Introduced By Holly King
For our last Monday Moments on the theme of Nature, we’re focusing on the nature of growth and transformation. Did you know that the lotus flower is the symbol of self-regeneration, rebirth, and enlightenment? Nature has many connotations with transformation and, as we move out of Winter and into Spring, we begin to see growth happening all around us.
I planted the seed of this idea in the minds of our contributors, and they grew it into a crop of features that have been harvested for you today.
First, Deputy Editor Claire Buss offers a short story and a poem on our theme.
Light & Shade
He was the light to her shade. His smile carried the both of them through social events. His warmth and likeability covered up her brittle politeness and stiff formality. People would say, Have you met John? He’s so nice, isn’t he? Just sort of glows. Such a nice bloke.
He was the light to her shade. So, when she spiraled down into the depths of despair, he brought her warm drinks and wrapped her in blankets. He tried his best to bring her trinkets and baubles that would make her smile. Even if just for a short while. When she sobbed and blubbed that the end was nigh, he would enfold her in his warm embrace and utter platitudes: Everything will be al right. It will seem better tomorrow. I love you.
He was the light to her shade. She tried harder, for him. She didn’t give up, for him. She started to believe, because of him. He brought her out of the shadows and she began to glow. The darkness became a memory hidden deep in the depths of her eyes. She shone brighter and brighter. Soon people were asking, Have you met Jill? Isn’t she a blast? So much fun to hang out with.
She became the brighter light, going out, making friends, laughing. And, for a while, John basked in her shared glow, congratulating himself on a job well done. Not realising the changes happening within. Things began to seem dimmer. It was just easier to stay in. He stopped going to the gym. Stopped talking so much at parties. He took up brooding.
Now, she was the light to his shade. The bright butterfly to his reluctant moth. But she didn’t carry him with her. She had little time for his sulks and moods. She did not bring him warm drinks or wrap him in blankets. She would sing out a cheery goodbye and leave him alone for hours, letting him simmer in sadness and despondency.
She was the light to his shade. No one remarked any more when she turned up without him. People stopped asking after him, forgetting often that they were a couple. And so it was with complete shock that they heard the news. Murder, then suicide. She shot him and then herself. For light cannot exist with shade.
(c) Claire Buss, 2019
And Then The Sun Shone
And then the sun shone
It broke through the grey wintery chill
Smiling down upon those of us shivering in the bitterness
Bathing us in light and warmth
Nurturing our souls
But the clouds rolled in
Smothering the warmth, the light, the radiant glow of life
Shoulders hunched, heads down, breath misting in the rising cold
As feet stamp and hands clap and spirits wane
Wishing for the sun to return
A day passes
And then another, marching across the glittery snow
Without a care for frozen fingers or toes, for cold noses or hearts
Jack Frost laughs gaily as he paints his realm
In cold blue crackles
But then… the sun shone
Returning to fight the good fight
Rays of molten gold undulating across land and sea
Filling us up with glorious light and love
© Claire Buss, 2018
Next, we offer a musical interpretation of the theme. Emmanuel Oreyeni created this using Soundtrap. As you listen to it, you can hear how the music grows from the first beat and transforms into a more complex melody.
© Emmanuel Oreyeni, 2022
Next, our Editor, Madeleine F White, takes us on a journey; demonstrating how words can transform our world if the seed of imagination is nurtured:
Words And Worlds: Transformation And Creation
A couple of nights ago, my 24-year-old daughter was sitting in a nightclub I’d frequented in the eighties, canoodling with poet Seamus Heaney. I woke up angry, the inappropriacy still thrumming through me. Then I remembered that Seamus was dead, the nightclub demolished, and Lucy is in a long-term and age-appropriate relationship.
This morning, though, as I seek to explore how our imagination has the power to transform as well as inform, I’m taken back to this scene. It’s still as indelibly etched in my mind as last night’s family dinner. I find myself wondering about the boundaries between what’s real and what’s not, at which point one blurs into the other, and the power of our words to manifest these worlds.
In my 2020 speculative debut Mother Of Floods, I explore the idea of us humans as creators. How, by tapping into the world unseen (the digital and spiritual) we can create new realities: co-created by our willingness to see the world in a different way.
In some of humanity’s earliest myths and legends, the tradition of naming is strong. I use this idea to imagine how the world might look if we embrace our power as creators in an anthropocentric universe. The process goes something like this: First, we observe and therefore shape the nature of what we are observing. Next, we name it to affirm the existence of what we have seen and believe to be true. Finally, it manifests in the ‘real’ world.
A recent event, hosted by Pen to Print with ‘Exiled Writers’ (an organisation for writers of the diaspora, or who have become disconnected from the place they identity as their original home) brought the aforementioned process into sharp relief for me. Dr Jennifer Langer, Elena Croitoru, Catherine Davidson and Anba Jawi provided different perspectives on contemporary poetry through the lens of place and conflict. These talented wordsmiths used the power of words to interweave the reality of their lives now, with the worlds they had once inhabited.
Nearly a decade ago, I started working with in-country and diaspora Iraqis to create the bilingual Nina magazine. Though I only understand a couple of words of Arabic, Anba Jawi’s mellifluent reading brought the song of the poetry in translation to life, reminding me of that time. However, the extracts from The Utopians of Tahrir Square were not only about the past: the anger, loss and hope contained, spoke into my present reality also. When Jennifer then read extracts from The Search, bringing in the German nursery rhyme Hoppe Hoppe Reiter, nostalgia turned into gut-wrenching pleasure-pain, which finally manifested as unexpected tears.
