The Ghost at Willow Creek · The Story Behind the Story

Turning a Poem into a Short Story.

Some years ago, despite not being a big fan of poetry, I tried my hand at writing a few; even going so far as to get a couple of them published in a small publication. I even wrote a bush poem. This bush poem would ultimately go on to become my first published short story, The Ghost at Willow Creek.

Some years ago, while visiting relations on their property, I encountered an old grave of a six-year-old boy. Apparently, he had drowned in a nearby creek during a flood. This child was no relation of ours, but my cousins had planned on doing up the grave and taking care of it. Straight away all sorts of questions came into my head. The writer within me thought of the many hardships encountered by our pioneering women and no sooner had I returned home, but I was jotting down ideas.

The loss of a child had attracted me, for having two children of my own (neither one of them easy births), I became empathetic to the parents of this unknown child, especially the mother. The history and the landscape drew me in, and as it would always seem, my fascination with death and the afterlife. I have always had an interest in graves and cemeteries, often finding inspiration amongst them.

Wednesday Addams at Red Riding Hood’s grave.

As luck would have it, a writing competition soon came up and I thought of writing a bush poem inspired by this piece of history. Before entering, I had even sought the advice of a local poet. After reading my piece, she had suggested that the poem could become a short story. In the back of my mind, I had to agree with this idea because I felt there was more to this story than what could be relayed in a bush poem. In that respect, I was grateful that my poem ultimately, was unsuccessful.

As I wrote The Ghost at Willow Creek, it was not only the death of a young child that got to me, but the effects such a tragic loss would have upon the parents and their marriage. Being a wife and mother, I was following the old writing advice of ‘write what you know’.

The Ghost at Willow Creek is ultimately a story of love, loss and things that go bump in the night. A story my husband labelled my best yet, so I’m pretty happy with that! 😉

Have you ever turned a poem into a story? Do you experiment with different writing styles? Where do you get some of your writing inspiration from?

Main image courtesy of Pixabay

Inspiration · Writing

Using Cemeteries for Writing Inspiration.

local cemeteryGrowing up in suburban Sydney, I lived near Rookwood Cemetery, the largest cemetery in the Southern Hemisphere. Generations of my mother’s family have been buried there and we would make regular visits. Graves and cemeteries had therefore become second nature; so when I spent a quiet, misty morning some years ago in winter at my local cemetery, I found it to be quite peaceful.

I’ve always been fascinated by death and the thought of an afterlife. It could explain my interest in ghosts and other spooky subjects. I found walking alone amongst the graves intriguing. Each and every one of them had a story to tell. I was surrounded by history; some dating as far back as the 1880s. I was surprised by the number of smaller graves – one child died the day it was born, either still-born or it was too late to be christened. One grave was of a twelve year old girl; another girl dying at eighteen. My curiosity aroused the writer within me. What happened to these children to die so young? How did they die? Who were they?oldgrave

Some years ago, while visiting relations on their property, I encountered an old grave of a six year old boy. Apparently he had drowned in a nearby creek during a flood and straight away all sorts of questions came into my head. The writer within me thought of the many hardships encountered by our pioneering women and this idea became the inspiration behind my first bush poem.

I entered that bush poem in a competition, without success. Now I have dusted it off and begun to breathe new life into it (don’t throw anything out remember 😉 ). It had been suggested to me before that the poem could become a short story and I am currently trying to work this into either a long short story or novella. I am having fun using Pinterest to help with inspiration for setting, characters and undertaking some research.

So next time you’re struggling for a bit of inspiration, try your local cemetery. I’m sure the residents won’t mind you telling everyone their story.

What unexpected places have you found inspiration for your writing? Are you comfortable around cemeteries? What are you currently working on?

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Hits & Misses · Writing

Dabbling in Poetry.

alphabetIf you’re like me, you would have been one of those students back in your school days whose eyes would glaze over every time you were required to study poetry in English class. Being asleep with my eyes open, I honestly wouldn’t be able to tell you what we learned. Years later and far away from the horrors of school life, the muse can sometimes have a mind of its own. Even though I’m not a big fan of poetry, I have been known to dabble in it on occasion.

A few years back, I discovered a small publication that was looking for poems and short stories. The magazine also included writing prompts and there were two in particular that caught my imagination. My muse decided to take me down the uncharted territory of poetry and before I knew it, I had two short pieces written. With nothing to lose, I decided to send them off and was later caught by surprise upon seeing two free issues of the publication where my poems had been published. Here is one of them:-

Winter Sleeps.

A gentle whisper through the trees
Chills the air with fallen leaves
Sunlight glistens upon the grass
While shadows dance slowly as they pass.
The hand of nature deals a blow
Through heavy frosts that leads to snow
Ice that crackles under foot
Pays to be careful where it’s put
For underneath the lake is deep
Where all is silent when winter sleeps.

© Debbie Johansson, 2008.

Sure, I’m not going to win any awards for this; my first attempt, but it did buoy me up to try writing more. Every year there is a Banjo Patterson competition for short stories and bush ballads (for those overseas, Banjo Patterson wrote the famous bush ballad The Man from Snowy River), and I decided to take a stab at it. Such poems hold more appeal to me as they tell a story and actually rhyme. It took me a while to perfect it and I had it critiqued by a local poet before sending it off. She told me that she could see my poem as a short story. I worked hard on that piece and was pleased with my first attempt at such a poem, so was a bit disappointed by her comment. Of-course I sent the poem off and never heard any more about it. That piece still sits waiting at home, yet now, years later I believe that woman might have been on to something. I could give it a whole new lease of life as a short story.

Throughout this entire process, I’ve come away with learning these four things:-

1. Writing prompts are a great way to fire up the muse,
2. Don’t ignore smaller publications to get your foot in the door,
3. Sometimes you can get lucky and get published on your first attempt, and
4. Experimenting with different creative forms can lead you down different paths.

Despite my years of reluctance towards poetry, being creative means trying new things. Just follow your own muse, no matter where it takes you.

Do you dabble in poetry? Do you experiment with different creative forms and have you found them to be a help or a hindrance? Do you find writing prompts help your muse?

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