More writing inspired by cemeteries

The week before last I posted a short piece inspired by a gravestone and written by Hannah Rumble at a writing work I co-hosted at Victorian Cemetery Arnos Vale. The tender piece below was written by Angie Holland, another of our talented participants, who produced it in response to the pictured gravestone.

In Loving Memory Of Our Dear Parents by Angie Holland

William C. Butler who died Sept 1965 aged 77
Rosina Kate Butler who died March 1980 aged 87

Finally you were laid to rest together. But now that circumstances have dealt me a similar fate, I reflect on your time apart. How did you find the strength to live? William was your rock, your soul mate, your best friend. What did you do when you needed an answer and forgot, just momentarily, no one was there to ask? Now I understand what it is like to face everyday alone, wondering if the phone will ring or hoping a voice, other than that of George Aligiah, will fill the sitting room, I long to hear your consoling voice, urging me to be strong.

How quiet loneliness is. For whatever is going on all around the noise fails to quench the thunderous silence within. You didn’t seem to dwell on what was missing during those fifteen years; you busily got on with being Supergran, living your life with the young and sharing your whacky sense of humour, as much as your aching hips would allow. We still giggle at your impersonation of Orinoco and your rendition of the Wombling song. The night you delivered a Haka through the car window as we left Auntie Lou and Uncle Jim’s golden wedding party still brings us smiles.

I do know how to face emptiness because you have shown me and in doing so, you have left a treasure chest full of joy that I can open in my darkest moments. It is time to put some more delight into that box, so that your grandchildren have moments of hope in their darkness.

Angie HollandAbout the author

Angie Holland is a creative thinker and very much involved in Bristol’s vibrant food scene. She lives at Paintworks and set up the Tube Diner there after many years teaching food science in schools. Following completion of an MSc in Nutrition, Physical Activity and Public Health at Bristol Uni, she now teaches on these subjects, but retains her love of writing.

Mid-week writing prompt – stories in gravestones

Gravestone cr Judy DarleyI encountered this overgrown gravestone at a local cemetery a while back, and was moved by the idea of this couple reunited in death after so very long apart.

It also set me wondering. Accepting the concept of an afterlife (I’m not entirely convinced I do), presents a number of possible conflicts for this pair. For starters, given that Lillie was 54 when she died and Arthur was 84, I wonder how much they’d have in common.

And it also seems that Arthur didn’t remarry, and presumably therefore spent the latter 32 years of his life as a swinging bachelor, or mourning his lost love. What impact would these details have on his reconciliation with Lillie, not to mention all the changes the Western world experienced between 1947 and 1979?

Yep, I’m all kinds of intrigued by this scenario. How about you?

If this image prompts you to write something, I’d love to know. Just send an email to Judy(at)socket You could end up published on the site!

Introducing Poppy Z. Brite

His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood by Poppy Z. BriteWith Halloween only days away and an unfortunate excess of literary deaths already experienced in 2013, this feels like the perfect time to introduce a long-standing horror writer I’ve only recently had the pleasure of encountering.

I discovered the vivid, grotesque, sensuous writing of Poppy Z. Brite via a Penguin 60s picked up in my local Oxfam bookshop. This miniature book was too intriguing not to take home.

His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood and Other Stories comprises four extraordinary tales that are now seared into my brain. At once utterly insidiously delectable and hideously repulsive, they offer up visions in which rotten corpses rise from floodwater sodden graves, and statues of goddess lure you to enter “a gash in the universe” that is  “rimmed in blood and ash.”

There’s so much beauty intertwined with the horror of these tales, so much opulence among the shit and gore, that you emerge entranced and disgusted, and disconcertingly hungry for more.

Continue reading

Antarctica challenge – make a better world

Landscape - Antarctica cr Jason EdwardsThe year’s tail-end is always a time for reassessment. Have you achieved what you set out to? Could you have done more?

Why not finish 2013 on a high note by applying for an extraordinary opportunity? Antarctica: No Ordinary Place, No Ordinary Assignment is a global search launched by Air New Zealand to seek out an environmental enthusiast keen to share the wonders of the Antarctic frozen continent with the world.

Boats - Antarctica cr Jason EdwardsThis is a money-can’t-buy experience, and perfect inspiration for any creative soul – in fact, it’s likely to fuel your imaginative output for years to come. Continue reading

Getting people writing!

Tomorrow I’m taking part in an event as part of Bristol Festival of Literature aimed at encouraging aspiring writers. 

Remember Me To The Bees cover smlSouthville Writers will be staging an ‘instant flash fiction’ workshop, while writers, including me, will be sharing their experiences and advice on getting started, maintaining motivation and sending your words out into the world.

We’ll also be performing a few stories – I’ll be reading a short tale from my soon-to-see-the-light-of-day collection, Remember Me To The Bees.

I’m really excited to be part of this event with such a great group of talented writers.

It’s all taking place at Hooper House Café from 1.30-4pm. If if you make it along, please come and say hi!


Learn to battle zombies

Zombie Science lectureWhat would you do if a zombie epidemic struck your home town? How would you keep yourself and your loved ones from joining the shambling, infected masses?

Not sure (other that hiding in the wardrobe and hoping for the best)? Me neither. Fortunately, World renowned Theoretical Zombiologist Doctor Austin is premiering his Zombie Science: Brain of the Dead lecture at the London Horror Festival this October.

