The Cinerous Circus – NaNoWriMo excerpt

I am attempting NaNoWriMo this November!
I’ve got 20 865 words, which is a bit behind schedule, but as I’m doing it at the same time as I’m preparing for my exams and as I’ve got work, I’m quite proud of those almost 21 000 words. I don’t think I’ll reach 50 000 words, but my goal is to at least cross the 30 000 mark. My story is a fantasy, magical realism-esque narrative about Mira – a young girl who is part of a circus that appears at dusk and leaves before sunrise. No one has ever seen the circus travel in closed off carriages across dusty cobblestones, it appears like magic, exactly where it’s needed every night. All the coincidental bystanders can remember of the purple tents and the silver eyes looking at them from the various booths and stalls, and through their own dreams and illusions, is a carnival appearing on the rooftops of the grey and dusty city.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any sort of prose-form creative writing on this blog, so here’s the first few paragraphs of the draft I’m working on for Nano!

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

The Cinerous Circus

No one had ever seen the Circus travel, not even the crew that travelled with it. Mid-movement, mid-laugh, and sometimes even mid-sleep, the crew of the Cinerous Circus would feel that little tingle in their fingers, that smoke-like sensation of having themselves dissolved into the powers of the Circus as she decided on a new route, a new destination, a new home for the night.

Stood by the foot of her bed, arm raised towards the book case on the wall, as if she had just been interrupted in putting back a book, Mira came to. Her fingers were still curled around a paper spine, but the book was on the floor. She shook her head for a moment, before letting her hands quickly pat their way down her front. Arms, legs, coat. She had everything she needed. Good.

She reached a hand into the soft, worn lining of her dark grey and purple coat. Her hand came back up clutching a card. The back of the card was adorned by green sprigs of ivy that seemed to be alive, moving, wrapping around themselves, accompanied by a spatter of stars, gathered in unfamiliar constellations.

She looked at the card. A lone figure slinking away from peering eyes, away from crowds with their backs turned on her. Seven of swords. Thief? The feeling of being watched came over her and made the hairs on her arms stand on edge.

“A girl is quickly flitting through an unfamiliar street. She has stolen something which belongs to her. She has stolen something which has been hers all along.”

Mira’s tarot readings always read like stories in her head. She simply opened her mind and let the stories find her, let them linger in that space between her consciousness and her memories, that space she was starting to realize that not that many people could reach for.
This reading made no sense. This was a new city, a new rooftop –- why on earth did she see stories of thieves stealing what was already theirs? Why would thieves steal what was already theirs in the first place?

She turned to look over at her mother’s bed. She was there, black and blue hair shining in the light from the bulb hanging on a single string in the ceiling. It was a shy little light source, with a black cast iron frame. It looked heavy, but Mira knew it wasn’t. A lot of her mother’s possessions looked like something they weren’t. A lot of Circus looked like something it wasn’t.

Her mother was just coming to. She was sat on her bed, hands neatly clasped and placed in her lap, like she’d done this a thousand times before. She had done this a thousand times before. So had Mira, to be fair, but the excitement of waking back up without having the faintest idea of what would make itself visible to her outside of their little tent, always made her too excited to be as calm as her mother.

         Mira chewed her lip for a moment. The card she had just drawn dampened her excitement a bit, but she was determined not to let it worry her too much. Maybe just a little bit.

         She went to the slit in the tent, the make-shift door that could be drawn. It hushed all the sounds from the outside world better than any wooden door ever could, and any fabric door ever should.

Oftentimes, all she could see were chimneys and rooftop ladders and maybe the odd, very tall, tree. Other times she saw birds and clouds passing in quick formations. But sometimes, oh, the very best of times, she could see other houses. She could see windows, or bridges or clock towers with clocks just striking midnight.

         “What can you see out there?” her mother asked. Mira put the card to the back of her mind, banished it to thoughts she were to think tomorrow and focused on what she could see. This was their game. Her mother stayed seated on the bed as Mira slowly pulled the tent slit open, just enough to have a peak outside. She looked out at the town.

