Welcome to Dragonscale Clippings

Inside the mind of a writer...

My motto for 2012: Quality, not quantity

I am currently exploring the sensation of Sound...

Friday, 30 March 2012

Review of Collecting Cobwebs, Gathering Brambles...

Collecting Cobwebs, Gathering Brambles
by Elizabeth Leaper & Jack Williamson

Reviewed by Freya Pickard

This is a beautiful, eclectic collection of poetry.

The first half of the book contains Libby's poetry and the second half contains poems written by her uncle Jack Williamson. There is a wide variety of poetry within these pages ranging from blank verse to highly structured forms including a villanelle.

This is a book I will re-read again and again. Every time I dip into it there is something new to discover, even in my favourite poems that I have read many times now.

The themes are as varied as the styles employed by both writers but the overwhelming sense one receives is that these poets are rooted in the soil that bred them. There is a fertile quality about these poems that they appear to have drawn out of the land around them, using it to fuel their own creativity.

For me, rhythm and atmosphere are the important things when reading poetry. I do enjoying rhyming schemes but prefer to be surprised by rhymes, not to expect them. This collection provided me with great pleasure as there is nothing twee or predictable about any of the poetry.

For instance, the rhyming in Frost Art is all part of the sound and the vision: -

I used to greet with such delight,
after a cold and frosty night,
the fronds and ferns of filigree
that he had drawn exquisitely...

In contrast, On The Hill is written in blank verse but is as equally powerful in its rhythm and description:-

wind-angled, on the hill
the tree stands desolate...

Libby's mood fluctuates between playful (Indecision) and poking fun (Ladies Gym), observational (Winter Rain) and epic (Ondine and Immortal).

My favourite poems by Libby include Solstice and The Old Songs. Solstice is illustrated with a beautiful pencil drawing of Stonehenge and when I read the poem it summed up my thoughts and feelings on the one occasion I have visited that ancient place.

In their timeless circle
the ancient stones once more mark
the passing of the seasons.
All is well.

The Old Songs struck a chord with me because the poem reminded me of that song in The Two Towers that the Rohirrim sing, Where now the horse the rider...? This poem contains a similar yearning and longing for the past, for something irretrievably lost.

Who will sing of the salmon
that leaps in the clear waters?
Who will sing of the hawk on the wing?

Sorrowful and inspiring this is one celtic type poem I return to again and again.

I want to review every single poem in the book but space and time prevents me here. I want now to talk about Jack Williamson's poetry.

Jack's poetry is subtly different to Libby's but there are many similarities in themes. His poetry has a sterner feel, but that's not to say it's not enjoyable to read. It is! It's as if he is confiding his deepest, darkest thoughts sometimes in his poetry. His use of words indicates an older generation to that of mine, one that knew how to use language correctly.

My favourite poems by Jack are Birch Trees and Lindow Man.

In Birch Trees the rhythm carries you along, the words are crisp and clear, painting vivid pictures. I particularly liked "Frondle trails of leafy green" and "Are tingle-teased by a fresh spring, Early morning breeze". The second stanza is full of motion and destrution leaving the last stanza to restore the peaceful landscape, describing it as "Tall white masts lying at anchor, On a neap tide of evening sylphid mist." This is one that evokes a real scene in mind's eye whenever I read it.

Lindow Man is a lush riot of description. I just love the way Jack describes things without even necessarily naming them. For instance, "a half Dozen hummocks of contentment, thoughtfully Chewing the cud in dumb doe-eyed bliss". In this poem the reader is taken from the "hard flint-eyed road with its sureness of arrival" to a "soft wandering way" that weaves through hedges, meadows, herds of cows, past flowering hawthorn. All the way you see and smell what the poet experiences and he even takes you into his memories of "Family Sunday visits to Grandad's lamplit cottage" and at the end he recalls the "fairy tales and misty legends" and the dead man who lay hidden until he reappeared as "a cameo of his time."

I have only mentioned a handful of the inspirational poems in this beautiful collection. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading and wants to be inspired.

Don't forget that the Giveaway of Collecting Cobwebs, Gathering Brambles ends at midnight on 6th April 2012 British Summer Time. To be in with a chance of winning a copy for yourself, follow the instructions giveaway-ccgb

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Recent Blog Tours and Reviews...

A huge thank you to Matt, Katie and Libby for participating in this month's blog tours here at Clippings. And a huge thank you to all my followers who read / commented / enjoyed the tours!

In case you've missed out on any of the blog tours or are new to Clippings, you can find the three blog tours here: - 

You can read my reviews of Better Off Dead and Collecting Cobwebs, Gathering Brambles at Goodreads: -

Better Off Dead 

And if you need further encouragement to buy BOD, read what Matt Rowe has to say about it here at Goodreads

Collecting Cobwebs 

Katie Wood's book Girls for God is due to be reprinted at the end of April 2012 and you can find reviews of it here

Don't forget that Libby's giveway of Collecting Cobwebs, Gathering Brambles will end at midnight on 6th April 2012. Click here to be in with a chance to win a free copy!

Monday, 26 March 2012

Better Off Dead Giveaway - Winners Announced

Thank you to everyone who entered the Giveaway for Better Off Dead. 

All the names were put into a helmet and Dracomagan was meant to draw out the winners. But she got bored and went off down the garden to look for dragons... So in the end it was Sir Peagreen who drew the names out of a spare helmet. 

As no-one entered their name for the Kindle, there will now be only 2 prize winners and they are...

Inger-M - has won a paperback copy of Better Off Dead
Ruty - has won a copy of the artwork for Better Off Dead

Congratulations to you both! Both winners now have 48 hours in which to let me know their postal addresses. 

Don't forget that a new giveaway is currently running and you can find the details of how to enter  here

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Giveaway for Better Off Dead has now closed...

Just to let you all know that the Giveaway for Better Off Dead by Matthew Rowe has now closed. 

Any comments made with regard to BOD and the Giveaway will now no longer be counted, but at least you haven't wasted your money on an expensive phonecall! (Sorry, couldn't resist taking the mickey out of all those public voted competition programmes that are like a rash on British TV...)

The winners will be announced this week...

Feel you've missed out? Don't worry! A new Giveaway has already begun and will run until 6th April. If you'd like to win a copy of Libby's collection of poetry click here and follow the instructions.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Better Off Dead Giveaway ends at midnight...

Don't forget that the Giveaway of Matt Rowe's novel Better Off Dead ends tonight at midnight. 

To enter the Giveaway and be in with a chance of winning: -
  • the paperback version
  • a kindle version
  • signed artwork

Please visit BOD Giveaway

A Small Stone...

One of my small stones appeared at a handful of stones yesterday!

What did you think of it?

Day 5 - Giveaway & excerpts from Elizabeth Leaper's writing...



Starting today, Libby is giving away a free copy of "Collecting Cobwebs, Gathering Brambles."