Taking place at The Etcetera Theatre, Camden High Street on 28 and 29 October 2013, the night includes interactive demonstrations and multi-media presentations designed to teach you everything you need to make it through a zombie attack.

Doctor Austin Zombie lecturer“You won’t survive a Zombie outbreak if you don’t know your science”, explains Doctor Austin, “A real Zombie might have a compulsion to continually eat, but they would eat anything, not just human flesh and brains. Hollywood has propagated serious misinformation about Zombies, just to sell tickets. I’m here to tell the truth. And sell tickets.”

He adds: “For the new lecture, Zombie Science: Brain of the Dead, our aim is to provide an insight into the human brain. The human brain is one of the most complex and mysterious things in the universe. We know so much about it, and at the same time so little.”

Brain of the Dead is the third show in the Zombie Science series, which has attracted audiences of over 30,000 at more than 400 lectures across the UK and Ireland. As no audience members have yet fallen foul of a zombie attack, it seems to be a resounding success too. Can you really risk not attending?

Book tickets online at For more details about the lecture series, visit

Mid-week writing point – an unexpected POV

Tree cr Judy DarleyLast week I wrote a piece of flash fiction that turned out to be from the point of view of a dog, and that small detail altered the whole tone of the tale (or should that be tail?). Suddenly my main character’s preoccupations, goals and interpretations of the world shifted. It was a fun piece to write, and made me realise that the value of unconventional narrators, especially for the writer.

Imagine if your torrid love scene, brutal murder, or calculating plot for world domination was being related to the reader via an unexpected voice, such as a child, a pet, or even a piece of furniture. It would skew every word. Continue reading

Sapling – a fairytale

Mossy tree cr Judy DarleyThis week I received the exciting news that one of my short stories has been chosen to appear on the Enchanted Conversations websites, a fabulous hub of original fairytales and homages to traditional ones.

Asleep in the Moonlight cr Richard Doyle

You can read my story, Sapling, here. The atmospheric image selected by editor & Publisher Kate Wolford is by artist Richard Doyle.

My story begins like this:

I was the only one who saw him. Everyone else, even my mother, it seems, only saw the tree. I lay in the long grass playing with my soldiers who were using the lawn as a jungle. Sunlight fell thick and heavy through the strands of grass, darkness falling briefly as my mother passed. I glanced up to see where she was going – saw her reach the tree, climb the trunk and disappear into the leaves. I gazed, amazed. My mother had never climbed a tree in my life, that I knew of. I stared at the old oak, then heard a rustling, a sharp gasp, and my mother fell. By the time she hit the ground, my father was halfway down the lawn, running full tilt. Yet only I saw the man in the branches, his skin the color and texture of bark, eyes like two bright spaces between the leaves where light leached through.

Read on…

Find out how to write fairytales here.

Halloween events to make your skin crawl

Circus of Horrors cast outside the O2I adore Halloween. When I was a child, my family held Halloween parties each year; we’d all dress up and my dad would tell ghostly tales to creep us out. For some reason I have vivid recollections of my sister dressed as a skeleton trying to eat an apple hanging from a piece of string… This season I’m off to my first Halloween Party in years (dressed up as a moth – pics may or may not follow…) and am very excited indeed.

I’ve also been receiving masses of press releases about ghoulish events, so to make sure you get your share of the chills and thrills, here’s my pick of the highlights. Continue reading

Writing inspired by cemeteries

About this time last year, I co-hosted a writing workshop at glorious Victorian Cemetery Arnos Vale. Dr Hannah Rumble was one of the participants, and produced the following contemplative piece of writing, inspired by the pictured gravestone.

Rosina Hill

Rosina Hill by Hannah Rumble

Are you neglected because of your ordinariness?
The regular, uninspiring letters that announce your post-death existence…
That’s not old!
Your name sounds exotic,
Yet you lie forever enmeshed in thorns.
But the dead and the living all have their place!
You appear to nourish the blackberries that grow around you;
you offer them a ‘home’, a ‘root’, a place to establish themselves…
I can’t see all of your gravestone…
Your husband and daughter are almost eradicated to the passer by,
Obscured by the detritus of autumn.
Who died first, I wonder.
I’ll never know…
Does the order of deaths matter?
Your gravestone appears to be cut as a book,
Open on a page that announces your buried remains….
But who reads this page?
It doesn’t look like anyone’s visited this page for a long time.
Words lost to decades of time;
words challenged by the onslaught of the seasons and man’s fickle memory.
History may have categorised you as ‘ordinary’, Rosina,
allowing your neglected gravestone to slowly fall apart.
But, I bet, if you were alive today,
the stories you could tell me would confirm you were anything but!
Rest in peace, for your grave was noticed;
that’s why I can write these lines 69 years later, sitting here today.

Hannah RumbleAbout the author
Dr Hannah Rumble is a Researcher and Teaching Fellow based at the Centre for Death and Society, University of Bath. She recently published a book called ‘Natural Burial: Traditional-Secular Spiritualities and Funeral Innovation’ and is available to officiate at all rites of passage in her role as a Civil Celebrant.

Nip back next Friday for another work inspired by gravestones, this time written by Angie Holland.