Landscape of the Soul:
February’s writing prompt was all about landscapes, both inner and outer. The places we visit in our dreams or in real life, childhood haunts and spirit lands - the places where we felt ourselves. Reading over the month’s responses I’ve been transported to magical woods, a wintry fishing port, a glorious Japanese dawn and the most intimate corners of a writer’s soul.
I am humbled that so many talented writers have chosen to participate in February’s Month of Words and take readers on a journey into the kingdom of their souls. Below I have chosen eight of my favourite responses to this month’s tag with links to places where you can read more of the writer’s work.
The Books That Broke My Heart
- Books -
I’m not particularly romantic when it comes to Valentine’s Day (as you might have guessed with this post arriving ten days late) but one thing I can get sentimental about is a good book. So, I decided to celebrate the month of love in my own way with a list of six books that have made me cry.
Because surely the sign of a great writer is one who has rendered you a weeping ball by the last page?
Folklore & Fable:
In January I met with talking wolves, mysterious rebels and spoke with the spirits of winter. I saw the graves of giants, wrote enchantments and pondered the power of wishes.
The ‘My Month of Words’ prompt began simply as a way to keep my mind off my novel but I could not have envisioned just how liberating the process would be. It has been a joy to begin the year on such a whimsical, carefree note. Once I let go of the novel and trusted that a ‘writing holiday’ would do it the world of good, I’ve seen my writing grow in directions I could never have expected.
In the last few weeks have I settled into a new rhythm and felt my imagination unhook from its icy moorings at the edge of the sea to roam uncharted lands. This is the first time I’ve ever used prompts as a writer and I am surprised at how useful the process has been (and dismayed that I didn’t use them sooner!)
4 Scottish Poems Inspiring My Month Of Words
With Burns Night just around the corner I am turning to poems from my native land to inspire my writing sessions. As this month’s theme is ‘Folklore & Fairytales’ I’ve selected four poems of myth and magic, poems that encapsulate that eerie sense of uncanny which Scottish writing does so well. If you’re following #mymonthofwords on Instagram, I’ve included prompts below each poem on how you might use these poets’ interpretations of fairytales and legends to add a touch of the supernatural to your own writing.
If you are simply here for the poetry then I hope you enjoy these poems as much as I do.
Taking A Break From Writing To Write
Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative place where no one else has ever been ~ Alan Alda
Last time we spoke I was writing the final pages of my novel. The right words arrived before Christmas and so for the past two weeks my manuscript has been sleeping in my drawer while I have strayed from the land of the seal-people back into a mortal world of celebration and feast. I have found that time in the mortal realm can be just as deceptive as faerie time, for in the blink of an eye the old year has slipped away with a flurry of snow and the soft crackle of fireworks. I find myself on the edge again, at the hinterland of story. It is a place of shifting sand, formed and yet unformed, where skin is shed, characters may change sex and the route, though carefully plotted, may still lead somewhere unexpected.
I am open to all possibilities.
Forest of Snow and Memory:
Writing The End
- Writing -
A few weeks ago I travelled through a snowstorm looking for reindeer but was forced by the weather into Rothiemurchus, near Aviemore. Rat Murchus; ancient pine forest of the Caledonians, where an ancient winter still blows. The trees are bones, keepers of memory. Fir giants, covered in snow. Sometimes the place you end up in by chance is the place you need to be.
In the Caledonian pine forest the blizzard stopped. Time stopped, ran backwards, to a great winter of old. People came into the forest, dogs came. Folk came and went, leaving only footprints. I left my footprint too, returned to the blizzard I arrived in, but parted with the mark of the forest upon me.
Touch Not The Cat
- Writing -
October, the sky wrapped in colours of slate seas and tarnished gold. Atmosphere of witchery, Samhain approaching. Stand beneath the locked door, the crest of stone; a cat black as midnight and a legend invoking the dormant blood-courage of centuries past.
Here is your life’s path narrowing to a single point in time; a doorway, a key’s turning, a dark line scored in the palm.
