Sweet Krampusnacht

After banging on about my Krampus Cracker story, thought it was time to share it with you all. The inspiration came from the commercialisation of Krampus in Europe and the States with chocolate Krampus being made and Krampus parties being thrown. I tried to imagine how Krampus would feel about this.

 

Krampus sighed as he bit the head off the mini chocolate replica of himself. How has it come to this, he thought. I used to be feared and dreaded. People were terrified of me. Mothers told their children terrible stories about how I would haul them kicking and screaming off to the underworld if they weren’t good.

For years the stories had been repressed, first by the Catholic Church and then by the fascists, as the tales were believed to be too frightening, too horrifying to be heard. Krampus had been forced to hide away in his cave, biding his time until he was heard and remembered again. He knew the time would come. Stories of demons and devils and bogey-men were never forgotten for long. So he had waited patiently until, finally, the moment arrived.

Krampus had shaken with delight when he heard his name being whispered once more. He’d dusted off his chains and bells. He’d polished his horns and sharpened his fangs. He’d even bought a new bunch of birch twigs from a woodsman who lived nearby. Krampus could hardly contain his excitement when the whispers became louder and louder until they had turned to shouts which hurt his ears and set his fangs on edge. But, somehow or other, he’d managed to control himself and keep his emotions in check. That was, until tonight – Krampusnacht.

As the sun slipped away over the horizon, Krampus had rushed out of his cave with a deafening roar, whipping and thrashing his chains and bells around his head with a ferocity not even he knew he possessed. He had stomped into town baring his fangs and brandishing his bundle of birch twigs at all he passed. But no-one had been scared. Nobody had screamed, trembled and tried to run away. Instead they had laughed, pointed and taken photos of him on their phones. One child had even dared to hand him the mini chocolate replica of himself with not just a smile but a hug.

I’ll show them, Krampus muttered, ripping off the replica’s arm and swallowing it whole. They’ll be sorry when they see who I really am, he growled, stuffing the mini chocolate Krampus’ legs into his mouth. Just let them wait. I’ll make sure they’ll never sleep soundly in their beds again, he snarled, ramming the remainder of the sweet-tasting figure between his lips. But first, he said, licking his fingers, I’ll have to have another one of these.

 

 

More Krampus Crackers

Krampus Cracker!
Krampus Cracker!

I wrote previously, in my post Launch Night, about my experience of being involved in Krampus inspired writing project in Leeds. I had a fantastic night listening to many of the other authors’ take on the Krampus tale and sharing my own too.

 

I’m pleased to say that two other blog sites have and are currently publishing all twelve of the Krampus tales, complete with the fantastic illustrations that go with them. If you have five or ten minutes to spare, put your feet-up, grab a cuppa and a biscuit of two and enjoy. You can find the stories at:

http://www.bigbookend.co.uk  and http://www.thestateofthearts.co.uk (which includes my story).

Another very unexpected and massive bonus was the Liars’ League in London selected two of the stories to be performed at their Christmas evenings. Liars’ League take fiction and have it performed by actors, which makes a fantastic change from writers having to get up and read their own stuff. But I guess it’s easier to do that in London where there are a plethora of actors than in East Yorkshire where there are not so many. I was very excited, proud and pleased as punch to be chosen as one of the two. You can see the reading of my story on their website where there is a YouTube link. Just check out their website at http://www.liarsleague.com and look for Sweet Krampusnacht.

All in all, I truly wonderful experience and I am so glad I submitted despite only ever writing one piece of flash fiction before. I guess that’s all you can do – keep doing what you do and, fingers crossed, someone, somewhere will like it.

 

Further house reclaimation

One of several bags of out-grown toys
One of several bags of out-grown toys

Now that the excitement of the Krampus Crackers launch night has died down, I decided it was time to get back to my latest project – reclaiming my house back from my children. Or, more correctly, claiming it back from the hundreds and hundreds of their toys.

I broached the subject carefully and with much fore-thought with my husband who, luckily, agreed with me. Actually, what I did was stamp my feet and act like a petulant child until, sensibly, he agreed with me. You may think that this might be enough to have me jumping for joy and reaching for the paintbrushes but we’ve been at the discussing redecorating point many, many times before. This is usually as far as it gets due to lack of energy, will-power and interest. However, this time I’m determined not to let the feeling to do something pass me by so I decided to tackle the first and biggest hurdle to reclaiming my house head on. I spoke to my daughters.

