WoMentoring

Last year I was so, so lucky to be mentored by the wonderful Kirsty Logan through the WoMentoring project. It was such a special experience and it just so happens that Kirsty is now looking for new mentees!

WoMentoring is all about exceptional women supporting exceptional women. Where successful literary women help out women with writing aspirations – and is there really anything better than some girl-on-girl encouragement? It’s an incredible project and all of the women involved deserve so much gratitude. Did I also mention that it’s absolutely free?

I applied after a friend of mine sent me the link to the website because she knew how much I love Kirsty Logan’s writing and I was quite literally skipping with joy when I got an e-mail from her saying I’d been chosen as her mentee!
For most mentors, about 3 sessions are arranged which can be face-to-face, skype, emails, you choose! You can also spread them out as much as you want. Personally, I was so excited to soak up all the advice that I arranged the sessions monthly.

Kirsty is so helpful and lovely. As a pretty new writer, I needed help with, well, pretty much everything! Kirsty gave me amazingly helpful exercises to try out to help get my writing started or shake up perspective, read through my work to help me improve it and answered all of my questions about writing, routine, publishing, agents…

By the end of our sessions, I was far more focused on my work, my writing and editing had improved, and I was more confident than ever in my chosen path.

The application is simple, I submitted an extract of my most recent NaNoWriMo and then a cover letter explaining why I’d benefit from mentoring. Simple, but I recommend taking the time to really work on it!

If you’re dreaming of being a writer and really need a helping hand, I can’t recommend this enough!

And wherever you are in your writing, Kirsty offers mentoring, editing, and wonderful advice. Check it all out here.

And You can check out the work of some of her incredibly talented recent mentees on her blog here!

Thank you WoMentoring, and thank you Kirsty Logan!

happy reading!

Holly 

music : Chocolate Digestives (and le Berceuse de Champignons)

Here’s something a little different today!

Recently I’ve gotten back into music composition, something I find both amazingly fun and crazy difficult! The last time I finished any composition that I was happy with was a very, very long time ago. Maybe 2009, 2010? Yep!

My method of composing is a lot like my method of writing, which involves a hell of a lot of procrastination. In fact, throwing myself into the music is really just a procrastination from writing.

But anyway, I thought I’d share those long-ago pieces here.

This first one is something a I wrote for my wonderful friend, Rowena. You might be thinking that the title is a bit weird, but that’s how friends are; full of weird inside jokes and references. Although, I have to say, I’m not sure I remember why mushrooms. 

So here it is. Pop some tea on, get your chocolate digestives, listen as you read something lovely.

 

short-story : red, white and silver

There were still stitches on her chest, black thorns twisting over her heart. She ran a finger over the crude threads as she looked at the thin, snowy dress waiting for her and hoped that the stitches wouldn’t show beneath it.
Bring me her heart, her stepmother had said.
And so they had.
Whatever beat in her chest now was different. She could feel it, hear it, all the time; each thump and pulse, the constant thud.
She slipped into the dress and swept her hair over her shoulder, falling like an ink-spill down her chest.
Bring me her heart.
She wondered what her stepmother had done with it. Was it now entombed in a trinket box, drained and dried and dead? Had she tossed it straight into the fire and scattered the ashes in the snow? She couldn’t shake the image of her stepmother sitting at the table, red hands and bloodied chin, sinking her lovely white teeth into her heart.
The doctor opened the door with a single sharp knock. He held out a length of red chiffon and a cream lace mask. She took them without a word and turned to the cracked, rusted mirror in the corner. She tied the silk ribbons of the mask, adjusting it around her dark eyes and draped the veil over her head, turning the world crimson.

The masquerade had been going on for hours by the time she arrived. Snow kissed her skin, the flakes clinging to her bare arms. She wore slippers of ice, clear as glass, and her veil brushed against her bottom lip.
She twirled through the crowds and squinted at the masked faces. Hands grabbed at her, eager to touch her impossibly milk-white skin, or kiss her rose-petal lips. She allowed strangers to carry her partner-to-partner across the ballroom floor.
When the music died, all heads turned the same way.
He paused in the doorway, surveying the room. He wore no mask but his head was adorned with a silver-haired headdress. The black eyes of the wolf flashed in the candlelight, its intimidating stare no match for the prince in its gaping jaw.
She was the last to bow, pushing back her veil and looking into his eyes before lowering her head.
The musicians picked up their instruments and the dancers reached for each other.
They parted for the prince as he stalked across the room. She was still, waiting. She took his hand with a smile as he pulled her into the dance.
He is called the Wolf for a reason, they had told her, Make him want you. Make it exciting. Make it a hunt.
So they danced, and danced, and danced, until he raised a hand to her mask and she spun out of his arms. She ran, her head dizzy but her steps graceful.
Outside, the moon was a thin sliver and the stars were sparse.
She paused on the stairs and stamped her foot. The ice slipper shattered and she hissed as splinters sliced her skin. Blood trickled onto the steps and she limped on, leaving a trail of bloodied footsteps in the snow.

