The Colour of Words

I’ve just finished reading Malorie Blackman’s excellent Noughts & Crosses. It is a book that was on my reading list for a long time, and it was my little sister who finally inspired me to pick it up.

Little sister usen’t be the read-y type, she is more the music-y type (or should that be musical, because she is TALENTED). But little sister is now an English teacher, and she had to vet Noughts & Crosses for her school library. It blew her away, the fact that plasters in Blackman’s world came only in one skin tone, this captured her imagination in the way that every author hopes that their writing can change perception. My 25-year-old sister is now more aware in her day-to-day life of the nuances of power that can be derogatory, not just based on skin-tone, but on religion and ethnicity as well. Being a ‘Paddy’ in London has helped this awareness too, but now she has begun to question how access and attitude to education in the formative years can make or break a societal class…she has seen first-hand in the classroom what wealth and power mean and Malorie’s book has allowed her to contextualise what she has witnessed and how it will shape her students’ futures.

For me the startling point was the voice…beyond the Prologue each chapter is told in first person point of view, alternating so you get to hear each of the characters progress the story…the voice, the narrative tone from inside the character’s own heads had no colour, unless you saw their reflections in the mirror through their own eyes you would not guess at the colour of their skin. And I think that this is Malorie Blackman’s point (but feel free to correct me). That people sound the same on the inside. Malorie flipped the world that we know on its head. To challenge our views by presenting us with our world from an entirely different perspective. And she did this very successfully. Knife Edge and Checkmate are next.

Have you read these books? What did you think? How would you classify these in the Young Adult age bracket (completely trying to define where The Preacher’s Boy sits so feel free to ignore this question 🙂 )


On the twitterati trail…

Okay, so I’m not great with twitter. I understand the concept of it. I know how it works technically, it’s just, well…I’m not the sort of person who can just jump into the middle of a conversation with a:

“hey there, I’m @babyfacedpreach and here are the gazillion reasons that you are going to want to follow me.”

Most of the people I know think its great because it gives them immediate access to people…CEO’s and celebs and the like…personally I’m not that much bothered by CEOs and celebs, when I meet one in real life I don’t have the overwhelming urge to slip into the seat across from them and say ‘hi’, or spend seventy million hours trying to come up with one witty line so that they’ll remember me (not having the advantage of seeing my outstanding good-looks :/ on the twitter machine).

So I’m struggling. With the follows and the followers. With the tentative hello’s and the subtext that I know I am missing. This bothers me, because in real life I pride myself on being able to read a situation, I have this sense for body language and the pitch and tone of voice that gives me insights into the person who I’m dealing with. In the faceless toneless world (well except for the lol’s and :D) I am missing a sense, and I while I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it is crippling me, I do think I am much less comfortable without it.

In my six weeks of getting up and running I am finding a rhythm of sorts…I’m only following people of interest to me. This great ‘epiphany’ has only happened in recent forays on the phone (my primary medium)…if your profile tweaks my interest then I’m yours for the following.  This of course will horrify my marketing masters (the wonderful Kevin and Ciaran of BeCreative‘s diploma in eBook Publishing) because follower = sales, or something…

I am at once naive and innocent of the world of sales, my ‘Preacher’s Boy’ is for YA, 15+, but I’m not going to blanket follow this age bracket and pepper them with commentary that is not true to me, just to keep their interest. It will probably be my downfall, but even with a convenient nome de plume and the protection of the Babyfacedpreacher and @babyfacedpreach I still can’t abandon the core of who I am, my fundamental essence seeps into everything that I am, and I can’t forsake myself to become to people something that I am not.

And of course I am a talker, so now that I have twitter and have selected ‘friends,’ I am not going to machine tweet a sales pitch. And already making this decision has paid off. I have met people, rather than accounts,  I have been able to widen my circle beyond what is available or accessible here, in Ireland.  I can follow the people I admire and watch how they live their online lives. I can seek the emulate the ones that most closely map to my world view.

