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The Art of Asking: putting the Quest back in Question

One of my all time favourite albums is This Side by the blue grass band Nickel Creek. I’ve stolen quite a few maxims from them as well. This one’s my favourite:

Only the curious have something to find.

It’s true, isn’t it? Think of the most creative person you know. That person who always sees shapes in the clouds and pulls stories out of thin air. That person who sees the world, not as it is, but as it might be. That person who’s forever asking the question “But what if…”

Maybe that person you know was just lucky to be born with a creative soul. But then, aren’t almost all children born with a sense of awe, a readiness to absorb information &, most notable of all, a billion questions on their lips?

The problem with many of us struggling artists is not a missing ‘creative gene’ but rather a loss of our childlike sense that life is a Grand Adventure. Thinking we’ve seen it all, we stop looking (see Part II on the Art of Observation). Not wanting to appear ignorant, we stop asking questions. We become jaded, & our imagination just doesn’t work like it used to.

But what if we could revive that lost art that comes so naturally to children…        the Art of Asking?

There is a direct correlation between Curiosity and Creativity. The one fuels the other. So if you let Curiosity dry up, you can bet your Creativity will sputter out & wind up rusting in the junkyard of your busy, uninspired mind… unless you choose to embark on a quest that can reverse the hands of time & get your Creative mind banging on all cylinders again.

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3 Ways Asking Sparks Creative Thinking

In his book for cooking up Creativity, Five Star Mind, Tom Wujec explains the revitalizing power of asking questions like this:

Inside the word ‘question’ is the word ‘quest’,  suggesting that within every question is an adventure, a pursuit which can lead us to hidden treasure.

1) Asking questions excites your mind out of its drowsy state by laying an open road before it.

Just like Bilbo Baggins startled from his stupor by a troop of adventuring dwarves, your brain secretly longs for a mystery to solve, a quest to fulfill. Asking questions is an invitation for the brain to step out of its routine & into an adventure.

2) Asking questions gets your brain moving. 

Wujec explains that a question puts the brain in a state of irresolution, a bit like an itch that demands scratching. And believe it or not, your brain LOVES this irresolute state! If you don’t believe it, just look at the masses of Sudoku & crossword puzzles sold in your local bookstore. The brain sees the challenge & sets right to work to scratch that itch. Before you know it, your creative mind is on fire!

Irresolution is a potent fuel, a source of energy & motivation. – Tom Wujec

3) Asking questions gives you a target & helps you aim. 

Here’s where you can apply the Art of Asking directly to your writing, & especially when you feel utterly & hopelessly stuck. Asking the right kind of questions can be the hand up you need to get you unstuck & on your way again. So just what are the “right kind” of questions? 

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The Quest for better Questions

The best questions drive us to see the bigger picture, not just the immediate problem.

For example:  Instead of Why is my protagonist so BORING?! Try What do I already know about this character?  -or- How might this character respond in another situation?

The best questions are open-ended, inviting not just one answer, but many possible solutions.

For example:  In what ways can I make my protagonist more interesting? or more believable?

Then scribble away! You’re only limited by the size of your paper.

The best questions may not lead you to a final resolution… They may even lead you to ask yet more questions! 

That’s OK! In fact, that’s the point! For the creative writer, it’s not the answers but the Art of Asking that counts. Merely asking keeps the creative mind in motion & childlike wonder alive. Mastering this art will take practice — so much unlearning to do before we can have the humility to learn afresh! But the pay-off is enormous! Just consider all the books on your shelves that began with a simple, silly question:

“What if you fell down a hole in the ground & landed upside-down in a fantasy world?”

“What if you walked into a wardrobe & found yourself in in a winter’s wood?”

“What if an ordinary boy discovered he was actually a wizard?”

Do you dare to begin the quest? Who knows where your questions may take you…

 

If you enjoyed this article, check out Got Creativity Parts I & II.   Sign up for email notifications so you never miss a writing tip!

