“Writing will fill your heart if you let it… will fill your pages and help fill your life.”
I received The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron as a gift from a student after my husband John died. The student empathised with me, understood the effect John’s death was having on my writing ability, even the desire to write. Philip lived with schizophrenia and depression – he understood trauma and grief well, albeit from a different perspective than mine.
He turned up early one morning with a much-loved, dog-eared copy of The Artist’s Way saying, ‘This helped me through a tough patch.’ He thrust the book into my hand and left like a gust of wind. My surprised thanks followed him down the driveway. ( Still in pyjamas trying to shake off the exhaustion of yet another sleepless night, I wasn’t in a fit state to receive visitors!)
The book and subsequent ones I’ve read by Julia Cameron, kept me engaged with writing and more importantly teaching writing. I needed to have an income, to make my plan to give my teenage daughters a choice of educational opportunities, a reality. To regain enthusiasm for teaching writing meant I had to regain the passion for the written word and the energy to write!
Julia’s book did the trick and the rest, as they say, is history. I’ve been teaching for over fifteen years and have become more expert at creating prompts or ideas to help people write in class regardless of whether it is fiction, non-fiction, poetry or memoir.
Here is my piece of flash fiction, or slice of life and a poem from the prompt
The scraping sound got louder…
“Mum… Mum,’ Anne’s voice rose an octave on the second ‘mum’. I hurried into her room. ‘What’s wrong?”
She’d been complaining of a headache earlier and I wondered if some other pain had manifested. I wasn’t expecting her reaction.
‘Shh, shh. listen…’
‘Listen to that…’
‘The scraping sound – there’s possums in the ceiling.’
I froze, strained to hear the noise, silently praying it wasn’t possums. I remembered the stories friends related about dealing with possums taking up residence in the roof and groaned.
‘Shh,’ Anne hissed, ‘do you hear it.’
Sure enough the scraping sound got louder. ‘Those three little possums nesting in the jasmine weren’t there this morning.’
It was my turn to shush and signal Anne to be quiet. Scratch… scrabble… silence. The scraping inconsistent and intermittent. I stared at the offending corner of the ceiling, tried to envisage the colour-bond roof and eaves. Where could a possum get in?
Scratch… scrabble… silence.
‘Mice,’ I said, ‘it’s a mouse – there’s not enough room in this extension for possums to get into the roof. This part of the house has a flat roof.’
‘It’s too noisy for a mouse, mum.’
‘No it’s not, they climb up the inside of the walls – probably where your room adjoins the old part of the house – they use the lathes like ladders.’
Scratch… scrabble… silence.
‘Your Nana always said mice in the ceiling wear hobnail boots.’
The ceiling fan whirred and hummed. Doves cooed outside. Anne smiled, and resumed working on her laptop. I returned to the kitchen to finish baking for my writing classes, but the scraping noise triggered fear – not of mice in hobnail boots, but of a rat gnawing through electric wire – or perhaps plaster.
I’d ask Mark next door to check the roof – just in case. An electrician, heights or small spaces never phased him. Since John died, he’d often come to our rescue. I sighed and stirred the cake batter with more vigour than intended; mixture splashed onto the bench. Rats indeed!
A conversation from years before in the school canteen sprung to mind. Carolyn Plattfuss regaled me and other mothers on duty with details of a frightening experience. One day, although her baby was asleep in his cot, she had an overwhelming urge to check he was all right. She tiptoed into his room just as plaster started to crumble and fall from the ceiling in the corner where the cot hugged the wall. The lumps missed the now crying baby by centimetres.
Carolyn rushed to the rescue as two large rats fell, coupled together and squirming; they landed in the cot scattering plaster debris. Carolyn grabbed her son with trembling arms and raced from the room. She slammed the door, but had the presence of mind to jam a towel underneath the door before ringing pest exterminators, who caught and removed the rodents.
I shuddered. Standing silent and still, I craned my neck towards Anne’s bedroom; holding my breath I listened.
Mice having fun on the lathes? Please let it be so. I picked up the phone and dialled Mark’s number. Maybe he’ll be free tomorrow to go up into the roof and check. Until then there will be little sleep in this house tonight!
Aurora snuffled at my legs, wagging her tail, hoping for a treat. Love you to bits, I thought, but sometimes it would be helpful if you could morph into a cat!
Scratch… scrabble… scratch
Oh, little mouse, I sit here sewing,
The children are in bed.
I was seeking relaxation,
Now I’m listening to you
You’re scrabbling in my roof, I hear your feet
Against the ceiling.
Are you on a family outing –
Is that a baby I hear squealing?
Now you’ve run into the kitchen
And put on your hobnail boots.
There’s scraping noises
From the chimney
You obviously don’t mind the soot.
Is that a clatter and a bump?
Perhaps I’ll get a cat –
I’m sure I hear a gnawing
Little mouse, are you a RAT??
Students came up with a variety of possibilities for scraping sounds and everyone had several stories of different genres about mice, rats and possums – including me!
window open and a cool breeze, window blind scraping intruder at the window man on roof painting and preparing spouting possums on a tin roof exhaust pipe loose concreter/plasterer working tree branch on door
They utilised various settings – why not ‘have a go’ too? Have some fun exercising your creativity.