not so good at verbally.”

6. Like most writers I’m sure you have goals and aspirations with regard to your writing. Are there any that you’d like to share with our readers today?

I don’t really have any specific goals when it comes to my writing and I certainly don’t do it for the money! If someone likes something that I’ve written then I appreciate the fact that my work has touched another human being in a positive way. For anyone who aspires to become a writer then I’d tell them to enjoy the whole writing process as much as they can and remain true to themselves. Also listen to what your readers are telling you and learn by their critique for after all they are the ones supporting what you do.”

7. What are some of the best and the worst things to come from your writing? I.e. Reviews, opportunities.

“Well, of course you’re going to get mixed reviews no matter who you are or what you write about so it’s a good idea to toughen yourself up a bit. I don’t mind negative feedback as long as it’s constructive but I try to stay away from ignorant and vindictive people who only want to cause offence (the internet is a good example – it’s a wonderful thing but can be used in a terribly abusive way too). I can think of many, many great experiences I’ve had as a result of my writing, the best being that I’ve shared a stage with Joseph O’Connor, Colm Tobin and Andrew Motion during a live Sunday Miscellany at Listowel. I don’t think I’m ever going to beat the thrill of that.”

8. How do you feel about eBooks? They were kind of like Marmite when they first came out – people either loved them or hated them. Now I sense they’re creeping into that zone of acceptability for many. What are your thoughts? Do you own/use a kindle?

“I’m ashamed to admit that my husband bought me a kindle two years ago and it’s never been used. The truth is I like the feel and the smell of a book. When I’m at school teaching young children how to read and we open a brand new set of books I am immediately transported back to my own primary school days. But I realise that e -books have the advantage of being cheaper and more transportable than hard copies while also offering a huge library of tomes to choose from immediately. Take ‘Of Broken Things’ – as an e-book it costs a fraction of the cost of the hardback copy so I can fully understand why someone would chose the kindle version. One of the biggest advantages of having a kindle I imagine is to use on holiday especially with airline weight constraints on luggage.”

9. Have you any advice for folks just starting out as writers?

“Enjoy yourself. Have fun with different genres until you find one that you’re most comfortable with or best at. Don’t even think about writing for money – if you’re lucky enough to come up with a story that attracts the major publishers then great, feel grateful that your work is being appreciated and promoted. However there is great merit in writing for your own pleasure and if even one person pays you a compliment on your work then appreciate that too. Most of all though, read, read, read – there is no substitute for learning from those who have gone before. Perhaps it’s tired advice but I’ve found it to be true.”

10. What are your plans for the future? Are you working on any new projects? If so, we would love to hear about them.

“After a dearth in my writing over the last while I have returned to it with renewed enthusiasm. First of all and very gently, with poetry. Then I made a start on my third novel which has been waiting in the wings for quite some time. And recently I’ve written some short stories and had articles published in the press, so suddenly and rather unexpectedly there’s a lot going on. What can I say? Watch this space!”

We certainly will Lynda. Thank you so much for letting us see a little of the personality behind the novels and stories you write. Best of luck with that third novel 🙂

Lynda’s two novels, Attachment and Of Broken Things are available on Amazon. For ease of access you can find the links by clicking on the images below.

Attachment

by: Lynda Tavakoli

publisher: AuthorHouse, published: 2007-07-10

ASIN: 1434303799

EAN: 9781434303790

sales rank: 9456919

price: $12.47 (new), $8.60 (used)

Discontented with her marriage and bored with her life, Beverley Adams renews contact with former boyfriend Mark through the popular internet website of ‘Friendships Reconnected’. What begins as an innocent flirtation via e-mail however, suddenly takes a more sinister turn when the emotionally unbalanced Beverley becomes increasingly obsessed with reviving their relationship. Having stealthily gained Mark’s trust, she employs a hacker to secrete a Trojan virus on his computer by means of an e-mail attachment. This act of deception allows her access to all of Mark’s personal computer files, including all his e-mail correspondence, entirely without his knowledge. Beverley’s beautiful twin sister, Jessica, is unwittingly caught up in the complicated web of lies and deceit that ensues, which ultimately has tragic consequences for both her and those around her. ‘Attachment’ is the story of one woman’s lust for revenge and the terrible price exacted on the victims of her egotism and delusions in the subterfuge world of twenty-first century technology.Do you know who is accessing information on your computer?

