In the words of birthday boy Neil Gaiman; How to become a writer

Following  a tumbler request for advice on how to become a writer Neil Gaiman let us all in on the secret. Read on for the secret to literary success.

Write the ideas down. If they are going to be stories, try and tell the stories you would like to read. Finish the things you start to write. Do it a lot and you will be a writer. The only way to do it is to do it. 

I’m just kidding. There are much easier ways of doing it. For example: On the top of a distant mountain there grows a tree with silver leaves. Once every year, at dawn on April 30th, this tree blossoms, with five flowers, and over the next hour each blossom becomes a berry, first a green berry, then black, then golden.
At the moment the five berries become golden, five white crows, who have been waiting on the mountain, and which you will have mistaken for snow, will swoop down on the tree, greedily stripping it of all its berries, and will fly off, laughing.
You must catch, with your bare hands, the smallest of the crows, and you must force it to give up the berry (the crows do not swallow the berries. They carry them far across the ocean, to an enchanter’s garden, to drop, one by one, into the mouth of his daughter, who will wake from her enchanted sleep only when a thousand such berries have been fed to her). When you have obtained the golden berry, you must place it under your tongue, and return directly to your home.
For the next week, you must speak to no-one, not even your loved ones or a highway patrol officer stopping you for speeding. Say nothing. Do not sleep. Let the berry sit beneath your tongue.
At midnight on the seventh day you must go to the highest place in your town (it is common to climb on roofs for this step) and, with the berry safely beneath your tongue, recite the whole of Fox in Socks. Do not let the berry slip from your tongue. Do not miss out any of the poem, or skip any of the bits of the Muddle Puddle Tweetle Poodle Beetle Noodle Bottle Paddle Battle.
Then, and only then, can you swallow the berry. You must return home as quickly as you can, for you have only half an hour at most before you fall into a deep sleep.
When you wake in the morning, you will be able to get your thoughts and ideas down onto the paper, and you will be a writer. 
Solved it. I’m off in search of white crows…

Autumn fireworks

Summer’s heat left him something to prove,

Few audiences rejoice the retirement of shorts,

The onset of radiators or winters barren branches,

And so,

Autumn imitated spring with his display.

Auburn, burgundy, mustard,

Shades stolen from a child’s palate,

Dolloped intermittently across his tired subjects,

beguiled into a last hurrah.

Waiting For Morning to Come

I just have to reblog this! It’s so perfect.

Worldly Winds

fe1d6a29efe7eb2fda4d7d081c5944d4The chastising tut

of the petulant clock

as I’m waiting

for morning to come

I stifle a yawn

in the hours before dawn

as I’m waiting

for morning to come

My pillow concrete

as my dreams beat retreat

and I’m waiting

for morning to come

Inky, stifling, air

at the ceiling I stare

and I’m waiting

for morning to come

I long for the sun

and this night to be done

as I’m waiting

for morning to come

© Waiting For Morning to Come 26.04.2015

by Alexandra Carr-Malcolm

Picture Credit:



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Christmas Washing: Ephemeral mundanity

For this weeks fleeting moment photo challenge I had many ideas. (A key contender being my photo of a cheeky monkey scamp investigating a hapless tourists fallen shopping bag – before swiftly making off with the stolen bounty.)

But then I thought, what better way of demonstrating the pleasure of an ephemeral moment then by contrasting it with an everyday (seemingly endless moment)? If only I had a photo where someone chose to spend a magical fleeting moment (like Christmas day) doing something mundane (like washing).

Fortunately, I hang out with oddballs. Consequently, I have a series of photos where said oddballs chose a day that occurs once every 365 to do their washing (complete with cracker hats and alcohol).




 Post presented as part of the weekly photo challenge.

(Monkey looting tourists picture available on request. It’s a corker.)

“The glint of light on broken glass”

A great reminder of an essential lesson!

The Daily Post

Not only did Chekhov dispense great writing advice, he was a sharp dresser, too. Not only did Chekhov dispense great writing advice, he was a snappy dresser, too.

