Fireworks #1

First excerpt of a brand new new short story.

New York.

Four friends.

Four years.

Three friends.

Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. Revenge.

Four flights up a brownstone to a naked apartment. Carpet-less, inched within seven feet of height for standing. Hollow voices bounce off plain walls and echo in emphasis the lacking furnishing. It is a place that sees life often, though only fleetingly, and without depth. A place for both friends and strangers to retire to in the evening mist, only to wake up in and disappear with the dawn. One wall houses a large wood-framed window with a perch and a view of all those significant voices blurred in the distance to a rabble of discordant democracy. The daily lives of the few encompass the many bar the few with the view. Such a view that oxymoronically inspired loneliness and togetherness amidst hazy late nights and foggy early mornings in the hearts of many-a-stranger, strangers that would sit staring out starry-eyed at the city that never sleeps, nestled against a melange of cushions and pillows. A rattling fire escape running from the second floor to the roof is made alive with the footsteps of drunken friends reminiscing on the climb. They arrive to a scene of city lights and lively, mild air, a scene that they mistake as the motive for their presence, and soon realise it to be a mere vessel for all their dreamy wondering at futures. There are four of them, each one alike and each one different from the next. They all swear to be ‘home’. Two young women sit nestled with two young men, the youngest, Anna, is celebrating her fifteenth birthday. She tilts her head, rests it on Dennis’ comfortable quilted shoulder and sighs a cloud of hot breath visible into the brisk air.

“This is the coldest fourth of July ever.” She begins, now leaning forward to catch Georgina’s attention across Dennis. “And it’s not even eleven yet.”

Fireworks interrupt her. Central Park had initiated a sequence of homemade firework displays that reached like a mexican wave across the rooftops, and all around them became alight as majestic crashes boomed like exploding cartoon stars above their heads in every size and colour imaginable, before receding to a spectral still as the sequences reset. Anna stretched out her legs whilst reclining against the wall in relaxation, certain there could be no other moment like this; certain none may ever compete. The four of them sat in a comfortable silence long after the displays had died down, huddling close, drifting into the calming wisps of smoke and the calling stars.

Georgina turned to Anna. “Happy birthday.” Warm and beaming, they held each other’s gaze in silent agreement, then simultaneously set their heads lazily back on their shoulders and returned to the atmosphere.

Georgina was seventeen, she and Anna had been childhood friends before reuniting through high school after Anna had moved away with her mother, escaping the death of her father who had died under ‘suspicious circumstances’. Though it was never proven who or what came into contact with Mr. Sirota, Anna had since become increasingly distant from her mother, a woman whose questionable stability enabled Anna to avoid the confrontation that she feared the most. Since the move, Mrs. Sirota had become Miss. Turowitz, suspiciously losing the addresses and telephone numbers of those in her New York social circles. Anna had kept her father’s last name, enduring the displeased tone of her mother’s voice at her utterance of it. It is doubtful to ever become fact whether it was grief that blotted Miss. Turowitz’s vision of acceptable parenthood, or something more sinister. The only facts were that her husband had died, and her daughter felt displaced. In the end, it was fate that reunited the two girls, they had crossed paths once on a subway train, an event ultimately resulting in Anna’s estrangement from her mother’s morally loose home-life, and in Georgina’s parents taking her under their wings; though not lawfully. Anna stayed with Mark, the eldest, in his stripped down, punk-esque brownstone apartment.

Mark, now twenty-one – who had left home at a young age himself – saw something in Anna at the moment of their introduction two years prior. Georgina had brought her along  to his house-warming in hope of Anna finding some friendly solace amongst the other keen misfits their company attracted, but it was Mark who had caught her eye. He had the calm-faced promise of a protective older brother, whilst tentative towards the upkeep of his hedonism. Mark was, at that age, leaning towards a kind of bohemianism only likely to be found at the Moulin Rouge; rather than a dusty old brownstone. Though he made it his own, and from the moment Anna entered she became immersed within new realms of freedom, enticed by a mysterious, yet shielding free-spirited young man, utterly experienced in the depths of self-indulgence and degradation. Georgina, being arty and relentlessly observant, realised early on the promise and importance of their friendship. She and Dennis attended the same high school, and so she envisioned their group. She smiled deeply true at the fondness of the epitome of her imagination so far. Here they all were, closer than ever, each one different, yet each one the same. Georgina sighed as it pricked her heart: the thought of perfection.

