On Wednesday a package arrives at the door. I believe it's a late birthday present of cd's from my daughter Bethan. It turns out to be copies of my new book 'The Climbing Tree', a novella for teenagers who've had enough of Harry Potter wizardry and books thick as breeze-blocks.

   I'm excited. It's a premature delivery and about as slim as I'd anticipated. I love the cover with its bulbous tree seen from below and line of rope running from top to bottom. Later on in the week, publishers Pont tell me the official publication date is Feb. 15th, so this is a bonus.

   My young daughter, an avid fan of Jacqueline Wilson and , more recently, Michael Morpurgo, arrives home and grabs a copy, declaring 'It's mine!' My wife reads it for the first time and thinks she might appreciate it more in a few years time. My daughter thinks it looks a scrawny beast next to her current reads. It's like I've finally given her a pet, only it's turned out to be a stick insect not a nice, fluffy kitten.

   The book's dedicated to 'My former pupils at Radyr Comp., Cardiff' , but maybe I should've named all of them.

   I write up answers to an interview for the Pont website. 'Where did the inspiration come from?' I began writing it ten years ago ( then a play called 'Waste' ), so it's hard to remember. However, the actual tree which features as an important 'character' is still there. I can see it out of my window and it's the best around for climbing. It used to have a rope tied to one branch where kids and youths would swing. Nowadays, the area's fenced off and it's more difficult to get to, so few go out there.

   It's great to touch the book and I can't imagine a world without them, though recent technology such as i-pads suggest they could disappear.

   I'm delighted now that the original play, the bleaker 'Waste', was never produced. Thanks in no small part to Viv at Pont, this is more optimistic and, I hope, better for it.  Also, I can't imagine how some of the special effects would've been achieved on stage, especially the 'siles', which are missile-like fireworks.

   I've always been fascinated by dystopian novels since reading 'Brave New World', 'We' ( another novella),'1984' and 'The Handmaid's Tale'. However, I don't claim this book to be a wide-sweeping vision : it's more of a fragment.

   In retrospect, one of my main influences was 'A Clockwork Orange' with its gang of 'droogies'. I would have liked to create a whole new vocabulary like Burgess, but give a sense of it with the 'wraps' (their drugs) and the 'fedicopters' ( police helicopters).

   What will become of this novella when it's released into the wider world, I don't know. If it's truly a stick insect maybe it will be noticed moving amongst the branches of an oak and be adopted.

    Just to prove my obsession with trees , here's a recent poem about another oak, this time one with a different sensibility to the climbing tree (oh no, I'm beginning to sound like Carlo/ PC!) -

                                             ROOT  RISING

           Oak's root rising up
              into the lawn
                                                       a bulky thigh-bone
                                                          not yet exposed

                          too many lopped limbs
                            and now it plans
                                                    to leave us

                 I dream
                             its treedom

   by its own force
                          hurdling the fence
                                                    branches back-and-foreing
             stumbling over reed-beds
                                                 hauling itself out of muddy streams

          till it reaches
                            a thicket of trees
                                                    where it will end its days

             but daylight
                             you can't avoid
                                                   yellow fungus bright as blood

                     the sun
                               will fire
                                          to fever

                       soon the charred stub-ends
                                                               rings of age

                             will blacken beyond telling. 


Jake Dickens
02/03/2010 12:38

I've been following your blog from the start, but haven't commented yet.

I'd just like to say that It'll be very likely that I pick this book up. I have read quite a few of your books from the school library, I particularly enjoyed the (quite shockingly adult) book, The Fugitive Three.

I hope you're enjoying being 'free' from teaching,

Jacob Dickens


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