         “I can see a chimney,” Mira told her mother, who closed her eyes and nodded. Mira could see her left-hand raise and start to move in the air in front of her. “And I can see birds, but they’re not awake, they’re lying on their nests.” Her mother nodded again, hand still moving. She was sketching, her parchment was the thin air and she had no ink or quill or anything to set a mark. But her lines still appeared. Curved lines through the air, drawing up small grey birds that came alive under her hands.

         “Tell me about the stars,” her mother said. Mira peered further out through the slit in the tent and looked up.

         “There is a great big one right above us,” Mira said, “and it’s surrounded by three others that makes it look like the stars have gathered for tea. They’re flickering, like they’re dancing.” Her mother nodded, her hands never stilling. The buildings and the roof tops and the chimneys, all existing in grey lines, like the outline of a shadow or the seams of a smoke ring. Mira looked back in through the tent door, watching her mother’s hands. She always struggled with looking away when her mother drew up her images. But she knew they weren’t for her, and so she looked back at the town.

         “Oh,” Mira exclaimed, “I can see a tower! A big tower.”
         “Does this one have a clock in it too?” her mother asked. The last town they’d been in had had a tower with a clock in it, but the hands of that clock had been as asleep as only a clock can be in a town of mourning. Mira nodded her head. Her mother hadn’t opened her eyes yet, but she noticed the nod. Maybe she heard it. Mira had always been sure that her mother never looked with her eyes anyway.

         “And is it about to strike twelve?” her mother lifted her hands in the air, putting them behind the image she’d made, framing it, protecting it, making it clearer to see against the colour of her hands, instead of the backdrop of her dress.

         Mira nodded and turned back so her head was inside the tent again, and in that second, the big bell rung. Mira’s mother was prepared, and in a swift move, she pushed her hands in front of her. She pushed the smoke line drawing away.

         It kept its shape, and it was as if the grey birds flew past Mira in a little flock, like the bell tower floated past her on invisible wings. Mira loved this part of arriving at a new place.  

She loved to see how her mother always managed to draw up the perfect rendition of any new town, before sending it on its way, grey feathers floating through the air. Mira never knew where she sent it, but she could only hope it drifted on its way before hitting some poor passer-by over the head.

         “Nothing’s ever so good you shouldn’t let it go,” her mother said. She always said that, timed like clockwork.

         Then her mother walked over and joined her by the tent flap which was partially opened. She put a hand on either side of the curtain, and with a move of her arms that straightened them all the way out, she flung the curtain open wide.

         «A new night, little bird,» she said to Mira, as she looked out at the familiar Circus on an unfamiliar rooftop, «a new place.»

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Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Or have you done it before?
How’s it going?

I hope you have a wonderful day,
-Andrea

“Strawberry Breath”

I am not a song writer, but I appreciate the ease with which well-written lyrics can fall off your tongue. During the second year of my creative writing degree, I got to experiment with a module that focused on song writing, and while not strictly my “thing”, I did really enjoy it.

This song was written in 2017, as part of that module, to the melody of First Day of My Life  by Bright Eyes. It is supposed to illustrate all the small things that make up your perception of someone you love, all the small things you never thought of as special until you started associating them with your person. It is also about how even though a relationship may start off all exciting, like “fireworks and circus nights”, the safety and the comfort of the years may shape it into “October stars and Saturdays, and peppermint and quiet snow”, a quiet sort of every-day love.

Image by Robert Balog from Pixabay

“Strawberry Breath”

Verse:
This is a story about a boy,
Who wished on cardamom and tea cups.
He wondered the world without a map
smelled like the city,
danced like rain.

I got to hold him for one night,
Strawberry breath and chilli chocolate.
Thought I knew how to give him everything,
Now I know
I don’t know what that is.

Chorus:
But I have learnt that I was wrong.
You’re not the fireworks and circus shows
I made you up as, no.
You are October stars and Saturdays
And peppermint
And quiet snow
oh oh. 

