Review – The Shepherd’s Crown

Terry Pratchet wrote The Shepherd’s Crown whilst he was dying, and fittingly one of his most loved characters, Granny Weatherwax died at the beggining of the story.

Her death left a gap in the barrier between Discworld and the land which the elves live. She past her cottage and roles as lead witch to Tiffany Aching.

The elf Queen, Nightshade, has her wings torn off and is thrown out of the elf kingdom by Peaseblossom. He did this because he felt that Nightshade had become to soft on goblins, and that she should be organising an attempt to take over Discworld now that the barriers were weaker.

Tiffany struggles with meeting her duties in Lance and on the Chalk. The Nac Nac Feegles live on the Chalk, and they also have a duty to look out for Tiffany. Nac Nac Feegles are blue, 7 inches tall, and they speak with a Scottish accent. They love to drink and fight.

The Nac Nac Feegles reluctantly agree to Tiffany’s request for them to guard Nightshade, who Tiffany refuses to kill because she is injured. She hopes to convert the elf Queen to understanding humanity and developing a cooperative attitude rather than a hostile one.

Meanwhile, Geoffrey, who left home due to bullying  from his father, wishes to become a witch under Tiffany”s guidance.

As the elves begin to prepare for war Tiffany calls all of the witches together to prepare to defend Discworld and banish the elves forever. Geoffrey unites the local men and they develop weapons to prepare for the war. Elves are harmed my metal, so they build a catapult and gather scraps of iron to fling at the elves.

As Geoffrey and the men defend Lancre, Tiffany, the witches and the Nac Mac Feegles defend the chalk. At the start of the war Peaseblossom kills Nightshade, but the are ultimately beaten when the King of the elves turns up, and overthrows Peaseblossom.

All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable read. The characters were believable and my imagination was gripped throughout. I could picture the different people and events in my mind. There were moments of laughter, excitement, compassion, sadness and dislike. I love the humour in Pratchet’s writing.

Pratchet, T; 2016; The Shepherd’s Crown; London; Corgi books.

Early Reflections On My Writing

The coursework arrived at my door around a month ago, and I felt no motivation to begin. Partly because my mental health is poor, but also because Studying for a degree in Photography was my first choice.

It took a lot of effort to open the coursework and read through the handbook and first chapter of the coursework.

However, a week in and I’m feeling entirely different about writing. I love having prompts for writing, they have worked really well for me. I’m feeling quite excited about having written several short pieces, and also about studying. I enjoy studying, the way it makes me think, contemplate and act. I work really hard to manage my mental health, sometimes it’s such a struggle, and my focus is on distraction. Writing hadn’t felt like this, it’s tapped into my creative resources, and I’ve felt proud, I’ve achieved something.

One exercise that I found difficult was Passion – Exercise 1.4. Writing about what I felt angry with was difficult. I couldn’t put my thoughts into words, and I found it hard to write off of the top of my head, without seeking academic research to write an essay on racism. Yet, I know that writing an essay and using primary and secondary resources to put an article together is well within my ability. What’s more there is a lot of research material available on this subject.

The piece of writing that I’m most pleased with is Sophie Lives – Exercise 1.3. Interestingly, I didn’t follow the brief, but the brief sparked my imagination. Although the writing was fictional and not my exact experiences, I have woken up following a failed suicide attempt feeling bereft. What’s more, I can see that there is potential to use this brief piece of writing to develop a short story or perhaps a novel. I have no idea as to how to develop this, it feels quite daunting to turn this into a larger piece of writing, but I did make some notes.

  • Sophie is a victim of domestic violence
  • Partner got her hooked on methadone to control her (back story)
  • Back story to be told via flashbacks
  • Forward story of recovery
  • Research literature and read novels about domestic abuse
  • IDAS

These are just initial ideas that have come to mind. There is a story waiting to be unlocked. My experiences are also a resource to draw upon, especially in relation to the feelings and thoughts associated with them. My personal experiences will help to develop the character of Sophie.