In college, my writing professors shared a constant refrain: “show, don’t tell.” I had a hard time grasping this nuance of writerly advice until I discovered a quote by Anton Chekhov — a Russian physician considered to be one of the greatest short story writers of all time:

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
–Anton Chekhov

For me, reading this quote made “showing” “click.” Not only does showing make writing far more interesting to read, it’s free of that boring clunkiness — that perceptible weight telling hangs on innocent passages of text that make them drag for the reader.

Often these “showing” parts make you swoon and sweep you off your feet. Consider this passage from one of my favorite novels of all-time: The Shipping News

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Sexism, Christmas Critters and mini movie marketing

Every now and then the hum of Petergoestoiceland/infectiouscrapjingle adverts is broken up by a mini film moment. I’ve adopted this term to describe the adverts that utilize the ‘in between background fuzz’ as a time to fish for human emotions, dragging with them the bored viewer (and wallet) off the sofa and into an alternate reality. John Lewis mastered the heart-string pull marketing technique two years ago with the help of a snowman determined to prove the power of his love (by going shopping.) This year they’ve returned to a similar theme with the £7M Monty the Penguin wants a mate marketing scheme. I challenge you not to cry. Today however, I watched an unexpected contender for the emotive marketing crown create a whole new genre-  the mini documentary. Ladies and gentlemen I present for you Always #Like a girl I wholeheartedly support the sentiment and feel excited by the presence of an advert that operates by inviting intelligent, social thought, I can’t help but wonder though whether Always would have opted for an outwardly feminist marketing scheme had the movement not been so à la mode. (Coincidentally, the everyday sexism# project is now available in book form. Just in time for Christmas.) Cynicism aside, a masterstroke by Always and hopefully a useful tool in the fight for real equality in the Fourth wave of Feminism.

Histories Gallery (Howl at the Moon)


Resplendent in its purity
The New Canvas hangs,
In Histories gallery.

Opposite, in a shadowed hollow,
Tar-like blacks, muddy browns and blood reds,
Across once white sheets.

In a conjoining room,
Another hosts a serene

medley of blues,

Dredged from an ocean where

sun shined.

Seductive reds slink,                        across
The picture in the hall.
You might almost imagine,
(if paint were able,)
It engaged in a wink.

The majority though,
Are muddled inks.
That would have no place,
At galleries dedicated to illustrating face.

Some are similar to the arrival:
Timid beginners:
Pastel shades and innocent hues,
Just begun to jostle
Over canvas anew.

If paint upon canvas could talk,
They’d whisper                                                                                about the newest arrival.
Will it take hues vibrant, dark or blue?
Will it become grey and depleted of view?

For this is history’s gallery,
And if Dorian had known,
Even he would have found a


(A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight.

Oscar, Wilde)

Poetry published as part of the daily prompt challenge

Writing stories and raising money


Unable to damn the flood of panic that had broken forth, they ran from the baying cries and the anomaly that hung from the sky. 

Humphrey stared at his sentence.

At some point, it had leapt from his brain to the page and landed as a scribble. Flecks of ink dotted the surrounding page in testament. Humphrey re-wrote the words below a network of heavily lined sentences: his attempts at continuation. He wrote neatly and willed each word that left him to replenish his work with meaning.

Luckily for Humphrey and his vitamin intake, he lived in a time before Facebook made procrastination so possible. Instead, he peeled fruit. Taking little heed of the ink that stained his fingers, the writer stripped his last banana and ate around its bruises. Inadvertently, he read his composition a further thirteen times during the process. By the time he’d flung the peel at the floor to lie starfished with its fallen brethren, he’d accepted that the re-writing process hadn’t worked.

