I Want to Tell You a Story

20141109_111002I have a childhood memory, which until recently has been hidden away in the recess of my mind. I would have been very small, not long out of the pram, unable to read yet. One day, we visited some distant relatives- my mum’s cousin’s daughter’s cousin (or something) There was another little girl, the same age as me. I picked up a book and ran after my little fifth cousin twice removed shouting :

I WANT TO TELL YOU A STORY!”

Unable to read, I remember deciding to make the story up as I went along and pretend that it was in the book. I didn’t even get to make the story up… Childhood memories are funny things, this one has stuck in my mind because of what followed,

I WANT TO TELL YOU A STORY!”

I shouted and screamed several (hundred) times. There were tears and tantrums, the other little girl simply did not want to listen… and she was crying too by now. My mummy and daddy, and all the other adults in the room were laughing at us. Picture the scene:

I WANT TO TELL YOU A STORY!” (me)

“NOOOOO!” (little girl)

Was this my first rejection?

This happened thirty-eight years ago. Today, I received a return through the post of a short story I wrote about hydrotherapy. I hope it didn’t make the editor cry! It is important not to look at returns as a straightforward ‘rejection’ they just didn’t want it for their magazine.

This is how I look at it : When you go clothes shopping, you can’t buy all the dresses in the shop, you have to ‘decline’ some of them. This doesn’t mean there is something wrong with the remaining dresses, some of them simply won’t fit. I will now re-write this story in my own style for my short story collection.  I also received an e-mail today, to tell me that my ‘success story’ is going to be included in the Bury Adult Learning Prospectus for spring/summer 2017. Swings and roundabouts!

Happy writing, Samantha

American Elevator

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“It has been fifteen years, one month and ten days since we increased our security procedure” He repeated these numbers, adding to them every day.

Seemingly someone stupid has not observed the rules,  disregarded seriousness, resulting in a queue.

“If you can’t comply with these conditions, we cannot allow you access to our facility”

The length of the queue, the moment opportune.

“You know I don’t like heights!” She hissed, not a fan of skyscrapers, or steep inclines it’s true, she missed the point of the tourist attraction’s defences.

“You can’t leave me! It would look odd for a husband without his wife, with views to see, up high!”

She pleaded to stay downstairs, in amongst the tourists. The vast and tempting gift shop with far too much to choose. He disagreed quite righteously… insisting she accompany him, her vertigo denied.

As they shuffled through the metal detector arch, the officious security man’s mantra regarding the length of time “Fifteen years” and so on, dragged them further along the queue. Increased security, confidence undermined.  Lines, only humans form them, and only tourists would queue for an elevator, a fancy lift to nowhere. The perfect place for people watching peering eyes glancing, accusing:

“Who?”

Holidaymakers herded like cattle. Most with a companion, but one odd occasional tourist stands behind her. He is from Alaska, and reports:

“I don’t get out often” to anyone within earshot.  Odd occasional tourist makes eye contact, presumes she is alone.

“Tell me, are you visiting this attraction for business or pleasure?”

“Excuse me?”

“I said, are you here for business or pleasure?”

His question open ended, she swiftly closed with “NO!” The woman had never been so pleased to see her husband  return from the restroom. The odd occasional tourist had not expected romance quashed, dreams dashed. You see; elevators are great places to meet people, he had read that somewhere (someplace) It had been fifteen years since the odd occasional tourist had met anyone.

An attitude of teenage backpackers travelling no further than outside the U.S. over excited, peaking too soon, speaking too loudly, and reporting on pointless smartphone applications.

“Look, this one works out your ‘stripper name’ BLAH BLAH, BLAH, BLAH BLAH. I didn’t know that Bali is not part of India!”  Their nonsense lost towards the end of the line.

The security mantra softens in the distance, dollars exchanged for  tickets – reluctantly accepted. Feeling dizzy already at the sight of those lift doors, their dull shine, their promise of space fearfully anticipated, eagerly embraced, by her husband alone.

“Don’t look up, and do not look down!”

The elevator holds ten tourists, all of reasonable weight. The collective ten  play happy family for less than a moment. The 500ft takes forty-one seconds, except on days that are windy on which it takes longer, the brochure threatens. Her suspicion raised, the needle has stood for over fifty years – but does that make it safe? She buries her head in his chest, silently counts to forty-one, like an elongated game of hide and seek. The powerful rush, the strange sensation, the elevator catapults the tourists into the air with inexplicable physics.  Those forty-one seconds seemed twice as long. So worried, that she did not even notice the beautiful attendant, smartly dressed, skin like an Easter egg. But a middle-aged woman certainly did, along with her giggling counterpart.

“Well aren’t you somethin’ honey !” The woman did not blush from under her sun visor.

“The Space Needle was built in 1962, for the ‘World Fair'” The beautiful attended repeated, with little time for his speech.

“Do you enjoy your job?” The woman said, managing plenty of time to flirt.

“It has its ups and downs” He smirks with perfect teeth, and then it’s time to get out.

She is still buried in her husband, the flirting woman pushes past. She walks backwards out of the elevator, legs like jelly, stomach in her mouth. She is not the only one to be adversely affected, a sobbing, shaking middle-aged man is dragged out by his wife.

“I’ll just wait here, over by the door, where I feel safe, maybe sit on the floor,” She says. He looks dismayed, but leaves her there, not wishing to waste those dollars. He marks his visit on the map. He takes in the view, the expanse of water, miles and miles can be seen under miles and miles of cloud, are they mountains in the distance? After a couple of solitary self-portraits on the observation deck (saluted by the odd occasional tourist), It is time to rescue his wife, she is standing by the elevator, eyes firmly shut, head cradled in her hands.

“My brain is swimming, I feel so dizzy, It’s all your fault of course!”