This is an international giveaway and runs from 23rd March 2012 until midnight on 6th April 2012.

If you would like to win a copy of her book, please follow these instructions: -
1 - Follow this site (Dragonscale Clippings)
2 - Leave me a message / comment on this site mentioning CCGB
3 - In the same message, leave me a way of contacting you eg a blog or web site where I can easily find your contact details.

Once the winner is selected I will contact them and they will have 48 hours in which to respond to me, providing a postal address. If, after 48 hours have passed, the selected winner has not responded to me, I will select a new winner. 

The winner will be announced during the week commencing 9th April 2012. 

To tempt you further, here are some extracts from Libby's published poetry...

Collecting Cobwebs, Gathering Brambles

Extracts from poetry by Libby
How I long to see again
the pictures Jack Frost used to draw
on my window pane.
I used to greet with such delight,
after a cold and frosty night,
the fronds and ferns of filigree
that he had drawn exquisitely……..
……..With a forked twig
we twisted round and round,
gathering in the cobwebs like a skein of silk,
first one, then the next, and the next…..

...Those buttons
are all that I remember of the man.
conker-brown and made of leather,
woven like a turks-head knot….

Extracts from poetry by Jack Williamson

I watch a workman build a wall
With stone strewn by a quarry blast.
To me they seemed to ill disposed,
Last remnants of some holcaust…..

….Up here on the mountain there is truth.
Sweet unfettered winds of honesty blow
Across purple tremulous heather, ……

                        …….cornfields stripped and left
Bristling with anticipation for the first
Sensual stroke of the ardent plough,……..

Barking At Nothing (all by Elizabeth Leaper)

……..The Farmer asked if I’d like to see
The pig before I have my tea.
Quick as a shot I said ‘Yes’,
In my lovely pale pink dress.
There was the pig as clean as a pin,
In his lovely pale pink skin
That matched with me in my Sunday Best,
My lovely pale pink dress……….

…..His Dad would hold him on,
Push him round the park,
Gripping on the saddle
Till it was getting dark,
But every time his Dad let go
And dropped behind he found
That he still wobbled over
And – wallop – hit the ground.

…They dig it up from where it’s found
In sticky globules underground,
They refine it and they ladle it
Into jars and label it,
And happily they’ll show you round…….

...Like a scene from Fairyland
The frost hangs on the trees
And decorates the branches
With feathered crystal leaves...
The following excerpt is from a poem that appears in both books:

...The mermaid sat on the high granite rock
Combing her long golden hair
And sighed as she thought of her long-lost love –
A man who breathed in the air……….
……She watched him swim back to the beach through the surf,
Then he turned and waved her farewell
And she knew that she’d never see him again.
Her heart broke as the salty tears fell………

Thank you for joining Libby this week here at Dragonscale Clippings!  

You can read my review of Collecting Cobwebs, Gathering Brambles here at  Goodreads

If you would like to read more of her work, please visit Libby You can also read one of her poems in my 'zine Clippings #4. If you would like to receive this 'zine, please contact me.

To buy her book please visit Silverburn Publishing

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Day 4 - More about Elizabeth Leaper...

If you could spend a day with anyone, living or dead, real or fictitious, who would it be?
While I can think of many real people, both dead and alive who it would be interesting to meet – such as Martin Luther King, Lawrence of Arabia, Ghandi, Sir David Attenborough to name but a few – I think that if I did meet them my brain would turn to jelly and I would be unable to think of anything sensible to say to them. I would probably also find them to be very different in person from what I would expect. Far safer to spend a day with a fictitious character, you know where you are then and they would be exactly as you expect. If I must choose someone I think I would choose Ellis Peters’ Cadfael. He seems a most likeable character, worldly wise for a monk, dependable and trust-worthy, knowledgeable with a great sense of justice and attention to detail and not easily swayed by others' prejudices. I would ask him about his time in the crusades and his knowledge of herbal remedies. I think it would be a most rewarding day.

What are the worst/best jobs you’ve ever had?
I don’t think I have ever had a bad job but I have had jobs where I have felt slightly inadequate. When I left school I first trained as a Secretary before going on to Teacher Training College. While at college I worked as a ‘Temp’. I had learnt to type on old-fashioned typewriters where you really had to press the keys quite hard. One of my first temping jobs was at an electrical appliance factory and I had to walk the length of the shop floor to get to my office. For a shy, self-conscious young girl this was quite an ordeal with the inevitable wolf-whistles, then, when I got into the office I found that I had to use an electric typewriter for the first time in my life. I touched the keys and got a long line all of the same letter. I had to learn very quickly to lighten my touch. Other temping jobs required me to use things like Fax machines that I had never been taught to use. Most of these jobs required me to learn new skills pretty quickly.

My best job is one I really don’t think of as a job at all, and this is the many years that I spent with the day-to-day responsibility for our small-holding where at various times we kept goats and chickens, pigs, sheep, horses and ponies and also grew organic vegetables to Soil Association standards. There is nothing to compare with sitting on a bale of straw in the lambing shed in the middle of a cold winter’s night watching the new born lambs with their mothers, listening to the chewing of hay, the gentle bleats of lambs, the ewes nickering replies, with the warmth of their breath and the steam rising from their woolly coats. Most of our lambing was done out in the open but, especially on very cold nights, the new family were immediately brought into a pen in the barn to make sure all was well.

What’s your favourite music?
Oh dear, a hard question as I don’t really have a favourite type of music. Depending on my mood I listen to most things. I enjoy the pop music I grew up with; The Beatles, Abba, Simon and Garfunkel, The Carpenters, The Beach Boys and so on.  I also enjoy the music my children introduced me to as they grew up, even including some heavy metal, but I also enjoy real oldies. My mother sang in a choir, my sister is a music teacher and I play around on the flute and piano so music has always been a part of my life. I tend to like specific songs and tunes rather than particular acts and I am fond of classical music and easy listening, especially in the evening and I like folk and country and western now and again as well as the rhythms of jazz, rap and drumming.  To sum up I prefer a recognisable tune that is well performed, I can’t stand unmusical noise posing as music.

What’s your favourite TV programme?
Another hard question. There seems to be so much rubbish on the television I don’t actually watch a great deal – it seems so dumbed down. I enjoy a good costume drama, adaptations of classic novels and so on. I like detective programmes as long as there is not too much blood and gore – a good Agatha Christie tale for example or things like Morse, Lewis, Frost, Midsomer Murders, Foyle’s War etc. I also enjoy a good documentary, especially to do with science, history or the natural world, though even these seem exceptionally dumbed down at times, extending the programme unnecessarily by repeating the same information over and over. The commercial channels are the worst as after each Ad break they seem to think it necessary to give you a resume of the previous section as if you couldn’t possibly have retained the information in that five-minute break. I can’t stand soaps or so-called ‘reality TV’ and can’t understand how people get so gripped by them. I abhor the cult of celebrity and the way people can become famous simply for appearing on ‘Big Brother’ (which, along with ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here’, I have never watched). I don’t watch things like ‘The X Factor’ though I will admit to enjoying ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and ‘Dancing On Ice’ for their relaxing entertainment value.