Of Broken Things

by: Lynda Tavakoli

publisher: David James Publishing, published: 2011-06-10

ASIN: 0956881637

EAN: 9780956881632

sales rank: 6903975

price: $9.70 (new), $7.43 (used)

Of Broken Things It is 1920’s Ireland and JOHN FLYNN is ten years old when his much longed for sister STELA is born at their isolated cottage. She is a beautiful child whom John sees as a gift sent to alleviate the harshness of his life with an alcoholic father REDMOND, who he has come to despise. Within a few weeks of Stela’s arrival John is unexpectedly left to look after his mother and sister during a snowstorm after Redmond fails to return from one of his many prolonged absences. Taking on adult responsibilities at such a young age has a profound effect on the young John and he is unable to forgive his father for abandoning the family during times of greatest need. CASSIE, John’s mother, takes solace in visits from a priest FATHER KEARNEY who often acts as intermediary between Cassie and Redmond when overwhelming problems, caused by Redmond’s antisocial behaviour, become apparent. Stela grows strong under the protection and deep love of her brother who teaches her about nature and uses her as a delighted audience for his make-believe stories. Stela develops normally until she approaches her third birthday when she withdraws from the world and only communicates meaningfully with her beloved brother. When tragedy strikes, a web of deceit within the community begins to unravel. ‘Of Broken Things’ is a beautifully written tale not only of tragedy, of fear and of mistrust, but also of love. It is a ‘must read’ novel from the author of ‘Attachment.’

How to Grow as a Writer

800px-Creative

Becoming a writer requires many skills – such as the ability to research effectively, to explore your creative side, to draw on your imagination, and to have a good working knowledge of grammar, syntax, punctuation and spelling. These are not things that can be developed over night. They take time and effort to cultivate. So how do you grow? What strategies can you use to become the kind of writer you’ve always dreamed of?

#1 Analyse

Take an in depth look at one of your favourite novels. Take notes. How did the first page or paragraph grab your attention? What is it about the narrative style that involves you as a reader? What made you want to turn to the next page and the next and the next?

The reverse is also helpful. Take a book that you hated and make a list of the reasons why. How did it fail to meet your expectations as a reader? What would you do to improve it? Make sure to focus on the mechanics and not just the story line. If you want to take literary analysis a step further you might like to think about joining a reading group. This can be an excellent way to gain insight into what constitutes a great novel or a bad novel in the eyes of others. In short it will broaden your mind and highlight ways you can improve.

#2 Read

I can’t emphasize this enough. Reading is key to a writer’s growth. It can be difficult to do when you have your head stuck in one of your own projects. But just remember, even the greats swear by it as this quote by William Faulkner, Nobel Prize Laureate proves;

“Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write.”

#3 Join a writers group

This can be done online but I would actually recommend that it be done out in the real world. There’s nothing quite so good at revealing weaknesses in your own work than standing in front of a roomful of strangers and reading it aloud. It’s difficult to do at first, but believe me; it will make a big difference. The feedback and exchange of ideas is invaluable. And don’t be discouraged if you get a negative comment or two. You can’t please everyone all the time. And don’t forget – it is possible that they may have a valid point. Take time to consider whether or not this is the case before you reject their comments out of hand. After all that’s why you’re there – so that others can help you up your game.

#4 Try new things

Trying something new can be very refreshing if you’re stuck in a rut. Maybe you’ve always stayed with one particular genre when reading and writing? That can be likened to only going to one place on holiday for your entire life. Some people are happy enough with that. Others aren’t. The latter are the explorers, the adventurers who thrive on new experiences and learning. So why not try a new genre and see where it takes you? You never know what you might learn about yourself or your trade.

You might also consider a new form of writing. This can involve moving from poetry to prose or writing in the third person when you normally write in the first person. You could also try writing short stories, humorous pieces or entering competitions. Branching out into new avenues helps avoid stagnation. So go on! Be brave and mix it up 😀

This is a piece I wrote two months after the death of my husband. It now forms part of my new book Not Your Legacy – OUT NOW on Amazon.

