Every time I run a course, I am overwhelmed by the talent, passion and grit of the participants- and it takes a lot of courage and determination to get your work out there and share it with the world. So here is a little round-up of some up-and-coming talent. It’s a work-in-progress, so watch this space!
Lynn is a retired English midwife now living on the West Coast of Scotland. Currently editing a memoir (Someone’s Mum: a Memoir of Mothering, Midwifery and Menopause), Lynn aspires to write fiction and recently had a short story and poem published in ‘Stories from Home’ edited by Hayleigh Barclay and Sylvia Hehir. ‘The Last of The Selkies’ is a modern take on Selkie Wife stories. Sandra’s course ‘Finding Inspiration Through Folklore’ found Lynn’s creativity include: two reflective pieces of life writing, two short stories and even two craft projects; a mood board and a topsy-turvy Selkie doll.
Here is the beginning of a story written in week 4 of Sandra’s course – If stones could speak. Taking inspiration from a local beach ‘Camas nan Geall’ with a Neolithic chambered cairn and Bronze Age standing stone, as with much of Lynn’s writing, there is a birth; once a midwife always a midwife.
Mae stumbled across the rough ground beyond the house. She must get to the shoreline, beyond the pebbles and rocks to soft grey sand and the soothing coolness of the sea. The moon was full, the night warm, it was another night such as this that had sealed her fate, brought her to this moment; as Mae remembered, tears glittered down her cheeks a luminescent silver stream. She moved as fast as she could between the pains. Nearly there she collapsed violently, the shock of the unyielding stones meeting her knees competing with the agonising grip of her gravid body beginning its eviction of the child held safely within. Up again the tightness receding, she reached the lapping breakers, this time throwing herself to the ground, water enveloping her. She surrendered; as the waves within threatened to break through, the waves of the loch broke over her – she could do this now.
(copyright L.R.S.Genevieve, 2020)
Lynn’s story The Last of the Selkies appears in Stories from Home. Here is the beginning…
The Last of the Selkies…
At last, everyone had left. Deborah could relax now, babe beside her snug, suckling away happily. It always surprised her to see so new a life in the world, knowing, able to adapt from that watery world of the womb immediately. She’d seen it many times, mostly at her Granny Grainne’s side in the Highland village when she was a girl, but a couple of times she’d accompanied her mother to unexpected home births where they lived near Glasgow; everyone knew where the midwife lived. And now here she was, with her own daughter.
“I must tell you a tale daughter, The Tale of The Selkie Wife, listen well for it ends with a promise…”
Lynn’s Selkie Topsy Turvy Dolls
Having taken early retirement from her job as a specialist teacher and Special Educational Needs Coordinator in 2017, Sheila Rawlings returned to her native Scotland and now lives in the Angus area of North East Scotland with her husband and near to her daughters and grandchildren.
She loves gardening and has always been an avid reader. Her reading taste is eclectic including the gory murder mysteries of Val McDermid to the more gentle and whimsical writings of Alexander McCall Smith.
Currently she is working on short stories but also has a novel in progress.
Sheila’s short fiction piece
NOT SO FAMILIAR
There was an eerie silence which she realised was only broken by the newly lit faggots at her feet. The wood was bone dry, tinder dry; she thought it looked like rowan. She smiled.
Flames danced and leapt, climbing through the pile of wood. Mesmerising tongues of flame darted up through the branches turning everything orange and yellow.
The smoke plume was growing now, blossoming. Thick and acrid it clawed at the back of the throat and stung the eyes. The smell though, oh the smell. The scent was sweet and woody and spoke of the earth.
In silence the crowd stood watching the flames as the wood sparked and crackled. The heat was intense now, driving them back a pace or two and causing them to raise their cloaks to their mouths for protection.
She could feel it now, A quickening that charged her body. Enveloped now as she embraced the surge that ran through her; sparking and crackling as it went. Her limbs pulling free now; free from themselves, free from her chrysalis that glowed red and orange.
A flash of light, of heat, of pain; blackness.
Slowly, carefully she rose to her feet. To her right the embers still glowed at the heart of the pyre. A twisted shape, barely human, lay amidst the ash and charred wood.
Turning left, and with her back to the fire, the scene of destruction, she padded toward the village and to the inn from where she had been dragged just hours before. She wouldn’t be serving the good folk there anymore; not as they would expect.
The moon was full above her dark head and her ears twitched as she tuned in to the sounds of the wood; all her senses heightened now.
Passing the village pond she paused to look at her reflection in the night black water.
