Thank God it's Friday

20th November 1998 at 00:00

I'm still marooned - stuck for words on the barren literary outcrop where I fetched up last week. The editor wants more of a sense of being there. The trouble is I've never been in a shipwreck and refuse to take research that far. I wander to the television in the hope of seeing a suitable old film and become sidetracked by Shortland Street . . . the problems of working at home.

The latest storyline is just reaching crisis point when the phone rings. It's another editor - one of my books is being moved up a level in the reading scheme. Can I provide some instructional text to fill the extra pages. Maybe a recipe or something to make?

I agree with sinking heart. I am the world's worst cook and my creativity is strictly limited to words. Making things from empty cereal boxes is well outside my area of expertise so I know I'll have to practise before I write anything.

Tuesday School this morning - my weekly session as a classroom volunteer at the local primary. The head has twigged I'm a real teacher in disguise and uses me to troubleshoot problems. It's bliss to be able to work with children with none of the responsibility or paperwork.

I return home to find my helpful husband has thrown out all the cereal packets and the dustmen have been. While I munch the contents of another box, I think about possible new books - ones that will have nothing to do with the sea, cooking or cardboard.

Wednesday I long for another word for water. I seem to use that all the time in the shipwreck story, probably because that's all there is except the ship. I toy with introducing a giant squid, but abandon the idea. My experience of squid (or is it squids) is limited to eating some in Majorca and being sick afterwards.

I retreat to the kitchen in search of food and instead find the now empty cereal packet staring at me accusingly. I attack it with scissors and paint and, to my relief, it is soon transformed it into a magazine file. Eat your heart out Valerie Singleton - I didn't even need any sticky-backed plastic.

Thursday The postman knocks with an exciting package. It's the proofs of a book for beginner readers. I check them carefully and wonder how so few words can have taken me so long to write. Then I remember how difficult it was to choose which words to use and to plan those pictures that add so much to the text.

The proofs boost my self-confidence so much that I rush to my desk determined to sort out the shipwreck story once and for all. I fail.

Friday My son arrives with exciting news. A big swell is coming in from the Atlantic - the result of a recent hurricane. I abandon my desk, leap into the car and head for the nearest surfers' paradise. There - joy of joys - I find waves crashing on to the beach in a way that sends a string of adjectives racing through a writer's head.

I lie down to make the waves look bigger. The roar of the surf fills my ears and I relax, confident that I can use this experience to make the shipwreck story come alive at last.

But there's no need to rush. Surely I'll write it even better if I stay here for an hour or so and watch the waves. It's wonderful having a job where I can lie on the sand in the sunshine and kid myself I'm working.

Diana Kimpton writes fiction and non-fiction for children. She lives on the Isle of Wight

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