Baboon Dragon: A Poem

Baboon Dragon

Little Baba closed his eyes

And said good night to Dad and Mum.

When in his dream he saw a dragon

With orange scales and a big red bum.

Despite the dragon being so tall,

Despite him being so terribly smelly,

His big red bum made Baba laugh,

The giggles burst out from his belly.

The dragon lowered his angry head

And fire came blowing from his nose,

“How can you be so rude and cruel?

I cannot help how my bum grows.

I simply cannot understand

Why people never find me scary

Instead they always point and laugh

Each and every time they see me.”

Baba watched the dragon’s face,

His sad black eyes full up of tears.

He decided then and there

To take away the dragon’s fears.

“We’ll find you some green underpants

With one big spiky orange scale,

They’ll cover up your big red bum,

They’ll even match your swishing tail.”
They found a seamstress in the town,

Sleeping soundly in her bed.

“Wake up,” cried Baba, “We need your help,

Go and fetch your needle and thread.”

For one whole night and one whole day,

the seamstress worked on steady

When evening came she finally stopped

At last the underpants were ready.

Into his pants the dragon climbed,

“They fit me perfectly!” he cried,

“I look so frightening and so fierce,

Perhaps I’ll even find a bride!”

While walking back to the dragon’s cave

They met the world’s bravest man.

“Aghh!” he cried, “A scary dragon!”

He turned on his heel and away he ran.

The dragon shouted out with glee,

“Now I’m as scary as all the others!

No one will laugh at me anymore

Especially not my fiery brothers!”

A maiden dragon watched the pair

Admiring high above a hill

The handsome dragon, so big and scary

And a little baby she could kill.

She pounced down onto little Baba

“No!” cried dragon, “He’s my friend.

He saved me from a life of sadness

He put my misery to an end.”

“But what shall I eat?” the maiden asked,

“If I can’t eat babes for dinner?”

“We’ll eat soup and bread, and apple pie.

Even if it makes us thinner.”

They looked into each others eyes,

They fell in love and vowed to wed.

So little Baba said goodbye

And woke up in his cosy bed.

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Writing my First Novel: The Editing Process

While editing my first novel I realised that there were many tips I wish I’d known before I’d started writing in the first place. Hopefully I won’t make the same mistakes in my next first draft. And in case it would help anyone else I’m writing down some of these tips:

1) Think carefully every time you write ‘In fact’ , “Um” or ‘Suddenly’  and ask yourself do you really need to write them?

2) I noticed I was regularly switching from active writing to passive writing. Passive writing did not work for me. If I had noticed myself doing this in the first draft I would have saved myself a lot of work later. As it happens I wasn’t even aware of the difference between these before I started editing.

3) Editing and re-writing are dull and boring but also essential and liberating. Liberating because knowing I would edit at a later date meant I could allow myself write really badly just to keep the ball rolling and the words flowing. I chopped about 15% of my original novel on editing and rewrote whole scenes. I even chopped a whole character out of the book. Yes, grueling work, but worth it if it meant I never succumbed to writers block.

4) I fully believed I was going to hit the notorious 40,000 word block. And the minute I hit 40,000 words I decided, right so, now I must be at my block. Actually, I wasn’t. I gave myself a good talking to and just got on with it.

5) For awhile my story lagged as I tried to fill in the gaps of some uneventful weeks in the plot. On editing, I realised these gave nothing to the story and only served to bore the reader. Therefore I skipped ahead leaving some weeks unexplained because nothing was going to happen in them anyway. At the time I thought it would be detrimental to the story and I decided I would come back to them later. But when I revisited I saw that there was no harm done whatsoever.

6) It is not easy to chop characters you love, or delete concepts or scenes that you are proud of. There were some scenes that although they made me laugh out loud, I later saw that they played no part in the story as a whole. Therefore, they served only to take away from the flow of the story. Copy them and turn them into an idea for a short story at a later date if they are that good. But don’t keep them in the novel if they take away from it, or even if they just add nothing.

7) On editing I spotted things I had never considered in the first draft: Timeline errors, a lack of location references, concepts being introduced too late, characters with similar names that makes reading confusing….. Taking a note of when ideas are introduced, a list of any names used, when things happen etc. can help enormously. Unfortunately I didn’t realise this until my third draft when the discrepancies were blatant. The same goes for deleting: Make a note of anything that needs to be re-inserted elsewhere when you delete a scene. Otherwise you may have a memory of writing something that is needed for the story, but you may not remember deleting it.

8) Write and then wait. For 6 weeks I didn’t even look at my completed first draft. In those 6 weeks I wrote a second novel, a shorter 12,000 word children’s novel. So by the time I came back to edit the first novel it was out of my system (almost) and I could see all the mistakes and plot holes clearly.

9) After rewriting and then rewriting a few more times, I found the words blurred on the screen and I could no longer see the mistakes. I printed a paper copy and waited a week, giving myself a much needed break. Reading the paper version I noticed a lot more errors. I felt like I was back at the beginning of the editing process. Mind-numbing but worth it.

10) Just before you think you’re finished, read it out loud. Obvious, and commonly recommended, but what a difference that made. Not necessarily for plot, but for spelling, grammar, sentence structure, spotting repeated words, weak description and unrealistic dialogue.

