A Storyteller's Process: Jacqueline Bain


For me, writing and nature go hand in hand.

Whatever I write wildlife will appear in some form or another. I can go for days, sometimes weeks, without writing a short story or a chapter, but my nature journal is always by my side.

            I write a lot in my head but I hadn't put anything down on paper for a while. To try to action my pen, I did a general Google search for nature writing and came across the Wild Words Website. Words like passion, power and vitality pinged off the screen, and I was immediately inspired.

            I particularly liked the competition prompt, Bob Marley's 'Some feel the rain, others just get wet'. The words crawled quickly inside me and started off a chain of thoughts, initially about our relationship with weather in general, and how sunshine equates with happiness and rain with misery. My mind was flooded with ideas, but I finally settled on a factual account of an event that had happened not long before I came across Wild Words.

             I follow a traditional process of pre writing, drafting, revising and editing. The pre write stage usually takes place inside my head, though on occasion I will brainstorm, and throw all sorts of words and ideas onto a page. There was no need to do this for 'A Life Worth Saving'. The memory was fresh in my mind, and I knew roughly the points I wanted to explore, mainly the sensory experiences of rain and its (often) misunderstood beauty, but when I decided to make the starling chick the key focus, a new element of living and potentially dying also came into play.

            A first draft is always in long hand, a jumble of words, images and thoughts. Then, I type up and get an idea of word count and structure. On this occasion, I had 3500 words, far too long for a competition count of 1000 words. I had to chop and chop.

            Out went a lengthy rant about how I know some people who seem to shut down when it is raining. Out went a trying-not-to-snivel account of losing a lot of my mobility. Out went a detailed explanation of starlings.

            To get down to 1000 words, I constantly referred back to the prompt and tried to focus on the sights, sounds and smells of rain to evoke the right atmosphere.

Photograph courtesy of Peter Reid


A Life Worth Saving


"I think there's something in the water butt," my friend said as she skidded, breathless, into the kitchen.

            Her owl-wide eyes were brimmed with the memory of last year's macabre discovery, when a sickening stench betrayed the watery grave of a bloated rat and a bald blackbird chick.

            As the 'nature' person in our household, it was my job to investigate. I hobbled down the garden path. My mobility-crutch clicked on the glistening, rain-soaked slabs. The sky spread out, a ceiling of frosted, wolf-grey glass. Smoke-ring clouds and mist topped the distant braes like a sea haar.

            Sheets of crystalline raindrops fell in biblical proportions. Within minutes, my clothes stuck to my skin and rivulets streamed down my face. I could taste the rain's unique, supposedly tasteless flavour.

            No splashing came from the butt. Did the silence mean the 'thing' had perished like the rat and baby blackbird? I tried not to become irrationally upset. Accidents and fatalities happen all the time in wildlife's world. I braced myself to be a momentary undertaker.

            The water butt was almost half full. The rainwater was covered by a soupy layer of luminous-green duckweed. A starling chick bobbed among the weed like a toy boat.

            I silently cursed myself for not putting the lid on during the fledgling period, but clumps of mottled-brown snails liked to overwinter inside the rim, so I had left it propped against the fence. The snails maintained their cosy vigil, now obscured by swathes of verdant, sprouting nettles.

            The chick was still alive. It turned its head slightly, startled by the sudden shadow that loomed over it like a fallen thundercloud. There was no wing flapping, no panic, just a pair of unblinking, bronze-beaded eyes filled with despair and hopelessness.

            I am often guilty of anthropomorphism, giving wild creatures human emotions and values, but it was impossible to look at those eyes and not see a plea for help. The diminutive, full moon-shaped orbs surely mirrored the dread and regret we would feel, on tumbling into a deep-water crevasse with no means of escape, other than a miraculous rescue.

            I grabbed one of our pond-dipping nets, and fished the poor wee soul onto my palm. Its heart fluttered wildly and it mewed like a kitten, a babe's heartbreaking cry for its mother. The chick felt like a sodden sponge and was weighed down by a rug of weed. It was so cold, I doubted it would survive.