Divide and conquer is a tactic used by many strategists and if it’s good enough for them it should surely work on two six-year olds. To be honest, I’ve tried it many times before and it’s rarely been successful. There’s always one child who digs their heals in and turns on the tears, scuppering my plans. I wasn’t holding out much hope of it working this time either due in a large part to the fact that one of my girls seems to have an obessive hoarding condition.

This condition manifests itself in the inability to throw anything away. A selection of items that I have found squirreled away under her bed include; a yogurt pot lid, pairs of old knickers that no longer fit (clean, I’m pleased to say) and an old dirty tissue (which certainly wasn’t clean). Her latest trick to try to hold onto everything she has ever owned is to beg, plead and cry that it is needed for when she has a baby of her own; though what a baby would want with a yogurt pot lid, old knickers and a snotty, used tissue is beyond me. My counter defensive move is to promise to put things in the ‘loft’. If she every looks in the loft she will be in for a big shock. Perhaps, I’ll just have to say that ‘loft’ and ‘bin’ are very similar words.

So you could have blown me down with a feather when said child agreed to my demands of sorting and getting rid of some toys. She even helped me, which was when I was expecting her to change her mind and turn on the tears. But she didn’t. Granted, the pile of things to get rid of was not as large as I would have liked but it was much, much, much larger than I was expecting. Which goes to show, no matter how well you think you know somebody, they can always surprise you. Now, I just have to find a home for all the toys before she changes her mind.

Krampus Crackers UK

thekidshavegonetoschool:

If you are in Leeds this Christmas, stop, have a coffee & look out for Krampus Crackers

Originally posted on Tiny Owl Workshop:

The ever wonderful, Vicky Pointing has gathered some fabulous elfin helpers and rolled and folded and prettied up hundreds of Krampus Crackers in time for Xmas.

Each cracker contains one Krampus tale and an illustration. The stories were chosen by Vicky and writer and fellow judge, Steve Toase, and they’ll be available at cafes around Leeds.

More soon!

Krampus Cracker elves
Vicky with Krampus Crackers

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Launch night

Krampus Cracker!
Krampus Cracker!

IMG-20141204-WA0000

Last night was the launch of a Christmas writing project which was conceived by Tiny Owl Workshops and brought to life in the UK by a lovely lady called Vicky Pointing. The project took the story of Krampus as the inspiration for twelve pieces of flash fiction, which have been written by twelve different authors. If (like me before the project) have no idea who Krampus is, he is the anti-Santa Klaus. A goat-like demon who would frighten children into being good or else haul them off to the underworld.

I was really happy, excited and proud to be chosen as one of the writers. The stories have all been illustrated by professional artists and have been put into Christmas crackers which are to be left in cafes around Leeds. If you are in Leeds this Christmas, look out for them!

Apart from the obvious high of being chosen as one of the writers, I was pleased because this was only the second piece of Flash Fiction I’d ever written. I love Flash Fiction. It’s great to read if you only have five minutes to spare with a cup of coffee. It’s also great if, like me, you would love to write a novel or full length play but find that after a week or two (maybe a month if I’m lucky) you get fed up, bored and want to start something new. That’s why I like blogging. It gives me a finished piece in one sitting. I think you have to just accept the kind of writer you are. I’d love to be able to write long, beautiful prose but that’s not who I am. No matter how much I try long and want it, I could never do that.

The launch night itself was fab and not just because of the three free glasses of wine I drunk. Nine of the authors were there and it was amazing and interesting to hear their takes on the story of Krampus. The venue, Outlaws Yacht Club in Leeds, was amazing too. It was a quirky, shabby-chic kind of place, with art work on the walls and home-made Christmas decorations hanging from the ceiling which made me want to replicate them but knowing that there was no way I could. I’m definitely a writer not an artist, more’s the pity.

The end of the night meant a mad dash to the train station to catch the last train back to Hull. Lots of running with a big Mary Poppins type handbag on one shoulder and a bag with a full set of the Krampus Crackers in the other. As I was doubled over, huffing and puffing when I finally made it to the platform, I realised that I couldn’t have done either the writing or the running two years ago. To quote Fat Boy Slim, “You’ve come a long way, Baby.”

