Kate’s relatively new to writing, but you wouldn’t know it! Kate’s responses to the #wordsaday challenge so far have been very enjoyable to read. I caught up with her to find out how she’s been finding the challenge so far…
Hi, Kate! What do you normally write (outside of the challenge)?
My blog is about being a dyslexic and trying to cope with the creative writing course, so most of my posts involve this, but I also write stories and poetry. I love horror and have to give my stories a twist that is unexpected. I started thinking I would be a young adults author but lately I’ve been leaning towards the adult thriller and horror. I think the trouble I have is that I just love to write, be it a child’s story or a murder mystery.
I have that trouble, too! It’s certainly no bad thing to dip quills into different genres. Tell me, how long have you been writing?
I started writing in January 2011, although I think I can probably find some stories I did at school. I have been telling stories for years, and loved every minute of it. The simple fact I can write them down and people like to read them is still a little new to me but so brilliant that sometimes I have to remind myself I can do this for real.
You certainly can! So, what made you decide to take part in the #wordsaday challenge?
I saw the challenge on the Facebook page – Thresholds – and thought it would be good to try; if only to keep me writing. I’m at the strange place where I have ideas and stories but argue with myself that I don’t have time to write them all down. By doing this challenge I’m proving to myself that you can always find time!
That’s a wonderful reason and a great testimony to my aim when I started the challenge. It’s all about letting go of inhibitions and limitations and just going for it. I’m so pleased! Has the #wordsaday challenge inspired you to try a different type of writing?
I’m not great at poetry but I did write one for the second day. If anything it has made me realise that my ideas come as stories and if I want to write anything else I have to bend it to that style. I am a prose girl through and through. I have tried a screenplay format with the Lost Ring and enjoyed it but felt held back by the format; I couldn’t explain my characters’ feelings. It was like I was trying to view them through a glass; a barrier that only allowed me to hear them and not feel what they were feeling.
As a prose writer as well as a screenwriter I can empathise with that; screenwriting takes some getting used to as you have to be clever about portraying those feelings and emotions by doing it through actions and dialogues, and subtext. It’s great that you had a go, though! Have you found it easy, so far, to write something every day?
Some days I have found it difficult, not just because I have to find a story, but also due to being tired. I tend to write the stories at night, between 8 and 12 pm, which is the first free time I have and I find it is also when a lot of the stories start to talk to me.
In what ways has the process of working from a prompt challenged you?
By being given a word or phrase to make the creative process work you are basically being told to write a story around an idea that is not your own. Trinity Saint David uses this approach every week, although they tend to send whole sentences or perhaps the first paragraph. I suppose I was used to it due to the work I’ve done at university, but I also get the week to look at the story and improve it. These stories are quick and as such grasp the spontaneity that is perhaps not there in other things I write.
That’s a great way of looking at it and emphasizes one of my aforementioned aims – not to let limitations or self-criticism get in the way and to just “let go” and splash that creative colour on the page. I hope it’s been liberating for all participants. Have any of the prompts or challenge entries inspired you to do more writing, such as expanding on an idea in a longer format?
Some of the stories; like the Phantom Horse, or the Lost Ring, are possibilities for becoming longer pieces, whereas some; like the waistcoat and exercise, work at the size they are.
Have you found working from prompts to be a good way of exercising creativity?
Prompts can focus the mind and give creativity direction, so yes they are useful and I’ve found them interesting as some of the stories that have come about may not have without the prompt.
That’s brilliant! What is your favourite entry so far and why?
The Phantom Horse has to be my favourite as although the story is a huge steal (Goldilocks and the three bears) it came from nowhere. The idea of a nightmare being a phantom horse, although not new, just appeared in my brain and the story was created; a modern telling of a well-known childhood fairy-tale.
