Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Jasmine in bloom

I could not resist taking this photo of the Jasmine blooming outside my door. It has never looked so lush as this year. Maybe it's because I've been thinking a lot about Jasmine with the publication of 'Jasmine Skies.'

I love the fact that this reviewer picked up a copy of 'Jasmine Skies' at Delhi airport. She could have bumped into Mira waiting for her suitcase!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Farewell photo diary- Residency in The Sherwood Forest

No Sign of Robin Hood but even so this has been a truly magical residency week in the Sherwood Forest. Here are a few photographs charting some lovely moments. The residency has been a real inspiration to me in exploring the natural world for my next book 'Kite Spirit' (to be published by Macmillan Children's Books in 2013)

Flying the 'Kite Sprit'

Collecting pine cones

Dwarfed by nature

Tiny bright poppy
Fruits of the forest

The view while working on my next book 'Kite Spirit'


Thursday, 26 July 2012

Creative writing workshop in the woods

The sun was shining again today as  aspiring writers, film makers and poets stepped into the Sherwood Forest with me.

Yesterday myself and Esha-Lily (aged eight) attented an inspiring nature walk by Christine Poulson - the Forest Holiday ranger- and we discovered the perfect glade for me to set up our open air creative writing workshop.  In this peaceful woodland live all manner of butterflies, birds and wildlife.

An amazing bug creation by Ollie
Ollie's mobile
We learned how to identify deer tracks through the woods, afterwards the children created their own art works made from nutural treasure that they had collected on their walk.

Today I returned to the same glade and placed objects that inspired me to write 'Jasmine Skies' among the woodland. After reading from 'Artichoke Hearts' we took a walk in the sunshine into the symbolic world of 'Jasmine Skies'. The workshop participants hunted around the wood for objects and symbols that fed my imagination in the process of writing 'Jasmine Skies'.

Afterwards the groups of aspiring writers began to explore their own inspirational characters, places and symbolic worlds. We freed our imaginations with the help of the holey stone (Nana Josie's favourite symbol in 'Artichoke Hearts'). As we passed it around the circle we thought of how the woods inspired us all and wrote our own communal tribute to our Sherwood Forest Holiday.

Here are the words we shared all wrapped up in a poem for you....

By: Ellie Wright, Amanda and Niamh Cottingham, Leih, Matthew and Rebecca Foley, Christine Poulson, Charlotte Howell, Sean, Dylan and Sinead Power, Danielle Hart and Sita Brahmachari.

Holey Stone Poem!
We are lying on a magic blanket
Inside a circle
Eyes closed
Listening to the trilling, knocking creepy, clanking echoing of the wood
This glade is a privilege...a goldmine for the imagination

Dappled green sunlight
Echoing spirits
Squirrels skitter up the trees
Rabbits hide in the hollows
Among the tree trunks
In this glade
green grasses

Gnats hover around itchy heads
 the imagination
Who would have thought that all these were hiding here?
highway men
So many characters past and present sheltering under these branches

If you were to step out here at night
placing your bare feet in mud still warm where deer have trod
You would find a haunted hollow
Twisted branches 
Rotting wood
In the distance the scent of a fox
The bark of a dog
A bat diving down down
Uncertain sounds...
creeping forms, shapes, smells
A russling and a skitting underground

We are lying on a magic blanket
Inside a circle
Eyes closed
Listening to the trilling, knocking creepy, clanking echoing of the wood

Thanks to the lovely staff at Forest Holidays, Sherwood Pines for hosting such an imaginative, happy and sunny residency.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Blissfully lost in the woods...

We've been blessed with the most amazing weather for my writing residency in the Sherwood Forest. Today I woke early and took our puppy Ringo for a walk in Sherwood Forest. He was in heaven following trails through the high bracken. The smell of pine was too delicious a temptation for him!  What a way to wake the senses. I have sometimes compared the process of writing to entering a woodland and following paths, being guided by your senses and instinct as you follow trails into your own story.

I returned home with Ringo and set out again, this time in running gear with the intention of getting well and truly lost in the woods. As I went off the main tracks taking me further and further into the woods I was transported back to my childhood wonderment in woodland scenery to a time when a whole day might pass in the simple pleasure of building a den.
It's little wonder that  so many of our favourite children's stories are set in woodland. Even as an adult the feeling of not quite knowing which path will lead you back to the familiar can be slightly unnerving and yet in that 'uncertain' moment lies new discovery... you begin to rely on your senses and your memory in a way that we're not often called on to do in a highly technical world.

In the afternoon I was joined by a wonderful group of people with their children who had come to hear me reading. I read from 'Artichoke Hearts'  and then the heat of the day helped to transport us to Kolkata where the young people took roles in a scene in the children's orphanage in 'Jasmine Skies'. Finally I returned to the woods, giving them a sneak preview of a woodland scene in my next book 'Kite Spirit' which is set in The Lake District..

On Thursday I will be holding a writing workshop in a shady glade where I will be playing the game of ' Closing your eyes and opening your senses' to the wonders of the woodland. Who knows what  strange and extraordinary creatures,characters and stories will emerge... If you go down to the woods today...

Thanks to the lovely team of people at Sherwood Forest Pines for planning such a special residency.

A Radio 4 journalist making a programme about wonderful experiences in the British countryside asked why this was such a special holiday. 'Does the sun help?' She asked ... the sun is definitely helping but the best thing come rain or shine is to remember the joys and excitement of being well and truly lost in the woods...