Elayne Kershaw

Elayne was born in London, UK and later lived in Cornwall (the far south west of the UK) for twenty years before moving to Florida in July 2018. She lives with her husband Alan and their two cats, Coco and Chloe.

In the UK, she worked in Journalism (local) and Advertising (community and directory) for many years before returning to complete her education. Her further education studies included A Levels in English Literature, Language and Art, followed by a Foundation Diploma in Fine Art (the pre-requisite for an Art Degree). She then went on to obtain a First Class Honours Degree in Journalism Studies (Falmouth College of Arts), a Master’s Degree in Women’s Studies (Exeter University), a PGCE PCET (Post Graduate Teaching Qualification – Plymouth University) and the Cert TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language – Trinity College, London).

A second career followed, in lecturing and she taught and examined English, Media and Film for several years in colleges and schools. During her time at Exeter University she was invited, first to contribute to and maintain the web site for the Exeter Women’s Studies Creative Writing Programme and then, later, when she had taken a full-time teaching post, she was further invited to teach creative writing online for Exeter University as part of its International Continuing Education Programme. She combined these two responsibilities for many years.

Elayne started to write fiction when she was very young and remembers that her first ‘published’ work was a school play that was performed for parents, pupils, teachers and the local community.

Work, marriage and motherhood put the writing on a back-burner for many years, but in her thirties she began to compile a portfolio of work, enjoying success in competitions and magazine publishing of some of her short stories. She joined the Weston-Super-Mare Writer’s group in the eighties and served on its committee in various roles, over the years, culminating in president. In this capacity she oversaw the publication of several anthologies (at a time when self or vanity publishing was still uncharted territory) and the organisation of an international competition, which was incorporated into the town’s literary festival. During her twenty years in Cornwall, she belonged to a writer’s group in Penzance, called Balwest Writers, and had more work in included in their two annual anthologies, one of which was devoted exclusively to writing about nature. She provided some of the illustrations for these.

A significant portion of her portfolio of writing in the nineties was derived from her higher educational studies, in which she studied Creative Writing (Fiction and Factual) for her first and second degrees. Additionally, one of the modules she studied for her post-graduate education degree was entitled Narrative Approaches to Education and an extract of her submitted manuscript is reprinted below.

Since moving to Brevard County in Florida, she has joined the Scribblers of Brevard and cut her teeth on adapting to writing for an American market by contributing three articles to Space Coast Living magazine in February 2018: A Special Gift to Each Other, Interiorscapes and Makeup Makeover. She is now working on a collection of short stories whose theme is ‘relationships in the digital age’.

When she is not writing, she is also an artist and photographer and maintains a blog on her artist web site elaynesart.net which also feeds her Facebook Art Page and Twitter/Instagram/LinkedIn Pages. Elayne also maintains a YouTube Channel, on which she posts short films of her scuba diving adventures, produced and edited by her independent film production company: Mediterranean Blue Films.

When she is not painting, writing or scuba-diving she enjoys swimming, gardening, travelling, socialising and watching films. She returns to the UK frequently to see family and friends and continues to take inspiration from its unique landscape and people for her art and her writing.

Elayne writes short stories primarily, though she has written a significant amount of poetry. She plans to write a loosely autobiographical screenplay once she has completed her short story collection. She says that the darkly comic approach she takes, to writing about women, is indebted to authors: Fay Weldon and Nicola Barker. She first came across Fay Weldon in a novella called Polaris, which was attached to the front cover of a Cosmopolitan magazine in the late seventies. She states that it was this astounding female-centered view of a post WWII nuclear-ready world, that first awoke her feminist sensibilities and explained, at the same time, some of the macro puzzles of life for girls, such as why your brother was allowed to stay out later than you, even though he was younger. She met Nicola at a writer’s retreat at the Arvon Writing Foundation in Devon, England and was encouraged by her to be bold and develop her quirky style. So she is and she has!

Extract from The Petrified Moth
Published in The Balwest Writer’s Anthology, 1998

THE PETRIFIED MOTH

A moth can spend hundreds of hours constantly fluttering around the light; compelled, driven toward the golden magnet, which seems to hold the secret of its life. Attracted to the warm and benevolent glow, the moth dares to touch the surface of the artificial sun and finds itself scorched and then incinerated until there is nothing left of it. In order to avoid this terrible end and knowing they must die one way or the other, many moths are now staging their own suicides during the hours of natural light. This voluntary act takes courage and nerve but if they hover over it too long they will end up on the light bulb anyway so they have developed the technique of making a snap decision. This is why they can often be found poised in mid-action on the top of wardrobes, the corner of the kitchen sink, or even the edge of the fruit bowl; wings unfurled, antennae at the ready. 

            There is an added bonus for those moths that are brave enough to cheat the almighty light-bulb. In death, they can be admired, as they never were in life. They become sculptured exhibits, works of art, frozen in time so that everyone can see at last how complex yet subtle are their markings and how varied are the hues of their multi-layered wings.

             Most people – and this is what moths trade on – are reluctant to move a petrified moth and it can remain in its preferred position for several weeks forcing people to move carefully around it whilst it takes months to dry to a fine powder, before crumbling and finally drifting away. 

            Constance found a very large one on her indoor television aerial when she tried to catch the early evening news. The picture, as usual, was distorted and as she twisted the aerial in every direction, trying to locate that one position that brought things into focus her hands brushed against the soft wings. These wings, only half folded across its body, were shaped by layers within layers of darkly intricate patterns woven into a tissued background of golden silk.

