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A Writer On Writing: Writing Prompts From Castleton

Sally Jenkins considers a number of story ideas - and presents a memorable poem.

It wasn’t only poetry that I toyed with in Castleton in the Peak District.

I also jotted down some ideas for short stories and I’m going to share them with you because I know that we’d all produce completely different tales (and submit them to different places) from the same initial prompt.

We stayed in Little Lilac Cottage - a tiny 350-year-old dwelling with a king-sized brass bed, a Victorian rolled top bath and open beams on the ceiling http://www.old-english-cottages.co.uk/ Reading through the guest book I tried to imagine all the other visitors to this romantic cottage, why they came and whether the holiday lived up to expectations:

• Honeymooners – young or old? first or subsequent marriage?

• A couple having an affair – unused to spending so much time together, will they still get on or will guilt take over?

• A holiday to save a marriage – away from it all, can they get their relationship back on track or will it go up in flames?

• First holiday for years without the children – do the couple still have anything in common?

We did plenty of walking and one day came across a set of intertwined initials carved into a tree by a waterfall:

• Who carved them and why?

• What happens when one or both of them come back to revisit the carving?
There’s also plenty of scope for stories with a historical setting:

• Think of all the people who were born and died in our cottage

• A local told us that the last ‘ordinary’ people to live in our cottage brought up 3 boys there – how? The house was barely big enough for the 2 of us!

• The old coffin route from Edale to Castleton. At one time there was no consecrated ground in Edale and all the dead had to be brought over the hill to the church in Castleton.

And that final point brings me to my poem – poetry connoisseurs please look away now. The rest of you can blame Julia, Susan and Alison, who all asked to see it after my post about the poetry writing workshop I attended in Castleton.

A Coffin Route Farewell

My baby, wrapped in sacking and loaded on a mule
a tiny corpse under a pauper’s shroud.
My baby, born mute, motionless and far too early
now travels the path toward Castleton.

My baby, cast out from home to ride with a stranger
in search of consecrated land.
Exhausted from birthing I never even held you.
They snatched you away without time for farewell.
My baby, you never shed a tear but my eyes will never be dry again.


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