One Big Story … Part I

This month, I have the joy of working with 300 year five and six pupils from Durham City schools  to turn their ideas into One Big Story: an epic and imaginative tale that will be published in paperback in October.

Scary? No, this is just my storytelling face (Photo: Robyn Trainer 2012)

This one of the most exciting things I have done for a while; it ticks about a hundred boxes for the things I love doing: creative writing, stimulating other people’s imaginations and helping them to realise their creative ideas, being able to say the magical word “story” about 50 times a day and share my passion for the written word.

I’m working as part of a team alongside Christina Maiden (Off The Page Drama) and Robyn Trainer (Floral Footsteps), running whole day workshops in primary schools, getting children to invent and develop ideas for stories and working collaboratively to forge them into a coherent narrative.

Remarkably, it turns out to be quite possible to take the ideas of 30-40 children at a time and guide them into creating a story together as long as you think on your feet and prepare yourself for almost anything to happen. Not to give too much away, but we are half way through the project already and have five out of ten chapters mapped out. The children have taken us beyond our own imaginations into their own world where there are a lot of fights involving food and an awful lot of ghoulish characters in which the malevolent and comedic are theatrically blended.

It has been very encouraging to see that literacy is alive and kicking in every school we have visited so far; I’m the one getting educated.

In less than a month, we will be holding the book in our hands and you, too, will be able to read what happens when children create the sort of story that they would like to read … watch this space …

Lucky Seven Meme: I got tagged …

Photo credit: El Chupacabrito

So I got tagged by Gillian of skybluepinkish …

She’s posted 7 sentences from her current manuscript, “The Dorothy Summer” (check it out), and now it’s my turn:

  • Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript
  • Go to line 7
  • Post on your blog the next 7 lines, or sentences, as they are – no cheating!
  • Tag 7 other authors to do the same

Most of my stuff is less than seven pages (I put up a fresh short story nearly every week at “Stories from the Borders of Sleep“). However, with minimal preamble, here are the seven sentences beginning from the seventh line from the seventh page of my most advanced work-in-progress, a phantasy novelette entitled, “The Coat and Ring”.

Like a man who has been in the sun all day and who through the night gives off the radiance of what he has absorbed, I felt a strong glow from him. It was impossible to tell his age for his skin was well weathered by the elements rather than age, and he gave off an air of rude health. As he looked at me, I also had the impression that he was about to pounce on me and overpower me in a playful attack, like a young cub intent on tussling one of his brothers into submission.

I introduced myself and asked how he came to be there at Terence’s table on this particular night. I wished to discover if Terence had a continuous traffic of guests to whom the same attentive hospitality was shown or if I had stumbled into some sort of occasional celebration.

Selwyn looked at me with slight amusement under his moustache once again and took a few moments to answer me, as if he was weighing whether to play a joke on me or not.

Delightfully random …

So I’m handing the baton on to a few of my favourite writer bloggers (who may or may not appreciate being tagged), but I recommend you check them out anyway:

Valerie Storey at

James Tallet at

Rolando Garcia at

Mandy Eve Barnett at

Curtiss Ann Matlock at

Marly Youmans at

Lisa Wright at

Amberr Meadows at

The Best of Borders of Sleep

Borders of Sleep Artwork is by Robyn Trainer

Since the beginning of March this year I have been podcasting my short stories/fables/fairytales as “Stories from the Borders of Sleep“. It has been pretty exciting to see the listnership grow as we (that’s me and my producer, Tim, and Illustrator, Robyn)  have started to put new episodes out on a fortnightly basis.

There are a variety of stories to be found on the Borders of sleep, from autobiographical sketches to fantasy and reworked fables and fairytales. There is a loose underlying theme of dreaming and the blurring between real and imagined or dreamed realities in all the stories.

Looking at the stats, it appears that our listnership has recently been doubling every week. This morning we just crossed the 3000 downloads threshold. We have plans for the future …

The next step is to move from fortnightly to weekly podcasts. This will be a great challenge to creatively sustain. In the future, I would also like to look at showcasing the work of other authors whose work would compliment the “Borders of Sleep” style. I’m also hoping to look at other ways of publishing the stories.

In the meantime, here are the top three all-time favourite stories (by number of downloads) so far:

The Prince and the Bird – this was the first episode ever but it remains one of my personal favourites. In a dreamlike garden that is an external mirror to a prince’s internal world, an unexpected shadow is discovered.

Tree and Stream – easily one of the very shortest episodes but also the most popular by far; a resting traveller eavesdrops on a conversation between two different types of water.

One Stormy Night – also very popular, although it is the longest episode so far, this story spans a couple of generations and switches between the waking and sleeping worlds as a father and son share a similar mystical experience at key moments in their life.

If you enjoy these stories, please subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or using the feed and please feel free to feed-back by commenting on the website at

Thank you for reading (and listening)!

Writer Wednesday: Stories from the Borders of Sleep

I’m proud to announce the launch of my new podcast, “Stories from the Borders of Sleep.” This project has been taking up a large amount of my time over the past few weeks and I offer it by way of an excuse for being absent from this blog for a while.

Since November last year, things took off in an unexpected direction for me as I found my head buzzing with stories and pulled my creative energy away from commercial copy writing and directed it into fiction. It has been a very exciting time as I have become immersed in this project I call “Stories from the Borders of Sleep.”

The Borders of Sleep bit is a sidelong reference to the state of hypnagogia, experienced just on the edge of sleep where dreaming and waking realities become entangled. It seemed to me that many of the stories had this half-recognisable familiarity about them and contained elements drawn from my everyday experience of the world around me, woven with a few archetypical curve balls thrown in by my subconscious.

George MacDonald bio photo
George MacDonald: The Grandad of Phantasy

The stories could be described as “fairy tales” and I am unashamed to say that I owe my inspiration almost entirely to the grandfather of all Phantasy that is George MacDonald. Reading his book, “The Phantastes“, in particular, unlocked a latent stream of imagination in me that I had not listened to for about 20 years. It was a real homecoming. I feel as if, with these stories, I have actually begun something I would be proud to call my life’s work.

George MacDonald does include allegory in his work but it is never felt that the plot is forced to these ends and the sense is of shadowy truths, half grasped and leaving a taste in the mouth, rather than doctrines perfectly pictured. On reflection, I think I owe more of my spiritual growth and expansion to stories that have haunted me over the years than to a thousand Sunday’s worth of sermons. So there are allegorical layers to the Borders of Sleep stories, but the main idea is really just to tell stories that captivate and carry people.

I realised quite early on that I was writing with an ear on how the words would sound out loud, and these are definitely stories to be read out or told. The thrill of sharing the stories and having a sense of enabling other people to access their imaginations and journey with me has been especially intense. That is why it seemd like a good idea to podcast them.

You can have a little listen to what I have been up to by visiting the website. I have had some fantastic help from Robyn Trainer of Floral Footsteps with design and illustration and another good friend, Tim Wiles, has stepped up with his sound recording and producing skills.

The plan is to put out an (almost) weekly podcast with a new and original story every week. Although there is a backlog of material to keep me afloat for a few weeks, it will also call for the need to continue writing and producing material. I will also be looking to publish a series of anthologies of the best stories in the future, but for now, I invite you to go over to and kick back for 15 minutes of so of audio phantasy.