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Sep 29, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Gerald, of Wakefield.

I watched him through a lens of shyness. But mainly I read, researched, and thought. He made me want to. Back then, I was too busy making teenage sense of Homer, Thucydides and Plato to appreciate his influence fully. It’s so much easier now that I’ve walked in his shoes.

Gerald Thompson was a West Riding grammar school boy, with brainpower that allowed him to enjoy the same sort of mildly intoxicating Cambridge years he helped me to experience. Perhaps his ‘humble’ origins made him more at home in my unpretentious East Riding hometown. Larkin called us a ‘cut-price crowd’, but Gerald didn’t treat us like that. He wanted so much for us. He showed us the beauty of learning, and the narrowness of the syllabus. Above all, he gave us an example in how to live. I’ve never seen a teacher suggest so unintentionally that it wasn’t about money or status. He stood out.

Every boy in the school called him ‘Hermes’. And why not? He might as well have been Greek. In time, that was his identity: citizenship, orthodoxy, ways. He walked away from the unromantic restrictions of a heavy-handed management brigade. I know that walk now…

Gerald lies buried in a cemetery on Aegina, the island that became home for him. Our school trip to Greece in 1979 included a few days there. Remembering how at ease he seemed in that environment, it was no surprise that he settled into a life there so completely. We can all learn something from Gerald about marrying temperament with rhythm and milieu.

It was some years into my teaching career before I realised that I was holding the baton which Gerald had gently passed to me. I tried to grip it firmly and proudly. And I passed it on, Gerald.

Contribution offered by Paul Gamble

Twitter: @gegegamble

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Hello again Paul. Later than usual due to my working away this week, here is a link to your powerful tribute ('Gerald of Wakefield': what a title; what a mentor).

https://thecureforsleep.com/september-issue-mentors/#paulgamble

And my warmest congratulations once again on your essay published by Little Toller in The Clearing this week. It is rightly being read and shared far and wide. Here is a link to it for anyone here coming to this thread who'd like to discover your fine work beyond this project:

https://www.littletoller.co.uk/the-clearing/ends-the-land-suddenly-by-paul-gamble/

Thank you for joining our endeavour here, and I hope other of the (always open) themes might interest you to try.

Tanya x

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Thank you so much, Tanya! Doubly so, when you have been on the move and very busy.

Your encouragement is so valued - and I am excited to contribute further, be assured of that. Hope you have found space for some relaxation after your travelling! ✨

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Paul, this is a truly beautiful tribute to your teacher and also to that transmission of values that spreads outwards & sustains from these rare good people. I have read this over & again. I love the measure if your prose, how it gives me a living sense of your lessons with him. ‘We can all learn something from Gerald about marrying temperament with rhythm and milieu.’ ‘Larkin called us a ‘cut-price crowd’, but Gerald didn’t treat us like that. He wanted so much for us. He showed us the beauty of learning, and the narrowness of the syllabus.’ Wow. I will add this by you to the archive next week when I return to my desk after this weekend teaching. And will return here to give you the link. Thank you. I’d love to see how you respond to other themes in the archive if you ever have time/interest.

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Thank you so much for your generous comments - and for making them so soon after I posted. Those lessons with Gerald were in the 1970s, but I still feed off the joy that I (and others) found in them. You're right.... the transmission of values is such a key element of teaching. I also feel grateful that I grew up in the town which Larkin observed and where he composed. It's given me an added reason to be interested in him.

I'm really looking forward to putting together responses to other themes in your list. Again, thank you for your encouragement!

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Apr 29, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

The transmissions and transfusions of those mentors and elders who lovingly sculpt our souls! Such are the gifts that last a lifetime...and aren't the moments exquisite when we realize that we are infusing others with those qualities of being...

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Yes, to feel part of handing on the good that was given us... as we are all doing here by reading and responding to one another's words. It's a fine feeling. x

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Oct 2, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

What a lovely tribute to your teacher, really captures his spirit of generosity. I don't know if I can explain this properly, but I just felt a calmness when I was reading this, I imagine like the calmness his students must have felt being encouraged and fully accepted.

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Oct 4, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I think you have explained a key aspect of the experience, Sheila! We did have a sense of calmness in that classroom. It had a different feel to any other I entered as a pupil. Not because of any material differences, but because of the level of respect we were accorded. It was a very gentle encouragement too - nothing noisy about Gerald, even on the many occasions he burst into song…

Thank you for your generous comments!

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Oct 5, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

That is wonderful to hear that!

