hunting stories

I walk through the forest hunting stories in the fold of old bark, the twist of a leaf. That old beetled undergrowth. 

IMG_20180309_084019_633.jpgStumps rot away into miniature castles, old galls whisper of dark magics, and scars turn into doorways at the base of a tree. These doorways captivate me. Tucked away yet plentiful, turning entire forests into magic hidden villages.

If I knock, will someone answer? Who are they? How do they live their lives? Their stories weave themselves in and around my imagination.

If I don’t knock, if I just step inside, will I find myself outside of time? Will the world be changed around me? Will I be different when I return? Will you know me? Will you notice it in my eyes, in the way I wear my hair?

But then again, I couldn’t. I couldn’t walk inside without a knock, catching some poor dryad mid-shower, shocked and reaching for a towel.

Come on, then, knock. Let’s go.

I hesitate. If I don’t knock, the stories rule the day. If I do knock, then my imagination is limited to what it finds. My knuckles tingle. I shove them in my pocket and move on. My children need me. I need them. Mothers must tread careful with the risk of getting whisked away to other worlds.  I’m hunting stories, not adventure. For now.

Who am I? What am I doing here?

Let’s restart. I’ll introduce myself: I’m Jennifer. I’m a writer. Story hunter. Author. Keeper of imaginary beasts. I’m also a mother, a wild thing inspired by nature and twisted trees, and lover of animals. While I write non-fiction too, my passion lies in fiction and playing with my imagination. I’ve had a few stories published here and there and I have a novel I’m currently editing.

And this is my blog.

Sometimes, like this time, I break the third wall and reveal myself, this wild tangle of stories and reality and coffee. There’s both a confident writer inside me and a writer who gets discouraged. Seasons change.

More often than not, I share bits of fiction: pieces written just for this audience and daydreams that don’t fit the conventions of the fantasy journals I submit to.

I hope to traditionally publish my middle grade fantasy novel. I hope to win a Newbury Medal someday. I hope to inspire children and adults to read and daydream and live wonder-filled lives. For now, I hope you enjoy my stories.

a breakfast with fear

“Hello, Fear.”

“Hello, Paige.”

Paige strode across the sunny terrace to a bistro table set for two. Wisps of gauzy fabric whispered about her bare feet. She threw herself into a shaded chair with the petulance of a teenager whose been called a child. “What’s on the menu today? A cup of discouragement? A plate a self-loathing?”

Fear smiled, revealing his fangs. “Both, actually.” He served these dishes to her cold. “Enjoy your breakfast.”

She sipped at her cup in cheeky rebellion. It was all she had left and she refused to fight with him. “I must say, I couldn’t help but admire your work in the United States this week.”

Fear sat down in the chair opposite hers, crossing his legs and taking a nibble from her plate. “It’s almost too easy. The threat of nuclear war makes everything so deliciously tense.”


Fear leaned forward, licking his lips. “What about you? How’s the writing going? Received any rejections of late?”

Paige shook her finger at him. “Naughty Fear. I haven’t even finished my breakfast yet.”

“Ah, then allow me to offer another dish: a bowl of ‘my accomplishments are all worthless’ stew. Full of all the things that eat you up on sleepless full moon nights.”

“How generous of you, darling Fear!” She watched him cringe at her ‘darling’.

“Now, Paige, be careful. You wouldn’t want to piss me off.” He snarled, his eyes flashing.

She leaned across the table, sweeping her cup of discouragement, her plate of self-loathing, and the stew to the hard-tiled terrace ground. They shattered with a satisfying smash. “Do your worst. You were always going to anyway.”

Drool began to ooze from his fangs. He always loved his victims best after they moved past the simpering, tearful stage. Paige held his gaze. She was growing stronger. He would make a writer of her yet.


how I wrote the story I needed to read

I’ve been struggling with emotional upheavals and whacked-out hormones of late. I resist the word ‘depression’, so let’s just call it the blues. They happen. I have a hard time writing through these periods, so I read myself through them. As in, I just keep on reading like the worst of all stubborn mules until I start feeling better. It’s how I cope.

This did not work with my last bout, however. Everything I picked up was awful. I tried a few of my favourite authors. Blech. I tried my favourite genres. Ugh. Nothing was good enough to break me out of my mental reality. I kind of panicked, to be honest.

Then, at the end of an empty, awful day with no fictional escape, I sat up in the dark, flicked on my bedside lamp, and pulled out my notebook. I wrote down a short list of what I wanted from a story in that moment.  I poured out all my reader’s frustration into a manifesto of the story that I so desperately needed.

It wasn’t a list of a characters or plots, it was just a sequence of vague ideas:

  1. I want a story where the character gets what they need, but not they wanted (cue the Rolling Stones)
  2. I want a story where the character goes through hell and we get to see them through
  3. I want a story about a character who doesn’t think they have any value but finds a way to prove to themselves that they do

After this was on the page, I felt purged and peaceful. I turned out the light and went to sleep.

I woke up the next morning with a quote I saw drifting around on social media repeating itself in my mind:

graphic found on via google

A short story premise I’ve been struggling with jumped in and asserted itself. As I watched, it disrobed from the characters I had assigned to it and dressed up in new ones, older ones, and darker ones. The magic it had lacked began to buzz about the edges. It demanded I apply my list and get to work.

Several hours later I had the first draft of a new story. One that makes me tingle with excitement. I love this story! I don’t like every story I write, but every so often one comes along that surprises me and demands I believe in it. Best of all, I got the story I needed to read, and I feel so much better.

What about you? What story do you need to read? Have you ever written it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.