Reading is clearly an important aspect of creative writing. I’m reading most days, not perhaps as much as I could, but reading is s joy. It’s interesting to realise that there are so many words which I only have a vague understanding of. I always thought that I was highly articulate. I don’t have as broad a knowledge of words as I first thought.

Writing Is Magical – Exercise 1.5

Writing is magical – it transports us. As you sit ready to write this exercise, close your eyes for just a moment. Recall the last time you were out in the elements. Feel the wind, snow or pounding rain on your face, the chill in your bones. Open your eyes when you’re ready to write about this. Stay in the moment as you write.

The sky was bright, though it was cloudy. I expect the cloud must have been thin and the sunning burning bright behind it.

I sought out the winter flowering blossom. It brings a tear to my eye to think of it. It’s my beacon of hope. I’ve nearly survived this winter. I took out my phone, I had to take a photo, a momento of my being beggining to leave its dark winter home. I give thanks to a god that I don’t believe in. The signs of spring mean so much to me.

I heard the flutter of wings and turned my heard sharply, in time to catch a flock of pigeons urgently seeking flight. A predator must be around. Alas, its only a Magpie, no majestic Sparrow hawk for my mind to marvel at. There are people at the bus stop so I secretly salute the bird, with the saying “hello Mr Magpie, how are you and your family.” I realise there is only a single bird, “one for sorrow”, the words are an arrow to my heart, but I can’t stop the thoughts and fears arising. Suddenly a second bird appears, “two for joy”. I breath a sigh of relief. They briefly circle the tree then land. I notice one of them is preening small twigs. They’re forming a nest. Spring, another sign of spring. Yes. How marvelous.

 

Passion – Exercise 1.4

Passion can get us all writing. Write a short list of things that get you riled. Choose from the list something that makes you passionately angry and let rip on this subject. Don’t think of it as a letter to an editor, or any other form of special writing. Write for yourself, to express to yourself what you want to say about this. Again, read through what you’ve written but leave it for now.

My list

  • Donald trump
  • Racism
  • People with awful bad breath who don’t use mouth wash
  • People with awful bad breath who do use mouth wash (fair enough, it’s better than without, but it makes me shudder)
  • Injustice
  • Inequality

Racism is disgusting. Its not an innate thing to be racist, we’re not born racist, it’s a learned behaviour. It’s something that all racists could change if they wanted too. To treat others as being inferior is beyond me. White privilege. Bollocks. We are all equal. I am a human being from earth. I value your heritage, history and culture.

Institutional racism is shocking. People from a BAME background are disproportionately stopped and search, are inmates in prison and are over-represented in the mental health system, including more likely to be sectioned and restrained. How can we live in a world in which we can have a prime minister who has spoken using racist language and who is clearly an islamaphobe? I don’t just feel angry, I feel sad. I have friends who are people of colour, who have experienced racism regularly over the course of their lives. It’s awful that any human has to suffer in these ways.

Sophie Lives – Exercise 1.3

Get writing with emotion by choosing one of the two subjects below:- This lit up my day or This darkened my heart. Such writing may become very emotional, so before you begin remember that you won’t ever have to show anyone what you’ve written if you choose not to. It is always up to you what you send to your tutor. So you can write deeply… emotionally… without concern. As previously, read it through, enjoy your writing, but don’t try to change this for now. 

“Oh for fucks sake, I’m not supposed to have woken. Can’t i get anything right” Sophie thought. “I’m supposed to be dead”. She lay still underneath the cotton colours, a musty smell hung in the air. A tear trickled to her nose from the corner of her eye. She lay there empty, feeling defeated. Her heart crushed and barely beating.

Tears turned into breathless sobs, snot running down her face. She didn’t care how she looked, her mind with desperate thoughts of death. The room was beggining to get lighter as night turned into yet another bloody day. Death doesn’t come easy to some people.

