This week I received the final proofs of Silk for the Feed Dogs. I was unprepared for how much it resembled a book. Don’t forget I am new to all this. Divided into double page format, with my name on one side, and the name of the novel on the other, page numbers in the bottom corners, it looks crisp, inviting, seductive even. But then I would say so. I’m biased. With a small leap of the imagination I could visualize it in shiny hardback, easily a nifty paperback. As a heavy summer shower pelted the windows, I sat in Starbucks reading my novel for the first time. I would have chosen a more atmospheric setting if the rain hadn’t caught me unawares. I felt lucky.
The next day Seamus Heaney died.
It hit the writing world hard. It hit all Irish people collectively because we were so proud of this home-grown Nobel Laureate. To become famous for writing poetry in the times in which we live deserves anyone’s respect. It hit people from the north of Ireland especially hard because he spoke about issues of our small illogical, often unpoetic, province logically and poetically. It hit me, you might think, because he was a Derryman, born just down the road from where I was born. Not so.
It hit me hard because my interest in writing was born at the age of fifteen when my English Literature teacher, Mrs Mc Garvey, introduced me to his volume Death of a Naturalist. At that age, desperate to get away from home and see the world, I scowled at anything local. I wanted nothing to do with what went on on my back door step. I couldn’t care less about the hayfields and potato drills; they hemmed me in. But his poetry made me see things differently, gave me a new sense of place. It was an illumination. Sod, turf, land, he made these mundane sights electrifying. You can’t get more Irish than land.
But more than anything, he made me love words. Not story, not plot, not drama nor character nor any of those other fiction must-haves which I have to work harder at. Just words. He opened me up to the joy that can be found playing around with them. Laying one next to the other like planting seeds and hoping something will grow. How natural and simple that joy is.
Yes, on the eve of publishing my first novel, the death of this naturalist has hit me hard.
You can buy Silk for the Feed Dogs here.