Showing posts with label Philip Pullman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Philip Pullman. Show all posts

Monday, 27 April 2020

Dystopia in a dystopian world by Holly Race

On a recent Zoom meeting with someone who works in television drama, I found myself discussing the mood of the nation, and realised that the book I am writing doesn't fit in at all.

There was a definite sense that the dark, gritty crime shows and thrillers that have been keeping us hooked for years were not necessarily what people wanted to see right now; that people would be looking for more uplifting stories. And who can blame them? In a time when so many are frightened and lonely, sometimes ill or angry, we just want to cuddle up with the hot water bottles of literature and TV and film. I can relate - I signed up to Disney+ with the intention of watching The Mandelorian and have instead imbibed the endlessly optimistic Diary of a Future President. I've resorted to comfort reading the stories of my childhood - Carbonel, Charlotte's Web and The Snow Spider.

'But where does that leave me and my semi-dystopian novel featuring an angry heroine?!' I wailed to the TV person.

And then I thought about that fact that some of the most powerful moments in my favourite books are those glimmers of light in the darkest moments. The salute of District 12 in response to Katniss volunteering as tribute; Isabelle's silent, relieved acceptance - her hand placed over another's - in Jennifer Donnelly's Stepsister; the warming hug of a little girl in Philip Pullman's exquisite Clockwork.

As Anne wrote below in 'Hope in a Scary World', there are moments of light in this crisis - and humans have the incredible ability to generate such moments. It's a yin and yang. We create buoys for ourselves proportionate to the strength of the current trying to drag us under. Feeling powerless and lonely? Go into the street and clap. Worried about running out of food? Start growing fruits and herbs on the windowsill.

Closer to home, one friend sent me a handwritten letter, and in return I sent him a DVD of a film we'd meant to watch together at my home. Instead we watched it apart but at the same time, connected by Whatsapp and Frances O'Connor's brilliant interpretation of the much-maligned Fanny in Mansfield Park. Neighbouring friends have set up a socially distanced cake run, to spread a little sugary love (while our stocks of flour last).

Humans are brilliant, aren't they?

So I went to work. My first book is being published in June, and I'm deep in the middle of drafting the second in the trilogy now. It's a darker book anyway - I don't think it will be a huge spoiler to say that the villain's forces are growing stronger. It's all too easy for me, in my own moments of anxiety and depression, to lean in to my heroine's anger and fear.

But with all of those fresh memories of our ability to find light in the darkest of times, I have been trying to allow my characters to do the same. Those flashes of light may only be momentary, but they're enough to illuminate the path forward - whether that's a shared moment of connection with a love interest or friend, saving a frenemy from certain death in a battle, or the simple act of sharing their last cup of self-raising.

Holly Race worked for many years as a script editor in film and television, before becoming a writer.

Her debut novel, Midnight's Twins, is published by Hot Key Books on 11th June 2020. She also selectively undertakes freelance script editing and story consultant work.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

A visit to Eerie-on-Sea


If there is anyone who still hasn't read Malamander, they really need to. Thomas Taylor's glorious middle-grade novel is set in the dreary seaside town of Eerie-on-Sea, which is the site of some seriously sinister goings-on. This week I was lucky enough to visit Eerie-on-Sea and meet up with Thomas, just back from his US book tour. The pretext was fossil-hunting, for which Eerie (AKA Eastbourne on the Sussex coast) is a fine spot — but not my usual spot, so I was very glad of Thomas's guidance. We spent a happy day trudging over pebbles and clambering over rocks in the February wind, wielding a hammer and staring at the ground.

Ravilious, Eastbourne. Far from the old-lday,
swirly carpet look I was dreading
Eastbourne was surprisingly pleasant, but I did get to see its Eerie side a little. I arrived Monday afternoon and immediately set off towards the fossiliferous end of the beach. Soon it was raining, a cold, grey mizzle that was slowly soaking me. As I rarely take much in the way of spare anything when travelling, I headed back towards the radiators to dry out my clothes. It was an Eerie-ish start. Every cafe I passed was closed. Even the cafes Google claimed were open were closed. The wind blew, the rain rained, the seagulls swooped like pteradactyls on the look-out for chips. I saw a sign for 'winter gardens' and thought that, at least, should be open in winter. But it was dilapidated and shut, the paint peeling off the once-ornate fretwork. I ended up in a chain coffee shop reading and wondering if there would be anywhere to get some dinner.

