The final line of a sonnet written by William Wordsworth depicting the coming of Autumn, could provide the preface to Autumn Colours, our latest chapbook anthology of seasonal flash stories, published in conjunction with Sampson Low and similar to other chapbooks, beautifully illustrated by Alban Low and edited by Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone.
This year sees the 250th anniversary of the birth of William Wordsworth, and there is a major exhibition of original manuscripts and folios on display at the British Library. We will be honouring Wordsworth too with a new Spring poetry and flash story competition in conjunction with the Urban Tree Festival in May.
It was tough to choose stories from the many submissions and for this chapbook we squeezed in twelve fabulous depictions inspired by the phrase Autumn Colours. You can buy the book here (just £2.99).
We invited the winning authors to tell us about what inspired them:
Autumn Dawn by Jane Adams
“I love the time between day and night and night and day when everyday sounds can become spine-tingling night-terrors and well known paths turn to bumpy ankle twisters full of unseen texture. I love the surprise, the excitement, the chance encounters and the smells. Every sense is alive, I come alive and the seasons can be seen from a different angle.”
Rarely by Sarah Leavesley
“I’ve always been a keen swimmer, but, until about ten years ago, I spent most of my time indoors. Then, I discovered that being outdoors, walking or cycling, was one of my best ways of finding personal space, creating thinking time and boosting low moods. It also turned out to be great for allowing new inspiration to arise or using a regular exercise pace to help edit and rhythm tricky pieces of writing.
‘Rarely’ is inspired by the silver birch in our street, which I can see from my study and lounge windows. It’s the piece of outside/nature that is with me even when I’m indoors. My original notes for this piece were made last autumn and it was originally drafted as poetry. Despite lots of editing and rewriting though, it never totally came together for me as a poem. When I saw details for the Autumn Colours competition, it prompted me to take ‘Rarely’ out again and work on it as a flash instead.”
The Maple Leaf by John Woolner
“‘The Maple Leaf,’ was inspired by recently going through the possessions of my late father, and the contrast and conflict I felt between stories told and stories lived. I also hoped to convey something about impermanence, the importance of meaningful connection, and loss.”
Sayonara, Kyoto by Andrew Anderson
“Focusing on the beautiful variety of colours in Kyotō in autumn, almost every shade of red, orange, green and yellow is represented, and the ordinary – and yet sometimes painful – memories you might associate them with.”
Explosion of Colour by Sharon Pinner
“My piece was inspired by watching the November 5th fireworks display at Midsummer Common, Cambridge. My husband and I walked there and back from our home in a village near Cambridge – a round trip of 14 miles!”
The Old Goat Willow by Pennie Hedge
“My inspiration: Somewhere between not having a story for Autumn Colours and not having an outlet for my unexpected crossness at a trivial incident with an old friend, The Old Goat Willow was born.”
The Edge of the World by Jane Lomas
“My husband was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer on 4th January 2019 and he passed away on 28th March of that year. After thirty-three years of marriage I needed to make sense of it all so I ran away to Shetland for a month to be battered by the elements, to write, and to begin to heal. In Shetland I found peace, beauty, and the strength to go on.”
The Last of the Mohicans by John Woolner
“‘The Last of the Mohicans’ was inspired by my first trip to America, and in particular a visit to Plymouth. Thanksgiving is modelled on a harvest feast shared by the English colonists and the Wampanoag people, and the statue of Ousamequin, the sachem of the tribe, pays tribute to this. However, close to his statue is a small plaque marking a national day of mourning. It left me wondering about who has the power to tell a story, and how other stories are untold or suppressed.”
“A Little Night Music was written in memory of my very glamorous and much loved mother, who died some ten years ago at the age of 80. She would have been delighted to see this little piece of her history immortalised in print.”
Leaving by Rachel Dowse
“I had spent the previous 18 months working as warden for a woodland nature reserve, but was now leaving and having quite mixed feelings about it. My route out of the wood at the end of the day took me through an area with only oak trees, and I often found the pattern they made on the ground quite dizzying, like one of those seeing eye pictures. Add to that the science of why a tree loses its leaves and you have this piece. I wanted it to get across my general feelings at the time without being too obvious about it, although I don’t know whether it worked!”
A Flash of Colour by Ruth Bradshaw
“Brookmill Park is about 15 minutes walk from where I live in London so I have often passed through on the way to other places. It was only after spotting a kingfisher there by chance that I started to appreciate what a special place it is. Now it has become the place I often visit when I need a brief escape from urban life. I always find it inspiring even when I’m not lucky enough to see a kingfisher.”
Autumn Colours by Mel Davies
“I was getting ready to go to a best friends daughters 21st birthday. I was the ‘chosen friend of mum’ and apparently considered to be the coolest of mums friends! The party was in a club in Brixton. I remember feeling a mixture of flattered, anxious and old. I had been present when Isabella was a baby and now she was turning twenty one. I had visited them in San Fransisco when my life was carefree and light. I was looking back to a time when I had been fresh, out partying, and free spirited, young and caught in myself. I was in the bathroom with trails of these memories and lost in thought. Looking up and into the mirror I saw my autumn reflection and this is from where my idea sprang.”
We want to thank all the authors for sharing their inspirations with us and for writing such lovely stories. And what of William Wordsworth’s sonnet to Autumn:
While not a leaf seems faded; while the fields,
With ripening harvest prodigally fair,
In brightest sunshine bask; this nipping air,
Sent from some distant clime where Winter wields
His icy scymetar, a foretaste yields
Of bitter change, and bids the Flowers beware;
And whispers to the silent Birds, “Prepare
Against the threatening Foe your trustiest shields.”
For me, who under kindlier laws belong
To Nature’s tuneful quire, this rustling dry
Through leaves yet green, and yon crystalline sky,
Announce a season potent to renew,
‘Mid frost and snow, the instinctive joys of song,
And nobler cares than listless summer knew.
All about walking blog posting is unpredictable – if it’s raining biblical downpours then a blog post is more likely to appear, in most other weather conditions we are out walking and not blogging on a keyboard…..