There are a number of ways that stories come to me, one is using writing prompts because they always spark ideas or images in my mind. Some result in a short story or, occasionally a poem, but others have become full blown novels.
I recently responded to the prompt below and the character emerged complete in my mind. I could see him walking along the sidewalk, and the effect he had on the people he passed. He may appear in a future novel – who knows. Some characters stay with me and after a time begin to demand attention. This one is mysterious and I am keen to know his backstory and his future plans.
Heads turned, chatter ceased and whispers began as the tall, dark clothed man strode along the high street. His focused gaze ahead, never glancing at the store fronts, or the recoiling of other pedestrians as he passed by. The summer atmosphere cooled as an ominous air pervaded his very being. The holiday town was used to many visitors but this one was different and dangerous.
Would you like to ‘meet’ this character?
One prompt that resulted in a published book was my novella, The Rython Kingdom, which was actually a series of prompts that combined into the basis of the story. The prompts were – blue beads, a beast and a medieval town. You can read the full story (and its sequel if you want) here:
Another inspiration are dreams. And the reason, I have a small notebook on my bedside table. If I don’t write it down immediately, the dream dissipates never to be remembered again. The opening sequence of The Commodore’s Gift was a snippet of a dream that just needed to be used in a story. At the time, I had no idea that Owena, would become such a integral part of the story and evolve into it’s central character.
Do you have questions about my writing inspiration? Please ask on the comments, I will be happy to answer them all.
Today I welcome a joint interview with Daivd and Cendrine, authors who collaborate to publish a variety of books and a magazine. Welcome to you both.
1.What drew you to poetry?
I grew up trying to write spoof lyrics for a lot of different songs, inspiration would come out of all sorts of places. When it turned out that my lyrical structures became too big and unwieldy for songs themselves to contain, I started turning to writing poetry because I was drawn into the musicality of playing with words and phrases. I was fascinated by how you could treat words as if they were musical instruments. I began reading lots of poetry written by my peers and in doing so, I gained the ability to write on an emotional level that connected with many different people. This is what forged my love of poetry, being able to communicate with like-minded souls and give them hope, inspiration, passion, courage and kindness in their lives.
2.You embrace a variety of topics in your poetry. Can you explain your process in choosing a theme?
Theme for me is pretty easy, in that I am most interested in writing things that are inspirational, romantic, funny or all three combined! I’ve always thought that when it comes to choosing a theme or topic, it should be something that you are passionate about. You should actively try to combine multiple elements to give you enough drive and material to visualize a project. For example, you may choose to write about snow but that on its own is not very inspiring. However, if you were to then combine other elements of an emotional nature (a first romance in the snow, playing in the snow as a child/with your own children, etc) then this will give you the means to flesh out your piece. From then on, you can continue to add whatever details you need to give enough colour to your piece of writing to interest others into reading it.
3.How does writing flash fiction differ from poetry for your writing process?
With Flash Fiction I am usually thinking of a specific scene taking place in my mind. Whilst this can also be true for poetry, stories tend to unfold themselves when I have some characters chatting to each other. Usually my flash fiction pieces consist of dialogue between quirky characters and action unfolding. I would say that a poem can embrace many different angles but a piece of story writing is focused, concise, every word needs to count when it comes to describing the scene/event. With a poem, you can be more vague when it comes to the overall meaning of the lines and still have a deep message that can be conveyed. Whereas with a piece of story writing, it is important to convey to the reader where they are and what is happening (even if the twists, turns and outcomes are a mystery), so that they can quietly imagine being there themselves enjoying the experience.
4.Who are your writer heroes?
I have tons in different genres! My favourite genre is Fantasy, so I will say that my top two literary heroes are Terry Practchett and Neil Gaiman. Stephen King for horror. For poetry, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson & Maya Angelou are also but a very small selection. I could literally spend all day and night naming people in the literary, TV and film world who constantly inspire me on a daily basis!
