Tunes for a Monday Morning
Writers and readers, part 2

Writers and readers

Hillside 1

Mossy oak

"A book, properly written, is an invitation for a reader to enter: to join with the writer in a creative act: the act of reading. A novel, it has been said, is a mechanism for generating interpretations. If interpretation is limited to what the author 'meant,' the creative opportunity has been missed. Each reading should a unique meeting, leading to a new interpretation. Nor should the writer's duty end at the text.

"Writing is solitary and isolate, but only in execution. I work alone, in an empty room; yet that work, though solitary, is not private. Somewhere, in another place and another time, which will become another here and another now, there will be a communication with another mind. My duty is first to the text, because the writer is, by writing, above all making a claim for excellence. In working the language, as a farmer works the land, we seek to strengthen it against abuse, to protect it against decay, to encourage it towards growth. We hope to leave the language a little better for our writing; and that writing is achieved only in isolation. Yet, at the end, there is always somebody, an unknowable 'you,' whom I wish to reach."

- Alan Garner (The Voice That Thunders)

Hillside 3

Hillside 4

The Voice That Thunders by Alan Garner

"The writer, functioning in a magical medium, an abstract medium, does one half of the work, but the reader does the other. The reader's mind becomes the screen, the place, the era. To a large extent, readers create the world from words, they invent the reality they read. Reading therefore is a co-production between writer and reader. The simplicity of this tool is astounding. So little, yet out of it whole worlds, eras, characters, continents, people never encountered before, people you wouldn't care to sit next to on a train, planets that don't exist, places you've never visited, enigmatic fates, all  come to life in the mind, painted into existence by the reader's creative powers. In this way, the creativity of the write calls up the creativity of the reader. Reading is never passive."

- Ben Okri (A Way of Being Free)

Hillside 5

Hillside 6

Hillside 7

"I can't write without a reader. It's precisely like a kiss -- you can't do it alone."  - John Cheever (Christian Science Monitor, 1979)

Hillside 8

Hillside 9

''Books. They are lined up on shelves or stacked on a table. There they are wrapped up in their jackets, lines of neat print on nicely bound pages. They look like such orderly, static things. Then you, the reader come along. You open the book jacket, and it can be like opening the gates to an unknown city, or opening the lid of a treasure chest. You read the first word and you're off on a journey of exploration and discovery.''  -  David Almond

The Writer's Desk



Waking Language

“I wake and sleep language.”—Jeanette Winterson

Dream has its own language, waking another,
The trick of it is to find the common grammar,
Focus on the verb of dreams, infuse the day.
Practice the gerunds of dream, rising trippingly
into a tremoring morning, a galloping afternoon.

Dream has its own syntax, day another.
The professor studies the arrangement of words,
but dreams consider them an armament.
As a writer, I hang syntax on the celebratory tree
of my poem and hope the meaning is delivered.

Though sometimes that mail comes too early.
Or too late.

©2015 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

Such lovely quotes, such a great reminder to the writer of what a gift they have, to bless their readers with words and wonders. I never really feel lonely or isolated when I'm writing because not only do I have the story with me, but I have the spirit of my readers, for whom I'm at least in part writing.

Jane, I love the poem.

A good one Jane. You're so right about the different languages of the dreaming and the waking worlds; writers and artists are the interpreters, the medium between the two, bringing understanding to both...
The extracts from Ben Okri, David Almond, Alan Garner and the others are also fascinating; stories are definitely a collaboration between writer and reader. I always think that whenever we read the Classics we're communicating with the dead in a way, because as we read the words on the page we hear the thoughts that were in the writer's heads at the moment of creation/composition, even though they may have been dead for thousands of years in some cases! Each time we read, we are right there at the precise moment of the writing’s creation; we become a part of it.
I must also just say that David Almond is one of my favourite authors. In fact when I was first published he was good enough to come along to a signing I was doing in Newcastle near where he lives. I’d been told by my editor that he was going to be at the event so I had a copy of one his books with me, and then when he arrived I presented it to him and asked him to sign it. When he asked what dedication I wanted I drew a deep breath and said:
“Just sign it ‘To Stuart from…..’
I was so star-struck I actually forgot his name! It doesn’t sound much, but it was one of those horribly embarrassing moments when you go the colour of strawberry jam and you babble like a baboon with a stutter. The silence went on for ever until he quietly smiled and wrote out the dedication…fortunately he remembered his own name!