COLD

I’ve decided I’m going to write this letter as though you could still read it, if only you hadn’t killed yourself. An odd decision to make I know, but in my books it’s not nearly as odd as committing suicide. And yet it must have made perfect sense to you. If only you could somehow come back and explain it to me and the kids. It can never make any sense to us. You have deprived us of the answers we deserve along with so many other things.

It’s almost like an avalanche is doing its best to bury me alive; pressing down on me, crushing me relentlessly. There must be literally thousands of questions buzzing through my head. Like a shower of snowflakes they’re all different. I always have to have the answers. You’ve always known that that’s the way I am. So what kind of parting gift was this? A snowstorm or a shit storm which ever you prefer and not a single answer in sight! Is that what you wanted?

All these questions piling one on top of the other – each one leaving me colder than the one before. There is no one to share them with, to stop me from sinking down and disappearing forever beneath their weight. I can push them aside when I’m feeling strong enough, but when night time comes along or a day that feels wrong from the start, what am I supposed to do then?

Today is one of those days. What makes one day harder than another? Another question with no satisfying answer.

What about our children? Surely the way you were feeling could never be more important than their happiness? They need you. I am not enough.

I feel cold. Cold at the thought of what lies ahead for us. Cold at the thought that you were so determined. Cold at the thought that you wanted this for us. Colder than ice when I remember how I found you.

Not Your Legacy

by: Samantha J Wright

published: 2014-05-26

ASIN: B00KLHWUP0

sales rank: 526843

After a chance meeting at the age of sixteen, Sam leaves behind her father and her reformed alcoholic mother and moves to Northern Ireland to set up home with a man she barely knows.

The two of them continue to practice the religion they were both raised in but scratch below the surface and life’s not what it appears. This story documents her battle with depression, abuse, the aftermath of suicide, a troubled marriage, and most of all her disastrous involvement with the Jehovah’s Witness church.

It’s a journey that cost her dearly and as many of her readers have already discovered, Not Your Legacy is far more than just a series of real life events. It retells the story of one woman’s metamorphosis of mind, body and soul.

The Story

Naturally I remember the day we first met. It would be strange not to when it altered my life so radically. People around us thought it a dalliance. But I felt differently. I sensed there was change afoot. Doors were opening.

December 11th 1994

“I’ve met the man I’m going to marry,” I told my mother when I came in that night. She’d been waiting up for me in the living room, knitting a bright blue jumper for one of my cousins, by what was left of a once roaring fire. A handful of shrivelled coals glowed in the grate, their heat reaching no further than the boundaries of the old shag pile rug. Outside the wind picked up. It toyed with the letterbox and rustled leaves as if it had lost something important and was hell bent on finding it. A powerful down draft whooshed down the chimney scattering ashes and soot all over the place. The wind must have changed direction.

“Hmpf,” was mother’s response to its mischief. She set her knitting down on the table and reached for her trusty brush and pan.

Mother belonged to a generation of women who were typically very house proud. She had a low tolerance for dust and dirt of any kind, even in places where it was quite normal to find it – like the garden. After she’d swept up every little speck she settled back down to her knitting with a sigh. I was beginning to wonder whether she had heard me at all.

“So was it a good night then?” she asked eventually.

“Yes…very.”

I felt let down. I’d been looking forward to seeing the surprised look on her face when I told her my news. But she didn’t seem interested at all. As I warmed my bare legs, I started to realise how ridiculous I must have sounded. I’d walked in like a fool, spouting off about my latest crush. Statements like that belonged in romance novels. Not the lives of regular folk like me. Yet the words had fallen out of my mouth before I could do anything about them. Something in them rang true. They were instinctive, like the feeling of being watched or the knowledge that someone is honest.

No matter how trite they may have seemed at the time I have never been able to forget them. Years later I would still remember the innocence they held. In the dark. On the road. Whilst our children slept in their beds. I would wear them again like clothes, found locked in a dusty attic. They were the ball gowns and frocks left over from another time. When I wore them I became another me.