Beachy Head: not Eerie at all
The next day was brighter. After fossil-hunting, Thomas directed me to the pier (in the book) and the Victorian tea rooms (morphed into a fish-and-chip shop in the book) and a burnt-out hotel, also in the book. I walked back to the pier, which didn't disappoint, and saw a man next to the No Fishing sign throwing back a large flat fish. I asked him why he didn't want it, and he said it was too big for his frying pan. The Victorian tea rooms had an air of aspiring to run-down gentility. I suppose it could actually once have been genteel and was now run-down, but it didn't quite look genuine. I failed to have tea there as they had a £5 card limit and I had no cash and didn't want two cakes. They seemed quite glad I left;  my bedraggled, wind-blown appearance and large rucksack full of rocks were far from genteel. The burnt-out hotel was, well, burnt-out.
Edge of a large ammonite

I didn't see any monsters or find any villains. I saw a fox and two hares and a raven. But it got me thinking about the places books are based on and how as writers we build the place anew but embodying the essence of it more purely than the real place does. When, as readers, we visit the places that have been borrowed or transformed like this, they have an edge of instability. Think of the Venice of Mary Hoffman's Stravaganza novels or Michelle Lovric's Drowned Child, the Oxford of His Dark Materials, and the London of a hundred different books — all places transformed but recognisable. As you walk around there is a sort of shimmering of the Other City just beneath the surface or around the corner. You half expect to see it, but know you won't. It's too good at hiding, but somehow feels more real than the public face.

Places are enriched by this transformation, given new depth and allure. I had never been to Eastbourne before and my expectations were based on Eerie-on-Sea. Although the town didn't match it, I could see it there, in the broken winter gardens, the bored seagulls, the driving rain and the closed cafes. There's a kind of intimacy created by visiting somewhere that has been written about by someone who really knows the place, can see into its heart and knows its darker side. I felt I knew its secrets, that this face it presents to the world, if we scratched the surface, would reveal its villains and monsters and adventures. What lurks beneath the swirly carpets?

Thank you, again, Thomas, for a great day. Can't wait for Malamander book 2 in May!

Anne Rooney
Out now, Lonely Planet:

Friday, 6 December 2019

A Thousand Words About a Thousand Words by Paul May

There’s a bit of a theme going on here on ABBA at the moment. Last week there was Tamsin Cooke’s post about words flowing best when time is limited, and a couple of days ago Ciaran Murtagh was talking about writing routines. I heard Philip Pullman say recently that he aimed to write a thousand words a day. It was good to know that we had something in common, even though fame, fortune, movie and TV rights etc . . . etc . . . seem to have passed me by.

The view from my garden in the 1980s, when I started writing.
Occasionally our neighbour's bullocks would break through
 his dodgy fencing and we'd have to ramble across the
 fields, trying to herd them back to their field. It helped to break up the routine. 

I’m not very keen on advising budding writers, and when asked for advice (it does happen) I usually say something like: ‘Start writing. Keep going until you get to the end.’ Both of these things, as anyone knows who has done it, are surprisingly difficult, especially the second one. Then I probably say: ‘Rewrite it until it’s as good as you can make it.’ And, finally: ‘Send it off.’ I’m also happy to advise writers to learn to touch type because learning is so easy and the rewards so great. 

Transworld publishers used to produce some guidelines about writing for children which contained all kinds of useful information and even a few ‘rules’. I especially remember the No Talking Household Objects rule. Talking fridges were definitely out. But of course, rules are made to be broken, and I always thought it must depend on the fridge and on what it had to say. Sadly, I lent the info to an aspiring children’s author and never got it back.

Philip Pullman wasn’t offering advice in that TV programme, but it’s certainly true, for me, that having a daily word target used to help me to get things done. My writing routines evolved around my life at the time I started writing, and so I began writing each day once I had dropped the children at the school bus and tidied the kitchen. Then I’d go out to my converted larder/cupboard and start work. At 11.00 I’d have coffee break (15 mins).  Lunch was from 1.00 to 2.00. Then at 3.00 I’d stop work and get ready to collect the children.