Jennifer’s experience of exile is one of being brought up by German-Jewish parents who’d fled the holocaust. I was exiled from my home country when my mother fled my father’s first psychotic episode when I was ten; part of the bi-polar condition that dogged the rest of his life. Jennifer’s disconnect and pain touched my world. Elena’s poetic description of the concrete blocks of her childhood in Ceaușescu’s Romania (The Country With No Playgrounds), transported me with that same immediacy. Though the pangs of recognition were not quite the same, the sense of loss still resonated.
My own writing journey started as a child, and my need to make sense of a world I couldn’t grasp. I wanted to create a place for myself in which I felt safe, where my past and present intertwined through a narrative I had created. Half-real and half– well, in the same place I met my daughter with Seamus Heaney… As writers, we all aspire to that place and hope that readers, whether numbering one or in their millions, will follow us on our journey. After all, if they observe it, and participate with us, that means our own world has become part of a wider reality also, doesn’t it?
In his recently released The Order Of Time, Carlo Rovelli tells us our world is not made up of a series of stones (things); rather, from a series of kisses (events) – each one leading to another door that opens.
What better way to manifest this series of kisses than to put words on a page; linking the word we see to the world we don’t, but giving equal credence and shape to both. We are time. We are this space, this clearing opened by the traces of memory inside the connections between our neurons. We are memory. We are nostalgia. We are longing for a future that will not come.
Nothing is definite. Instead, we are beings of infinite potential, with the power to draw on the world seen and unseen, expertly spinning the web of past and future around our ever-changing present.
© Madeleine White, 2022
Mother Of Floods by Madeleine F White. Connect with Madeleine on Twitter + Instagram: @madeleinefwhite
The Order Of Time by Carlo Rovelli
Exiled Writers Ink, founded in 2000, brings together established and developing writers from repressive regimes and war-torn situations and it equally embraces migrants and exiles. Providing a safe, welcoming space for writers to be heard, Exiled Writers Ink develops and promotes the creative literary expression of refugees, migrants and exiles, increases their representation in the mainstream literary world and advocates human rights through literature and literary activism.
Connect with Exiled Writers Ink at exiledwriters.co.uk, on Twitter: @ExiledInk + Instagram: @exiledwritersinkewi
Lastly, Claire Buckle shows us how your writing life can grow and transform at any stage of your life and provides inspiration for those of us yet to become published:
Eleven years ago, when I was in my mid-fifties, Horizon, a Canadian magazine, bought a short story I’d submitted. A year before, I’d simply fancied ‘giving writing a go.’ I worked part-time, my children were teenagers, and I thought writing might make a change from my usual hobby of painting watercolours. On a whim, I went along to my local library’s free creative writing course. Maybe I’ll write a novel, I mused–although, like many people with the same idea, I hadn’t a clue how to go about it, or even what the plot would be!
During the course, I wrote several short stories and appreciated the constructive feedback. I learnt the essentials of constructing a plot and the importance of character growth and transformation. As in real life, fiction would be boring if characters didn’t experience a change of some sort – and it doesn’t need to be a dramatic epiphany; something small but significant can be equally transformative.
My confidence grew and, after attending creative writing workshops run by Pen to Print, I entered their Book Challenge. Delighted to be shortlisted, Barbara Nadel mentored me for six months and I completed a novel. However, sending it to agents and writing synopses proved stressful and anxiety-inducing.
Only a minority of emerging novelists are in the older age bracket. There are many articles accusing the publishing industry of ageism and online searches reveal the average age of a debut author is 36 years. Of course, there are exceptions, but the younger writer has the potential for a longer career. Instead of growing, I felt stunted as a writer, and the time-consuming process of submitting sapped my energy and enthusiasm. Admitting I preferred writing short fiction and had no desire to further pursue my novel was a relief. If a magazine rejected a story (and there have been many rejections over the years), I could rewrite it or simply start a new one. I didn’t have to dedicate all those months, or even years, to one project.
To date, I’ve sold dozens of stories to women’s magazines, been published in anthologies and small press journals, and won a couple of competitions. I always follow a theme of character growth and transformation in my short fiction.
One example is My Beautiful Launderette, published in The People’s Friend Special in 2017. Alison struggles to run a launderette, inherited from her late parents. She’s disheartened and on the verge of selling up when she meets a new customer who encourages her to carry on. Although she has his support, Alison discovers her inner strength and, through hard work, makes a success of the business and her love life!
Recently, my writing journey has taken a detour. Having hosted Pen to Print workshops on writing short stories, I’ve accepted an invitation to teach workshops on a transatlantic cruise in April. My 64th birthday is fast approaching but, rather than sitting back and winding down, I’m gearing up and looking forward to whatever writing adventures are on the horizon.
© Claire Buckle, 2022
Connect with Claire on Twitter: @ClaireBuckle + Instagram: @cloubuckle
You can hear great new ideas, creative work and writing tips on Write On! Audio. Find us on all major podcast platforms, including Apple and Google Podcasts and Spotify. Type Pen to Print into your browser and look for our logo or find us on Anchor FM.
Nature has many connotations with transformation and, as we move out of Winter and into Spring, we begin to see growth happening all around us.