 

4 questions to determine whether you’re feeding or starving your Creative energy

We all know it when we see it. We all want a little more of it… but what exactly is creativity anyway? Tom Wujec, creative thinking guru, hits the problem on the mark in his book Five Star Mind:

“Creativity is a familiar stranger. Trying to define it is like trying to capture a puff of smoke with your fingertips.”

How can it be that Creativity is at once so familiar–we recognize it in others all the time–and yet so strange and slippery when we try to pin it down for ourselves? We come to believe that Creativity is some sort of mystical super power with which only the select creative geniuses among us have been so fortunately graced. While they receive visions, the rest of us ordinary people dig around in the mud hoping to strike creative gold. And dang, it’s hard work!

If only there were some 5-step process to awakening your inner creative genius! If only you could be as creative as _____ (fill in the blank: that writer who seems to strike gold every time they breath)!  If only…

If I’m honest with myself, those “If only” thoughts require a vast amount of energy. Energy that might be converted into…I dunno… creative thinking? Because when it comes down to it, Creativity might be indefinable, but it is not unattainable.

I want to argue that you already have creativity. You are a creative person.

And no, you don’t just need to squeeze your eyes shut and recite the mantra “I am creative!” until you magically pop out a bestseller. I’m not talking about deluding yourself into thinking you’re creative, or even faking it until you make it. I’m suggesting that everybody’s got the ability to be creative.

Having said that, your Creativity won’t look like mine. Just think about it: we are each of us created uniquely. Doesn’t it make sense that what we create and how we create will be equally unique to each of us? What inspires you to create might not do beans for me. And now, finally, we begin to get closer to why Creativity evades definition: it is by nature always adapting, evolving, developing along with us, individually & uniquely.

Ok. So the closest we can get to defining Creativity is to accept that it defies definition–it looks different for each one us. But we still haven’t resolved how we can maximize our creative energy, whatever that means!

Well in Parts II & III of “Got Creativity”, I’ll give you some tried-&-true tools for shaking that Creative muscle awake & getting it buzzing again.

But just for now, here a couple of questions to help you determine whether you’re nourishing your own Creativity… or suffocating it.

Are you giving yourself the space & time to be Creative?

When it comes to stimulating Creativity, the problem is often not too little but too much. How often, in a quiet moment alone, do you savour a bit of mindless musing rather than reach for your smartphone & start flicking? How often do you sit back & stare out the window on long journeys or your daily commute rather than clicking on the radio/ipod/news app/etc.?

Psychologists tell us that when our brain is in information processing mode (ie. flicking through our phones or surfing the web for “inspiration”), we virtually shut down our ability to create. However, when our brains are in task negative or “boredom” mode, it’s like those creative neurons can finally clear the floor & get their dancing shoes on!

When it comes to Creativity, boredom is your friend. It’s a dying art. Letting your mind wander without any external stimulation might even intimidate you. But making that space & time for musing is the vital first step to waking up your own Creativity.

Be brave! Give it a go!

*(Creative photographers Phillip & Eileen Blume talk about the goods & evils of modern technology for Creative thought in this inspirational TedX Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOPVLuopnV0)

Are you bogged down trying to write for the Market?

As a budding writer, it’s all too easy to try and catch whatever winds the market is blowing to fill your creative sails. But don’t be caught out. Trying to perform for an ever-changing market will soon leave you in the creative doldrums.

One of the key ingredients of Creativity is passion. That’s why your creativity looks different to mine! The thing you’re passionate about, the thing that energizes & excites you, that’s the fuel for your creative fire. So keep a weather eye on the Market if you must, but don’t fret over it. Keep a journal & jot down ideas that excite you. Write what you are passionate about. Because chances are, there’s an audience out there that’s passionate about the very same thing!

Are you an Explorer?

More on this in Part III, but suffice it to say for now, Creativity happens when our minds are allowed to wonder, to inquire, to explore… No wonder kids seem to have Creativity coming out their ears!

