You will find on this page some samples of my work that I hope you enjoy.
MAKE WRITING THE NEW CIGARETTE BREAK
GUEST POST BY CLARE SHAW IN WRITER WRITER
How do you find the time and space to write when you’re an up and coming writer?
I could never work out how writers did it without giving up their day job to live a life of starvation in a freezing shed or attic somewhere, tapping away on a second hand laptop in fingerless mittens.
I had written my first novel following a major operation and subsequent months off work but now, here I was, getting up early to beat the traffic, spending the day chasing challenging children around therapy rooms, grateful if I found a few minutes to down a cup of coffee. By the time I got home, all I could do was pour myself into a large glass of red and throw myself down on the bed in exhaustion.
I could sometimes find just enough energy to go on Twitter in search of other struggling writers, only to see their photos of writing spaces, usually some antique desk topped with the best kind of laptop and some leather bound notebooks. No husband, children or barking dog in sight.
It was a chance reading of a review of Joanna Cannon’s ‘The Trouble with Sheep and Goats’ which changed my life. She too worked for the NHS and had apparently written much of her best selling novel in the car park, using every spare moment of the day to wedge herself behind the steering wheel and just write.
That was my problem, I was waiting for time and space to find me when I had to find it. As serendipity had it, I was able to move into a managerial role, which was more admin than speech therapy and that gave me a bit more control of my time. I too sat in my car at lunch time and wrote till my arm ached and my brain fizzed. Eventually, I even managed to write at a desk in an open plan office while sipping a mug of coffee, surrounded by admin staff shouting appointments down their phones to hard of hearing patients, and nurses and therapists swapping anecdotes at an ever increasing volume. I used my car journey to and from work to formulate ideas in my mind rather than switch the radio on to listen to news I’d rather not hear.
No longer working with children, I now had the energy at the end of the day to write more. I still had no designated writing space but propped up on the bed did just fine for me. And not being tied to a particular space meant I could visit a café or the library at weekends, whatever took my fancy. It didn’t matter any more that I was unable to book out a four hour writing slot, I simply made every five minutes count. I let go of word count targets and simply let my book build sentence by sentence, word by word. I usually managed about five thousand words a week.
Sageism, my non fiction feminist bible for middle aged women was published and I took a risk and left work completely to follow up my first novel, The Mother and Daughter Diaries. So here I am with time, a designated space and a decent laptop. Surely my word count will now double at least. But no, I still write about five thousand words a week – it seems to be my default output. But the change is I find time to write articles like this or throw a bit of inspiration out on Twitter. And I am sure the quality of my writing has improved, if not the quantity.
My advice then is simple. Don’t wait for your life to be in exactly the right place to be creative and productive. Start now, yes now. Don’t even finish reading this sentence. Forget targets and simply take advantage of any five or ten minute slots as they occur, whether it’s sitting on a bus or train, slumped in a doctor’s waiting room or hiding in the loos at work. Learn to cut out background noise, which needs practice but is easier than you think, and get a boring day job. And always, always remember that you are a writer with a back up job. Your day job just pays the bills but you are first and foremost a creative writer. You now just need to be creative about how and where you write.
So I now hope to see writers scribbling or tapping away wherever I go – bus stops, the corner of a yoga class, on a rollercoaster ride, half way up the Eiffel Tower, anywhere. See you there fellow creatives, let’s make writing the new cigarette break.
Girl in a Box By Clare Shaw
Runner up of Writers Inc, Writer of the Year Competition 2005
“The house is quiet. Then suddenly through the wooden sides of the box, she hears voices. Guests are greeted, jackets taken, drinks offered. Then the voices fade away and she can no longer hear them.
She is in a box and nobody can see her. She imagines Jasper counting slowly. Peaking through his plump fingers which cobweb his face, the numbers drumming out from behind his sticky palms – one….two….three. He leans against the warm bark of the birch, the papery leaves blotching his brown skin with patchy shadows. Four…… five…. six, the afternoon sun throwing its heat down like a yellow blanket. Seven …. eight….. nine, Jasper takes an eager step forward into the waiting sunshine. TEN! Ready or not ….”