What’s your favourite food?
Oh dear, favourites again, I just don’t have favourites. Food is something I eat to stay alive. I prefer good plain English food although the occasional Chinese or Italian meal is nice. Neither my husband nor I are very fond of spicy foods and he won’t eat anything with peppers in, I also have to go easy on the garlic or not let on that I have used it. Nothing can better a nice salad on a hot summer’s day, followed by fresh fruit and cream.

Five words to describe yourself.
Truthfully? How about – private, disorganised, procrastinating, day-dreaming, perfectionist – I think that about sums it up! (Or is that six?)

Tomorrow Libby will be giving away a copy of Collecting Cobwebs. If you would like to read more of her work, please visit Libby To buy her book please visit Silverburn Publishing

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Day 3 - Why Write Small Stones?

When Freya asked me to write a blog post for today she suggested I write about small stones and that set me to thinking about why I enjoy writing them. It is a real pleasure to be here as I have enjoyed Freya’s own small stones every since I first came across this blog, attracted by the intriguing name, over a year ago.

So first of all, what is a small stone? Well basically it is an observation, a moment of awareness captured, condensed and polished into a few words. I like to define it as something short enough to physically fit on a small stone, though some may turn out to be a tight fit and require a stone of larger proportions!

I came across them first when I discovered Fiona’s blog “A Small Stone” at http://asmallstone.com/ and it’s companion blog “A Handful of Stones” at http://ahandfullofstones.com/.  When Fiona instigated the first January challenge, to write a small stone every day for a month I decided to join in the fun, so I set up my own blog “By The Wobbly Dum-Dum Tree” at http://bythewobblydumdumtree.wordpress.com/, joined The River (http://ariverofstones.blogspot.com/) and I have been writing a daily stone pretty well every day ever since.

I think of writing small stones as being rather like a musician practising their scales (though I have to say, having practised scales, that writing small stones is considerably less boring). Writers need to be looking all the time to find original ways of describing every-day happenings. Small stones are a wonderful way of doing this; they are short, to the point and don’t take very long to write, although they can sometimes be elusive and hard to find. Whether you find your stones along the way, as Fiona suggests, or by daily observations from your porch (see Dave Bonta’s blog “The Morning Porch” at http://morningporch.com/) is not important.

The trick is not to feel guilty if you can’t find one, don’t try too hard and you might find something will just jump up and grab you. There are many times when I have given up on finding one only for one to find me when I have gone off to do something else. Don’t expect every small stone you write to be a perfect little gem, it probably won’t be but it doesn’t matter. When you do find one that you are really pleased with, enjoy the moment.

To me, writing small stones is a rewarding daily exercise. There are of course other things one can do to serve the same purpose. Many writers like to write ‘Daily Pages’ and this is something I also used to do. Unfortunately, over time I found this exercise was just not helping my creativity; it was time for a break. Once I began writing stones I discovered a more creative means of expression so I gave up on the pages. If they work for you all well and good and I don’t rule out returning to them one day.

There are, of course, many simple exercises recommended to help your creativity, but for me nothing quite matches up to writing small stones. They are more than just an exercise, they lift you up into the poetic, speak to your soul.

There are no rules on how to write them, but if you want some hints on how to go about it check out http://wtitingourwayhome.com/p/small-stones.html. Small stones can take any form, prose, short poems, free verse or recognised poetic forms such as Haiku (see Freya’s Pure Haiku blog at http://purehaiku.blogspot.com/) or even Limericks. They can be on any subject you wish. If you so choose they can drift off into the realms of fantasy or even horror, they can be serious or amusing. All sorts of small stones are out there just waiting to be found.

One of the best aspects of writing small stones is sharing them with others. By writing your small stones on a blog such as this, or at the “Writing Our Way Home” Forum (http://writingourwayhome.ning.com/), on Facebook or on Twitter, you become part of the friendly small stone writing community where you will find there are many others also polishing their daily stones.

Reading the stones that other people have written is an additional bonus as I notice how they have treated a similar subject. Their interpretation and the imagery they use helps to open my mind, provide other ways of seeing things and inspire my own creativity. Once I have posted my own stone for the day I usually try to spend some time visiting other people’s blogs and reading their stones.

Check out some of the links I have included here to enjoy some of these little gems. There are far too many other interesting blogs to list, but on my own “Wobbly Dum-Dum Tree” blog I have a page dedicated to such links. By checking out these sites you will find still more links to investigate. To start you off try “A Stream of Small Stones” (http://claudiastones.blogspot.com/),  “Trail Mix” (http://jeanstrailmix.blogspot.com/), or “a gnarled oak” (http://gnarledoak.org/), maybe you’ll discover one or two that you haven’t looked at before and find that they ‘speak’ to you.

Writing small stones is addictive; it is my guilty pleasure and far less fattening than chocolate. If you are not already doing so, why not come and join the fun?

Tomorrow you can find out a bit more about Libby and at the end of the week she will be giving away a copy of Collecting Cobwebs. If you would like to read more of her work, please visit Libby To buy her book please visit Silverburn Publishing

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Day 2 - Elizabeth Leaper talks about her writing

What is it about poetry that makes you want to write it?
Poetry has always been a part my life. My father loved poetry and would often shut himself away in private where he could be heard reading it out loud to himself. He also encouraged my sister and I to learn poetry, setting us a weekly small poem to learn from when we quite young until homework took over as a more necessary evil, often from Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘A Child’s Garden of Verse’ or similar suitable anthology for children. I have to say this was not a foolproof method of encouraging a love of verse, since poetry is not amongst my sister’s favourite reading matter!

What I love about poetry is the words, the sounds of the words themselves, the rhymes, the rhythms and the sheer musicality of how they are strung together. With just a few well-chosen words poetry can create in the mind great panoramas or can focus in on the miniature, it can speak to the soul, to the sub conscious mind, exposing truths that you slowly become aware you knew all along or bringing to light some new insight. Poetry also has a lot to offer today’s readers. For a start, compared to a novel, it comes in bite-sized pieces; most poems are only 30-40 lines long, often less, to fit the requirements of magazines and competitions. In this day and age when we all lead such busy lives you can read a poem or two when you have five minutes to spare, the whole thing – five minutes of bliss. You can’t do that with a novel, or at least I can’t; turning the next page is always too tempting, another five minutes always too inviting.
From reading poetry, learning poetry, reciting poetry I guess it was only a small step for me to try writing poetry.

