Tag Archives: #prose4T

the uplifting power of words – #ShoreToShore

grassI’ve been feeling fraught lately. Too much emotion, too much worry, too much sadness about the state of our country and our future.

But last night something wonderful happened – I went to Carol Ann Duffy’s Shore to Shore poetry tour. It was held in my local church, a lovely location at the best of times (I say that despite my atheist tendencies) but on this particular occasion it had a bar serving cask ales in it (it did – honest!) and was filled poetry and music.

Poets Gillian Clarke, Imtiaz Dharker, Jackie Kay and Gillian Allnutt all performed along side the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and with musical interludes by John Sampson. I loved it all. I’m not saying I loved each and every poem equally or that each poet affected me the same way. I think poetry is a personal thing and you can find your own meanings within the words. I let some of last night just wash over me, while other parts made me smile or laugh, and still others brought tears to my eyes. Some poems really hit home. Politics did enter the building (at a time like this how could it not?) but I had a strong sense of being surrounded by like-minded people. And we sat side by side and were immersed in thought and intelligence and warmth. It was an evening of out-and-out soul enrichment.

When I got home I wrote a poem about it. I didn’t really think about it I just walked into the room, exchanged pleasantries with my husband (‘How were the kids at bedtime? Perfectly behaved? What, did the stars align this evening or something?’), grabbed a pen and paper and the words appeared on the page. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a poem like that. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a poem.

Of course I’m terrified to share it here – because it’s a first draft and it’s raw and you might think it’s rubbish. But I want to put it somewhere because, I don’t know, there’s been so much sadness recently and the poem is about how I felt last night, remembering what’s good in life. It was transmitted so clearly through those wonderful poems from those wonderful writers and, though I can’t hope to live up to their words, they’ve given me the strength to throw a few of my own out into the world.

Poetry

They fell like raindrops
drenching parched soil –
words of beauty
of truth
of kindness,
of art and wisdom and thought.

They fell like blossom
coating tired streets –
words of culture
of insight
of education,
of rawness and emotion and love.

They fell like sunbeams
through the treetops,
a soft wind through the grasses,
warmth beside me,
gentle hands in my hair.

Prose for Thought
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how I illustrated my poem

I’ve got an illustrated limerick to share with you today which I created for yesterday’s #ShapeChallenge and today’s Prose for Thought. Instead of just pasting it in right now though, I thought I’d take you – visually as well as descriptively – through my creative process first. I find it helpful seeing how other people got from A to B when writing or drawing something so hopefully it will be interesting to at least some of you!

Ok, so I started with this:
mugshape This was yesterday’s #ShapeChallenge on Twitter and the idea is, you use the shape as inspiration for an illustration of some kind. Well, this just shouted ‘mug’ at me and I decided to go with that.

Then I remembered it was Prose for Thought today and that it would be nice to have a piece of poetry to share for that. I’ll write a limerick! I thought (no surprise there for regular readers!).

Hmmm… mug… mug of tea… right, what rhymes with tea? Bee, knee, see… three! Ooh, I’ve got three kids… right mother of three, cup of tea, ok I can work with that.

rough copy
This is the sheet of paper I figured out my design on. I wrote the limerick in my head and you can see it scribbled down the bottom. I then tried to work out how I wanted to illustrate it. As you can see, I thought about having the cup of tea centre stage (the red spot in the shape would become a cherry on the bun in that instance), with my face behind or next to it. I also toyed with the idea of just having a hand reaching for the tea with a speech bubble. Then I had a go at a little scene where I could be seen relaxing with my tea with my three boys (creating mayhem) around me.

Ultimately, I decided to go for the last idea (though I decided against having a son swinging from the light fitting! In fact, looking at the sketch now, I appear to have five sons…).

mug of teaThis is what I posted on Twitter for #ShapeChallenge yesterday (the idea is you share what you draw).

This morning I went back and tweaked it a bit – my youngest son (playing with trains) was too big, there was something badly wrong with this arms in the picture and he kind of looked like he was rolling off the coffee table.  I also tried to make my eldest son (doing the handstand) look like he had a slightly less broken neck, and I faffed around with my middle son’s face and arms. That lead to:

mug of tea2small
At this point I thought, I wonder what it would look like in colour? And got out my pencil crayons:

mug of tea colour Oh, um, that looks a bit rubbish. Definitely better in pencil…

But how about if I tried felt tips? (I’ve recently bought some posh Faber-Castell ones which I love using.)

