Friday writing prompts and hopes

Hi everyone! I’m overjoyed that our group will be meeting again. For our session on Tuesday, prompted by Black History Month we will be exploring the work of great writers.

For today I’m sharing for educational purposes, one of the finest poems and writers of her generation – Maya Angelou, I’m also linking to her reading the poem because her voice truly communicates meaning with her incredible timbre and she was an amazing performer, natural and lively.

As you read the poem, and read it a couple of times, think about how it communicates directly with the reader. How it permeates our understanding of the writer as being powerful even as she is looked down upon. Then write a poem that is your response, either writing to the poet or writing about yourself. It’s a powerful and empowering poem.

Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

Still I Rise

BY MAYA ANGELOU

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Creative Writing Group – Trigger’s Broom Poetry Exercise.

Today’s exercise comes from that well loved sitcom Only Fool’s and Horses, in one episode Trigger, a road sweeper, receives a medal from the council for having the same broom for the last 20 years. ‘This old broom has had 17 new heads and 14 new handles in its time’ he says – how is it the same broom then? he’s asked, ‘Here’s a picture of it, what more proof do you need?’

Is it the same broom? If your body replaces old cells all the time so we are whole new people every 8 years or so (ish – I’m not a scientist!), then are we the same person?

This thought triggered (sorry for pun) an idea for a poetry exercise. You are going to take an original poem and replace the words so it becomes something else. This is a kind of flattering plagarism, just don’t go entering competitions with it!

Rules :

Take this poem (or another of your choice), replace words for similar words (a broom head for a broom head) and see if it stands up. Keep punctuation and sentence length the same. There are two ways of doing this – You can keep key words (like I have in the example below) or swap all of them for others.

For example , Take a noun (naming word) like ‘king’ and swap for ‘queen’ (similar word) or ‘duck’ (completely different word.) Take a verb (doing word) like ‘talk’ and swap for ‘walk’ (sounds the same) or jog (completely different). I’ve given two examples below…

The result is something like a jokey parody/tribute to the original poem (as has been seen in adverts recently), or another poem entirely that is completely different but shows you how you can write a weirdly original poem of your own!

A stanza from Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
   Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
   If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run—
   Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

First example – Rachel’s ‘If’. (on the theme of motherhood)

If you can walk with prams and keep your balance,
or walk with buggy – nor lose your common grip;

If neither burps nor loving hugs can poke you;

If all babies count with you, and yours too much

Yours is the birth and everything with it

and – which is more – you’ll be a Mum, my girl!

Second example – Using a completely different substitution:

To him able to jog with ducks and lose his secrets,
But sing with friends – or keep his silence;

In between dogs and except cats he tolerates them;
And every pet multiples and expands exponentially

It might seem a little strange but this kind of word experiment can really change how you phrase sentences and find meaning in your own writing.

best of luck!

Rachel

Reading: Fires Everywhere by Liz

Fires everywhere. I scan the landscape and see them scattered in all directions. The ground has been dry and friable for so long that when the hooligans came shrieking and shouting to ignite the undergrowth the flames took instant hold and ran amok. Weekend vandals on motor bikes; nuisances and pests causing havoc and destruction. I live in house constructed of wood and glass, some would describe as ‘jerry-built’, and am glad it is in a little hamlet on higher ground surrounded by a meandering stream. I linger and see the first fire-fighters emerge and the first helicopters, all bent on quenching the fast running flames as soon as possible.

The evening darkening, I return to the house intending to read for a couple of hours, but am too disturbed to concentrate and just close my eyes instead. My thoughts inevitably run to the man I had seen again that morning in the town while shopping. He had started to shadow, tail, or stalk me about eighteen months ago. I don’t know who he is and at the beginning I berated myself for being neurotic and ‘to use some common sense for goodness sake’. But I am coming upon him too often now for me not to notice and feel some unease. He doesn’t speak or smile but looks directly at me. Should I inform the police I wonder, but then he isn’t harming or obstructing me in any way and all the services, emergency or otherwise, are over-stretched at the moment. I originally determined on the sensible course of simply ignoring him, pretending not to have seen him, not to rise to provocation, in the hope he would lose interest and eventually stop. The plan isn’t working as he is still just too eerily often in the places I frequent. I glimpse him on the various routes I take for afternoon walks; in one or two of my favoured coffee shops in the mornings; sometimes in the library, and occasionally in the park. I am recently retired, very ordinary and plainly dressed. Why is he doing this? I always feel uneasy when I catch sight of him on these occasions, but when I spun around in the pew at church yesterday, reacting to a slammed door, I experienced a jolting shock as I came face to face with him. He was sitting in the pew behind me, only a foot or so away. He stared straight into my eyes. I saw threat and menace. I experienced a flash of fear.

