Wild & Improbable Tales – She Came From The Water

The tap had dripped for as long as they could remember. They had heard the insistent plip, plip, plip the night they had moved in, as they lay down to sleep. It was the strangest thing, though: they could hear the drips, could see them gather and fall from the tap into the bath, but no water gathered underneath and no water fell into their hands cupped beneath the faucet, though the steady beat continued.

A stream of plumbers couldn’t fix it. No amount of twiddling the taps made it stop. They felt sure that replacing the whole bathroom would do it but as soon as the water was back on, the infernal dripping resumed.

After a time, they grew accustomed to the quiet, regular rhythm and it faded into the background of their lives.

It was with some surprise, then, that in the early hours of a November morning, many years after they had first come to live in the house, they found themselves woken by the dripping noise. They lay awake in the darkest hour of the night listening as the dripping became louder and, somehow, closer.

Shrinking together in fear, they watched, frozen, as the bedroom door opened, to reveal a young girl illuminated in the ghostly, pre-dawn light; grey skinned, blue lipped, her sodden nightgown clinging to her slight frame, she watched them, a steady drip, drip, drip falling from the water-heavy tangles of her raven hair.


“You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,” she pleaded. “Something beautiful and full of monsters.”

Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Inspired by Erin Morgenstern’s Flax-Golden Tales, I have decided to embark on my own creative writing blog series, “Wild & Improbable Tales”, as a way to write more freely and more frequently. At least once a week, I will choose a card at random from The School Of Life‘s ‘Small Pleasures’ box and use the image and/or writing on the back to inspire a short piece of creative writing. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Network Error

The ever so lovely tiggsybabes shared this image on Instagram earlier this week and oh how I laughed…and laughed and laughed and finally cried. It rang so true for me at the moment! My mind is definitely an overloaded internet browser right now, with poor connectivity, multiple network errors and more frozen screens than I care to count. I’m also pretty sure there are some secret tabs open in the background somewhere, all running important programmes that I’ve forgotten about.

Inspired by Tiggsybabes post to try and have a little fun with my current chaos, here – for your amusement – are my many brain tabs:

  • I would like a nap.
  • Why aren’t Time-Turners real?
  • If I could do magic I would be able to clean my house without getting up off the sofa.
  • Shoot…I was supposed to…that thing…nope, it’s gone.
  • I really need new boots.
  • I still haven’t read Lord Of The Flies
  • Oh, that book looks good!
  • I should really stop buying books.
  • I need to plan my reading interventions.
  • Did I pick my printing up? Where did I put it?
  • I’m going to make a real effort to eat more healthily…I wonder if there’s any chocolate in the house.
  • I wonder what my daemon would be…
  • Note to self: kitchen roll doesn’t go in the fridge.
  • What day is it?
  • How is my meter reading lower than last month…?
  • PUPPIES!
  • Autumn is the best. Look how pretty the leaves are!
  • Wearing jumpers makes me happy.
  • I’d like a nap.
  • …where is that music coming from?
  • Wild & Improbable Tales – Bone Weary

    Bone weary, she watched as the rain painted the window with its tears. The city blurred in and out of focus. Her head felt heavy and she leant her cheek upon the cool glass.

    Blinking blearily, she tried to focus on the world outside. Clouds drifted in slow motion over the tired town, their eraser strokes wiping out the blue of the sky. An errant thought stumbled into her mind: she wished the rain would wash the world away – the clouds rub out the whole of the heavens.

    She blinked again.

    Sighing, she turned away from the melancholy view and headed back to her desk.

    Unseen, the steady rainfall began to wash away more than just the dust and grime of the city streets; first the tower blocks, then the houses, then the pavements ran away in rivulets of grey. Slowly, the city dissolved.


    “You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,” she pleaded. “Something beautiful and full of monsters.”

    Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor

    Inspired by Erin Morgenstern’s Flax-Golden Tales, I have decided to embark on my own creative writing blog series, “Wild & Improbable Tales”, as a way to write more freely and more frequently. At least once a week, I will choose a card at random from The School Of Life‘s ‘Small Pleasures’ box and use the image and/or writing on the back to inspire a short piece of creative writing. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

    Storm Breaks

    I wander

    Lonelier still than than the clouds –

    Who are rarely seen

    Alone

    But share the boundless sky

    With their boundless brethren,

    And conceal the everlasting sun,

    Leaving me in shadow –

    Buffeted by their winds,

    With a storm

    All my own

    Brewing,

    Waiting to

    Burst

    Overhead.

    When the clouds clear

    And let the sunlight

    Break

    Through, to warm my tired brow,

    I find

    I can no longer

    Feel

    The heat.

    The storm swept me

    Away,

    You see,

    And now I float

    On a

    Mindless

    Sea

    Not knowing whether

    I ride the waves

    Or sink below

    Those curdling clouds.

    This is my response to Mindlovesmisery’s Menagerie Photo Challenge #227.

    Wild & Improbable Tales – The Winter King’s Summer

    Dawn light broke through the reaching, inky fingers of the trees.

    Though summer was barely waning, the forest stood denuded of its leaves, as it always had. As it always would.

    The villagers had long stopped questioning why their wood did not bud and bloom and turn with the seasons. They knew it still lived, suspended in its own eternal moment of magic.

    On the hottest of summer days, stepping into the shade of those trees you would find yourself engulfed in the chill of winter’s breath. Nothing moved; nothing grew; no birds sang; and yet the beauty of those bare black limbs stretched across the land, a frosty rime clinging to them in diamond chains, was enough to stir the soul.

    Here the Winter King ruled all the year, his magic great and terrible. The lore told that he never left the wood, until it was winter’s turn to walk the world, but this August dawn glinted on a betrayal of tradition: a trail of frost that escaped the forest and touched the nearest cottage.

    Within, two sisters, who had lived and loved some thirty years in their home which hugged the Winter King’s realm, now held a new repose: one sat regal, crowned in snowflakes, the other lay lifeless, an icicle through her heart.


    “You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,” she pleaded. “Something beautiful and full of monsters.”

    Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor

    Inspired by Erin Morgenstern’s Flax-Golden Tales, I have decided to embark on my own creative writing blog series, “Wild & Improbable Tales”, as a way to write more freely and more frequently. At least once a week, I will choose a card at random from The School Of Life‘s ‘Small Pleasures’ box and use the image and/or writing on the back to inspire a short piece of creative writing. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

    The Sacred Everyday

    Some time ago, I discovered the Harry Potter And The Sacred Text podcast. This was a wonderful discovery. HP and the Sacred Text takes one of my (and the world’s) most beloved series of books, and engaged with them in a thoughtful and inquisitive way, exploring the lessons and ideas the story has to offer us and providing tools for treating any text – and I would argue any part of life – as sacred.

    Here’s how the founders and hosts, Vanessa and Casper, explain what they are trying to do with the podcast:

    This podcast creates time in your week to think about life’s big questions. Because reading fiction doesn’t help us escape the world, it helps us live in it.

    On this podcast, we ask: What if we read the books we love as if they were sacred texts? 

    Each week, we explore a central theme through which to explore the characters and context, always grounding ourselves in the text. We’ll engage in traditional forms of sacred reading to unearth the hidden gifts within even the most mundane sentences.

    Vanessa and Casper are so thoughtful and engaging in their exploration of Harry Potter and I have taken great joy and great comfort in approaching these much loved books in a new way.

    I am also intrigued by the idea of viewing those things that might be considered ‘everyday’ as sacred, especially in light of my recent musings on my experience of religion and the church. When I was actively involved in the Christian church, one of the things I loved most about it was the chance to take a more considered approach to reading a text. I enjoyed the opportunity to explore deeper meanings and ideas and desperately wanted the change to question those ideas. The sacred practices shared on Harry Potter and the Sacred Text allow me to do just that.