Back in the nineties. Look at that box of floppy disks!

I’d reckon to produce about 400 words in the first session and the same after coffee, then finish off after lunch. The big bonus from the 1000 words target was that on a good day I could probably do this quite easily before lunch and then the afternoon was my own to do with as I liked. On rare occasions I could even knock off most of it before coffee. But on other days I could struggle all day and barely reach the 1000 words at all. However, the point is that, for me at least, even on a very bad day I could usually fight my way to that 1000 words, even if I was sure that they must be rubbish. And I have learnt over the years that the real rubbish is just as likely to be churned out on the ‘good’ days, as it is to be laboured over on the ‘bad’ ones.

Having reached my thousand words I would save my work and then leave it without a second look. I only wrote on Mondays and Fridays because I was teaching three days a week, which meant it was always two or three days before I sat down and read what I’d written aloud to myself. And that is probably the only advice that I unhesitatingly give to everyone who writes anything. Read it aloud. It will reveal all kinds of mistakes, infelicities, typos, clumsy phrasing, repetition and just plain dullness.

Oh, and if you think I'm contradicting myself here, saying I don't like advice and then scattering it all around, I'll just mention Malcolm Bradbury, co-founder with Angus Wilson of the MA in Creative Writing at UEA. He famously didn't believe creative writing could be taught.

Where was I? Oh, yes. There was another benefit of the word target—and I know that these are all just games we play with ourselves to find a way to get the thing finished—and that was that, once I had achieved the target, I could tell myself that no matter how terrible the day had been, I at least had 1000 words more than I’d had that morning. I was 1000 words nearer to the end.

And now I’ve retired from teaching and the children are grown up. I have all the time in the world. I don’t have to go out to work and I don’t have to get up for the school bus, and I find it harder and harder to persuade myself to write a thousand words a day. I think it’s interesting that things that might have been considered constraints upon my opportunities to write may actually turn out in some strange way to have been incentives, a bit like Tamsin Cooke being short of time. 

I’d be very interested to hear from other writers who have retired from their long-time day jobs and found that the experience has removed some of the urgency from their need to write. It’s not that I’m planning to retire from writing—far from it—but I am spending a lot more time on projects with no obvious commercial potential and on what some might call unfocussed research, on Italian organ-grinders for example, or farming in Suffolk.

But now I feel I’ve done the things the newly-retired have to do— the rites of passage. I’ve got the allotment in order and researched and written the family history. I went for a long bike ride around the North Sea and, unlike most retired teachers, I didn’t need to buy a camper van as my partner already has one. So I guess I’m about ready to start turning out a thousand words a day again. What is it I have to do?

Oh yes.


Saturday, 12 October 2019

The Importance of Books by Vanessa Harbour

We all know how important books are. We know what a vital role they play. Sometimes though it really helps to be reminded why. Some of you may have seen a tweet I posted earlier this week about an experience I had when lecturing. In discussion with a group of students about character I asked them who their favourite characters were. The answers were diverse and eclectic but often what accompanied their answer was an explanation. This explanation nearly always included how the characters and/or the book had helped them and why. For some it had been through a darkest moment, for others, it had been to deal with difficult situations and overwhelmingly, it was how they had helped them get through adolescence. Sorry, I’m not listing the books here as I don’t want any student feeling they are being talked about.  Here I am talking in generalities. The majority of these books were young adult fiction. Another reminder of how important young adult fiction is and how vital it is that publishers continue to produce amazing YA by the incredible YA authors from the UK. I picked up one the other day at the mass book launch and publisher launch for Guppy Publishing. Gloves Off by Louisa Reid, is brilliant and so powerful. A must read.

But as I said, we know books do this. We know books can provide an escape and support when needed. Maybe that metaphoric hug just when craved. No character in a book will judge. Books are places where you can tell the characters your deepest darkest secret. A book can be whatever you need it to be. Between those pages is a safe place to be and that is what we, as writers, create.