So I grabbed them, outlined the whole picture with fine black marker and then coloured  it in. I also used white pen for a few highlights. Here’s the final picture:

 

mug of tea colour pens I think I might prefer the pencil version actually, but it was fun to try adding colour and thankfully, because I scanned it in first, I still have the earlier version even though the ‘hard copy’ now has ink on it.

There you have it. I’d love to know your thoughts!

Prose for Thought

smashing the doubt by getting it out

As part of my plan to build my artistic/illustrative skills this year, I have begun drawing every day and sharing pictures on Twitter. It’s a way of combating my self-doubt by just throwing myself into it and then putting the work out there. There’s no time to worry it’s not good enough and psyche myself out – I just draw and tweet. I’ve been loving it and the more I draw, the more I want to draw.

paints and pencils

I don’t want to leave my writing gathering dust though while I focus on my exciting new project and I wondered if a similar ‘produce something quickly and fling it out there’ approach might work with writing too. So this morning I set myself a ‘ten to one’ story challenge. I first attempted one last February and found it fun. The idea is you write a story ten sentences long. The first sentence is ten words long, the next nine, then eight… all the way down to one.

Here’s this morning’s attempt:

Katherine was hunched over her easel, struggling with a landscape.
Once, her artwork had adorned the galleries of Europe.
These days her tremors made painting almost impossible.
Frustrated tears rained down on the canvas.
Greens and ochres swirled and splashed.
Then – a presence beside her.
The young girl gasped.
“Grandma – the colours!
They’re dancing!
Beautiful!”

It’s not a perfectly-honed piece but I do like the way this challenge makes you think about the words you use. I also find writing with constraints like this oddly liberating – maybe it’s because I can’t spend hours trying to make it perfect (I mean, that last sentence clearly needed to be two words long but it couldn’t be) so I feel free to have a crack at it. Just like with drawing.

Why not have a go yourself? Be sure to tweet me if you do – I’d love to read it!
Prose for Thought

limerick challenge #25 – tiger

At the weekend my sons asked me to write a limerick about a tiger. I foolishly thought it would be quite a straight-forward one to write but somehow, despite all the rhymes for ‘tiger’ I thought up, it was tough to make it into a limerick. The one I ended up with had several endings all of which my older son objected to as ‘too grisly’. This one might strike a chord for the modern-day mountaineer though…

 

There once was a plucky young tiger

Who scaled the north face of the Eiger

But her ‘look at me!’ tweet

To show off this feat

Wouldn’t send – drat! No service provider!

 

Tiger on the Eiger holding a smart phone. Helicopters are hovering above (I'd worried him with grizzly ending  you see so he was making sure the tiger got home safely.

Tiger on the Eiger holding a smart phone. Helicopters are hovering above (I’d worried him with grisly ending you see, so he was making sure the tiger got home safely).

And if you’re wondering about my alternative versions, I’ll throw this one in for free:

 

There once was a plucky young tiger

Who scaled the north face of the Eiger

Where she fell from the top

Landed SPLAT on her bot

And splattered her guts far and wide(er).

 

There was another one where she got eaten by vultures too!

The picture was drawn by my seven-year-old using some new pastels he’s got that are water-soluble, hence it looking a bit like a painting. He found it tough to get any detail with them but they were pretty fun to use – I had a go too!

I wonder if you can send a tweet from the top of the Eiger?
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Prose for Thought

limerick challenge #23

It’s been a while since my last limerick challenge… nearly two months (I just checked)! The boys have been requesting I write another one for weeks but my brain has been far too taken up with editing my picture books. My manuscripts are out of my hands for the moment though, so I’m free for a bit of silly poetry.

This time my boys asked me to write a limerick about a ‘bird’ but I took the liberty of making it a swift because I’d already noticed that this week’s prompt was ‘gift’ and a rhyme leapt to mind! The illustration is courtesy of my seven-year old.

One day I encountered a swift

Who made me decidedly miffed

When from up in the sky

He aimed at my eye

And sent me a splattery gift!

 

Swift Gift

Prose for Thought
mumturnedmom

 

Nikki Young Writes

alphabet story

I enjoyed the ‘ten to one‘ writing challenge I did last week so when Nicola suggested doing another challenge this week I was up for it. This week’s it’s an ‘alphabet story’ where you write a story with twenty-six sentences and each sentence has to start with a consecutive letter of the alphabet. Here’s what I came up with:

toy leopard

A leopard had always appealed to her as a pet.

But Ellen, that’s ridiculous!” her mum said.

Can’t you see how dangerous that would be?” added her dad. “Did the snake calamity teach you nothing?”

Ellen considered this: it was true that Patrick the python had caused problems but his snakeish charm had made it worthwhile… perhaps not for her parents’ bank balance though.