            She saw that it was not the dull buff-brown colour she had always believed moths to be. Close up she could appreciate its prismatic palette of coppers, bronzes and iridescent greens. She wondered how it could have died on the aerial and managed to stay upright. She tried, very carefully, to remove it, but it would not give up its position. 

            Constance watched a lot of television and could see that a considerable amount of moth worship could be involved, if the moth were to stay there, which might detract from her favourite programmes and there was also the question of hygiene to be considered. She pulled on her marigold gloves with a view to sweeping it off into the dustpan but found herself unable to carry out the act. There was something rather poignant in the notion of a creature trapped in a self-imposed exile, caught forever between the mundane territory of technology, elderly houseplants and damp wallpaper.       

            She liked to catch the early edition of the news because when her eldest son, Jonathan, came in from his evening shift as a security guard, he was always in a bad temper. He would watch the ten o’clock version and talk loudly all the way through it about the terrible state of the country, upgrading his mood only to explain the finer political details to her.        

            ‘You can hardly see a thing.’ he complained, getting up to fiddle with the knobs, ‘‘but not surprising really when you’ve got a dead moth on the aerial.’ he added with an acerbic edge to his voice.

            ‘Don’t touch it!’ she called from the doorway, a bit too loudly. 

            ‘Why not?’ he wanted to know, hand outstretched.

            ‘Because I had it fixed in the perfect position.’ she lied.

            ‘You obviously need stronger glasses, mother!’ he replied as he raised his hand to strike the offending object. Despite her painful knees, she was able to dash across the room to catch his arm on the upward end of its arc.

            ‘Leave it,’ she said. 

            He stared at her in disbelief.

            ‘You want me to leave a dead moth on the television aerial? Whatever for?’

            She could sense, very strongly, the battle he fought to control his choice of words and method of delivering them. He wasn’t all bad.          

            ‘I don’t see why it matters, it’s just a moth and moving it won’t improve the picture quality.’ She tried to keep her eye on his expression and his hands at the same time. This could go either way, she thought. 

            ‘I don’t know,’ he said, spinning out his words, opting to patronise her, ‘you’re such a funny old thing aren’t you.’ He gave her a hug. ‘You scrub the house so intensely you give yourself arthritic knees, but you want to leave a decaying insect right in your line of vision.’

            ‘I am not old.’ she corrected him.

            ‘Still, what does it matter?’ he continued, ‘you can’t see the television anyway, not without a decent outdoor aerial, which you won’t let us put on the roof for you, so you might as well have something to look at.’

            He flung himself down in the armchair, flicked pointedly through the previous day’s newspaper and waited for reinforcement to arrive in the shape of Jeremy, his younger brother. It was an all too familiar pattern.

            When Jeremy arrived, he was usually even angrier than Jonathan because he did particularly repetitive assembly work with small radio parts and had to keep his feelings, about the injustices of life, in check just to survive the mind numbing hours. 

            Constance tolerated their temperaments because they worked so hard.

            ‘I think she must be going senile.’ Jeremy declared when Jonathan referred him to the moth on the aerial. As far as Jeremy was concerned, there was never enough time to waste words on sentiment. 

Constance was in the kitchen when he said this, sorting out a casserole, vaguely wondering why she was still feeding two grown men. Not coming up with any suitable answers she carried the heavy dish in to the table, where they sat expectantly, noticing as she did so, that the stiffness and pain in her wrists was getting worse. Jeremy squeezed them affectionately.

            ‘Cancel senile,’ he said. ‘Take eccentric instead.’ 

            Jonathan rolled his eyes in that way of his which was the cue for hours of discussion about how they could improve her life for her. Usually she was able to click into a sort of over-drive where she only half heard the references to kitchen renovations, extensions, gadgets in the garden, garages being turned into gymnasiums but tonight she decided she didn’t want to hear the faintest reference to anything at all that would change her world from the way she struggled to keep it. It was time for a diversion.

            ‘I saw your father today.’ she told them.

            They were truly shocked.

            It had the desired effect. Neither of them said a word. The moth was forgotten and the meat was chewed, over and over.

            ‘Where?’ asked Jeremy finally.

            ‘Oh, just in the High Street.’

            ‘What were you doing in town?’ Jonathan quizzed her. ‘Your shopping day is Friday.’

            ‘Never mind that,’ Jeremy interrupted, ‘What was he doing there, more to the point?’

            ‘Well, she could only tell you the answer to that …,’ Jonathon began ominously,  ‘… if she spoke to him and it goes without saying she wouldn’t do that……’ the question metamorphosed into an accusation as Jonathan turned his body toward her but addressed the final ‘would she?’ with a flashing swivel of his eyes, to his brother. Underneath the crisp, white table-cloth, his feet drummed an insistent rhythm. She felt an odd sensation, somewhere between elation and panic, pressing against her temples, as she considered her reply. She had made a mistake; assuming they would be too intrigued by the news of their father’s reappearance to question her role in the telling of it. 

            She could either lie to avoid a scene or she could risk humiliation.

            ‘Of course I spoke to him.’ she told them. ‘He’s your father isn’t he?’

            ‘Now I know you’ve lost it,’ said Jonathan bitterly. ‘after everything he did to us, how you can even give him the time of day is beyond me.’

            ‘He’s a bastard. You must be mad.’ said Jeremy.

They stood up, pushing their seats back with great force and left the table.

‘Well don’t you want to know what he’s up to now?’ she called after them, ‘……………. what he said?’

            ‘No,’ they replied, slamming the door behind them.

Poetry
Originally Submitted as Part of a Portfolio
for a Module in Creative Writing (MA, Exeter University)

Elayne can be contacted on her Web Site or her Facebook Page (See Links Above) or email her at elaynekershaw@yahoo.com