Grief, loss, death, mother.
Grief, loss, death, mother.
I haven’t been sure whether to write about this. It’s intensely personal, embarrassing, exhausting and is contstantly stigmatised. But I was explaining the situation for the first time to a friend and thought perhaps I should blog it.
To try and arrest the stigma, maybe. Anyway, here it is.
My family and I are living below the poverty line.
We receive £198.00 per week (thank you, tax payers) for our family of 4 out of which everything has to be paid. Food clothes, school meals, electricity, gas, BB, mobile bills, kids clothes. Everything.
The boiler broke in October last year and we can’t, obviously, have it fixed. So this winter has been interesting – we all stayed in bed as much as we could and took extra Vit C but it’s not been the most fun I’ve ever had. The children are majestic in their ability to surf everthing thrown at them.
Love does help enormously in these situations and though we’ve had some bitter, hateful rows practically hissing through our teeth at each other (I had no idea how colourful and creative my profanity could be) I can say I don’t think I’ve ever loved my husaband more.
I hear so much anger at the welfare state and I can only talk about how grateful we are for the help. Without it we would be absolutely up the creek.
How did we get here?
Well, the fall from grace is surprisingly easy as it happens.
We lost a lot of money over some bad choices and bad luck.
My husband had a breakdown and can’t return to his profession because teaching played a huge part in it. He is still too anxious to work.
He isn’t always well enough to look after the children (3 and10) which means I can’t take a full time position so instead I’ve have started an independent press that should pay dividends soon.
And we both have pretty hardcore mental health issues.
That’s how easy it is for a family to end up under the poverty line.
How is the poverty line calculated in the UK?
This calculation is used throughout Europe, and is taken to mean households where the income is 60 per cent or less of the country’s median household income, which in the UK is currently around £25,000. So, if your household is bringing in less than about £15,000 a year, you’re in poverty.
We are receive a little over 10k with the tax player’s generosity.
I had never given it proper thought – it’s been tough, of course, but seriously, living with Bi Polar and all it’s interesting variables has made me grateful for the good days, the stable days, the present days.
I am also grateful for Stirling Publishing and all the help and support I’ve had from writing community. This is year should be amazing with our BAME anthology and Lesley Glaister’s, Aprha’s Child, being published.
I thank God! That I’ve enough ambition to have the energy to pull this off although there are days when I can’t raise my head to do more than a few lines of editing.
My publisher, Unbound, and my amazing editor, Scott Pack, are very understanding but I am continually frustrated with my own lack of consistency.
This post isn’t about pity or sympathy or ‘poor us’.
I’d like to think it’s more about finding yourself in a situation one day that has no resemblance to how you had envisaged your life.
It’s about saying ‘Sod it’, I’ve been lucky enough to have been given gifts – lets use them. Banishing those ‘I’m a middle-aged woman will anyone take me seriously’ thoughts and keep on creating opportunities until you pass out at night with your toddler snoring in your ear.
Most of all it’s about support. All the people that I’m involved with on social media, in real life, in publishing, in writing who have never seemed to doubt I could do these things.
I thank you for that.
We are underneath the poverty line but poverty is not defining us.
Delighted to announce that my zombie novella, Light Crisis, is now being serialised on Radish.com. A new chapter every week. Why not go and see what all the fuss is about and if you like what you read – subscribe!!
Unbound’s inaugural Pitch Party was hosted by Waterstone’s Gower Street deep in the heart of Bloomsbury. My first love attended UCL and I wrote my first novella from a fashionable squat near Great Portland Street tube but it was a very different atmosphere to soak up this time.
London has been cleaned up in the most glorious of ways. And I mean literally cleaned. Everything looks brighter, less shabby and remarkable. Unsurprisingly, the old squat on Albany Street, visited quite regularly by a middle-aged Eddie Ten Pole Tudor in his tweeds, had morphed into a gorgeous townhouse but the Police station that we used to play ‘squat and pig’ with almost every day still remains.
The Met in those days had a fearsome reputation and ‘human rights’ were only just beginning to become a ‘thing’ so messing with the cops in any way could result in quite severe consequences.
Being idiots, we never stopped trying.
I arrived in London about 2.30 pm and was immediately scooped up by some ex-Navy old-timers (I did know them!) who plied me with ‘courage français’ ( Remy doubles).
This ploy worked because as I poured myself along the streets of Bloomsbury, staggering gently, probably mumbling to myself about whether I should have prepared something or not and laughing to myself as I remembered places & people I felt pretty good. I must have looked utterly barking but as this is nothing unusual I went with the flow.
Thankfully, the place filled up quite fast and there were some other Unbounders who had come to support us like the totally gorgeous Lev Parikian and the man with the best hair & a fabulous Agatha Christie mystery set in space, Damon L Wakes. I also saw a couple of old writer friends that I’d never met in the flesh including the magnificent Tina Rath, a member of the Dracula society and talented gothic storyteller.