Books do so much more. They can open a dialogue, providing a chance to discuss difficult and/or sensitive subjects. The reader can ask questions of the text, of themselves and, when they are ready, of others – whether that is parents, teachers, siblings or friends. Again, this is not news. Windows and mirrors, a chance to see someone experiencing the same issues as them or a chance to try and understand what it is like to experience those issues, walking in their shoes.

Back in 2011 in my PhD, the research I did highlighted how important it was that young adult fiction continued to cover challenging subjects. The thesis looked at the representation of sex, drugs and alcohol in young adult fiction, but I believe it is so much more, covering many more difficult and sensitive subjects, and not restricted to young adult fiction. Philip Pullman has previously stated that there are some themes too large for adult fiction and can only be dealt with adequately in children’s fiction while Melvin Burgess also suggests that children can cope with anything as long as it is in context. Both of these have helped me understand so much for many years now.
Melvin Burgess
Philip Pullman

The important phrase there is ‘in context’. I do have an issue when contentious subjects are used for shock value or the scene is just gratuitous. It needs to serve a purpose and be part of the narrative. I have been a little concerned in some areas of Twitter to see a call for some issues to be ‘white-washed out’ and never ever included.  This for me is a problem. The moment you exclude something and refuse to talk about it, there is a risk it will become mysterious and exciting. This creates the exact problem those who wish to 'white-wash' them out have been trying to avoid. The issue suddenly becomes something intriguing. If you include issues in a piece fiction, ensuring it is not sensationalised or glamorised, then it provides an opportunity for dialogue. A chance to discuss these issues in a meaningful way. I personally believe this is important.

More than anything I want to say to people and, in particular, young adult writers, keep writing. Your books make a real difference.

Dr Vanessa Harbour

Sunday, 3 February 2019

FEBRUARY'S AUTHOR by Sharon Tregenza


I need to start this post with a disclaimer because as you all know, Jacob and his brother Wilhelm, weren't the authors of the famous GRIMMS FAIRY TALES, they were the compilers. I thought they were interesting though, so...

Jacob Grimm was born on January 4th, 1785, in Hanau, Germany. He and his younger brother Wilhelm were academics who studied the folklore of their region. The stories were an amalgamation of oral and previously printed fairy tales. 

Jacob (on the right) and Wilhelm Grimm 

The Grimms' Fairy Tales was originally known as the Children's and Household Tales. The stories, which include, 'Sleeping Beauty', 'Snow White' and 'Little Red Riding Hood' have been retold in many different formats over the decades.

Originally the tales weren't meant for children at all. They often contained, sex, incest and violence. 

In 1830, King Ernest Augustus demanded oaths of allegiance from all professors in Gottingen. This included Jacob and Wilhelm who taught Germanic studies.
The brothers refused and they were made to leave the city and branded as political dissidents. They were forced to borrow money from friends to complete their story collection.

The brothers Grimm were buried next to each other in Berlin-Schoneberg, Germany. Two of Wilhelm's sons, were buried next to them.

Five interesting facts about Grimms' Fairy Tales:

1. The first story to be eliminated after the first edition was Hans Dumm, about a man who had the power to make women pregnant just by looking at them.

2. In some early versions Rumpelstiltskin "in his fury seized his left foot with both hands and tore himself in two."

3. In the first Cinderella, the sisters cut off bits of their feet to fit into the slipper and doves peck out their eyes.

4. The Frog King was originally transformed by being thrown against the wall, not kissed.

5. The newest version is 'Philip Pullman's, Grimm Tales for Young and Old.' He also includes some background for each story.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Some Phenomenal P's by Lynne Benton

Today we have reached authors whose names begin with P.  Of these I have to start with one of my favourites.

PHILIPPA PEARCE wrote several books for children, but her most famous, and arguably her best, has to be her fantasy time-slip novel Tom’s Midnight Garden.  This is the story of Tom, who, while staying with his uncle and aunt in their small modern flat with an ugly back yard, discovers that at midnight the yard becomes a beautiful garden where a little girl lives.  The little girl grows older each time he visits the garden, and he becomes fascinated by her life which is so much more interesting than his own.   The book won the 1958 Carnegie Medal as the year's outstanding children's book by a British subject.  She was a commended runner-up for the Medal a further four times.   She was born in Cambridgeshire, where many of her books are set, including Minnow on the Say, The Way to Sattin Shore and A Dog so Small.  She died in 2006.

