My daughter Gemma- Rose and I are having some mother-daughter time. We sit at one of the wobbly white tables in the shopping mall and sip our drinks. I have a coffee. She has a chocolate milkshake.
“What have you been enjoying recently?” I ask.
Gemma-Rose sucks on her straw for a moment and then says, “Writing. I love writing.”
“There’s lots to write about, isn’t there?”
“Oh yes! I have lots of writing ideas! And if I ever do get stuck, I have a game I like to play. I think of a word and then see if I can find a story to match. I'll show you."
I look at Gemma-Rose's camel coloured coat. It has big round buttons. I say, “Buttons! Do you remember my grandmother’s rusty red button tin? I could write a story about that.”
For a moment we sip our drinks in silence, and then I say, “Give me a word!”
Gemma-Rose looks around and then says, “Garbage bin.”
“I have a great story about garbage bins.” I smile. “Do you remember when Duncan didn’t put out the garbage bins on Christmas Eve? The truck came to empty them in the early hours of Christmas morning. We arrived home from Midnight Mass seconds too late… “ (There is a lot more to that story but I won’t tell you everything. I might write that story out properly another day!)
“I have a word for you,” I say. “Nose.”
“That’s easy,” says Gemma-Rose. “I could write about Nora’s huge nose.” Our puppy is always a good subject for a story.
“Did you know Sophie was quite upset when she discovered donuts are deep-fried? All that oil!”
“Perhaps it’s better not to know how things are cooked,” I say, “or what they’re made from.”
“Like chicken nuggets.”
“Things are not always what they appear to be. That would be a good subject for a story.”
Gemma-Rose sucks her milkshake noisily up her straw. “Straw!” I say.
“Advent,” Gemma-Rose replies instantly. “We earn straws to put in the nativity stable during Advent.”
“Actually I’ve written a story about those straws. It’s in my Angels of Abbey Creek book.”
Gemma-Rose and I trade a few more words before I say, “We have millions of stories that we could tell. Everyone does. They are the stories of our lives. All we have to do is decide which ones we want to tell.
“Then when we have a story idea we need to make sure we add some feelings to it. Is it a happy story or a sad one? Perhaps it's a frightening story. Is it a funny one?”
“The garbage story is really funny!” smiles Gemma-Rose. (I wonder if I can find the right words to make people smile when I come to write it.)
“Have you ever noticed how we often learn something from our stories like…”
“... how food can taste good until you know exactly what it’s made from.”
“Or never assume the garbage truck won’t arrive to empty the bins in the early hours of Christmas Day. Sometimes unexpected things happen.”
“Or Christmas wouldn’t be the same without all the traditions.”
"Coming to some conclusion makes a story even better. You can just retell something that happened. Or you can learn something from it.
“Then when your story is written, all you need to do is post it on your blog," I finish.
Gemma-Rose frowns. “And then everyone can ignore it. No one reads my blog stories!” She sighs.
I know how she feels. It’s nice to share our stories with other people. We want to know whether we have successfully put our thoughts into words. Can the reader see the story that exists in our heads? Can they feel what we are feeling?
But even when no one reads our words, it is still worth writing.
“We can enjoy our own stories even if no one else wants to share them.” I lean across the table towards Gemma-Rose and say in a low voice, “Shall I tell you a secret? Sometimes I visit my own blogs and read my own posts!” She grins. “I like to remember all the things I write about. It’s like going back in time and enjoying everything all over again.”
We stand up and gather together our shopping bags. It’s time to go home. As I watch Gemma-Rose push our empty cups into the garbage bin, the word 'coffee' suddenly pops into my head.
I smile. That’s easy! I could write a story about our mother-daughter time and how Gemma-Rose and I played the writing game.
What was the last page-turning, totally absorbing novel you read? Recently, I asked this question on my Sue Elvis Writes Facebook page. Lots of readers stopped by and soon I had a list of novels I now want to read. So I've been reading instead of writing! If you haven't already done so, you could join me on my Facebook page. I'd love to see you there!