Category Archives: Guest posts

Guest post: The waking dream that sparked the book

Today, I’m delighted to welcome children’s author, Katherine Roberts, to the House of Dreams, on her blog-tour to celebrate her new book ‘Sword of Light.’

It’s especially exciting for me because this is the first time, as far as I know, that a book has been published which was helped along by one of my workshops, in this case, for the Scattered Authors Society  http://www.scatteredauthors.org/

My Heroine’s Journey for SWORD OF LIGHT, by Katherine Roberts

Katherine Roberts

My inspiration for ‘Sword of Light’ came in a waking dream, when I attended a workshop led by the lovely Jenny Alexander, who guided a few of us children’s authors on a ‘Hero’s Journey’ along our personal writing paths. It went like this.

Imagine you are walking in a familiar place, when you see a sign saying, ‘To the Treasure…’

I am in the local wood on the boardwalk, and it is raining so no-one else is walking today. The trees are dripping and the bluebells are out. All smells green and garlicky. I am approaching my favourite bridge over a stream, where I often imagine fairies, when I see a new path twisting through the trees where there are no marked trails. A sign says TO THE TREASURE. I think it is one of the farm’s treasure hunts for children, so I hesitate because it might be something tacky and disappointing. But since no-one is around to laugh at me, I decide to take a look.

You find the path blocked…

I push through some ivy and find the path blocked by a monstrous dragon that some local artists have strung up in the trees by the boardwalk for the annual Arts Trail. It is a fantasy creature made of old grey canvas, black feathers, and a scary triangular beak/snout. It is meant to be a future people’s idea of a bird they have never seen because birds are extinct in the future, and it has come alive. It hisses at me. It has been tied in the trees long enough, and now it has escaped. But it can’t fly because its wings have not been made the right way, and they are soggy with the rain. Also, it has no eyes, so it is blind.

How do you get past the block…?

The ‘future-bird’ cannot see me so I freeze, trying to make no sound. I think about going around it, but the undergrowth is too thick. Also, it’s boggy because I am off the boardwalk. I am too afraid of its huge sharp beak and its powerful claws to try climbing over it, so I decide to fool it. I pick up a stick and throw it into the undergrowth. The dragon hears the stick land and flaps off after it, getting  its wings entangled in the bushes and shrieking as it flounders in the bog. I hurry past before it can get free, a bit afraid of meeting it again on the way back.

You find the treasure…

As I leave the dragon behind, the sun comes out and the path emerges in a clearing where there is a barrow covered by greenery. I push aside some leaves and crawl inside, where I find a gleaming sword. This is the treasure! I take the sword, thinking it might be useful if I have to fight the dragon, although I don’t really want to soil the beautiful blade with its blood, nor hurt the ‘future-bird’ because it is the last of its kind. Also, I doubt my fighting skills because I have not been trained to use a blade. So I venture back warily along the dripping path, where the sun now sparkles through the leaves and gleams off my treasure.

What do you do next…?

The dragon is still stuck in the bog, but it has exhausted itself and the sun is drying its feathers. It steams gently, its wings spread in the warmth. It still cannot see me, but the sword is magic so it can see the light coming off it. It crawls towards me, as if hypnotised. It seems less afraid now, maybe because it is no longer lost and alone. I stroke its beak and it does not attack. Murmuring to the creatuire, I climb on its back, and since the sun has dried out its wings it can now fly. Although it is still blind, my eyes will guide us. As we take off and circle above the trees in the sunshine, I see the glint of water below where fairies live. We both feel amazingly free. As long as we continue to trust each other, we can fly anywhere in the world, and my sword of light will defend us from enemies, past or future.

Sword of Light

I was writing the first draft of ‘Sword of Light’ at the time of this workshop, and am quite spooked by how many elements have ended up in the book:

The sword – Excalibur, the Sword of Light that was forged in Avalon.

The dragon/’future-bird’ – a shadrake, a dark dragon from the underworld of Annwn which breathes ice instead of fire.

