On my first visit to the writer’s circle, the lady standing in for the chair was unsure how to make me feel welcome and get me to come again. She twiddled her hands, then her face cleared. “For homework, you could write about the writer’s circle.”
It was a great homework topic, but in my case, it had unintended consequences. I thought deeply about this topic and wondered how to approach it. After all, I did not know any of the people in the circle. Nor did I know how they ran their meetings since the chair was away when I attended. Then I wrote about what might have been the first circle.
They would not have written the story but told it, probably also enhancing it by acting out some of it too. Writers are storytellers, after all. So a book was born. Let me tell you just a little about it. You can acquire a copy to get all the details.
I wondered about the first storytellers. Well, in our history and legends, there are stories about lands that no longer exist. I gave in to the temptation and wrote a chapter about the end of that mythical land Atlantis. The destruction of the temple, the few chosen to escape the earthquakes, fires and tumbling buildings and boarded fantastic ships which took some of them towards land in the East and others to the West.
Now I was on a roll. Where would the next storyteller circle be located?
Back into prehistory, of course, into Neolithic times. What fun that was imagining how they lived their lives. You, the reader, could not argue with what I wrote. After all, there are no written records, only fossils, and that means their lives are open to the interpretation of the scientists. We all know those interpretations change all the time according to what is the current hot topic.
Then I moved onto other eras. No story like this would be right without the Romans. I placed them on the west side of Britannica. The eastern side would have them meeting up with Boudicca. That would be too predictable. The storyteller was a lowly soldier, but his words were powerful. After his death, he had a plaque commemorating his death, not what you would expect of a foot soldier, but he was not an ordinary soldier. He was a storyteller!
I structured it, so each chapter was one life, and I decided it was a gene that passed along but not genetically.
Each life needed thorough research into that era. The character was imaginary, but the milieu was as accurate as I could get. This meant trips to museums and hours trawling through documents on the internet and reading books, piles of them. Does a writer need an excuse to read a book? Some were fun and easy to read. Others were so dull it worried me I might fall asleep. The things I endured for the sake of my craft!
I also had to come up with a means of connecting these different lives. I used a hypnotherapy technique called past-life recall.
A member of the writing circle complained. “I don’t see how this gene can appear in an Assyrian priestess, a Chinese princess, a slave woman taken from west Africa to Barbados then appear in a Masai boy in Africa.”
I informed them this was a story, not a lesson in genetics.
I wanted the stories to be both about the culture they talked about and true to their times. I thought it entirely feasible for a shy Masai boy to tell himself stories. How else to maintain his courage as he passed through the trials leading to his initiation and then becoming a fully-fledged Moran?
I wanted the storyteller sometimes to share their talent and at other times, it was an intensely personal means of maintaining their strength and courage. So in the Assyrian story, two girls grow up together. One is the daughter of King Sargon, the other the child of the wet nurse who becomes the handmaiden to the princess, now chief priestess. History records her poetry as the first written evidence of a poetess. I took liberties with the story. Instead, it was the handmaiden who wrote the work. They have attributed it to the priestess.
The slave’s story made me sad to write, but I had her tell stories while chained on the slave ship. All the people who could hear her had the courage to survive that horrendous experience. While at another terrible time in history, I wrote a story about the Cathar’s. These were the people in the Languedoc region of southern France. The only crusade occurring in Europe was against these people. The pope set up the Spanish inquisition to torture these gentlefolk for information. The Catholic Church defeated the last remnants of the Cathar population defending the hilltop fort of Montsegeur. I had the storyteller, a young man, watch his mother and father as part of the last 200 who marched bravely to the pyres. His mother was a Perfecta who marched to the stake singing. A stirring image that I hoped I did justice to in my story.
The gene did not always choose high born people. There is one about a teacher who tells her stories to the children of a remote, tough area in northern England. The parents came early to collect the children so they, too, could hear the stories. Far away amongst the Navaho Indians, there was a two-spirit shaman and weaver who told stories as part of his healing work. Among some Indian tribes, people who are born one gender but identify with the other are called two spirits since they embody male and female mental attributes and are considered very blessed. Today we would call them trans people.
There are other stories in which the gene had a tranquil life, but then it culminated in the horror of the atomic explosion in Hiroshima.
The storyteller is a professional..... He witnesses the death of his little child and has to nurse his wife affected by radiation sickness until her death, which occurred not long after.
By then, I thought I was all washed out of stories. The book was self-published. For me, that was the end of the story (pardoning the pun).
But a chapter for a life is very brief and slowly I appreciated most of these lives need their own book. On researching more, it became apparent that the Neolithic was too late. So those characters plus a host of others are now living in a cave in southwestern Siberia about 34,000 years ago. The book is almost complete, called appropriately Full Circle. It, too, will go through the self-publishing route and languish on a virtual bookshelf. Why? Well, to be honest, I like writing, not marketing and I am not hungry for fame or fortune. The writer’s circle supports the writer, but they too are as inept as me when it comes to marketing campaigns. So the books are written.
Now I wonder what the circle’s next homework topic is?