It all started with this view….. I was booked to storytell at Glasgow’s lovely Hidden gardens , for Autumn 2011.
I wanted a new story, I wanted inspiration….
Walking back home from dropping the child at school on a driech day, the naked girders of the cranes watching the Clyde, the Kelvin gravid and tidal, trees trembling as winter’s portent sidled in on an October spiral, I leant on the bridge, and watched as the waste ground twisted and arched, subtly shifting its seasonal structure….and a story started.
A story centred round the trees found in the waste ground I watched, trees also found in the Hidden Gardens, trees native to Scotland, trees that would once have covered so much of this handsome land, trees that would once have held the key to peoples survival when the nights took control and the frost became feral.
A story for a group as rich with variant cultures as a metropolitan cafes aspirations, a group with children from new borns watching every move like oxytocin scented owlets to 4 year olds keen to tell their own tales and regale you with facts of their extensive collections of dinosaurs and sticks, a group with parents caught in a time simultaneously fragile and beautiful, but intense with sleep deprivation, and torn with struggle and love. The type of group for whom storytelling is all too often accompanied by cheery cliche and perky verse.
I know this group, I know its foundations, its soul, all too recently I have myself emerged from its nurturing acceptance and garden based glory, blinking into the real world filled with homework and road safety, I missed its green heart, its cake, dance and finger paint biased irreverent attitude and the positive intelligent responses of its parents.
They deserved and needed a good story, a walk round the Hidden garden, to keep the wild hearted children running free, able to listen and absorb amongst the leaves and sticks, a story with the garden itself as the backdrop, nothing twee, nothing patronising, being young or having a different first language does not prevent you understanding or feeling a good story….good stories are an excellent way of learning beyond these things…..outdoors, with the trees featured in the story, moving around with the protagonist, mirroring the actions with onomatopoeic words, repetition, form, facts crossing continents deep rooted in genetic memory of plants and their purpose.
Moreover ‘Euan and the Elder’ as it came to be called, is a story set in the ancient Caledonian wild woods, in a time before even your Grannies Granny was a girl, but akin to so many of us, it has travelled. Its roots stretch far to eastern Europe, it holds a familiar resonance to groups from even farther afield: Jinn or Green man, its not hard for any of us to feel that the trees may be sentient, or that the world perceives our discretion and design at a fundamental level.
It was a lovely session, the story was the first I told that was very much my own, it made me judder with its significance to my development as a writer and storyteller ……it was a step into a different world.
Excitingly other people loved it too…..my good friend Caroline Gausden was rather fantastically inspired to paint amazing intense illustrations to accompany my words……bit by bit, slowly we pieced it together, homemade, lap top open late into the night, we had hurried meetings seasoned with small children wanting our attention, I dried plants, laid paintings words and lace side by side….it started to come together.
The funding……don’t ask about the funding……it took over a year to come through. I’d had word from a publisher by then, but any use of the story was harrowed by the knowledge they wanted to cut the word count by nearly 40% rendering it unrecognisable and simplistic, the royalties an insignificance, an illustrator chosen by them…… It wasn’t about that. Of course we’d like it to reach as many people as possible, Caroline and I would love to lead workshops, it needs telling more, but we also wanted to preserve its integrity. So preserve its integrity we did……small run; we did it ourselves, graciously received long delayed funding paid for its printing.
The launch? Well thats another story…….I’ve been promising the recipe for the cakes for a while, and I’ll tell you about our plans for another wee book, and the bag full of tricks and some of the secrets within the story….but not now, not tonight….you’ll just have to wait…..
Or of course (never one to miss an obvious opportunity! )if you haven’t already, you could buy a copy and read it for yourself:http://www.botanicafabula.co.uk/Products.html !