Real Medway and Swale are running two workshops to explain more about their augmented reality game project and to start planning the first games. They are looking for artists, storytellers, game makers, sound designers and others who would be interested in helping to plan and create content for the games. Book a space at either the Faversham or Rochester workshops listed below:
The Rochester Literature Festival will play host to the Travelling Talesman at the Good Intent, John Street, Rochester on Friday, May 9th.
The Travelling Talesman has toured the country from Penzance to York, for feasts, festivals and fun since the early nineties.
You might guess from his name that The Travelling Talesman is a storyteller who enjoys taking his stories to new places. With twenty years experience telling myths, legends and folktales, last year he was nominated for “Outstanding Male” in the British Awards For Storytelling Excellence.
Expect a fun evening of gripping yarns as The Talesman recounts stories of Norse Gods, Celtic mysteries, clever girls and Dragon Slayers, medieval mayhem, giants, goblins and Halloween horrors. Originally specialising in Northern European tales, his stories are now drawn from all over the world.
Entry is free and doors open at 7pm. However, donations to cover costs would be welcomed and can be made via the Eventbrite page here.
We invest objects with emotional significance. Although they are simply things, they can represent something that connects us to a person or a time in the past. I have used objects as the starting point for creative writing exercises, and they can be useful for brainstorming ideas.
I try not to accumulate too much clutter (!) and only keep the few items that are precious, always mindful of the day when I’m no longer here and whoever is left behind will have the unenviable job of sorting out my stuff! But on a windowsill, I keep a few “ornaments”.
My cyberman model/toy – with moving parts! I’m a Dr Who fan and my favourite (and scariest) monsters were always the cyber men. When I was a child, I would hide behind the sofa when they came on TV. Something about the clanging metal, the unforgiving nature of a machine, the hollow empty space for eyes sockets – no emotion or humanity – gave me the creeps. The stuff of nightmares. However my more recent developing interest in cyber technology, sci fi, robotics, and neuroscience gives me a different viewpoint. How many of us who grew up in the 70s wanted the special abilities of the Six Million Dollar Man or the Bionic Woman? (Without the pain and injuries, of course!). Machines and technology have limitless power to transform lives for good. I sometimes wonder, when experiencing heartache and loss, how it would be to feel absent of emotion. A concept that is hard to imagine.
The Golem – My brother brought this back from a trip to Prague. According to good old Wiki, “in Jewish folklore, a golem is an animated anthropomorphicbeing, created entirely from inanimate matter.” The most famous golem narrative involves Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the late 16th century rabbi of Prague, who reportedly created a golem out of clay from the banks of the Vltava river, and brought it to life through rituals and Hebrew incantations to defend and protect the Prague ghetto from anti-Semitic attacks and pogroms. There are a whole host of legends and literature around the golem. My first ever encounter with the concept was a 1966 British/American film entitled It!, starring Roddy McDowall, who was at that time one of my favourite actors. I was about seven years old when I saw it.
My clay horse. And, strangely, in writing this I see there is a link between my clay horse, Ernie, and my golem – that they were both born from clay, an amazing substance which resonates with spiritual significance. I made Ernie at school in art class when I was a child. I enjoyed shaping the clay and using my hands to create the shape. I couldn’t do the legs however – they kept snapping off – so decided to make a horse lying down to obviate that problem! His tail also fell off, so he became a cob. Ernie reflects my love of horses since childhood, and because I couldn’t have a real horse, I kept creating them – in my stories, my drawings and in plasticine and clay. When I left home at sixteen, Ernie was still living on my mum’s windowsill, where he stayed for many years. After she passed away, I brought him home with me and he took up residence on my windowsill. Ernie evokes a range of childhood memories and happy thoughts of mum.
I love the way that, unknowingly, all three of these objects are linked by common threads and themes; connections which I had never noticed before.
Creation. New life. Changed reality. Words we could also use to describe what we produce when we write. Wonderfully strange.
The concept of stories, storytelling and narrative fascinates me and is a constant source of discovery. I’ve also explored the idea of writing as therapy for depression and grief. In the search to understand my personal grieving process I have explored fiction and non-fiction, and recently read How we Grieve: Relearning the world by Thomas Attig (OUP, 1996) which suggests a way of thinking that I had not previously considered and which makes perfect sense – especially if you are a writer. In discussing how we relearn our relationships with the loved ones we have lost, the author suggests:
“As we come to know and love others, we come to know and cherish the stories of the lives they live…..if we have known and loved well, the stories become interwoven with the fabric of the stories of our lives. As we relearn our relationship with the deceased, we continue the interweaving process. In all of our relationships we have unique and privileged access to parts of the full stories of others’ lives. Our knowledge and love of the stories remain after the loss of the presence of the deceased………as with any good stories, but especially with the intricate stories of human biography, if we read them but once we fail to captures the richness and fullness of the tales. As we review and retell stories repeatedly, they return ever new and unexpected rewards each time……we can return to the stories deliberately for specific purposes (to refresh our memory or understanding or to seek new understanding) or as events in our lives remind us of them and of their continuing importance to us.”
I found this deeply moving.