            The summerhouse offered shelter to my little patient. I settled it on my lap, and began to untangle bunches of stringy weed from its downy, beige feathers. It was a young bird, newly fledged, and as yet unable to fend for itself.

            As I preened the unnaturally still bird, I was aware of life carrying on outside. Rain drummed on the roof and like a manic sprinkler system, the downpour transformed the pond into a sloshing, blurred sea of silver. Feathery-tailed tadpoles glided, submarine-like, through the deeper, calmer depths.

            I chatted to the juvenile starling, telling it to hang on in there, in my childlike tone usually reserved for the dog. I rambled on about how there is so much more to rain than just getting wet. I told the chick of rain's magical pitter-pattering sounds, of how it waters the plants and helps worms to move from place to place. I explained its necessity for planet Earth, beautiful but powerful enough to devastate and destroy lives and landscapes.

            Despite the morning's greyness, signs of early summer were abundant. Marsh marigold flowers bordered the pond like splodges of egg yolk, and breeze-ruffled forget-me-nots undulated in shimmering-azure Mexican waves. Perfume of broom and wild garlic mingled with the earthy scents of damp grass, fern and moss. Smells that sing, like rain, of nature's wildness and freedom, but only to those willing to listen.

            I wondered if the scents triggered nostalgic thoughts in the chick's tiny brain. Did it have enough olfactory senses to associate the dank fragrances of wood and pasture with reminiscence the way I did; a deep-rooted connection to childhood, the natural world and home? Were the smells of the nest: twigs, grasses, mosses and feathers etched into its avian memory? And if so, were these sensations pierced by anxiety that life could ebb away at any moment?

            I glanced over at the feeders. A squirrel dangled upside down at the seed, its grey fur speckled with glittering, liquid gemstones. Jackdaws and a host of starlings squabbled at the fat balls. Fluffy starling chicks lined the fence in a soldierly row, making a merry din, beaks agape. Feed me, feed me now, they squawked in unison.

            There were no distraught parent birds looking for a missing child, no siblings mourning a lost brother or sister. I contemplated placing the chick on the grass to see if an adult bird would come to its aid, but deep down I knew the chick was too cold and the weather too wet. It would die quickly of cold and starvation, or in the claws of a neighbouring cat.

            We had been planning to go out for the day. I thought of wrapping the chick in a box, and see how it had fared when we got back. If it was alive, all good and well, but if not, it was meant to be. Conscience wouldn't let me. The tea flask and sandwiches would have to wait.

            I phoned Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue Centre. They advised me to warm the chick with a hairdryer, and get it to them as soon as possible. When we arrived at the wildlife hospital, it was still clinging to life. The staff plopped it into their brooder, and assured me it would be fine. Once healthy and able to feed on its own, they would release it back to the wild in my home patch. My heart jumped for joy, when I pictured it winging its way back to the garden feeders. Even wet, rainy days have happy endings.

A Writer's Process: Sarah Wheeler


Despite working with words every day, mostly I don’t feel like a real writer.

I write a legal text book, reports, and newsletters. There are certain technical skills involved. However, the goal is simple. Impart information. A professional audience wants answers, but they also want to get away quickly.

Creative writing is different, more heart than head. For me, at least, writing freely, bears a little of my soul. Deadlines, word counts, structure can all come into play, but, ultimately, it’s about the journey, rather than the destination. I want the reader to linger, to walk with me.

Sometimes I’ll have a firm idea of where I’m going, but rarely a detailed road map. I’m a slow traveller, who takes a lot of detours. Sometimes I’ll set myself a target, to write so many words in a morning. But the target can distract from the writing. I babble, and end up ruthlessly editing.

 I edit a lot any way. (The right-hand side of my brain kicks in, or I worry about leading the hypothetical reader down countless blind alleys). I am trying to train myself not to edit too much as I go along, but to let my words flow. However, the downside can be pages of unstructured, barely comprehensible, text, and the task of hacking and rendering it into some shape can be too great. Completing things (and not just writing) is a big issue for me, and, so I try to find a balance, which I am constantly adjusting.

