The End – Day 365 – It’s Over

Today I answer that age old question: Can someone write a new story everyday for a year? 

The Answer: YES, I JUST DID IT! Over the course of this year I have written 46, 102 words in short stories! (That’s not including the blog part before each story)

I set out to become an “extreme writer” (the Bear Grylls of the literary world). Bear, what do you think?

bear

Now I want to talk directly to you readers: thank you for helping me. This project would never exist without you- your ideas are what made this work. You have been generous, imaginative and silly- I hope in return I have entertained you. 

People keep asking me how I feel. I’m not really sure how I yet- but I think these GIFs give you an idea:

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love

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For my last story I decided I needed to meet some very important folk. (Scroll over the words if you’d like to know more about any of them)

The line stretches as far as I can see, I’ve never met these people but they seem familiar.

“Why are we in line?” I ask a giant and his dog in front of me.

“Giant heard Imaginer is here,” he says.

“Imaginer?” I ask.

“She made us all up,” says the dog.

“Even me,” says a little poo next to the dog.

A small creature somewhere between a crab and a hat tugs on my jeans behind me.

“You look a bit like her,” he says.

“Mun,” I gasp. I’m starting to piece things together.

“How’d you know my name?” the crab-hat asks.

“Never mind, why do you want to meet the imaginer?” I ask him.

“We’re protesting,” he replies.

“She’s going to stop imagining,” pipes up a warrior. “We have to stand up for ourselves like we did when the spirits were upon us.”

Her army cheer.

“If she stops imagining we’ll all be gone,” says a man dressed entirely in teal. “I’m not losing my family!”

Another cheer. I start to feel anxious.

“She isn’t going to stop imagining,” I shout. “This isn’t the end!”

“How do you know?” asks a Dinosaur.

“I’m Freya, I made you up,” I say. “Your name is Dara, I named you after a comedian I like.”

“Yeah right,” says a teenage girl. “Just because you look like her doesn’t mean anything, she imagined herself loads of times.”

The girl looks just like I did when I was younger.

“Fine, I’ll prove it,” I say. “If this is my story, I can have a dragon for a best friend.”

“Don’t let them bother you,” says a rumbling voice.

I turn to see a dragon with a long beard. Everyone gasps.

“You are her!” says a flying eye.

“Then, we’re going to be okay?” a stone statue asks.

“Yes,” I say. “I won’t be writing new stories for a little while, but I will never stop imagining. You guys are in my mind forever, and I hope you will live on in a few other minds too.”

“Come on then,” Giant shouts. “Party at Giant and Rupert’s!”

I clamber up the dragon’s beard and fly off to Giant’s cave.

And that is The End – a 365 word story to end my 365 Day Challenge. I hope you’ll help me keep some of these folk alive- see you at the celebration picnic if you can make it! (Find the details here)

It Was All A Dream – Day 364 – Niall and Karl Stefanovic

I was having trouble coming up with a challenge for the second last story of the year- so I did a call out and got this response from Niall:

Someone experiences some very strange and unusual events but in the end IT WAS ALL A DREAM.
You can keep that one.

I have experienced some very unusual events during this challenge. FLASHBACK TO: getting a secret from a stranger, doing a TEDx talk and making up a new language with the audience, and writing a story on people’s hands in a pub.

And then I had a thought…

Karl Stefanovic just finished a year long challenge of his own. He wore the same suit for a year without anyone noticing to highlight sexism. 

What if…

Here’s my story:

She’d been having these strange dreams that she was a breakfast show host. At first it only happened every few months but now it was happening every night. She dreamt crazy things like that she was interviewing a grumpy cat

slapping a man with pizza

The 34 Most Karl Stefanovic Things To Ever Happen

and pretending to be a peacock.

One night whilst chasing pigeons on national TV, she never woke up.

She lived the rest of her life as that breakfast show host, and when she was asleep, she dreamt that she was writing stories.

P.S. If you want to read more Karlfic, I have written one more story about him during my 24 Hour Challenge – you can read it below.

The Karl State – Inspired by Georgia

Rosie was just 16 when she crossed the wall to QLD. She’d heard there was work there. She remembered being terrified. Rumour had it that if you didn’t answer the phone with ‘I wake up with Today’ you could be evicted from your home and that if you failed to salute the Today T at work you’d be fired.

When she finally got to the capital, Karlsville, she found that if you could deal with Karl’s face staring at you from coins, posters and art galleries it really was Australia’s best kept secret. Most of the rumours had been put out by Queenslanders trying to keep people away from the party state. In a bizarre twist Queensland had become a very progressive nation since its breakaway. Laws became publicly driven through reality television shows and a strong artistic culture was born because of Karl’s entertainment obsession. Rosie was now a people smuggler, smuggling alternative Australians into QLD. She hoped she’d never get caught or she would have to face a sentence of 10 years of insanity by dad jokes.

Lucky Number – Day 358 – Number Identity Crisis

Today there is only a WEEK TO GO of the challenge. Thinking about this made me realise that my numbers weren’t matching up to my end date- it turned out that I had accidentally made a mistake around day 128… meaning every number after that was wrong. My “Day Numbers” were having an identity crisis… hence today’s story:

I used to be a two, but I got changed to a three. The other numbers laugh at me, they tell me I’m messy. They tell me I’m a mistake.

I remember when it happened, I’d only just been drawn into existence. I liked being a two. Two was a couple, it was even, I liked being a two. But then, without warning I was crudely changed to a three. It was an odd number, and it felt wrong. Two was solid, three was awkward.

For a while I thought I was a two trapped in the body of a three. But one day I met an 8 who used to be a zero, her round curves entranced me, they were more beautiful than any other number I’d ever seen.

Something switched that day and I realised I am lucky number. I get to have fun, sometimes I tell others I am a fancy five and other times I just let them guess. Now I know I am not a two or a three, I am whatever I want to be.

ALSO REMINDER: On the 30th of November I will be holding a picnic for you all- please come tell tales and eat food. I would love to meet you! Read more about the event by clicking here.