K. M. PEYTON is a British author of books for children and young adults.  Born in 1929, she has written more than fifty novels including the much loved Flambards series of stories which spanned the period before and after the First World War, for which she won both the 1969 Carnegie Medal and the 1970 Guardian Children’s Fiction prize.  In 1979 the trilogy was adapted by Yorkshire Television as a 13-part TV series, Flambards.  She had a great love of horses, so wrote a great number of other pony books, which became very popular.  She was awarded the MBE in 2014 for services to children’s literature.

BEATRIX POTTER needs no introduction.  Her wonderful children’s books featuring animals, such as Peter Rabbit, Jeremy Fisher, Mrs. Tiggywinkle etc. have delighted children for over a hundred years.  Born in 1866, she was educated by governesses, and grew up isolated from other children, but she had numerous pets which she closely observed and painted.  During holidays in Scotland and the Lake District she also developed a love of landscape, flora, and fauna, and painted these too. In her thirties she self-published The Tale of Peter Rabbit, which became highly successful, so she then began to write and illustrate children’s books full-time.  Her 23 children’s books still sell throughout the world in many languages, and her stories have been retold in song, film, ballet and animation.  Her life too was depicted in the film Miss Potter.  She died in 1943 in her home in the Lake District, by which time she had become a prosperous farmer and prize-winning sheep breeder, and she left almost all her property to the National Trust.  She is credited with preserving much of the land that now constitutes the Lake District National Park.

The PULLEIN-THOMPSON sisters – JOSEPHINE PULLEIN-THOMPSON MBE (3 April 1924 – 19 June 2014), DIANA PULLEIN-THOMPSON (1 October 1925 – 21 October 2015), and CHRISTINE PULLEIN-THOMPSON (1 October 1925 – 2 December 2005) – were British writers, known mainly for their pony books, mostly fictional, aimed at children and mostly popular with girls. They started at a very young age, initially writing collectively, and they were at their peak in the 1950s and 1960s, but their popularity has endured. They also wrote a collective autobiography Fair Girls and Grey Horses.

TERRY PRATCHETT once said he wrote most of his books for an imaginary fourteen-year-old boy called Kevin.   Born in 1948, he was an English author of fantasy novels, especially comical works (which would appeal to said Kevin!)  His first novel, The Carpet People, was published in 1971, but he is best known for his Discworld series of 41 novels, the first of which, The Colour of Magic, was published in 1983, after which he wrote two books a year on average.  The final one, The Shepherd’s Crown, was published in August 2015, five months after his death.  In 1998 he was awarded an OBE, and in 2009 he became a Knight of the British Empire.

PHILIP PULLMAN is an English novelist, the author of several best-selling books, including the fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials.  In 2008 The Times named Pullman one of the "50 greatest British writers since 1945".  In a 2004 poll for the BBC, he was named the eleventh most influential person in British culture.  Northern Lights, the first book of His Dark Materials trilogy, won the 1995 Carnegie Medal for the year's outstanding English-language children's book. For the 70th anniversary of the Medal in 2007 it won the public vote for the all-time "Carnegie of Carnegies".  It was adapted as a film under its US title, The Golden Compass.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (FRSL) and was awarded a CBE in 2004.

SUSAN PRICE was born in Dudley, West Midlands, and has written many books for children and young adults, from fantasy, science fiction and ghost stories to historical novels, books about animals and everyday life.  She is also fascinated by folklore, and in 1987 she won the Carnegie Medal for her first Ghost World novel, The Ghost Drum, an original fairy tale using elements from Russian history and Russian folklore.  Another of her books, The Sterkarm Handshake won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 1998.  In this book and its sequel, A Sterkarm Kiss (2003), time travel brings together a young anthropologist from 21st century Britain and a young warrior from 16th century Scotland.   Susan still lives and writes in the Black Country.

I could come up with no authors whose surnames begin with Q, so unless anyone can tell me of any I've unaccountably forgotten, next time I will go on to the Rs.