The Wolf underestimated her. She was fast and had led him into the shadows. He could taste her blood in the air, sharp and sweet. He could hear her heart, beating without fear.
He forgot everything but her.

Bring me her heart, she had said.
She couldn’t help but lick her lips when it had been brought to her, wrapped in reddened leaves and still dripping blood.
Her stepdaughter’s heart was far more delicious than any before.
She didn’t know that they had a plan. She didn’t know that her stepdaughter had been saved and remade. When the prince came to her home, she didn’t notice the weapon he brought.
She watched the blood pulse in his veins over dinner.
She slipped into his room at the first chime of midnight.
The Wolf lay under the sheets, the eyes and ears of the headdress resting on the pillow.
She leaned in, fingernails sharpened and hunger in her eyes.
A hand gripped her throat and pulled her back.
She writhed and scratched and licked the blood from her fingernails.
She stilled, the taste of the prince’s blood on her tongue.
If she was in the prince’s arms…
The wolf in the sheets moved and stood before her.
The last chime of midnight echoed and her stepdaughter blinked at her from beneath the headdress, moonlight glinting in the dagger in her hand.

A short-story written by H.E.E. Garrow

happy reading

x

(featured image found on https://uk.pinterest.com/photogrist)

short-story : refrain

Dust, like a constellation of stars, drifted through the sunlit room. It covered the books and photographs, the forgotten ornaments on the windowsill. A soft, silver coat fell on everything but the polished walnut piano against the wall, shining under the sun’s spotlight.

The door creaked as she entered, snow-haired and slippered-feet, and sat down on the stool. She slid the heavy piano lid open. Resting her fingertips on the keys, smooth as still water, she looked down. Her trembling hands were a chaos; twisted blue ribbons, creases and bones. She looked up at the framed black-and-white photograph on the wall. She didn’t need the picture to be in colour to know that the girl’s gently curling hair was black-coffee brown or her eyes ocean blue. The girl smiled through glass and dust.

She pressed on the keys, the notes quiet and hesitant. She nodded her head to the arpeggios, stretching out her stiff fingers to hit each note. The trembling in her hands stopped as the notes got louder and clearer. Memories itched in her palms, pouring out of her fingertips as she began to play. She leaned into the crescendo, and closed her eyes. The melody, one she knew so well, still struck her heart.

The skin on her hands fleshed out, smooth and pink, her fingers became slender and agile. Silk and coffee seeped into her hair and her dull eyes brightened to a starlit blue. She felt her spine straighten at the final cadence.

She kicked her slippers off, placing her bare feet on the cool pedals, and smiled as she began again.

 

A short-story written by H.E.E. Garrow

happy reading

x

battered books

Books are beautiful.

Stacked neatly on shelves with smooth, straight spines.
Perfectly unwrinkled paper.

But the most beautiful books are the ones that have been read and loved. They are the beaten up, dog-eared, peeling, scratched up books that you find in the home of any true book lover.

Of course if I’m borrowing someone else’s books I would take great care to keep them pristine. But I confess to you now – I am guilty of folding the paper when I couldn’t find a bookmark or a receipt or a train ticket that will do. I read the same books so many times the spines break and the covers crinkle. Look at my bookshelves and you’ll easily be able to tell which my favourites are.

Don’t waste your time trying to keep your books looking as if they’re completely untouched, barely opening the cover for fear of creases.
I don’t know how anyone can lose themselves in a story if they’re not nose-deep in those pages, folding that cover back as far as you can as if you might fall into the pages.

I bought Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty over ten years ago. I read it in one night while I was away at camp with people I didn’t know, homesick and unable to talk to anyone. And then I read it again. I kept it in my schoolbag in case my friends decided to borrow it. I read it over and over again until it literally started to fall apart.

 

 

I recently bought a new copy because one of the pages has actually disappeared now. But I love this specific copy. Those pages hold a decade worth of memories. This is the book that kept me company when I was lonely or bored or sad. This book, with it’s rumpled, tea-stained paper, is one of the most beautiful things I have in my possession.

Love your laughter lines, the marks in your skin that show how much you have lived.

And love those battered books. Don’t choose the shiny, new copy in the bookshop. Buy that yellow-papered, cover-warped, dog-eared copy in the charity shop. See the beauty in the books that have lived and been loved.

 

Happy reading

x

ink on paper

There is something so irresistible about a blank page, but a whole book of them bound together? Mmm.

I am guilty of buying 5 new notebooks for every one blank page I have the courage to spoil with ink. Every time I think to myself ‘these are the pages on which I will write my masterpiece.’ I see montages of myself carrying it everywhere, every page covered in beautifully handwritten words and illustrations, the notebook sitting in a museum under protective glass hundreds of years in the future.