There were eight of us lined up to pitch. I was away with the faeries by then so I wouldn’t have cared where I was in the running order (penultimate as it happened) and just before William Horwood. Yes! The one who wrote one of my favourite books ever ‘Duncton Wood’.
But I feel I must mention the other pitching authors by name because they were brave and so talented. Please have a look at their pages, there is so much brilliance to pledge for.
Emily Hill David Quantick Henrietta Heald Emma Jones and Ian Ridley
As always, my wonderful supporters, my gratitude to you and don’t think for one minute I’m not working away editing to get ‘our’ book into the hands of readers as soon as possible.
And remember that you can pledge twice, thrice of multiple times for Blood On The Banana Leaf. There seems to be quite a buzz about it now which is pretty exciting.
Love, Tabby x
Source: Out now: Paws and Claws
The brand new Cake & Quill Anthology out. Some of the writers are new and some are regulars but all share a talent. ALL proceeds go to an animal charity – the contributors elect to receive zilch! My story about Hitler and Binky is in there and you will have to buy it to find out who Binky is.
Great anthology from big-hearted writers. Buy Buy Buy!!
Love Tabby x
Miscarriage is a terrible loss. I had one. This what came out after half a bottle of whiskey and hours of those painful hacking sobs. My heart and love to everybody who has experienced this in any way. x
I lost a baby four years ago. At 8.5 weeks after seeing her heart beat. I haven’t been able to talk about it, but I can write about it. My throat cracks and splinters when I begin to form a thought or word or phrase. I took such great care when pregnant that I think I overheated.
My husband grieves with friends and booze and long, arduous bike rides.
I grieve like a stone. Relentless, petrifying and depersonalized.
But it is so personal, you know, this loss. Must have been something I did or didn’t do. I wasn’t able to hold my child in my womb for long enough. She gave up half way to heaven and didn’t look back.
Her name is written in the night. Her face is imagined by her mother.
Her fingers not to be held. Skin as soft as honey oil never to be reckoned with or kissed by an inappropriate lad.
Grief is heavy. Not tweed-heavy but shackle heavy. The stench of summer makes me retch.
I am lost amongst the dusty rebels.
Lacklustre and heartsick.
Both. It is certainly a compulsion as it would be a bonkers career to embark on without that inner impulse. But it’s also a job. Writing a novel means sitting down and putting in the hours …
2. Do you enjoy the writing process? Do you have any rituals?
Sometimes I love it; sometimes I loathe it. There is nothing like the satisfaction when it is going right and nothing like the frustration when it isn’t. I prefer to be alone when I’m writing. I like quiet and space and privacy to pace about and speak it out loud, or laugh or groan. If there’s no one else in the house I feel as if my face drops off and I’m not quite a person, in the social sense, any more. If there’s anyone else there I feel constrained. If I’m writing a particularly difficult bit, or just needing to work but feeling delicate, I nurse myself, get into bed with a hot drink, hot water bottle and write from there. Bed is a good place to write from – sometimes the dreams are still hanging around.
Woolly answer I’m afraid, but it’s hard to say. There are writers I love: Elizabeth Taylor, Jean Rhys, Barbara Pym, Dickens, Ford Madox Ford, John Updike, I could go on and on! But I think really that everything I’ve ever read has probably had some influence, good or bad, and this is the same for any writer.
It was Colonsay actually, and there was Val McDermid, but not Denise Mina. Christopher Brookmyre was there too. it was enormous fun to hang out with them. But I have to admit that I’m not much of a reader of crime. An interesting question though is why so much dark, crime fiction is emerging from Scotland. Perhaps something of the legacy of James Hogg, and Robert Louis Stevenson?
I am married to a Scot! But ever since I was a child I’ve had links with Scotland – I actually started school in Glasgow as we lived there for a few years when I was a child. And every summer we’d drive to Skye or some other beautiful part of Scotland for our holiday. I have been spending summers in Orkney for the past seventeen or so years and working in Scotland for 7 years now, so it feels quite natural to me to be here. I live in Edinburgh, a city I love. I have a son and two little granddaughters who live near Fort William and another son in Glasgow. It’s a great country. It does make me feel ‘English’ in a way I didn’t feel particularly when living In England – and that is interesting.
I enjoy the students. It’s privilege to get to know such bright, creative people and I enjoy watching their work develop – when it does! Some of them are quite humblingly brilliant. I also like the contact and the feeling of dipping my toe into the outside world. I have had patches when I have done nothing but write and I think there’s a danger of staleness, and a sort of agoraphobia setting in. After weeks of talking to no one but family and living a largely imagined life, it can be quite hard, almost frightening to face the world; so a place to go with an office and a pigeon hole with my name on it, colleagues, students and all the rest of it help me to feel properly human. On the other hand, I do rather wish I taught something other than creative writing. But I don’t know anything else! Being so focused on explicable aspects of the craft of writing in the work of others makes it more difficult to lose myself in my own story worlds without self-consciousness. For this reason, I rarely write first drafts while teaching. I only teach for one semester a year, so I have plenty of writing time too. An ideal balance. For the above reason, I’d advise any would-be writer to learn another trade, or skill, or find another profession, so that they can bring something other than writing back to their writing. Plan on finding a way to pay yourself to write, in case no one else does!