Recently, he’d formulated a theory that self-constructed words have a shelf life. The more they were read, the staler they became. Concerned his words were in danger of rotting, Humphrey wriggled his toes, flexed his fingers and pushed at his desk in order to escape its manacles. He stepped through the debris of a flat consumed by darkness, banana skins and discarded garments, and like a new-born fawn learning to walk, lurched into the daylight concealed behind his front door. He paid little heed to his direction, conscious only of his need to escape the gloom and the words that spun on repeat through his mind.

Sometime after he’d recovered full control of his motor skills, Humphrey noticed Babbage’s Lost and Found Shop. It was curious that he did, or rather, curious that he hadn’t before. Weekly he walked this road and not once had he noticed the gleam of Babbage’s chandeliers. He was especially puzzled by the Roman Empire artefacts and the shrunken heads that hung from the window; surely they stood out on a street that specialised in vegetables?

As a boy Humphrey had collected butterflies. A childhood of relocations however, had resulted in his collection becoming lost. Consequently, when he spotted a Darwinian set colouring the shop front, he willingly tarnished his reputation as an aloof writer by running with a squawk into the shop.

A sky light allowed luminous shards to bounce between the collection of medieval shields that hung from the ceiling. Fragments of coloured glass sucked in the light as it passed and fractured it into oil slicks of colour. Emerald greens, crimson reds and royal blues drifted through the air like portals to other worlds whilst dust particles floated in between as if in currents on unseen seas.

Humphrey however, failed to appreciate the intricacies of Babbage’s lightning arrangements. He’d also devoted very little attention to the crystal balls, medicine bottles, Shakespearean busts, recipe books, pressed flowers, ancient bookcases, stuffed jays, sundials, greying silver brooches and dinosaur skeletons that consumed what was once the room’s surfaces. It would be unrealistic therefore to expect him to have noted the men and woman who, like the light, were being sucked into the room. His attention you see was entirely pinned by the butterflies. Boyhood memories fluttered through his minds windows and dragged with them, the inspiration of his youth.

 His brain fizzed as if someone had dissolved a Berroca in it. The plot twists, character traits and dialogue that had earlier eluded him now hovered in perfect literary alignment at his minds forefront.

‘Good afternoon sir. Are you here for the two o’clock tour?’ Mr Babbage said, not expecting a response. He’d learnt to recognise the symptoms of what he termed “the writing trance”; a state of mind that regularly ensnared his visitors in a creative frenzy. Early symptoms included;  frantic eyes, restless hand movements, lack of motion and an inability to communicate with the outside world. This gentleman was exhibiting all of then.

 ’A no, then,’ Mr Babbage said to himself. He steered the writer, whose hands traced the air as if it were paper, onto a Chaise Lounge at the front of the shop.  The tourists who defied the enchantments of his shop, loved it when there was a new exhibit.

He had been alarmed twenty-four years ago when Miss Maple fell into a trance in front of the silverware. Equally bewildered where the doctors, police, fire brigade and hypnotist, none of whom were able to establish communications with the woman who only moved her hands. Eventually falling back on his sleepwalking research, a specialist ordered no more attempts to be made at waking her. Mr Babbage, recognising the hand motions as being those of a writer, had been providing her with the pens and paper, which for nearly a quarter of a century, she’d transformed into bestsellers. In return she became his first live exhibit.

Twenty-four years later and Mr Babbage had installed twenty-four tubes into his shop which allowed him to feed his enchanted writers. Some writers he’d left where they were found; on top of bookcases, under pianos or in suits of armour, others were relocated as and when they needed sunlight (or haircuts). Through his public tours of the live literary exhibits, Mr Babbage had raised thousands of pounds for The National Literacy Trust. Hundreds of formerly disadvantaged groups had been helped to improve their literacy and lives through the writing produced by Mr Babbage’s lost and found writers.

Humphrey was the perfect new addition.


Tomorrow myself and a team of writing mentors will enter Babbage’s Lost and Found shop and collectively begin to write for 24 hours. We won’t let our pencils rest till 12pm on Wednesday the 26th because as many as 1 in 6 in the UK struggles with poor literacy skills. Please help me support the work of The National Literacy Trust