Tag Archives: autobiography

Kissing Games For Girls (A Companion Piece To ‘Good Kisser’)

Yesterday, in the deepest, darkest recesses of my word-processor, I excavated an unpublished article that I composed more than a decade ago.

‘Good Kisser’ (https://beanloveblog.wordpress.com/good-kisser-written-in-springsummer-2004/), a personal account which explores the discomfort I often experienced with regards to sexuality during my teens and early-to-mid-twenties, was not only a testament to how much my writing has improved over the years, but also a window into the ways that it has lost some of its boldness. Because despite the clanging cliches and baggy sentences, and the initial mortification I felt when I reread my proclamation to the world about how I was a ‘bad lesbian’, who often snogged men in straight bars out of boredom, I was secretly pleased with its unyielding honesty – and truth be told – a wee bit jealous of the devil-may-care attitude brandished by my twenty-five-year-old self.

At the time I wrote the piece, I had been single for about half a year, following a final dramatic break-up with my first serious girlfriend; I’d also recently thrown myself head-first into the lesbian dating pool once again and was revelling in the attention. Now, I won’t bore anyone with the specifics of my love life except to say that there were a lot of dates with a lot of different girls; there were also a helluva lot more knock-backs, but that did not dissuade me from putting myself out there time and time again. Back then, I was high on optimism, and it also helped that I was not too bad looking.

These days, I can’t imagine myself seeking romance in a gay bar. I can’t imagine walking up to a strange woman and asking for her phone number or offering to buy her a drink. But I did those things frequently, and without hesitation. My friend, Tracy, who often played the part of wingman, was thoroughly amused at the way I used to ‘work’ the room: staking out the attractive single ladies and then insinuating myself into their conversations, and often their affections; although she admitted to me later that the novelty very quickly wore off as, more often than not, the girls who were most interested in me turned out to be the ones we needed to steer well clear of.

A lot of the scenarios which occurred during that period were later embellished upon as I poured them into my fiction: I wrote mostly about bar-culture and queer-culture at this time; and my butch narrator, Vicky Romeo, gained a greater sense of humility as one by one her previous conquests came back to haunt her during one of the many rewrites of my novel, ‘Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz’ (https://beanloveblog.wordpress.com/an-extract-from-my-novel-vicky-romeo-plus-joolz/), as well as a back story where she endured a lonely adolescence as the girl who had never been kissed.

Nothing was wasted. Nothing is ever wasted. Those hours I spent wining and dining Ms Wrong were valuable experiences, as were the lonely teenage years I whittled away by trying to make myself appear attractive to boys I didn’t really have the heart for.

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Hope

For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be a writer. And my end goal has always been to get my work in front of the eyes of as many readers as possible. I had my first poem printed in a magazine when I was fifteen, and since then I’ve submitted many many other pieces (mostly prose) to publishers, and have had several mini successes with small press publications and local competitions as well as a book deal for my autobiography. I’ve also spent years going to writing workshops, seminars, courses, you name it, all in the name of honing my craft.

So it has been challenging, not to mention frustrating, recently, when an increasing number of people have been suggesting that I should self-publish my novel, because that’s something that was never part of my plan.

Now, I have no qualms with other people self-publishing their own work – in fact, I can understand why it might be a good idea for them: modern technology has made it possible for anyone to have-a-go at putting their writing on kindle; they can even jaunt off to a printers and arrange hard copies on a shoe string budget; there’s also the option of print-on-demand; and through all of this they have complete control of their manuscript: no editor or higher literary powers-that-be calling on them to make compromises with their baby. But there is no getting away from the fact that, rightly or wrongly, there’s a stigma attached to self-publishing; and often (but not always) authors who choose this route are not taken seriously. So whilst I completely respect other peoples’ decision to do whatever they think is best for their manuscript, I have to say (after many hours of careful consideration) it is one hundred percent not right for me. Not at the present time anyway.

And because I’ve already had the pleasure of seeing my name on the spine of a paperback, peering out at me from the shelves in brand bookstores, I know that I’d never be satisfied with my novel simply existing as an e-book. But neither do I have the money to spend on printing, marketing or book cover design costs. And I still haven’t even figured out how to get my blog on the radar of popular search engines so apart from telling my family, friends and everyone I know on facebook I’d be next-to-hopeless at the online self-promotional side of things.