Remember those good ol’ days as a kid, mixing up mud pies with whatever ingredients you could find in the garden? Sure, to Mum or Dad it might have looked like you were picking berries, tearing leaves and digging up earthworms. But in actuality, you were gathering mundane ingredients together to make something new & wonderfully disgusting. But that is the essence of Creativity! Like a mud pie chef, as writers we gather together our plot, our characters, our settings… we toss in a bit of our favourite books, a pinch of life experience, and… voila! Something totally new results!

So dare to take a second look at the world around you. What others see as mud you may come to see as a scrumptious pie.

Do you learn from hiccups?

Creative writing is quite a lot like cooking (& not just mud pies). You throw together the ingredients you’ve gathered, hoping to make a delicious, harmonious stew. Not every ingredient will blend & enhance as you hoped. That’s ok! The key is to let your creative ideas simmer. It takes time, trial & error. Sometimes it takes getting it wrong before you know how to set it right.

Remember, Creativity grows with you. It’s a journey, and a right fun one if you’ll except the hiccups as all part of it!

Stay tuned for Got Creativity Parts II & III! Sign up to our email list so you never miss a writing tip!

The Magic’s in the Details

When it comes to kids books, or kids for that matter, it truly is the simple things that count.

This week has been one great big crash course in remembering what it’s like to be a kid — an essential exercise for anyone so fool-hardy as to write for kids as her primary audience. They’re a tough crowd when it comes to judging whether a book is worth their very precious time and effort… at least that’s true of my five nephews and nieces whom i’ve had the delight of visiting in Spain this week. They are each of them ravenous readers (including 3-year-old David, though he gets a little help from his friends).

The Grant Gang’s bookshelves are double-stacked and overflowing with well-worn books covering just about every subject a kid could fancy under the moon — there are the Fancy Nancy and fairy books for 4-year-old Abigail, Andrew at 7 likes his pirates stories and anything with “potty humour”, and 10-year-old Anna, & Amelia, the oldest by one year, read just about ANYTHING they can get their hands one…. TWICE! This week it’s been the How to Train Your Dragon Series, along with a bit of Boxcar Children and Little House in the Prairie.

What I’ve observed is this: the books that make the cut, the books with the tattiest, most well-loved covers all share some special “it factor”, whether they be published 40 years ago or hot off the press this year. And my sneaking suspicion is that it’s this: they capture the magic of the simple wonders of childhood. You know, like those cast-off little scraps that go into the shoebox under the bed & somehow transform into treasures.

I can still open the shoebox in my mind and remember the delicious tidbits from my childhood reading that struck me then and staid with me ever after — Laura Ingles making candy out of maple syrup poured on fresh snow in Little House in the Big Woods... Anne from Anne of Green Gables entering a 3-legged race and finishing with a ribbon and a bossom friend… the deliciousness of her first Christmas party, getting to drink punch & act elegant… all part of the furniture of my childhood imagination.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love a story with pizzazz. Give me wand-waving, dragon-riding, battle-waging any day, and I’ll lap it up. But even the best magical, epic tales triumph because of the little, simple details. What I love most about the Redwall series is not so much the battle-scenes (brilliant though they are) but the food! the minute details of every little forest dish prepared by loving mouse paws. Just the mention of Redwall, and I can taste it, smell it, fall into it – it’s magical!

And isn’t that just the way in childhood? At least that’s what a week with my nieces and nephews has reminded me. Oh the thrills of having blackberry ice cream with berries picked fresh on our walk. We might as well have fallen into Peter Rabbit’s world! A game of badminton on the lawn? No Wimbledon match could hold a candle to the epic competition between brothers and sisters! And a twilight walk through he park with a brand new pair of walky-talkies was as exhilarating as any spy thriller ever could be. And as for humour, “talking tummies” on our stomachs kept us entertained for days.