Where do you get your inspiration from and how do you distil it into poetry?
This is a hard question. I’m not really sure I can answer it. Inspiration comes out of the blue, you may see something, hear something, be told something, remember something and suddenly a poem begins to form. This may happen many months after the event that triggered it. Occasionally they arrive almost fully formed and seem to need very little revision. More often they are elusive and you have to track them down and capture them – this is truly how it seems to me, I visualise poems floating around already written in the place where dreams come from, just out of reach, and I have to try to catch them before they float away again. It isn’t me who writes them, I just copy them down from that great vast void where everything already exists. Unfortunately I frequently fail to catch them properly and then the struggle begins as I search to find that elusive first glimpse.

Poems choose their own form, shape and rhyme pattern. Once I have that first few lines in place the form is set and the poem begins to happen. Only occasionally will I change the form the poem first chooses. If I am stuck for a word while the poem is flowing I choose a ‘place holder’ word so that I can continue writing it down before I lose it – I can always try to find a better word later. I read and re-read and read again, and again, and again, quietly, out loud, tweaking words or phrases here and there until I reach the stage when at last I think it is done. Even then I will often return and make changes later still! Eventually there comes a time, as with all artistic and creative endeavour, when you have to say ENOUGH and stop.

I don’t often sit down to deliberately write a poem without knowing one is out there waiting, but there are occasions when I do and these poems are the hardest to write. These are the ones that may change their form. An example is my poem ‘To Jack’, which I wrote as a tribute to my uncle. I intended to write a sonnet but it wasn’t working and the poem decided it wanted to be a villanelle. Once I accepted that it began to fall into place.

Prose I write straight on to the computer, reading back over what I have written and making changes as I go along, but I always write poems longhand on A4 paper and scribble my changes all over and around them until I can barely read what I have written. Then I do a typed print out to get a better idea of how they are shaping up, how they are flowing, before making further changes.

The whole process of writing poetry is hard to describe, it almost seems to me as if it is something I have very little control over – they find me and I try to write them down. I just wish I were better at catching them.

Do you have a writing day/days?
Oh dear, I’m afraid I’m dreadfully disorganised. I keep promising myself I will organise myself better. My writing tends to go in fits and starts, when I’m on a roll I can barely bring myself to stop to eat or drink but once I do stop it can be a real struggle to get started again! This is particularly true of writing prose but actually works reasonably well when I am writing poetry, due to the different nature of the beast. I’m almost tempted to say that writing poetry is easier than writing a novel. Artistically it isn’t of course but what I mean is that poems are shorter so take less time to write and re-draft.  When I was preparing ‘Barking At Nothing’ there were times that I would write the first draft of a poem every day for several days at a time and then do nothing, other than re-writes for a week or more. I can go several months without writing a poem at all
I have to own up and say the only disciplined writing I do is my daily ‘small stone’. I used to write daily pages first thing in the morning but this gradually deteriorated into general moans about the stresses and strains of daily life and garbled lists of things that I needed to do, so once I started writing ‘small stones’ I dropped this practise. I do believe it can be a useful exercise though and may come back to it one day.  My resolution for this year is to try to be more productive and in order to do that I must get more organised.

When did you start writing?
I can remember writing stories and rhymes when still at primary school, I can also remember deciding they were rubbish and throwing them out when I was in my teens – I sometimes wish I still had them so that I could see if they were any good or not (probably not!). I remember that a school-friend and I challenged each other to write a novel when we were about 13 or 14. Mine was going to be humorous and was called “William the Corn Curer” – it never got past chapter 2, I don’t know about hers.

I finished my first complete novel when I was at Teacher Training College, but only the first draft, longhand on A4 paper!  I still have it, a children’s novel set in the 18th century, stashed away in a file somewhere. Being basically lazy I have never been too keen on doing re-writes, this is why most things never got beyond the first draft; once it’s done it’s done as far as I was concerned, on with the next, re-writes were boring. I hadn’t really written it with publication in mind anyway, just a challenge to myself to see if I could do it. I also wrote quite a lot of poetry at that time – some of it cringingly awful but some not bad!  Another novel I wrote did achieve a second draft and I entered it into a competition for which the prize was publication. Needless to say I didn’t win! I was short-listed in one competition I entered where you only had to submit the first three chapters. I had my eyes on the prize, not so much the serialisation in a women’s magazine but the beautiful, reproduction, leather in-laid desk they were also offering. I didn’t win the desk and the story never got finished although around that time I had a short story for young children broadcast on BBC Radio’s ‘Listen With Mother’ programme.

It is through writing poetry that I have learned the value of re-writes as you can never get a poem completely right first time. The discipline of writing poetry I hope and believe has made me a better writer. Now we have computers the whole process is so much quicker and less messy anyway so I am happy to embrace the concept of re-writes. I guess the simple answer to the question is that, like most writers, I have been writing both stories and poems for almost as long as I can remember.

What are your current writing projects?
Although I have given up on daily pages for the time being I am continuing with my ‘small stone’ practise which I find to be a wonderful exercise for keeping the creative juices flowing. These are posted daily on my blog. The attention to detail and level of awareness they encourage can only be beneficial to all other creative writing.

Poetry, although as explained in the previous answer, it is not something I set aside time to write in any disciplined way, is always ongoing and a major part of my output.  No specific project is as yet in mind but once the number of ready poems begins to build a project may take shape – as I have already hinted this may be another collaboration, possibly with my son. Also ongoing is the twice-yearly magazine that I edit and produce for a sailing boat owner’s association, which usually requires me to write several articles myself for each issue, as well as reports, fillers and other bits and pieces that any editor of such a magazine will empathise with. For my sins I also edit the association website as well as look after my own ‘Silverburn Publishing’ website and my two blogs and this all takes time.

Last year I began to write a fantasy novel aimed at the teenage market. I have so far drafted about 6 chapters but it got put aside while I produced ‘Collecting Cobwebs, Gathering Brambles.’ My aim is to pick up the thread again and try to finish it this year.  A major concern is that I started it with just a vague idea, allowing the story to take me where it will, although I do have an end of sorts in mind. I am now at the stage where I wonder if I ought to plan it in more detail or continue to trust the characters to tell me their own story as it unfolds! Again there is no clear intention to publish but I would like to think that this could be a possible outcome  - but I need to finish it first. Over the years I have actually written or part-written the first draft of several children’s novels. These are either filed away in drawers or on my computer and I frequently promise myself that I will fish them out, dust them off and see if any off them are worth resurrecting – maybe this will be the year!

