There came a moment of inattention,

I think I was trying to make sense of my own design,

when it began to unravel.

I dropped stitches,

felt the yarn untwist then knot between my fingers.


There came that moment of inattention,

when my own fashioning began to seem unwieldy,

and I purled instead of plained

and our glorious pattern looked

awkward, unworked, unbeautiful.


There came this moment

when I saw what I had done

and cried.


Then there came another moment

when together we scooped up the sorry mess

and wove

a variation on what we had before

but more brilliant.


I have re-read the first draft of my novel and have begun to fall out of love with it. I know this is part of my process as a writer and also has to do with where I am emotionally. If there are tough days to do with being a writer, then this is what makes them tough for me.

It's at times like these that I remember this from Elif Shafak (quoted in the English PEN magazine):
When we are faced with censorship, intimidation, persecution, ignorance and sheer fanaticism, there can be parts of us that feel despondent or fearful or doubtful. And that's OK. We are not heroes and we shouldn't try to be. Yet at the same time, we should remember that our writing is stronger than us. Our writing is wiser than us. Basically it is more than us personally. So the writer can be afraid or depressed, but the writing should not waver because words matter. Stories matter.

Of course, Shafak is talking about situations far more grim than mine, where writers ARE heroic, far more heroic and wise than I could ever be. Still I find it a beautiful and encouraging quotation, I hope others will too.
How the mighty have fallen. For years, I have had a vague sense of who Radclyffe Hall was, the woman who wrote The Well of Loneliness, the seminal treatise on the rights of gay women. The book was banned for being obscene and RH was vilified for writing it. However, I have just read Diana Souhami's The Trials of Radclyffe Hall and it has left a rather sour taste in the mouth.

According to Souhami, Radclyffe Hall supported Fascism and Mussolini, was intolerant and unkind and her pleas were for a 'certain class' of lesbian (or 'invert' as she called herself). They were god's creatures and, therefore, to be treated with forbearance and consideration. Others, it seemed, could go hang.

The trial did underscore the deep misogyny and prejudice of the government and judiciary of the time. Indeed, though we quite rightly still rail against the 'isms' of today's society, we need only go back a century to see how far we have come. And as for violence, is anyone else shocked by the White Queen being serialised on the BBC? Assuming that at our core humanity has not changed in 600 years, there is a lot of brutality which is now lying dormant.

It is hard, however, to see Radclyffe Hall, a feminist icon, in such a different light. What she did with The Well of Loneliness was ground-breaking and paved the way for what was to come. And yet, as an individual, she was so imperfect. It is difficult for me to marry those two aspects. And it is a conundrum presented by a number of other writers.

Going off on another tangent, when (in the late 1930s) RH was diagnosed with cancer, her doctors advised her to cut down on smoking. So they must have known even then about the link?


I have just finished the initial draft of my novel 'The Art of the Imperfect' which I intend to be the first of a series featuring Hannah Poole, a counsellor with her own demons, her neighbour, Aurora Harris and Detective Sergeant Theo Akande. It is a re-write of a re-write from a novel completed many years ago. By fitting it into the murder-mystery genre I hope to make it more publishable while still staying true to the exploration of mental health which is my preoccupation. Others - Kate Atkinson, Ruth Rendell, Minette Walters, Val McDermid - have also 'subverted' this genre to discuss issues close to their heart, so I take my lead from them.

Having a completed draft and a clearer shape for my novel I feel quite giddy!