Back to School

Black and white sketch of a lioness, illustrating a story of courage in returning to a work in progress

After ‘winning’  NaNoWriMo 2016 with 50,012 words, to say I burnt out would be an understatement. Today, 9 months after the grueling 1700 words per day and just a day before commencing the 3rd Draft Novel Writing Course with The Writers’ Studio is the first time I have looked over what I wrote, and much of it ain’t pretty.

Below are just a few scenes I edited in celebration of this return to my work in progress. It will be an intense 7 months, but somehow I don’t think it will be as crazy as November 2016.

Why the lion? Aside from why not, I’m a Leo, it has taken some courage to commit to this course, and this was a beauty we saw at Melbourne Zoo a few weeks ago. I may be projecting but I think there was a yearning in his expression- for the wild? for the plains of the Serengeti? for her true nature to shine? for that complete novel in the not too distant future?


In the months leading up to her 16th birthday, Winnie had kept an eye on the Trading Post. The best offer she saw after tallying up her life savings and birthday money was a 1959 Winnebago, one owner, low km’s and best of all, going for $1400, a small fortune but not so great that she didn’t have money spare to deck it out with the comforts of a home. That was 1984 and she’s lived in that van since, enjoying the confusion of some people who thought it was her namesake.

The freedom of all her worldly possessions bundled up in a moving carriage gave her a more expansive existence than her family home, taking off on a whim, answering only to her intuition. When first her mother, then her father died, she’d sensed a need to return home within days of their passing, just in time to exchange necessary goodbyes. On her return home before his death, her father had joked that she was the grim reaper, coming to take him away as she’d done with her mother a few years earlier. Although a joke, it touched a nerve, but she bit her tongue from saying what she thought—he’d been drinking buddies with the grim reaper his whole adult life, eventually succumbing to the attack on his liver that forced his body to shut down prematurely. Her mother’s death would have been comical had it not been so sad; she’d slipped on a bar of soap at the soap factory where she worked, bumped her head and never came to.

The first time they crossed paths was when Mildred was around 10. Winnie had been walking Ortiz through the forest trail, slowing down when she overheard a conversation, a child’s giddy laugh smattered with chatter. She saw the child but noted the girl was alone, silenced by the rustling of leaves and Ortiz’s barking on their approach. The girl’s response on seeing Winne was to turn and run, not even daring a hello. She left behind a red ribbon which must have fallen out of the mass of curly hair that tousled as she darted off.

Back once more in Ravenswood, Winnie noticed the girl, now a woman, had finally moved out of her mother’s home. She didn’t need to look too far, following the trail Mildred left, as visible to Winnie as the drifting of clouds in the sky and sheen on asphalt after rain— vibrating particles that all creatures shed in daily existence, skin, hair, fur, flakes of scalp, bits of fingernail, specks of spittle, unique colours and scents that alerted of Mildred’s presence, a spectrum as unique as her fingerprints serving as Winnie’s GPS. She parked just a street away from where the signals were strong and Mildred sat in her kitchen in her unsuspecting, un-shed form.


Mildred opened the window and sure enough, Frank flew in.  Cocking his head, he held her stare.


‘That’s me’

‘Oh, so you talk?’

It unsettled her, but something in this and the series of strange events she’d learnt to take in her stride made her certain of her decision to reject VJ’s offer.

Lost in thought, staring at the entrance to the walk in robe, she imagined her mother lying on the steel gurney, flimsy blankets over her slight frame, insufficient to keep her warm; she was always complaining of the cold. Shaking herself free of the image, she turned back to Frank.


The window was closed, no bird in sight. Jammed in the frame was a red ribbon, still and flat on the inner-side and flapping in the breeze in a farewell to Frank on the other side of the smeared glass pane.



47 thoughts on “Back to School

  1. Enjoy the course, Mek. I love your prose, and how you weave a compelling, complex tapestry of thought and feeling between past and present. Definitely something I would want to read more of. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks David! Idea for posting this came out of our conversation on your blog the other day, so thanks! So glad you’d want to read more…not sure hiw my blog posting will go while doing the course but I may have little material aside from snippets of the WIP to share…conversely I might have a lot of new material as I will have renewed reason to procrastinate 😂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Glad it inspired you. Your work is more important. Blog posting can wait. Although, for procrastinators like us, the inverse can often seem true. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Confession…I thought he was a she until I noticed a pic of the same lion someone posted on instagram and they referred to it as a he…I laughed (inside) at how they got it wrong then I was like wait a minute….