What are you currently reading?
This year I have already read ‘The Burning Land’, one of Bernard Cornwell’s series set at the time of King Alfred and your own ‘Dragonscale Leggings’ which I simply couldn’t put down. I have also read ‘The Riven Kingdom’, the second in Karen Miller’s ‘Godspeaker’ trilogy, which began with ‘Empress’.  I am now thoroughly engrossed in the last part, ‘Hammer Of God’. I have previously read her two ‘Kingmaker, Kingbreaker’ books ‘Innocent Mage’ and ‘The Awakened Mage’. Also waiting in the queue is ‘Inheritance’, the final part of Christopher Paolini’s series that began with ‘Eragon’. I’m a sucker for fantasy but I do also enjoy historical novels, especially historical ‘who-dun-its’. The bulk of my reading is probably from those genres but I do dip into others from time to time – with the possible exception of horror, which doesn’t appeal at all.

I’m an avid reader and putting down a book in order to get on with writing can be very hard! I do sometimes avoid starting a new book in order to get some writing done as I can waste an awful lot of time reading – I really do need to get more organised. I can remember going to the library in the school holidays as a child, taking out my allowed three books and taking them back, having read them, only a few days later to take out yet more! I often have several books on the go at the same time, but usually only one will be a novel. 

Currently I am also dipping into a book of folk tales from the North York Moors and another on Norse Mythology by Kevin Crossley-Holland. The latter is in part research for my new novel, which is based on a similar belief system. I am also re-reading a book that I read for the first time some years ago. It is called ‘The Life and Death of a Druid Prince’ by Anne Ross and Don Robbins and is about the discovery of the Lindow Man ‘bog body’, nicknamed Pete Marsh by the press. I confess to feeling a connection with this subject, as he was found not far from the house where I was born, my grandparent’s house, and only a stone’s throw from where my great-grandparents had lived. One of my uncle’s poems is about this discovery. My extended family have lived in this area for many generations and I am considering using this as a background for a series of short stories. One of my as yet unfinished novels is also set in this area, which unfortunately for me, has already been very successfully used as the setting for most of those wonderful stories by Alan Garner (“The Weirdstone of Brisingamen”, “The Moon of Gomrath” etc.), which I have also been re-reading and could never hope to emulate.

Tomorrow Libby will be talking about writing "small stones" and at the end of the week she will be giving away a copy of Collecting Cobwebs. If you would like to read more of her work, please visit Libby To buy her book please visit Silverburn Publishing

Monday, 19 March 2012

Day 1 - Introducing Elizabeth Leaper

This week I would like to introduce Libby (Elizabeth Leaper) prolific small stoner and poet. She has recently had a collection of poetry published; Collecting Cobwebs, Gathering Brambles.

How did you come up with the title for the book?
I had been planning to produce a collection of my own poems for some time and calling it ‘Collecting Cobwebs’ as this is the title of one of the poems, and I thought it would make a catchy title for the book. Once I had decided that the book would combine poems by both my late uncle, Jack Williamson, and me the problem was to come up with a title that included Jack’s poems as well. One of my favourites amongst his poems is one called ‘Blackberries’ and this inspired the other half of the title – although of course ‘Gathering Brambles’ doesn’t strictly speaking quite equate to blackberry picking!

What gave you the idea to put two poetry collections under one title?
When Jack died at the end of 2007 I assisted with clearing out his flat and we came across a bundle of poems. We had known that he had written some poems many years ago but no-one in the family knew that he had been writing more recently. As I was the ‘writer’ in the family, the one interested in poetry, I was given the file full of poems and asked to produce them for distribution among family and friends, to be paid for by his estate. I did this simply and cheaply as photocopied sheets with a simple cover and slide binder. At the time I had thought that it would be a nice memorial to Jack if I could produce them as a proper book but there were insufficient poems to make anything more than a chapbook sized publication. Also I had very little idea of how to go about it and I thought it would be too costly. One of my cousins suggested I set up a website for the poems, a real challenge as back then I was fairly Internet ignorant! After several abortive attempts I finally settled on a Blog at http://jackspoems.wordpress.com/. This was a very steep learning curve for me and to date I still haven’t put all his poems on there as other projects have taken over much of my time. However I still dreamed of publishing Jack’s poems in a properly bound book so, since it would be sometime before I had sufficient of my own poems for a complete book, I decided that the best way forward was to produce a book in two halves, combining my own poems with Jack’s.

 How long did it take you to write the book?
On the face of it I thought this was going to be a hard question to answer but in fact it is relatively easy as I always date my poems when I write them, often including revision dates as well. I was quite surprised myself when I checked and realised that all my poems in the book were written within the last three years. The earliest of my poems is in fact the last poem in my half of the book, a villanelle called ‘To Jack’ written in February 2008, this was my own tribute to him and was included in the original booklet produced for the family. The most recent poems, ‘Sutton Hoo’ and ‘The Old Songs’ were written shortly before the book was published. (‘Sutton Hoo’ had in fact first appeared as three ‘small stones’ on my Wobbly Dum-Dum Tree ‘small stones’ blog at http://bythewobblydumdutree.wordpress.com/)
Whilst I haven’t got exact dates for Jack’s poems I have a pretty good approximation for most of them. The book contains all the completed poems that we found and the earliest of these, ‘The Spider’ and ‘The Race’, were written probably in the late 1960’s or early 70’s. They first appeared in a poetry collection called ‘Poetry Kingdom’ published in 1972. The rest of his poems seem to have been written in the 1980’s and 90’s, so I think it safe to say that they were probably written over a 10-15 year period with his total output spanning some 30-40 years.  I often wonder if he wrote other poems over the years that have got lost along the way. During the 80’s and 90’s he belonged to an organisation called The National Poetry Foundation but I can find no evidence of its continued existence. Members could submit poems for criticism and the approximate dates I have for many of the poems come from the critiques he received. Selected poems would be published in their member’s magazine and his poem ‘Blackberries’ was first published in this way. Several others were accepted towards a collection that they would publish on his behalf but this never materialised and I wonder if the organisation folded around the time that Jack apparently stopped writing. After his death I submitted one of his poems, ‘A Picture’, to Countryside Tales magazine where it was published in 2008.

Will you be bringing out another collection in the future?
 I certainly hope so though it may be some way off, as I haven’t got anywhere near enough new poems yet! It is possible that I may produce another collaboration, this time with my son Chris (you can read some of his work at http://hatsofftotheinsane.wordpress.com/) but so far this is all up in the clouds somewhere.

My previous collection was a book of fun poems for children called ‘Barking At Nothing’ which is being sold to raise money for a local charity, the Donna Louise Children’s Hospice Trust based in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, UK, which provides hospice care for children with life limiting conditions and support for their families. These poems span a much longer period of writing time than those in ‘Collecting Cobwebs’, some having been written when I was still at college in the 1970’s. They are light-hearted poems reflecting on nature, family life and relationships from a child’s point of view and also make enjoyable reading for parents and grandparents who may have grown up familiar with the verse of Robert Louis Stevenson and A.A. Milne. The aim of the collection is to try to encourage children to enjoy poetry and there is a final section to the book with ideas and suggestions for children to write their own poems based on their own experiences.

