Happy new year, everyone! May 2018 bring you what you want, what you need and most of all, what you try for –  be that a fitter body, an enquiring mind or even a finished manuscript! Here in the Shed I’m already at work on my new year’s resolutions – one of which is to meet my July deadline for delivery of the new book (from which I’ll be posting the odd work-in-progress extract to those who receive to the newsletter, so click on to subscribe if you’d like to know more); plus the completion of some other plans that I hope to develop shortly.

Some of them are musical – and fans of #Storytime should be able to see me and the band perform some of the new material themed around A POCKETFUL OF CROWS sometime in Spring, as well as being able to buy the new #Storytime CD from venues (and of course, from the website).

I’m also judging the Betty Trask Prize again this year, so expect lots of excited updates (and lots of new books on my Goodreads page).

Meanwhile, love, joy and peace for 2018: and here’s the view from the Shed today, so keep warm, live in hope, and above all,  happy reading!

Also: How terrific is this? Bonnie (my brilliant illustrator for A POCKETFUL OF CROWS) is launching this challenge to herself, to post a new crow drawing every Monday for the whole year. She needs all the support she can get, so please send your crow-related stories (max 600 words) to 52crows2018@gmail.com. I’ll start you off with one of mine, first written live on Twitter…

Week 1:

The Crow Who Swallowed The Moon.

There once was a crow who delighted in bright and shining objects. A copper coin; some broken glass: a spoon from the castle kitchens. Jewellery, when she could find it; a diamond pin from a lady’s hair; a ring from a dressing-room table where a maid had left the window ajar. The crow would take these things and hide them, high in the boughs of an ancient oak, and there she would perch on a nearby branch and admire all the things she had stolen.

One night, the crow saw the full moon reflected in a water-trough. She flew down to collect it, but every time she tried to pick up the moon’s reflection, ripples obscured the silver disk, and it vanished into the water.

But the crow was not deterred. She told herself that the shining disk must be somewhere in the trough, and so she set herself the task of drinking all the water. It took all night; and by the time she had emptied the water-trough, the moon had set, and the rosy dawn was shivering on the cloudline.

The crow looked at the empty trough. “I must have swallowed the disk,” she said. Disappointed and dismayed, she told her friends, the other crows, hoping for their sympathy. But they all laughed and mocked her. “That was only the moon,” they said. “You fool! To think you believed you had swallowed it!”

The crow, feeling foolish, fled to her tree to escape the sound of their laughter. There, she sat on her favourite branch and looked over her treasures. But the coin, the ring, the silver spoon, the pin, the piece of broken glass – none of these things could compare with the moon, reflected in the water-trough.

Below her, on the ground, she could hear the other crows laughing and mocking her. “What a fool!” the crows all cried. “She really thinks she swallowed the Moon!” The crow felt very miserable.

Just then a bluebird flew onto the branch. “What’s wrong?” she asked. The crow told her tale. The bluebird listened attentively.

“But how do you know they’re right?” she said at last, when the crow fell silent. “They never saw you swallow the moon. They could all be mistaken.”

This had never occurred to the crow, who believed in the rule of the majority.

“Do you really think so?” she said.

The bluebird, who was known throughout the Nine Worlds as an optimist and a dreamer, said: “Why not? If you believe it, who’s to say that you are wrong?”

And so the crow, feeling much cheered, sat on her branch and waited for night. Below her, the other crows still mocked: “Where is the moon? Where is the moon?” But there was no moon that night: the clouds were thick and heavy.

“The little bluebird was right,” thought the crow. “In my haste, I swallowed the moon.” And though she was pleased, she felt anxious, too, for all the nocturnal creatures for whom the moon meant life or death.

“I must return it to the sky,” she said. “But how?”

Above her, the clouds raced and tumbled.

“Dogs howl at the moon,” thought the crow. “Perhaps I can try to do the same.” And, opening her beak, she began to croak as loudly as she could, to drive the moon back into the sky.

For a long time, nothing happened. Then, just for a moment, through the clouds, the moon came out and winked at her.

The crow was very much relieved. “I did it!” she said. “I saved the moon!”

And every night after that, although the other crows still laughed and mocked, the moon would show her gratitude; and every night would shine upon the treasures that the crow had kept: the coins, the ring, the diamond pin; the spoons; the piece of broken glass.

 

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