As retreats go, this annual adventure is a very lively one – among this year’s sessions we had comedy improv, yoga, e-publishing, drawing, developing the work-in-progress, searching for the iron-age fort and the traditional Charney Quiz.
One of my offerings was an afternoon workshop on writing the tarot. Tarot is useful, like dreams, because the cards you draw will be synchronistically connected with your current emotions and preoccupations, so the themes and characters they suggest will feel relevant and immediate to explore in your writing.
However, in an introductory workshop it can be easier if everyone’s working on the same image, so I like to start at the beginning with number 0, The Fool. Katherine Roberts has described the session on her lovely blog, Riding the Unicorn, if you’d like to find out more.
I’ll be offering a one-day workshop in Cornwall on writing the tarot in the autumn. In the meantime, check out the workshops page on this blog if you think you might fancy some dreaming-and-writing in Surrey this October, and please spread the word if you know anyone else who might be interested.
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
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.
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.
Someone asked me last week, ‘What makes you want to follow a blog?’ Before I started this one, nearly six months ago, I read a lot of blogs about blogging, and everyone agreed that your goal should be to get people to sign up rather than call in from time to time.
Now that I’m blogging myself, I can feel the difference this makes, because the signed-up members feel like a community, and the result feels more like a conversation.
Most pundits seem to agree that the way to get people to sign up is to offer an incentive, usually in the form of a free download. Following that advice, I offered my printout about dream recalling and recording, which I had been intending to put up on my Tips page.
But when this friend asked me last week why I personally subscribe to the blogs I like, I realised that for me it’s all about content. I subscribe if I like the content enough not to want to miss a post. In fact, free downloads are a disincentive to me, after my experience of them so far.
I’ve only signed up to three blogs because I was curious about the free download, and each time, it’s lead to a slew of nuisance emails about topics I never asked for information about. In two of these cases, they also quickly went on to try to sell me downloads or get me to sign up to courses.
So as of today, my sign-up offer ceases. You can see my recalling-and-recording dreams info on the Tips page, and here’s a heads-up on some great content coming in the next few weeks.
How to use dream material to energise your writing… guest post from one of my fave bloggers, Katherine Roberts… interview with lovely dreamworker, Toko-pa Turner… the Death card and the end of the dream book…
If you haven’t done so yet – I do hope you’ll sign up!