I don't know who exactly started this, but a week or so ago I was tagged with "I've got the LOOK" by the wonderful Lyn Sofras. She set me the challenge of talking about my latest work in progress. (Apologies for taking my time to fulfil my part of the bargain.) The idea is to search for the word "look" then post some of the surrounding text or paragraphs around the choice you have made.
As there is no such thing as a Work In Progress in my world at the moment, I immediately decided to put my own spin on the challenge. I am currently preparing an e-book for publication in paperback in the New Year, so I have decided to give you an excerpt from that book, LIFE CLASS.
It didn't take me long to identify and select a passage in which there is a lot of looking going on - but it's a variety of looking that is making my heroine extremely uncomfortable. Before I unveil the excerpt I'll first give an overview of the whole book.
LIFE CLASS is about art, life, love and learning lessons.
The class meets once a week to draw the human figure. The story follows four of its members - from the respectable to the transgressive - who have all failed to achieve what they thought they wanted in life. They come to realise that it’s not just the naked model they need to study and understand. Their stories are very different, but they all have secrets they hide from the world and from themselves. By uncovering and coming to terms with the past, maybe they can move on to an unimagined future.
Dory says she works in the sex trade, the clean-up end. She deals with the damage sex can cause. Her job has given her a jaundiced view of men, an attitude confirmed by the disintegration of her own relationship. The time seems right to pursue what she really wants in life, if she can work out what that is. Love doesn’t figure in her view of the future - she’s always been a clear-eyed realist - yet her search for somewhere to put down roots turns into a chase after a dream.
Stefan is a single-minded loner. His only ambition is to make a living from his sculpture. So how the hell did he find himself facing a class of adults who want their old teacher back? Although love is an emotion he long ago closed of - it only leads to regret and shame - it creeps up on him from more than one direction. Is it time to admit that letting others into his life is not defeat?
Fran - Dory’s older sister - is a wife and a stay-at-home mother without enough to keep her occupied. On a collision course with her mid-life crisis, Fran craves the romance and excitement of her youth. An on-line flirtation with an old boyfriend becomes scarily obsessive, putting everything she really loves at risk.
Dominic is a damaged child. He has lived his life knowing all about sex but nothing about love. If he can only find his mother perhaps he can make sense of his past. But perhaps it is a doomed quest and it’s time to look to the future? By accepting the help and love that’s on offer here and now, he has a chance to transform his life.
Ultimately, LIFE CLASS is about love in its many guises.
Introduction to the excerpt:
Dory has lived in London since starting work in the path lab of the hospital, where she met her partner. Together they set up a private STI clinic. But the relationship has broken down and she has returned to her home town in the West country, where her sister, Fran, still lives. Fran has always been the bossy one in the family. It was her idea to enrol her sister in the life class that she herself attends.
Dory hasn’t done any art since school, and she has never drawn a naked model.
Dory arrives for her first lesson late and flustered. The class has already commenced. The students are grouped around the model - a naked male model.
LIFE CLASS - CHAPTER THREE
Had it moved? Dory frowned, looked back at her drawing. Hard to be sure. But the more she studied it the more positive she became. Back to square one. She rubbed out her first sketchy attempt to reproduce this area of the figure. Pencil poised she raised her eyes again and this time she saw the movement – the slight pulse and thickening – as it shifted a few millimetres.
Well aware that it was a part of the body that men – poor things – had no conscious control over, Dory was still surprised. Had she thought about it in advance she’d have assumed that posing naked in front of a room full of strangers would have a depressing effect on the male genitalia.
Not that she was bothered; she’d probably seen more cocks than most of the people here had eaten hot dinners, so why should this one’s twitchings give her problems? It was what men did with it that caused the trouble. She just happened to be one of the professionals who had to deal with the fall-out. But men, sex and the day-job were off the agenda today. In her personal life, it could be that men and sex were off the agenda full-time. She gave herself a mental shake. Get on with what you’re here for.
Now, glancing at his face, Dory saw the model was looking at her. No. Not just looking, staring. Look at the rest of the figure, she told herself. Her gaze swept over his reclining form, identifying the patterns and shapes; her hand tentatively followed across the paper, attempting to reproduce the angle of the head, the slope of the shoulder, the splay of hand on thigh. It was then she noticed his reproductive paraphernalia was on the move again. Drawing from life was hard enough without this added distraction.
Dory had known she’d find the class challenging. The reality was even harder than she’d suspected and the model was in on the conspiracy to defeat her. She wished she could have caught her sister’s eye to share the joke, but even if they’d had an unobstructed view of one another, Fran was behind the model. Dory looked around; no one else had her grandstand view. The tutor was standing at an easel just a metre or so away, dark brows drawn together as he worked on his own drawing. Not much tutoring going on, Dory reflected. From his angle, even if unaware of the life model’s disconcerting stare, he must have noticed the waxing and waning of his genitalia. But what could he have done about it?
Typical of her to have been the sole latecomer, and then to find her new drawing-pad so tightly sealed in its crisp plastic wrapping that it gave new meaning to the word ‘rustle’ as she tried to extract it. Typical too that she should find herself in this full-frontal position. All the other students – some standing at easels, others, like her, straddled over low benches, called donkeys – had arranged themselves in a semi-circle behind or to the sides of the mattress on which the model reclined.
She’d only had a moment, after making her apologetic late entrance, to exchange a quick smile of recognition with Fran, before a man quit his own easel and, with an audible sigh, approached her. For a split second she felt she recognised him, but immediately discounted the idea. There was no one amongst her acquaintance with shaggy dark hair like that, no one with a close-cropped dark beard.
After pointedly looking at his watch the man moved his own easel to one side then dragged one of the low benches forward to take its place.
‘Use this donkey,’ he’d said, giving her no alternative. ‘Here’s a board. You’ve got paper? I’ve asked everyone for an accurate drawing. Pencil.’
Thankful to be able to settle quickly, with minimal added disruption to the rest of the class, she was not about to object to her view of the model, even if she’d known it would give her extra problems. ‘Don’t get bogged down with detail.’ Again the tutor checked his watch. ‘Forty minutes left.’ With no time to feel intimidated, she just had to put pencil to that first virgin sheet of paper and start.
Apart from her sister there was no one in the class she knew. She was on her own in this private struggle. Story of my life at the moment, she reflected, wondering why she was even doing this. She had recently made a resolution not to allow others to organise her life for her and yet here she was doing something her sister had pushed her into. Typical of Fran to come up with an idea that she thought was a good one then steamroller it through.........
Last but not least, I'm supposed to tag 5 more ‘ziggy zig zag’ writers and let them know they've been tagged so that they too can share their current work in progress with the rest of the blogging community! I've chosen a group of writers who are very different from me and from one another. I know they'll all bring something special to "I've got the LOOK"!
Carol E Wyer