On the best days, focus is no problem. I put in earplugs if my husband’s in the house and playing banjo. Otherwise just plain old-fashioned will-power.
I don’t show Andrew my work until it is as polished as I can make it on my own. Then he is my first reader. I can’t bear to let anyone read anything when I know there are problems with it – a bit hypocritical perhaps for a teacher of creative writing! Andrew shows me his work as he goes along. He needs encouragement to carry on; I need privacy. Both of these, of course, stem from insecurity. Show me a secure writer and I’ll eat my desk.
It’s unbearable. Full stop.
I want to forget about the craft and just become submerged in the story. I can’t do this if the prose is weak or if it is too self-consciously showy. I want characters I care about, and stories that make me need to know what happens next. I want to believe in a story world, whether familiar or alien and I want emotional satisfaction at the end. If I’ve laughed and or cried in the process, then that is perfect.
I like the democracy of everyone having a chance. Until recently the big publishers and book-sellers had too much influence on what the reading public were directed towards, concentrating largely on best-sellers and no-brainers, piling them high, discounting them savagely, and largely ignoring writers who weren’t slap bang in fashion or likely to make shed-loads of money. I trust readers to distinguish the good from the bad, and really like the way social media, as a form of word-of-mouth, is becoming important in terms of book publicity. It feels much more genuine somehow than leaving it all to established book reviewers who perceive everything from within the canon of the literary world – and often have an agenda of their own.
Well, I’ve been marketed and it wasn’t all that successful – and publishers tend to take the credit if it works, blame the book if it doesn’t. I don’t know. I am not a publicity hound by any means and would gladly hire a body double to do it for me! On the other hand it’s nice to have some sort of contact with readers, and if this helps with marketing, then that can’t be a bad thing. It’s embarrassing though and having been brought up with the phrases like, ‘Who do you think you are?’ and, ‘Don’t blow your own trumpet,’ and the like, it’s hard to do it without cringing.
Quick Fire Silliness
Favourite place to write
Music when you write?
Absolutely not. Andrew comes in and plays the banjo when he makes his morning coffee, which drives me mad.
Guilty pleasure genre?
Do you think getting noticed as a writer is more difficult now?
It’s always been hard, there are more chances now that big publishers don’t have a monopoly. It’s heartening how often small independent publishers (who in the main care much more about the work itself than just how much profit it might make) are getting work on prize shortlists etc.
Dog or Cat?
I admire cats but have a dog. And walking the dog is part of my creative routine.
Pirate or Spacewoman
Chocolate or Pistachio
Pistachio. With chocolate sauce.
Jane Eyre or Mrs Rochester
I think the latter would be more realistic!
I can’t thank Lesley enough for taking time out of her busy routine to answer my questions. Lesley is an award-winning and critically acclaimed author so I was particularly thrilled that she reviewed my novel which, is crowd-funding on Unbound. Lesley’s wonderful review is posted below and please click the Unbound link above to pledge for my book, Blood On The Banana Leaf, and be part of my literary journey. Thank you!
‘Tabatha Stirling’s brilliantly achieved first novel, Blood on the Banana Leaf, explores the relationships between maids and their employers in Singapore, exposing deeply unsettling truths about what goes on behind the glossy surface of that society. Told in the superbly nuanced voices of four very different female characters, it’s a great read; tense, vivid and involving, both heart-breaking and heart-warming. Tabatha is a talented, brave and accomplished writer and I do hope her novel gains the recognition and success it deserves.’
Lesley Glaister is the critically acclaimed author of thirteen novels and the winner of the Jerwood Prize for Fiction 2014 for her novel, Little Egypt.
Discontent and the tragedy of poverty
starve our bloody English history of
truth as the political tanks, soldier boys and
girls march past peace and hope. A simple
twist of fate and green bullets have masked a ceasefire and
nothing is left but blood and havoc to wreck a longing for
tolerance. See the defiance deep in Phoenix Park, religion
and farce unite while idle, drunk children spray paint
‘Fuck The Brits’ on pocked brick walls and
dear, old Louis sleeps twenty feet under.
‘Father Ted is a lovely old bloke but all priests are paedos’ and
confusion soaks ignorance and keeps rolling on.
Our Irish tradition is rich in Yeats, drenched in Bushmills.
The Maze, a legacy of famine, meaning
spuds sands dirty protest and a clean, fresh start.
An opportunity for murder at Enniskillen brought retribution
and a commitment to the legitimate suffering of ár fir.
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