Learning to Speak – Day 353 – Xanthe

Xanthe wanted to give me a prompt today but didn’t get a chance to- I remember she said she’d like to give me a song to inspire me. I’ve seen Xanthe sing before and her voice almost seems like it isn’t coming from her. She is the closest person I know to an actual fairy. When she sings, even though she is young, she sounds more like an ancient wise being. So that idea is going to inspire me today. (Disclaimer – Xanthe is very articulate and intelligent whether speaking or singing).

People think the clouds are stupid. They mix up their words a lot, but people don’t realise that speaking is their second language. They’ve been singing since the big bang, but they only learnt to speak a few thousand years ago. The people don’t hear their singing over the sound of the rain, but it is there if you listen close. They sing their wisest tales and ideas during the heavy rains.

The Protectors – Day 351 – Carving from Sarah

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When I was little my cousin lived with us for a few years. She helped instill a love of characters and stories in me. This is a carving she did that sits in our garden.

Every house in the village has a gargoyle to protect them. Most are tall and fierce, but when we moved in, we could only afford a tiny one. We left our city to escape war. We shouldn’t really be here, but we couldn’t stay in our home country. No village really wants us.

Our gargoyle sits in the garden most days clutching his knees. Sometimes I offer for him to come inside but he always declines, so I bring out tea for him.

One day I hear reports of thugs heading toward the village. I am sure we will be first to be robbed. Why did we have to get the dud gargoyle? When they find we have nothing to steal they’ll turn us in to the officials for money.

“We’re going to be sent back and it’ll be all your fault,” I say to the gargoyle.

At dusk the thugs come. They try a few houses but their gargoyles roar and fight them stone to fist. Then they spot our house. They come right up to our gargoyle and laugh, trying to push him aside. But he doesn’t budge. In fact he’s rising, controlling the other stones in the garden and forming a huge barrier. The thugs begin to sink into the gravel path. Horrified they drag themselves out and run off weighed down by their stone encrusted feet.

We come out and the other villagers are trying to buy our gargoyle.

“I’m sorry I doubted you,” I say to him. “I’m so glad we got you.”

He looks back at the gaggle of villagers and says, “None of you would buy me before so I will not go with you now.”

The villagers threaten to have us sent back.

“Try and I’ll encase you in stone. I am 2000 years old, the only real gargoyle here. The others are not gargoyles, they are thugs from the first war. They tried to burn this city, but I gave them their lives. In return, they swore an oath to protect our people.”

He turns to me.

“Thank you,” I say, completely stunned.

“We are both leftovers we belong together,” he says.

Just One – Day 350 – 1 a day

People often ask if I sneakily write a few stories in a day and then post them. I don’t – to be honest I am too pooped after one story. I’m not sure I’ll be able to do more than one in a day after this challenge. 

Jasmine has one idea per day. She is told the other idea generators working in the Minds can have up to 10 in a day. She worries that she’ll lose her job and be kicked out of her Mind. But when she finally retires, the Mind sends her a card. They tell her she has generated more ideas than any other employee because the others always burn out and quit. She is the longest giving brain component they have ever had.

Friend Zone – Day 349 – Thank you Susan

I asked my mentor Susan how I could thank her for all her kind words and advice this year, she told me: “I’d like to read a story about an alien abduction set in Australia.” So here it is, thank you Susan, I really appreciate everything you have done for me this year.

Side note: GAH I just deleted this entire post accidentally and had to rewrite the entire thing. I guess that is one way of editing.

We live in a tiny rural farming town. No one is ever interested in travel, but I’ve always been obsessed with seeing the outside world, especially the pyramids. My nan says she doesn’t want to be shot halfway across the world in a tin can to see a pile of rocks.

One night I decide to steal my dad’s ute. I only get as far as the edge of town when the car stops. It’s as if I’ve hit a forcefield. I get out and touch the barrier, slowly I edge my face nearer. I can hear a tapping noise. But then the sound of my dad’s tractor interrupts me. He must be looking for me. I get in the ute and reverse, then drive as fast as I can toward the barrier. There is a cracking noise and a bright light.

When I wake there is a huge figure standing over me. It looks like every inch of it’s skin is moving, like it’s made from bugs.

“Are you being okay?” it asks.

“Yes,” I reply.

“Don’t worry, I am in the…” it pauses to look at a book. “…friend zone.”

“The friendzone?”

“Yes, I am being in the zone for friends. I being looking after you.”

“What?” is all I can think to say.

“You broke the enclosure. I being thinking you resistant to the anti-travel injections. Don’t being worried, I making it closed again.”

“Enclosure?”

“I being from another planet. We abduct your town for observing 200 hundred human years ago. That being 2 of our years. We making enclosure, so real none of you realising. I being learning your language. You being thinking my talking is awesome?”

“Er, yes your English is… awesome.”

“My colleagues being talking, saying I am too close to humans. Now you being knowing everything I having to keep you like pet. Sorry. Will you still being in my friendzone? I observe you like pyramids, I can take you.”

“Yes I think we can be in the friendzone together,” I say.

Rupert the Rabbit – Day 348 – Found Boats in the City!

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The other day I was complaining that no one had taken any notice of my story paper cranes that I left all around the city. Well today I found these boats. I took a moment to inspect them and saw they are for “walking borders” which seems to be a refugee rights art project. It really brightened the street so here is my story:

Rupert the rabbit had inherited a large plush rabbit hole. When storms came most rabbits got washed out, but not Rupert, his home was perfect. One year the storm season was particularly bad.

He watched over the valley as sodden rabbits with droopy ears slowly made their way to higher ground. He felt uncomfortable that they were getting so close. This was his land.

In the morning the storm had worsened and rabbits were now lining up near his home. They asked to come in and share the warmth but Rupert couldn’t let everyone in, they wouldn’t fit.

He turned around and did not come out till night. He thought they would have given up by then, but when he emerged there were double the rabbits, all still waiting to be let in.

“Go away!” he shouted as a crack of thunder rent the air.

And with that, they did. For a huge torrent of water rushed toward them and swept them all up. Rupert suddenly felt his first pang of guilt.

