Tag Archives: workshops

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

More people want to write than to read – why?

First of all, I must confess I can’t remember where I read that there are more would-be writers than readers, so it’s more of an eye-catching title than a statistical fact. But having said that, it doesn’t sound too preposterous to me.

My kitchen table - ready for a writing group

Writing courses are springing up all over the country, from major universities to my kitchen table; online writers’ resources are increasing daily, and in National Novel Writing Month alone participants have already produced a staggering  2,755,787,833 words this year, and counting  http://nanowrimo.org/

You would think the main reason why so many people are interested in writing is because they’d like to be published, perhaps with a view to changing career, or to making a fortune out of a single best-selling book and going to live in the Seychelles. This is certainly true for some.

But I think for a lot of people who want to write, being published is not the main driver. It’s something more primitive and profound. People come to writing because they want to discover and tell their stories, not necessarily to the world, but to each other, like tribal elders gathered under a tree, or children making up games in the playground.

I think there’s a yearning also, in such a material world, to connect with deeper layers of the self, and explore the mysteries of the inner world.

What creative activities of every kind offer is an experience of total absorption and flow, and an opportunity for spiritual experience and community in a very secular world.

I’d love to hear your views, if you’re a teacher or participant in creative writing courses.

Landscapes of the soul

Years ago, I had a dream I called ‘Landscapes of the soul.’ It was one of those dreams which doesn’t have a story, but just a voice.

Moorland
Cornish moorland

The voice of the dream said, ‘The scenery your soul feels at home in never changes. The empty huge spaces of the highlands, always at the mercy of the elements, that is my soul scenery and will not change, but all the less important things have changed…’

Shetland
Burra Isle in Shetland

It was after this dream that I started to notice the consistency of my dream landscapes, which are most often moors and mountains. In the workshops I do now, I find other people’s dream landscapes also have a surprising consistency.

North of Scotland
The mountains of the far North West

I grew up in leafy Wimbledon, but immediately after university I went to Shetland for a holiday and simply couldn’t leave. It was love at first sight, for me, that wild windbeaten landscape of empty hills and wide horizons. I lived in Shetland for nearly ten years before moving to Cornwall, but I still go to the far North most years in the summer.

This week, I read a fascinating post by Abi Burlingham about her relationship with trees and woodland http://abiburlingham.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/21st-october/ It reminded me of my long-ago dream, and made me wonder if everyone is drawn so strongly to one kind of scenery, for pleasure, solace or inspiration.

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.’

My little bloggie

Well, who would have thought it? I’m loving writing my little bloggie! That’s what my friend Sian calls it, she of http://www.spiritoftheblog.co.uk/.  We’ve never met, but she got in touch with me last year about my books on bullying through my website, and we reconnected last week through this blog.

To be honest, I only came to blogging because I wanted to put the word out about my dream book, and I imagined that it was going to feel like any other writing task. But it’s turned out to be completely different, and the reason why, is you.

Already, in a few weeks, I’ve had a number of email conversations with people in Britain, Canada and the US, and I’ve loved hearing your dreams and comments.

It reminds me of when I started to teach workshops, which I did out of financial necessity after my marriage broke up. The last thing I expected was that I might actually enjoy it.

But, almost immediately, I discovered that nothing is more wonderful than sitting among a group of people who are totally absorbed in their writing, and then hearing them read what they’ve written. I think one of the reasons people come to writing workshops is because it answers an ancient need in all of us to come together and tell our stories.

So hello Sian, and hello everyone else who is reading this! Is there anything you would like me to add to my topic list?