I started Tale Spinning at the beginning of 2011 as an offshoot of BornStoryteller. The latter went more towards non-fiction, rants, comparisons, and observations. Tale Spinning: an experiment in creative writing was the space I needed. Since then, I’ve gone through periods of both non-stop writing and those “dry” spells, where nothing inspired or motivated me.
Joining the A to Z Blogging Challenge in April 2011 was one of the smartest moves I’ve ever made. I’ve pushed my own boundaries over the ten years, always looking for that “challenge.” Taking risks is stimulating. A lot of what I write is expressing what is burning within me at the moment.
Which is probably why I have trouble continuing plunging into the worlds and characters I’ve built over the years. The roller-coaster upheaval of my life during these last ten years have jaggedly flowed from euphoric to complete and utter numbness. This isn’t a pity party. Just stating the facts, ma’am.
Many bloggers/writers I have “met along the way have become family. What is “Family is Chosen” for $2,000, Alex?” (Man, I miss Alex Trebek. Right now, I am Team Levar Burton to become the new host. Reading Jeopardy Rainbow!). It’d take me the rest of the day (it’s early here) to point you all out, but my thanks and love are hereby sent. I even met the woman I love writing these blog posts during that first A to Z. Present tense, even though we are not together anymore.
List Time. In case, you know, want to read past (and present) A to Z attempts. Each set starts with A on April 1st of that year. There might be a few preceding posts/teases over the years as I tried out the new voice I was shooting for.
Here’s something not A to Z that I’d love to get your feedback/comments. I keep getting drawn back to it on an emotional/mental level, but have not added a thing to it in quite a while. These were written during the summer of 2011.
My name is John Meadows, at least, that’s what it says on my birth certificate. At this moment, I’m not sure if that is even true.
I woke up in a bedroom. It was an unknown space. Except, as I lifted my head up off the pillow, I noticed a picture that looked familiar. I stood, walked over to it: it was flush with the wall. An outdoor moment in time. There was a man, and a woman. They held each other, big smiles on their faces.
The man leaned on a vast gnarled tree. Instead of branches, It looked as if seven tree trunks wound around each other, an abstract weave of latticework wood. The leaves were thick, a dark shade of green that looked almost like they were black. They hung over the couple like a frame.
The woman had her head resting on the man’s shoulder. His hair fell to his collar, so dark that at first, I thought it looked like it was cut out of the photo. Her hair was lighter, a mixture of golden brown and red. I remembered that it was called Auburn. I don’t know why I didn’t realize that at first. Yes, Auburn-haired, long, it fell down and over his chest, making his torso look like it disappeared as well.
The photo bothered me. Her eyes sparkled when the shot was taken. His eyes held little to no reflection. I looked. His didn’t, even with the sunlight spotlighting where they stood. Her eyes, the tilt of her head, her smile: there was life. He smiled, but it didn’t seem to reach his eyes. They were flat.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a free-standing full-body mirror to my left. It stood at a tilt near white folding slat doors. I shuffled my way over to it. I could not remember what I looked like, nor who I was. Maybe, I thought, looking at the reflection, things would come into focus. My heart began to accelerate, chest tightening, and it was getting difficult to breathe. I hadn’t been aware of breathing before this. I was now.
Coming into full view, I felt my head had received something smashing into it. It hurt like hell. I had to touch my head. It felt like bone shattered. I checked. It felt solid. But the pain. It was like a steel bar was slammed against my forehead.
A steel bar? Why did I…no, more a bat? Baseball? No, no. A baseball. Yes, a baseball hurtling to me, not even registering that I needed to move, to duck, do something. But it was too fast. I was too slow. I was up, then nothing. It felt just like that, although I didn’t know why. I still don’t know why I felt that way when I stepped in front of the mirror.
Yes, I was the man in that photo, even though I did not remember that. It was clear upon viewing, my eyesight was waving, no floaters, no film distortion over the irises. I looked at myself in the mirror, then over to the photo. Goosebumps paraded across my spine.
Turning, I took in the rest of the room. White minimalism in paint and fabrics. Same with my pajama pants. I noticed, then, that I had no shirt on. A look in the mirror traveled down; before, I was solely intent only on my face. My chest was hairy but not matted. Three parallel deep pink scars ran from my left armpit to just past the bellybutton. An inny. They didn’t hurt as much as throb. Noticing them did not help my rapid breathing and heart rate.
The next moments are still a blur. I know I looked around: the place had been tidy when I awoke. Now, drawers, men’s clothing, papers littered the white. All the bed linen was on the floor. The sliding slat doors were open wide, showing a closet that was only half full. I took this all in, sitting on the floor, leaning against the bed. I felt something hard and looked down. I had a metal lockbox in my hands. My breathing shallowed, and I felt myself calm down to regular human beats. At least, what I thought were normal.