I waited for her to burst my bubble, to echo that faintly audible warning coming from a far off place inside my head.

“You’re only sixteen! What are you doing? You’ve already had one relationship that ended in disaster. Are you really ready for another? What’s your rush?” the little voice had protested, as I had kissed my Irishman in the corner of the pub.

The more his dark eyes had burnt into mine, turning me to wax with the mere act of his presence, the more I shushed the voice of reason. His strong hands had felt perfectly right on the small of my back as we shuffled around the dance floor of the market town pub. I have no doubt that as we moved in synchrony he too was forcefully rebuffing his sensible side so that we could get better acquainted without hindrance.

“So I gather that you’ve met someone,” she said, looking up from her rapidly clicking needles.

The delay in her response was irritating.

“It doesn’t matter. I’ll tell you about it some other time.”

How was I to have known she’d be so upset that I’d come home an hour and a half late? Besides my head hurt and my ears were ringing, thanks to the pulsating beat at the pub.

“I have to go to bed,” I admitted, yawning widely. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Hang on just a minute now. I want to know what’s happened.”

My hand hung just above the door knob and I turned slowly on my heel. Well, better late than never I suppose…

“I thought you weren’t interested,” I teased, slipping my arms around her neck. She patted my hand and kissed me on the cheek.

“Of course I am. I’m just tired and I’ve been worrying where you’d got to, you know.”

“I’m sorry. We just lost all track of time.”

“So who is he? What’s he like?”

“Hang on. Just let me get out of these clothes first. Then we can talk.”

“Alright. I’ll be up in a few minutes.”

That was more like it. We were both wide awake now. Chances were we’d be burning the midnight oil on this one.

She stowed her knitting in the black and white check bag that she’d owned since the dawn of time while I shuffled off in search of my beloved PJs. From in the bathroom I could hear the kettle boiling in the kitchen below and the familiar sound of the battered old tea caddy being opened. Mum was never without a cup of tea in her hand. Especially during moments of crisis or excitement.

A short while later we found ourselves sitting on my shell pink bedspread, dunking rich tea biscuits into scalding tea. I was in my nightshirt because I couldn’t find anything else and mum wore her pale blue quilted housecoat that she had once bought for a stay in hospital. I wondered if she could see that I was still slightly inebriated. I hoped not, because she’d raised me as a Jehovah’s Witness since the age of four and they were never particularly impressed when one of their own went down that path.

Mother could testify to that better than anyone. When her first marriage had broken up, she had turned to drink in a big way and had got into a terrible mess. You would have thought that they might have offered her support, but instead she was expelled by the church and shunned by its members. How they thought this would help, I don’t know. Yet, somehow she managed to claw her way back from the brink of self-destruction and was now a fully fledged, teetotal member of the flock again.

“Well,” she said after taking a long slurp of tea. “What happened then?”

I definitely must have been a little drunk still because once again I repeated my ridiculous claim.

“I’ve met the man I’m going to marry.”

She responded with a strange lilting laugh. It made me feel good to hear it.

“Marry?” she said.

There was giddiness in her voice – a tinge of excitement, which I wrongly interpreted as approval. I’ve thought about the way we were a lot since that day; the late night chats that ended up in me sharing far too much information and the way she had to know simply everything. I’ve come to understand that there was far more to us than a mother and daughter who were just ‘very close.’

Modern thought has it, that some mothers develop a relationship with their daughter’s that’s so close it’s more like a friendship. They become enmeshed in virtually every aspect of their child’s life to the point where they live vicariously. In other words they live through their daughters.

Over the years we had become like that, especially after my first serious relationship foundered. She had prided herself on being there for me, when my heart was broken and those of my own age let me down through one reason or another. We would sit on my bed for hours, talking about what had happened and examining the minutiae till we lost all track of time. Poor Dad must have felt out of it I’m sure. But neither of us gave it much thought. We were simply doing what felt natural. It was parenting on a whole other level.

The lines were in danger of blurring further still now that this had happened, yet neither of us cared to acknowledge it. There was a lot that I did not see that day whether by choice or through the act of neglect. The recklessness. The neediness. The eagerness for this new relationship to simply be.