The beautiful black cat twitched her whiskers.
Bet McCallum lives in Broughty Ferry and London. She has co-authored three books on primary education and published widely in academic journals. Her short stories, brief memoirs and poems have appeared in New Writing Dundee, Gutter, Watermarks, Dundee Writes and Seagate III, an anthology of Dundee poetry. As a member of Wyvern Poets, she has contributed to pamphlets (Frankenstein’s Poetic Progeny and A River of Words) as part of the international Being Human Festivals. She has studied under Sandra Ireland in both Folklore and Poetry classes and through these, has found the teaching and creative prompts inspirational in creating a new short series of text and image. Currently, Bet is interested in bringing together life drawing and writing.
I dread the village bridge. I think of what lives below so I flee across with eyes tight shut. Stepmother’s voice spits in my ear, tells what I’ll see if I look under there: the Nix sits crossed-legged on the stones performs her spiritwork and spells, She holds a deer skull in her hands, assays the eyeholes and can tell what will happen on your wedding eve.
Stepmother spits into my ear, “I ken what will happen on that night but I will never ever ever clype.”
The Wrong Path
You took me for walks through Emmock Wood. You told me all those tales of the Mosswoman who lived there; that I would know her by her greengold face and Silky Forklet hair. Best to befriend her you said, so good things would happen and never bad. You said she would tell me the healing spells of trees and of love – so thank you for that for I did see her, you know. One of those nights when I ran from the house to get away from you, I took the wrong path, through trees etched with holy crosses to shield me from hunters and there she was on an Elder branch, lascivious.
A private party
A twilight revelry
A beach in France
I came upon by chance
A heady performance of
Two fire torches two wizard wands
Wick to wick transfer of flame and spark dancers
Wick to palm transfer, arm trail of small lights
finger flare and tongue light, more Kerosene sorcery
from her throat
a jellyfish inferno
Original artwork and words, copyright Bet McCallum 2020
Originally from Glasgow, Victoria Lothian now lives in Dundee with her husband and four children, and is currently studying for the MLitt in Writing Practice and Study at the University of Dundee. On completion of the course, Victoria hopes to write a collection of Scottish Folklore stories for children and will also complete the book she has started for her dissertation project. Victoria loves the great outdoors and enjoys regular adventures in the Highlands of Scotland. She finds much of her writing inspiration in these wild and rugged landscapes and hopes to preserve her love of the Scottish land in her work.
Teran and The Sea Mither
In a time long ago, the Sea Mither ruled the breadth and depth of the Scottish waters. Spirit of Summer, she brought warmth and calm to the seas of Scotland and fish in abundance for the fishing families who lived along the coastlines. The people worshipped her daily, thanking her for her kindness on which they relied, believing she could quiet the quells of troublesome waves that threatened the fishing boats. The Sea Mither remained an enigma although some fishermen told tales of having seen her rise in splendour from the water at dawn. Enchanting and beautiful, a fair maiden formed by the water, they say her silver hair flowed down into the waves, her eyes a piercing blue, she wore a gentle smile upon her soft lips. Along the bonnie shores of Scotland, people lived happily, sustained by the prosperous fishing granted by the Goddess of the Seas.
But these peaceful days were not to last and the Sea Mither would once again face her evil nemesis. Teran, Spirit of Winter, was an angry tyrant and terrible sea monster who skulked in the sands beneath the Scottish seas. Like the Sea Mither, Teran was rarely seen by the eyes of men, yet a few old and troubled fishermen told terrifying tales of late-night encounters with a ruthless beast, wild eyed and furious, spitting and broiled, rising from the seas and drowning anyone who fished the waters he believed he should rightly rule. Teran was master of the wild winter gales that whipped the seas into raging storms that battered the land and capsized boats. His screaming fury could be heard in the howling winds and his rage seen in the mountainous waves that struck fear into the hearts of fishermen. Teran’s cruel storms had brought death, destruction and hunger to the coastal folk and so the just and righteous Sea Mither had banished him to the depths and decreed that the seas would always be calm and tranquil places for the people to fish. One day, when the sound of the Sea Mither’s sweet songs were too much for him to bear, Teran rose to challenge her rule, determined to claim the seas as his own. Finally, after years of festering in his torment under the rock and sand of the seabed- shackled, ashamed and miserable- Teran broke free and rose to battle the Sea Mither for sovereignty of the Scottish waters.
