Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The Weather in Your Head; Penny Dolan

For a few years, I’ve written a short animal story for a seasonal anthology. The first few were for Winter anthologies for the Christmas market but this year a Spring anthology is being published: The Little Bunny. The cover is perfectly suited for the likely audience, and it's definitely not gritty urban ranting or farting pants gags.

I must admit I do enjoy writing these stories, although the work doesn’t bring much money or great personal acclaim. It’s not even “my” title. My name is shown as part of Amazon's product details.

On the other hand, it’s fun reading through the authors listed on the back cover and discovering which other writer friends have been sharing the story-making task.

The tales are good for the spirit too, especially when one is battling with a longer book or other troubles. Also, despite the “sweetness” of the subject matter, the editors are briskly helpful and precise - in the kindest way of course - which is good for all of one’s writing.

The editors are always reasonable, too. I have been asked to change names so the collection doesn’t end up with more than one Mollie. I have been nudged gently so that a similar plot device doesn’t appear twice in such a short set of tales. That’s fine by me. Writer for Hire.

Once or twice I've received slightly concerned emails about “my animal facts” versus “your animal facts”. As long as I had my own evidence, there was never any problem. It's quite comforting to know the editors do consider the factual basis of the animal stories, no matter what touches of story fantasy were added.

But there is one thing about this work that is most odd.

The anthologies, like editions of Vogue, are written well before their season. So, last year, when the ground outside was thick with December’s ice and snow, my head was full of a story about sunshine and blue skies and blossom and daffodils.

Now, as the gardens green and fill with flowers, I have been deep in a tale about a poor little creature lost amid biting wind and freezing snow. It will probably come back to me for revision work in the sweltering heat of mid-July.

When my head is in these stories, that world is almost real to me. I “feel” the weather and the temperature, but the contrast between “in here” and “out there” can be giddy-making when I'm suddenly called back to real date matters.

Maybe that’s the reasons I’m never quite sure what the day today actually is, or which season we’re living in, Officer.

So what’s the weather in your head?

Penny Dolan

Out now: A Boy Called M.O.U.S.E (Bloomsbury)


Penny Dolan said...

Am now at another temperature altogether! I was deep in a school visit yesterday, so have only just caught up with Gove's "50 books idea." Why on earth doesn't he think things through or ask before he speaks?

I can understand the "reading more helps you read more" concept - the Gladwell "hours of practice" theme, but the inevitable prescription reading syllabus list won't work with many of the young readers I meet.

michelle lovric said...

Penny, I am frequently in the same situation - writing icy winter in the middle of a heatwave and vice versa. Actually, I have come to the conclusion that it HELPS to write against the season. Because when I am hot, I wish to be cold, and when the wind blows, I wish it wouldn't. So I am writing my wishes, instead of my observations. Wishes are more fun to write, and you are more free to be imaginative. Desire for what you haven't got naturally intensifies the writing too.