What kind of people have you aimed your book at and why?
Oh dear. As writers we are constantly being told to identify our audience and yes, I do believe that if you are writing for a specific outlet then of course what you write must fit with the ethos of that outlet, but I do also share the views of people like C.S. Lewis who believe that you should write what you want to write. Consequently I do not consciously ‘consider my audience’ when writing poetry, but tend to write for myself and hope that others also enjoy it. Of course once it is written you can identify a likely audience when deciding what to do with it! As I said before, ‘Collecting Cobwebs’ was originally planned as a volume in its own right and I had intended it to be a collection of what I consider my more serious poems. I also had it in mind to produce a separate volume of what I would perhaps describe as my ‘Pam Ayres’ type of verse, although it is often a thin line that divides the two styles. Once I decided to combine my work with my uncle’s I had to consider the most likely audience for his work too and so decided that a mixture of serious and light-hearted was the way to go. Many people are put off by poetry, considering it inaccessible, too academic, and this is something I try to avoid even when writing my so-called serious verse. Jack’s poems are certainly very accessible, he was just an ordinary man who happened to write poetry and you don’t need a degree to understand his poems. That is not to say that they are overly simple, in fact they often have hidden depths that make you sit up and think. I’m also quite sure Jack was writing for himself, not for any specific target audience. The resulting collection therefore is offered in the hope that your ‘average man in the street’ will find pleasure in reading it and feel a connection with the sentiments expressed.

Tell me about your road to publication
It is really down to Jack that I embarked on self-publishing at all. When we found his collection of poems after his death it saddened me that these poems were hidden away unread. Then I realised that I too had a stash of poems hidden away unread and decided I should do something about it. I had inherited a small sum of money from Jack’s estate, more than enough to consider publishing and I thought that if I could recoup the expenditure I would be able to fund further projects in the future.

When I set out to publish ‘Barking At Nothing’ I had very little idea about the publishing process. It seemed a good idea to do the children’s collection first as I had written more poems for children at that time so I was more likely to produce enough poems for a book fairly quickly. I decided that I would like to donate any profits that I might make to charity and since it was a children’s book it should be a children’s charity that benefited, so after some deliberation I approached the Donna Louise Trust to get them on board early. I have to say they were rather luke-warm at first. No doubt they get many such approaches that come to nought, however once they realised this was actually going to happen they were very supportive.

My first idea was to use a self-publishing services provider but I soon realised that this was not only quite an expensive way of doing things but also that it was highly unlikely that I would make any profit at all, so then I began to consider how much I could do for myself. I had word processing and desktop publishing skills and was reasonably artistic so I came to the conclusion that I could probably manage most of it. I felt it was important for a children’s book to be illustrated and contemplated doing this myself as well but decided it would take me far too long to produce the necessary drawings, so I approached a young illustrator friend of my son Chris, who offered his services free of charge. Unfortunately, doing this in his spare time proved to be taking him as long as it would have taken me, plus there was the added problem of getting him to interpret what it was that I wanted – not always an easy thing to do, so to speed things up I started to do some of the simple drawings myself. I eventually ended up doing about half of the total illustrations. I also designed the cover but since I did not have access to or know how to use Photoshop I was a bit stumped as to how to produce it as a print ready file.

I was quite clear early on that I wanted an ISBN number and bar code so that the book would look as professional as possible and could be sold both on-line and through bookshops, but if I was doing the work myself I would need to obtain my own number and as you have to buy a block of ten numbers this isn’t cheap. There I had a bit of luck. My daughter-in-law’s father had bought a block of ten a few years earlier when he published a book of his own and he did not need the other nine numbers, so it was relatively simple to set up my own Publisher’s Imprint – Silverburn Publishing – and arrange to transfer the spare numbers into my name at considerably less cost than buying a complete new block of numbers!

After a lot of research on the Internet and by phone I found a firm to do the printing and bookbinding at a reasonable cost, based on the campus of Keele University not far from my home, so I was able to visit them to discuss my needs and look at samples of other books they had produced. If I wished they could provide the complete cover for me at extra cost but I went for the cheaper option of having them produce print-ready files from my own design. They also provided the bar code to go with my ISBN number. Overall I was very pleased with their service and with the resulting book. I have since pretty well recouped my expenditure and have so far donated £500 to the charity.

When I came to do ‘Cobwebs’ there was no doubt in my mind that I would again do it all myself, including doing all the illustrations from the outset. I had decided to use the same printing firm that I had used for ‘Barking’ and formatted the book to their own rather distinctive requirements, but when I approached them to check out the cost I discovered that the firm was closing down within a few days. So it was then back to the telephone and the Internet to try to find another printer with such reasonable rates. Eventually I came across a firm on-line called ‘Inky Little Fingers’ and decided to go with them, partly because I liked the name! Unfortunately they required the book to be formatted differently and as this also affected the layout it rather set me back a few weeks – and my planned book launch at a local Book Festival was fast approaching. This time I needed to produce the cover entirely myself or pay them to do it – no halfway house, and I still couldn’t use Photoshop! Here my eldest son Adam and daughter-in-law Alison came to the rescue, producing the cover for me to my basic design. The books duly arrived with a couple of weeks to spare before the launch. I was again very pleased with the resulting book and would not hesitate to self-publish using the same printing firm in future.

Tomorrow Libby will be talking about what inspires her to write and at the end of the week she will be giving away a copy of Collecting Cobwebs. If you would like to read more of her work, please visit Libby To buy her book please visit Silverburn Publishing

Friday, 16 March 2012

Day 5 Girls for God by Katie Wood

Girls for God by Katie Wood is available for preorder from BRF and has also been reviewed at Amazon 

The release date for the reprint is 20th April 2012 and the book will cost £6.99. 

Why should you buy it?
Being a teenager is a trying time; it's a phase of life when all sorts of new problems and joys present themselves, from school work to boyfriends to thinking about the future. Trying to navigate all this isn't easy.

What the author says about her book
"I have written this book of Bible reflections, thoughts and prayers, because I wanted something similar for myself but couldn't find it. Although I haven't been a Christian for many years, my faith has helped me through a lot and I want to encourage others, especially if they are going through hard times, to stay close to God. I have learned that this is the best way of dealing with anything."

And here's an excerpt from a review
"I was impressed by the author's knowledge and love of the Bible; she uses both Old and New Testaments to great effect, and chose apt and interesting passages to explore. Her advice is unfailingly Biblical, but she has an eye for practical application. The style is lively and accessible, although I found myself hungry for more of her personal story (maybe I am just nosey!), Katie Wood's maturity and passion to live her life wholeheartedly for God is inspirational. This is a great resource for those working with teenagers."