So I hope you’ll be encouraged, as I have been, that maybe our readers are not be so jaded by modern over-stimulation as we fear. Don’t underestimate a child’s undying fascination for life’s little adventure. The simplest forms of magic, I believe, still leave the longest lasting trace. As the old adage as it, “God is in the details.” When it comes to writing kids’ classics that will transcend generations, the magic is definitely in the details.

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

This article first appeared as a guest post on Pages Unbound on 28 July 2016. Many thanks to Krysta and Briana for hosting the celebrating classic literature event. Be sure to visit their fantastic blog!

Before the wardrobe. Before the One Ring…

Some one-hundred-twenty-odd years after its first publication, The Princess and the Goblin was honoured with a place in Everyman’s Library of Children’s Classics. But I would suggest the fairytale, and the entirety of MacDonald’s fantasy works, belong in the canon of classics for all ages. And I believe I am in good company in suggesting so. C.S. Lewis praised MacDonald as a master in “the art of myth-making.” Tolkien was inspired by his predecessor’s “stories of power and beauty.” The Princess and the Goblin attests to all of the above: a fairytale in the truest, pre-Victorian sense that Tolkien subscribed to (which ironically has nothing to do with little winged people hiding in flower gardens), this tale is enchantingly beautiful and at the same time has the power to awaken desire in the reader… which was, after all, precisely what the author intended.

The Story

As you might guess, the central protagonist in the story is the eight-year-old princess Irene who lives in an unnamed but perfectly believable mountainous kingdom. The King has sent Irene to grow up in a country home under the astute care of his servants because of a lurking threat: namely, vindictive goblins. Irene must never venture out of the house past dark lest the cave-dwelling “cobs” take the chance to seize her and at last have revenge on the king’s people whom they condemn as trespassers on their land. When by happenstance one evening Irene and her nurse get caught out after dark and are rescued by a confident young miner called Curdie, Irene’s life takes a turn towards the fantastical.

Not long afterwards, she discovers in the attics of her house a breathtakingly beautiful queen who claims to be Irene’s great grandmother, come to live in the house to watch over the little girl. Irene is delighted with her discovery of the wise and gentle woman, but when she descends the attic stair to share the news with her nurse, the true conflict of the story emerges. For though the goblins’ mischief sets the scene for the action that follows, the real crisis for Irene is one of belief – belief of what she has experienced, even when others write off her belief as a childish game, trickery, or worst of all, lies.princess Irene

As the drama unfolds and the danger of goblin schemes grow, Irene must battle her own doubts about her grandmother as well as the doubts of others. Half-persuaded the whole experience was a dream, a lingering hope leads Irene to search out her grandmother once again, and when she succeeds, her fears are finally laid to rest. Now fully convinced of the truth of her experience, Irene is allowed to see her grandmother in all her splendid, magical beauty. The queen gives the princess a gift – a magic thread that will lead her out of danger whenever she follows it.

Certain at last of her grandmother’s existence and the power of her promise, Irene becomes a true princess, following her thread in a daring mission to save Curdie from the goblins. The tale does not end there, for the goblins still have their vendetta to serve, and Irene still must face the disbelief of those she loves. But suffice it to say, MacDonald is a self-professed believer in happy endings. And for those readers hungry for more, The Princess and Curdie continues the history yet further down the road.

But what does it all mean?

Aside from the remarkable tale itself, MacDonald’s style of storytelling is remarkable in the way it pulls the reader into the story, sometimes inviting him or her to guess what might happen next. But whilst he engages his readers as if they were sitting in the same room with him, the author never attempts to tell his audience what the tale means. Unlike so many writers for children of his day, MacDonald never lectures, never moralizes and never offers interpretation. And indeed, it would be a misstep to try and spell out the story’s meaning in this review – MacDonald expressly did not mean for one meaning to be found.