I suppose I could use the money I’ve been saving up for a new laptop to pay someone else to do all these things for me. But then I’d have nothing to type on when the current (six-and-a-half-year-old) Macbook goes tits up; and absolutely no guarantee that anyone other than my three best pals would buy my novel anyway (actually they’d probably expect free copies). Besides, just because you’ve self-published something, it doesn’t mean a bookshop will want to stock it. Sadly, they very rarely do in these circumstances.

So maybe my book is ‘niche market’. Maybe it’s ‘too gay’. Maybe it will never attract ‘gaystream’ audience never mind a mainstream one. It’s possible, but I still refuse to throw the towel in. Plus, it’s one thing to be told by a publisher that your work is ‘difficult to sell’, but it’d be far more heartbreaking for me to throw my novel followed by a lot time and money into an abyss, only to realise another year or two down the line that that no-one really wants to read it.

At the end of the day, I can write other novels. But only if I live in the present, concentrating on the actual writing instead of whittling away the hours trying to shanghai people into buying the old one. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll write something else in the not-too-distant-future that a publisher will like, and they’ll ask to see my backlog and I can pull this one out of the hat! Maybe a publisher will like my other two manuscripts that are also currently doing their rounds. I can but hope.

Blank

Recently, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a second memoir.

I thought I might call it ‘Blank’ because as well as the obvious connotations it has with writer’s block, it also relates to gaps or ‘blanks’ in one’s memory, and to the ‘blank’ expressions I am often accused of wearing.

My first book, ‘Cracked: Recovering After Traumatic Brain Injury’ was launched in December 2002 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, and in it’s two-hundred-and-twenty-four pages it documented the early years following my accident: from the initial struggle to receive a diagnosis, to my incarceration inside an adolescent psychiatric unit, and my eventual descension into bulimia and anorexia, as I failed to cope with school and exams and ordinary teenage nuances on top of memory loss and other cognitive impairments; before, finally, recounting the positive search for a new identity as I learnt to accept my limitations.

I was young when I wrote that book, and if I could go back and pen it all over again I’d definitely do it differently. I’d mention some things that I left out, and leave out a couple that wormed their way in. I’ve been told that it helped a lot of people (both brain injury survivors and their families, as well as doctors), and that pleases me because it was not originally written with publication in mind; because writing for me was simply a cathartic outlet, something I did to make myself feel calmer, and to understand myself and those around me a little better. However, I also noticed that ‘Cracked’ had received a one star review on Amazon last year by someone who said it was ‘a ridiculous waste of money’, and who claimed that it provided no insight for them into the condition at all. Well, whilst I’m inclined to be of the mindset that you simply can’t please everyone, I do concede that, perhaps, the book only described the tip of the iceberg when it comes to explaining what living with traumatic brain injury is like, and that a sequel is in fact long overdue.

I was not out as a lesbian at that time – in fact, I was only in the early stages of realising and understanding my sexuality – so I didn’t have to navigate my way around a countercultural gay world with it’s separate customs and fashions, as well as the usual mainstream one that was already highly confusing. Neither did I have to put up with others’ desexualisation of me or the assumption that my girlfriend was simply a carer.

I was also still living a rather sheltered life at home with parents, free of financial worries and responsibilities; and aside from a weekly paper round, a trial run as a silver service waitress, and an unpaid work placement via the brain injury rehabilitation centre I attended, I was completely ignorant of the world of employment and it’s complexities.

Being a person with a brain injury hugely affects the way I react to the world and in turn the way the world reacts to me: I spend a lot of time nodding and agreeding with people simply because it’s easier (and often less offensive) than saying, ‘I haven’t got a fucking scooby what you are talking about.’

 

It’s also a lot less tiresome than making the effort to tell people that a) I have had a brain injury, b) most people with brain injuries have trouble receiving and processing information (which basically means it takes longer than average for words to sink in) c) because it takes longer for words to sink in I’m still thinking about the first part you said so I’ve totally missed the second, and d) I don’t understand what you’re saying because of a), b) and c). Of course, usually when I have to explain that, I either forget what I’m saying half way through or said person gets bored and cuts me off midspiel by saying something completely dismissive like: ‘oh, that happens to me all the time’.

And believe me, having someone who has never had a brain injury tell you that they / their mother/ father / dog / most people they know have trouble understanding what folk are saying, is a bit like being vegan for seventeen years then having some clown who recently gave up red meat and dairy (‘except cheese’) tell you they are ‘basically vegan’ too.