100 days of story (final week!)

I have been postponing posting the last few days of the story because basically I can’t quite believe it’s over! It has been such a wonderful process from beginning to end, made all the more joyful by knowing that so many of you have been following along and enjoying the story.

Thank you so much for listening to the story of Silent Woman — now Story Woman! — I have felt so heartened by you cheering me on and leaving such lovely and encouraging comments. This gave me so much energy to continue the story. I couldn’t have done it with out your lovely presence round the fire!

Of course ‘The End’ is never quite the end. For I have heard it told that there are stories waiting in the mountains…

Coming soon: a video of me reading the story while turning the pages of the book and a print copy of the story which will be available in my etsy shop. In the meantime, you can read the whole story from start to finish over on instagram using the hashtag #divyams100daysofstory and also on my flickr page.

And now, without further ado, I present to you the the final instalment of the story. Enjoy!

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100 days of story (week 13)

The time has come for a showdown between The Silent Woman and The North Wind!

I am posting the latest instalment of the story each day over on instagram using the hashtag #divyams100daysofstory. You can also read weekly posts right here on the blog.

Without further ado, here are the latest pages of the story. Enjoy!

100 days of story (week 12)

The Silent Woman has travelled far and wide, undergoing great hardship and receiving many gifts. She is no longer the same woman who set out on her journey of transformation. It is time for her to face The North Wind. She is ready!

I am posting the latest instalment of the story each day over on instagram using the hashtag #divyams100daysofstory. You can also read weekly posts right here on the blog.

And now, without further ado, I present to you the latest pages of the story. Enjoy!

100 days of story (week 11)

There was a carefree quality to starting out on this adventure. Each day I had the sense that anything could happen. I cast my net and pulled in all sorts of characters and happenings from the far reaches of my imagination.

There is something potent about this stage of the story. The tapestry is now rich with threads. Instead of anything happening, I have a sense of what must happen. It might sound a little sombre, but I now feel a sense of responsibility to the story. Even though things are moving each day towards a completion, all meetings and partings need to be given their right time and space. I feel that I am learning something about completions. There is perhaps less action, and yet these moments are potent with all that has come before.

Now that The Silent Woman had been given The Stone of Silence, I turned up for my daily story session ready for her to carry on with her journey towards The North Wind. I immediately felt that I could not move on without the characters paying their respects to the monk who had silently and patiently guarded the stone for 1000 years!

There is one more thing she must do before facing The North Wind: she must seek out The Owl Woman and deliver the message given to her by The Queen of the Sea…

I am posting the latest instalment of the story each day over on instagram using the hashtag #divyams100daysofstory. You can also read weekly posts right here on the blog.

And now, without further ado, I present to you the latest pages of the story. Enjoy!

100 days of story (week 10)

Even though The Silent Woman has not been able to speak for most of the story so far, this week things get really silent. There’s a monk who has been patiently and silently guarding The Stone of Silence for 1000 years. And it’s pretty much impossible for our heroine and her friend, Lam, to do anything other than sit in meditation when they arrive at the cave where the Stone is kept.

Somehow, even though events are not that different to a meditation retreat, things manage to stay dramatic. (Okay, it would be hard to find a meditation retreat quite like this, but you catch my drift, right?)

I am posting the latest instalment of the story each day over on instagram using the hashtag #divyams100daysofstory. You can also read weekly posts right here on the blog.

Without further ado, I present to you the latest pages of the story. Enjoy!

The Ancient Ones

There are some images that appear on the page, whether it is a page of writing or of visual art, that keep coming back in different forms over time. For me, one image that keeps returning is that of The Ancient Ones.

Years ago, when I was doing my MA in creative writing at Middlesex University, I was working on a fantasy novel that drew heavily on Russian folklore and mythology. As I was researching the figure of Koschei the Deathless, I came across his twelve sisters and immediately fell in love with them. They were keepers of wisdom, the magical aunts and grandmothers we have always longed for, overflowing with rich delicacies, long-forgotten secrets, and a hearty dose of love. (Note: As I write this post, I can’t seem to find any mention of them on the internet! Did I imagine it all?)