I like the phrase “Be a good animal. True to your animal instinct.” I like it more than I like D.H. Lawrence, who I sometimes find cruel and locked in a battle with nature.

(He infamously hung a hen upside down, and chopped off her head, for being broody). The quote made me think of the amoral nature of animals, their raw energy, and how we grapple with this, our unease when we encounter something that we can’t easily categorise, which we can view only in relation to our human selves.

I’m currently working on creative memoir, and I keep hens (for therapy as much as the eggs), so that was a natural stepping off point. Thinking about it now, though, I want to write more like the fox, without self-doubt or judgment.

I’m thrilled to win the Winter Solstice Wild Words writing competition. It’s a beautiful affirmation.

Sarah's winning entry is here.

Winter Solstice Competition Winner: Fox

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This is Sarah Wheeler's Competition Winning Story. Her inspiration was the prompt 'Be a good animal. True to your animal instinct.'

The first time he struck, we made our excuses.

Like the apologists, who take to Facebook and the letters page of the Western Daily Press, we tried to see it from his point of view.

He’s only doing what comes naturally, I reasoned.

Boy, eyes red, his voice choked with tears and snot, was less convinced. 

We’ll have to bury her, he insisted, in between sobs.

So, reverently, together, we collected the shards of Beaky. There wasn’t much left, a few strands of tail, a white wing feather bearing her distinctive dark, non-breed-standard, patch. A trial of soft breast down was already rapidly blowing away in the late afternoon sunlight, like a cloud of dandelion seeds, but we gathered what we could, put the pieces in a shoebox, and saved her, for internment later.  

As a parent, part of the rationale for getting a pet is this, I told myself; the small losses that foreshadow others, the gradual familiarisation with our own mortality, death in bite-sized pieces, if you’ll forgive the pun. However, confronted by the immediacy of Boy’s tears, and the shrieks of the traumatised survivors, who were still perched precariously on the shed guttering, refusing to come down, I was not so sure.

I don’t much care for anthropomorphism. Pictures of miniature pugs wearing polka dot bandanas, kittens in pink tutus, and the internet craze for pet shaming, leave me cold, and slightly uncomfortable. Mostly, I want to shake the owners, and tell them their Lasha Apso trashed the Phillipe Stark sofa, and gorged itself on toilet roll, because they left it alone all day, that, if it’s staring at the camera with those doleful puppy dog eyes, it’s because it’s bored and hungry, not out of some sense of Judaic-Christian guilt.

But, in the wake of Fox, I discovered that, if funny animal stories didn’t exist, like God, we’d have to invent them.

No longer in thrall to his wildness, in my retelling, Fox became more than the sum of his hunger, his lust to survive, to outrun hounds and spread his progeny. Instead, he was a lesson in parenting skills, extrajudicially killing, only because it was necessary, to feed his cubs.

The second-time Fox came, he took a Pekin pullet. At least, we thought it was Fox.  We never saw him, just his calling card of feathers, a slither of bone, and fear.

Over the following days, and weeks, we lost more birds. As Boy grew more sanguine, I turned into an aproned vigilante. I kept the birds shut in if I was not around, and, when I was working from home, I took my morning coffee or lunch outside, sat in an old deckchair in the barn, and watched them through a gap in the wall timbers.

I never caught a glimpse of fox. Like a film noir serial killer, he regularly left behind a grisly totem, a curl of fur, or a strip of turf, incised by a frenzy of claw.

I couldn’t see Fox, but he was always there, like a thunder cloud, the threat of violence hung heavy in the air.

On All Souls’ Day, he took a broody hen, and left her clutch of eggs, cold and useless as stones.

That night, I lay awake, listening for the bark of dog fox, but all I could hear was the lashing rain, the distant hum of tyres on the wet road, and the isolated chime of the clock in the hall. I looked out of the bedroom window, but the night was moonless, the security light hadn’t clicked on, and I couldn’t even make out the barn, or the edge of the box hedge. The outline of all that was familiar was lost in the dark, our cottage adrift in the darkness.