There was no lock to have to break into. The lid swung up with ease, showing the mound of papers it carried. I riffled through the envelopes, unfolded the various papers, and only stopped when I found a Birth Certificate. Mine, I have assumed, until someone tells me differently.
My name is John Meadows.
If you are listening to this tape, then most likely I am dead. Or too far away for any meaning of living or dead is inconsequential. This is the story of what happened from that moment of waking, clueless to everything that had meaning to me. I know that the woman in the photo was Jean, my partner. I know she no longer…is here. Where? At this time, I still do not know how to answer that.
Whoever you are, whenever you are, do yourself and loved ones a favor.
Do not stand under the leaves of that massive, gnarled tree.
DECIDING TO GET LOST, IN PARIS: Psychogeography, Qu’est-ce que ç’est?
Usually, this appears at the bottom of my posts. I’m never really sure if any of you read them. I’ve asked numerous questions that get little to no responses. C’est la vie? Je ne sais pas.
This came from a #FF Prompt: Psychogeography on the Fiction Can Be Fun blog. I’ve mentioned the blog a number of times, as well as its creators, Debs & David. They are co-writing a novel that I can’t wait to get my grubby mitts on. I met them a few years ago during one of the April AtoZ Blog Challenge. If you are new to my world, click on the links. FCBF is always a good read, and the AtoZ challenge is a gratifying, if not sometimes nerve-wracking, feat to achieve. I’m grateful to have gotten to become friends with Debs, David, and Arlee (the creator and curator of the AtoZ Blog Challenge).
For full details on Psychogeography, I strongly suggest three sources to discover this brand new term (to me) is all about. Click above on the FCBF link. Then, click on Icy Sedgwick’s blog. You want folklore, she’s got it. Podcast included.
Third: Google. It does a mind good.
Basics: Imagine a place you’ve visited, or wanted to visit, or make it up, but only traveled by WALKING. No transportation of any type except by your feet. Take in the details. Describe them. Show, don’t tell, gets mixed around here, depending on how you are approaching this: Fictionally or Non-Fiction. You, or your character, is viewing through the lens of Psychology & Geography. Emotions? Details? Epiphanies? Your choice. To join in, please click on Fiction Can Be Fun and read the “rules.”
I decided to get lost in Paris on the fifth day of my vacation.
Every previous day had been planned out: the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Eiffel Tower, Rodin’s house and gardens, traveling on the Seine, Notre Dame (pre-fire), following a lengthy trail of Monet art, the Moulin Rouge/ Montmartre /Place Pigalle. Those were all on my checklist.
Deliberately, I set aside one unorganized day to freestyle explore. No real destination, just walking the streets of Paris, taking in as much as I could. Noticing the architectural adversity of the past and the present. Cobbled stoned lanes crossing or connecting to paved roads.
After a well-sustaining breakfast at the hotel, I set out with no map. Yes, I was living life dangerously: this was pre-Cell Phones, GPS, whatever. You actually had to talk to a real person if you were off course of your destination. Landlines and payphones the only way to connect beyond your immediate area.
I got on a train at the closest Metro station. Didn’t check where it was heading. First train I found, that was it. The car was reasonably full for a good portion of the ride. A lot would leave, a lot would replace them. Until the crowds lessened, and fewer people got on or off. I waited.
Next two stations, a few passengers left the train. Absolutely no one walked into emptying space. That was my cue to get off and explore the Paris above me.
I was met by paved roads, modernized buildings, and heavy Parisian traffic. I was used to that. Walking in arbitrary directions, I found what I wanted in a brief period: cobblestoned streets, a narrow road dotted with small shops, and relatively light on pedestrians. I crossed the main road and entered the Paris I had envisioned.
Colors were vivid, changing shop by shop. The décor varied as well, most embracing their past roots. I walked, turned corners on a whim, and headed into this, to me, a delightful maze of discovery. Clothing, bakeries, cheese shops, cafes, women’s clothing, men’s suits, every bit of finery well displayed, nothing ostentatious. This wasn’t Le Avenue des Champs-Élysées. I was glad of that.
I noticed a sign for a Picasso museum. Sold. As I made my way there, I found magic.
It was a dried flower shop. Shop doors wide open, arrangements on the outside of the florist shop, the many colors, the many weavings of this wild assortment of flowers, drew me in.
From the ceiling beams hung bunches of wildflowers drying, the stems pointed to the top. The aroma filled the store, a light mixture of scents that I hungrily breathed in. I was not very knowledgeable about flowers. The names, varieties, when they grew best. All that was lost on me.