The twelve ladies arrived just as the last of the day’s visitors were leaving. They had palest skin with blushing red cheeks and were all rather tall. A few of them walked with sticks and they shared between them an enormous array of scarves, umbrellas, coats and jackets, handbags and women’s magazines. They wheeled along a red wooden cabinet, painted with green leaves and small yellow flowers. As they removed their coats and entered the house, the smell of pine cones and chocolate cake wafted around them.

A few years later, they reappeared during NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) in the form of the Last Storytellers of Cremone. You can read the full poem here.

… They promise to tell one story
for each round of fabric
that is unwound from their heads.
And as they talk, all that they have carried
falls onto the floor:
painted tea-pots, silver thimbles and spoons,
wedding dresses, candlesticks,
waistcoats and blankets sewn by hand.
We sit on the floor and laugh.
They strip the night from my eye.
They tell the story of the king of the wind.
They voice the jewels of my own wonder …

Then, last year, while I was taking part in Initiation: Into the sacred feminine at EarthHeart UK, I had an image of The Ancient Ones, sitting in a circle beneath a sky of stars.

Since that time, they have continued to appear in my art. I find myself doodling their faces while talking on the phone:

And since I introduced them into my art journal, they keep popping up everywhere!

After completing the Initiation training at EarthHeart, I went on to participate in the Cauldron of Pearls feminine leadership training. I knew The Ancient Ones had to take centre stage on the cover of my notebook!

Their latest appearance is as The Grandmothers in my 100 day project, in which I am telling a story in words and illustrations, one page each day for 100 days.

I am posting the latest instalment of the story each day over on instagram using the hashtag #divyams100daysofstory. You can also read weekly posts right here on the blog.

If you’d like to have a go drawing faces in the style of these women, check out my one-minute video – part of the Ask an Artist series over at the Get Messy Art Journal.

What form will they take next? I will have to wait and see. In the meantime, I can only say that my life is richer since they appeared on the scene.

100 days of story (week 9)

I can’t believe we have already reached day 63 in the 100 day project. Time seems to be moving very fast all of a sudden! And, while there is still plenty of road to travel, I am very much aware of the need to move towards an end to the story.

This knowledge is affecting my choices as I move along. For example, this week the Queen of the Sea reveals that she is the Owl Woman’s sister. They have taken different paths in life and so have not seen each other for many years. It’s clear to me that the explanation for this could be a whole other story — one that I won’t be able to do justice to here. I can see a side story coming along in my future!

I also felt it was time to include a more active male character in a story populated by such strong female characters. And so the guard has stepped up to help The Silent Woman in her quest. He is also the first character in the story to receive a name. I didn’t want to keep calling him “the guard”, especially as he’s no longer in that role.

This week I also had a wonderful Messy Conversation with one of my favourite Messy Artists, Misty Granade. We are talking about my creative story, and my approach to the creative process, including this 100 day project. You can watch the replay here.

And now, without further ado, here are the pages from this week’s story:

100 days of story (week 8)

Even though I am already past the halfway point in the 100 day project, I felt that this week has been the true heart of the story. I’m not yet sure how, but the time The Silent Woman has spent with her grandmothers will be of crucial importance in her journey to retrieve her voice.

These pages were written around two consecutive weekends spent at EarthHeart UK with two different circles of wise and beautiful women. During our time together, we touched on the stories of our own grandmothers. My own journey and that of this story became very much intertwined and each inspired the other.

Thank you so much for following along with this story as it unfolds. Your presence around the fire means a lot to me and is both inspiring and encouraging me to keep telling my tale.

And now, without further ado, here are this weeks pages for you to enjoy!

100 days of story (week 5)

For most of this past week I was away at a yoga retreat in the beautiful Herefordshire countryside. We were up early in the morning for pranayama followed by a full day of yoga asana practice (plus walking, eating, chatting and napping!)

I was determined to continue my story each day but a little unsure if I could make this happen. I was also unsure I would be able to continue to post each day’s instalment on Instagram, as the internet situation was uncertain. I’m happy to say that both things were possible!

This week our heroine finds herself not only in the depths of the ocean but also in deeper and deeper trouble. If only the North Wind hadn’t taken her voice, she would be able to explain herself! But then she would never have set out on this journey at all and there would be no story to tell.

Without further ado, here is the last week’s story. Thanks so much for following along with me. Enjoy!

100 days of story (week 4)

Is it my imagination or are the weeks going by much faster since I began this project? It seems only a day or two ago that I was posting the last week of story pages.