This and a story called ‘Vicar Up The Tree’ are available on Cut a Long Story website
Selling Shoes in Southend By Clare Shaw
Selling Shoes in Southend was written as part of the Essex Book Festival Making Waves competition and first recorded by Frequency Theatre in February 2014.
To Feed a Family
(Part of the Painted Words Exhibition at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester)
‘The widow and her six children circle the scrubbed but worn wooden table, their bowls filled for the first time in many weeks. The steam from the stew swirls into the stagnant air. The widow bends her head and hastens through grace. They eat. She looks kindly on her feeding family, smiles to her eyes, contentment seeping into her bones as she sups on her smaller portion. Only her eldest daughter seems subdued, her blue eyes moist, her tense neck throbbing. Her barely formed breasts swell with milk, milk which has no baby to feed. Food to waste. The widow leans towards her, whispering words to soothe. She thanks her daughter for providing for her brothers and sisters. The rest of the money, still warm, sits in a tin above the kitchen range.
On the good side of town, the young couple sit at polished mahogany. The young woman holds her new baby close and gazes into his china blue eyes. She has no means to feed him, save with a bottle. A formula to suit all, a formula worth the money paid.’
Click here for a sample download.
PLAY SAMPLE: SURVEILLANCE
Pete has just let Simon and Alice in. Simon is holding a clipboard. Pete is wearing a towel round his waist.
PETE: Come in, come in. I’m so glad you called round. I should have introduced myself before but you know what it’s like when you’ve just moved.
ALICE: Oh I know. When we first…
SIMON: Alice. So you know who we are?
PETE: Of course.
SIMON: Might I ask how?
PETE: I’ve seen you coming and going, I suppose. I mean you’re right next door. I’ve nodded to your wife in the morning. Leaving for work.
SIMON: You’ve nodded to my wife. How many times have you nodded to my wife?
PETE: I don’t know. Three or four. We must leave about the same time.
ALICE: I work at the hospital, don’t I Simon.
SIMON: Yes. She’s not a doctor or anything, obviously. (Laughs)
ALICE: No, I work on the …
SIMON: Alice. No need to disclose any more information than is absolutely necessary.
ALICE: Sorry Simon.
PETE: Look, maybe we could get to know each other over a drink.
ALICE: That would be lovely.
SIMON: Alice, that isn’t why we came. Anyway, my wife is here.
PETE: Very pleased to see you both.
ALICE: He means you might want to put some clothes on. Don’t you, Simon. But I really don’t mind.
SIMON: She does.
PETE: Of course. Look, make yourselves at home, I won’t be a jiff.
Exit Pete. Alice sits down.
SIMON: I don’t think so, Alice. This isn’t a social call.
Alice stands up again
ALICE: It’s a very nice room. Very homely. I don’t know what I was expecting really. Something unusual I suppose. Strange even. But this is a lovely room.
SIMON: Well, it would be lovely wouldn’t it. The room people come into, you know when he invites them in. I imagine the bedroom is very strange. And probably the bathroom. This is what I’d call a front.
ALICE: A front room.
SIMON: Don’t be silly, Alice.
Now, remember, let me do the talking. I know what to say and I’ll know when and if to take action. I’ll be like a …
ALICE: Action man.
SIMON: Spokesman. Alice, I hope I can rely on you.
PETE: I’m glad you popped in. I was just about to have a drink anyway.
SIMON: On your own?
PETE: Yes. I’m on my own. Just me.
SIMON: Well you would be wouldn’t you.
ALICE: He means, are you drinking on your own, don’t you, Simon. As in solitary drinking. Lone drinking.
PETE: Not any more – you can both join me.
SIMON: We didn’t come for a drink. We came to give you something. We have something important to present to you.
ALICE: He means names, don’t you Simon. As in a long list of names.
SIMON: I wish to present you with – a petition. Please sign here to say you’ve received it.
PETE: I see. You’d better sit down. I need a chance to look at this.
SIMON: That seems reasonable. I’m a reasonable man. Alice.
They all sit. Pete reads the petition.
PETE: I think there’s been some sort of misunderstanding.
ALICE: I knew there had. I thought…
SIMON: Alice. I can assure you there’s been no misunderstanding. We have evidence.
ALICE: Oh yes, so we have. We have evidence.