Forget I said anything then.” but she herself had no intention of forgetting.

Grey’s Exotic Animal Zoo was deserted as she squeezed in through a gap in the fence later that night. Her heart was pounding so loudly she could almost hear it echoing off the silent buildings around her, but she she was determined to stick to her plan. It shouldn’t be too difficult she thought, urging her trembling legs into action. Just follow the path round the back of the bushes until it reaches the leopard enclosure.

Keeping very quiet she crept along, her torch light sweeping over silent cages and empty pens. Looks like all the animals are asleep, she thought with relief. Maybe that’s for the best considering what I’ve done to the security system! Now, is this where the leopards live?

Oh!

Peering out at her through the bars was a pair of glowing eyes. Quickly Ellen introduced herself and outlined her idea; she knew her life was at risk once the leopard knew his cage was unlocked so it was important to persuade him she was more than just a tasty meal!

Realising there was something interesting about this girl, Xavier listened to what she was proposing. She smelt good but there were other ways to fill his stomach and the life she described sounded tempting; more tempting than a midnight snack? Turning towards the door of his enclosure, he pushed it open with his nose and walked towards her.

Unsure of his intentions, Ellen stood rooted to the spot while the leopard sniffed her. Very well he finally nodded his assent and was gratified to see respect and relief reflected in her eyes.

Walking side by side they made their way back along the moonlit path towards the gap in the fence. Xavier turned his gleaming eyes upon her and Ellen could see what he was thinking. You and I: this is the start of an adventure!

Zoos are no place for wild animals” Ellen smiled back at him,“and I’ve always wanted a leopard as a pet.”

 

When I started the story I had no idea where it would lead so I’m pleased I got it to make some sort of sense! It’s clunky though. There were many sentences I was dying to restructure but I couldn’t because then they would have started with the wrong letter. It’s quite a restrictive way of writing in that way but I also found it quite liberating in a way because it freed me of the ability to tweak the story endlessly as I normally would. It has to remain a bit jagged and imperfect.

Funnily enough, I rather like the idea of Ellen and Xavier (names picked purely to fit the alphabet!) and the adventures they might have together… food for thought…
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Prose for Thought

A frisson

I’ve been feeling a bit creatively sluggish recently and in need of a new challenge to give me a bit of a kick up the bum. Luckily at exactly the right moment Nicola at Nikki Young Writes drew my attention to a creative writing exercise called “Ten to One”. The idea is to write a piece of micro fiction only fifty-five words long with a first sentence of ten words, a second of nine, a third of eight… and so on down to a final, one word sentence.

It was tricky but here’s what I wrote (NB I decided that hyphenated words count as separate words!):

Their eyes met the moment he walked into the room.
It was a seminar on eighteenth-century Russian architecture.
His striking architecture was far more stimulating though.
Her dropped pen rolled towards his feet.
Passing it back, their hands brushed.
Time stopped for an instant.
And then she remembered.
Affairs with students?
Not allowed.
Dammit.

 
Honestly, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it at all as I normally like to have room to be more expressive. It was quite a satisfying challenge to overcome and one I recommend as it really makes you think about the impact of your words. It’s interesting to see how you can tell a story in so few! Why not have a go yourself? Feel free to tweet me if you do, I’d love to read some!

Prose for Thought

Nikki Young Writes

ghost story

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A Christmas Ghost Story

The Tradition – Part One

It was late one Christmas eve. The little girl lay in bed listening to the old house sighing and groaning against the chill wind that buffeted it from all sides. Outside, the storm was whipping flurries of snow higher and higher, encasing the house and its inhabitants in a frosty fortress. Shivering, she nestled further down into her blankets and waited.

Downstairs she heard the grandfather clock strike the hour; slow sonorous chimes… nine, ten, eleven… it was time. As her feet hovered over icy wooden boards, she groped in the darkness for dressing gown and slippers, her fingers meeting them with relief. Encased in their soft fibres she moved silently across the room and out into the hallway.

Her brother’s door was ajar and, peeking round it, she saw his bed was empty. She knew he must already be downstairs and hurried to catch up with him. The hall was bitingly cold and at the top of the stairs a chill wind whipped up from under the front door below sending icy fingers skittering up her spine. The huge christmas tree, wreathed in darkness, loomed up at her as she hurried onwards and downwards. She paused only when she reached the threshold of the closed kitchen door. There excitement and trepidation made her tremble. What if he wasn’t here?