This was his fault, he had to save them. The first thing he came across was a childrens toy boat his parents had found. It was an heirloom but it might just work. He rode it along the water, down into the valley and collected as many rabbits as he could.

Rupert no longer lives alone, the other rabbits helped him burrow extensions. Rupert and his new family patrol the valley during storm season looking for rabbits who need help.

Being a Lion Statue – Day 346 – Crane Untold

The other day when I did the paper crane story drop, I tried throwing a crane from up high onto a food court table. It fell straight onto a girl’s shoulder and her and friend looked at it. I was so excited! But instead they just watched it fall the floor and kept talking. This kind of thing has happened to me a lot during the challenge- some people are open to these types of surprises and some people won’t even see them. 

It used to make me angry- how can people not be curious! Why don’t they question a paper crane with “read me” falling from the sky? But I think I must let this go- sometimes these things will work out perfectly like sending the letter to a stranger, and sometimes they won’t. That’s what makes spontaneous story writing fun- there is an element of chance and danger. I always wanted to be an “extreme writer”- the Bear Grylls of the writing world.

Being a lion statue can be dull. It was hard only being able to prowl at night when the court was empty. Hen liked to make it interesting. When people came to touch her cold stone back she would purr, just ever so quietly. Most people didn’t even hear it but some people would smile. Look into her colourless eyes inquisitively and pat her more. Then she would curl her lip and they would either have a beautiful moment of connection or run a mile. Either way was fun.

Folding In – Day 344 – Paper Cranes

It’s time for another story drop! Today in paper crane form. I’ve been supervising an exam all day and enjoying the feeling of having to just sit quietly and people watch for hours. It gave me this idea:

I saw a girl fold a crane out of paper. I watched her, too afraid to talk to speak. When I got home I had memorised the sequence, so I folded my own crane.

I told it how I was too nervous to talk to her and that all I could do was sit in silence and admire. I had always done this, I learnt to speak Vietnamese from watching my neighbours but never spoke to them. I learnt knitting from the old lady across the road but never said a word. I wished I had a friend who understood, I told the crane as I folded another smaller one.

The next day I found I had not 2 cranes but three. The original paper crane I had made appeared to be folding a forth. It must have been watching me yesterday, too afraid to speak, just like me.

Which I then folded into cranes and left around the city. 

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(plus one that I couldn’t take a photo of – because I looked to creepy- on a plastic life sized dog’s head in a pj shop).

Flying Eyes – Day 343 – Eye painting

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This painting has been in my house for years and it’s blurred into the background- I almost don’t see it anymore. But today I looked at it in a new light- it could be my story trigger!

The flying eyes can be deadly and watch out for their fight whistle, my mum tells me after dinner.

I ask for seconds. She gags into my beak for a while, but she can’t bring up anything. She tells me I’ll have to start collecting for the smaller ones. She can barely find enough food for me as it is. Her wing is hurt and she can’t fly far enough. I look around the nest at my unhatched siblings.

A week later my siblings emerge and I know it is time. Gliding around is wonderful, I take a dip through the clouds. As I emerge, I see an eye ahead and hear the whistling. I fly beneath the cover of clouds for a while hoping to get rid of it. A moment later the whistling gets louder and it flies straight through the cloud nearly knocking me over. It slows and begins to dig in the cloud as if it is earth revealing a nest. There are tiny eyes in it that remind me of my siblings.

They open their mouths and blow at the big ones belly, now I can see it is filled with tiny tubes that make noise when the wind passes through them. The big one unloads some food from it’s arm and the little ones eat. It looks delicious, I sigh, wishing I had some. Suddenly they all look at me. The big one speaks.

Are you hungry?

Yes

Then take some, fellow eye. There is more below in the valley, I can show you where to go.

 I’m not an eye, I’m a bird.

That whistle you made just now, it sounded like a call.

I sigh again.

That’s it. You’re a natural.

Why do you whistle? I thought it was a fight call.

Because we are blind. We find each other by the whistle our bodies make as we fly. The eye is just there to keep predators away.

She shows me the best place for food and my family is never hungry again.

The Thieves and the Scroll – Day 342 – The Last Month!

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If you remember this– from start of my challenge gold star! It’s been sitting in my house for 288 days now, shrivelling up. Today – because it is the last month of the challenge – I decided to return the seed pod to where it came from.

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It then gave me this idea.

The oldest scroll in the public Book House has been stolen over 340 times. It’s huge, heavy and worth millions. They say the Book House has a fierce spirit that searches for the scroll and brings the thief to justice.

Han thinks this is a tale made up to stop the book being stolen. A Book House can’t have a spirit. One day takes the scroll. His plan is to sell it, but he figures he may as well read it before getting the money. It is a disjointed story of kings, slaves, monks, cooks and children, the writing styles are all different and there is no main plot. He decides it would be funny to add his own story into it before he sells it.

He writes all night. He’d almost stamped out the memories of being left on the street or being beaten by the baker where he used to work. In the morning as he heads to the market to sell it to a private book House, he finds himself walking straight back to the Book House. He’s very attached to the book now, he wants other people to understand him, laugh at his jokes, feel his grief and know why he steals.

As he puts the scroll back on the shelf of the House, he understands. The Book House does not have a spirit. These tales are just everyday people who want to be understood. That is why the book always returns, to be read.

Sleeping Revolt – Day 341 – Sleepy Writing

Today I am exhausted and fell asleep several times trying to write this.

The people were placid as they followed the chief’s horrific orders. They cleared, jailed and killed those in their path without a fight. Every time they thought about leaving, their eyelids drooped, their minds dulled and they fell into a deep sleep. The slumbering were carried as they moved through villages.

One young girl in particular was almost always being carried. She was rarely awake for more than a day. Her body was wasted away but her mind was strong. She had been training for years. Every time she woke, she would think about leaving, trying to beat her record of conciousness.

When the chief finally asked her to kill for the first time, she ran away from camp, just managing to keep her eyes open. He found her in a nearby forest and tortured her. She slept through the entire thing and so did the people. They took her example and there was a mass sleep. The chief watched their unconscious bodies wither from thirst and hunger.