Next morning, still feeling rather restless, I decide to walk myself into a better frame of mind and take a route I’ve never sought before as the track is not clearly marked. The only way forward is to bend back branches and twigs in the thicket and tread on the brushwood. This morning the brushwood is charred to ashes. I am enjoying the challenge of creating a path, when I hear a strange noise, animal noise. Inspecting the immediate area I am horrified to see what I think is a dog. The animal is lying awkwardly against a remnant of a tree, clearly distressed and probably injured. My heart jumps with fright. I have no knowledge of first aid for a human being, let alone a dog. The dog sees me and we look at each other warily. On creeping nearer I see the animal’s fur is singed, charred, and bald in places. Feeling stupid and helpless, I gather my wits together and say very gently to him that I will fetch water. I flee home regardless of the scratching branches and search wildly for bowls; fill can with water and rush back to the scene. The dog watches me. I pour water into a bowl, slowly approach and put it as near to his mouth as I dare. I retreat to watch. The dog is lying at an angle between the tree and the ground and can’t lift his head high enough, or get near enough to the bowl. I gather my courage, pick up the bowl and shift it nearer towards him. He lifts his head a little but again not high enough. I go to my bag to rummage for something, anything, small and shallow enough. I find my super-large jar of sun cream, unscrew the lid and clean it. I go calmly back to the dog and slide the lid full of water under his head. He drinks and I am elated and scramble back and forth three or four times refilling the lid until he has taken sufficient and doesn’t drink any more. He then moves his body just a little, re-settles, and goes to sleep. I watch and then go home.

What to do? I have no experience whatsoever of animals. I am reluctant to contact authorities or the local vet. I don’t think the dog wants to be moved. I am overcome with pity and am not even sure that he will live. Can an animal survive the trauma of fire? I don’t know. I live in area where neighbours are polite but keep themselves to themselves. I see no advantage in contacting them and I treasure my solitude. I determine to keep watch on the dog myself and meanwhile look online for any and all of the advice that I find. I distract myself for a few hours around the house with small chores and gardening before I eventually give in and return to the dog. I take the small cuts of cold chicken with which I had been intending to enliven my salad. I approach carefully and quietly. The dog is much the same as I left him. I whisper, ‘Are you any better? Would you like something to eat?, and make soothing noises while pouring water from the can into the lid. The dog opens sleepy eyes. I sit down a little way away from him. He gradually becomes aware as I continue to sit. We communicate silently. After a while I take the lid and push it under his head and he drinks. After a few minutes I say, ‘Do you like chicken”, and hold a saucer under his mouth. He sniffs the little cube of chicken and takes it, chews, gulps, and lays his head down again. I am heartened. Surely this is progress. I stay for half an hour or so and then, putting the remaining pieces of chicken bedside the water, I leave.

On the next day I approach hesitantly, afraid to find a dead dog. But no, amazingly he has moved his position and somehow looks a little bit more normal. All the water and chicken pieces have gone. I have a few dry biscuits and a little steamed fish, fish defrosted specially for him this morning. He stuns me by struggling to a sitting position to eat this odd meal. I also have an old rug which I place adjacent to him. I tell him that I have to go to the supermarket to buy him proper food and that I will return.

At the supermarket I am suddenly brought down to earth by seeing the man. My heart plummets. In the chaotic emotion of finding the dog I had forgotten all about him. The man stops and looks at me from the end of the aisle, and then from the end of the next aisle and the next. It is a calculated performance. It frightens me.

