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Sunday, March 06, 2011

REVISITING OLD SARUM

Old Sarum

Last night I took my boxes out of the storage closet and found my box of manuscripts, some of them written when I was just a teenager.  The most important one I was looking for was the manuscript of my unfinished Celtic novel, "Dragons in the Sky".  I had half finished this novel before getting bogged down and setting it aside to write "Shadow of the Lion", which at the time was intended as a juvenile historical.
"It'll only take me about a year to write," I thought.  All these years later I finally did finish it and now I want to return to finish Dragons.

Inside the manuscript folder were pages of notes I'd made during my research, in particular for the last part of the book which (yes!) takes place in Greece.  Yes, there is an Alexander connection with this story!  And I found a copy of the MSS and a note I'd written to my dear Aunt Grace who wanted to read it. 
"Dragons in the Sky" is a story about sacrifices - both the literal and personal types.  It's the story of a young girl whose life is spared for the service of the gods and of the sacrifices she makes in her life from the loss of her innocence to her maturity, and eventual motherhood when she must give up her own child in order to return to her homeland.

The story is a first person narrative, the story of a Celtic girl, Olwen, who's 'voice' I have heard from the very first time I sat on the earth mount at Old Sarum on the Salisbury Plain and knew at that instant that this was the place the story took place.  In the novel, I call it "Caer Gwyn".


Iron Age village,  St. Fagans, Wales

Last summer I visited St. Fagans Heritage Park in Wales and was thrilled to tour through an iron age 'village' much like the one Olwen lived in. Two years ago I had revisited Old Sarum although I'd like to go again when I'm not so rushed and alone.  I'd been there twice before, the first time by accident when I'd noticed a sign in the bus depot about the Iron Age hill fort, and decided to walk there.  I knew instantly, when I arrived that this was where Olwen's story began.  I went there once again a year later and spent a lot of time wandering about catching the spirits. 

Me, in front of one of the wattled huts like the one Olwen lived in.

Writing "Dragons in the Sky" was as if I was actually channelling the spirit of this girl, Olwen, who wanted me to tell her story.  Maybe her story was mine from another lifetime.  The strange thing was,  Olwen's father had come from Senghenydd (an ancient holy centre in what is now Wales).  When her mother died and her father brought her to the stone circle on the Plain and she was cared for by the Druids, and became an acolyte of the Raven clan.  I didn't know at the time, until my father told me much later when he read the first part of the novel, that my great-grandfather was from Senghenydd and had died there in a mining disaster at the turn of the century.  There were many such deja-vu kind of experiences for me during the writing of that novel.

I was worried, when I took that manuscript out of the box, that perhaps after so many years the writing would not be so good, and the story wouldn't be as interesting as when I started writing it and listening to Olwen speak.  But I started to read through it and was amazed at how her voice 'sang' to me -- the cadence of the prose and the beautiful story unfolding.

I had original written it on a portable typewriter.  Now I must transpose it onto the computer and will do editing as I go along (as well as workshopping in my critique group).  So Olwen's voice will be heard again.  And this time I hope her story is completely told!  I can hardly wait to begin again.

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2 comments:

Meghan said...

This story sounds so interesting-I can't wait to read it! (Love the pictures btw.)

Wynn Bexton said...

I was so thrilled to visit St. Fagans and a replic of those iron age settlements. You could even go inside and there were people doing their 'every day' chores in there so it gave me a much better sense of the housing. I can hardly wait to start working on it again too!