The Write Path on the Clopton Way

Clopton . . all part of the story
A few years ago a lovely lady called Bev Humphrey asked me to contribute a story starter to a scheme she runs called The Write Path. Bev was a school librarian for many years and  is now a literacy consultant. She set up The Write Path as a fun way to help schools inspire children to write stories and poems. Every October she asks lots of authors to send in a the beginning of a story or poem. These are posted on the website and children in the schools that take part can then continue the stories however they want, each adding a paragraph or two before handing over to the next author. It's especially exciting as schools all over the world get involved.

It's been an honour and a great pleasure to be part of The Write Path. It's great fun coming up with the story starters and to see where the children take the characters next - their imagination really does know no bounds!

When Bev e-mailed me the other day asking if I'd like to send in a story-starter for an extra round of The Write Path for World Book Day in March I was delighted. I immediately started casting about for ideas.  But I couldn't quite pin down anything that seemed just right; it had to be something original, something intriguing and exciting, with lots of possibilities to go off in different directions . . .

If there's one thing I've learned, it's that you can't conjure up an idea by brute force, so I put it to the back of my mind (filed under To Be Mulled Over) and got on with something else.

One of my first jobs every morning is to take my two border collies for a walk.  Yesterday was a beautiful day - cold and frosty, with a bright blue sky - so I decided to get in the car and take them to one of my favourite walks called the Clopton Way, an ancient thoroughfare that crosses the abandoned medieval village of Clopton. 

As soon as the words abandoned medieval village formed in my mind, the Mulling Over Department leaped into action and I knew I had my story starter. That delicious moment, when a story idea first starts coming into focus, is just about the best part about being a writer. And it's an added bonus when it means I can go off on a research trip, which also happens to be a lovely walk in the countryside. Win, win, win!

My research assistant, Storm, hard at work sniffing out a story

As I walked around Clopton scribbling notes and taking photos - Storm and Maia happily snuffling about in rabbit holes -  I realised that I should have worn my thicker coat . . . that gave me another idea for the story. By the time we headed back to the car, it was really taking shape. As soon as I got home I sat down at the lap top and began to write.

The hardest part was stopping. I wanted to keep writing.  I did in fact write two more paragraphs, telling the story as I saw it unfolding. But I made myself delete them. It's only meant to be a starter after all! I sent it off to Bev and now I can't wait to see whether the children's imaginations lead them down the same path as I had in mind or in a completely different direction.

If you or your school are not already signed up to The Write Path you can find out more about it - and read lots of the story starters - here.

And it you are interested you can find out more about the village of Clopton in Cambridgeshire here.

And here is my Clopton story-starter. What do you think happens to Lily next?

All That Remains
‘I knew you’d be cold,’ Mum called after me.  ‘You should’ve worn the new coat we got you.’
The New Coat! It was shiny, red, and so puffy that my arms stuck out at right angles. ‘It makes me look like a teapot!’  I yelled, my breath coming out in clouds.
Dad groaned. ‘It’s a walk in the countryside, Lily, not a fashion parade.’
 ‘I’m not cold, OK?’  I marched faster to get away from them, feet crunching on the frosted grass. I was, in fact, frozen to the bone, but there was no way I’d admit it.
I climbed over a gate and glanced at a faded information board. The mounds and hollows in this field are all that remains of the medieval village of Clopton: My eyes skipped over the words; Black Death in the fourteenth century  . . . population fell . . . abandoned . . .
I looked down the slope.  Bumpy tussocks of grass, dead thistles, twisted bare trees huddling in clumps; it was hard to believe that once  - over a thousand years ago – this was a busy village with streets and houses, a church, a tavern, a marketplace . . . I shivered, and not just from the cold this time.
I took a step. My foot caught in a bramble and suddenly I was pitching headfirst down the hill, snatching at grasses, tumbling, gathering speed, plunging into the shadow of a huge lightning-blasted tree, where the frost lingered, thick and white.  
When I sat up and opened my eyes I was still freezing.
 But everything else had changed . . .
Frost and thistles