She wiped her nose on the sleeve of her jama top, pulled her hands down over her forehead, ensuring her finger nails dug deep into her skin. It’s bizarre how trauma can leave the victim feeling an urgency to harm themselves. She didn’t care about the pain, or how others may react to the scars, not anymore. She used to be self conscious about the marks on her skin, the occasional stare, but now she was oblivious to it. Her life didn’t matter. Fuck it. Fuck off.

Sophie felt the urge to go to the bathroom, decided against getting out of bed. The sensation of warm urine turning cold against her skin turned to a fug of wet fabric against her legs. Depression. Overwhelming depression, wrapped in a venomous self hatred.

I’m not sure if I was meant to write fiction or prose so I just went with the flow. I’ve stopped at this point, but feel this passage is something that I may be able to return to at a later date. 

What Is Creative Writing – Research Point 1.1

What is creative writing anyway? Think about what you believe creative writing to be. Make some notes, then write a couple of sentences to define your thoughts on paper. Be sure to complete your thoughts before reading on. 

Isn’t it possible to see any writing as creative writing? Whether that’s people writing copy for a product, company policies and procedures, an academic essay, journalism, poetry, biography or a novel. All of the above involve creativity and imagination to various degrees.

However, I suspect that creative writing is considered to be just a few select genres, poetry, novels, play scripts and perhaps at a push, song lyrics. Use of the imagination to express ideas that may stimulate emotion in others is perhaps closer to the mark. But I also feel that journalism and biography should definitely be included.

Now search for further definitions, using encyclopaedias, dictionaries, books on writing and the Internet. Google the words creative writing + definition to see what you get. We’re your ideas similar or different? Remember, your opinion is as valuable as anyone else’s.

noun – writing, typically fiction or poetry, which displays imagination or invention (often contrasted with academic or journalistic writing).” lexico.com/2020/creative writing/Online: At: https://www.lexico.com/definition/creative_writing

Creative writing is any writing that goes outside the bounds of normal professionaljournalisticacademic, or technical forms of literature, typically identified by an emphasis on narrative craft, character development, and the use of literary tropes or with various traditions of poetry and poetics. Due to the looseness of the definition, it is possible for writing such as feature stories to be considered creative writing, even though they fall under journalism, because the content of features is specifically focused on narrative and character development. Both fictional and non-fictional works fall into this category, including such forms as novelsbiographiesshort stories, and poems.” wikipedia/2020/creative writing/Online: At: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_writing

I particularly like the Wikipedia definition stating “identified by an emphasis on narrative craft, character development” and I’m also pleased to know that feature stories fall into the bounds of creative writing. The photo essays which I write are not stories, but they are magazine features, just with the emphasis being academic rather than fiction. Who cares, I feel that they are creative writing, so there.

Write What You Know – Biography – Exercise 1.2

Below is a list of things you are likely to know about. Choose one and write for 60 seconds about any personal experience of your choice; my pet; my job; my mother; my home; my hobby; my sport; my family. 

My job

Work is not a part of my life just now for health reasons. I’m a student and I’ve just completed Foundations in Photography, and have now begun to study creative writing.

Sixty seconds is not very long. When you stopped after one minute, did you feel you had more to say? Did you carry on regardless of the instruction? See if you can carry on now: Choose something else from the list and write for two minutes. Choose a third subject and write for three minutes. Keep going until you get to your last choice, and attempt six minutes of writing. If you can’t write about one of the subjects, for example if you’ve never had a pet, substitute something else (my sister; my school). Did that feel like creative writing to you? This is how most writers start. By writing for a few moments, then carrying on.

My Pet

My first pet was a rabbit called Bunjy. I was six years old, and I don’t have that many memories of him. Although now I have started writing I can remember feeding him rabbit pellets. He was an albino with white fur and red eyes. I remember the day he died. I was at my nana’s house. Mum told me that Bunjy had been found dead in his hutch. I burst into tears. It was close to Christmas and we went to see santa.