Badenoch, Newton Castle, Cluny. Take this feral inheritance, a clan of cats. Nurture this bloody imagination, these violent dreams.
The One Thing I Must Do
- Writing -
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom
~ Anais Nin
That day has arrived. For many years, all my adult life, in fact, I have been keeping a secret. Sometimes a secret feels like a piece of magic within you that keeps you safe when it’s dark outside, and for many years my secret was a star that illuminated the darkness and lit fires of creativity within me. But somewhere along the way my secret became a stone, heavy and unbearable. Only in the past year have I linked persistent sadness and a chronic, frustrated helplessness to the unnatural amount of energy I am using to keep my secret hidden. It has become a burden to carry around all these years, and I know now that I have to either release it or be crushed by it.
So, what is this secret?
Second Hand Bookshop Finds: November
autumn . twenty-seventeen
I found Stag Boy in my local second-hand bookshop on a neglected shelf of children’s literature. I had no money on me at the time but knew I had to have it, so hid it behind some old copies of Harry Potter and came back for it later, cash in sweaty palm. This strange little book casts a powerful spell, for I instantly abandoned my current read to finish it in an afternoon. Stag Boy tells the tale of Jim, a frail boy who has returned to his rugged but beautiful native Exmoor to convalesce. One day, while exploring an abandoned cottage, he finds a strange helmet of fused antler and iron. From the moment Jim puts the helmet on his being becomes intertwined with the powerful black stag, which roams the surrounding countryside. The black stag gives Jim a confidence and power he has never known, but it is not long before the mysterious influence of the stag starts to overpower the human boy.
The Hill of God -
Travels in Rob Roy Country
Ben Ledi. The hill of fire, hill of God. Snow falling as the mist closed in, the path melting before my eyes, walking blindly into an obscure hinterland. I lower my eyes from the cold. It is Easter Sunday, winter at the height of Spring. Easter is not kept in this pagan place. Shapes move in the fog; guardian angels protecting the slope; the fae, come to steal my shadow from beneath me.
At the summit a grave is marked by two ravens. A raven is not a raven but a link, from this world to the next, wherever that may be. They guard the cross, consulting with another, communing with bone and stone. How long have they traveled in the other kingdom, and what knowledge did they bring back?
Motel In The Mountains
Balquhidder, Lomond & The Trossachs
spring . twenty-seventeen
- Travel -
There is a place I go where I know I can escape the snares of self-doubt that entangle an aspiring writer’s mind, a place of mountains and lochs, where the kingdom of imagination appears before my eyes in the parting of light and thunderclouds, where the mundane and the magical sit side by side, where silver men walk out of the cold loch and a car journey becomes a mad ride on horseback through outlaw country.
Back in April I was in need of this mystical place. Unable to imbue even a wet spark of alchemy into what I had spent months writing, I wanted more than anything to swap my desk and the uncooperative characters in my head for the distraction of wild, Easter hills coated with mist and snow, endless lochs and the comforts of fire, feasting and fresh air. Without thinking twice Mhor 84 came to mind, a curious motel off the A84 that I first encountered while exploring Rob Roy country a couple of years ago.
Begin at the Beginning - thoughts on Under Milk Wood
spring . twenty-seventeen
- Writing -
Equinotical winds, snow in April, intense sunshine the week before; not a particularly auspicious omen for starting anew. What Shakespearean weather will shake May? Unto the breach regardless, to begin at the beginning,with a sighing exposition on Under Milk Wood, the work which developed Tolkienesque appetites to something bordering on refined mysticism.
Of course, it began with a voice, Richard Burton’s velvet conjuration: now I was animal, a fox, eye transfigured, all the better to see the innate magic of this little town, Llareggub. Merlin awoke from his tree, Chaucerian portraits unfolded, eccentric only if you have never dreamed or read the Mabinogion, where a woman’s face can be a composition of flowers.
Newsletter Sign Up