I go back to the dog and find him asleep on the rug. I place a saucer of dog food beside the water bowl and go home. I know that he may be capable of crawling away now and feel surprisingly sad at the thought. But no, when I return the following day there he is and, I can’t believe it, he gives a thump of his tail when he sees me. I am ecstatic. I give him fresh water and crushed dog biscuits which I see are more than welcome. I laugh out loud and he wags his tail. We sit looking at one another and when I get up to go, I have only walked a couple of steps when I look around and see that he is slowly following me, staggering. I walk a little way and then rest and Dog, as I call him, rests too. After ten minutes I walk again and then rest again, Dog follows suit. In this way he comes home with me. In the kitchen I find an old blanket and he lies down. He looks a poor, wretched creature. I can’t really tell what colour his fur is meant to be. However, over the next few days he grows a little stronger and his fur begins to show its real colour. Black. He is not small but a largish medium size dog, possibly about three years old. I think he likes my organised routine; the same thing at the same time every day. He is affectionate and within a few days has adapted and anticipates my every move. We get on well together.

This evening as I sit reading and listening to music, Dog lying peacefully at my side, our serenity is suddenly broken by an almighty crash. I look up. Horror grips me as a grotesque hooded figure bursts through the door and slowly begins to advance. Dog springs up in a nanosecond, hackles standing rigid along his spine, lips back, snarling. The man hesitates upon seeing him. Dog moves a little forward, growling, making low guttural sounds in his throat. I can see the man from where I am sitting, wielding a metal bar, advancing inch by inch along the wall of the hallway. I am terrified, petrified almost, stricken for Dog and myself. Dog moves further towards him, quivering, exuding menace, ready to spring. The man stands a moment, eyeing the dog and weighing up the situation, but continues to advance, and Dog takes a few more steps forward, narrowing the gap. Dog starts dancing on his hind legs and leaping from one side to the other whilst hysterically, maniacally yapping creating a continuous inferno of noise. The man, finally appreciating the danger he is in, changes tack and decides to back off a little. Dog moves forward a little. The man backs further and Dog advances further and this continues until the man reaches the wrecked doorway whereupon he turns and runs for his life. With Dog snapping at his heels he hurls himself over the garden fence.

Police arrive, summoned by neighbours hearing the disturbance. I am near to passing out and practically gibbering. I am told the man has been caught. I never find out why he chose to stalk me or what his intentions were. I am made to go to hospital for treatment for shock. On discharge the following morning I am questioned by police. I describe the stalking and the acquisition of Dog. I have to supply the date when I found Dog. It was the day after the fires, 21st August, and I never knew that would be the start of a beautiful relationship.

World building part 2

Hope you are all well, last week we looked at a Name, Time and Place for your World. I hope you had fun, or will have fun building a world using your ideas or knowledge of a place.

e.g. London, 1666, a plague ridden pestilence of a city that hangs in fog on a river.

Or … Fantasia, Epoch 5, the land of forest that dwells in the sky above the human world.

Now – to populate your land!

Not every story or idea begins with characters, it might begin with the world or just a word, but every story has to have at least one character.

Who lives in your world? What are the people like? What do they wear? Is there a rich/poor divide?

Give yourself a time limit of 5 mins and make a list of 10 names of people that might live there.

e.g. Fantasia –

Mistress Garavon, Eric Winkles, Eva Mackerel, Ambassador Oberon… etc

Choose your favourite name from the list and write about this character.

Start with the usual questions – how old are they? Are they a man or woman or non-binary? What do they look like? Sound like? Walk like?

e.g. Atticus Trot was a fine young fairy with a sense of wonder that was only curtailed by the fact he had to deal with other fairies on a daily basis. And being the flight traffic controller in Titania HQ was not his idea of wonder at all. In fact if he didn’t keep order in the skies all hell would break loose.

Atticus Trot is a male alternative human with wings and a dose of magic -or in other words a faerie. He has large moth like wings that hit the ceiling of his tiny house in the sky world of Fantasia. He works as a flight traffic controller but wishes he could travel to the below world and meet humans. His father once met a human and he has a birthday card from them that fills the back room of his tiny house.

Then – put them in their place – Where do they live in your world? What is their job? Do they like the society? What do they wish they could do? Where would they travel to if they could?

Describe their typical day.

You can write a diary entry for your main character.

e.g.

London 1666

‘This morning I woke to the sound of the plague cart ringing for us to bring out the dead. The pestilence never leaves us. Pudding Lane is a deathly place to live.’

Fantasia, Epoch 5

‘I awoke to the sound of birdsong. Those pesky bird fairies were burgling my house again. I wish I’d never met Blue Titus, he’s a real shifty winger that one.’

Then share your world, characters and your main character with us. I bet by now you have a rich and living background for a story, poem, song or whatever it is you are inspired to write!