This week the Silent Woman makes her way to the bottom of the sea. After having moved quite quickly through the story so far, I suddenly felt I needed to take several days for this to occur. This made me realise that there’s an interesting conflict involved in having only 100 pages in which to tell a story from start to finish. There is a desire to keep moving, to make each page count. And yet, some shifts in the story need more than a page in which to happen.

You can catch up on the story so far here. If you would like to follow along with the daily posts on Instagram you can do so here.

And now without further ado, I present to you the latest week in our heroine’s journey. Enjoy!

100 days of story (week 3)

Another week has gone by in the 100 day project and I have to say I AM LOVING IT! More often than not, I am creating the pages last thing at night and the whole atmosphere is one of a cosy bedtime story.

One of the things I’m loving most is the return to working with black markers and drawing pens, something I haven’t done so exclusively since before I discovered art journaling, when I was predominantly making comics and cartoons. I feel like this project is bringing together so many of the things I love: writing, making art, and telling a story.

It’s especially fun posting the latest page each day on Instagram and receiving live comments and feedback from friends who are following along with the story as it unfolds. “Don’t trust the fish!” “Watch out, there will be a catch!” This interactive element feels very much like telling a story to a live audience. You can catch up on the story so far here and here and you can follow #divyams100daysofstory over on Instagram if you would like to read a little bedtime story each night.

And now, without further ado, I present to you the last 7 days of the story. Enjoy!

The Season of Fairy Tales

If you go deep,
deep into the heart,
the heart of the forest,
you will find her.

I have loved The Season of Fairy Tales at Get Messy so much, I don’t want it to end. It is a subject very close to my heart and I feel that during the last two months I have only just begun exploring the realm of fairy tales in the pages of my art journal.

‘The Heart of the Forest’ – While some of my pages touched upon specific fairy tales, many of them drew upon the images that exist across many tales. I was particularly attracted by the image of the forest. I loved the idea of the heart of the forest as a place where all the juicy stuff happens in a fairy tale. It is an external setting and at the same time it is a place within us, a place where we can find something beautiful and essential if we are willing to make the journey.

‘Don’t prick your finger on the Wheel of Time’ — The messages attached to my ‘Women’s Energy’ tea bags reminded me of the blessings given to Sleeping Beauty at her christening. In the Grimms tale, the king invites ‘wise women’ to the party. (Perhaps Disney is responsible for turning them into fairies?) In my rewrite, these women are not divided into good and evil. Instead, they have a depth of beauty and power which they wield unapologetically.

As I was working on the page, I kept thinking about time. In the tale, it cannot be slowed or stopped; Beauty cannot be prevented from turning 13 and pricking her finger. Neither can it be made to go faster; the hundred years of sleep will certainly be a long, long time. I felt drawn to include a multitude of clocks. And it occurred to me that for us today the clock is a kind of spinning wheel. We prick our fingers many times a day and fall into all sorts of ‘slumbers’ because of our reactions to time.

And then I came full circle to the advice on my tea bags. We need these little blessings! Especially the one at the bottom of the page: ‘The purpose of life is to enjoy every moment.’

‘There once was a woman who fell in love with a star’ – When I painted this page, I didn’t realise that the Painting Galaxies class with Katie Smith was waiting for us round the corner! I loved creating a page that explored the beginning of a tale. It’s as if the whole story is contained within that beginning. Our imagination is drawn along that starry path into the rest of the tale. You can read more about my experience of the Painting Galaxies class here.

Come live with me
in my wintry realm.
You will never need
to feel again.

‘The Snow Queen’ – This page was inspired by a wonderful stencils tutorial with @sasha_zeen. Once again I found myself exploring the idea of a fairy tale setting as a place within us, that place where we just want to be numb and not feel any more.

‘Not a morning person’ — This strange bird was my first ever acrylic image transfer, made as part of the Transference class with Tiffany Julia. And the Season of Fairy Tales was the perfect time to explore image transfers because they are like magic! In this page, I was working with something that often happens in fairy tales: one of the characters is transformed into an animal, bewitched, put under a spell. This seems quite similar to the feeling I have when I wake up in the morning, hatching out of my shell, feeling not quite like myself. It usually takes a cup of tea or coffee to shake off the enchantment and come back to my usual shape and form!