And off-line I’ve started to have more interesting encounters now too (not that this is in any way related to twitter but there is a shared point I promise). On Friday I went to my first Civil Ceremony Reception. The grooms were radiant, the food was amazing, the drink was flowing, and like every Irish Wedding (I apologise to anyone who takes offence at calling it a wedding, but for me it was – hopefully the legislation will catch up soon) there were old folk jiving, and the speeches, gosh the speeches, they were funny, and poignant and witty and full of love and committment, and heartbreakingly honest. And in my drunken zen in the taxi on the way home I realised that the day had not been the slightest bit weird, only beautiful, and it was because it was people getting married, people who I knew were deeply in love, people who I admire and respect getting married, and there was only happiness from me, because they had found love and they had found each other…I’m not really a drunken crier, and this realisation did not stymie me to tears, but it catches at the throat, because it was something that rings true for me. That it is the honesty in the relationships that is important, not who the relationship is with, and not what you get up to behind closed doors, but once the relationship is fulfilling, and mutually edifying, and that it is a love that builds up not tears down.

So honesty in relationships, honesty in love, honesty in your dealings with others, honesty with yourself. That’s all that I ask of myself of my friendships and that’s all I’ll try to give.

A picture for a story

Just to explain the header picture. My better half took it, on a bridge in Agra a couple of years ago. We had spent the day at the Taj and Baby Taj. Being wowed by the guide at the breadth of architecture this city had to offer.

We thought, with two weeks in India already passed, that we had become immune to the starkness of poverty and the inexplicable guilt at our easy lives, but…

…The Taj is marvellous, a massive, swarming melee of tourists. Bricks that shine in the heat, that seem to glow against the hazy backdrop. The ultimate expression of love and devotion…who would want an engagement ring, a blood-y diamond, when a mausoleum was on offer.

The grandeur, the coiffed gardens, the sparkly fountains, the illusion of peace and tranquility…and then, you pass the queuing crowds,  you slip into your car (chauffeur driven, of course) and back into the world. The world outside the walls. You wonder have you gone back in time 500, or 5000 years? No. There are motorcycles astride the mules, tuk tuks and camels sharing the bridge. There are lives being lived beneath the shadow of the walls.

It is a wonder alright, the Taj, but one of the greatest wonders I have seen (and I’ve clocked up a few at this point), is the contrast of opulence and poverty sharing the simple shade of  bricks. It may be fitting that the worlds biggest tombstone is beside what seems the worlds most likely grave, it may be fitting but it is not fair.

And that’s what I feel those eyes are saying, those intense eyes looking out through me. How can life fall this way? How can the cards be stacked thus? How can fate choose such a hand and deem it equal. And what part in all this do we, ourselves, play?

On the road again…

I’m not afraid of flying,
I’m not afraid of flying,
I’m not afraid of flying.

I love flying, I love planes.
I am excited to be in the airport.
I am very excited to be in the airport.
I am enjoying the airport.

The trappings of travel. The paraphernalia of planes. The roar and swish of aircraft. The queues, the milieu, the unceasing motion.

I love flying.
I am not afraid.
NOT afraid.


Read my travelling companion’s version of events here:

Voicing some fears…

Do you ever notice the voices when you write?

Not schizophrenic ones, may I say, hastily eyeing the room in case the men in white coats are waiting.

It’s the voices that invariably come out when you’ve committed something to the page – every essay a different echo, from a different part of your soul.

It’s strange that there can be so many parts to the same whole.

I suppose it’s different. The voices don’t speak to you, they don’t speak for you. They are just there; they are the sound of how you think. But there is something magical about how we tap into the creativity, how we find that voice, how we let it out.

It seems so close to madness all this talk of voices, but perhaps as writers we are just the first front in the brave frontier exploring mental health. As writers we often isolate ourselves by choice, we spend lots of time in fantasy worlds, creating and weaving dreams into reality, we lose touch with life as the people on our page create emotional responses in us. Perhaps there are others who are the same as us, but just somehow lack the ability to communicate as well. Perhaps some great shock, or some small bump could trap us in our heads, could pitch us into a war between our mouth-voice and our head-voices.

It sounds like a great story, something fictional that could be written, but I will not touch it today…today I am wary of fate…of the unfathomable that threw the dice of life and decreed it not to be my lot…

Thou shall skirt the borders of this creative place but shall not be consumed.

“Why me?” – is such a sorrowful question.

“Why not me?” is as unanswerable as the first.