A story, a story, let it come, let it go… (a review for budding writers told as a tale)

posted in: Louie Stowell | 11

Once upon a time there lived a slightly crazy mum with static hair that frizzed easily, giving the impression a small electric current was constantly pulsing through her. She had two delicious daughters who sought out stories every supper time, and because the mum had an obsession (resolutely unacknowledged, but plain for all to see) with tall tales and beautiful books, nearly every meal was seasoned with a selection of stories.

But one day some wicked words stuck in the mother’s throat and all she could do was scribble a request…

It over to you M and J,
I need a story from you today
I’ve got this “Write your Own Story Book
Here… will you give it a look?

The eldest child shrugged her shoulders and scrunched up her face like a cold, wet flannel. “Do I have to?”

“This is not a twist the tale was meant to take,” thought the mother.

Fortunately the youngest child (appropriately fair haired, blue eyed and eager to appear angelic) went straight for a pot of pens; she saw a satisfyingly sweet-and-sour chance to get one over on her sibling.

No, it’s mine!
No, I want to write a story!
No, you can only write your name!
No, I’ve got lots of ideas!
No, give ME the pens!

As if by magic (I do so hope our home is full of fairies and djinns) the Write Your Own Story Book turned into treasure worth fighting over! Fortunately this chunky book was built to withstand some rough and tumble, and as it fell out of the children’s hands onto the table a new spell was cast from its pages, netting the children and drawing them in.

Ideas were suddenly spilling out, bubbling over, seeping across the pages, the table, into pens and pencils and up through arms, even emerging as flickering smiles on the faces of the children. “Where on Earth?“, “Whose story is it?“, “Happily ever after?“, “Whodunnit?“. The book had transformed into a firework shop with ideas to spark stories. Words whispered different plot ideas, different ways of telling a story, different places to find inspiration.

Part secret journal, part recipe collection, the Write Your Own Story Book mixed excitement with promise with figments of the imagination. M wrote, J spoke, and both wove, pulling in and plaiting seams from stories they’d heard elsewhere and stories that emerged from a surprising, complex world seemingly deep behind their flashing eyes.

And the higgledy-piggled pile of letters that had jarred fast in the mother’s throat slipped sweet and loose like honey, warmed by crackling ideas and story embers as she listened to her daughters.

It was a good supper time.

It was a good story time.


Having not written a story in over 22 years, Usborne’s Write your Own Story Book seduced me into trying my hand at telling a tale for today’s post. I’m very grateful to poet and translator Elli for her encouragement and comments on an earlier draft. Elli writes very beautifully indeed – do check out her poems on her blog, Taking Words for a Stroll. Of course, any lack of finesse in my storytelling today is my responsibility alone.

11 Responses

  1. Anne Booth

    Lovely! Both the book you write about and the tale you tell. Seems to me that the Mum has more stories as well as the daughters…..

  2. Zoe

    Anne, Se7en, Susan,

    Thank you SO much for leaving a comment – today of all days I appreciate your kind words. It felt very strange writing a story – I know I write _about_ stories all the time, but writing and actual story was so much more nervewracking! But it was also lots of fun – I can highly recommend trying it 🙂

  3. Zoe

    Elli, you helped enormously! Not just with words, but with encouragement. _Thankyou_.

  4. Tasha Goddard

    Lovely story, Zoe. Eleanor is really into having us make up stories for her at the moment. They usually have to be about members of the family and pretty much just relate the events of the day, but Chris introduced a dragon who lives in the back garden, which adds a fun element for the teller.

    I hope you write some more!
    Tasha Goddard recently posted..Don’t girls love Lego already?

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