I assured her I wasn’t joking and gave her a little more background information on what I hoped would be the new man in my life.

“I met him at Steve and Rachel’s house. It’s Antony’s brother,” I said, trying not to look too besotted.

“So he’s a Jehovah’s Witness then?”

“Yes.”

That was important. For us there was no such thing as dating for fun. You dated with marriage in mind. Nothing else. And nobody was supposed to marry a ‘worldy person’ or in other words someone who was not of the faith. You had to stay in the club.

“So he’s from Northern Ireland too. How exciting! You must tell me all about him,” she said, patting my knee.

I wasn’t hard to convince. I’d been bursting to tell her since I’d walked through the door. So regardless of the hour and the amount of vodka hurtling through my veins, we talked until the morning. Not mother and not daughter. But two friends with a story to share.

Not Your Legacy

by: Samantha J Wright

published: 2014-05-26

ASIN: B00KLHWUP0

sales rank: 526843

After a chance meeting at the age of sixteen, Sam leaves behind her father and her reformed alcoholic mother and moves to Northern Ireland to set up home with a man she barely knows.

The two of them continue to practice the religion they were both raised in but scratch below the surface and life’s not what it appears. This story documents her battle with depression, abuse, the aftermath of suicide, a troubled marriage, and most of all her disastrous involvement with the Jehovah’s Witness church.

It’s a journey that cost her dearly and as many of her readers have already discovered, Not Your Legacy is far more than just a series of real life events. It retells the story of one woman’s metamorphosis of mind, body and soul.

Unfinished Business

Once more around the yard she went. Once more searching every nook and cranny between the big brown cobbles worn by the constantpassage of her family’s feet over them.In between the big half barrel planters she looked and amongst the flowers that grew there.Over the crumbling red brick wall, next doors washing flapped in the breeze whilst hers lay piled on the bathroom floor – untouched and purposefully forgotten. She knew what was in there and it was best left where it was…for now.

Over in the corner by the coal bunker, where the sun created a pleasant sun trap on better days than this, sat a bench plain and simple in its lines. The three of them used to sit there in summer, soaking up the warmth pretending they were the only ones on a tropical beach in some far flung corner of the local travel agents brochure.

Except today there was no sun. Only grey clouds and a gusty wind that delighted in tearing them apart before putting them back together again badly.

Some things cannot be repaired…

A few spots of rain fell. The cold touch of them landed on her wasted forearms. She looked up and breathed what was meant to be a cleansing sigh. That sigh became a hastily swallowed sob, more painful than any angina or child birth pain she had ever experienced in all her fifty three years. Her knees trembled as she pulled the bench away from the wall. Maybe it had fallen underneath or had gotten trapped behind one of its thick wooden legs?

Curse him! I want him out of my head…

Underneath it she found weeds that had pushed their blanched roots upwards only to find their way to sunlight barred. In the depressions left by the bench’s feet beetles and woodlice scuttled away from her just like the neighbours had ever since the bomb shell had dropped out of nowhere. She ignored them and fell to her knees scouring every inch of the ground and the wall roundabout.

It must be here somewhere…

But it wasn’t. And her daughter Amy was due home from school any time now. She had so desperately wanted this sorted before she got here. She wanted to be composed so that she didn’t have to put her through any more pain. The poor girl had been through enough already. They all had. At this thought guilt pierced her. What they had been through was nothing in comparison to what her niece had suffered.

Images flashed through her head. Horrendous ones. Ones that made her sick to her stomach.

“Why?” she roared, standing up suddenly. “Why?”

Why had she trusted him? Why had any of them?

In a flash of manic rage she gripped the bench in scrawny hands and overturned it splitting the well-worn back rest on the cobbles. Bile erupted in her throat. Her meagre breakfast of a double vodka and toast soon followed suit, where it joined the splinters and dislodged screws that rolled in mindless circles on the ground.

“Mrs Chisholm?” a voice inquired politely.

At the bottom of the yard the postman peered cautiously around the door.

“Don’t call me that,” she muttered wiping her mouth. She looked down at the carnage that she had wrought in shame.

His thin fingers tapped the edge of the door as though he was thinking about leaving. Yet he didn’t.