Verse:
If I could hold you one more time,
I want to hear all of your stories.
About rhubarb and sugar and blueberry jam
And how it came to become you.    

Talk about silver in your hair,
And promises both held and broken.
about choices and beauty and bitterness,
and how we will grow old one day.

Chorus 2:
I don’t want fireworks and circus nights,
But blankets, slippers, plastic glasses,
pillow forts and snowball fights.
You are October stars and Saturdays
and knowing it will be alright.

Oh oh oh. 

A fun little experiment, where I tried my hands at something I very rarely do.
I hope you’re having a wonderful day!
-Andrea

“Maybe I Like Honey After All”

“We used to come here for Easter sermons as children, but back then the stone building had stood straight-backed like a school teacher, hushing every childish giggle. Now the doors were wide open and the entrance was decorated with draping curtains of pink and yellow.”

Hello!
This post is my 100th post on this blog! This page has been up and running since February 5th 2018, so that means a 100 posts in exactly one year and two months. Seeing as this blog began as an assignment for my former Creative Writing degree, I figured today I could show you a piece of writing I handed in as coursework, around the same time I started this blog!

So, the piece is from a module called Travel Writing, and it was written in January 2018. It is about the notion of “holidays at home”, and the ways that your hometown can surprise you when you start really looking at all the places you’re so used to existing in. For me, it was going to a festival my hometown puts on every year, for the first time a couple of years ago. Have a read, and thanks for sticking with me for a hundred posts!

-Andrea

“Maybe I Like Honey After All”

                 “You don’t have to buy the honey; you just have to taste it.” She grabbed my arm as I walked past her and shoved a spoon dripping with fresh honey into my hands. “Only local bees.”
I called her the Bee lady in my head. Her hands were rough; a worker’s hands. Wrinkles followed the lines of her face, the price of a long life well lived, and silver hair was gathered in a braid that hung down her back. She had decorated it with flowers for the occasion, greens and pinks and yellows.
“So many people think they don’t like honey at all, but that’s because they’ve only ever tasted the store bought kind.” She shook her head, making the braid dance.

                  “They don’t know how real honey actually tastes.” She winked at me. I thanked her and was about to leave, but she insisted on another spoonful.

                  I bought a jar.

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“I love you like a candle flickering on December 1st”

Edited version can be found here.

I want to pour you thirteen cups of tea,
strawberry and cranberry, twirling, swirling,
like your voice braided into my daydreams,
songs made of honey, my memories vowen into your stories,
as we make tomorrow something we do together.

I want to make you raspberry brownies
and hot chocolate like my mormor used to make it –
floral aprons and warm milk,
like the smells in the café we’ll own one day.

I want to see poetry slip across your lips
and art in hands on hips,
paintbrush nails across naked skin
resting next to each other;
touching, home,
safe.

I want to yell at stars with you
like people have always yelled at stars.
I do not know what astronauts eat,
but if they eat freeze dried cheese on toast I want to eat that with you,
our helmets resting next to us on the ceiling,

and as we pull the covers around us in our spaceship,
I want to be next to you in bed so close
that when you turn around I’m already in your arms,
your hand across my waist,
your thumb rubbing fairy tales into my stomach.

I want to leave kisses on your fingertips
and never be wasteful with the touches on your eyelids.

I pull your arms around me.
Touching, home,
safe.

-Andrea x

The Winchester Bucket List

Are you going to uni next year, and wondering how life will be as a student? Are you worried about working part time alongside your studies? Even better, are you going to uni in Winchester, UK, and are curious about new places to go, small nooks to discover and explore? For questions like these, the University of Winchester has created a student life magazine that focuses on simply living life as a student, no matter what course or degree you’re on.

Remember I told you about this article I was writing a while ago? The magazine it’s in has been available at the uni for a couple of months, and it’s been handed out to students at the open days for a while, but now I’ve finally got my hands on a copy of my own, and can show you guys!