But before they starved, their minds grew strong. Together they shook off the chief’s spell. Now he is imprisoned by the people, his eyes dry and his mind buzzing, never able to sleep again.

Racing to the Boat – Day 340 – Island Boat

Foot to the floor we sped toward the ramp. The car became airborn. Camping gear jumbled around as the ferry ramp began to close. But the tyres hit the floor of the deck just in time. We smashed into the cars parked in front. Car alarms rent the air and my toothbrush slid under the car in front. I picked it up as I got out and like Indiana Jones picking up his hat, I put it in my mouth proudly before exchanging insurance details with the other car owners.

I’ve been staying on an island and today we nearly missed the boat back home. It was a mad drive to the barge which we just made before they left. It was like an Indiana Jones scene – I kept thinking about what would have happened if you tried moves like his in real life. 

Hiccoughing – Day 338 – Bodie

Bodie told me he has explosive hiccoughs today.

He had been hiccoughing for years. He got teased at school, kicked out of lectures for being too loud and his first kiss was a disaster. He wondered why he had been cursed with this affliction. He’d gotten very good at suppressing them but he’d never be rid of them completely. One day he decided he wouldn’t hide them any longer. He embraced the urge and let out one huge hiccough. It was so forceful it launched him into the clouds and he could fly around for quite a time if he continued to hiccough, and with that he left the teasing behind.

A World in Your Eye – Day 337 – ZoomQuilt

Today I discovered this: zoomquilt.org

It’s amazing.

“Ouch, there’s something in my eye,” he says. “Can you take a look?”

I look in his eye, there are buildings, tiny trees and even a little monkeys swinging around, no wonder it hurts. Before I can say anything, he starts jabbing around in his eye.

I swear I can hear little screams.

~

I’m picking fleas off Ooo’s back. I look at his hair closely it looks like there is a little temple perched upon his spine. But I don’t get another chance to look at it because suddenly the ground tips and we are both screaming.

~

I’m meditating, looking at the bowl of water in front of me. I can see a reflection, it looks like there is a tiny sea monster eating swimming around. I look again but the water is vibrating, I can feel the entire temple shaking.

~

I tell him to stop jabbing, he’ll hurt his eye. I take another look, the little monkeys have stopped screaming. I tell him there’s nothing in there, except a whole world.

“You’re sweet,” he says. “I like you.”

We kiss.

~

We hug. I am careful not to touch the temple on his back.

~

I pick the bowl up and try to scoop the monster back into the water.

Gripping – Day 335 – Susan (Mentor)

At the start of the year I met with my old writing lecturer, Susan (read full story here). Today I met again with her to ask her how to survive after this challenge. She said “tenacity”. In the dictionary the first definition for tenacity is the ability to grip something tightly.

No one knows exactly what is on the island, but anyone that manages to get in never comes back. It was rumoured to get in, you must prove our tenacity by hang on to a rope dangling over the water for as long as you can. The safekeepers of the island will then judge whether you have enough to enter or not. Some people believed this to be the path to great riches but most thought it was a fairytale and a sure fire way to be eaten by barbarians.

Lu was born without arms and lived on the street. She hated begging and stealing. The only thing she liked doing was imagining the island, the way trees might look and the smell of the grass. One day she decided she had nothing to lose. So she stole a small fishing boat early in the morning started the engine with her teeth.

When she arrived two children came to meet her.

“We are the safekeepers.”

“But you’re kids,” Lu said.

“We are the wisest. Would you like to live on the island or not?”

“Yes,” answered Lu.

The two children looked at the space where Lu’s arms would be.

“Er, you know the deal with the rope don’t you?” one asked.

“I still have tenacity,” said Lu. “I can grip things with my mind.”

Lu began to describe how she had imagined the island.

“The bark on the trees have fingerprint patterns, the purple grass smells like rust after it has been washed with soap…”

At first the safekeepers just laughed, but ten hours later most of the island had come to watch her all through the night till her voice was just a husky whisper. One man even broke the rules to give her some water. She described for another day until the safekeepers spoke.

“We see you have much tenacity, welcome.”

When Lu walked through the gates. Everything looked just as she had imagined.

“How could I be right?” she asked.

“The island is what you imagine, most people just see a generic city with money or cars,” answered a safekeeper.

“Yeah all I see is a bunch of trampolines,” said the other.

Adaptation – Day 333 – Wall Stickers

I was looking at this wall sticker and it gave me an idea!

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We are a wood tribe. Traditionally everything we own was made of wood, so we used to cut down a lot of trees. But long ago the trees began to adapt. They grew thinner and thinner. Nowadays our trees are all 2D. It stopped us from cutting them down, it was chaos at first.

We use the trees differently now. Our houses are just trees growing in strategic places, and they are much more obliging now. Most will even grow their branches into doors and windows if you treat them well enough.

A misbelief of Painters- Day 331 – Georgia & Chloe

Georgia donated this link (Ten of the best collective nounsto me, and Chloe loves collective nouns.

I really liked “a misbelief of painters” which was named that because portrait painters earned their money off painting rich people in a flattering way (kind of like medieval photoshop).

A misbelief of painters filled the small pub with the paint fumes ingrained on their skin and clothes. Their voices were a quiet murmur, but if you listened close you could hear them speaking of the evil deeds their rich employers had done.

“I painted out a slave master’s warts,” piped up one.

“I made the rotund tax man into a handsome slender model,” said another.

They all agreed that their employers needed a reality check. So they devised a plan.

For the next few weeks the painters would ask to follow their employers around for a day, “to get a better sense of their true beauty.”

In their spare time, they painted normal people, the bar lady, the one legged farmer and the paper boy (who was in fact a girl).

All the paintings were displayed as an exhibition, and the misbelief of painters became known as the “true beauty see’ers”. Many of the ordinary people were painted as bright and beautiful creatures while most of the rich customers were painted in repulsive gory detail.

The painters are now very popular, and people come from all around to be “seen” by them. It is believed to be the ultimate test of character and many will not marry a person who receives an ugly portrait no matter how rich and beautiful they may be.

Yowie – Day 330 – Bruce

A man I met in a shop told me to write about a Yowie. 