“Well, Clare then,” he said looking down at one of the letters in his hand for inspiration. “I have some letters for you and the er…family.”

“Just put them over there,” she told him, pointing to the windowsill nearest the backdoor.

He’d seen the news that morning and he wanted to say something useful. As he crossed the yard he almost spoke a couple of times but none of the words he had rehearsed seemed good enough. In spite of the media frenzy this was obviously a very private matter and he was still a stranger really. Yes, he’d delivered letters and parcels to the Chisholm family for fourteen years but that did not make him a friend. It was not his place to speak up about her problems. She must surely have her own friends who were supporting her, he told himself. He set the letters down and glanced through the dirty window.

“Clare?”

“Yes?” she said without looking up.

“I’m assuming this is yours.”

He came and crouched beside her holding up a gold wedding band that winked in the light as he turned it this way and that.

“I found it on the windowsill.”

She looked up and nodded. He was a thoughtful man. She offered him a fractured smile for his efforts.

“This must be very difficult,” he said simply.

She pursed her lips and looked away as tears trickled scalding alleys down her face and neck.

Damn. That was the wrong thing to say.

He placed a gentle hand on her shoulder in apology.

“If there’s anything I can do, you’ll let me know, won’t you?”

His kindness was crushing. She covered her mottled face with both hands so that she could crawl inside her cave of darkness and weep till she turned to dust. Lost for words the postman set the ring down beside her and made to leave, thinking it was what she wanted.

As he reached the gate she called out.

“Wait.”

His hand fell from the unopened latch.

“You’re wondering how it got there…,” she said. “The ring I mean.”

She dragged the tissue across her swollen eyes. Something in them goaded him on.

“I can guess.”

“Well I did it. I threw it out here. When I found out what he’d done, I chucked it out here with every ounce of strength I had like the piece of filthy rubbish that it is. Stupid I know. But I couldn’t help it. The thought that he might have been wearing his wedding band when he did what he did was too much. I couldn’t bear it. Then as the trial approached I regretted it. I realised that I needed some sort of closure and I couldn’t do it with his ring still floating about in the back yard somewhere. I had to find it so that I could shut him out properly.”

“But now you have.”

“Yes,” she said slowly. “Now I have. But I still have unfinished business. Will you help me?”

“You mean you want to send it to him?”

“Yes.”

“Sure.”

Once inside the kitchen he stood and blinked for a few seconds trying to take in what he saw. It was definitely worse now that he was standing on the inside. Half eaten food, empty bottles, cans and plates lay everywhere – on every available sticky, cola stained surface. Cigarette stubs and mouldy bread crusts floated in a bowl of greasy water over in the sink. He tried to resist wrinkling his nose. The smell was unapologetically rank. This woman had been running on empty for a while, he thought to himself.

He guessed the half eaten meals had probably been consumed by her teenage daughter Amy who used to wait on the door step for him to deliver letters from her pen pal in Canada back when she was in second year. Clare herself didn’t look as though she ate anything to speak of. And who could blame her? The table in front of them was littered with newspapers. Most of the headlines were about Mr Chisholm. Some were lying open, some were not. It was enough to ruin anyone’s appetite.

‘MASSIVE PROTESTS AS LOCAL MAN IS JAILED FOR SIXTEEN YEARS FOR ABUSING HIS BLIND NIECE.’

Clare looked up and noticed him reading the disturbing headline.

“It’s a pity they don’t lock people like him up and throw away the key like they used to do isn’t it? But life isn’t what it used to be,” she said in a disconnected voice.

George the postman simply nodded.

“This will do,” she said holding up one of the front pages. “When he gets this he will know…”

She took the gold ring and carefully folded it again and again inside the front page then stuffed it into a waiting envelope. It bulged so much that the gum had trouble sticking but she didn’t care. Now that she had George she knew that it would get there no matter what. It was his job.

“Here, take this to him and tell him that this is THE END. In my mind, he’s the man who never was. There’s no room for him in my head anymore.”

From within her clenched fist the letter dropped – all rumpled, damp and dishevelled. It was too important to be put with all the others. So he put it inside his jacket until the time came to honour her trust.