It was the way each piece was crafted. How the shop could seem disjointed in its exhibitions. But, the more time I spent walking around the uneven aisles, noticing the varying levels of placements, the degrees of color shifting, I could never think of it as thrown together without thought.
One-piece stopped me. A grouping of dried dwarf Red Roses, in the shape of a heart. I had begun dating a woman a short while before I left NY. We were at the point we both wanted to take the relationship further. We liked each other. A hopeless romantic, I purchased the arrangement. Well wrapped, I left with the package to continue on. A few steps from the shop, I looked back, seeing it all from a slightly different point of view.
This was art on display, in a fitting setting, along a cobblestone road in Paris.
Joining the unremembered in their weather passage.
The egregious screws are welded holdfast
As we sing songs of Joy and Peace
Nevertheless the vagaries of weather;
Nonetheless what clasps us to those songs.
Opposite actions enforced.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
“Songs of joy and peace” come from Joni Mitchel’s beautiful song, River. I had listened to it only minutes before when I shut off my music app and tuned into that night’s writing group, River River Writer’s Circle. The prompt was “When the weather changes.” The above happened, was shared, and got the suggestion: “Think about expanding this out” (well, “stretching it out”). So, I let it sit, came back to it, and the above is the result.
Thank you, Ms. Mitchel. A sad, but integral song for many. What I wrote is no reflection on her song. The fourth line of the first stanza stayed with me.
Julie and Steve
In teenage lust angst
Lantern lit, hidden nook
Atrocities attacked ere consummation
Sending them heedlessly running along
On Old Blackwash Road
Julie was screaming
Until her voice decayed
Steve pulled ahead
No thought of her pumping away
Julie tried to catch up
Down Old Blackwash Road
If words could take aim
Steve would have heard her pleas
Curses tossed through him
Voiceless, running still
Left alone under moonlight
Fever pitch dashing on Old Blackwash Road
Steve's mind was blanker
Except for grinding terror
Pushing himself faster on
It was primal, fierce
As his lungs began to seize
Slowing on Old Blackwash Road
Julie haven found above
Crawling up an ancient oak
She saw Steve plunge to the ground
Closed her eyes ridigidly shut
Prayed, then dug her nails into the wood
Surrounding Old Blackwash Road
Steve's wails turned raw
Before they abruptly terminated
Julie clung for more than her worth
Tree sap glued her to her spot
Unaware of it till morning light
Dawn awakening Old Blackwash Road
Time moved through Julie
Frozen to the spot
Heat of the day came fiercely
Freeing her from tree secretion
Setting her down upon
Empty Old Blackwash Road
She fled the scene half naked
The ground was bare of Steve
Her throat hurt as she sobbed aloud
No tears were left inside her
As she stumbled upon Route 40
Connected to Old Blackwash Road
Julie withdrew and hid inside
While the Sheriff did his best
Steve was never found, even a tiny bit
"It's happened before," they all knew for true
Julie shrugged. What could she say or do
About Old Blackwash Road?
Annie paid little attention to the broiling heat. A raven-haired woman walked past, her back bare of linen; instead, a fully realized Faery tattoo gripped Annie’s attention. The exquisite carving was mesmerizing. Annie’s cheeks burst bright crimson; her ink was nowhere near this mastery.
Walking down Tarot Alley, Annie followed the Faery. The details were flawless. The wings, translucent. Frenzied wind draped around the Sidhe. The Fae shimmered and drew Annie along.
The woman stopped.
“Would you like to touch her?” she murmured, her back still to Annie.
An expectant “Yes,” glided out of Annie as she raised her hands…
For the past month, I have been leading an Intro To Creative Writing/Storytelling class. This was set up by an organization that offers hands-on explorations for the senior community in New Rochelle, NY (but is open to anyone in the area). In our final session, I closed the group with a Round Robin writing challenge. I gave them a prompt from #storyseeds cards, created by Laura Packer. I randomly pulled a card from the pack and used that for the opening line: “Mabel, you’re upside down again.”
Everyone wrote that down in their writer’s journal and then added the next sentence. Once everyone lowered their pens, the journals were passed to the right. That person had to continue the story with, again, one sentence. Pens lowered. Pass to your right. This was repeated until the writer’s own journal was in front of them. They had to option to add one more sentence (they all did) to tie the story up the best they could.
The entire group enjoyed this activity. It also gave them a piece of everyone involved to take home with them. That, in itself, created a beautiful close to our group. Community happens when you allow it and help it grow.
The above is from my journal. After the prompt, the first and last lines are mine. The rest is a piece where I can carry all of them along with me. All the stories were different. Most had whimsey and humor; a few took on a more serious tone in places. Different POV’s/ways of thinking coming together.