I always had the feeling
this was not my place
but someone else’s
as if I needed permission
to walk these paths.
I will take my place
among the trees
that sing to me,
and call me my true name.

‘These are my woods now’ – This page was inspired by the story of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, and every tale where female characters are made to fear walking into the woods, into the dark.

‘Gown of tatters’ – So often we imagine we cannot ‘go to the ball’ because there is something not right about us. In Cinderella, her fairy godmother procures her the most beautiful dresses. But what if she were to go to the ball just as she is, in her gown of tatters. What if she were seen in her own magnificence without the need for a make-over?

‘I have always been here’ – During this season, I’ve been rereading many old favourites about the merging of myth, fairy tale, psychology, and personal history. One such favourite is ‘The Heroine’s Journey Workbook’ by Maureen Murdock. Each day, I have been taking a morning pages approach to the writing exercises in this wonderful book. Writing in depth about my sense of myself at various intervals throughout my life so far, I’m struck by how much change has taken place. And at the same time I can sense the thing in me that is unchanged — some essence of who I am that I carry with me through all the adventures and transformations.

‘You the moon’ – This page was inspired by an exploration into rebirth as part of the Metamorph class with Erin Faith Allen. In this exploration, we cut up a picture we had already made, one that we had some degree of attachment to. We then brought it back together as something new and quite different. You can see the original image here.

‘The Duchess of the moon’ – My image transfer came out looking quite cloudy so I traced over it with white gel pen, which gave the woman’s face an ethereal look. I added planets which I made during the Painting Galaxies class. As I worked,The Duchess of the moon began to emerge. Once again, it seems the fairy tale character and the landscape through which she moves seem very much intertwined.

‘Revisiting the Snow Queen’ – It seems I’m not finished with this icy figure! There is something I find so fascinating about her: the icy stare, her chilling beauty, her stillness.

‘Looking for lost selves’ – This was another piece influenced by my work with The Heroine’s Journey Workbook. I used much more journaling on the page than usual. This stream-of-consciousness writing on the theme of identity became an integral part of the layering of the piece.

‘Babas at large’ –  Look out! Babas at large in the forest! They will sit you down by the fire, brew you tea which will turn your mind into a galaxy of stars, and tell your fortune deep into the night. If you should be lucky enough to cross their path, please say hi from me! The trees in the background are from a wonderful tutorial with Julia Cusowrth.

I had to end the season back in my favourite place – the forest! And it was great timing, too, because I was just about to travel to the forest in real life – the beautiful EarthHeart centre in the Forest of Dean. It was time for the next part of the Initiation yearlong journey into the sacred feminine. Time to write a new page of my story…

Thank you for coming along with me on this magical journey through the fairy tale realm of this past season! I can’t wait to see what the coming season at Get Messy will bring!

These are my woods now

I always had the feeling
this was not my place
but someone else’s
as if I needed permission
to walk these paths.
I will take my place
among the trees
that sing to me,
and call me my true name.

The Wheel of Time

‘Don’t prick your finger on the Wheel of Time’ – my first page for The Season of Fairy Tales, inspired by Sleeping Beauty.

I was so excited when I heard about this particular season at Get Messy Art Journal. I have always loved fairy tales and imagined I could easily spend a year diving into the treasure chest of these beloved stories. But when the day came, I found I didn’t know where to start. There is so much I want to explore and this made it even more challenging to begin.

Inspiration came to me while I was enjoying a cup of ‘Women’s Energy Tea’ with some friends. The messages attached to each tea bag reminded me of the blessings given to Sleeping Beauty at her christening:

In the Grimms tale, the king invites ‘wise women’ to the party. (Perhaps Disney is responsible for turning them into fairies?) In my rewrite, these women are not divided into good and evil. Instead, they have a depth of beauty and power which they wield unapologetically.

Magazine images are not usually my first point of call when I’m working on an art journal page. With a subject such as fairy tales, however, I suddenly realised how almost every magazine image draws upon our associations with these magical stories. The opulent gowns and jewels are straight out of Cinderella’s ball. The women are often portrayed archetypally as innocent maidens or sultry seductresses with magical powers.

As I was working on the page, I kept thinking about time. In the tale, time works as a kind of antagonist. It cannot be slowed or stopped; Beauty cannot be prevented from turning 13 and pricking her finger. Neither can it be made to go faster; the hundred years of sleep will certainly be a long, long time.

