Finding a voice - creative writing for women (text graphic)

an extract from The Letter


Book cover image for The LetterAt first it wasn’t clear that I wanted to write to you at all, having no face for you, no name, no forwarding address, little story, for what is it that happened – post-letter, just the opening up of a response, just the fear that plagues the imagination, begins a letter that may never be read by the one I call You. We of course had our suspicions of who you might be: those early weeks we talked of little else, but of course it shifts, it meanders, almost spoils what my imagination evokes. Imagination makes you mightier than the man, or men, whom we suspect sent the letter our way. I do not think of you as a woman – I will go on with that later. For now, I give you more than I could in person: in my fiction of you, you expand, rise, soar, you become something neither of us could have foreseen when we set out in each other’s direction. You and I may never recognise ourselves here. Nameless being: Mary Shelley in her outhouse playing with her monster.

In spite of this, you could say, I have always held a fascination for epistolary. I am what you might call a responder. I address, as-sign, give myself the task and duty to allot myself to you. That is of course the way letters work, a kind of excessive talking to oneself that all letters contain – the anonymous threat is maybe an exception, has to find new forms, leaps in the dark, hallucinations, paranoia, in this case is it absurd to imagine there is anybody there? Yes, on the whole we receive a letter and that old knee-jerk is to reply. We read the letter we are already composing a yes, yes, yes, as clear as Molly Bloom. This yes, over time, becoming all the words that accumulate in your direction. Home, your letter arrives and pulls open all we take for granted in the security we feel when we close the door. Home, the safety we feel in bricks and concrete, in doors and double-glazed windows closed, or come to that, cast open to the air. The privacy we imagine for ourselves, our ability to leave home each day without concern, without asking who is behind us, following, watching, waiting to jump out.

Home, come and go, pen in hand.

Home as a place of rest, waiting, writing.

Home: place of person or family – where we live together – En, the two boys and me. At home, holiday home, here or there, either place will do, a place to sleep and store and contain – sanitary enough, a place to prepare food.

Home: a place of refuge where worldly cares fade, or so it says in the big book of words …


I would begin this letter to you – this book to you – and give it such titles as Mountain of the Dead Woman. A mountain we travel to and from in the course of the weeks we spend in Spain. I could call this book to you The Gold Room. It could begin with the words I write from this room each morning when I wake with such happiness, such a rush of freedom, knowing we are safely tucked up and hidden away in a place you will never find us.

This is how it could begin – with the name of a small village that for weeks becomes a temporary shelter, a home of sorts, Adrada de Pirón. En, me and the three boys: Hugo, as my youngest son wants to be called here; D, remembering that when he was small we’d tag his name with Darling. How, those first days of school, he would argue without doubt that his surname was indeed Darling. When we’d insist it was now time to put aside foolish names, his hurt caused a retraction, caused us to double-barrel him, at least at home. Darling became D over the years, a trace of the original endearment.

Luke says he wants to be given – in this book at least – the name he had as a toddler, Snoopy the Bubble. I tell him it is cute but far too long. We end up with Bub for swiftness, but that doesn’t last. For ease he returns to his birth name. We laugh together and discuss names, those early mornings in Spain, Luke and me sitting together downstairs while everyone is still half-asleep. Luke finds my notebook, asks if we can write together. He tells me that he wants to use the time we have here to write some lyrics for his guitar, to write some stories that he can turn into songs, to try to write each day. He asks me to read to him, read what I wrote this morning … asks who Adrada de Pirón is, – Is it your pen name? Not realising it is the name of the village where we are staying. He puts the question to me very seriously. – I like the sound of that name, he says. Maybe that’s what you should remain in this story: Adrada de Pirón.

I tell him that by coincidence this morning I ended what I had written with a piece about names, wondering how to address the anonymous other of the letter, Dear Mr … A letter of sorts to the person who wrote the threat … to your father, I tell him. I explain that I do not want it to be an angry letter, maybe instead a love letter of sorts. – Is this possible, he asks. Could there be a right way to address you? To not sound off-key, ill-humoured, provoked … We make tea, Luke and me, we sit on the oversized sofas – one each – and I read the letter I have begun to you; small stories, meanderings, digressions abound while the other boys overhead are still asleep, while En joins us, potters in the small kitchen.