Somewhere, in the blackness, a screech owl called. Ethereal, and insistent. I stood listening to her cries, my feet cold on the bare floor boards, my mind chilled with the recollection of myth and an old wives’ tale, the owl as harbinger of death.

Unsettled, I crawled back to bed, where I tossed and turned, and, in a semi-deranged, insomniac state, listened for the shrieks of chicken in her plaintive song. When I finally fell asleep, the owl had long stopped, a robin was cheerily cheeping, and sky was broken by a delicate pink band of morning sun, but still the spectre of fox crept through my dreams.

Opening the hen house up that morning, I held my breath as I, literally, counted my chickens. Despite the previous night’s portentous cawing, there were no casualties.

Later, at my desk, I checked the morning’s email. There was a message from Jared, our nearest neighbour and one-time gamekeeper.

Good morning, he wrote, I think I may have solved your fox problem.

I clicked on the attachment, and watched the JPEG unfurl. Slowly, it revealed the sleek outline of fox, caught in a shaky flashlight, her pelt warm against the earth, like a swath of ripped velvet, eyes luminous, unreal as glass, all-knowing in the darkness, perfect and still, frozen in death.

When I told Boy, he air punched the sky. Yay, he shouted, before running off to spread the good news to the chickens.

I felt relief, but something else too. Not sadness, or sorrow, exactly, but an absence, the loss of something, which challenged and vexed me, like the sting of salt on winter dry skin, or the creak of an old church door.  

A few days later, hoeing under the reach of our beech hedge, I found a fan of grey feathers, not chicken, but a remnant of wood pigeon, its ribcage ripped and flattened, like some macabre dream-catcher. I pushed the remains back under a blanket of leaves, and kicked some soil over them, so Boy wouldn’t see.

I held the secret of Fox close to myself, where it chilled me, and warmed me, in equal measure.

A Storyteller's Process: Vanessa Horn

With ‘Tints and Tinges’, I wanted to explore the theme of communication without words;

if someone was let down badly by the spoken exchange, was it possible that they might look to another form of perception as an alternative? In the case of the protagonist, she substitute words for colours. However, she eventually trusts these to such an extent that they begin to dominate the way she feels and thinks, eventually leading her to rely purely on them and refusing to speak.  

I like to write at my desk in the music room, as it is at the front of the house, enabling me to ‘people watch’. However, this summer I am having a log cabin built in my garden and I am expecting this to become my new writing sanctuary, where I will hopefully be visited by the hedgehogs and foxes which frequent the area.     

Vanessa Horn,  one of the three runners-up in the Wild Words Winter Solstice Writing Competition 2016, with 'Tints and Tinges'. This is her winning story:

Tints and Tinges

I was about eight years old when I realised that words couldn’t be trusted. It was first thing on a bright June morning when my mother, limited in pleasantries and cavalier in manner, announced, “Your father has moved out.” The language itself was simple – comprehensive - but the sensations I received from her were not. No, these took the form of colour: pulsating, vibrant shades of red which were as blistering as the centre of our hearth fire, flames licking at log-edges, waiting to erupt and scald any innocent passer-by. Communicative. Dramatic. It was then that I recognised it was colour which expressed the truth. Not words.

With colour, there was just enough shade-range to gauge every nuance and sensation that you needed. No more, no less. Example: next doors terrier, Lucy. The russet brown which shone from her told me she was ready to play. And from Smokey-Smudge, my lop-eared rabbit; when I sensed his delicate shade of blue, I knew that he was hungry or lonely. Animals were easy. My peers, too, really, once they’d established I wasn’t going to interrupt or argue with them anymore. Their fickle flashes of sense-colours allowed me to quickly assess their moods, their auras. Inevitably, I became more popular, the girl who complied. Albeit silently.

Of course, the adults made the most fuss about my elective mutism. My teachers correctly – but perhaps not for the reasons they perceived - blamed my silence on the abrupt departure of my father. Immediately, they went all out, hauling in the Ed Psych and every other official they could lay their hands on, to ‘cure’ me. Considering how many times I’d previously been reprimanded for chatting, you’d think they’d have appreciated the sudden silence. Encouraged it, even. But no, they had to investigate. To attempt a resolution. Looking back, I suppose, in a strange sort of way, I appreciated this intense attention, quite enjoying my mysterious status.

