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88 days later


This morning I sat in the Sugar Plum cafe, talking with a playwright. As we discussed ideas on creativity he paused for a moment. He told me he had heard from a friend that there was a writer in town, “a real one, someone who actually writes…” It was me, the writer who actually writes.

Four months ago I might have felt undeserved of the description, awkward, deceptive. But for three months now I’ve been living on a low-income, avoiding distractions, and working hard to not be someone with a dozen unfinished stories in a drawer, or on a laptop.

I wrote every day. I found short fiction, a way by which I could test stories, characters, ideas. I started sixty one stories, so far I’ve completed five. 

I wrote about poor choices and brutal pasts, and how difficult and yet essential it is to move beyond them. I wrote stories about being human, and one about being an Oak tree, and another about being a magic spell. I wrapped myself in imagination, and tried so, so hard to steer clear of distraction.

And now I have one story in front of a magazine publisher in London, and two more about to go to local organisations, and hopefully find their way to readers. There’s another too, a story of Alzheimer’s and what it means to care enough to help someone hold onto themselves, in spite of their forgetting you. I’ve yet to find a home for that one.

My 88 Days is up now, but I have two more weeks of freedom in which to set the next course. First though, I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to offer feedback, and criticism, and edits. In the end I want an audience for my writing, and all of you have helped me build the courage to offer up my work. Without you I’d be an untuned piano, with you, I feel I’m ready for the concerto.

It is so, so important for me to test myself, to forge my own future. But it is also important that I take the time to focus on others. Writing can be a lonely pursuit, as can living in a small town amongst paddocks and poverty. This summer I’m aiming to spend more time with more people. To surf beside strangers, and then share a beer with them as friends. To commune, to be communal, to dance and sing and celebrate. Physicality, that’s what I need. And sunshine. And maybe fresh oysters.

For now though, for the spring, the results of my toil will sit with editors, making decisions on the fate of my tales. I won’t though sit idle, there’s plenty more tales to be told, plenty more stories to unfurl.





88 Days


One of the world’s greatest forces is a sense of direction. My best days are often the ones that start with me being dragged from the sleepy tendrils of my dreams by a sense of purpose. And so one of the most satisfying things I can do for myself, is to ensure I set goals.

Around five years ago, I woke to a cold morning in Cambridgeshire. I crept downstairs and slipped outside, drawing boots onto my feet, and a hat over my head. I walked to a set of allotment gardens at the end of the street. There I watched the sun crawl into the sky, lighting frosted leaves, coaxing steam from shed roofs. I made a promise before the small, neat rows of vegetables, to write.

I have produced several hundred thousand words since that sunrise over Huntingdon. Articles, stories, a manuscript. A religious text. But most of them are still hidden away. Unseen. Untested. Unjudged. I’ve probably published 5%.

Today I am setting myself a challenge. I am allotting myself 88 days in which to confront my fears around sharing my work. I’m creating a list of tasks: interviewing a hero, getting a short story published, showing the world passages from my first book.

I’ll investigate the opportunities avaibale for writers in a digital world. I’ll look into ways  I can market myself, and the places I can go for help. I’ll introduce the people and services that assist me along the way.

And each week I’ll nominate a new inspiration, someone who I hope will help me learn something new. Maybe it’ll be Gordon Ramsey, or Tim Burton, or Katey Perry. Whoever or whatever it is, they’ll be my Muse of the Week, an excuse to look at things from a new perspective.

I’ll write all about it here. The good bits, the sketchy bits, the triumphs and challenges. Soon I’ll introduce my first muse.

So. 88 days. Starting…now.



Capturing stories (and working for the greater good)

Around three months ago now I finished full-time work in order to have the time to focus on two endeavours. The first was my fiction writing, this had been tainted by working in a role that eschewed imagination, and moving to the country has given me wider horizons in which to let my imagination gallop and play. The second was my supporting role in a new company, a venture whose goals were more compatible with my morality and world views. A business which believed in the cultural value of stories.

Cards two

I’m a huge believer in the power of a good story. That’s both blessing and curse as a writer, as it inspires me to want to write great books, but it means that rather than simply telling a tale, want to weave ideas through the text which might inspire, transform, or at the very least inform, rather than structuring them like a film and hoping for a movie deal. I feel a need to honour all those story tellers that came before me, because I know how important their contribution was to my world.

When we are young, if we are fortunate, then we had a relative who would induct us into the world of guided imagination. They might have told us stories from their past, or stories from their imagination. They might have read us tales from thick books, compilations of fables curated by Aesop or the Grimm brother’s, maybe they ad-libbed a little as they read, or added in sound effects or frights, perhaps they changed voices for the talking bear, the frustrated witch, or General Woundwort. Those recited words can play a huge role in our development, helping us counter arachnophobia (Charlotte…), inspiring us to travel (every Irish, Norse and Navajo legend I ever heard), or simply inspiring us to learn to read ourselves, so that there was never ‘one last story’. Not while there was a functioning flashlight in the house.