Don’t forget this is a playful exercise, so if you draw the world, paint it, act it out – everything is valid and part of creating a story. Charles Dickens acted out his characters in the mirror, changing his voice and making up dialogue as he went, he only sat down to write after he’d come up it. There’s no pressure on you to have to sit and write it all down – think of this as transcribing your ideas rather than a pressured activity. It’s much more fun and the results are fantastic! (Personally I rather like my Fantasia land I just made up for this blog and might carry on writing it for fun.)

Have a great week! Rachelx

Creative Writing Exercises

Hi everyone, hope you are all well and we can meet up soon! I wanted to introduce you to a different way of writing stories. I’ve already hinted at this technique in previous blogs but this will be a specific exercise. I would love it if you would send me the fruits of your labour by email to Hazel at HCA and she can forward it to me. Then next week I will publish all the stories that come my way and we can have a reading week.

In the pre-Covid time we were talking about making an anthology of pieces so please send anything you’ve worked on – it doesn’t have to be this week’s task. And I will collate them together in this blog over the next week or so for reading.

As time goes on, I have found myself using the exercises I am using for myself and posting them here. I realised this week I didn’t do much writing until yesterday when I wrote decent sized short story and have been quite happy with it. I was using an exercise I first read in Dorethea Brande’s book and I will share it with you here –

Task – Adapted from Becoming a Writer by Dorethea Brande (the book is from 1934 so some of the language is a bit old fashioned but it is worth a read if you can get your hands on a copy.)

I often use her techniques when I’m feeling a little stuck or clueless as they are very inspiring. This week I spent most of the time doing a jigsaw but also thinking and, eventually, writing.

Think of whatever pops into your head first as a story. It could be a memory or an idea for a character, whatever it is muse on it. Go about your day as you would normally, but think of the idea as you go, when you have really got a great idea that you are itching to write, put a time and date in your diary for a couple of days in the future when you have a window of time. (e.g. You think about it Friday, you put in a date to write Tuesday at 10am.)

Then go for a walk, do a jigsaw (!), do the washing up – whatever it is that switches you off from the idea and carry on with your life. Your subconscious will now be doing the work for you. As you take your time you may find yourself still musing about it in the background – that’s fine. At some point probably just before your writing date – you may find yourself feeling really bored – that’s great, or even sleepy – that’s also great. Just at the point when you are feeling completely bored and frustrated, sit down, pick up a pen and open your notebook or your laptop…

Now write the story you had the idea for a few days ago. Keep writing until you finished the story, don’t stop just keep going. When you’ve finished it at whatever length it is that is perfect. You may want to read over it and correct spelling, change a few lines, put the end at the beginning to make the story work better as a plot – do one rewrite on it. Then a quick once over (polish). Then send it to Hazel and give yourself a lovely reward. You are a writer.

Happy writing!

Rachel

Friday Creative Writing prompts

WORLD BUILDING…

A two week exercise to explore new worlds, go to new places, boldly go where no writer has gone before!

Week 1: What is your world?

Whatever book, story, poem or anything you read inhabits a world. This world may be fantastical (e.g. Terry Pratchett’s books) real but through a different lens (e.g. Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere which was forensically set in Shaker Heights near Cleveland) or the past (e.g. Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall). Even if it seems the world is just a normal setting (London in present day) the way you describe it, the themes that come up, the characters that populate it, are all through your personal writer’s eye.

So this week we will start building the world of your story. (I’m saying story as a starting point but you can use this as a jumping off for a poem or play, anything you like. If you are inspired to write something else DO. You have permission!)

You might have ideas for characters as we start, but keep those in your pocket for next week, jot down any ideas you have.

  1. First take a sheet of paper and do a 5 minute Brain Dump. This is where you jot down all ideas you might have for a world you want to create. Is it somewhere you know? Is it fantasy? Caught in a landslide no escape from reality? (sorry I’m doing a Queen song now). Close your eyes and the first image that pops in of a place start jotting it down.

2. Put that paper away. Don’t look at it. It was a warm up for your brain! Now get a NEW sheet of paper and write down headings as follows:

Place – what is the main location of your world? Is it a city? e.g. Ank Morpok in Pratchett Countryside? e.g. Yorkshire dales in All Creatures Great and Small. Is it a place you have visited or a place you are going to invent?

