Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

A lovely first comment on my new book!

March 19th, 2018

After reading just two stories in my new book The Uses of ‘a’ , Margaret Jull Costa, translator of Javier Marías and José Saramago, has written to say she thought them ‘remarkable’.

She says: “Both  A Matter of Chance, and Chameleon Love are so beautifully written and so deliciously enigmatic and so wise too.”

The stories collected in the book were written over a wide period of my adult life. Yet it always feels like a great surprise when, as if it’s come from nowhere, I discover a new short story is there in my mind. If you get to read the book, I hope you’ll find some stories there that appeal to you.

Beautifully designed by Olwen Fowler, the book could make an excellent gift to yourself or a friend. All you have to do is click the button below. This will allow you to buy copies at £9.50 (+ p&p for the UK). Crisis, the charity for homeless people, will receive £1.00 for every copy sold.

If you’re outside the UK or would like more copies or dedications just email me: mary.medlicott@storyworks.org.uk


Storytelling Starters ~ Tough stuff

February 22nd, 2020

Today’s blog is about two books, each of which tells its tale of life in a down-to-earth way. No avoiding, no hiding.

Book One: The Street

What’s the book for our next Book Group? The Street by Ann Petry  was the answer when I asked because, alas, I’d missed our Book Group’s last meeting.  So I checked the online catalogue of the London Library, to which I belong Not there. I went to Waterstones and looked on the shelves. Not there. Then I asked a member of staff who consulted their online catalogue and shook her head. ‘Not there.’ So I turned away from the counter and there it was, in a little pile on a table.

I’ve begun the book and already I know it’s going to be worth reading. It begins with a young black woman in America looking for an apartment to rent so she can get herself and her little boy Bub away from her husband Jim. She finds a place she can just about afford. It’s not clean. It will be stiflingly hot in summer and, right from the start, she will have to learn to guard herself from the leering eyes of the landlord.

That’s as far as I’ve got but I’m very much looking forward to the rest. Written by a black American woman, it was first published way back in 1946 and is now, but only very recently, available again, republished by Virago. Tough stuff but worth it! Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ What’s new?

February 15th, 2020

The Three Bears is so familiar to me as a children’s story that I felt quite delighted when I was recently asked to do a staff training workshop at a London nursery called Les Trois Oursons. It made me think about children’s stories as they are told in languages other than English.

On Thursday when I went to do the training, I found myself surrounded by a wide diversity of Nursery staff including French, Ghanaian and Chinese. We had a grand time (and, for me, it felt like getting back to normal, this being the first such workshop I’d done for a while following  my period of ill-health).  First, I got us doing a number of simple rhymes and chants together, foremost among them Little Bear on the Long Road and Mrs Wiggle and Mrs Waggle. Then I told the folk story of The Tiger and the Mouse and got the workshopees (new word?) retelling it to each other in whatever language they liked.

After that, one of the things  I appreciated most was the comments that were made about storytelling as the people in the workshop had experienced it (or not) when they were children. For one Chinese woman, there’d been no storytelling at all and no story books either. But for several who’d grown up in West Africa, there’d been the regular experience of gathering in the open air and at night to listen to stories being told, usually with great drama. Read the rest of this entry »

Storyworks Blog ~ Conditions of life

February 8th, 2020

It’s odd how, from time to time, literature and life come closer together than you expect. I’ve just been reading a fine and thought-provoking book which the Book Group to which I belong had chosen as our next book.  Go, Went, Gone is by a German writer, Jenny Erpenbeck. It has won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, it’s about immigration and it has made me think a lot about the lives of people in a foreign land, separated from their families and full of hope for a better life.

Go, Went, Gone and its themes were still strongly in my mind when Paul and I organised for a house-cleaner to pay a three-hour visit to our house. My recent ill-health meant that the visit was much-needed and now here she was, a shy, delightful young woman who turned out to be an excellently thorough cleaner. In the course of conversation with her, I asked her where she was from. Her reply was Eritrea. I also learned a bit about her husband. And where is he? In Sweden. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ What next?

February 1st, 2020

Pinch, punch, first of the month – and no return!

It’s what we used to say when kids, the first two words accompanied by the corresponding actions of pinching and punching (but not too hard!). The final words, ‘and no return’, were the warning to the person you were speaking to. They had to be taken seriously: your friend mustn’t do the rhyme back. At their peril!

Oh, the things we said as children. ‘Daresie’ was another – except how on earth do you write that word down?

Daresie, daresy? It was the challenge. Dare you to jump in that pond (where there might be monsters lurking in the depths waiting to come up and bite you). Dare you to jump off the quay (even though the tide is too low and you might find yourself bashing the bottom). Dare you to go and tell teacher what that naughty boy just said. Dare you to give him a kiss. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Power of Place

January 25th, 2020

From time to time over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking, writing and singing about Llansteffan, the estuary village on the coast of Carmarthenshire. This morning, as Llansteffan popped into  my mind yet again, a new thought came with it. What about thinking back on your life not in terms of what you were doing there or who else was present, but simply by place?