5. How did you come up with the title – “TooFullToWrite – I’ve started so I’ll finish”?
The short answer is that I always thought about the notion how writers and artists start things but struggle to finish them. Maybe they lose their creativity or drive, or some other shiny thing comes along to distract them. My philosophy was born out of wanting to finish things that I start because I am not a fan of loose ends and it is satisfying to complete things (no matter how long they take!) for our own peace of mind.
I actually wrote a humorous origin story about the namesake of my website, so if your readers are interested they can read it here:-
6.You have created workbooks for authors. Can you tell us about them and why you created them?
Cendrine & I created our workbooks series at Auroras & Blossoms because we wanted to inspire artists to create more material, to become more professional and to thrive at what they do best. We focus on a variety of different topics, including writing prompts, inspirational tips/techniques, new poetry and writing forms, social media etiquette, social media marketing, marketing your artwork better and many more. We want to keep expanding and evolving what we offer to be on the cutting edge of what inspires artists to show up and produce the best material of their lives! 🙂
7.How, why and when did you formulate the partnership with Cendrine Marrouat?
Cendrine goes into deeper detail in her interview segment below. We crossed paths years ago when I was interviewing fellow authors and artists. We have an excellent creative partnership that we have built a strong platform on. We complement each other with our skills sets and are both a creative force to be reckoned with. She is an excellent business partner and extremely talented too!
8.You have a wide range of skills, including podcaster, lyricist, humorist – do you feel these are all components of your writer life? How do each of these disciplines aid your writing?
I have never wanted to tie my creativity down to just one single thing. As I learn how to do one creative discipline, I become interested in others by way of association and because of my passion in existing disciplines, this enthusiasm carries over to new things that I try out in the artistic world. I do not feel like they are actually defined by a writer’s life, although to be fair, a writer’s life has led me to all of them and so much more. It’s very true what they say about how being a writer means that you can literally be anything you want to be in life! Being involved in many different artistic outlets gives you a much broader palette to paint from. It is not for everyone, since some people prefer to focus on one thing and get really good at it. I have to focus on many things in my life, otherwise I will get bored doing the same thing over and over – variety is the spice of life!
9.Does living in England enhance your writing – if so how?
This is an interesting question. I definitely have a British sense of humour and it comes out in my jokes, quips, puns and writing style because that is an integral part of who I am. I feel like it gives me a unique perspective on the world, one that is endearing, comical and entertaining to read. I embrace these aspects of my own personal character in that I have manners, am well behaved and professional (plus a bit old fashioned) but at the same time I do have an extroverted side, like to be playful and let my hair down regularly as well!
I want to thank every single one of you for your support and interest in what I do. I hope to inspire you, make you laugh or move you deeply in some kind of profound way that connects with you on an emotional level. We live in tough times right now and I would encourage you to spread as much kindness, help and support that you can. Work hard and bear with your struggles, there will always be better things on the horizon, if you weather the storms.
1.How long have you been writing?
Like many people, I wrote sappy stuff when I was a teenager. However, I only got serious about writing in 2005. So, I’m just counting the last 16 years. 😉
2.What drew you to combining poetry and photography as artistic expression?
Because both art forms work extremely well together.
Most of us are scared of poetry. In school, we are taught to analyze every word and line of the poems we read to uncover some kind of arcane meaning. The adults we then become cannot pick up a poetry book without over-thinking about the way we should respond to it.
As a former teacher to adults, I know that a majority of people prefer visual cues to written ones. Pairing imagery and poems helps redirect the focus towards enjoyment.
The images I use to complement my poems (all mine) have triggered very positive reactions from people. They realize that poetry can also be very relaxing and fun to read!
3.You are the co-founder of Auroras & Blossoms – how did this partnership begin?
A few years ago, I was looking for interview opportunities to promote a new book. I found David Ellis and we instantly connected. I was impressed with his professionalism and personability.
After the interview, we decided to stay in touch. At the beginning of 2019, one of our chats led to sharing our frustrations about the process of submitting work to magazines and journals. We did not like how many of them factored in “who you know” and your number of publishing credits into their acceptance process.