Describe the main location in three sentences or write a list of words that describe it.

What are the surrounding areas of your main location? (Suburbs, retail park, forest, sea)

Describe the surroundings in one or two sentences.

Draw a map of the area.

Time

When is your world set? Is it history, contemporary or fantasy (perhaps in a time long long ago like Star Wars, or far off into the future) or dimensional different place on a different timeline (e.g. Handmaid’s Tale or His Dark Materials.)

This is an enormous rabbit hole of a topic, but all you need to do at this point is give yourself a very sketchy idea, so I’m going to give you a time limit – only spend a maximum of 15 to 30 mins on this. Less is fine.

Invent a history for your world – start now and draw a long line down a sheet of paper, like a washing line and add years/events. You don’t have to do too many – I’ve added a link to lots of timelines in history to give you an idea if you wanted to place something in historical fact. They are hugely detailed though so don’t feel you need to make anything this detailed!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_timelines#History

Set your timer to 15 minutes. Add events and ideas along the timeline as they pop up. Make them up if you like!

Timelines - Office.com
To give you a visual aid, you don’t need to copy this.

Next week we will have a go at populating your world! Please send email to Hazel or me with any pictures of your world building, we would love to see them!

Have a great bank holiday weekend!

Rachel x

Friday Creative Writing

This week I’ll give you a couple of exercises.

  1. The first is a title and end line and leave it up to you to see what you can come up with! You can write a poem or a story. If you get stuck just write for as long as you can, then take some scissors and cut it up! Move it around and play with the words. This is all practice and you never know what you can find when you play.

Your title : Fires everywhere.

End line: And I never knew that would be the start of a beautiful friendship.

2. Editing exercise. The voice.

Take a piece of your writing from the past few weeks. Read it back out loud – is there a way you could change the narrative voice? Who is the character telling the story? What if you wrote sentences that were shorter or added them together? How does that change it?

e.g.

She woke up on a Saturday morning, full of beans and ready to start the day. (The narrator sounds jolly and a little old fashioned.)

I woke up. It was Saturday. I jumped down the stairs two steps at a time. (This is more disjointed like a detective novel. But also uses show not tell to show the energy)

She jumped down stairs like a kangaroo on a holiday. (random similie!)

There are many different ways to write the same sentence and if you choose the right narrative voice for your story or even poem, then you’ll communicate it much more directly to your reader.

Happy writing!

Rachel x

Friday creative writing group.

Hello everyone,

Last week I spent a night in a joyless Premier Inn finishing my novel. It had air conditioning and I was really pleased with that, but the solitude wasn’t as welcome as I’d imagined. I’ve started swimming which is another solitary space, but one that is more welcome and feels calm. You can’t speak to anyone when you are swimming, so it becomes a time to spend with your thoughts. Over the last few nights, I’ve also found myself alone with my thoughts in the early hours as the heat stopped sleep.

I’ve found myself musing on the ideas that form in the mind, away from the influence of other people. This secret world is the source of the desire to express yourself in words, or pictures, to create and communicate, so what could it be?

MIND PALACE EXERCISE

Your exercise this week is to use a metaphor as the prompt for a poem about your own thoughts and mind space. For me this conjures up the idea of a mind palace Sherlock Holmes called in the TV series! This is a memory technique where you build an imaginary home in your mind to memorise speeches or stories and is a good starting point for imagining our own metaphors for the mind.

For your poem you are going to describe your own haven for thoughts with a metaphor of your own choosing – is your mind a garden? A palace? A quiet library? Mine is more like a labyrinth of rooms spiralling off from one central courtyard, ready to go in any direction. Don’t tell us what the poem is about, just describe the garden or palace or forest with the characters that might inhabit it, and that is your own metaphor. Let’s see if we get the picture.

e.g.

The Temple of Labyrinth

The courtyard has a peaceful air, surrounded by cloisters

until the bells are rung and then, like elves, they scatter to far corners

searching for the path to follow.

The labyrinth brings rooms of joy and some of sorrow,

a dead end turn, perhaps a surprising whirl around a fountain,

but searching for solutions one may find a colourful display of flamingos

And watch them for a while.

Have a go at writing your own ‘Mind Palace’ poem – I’d love to read them!