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Oct 1, 2022·edited Oct 1, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Beautiful writing so full of admiration for an inspiring person and teacher you were so fortunate to have,how watchful and switched on you were at a young age to see the lessons he taught with his teachings .

How happy I imagine he would be to have encouraged you into teaching yourself, lovely lovely tribute to Gerald 🙏

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Thank you for being so encouraging in your comments, Monique. I’m sure I was a relatively watchful teenager, and think I understand why that was so. Once we moved on to studying literature, we always seemed to study it with an eye on the human psyche. I think that must have been helpful in switching us on. I wouldn’t underestimate too the fortune we had in having such a gifted teacher for successive years (in my case, that was four). These days, teaching can be very piecemeal. Everyone got to know each other’s foibles in those classes… and teacher/student barriers were as good as non-existent.

Thankfully, Gerald knew the joy I found in my own teaching. 🙏🏻 I never sought to imitate his style btw. We had quite different temperaments, for all the values we shared.

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Oct 5, 2022·edited Oct 5, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Ah Paul sounds like a really lovely time in your life ,it was lovely to share in your recollections !

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Paul, I’ve read the piece in The Clearing twice now, it is beautiful. I loved how the ending tied back to the beginning. Such poignancy, so many parallels between place and your life. A piece in place that touches on so many human emotions. Just wonderful! Also enjoyed the pictures. Your teacher would be so proud.

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Your words mean so much to me, Sheila. In writing about Spurn, my feelings for the place deepened further. And it really is as beautiful and dramatic as the pictures suggest. If you've not been there yet, I hope you make it one day. But don't leave it too long.... Thank you!

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Oct 6, 2022·edited Oct 7, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

The Quieter One

She was the quieter one, kept things turning over in a house with more children than money, scraped mud off potatoes and sliced knobbly carrots while he led us on adventures into the mountains or unexplored corners of the city. “Nice time?” she would ask as, with a toddler in arms, she paddled through soapy puddles - the overflow from the clothes wringer – to put steaming soup on the table.

While we debated politics, music or books, around plates of stew or Queen of Puddings, her fingernails would drum continuously on the tin teapot, her gaze drifting towards the windows.

There were hints that, at one time, she led a more interesting life: a pink silk ballgown in the dressing-up clothes, cracked leather ice-skates in a plastic bag under the stairs, a collection of stilettos and old perfume bottles in the dressing table made from wooden fruit boxes.

“Never let your interests go,” she would softly suggest, as she led me across the peninsula before everyone woke up, to paint watercolours or watch rabbits; “find something you love,” she would tell us as she snatched moments to escape into novels and biographies; “you need to find a way to support yourself for the rest of your life” she would say as we moaned about homework, “you may not have a man to support you.” And as she organised yet another flag day or bring-and-buy she would declare firmly “remember how lucky you are.”

It took until my middle years to understand how effectively the quieter one had led me, from behind; how she lost sight of no-one as she navigated the world she found herself in, least of all herself. In the drifting gaze and the drumming fingernails she was holding on to her very soul.

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Sheila. I've read this aloud in my quiet Saturday afternoon writing room, wanting to honour your quieter one, and your tribute to her, with my voice, by sounding her out loud.

What a rare presence to have had in your childhood. Each time you've shared a glimpse of your childhood and adult life on here, I marvel not only in how beautifully you write, but also in the goodness of the people around you. As the world gets ever darker, I need these proofs of love, skill, kindness more and more.

I'm sorry if I've asked you before and forgotten (Covid at start of year has seemed to have damaged for good what was always my almost total recall - I'm feeling it as a real loss and shame also): are you working on a book-length project? I'd be so interested to know and to support you in any way as a peer if so...

Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/september-issue-mentors/#sheiladecourcy

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Thanks so much for all you offer, Tanya. As I explore finding my voice through words, it is so interesting to have the opportunity to see the words printed. It enables some objectivity. However your supportive comments take the experience into a different level. Thank you again. As to a longer piece, I’m not sure where I’m going just yet but hugely appreciate your offer which I will remember and hold close. As to the CoVid memory thing… it’s tough and no apology necessary. You’re not alone. Wishing you continued success in all your work, I really love the breadth of your artistry. Xs

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Oct 7, 2022·edited Oct 7, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

This is gorgeous what a beautiful woman the quieter one is ,how lucky you were to have her, so enjoyed your writing I smiled at her telling you all to find something you love makes me think of my chats with my children ,shes sounds wise and greatful person ,a beautiful mix to be .