People do not understand Yowies. Yowies are protectors of the forest. Only one is born every 50 years. They are created by the biggest tree in the forest, and they live for an awfully long time. They must be trained by the plants and the animals before they can begin their job. They are as strong as a trunk, as loyal as roots, and have the natural instincts of all the animals in the forest.

Yowies are sent by the forest to pick up on the vibe of anyone who comes in. If they are friendly, the Yowie will report back to the big tree and she will send word through the root systems to protect that person. But if they are hostile, it is the Yowie’s job to scare them away. They get in the background of photos, make strange noises and sometimes grab at people’s feet.

Migration – Day 328 – Jon

Remember Jon? One of my mentors from earlier in the year (read here). We met up again today to talk about how I might survive the real world after locking myself away in the special world of the 365 Day Challenge. We basically concluded that I can just keep making more special worlds. I like this. 

He suggested today’s story be about swallows, because he saw one fly off at the end of our meeting. 

The two swallows had always sat patiently on my collarbones. I got them because they were a symbol of freedom and travel. Barn swallows travel all the way from England to South Africa every year. It almost felt cruel that they were trapped, forever sedentary on my skin.

One day I woke up to find them gone. I was disturbed but even more disturbed when my housemate burst into my room screaming that two swallows had appeared on her back overnight.

I couldn’t convince her that it wasn’t a prank I had pulled. I asked to have another look, they might suit her. But when she lifted her shirt they were gone.

We ran out onto the street and saw an old lady with swallows on her ankles, and a small child with swallows on his rosy cheeks. I smiled, they had found a way to free themselves and do what they knew best. The next week the news was filled with reports of swallow tattoos appearing on people all over South Africa.

The Kindling – Day 327 – For you

She lives off the kindling of ideas and the spark of connection between minds. She wouldn’t exist without the people who kindly give her fragments of their brain. She is very grateful and wants to thank everyone. So she decides to burn in all different colours and she puffs embers into the atmosphere like tiny stars, hoping this is enough to thank everyone for not letting her extinguish.

A small story to say thanks to you and the next stories are going to be fun and varied. If you have any ideas for more creative ways of doing stories please tell me. I’m thinking more random story drops and stories hanging from trees…

Jules – Day 326 – Creep

I got the word “creep” in pictionary. This is what I drew: 

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Jules cannot walk. He only creeps. It’s not his fault. He was born with that walk, the drooling and glasses are his own choice. He decided he would accentuate what nature gave him.

Word Architect – Day 324 – For Sean

Today I am thanking Sean- another mentor to me this year. 

She’d built a huge pile of words. They were a good pile of words, but she wasn’t sure exactly what to do with them. One day the word architect visited. He chiselled off a word here and there.

She watched apprehensively, he didn’t rearrange much. But when he’d finished, she realised the word pile now had turrets and a door she’d never noticed before.

Small Ones and Big Ones – Day 323 – For Geoff

This story is for Geoff (one of my mentors for this project) to say thanks for all the help. He is always talking about “knowing one’s self” so I am running with that idea. 

We’re kept apart as much as possible when we are small. We are told that we must know ourselves before we can understand others. The big ones tell us it is so we can be our unique selves. Not be tainted by others.

I try to know myself. I try different foods, different hobbies, different readings. I still feel there is something missing. They tell me I am not ready, I don’t know myself. I feel alone. I wonder if I am the only one who feels like this.

One day I see some other small ones from next door. I try to talk to them but a big one leads me away. That night I sneak out and find the other small ones. We talk into the morning. They are lonely too.

I try food I’ve never heard of, hear thoughts I don’t agree with and play games. I feel better.

At first the big ones are angry with us, but then one looks at me closely.

“He’s ready, they helped him,” says the big one.

Small ones are encouraged to interact now.

The Pit – Day 322 – Running out of Ideas

“How long will they keep us on the juicer?” asked a new youngling.

“I’ve been here a long time,” I tried to comfort him.”If you have enough ideas they won’t throw you in the pit.”

I’d always believed this to be true, but I’d never seen anyone survive the juicer for as long as me. Everyone goes to the pit eventually, but I was going to change all that. The youngling was crying now.

“Don’t worry,” I say. “It’s alright here, take a look around. There’s nice showers, and we always get fed.”

He stops crying and looks around. I remember when I was a youngling it was hard to find food with no elders around. I can still taste the first meal I ever had in the juicer.

“Will you be my friend?” the youngling asks.

“Of course,” I say. “I’ll look after you.”

The next day I wake to find myself being carried by a hand. I am headed to the pit.

“No!” I yell at the giant. “I still have ideas!”

I rack my brain but nothing comes.

“You served us well,” says the giant. “But everyone is born with a finite amount of ideas.”

The giant drops me. The pit is worse than I’d imagined. Everyone is weak with hunger and the smell of rotting bodies is thick.

One of my old friends from the juicer flings herself onto me.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispers. “I never thought I’d see you here, but I guess the pit gets everyone in the end.”

“I’m hungry,” I say.

“There’s no food.”

“Well lets look for a way out.”

“There’s none.”

“Have you tried?”

“No. What are we supposed to do? There are no ideas down here.”

She was right. I’d failed, the giants had taken all my ideas. There was nothing I could do now.

But that night I have an idea. What if the giant’s were wrong? What if we were just assuming they were right and disregarding our ideas in the pit.

It’s a small idea, but an idea nonetheless. This proved the giants were wrong. I hadn’t failed, I could still change everything.

Sometimes I still get scared that I have a finite number of ideas and that I am using them all up- this story is inspired by that fear. 

When the Sun Came Down to Meet Us – Day 320 – Honours

Today I handed in my honours exegesis with links to this website. It’s going to be marked!

I feel a lot like Mulan in this clip (only replace the old ladies with academics, replace the grooming with editing/reading, and change the words to “you’ll bring honours to us all!”)

It feels scary and a little anticlimactic.

Also, last night I had a dream that there was a floating road made of sand that led straight to the sun. So I’m combining these two ideas for my story today. 

People had lived in the sands for thousands of years. I’d always loved the way the sand moved. Everyday I woke to a new landscape. There were new mountains to explore but everything was still somehow familiar.