    On a recent episode, Vanessa beautifully broke down the elements they believe are necessary for applying this kind of sacred practice to wider contexts – not just the reading of any text but to things like writing or running – and I loved the simple clarity of it so much that I wanted to share it with you today.

    1. Faith – you must have faith that the more you do or engage with something the more gifts you will receive from it. If I persistently dedicate time to reading, writing, running, cooking or any other thing, then those things will reward me more and more.
    2. Rigour – the time you give to these things will be more rewarding still if you approach them with rigour. By ritualising the processes you use, the time you spend will be more focused and valuable. If I want to approach the reading of a text in a rigorous way, I can take notes and I can research or discuss the ideas that arise. If I want to approach my writing in a rigorous and sacred way, I can switch off my phone and focus my attention, I can carry out a mindfulness meditation before I begin.
    3. Community – find others to share the process with. By engaging in these practices alongside like-minded individuals – or even very un-like-minded individuals – you open up more opportunities for questioning, exploring and sharing ideas. If I share ideas about a text with people in my community, their ideas further enrich my own and open my mind to new perspectives. If I share my writing with other writers and readers, I will better understand the impact of my words and will be able to share the struggles and triumphs of the process.
  • I love the possibility that anything in life can be treated as sacred if we only give it the right attention and approach it with intention to do so. This is something I hope to explore and experiment with, especially with regards to writing.
  • I’d love to hear if you decide to give it a go (or decide to listen to the podcast!) too.
  • Wild & Improbable Tales – Paradise In Flames

    Stepping out into the blistering heat, they walked with heads down, oblivious to their fellow travellers. They watched their steps, trying to avoid tripping and falling to the scorching ground below, and so did not see the creature that reared above them, cloaked in the poisonous fumes of their journey.

    Heat rippled through the air. Shimmering waves of boiling atmosphere distorting the landscape until it seemed to shift and heave around them: almost alive.

    They had dreamed of basking in the sun. After all, they deserved paradise. They deserved that long rest, surrounded by beauty, every need and want met.

    Turning up their faces to absorb the warmth of the sun, they didn’t realise that the flames were all around them. They smiled, at first. And then they burned.


    “You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,” she pleaded. “Something beautiful and full of monsters.”

    Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor

    Inspired by Erin Morgenstern’s Flax-Golden Tales, I have decided to embark on my own creative writing blog series, “Wild & Improbable Tales”, as a way to write more freely and more frequently. At least once a week, I will choose a card at random from The School Of Life‘s ‘Small Pleasures’ box and use the image and/or writing on the back to inspire a short piece of creative writing. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

    Wild & Improbable Tales – Suit Up

    No one saw it for what it really was. When they saw him striding the halls and directing their meetings, they assumed the freshly pressed suit and perfectly knotted tie were simply business dress.

    They didn’t know that, when he got home at night and loosened that restrictive strip of fabric, the rest of him unraveled with it. They didn’t know that their confident, assertive leader shed his stoicism with the layers of expensive tailoring. They didn’t know the vulnerability of his true self; that whilst his head may be in the game his heart was in the clouds, yearning for the life of a wandering dreamer.

    The daily struggle between expectation and longing was always hidden behind buzz words and neatly ordered spreadsheets. Until he was alone and free to dream, to marvel, to create, or sometimes to simply fall apart, as the world would never allow him to do in sight of his troops. The dreaming and marvelling and creating and falling took him to beautiful and terrible places, where he meandered all the night, until it was time to suit up his armour again. For he went not to work but to war.

    If only they had known, they would have unraveled with him.