Indeed a phenomenal woman 🙏💗

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Oct 7, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you, Monique. I was thinking about that generation of women, many of whom who gave up so much when they became mothers. How, as children, we took her care for granted and how she held onto some sense of herself when surrounded by chaos. Your lovely piece about Maya Angelou ( truly a leader for so many of us, something you articulate so well) is another reminder of how important it can be to hold onto a piece of your private world, no matter how hard. I love how you phrase the simple truth we all mustn't lose sight of, to "come home to ourselves when life takes us down strange and unfamiliar paths." Wonderful.

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Thank you for reading my piece Sheila ah your very very kind !!! ,I loved yours very much ❤️

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Oh my.... what an example you were given by 'the quieter one'. How she preserved her identity despite, on the face of it, losing opportunities. But she had the opportunity to nurture you and others, an opportunity she took selflessly and with beautiful generosity. Details that some would call mundane (eg dealing with potatoes and carrots....) suggest so much more than the activity. I love the combination of political discussion with consumption of stew and puddings - that leads me into the imagination of an animated scene so vividly. It's not an easy existence she has (those drumming fingernails...), but she has a proud determination.

Frustrations there may have been in her life ('she snatched moments...'), but, possessing an abundance of love, she somehow performed the remarkable balancing act of keeping her own head high while showing you how to look for the most important things in life. And how deliciously your final sentence reminds us of one of the top priorities!

It's a privileged glimpse into the core of your upbringing that you give us, Sheila. Knowing you as I do, and indeed your always powerful writing, I now see who it was that set you on a clear path to wisdom and sensitivity. I'm so pleased you wrote this and shared it. Thank you!

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Maurni - thank you so very much for joining the project as a writer, and with two such fine pieces.I would normally have curated them & given you feedback already but it’s the week of my mum’s funeral service just passed & im only now back home. I will be back here again tomorrow to do both of those things - but I wanted already to thank you. It’s a special thrill each time a new writer joins. Tanya xx

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Aug 30, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I appreciate that so much Tanya - and finally the opportunity to post somewhere. This is such a safe and comfortable space. Thank you. xx

My sincere condolences for the passing of your mum.

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Thank you Maurni. That's what I hoped this space might feel like - a safe and comfortable place so that exciting leaps might be made from it! As you've done in your first two pieces. xx

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Oct 2, 2022·edited Oct 2, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

When I think of mentors, teachers ,great bestowers of knowledge I think of Dr Maya Angelou a woman I always have and will always look to, to show me strength in character ,kindness and self respect ,she is the epitamy of self will to be better , to not be the victim of circumstance , that your beginnings do not have to dictate where you will end up.

She did this in so many ways from her teachings ,her activism, poetry and writing. The boom of her voice alone would command my attention .

Dr Maya has been a inspiration to millions now in the age of YouTube and she will continue to ,thank god but this i feel was all started with the simple faith her grandmother had in her and was central to the presence she would later become in the world .

When Maya was a child she was mute for many years after a terrible abuse at the hands of an adult ,it was her grandmother who would speak to her whilst braiding her hair telling her with absolute certainty that she believed in her ,that she was ok just as she was right now in her silence but when she did decide to speak the whole world would listen .

How right her grandmother was ! This taught me the power of having faith in another persons abilities, can help them to move mountains , or simply come home to ourselves when life takes us down strange and unfamiliar paths .

Whatever the results I know the power of an mentor ,a inspiring teacher in life

can change your world and then maybe the world.

I will always thank Dr Maya Angelou for showing me the way , Thank you Maya .

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Monique! I'm sorry that my intensive working away from home this weekend has made a delay in my acknowledging your beautiful tribute to a writer I also love - but now want to return to because of how you've described her here (I realise I have only read and reread I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and some of her interviews. There is much more to learn...)

Every piece you contribute and each of your generous comments to others on here speaks so clearly to your values of open-heartedness and encouragment. It was moving therefore to read about how you've been influenced by Angelou.

Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/september-issue-mentors/#moniquekennedy

Tx

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Ah Tanya please don't apologise its a very long winded contribution I just can't stop when it comes to Dr Maya !!! I love that you admire her too that's so warming to think!😊thank you so much for reading and for always being so kind and generous in your feed back hope your well and enjoying all your intensive work! Lots of love 😊🙏💗

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A beautiful tribute Monique. I did not know these things about Dr Maya Angelou, I only knew of her inspiring words, so thank you for sharing.