Wonderful quotes (and one minor correction):

"In this way, the creativity of the write-(r)- calls up the creativity of the reader. Reading is never passive."

Many thanks for your continuing inspiration!!


I have a small "Odd Bookshelf", apart from the fantasy/sci fi, mystery, "cozy", and other collections. During unpleasant or confusing times I usually find something to read in that one. And believe me Terri, you will never be without readers!

Hi Terri

I love these pictures of the branch and leaves, the flowers and turned over book along with those wondrous angles o f Tilly. I feel the photos write a story and we, as the viewers, come in reading what is there and what we place there from our own resources of familiar experience and perception. I am in total concurrence with Ben Okri's quote
"Reading therefore is a co-production between writer and reader".

I am going to take this idea of an interaction between reader and writer a step further, to a blending of both reader and teller. I think when an unexpected event occurs that renders us stripped of power, service and convenience, we turn to our inventiveness and imagination to cope/ endure. Such was the realization the other night when power failed in our area for more than 11 hours. Occurring at night when appliance and digital tools of use for work/entertainment go dead, makes us feel powerless, restless and bored. We are left wondering what caused the outage and how widespread is the black-out. Why this part of town and not the other. Yet, by curious need , we take a tour of the neighborhood suddenly aware of sounds, smells, the behavior of light and shadow, the wind or lack of and creatures we have known but not really deciphered. We become readers of the moment and the landscape; and then tellers theorizing how this happened
and why. We speculate on reasons that transcend the rationale of basic electronics, ( poles, circuit breakers, cable cord, etc) and become more mystical. We turn to the old ways, the dead practices of story telling by firelight/, remembering the myth
behind the moon and constellated figures in the sky, actually looking at and listening to each other with a sense of wonder. We bridge the long hours of night ahead with breath and vision, mind and heart.

The Night The Lights Went Out In The High Desert.

Late evening
and the power whines. The dead pan hum
of the house becomes unchorused.

We head outside
to see which homes still have light.

The street lamps have dimmed
into darkness claimed by the moon
flashing her own floodlight on the street.

Some birds rustle in the leaves
restless from a disturbance
they can sense but not assimilate.

The chained terriers yelp madly
in their mangy fur. The neighbor's fence
has several palings missing. Others stand
upright as we pass, long shadows between
old standin stones

searching with our torch
for the source of failure. For what
has stepped in to steal the force
that makes all things "plugged in"
gospel. For what has come
to let stars, fire and storytelling
possess the next hours --

our lips a stoop
for words coming back
hesitant but remembered.

Again, many thanks for this!
My Best,

Hi Jane

Wonderful, wonderful poem! I love how you show the need to bridge the language of both, to look for "common grammar" and somehow fuse the two states of thought. I think poetry is the perfect or very accessible medium for accomplishing that. Metaphor ,itself. and the rhythmic motion of language move in and out of mystery, even the consciousness.

These lines really resonate with me

The professor studies the arrangement of words,
but dreams consider them an armament.
As a writer, I hang syntax on the celebratory tree
of my poem and hope the meaning is delivered.

love the sound of that
"celebratory tree" and how "dreams consider them in armament". Yes, words become the sharp/poignant, strong/impressionistic weapons of the writer, battling to be heard, understood and relevant. Thank you for sharing this!!

Much enjoyed!!!

P.S. Do I spy a piece of red cloth tied to the tree in the first photograph? A wonderfully Pagan practice of course. If it is an example of a Pagan act, it's so nice to know that the original religion of these isles is still being followed in Chagford.

