The best place to start this blog lark is with a quick explanation of its title - why 'Scallops'?  
It came to me in a dream:  short stories are like scallops!  Similes and metaphors don't usually come to me in my sleep, I wish they did,  but on this occasion  I had watched rather too much of Hell's Kitchen before bedtime.  At some point, the wannabe chefs had competed to free perfect scallops from the gelatinous mass inside the shells. Craggy-faced Gordon was not pleased if any scallops had been spoiled in the process which, of course, most were.

A short story should also be small and perfectly formed:  it is the result of the skillful cutting down of a large, slippery concept in to a small, firm morsel of art.  As a writer still learning her craft, I know how easy it is to mutilate a good short story.  But I am hoping I'll get better with practice and - fingers crossed - that'll happen before my face turns too craggy...

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The curse of King Lear

I studied English Lit at the University of Sheffield.  I was probably the most highly strung student on my course, I'm sure of it.  Exams were my biggest source of anxiety but the coursework terrified me too.  

An essay assignment would be issued and the very next day I would begin wandering through the library stacks in a trance (this was in the days when URLs were as lengthy as Paradise Lost) hunting for pearls of wisdom I could scatter among my otherwise bland analysis of whatever masterpiece we were studying.  I wrote up my research long hand (too poor to photocopy) and when that was done, I'd begin drafting, then endlessly redrafting - also all in long hand (the computers were booked up for weeks).  I always finished my essay early but I would tinker and tinker until the words looked foreign to me, right up until the deadline.

Imagine my horror, then, one day I was standing in line to submit my essay on King Lear when a friend pointed out I had spelled his name wrong...and how had I spelled it?  With a goddamn 'h'!  King Bloody Leah...I had just an hour to return to the computer suite, wait in line for a terminal, correct my manuscript, wait in another line for the print out, race back to the submission point.  The self-loathing was - and still is - beyond description.

That incident has scarred me for life.  I have nightmares about submitting essays to this day and I graduated 12 whole years ago.   Now every time I write something, I get an attack of OCD.  Everything from birthday cards to official correspondence and, now I'm a writer, all my submissions to competitions.   I would rather not submit any of my work that spend another day like today, checking and rechecking everything I might have misspelled.  When I am in this state, nothing looks right - even my name on the manuscript.  Lornah.  That's right, isn't it?

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