It occurred to me that for us today the clock is a kind of spinning wheel. We prick our fingers many times a day and fall into all sorts of ‘slumbers’ because of our reactions to time. So many of our struggles are ‘against the clock’, rushing to squeeze more hours into the day, or even more impossibly, trying to prevent our own aging processes (back to many of the adverts in magazines – “try this new product! It will work like magic and prevent you from getting old!”)

I came full circle to the advice on my tea bags. We need these little blessings! Especially the one at the bottom of the page:

I love how these little messages point to an inner experience and enjoyment of life – a realm in which the spinning wheel of time has no dominion. I might just go and brew a cup of ‘Women’s Energy Tea’ right now. I wonder what message is waiting for me today?

Wishing you all a lovely weekend!

The Goose Girl

She is returning home,
face proud with blood,
eyes no longer the same.

The geese are my brothers, she says.
This was once my own goose foot,
too tender to walk on sharp stone.

After digging in the soil,
it is light as it rests in her palm.
She will carry it with her, always.

The moon, dark with sorrow,
has the answers to all her questions.
There are too many now to tell.

* * *

Today’s poem uses another technique that I learned from Barbara Marsh in Writing Poetry: Experiments in Choice and Chance. The technique: choose a poem that you do not know well, preferably one that you have never read before. After each line of the poem, write your own line in response. Then lift out your own lines and use them as the basis for a new poem.

For my starting point, I chose Loneliness by Meg Kearney. I tried not to read the poem before working with it. (Although I enjoyed it tremendously afterwards!) The resulting piece evokes the world of Grimm fairytales. Working from someone else’s poem rather than my own ideas allowed the poem to retain an atmosphere of mystery, even to myself.

That Night With Her

When she
entered the chamber,
her feet
hardly touched the ground,
so light she was,
like a marigold petal,
carried
on cool currents of air.

And I,
who lay trapped in the dark,
could sense her presence,
felt the tremor
of sobs
as they shook
my mattressed coffin—
I, who should feel nothing.

There, in the dark,
I tasted the blood and salt
of her strange suffering —
this bride to be,
already covered in bruises.
There in my tomb,
I drank from her cup,
the wine of delirious emotion. 

It stained me red;
it gave me back my soul.

* * *

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a poem in the voice of minor character from a fairy tale or myth. I love myths and fairytales and I found this prompt to be an inspiring one. I wrote two poems, each exploring food as character.

‘That Night With Her’ is written in the voice of the pea in The Princess and the Pea. To Be Devoured is written in the voice of the cake in Little Red Riding Hood’s basket.

To Be Devoured

The cool white cloth
wrapped itself around me.
Mother made it with her own hands
just like she made me.

She wrapped the girl in red,
but the girl protested,
stamped her foot,
face like a corkscrew.

I laughed to myself,
Don’t look so pretty now, do you?

She wore the cape in the end,
stormed out of the house,
swung me roughly in my basket
as she tore down the path.

Stop! I shouted.
Are you trying to kill me?

She calmed a little,
sung us both a ditty
about love and buttercups and mandolins.
Her voice soothed my seasick soul.

(I almost liked her then.)

I lost myself in daydreams —
Granny would caress me
say how sweet I smelled,
all almonds and cinnamon.

The girl hated Granny’s kisses.
How her cheek glistened with saliva!
I saw her wipe her face
when Granny turned away to stoke the fire.

Oh, Granny!
Won’t you consume me with your kisses?

A voice wrenched me from my reverie.
His eyes deep as the forest,
drool dripping
from the corners of his mouth.

It was me he wanted, not her.
All she cared about was skipping in the grass.

I let him know
I longed to be devoured,
longed to give myself
to the wild green of his eyes.

* * *

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a poem in the voice of minor character from a fairy tale or myth. I love myths and fairytales and I found this prompt to be an inspiring one. I wrote two poems, each exploring food as character.

‘To Be Devoured’ is written in the voice of the cake in Little Red Riding Hood’s basket. That Night With Her is written in the voice of the pea in The Princess and the Pea.

I’m feeling a little hungry now. I think I need to go and eat a piece of cake!

A Royal Conversation

Be easy

(Source text: ‘The Willow-Wren and the Bear’ by The Brothers Grimm)

For more blackout poems click here.