    For The Joy Of It

    For a long time I have been saying that I want to write. And for a long time, I haven’t. There are all sorts of reasons for that but mainly I never had the time. Which actually means I never made the time. I never made the time because sitting down to write felt like such an indulgence; there were always other things that I ‘should’ be doing. I never made the time because I was convinced I wasn’t actually any good at writing and so what was the point. I never made the time because I was scared: here was a thing I wanted, badly, to do well at. A thing I would love to make at least part of a career out of. But what if I tried and failed? By never actually doing it I could hold onto the daydream, writing odd snippets here and there, but never risking the possibility of discovering it was never meant to be.

    You’d have thought I’d have learnt by now: dreams are worth the risk, and sometimes we should try just for the joy of it.

    So I have started writing. Not quite daily at this point but more than ever before. I found the key was to let go a little of my fears and doubts; actually, not to do it in the hope that it would come to anything. Not to do it for anything or anyone. Just to write for me. Because I love it. I love the feeling of creating something that wasn’t in the world before. And when I approached it like that I found that the seeds of things that had been rattling round in my head started to grow. I wrote so many poems I stopped counting. And, even more joyfully, I started to write the story that has been in my mind for more years than I care to count.

    I had an outline, written and rewritten over several years, and I had an opening to the story, which I wrote about a year ago, but nothing more. Because I stopped. I even liked what I had written, although it needed some editing, but in spite of my outline I just didn’t feel I knew what the story was, so I abandoned it. It was actually my students, and a couple of lovely friends, who encouraged me to pick it back up.

    I run a creative writing class at the secondary school where I work (I know, a writer who doesn’t write teaching other people how to write…the irony is not lost on me) and for some time now my students have been asking to read something I had written. So one day I decided to be brave (and yes, it did take a lot of courage to do this – teens are nothing if not direct and, sometimes, brutal with their feedback) and share that opening chapter with them. I did it as part of a session on how to constructively critique other people’s work.

    Firstly, I read some of their pieces and, as I always do, gave them feedback, this time trying to demonstrate my thought process: What did I really like and why? Tell them. What did I think had potential and how could it be developed? Tell them and make suggestions. What didn’t feel right in their narrative, why and what might make it feel better? Tell them but also enquire about their choices (as this might change the reading of it), explain why it didn’t feel quite right for me and work in partnership to see how it could be developed. It’s a lovely, collaborative process and the young writers I work with are so full of enthusiasm for writing, and so want to improve, that they are genuinely open to it and take on board feedback with interest and commitment to developing themselves, and their skills as writers. It’s inspirational to watch.

    Next came the part where I had to be brave. Enthusiastic though they were to receive their own constructive criticism, they are often reluctant to give it to each other, usually deferring to me to do that part, purely because their class mates are also their friends and they were afraid of hurting one another’s feelings. Hence why I offered my work up as a guinea pig. I did tell a little white lie and assured them I was very used to receiving feedback of all kinds, positive and negative (not the case because I rarely share my writing other than what I post on here) and told them they should be very honest. I promised them my feelings would not be hurt if they didn’t like it (mostly true) and that their honest opinion was more important to me as a writer than any false praise they might want to give me. That was the truth. With a deep (internal) breath I gave them my opening chapter and pretended not to wait on tenter hooks as they read it.

    The first person to finish looked at me and said possibly the best thing I could have been told: “It sounds like you, Miss.”

    Now something sounding like me is not necessarily praiseworthy but what that meant to me was that she felt it was authentic. And that IS praiseworthy. Some of my fear fell away. Even if they didn’t like it, whatever I had written was true enough to myself that this student recognised me in it. I hadn’t even known that was important to me until that moment. As others finished reading they said they agreed, one commented that it “read like the colour red” – she couldn’t quite explain what she meant but it felt like a compliment! In fact the compliments came rolling in along with requests for the next chapter, please, and I had to steer them back to our critiquing framework. Flattering though the positive feedback was, I wanted their honest and thought out opinions. I wanted their ideas for improvement. And I got them. Tentatively, at first, but eventually with growing confidence they pointed out turns of phrase that resonated with them and ones that didn’t; they suggested alterations to vocabulary choices; they discussed certain sentence structures and whether they flowed as well as they could; they generally proved themselves to be the perfect first readers of my long locked away opening pages. (Well, not quite the first: my mum read them too.)

