Friday 11 December 2015

Day 11: Snow Woman by Jo Fino

What gave you the idea for your Snowflakes story?

It started with a long piece of descriptive writing about a heavy snow fall. There is a moment when you wake up and you hear the silence of the snow in your bedroom, as if the world outside has been muffled  and you just somehow know when you open the curtains it's going to be there : the snow.
My main character was the eyes and ears that described the snow, but then she took on a life of her own and became a child's mind in a woman's body, a young girl who never had the chance to enjoy the snow. The first draft of the story was written in 2010 as a submission to a creative writing course I attended. It has been edited and redrafted several times since then and last year the long piece of descriptive writing that inspired it was remodelled into a poem.

Snow Woman was originally anonymous but when I  named her Martha she took charge. She represents elements of myself and of several people I have come across in my life, but she is also her own unique person. Snow Woman tells how Martha deals with her family and what happened, but ultimately, I think it's  about having the  chance to take opportunities for growth and happiness whatever your situation.

How would you describe your normal style of writing?
My writing style has evolved and developed through experience and experimentation.  When I was younger ( dreadful phrase!) I used to do a lot of scribbled, angst ridden stream of consciousness writing. It was very personal and cathartic and I have written pieces since which reflect this. I have always loved writing descriptively for  the sheer joy of using, blending and manipulating words to show what I see. I find these pieces very useful to store and refer back to for inspiration for stories or to use sections  in longer pieces of work.
I write my best when I really get inside and become a character so I do a lot of short stories in the first person.Recently I have written as a teenage boy, a mother dealing with a challenging teenager, a dying man and as an eight year old girl.
I am also known in my writing group for sharing either short stories or observational pieces where I can incorporate humour, mainly although not exclusively  from a female perspective.

Have you published other material?I have a short piece of flash fiction in  Best of Cafelit 2013 Anthology and  three pieces of flash fiction  and a humorous  story called The Twelve Days of Christmas ( since re edited )on the Cafelit website. I was published as the monthly competition winner in Writers Forum national magazine with my story called 'Cruel Summer'.

Do you have a writing routine?My routine fits around running my business with my husband and ferrying my daughter to all her after school and weekend activities. I carry my mini pc and notebook everywhere and grab writing time whenever I can, sometimes just sat in the car. Sunday afternoons are  good writing time at home.

Do you have a favourite place for writing?I am  always trying to make little writing nests ( the latest in what was a tiny en suite shower room, which now houses all my writing files and books and a little writing desk).However my favourite places for writing are wherever I am able to just write without interruption( sometimes a cafe, sometimes a library)  or where I can hide behind a latte and  observe people for inspiration.

Tell something quirky about you. 

Jo's alter ego
I have in excess of 150 pairs of shoes of various descriptions, which I am keeping for my eight year old daughter, on the basis that they may well be 'vintage' in the future.
My first cat was named Bela Lugosi  after the Bauhaus single  'Bela Lugosi's Dead' but his nickname was Iggy ( after Iggy Pop).

An extract from Snow Woman

It had been a long deep sleep, the kind which takes time to have an effect. Martha stretched out her sated limbs, and inhaled. The air was different. Overnight something had changed. The small child rose within her and she struggled from the jungle of sheets, padded across the worn carpet and tugged at the heavy curtains.
 Snow: it lay below in thick piles, fitted over grass and pathways. On the hillside above crawling jelly-coloured tots trailed sledges in bright sprawling lines. She dragged on an old oversized sweater, thick socks and faded denims, ran down the back stairs, thrust her feet into old boots and wrenched open the kitchen door. Before her lay the virgin garden. Martha stepped out slowly, sighing at the first creak of submission. Then, with a wild shriek she launched herself onto the white mattress landing face first in the icy snow, her nose scorched by the cold. She raised her face and laughed rolling over and over, arms spread eagled, supplicant to the snow god.
“What on earth do you think you’re doing? Get up. You look ridiculous.” It was Mother’s rasping voice.
“Just look at her, Mama. You can’t leave her alone for five minutes. She’s an embarrassment. Don’t you think it’s about time we did something about it?” Her spoilt sister, Rosie, Mother’s favourite.
“What do you expect Rosie? She’s not like the rest of us is she?” The modulated tones of her older brother, Jack.
Martha closed her eyes, shaking her head from side to side, snow sticking to her cheeks and ears. The voices. Again. This couldn’t be. They were all gone now.
“Look at her. What is she doing? You’ll have to keep her out of the way when Sam’s family come for dinner. Please Mama.”
“She’s just attention seeking. Ignore her sweetheart.” Mother’s voice always softening for Rosie.
“Why don’t you send her to visit Auntie Cynthia? She never seems to have any trouble with Martha.”
    Well done Jack. She loved Auntie Cynthia. They were muttering amongst themselves in the kitchen now. Martha scooped soft snow into her ears and closed her eyes. She stayed very still, willing the melting snow to numb her lobes.
When Martha finally sat up and looked around she couldn’t hear anything except the slow silence of the snow. Good. They were gone. She would write about them in her diary later. It was her secret. And Auntie Cynthia’s. She would sit quietly in the corner carrying out small jobs she was deemed capable of doing and listening. They didn’t know she had a good memory. She was very precise, noting down everything they said and everything they did. In the margins she doodled little pictures of them. Auntie Cynthia said she had a gift. She missed Auntie Cynthia.
A movement from the white laden bushes in the border distracted her and she caught a flash of red. She cooed softly. “Hungry little robin?” He flitted over to the birdbath and tapped the solid surface. “Thirsty too?” The robin flew to the glistening holly tree and settled to watch while Martha chose a stone from the crusted rockery and launched it into the centre of the ice. It broke with a satisfying crack and she used the stone to mash the ice up.


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