What MacDonald offers his readers of The Princess and the Goblin (along with his other fairytales) is not a lesson but an experience. It isn’t that he asks the reader to suspend thinking; quite the contrary, for MacDonald, Reason is intrinsic to the realm of Faerie. Also, he makes his audience not only think but rethink with his frequent use of paradox: the wisdom of youth seen in Irene, or the strength and beauty of old age that Irene’s great grandmother embodies. But while we readers may find ourselves rethinking what we once thought, MacDonald himself warned that “we spoil many a precious thing by intellectual greed,” and “The greatest forces lie in the region of the uncomprehended” (from MacDonald’s essay “The Fantastic Imagination”). Hence children are so much better at receiving fairytales than many adults, though MacDonald would argue it is adults who need them most.

 For my part, I do not write for children, but for the childlike, whether of five, or fifty, or seventy-five. ~G. MacDonald, ‘The Fantastic Imagination’

A fairytale, MacDonald believed, is less like an allegory and more like a sonata that “seizes you and sweeps you away”: it is written with rationally with rules, but it will stir up a different feeling in every listener.

The key then to not just appreciating but truly enjoying The Princess and the Goblin and other like tales is letting it work its magic on you; allowing it to transport you right where you sit into a waking dream in the Realm of Faerie. This story’s beauty lies in its power to awaken a perhaps forgotten childlike wonder in readers of any and every age. It certainly had such a stirring, heartstring-pulling, transporting effect on me. But you must read it for yourself to see where the music of MacDonald’s fairy world will take you.

If there be music in my reader, I would gladly wake it.

~George MacDonald

Wednesday Writers’ Cafe: that magic moment

Do you remember it? That moment you just knew you HAD TO WRITE?

I’ve always felt a little intimidated by those authors who claim they’ve been writing since they were old enough to hold a pen & set out on their pathway to a writing career in the early days of Primary School.

That wasn’t me. I knew I loved stories. I knew I loved playing make-believe with my older brother & sisters, putting into action all our far-fetched narratives barefooted in our back yard. That’s when I learned resourcefulness – that a plank in a tree and a rope ladder can transform into the Swiss Family Robinson’s tree house, and a rickety old barn serves brilliantly as the ruins of a haunted castle.

But did I know in those formative days that I wanted to write my own stories for a living? To be honest, I don’t think it even occurred to me that such a thing were possible… that real books were written by real people, and not by some special Guild of Story-Makers from a far away land. You may as well have asked me if I’d like to raise a herd of unicorns when I grew up (not a bad alternative). But the seeds were sewn.

It wasn’t until later (around 12 or 13), when a character popped into my head one day during a solitary forest jaunt, & I knew I had to write her into a book. Not just for my own amusement, but for the world!

That character has been living with me ever since, growing & changing with me over the years. But she & her story have come into much sharper focus, & I hope (really hope) she will be ready to spread her wings & greet the world very soon indeed. For with her, the seeds of story have grown into a forest, the landscape of my daily life. And I’m quite sure, at the ripe old age of 28, that writing is the very occupation I was designed for. Fame & fortune are no guarantee in this business, but the glory of belonging to that illustrious Guild of Story-Makers is all the incentive I need!

That’s my story. how about yours?

Do you remember the moment you knew you wanted to be a writer? Did you ‘always’ know? Or, like me, did you get there on a journey?

We’d love to hear a snippet of your story. Share below in the comments, or feel free to spill it all out in your own blog & link us in!

 

Is Originality Overrated?

Has this ever happened to you?

I’m 3/4 of the way through my book, having sacrificed incalculable time, sleep and emotional energy to this thing for the past year and then some. Then I walk into the bookshop for a quick browse in the Middle Grade section and… low and behold, what do I see? A debut author has just won an award for her new novel featuring a story with uncanny similarities to mine!

Bummer.

That was just one of a saga of events that has brought my story to a grinding halt, all because of this one. paralyzing. fear:

What if what I’m writing isn’t original?