House reclaimation

These don't belong in a dining room!
These don’t belong in a dining room!

When I first started this blog, one of my intentions was to decorate my bedroom. My house hadn’t been decorated since before my girls were born and my bedroom really needed some attention. The only problem was that I’m not very good at decorating. In fact, I’m being kind to myself here – actually I am totally rubbish at decorating. But, never mind, I had time on my hands with my daughters starting school and it seemed like a good project to undertake. Two years on, it’s still not completely finished due in part to me being rubbish at decorating and in a much larger part to not liking decorating. My husband, who is quite good at decorating, also hates doing it and works seven days a week so it’s the last thing he feels like doing when he gets in on an evening. Consequently, the bedroom ground to a resounding halt.

Added to this is the added joy of being a parent. Being a parent is great but, and I’m sure most parents will agree with me, would be even better if your house and life wasn’t overtaken by masses and masses of toys. I have never been one of those parents who insist their children get rid of toys if they are not ready to. I think it must be hard and scary to be a child sometimes with, for the most part, your life in the control of adults. For a child, your things must become very important to you and a way of asserting your own little bit of independence; so who are we as adults to insist that some are got rid of? That’s why when one of my girls tells me the really can’t part with a teddy that they didn’t even know they had which still has a tag on its ear, I let them keep it and comfort myself that this hoarding tendency won’t last forever. I hope or they’ll be future stars of Channel 4s Compulsive Hoarders programme.

This is probably another reason why I gave up on decorating. What was the point when virtually every room has been invaded by dolls, prams, teddies, games and books? OK, I don’t mind the books but you get the picture. However, this week I seem to have awoken from this malaise and in have decided to reclaim my house. After all, my girls are seven in a couple of months and its high time some toys were given away. More importantly, I’d like to be able to have distinct rooms again, you know, like a dining room and a living room without having to look at a bright orange and green cooker and a box of Barbies.

The only problem in reclaiming my house is that I’ll have to also decorate (sob) and confront my daughters’ hoarding habits. Hmmm, perhaps in the New Year.

 

 

 

The last moan

"I don't know why she thinks she's so special. "
“I don’t know why she thinks she’s so special. “

In my last post, I wrote about how some writers annoy me with their tendency to speak only about themselves. This, unfortunately, isn’t the only thing that annoys me about some writers I have met. I promise that this will be my last moan, whine and act of bad-mouthing other writers. Well, for this year at least. You see, the other gripe I have about some writers is their inability to be nice about other writers. They clearly weren’t listening when their mothers told them, “If you have nothing nice to say about someone then say nothing at all.” Probably too busy talking about themselves to hear Dear Old Mum.

This inability to be nice seems to manifest itself in two ways. Firstly, in the inability to admit that they might even, just a tiny bit, like another writer’s work.   I’ll see a play or listen to a piece read at an Open Mic night and express my admiration of it and all I’ll hear in reply is, “It was alright.” To start with, I thought this was just me. That, perhaps, my tastes were a little different to everyone elses’. I mean, when you hear “It was alright” a dozen or so times, you do start to wonder. However, I soon saw the real way of things when I went to see a play and sat next to someone who was laughing along heartily with me (luckily, it was a comedy) and then afterwards said, “It was alright.” It’s almost as if these people feel that by liking someone elses’ work it takes away from what they do. I don’t understand that at all. If you like something, say so. It’s good to like. It puts a smile on your face instead of making you look like a bulldog chewing a wasp.

The second way the inability to be nice raises its head is in the inability to be pleased for other writers’ successes. I recently had to sit behind two older male writers (who I didn’t know) who were talking about a third male writer (who I also didn’t know). Now, what they were saying was really none of my business but we were all crammed so tightly into an Open Mic night that it was impossible for me not to hear them.  Also, I like listening to other people’s conversations as they are usually much more interesting than mine. On this occasion, however, I wish I hadn’t bothered. All these two writers did was bad mouth this poor third chap in a nasty, snide, passive-aggressive way. It would have been better if they had just been honest and said, “I’m so bloody jealous that John (not his real name, or it might have been as I didn’t catch it) has got his book published. It should have been me!” But they didn’t. Instead they said things like, “Well, it isn’t very original” and “I won’t be reading it as I only read things I like”, which begs the question, “How the hell do you know it’s not very original then?” I would have liked to have said this and much else besides but, unfortunately, I couldn’t. This is the downside to listening into other people’s conversations.