Thank you for joining Katie on this week's blog tour. Please visit her blogsite at  Lose Yourself Book Reviews

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Day 4 Katie Wood tells us more about herself

If you could spend a day with anyone, living or dead, real or ficticious, who would it be and why?
Jane Austen, I think! She’s my favourite author, and she’s just so witty. She would keep me entertained all day with sharp remarks about those around us, and I would love to share some of my Mr Darcy daydreams with her!
What's the worst/best job you've ever had?

Well, I’ve had some fairly bad jobs. I think the worst was when I worked in a pharmacy when I was 17-18, because everybody who came in was grumpy, as you don’t go into a pharmacy if you’re feeling well! People used to moan at me because their prescriptions weren’t ready, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it because of my age and lack of qualifications.  It was really frustrating.
The best job I’ve ever had is my current job! I’m what’s called a Relay worker for a charity called UCCF. I support the Christian Union at UEA in Norwich—I get to encourage students in their walk with Jesus and get excited about the Bible with them and tell people about how amazing Jesus is!

What's your favourite music?

My favourite artist is definitely Taylor Swift. Her songs always tell stories, and it is stories that I love (you might have realised this by now!). They are so real; she sings about exactly what it’s like to be young and in love, to have your heart broken, to be excited about your friends and life. It’s positive and cheering and always has a catchy tune!

What's your favourite TV programme and why?

I think my favourite is Gilmore Girls, probably for similar reasons as I like Taylor Swift. Gilmore Girls is about a community, about people, how they grow and change and drift apart and come together. Nothing really major ever happens in the plot, which I find relaxing and reassuring. And the speech is so fast and witty and I always think ‘wow, I wish I’d said that!’

What's your favourite food?

Macaroni cheese! I just love cheese, I could eat it all day! This is my ultimate comfort food.

Five words that describe yourself...

  • Pink
  • Smiley
  • Creative
  • Emotional
  • Bookworm

Three reasons why people should buy Girls for God.
1 – because your life isn’t perfect
2 – because you love Jesus
3 – because you want to know more about Jesus

Katie Wood's review blogsite can be found at Lose Yourself Book Reviews and tomorrow you can find out how to get hold of her book Girls for God!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Day 3 - Messy Cook - a short story by Katie Wood

            After fighting my way through the mug-debris of breakfast, I get to the sink. I hear the warped cheer of an ice cream van on this autumn morning and sigh at the last signs of summer. But the noise soon melts into the sickly mess of wasted time and not-quite-there memories. The air has a chill in it and the leaves keep falling. As do I.
            I’m a messy cook; I have been ever since I first stuck my podgy fingers into the butter and flour and sugar for Mum’s blackberry crumble. I don’t like having packets and tubs lined up in a death row. I much prefer to have them circle me and I can spin round and pick the one I want.
            I love following recipes: I love their precision, and how you just have to do what it says and it rewards you with a glorious fudge cake at the end. No decisions of my own. I leave trails of goo as I go, crop circles of icing sugar, marking my territory.
            As I slide it into the hot oven, I seal its fate, and lick the sticky mess from my fingers, the bowl, spoons, whisks, but not the tabletop. At least I have that much restraint. And I revel in the chaos I’ve created: the piles of bowls and cups and cutlery and scales and the splatter of my labours.
            Running a bowl of hot, bubbly water, I plunge my hands in, purging, restoring my utensils to their original purity. Out from the fire will come the cake, born again from the raw, messy ingredients, in all its newness of life.
            The doorbell rings, bringing with it a sigh, and the need to step out of myself. I have the sudden urge to turn on the Hoover and pretend that I didn’t hear it, but then, it could be something exciting, It could be my separated-at-birth twin sister, or a man who has watched me form a distance for so long now and has finally summoned the courage to tell me that, to him, I’m perfection.
            It’s the postman, bringing a parcel for next door. I take it up to the spare room and put it in the corner next to the bin holding a few crumpled, half ticked off to-do lists and a decomposing apple core. It once showed so much promise, that apple. Shiny and green, polished and smooth like the floor of a ballroom, then crispy and tangy against the tongue, surprisingly bitter, though.
            Yet it takes too much to chew through the whole thing, and no one can ever reach the other side, but one has to go incessantly round the core. Always missing the seeds. The point. Now it lies discarded and rotting and sullying the crisp envelopes I’d half-written my near-plans on. I am that apple.
            I’m in that kind of mood where I pick up a book, absolutely determined that I won’t be happy until I’ve read it, am gripped by the cover, the blurb, the way the spine smells, and the print stands out at me… until I read the first sentence. I put it down and start another, doing exactly the same. And another.
            I’m in the kind of mood where I eat chocolate, because I’ve broken into my emergency bar despite the lack of emergency, but feel sick at the sweetness of it. I put it down and as soon as I swallow I know I need more. And again I cringe at its sweetness.
            That’s when he walks in. Perfect—for me. He’s tall, dark, handsome (obviously). No, actually, he isn’t. He’s tall, yes, and dark, but in a fair sort of way. Bright eyes: piercing and intense, but soft and melting. Handsome… how could he not be? But I make sure that he is so only to me. Everybody else would admire him, of course. He’s more perfect than anyone else. But they wouldn’t want him. No. That would be threatening to me. I know he’s perfect for me, because he isn’t real; I’ve made him up just then, bored with my books and my chocolate.
            He rushes into the room and sweeps me out of the broken swivel chair that I sit on out of habit. He holds me to his warm chest and gushes at me that I’m the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen, that he couldn’t possibly imagine his life without me and that he won’t let me out of his sight for as long as he lives. But not in a desperate way.
            He kisses the top of my head and breathes in the smell of my hair and tells me again and again how much he loves me. But not in a repetitive way. Then I ask him his name, and he fades… flickering at first, and blurring at the edges, but soon enough disappears entirely, as I try to pin him down to something as concrete as a name.
            What’s in a name anyway? I’m sure it can’t be much. Why is a bottle called a bottle, and would I still drink overpriced water from it if it was called a globdue? I feel the need to do something useful and so I check my e-mails, a lame attempt to distract myself from nothing.
            Work is checking up on me, making sure I’m getting there with the article they want. It’s coming in short spurts; it will happen in its own time I suppose. Mum’s sent me some holiday photos; I click ‘mark as unread’ intending to look at them another time.
            What would it be like if our brains could function in that way? If you could go to a memory and mark it as unread, then next time you looked at it, it would be completely new to you. Would that be a good thing? Could you mark something as unread and then never made it read again, ignore it as though it never happened?
            Ideas well up inside of me, but I can’t get them to materialise, or not into any tangible form, that is. They’re like jelly that’s running through my fingers, constantly eluding me and refusing to take shape and set. But then, even when jelly does set it’s wobbly. Maybe jelly isn’t a very good analogy. Doesn’t that just prove that my ideas are wobbly? Even me trying to grasp what my ideas are. Maybe my whole life is jelly… no, probably not.
            In any case, I can feel that ideas are there; I can see their hues, their outlines, blueprints, but they always swim away before I can grasp my hands around their slippery gills. Still, it’s comforting to know they’re there. I’m not quite sure what they’re ideas for though, whether they are poetry or the beginnings of a novel, or indeed not creative in that way at all, but a speech that I should make, somewhere or other, or my political manifesto.
            I would try to write them down, but what good would there be in that? Sometimes I do give in to them, I let them have their way with my pen, but I always feel that they are using me for, well, for my body—my ability to hold a pen, at least. I’ll give life to them, conceiving them with one part pen and two parts paper and they leap to life, judder out of me, and leave me spent.
            Then I become a shell, bereft of the ideas that once lived in me. No, I’d much rather keep them locked away, safe inside of me, where they keep me company. And anyway, they change. They always shift. They turn from a sonnet to a play, or they’ll leap from the past to the present, or suddenly want to discuss marmalade. I don’t even like marmalade.
            My ideas don’t even belong to me; it’s like a séance. They morph. Shape-shifters. Words flash up in my mind’s eye like neon bar signs; although some are more like flashes of lightning, brief glimpses of life. Sometimes they are words I don’t understand. But I enjoy them anyway, savouring their rhythm and the feel of them rolling off my tongue, should I choose to say them out loud. Micawber. Dubiety. Quidam. I am at liberty to do that, at least.
            I hear the flap of my letterbox and am startled out of my reverie. I shake my head, hoping the words will shuffle themselves around and fall into the right places, like an etch-a-sketch. Reaching the stiff, painted window I peer through to see what had disturbed me. It was just the paperboy putting something unnecessary into my house.
            As I watch him slump back down my path again, I feel drawn to the bulky headphones that frame his teenage head, hugging his ears: a halo, or something to keep his emotions from escaping. I long to climb into them, to feel the heavy throb of the fashionable beat, and to immerse myself in his thoughts that bubble away just below the surface, much like the stubble that is soon to pierce through his skin.
            Opening the window, I find myself leaning out of it like a cork ready to pop from a shaken bottle of champagne. I call out to him, ‘Boy! Talk to me. Are you angry, or sad, or trying to contain the glee of a new relationship?’ But nothing comes out of my mouth. In fact, I don’t even open it, but continue to stare at his retreating head from behind the closed window.
            I make my mind up to attempt to do something useful and so turn around, crouch down and lie face down on the hard floor. The scratchy carpet presses into my nose. The smell of dust and furniture polish creeps up my nostrils so that I can almost taste it. I have my best ideas on the floor. Closer to the earth, I guess; yet I’m on the first floor of my house. I don’t like the phrase ‘first floor’ because it seems as though the ground floor doesn’t count.
            I wonder if I would have better ideas if I went and lay on the ground near my front path, so that I was really close to the earth. But that might be a strange thing to do. And boys with big headphones and florescent sacks of news might come and kick me or poke me with sticks. I’m not dead.
            The earth comes in through my ears and packs itself in tightly, tighter, tighter, until it suffocates my cells. They swell for oxygen and then burst, exploding inside my brain and each fragment of cell turns into a tiny seed. These seeds bury themselves into the earth and sprout, grow and bloom into flowers; flowers that grow and grow until they just have to escape, and they do. Escape, that is.
            My cake. How could I have forgotten? I raise myself into a kneeling position, and then stand up; creaking out my knees after the floor has bitten into them. I place one foot in front of the other and purposefully make my way out of the room, then along the hallway, and finally down the stairs, each foot landing on a stair before I proceed to the next one.
            The kitchen is clean, aside from tea-stained mugs, a bowl from breakfast, some crumbs on the floor and a hint of mould starting to creep up the wall by the fridge. The air is chilly and I resent it, as if it is a personal attack on me. Perhaps it is. Maybe every other kitchen in the world is one degree warmer than this one, but mine has decided to forsake me that extra bit of heat so that my bones must ache,
            My cake. Is it mine? I made it. But I didn’t make it. I just assembled the ingredients and put them in the oven. I didn’t lay the eggs or grow the sugar or grind the flour. I didn’t create heat to cause the reactions that spark off growth and change. I was just the movement involved. It used me for my limbs, just how my words use me for my pen and the boy with the headphones uses me for my letterbox.
            I bend over to the oven to pull open the heavy door. It’s cold. I struggle with it and finally release the tomb. It’s empty. I didn’t bake a cake after all. 
© Katie Wood 2012