If you’re a writer, you know this niggling doubt intimately. And it’s no wonder! We hear from every source that originality is what counts in publishing. “Don’t do that.. It’s already been done by Such-&-Such,” or “No one will ever write that sort of fantasy as well as this author, so you might as well not try.” And pretty soon, it can feel as though every idea has been covered, every angle explored and you’re like poor Truman in The Truman Show whose teacher dashes his hopes of becoming an explorer to smithereens when she tells him, “You’re too late. Everything’s already been discovered.

Yet we cling to hope… hope that there IS still uncharted territory in the Land of Story to be discovered!  Otherwise we may as well pack up our pens, laptops and writing manuals and call it day.

Well I’m here to affirm that hope. To fan the flame!

Dare to muse with me for a moment…

Maybe… just maybe…this originality thing is all a myth.

Maybe we’re going about it all wrong, trying to write our stories in a sanitary vacuum so as to preserve them from contamination by any element that might in any way resemble some other writer’s ideas.

Maybe “contamination” is exactly what we need…

But don’t take my word for it. Two of the great heroes of Faerie (and coincidentally two writers we’re over & over warned not draw from because we will only fall short) have in fact poo-pooed this notion of all-important originality. These Giants of Story are, of course, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Here’s what they have to say:

First from Jack:

“Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.” –C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (IV, 11)

Let’s test his theory, shall we? Think about the stories that have most touched you and changed you. What was it that impacted you so? Was it wonderful and wacky creatures you’d never before dreamed of? Or was it perhaps something else… something old… maybe even as old as Time, like a love story, or a beautiful friendship, or a character’s heroic sacrifice? In my case, it’s the latter. Sure, the old themes may be wrapped in new clothes, but it’s what’s at the heart that drives the story, not the wrapping. And we’ve all read stories that labour the wrapping to death, yet totally lack in content. Not ideal.

So take this lesson from Lewis to heart: Write about the thing you’re passionate about…the truth that drives you, that makes your heart beat. Originality will come as a byproduct, because let’s face it: every story, no matter how often it’s been told, is bound to carry the flavour of its storyteller. You, the storyteller, are unique; therefore your stories will be too!

Now let’s hear what Tolkien has to say on the matter. In his essay “On Fairy Stories”, the old master of myth describes stories as evolving from “the long alchemic processes of time.” The process is, Tolkien says, a bit like a stewing cauldron of soup… or “Cauldron of Story.”

“The Cauldron of Story has always been boiling, and to it have continually been added new bits, dainty and undainty.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, “On Fairy Stories”

Can’t you just picture it? All the myths, histories, legends and fairy tales ever told simmering together in a great cauldron? There is a bit of Arthurian legend, and there a chunk of Greek mythology, and, ooh! What’s that? I’m catching a whiff of Irish folktale.

The point is, nobody writes a story from scratch. We are all influenced. We all dip from the Cauldron of Story. BUT – and what a wonderful thought – that means you & I dip from the same pot all the great “original” authors have dipped from — The Brothers Grimm, Tolkien, Lewis, Rowling… you name them!

The important question then, is not “Am I being original enough?

Instead ask,”What will I draw out of the Cauldron? Take the good advice of our fore-bearers – draw out the flavours you find most delicious… the ones that make your heart sing and write about those.

And who knows? You may find that without really even meaning to, you’ve added a new pinch of flavour all your own to the Soup!

Daily Doses of Magic: the world-builder’s diet

I confess. I am a sucker for Fantasy Worlds – for the soaring landscapes of Middle Earth, the heart-wrenching beauty of Narnia, the delicately spun fabric of Faerie. When I read descriptions of such supremely beautiful realms, destined for epic adventure, I get lost like the Pevensie children and never want to return to the ordinary world I live in.