    I made the alterations they suggested and since then not only have I shown those pages to two other people (both adults this time and one of whom, it turns out, is writing a book of his own – we did a pages swap!) but I also picked the story back up with gusto. I now have nearly ten thousand words of the story that has been tucked away for so long. On top of that, I also got up the courage to submit four of my poems to a publishing house, for consideration for an anthology. I have no idea if anything will come of that but it doesn’t matter, because I did it. I wrote the poems for me and I took the chance to share them. That is enough.

    I am under no illusions that I will be the next J.K.Rowling. I have no idea whether any of my work will ever be published. But it turns out that it’s not the publishing that makes you a writer. It’s the writing. Just for the joy of it.

    Any writers out there: what’s your work in progress? What stops you writing and how do you get over it?

    Poems From The Library

    Today is World Poetry Day and I had the pleasure and privilege of accompanying a group of students to our local care home, where they performed poetry they had written for the residents. It was a wonderful and moving experience to see these young people engage with such care, kindness, and interest with the older generation in our community. It was also a true testament to the power of poetry to move and inspire.

    The students involved revelled in the opportunity to create poetry, several of them never having attempted anything like it before. The whole experience reinforced my own love of the poetic word and prompted me to reflect on my own experience of writing poetry. Unlike with other forms of writing, I often find that poems materialise inside me in a very natural way. Writing stories, articles, and blog posts usually takes a conscious effort of considered construction, but poetry often seems gifted to me.

    I heard a wonderful TED Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert in which she shares Ruth Stone’s poetic process:

    “…when she felt it coming – because it would, like, shake the earth under her feet – she knew that she had only one thing to do at that point, and that was to – in her words – run like hell. And she would, like, run like hell to the house. And she’d be getting chased by this poem. And the whole deal was that she had to get to a piece of paper and a pencil fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. And other times, she wouldn’t be fast enough. So she’d be, like, running and running and running and the – she wouldn’t get to the house, and the poem would, like, barrel through her. And she would miss it. And she said it would continue on across the landscape looking, as she put it, for another poet.”

    My own experience of being discovered (or chased!) by an emerging poem is not quite so dramatic but I can completely relate to the idea of a poem coming to the poet! Don’t get me wrong, my poems don’t just blink into life fully formed before me. I usually find that they sneak up on me and then just part of it will just appear to my consciousness very suddenly. It is like seeing something glinting in the grass and when I pick it up it becomes a thread for me to follow. I follow the thread and hope I can figure out where it was supposed to lead. I weave it into something new and hopefully capture that moment in time.

    Lat summer, I was lucky enough to stay at Gladstone’s Library – something which I HIGHLY recommend to any writer or bookworm – and my time there really rekindled my love of writing poetry. One poem found me whilst I was writing in the library late one night and I thought I would share it with you today:

    Night birds sing their sunset tune,

    As the eloquence of trees is cloaked in shadow.

    The final note rings out the day

    And silence envelopes the warm, red brick.

    But lights still glow through the leased windows,

    And gentle figures sit in quiet reverence,

    Breathing deep the ink and parchment dust

    Of ages past.

    Walked in by layers of words and prayers and panelled oak,

    Held close by the carved pillars and balustrades

    That guard the ancient knowledge of the library;

    They sit

    And seek

    A knowledge of their own.

    Outside the darkness creeps

    And chases off the warmth of day

    But inside the write by their own cones of light,

    Cocooned in the low steady burn of ideas.

    And even as the lights dim and blink out,

    One

    By one

    By one,

    And heavy heads hit feather pillows, to

    Dream

    And dream

    And dream,

    The seemingly slow and silent life of the library,

    Carries on it’s endless forays into

    History and Destiny and Fantasy,

    Because imagination never sleeps.