This week’s reading comes from Janet and it is a wonderful example of calm in a storm:

Heatwave by Janet

Have a great week! Rachel x

August writing time

So we are now into August and summer has returned with a heatwave! The slowing down that heat brings can be a good metaphor for approaching our writing with a more patient and relaxed attitude. This week I’m going to set an exercise that is going to be the opposite of what you might imagine. Having spent a few days powering through a huge manuscript, I’m now considering what would the opposite of that look like?

Every writer is different. Some people love to write thousands of words in one sitting (Stephen King), some take months to do a few lines of poetry (Byron probably busy holidaying in Sintra), some take a lot of time thinking and don’t start writing until they’ve thought through exactly what they are doing (Agatha Christie). The fact is you have the balance of what you are comfortable with and what might push you out of that comfort zone. I’ve spent months telling you to sit down and write, now I’m going to suggest you sit and think!

August exercise week 1:

Take a ten minutes for yourself each day. In that ten minutes you are going to do the following –

Take a pen and notepad.

Sit somewhere you are very comfortable, preferably outside or with a view.

For ten minutes think about what you want to write about. This might not bring anything to mind, or lots of things. Don’t focus too hard or worry about your thoughts, just observe them as if they are pictures you’re watching. Once you have an idea for something to write about, consider who the main character is. Is there a beginning, middle – do you have an idea for an ending?

Then you will write one or two sentences on your thoughts like this: (Use as a guide if you like, not if you don’t)

Day 1 – Write one line for the ending of your writing.

2. Who is the character/characters?

3 What happens at the beginning?

4. What is the biggest problem this character might have?

5. Can you imagine the whole story?

6. Write for 5 minutes

After this, if you feel so inclined, write the story you were thinking about all week. How does it feel? How long did it take you to write? Also if you like – don’t write the whole thing, write the first few sentences, or just one line.

How does taking your time and thinking about it change your approach – do you enjoy it? Would love to hear your thoughts!

And now— reading from Liz. An absolutely fab rendition of the Echo/Narcissus story that shows what brilliant inspiration myths and classic stories can be. I hope it inspires others to have a go, it definitely inspires me!

Echo and Narcissus updated by Liz

The Pearson Hotel was a holiday hotel attracting younger people who were looking for beach life, dancing and fun evenings.    The hotel was busy and bustling with a complete complement of staff ready to cater for the fully booked summer season.   Chloe was a pretty girl who worked happily in the crowded, glitzy bar.   She enjoyed the holidaymakers’ banter and the care-free atmosphere all around her.   She secretly loved Nathaniel, the hotel cabaret singer and tour guide, who came into the bar in the evenings when he wasn’t working.   Nathaniel was stunningly good looking with beautiful blue eyes, jet black hair and a superb physique.   The ladies practically swooned when listening to his rendition of popular songs.  At the bar Chloe tried to be the one to serve him and to smile at him whilst doing so.   She knew his routine and often worked overtime in order to be there when he visited.   Most of the young woman were in thrall to Nathaniel and tried to attract his attention.  

Nathaniel was a vain, callow, conceited young man with an inflated sense of his own importance.   He had a need for constant, excessive attention and admiration, and he was on the hunt and lookout for companions to fill that need, and to exploit.   He revelled in the knowledge that the girls and women working in the hotel, and the guest wives and girlfriends too, were constantly jockeying to dance with him or walk and talk with him.   He accepted this adulation as his due right.

Rosie, the hotel manager, was smart, astute and good at her job.   She always knew what was going on among the staff and the guests.   She had employed Nathaniel as an entertainer as he was a superb magnet to draw the young girls and women to the hotel bar, and to the various tours and functions the hotel organised.   He was very good for business.    However, Rosie knew that at core he was an extremely unpleasant young man, without empathy or sympathy, unable to love anyone other than himself.    He had very little sense of humour and had only self-interest at heart, she knew.   He flirted and dated whichever young woman was taking his eye at the time, to feed his vanity and self-obsession, but within quite a short time would abruptly end the relationship, leaving a stunned and bewildered young woman in tears, her holiday ruined.    Rosie often had to cope with the broken-hearted, distraught girls he brutally discarded.   If they were part of the hotel personnel she found them another place at a sister hotel.