Use your ears, not your mouth!

Stop talking!
Stop talking!

I have a confession to make. Many of you may not like it but it’s something I have to say. It’s something I have to get off my chest. Ok, are you ready? I don’t always like other writers. Perhaps I should be more clear. I know and have met quite a lot of writers over the past year. For the most part, I do like them. It’s just when they start talking about their work that my hackles go up and my tolerance levels go down.

You see, many of the writers I have met wax lyrical about their word-craft as if they are the only person in the world who picks up a pen and creates something. They talk at great length about themselves and their achievements. They talk over one another without listening at all to what any other person is saying. They are not interested at all in what anyone else is saying. If it’s not about them, it is meaningless.

I gave up trying to have a conversation with these writers a long time ago. What’s the point?To participate, I’d have to do what they do and that’s not me at all.  I don’t like to talk about my own achievements (small as they are) as I feel uncomfortable blowing my own trumpet. Nobody likes a big-head. And they are not having a conversation anyway. A conversation is where you ask questions and listen to the answers in order to find out more about people and the world at large. Which leads onto another question. How can you be a writer if you don’t listen and observe?

One of these writers recently said to me, “I feel I have a lot to say.” Well, don’t we all? Everyone has something to say. And these writers would know this if they just stopped talking and listened.

 

Under pressure

School's not always fun.
School’s not always fun.

I recently attended that thing that parents pretend to hate but secretly like and that kids really do hate – parents’ evening. Even though we tell ourselves it doesn’t matter how they are doing as long as they are trying their best, it’s still great to hear your kids are doing well and are a credit to the class. It makes us feel like we’re doing a pretty good job as parents. Or, at least, we’re doing one thing right.

This year is a SATs year for my girls. For those of you who don’t know, SATs are taken at regular intervals during a child’s schooling in England. The first of these are taken when a child is 7 (or nearly 7) and they are supposed to check children are where the Government expects them to be in English, Maths and Science. In reality, SATs mean extra pressure for teachers and their pupils as the results are published and schools are judged on them.

Because of this, my girls’ predicted SATs results were the main topic of conversation at parents’ evening. It was great to hear that both of them are expected to reach the required levels when the tests are taken in May. It was also great to hear that in some or all of the subject areas they are predicted to do better than this. I know I shouldn’t feel like this. I firmly believe that children progress at different rates and, for some, our education system is not necessarily the best way to learn. I don’t think children should be formally tested at 7 years old. I think they should still be learning by play. However, despite all my objections to SATs and the way they force teachers to teach, I was still pleased to hear that my daughters shouldn’t have any problems achieving the required standards; which shows that despite all my lofty ideals, I’m still one of those mothers who gets off on their kids doing well. I’m not proud of this but there you go.

However, I ceased to be one of those mothers and my lofty ideals came back to the forefront when my daughters’ teacher started talking about my girls ‘working very hard’ and ‘pushing themselves’ in order to achieve levels that are expected for older children. She told us the things we could do at home to help  and, I’m ashamed to say, I nodded in stunned silence. I was momentarily silenced as I tried to understand what our education system expects of our children. I thought about it all the way home and some more when I got there before finally coming to the conclusion that it expects 7 year olds to knuckle down and work their socks off to achieve results that make the school and Government look good.

What’s that all about? That’s not doing something that’s best for the children. Yes, they need to focus on English, Maths and Science but not push them to achieve their potential. If they were 16 and taking their GCSEs, I could understand it but they are not. This isn’t about the difference between a ‘C’ grade and an ‘A’. These children are 7. Some of them will still be 6 when they take the tests. And, to me, when 6 & 7 year olds come home from school (where they are all being worked hard) they should just be able to play, watch TV and complain they are bored with absolutely nothing to do (despite being given 101 suggestions). So, although I’m going to help my kids with their schooling and homework, I’m not going to put them under any extra pressure. I’m just going to encourage them to play and enjoy their childhood whilst it lasts.