You can find out more about Katie's novel Girls for God at the end of the week. If you're interested in finding out more about Katie please come back here tomorrow. In the meantime, if you need to read more of Katie's work, please visit her blogsite at Lose Yourself Book Reviews

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Day 2 Katie Wood talks about why she writes

When did you start writing and why?
I have always been a writer! My parents kept one of those baby books, where you write about a child’s first steps, first words and such. One of the questions was ‘what do you think your child will be when he/she grows up?’ and my Mum had written, ‘A writer, because she never stops making up stories!’
I think I was six or seven when I wrote my first book, about Princess the unicorn! I even drew my own pictures! I think I lost it somewhere along the line though, but I don’t think that’s a huge hardship! I’m sure it was hugely plagiarised!

What makes you want to write today?
Life makes me write. I see things, hear things, experience things, and I just have to get them down onto paper (or my laptop screen). I’m one of those people whose brain never stops running, I have a constant running monologue up there, and some of which is quite poetic or story-like, so even if I’m not working on a specific project, something or other usually gets written down in some form.

Do you have a writing day/days?

I’m really neglecting my writing at the moment. My new year’s I resolution was to make time to write. Perhaps next year’s resolution should be to not make resolutions! Sometimes I have an idea in my head that is so vivid that I just have to write. When I was at university I wrote in my diary an hour every day when I had time to write, and I was quite disciplined in sticking to it. I should probably start doing that again.

Which authors have influenced you the most?

When I was in primary school there was a local poet called Brian Moses who came and did a workshop with us. He was the one who made me first realise that ‘being a writer’ was something I could do. When I first started to write it was authors like Jacqueline Wilson who influenced me the most, and then I was hugely influenced by L J Smith, who I still love. Nowadays I think I’m most influenced by writers such as Margaret Atwood and Sylvia Plath. Not that I’m a feminist! My favourite author will always be Jane Austen, though.

What are your current writing projects?

I write book reviews on my blog at Lose Yourself Book Reviews regularly, and I have got a novel that I pull out and work on every now and then. I’m very interested in how adverse situations affect our emotions and relationships at the moment, so we’ll see how that develops…

What are you currently reading?
At the moment I’m reading The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins; I find them captivating and moreish. You’ll find my review of the first in the trilogy on my blog. Don’t worry, all my reviews are spoiler-free!

You can find out more about Katie's novel Girls for God at the end of the week. And tomorrow you can read one of her short stories here.  In the meantime, if you need to read more of Katie's work, please visit her blogsite at Lose Yourself Book Reviews