My mother

My mother fucked up badly, and I stopped speaking with her in my early twenties. As time has gone on I’ve come to realise that she did the best she could with what she had. The hardest part is knowing that I’ve fucked up in some ways too. I’ve done the best I could with what I’ve got. Coming to terms with an inconsistent and inadequate parent is hard work. It’s taken all of my adult life, and the process remains as one that is ongoing. She died 5 years ago. I didn’t grieve, I had done that during those 20 odd years that we didn’t see each other. Somehow I find myself speaking with he now she’s dead. Life is bizarre.

My Family

I guess it makes sense to follow on with my family. I have no contact with most of my family now, and I have no desire too. In fact, I don’t wish to add anything further.

Pause…

Its hard to be the black sheep of the family, especially since being so is as a result of the abuse I experienced whilst growing up. I’ve stayed away from my family for my own protection. I see happy families sometimes, and wonder what it must be like to have that closeness. It’s not that I long for it, it just not my experience.

I am in touch with two cousins. They express their love for me, and then I feel confused. What is love? Love makes no sense to me.

My home

It’s taken a year to begin to feel safe in my new home. The flat is lovely, the difficulties are living in close proximity to others, and the busyness on the street. I can hear the sounds of my neighbours above, below and to the side. I’ve put sound-proofing down under the carpet and upon the ceiling. It’s helped a little. I’ve been scared that my neighbours can hear everything that I say and do, it feels like I’m living in The Truman Show. It’s developed into paranoia, which becomes intense when I can hear them talking, and I’ve had periods when I have thought they are planning to kill me. The paranoia led to a suicide attempt last year, and to a very difficult summer during which I couldn’t tolerate being at home. However, my neighbours are lovely. Whenever I bump into them it has been a positive experience and being able to reflect upon these encounters has helped me to begin to feel safe in my home.

My hobby or sport

Photography is far more than a hobby to me. It’s helped to turn my life around, and it has improved my mental health considerably. When I first got a camera I had severe agoraphobia and panic attacks, which lead to me being housebound. Holding a camera in front of my face helped me to tolerate the fear for a short time. Gradually, the length of time I could go outside increased. Photography has given me a voice, a way of expressing myself and a way of exploring my life and that of the world around me. One of my biggest life achievements has been completing a project around anorexia, and my recovery from it. I haven’t published the results because I have embroidered on top of self portraits, and I struggle with my body image and how I look. An arts project once to exhibit the photos. They are unique. I’ve done considerable research into embroidered photography, and I’m bringing something new to the table. I’m feeling very proud about that.

Thank Fuck It’s Nearly Spring

To be honest it’s been a hard winter. I lost all interest in the people and projects that matter to me, and getting through each day has been a chore. A pointless effort with no reward. I’ve been in a very dark place, I’m still there on many levels.

However, today I felt some spontaneous hope. As I left home to attend counselling I realised it was light. The bus journey was diverted, and I found myself feeling excited to be living in London.

The past week I haven’t felt anything positive, but I have been putting the effort into positive behaviour. I’ve undertaken some photography for a long term project, I’ve read through some of my course literature, and I’ve undertaken a little writing yesterday and today.

Spring is just around the corner, and I’ve been looking for signs of it:- the growth of my trees, lighter afternoons, crocus and daffodils emerging, trees budding, and winter flowering cherry.

One of the things that true for me is that I have wonderful friends, and I seek additional support for my mental health. But life has still been a struggle.

Spring is a time of greater joy, energy and enthusiasm for me. Come on spring, please hurry up.

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The Shaman Draws – Exercise 1.1

Here is how you get writing. You start with what is in your head – and that means putting something in your head, then writing about it. Before you begin, get yourself ready. Either pull up a blank page (word document or similar) on your screen, or pick up a pen and a piece of paper. Now, once you’re ready, look at the image below. Look at it for as long as you like, take it all in, or merely snatch a glance, but only look away from the image once something has come into your mind that is formed in words. As soon as that happens, get writing. 

ca_2248804bhttp://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02248/ca_224804b.jpg

Write down what came into your head as you looked into the picture. This might have been one of several things: a description of what you see, something you thought about the picture, a memory that came into your head as you looked, something about what was happening to you as you looked at it, some other, surprising thing! 