As we get a little older many of us learn to read ourselves, and we begin to choose our own stories. I remember finding a copy of Peter Benchley’s ‘Jaws’ on the book shelves of a holiday house one wet summer. The thick book had the infamous movie poster on the cover, gaping shark jaws open below that late night swimmer. I’d anticipated sharks and drama, I hadn’t expected sexual explicitness. I took to reading it outside or at night, where my blushing resisted invocation or at least detection. And when we leave school in order to become the protagonist in our own tales, hopefully we continue to read. I have found solace, wisdom and inspiration in books my whole life, worlds to escape into, and things to bring back from them, into my own narrative. Including a little from Jaws.

The company I’m working with exists to assist with people with the preservation of stories. We work to create copies of items of enduring cultural value, and enable those copies to be shared with people separated by time or distance. We make detailed copies of cave paintings, maps, books, artworks and carvings. Similar endeavours around the world are mapping ancient civilisations from the sky, or using technology to help rebuild the walls of ancient temples, jigsaw puzzles with one tonne pieces. Efforts are being made to capture everything from baseball cards and comics to death warrants and viking longboats, as they’re all vessels for stories.

My daily tasks for the company vary, sometimes I’m driving to small coastal towns to capture fragile maps, more frequently I’m processing thousands of images, from fashion drawings to diary entries. But a two things I’ve encountered in the past week helped me understand the value in capturing so many aspects of culture, as I colour correct yet another photo. First I was reading through the ‘About us’ page on ‘WikiLeaks’ for information for an article, and amongst their principles was ‘the improvement of our common historical record’, and this idea sat with me. Then last night I was reading a few passages from a book called ‘Woman who run with the wolves’, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. She talks of the importance of information passed from generation, as myths and stories, and how so many of these have been altered by the dominant society, stripped or altered so suit the dominant religion, or sense of morality of the time. And in the process we lose important elements of the original story. And I realised, we can’t let the recording of history be the province of a select minority. That has led to one-sided tales, to distortion, to the eradication of cultural elements, and often to the elimination of the female perspective. Instead we need to capture as wide a gamut of society, of culture, as possible. The hauntings, the messiahs, the sasquatch, the unicorns, the trolls, the elves, the barbarians, the werewolves, they are so much of who we were, and who we might be.

So I’m proud of my two paths. I’m pleased to have continued to write every day, to try to improve my story-telling craft. And I’m proud to be working with Heritage Studios, with creative people, helping capture other people’s stories across the Pacific.

If anyone would like to support Heritage Studios in their story-saving mission, please look us up on Facebook, and like us if you like what we’re trying to do!


On asking for a little help with my novel


I apologise for drop off in postings over the past few weeks, life’s got busy and I haven’t dedicated enough of my time to this witchery called writing. I’ve been shifting my life from a city apartment to a cottage that rests between hills and sea, my writing will now be done in front of the duck pond or up in the rafters, rather than in cafes overlooking busy streets.

I’m about to start on a rewrite of my first book, a story of just what we’re all capable of once we realise how much we can hold ourselves back. Just as important as its message of believing in ourselves, is the idea of collaboration, of what can happen when we unite our talents, spur each other on and chase enormous dreams. I can’t say too much more because I want people to read the book rather than read a synopsis on my blog. I can though tell you that there is at least one unfair death, a complicated romance and the most bizarre religion the world has ever contemplated. Scientology will look pedestrian in comparison. The cast includes a blind vodka maker, a Russian wolf hunter and a kiwi horse whisperer. ‘Write what you know’ was the first piece of advice I ignored on my path towards publishing.

I need a little help though, I need interesting ideas on religion, faith, spirituality. Positive or negative stories of preachers, born agains, cults, ghosts, voodoo, local mythologies. I can trawl the Interweb, wade through libraries and subscribe to magazines, but my book is very firmly about real (ish) people, so I thought I’d ask all of you. If you have a funny, scary or implausible tale about an encounter with (or from within) faith, then I’d love to hear about it. Although not everything in the book is taken directly from personal experience, I’ve tried hard to take real events and then push them gently towards the surreal. I love the idea of some of my character’s back stories being grown from the seeds of real people’s experiences. The wider my range of inspiration, the better the chance I’ll have of throwing my readers expectations every couple of chapters. Or paragraphs.

So please, please, please don’t be shy, either comment on this post, personal message me on Facebook, or email me on reganbarsdell@hotmail.co.uk. The reward for anything I draw from your stories is limited to a mention in the published work, and input on cast selection once the film rights are sold…

Thank you in advance, and I promise I’ll have a new posting up in the next couple of days.

x Regan Drew Barsdell, author in progress.