If you did this, you’d be focusing less on yourself, more on the places where you’d spent time. What did those places look like? What was the atmosphere? The weather? Focusing less on yourself, you’d be concentrating more on the places themselves. Landscape, atmosphere, weather, any other people that are there and their ways of talking: you could almost try leaving yourself out of the picture altogether. This way, you might find greater richness in your memories than you’d expected. Come to think of it, it might work in a similar way to the piece of advice given to me once by my sister-in-law. She is a superb photographer. And her advice? Always look round the edges of the scene in your viewfinder when you’re about to take a photo. Read the rest of this entry »

On the Memory Estuary

January 18th, 2020

When you write a regular blog – and this one’s been going for over 5 years now – you get used to the idea of tags. Tags refer to the particular themes mentioned in the blog that you’ve written. However, I frequently find that a process very like tagging starts to happen in my mind before the writing even begins. It does so in response to the inevitable question: what shall I write about this time?

This week I was thinking I might write about WiPs (that’s the Works in Progress group to which I belong – eleven of us who, when we meet, each give a short presentation of something we do, namely write stuff or sing or sculpt or play the piano, clarinet or violin). Our next WiPs is due this Sunday and I’m planning to sing a Welsh folk song about the Carmarthenshire village of Llansteffan.

Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~Reflections at New Year

January 11th, 2020

It would sound such a daftly easy question for a teacher to ask: ‘Children, when is New Year’s Day?’  Except if the children lived in the Gwaun Valley in North Pembrokeshire, they could well suspect they were being tricked. For in the Gwaun Valley, ever since 1582 when the Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian calendar, New Year has continued to be remembered on January 13th.

On the way:

So that’s why, at this point of the year, I find myself on my way into memory in the passenger seat of the Morris Minor of my redoubtable Aunty Mali. We’re on the way to celebrate Nos Calan in the warmly welcoming farmhouse of Mr and Mrs Saunders Vaughan in the middle of the Gwaun Valley. I had guessed beforehand that there’d be a sensational welcome. Mrs Saunders Vaughan was a bustling, endlessly talkative woman with a cackling kind of voice. She’d come into Fishguard every week with an enormous basket of eggs for selling to her regular customers, of whom my mother was one. Mr Saunders Vaughan was a quietly spoken and kindly man. Both were immensely hospitable.

Arriving:

Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Country life

January 4th, 2020

One of the great pleasures of being back in Pembrokeshire is catching up with friends. Liz and Eddie are busy people. Eddie works on a local farm, Liz has been working at a local doctor’s surgery but  also does lots of caring for grandchildren in her family. Both have lots of stories. From time to time, Liz writes down one or other of hers and sends it off to a magazine. Eddie loves to tell his stories. They are about hilarious episodes in his own life.

Eddie Story No. 1:

For instance, one time when Eddie was a boy growing up in a long line of brothers in a little cottage by the sea, the night for the bath-tub came round. All the brothers were lined up, clothes off, waiting their turn to go into the tub when the parents realised that one of the boys in the line wasn’t even one of theirs. It didn’t matter. By then, he was already in the tub. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ What’s to come

December 28th, 2019

Not many words, just an enormous big wish: that you face the New Year and the coming decade with as much hope as you can summon and as much love as you can give.

My message comes via Whitesands, the beautiful Pembrokeshire beach from which St Patrick set out for his mission to Ireland and which I have  loved ever since the very first time, many years ago when I was little, when I spent a holiday there with my family in a gypsy caravan parked immediately above the sand. Today although it often now gets quite busy there, the car park full and surfboarders in the sea, it’s where I most find peace and quiet whether I visit it in mind as I often do in London or, as this week, in person.

Happy New Year! Happy New Decade!

Storytelling Starters ~ Too busy?

December 21st, 2019

Yesterday morning I needed to look up a song. Early in January Paul and I have a tryst to meet up with some friends in Llansteffan, a village on a Carmarthenshire estuary where I once stayed for a couple of lovely weeks while doing storytelling work in some nearby schools. I told these friends that when we are there, looking out over the sea or, if the tide is out, the sandflats, I shall sing them a Welsh song that I love which tells the story of someone rowing across the estuary to fetch his loved one.

Reminders:

It was a pleasure to be reminded of the song when I found it. But, my goodness, as I searched for it in my file boxes – now would it be in the box labelled Wales, which is full of Welsh stories and stuff about Welsh places, or in the box labelled Songs, Poems, Sayings? – I had such a weird combination of feelings. Past and future swirled around in my mind. Which items had I previously used in my storytelling work? Which could be good in the future? I felt a bit like Janus, the ancient Roman deity who, as my Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable reminds me, was the guardian of gates and doors and, for this reason, represented with two faces, one in front and one behind. Read the rest of this entry »