A couple of Sundays ago, I was mooching around Columbia Road, in east London. It’s home to a famous flower market, but we were browsing the quirky shops on either side of the narrow street. That’s when I spotted Choosing Keeping. This is the stationery place for folks with high pencil aspirations. It sells strokeable notepads. It sells gold pencils. It sells glass globes that look like they should be foretelling the future in Doctor Who (glass mills apparently). And who wouldn’t want to do a whole week’s worth of timed freewriting exercises if they could use those exquisite blown hourglasses in red and blue or pink and clear, to keep time?
But, when I’m not a writer, I work in the charity sector. My hands often go into my pockets and out the other side without touching money in between. Sadly, real life isn’t fiction and I can’t write myself a better bank account, no matter how well-tuned the prose.
So what do I have? I prize my green tartan pencil case, above all. It was a present from my daughter and came from Muji, a popular haunt for our stationery needs. I can’t even remember having a pencil case at school, but I must have. And I’ve certainly got one now. It’s crammed full of Sharpies, promotional pens from charities and companies, a couple of cheap, sparkly ink pens that leak over my fingers and a lovely sky blue Pentel sign pen. It says it on the side. Sign. So I did. And unlike the Sharpie, it didn’t soak through the page of the book offered to me. I picked up a pack of WHSmith handwriting pens in Paddington station recently. They’ve got a decent glide to them, but they’re a bit thin for signing purposes.
Then there are the notebooks. Oh, do I have notebooks. I have the leather-bound and fabric-covered that are much-needed presents. I have black Cass Arts sketch books of all sizes, including a couple of A3 hardbacks I’ve used for planning books I never got round to writing. I have packs of three from post-Christmas Paperchase sales to secretly record interesting bus stations. Orangeboy was written on and off over a few years, by keyboard and pencil, in random notebooks and occasionally the back of a conference agenda if the speakers weren’t quite doing it for me.
Orangeboy is about sixteen-year-old Marlon who has promised his widowed mum that he’ll be good, and nothing like his gang-leader brother Andre. He believes it’s easy when you keep yourself to yourself, listening to your dead dad’s Earth, Wind and Fire albums and watching sci-fi. But everything changes when Marlon’s first date with the beautiful Sonya ends in tragedy; he becomes a hunted man and he has no idea why. With his dad dead and his brother helpless, Marlon has little choice but to enter Andre’s old world of guns, knives and drug runs in order to uncover the truth and protect those close to him. It’s time to fight to be the last man standing.
With the work in progress, I decided to be a bit more organised. I allocated the two main characters their own (Muji) notebooks with a big I (for Indigo) and B (Bailey) on the front covers.