Friday, 23 February 2018

The Trick in the Tale by Steve Gladwin

Part One - The Cannibal Who Didn't Know Any Better

I'm reading Philip Pullman's fascinating essay collection, Daemonic Voices. He has a lot to say about storytelling and the oral tradition and as an ex-teacher who spent years actually telling stories just to entertain his classes, (something which he points out is no longer encouraged by successive governments), he's in a good position to comment on this. I don't agree with absolutely everything he says about the art of storytelling but it got me thinking about advice I would offer any potential storyteller who wants to tell their first stories either just for fun or with a view to making it professionally. I've been a storyteller for over twenty years now and obviously I've learnt a lot, some of which I will pass on in these two blogs. 

So how do you tell stories? Perhaps the reason why nearly all the books about telling stories concentrate on ways of using the stories themselves rather than methods for telling them is because more than most professions the phrase ‘each to their own’ applies. It’s really up to you, but whether or not you want to just entertain a group of friends or your children, or are thinking to seriously think about it as a potential profession, over the next couple of blogs I'm going to run through a few of the ideas I’ve picked up in twenty years of being a storyteller.

But in this first blog I'm actually going to concentrate mainly on learning to tell one story - the all singing, all chomping classic of the title. Before I do however here are some general points

Before you make any kind of start, decide that however and whatever you decide to tell, you’re going to enjoy it. Worthy storytelling done halfheartedly and parrot fashion is no good to anyone. Tell a story because you want to and that means finding the right story for you, especially the right one to start with. Take your time looking through books etc to find the right story. Any storyteller will tell you that the first story you find to tell, (or if you attend a workshop or something similar, which you might be given to tell), can be important to you for the rest of your life, especially if you do choose to go into it professionally. The first story I was given was  The Juniper Tree, and although it’s one of the darkest of all tales, I still tell it and continue to find the light in it as well as the dark.

The other reason for spending time looking through stories is that not only do you get some idea of the range available, (something which can also be a bit daunting), but next time you go back to that book it will hopefully not just be as someone who’s told one story, but feeling like a storyteller.

It's best to choose something neither too long or too short. About ten minutes is fine, but you don’t want it too unwieldy for a first attempt or almost told before you’ve started it.

Read it through no more than a couple of times, and read it as you’d read anything else rather than thinking you have to remember it.

Now when you’ve done that there comes the most important part. You need to remember the basic sequence of the story and feel increasingly confident that it’s in the right order. Don’t focus on detail yet because if you look at your average folk or fairy-tale, you’ll find there’s hardly any. That’s because the story is everything and all most people want to hear. You can embellish all you like later but for now make sure you know the sequence.

The way storytellers often practice doing this is through a method called the 'bones.' For example say your story has twelve things happen in it and you’ve memorised them.

So for the purposes of this exercise let's take a story and demonstrate how it's bones, which in this case is the one below,

A Fisherman makes a man out of clay.
His Wife warns him that the Clay Man will eat them.
The Clay Man eats the fisherman and his wife and their fishing nets.
The Clay Man meets and eats two girls on the lane, carrying milk  
The Clay Man meets and eats two old ladies gathering blackberries.
The Clay Man meets and eats old man at the river repairing canoe.
The Clay Man meets and eats two lumberjacks and their fallen trees.
The Clay Man sees a little elk at the top of a hill.
The Clay Man tells the little elk he will eat him too.
The Little elk tells the Clay Man to open his mouth wide so he can jump in.
The Little elk runs down the hill, butts the Clay Man in the stomach and he shatters.
Out of the Clay Man’s stomach come –
the fisherman and his wife and their nets, the two girls and their milk, the two old ladies with their baskets of blackberries, the old man and his canoe, and the two lumberjacks and their fallen trees.
As a reward the people make the elk a pair of special golden antlers. 

This is the story of the Sami people called The Clay Man and the Golden Antlered Elk and you can find it in, among other places, a wonderful collection called 'The Sun Maiden and the Crescent Moon, Siberian Folk-Tales by James Riordan. I used the basic bones method above but I actually prefer to think of a story more like a washing line. This is because on your average washing line you're likely to find articles of all shapes and sizes, so I like to think of big incidents like a sheet or a shirt with small socks and pants the not so important bits in between. 

