Once of the reasons I love working with creative projects is that it ends up giving me inspiration for my own work. This year I ran a project called Write By You, where I put on workshops for young, diverse, female writers in North London. I’m in the process of putting the work they produced into an anthology and it’s wonderful to see the work they came up with.
Now, Write By You is a company and we’re expanding to work with schools. At the moment, I’m running a series of workshops for a target group of girls in a school in the South of England. The idea is to get them thinking about themselves and their identity in their writing. To loosen up their creative muscles and feel more confident with their voice.
Here’s Nuwa, the snake goddess.
Today, I ran a workshop on ‘turning yourself into a myth.’ It started out with them writing a list of ‘memory nouns’ – important things from their past that brought back particular memories or feelings. Then we talked about myths. In researching the session, I came across some awesome female figures for them to talk about. With Circe and the ‘girls’ from the Odyssey getting their say, I figured it would be good for them to carry on this tradition.
I told them about Durga, the goddess from Hindu mythology who is stronger than all the male gods. She’s often pictured riding a lion, and has ten arms, each with a different weapon. There’s also Nuwa, the snake goddess from Chinese mythology. She is at the root of their creation myth, nice to see a woman in such a position of importance. We also talked about the banshee. A much-maligned lady who is just doing her job by warning people of an imminent death. It’s not like she causes the death, she’s just helping you to get prepared.
Why do banshees get so much hate? It’s not like they kill people.
While they were doing the activities, I did them as well. I always think it’s good to share what I’m writing – no point in expecting other people to share their stuff if you’re not willing to be vulnerable. My ‘memory noun’ was a recorder. We all played them when we were kids because the school gave free lessons. The memory linked with it was that I had thrown it at my sister when we were having a particularly heated row. I missed, and it hit the cupboard behind her. That gouged hole was a constant reminder of our argument and something my sister most definitely used to remind me how mean I was!
I decided to link this with the myth of Durga, and this is what came out:
That was the day I threw the recorder at her. I didn’t know what would happen. That it would change everything. She’d told a lie, of course. That was always the thing that made me the most angry.
‘You broke Mum’s necklace,’ she said, a smirk on her face.
‘No I didn’t.’ I’d seen the pieces of it on her bedroom floor.
‘I’m going to tell her it was you.’
‘That’s not fair!’
My anger took over. It built like a fire. I reached for something, anything, to hurl in her direction.
The recorder was sat on the chest of drawers next to me. There were teeth marks on the mouthpiece. Every time I got nervous about playing in front of other people, I’d chew at its hard edge.
I grabbed it. My had felt hot. There was something else, something different. It felt like energy was rising from the ground. Like I was sucking it up from the centre of the earth.
I threw it at her head. Luckily, she moved. It flew past her head, so close it whipped the hair away from her face with the wind it made as it passed. When it hit, the wardrobe exploded. A deafening crash made the floor shake. Where it had once stood there was nothing but splinters of wood.
My sister was hunched over in the debris, her arms covering her head. She peered at me, her eyes big. Like she didn’t know who I was.
Now Durga is the kind of goddess I can get on board with.
It’s just a snippet, but I quite like the premise and it was good to do something fun with my memories. I hope you enjoyed it, and do feel free to try your own! Everyone deserves to give themselves mythical status.
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