One day I awoke to find a ramp that seemed to be leading to the sun. It was beautiful and that day everyone enjoyed playing on it and pretending to touch the sun. But the next morning it was still there.

Every night the wind would howl, but always, the ramp grew larger. People started basing religions off the ramp. They thought it meant all kinds of things, usually involving the end of the world or the start of new one. And the ramp continued to grow, stretching up to the sun.

They say the sun is building it, so she can walk down to meet us. They say it will happen tomorrow. I am scared.

But in the morning when I wake up, its gone. It’s very anticlimactic. People are devastated that the sun hasn’t come down from the heavens to meet us. But I am glad that I get to see new landscapes again, and that I won’t have to shake the sun’s fiery hand.

Breakfast Ladies – Day 319 – Kait

Today it is my dear friend Kait’s birthday. A group of girls went out for breakfast with her this morning to celebrate and ended up having some of the most inappropriate breakfast conversations of all timez. Kait suggested I write about it- and since she is the birthday girl here it is:

They’re called the ‘breakfast ladies,’ and they are natural enemy of the cafe. The two tiny old ladies can be found creeping around cafe strips early in the morning. Equipped with only their frail bodies and their delicate handbags, they can clear an entire cafe. Conversation is their weapon of choice, they know no bounds. Masters of description, they paint every bowel movement, bunion and pustule in vivid phrases. So beware. Do not be fooled by their white wispy hair and soft frail bodies, their tongues are knives and they will carve your business up.

Word Explorer – Day 318 – Tools

Jasper was an explorer. He trudged through thousands of words just find a new phrase.

Tear sucking

Wonder deficit

Eye Flakes

Teeth bending

Biting optimism

Wilted love

Sleeping gusto

and his favourite

giggle nubs

He felt his work was a serious matter but no one else seemed to agree. They laughed their way through his sold out seminars. Years later, after Jasper died. A memorial was built for him. They were the happiest and most literate town in the world. It turned out laughing was a serious matter.

Today I considered my tools: words.

I’d been playing a game where I come up with disgusting phrases made from seemingly innocuous words (eg. crumbly tongue, juicy toilet and toe milk)

Desert Reprise – Day 316 – Finish line

221 stories ago I wrote this story about my destination being so far away:

Her mind was an arid desert and thoughts slipped through her fingers like sand. She’d walked for months. She was sure she was making progress, but when she looked back she could still see her house. Her destination was so far away it was hidden by the horizon. Her optimism was fading like the sun.

She sat down in the sand and imagined the day when her supplies would run dry and her people would stop caring. It seemed inevitable on such a long journey. In fact she couldn’t believe they’d supported her this far. She was a fraud, and she would fail them in the end.

Things seem very different now.

She’d always thought her supplies would run dry, but now she’d learnt how to make her own. She’d been walking so long she didn’t know what it was like to rest. Would she be able to rest? When she closed her eyes would she dream of walking?

When We Took to the Sky – Day 314 – Realisation

After that realisation yesterday that everything doesn’t have to end- I feel like I can fly.

Warning: could also be because I just finished the game “Journey” and this is what I currently look like in my head:

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I’m sitting

Eyes shut

Wishing I could fly

You’re shouting

My eyes snap open

I see

You on the grass

Far below

My feet

Dangling

In the sky

I’m scared

But then I pause

Curios

I shout

“Think about flying!”

Then you’re floating

We’re swimming

Through the sky

I look around

There are others too

No one knows

What happened that day

Only some

Can fly

They tried to regulate it

But we just float

higher

and higher

away.

Fenlan and the Warriors – Day 313 – Lawrence Leung

I went to see one of my favourite comedians, Lawrence Leung, at the National Young Writers Festival this weekend. He ran a great workshop about creative practice. Above is a picture of me being awkwardly star struck. I asked him what I should do after my 365 Day Challenge. His answer was simple, elegant and embarrassingly obvious for me. “Ask your followers.”

Suddenly I was aware that everything I have built during this challenge was my own doing (my connections, my skills and you guys reading!) I won’t lose it once it’s over. I’m not alone. So to anyone who follows this blog- please let me know if you have an idea for my next project or where I should take my writing next. 

Here’s my story:

Fenlan made the jagged rocks of the mountain her home for a year. People came from all around to learn to be fine warriors. Most came from warring villages but learnt side by side, for peace is always kept amongst the clouds.

Fenlan was the Queen’s daughter and when she came of age, she would have to fight off the evil spirits who terrorised the region. It was said only a royal daughter was strong enough to defeat them. Unfortunately no daughter had ever managed the task.

She had become a strong agile fighter, but her greatest strength had been making friends. She had even brought some of the feuding warriors together.

On the last night she cried. The thought of fighting the spirits alone scared her. She was used to fighting with her fellow warriors and couldn’t bear the thought of them going back to their homes only to fight with each other.

The next morning, on her birthday, she realised she didn’t have to face the spirits alone, it was always just assumed. So she rallied the warriors. It wasn’t easy convincing them to work together, but even the master agreed.

“I have been waiting for a daughter like you, one who realises their true strength,” she told Fenlan.

So they marched from the mountain. Many people laughed when they saw Fenlan wasn’t alone.

“Only a daughter can defeat the spirits!” they shouted.

Fenlan blocked them out as the spirits came swiftly, gnashing their teeth.

“What do you want? We have killed many daughters like you, what makes you think you special?”

Fenlan introduced herself and the other warriors.

“We have found you a new home in the mountains where peace is always kept,” she said, “and if you do not go, you will face us all.”

“Those warriors are from feuding villages,” the spirits said, “does that mean you are united?”

“Yes,” the warriors answered.

“We are happy to accept,” said the spirits. “We are spirits of war, only when the villages are united can we rest. Thank you.”

The mountains are now home to the spirits and it is no longer a training camp, for there is no need for warriors.