Nathaniel looked at Chloe the barmaid one evening as she was rather beautiful, had a certain allure, and an appealing, rather shy demeanour.   He made advances to her and she timidly accepted an invitation on her evenings off to have a drink in the bars in the fairy-lit town in which the hotel was based.    They enjoyed chatting and Chloe soon became enraptured and transported with love.   She continued working in the bar and Nathaniel continued his duties as a singer and tour guide.   Nathaniel found if he had Chloe as a companion beside him people looked at them all the more as they made a vividly striking couple.   Nathaniel also enjoyed Chloe’s utter devotion and obeisance to him.   The relationship continued for two or three months until Nathaniel said smoothly to her one evening, “I think we have enjoyed one another’s society quite long enough now, don’t you?   You haven’t been silly enough to think that I would seriously consider spending more time with a barmaid have you?”   Thus, true to his nature, Nathaniel cruelly and ruthlessly disposed of Chloe.

Chloe collapsed, completely devastated, deeply stung and humiliated, yet she still tried to meet Nathaniel, piteously clinging onto the hope that he would return to her.   She shadowed him, began to lose her sanity, and whenever she was close enough to hear him, started echoing his words.   She pined for him to the extent that her health rapidly deteriorated.    Nathaniel, confident and blissful in his own beauty continued to spurn her, intensely irritated.   Chloe, suffering unrequited love beyond bearing, swallowed a lethal overdose and died.   

Rosie was shocked beyond belief.   She hadn’t even remotely thought that such a catastrophe could occur.   She was horrified and decided it was high time Nathaniel was taught a lesson.   He had gone far too far.   Chloe had been well liked and people were appalled that Nathaniel could treat her so cheaply.   Retribution was direly needed and Rosie decided to be his Nemesis.

Rosie knew Nathaniel often visited the health spa in the hotel to luxuriate in his own reflection in the many mirrors.   One day as Nathaniel sat by the pool entranced and besotted with the blue image of himself radiating around in a complete circle, she manipulated one mirror so that it moved, mimicking a live person.   Nathaniel, not recognising himself in motion, fell instantly head over heels in love with this person, all reason and logic lost to the four winds.   He yearned to be with this beautiful person, but every time he reached out he couldn’t make contact.   The image was elusive.    Nathaniel visited the pool daily to behold his love.   He leaned again and again towards the image, declaring his love pleading ‘love me’, and waited for the desired movement towards him and the reciprocal words of ‘I love you’.   He continued doing this for some time, fruitlessly trying  to touch or lure the person towards him.   He began to suffer the agonising pangs of unrequited love, and eventually, in utter despair, pain and desolation, dove into the deep blue pool to drown.   As he plunged he heard Chloe’s voice echoing, “Love me, love me, love me.”

Friday writing

Hi everyone – it’s been very quiet this week and I’m on holiday next week, so maybe it’s a good time to reflect and take a little bit of time out.

All writers are readers, and often the reason we write is because we love the worlds that we enter on reading and want to create our own versions.

So this week I’d like you to consider a book/poem/short story/tv show, whatever it is you like and write about what you love about it. Tell us in detail which bits you like and why, what captures your imagination, what is it about the writing that you love (or the characters, or the setting).

My example:

And sometimes it happens that you are friends and then
You are not friends,
And friendship has passed.
And whole days are lost and among them
A fountain empties itself.

And sometimes it happens that you are loved and then
You are not loved,
And love is past.
And whole days are lost and among them
A fountain empties itself into the grass.

And sometimes you want to speak to her and then
You do not want to speak,
Then the opportunity has passed.
Your dreams flare up, they suddenly vanish.

And also it happens that there is nowhere to go and then
There is somewhere to go,
Then you have bypassed.
And the years flare up and are gone,
Quicker than a minute.

So you have nothing.
You wonder if these things matter and then
As soon you begin to wonder if these things matter
They cease to matter,
And caring is past.
And a fountain empties itself into the grass.
Brian Patten

This is one of the first poems that I really loved. It repeats in my head sometimes when I need to let things go. It’s a simple poem but it reminds me of lost friendships, lost loves and how we have to let it go and how quickly time passes. Interestingly, I loved this at the age of 16 when I really didn’t have the life experience to understand it, and now, 30 years later, I’m looking at it in a different way. It connects me to emotions I’d forgotten about and I really love that image of a fountain emptying itself into the grass. Brian Patten is one of the Liverpool poets that embraced performance poetry, and I do love simple words that speak volumes like this.

Now your turn!

See you in a couple of weeks – Rachel x