      In my defence, Leo’s mane was not all that big…maybe he’d used some products to tame it? 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very nice, Mek. I really enjoyed it and thought you did a great job with the story. I’m not sure I could ever do one of those events where I would need to complete x amount of words per day! I fantasize about buying a van and disappearing somewhere, ha ha. Are we ever to old to run away? I like Frank, the talking bird and the wonderful image of the ribbon. You have also reminded me of the dangers of soap and my needing to go and get one of those shower mats 😀 Have a super weekend and happy writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lana. It’s always nice to hear from you! Please do go and get a mat or maybe soap on a rope. Why do I feel like ‘soap on a rope’ is a punchline to a joke?? Thanks – a lovely, happy weekend to you, with inspired new writing and some great finds from your 80s poetry archive 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I know November 2016 will stay in the memory banks. 😉
    All the best during the next seven months. I just recently took over a writing group, just local writers gathering to talk about writing (as opposed to being a writing workshop), but i’ve already found people struggle to articulate their experiences with writing (and the reading of other writers’ works). So personally I would find an occassional post on just the experience of going through the seven months, the ups and downs of getting into the flow, being in the flow, falling out of the flow, or something like that.
    I really like the above passages. There is a distinct voice common through both passages, but also a variation in the voice between the character that reflects the particular character. The Winnie passage in particular really creates the character’s backstory, the uniqueness of personality, as well as setting up the Mildred character. Highlights the impact of childhod on who we become without being overbearing. Look forward to seeing more.
    On a side note: Reading some of the quotes from the 7 month course web page, I discovered a new phrase “at the coalface” — which it seems is originally a British phrase, so probably why I hadn’t heard it before here in the states.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Back in the summer of twenty sixteen oooh yeah 😂

      Thanks. Your writing froup sounds good. I’m too intimidated to join one of those…I’m not very literary and don’t read the ‘right’ books etc…maybe I need to get over that or start my own group.

      I’ll try to post regular-ish updates. So far I’m finding that NaNo has helped in that all that writing planted new ideas. I also have sensed a shift in my writing…this morning I was actually enjoying the story and writing the kind of thing I’d like to read…imagine that!

      Thanks for your feedback…means alot as I love your writing style. The winnie character having the back story is a result of that bit being written when i was frustrated with my story structure and I broke out into character explorations of the supporting cast.

      Do Anericans have an equivalent? Vanguard?

      How’s your WIP coming along?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. our equivalent would be “where the rubber meets the road” (we do like our cars, well me not so much) and “in the trenches”.(probably the more aligned, since it means to separate those who are actually doing the work, as opposed to the ‘managers” who set back from the action).

        My WIP quickly got pushed aside..just didn’t like the storyline at all. But I am contemplating doing NaNo again, although I am debating whether to switch to a flash flction piece and/or short story (a page, a page and a half) a day, with a (loose) connection between the thirty works, so that would get a 60 to possibly 80 page book out of it.

        One of the reasons I was thinking that was to maybe get more people my area to participate (kind of like a companion 10K run for a marathon) and there are those who like to write fiction but don’t want to tackle writing a novel.

        We don’t have a NaNo liaison for our area, so my writing group will probably act as an unofficial one. Last night’s meeting (the second one) went pretty well…mainly just chatting about reading as a writer and the second hour spent time talking about non-writing topics (like pets), so it doesn’t have that intensity of a workshop.

        So far I have found that most of the writers are focused on thrillers and sci-fi kind of novels, so there isn’t a “academic literature” approach to reading (Steven King and JK Rowling gets brought up a lot).

        What the participants kind of want in terms of writing exercises are to do those “character explorations” for their characters whether flash or novel writer. Then just kind of talk about what they came up with, what they experienced (and for some want to share their work).

        Happy writing trails to you… 😉


    1. Thanks 😊 So glad to get your feedback. I have been thinking of buying a caravan for some time – to convert into a writing dosce an move about our property as the mood takes me, so I’ll take your words as further reason why I should 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You captured whatever he was feeling, Mek. You can see it in his eyes.

    I love that you used the word ‘courage’. It’s SO necessary, maybe even more than inspiration, especially when the words are flowing “like molasses in January” (borrowed from a movie character). Keep on plugging away. Your novel is waiting to be born. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Nadine. I like that ‘molasses in January’ what film is that from? Different meaning in the southern hemisphere though where in Jan molasses would have a low viscosity 😂

      Thanks for the encouragement and for stopping by.


    1. Thank you so much for that feedback! absolutely a compliment! In fact, it was because of an early iteration of this story (before I had even thought of writing a novel) that I became familiar with Murakami. A friend read what I had written and told me it reminded him of Murakami. I then read and fell in love with Murakami but I have to pay special attention to not trying to be like him and instead channeling whatever it was I tapped into in the collective unconscious that worked in the first place. *sigh* 🙂


  5. Pingback: Work in Progress
  6. Omg I love your drawing! Could you give your honest opinion on some of mine on my blog, I am intending to post some more at a later date but for now what do you think? x


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