We are all stories. Living, breathing, works in progress. Whether tragically short or on a more epic scale, our lives are uniquely individual stories. They may encompass adventure, romance, horror, joy, loss, humour and fantasy. But however they differ, they all have in common one aspect: mystery. The unknown. We don’t know how the story will end. But would we want to?
On the bus to Tunbridge Wells today I became aware of a dad with his toddler sitting at the front of the upper deck, both father and son playing at being bus drivers, with their pretend steering wheels and pretend brakes, laughing and shrieking. It made me smile and reminded me of my own childhood and the way that we create our own stories and roles through play.
We can become anyone. We can do anything. Our imagination enables us to explore new worlds.
One of my favourite toys when I was a child comprised of a host of plastic farm animals. My model farm provided me with hours of fun. I made up stories and adventures for the world I had created, and my imagination enabled me to become the tiny plastic figure with pigtails and jodhpurs with the cute Shetland pony. I made choices about what happened to my characters and landscapes, controlling their destinies in a way that isn’t possible in reality. Like being a storyteller. And I thought of what playing had in common with writing and my reasons for writing, for creating stories. I sometimes wonder where this need comes from, why engaging our imaginations is so important.
I used to daydream a great deal as a child. It was all practice for writing my stories. I’m still practising.
This is my last post of 2012 for Creatabot – here’s to a creative 2013!
Her trilogy of Matty Horse and Pony Adventures books for pre-teens and teens (and nostalgic older readers) are available for kindle on Amazon.co.uk. All profits from these stories are going to Redwings Horse Sanctuary.
So many great stories are about literal or spiritual journeys, in which the protagonist is changed by the process, whether she has experienced incredible dramatic adventures or pursued more reflective contemplation. Journeys seem to be a recurrent theme in my writing. More than 20 years ago, the first novel I had published, Wild Horse Island, was about a horse taken from his familiar environment, his subsequent quest to make his way home, against the odds, and the people whose lives he changes in the process. Always in my Heart, which comes out next year, revisits this idea, but in a different setting and on a deeper level. I was dealing with a major bereavement at the time and, inevitably, this affected how I told the story.
After a life-changing few years, the theme of journeys is very much on my mind at present, and my recent book, Coming Home, explores familiar territory for me, although this time it’s about two Norwegian Forest cats who are accidentally separated from, and seek to be reunited with, their grieving owner, encountering a host of creatures on the way.
As a human being, we each undertake our own personal journeys, whether or not we decide to analyse the process. Where do I want to end up on mine? I don’t know the answer yet, although we all arrive at the same place ultimately. What matters more, the journey or the destination? For now, I find the act of motion, whether that is walking, running, or being transported in a machine, triggers off my imagination in a way that rarely happens if I am staring at my computer screen.
Travelling by train or car provides great creative space, if I am a driver or passenger, and ideas fire off unprompted as I eat up the miles. I recently re-read Rumblestrip by Woodrow Phoenix, a monochrome graphic book all about what happens when we get behind a steering wheel. The layout cleverly simulates a car journey and as you read, you feel like you are on a virtual car journey. I sometimes dream that I’m driving a car, and, strangely, when I drive at night, I sometimes wonder if I am dreaming. Woodrow Phoenix describes it perfectly:
“There is a dreamlike quality built into the experience of driving. A car windshield is a big window. And also a screen….locations unwind on the other side of this rectangular glass almost as they do on a movie screen….you sit cocooned in your cabin….everything outside your windows is contained, the rest of the world an arm’s length away…..you glide through location after location as if they were erected just for you to drive past. Every journey is a narrative with you at the centre.”
As writers, each time we imagine, create and produce a story, we are embarking on a journey of discovery, which our readers continue and reinterpret, each word illuminating the path and teaching us, deliberately or unconsciously, about the human condition.
When I was a child, I longed to have my own horse. This was destined never to happen, because apart from living in an urban area, my parents couldn’t afford it. So I created my own private horse world.
I drew horses in pencil and ink, mostly copied from photographs. I collected pictures of horses from magazines and stuck them into a series of scrap books, often thinking up stories to go with the pictures. In my art class at school, we were given a lump of clay to create a ceramic piece. Obviously, mine became a horse of sorts. I struggled with the legs, so the solution was to have the horse lying down. His tail kept falling off, so he became a cob with a stubby tail. He was glazed and taken home proudly to my mum. He occupied my windowsill for years and I still have him, 40 years later. Maybe he wasn’t exactly a work of art but he had been born from my imagination, moulded into shape and was mine.
Drawing horses, collecting pictures of them and making them from clay was not enough. It was natural that as I developed my passion for creative writing, I would write stories about them. I created the horses, characters and the experiences I desired through my fiction. The ultimate wish fulfilment.
I would love to know how many other writers or artists create the fantasy world they would love to inhabit through their art.
Her trilogy of Matty Horse and Pony Adventures books for pre-teens and teen (and nostalgic older readers) are available for Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. All profits from these stories are going to Redwings Horse Sanctuary.
Matty and the Problem Ponies is FREE TO DOWNLOAD from 7th-11th November!