An unexpected attack of writing

Early this week, a colleague was suddenly unable to attend an online writing workshop she’d booked (with the wonderful Matthew Curlewis of Amsterdam Writers – highly recommended!), so I jumped in and took her place at the last minute.

It took the format of a writing prompt, followed by a set period for writing, then any participant who wanted to could read their piece aloud and we all commented on strong or memorable aspects (no negativity permitted!)

One of the prompts was these images:

This is apparently a kind of tag cloud of Leonardo DaVinci’s words about water.

We were then asked to take these images as our prompt and write for 12 minutes.

If both had been presented as typed documents, I think my output would have been very different. As it is, the manuscript version on the left made me think of old documents, and old documents made me think of libraries, so I read the words on the right with a different mindset. This is what came out:


People always have this image of libraries as quiet places, with librarians pointing crossly to SILENCE signs… But actually they’re pretty noisy on the whole.

We have the babblings and stream-of-consciousness mutterings of the homeless or near to it come in for a warm in the reference library. The gushing of the middle-aged ladies – and some gents too – when we’ve saved the latest Marian Keyes or Jill Mansell. The whispered divisions and equations, resistance and revolutions of students; the undulations, reboundings and reversals of teenage lovers… In other words, we have it all.

But we don’t often hear violent crashing noises followed by breakages, confusion and furious roaring. Then again, it’s rare that we have a fully armoured warhorse, complete with mace-wielding rider, suddenly materialise in Autobiographies R-T.

Even when we are doing a Tolkien display for Year 5 again.

Fortunately, it was Wednesday morning, one of our quietest, and not long after nine o’clock – far too early for most of our patrons to have arrived yet – so the injuries amounted to a copy of the Silmarillion with a hoof print right through it – no loss there – and a severely mangled cardboard Tolstoy.

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