The Writing Machine – Day 310 – Chris Currie

Today I asked author and fellow 365 day story writer Chris Currie about how to survive after the 365 Day Challenge and if I am a writer yet. Make sure to read his stuff here and our first interaction here (that is probably one of my all time favourite stories from the challenge). Here is what he told me this time:

Congrats on nearly being at the end of your journey! I don’t really know what qualifies you to be a writer. Personally I think you should always aim to improve every time you write; it’s a non-quantitative skill after all. Discipline is probably the most important thing you have to learn when you’re starting out (trying to take writing “seriously”) and what you’ve achieved I think will go a huge way towards instilling the work ethic you need if want to make a career of writing. Anyone who’s mad enough to write a story every day for a year gets my vote without question.

So discipline will be important when I finish…

The army marched into the city. No one anticipated their arrival. Mum was at work so I hid with my little brother under the stairs. As they reached our street I expected to hear screams and gunfire. But it never came. I closed my eyes and listened. I could hear a menacing clicking noise and a fluttering noise like wings. I wondered if they were some sort of horrible alien. When my eyes opened again I saw my tiny brother waddling toward the front door. His fat fists could barely reach the handle. As I hissed at him to come back, his fingers found the handle and I rushed out to stop him. By the time I pulled him away it was too late. The door flung open.

But there was no horrible winged creatures. The flutter was coming from the papers that filled the street and the clicking was typing. There were thousands of them, armed with writing machines, they were typing and flinging paper onto the street. We walked out onto the street to find several other bemused city folk staring at the army. The writing soldiers seemed to be in a trance. My brother picked up some paper. I looked at it. It was a story about two little brothers who opened a door.

In the aftermath we found out they were the ancient writers from the mountains. Every four hundred years they would go on a training trek. They would travel the land writing about everything they saw, and only stop when they returned home.

Mentees – Day 309 – Josh Donellan

So I am resurrecting the mentor scheme this month and checking up on my progress. I want to know- What is a writer? Why are there writers? Am I one? I think I am comfortable with saying I am a writer (maybe?) but I am scared of the real world… the world outside this challenge. I’ve set up a bunch of rules for myself… what happens when the challenge ends? Will I keep up the writing? My entire life has been centred around this challenge for 307 days and I don’t really know how to do life without it now.

So I asked Josh Donnellan who mentored me in March this year (read more about him challenging me to read my work to someone who would hate it here). Josh has recently put out a new book (go forth and read here – it has great character names) and had some great answers for some of my questions:

I think you’re a writer if you write. I meet so many people who say “I’d love to be a writer, but I just don’t read much and never really have time to write anything.” and I usually reply “yeah, I really want to be a marathon runner but I usually just sit around eating tim-tams and playing xbox.”

I think you know you’ve found the thing that you want to do when not doing it makes you unhappy as much as doing it makes you happy. Maybe after you finish your challenge take a break for a bit and let it all sink in?

This all made a lot of sense and last paragraph really made me think. At the start of last year- before I had come up with this challenge- I wasn’t happy. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I didn’t have a “proper job” and I spent my time thinking about writing (but rarely doing it). Now – I have never been happier, and I spend most of my time writing.

Before you read today’s story you’ll need to know one thing: Josh and I have a running joke about the word “mentee.” Here is something he wrote for me a while ago.

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Mentees usually lived between the long reeds of words and grazed on the pages which grew on the lake floor. When they weren’t grazing, they liked to spend their time lamenting the loss of their habitat. For their habitat was shrinking. Soon there would be no words to survive on.

No one knew where the words had come from or when they would come again, they assumed it was a divine treasure. Many Mentees tried to ration the words as a way of coping, but once small Mentee decided to write some more. The other Mentees would ridicule him, some even called the writing blasphemy.

But the little mentee continued to write, he was sure the words had only come from their ancestor Mentees. Eventually the others were forced to ask him for words, and when they tasted them, they knew they had made a mistake. Now most mentees write, and they rarely spend their time lamenting.

Will You Draw with Me? – Day 308 – High fiving a stranger

This month I am going to resurrect the mentor idea and ask you an my mentors from the start of the year to give me advice about leaving the world I’ve created in the 365 Day Challenge. But before that I have a very special story to tell. 

Today I sat in the library and was working on the conclusion of my thesis. I’d been thinking a lot about how flippin great it is to follow your natural curiosity, and as I wrote a particularly good sentence, a feeling came over me. So I wrote this note:20141001_150232

And then after wiping nervous sweat from my hands- I poked the stranger next to me in the shoulder and gave him the note.

He read it. Smiled. Our palms came into contact and the quiet library was filled with the sound of our high five. We giggled for a second, then went back to our work. Not a single word was spoken. I’m sitting next to him as I type but I think we’re both too scared to look at each other- it will ruin that perfect unspoken moment.

Here’s my story:

She didn’t understand a lot of people. Why did some have tattoos, why did others wear suits? Why did some only drink juice and why did others eat dead things? Why were they so different to her?

She did however, understand drawing. She drew all the time. At lunch break, in class and at home. She liked to imagine drawing picture with the different people everyone. So one day she left the school grounds. That day she drew 3 pictures before she was caught by her teacher, one with a bearded man and a pigeon from the park, one with the baker and one with a tattoo lady. She wrote them a note “Will you draw with me?” and when they put pen to paper no words were spoken.

At first she was in trouble, but then her teacher saw how much she wanted to draw. Her parents supported it and eventually so did the entire school. She would get one day off every week where her dad would take her around town, and she would draw with people. She drew everyone from politicians to musicians, and she began to understand people, even when they were wildly different to her.

Eventually, she fell ill. And people had to come to her. Then, she stopped drawing altogether. That day in parliament before beginning, as a mark of respect, they stopped to draw together. No speaking, no arguments, just pen on paper. There was said to be no arguing that day, only understanding.

Money Tree – Day 305 – Money Tree

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Forests are nice places to reflect, and sometimes you find weird things too- like this log. I realised, before this challenge I would have seen this log and thought it would make a good story “one day” and “one day” would never come. But now, I take a photo immediately without even thinking and start planning how I am going to write about it. 

It’s a very nice city, I’m lucky to have made it here. But there are no street sleepers, like me. A man walking his dog tells me to go the money tree. I assume it’s just a cruel joke given the state of me but I go there anyway. The park is nice. It’s a huge attraction. People come from all over the world to stick their own coin into it, hoping it will ensure they have a rich life. I don’t even have a coin to stick in it.

