Creative prompt: Offerings #2

I saw these jugs early in one morning, while I was taking Baby Magpie off to nursery. I stopped to take the picture on the way home, and by the evening they were gone. In my post last week I wrote about the offerings members of my local community make to each other. When I saw these jugs I felt that this could be an offering of a different kind. I remember my aunt making wine in jugs like these when I was a child, and have watched the bubbles rise and collect in the top of the jug as various kinds of fruit fermented.

For me these jugs felt much more like an offering of a mystical or spiritual kind. Perhaps these jugs held an offering of wine for the local street gods who reside over our community, or an offering of mead to the ancient spirits of the land that lies below the streets tarmacked pavements. It makes me wonder what those street gods, or those ancient spirits may be like, and what they may think of us.

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Creative prompt: Offerings #1

In the area we live in there is a tradition of people leaving things they no longer need outside of their houses, on the pavement, in the hope that they will find new homes. Baby Magpie and I were walking to the swimming pool when we saw these twin chests of draws, and the tantalisingly open bag of toys on the top. We stopped for a moment to pick a toy and then went on our way, leaving the rest for some other lucky soul.

I like the spirit behind this tradition, in which people offer things to each other in a relatively anonymous way. Of course it is a convenient way to get rid of things, but there is also a generosity to it. The person offering the gift cannot always know who will receive it, friend or foe.

It feels like a silent form of communication within a community. ‘I no longer need this thing, but maybe you do. We would like for this object, which has been useful to us, to be useful to someone else now. We will not waste its potential and send it to landfill.’ It stands in contrast to the silence communications of the fly tippers (of which unfortunately we also have a strong local tradition), which feels much more to me to be ‘we don’t need this junk anymore, someone else can deal with it.’

When I see these objects I sometimes wonder if they may be the start of a story, or a relationship between two people. Perhaps someone else, seeing that bag of toys, would have lingered long enough to meet the person who made this offering as they dashed to the shops, and said hello.

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Creative prompt: Broken strings.

I walked past this broken tennis racket a number of times, and each time I thought ‘that’s not what I’m looking for’. But I began to feel more and more intrigued as I noticed the racket had moved each time I saw it. The first time I saw it, it was in a dark corner under an overhanging building where I would not have been able to get a good shot. But slowly it seemed it inch more and more out onto the pavement, as if creeping into the light, maybe wanting to be seen.

When I finally decided to stop and take a photo, it had manged to move several hundred meters down the street, and was almost in the middle of the pavement, right in my path. I felt as is it was asking me to take the photo, so I did stop and get out my phone.

The way the strings curve and wind against each other, and the way the frame, although broken, still sits in almost it’s original form is both beautiful and sad to me, as if the shape of it tries to suggest better days that are now past.

Once I had taken my photo, I did not see the racket again, as if satisfied, it melted away. Of course it is just a broken old object laying on the pavement, and someone has probably thrown it in the bin. But there was something about this episode that spoke to me, as if the racket wanted to be seen, and to be documented, to say ‘I existed’. I think there is something in this sentiment that we as humans can relate to.

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Creative prompt mini-series: paying respect to trees #4

I quite often see trees that people have decorated with one or more objects, and they always catch my eye. For this reason this month I have been running a mini series of creative prompts about trees and the way people appear to honour them. You can see the other three posts here, here and here.

For my final prompt in this series I wanted to offer you this photo of a tree I saw on the side of one of the Cotswold Hills near where my parents live. I was out walking with my partner, and my parents were looking after my son so we were able to get into places that were a bit too hilly or muddy for the pram.

It was a really hot day, and we mostly chose to stick to the cover of the woods, but found this tree on the side of a field on a hill near a local monument. The sun was very strong that day on my skin, and so bright that it was difficult to take this picture because of the reflection in the screen of my phone. But it seems I did manage to capture this arrangement.

There has been a strong theme of of pagan or druidic traditions in the area since long before I was born. At the time of taking this photo it was not long before the summer solstice, and I imagine that these symbols do have meaning for whoever placed them there. But it is not a meaning that I understand. Perhaps someone who sees this will understand it better and be able to explain it to me.