She could bear it no longer and, raising her hand to the door, entered the room. And there they were: her father and her brother sitting by the fire. They were both facing the flames, holding out long forks on which they were toasting bread. The scent – combined with the fir of the tree behind her – was as familiar as it was intoxicating. They looked up to greet her and her father, placing his fork on the hearth, welcomed her with a warm smile and open arms. She rushed over to him, leaping delightedly onto his lap.

This was their time. She loved her father deeply but his work kept him away from home for long hours, and often for weeks on end. He even worked on Christmas Eve and missed all the frantic preparations, the final dressing of the tree and the ritual placing of brightly-wrapped presents under its branches. But he always made it home an hour before midnight and they never failed to meet by the fireside like this, the three of them enjoying their special, festive tradition while her mother slept upstairs unawares.

And so the minutes passed happily. Her icy hands and feet were soon warmed by the fire and their father told them tales of his travels as they snuggled on his knee, their eyes shining bright in the firelight. These were perfect moments. It was her favourite hour of the year.

Then the hall clock chimed midnight and as its final note faded, the kitchen door flew open with a blast of cold air. The fire guttered in the grate sending a shower of sparks onto the hearth. Before them stood a vision in white, with long hair flying in disarray around a pale face and a night gown that flowed to the floor. Terror suddenly filled the little girl’s heart. Of course: now it must happen. She always forgot this point in the night and yet, year after year, it unfolded the same way. And she was always helpless. As her mother swept towards them, she trembled to her core.

To be continued…

PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR PART TWO

Prose for Thought
mumturnedmom

 

Nikki Young Writes

limerick challenge #19

dracula

It’s Halloween this friday so I just had to do a spooky limerick challenge! As usual my sons (aged 7 and 5) provided the inspiration and the illustrations:

 

There once was a vampire called Dracula

Whose blood-sucking skills were spectacular

Till once day he took

A swipe at a cook

And was staked through the heart with a spatula.

 

A cook (with bakers hat) staking Dracula. In pointilistic style - which seems apt...

A cook (with bakers hat) staking Dracula. In pointilistic style – which seems appropriate (point… geddit?)

Prose for Thought

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the mistakes we make

DSC_0013

Ella stormed out of the house with her hair still wet from the shower and a half-eaten slice of toast wedged between her teeth. As she teetered down the path, fumbling to prevent the stack of folders in her arms from slipping onto the wet ground, she was still trying to force her left foot into a rather-unforgiving heeled shoe. She stumbled slightly, and her foot came down heavily on the gravel. As the sharp surface dug in to her soft flesh she swore loudly. The toast fell out of her mouth. She swore again.

She knew this whole thing had been a mistake. Why on earth had she agreed to do the presentation this morning? She didn’t even know anything about migratory patterns in seagulls and had had to stay in the office for hours last night after everyone else had left, researching the subject. She hadn’t got home until nearly midnight. Again. Why had she agree to work late every night this week? Why hadn’t she just told that odious toad-of-a-boss ‘no’? There was another mistake. God, she hated her job. In fact, she thought angrily as she pulled the car door open and flung the folders into the passenger seat, it had been a mistake to take the job at all. There must be something out there that she would actually enjoy doing.

She limped round to the driver’s side and climbed into the front seat. A quick examination of the sole of her foot showed her the damage wasn’t too bad. She wiped away the beads of blood and forced it into the shoe. It throbbed against the tight black leather but there wasn’t time to go back inside for a more comfortable pair of shoes. If she even had any – it really was about time she started making purchases for a more sensible motivation than the desire to have fashionable feet. Well, that and the need to please the ever-picky Matt who seemed to think that any shoe with a flat heel wasn’t “sexy enough”… come on gorgeous, you know I like you to look your best.

Bloody Matt. She slammed the car into reverse and backed out of the driveway. Why on earth was she still with him anyway? Sure, he was charming and good-looking and had those eyes, but since when had she allowed any man – or anyone at all – to dictate how she should dress?! Moving in with him had been a mistake. One in a long line.

She turned left onto the main road brooding darkly over her relationship, her job, her whole stupid life, the way it was at the moment. Still, at least the road was clear. If she really floored it, maybe she’d make it to the office in time to avoid another bollocking. Her foot was really aching now though and the pain was spreading through her ankle every time she pressed the clutch. Maybe if she just loosened the shoe a bit…

As she fumbled with the buckle her eyes slipped below the windscreen. She didn’t see the truck that appeared around the corner. She heard the screaming brakes and throbbing blare of the horn though. She was aware of the grinding and smashing and shrieking of metal. The smell of burning. The suffocating pressure. Then nothing.

There it was: her real mistake. The only one that counted.

 
Written in response to #ThePrompt. This week it was “The mistakes we make.”

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Prose for Thought
Nikki Young Writes