You might enjoy reading your work through once you’ve finished writing. But for now, don’t tamper with it. Let it be what it is – a first attempt to get writing. Don’t be dismayed if it doesn’t feel as good as you were hoping. On the other hand, if it pleases you, that’s a bonus. The one thing you should feel, after completing this first exercise is pride. You got writing. Well done. 

I don’t think I can bare to wait much longer. I am full of energy and completely exhausted. We have been dancing around the fire all night to the sound of drums. Dancing so that we can help the Shaman on his journey to the underworld to meet with the Spirits. The village is truly in trouble this time. The white man has destroyed our closest villages. They have killed families and generations. Apparently they have some new magic glued to their hands, which shoot balls of metal into the skin. They will attack us soon.

I hope the Spirits have some guidance which will protect us. What will the Shaman have drawn?

Please be good news. Please.

Movement ahead. The people at the front are beginning to enter the cave. I make baby steps to begin with, eager to go into the cave as soon as I can. 

We gather inside to see what the Shaman has drawn. Torches flicker, light and shadows dance together. I crane my neck, stretching as hard as I can to see, to learn our fate.

Hands. Hands.

Are these hands of help, or hands of surrender?

Word Definitions

This is a page in which I will record words that I either don’t understand or that I have only a vague knowledge of. Definitions come from a Google search. Descriptions in brackets are my attempts at understanding an alternate meaning from the sentence that the original word was in.