In my own creative writing at the moment nature plays a strong part of the belief system of the shadow world I have been trying to build. I like seeing things like this, particularly when I don’t actually understand the intention of the person who made the decoration, as it sparks my imagination. I hope that this picture of symbols on a tree may spark something for you, too.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you want to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Creative prompt mini-series: paying respect to trees #3

I saw this tree in a street near where I live over a year ago. It’s not a great photo, as it came out a bit dark. Fiddling with an edit seems to cause more harm than good by bleaching out the image, but I’ve managed to enhance the range of woollen decorations hanging in the tree.

On the actual day the weather was quite gloomy and cool, and it was spring but not really near Easter or any other festival that I know of would explain these objects hanging in the tree. They really stood out to me as a bit special. Someone, or a group of someones had spent a chunk of their time hand making these decorations for a tree in the street.

This is the kind of thing that really sparks ideas off for me. Who would spend the time to do such a thing? What meaning might these objects hold? Are they left over from a festival, or just there because someone simply wanted to honour the tree?

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you want to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Creative prompt mini-series: paying respect to trees #1

One of the things that really catches my eye when I am our and about is where people decorate or otherwise mark local trees. I frequently find the way they do this to be interesting and mysterious, and it allows my mind to wander into spaces that are both ancient and mystical.

This tree is close to our house, and has been marked with this ring of stones for some time now. I frequently walk past it, and wonder who may have put these stones there. What do they mean to the person who placed them?

In my own work in progress (Feeding Jasmine Valentine) natural cycles, and plants and trees play quite a big part in my world building. One of the things I want to do a bit more with this blog is to share some of the things that are feeding into my ideas for that work. So over the next four weeks I’ll be sharing some photographs of trees that may spark your imagination.

I hope that this mini series will provoke new ideas for you, too.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you want to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

On not having a niche: diverse interests and creativity

When I first started blogging a number of years ago now, I spent a bit of time looking at what other people said about creating a successful blog. There is lots of advice out there, some of it sensible, some of it conflicting. I tried to build some of it into my blogging, with various degrees of success (if you are looking for a good site on this is suggest taking a look at Female Blogreneur here). Most were easy enough. Include pictures. Check. Include pictures of cats. Double check.

But the most consistent piece of advice that came up was to find a niche and stick with it. This is where I have a problem. My blog and website started off as a place to talk about my writing, films and art. But over time I found myself wanting to write about other things and other ideas. This is mostly because my magpie brain is attracted to lots of things, and you know, life happens. So over time I have written about the flowers in my garden, interesting sentimental objects, open water swimming and IVF.

It’s not a problem to have diverse interests, but it makes it a bit more difficult to describe what you do. ‘I write about art, writing, and lots of other things’ is a bit vague. One of the other bits of advice that is out there is to ‘build a community around what you do’. If you are at best vague about what you do, that also gets a bit tricky.

Over time I’ve been thinking about this and what it all means. There are definitely groups of people out there ‘like me’. Emily Wapnick calls us multipotentialites. Barbara Sher calls us scanners, and urges us to ‘refuse to choose’ (affiliate link). There are several existing communities that exist around this notion, but somehow the idea of joining one doesn’t scratch the itch. I think the closest I’ve come to feeling like I’ve met ‘my people’ is when I meet other artists and writers, particularly the ones who deal in science fiction and fantasy.

On a number of writing shows and podcasts I have listened to recently I have come across this idea that as writers we need to fill the creative well. I feel my creativity is a bit more like a river with multiple tributaries that derive from many different sources. I can identify a variety of influences in my current work in progress, Feeding Jasmine Valentine. I actually think that my ‘niche’ is creativity itself. The things that inspire creativity, the processes that are involved, and the many splendid expressions of it. But the niche of creativity is so broad, and has so many possibilities that it is almost no good as I niche at all.