Of course I want to create worlds as wonderful for my characters! Worlds my readers will happily get lost in. But when it comes time to build them, I always feel that I’m falling deplorably short. I almost believe that other writers whose worlds have transported me have actually been transported themselves. That’s how they do it! They have a window into Fairyland that I’ve yet to find. If only I could get a glimpse. If only…

Do you ever pine for that glimpse into Faerie as well, sure that you’ll never spin a satisfactory world of your own until you find that magical window?

So I might be pining away forever… but then I venture to the forest on a fine summer’s morning with my dog, and the trees whisper some sense into my wistful head: “Here is your window, you silly thing! The very same that your fairy tale for-bearers looked into for inspiration. It’s called Nature, and it’s positively buzzing with magic!”

G.K. Chesterton wrote, true to his style, a supremely sensible essay called “The Ethics of Elfland” which recaptures the lost wonder of this fairyland we live in. My morning, woodland walk brought home something he’d said, and I had to agree:

The only words that ever satisfied me as describing Nature are the terms used in the fairy books, ‘charm,’ ‘spell,’ ‘enchantment.’ They express the arbitrariness of the fact and its mystery… this fairy-tale language about things is simply rational and agnostic.

His point? Nature is as surprising and mysterious as any fairy realm ever could be. We have simply got used to her habits and labelled them as ‘laws’… rather unromantically. But what if you went outside for the first time and saw the world with fresh eyes? Chesterton reckons the fairy tale’s purpose is to teach us to do just that.

These tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.

So here is my challenge to you (as well as to myself in the midst of a world-building project!). Start an observation journal. Just try it. Make it a habit to observe one detail – however grand or minuscule – in Nature each day, with fresh eyes of wonder that it is as it is. After all, it might have been some other way. Or as Chesterton puts it, apple trees might have produced candlesticks instead of apple blossoms!

When it comes to creating fantasy worlds, there is nothing new under the sun. As world builders, the only colours we have to paint with are the ones Nature offers us. But Nature is hardly a miser – what a wealth of resources she has to offer! So go outside, marvel at the Elfland that is our home. Then take all those colours and all that marvel and paint a world in words. Enjoy!

In honor of this theme, I’ve dug out a very, VERY old poem I wrote as a kid. Rarely do I post poetry for the world to see, but as this one comes from a far distant life, I shall make an exception!

“Daily Doses of Magic”

In January,
Falls with silent grace
A glistening shower of soft white lace.
The earth with pride is sure to glow,
When dressed in a shimmering gown of snow.

Magic’s yours for the taking,
If only you dare.
If you’ve not yet claimed it,
You must not care.

In February,
When nature’s left bare by the cold,
Is a grand time to go out hunting Leprechauns’ gold.
Take a peak in mum’s garden, or on window sills
For the shining golden heads of spring’s first daffodils.

Magic’s a treasure most precious,
Though not terribly rare.
So don’t waste one more moment
Before claiming your fair share.

In gently March,
When earth’s long sleep is shook,
The sprite’s and pixies sneak out for a look.
But should spring showers threaten their fun with gloom,
They’ll pop up, spit spot, and umbrella mushroom.

Magic’s no fib,
No story, or fable.
Don’t suppose you can’t find it.
You are perfectly able.

In April,
Sky’s majestic concerts play
While silver streamers the night array.
Tucked snug in bed, safe, dry, and warm,
You can listen to the music of a spring thunderstorm.

Magic’s no secret,
It’s as plain as blue sky.
If you’d like me to prove it,
Why just open your eyes.

In May
When day gives way to night,
I watch the flickering fairy lights.
They disappear in the blink of an eye.
What a curious creature, the firefly!

Magic isn’t just in books.
If you haven’t found it,
You haven’t looked.

In June,
You’ll find a magical gem
To put in your pocket should you have the whim.
Watch violet turn green before your eyes
When june bug opens his wings and flies.

Magic comes in packages
Of every size.
Should you come across it,
Don’t be surprised.

In hot July,
While seaside dreaming,
I can hear the mermaids singing.
There sweet and mystic voices swell
Deep down inside an old conch shell.