Being wordless had other advantages too. At home each day, when Mother had finally exhausted her freshly-found cleaning regime, we got used to sitting together companionably, watching TV (me: pale blue) and staring into the fire (Mother: a simmering brown). Now that I wasn’t talking, she didn’t seem to feel the need – as previously - to talk at me, either. We seemed to have a new understanding. It was undemanding. Peaceful. Did that mean my father had been the instigator of all previous arguments and rows? Well, probably not; looking back, it was probably the combination of the two of them – mismatched personalities, most likely. Maybe I had my part to play as well. Who knew? But, regardless, I valued the new serenity, all the same. 

Communicating wasn’t a problem. Not while I used my colour palette. I thought in colours, dreamt in colours. Expressed myself by using colours, not just in my painting (although I did actually do this on a daily basis) but in my head as well. It was a new life. One which worked for me: it didn’t let me down.

Until one day, some months later. Again, it was in the morning, but this time I had already left the house and was ambling my way to school. A little less popular by this stage – after all, I had been mute for over a term now, and the novelty of a silent me had definitely worn off – I was by myself, dawdling, daydreaming. At some point, I noticed the small tabby cat wandering along the pavement. Instantly, I could sense the colours around him, just like when I’d first starting experiencing colours. Shades of red. Danger. Menace. I didn’t recognise exactly why at first; it wasn’t until he neared the edge of the pavement that I realised he was going to cross the road. The heavily traffic-laden road.

I opened my mouth to yell a warning. But my unpractised vocal chords retaliated after so many days of silence, emitting nothing more than squeaking. A pathetic and diluted grey – no use to anyone. Not least a traffic-oblivious cat. My heart pumping even faster now – I had to warn the animal - I tried again. With much more energy. And accompanied by a deep, rich black: anxiety and desperation. This time, although not quite a shout, my voice was louder – “Stop!” This time the cat heard me. Looked around. Then, with a swish of his tail, darted back the way he had come, towards the hedges and away from the traffic. From danger. He was safe. My legs suddenly wobbly, I sank onto the ground by my satchel, watching the animal slink into the distance, oblivious to the hazard he’d so nearly faced.    

After that, I got it. Well, more than I had previously, anyway; most importantly, I understood that I couldn’t change the way things were, and certainly not then, when I was only a child. That my self-enforced silence made no real difference to anyone, least of all me. Seems obvious now, I know. But I didn’t realise then that the world didn’t revolve around me. That what is said isn’t always what’s meant. Why would I?

After I’d used my voice again, there didn’t seem to be any point in continuing to be mute. It may have been due to the cat or perhaps it was just that I had come to terms with my loss; even though I didn’t know at that point that my father had actually left us to live with another woman, maybe I’d realised that lies – black or white – can be how people get through life. So I began to speak again. Initially so softly that only the closest in proximity could hear me. Understand me. But it was a start, I suppose. A re-emerging into humanity. However, even after I’d started talking again, I never did entirely trust words. I still don’t. I continue to rely predominantly on colours for my understanding and intuition. After all, they tell the truth. Always. 


A Storyteller's Process: Karen Lethlean

Organic came about as a result of my avid habit of walking trails in the Royal National Park near my home in the Sutherland Shire of Sydney.

I also belong to a running group infamous in the area – Billies Bushies, who run these trails, as well as getting out on a Mountain bike.

Being aware of the problems to do with invasive and feral species also assisted in writing Organic. I wanted to deal with the universal struggle of Man versus Nature from a different aspect.  Back in 1980s I also spent an extended period tramping, bike touring, back-packing and working as picker in New Zealand, which is were I imagine these events unfolded.

Somewhere in my reading I am sure I encountered a snipped that informed the story Organic, perhaps it was the actual detail that the feral cat scratched the human victim, or purred as it ate. I loved this image, and it stayed with me so much that I had to build more into the exchange.

