A present from a friend last Christmas has provided a lot of fun and given me a great writing stimulus. Jan Carson, in 2015, wrote a short, short story each day on the back of a postcard and sent it to a friend. Postcard stories by Jan Carson Each story is a tiny gem of observation. They might be inspired by a chance conversation or encounter, an overheard remark or work of art, but each is complete as a story; sometimes thought provoking, often amusing or satisfyingly sad. The whole must have taken tremendous dedication and is a huge achievement.
It inspired me to take up the challenge and see whether I could do something similar. I knew that I was incapable of creating 365 in a year but opted for one a week. Twelve have been completed to my satisfaction so far, with several as embryos, but I’ve sent them nowhere, merely sharing them verbally with writing friends.
This exercise, if that’s what you can call it, has taught me a lot. The trick of observing, of picking out the specific point of interest, zoning in and paring down. Turning a banal encounter into something richer, making what is inexplicable a reality, entering into someone’s else’s world. The fun of looking at a situation, at people or a place and reimagining it for myself has been rewarding. All this is what I do when writing longer pieces, but the brevity doesn’t require investigation or research. There is no need for expansion, the isolated moment is the pleasure. And there is the possibility that one of those short, short stories could open out into something larger and extended.
The couple at the concert, he sitting crunched into himself, she proprietorial with her hand on his knee, beating time with the other hand; what is that all about? The overheard; ‘Spanish cuisine isn’t much to write home about so we sti ck to what we know, fish and chips.’ A well padded armchair abandoned on a pavement outside a block of flats, still there come rain or shine two weeks later. Insignificant but intriguing.
There must be many reasons for writing these tiny pieces of prose. A way to correspond and keep in touch with a friend, to keep the writing muscles working when something larger is not in view, or as displacement activity!
Whatever one’s personal reasons for writing in this way, I thank Jan Carson for the delight I found in reading her book, and for the delight I’ve experienced in writing my own.
I attach here one of my first. ‘Contemporary Art’. I hope that you find enjoyment too.
There are three things which mark out our local arts centre; our contemporary take on the world of art, our good relationship with the local police, and an open minded approach to taking in unusual artefacts.
The World War II grenades were brought in by an old soldier, inactive but his pride and joy; memorabilia of his wartime experience. It coincided with the anniversary of some battle or other so regarded as appropriate. To be safe the police were called in to verify his claim, health and safety being key to all businesses nowadays.
The police constable examined the objects, a fine piece of history, no longer able to do any damage, he observed. To prove his point, as a cup of tea and cake were being brought over to thank him for his help, he pulled out one of the pins.
As he was well-known to the staff it has made it extra special that his remains adorn one of the walls in the gallery. A fine memorial to an error of judgement. And it has certainly put the Centre on the map.