The heroine – Rhianna Pendragon, King Arthur’s daughter.

***

SWORD OF LIGHT is published this month by Templar in hardcover, and you can follow Rhianna Pendragon on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PendragonGirl

Katherine’s website is at www.katherineroberts.co.uk

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Guest spot: A poet dreaming

Metamorphosis – By Susan Richardson

Some years ago, I was working on my first poetry collection, Creatures of the Intertidal Zone. The book’s main section, inspired by my journey through Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland in the footsteps of an intrepid eleventh century female Viking, was complete, but I didn’t yet have a clear vision for the final part of the manuscript.

Until, over a period of several weeks, prompted perhaps by my reading numerous narratives of Polar exploration to both the Arctic and Antarctic, I had a sequence of dreams featuring that most iconic of polar creatures, the penguin. In one dream, I received a penguin delivery – he was shoved and squeezed through my letterbox until he landed with a slap on the tiled hall floor. In another, I was trying to hoist a poorly penguin into a cardboard box so that I could take him to the vet, while in the most surreal dream of all, I was metamorphosing, flipper by flipper, feather by feather, into a penguin myself.

I’d never written poems from dreams before, but the penguins were impossible to ignore. As I wrote, I pondered on all the images of penguins that exist in popular culture, as well as our persistent commodification and Disneyfication of animals, a theme that seemed to fit well with the environmental strands I’d introduced in the main section of the collection. Gradually, over the next six months, my dream penguins swam and waddled their way into a series of poems that enabled the final part of my manuscript to fall into place.

Creatures of the Intertidal Zone was published by Cinnamon Press in 2007. I was delighted by Helena Nelson’s mini-review of the collection in Mslexia and the fact that she singled the penguins out for a special mention – ‘Susan Richardson’s Creatures of the Intertidal Zone offers a marvellously different blend of passion, pathos, poetry – and penguins.’ I have continued to allow my dreams to feed my poetry ever since.

METAMORPHOSIS

To begin with, nothing drastic.
the odd cold bath, air con on max,
the utter absence of shivers.

Then, the skin tingles, each pore forcing
the shaft of a feather forth, like a lid
with a push-through straw.

I go right off garlic, crisps, samosas,
bright red curtains, Gauguin prints.
If I must stay indoors, I want plain
white tiles, a single chilled white porcelain sink.

And oh, the fingers. Useless, as if mittened.
And stretched, the tips skimming the floor.
Scissors, chopsticks, forks – all binned.

Breasts blend with belly, waist, hips.
I’m lugging a two-fifty-litre rucksack
in an outsize black wetsuit and wellies.
My tears taste of fish.

Fresh fears keep me from sleeping.
The fleck throats of bull seals.
Ice melt. Oil slicks.

I make a nest from the last
strands in my hairbrush and what I once
knew as pencils, and string.

Soon I must push
this hard new truth between my legs
and hatch it.

Creatures of the Intertidal Zone is available via Susan’s website www.susanrichardsonwriter.co.uk as is her new collection, Where the Air is Rarefied

Guest spot: The dream that sparked the book

The dream behind ‘Buttercup Magic’ – by Abi Burlingham

Buttercup magic cover
‘A Mystery for Megan’ – the first book in the ‘Buttercup Magic’ series

I have had vivid dreams for as long as I remember, varying from dreams of flying to the truly horrid stick witch who crept out of the plughole. Some of these have sparked off ideas for stories, but generally speaking I hadn’t used them in my writing and they were quite often forgotten.

That is, until a few months ago, following a fascinating article I read in the Spring Mslexia, ‘Dreamwriting’ by Clare Jay, where Clare describes the process of being conscious in your dreams, controlling them, and using them to help your writing.

Fascinated with this idea, I decided to try being more aware in my next dream. The dream that followed was incredibly vivid. I was in a big old house, or rather, my consciousness was. My dream almost told me what was there. It told me there were mice who could tell the time – I could see these in the dream – and there was a black cat.