And I don’t think that matters.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you want to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Creative Prompt: a crack in the wall

When we moved into our house, pre pandemic, we were aware that there was lots of work that was needed. At the time we weren’t daunted by that because even though I had a big baby bump, we thought that we would have lots of help from our family. Unfortunately we then had a global pandemic which forced us all into a series of lockdowns, and our DIY has progressed rather more slowly than expected.

Upstairs in the room that is meant to be our bedroom, but that currently functions as an office/ dumping ground, I’ve been taking off the wallpaper a little bit at a time. There was a thin crack, and a lot of crumbling bits in the middle of one of the walls. I had to cut away and clean out some of the plaster before I could fill it all in again to make the rest of the plaster secure. In the middle of the process I took this photo of the crack, which I think looks kind of spooky. It has a whiff of MR James about it.

I thought that it would make a nice creative or writing prompt for somebody who has spooky tastes. Drop your ideas or flash fiction welcome in the comments below, or turn it into a post on your own blog and let me know.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you want to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Creative prompt: the Journey

When we moved into our house a couple of years ago the previous owners had left a lot of things behind. Most of these things were kind of annoying – huge wardrobes that have been difficult to get rid of or broken ornaments in the garden. However, they also left this little guy in a large flower pot in the garden, and I really like him.

He’s made of some kind of ceramic, and seen from the right angle, looks like he is about to journey into the wilderness. Many good stories begin with the start of a journey, and in my own books (all works in progress unfortunately) there are several. Here on the blog I like to share photos of things that give me ideas, as sometimes I think they may give other people ideas too.

What does this picture make you think of? What kind of tales does this picture inspire? Ideas or flash fiction welcome in the comments below, or turn it into a post on your own blog and let me know

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you want to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

I started a mailing list – now what?

Long time readers of this blog will remember that I have a bit of an issue when it comes to finishing artistic projects, but since I completed the first draft of Feeding Jasmine Valentine last year, I feel like I may have broken through that particular wall. My second draft is now fully underway, and the story line and characters have evolved in ways that feel exiting and interesting to me. I feel like I may have finally hit my stride a bit, have worked out how to fit creative time into my busy week, and each week make a little more progress.

When I was pregnant with my son I found I suffered quite badly with fatigue, and didn’t manage to do much. But one of the things I did enjoy was laying in the bath listening to podcasts. While I was doing this I discovered the Best Seller Experiment, which is a great podcast. I have been a member of the Best Seller Academy for six months now and I think that this is one of the things that has helped my find my flow a bit.

While I’m not really that close to having that final perfect draft, I have been thinking about my publication strategy a lot. There seem to be several options:

  1. Try to find an agent, and then that agent will try to find you a traditional publishing deal with a big publishing company
  2. Self publish through Amazon or Kobo or one of the other platforms.
  3. Try to get a publishing deal with a small press, with or without the step of getting an agent
  4. Some combination of all of the above

I’ve been going back and forward between options one and two for quite a while now. There are advantages and disadvantages to each that I will probably discuss in a later post, and I have basically come to the conclusion that it’s too difficult to decide. So, in the spirit of being a member of the Bestseller Academy, I’m going to try a little experiment of my own, by giving both strategies a try at the same time to see which one works out better for me.

I have a draft of my first book which is a fantasy novel (find out more about the whole project here), and I’m working on a second draft. I’m going to try to make this as beautiful as possible and then try to get an agent for it.

In writing the new draft of my fantasy novel I have actually rough plotted three novellas that would be prequels to that novel to try to work out some character back story. I’m going to take advantage of having done that bit of work, and attempt to write and self publish these as a little trilogy. This has the advantage of growing a little following for the fantasy world ahead of the other book, and if I can’t find an agent for it I will not be hitting the ground cold with that book.

In pretty much all of the research I have done around successful publishing, I have found that one key piece of advice is to have a mailing list and news letter. I had been resisting this as I didn’t really know what I would write to people about. Now I have set myself this little challenge I think I have something to actually update people on, so I have taken the plunge and set up my mailing list. I’ll be attempting to doing quarterly updates on my progress, and hopefully have some fun as well. If you are interested in hearing how I am getting on with things, you can sign up to my newsletter here.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you want to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.