As a child, I loved to sit with my Nanna (possibly during one of our many tea parties which utilised her extensive tea pot collection) and listen to her tell me about the "olden days". It helped that I was growing up on the very piece of land she had roamed over as a child herself, so the tales would reveal a mystical past surrounding my home.
The road you pass on the way home from school? It's called that because a girl with that name died in a horse and cart accident.
That strange shed in the backyard? The old wash house. See, we didn't have washing machines, not like now.
Electricity and water? Forget it.
It was fascinating as a child to imagine time as a veil being ripped away from the scenes she was describing. Not only did they provide a history of the area that my neighbours were oblivious to, Nanna's stories stoked my imagination. She was always good with words.
One of my Current Projects is my Nanna's memoirs. To my delight, I discovered when I visited her that she had already written pages upon pages of her life story. Her narrative voice was strong and compelling and each anecdote was perfectly placed according to some tangent or timeline.
But there were so many gaps. And as a writer, I can tell you we like to sell ourselves with the best prose. Nanna's memoirs were no different. I decided to record conversations with her to hear extra tidbits and to dodge some of the editing that we all do when it comes to representing ourselves.
So how did I intend to incorporate scattered sentences into Nanna's already crowded pages?
While visiting her for five days last year, I - after warning her, naturally - whipped out my MacBook Pro and hit record on Audacity. This is a free audio program that is unparalleled by any other. I amped up the recording volume because we were often chatting over tea outside with the birds or over food preparation in the kitchen. It's uncomplicated to use - make sure the microphone is plugged in and bam! Sound.
You can mute sounds (coughing etc) or trim clips to your liking. And then you can export into a format of your choice! (Um, well, not wma. Poor wma.)
Once I have an mp3 exported from Audacity (and tagged appropriately), I then hit play. Happily, my MacBook Pro's keyboard has a play/pause button so I can swiftly tap it when my transcript-typing fingers are struggling to keep up with the conversation. This has caused a few accidents whereupon I have hit the "next" button and ended up with pumping techno music. Oops.
Ever the one for free software, I use LibreOffice for the transcripts of my conversations with Nanna. While iTunes plays, Alyce is away! Well, typing frantically in a crude dialogue format, anyway. I create an ugly first version then go back over it, making the font extremely easy to read. I print the pages and voila! I have notes upon notes that I can merge into the notes she's already given me.
Anyway, this has served me well so far but I am running out of conversations to transcribe. Hopefully Nanna will send me more scribbled scraps soon. :)
Christmas, 1956. A female writer, having recently found herself an agent, is given a pricey and priceless gift. Her friends surprise her with a year's worth of wages so she can write without worrying about the daily details such as food and upkeep. No doubt she was hesitant at using her friends' money this way, but she takes the opportunity.
Of course, she isn't published within that year. Two and a half years later, her disjointed manuscript is taken by an editor and tweaked and loved until...July 11, 1960. The book becomes an instant classic.
To Kill A Mockingbird is an undisputed masterpiece and was even voted the best novel of the 20th century. But would Harper Lee ever have managed to write and then rewrite it with the limited time she had around the working week? It's awfully hard to throw your full self into a manuscript when most of your hours are spent watching time slip away from you. Imagine having 9-to-5 filled with writing!
August, 2014. "But now I am left to mourn/the loss of dreams and time," I agonise in a poem, spilling my frustration into verse. The previous year, I had discovered that I was actually capable of writing novel-length stories. But then my real life had arrived - I was given a full time job.
Unfortunately, I spent the entirety of 2014 unable to write anything substantial and my productivity had dropped in all time low. I would return home at the end of the day, my mind dulled by a peculiar mix of boredom and stress. But I had to grow up. I had to accept my cage.
I had a way out.
During 2014, I sped from single to exclusive to engaged to a wonderful man who, quite conveniently, started to earn a very decent salary. He hinted that I might give up on the hard slog and become a writer, because it's what I loved.
December, 2014. I leap into the unknown, but I am supported by a generous benefactor. I don't need to worry about food or rent.
How could I ignore the opportunity? How could I waste the chance of a lifetime? Who is ever this lucky? Do I even deserve this chance? What if I waste it? What if I never write anything publishable? Did Harper Lee ask herself these same questions?
Was I simply unable to accept the life and responsibilities of a grown up? Did I just quit my job to escape it?
I'll find out, won't I?
PS: Hopefully I don't stumble onto YouTube on my first day as a "writer". Sadly, "Jedi Master" is currently an unattainable position.
Alyce Caswell is an aspiring writer who apparently lost her mind, threw away a steady job as an office junior and entered the realm of imagination.
She has blamed her accomplice and husband for giving her this most excellent opportunity.
Alyce has written articles, poems, short stories, books
and several embarrassing blogs. She hopes this venture will avoid the usage of cat gifs.
Links of Interest
A Rambling Rover
Alyce's travel blog which features various castles, stone circles and bemused musings about the Northern Hemisphere.