The first edition of a new magazine for women’s literary writing – Halo (definitely not an ugly duckling!) – came out today, and it’s beautiful. The focus is on ‘illuminating’ women’s fiction, and I’m really proud to have a piece of flash fiction – While the Mynah Bird Watched – up there (see p.61).
I wrote the first draft of While The Mynah Bird Watched in a session of the local writing group I belong to. I’ve had a mixed experience being part of this particular group so far. It’s a lovely bunch of people, that goes without saying. But it’s a very uncritical unit – I felt that as a positive when I took my first nervous steps towards the blank page, and sometimes just being made to write for an hour or two has been enough, especially when the children were very small and I found it difficult to carve out any other time. Now though, I feel I’d welcome a more challenging dynamic – much more criticism, more enthusiasm from the group towards getting our work out there (and not just in the – to my mind – slightly naval-gazing world of the NAWG). I’d like exercises that stretch us more, arm us with new skills, and push our work forward. Perhaps it’s time to find a new home.
Anyway, this piece came out of one of the exercises I have enjoyed recently (and not just because I set it! – I copied the idea from someone else). We each had to choose a fairy tale and strip it down to its most basic components (the most obvious being the Cinderella trope, where an individual living in dire circumstances is suddenly transported to remarkable fortune – we tried to avoid that one) before rewriting for an entirely different cast and setting. I went for the Ugly Duckling: someone who feels out of place in their early life, but returns as something transformed, perhaps taking revenge, perhaps rising above their early mistreatment. I set it in an unnamed African country, but the setting was inspired by my time in Namibia a couple of years back. If you have a chance to read it (free online, p61 of the magazine), I hope you enjoy it.
Do you belong to a writing group? Got any tips for me?
If you’re looking for exercises for your own group, I’ve found these sites to be good sources:
Have a look at Halo’s Instagram feed for some great picture prompts to get a story going.
Mslexia magazine used to have a feature in each issue profiling a writing group and a sample exercise, if you happen to have any back copies handy.
Also found this the other day, a collection of 6000 ‘found’ polaroid images. Great for inspiration, and if you want you can upload a micro story inspired by an image onto the site.
Talk soon, Chloe