The whole thing take ages so be patient. Luckily I write for pleasure and have no intention of giving up the day job so I took my time. Every now and then the editing process became overwhelming so I took a break from editing and wrote a short story for a day or two. Editing does not feel like creative work, so taking a small break to write something new helped my mind feel creative again. Writing the first draft took approx 3+1/2 months. Then a 6 week break. Then the editing process including at least 6 drafts took me a further 2+1/2 months. I was in shock to be honest. Now I know that writing the first draft is the easy part. The editing is the real challenge.

Evening Jog: An Adult Short Story

After the last good night kiss has been delivered, I stand in the hall and inhale. It feels like my first uninterrupted breath since I woke up this morning. My mind is a swirl of thoughts and to do lists.

The sofa looks like a luxurious cloud of comfort to my tired eyes. But the doctor ordered me to run. Said I needed to clear my head.

I lace up my mucky grey runners. Once they were white. My children would never wear anything this dirty. I wonder why I hold different standards for them.

Outside the air is colder than I expected. Darker too. The last time I left the house at this time was in the peak of summer, when the night sky held no distinction from the day.

I am about to stretch my muscles out when I remember hearing that you’re more likely to injure yourself if you stretch first. I’m not sure if I believe it. But life is too busy to risk it.

I propel myself forwards, swinging my arms to give myself some momentum. As soon as I am jogging I am glad that I have come. The sharp wind smacks my face, awakening every skin cell that had already fallen asleep.

I feel a pool of thick saliva collecting at the back of my throat. The street-lights hover above me, forbidding me to spit it out of my mouth. Nobody enjoys seeing that.

The foot path keeps breaking for roads, forcing me to slow or stop; the whole neighbourhood designed for cars before people.

I pass others out walking and don’t look to see if I know them. I don’t make eye contact, I just run.

I feel a stone in my shoe. I tilt my foot slightly to avoid it hurting but after a few steps the twisted position hurts more than the stone. I stop, annoyed at losing my rhythm. It’s not a stone but a triangular piece of green glass. I didn’t spot it when I was running, too busy trying to clear my mind to notice the pavement. There is always broken glass around here, though I have never seen anyone breaking it. I pull it out of my shoe and throw it into someone’s front garden hedge. I tell myself the ugly privet deserved it.

I work myself back up to the same speed, this time my lungs struggle to breath as fast as my muscles demand the oxygen. I have lost my focus and my ability to control my breathing.

I see a young boy ahead. Small, shaved head, freckles. That look in his eyes. The one he must have inherited from whoever he lives with. He is no stranger to me.

“You going for a run?” he shouts at me and his voice reminds me how young he is. About six or seven years old.

“Yes,” I say and run past him. Stopping to talk to him only makes him worse. Ignoring him will make him follow me.

“It won’t make any difference,” he shouts after me, “No matter how much you run you’ll still be ugly! Stupid Bitch!”

I usually have my shield at the ready for this boy, but tonight I was still thinking about the glass in my shoe. I could still feel where it had pierced my skin, wondering what diseases I could have picked up. And so I let his words get in. They hit me like stones, pelting my strong demeanour. I chastise myself for letting a kid get to me, but the unsettling doom has crept under my skin. It’s not what he said. It’s never about that. It’s the fact that he feels he has to say it.

I have never been able to figure out where this boy lives. Who is parents are. He cycles his brand new bike around the estate, around and around. Every time I am reversing out my driveway he is there, daring me to hit him, standing in my blind spot. When I need to bring in my bin he is sitting on top of it, waiting for me to challenge him. For awhile I thought it was just me he taunted. But another neighbour complained too.

I try and wipe his face away, try and push his image to the side. But his clean orange Nike runners and crisp jeans keep finding their way back. Looking at him, you’d think he was well cared for. Until he opens his mouth and his words are full of maggots. Neglect is not always easy to see at first.

I try not to feel anger at the boy as I round a corner and see my house ahead. A beacon of light, of home and husband in this neighbourhood of broken glass and souls.

My muscles are screaming to stop. My lungs feel each dagger of breath as a personal insult.

I stop running abruptly as the realisation of defeat sweeps me. I keep walking, my lungs hauling the air in faster than I would like.

Satisfaction trickles through me that I chose the run instead of the sofa. The feeling of guilt I carry around with me lifts a little. The guilt was there before I had children, but by God did it get worse after they were born. Guilt at nothing, when I really think about it. But then, how many of our daily thoughts are rational?

Each decision of the day seems lighter now. Each decision that carried with it the fear that perhaps I should have gone with the other option. Mindless questions, too many options, this evil that is an over abundance of choice. Never more weighty than when directed at parents. If one is the right answer then the other is the wrong answer. How do you know which is which?

I listen to the traffic on the road outside the estate. I see tufts of grey smoke escaping from chimneys and joining the navy clouds, blocking the tiny stars.

I reach my house and I walk around to the back door. My breathing has relaxed by now. I lean my back against the wall and close my eyes in my dark garden. I picture myself lying on a soft blanket with my feet nearly touching a river. I imagine I hear the water, feel the sunshine, smell the flowers, see the clouds, taste the fresh air. My muscles droop and my soul lifts. I open my eyes and turn the door handle. Whatever my faults, whatever I regret, I have never neglected my children. No matter how many times I have lost my temper today, they have never feared losing my love nor losing me. I have succeeded.