Wednesday, 3 March 2010


Today I have a guest post from Greg McQueen who is the driving force behind the 100 Stories for Haiti book, in which I have a story.

Greg asked writers worldwide to contribute to a collection of short stories which will be published as an ebook and paperback on March 4th, 2010. Proceeds from the book go to earthquake recovery efforts in Haiti.

On the morning of January 19th, Greg posted a video on his blog saying: "Dear Twitterverse, I can't keep watching this on the news or trending on Twitter without doing something. I woke up this morning with the idea that together we could make a book and donate profits to the British Red Cross."

Within hours, news spread throughout microblogging website, Twitter, then Facebook, and story submissions began arriving. Nick Harkaway, author of The Gone Away World, contributed a short story and penned the book's introduction. By the submission deadline a week later, the project had received over 400 submissions - whittled down to one hundred during the following week, and the full 80,000 word manuscript was edited and assembled within two weeks of Greg's first announcement.

The book will appear on as an ebook and as a paperback through Bridge House Publishing available on-line here and in shops.

Take it away Greg!

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

In the last six weeks I have met a heck of a lot of wonderful people. Generous. Talented. Passionate. Writers. We made a book that can make a difference. But only because of you. Dedicated. Enthusiastic. Vital. Readers.

What follows is an extract from 100 Stories for Haiti. A story by Layla O’Mara entitled, The Forgetting. Layla is an Irish writer based in Berlin, currently working on a series of short stories about memory. This is one of them. You can follow her work online:


The Forgetting

By Layla O’Mara

I received a note from a man in the post today. It said it was the longest time since we had met, so many years. He wrote with such familiarity, albeit coupled with hesitance, almost like an unsure teenager.

‘Hello, this is Ella,’ I said down the phone to the man who had written the note. He said hello back and remarked how good it was to hear me after all these years. And I said yes, yes, yes it was and little sparks flew off his voice as it jump-started something in me.

He asked if I would like to meet for a coffee or a drink. I said, ‘Yes, Jay, that would be nice’, and suggested meeting at the Patrick Kavanagh bench. I have no clue why the bench came to mind. But it did. I said it and his voice smiled and he answered that that would be fine.

* * *

It felt like a first date. Which was stupid, really. Getting dressed with that same butterfly attention. Seeing myself in the mirror as he might. Which was stupid, really.

I stepped out into the grey day. I had left a little late deliberately, wanting to arrive with him already sitting there on the Patrick Kavanagh bench.

I had it mapped in my head. Over Harold’s Cross Bridge. My old jogging path. I used to jog along with music driving me, pumping on one of those CD players and then later with an iPod, so tiny in my hand.

The morning-time rush was calmer by the water – the swans, the ducks and the drunks not so harried by traffic or appointments. Past Portobello. Middle-aged men sat alone on benches by the water, reading the paper and swigging on their first cider of the day. I used to shoot music videos in my head as I ran, the beats in my ears narrating everything around me, all those daytime thoughts and worries sucked into a three-minute video. Jesus, it seemed like such an epic time ago. How fresh and excited and completely lost I had been.

Suddenly the city and the canal became a blueprint, a memory-print. The whole stretch seemed so scratched and scarred and glowing – virtually leaking back-bits of me into the glinting autumnal water. My mind and memory, or whatever it was that I was losing, for at least those short minutes, was at my command again.

The fact that these moments had come up for air created something very close to an out-of-body experience for me. I questioned why there was still space on my blueprint for this man and me to lie out that night on the now-gone pontoon, he after cycling me on the crossbar by all the red-brick houses, showing me where his father had grown up and telling me how his mother was so strong. That there was still room for summer pints with him outside The Barge and chats that changed what you thought about things and made you want to do new things and do things better.

Jesus. I tried to snap back, to be present, but my brain, having lost these things for so long wanted to linger a while … someone once told me a wonderful word for it all. Palimpsest. Layer upon layer of manuscript and paper lie one on top of the other, each page borrowing the indentations of the page before and lending snippets of its own markings. It was strange, the marks that were left and the indents that were smoothed away to nothing – no logic there at all, it seemed. And no logic to where and when my mind will slip and when it will soar …

Leeson Street. His old basement flat, where we had danced and giggled and held each other. He played music I had never heard before, music that I fell in love with and could never quite listen to again. The flat’s peeling yellow door and a flash of myself in a bus window, peering at the door, eyes stuck on it as the double-decker pulled away over the bridge.

And now for my favourite stretch – the leafy patch from the Bridge down to Baggot Street – the locks silent, stubbornly holding the water in, the fiery leaves, the proud swans, the padded silence. I was always aware that the city was living, pulsing, working all around me on this stretch, yet something about it seemed defiantly unhurried, quiet.

Suddenly, I desperately wanted to turn right back or walk on by. I didn’t know who I was going to sit with. I could not quite fully jigsaw this man into my past. I did not know what to say to him or what I should be remembering. How rude not to be able to properly share the past with him. How sad, this forgetting.


100 Stories for Haiti comes out TOMORROW! It costs £11.99 + P&P. You can pre-order your copy of the paperback:

The ebook will appear on Smashwords for instant download. Please watch for details.

Thanks, Nuala! One of those Generous. Talented. Passionate. Writers.


Vanessa Gebbie said...

Lovely! Such a brilliant project from Mr Greg 'Dynamo' McQueen!


Yes - Greg has done Trojan amounts of work. Can't wait for my copy to arrive.

Kar said...

Fantastic project, Congrats to all involved. Just ordered my copy Yay! can't wait for it to arrive, and I shall spread the word!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Lovely extract today. Can't wait to read the rest of it, and the other stories.