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The Lost Writer

Firstly, if you haven’t familiarised yourself with The New York Review blog I suggest that you do so for your own good, where have you been? It is one of those vast impenetrable blog sites that will make your struggle as an undiscovered and probably undervalued writer (and I mean writer in the broadest sense the word entails) appear evermore disheartening, at a first glance. I say this largely because the theme of this post is a subject every writer has to face whether it is overcome eventually or not, that is fear. The internet is a truly overwhelming place that seats most of us in the position of the teenager at school who would be heartily satisfied with their weekly growth spurt if it were not for the six-foot basketball player who appears only to be growing taller than you and at a much faster rate; chances are you also feel that they are better looking due to their popularity. The only difference being that whilst your online growth may level at a few hundred followers the ‘big kids’ only appear to carry on getting bigger. Many, dare I say most writers online will resonate with words such as acceptance, contacts, published, discovered, and unknown. Well Tim Parks drives this point brilliantly with a wonderfully composed piece that exposes the inner plight of every modern writer attempting to gain prominence and a reputation online.

Every year, I teach creative writing to just a couple of students. These are people in their mid-twenties in a British post-graduate course who come to me in Italy as part of an exchange program. The prospect of publication, the urgent need, as they see it, to publish as soon as possible, colors everything they do. Often they will drop an interesting line of exploration, something they have been working on, because they feel compelled to produce something that looks more “publishable,” which is to say, commercial. It will be hard for those who have never suffered this obsession to appreciate how all-conditioning and all-consuming it can be. These ambitious young people set deadlines for themselves. When the deadlines aren’t met their self-esteem plummets; a growing bitterness with the crassness of modern culture and the mercenary nature, as they perceive it, of publishers and editors barely disguises a crushing sense of personal failure.

Tim Parks (11 Jan, 2014)  The New York Review of Books NYR Blog, Writing to Win

This single paragraph from Parks’ insightful piece exemplifies the attitudes of possibly thousands of potentially groundbreaking authors that may offer the literary world countless prolific work and endless inspiration for our next generation, and if you’re still reading then I can presume such issues are an experience of yours. The problem I have found with blogging online and using social networks is that whilst the expanse of the internet provides everyone with the free prospects on offer the positives in turn create negatives, and before anyone has a chance to express their voice it is drowned out by already well-respected figures (through no fault of their own, obviously), these well-known and well-respected figures have this strangely majestic quality that at once creates us and destroys us. Their successes inspire and dishearten simultaneously as we forget they too were once unknown unpublished people, perhaps the same as any one of your fellow followers.

My words on this are that there is hope for you yet! Firstly, keep searching. There are no end of platforms for you to engage and represent yourself, to develop your voice and to progress. Secondly, it will not happen overnight. Everyone will tell you that persistence is key and this is simply because it is the truth. Use social media and networking wisely. These places are never-ending goldmines of resources and opportunities to connect with people, especially blogging, one blog or twitter account will usually spark your interest in another – and so on. Use your connections, never underestimate how much weight a few good words from a friendly blogger can help others engage with you and more importantly help you engage with others. Don’t take your peers for granted, they too may have a hidden creative genius inside of them somewhere – most creatives are introverts after all. Also, communicate with your followers and those you follow/aspire to, ask to interview those who have achieved some success or for them to comment on something you have said, perhaps even review some of their work. Finally, it’s not all that bleak out there, I know we’re all pained and our heart’s battered and bruised as intrepid writers but allow your writing to speak for you; a little positivity creates massive productivity.

The lost writer online may immediately sound a disappointing prospect which is understandable with our typical connotations of those two words together, but being lost is quite often a good thing. Think about the positives of being lost abroad, the excitement, the inspiration and the experience you gain from such endeavours, now apply this to the world of online blogging and social media. Think about how you indulge how lost you’ve been in life when characterising and developing your writing and your voice, then think of your step into the vast world of self marketing as a character yourself undertaking a new journey. So forget that initial fear of being an online extravert, it’s time to become the professional you feel yourself becoming slowly through your writing, the time is now! Being lost is a positive step unto a new unknown endeavour, persevere and you may just surprise yourself with how far it takes you, and  just how much you may inspire someone else.

Tim Parks’ article can be found here: http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2014/jan/11/writing-to-win/