Organic has been worked on, edited through several processes and a few sets of eyes, which helped the end product.  One of the most significant points given to me was to think about the quality of noises the protagonist encountered, and also to be very specific on elements of his trip into the mountains.

Having a word limit from Wild Words meant that I had to re-think the necessity of some sections, always a good process.

Not that I destroyed the longer version, you never know when there will be other opportunities.

I would advise all writers not to take editing input on their stories personally, try to avoid letting someone’s comments hurt, even though they might be meant to be helpful. Ultimately comments from others are only one person’s opinion. Someone thought the title was too ambiguous! In the case of Organic I was also told that in the closing scene the boat on the harbour should be more important than the wake in the water, but I disagree – ultimately I wanted nature to be more powerful than the things mankind has build and placed into the natural world.

Someone once said to me, “Listen to everyone, and then take from all this advice only what you need…” 

Karen was a runner up in the Wild Words Winter Solstice Writing Competition 2017. This is her winning story...


Five burley fishermen lugging rods and a huge esky came into view. They smiled and waved, ‘You right mate?’ 

‘Perfectly fine,’ Garry answered.

‘Severe weather warning, bro. Came over the radio.’

Garry shook his head, refused to believe. ‘Thanks. But I only just got here.’

Younger members of the group had gone on, carrying the esky between them slipping, sliding and laughing, so the harbinger of doom bade farewell and went too, unhurried.

Harbinger. Hard bringer. Harp binger. Where had that word come from? If Garry had his phone he could find out. It was odd, not being able to sate his curiosity immediately. But he felt healthy, disciplined; like refusing a beer.  

It was less windy up here than on the beach. Yet the trail was littered with broken saplings and crushed scrubs where the fishermen had skidded with the esky’s weight. Even Garry slipped, came down hard on one knee. Onward, Garry told himself. Despite the throbbing and bleeding. First-aid kit; should have packed one.

Garry turned at the first fork the track offered and went along for half an hour or so. His knee pinging and back straining with the weight of his bag. The track narrowed and dropped again into a small clearing. Perfect. Even a stream and blackened fire spot

His shelter was less complicated than the tents he’d erected on surf beaches with his stepfather. An action accompanied caustic comments, while sand stung Garry’s face. All that effort for something that would be dismounted mere moments later.

There were enough twigs lying about for a small fire. Garry sat on the ground, pulled the joint from his pocket and took a deep drag. And another, until he felt the warmth seep into his brain. Night was falling and so was the rain. Heavy drops plunking on leaves. Base tones pattered on the clearing floor. On the humus. Hummus. Humans. Hubris

Garry stood, stiff legged. He felt his head spin as if he was going to topple forward.

Just him and his thoughts. His chance to do what he’d come here to do. Think about his relationship. Deprive himself of company, see what was addictive, habitual, and what wasn’t. Fifty ways to leave your lover…Recognizing those words Garry was filled with joy and regret.

Then he realised he was stoned.

A nearby bird called out mournfully, a single downward cry, as if it too resented the rain. Inside the tent, spread out his sleeping bag on the bumpy groundsheet and lay down. Almost immediately, as if it had suffered sudden death, the bird stopped mid cry. There was a scuffle in the leaf mould outside; a low growl, and the tent wall bulged suddenly against his head – solid, animal, alive – and then gone again. He was up and out of his tent and into the clearing, working his cigarette lighter to a flame. The flash showed him two reflective eyes the size of golf balls and a dark, muscled shape hunched over a feathered mess.

A fucking huge wild cat. A super cat. He’d read about them. How feral cats were evolving after nearly two hundred years of going wild in the bush.

The flame died the same instant that Garry realised his finger was burnt.  He waited for his senses to adjust. The cat’s eyes reflected dully. The beast moved. And vanished. Into the tent. He was sure that had been fur against the opening.

Packaging was being ripped open, like Christmas morning. The salami? The cat was quieter now. Difficult to hear over wind and rain. Then Garry could hear another sound. A low rumble, which took a moment to identify as purring. Monster hadn’t purred when it ate the bird.

‘Puss, puss!’ he called like his mother summoning the family moggie. ‘Here pussy, puss.’ Falsetto.