I apologize for being so behind on responding to these kind comments and wonderful poems. I've got a lot I'm dealing with at the moment, and getting the morning post up is about all I've been able to manage...but I'll be back properly soon. Thank you for keeping the conversation going in the meantime, which I appreciate very much.

Red cloth tied to tree--pagan? Tell more, Stuart. And strong poem, Wendy, especially the stoop of that last verse, a use I will remember a long time.

Hope all is well, dear Terri. We've got your (virtual) back.


Hi Jane, cloth (of any colour) tied to trees is an ancient tradition throughout the UK and Ireland. The cloth is a sort of physical representation of a prayer or wish in which the help of Nature Spirits and Deities is asked for. Often the prayer is related to health issues and also fertility, but help for any sort of problem, ambition or need can be sought. Sometimes coin offerings are also made, and the tree in question may stand near a well or spring, though not always. The species of the tree can sometimes be important (particularly hawthorn and oak) though again many species have been associated with the practice.

Actually, I think that the West Country where Terri lives, may be one of the places where the tradition continues quite strongly. And I think there may be similar practices throughout the world; perhaps some of the Myth and Moor community could tell us?

The tree in that picture is one of two trees on the hill behind our house known locally as the fairy trees. (An elderly neighbor of mine, back when I lived in Weaver's Cottage, told me the tale. She was both a staunch church goer and a firm believer in fairies.) This is the "female" tree; the "male" tree is not in the photo, although it is close by. The trees stands on two wildflower-covered humped mounds in the interstitial space between the woods and the open hill, and I photograph them only rarely, when I feel I have their "permission." We do have a strong Pagan community here in Chagford, of which I am one -- having outed myself as such here on this blog ages ago. Colored ties (cloughties) appear on these trees from time to time, and little offerings on the mounds below them: flowers, pins, and sometimes beans, which folklore tells us is a food beloved by fairies. At the moment, there's also a green cloughtie tied beside the red one. Well spotted, Stuart!

There's also a "fairy spring" down on the village commons, where the water is slightly golden due to iron in the soil. I've never seen cloughties there, but perhaps that's because it's a much more public spot than the fairy mounds. Here's a wintery picture of it (with a Dartmoor pony):

The picture comes from this post, March 2014:

It's the usual stuff, Jane, but we're getting through it. Thank you, and everyone, for having my back. I love this community.

Your poem is inspirational, as always. And Wendy's too. Such gifts.

Wonderful! So pleased the traditions are continuing and that there's a strong Pagan community in Chagford! In fact I'm going to tie a cloth on the hawthorn trees at the bottom of my garden today and make an offering; I've an important meeting on Thursday and I so want it to go well!!!

Good luck with your meeting!

Howard has an important one today in London (where he's part of a group establishing the new "Curious School of Puppetry, where he'll be one of the tutors: ), so maybe I should be tying cloughties too...yellow for "new beginnings" and green for prosperity, serendipity, and growth.

And this reminds me that I haven't yet posted the promised pictures of our May Day "Jack in the Green" procession. I'll try to do that very soon.

Good luck and best wishes to Howard! And thank you for the info about the colours; I didn't know the significance of them. My meeting's with a wonderful gallery I've wanted to get my work into for years.

Hi Jane

Thanks so much for reading my poem and your lovely comment on it. I sincerely appreciate that!!

Take care,

Hi Stuart

Thanks so much for sharing that info on the red cloth and its tradition or what it represents. I love the idea of it and this whole custom fascinates me!


Hi Terri

Thank you so much for sharing more of the cloth tradition/story and the photos of the pony and pond. I also understand about asking permission from the trees, respecting the earth and its natural inhabitants which also have spirits , in my opinion, or plant souls. Good luck with your meeting. I will hold positive thoughts for you and prayers. And again, thanks for reading my poem. I deeply appreciate it!

Take care,

"Books are solitudes where we meet." I love this quote from the wonderful Rebecca Solnit. As ever, I thank Terri and all the community here for the post and the responses--you are feeding my soul this morning.

In response to the discussion here, I've written a post on the cloutie tradition in the West Country:

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