Those places, corners, flashes, which in a blue winter dusk shine out, call to you.


D and I saw this bright shop whilst we were walking through Marchmont, a pleasant, tenement-and-tree-rich area of Edinburgh South of The Meadows (close to where we live). It was about three o’clock when I took this picture, and little children where getting out from the school just up the road. Their parents chatting by the gates, the lollypop man carrying his road crossing sign. We walked on, heading for Morningside to pick up a Christmas present. Some boys on Bruntsfield links threw a ball for a black dog, a streak of dark against the blue grass. In windows as we walked, Christmas trees and artificial candles, bookshelves stacked up, old clocks, pictures on the wall. Sometimes the occupants were there, sometimes they’d left their empty stages lit.


It’s been over a year since we moved back to Scotland from New York City, and we’ve only just planted our feet. It’s hard to emigrate and return. You lose your way for eight months or more. Work is hard to find. Your friends live in another city, in another country. But we’ve done it. We’re here. Hope gleams ahead of us to light the darkness of the future.


I’m thinking about all this in terms of the character I’ve been building up for my second ms, how she is lost and doesn’t have a single anchor, hasn’t had for a long time. I’m putting all my bad immigrant emigrant aches into her, and making them worse.  Now I can do it with distance, with precision. The landscape is bright high desert and Rocky Mountains – as far from unlit as you can get, but loneliness is night against the skin, all the time.


Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts is stitching closer together, though in form it is fragmentary – memory intrusions, odd jolts of narrative, hope (the emigre’s drug), landscapes, sketches. You can read excerpts of it if you haven’t already, here and here. Across the imminent year, I see the beacon of the end of this novel. The end that comes in stages; finishing this fourth draft, handing it to my agent, rewrites, submissions to editors, and hopefully, beyond that, a glimmer of more rewrites – but those are far off on a distant hill, the sight broken. But the fires are lighting up, one after another, defining each other and the shapes in between, in unexpected ways.




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8 responses to “Beacons

  1. Beautiful and true. I look forward to reading your book. You write so beautifully it hurts.

  2. A lit-up string of words to hang on our hearts. Gorgeous.

  3. I look forward to holding your book in my hands one day.

  4. Patricia

    You indeed have much to be hopeful about in the future. To be able to conjure a book and characters seems magical. And though I have not yet been, Edinburgh sounds magical too. Please write more about it. Best wishes for the season.

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