Lyndsey is an Edinburgh-based SFF writer. Her short fiction and essays have been published in various anthologies and magazines, including Imagine a Country (Canongate) and Quaranzine (Malefaction Mag). She has also had stories appear in a Liars’ League event and with Cymera Fest. She is currently working on her debut novel and is represented by Robbie Guillory at Kate Nash Literary Agency. Follow her on Twitter at @writerlynds
Here is a short extract from Lyndsey’s YA novel ‘A Seafarer’s Map to Mountains’ – inspired by Scottish Folklore story of Queen Beira or Cailleach
‘Hello?’ Persie whispered it at first, then spoke a little louder. ‘Is anyone there? I’m here to see…the Queen.’
It sounded ridiculous now that she’d spoken it out loud. Once again, she wondered if she was dreaming. If at any moment she’d wake up back home snuggled in bed with a fever. Pa would be smiling over her telling her it was all a dream and Deacon would make fun of her for imagining she’d met a magical queen. All would be back to normal.
The air seemed to chill. ‘Queen Beira,’ she said, her throat dry. ‘I’ve come to talk to you?’
Something creaked above her and she started to edge back to the door. Then there was what sounded like a groan. Or thunder.
‘Hello?’ she repeated, and she looked further into the room. At the back there was a set of stairs leading up to a courtyard. Light streamed down the marble steps, shining almost like ice.
There was another groan. Her skin prickled. Was it too late to go back to Elysia? But she reminded herself why she’d come. She wanted to go home. She needed to. She had to speak to Queen Beira, if not for herself then for Pa and Deacon. Tentatively, she walked across the floor, each step an echo. She shivered.
At the bottom of the steps she looked up to the square courtyard which seemed to form a platform out of the mountain. A large statue made of stone stood in the centre.
She began to climb. The courtyard had flowers and greenery surrounding the edges in flowerbeds of snowdrops and witch hazel, the kind that Ma used to grow in the garden in the winter. Strange, in a land of eternal summer, Persie thought. Birds chirped in the hedgerows which wrapped around the stone walls. But as she reached the top, it was the statue that drew her attention the most. Perched on a large stone bench was the statue of a woman at least twice her size. Long white hair flowed down, with intricate white branches twisted into it. A staff stuck out of her hand, carved out of blackened wood with a blue gemstone at the top. The woman’s skin was a pale cornflower blue, her face wrinkled and drooped. Her mouth was downturned and her eye – just one eye – was closed.
The statue was so detailed and beautiful that Persie couldn’t look away. She edged closer. There was a thunderous groan.
Then the eye opened.
Rae Cowie eats and dreams books and writing. Her short stories have been published in the Scottish Book Trust ‘Rebel’ anthology, The Scottish Field Magazine, as well as by literary newspaper, Northwords Now. She was thrilled to be awarded highly commended in the Aberdeen University Toulmin Short Story Competition. When writing in Doric she uses the pseudonym Isobel Rutland.
She is an active member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme, winning the RNA Elizabeth Goudge award in 2015. She writes as arts’ correspondent for online magazine The Wee Review, as well as blogging regularly as part of the Novel Points of View team. She is currently polishing her first novel for submission to agents. Further details, as well as Rae’s monthly Reading Round-up of book reviews, are available at www.raecowie.com
Extract from a short story entitled Jenny’s Well, originally published in the Scottish Book Trust Rebel Anthology, as well as being highly commended in the Aberdeen University Toulmin Short Story Competition …
We tucked our picnics amongst the rocks and stripped off to our swimsuits, screeching at the sky as the sea clasped first our calves, then our thighs, then our waists, until we could wait no more for it to swallow us. We took short, sharp strokes that matched our breath, until our stomachs reminded us it was lunchtime.
I munched on limp ham and swigged at warm squash. I knew I wasn’t to leave litter, so stuffed the ball of tinfoil and greasy crisp packet back into the carrier.
Heat from the rocks seeped through our towels, warming our backs as we whispered about boys.
It was the chill in the air that warned us we should think of home. Supper, maybe a plate of macaroni or pie and beans, would be waiting on the table sharp at five.
I’d be in for another row.
The sun slid behind clouds and I remembered the knitted jersey. I tugged it free from the bag, staring at Mam’s intricate handiwork. She’d taught me how to do some of it, dainty moss stitch, as well as cable stitch winding like fisherman’s ropes.
What was left of my drink had leaked across the front of it.
I dunked the dainty moss and winding cable stitches beneath the flow of the well, scrubbing them as best I could. The wet wool weighed as heavy as my heart when I hauled it up onto a clean boulder, the cloying damp smell of it turning my stomach…