Ridiculous. ‘Be a man!’ Penny would have said.

‘Right.’ Garry said to the listening forest. ‘I’m coming in.’

The cigarette lighter gave one last wavering flame, enough to see the way to his bed and observe a damp-furred scavenger hunched in a corner. Garry climbed into his sleeping bag and spent the night in a wet tent alone except for an apex predator that permeated a sharp, gut-wrenching stink. No neat scratching in a tray for this beast.

In the morning, when he woke, the cat was curled up against him, the tent floor a wasteland of greasy paper and plastic wrappings. The cat woke too and for one long moment met Garry’s sleepy gaze. With no warning, the animal extended a long hairy paw and scratched a deep incision into Garry’s brow and cheek, narrowly missing his eye. Then it was gone, a swift tumbling backwards movement which leapt through the tent flaps. He heard drumming paws, then shifting and refolding of enclosing bush.

At the bus stop Garry endured curious stares from locals. His foul smelling tent had refused to pack neatly. Gagging from the stink and half blind with pain he’d stuffed the bloody thing as best he could, but still had to carry the segmented rods loose in one hand.

After the night’s rain, parts of the track had been washed away. Garry had fallen, slipped, skidded, scraped his arms, and knocked his head on a low branch. His clothes were thick with mud, drying now but still likely to besmirch the seats of the bus when it finally arrived.

‘Rough night, mate?’ was all the driver said as he took the fare.

They wound up over the hills until the city spread below. The distant harbour had a sheen. Grey moody skies with the sea crossed by white wakes of boats and ferries.

Deep contentment welled, satisfaction as unheralded as the sudden claw of the cat. He’d confronted the wilderness, he’d not taken his phone.

Ahead Garry saw a future with his arm around Penny’s tattooed shoulder. He would not abandon her like his father had done.


Writing Competition Runner-Up: Bob Woodroofe

There have been all sorts of influences that led to the poem ‘Chettywynde’.

"I’ve walked plenty of paths and explored lots of different ways on the journey through life itself and my own personal one. I suppose it all started when my life was derailed by divorce.
At the time my then teenage daughter gave me a copy of Robert Frost’s poem ‘The road not taken’ which was very astute of her. My poem’s title, although it’s Anglo Saxon, I found in ‘Songlines’, Bruce Chatwin’s book about the Aboriginal dream time. Kim Taplin’s ‘The English Path’ is full of a host of references to the way that people have looked at the ‘path’. The literature is littered with the phrase ‘Solvitur ambulando’ translated it means ‘Work it out by walking’ which sums it up nicely. The poem I submitted is only the current version, one of several that have been created and developed over time. A previous version was slanted towards what many perceive as the right way, the pursuit of monetary wealth, and my subsequent abandonment of that in search of an existence closer to the land and to nature. The road less travelled you might say. No doubt there are others versions still to come."

Bob was runner-up in the Wild Words Summer Solstice Writing Competition, in 2016. This is his poem. 


Words are but steps on the page,
just one begins a lifetime’s journey.
Press your pen to the paper, let it flow
on till you reach the end of the line.

A single step, press your sole
to the ground, raise it, lower it,
again, again, feel the earth,
the blade of grass, grain of soil.

Listen to your heart’s beat
let your feet follow the scent,
track the spoor that leads ahead.
Mark your steps in the morning dew.

Be scared, feel the adrenalin rush.
That pulse of energy from the earth,
wild river in flood, forest fire raging.
Take the chance, run, run for your life.

Yes, you will stumble, down you will fall.
Heed the path’s call, haul yourself up,
brush off the dirt, ignore the hurt,
struggle on, even if you have to crawl.

Against the flow, the way you want,
stride out, keep on along the trail
The faint track, the winding path,
not hollowed by the feet of time.

Take time to stop and stare,
explore, ramble where you will.
See the sun rise, watch it set,
When weary, rest, then travel on.

Go walkabout, follow your dream,
lose yourself, then find your way.
Till you find that place, your home,
peace, at the end of the road.

Sense when the end is in sight,
when the journey is finally done.
Then the words no longer flow
and the poem of life is over.