So, on a whim, I suggested we start working on something that would run counter to that status quo. We decided that we would do things differently and give a chance to everyone. And our focus would be on something we did not see enough: positivity, inspiration and family-friendliness.
Within a few days, we had laid the foundations of Auroras & Blossoms. It took us a few months to set everything up properly, and we launched officially in October 2019.
4.What are the benefits of a collaboration with another artist?
In this day and age of fierce competition for visibility, partnerships are pretty much the only chance for artists to be successful.
Collaborations give you the opportunity to tap into other artists’ platforms, build relationships with like-minded folks, and pool resources together to achieve greater things than you ever could on your own.
The key to a great partnership is to find someone who is on the same wavelength as you and shares your values. David and I get along really well because we are both very hard-working, committed to our craft, and professional. We respect each other’s time. Finally, we understand what it takes to build solid projects.
5.Where do you prefer to write and why?
I always write in my office, with very occasional sessions in my backyard. My office is my private space, nobody bothers me there. So I can fully concentrate.
6.Can you tell us about why you created Reminigram, Sixku, Flashku and the PoArtMo Collective?
I wanted to challenge myself and increase my creativity.
The reminigram is a type of digital image that seeks to capture scenes that could have existed in the past. It’s my way to pay homage to early photography (daguerreotypes, tintypes, collodion processes, etc.).
The Flashku is my latest creation; it borrows from the Sixku, Haiku, and Kindku, another poetry form David and I created (along with the Pareiku). I came up with the idea because I love flash fiction but suck at writing descriptions. The goal of a flashku is to write a whole story in 50-100 words inspired by an image, using 7 words taken from another piece. I like to call that poetic prose!
The PoArtMo Collective was one of my long-time dreams. I wanted to bring a group of artists together to create and release inspirational, positive and uplifting art and artistic projects; the goal being to show that good art goes beyond technical aspects to tell memorable stories.
When it launched in 2019, the collective was called FPoint Collective and focused exclusively on photography. But co-founder Isabel Nolasco and I quickly realized that we needed to be more inclusive. Isabel left us last year to focus on other things and there are now three of us. We have recently released our second project, a book titled Seizing the Bygone Light: A Tribute to Early Photography.
French-born Canadian Cendrine Marrouat lives in Winnipeg. She is a photographer, poet, multi-genre author, and the co-founder of several artistic projects. She is also the creator of the Sixku, the Reminigram, and the Flashku.
Cendrine started her career in 2003. She has worked in many fields, including education (language instruction), social media coaching and training, content creation and curation, translation, photography, poetry, theatre, art criticism, blogging, and journalism.
David Ellis lives in Tunbridge Wells, Kent in the UK. He is an award-winning poet, author of poetry, humourous fiction and music lyrics.
David’s debut poetry collection (Life, Sex & Death) won an International Award in the Readers’ Favorite Book Awards 2016 for Inspirational Poetry Books.
David is extremely fond of tea, classic and contemporary poetry, cats, and dogs but not snakes. Indiana Jones is his spirit animal.
Although the six week writing course has ended, I still have a couple of stories to share. Using one sense, primarily, we had to write a short story using three images. This story is taste! I hope you enjoy it.
Vomit and Chewing Tobacco – TASTE
It’s a normal Sunday afternoon for me, sitting in the far corner of the launderette, people watching. Harried women with pesky children, older men or couples, and the singles file in and out, filling and emptying the machines in a robotic manner. Eyes are avoided, conversations whispered, distance kept. They are in close proximity within this humid box but worlds apart. Everyone is watchful of a cycle ending and a chance to grab a dryer. Children given candy to keep quiet but the treats, explode their sugary high, amplifying the agitation and boredom. Bundles of multi-coloured fabric stained, torn and discoloured enter the cylinders accompanied by the granular soap powder or brightly coloured tabs. The dispersed powder hovers in the air, you inhale its bitterness. A child takes a tab and pops it in his mouth, mistaking it for a candy. A mother distracted, until he presents a foaming mouth and the pallor of sickness. A spew of vomit gushes forth, its soapy, sugary and bile contents assaulting the child’s taste buds and the nostrils of everyone in the enclosed space.