When I re-read the hasty notes scribbled in the first ten pages of every notebook, I shudder at the notion of others getting a glimpse of them!

So, anyway, I thought I’d share a few of my favourite places to buy notebooks

OHH DEER

ohhhdeer

I bought this Ohh Deer notebook in a little shop in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket and the first thing I did when I got home was look up the company! Described by themselves as ‘quirky’, Ohh Deer have so many products designed by various illustrators who they are keen to support and showcase. Fun, beautiful, creative, they are definitely worth checking out!

SCARAMANGA

journal

Scaramanga is a lovely independent store based in Fife. I highly recommend visiting the store because it is so beautiful. Most of their products are sourced and handmade in India and the notebooks are to die for. You can get notebooks in a gorgeous distressed leather that makes it look old, unique and loved or brightly coloured notebooks made from sari materials. Prices vary depending on size and materials but they are definitely affordable and worth every penny!
It’s also worth asking the staff if they plan on selling any samples or ‘seconds’  – my favourite notebook is a sample that they had designed but they don’t actually stock.

paper

Just look at the gorgeous paper! It’s handmade and every page is unique

PAPERCHASE

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Paperchase is my old reliable. They always have a big selection and the themes and designs change all the time so there’s almost always something new (which means I never leave a store without buying something!) They usually cost about £8-10 and you will be tempted to buy matching pens and stickers!

The paper feels lovely and smooth and smells wonderful.

 

happy reading, happy writing!

Icelandic folktales

So I’ve just come back from a little adventure in Iceland! it is an absolutely beautiful and inspiring country, full of stories and myths and magic.
Plus, did you know that the literacy rate there is 99%? Impressive!

So I thought I’d share one little tragic story and another sweeter folktale that I was told there. I’ve tried as well as I can to write it out exactly as I heard it. Enjoy, and as always, happy reading!

iceland4

The Bishop’s Daughter

Many, many years ago, there lived a bishop from a distant village who had a young daughter. She grew to be a beautiful young woman and was exceptionally intelligent. Though it was uncommon for the time, her father decided that she should be given an education. None of the schools, however, would admit a woman. So, he sought out the cleverest tutor he could find to teach her in secret while he was working away from home.
A few weeks later, however, rumours reached his ears. The villagers whispered about the lights that dimly flickered in the young woman’s room late at night, and the shadows that belonged to more than one. The bishop was urged to investigate and soon began to have his own doubts.
The young woman and the tutor had, indeed, fallen in love, and without listening to her protestations, the bishop brought her into a church, before the priests and all the villagers, and asked her to swear with her hand upon the bible that she had not acted on her feelings towards the tutor.

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30 weeks after that day she bore a son.
Furious, and believing that she had lied to him and the church, the bishop exiled his daughter. She was abandoned in a hut, far up in the mountains, never to see the tutor again.
But some others did not see this as punishment enough and so they found her and tore her newborn child away from her. She desperately pursued him but was lost in the mountains.
It is said that on some nights you can still see her wandering in the distance, calling out for her lost child.

iceland 1

A Tale of the Golden Falls

Once upon a time,  there were two farms separated by a wide, silver river that flowed into a mighty waterfall. On one side, there was a boy, too young yet to help work on the farm but with no one else his age to play with during the day. A young girl the same age lived on the other farm and she too was not yet old enough to help with the work. Both would wander around their farms, finding ways to amuse themselves, and often they would walk all the way to the riverside.
One day, they spotted each other in the distance. They waved, but could not hear each other’s shouts over the rumbling waters. The next day, the boy came prepared with a scrap of paper and a pencil and he scribbled a message, wrapped the paper around a rock, and threw it as hard as his little arm could. It landed right at the girl’s feet.
For a long time, they met at their opposite sides of the river and threw messages to one another, and a wonderful friendship formed.
But as they grew up, their families decided it was time that they help out on the farms. Both were kept so busy, they could not find time to make the journey to the river anymore.
It was years before the girl, now a beautiful young woman, was allowed the day off. She ran through the fields, skipping over rocks and straight to the edge of the river. She searched the horizon and just as she was about to give up hope, a young man appeared. Although they were both older, they knew each other immediately and were overjoyed.
The man decided that he couldn’t bear to live so distanced from the girl anymore. He leaped into the river and started to swim to where she stood stretching her arms out for him.
But the force of the river was too strong for him and he was swept way, down towards the gushing waterfall.
The fearful girl ran after him and plunged into the cold water. She was strong and able to swim towards him and they held tightly to each other.
The river pushed them further and further to the roaring falls until the girl spotted a tree branch reaching over the water. Together, they grabbed hold of it and dragged themselves to the shore.
And from that day on, they lived happily together on the same side of the water.

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