  • Acerbic – (especially of a comment or style of speaking) sharp and forthright.
  • Alabaster – A translucent form of gypsum or calcite, typically white, often carved into ornaments.
    made of Alabaster. “the gilded alabaster tomb of Sir Anthony Browne” (if a person is described as having an Alabaster face this must mean their skin is translucent.) 
  • Alacrity – Brisk and cheerful readiness
  • Avuncular – kind and friendly towards a younger or less experienced person. – Relating to the relationship between men and the children of their siblings
  • Caroused – Drink alcohol and enjoy oneself with others in a noisy, lively way.
  • Cerulean – deep blue in colour like a clear sky.
  • Cove – A concave arch or arched moulding, especially one formed at the junction of a wall with a ceiling.
  • Curmudgeon – A bad-tempered person, especially an old one.
  • Dissemble – conceal or disguise one’s true feelings or beliefs.
  • En deshabille – partly dressed in a loose or careless manner.
  • Esoteric – intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest. Somewhat crudely, esotericism can be described as a Western form of spirituality that stresses the importance of the individual effort to gain spiritual knowledge, or gnosis, whereby man is confronted with the divine aspect of existence.
  • Forensic – relating to or denoting the application of scientific methods and techniques to the investigation of crime. relating to courts of law.
  • Founder – A person who manufactures articles of cast metal; the owner or operator of a foundry.
  • Friable – Easily crumbled (such as soil)
  • Fug – a warm, stuffy or smoky atmosphere in a room.
  • Fugue – a disturbed state of consciousness in which the one affected seems to perform acts in full awareness but upon recovery cannot recollect the acts performed. a musical composition in which one or two themes are repeated or imitated by successively entering voices and contrapuntally developed in a continuous interweaving of the voice parts.
  • Furtive – attempting to avoid notice or attention, typically because of guilt or a belief that discovery would lead to trouble; secretive. “they spent a furtive day together”
  • Geas – (in Irish folklore) an obligation or prohibition magically imposed on a person.
  • Gonnagle – Name of Gaelic origin (The Nac Max Feegle in the Disc world are also known as Pictsies, this suggest they are of Gaelic/Celtic inspiration)
  • Habitue – A resident of or frequent visitor to a particular place.
  • Hiatus – A pause or break in continuity in a sequence or activity.
  • Idiom – a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g. over the moonsee the light).
  • Jigget – To gad; to move from one place to another in a (seemingly) flippant or idle manner.
  • Kelda – A girls name in Norse – meaning spring or fountain (maybe referenced as a leader.)
  • Lament – A passionate expression of grief or sorrow. “his mother’s night-long laments for his father”. A complaint. “there were constant laments about the conditions of employment” Express passionate grief about. “he was lamenting the death of his infant daughter”
  • Lascivious – inclined to lustfulness; wanton; lewd: a lascivious, girl-chasing old man. arousing sexual desire: lascivious photographs. indicating sexual interest or expressive of lust or lewdness: a lascivious gesture.
  • Lucre – money, especially when regarded as sordid or distasteful or gained in a dishonourable way.
  • Lye – A strongly alkaline solution, especially of potassium hydroxide, used for washing or cleansing.
  • Ministrations – the provision of assistance or care.
  • Nonplussed – So surprised and confused that one is unsure how to react.
  • Obliquely – not in a direct way; indirectly. “he referred only obliquely to current events” in an oblique direction; slant wise. “the strings of the instrument run obliquely away from the player”
  • Patrician – An aristocrat or nobleman. Belonging to or characteristic of the aristocracy.
    “a proud, patrician face” (The Patrician of Ankh Morporkh is authoritarian and the suggestion is that a Patrician is a dictatorial leader.)
  • Pavane – a stately dance in slow duple time, popular in the 16th and 17th centuries and performed in elaborate clothing.
  • Pottage – Soup or stew.
  • Quarter – a part of a town or city having a particular character or use. Rooms or lodgings, especially those allocated to people in military or domestic service. Pity or mercy shown towards an enemy or opponent who is in one’s power.
  • Requiem – (especially in the Roman Catholic Church) a Mass for the repose of the souls of the dead. “a requiem was held for the dead queen. A musical composition setting                    parts of a requiem Mass, or of a      similar character. “Fauré’s Requiem. An act or token of remembrance. “he designed the epic as a requiem for his wife”
  • Repose – a state of rest, sleep, or tranquillity. “in repose her face looked relaxed” Be situated or kept in a particular place. “the diamond now reposes in the Louvre”
  • Requisite – made necessary by particular circumstances or regulations.
  • Restive – (Of a person) unable to remain still, silent, or submissive, especially because of boredom or dissatisfaction.
  • Reynard – A name for a fox
  • Roister – Enjoy oneself or celebrate in a noisy or boisterous way.
  • Sage – (especially in ancient history or legend) a profoundly wise man or woman.
  • Sonsie – (Scottish) bringing of luck or good fortune, but it can also describe someone who is jolly, attractive or cheeky.
  • Sonsy – having an attractive and healthy appearance.
  • Suave – (especially of a man) charming, confident, and elegant.
  • Sconce – a candle holder that is attached to a wall with an ornamental bracket. a flaming torch or candle secured in a sconce.
  • Shamble – (Of a person) move with a slow, shuffling, awkward gait.
  • Sidle – walk in a furtive, unobtrusive, or timid manner, especially sideways or obliquely.
    “I sidled up to her”
    Staccato – Music performed with each note sharply detached or separated from the others.
  • Steadings – A farm and its buildings. A farmstead.
  • Stoic – a person who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining.
  • Stygian – Very dark.
  • Surmise – suppose that something is true without having evidence to confirm it.
  • Susseration – Whispering or rustling.
  • Swarf – Fine chips or filings of stone, metal, or other material produced by a machining operation. “a curl of metal swarf”
  • Umbrage – offence or annoyance.
  • Unfettered – not confined or restricted.
  • Visceral – Relating to the viscera (the Visceral nervous system). Related to deep inward feelings rather than interlect.
  • Woad – A yellow-flowered European plant of the cabbage family. It was formerly widely grown in Britain as a source of blue dye, which was extracted from the leaves after they had been dried, powdered, and fermented. Dye obtained from the woad plant, now superseded by synthetic products.