*Anglo Saxon for the winding path

Website www.greenwoodpress.co.uk

Writing Competition Runner Up: Robyn Curtis

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Through The Wood


Don't fear this wood
though its thin growth shivers your skin;
these mists and whispers,
this slightness is your own voice;
it doesn't matter
what shape, what leaning, each leaf, tree
what weeping, what bright blazing -
each has his own mould;
once you too were floating spores
settling on the skin of ripe fruits
like a balm or an irritation,
a bloom or a pallid woe;
briar can cling, entwine with runners
but puts her own roots in the soil;
a seed falling on good ground doesn't need a gardener.
so take wing with the linnets in the evening;
settle on a branch
fly off
tap tap the earth where you will
perch on the shoulder of another
they will be pleased to hold your weight a while.
And if there's bleeding from thorn and bramble
walk right through
like a dreamer
it's only pain leaving -
only listen to your forest sounds,
your special friends trust
that your bird-tongue
speaks your truth.

This poem came through several incarnations – I knew I wanted to write about a transformative process and that it had to be in nature.

I also wanted a mythological feel and was thinking of Persephone – but it didn’t really come to life until I put my own self into it. I also wanted it to be a kind of help, a teaching, that it is OK to go into the darkness when you have to. Resisting is not going to get you through to the other side. And the other side is more of a self not tossed around by the needs and wishes of others, but a self who can know pain, be OK that it hurts but also know you can be as light as a bird once you know that you are really free in your soul. Sounds a tall order! But I find the more I am in nature, the more I am helped to see the way through difficulty – not by avoiding but by being part of our world in all its pain and glory.

It's really just about becoming oneself, I suppose – sounds easy! But for many of us it is far from easy. It’s worth the walk in the woods though – there is so much to learn. Autumn's my favourite time of year, September, colouring up and ripening and the air moving. It’s been a hard summer, grief coming unexpectedly in the middle of holidays. So I welcome Autumn even more than usual. The house martins have flown off leaving a strange quiet round the house. Harvests are in and the fields and hills losing their August gold as we all start to think about preparing for winter in a slightly leaky house. It’s gathering time and a good healing to collect wood, light fires, share some cosiness with our loved ones.

And out with the notebook and wait to see what comes along. 

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my poem and thoughts on WildWords and, as Winter moves in, I hope you've all had a fruitful Autumn. 


Writing Competition Runner Up: Nina George

I am a writer. This has been difficult to say and own about myself, submitting my writing to Wild Words is me stepping into this place.

I have followed the blog for some time; the writing intrigues me and, no brainer, anything “wild”. I liked the fact that you were asked to submit at solstice, I am a pagan so this was good for me. I procrastinate so deadlines are also good for me. The best thing was that I loved the prompt/quote. Travelling had long been my “thing” when I was younger, and travelling inward also, now that I am older. I felt claimed by this and knew I would have something to say/write about this.

I always at least start, if not write all, of my first drafts in pen on paper. This way, I can write anywhere and capture those moments the awe (inspiration) strikes and I don’t have to have my computer nearby. Writing on trains, waiting in airports, snatched moments or sitting outside.

I also love the way that I can write really fast – on the edge of the subconscious maybe – and interesting stuff can come out this way.

I write quickly, trying not to overthink things too much, to see what happens. I use an ink pen whenever possible as this means that I can write really quickly. I love the feel of an ink pen on the paper as well.

I don’t edit too much as I am drafting, unless it is very obvious to me or just isn’t working. As this subject “spoke” to me, the words came relatively easily. Editing the word count though, was a whole other issue. When I had typed out my draft, I had nearly 1,500 words. And I liked them all. I determined to use this as an exercise in fearless editing. I know I can use many words to wax lyrical, being precise is not usually my art.

It felt, at times, like slash and burn farming, but I tweaked and pulled at the piece.

Tried to strike that knife-edge balance between brutal and careful. Second draft made it to 1,236. I took a deep breath and went back in. Third time I got to under the 1,000 mark. I took a second deep breath and sent the piece off.