This is often a great way of coming up with stories; the same but different, a re-telling of a popular story or format in an original way. Here’s Kate’s story…
The Phantom Horse
I’m running. It’s dark but I can see a little, it’s a wood and it’s gloomy in a horror-movie way. My feet make a slap-slap noise as I speed along. I’m strangely detached but at the same time I know I have to get away. I slip. My foot disappears into a puddle and I lose my balance flinging out my arms to stop myself falling. One arm slams into a tree, its rough bark scratching my arm while the other clutches onto the first thing it touches only to feel a stinging pain travel from my palm toward my wrist. I scream and the sound echoes around the trees mockingly. I clutch my hands in front of me, trying to stop the bleeding from the scratches. The other hand is like a hot coal and so painful. Vengefully I look to my left and see a clump of nettles, some of which look squashed. Great, I’d just caught hold of a mass of nettles, no wonder my hand burned. Crouching in the dirt and fallen leaves I try not to cry, I try to be quiet, but I can’t. Silent tears slide down my cheek and I sob into my chest.
Just this morning I was in the kitchen while my mam was making bread, I love that smell. “Sally,” she says, “can you deliver this to Mamgi?” I says, “no problem,” and she says, “you ought to change out of my summer dress and sandals.” I said, “no ‘cos it is all paved and I won’t go into the woods.” But I saw a butterfly, it was bright blue, just like a bluebell so I went for a closer look and it took off. I should have turned round and gone back but I followed it and got lost. I found this house, a cabin really and went in and… well… now I’m here. I just wish I’d changed like mam had said. I’m cold and my feet are soaked. I’m so hungry and very tired, but I’ve no idea where I am…
Behind me a crash sounds. I freeze and look over my shoulder trying to see in the gloom.
“She’s here, I can smell her.”
Who are they? I may have gone in the house and I may have helped myself to a snack and maybe I fell to sleep on a bed but I don’t see why they are so angry. As quiet as I can I get up and run.
“I can hear her!”
That was so close. I crash through the undergrowth not caring if I get scratched or cut, I just have to get away.
Something blows on my shoulder and I feel the hot breath hit my skin. It smells horrible and I realise they are right behind me. I scream and my sandal gets caught in a root. I feel myself fall forward as a hand closes over my shoulder. It has claws. I scream again. The hand shakes me…
I’m being shaken but not by a clawed hand but by a soft friendly one. I know this hand so I open my eyes. I am in bed. How did that happen? I’m completely wrapped in my covers and can’t move. Mam leans over me. “You screamed. Are you okay?”
I nod. “I think it was a night mare.”
Mam smiles and says, “those phantom horses visited you again?”
“Not to worry, I bought you a present.” She places in front of me a parcel and delightedly I tear it open. There sits the summer dress I’d worn last night, not torn and dirty but bright and new. Under the dress a pair of sandals splendid in their brilliant pink. My breath catches.
“Sally, come down to the kitchen when you’re dressed, I need you to take a package up to Mamgi.”
I look at her fearfully as she goes to walk out the door.
“Don’t worry,” she says reassuringly, “it was only a nightmare.”
Would you recommend the #wordsaday challenge to other writers? Why?
Yes I would. Not only does it mean you get in a great deal of practice at developing ideas quickly but you also hone your writing skills as there isn’t enough time to do a vast number of drafts.
Fantastic! Thanks so much, Kate, for taking part and for sharing your experiences here on my blog!
More about Kate:
My name is Kate and in 2010 my Aunt brought me a leather bound journal for Christmas. Nothing unusual about that, but I didn’t write, in fact I had only tried to keep a diary for one year. I’d done it but it had been a chore. So I started 2011 by enrolling on to a local writing course. It was free and I thought why not, after all I was always telling people stories. That’s where I differ, you see I am dyslexic and have been actively steered away from writing. Don’t get me wrong, my parents are really supportive and now I’m at university studying an MA in creative writing I have a mass of support. But that first step into the writing group was terrifying. I’m now studying at the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David and thoroughly enjoying it. I’ve had three stories published; in a 2011 anthology for Aberystwyth University, in a 2012 anthology and in the Five Stop Stories ebook Vol. 2. I write a blog on wordpress – http://kate0murray.wordpress.com/ – which recently won ‘The Versatile Blog’ Award.