When I woke, I had the strongest sense of place. The setting and feelings that accompanied it were so incredibly vivid. Luckily, I keep a notebook and pen by the bed, so I quickly wrote down these ideas.

Shortly after, I started to write the book ‘Buttercup Magic’ – under the working title ‘Buttercup House’, featuring mice who could tell the time (all called Whiskers) and  black cat called Dorothy. But I knew that a dog should be in the book too, so I wrote in Buttercup, a big golden retriever.

‘Buttercup Magic’ is now to become a series, the first of which, ‘An adventure for Megan’, is due out in Spring 2012. Without the dream, and without that very important article, I have no doubt that this book wouldn’t have been written.

www.abiburlingham.talktalk.net

http://www.abiburlingham.talktalk.net/Blog.html

Guest spot: The story of the picture

Would you like to know where the dream house picture at the top of this blog came from? I’ll let Mooncakelizzie explain… Picturing the House of Dreams, by Mooncakelizzie I’ve been interested in creative writing for the past eleven years. Attending a multitude of classes and groups freed up a rabble of short stories and some novels, jointly written with someone who’s now a friend, met at one of Jen’s workshop series. These have not the rigidly defined tick-box ‘outcomes’ of formal courses, but are absolutely absorbing and simply fun to take part in. In particular, ‘Writing in the House of Dreams’ opened up a kind of secret garden I’d lived alongside almost unaware. There, for example, I could meet myself at younger ages, and also a hidden self who was growing, maybe pupating under a cabbage-leaf in a homely but boundless place.

Liz's first dream hut picture

The first dream house drawing I made was during a workshop. We all told a dream, and then chose an image from one person’s dream to draw. We wrote three words to describe it. Then we asked three questions to spark a story – ‘Who finds it? Why are they there? What happens next?’

Liz's second hut

At home, I did more drawings. I began to put daydreams in, of living near the sea in a beautiful Oast conversion. A bit of Kentish beach; a view imagined from my little house.

Then a night scene, an isolated hut on a wild headland with distant lights of other houses far away across the water. I don’t consciously know what’s inside.

Here, I can hold dreams, experiences, events and things I’ve picked up or eavesdropped on while careering openly in and out of that world behind the ‘hedge.’

Guest spot: the dream that sparked the book

The dream behind ‘One Wolf Howls,’ by Scotti Cohn.

I have always had an active dream life. The content of my dreams ranges from the mundane to the bizarre. Many of my dreams are lucid or ‘conscious’ dreams.

About fifteen years ago, I had ‘the wolf dream.’

Scotti with a wolf called Wotan
Scotti with a wolf called Wotan. A percentage of the royalties from ‘One Wolf Howls’ goes to Wolf Park, Indiana, where he lives

In the dream, I am running on a paved road in a rural area. I can feel each of my four paws striking the road as I run. I realize that I am a wolf – specifically, a black, female wolf. Up ahead, I see three or four men with rifles. I immediately veer off into the tall grass. I creep closer, crouched low, watching them warily. I am very much in the body and mind of the wolf.

Animals of all kinds fascinate and delight me. In addition, I am intrigued by the idea of totem animals. This dream made me wonder if the wolf was my totem animal. I sought out pictures and books about wolves and watched television specials about them.

One night in 2003 I was about to fall asleep when an image formed in my mind: a lone wolf howling, with a full moon in the sky above. My mind began to play with the image, and produced the lines: ‘One wolf howls in the winter moonlight… Night light, dim light, midnight soon.’ The word ‘winter’ felt too general, so I tried ‘January moonlight,’ and liked it. I continued to create lines in my head, moving from ‘one wolf’ in January to ‘two wolves’ in February, ‘three wolves’ in March, and so forth.’

After many revisions and submissions to editors, my children’s book, ‘One Wolf Howls’ was published by Sylvan Dell Publishing in 2009, with marvellous illustrations by Susan Detwiler.

I dreamed of being a children’s book author my whole life. It seemed fitting that my first published children’s book was inspired by a dream.

www.scotticohn.com  http://onewolfhowls.blogspot.com/