My article is called “The Winchester Bucket List”, is featured on the front page, and I’m listed on the contents page as a “student contributor”, which I’m really happy and a little bit proud about!
Talking about the article; this one was a lot of fun to write for a lot of reasons:
Firstly, I was contacted and asked to write something for this! After emailing back and forth with the management and content team, we figured out that a “tour” of Winchester would be a fun thing to put in there.
Secondly, I got to pick out my favourite places in Winchester and write about them, and now I’ve basically got the perfect memento of the town I’ve loved living and studying in.
Thirdly, for the first time ever I did both the article and the pictures! The photos in this piece are all by me (except for the St Catherine’s one), and taking “proper” pictures that would look good in an article like this was an interesting challenge I’d never taken on before.

I sent this piece off with pride when I was done with it. Then I was told that it would be given three full pages, something I was not expecting but really, really appreciated! And, drumroll please, here is the finished piece:

Look how cool it looks!! I had no idea how the design would look, but I’m really proud of how it turned out. The whole magazine is available for free at the University of Winchester, and it’s filled with tips and tricks on how to survive life as a student, created and written by current students and recent graduates.

Question of the day: am I the only one who finds it really difficult to take pictures of grassy hills (i.e St Catherine’s hill)? Everything just turned out very green for me… Also, does anyone know how to put separate pictures together into a pdf file? Help and suggestions are very welcome!

Hope you have a wonderful day!
-Andrea

“I Think I’m Dreaming” again and “Intimacy in the age of social media”

Two posts in one day, I know, I’m sorry.
You see, in my last post I was talking about these two pieces I’ve handed in and gotten back, and I just wanted to share them with you!

This is the creative piece I had to edit so much, called “I Think I’m Dreaming”.
Like I said, it’s a sci-fi, speculative type thingy, and I had a lot of fun writing it.
You can find it by clicking here!

The picture will hopefully make a little more sense after reading the piece.

The second piece, which I don’t think I’ve talked as much about before, is a reflective essay. The main essay title we got as part of the assessment was “How We Live Now”, and then we had to make our own under-title. I ended up writing an essay about how social media has changed our way of being intimate, pros and cons of being able to stay connected with anyone anywhere in the world, and asked the question; Has social media made us incapable of forming and maintaining intimate connections?
It was a really interesting essay to work on, and I’d love it if you’d check it out!
You can do that here!

Okay, that’s all for today, I promise!
Thanks for taking the time to read these posts and maybe also the pieces.

Have a great day!
-Andrea

“In the Soles of Their Shoes”

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m still working on coming to terms with the fact that I’ve finished my BA. Part of this process, I’ve figured, is going back and looking at pieces I wrote in first and second year. Most writers hate looking back at earlier pieces, and I’m definitely no exception. All the sentences you’d cut, all the careless spelling mistakes, so much showing and not enough telling. However, it is interesting to see how far you’ve come, and it feels good to know that all the errors you find in your old work are things you know how to correct now; areas in which you’ve grown as a writer.

This short story (hidden under the Continue Reading bar) was one of the first short stories I ever wrote in a lecture, in a module called Creative Voice I. The task was to find an idea by looking at pictures, then head to the library to quickly research said idea and like this, come up with a story. I got a picture of Audrey Hepburn, the classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s shot, and started looking at her past and her life during the war; how she and some other girls put on secret ballet rehearsals and shows unbeknownst to the German soldiers. It got the ball rolling for a story about children helping out the resistance during the second world war, and resulted in a 700 word story. Also, today I’ve edited it slightly and submitted this story to The Master’s Review‘s Flash Fiction competition.

slipper-1919321_1920.jpg

On the topic of growing as a writer, though, if I were to write this story now I would show more of the surroundings to properly set the time and place more clearly, and also make the character’s intentions and feelings more clear. I would also work more with the characters, as the reader doesn’t really get a clear feeling about how old the girls are or why they’re doing what they’re doing. Also, the change in mood from the girls skipping down the street to one of them suddenly sneaking into the abandoned shop feels very sudden. Other than that, I do like it.

Click the Continue Reading Button to read the piece, or click here to see some of my other pieces!

-Andrea

“In the soles of their shoes”

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