I see a dad hand his kid a coin.

“Now go get me that new car,” he jokes.

I decide to join the line. Perhaps just touching it will give me some luck. The boy in front of me looks at me, screwing up his nose at my smell.

When I get to the front they don’t turn me away. So I pretend to put in a coin. But as I do I feel coins dropping into my hand.

I’ve lived in the city 5 years now and even have my own house. There are no street sleepers because of that money tree. I found out later it is a real money tree. Only those who truly need it can pull the coins from its bark. The government is terrified people will find out so they disguise it as a tourist attraction.

Run – Day 304 – Signs You are a Writer?

Here’s a confession – I am often sucked into quizzes and the like. I rarely agree with them but I find them to be a pretty good way to reflect on things. I started this challenge in order to become a writer. I’ve always been hesitant to use that word in relation to myself (even after being occasionally paid for it). I didn’t feel I could call myself one if I didn’t write everyday. So I looked at this Buzzfeed “24 Signs You’re a Writer” to see if I could say it yet. At first I panicked, I’ve never wanted or owned a typewriter, I don’t want to live in New York and I really don’t like coffee.

That Tastes Nasty (The 10th Doctor) 

But then I came to my senses… my writing does not depend on my implements, country or tastebuds. I think I’m finally comfortable to say I am a writer. 

Lee didn’t have nikes or a trademark victory move. He asked his mother if one day he could ever be a runner.

“A runner is someone who runs. You run everyday, I see you outside the house.”

Her Face is Not Important – Day 303 – Adrian

Because I did a sad “memory” story yesterday Adrian told me I should really do a happy one too. Especially since I have now PASSED THE 300 STORY MARK GUYS! (not that I’m excited or anything)

So, I’ve taken inspiration from another thing I learnt from the memory episode of radiolab about a man with amnesia who couldn’t recognise his wifes face if she walked by, but still recognises her by her embrace. 

Her face is not important

I’m can’t imagine it ever was

It was her warmth

Her mind

Her care

That was important

Most people think the important things are

Noses

Lips

Eyes

But I’ve found what’s real

When I think of her

It’s better than a face

It’s a feeling

Her meaning

That’s what survives

Who is that? – Day 301 – Infinite Reflections

I am in the process of polishing my honours thesis which means I am infinitely reflecting on everything…

In a room of mirrors, she reflected. Was each reflection identical? Or did they lose something of her with each reflection? There were 10 versions of herself she could see in the mirrors currently, each getting smaller and further away.

Meanwhile an even bigger version of herself behind her was watching her in the mirror and wondering the exact same thing.

a very apt bit of art from Kusama.

Remind me of the Babe – Day 299 – Baby Reflections

This month is about reflection, and I want ideas- where are the best places to reflect? Who are the best people to reflect with? What’s the best reflective anecdote you have for me?

Lucy suggested: “kids seeing their reflection for the first few years is pretty entertaining!”

So here we go, written from a baby perspective… 

The mirror lies. The mirror says “you are a tiny sack of fat and dimples and other baby bits.” But I am more than that. Before the mirror I was thoughts and smells and feelings.

Imprisoned – Day 297 – Egg in A Milk Bottle Experiment (Geoff)

Geoff says he’s always liked the egg in a milk bottle experiment. Basically you put a lit match in a milk bottle and it creates a vacuum which suck the boiled egg inside like so:

Brian teaches the other kids at school how to suck an egg into a milk bottle. They don’t seem too interested. At lunch they lock him in the toilet. He looks at the egg in the bottle.

“You and me both eh egg?” 

Blue Blood – Day 296 – Horseshoe Crab Blood (Erin)

Erin told me about Horseshoe Crab blood which is blue! It is harvested for it’s bacteria detecting abilities.

“Harvesting horseshoe crab blood involves collecting and bleeding the animals, and then releasing them back into the sea. Most of the animals survive the process; mortality is correlated with both the amount of blood extracted from an individual animal, and the stress experienced during handling and transportation. Estimates of mortality rates following blood harvesting vary from 3-15%to 10-30%”

Blue blood. A man says it’s royal but we are lined up like cattle, being bled for all we’re worth. Drip drip drip. I wonder why they needed it so much. I’d never seen my blood before. No idea it was valuable.

When they unlock us and take us back to sea I feel lucky. I can go home and take care of my sick little crab once more.

Every night I dream of those white coats and the drip of my own blood. Most other crabs try to block it out but I can’t.

I start doing my own tests. Bleed once more. Blue ink on the sand. Most crabs call me crazy but I keep doing it. One day I discover it. We have medicine in our blood.

My little crab is well again now, and I’m feeling lucky once more but I never forget that drip drip drip.

War Bears – Day 295 – Polar Bears

Lucy told me “Polar Bears are almost undetectable by infrared cameras because of their transparent fur” for science week. This is my story:

When war broke out I went straight to the north pole. I knew this was where I needed to be. When I arrived I was met with the sight of a pile of skinned polar bear caracasses. I was too late. That night the enemy broke into our ranks silently, undetected by the infrared surveillance cameras.

Curiouser and Curiouser – Day 253 – Unclaimed Reward

A few days ago I made treasure maps (the treasure was my story) and hid them in the library, as requested by Lucy.

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The maps which told you how to find the stories were taken down that afternoon but not the stories. So I did them again and hid them better. Unfortunately yesterday they were taken down again (but the stories still remain). I was really disappointed- but not for my blog and not because no-one got to read the story. Then it finally dawned on me: I was sad because the whoever took them down wasn’t even a little bit curious about something called a “Library Treasure Map”. I am scared of people who aren’t curious about things (especially treasure), are they robots?

He froze time. Not literally of course, but he bred out the gene that produces curiosity and now nothing ever changes. No one wonders about their potential, no one really loves because they don’t really want to know about each other, and the music sounds the same because no one ever tries new beats. One day I found myself wondering why he did it, and I realised this was the beginning. I had the curiosity gene, I wondered if I could save us.