An urgent plea for water to wash his mouth out, a dirty t-shirt used to mop up the child’s spilled stomach contents. Taste receptors react to the inhaled odour forcing some to exit the launderette before retching themselves. I place a handkerchief across my mouth, scented with lavender. A trick my grandmother taught me as we walked the old canal path many years ago. The putrid rotting debris small permeated the air and stuck in the back of your throat. I turn slightly to one side to check the VCR is still recording. The little red lights flashes on and off. This event will make a great scene in my next book.
I look up to see a Stetson wearing middle aged man enter, he looks around the crowded room with dismay. He is carrying a large black bin liner in one hand and a cell phone in the other. His black and white shoes are stylish and slick. His mouth is in constant motion, chewing on something. Is it gum?He doesn’t seem the type. He walks to the garbage bin and spits a brown substance. Is that chewing tobacco? I didn’t think people did that anymore. This is too good a chance for research; I have to talk to him. Turning the VCR slightly, I amble towards him, fashioning a half smile.
“May I help you, Sir?”
He looks at my grey tinged coat, which used to be white and the name tag.
“I haven’t done this before, how does this work?”
“I’m happy to help, follow me.”
I take him to the farthest end of the launderette and open a machine, instructing him to put his clothes in the cylinder. Then continue to show him the process. I can smell the tobacco on his breath, his clothes, and his hair. It invades my senses, hanging at the back of my throat. It is a combination of nicotine and surprisingly mint. He smacks his lips and a brown glob rests on his lip. I stare, he smiles.
“Care for some?”
“No, thank you but can you tell me how chewing tobacco tastes?”
“Well, firstly, I’m using dipping tobacco, most people don’t know that. As for this one I’m chewing, it has mint in it but others have fruit flavours and the like. It has a taste of its own, sort of a mixture of what a cigarette smells like, and some have a chemical after taste and others a natural one but with a burning sensation where you place it. It makes a tobacco juice inside your mouth.”
“Well, that is interesting. Thank you for explaining it to me.”
“Thank you for helping me with this. Not something I ever do but my assistant went down with the flu so here I am.”
“You have an assistant?”
He leans down to lower his voice.
“Sure, I’m on tour and living on the road means usual stuff like laundry has to be done at places like this. Sally, bless her, normally takes care of everything for me.”
“May I ask what you do on tour?”
“Sure, I’m a country singer, not a real famous one but I make do. We’re just passing through to the city for a show. I can give you a ticket if you want in exchange for your help.”
“That’s very kind, I would like that.”
I hold out my hand to shake his and he places two tickets in my palm.
“Oh, I won’t need two, one is enough.”
“No sweetheart to bring with you, eh?”
“No, it will only be me.”
“Okay then. See you tomorrow night. Use this slip for a VIP pass.”
At home that evening, I review the tape. It captured the child vomiting and the country singer’s entrance and spitting. Both events will make for great additions in my current novel.
In other news I have gained a freelance client and will be ghost writing a business book for them. It is always exciting to start a new project.
Let me know what you think of the story and also what book(s) you are reading. Remember to always leave a review.
As I continue my six week writing course, I am sharing my second submission with you. This week is the sense of SOUND.