Image From The Rutland Reader

This is because your average story has a lot of run-on or repetition, of which this story is a classic example There are also say countless stories in which there are ‘magical three’. You don’t want to be that detailed all three times or your audience will lose focus, so usually you spend more time on the first task or peril, not as much on the second and hardly anything on the third, (or you might, if you prefer, put the latter two the other way round).

Anyway here’s our Clay Man story in washing line form.

A Fisherman makes a man out of clay.
His Wife warns him of the danger.
The Clay Man eats the fisherman and his wife and their fishing nets.
He goes on to the lane.
The Clay Man meets and eats two girls carrying milk on the lane, and eats them.
He goes out into the country.  
The Clay Man meets and eats two old ladies gathering blackberries.
He goes down by the river.
The Clay Man meets and eats an old man at the river who is repairing his canoe and smoking his pipe.
He goes into the woods.
The Clay Man meets and eats two lumberjacks and their fallen trees.
He goes to the bottom of the hill.
The Clay Man sees a little elk at the top of hill.
The Clay Man tells the little elk he will eat him too.
The Little elk tells the Clay Man to open his mouth wide so he can jump in.
The Little elk runs down the hill, butts the Clay Man in the stomach and he shatters.
Out of the Clay Man’s stomach come –
the fisherman and his wife and their nets, the two girls and their milk, the two old ladies with their baskets of blackberries, the old man and his pipe and canoe, and the two lumberjacks and their fallen trees.
As a reward the people make the elk a pair of special golden antlers.
Of course you’ll notice that this almost doubles the ‘bones’ count and you may even be out of pegs! Also as you get closer to the end there’s less run-off.

Thanks to Wikipedia

With this story I also encourage a lot of audience participation, so I’ll need some help with the noises the Clay Man makes like so –
Slurp. Pop. Slurp. Pop. Slurp. Pop.
The slurp speaks for itself but the pops use that mouth popping sound I’ve never been able to do, so I have to get the audience to do it for me!
I also get them to join in with the following after the Clay Man has helped himself each time.
‘But it wasn’t his fault, because he’d only been created to do one thing and that was to eat. BUT HE WAS STILL HUNGRY.
So here’s the story frame as it stands now.

A Fisherman makes man out of clay.
His Wife warns him of danger.
Slurp. Pop x 3
The Clay Man eats the fisherman and his wife and their fishing nets. Yum. Yum.
‘But it wasn’t his fault, because he’d only been created to do one thing and that was to eat. BUT HE WAS STILL HUNGRY.
Clay Man meets two girls on the lane, carrying milk
Slurp. Pop x 3.
He gobbles them up. Yum Yum.
‘But it wasn’t his fault, because he’d only been created to do one thing and that was to eat. BUT HE WAS STILL HUNGRY.
The Clay Man meets two old ladies each carrying a basket and gathering blackberries.
Slurp. Pop x 3.
He gobbles them up.Yum Yum.
‘But it wasn’t his fault, because he’d only been created to do one thing and that was to eat. BUT HE WAS STILL HUNGRY.
The Clay Man meets an old man at the river repairing his canoe with pine tar while smoking his pipe.
Slurp. Pop x 3
He gobbles him up, and his pipe, and his canoe. Yum Yum.
‘But it wasn’t his fault, because he’d only been created to do one thing and that was to eat. BUT HE WAS STILL HUNGRY.
The Clay Man meets two lumberjacks eating lunch in the forest, by their fallen trees. One has peanut butter sandwiches and lemonade and the other cheese and pickle and coffee.
Slurp. Pop x 3
He gobbles up both of them, both the fallen trees and their sandwiches and drinks. Yum Yum.
‘But it wasn’t his fault, because he’d only been created to do one thing and that was to eat. BUT HE WAS STILL HUNGRY.
The Clay Man sees a Little Elk at the top of the hill. The Little Elk is embarrassed because he hardly has any antlers yet.
Slurp. Pop x 3
The Clay Man tells the little elk he will eat him too.
The Little Elk tells the Clay Man that he’s only young and he wants to do it right, so if the Clay man could please open his mouth wide so he can jump in.
The Little Elk runs down the hill towards the Clay Man's open mouth.Yum. Yum.
But at the last minute he lowers his new little antlers. He butts Clay Man in the stomach, whereupon he shatters.
Out of the Clay Man’s stomach come –
the fisherman and his wife and their nets, the two girls and their milk, with not a drop spilt, the two old ladies with their baskets still full of blackberries, the old man with his pipe and his canoe, and the two lumberjacks and their fallen trees and their uneaten sandwiches and drinks with not a drop spilled.
As a reward the people make the elk a pair of special golden antlers. 
Ever after he will be known as ‘The Golden Antlered Elk, slayer of The Clay Man.

