Posts Tagged ‘stories’

Back in July 2016, I posted about a new version of Humpty Dumpty I had invented on a whim. You can find it here.

This morning I got up and found some new words to another nursery rhyme going round in my head. I jotted them down and then added some pretty primitive sketches.

Maybe I was inspired subconsciously by having seen one-day-old lambs yesterday (ours are late up here), but anyway, I thought I’d post it here tonight to amuse you.

Enjoy!

Mary had a little lamb

Every now and then I remember to practise drawing the same character from different viewpoints doing different things. You may remember this attempt. I was at it again in the last couple of days, only this time I gave him (or is it a her with shortish hair?) some huge objects to manhandle. I was just being whimsical. But then some ideas came to mind.

Maybe:

He feels little in his family. Maybe he has a skill no one really notices. Maybe there is some incident when he knows he could help but no one even glances at him.

So what happens? *shrugs* Well, maybe he has to surreptitiously assemble the things he needs, in order to do whatever he needs to do to sort it out! So, stretching my brain a bit… he, um, steals the sharpener to sharpen the pencil, then draws the image and finally paints it.

That latter image was meant to be pastel sticks but looks more like watercolour paints – except for the lack of a mixing lid! He struggles to lug this one to his bedroom…

So yes, I don’t have time right now because a 400-page book has to be proofread this week for a publisher. But this is how a story could grow in my head, needing many revisions obviously, but perhaps it could be made to work if I really wanted to.

Nice to have conjured up a spark on a cold, icy day 🙂 Happy new year to you all.

dragongirl-pen-zigbrush-boy

As promised yesterday. How does this work for a pair of writings? Any comments welcome 🙂 Criticism welcome too!

An open book (2)

Knowing the library manager was out till tea time, I made straight for my favourite place down one of the aisles and started picking out all the books in that section that needed mending. I didn’t have to think about it. I’d mentally clocked them up when they came back in less-than-perfect condition. Numbers, facts, photographic memory… If only I didn’t have to work in a library. But it would have to do till something better came along.

Then I heard the main door open with a sough of chilly air, and my heart sank. This dark shut-in building was my womb – and wombs are best left in peace while things develop inside them.

I reluctantly stood up, picked up the damaged books and staggered with them over to the entrance. ‘Can I help?’ I called to the girl. ‘You look lost.’

There. She’d feel as if someone cared. The exact phrase was on page 25 of the training manual, bullet point 3. I could see it in my mind.

She handed me a list. I stared at it in amazement. What sort of person goes into a library with a list? And worse than that, a doctor’s scribbly handwritten list, naming self-help books for the weedy. I now recognise every doctor’s handwriting in this town – they’re all at it, this bibliotherapy thing. What we should do is charge them! And then replace these stuffy old shelves with neat lines of matching, pine-coloured shelving with desks at exact intervals so that people can sit near to where they’re browsing. I could make a proper go of running this place, given a chance.

I offered to fetch the first book on the list, and then, following rule 2, page 30, kept eye contact while asking her for identification. I did start to lose track when she rambled on about eBay and charity shops. Obviously out of work. Probably no good at anything. Anyway, if she was broke, I wasn’t interested in her.

‘Sorry?’ I murmured dutifully. (Rule 10: Keep your complete attention on the client from the moment they ask for help.) ‘Oh yes, I buy my books, too,’ I told her, hoping I’d got it right, and handing her the somewhat dog-eared copy of Managing your Moods. I’d need to add that to the mending pile when she returned it. ‘Yes, much better to own books than borrow them. Though I shouldn’t say that, should I? Not working here!’ (Rule 12: Maintain a sense of humour at all times.)

Of course, I wouldn’t be working here if I could find another job. It’s those stupid interviewers out there who can’t cope with suggestions for improving their businesses. You’d think they’d be grateful to employ someone who could think widely as well as remember all the existing protocols.

‘Have fun with this one, Lucy,’ I added as she turned away. I’m not sure why she looked so pleased – I mean, that book’s dumb.

I toyed with writing something in the first person from two different viewpoints of the two people who had a chance encounter. This is what resulted.

It would be a bit longer than usual for a blog post – 500 words each – so I’ll post one half today and the other half tomorrow.

If I wish you a really good drawing and writing new year (I’m not above a bit of bribery!) will you find time to read both?! Thing is, bribery apart, you only get the point if you read both. Same encounter but interpreted very differently by the two people involved.  I’d love to hear whether you think it works.

And thank you very much for the support in Likes and comments during the past year. Much appreciated in your busy lives.

An open book (1)

I was about to pass the library and pretend the doc hadn’t given me this note, when I found myself stopping. I fished in my pocket for the booklist: bibliotherapy indeed! Oh well, it wouldn’t do any harm to try – might even pass the time. There was precious little to do at home. Nothing interested me any longer.

I tugged open the heavy oak door, and a breath of warm air hit me, sweet and, well, booky. At first glance, the library seemed deserted. The vaulted ceiling and rows of dark shelves reminded me of an ancient church with a preservation order on it – both comforting and off-putting.

I was a bit disorientated because the layout was not at all like the modern scientific collections I was used to at Bellingham’s. There, because I was the chief lab technician, I consulted chemistry books stacked in modern pine-veneered shelves that must have cost a bomb. Of course, if they hadn’t invested so much in their library, maybe they wouldn’t have had to lay us off. It’s depressing how people get their priorities wrong.