Magic’s in every cranny and nook.
If you’ve not yet found it,
You’ve not yet looked.

In August,
Silvery silken nets are cast
To catch moon droplets of liquid glass.
Morn’s sunbeams turn these to dew drops instead,
That dangle from each dainty spiderweb thread.

No need for a wand, spellbook,
Or white rabbit.
If it’s magic you seek
Just reach out and grab it.

In September,
When nights are cool, crisp, and quite clear,
The sky’s faithful watchman is sure to appear.
A sign that fall’s magic will be upon the world soon,
Is the sleepy-eyed man on the pale harvest moon.

Magic’s oh so much more
Than a make-believe game.
Why, to miss out on magic
Would be a most dreadful shame.

In October,
You may encounter upon neighbors’ porches
A mischievous nimph with eyes shining like torches.
But don’t be alarmed by his snaggle-toothed grin,
For jack-o-laterns, quite often, make jolly good friends.

So if life’s too ordinary,
Then do precisely as I say:
Take a daily dose of magic,
And add dazzle to each day.

In November,
Fair rubies drip from trees;
But shaken by an autumn breeze,
They dance down gracefully as you please,
To make fall’s rainbow rug of leaves.

Magic’s there, it doesn’t hide.
If you haven’t seen it,
You haven’t tried.

In December,
When magic falls in drifts like the snow,
A billion flick’ring candles set all earth aglow.
On still, frosty nights, these bring joy near and far,
To hearts warmed and eyes twinkling under heaven’s kind stars.

So whatever the season, day, or the hour,
Enjoying some magic requires no special powers.
Just open those eyes up,
Dust off your nose and ears.
With practice, you’ll find magic every day of the year!

Dragon Clouds

I love a story that features an unlikely friendship, don’t you? So many come to mind & immediately make my heart all warm & fuzzy: Legolas & Gimli in Lord of the Rings, Mr. Fredricksen & Russel in Up, & more recently Nick Wilde & Lt. Judy Hopps in Zootopia (if you’ve not yet seen it, one’s a fox, the other a bunny… I’ll let you guess which is which!)

Occasionally, I’m lucky enough to witness an unlikely friendship in real life…. like yesterday, when my dog Hugo & I came across this Griffin – a stone sentinel armed with talons & a crushing beak… and this stuffed elephant.

Who knows? Maybe this particular Griffin can’t sleep without his cuddly elephant buddy. Maybe he takes as much flack for it as Linus does for faithfully toting his trusty blanky. But does he look like he cares? I mean, the other griffins might ruffle his feathers, but who’s gonna mess with this guy?

 

Caught an unlikely friendship in a photo of your own?  Send it on over to sippitsiters@gmail.com & we’ll share it here!

Wednesday Writers’ Cafe: paper & ink? or keyboard & screen?

In this era of digital EVERYTHING, many writers plan, write & edit their work entirely on screen. But biros & parchment haven’t entirely been regulated to curiosity cabinets quite yet. Neil Gaiman still hand writes his novels, J.K. Rowling spent five years creating her magical world in hand-scribbled notes on just about any scrap of paper she could find, and G.R.R. Martin types out his never-ending saga Game of Thrones on an old  word-processor machine…(no wonder we’re still awaiting the last installment!).

There are certainly pros & cons to any method. Some writers feel the only way to think freely is on paper where you can doodle, scratch out & squeeze notes into the margins to your heart’s content. But of course there’s the practical side of things– typing is quicker & removes the agonizing step of transposing your handwritten notes to type later.

The jury is still out on this one. So let’s hear what you think:

How do you prefer to write: by hand? or straight onto the screen?

Or maybe it’s a little of both? Comment below or write about your preferred “dark writing materials” in your own blog & link back to us here at Brewhaha Book Cafe.

Whatever method you’re using to churn out your stories today, happy writing!

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