They go back to the start, the same whooshing sound accompanies them to the ground. Reuniting with gravity, the best bit of the day for her. He is oblivious to the sensation, insisting on a T-shirt or at least a keychain to prove he ‘got her on that elevator!’

It feels like fifteen years since they visited Seattle.

They say it will get better, with therapy and graded exposure.  She will not engage, however, with confined spaces that have no way of escape. Her acute case of acrophobia, claustrophobia, stranger danger, husband blamed catastrophe.

Fifteen years, and still no official name for ‘fear of elevators’.

Samantha Henthorn © 2016

Part of my collection of short stories ‘QUIRKY TALES TO MAKE YOUR DAY’ soon to be self published on the self publishing machine, watch this space.

The Progress of Piccalilli (my self publishing journey)

imag0385I originally wrote the story ‘Piccalilli’ for my mum. The story is very (very) loosely based on her family (my nana and two great uncles) with my mum’s consent I have self published on Amazon, ‘Piccalilli’ is available for 99p.

I have now added a subtitle ‘Piccalilli: A remembrance day short story’

Set during World War One, the story is about Lillian, an eight year old girl who is missing her older brother, Joe (a soldier) When her parents receive a telegram informing them of the worst, Lillian discovers that Joe’s spirit appears in a series of comforting events.

At only sixty pages long, it is aimed at children aged 8-10 but adults can (hopefully) enjoy it too.

This is the first time I have self published. There is a lot to learn and the exercise has been time consuming. On reviewing the finished piece, I immediately wanted to change bits and pieces within the manuscript. I changed the cover, but the new picture has not yet appeared on Amazon. When you download your file, they use software to edit it, some things appear changed, but inevitable grammar mistakes appeared like gremlins sending me to the naughty corner. Now amended (lots) Every change takes 72hours to appear, and within that time the author is unable to ‘double check’… (and within this week I’ve had hospital appointments and an assignment to submit for my degree)

It’s a simple story, but I really felt the need to write it. I had an idea, that because it was written in my uncles’ memory, I could donate any proceeds to the British Legion. I am still learning, and I have found out that I would have to reach the £100 threshold (about 600 books) to be able to receive any profits from Amazon. This is a rather grandiose ambition for a little children’s book written by a novice! So for this year, it is too much of a longshot as Remembrance Day is in five days/ Remembrance Sunday in a week… Instead, I have sent a personal donation to the British Legion in my great uncles’ names. Hopefully, this time next year I will have learnt more and written more….

Well worth looking at

Mslexia https://mslexia.co.uk/ .

This popular, quarterly magazine for women writers currently has fourteen submission opportunities. I have had fun entering two of its competitions and received general feedback which has been very useful. Even though it is not individual feedback it goes into great detail and has given me inspiration for the next time. As I am the type of person that only learns by ‘doing’ I will keep entering competitions (aiming to have) original, believable characters living in stories that stand out.

A story with no reader.

Today I have written a short story inspired by how much I hate being patronised. I mean, who likes it right? Everyone knows what I mean, those moments in life when people underestimate your intelligence, speak to you like you’re stupid… just because. Well I would like to think the story I have written today is a bit of a corker. Not sure who I could pitch it to though… Maybe I will keep it to myself, then next time someone says something condescending to me, instead of having an imagined conversation with myself the following day about what I should have said, I can just smile a little smile to myself and say ‘welcome to my next short story’

Why say one word, when a thousand will do?

Entering writing competitions. It is as though I am unable to stop myself. I am not a competitive person, it is purely participation. I read the guidelines, an idea pops into my head about what I could write, and before I know it, I’m paying the entry fee. Someone has to enter, so why shouldn’t it be me? As far as I can tell, there is no official way of knowing how many people enter each individual competition. Entrants do not know how many, or exactly who they are putting themselves up against. Each writer thinking ‘someone has to win, so why shouldn’t it be me?’

Now I have found a competition that removes pointless checking and rechecking of the email inbox on results day .. because if you ask for feedback, this competition will always get back to you.

The 1000 word challenge is a quarterly themed writing competition (they have a great website including all the information)

http://1000wordchallenge.com/

For a small fee, they will email you their valuable feedback on your entry. For me, this is priceless. Especially as last time I entered, the feedback I received informed me my story had been longlisted. This is the furthest I have got in a short story competition. I would not have known this, had I not asked for feedback. So now, results day does not matter, because I know that someone at the other end has read what I have written, and has something constructive to say about it.

News from June

imag0118This is a photograph of a book of poetry, containing one of my poems. In January this year, I entered a local poetry competition with United Press. They had sent flyers to libraries, advertising free entry to their competition. So I entered it, a few months later I received a letter to say that my poem had been shortlisted. In June this year, I had to buy my own copy of the book, which, as they do not charge an entry fee I thought was fair.

Self Publishing

Piccalilli by [Henthorn,   Samantha]

Kindle App Ad

Piccalilli Kindle Edition.

Two days ago I self published my short children’s novel Piccalilli for 8-10 year olds about Lillian, a girl who is missing her brother Joe, a soldier in World War One.

I originally started writing this story for my mum and my nana (the original Piccalilli) but as I got to the end of the first five hundred words,  I realised the story is for children.

Update 4/11… today I have added a new cover. When Amazon have finished altering this for me, I am going to press the ‘advertise’ button and see what happens. With remembrance day coming up, and because the story was inspired by my great uncles who died in the first world war, I had an idea to try and sell enough copies to get me through the £100 threshold (Amazon don’t pay writers until their book has sold a certain amount) and then donate this to the British Legion. Unfortunately, I think I have left it a bit late this year, as there is only one week to go. Because it’s such a long shot, I sent a personal donation instead to the British Legion.