The Golden Antlered Elk by Rose Foran

You’ll see from that final frame that I’ve added the embellishments that make the story more my version, like the slurping noises for audience participation and the drinks and sandwiches which I'd usually get two volunteers to choose. If you should find the James Riordan version or the original Siberian tale, you’ll notice an absence of some of this stuff! You’ll also see here important details like the fact that the little elk is not only very young but rather challenged antler wise!

Having got your tale frame you now need to learn it and there are of course lots of methods for doing that too, but all you need, as with everything else, to do is to follow this very useful piece of advice – ‘if it works for you, it works.’

My preferred method is to learn the first bit of a story and then add a second and then go back to the first bit and add as you go until you have the whole thing, stringing it together also like building a washing line I suppose, which is maybe why the other version works for me.

Even with a story as simple and ‘shaggy-doglike’ as this one you can still add colour, but that colour can come in less obvious forms than the purple of the old ladies blackberries. One of these is the use of a voice for each character; the fisherman’s wife might be quavery, the Clay Man making the very most of his Yum Yums and slurping, (try stopping me!) and the little elk sounding all naive innocence, but with a crafty heart. These are the sort of things a storyteller needs to use to draw up the heart and soul of a story or even dredge up its guts. You might also give the characters lines to speak like the Clay Man might say, 'Little Elk, Little Elk. I'm, going to eat you' etc etc.

And somewhere in the learning process there comes a time when the sense of the learnt and mechanical stops and the natural sense of wearing your new story makes itself apparent. As you become more confident so your story suit begins to come more and more comfortable with you, and more and more you. Now you can stretch your arms out in your story suit, or adjust the trousers and make them looser. Eventually you might even be ready to put a big sweeping cloak over the top of it and go out and kick ass.

Of course before any half successful ass kicking can commence you need to have tried out your story on someone or thing a couple of times, so whether it’s a partner or spouse or pet, or an innocent soft toy who lacks the power to make a swift exit, you need to have a go. You could also record it, but only if you’re comfortable with the sound of your own voice, which many people aren’t, and of course that’s the last thing you want.

But may I push the glories of the great outdoors, especially if you’re lucky enough to live in the country like I do. Within ten minutes I can be beside the river with only a few passing ducks and the odd dog-walker to question my mutterings. If there’s no-one for miles around there’s no place better to exercise your new story suit.

If you don’t have such access it works just as well pacing round whichever convenient room has the stronger floorboards, although it may be best done when your long-suffering nearest and dearest is out.

I could tell you an awful lot more, but I need to leave some for next time I’ll tackle beginnings and endings, building an atmosphere and peopling your own universe and use as my example a far more serious tale. In the meantime my tale-frame should give you all you need to tell someone my own version of that Siberian cannibal classic, The Clay Man and the Golden Antlered Elk, or adapt your own from the same frame. Have fun with your washing line.

My own journey as a storyteller has been enhanced and enriched by the Order of Bards,Ovates and Druids Iona retreat of 1995, the storytelling retreats at Ty Newydd Writing Centre between 2000-2008 with Eric Maddern and Hugh Lupton and multiple storytelling friends, the 'Juniper Tree' storytelling workshop at Bridgwater Arts Centre with Ben Haggerty in 1994, TIr Coch Magical Weekends with Ana Adnan and Professor Ronald Hutton, and the many places and audience with whom I have shared the Clayman.

I'd also like to mention (again!) Channel 4's The Storyteller, if you still haven't seen it and Jane Yolen's Favourite Folk Tales from round the World, the book and series which started it all.  

Steve Gladwin - 'Grove of Seven' and 'The Year in Mind'
Writer, Performer and Teacher

Author of 'The Seven' and 'The Raven's Call'