This library was so gloomy and uninspiring, I turned to leave.

‘Can I help?’ a voice behind me called. ‘You look lost.’

I turned. A tall young man appeared from behind a stack, with a dozen books piled dangerously high in his arms. His friendly eyes peeped at me over the top. They held an air of alarm.

Caught deserting, I told myself ruefully. ‘No, not lost – but I don’t usually come here. Could you tell me where to find these, please?’ I held out the list, feeling even more like the maiden in distress that I’d become recently.

The man dropped the books in a messy pile on the front desk and took the paper from me. I relaxed a fraction as he scanned the titles. His dark hair was cropped short in a number one, just the way I like it, and his navy fleece gave him an air of cuddly reliability. About thirty. Nice looking.

‘I think they’re self-help books,’ I added, trying not to sound too eccentric. ‘But I only need the top one.’

It took him next to no time to fetch the book from a nearby shelf and return to the desk. ‘I suppose you won’t have a borrowing card?’ he asked. ‘I’ll make you out one if you have some identification.’

I handed over my driving licence and found myself opening up a fraction. Someone choosing to be helpful was a relief actually. ‘I usually buy my books from charity shops and eBay,’ I told him, cautiously putting a toe in the water. ‘We all do. Then, once a month, we go down to the bookshop and choose a new one.’

He looked up with what I took to be surprise on his face. ‘Oh, but not this sort,’ I added hastily. ‘Fantasy and sci fi, crime, thrillers. Nothing too touchy-feely.’ I wanted him to think the self-help books were for someone else.

Surprisingly, he didn’t look pityingly at me. ‘I buy my books, too,’ he said, handing me the somewhat dog-eared copy of Managing your Moods. ‘Much better to own books than borrow them. But I shouldn’t say that, should I? Not working here! Anyway, have fun with this one, Lucy.’

I felt as if life had perked up all of its own accord. He’d bothered to read my ID and remember my name!

I am delighted to have won a writing competition that I entered in August. I have very little time for fiction writing these days and am perhaps a little fed up that it’s almost impossible to get certain novels published. No, they’re not horrendous; they’re just not the “in” thing.

And although I have self-published really successfully in 2008-9, twice, I’m not sure that the one I have completed would be welcome in secondary schools, which is mostly where I would need to take it to do workshops and sell copies. (Oh for the return of Borders, the book chain that went into administration!) Schools are still very reluctant to deal with any issues of LGBTQ sexuality, even though the plot doesn’t hinge on it, but on the need to find out why a brother has suicided.

So to have written a successful, carefully constructed 1,000 word short story with a theme I know a lot about as a part-time young people’s therapist, and a dollop of emotion in the story, well… I’m pleased! It reminds me of my long-standing love of writing to move people. Currently I write for a very different audience in my editorials or the occasional article.

The new (January) issue of Writing Magazine will be out on December 1st, complete with my winning story. How nice is that! It’s their most popular competition of the year, so it feels extra good to have won it.

It’s a bit of a change from drawing a loo in Promarkers for World Toilet Day last Saturday! I was pretty pleased with this result too, although the reflection is a bit off and should be lighter. Mine is nothing like as posh 😦

promarkers-loo

Procrustes is a man after my own heart in certain circumstances.

In case you haven’t heard of him, he’s the ancient Greek who stretched people or cut off bits of their legs to fit them into his bed, which was standard size. They had to do it his way!

The main place this Procrustean habit shows up is when my other half and I are doing a crossword and are unsure how to spell an esoteric word. Yes, I know, I could get out the dictionary or improve my spelling in numerable ways. But sometimes, it’s just easier to say, “Oh leave out the S, then it’ll fit!”

People do all sorts of things in life in this way – hence the phrase Procrustean bed. It implies making something, or some property of something, fit into an arbitrary standard.

Wikipedia gives this lovely example:

“A Procrustean solution is the undesirable practice of tailoring data to fit its container or some other preconceived structure. A common example from the business world is embodied in the notion that no résumé should exceed one page in length.”

So where does the hero’s journey come in all this? (You can check out the detail here.)

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators

Well I had the wonderful experience again last Saturday of meeting up with lots of other SCBWI members in York, who are part of NE SCBWI. It was such fun to not be alone, to hear from other writers and illustrators of children’s books, to mix and be accepted (thanks, all!). And on Saturday, we were discussing – or in my case disputing – the fitting of stories into the stages of the hero’s journey. Let me say up front that  Maureen Lynas (@MaureenLynas on Twitter) was a brilliant leader for the discussion and her own stories are great, so this is not an “argument” with her topic for the day but about the idea of formula.

There’s no point disputing that this kind of story has appeared in all cultures all over the world throughout time. But if we then decide all stories must fit in this form, if we jiggle the bones and sinews to make it so, are we not stretching toes or cutting off legs simply to feel the safety of “fitting the bed”?

Something in me rebels against this. Not because I don’t think there’s some sound evidence. But because we are human beings. Not only can we manage to invent things that work even when they hang over the bed, but we have an instinctual need for certainty and safety. And this is the danger zone: gaining a warm, secure feeling because we’ve made our story fit the one-size bed, the hero’s journey.

I just can’t do it. It’s great to realise that elements of my story do indeed seem to reflect this pattern. And I’ll be certain to think about that hero person if my story starts to look uncomfortable in its bed. But otherwise, I’ll stick with what I’ve got and shout out for diversity.