PETE: Can we talk about this? Over a drink?
SIMON: There’s nothing more to say. Alice.
Alice and Simon stand up
PETE: A man has a right to defend himself.
ALICE: But we have evidence, don’t we Simon.
SIMON: That seems reasonable and I am a reasonable man. I’m prepared to hear what you have to say.
ALICE: Yes, that seems reasonable.
PETE: A drink? We can at least be civil about all this. Alice?
ALICE: Maybe just a white wine.
SIMON: I don’t think so Alice.
SIMON: You know our names. You have just used our names.
PETE: I used the names you called each other. I thought it logical.
SIMON: I take your point. But you know our names and our address. That could be dangerous.
PETE: You know my name. It’s here at the top of the petition – Peter Williams.
ALICE: Nice name, Peter. My uncle…
SIMON: Alice. Yes, we knew you were Peter Williams. Freedom of information act.
ALICE: He means it’s on the electoral role.
SIMON: Please don’t divulge our sources, Alice.
PETE: That’s fine, I have no secrets.
SIMON: I beg to differ.
PETE: I think we all need to relax. You look like a scotch man to me, Simon.
ALICE: Oh how did you guess, you are clever.
PETE: Glenfiddich. Single malt. Here, try this for size.
SIMON: No thanks. I don’t want your scotch.
PETE: I’ll just put it there then. Now, please, take a seat. Make yourself at home.
ALICE: I love your curtains. Are they Laura Ashley?
PETE: I don’t know. The previous owners left all the carpets and curtains. I’ve got similar curtains in the bedroom.
ALICE: Really? Simon didn’t think you would – have normal curtains in the bedroom, I mean. Still it’s always handy, isn’t it, when you get the carpets and curtains. In our bedroom, we’ve got…
SIMON: Alice. I’ll do the talking. We have found out about you, Peter Williams. With our surveillance techniques.
PETE: Surveillance? Now, hang on a minute. You see, I’m very easy going. Get on with people. Live and let live, that’s my motto. I accept that everyone’s different and we should celebrate those differences. I accept you, Simon, with your highly polished shoes and perfect crease in your trousers and your total lack of trust. Boarding school?
PETE: Blame them. As I was saying, each to their own. But there’s one thing that really gets my goat – the invasion of my privacy, the nanny state, and the way this has rubbed off like chalk on the individual with a little bit of power. And you have a little bit of power, don’t you Simon.
SIMON: I work for the council. I’m a …
PETE: There you are. But that little bit of power does not give you the right to invade my privacy. Because I am a very private person. And this, Simon, is intrusive.
SIMON: It’s about how you affect the community.
ALICE: And we’re part of the community, aren’t we Simon.
PETE: But it’s my garden. My secluded garden. With a high beech hedge all round it. It isn’t overlooked. This petition… Listen to this total bollocks – Peter Williams of 41 Arcacia Gardens has been performing lewd sexual acts in a public place. No, and no again. I have not been doing anything untoward in a public place. I’ve just been in my garden.
SIMON: Ah. So you admit it. The sexual acts. The only thing to discuss is whether your garden is in some way public space.
PETE: No, not lewd sexual acts. I simply took my clothes off.
SIMON: I don’t think there’s anything much more lewd than taking your clothes off.
ALICE: No, he doesn’t.
Summer After Sarcoma By Clare Shaw
Runner up in Cancer Research competition July 2010
And there were butterflies
As I lay nestled in the unruly green.
Time was mine that summer to ponder
On patterns of their fragile, intricate wings
As they danced a distracting dance.
And I, though not expected of me, smiled
At the moment, just the moment.
I closed my eyes against the efficient rays
Dispensing with the gauze of morning cloud.
The sun slapped hard against my elder daughter’s
She flicked through a crinkled magazine.
I dozed, keeping thoughts at bay.
The traffic sang, the strings of nature played,
And butterflies danced to the rhythm of the trees.
A window slammed wide open.
Theatrically, an arm reached out.
A head leaned towards its unexpecting audience.
Juliet’s words rang out with wicked humour.
My younger daughter’s fun and laughter
Healing my body down to the very marrow.
And butterflies settled on the sun kissed lawn.