Sally woke to the rumbling, chuffing and clatter of numerous vehicles on the street. She heard the clash of chains, gears grinding and raised voices. It was an odd assortment of noises in this usually quiet part of town. Loathing the idea of leaving her cozy soft blankets this early on a Sunday, Sally turned over hoping the intrusive clamour would soon disappear. ROAR! If she wasn’t mistaken that sounded a lot like a lion’s roar. She’d watched numerous nature programs to know that sound. I must have drifted off. I was dreaming. ROAR. There it was again, and she certainly was not sleeping. Flinging her bedclothes off her body, inhaling at the sudden chill her body experienced, Sally drew aside the curtains. The metal hoops rasped on the metal curtain rod as she did so. The street was full of vehicles, some in gaudy colours, others rusty and billowing and coughing dirty black diesel fumes. The annual fair convoy – how could she have forgotten the date? There were numerous bulky men, all in what Sally’s father used to call belt and braces attire, gesticulating and shouting at each other. Their voices ranged in tone from tenor to baritone to bass and the occasional soprano. Sally watched their movements in awe and intrigue. Their heavy boots thudded on the road, as they raced back and forth collecting a variety of objects. Some gathered sticks, some shovels and one lugged a huge net over his shoulder.
As Sally continued to view the scene below her bedroom window, she looked at each vehicle in more detail. She wondered why the men had chosen those particular objects. She surmised that if one of the trucks had broken down, they would need proper tools, not what could only be described as weapons. Then she saw it, the center of the commotion and the possible reason for said weapons, a partially covered cage – an immense cage at that – near the beginning of the convoy. The rear door was ajar. Realization crept into Sally’s mind. Whatever had been in the cage wasn’t anymore. What could be prowling the gardens – my garden?
A whimpering sound uttered from Sally’s throat. Her thoughts tumbled over each other. Were the front and back doors locked? Were any windows open? Could a large animal break through the glass patio doors? These thoughts startled her into action. Pulling clothes from the back of the bedroom chair, she rushed to the bathroom. She fumbled with the bar of pink soap as she washed her hands; it slipped from her fingers first thudding on the ceramic basin and then thumping onto the tiled floor. In her haste, sally left it on the floor leaving a trail of residue. After hurriedly dressing, she stomped down the stairs in a vain attempt to scare any creature that might have entered her home. Midway down, she stopped and listened. She strained so much to hear any movement, her ears began to ring and buzz. Whatever the animal is it isn’t in here, thank God.
Sally walked to the kitchen, peering left and right into the lounge and dining room, as she made her way along the hallway. Her missed matched socks made a swooshing sound on the carpet. Exhaled breaths uttered from her mouth, as she entered an empty kitchen. A low squelch issued from her sweating hands, as she gripped the sink and stood on tiptoe to survey the back garden. Her scream filled the room, stunned her ears and mind. There large as life stood a lion in her fishpond. Lapping up water and shaking its massive mane. Another sound filled the kitchen as Sally fainted – wallop as she hit the linoleum.
I hope you like the story.
What are you currently reading? Have you left a review?
There are a multitude of writing competitions available, whether locally or internationally. When submitting to a competition there are a few common ground rules to adhere to.
Tip #1: Be clear on your goals before entering any contest. Why do you want to enter in the first place?
Tip #2: Follow the rules and submission guidelines – each contest is different. This includes keeping to the submission deadline. ( A day earlier is best)
Tip #3: Proofread – this is absolutely vital. Make sure you read and re-read your entry before submitting.
Tip #4: Enter writing that is appropriate for the contests’ stated theme or topic. Familiarize yourself with the press or journal hosting the contest. Take note of their style and content.
Tip #5: Enter numerous contests to improve your chances of winning.
Tip #6: Don’t ignore lesser well-known contests, it could mean winning it gains you exposure and connections for your writing career. And of course, there is always the prize money! Not only does submitting to a range of contests maximize the likelihood that you may win, but it is a great way to improve and expand your writing skills.
Tip #7: Exploit your genre, your niche when researching the range of contests, there are always specialized creative writing contests out there that suit your style. Make the most of the opportunity to showcase your writing.
Tip #8: Create a story with an emotional impact, and topic. Make it memorable, new, fresh and focus on clarity. Choose a brilliant first line and action. Give your character a goal, a choice and ensure there is a change of personality, status or situation. And above all nail the ending.
Do you have any tips for entering contests? Care to share?