Tracey x

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Sep 29, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Not realising it at the time, my elementary school headmaster was a mentor. He was kind and opened this heart and school to those who did not have a place anywhere else. And he wanted us to learn, experience the things we did not have in our rural households. He opened up our worlds and was a great story teller. He lived his motto, I feel, 'knowlegde and patience is power'. I hope I repay his debt in small ways by helping and encouraging others.

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‘Knowledge and patience is power’ - oh how much these values mean to me, & how I wish I’d had a earlier teacher figures, as you had in this man, to give me a sense that patience, time, caretaking were good ways to live. What a beautiful tribute: I will add it to the story archive when I return from a weekend teaching away - and will come back here to give you the link to it. Thank you. Tanya x

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Oct 2, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

The power of story telling, the reason we are all here! Such a sweet tribute. I think of the patience and sense of hope that teachers must have, going to work each day and knowing that the fruits of their labor are often far into the future.

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So beautiful, such an inspiring headteacher to have and lovely you use that experience to inspire others 💗🙏

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It is often that in hindsight we see what was right under our noses all that time.

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Most definitely!

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Hello again Sara. Sorry for the delay in adding your piece to the book's story archive: this month is a rare one in which I've been working away from home, and with another week away still to come in it. Thank you again for your words. Your headmaster's motto has been copied into my diary. Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/september-issue-mentors/#sarastegen

Tanya x

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Thank you. That is so kind. Nice to see him remembered!

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Oh what a blessing Sara to have a teacher like this! What a difference it can make in one's life. Thank you for sharing.

Tracey x

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My mentor lives deep inside me. I’ve come to realise that for way too many years I’ve ignored her, overruled her, shut her down, dismissed her. And yet, there she is always loving me, patiently waiting for my silence allowing her to speak. Some days she’s my younger self, the little girl I have a black and white photo of that sits on my desk. That Rebecca is about 3 years old and sits on a swing staring into the camera some distance off with a furrowed brow which I like to believe is a ‘don’t mess with me’ look. I love her, she’s cared for me many times in my life, during post natal depression, during my divorce, during my daughter’s anorexia. She takes no nonsense, she believes in me utterly and completely. She gets me moving when I simply want to curl up in a ball. She strokes my head gently and says, ‘you’ve got this.’

Sometimes my mentor is an older version of myself. A wise woman with a big heart. She holds me closely. She knows me intimately. When times feel incredibly tough and I start to imagine and believe all the wild stories I’m creating in my head, she simply says, ‘No, not now, these are not true.’

They love me endlessly.

They love me unquestioningly.

They’ve been speaking up more recently, in fact since my breast cancer diagnosis in November last year. As my world was shaken to its core, they stepped forward and held me close, whispered in my ear that all was well, that between us we are resilient, courageous, open hearted, in love with life and ready for healing. I know I’m not on this journey alone and that gives me confidence and hope.

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Rebecca, moved to tears by what you've written here - the beauty and self-compassion of it. The vision, too, that it offers others who will read it but are without that. To whom it might never have occured that the harsh voices they've internalised from school, family, society might be replaced by wiser guides made up from their own selves. How beautiful that you've joined our project here with this piece - which gives me and others in the community such a deep sense of you. I do hope you will respond to other prompts (all stay open): I'd love to see how your mind works with them.

Here is your link to your words in the story archive:

https://thecureforsleep.com/september-issue-mentors/#rebeccaperkins

And I've already added you to the ever-growing A to Z of contributors on my Substack page By Readers...:

https://tanyashadrick.substack.com/p/readers-stories

Thank you . Tanya xx

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Thank you Tanya for your kind words. I've been unable to write since my diagnosis apart from diary entries. I came across you via another contributor and these prompts are the perfect introduction back into writing for me. I'm grateful for this space.

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Apr 29, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I was seventeen; a first-time camp counselor. A cabin had been repeatedly vandalized; we first-years were assigned the scutwork of being belly-down sentinels in the dirt under the adjacent cabin. I witnessed another destructive spree: a girl, far from home and deranged with missing her family, threw other campers' sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, into the lake. I quaked with the shame of thinking myself a snitch as I reported what I'd seen to the camp director, who treated the rager with an empathy that I could not comprehend. Yes, she was to be sent home, and arrangements were made to replace the flung items, but the girl was not punished. She was heard, tended, reprimanded with respect.

I went to the director's cabin that evening, pierced to the core with ethical agony. She, silent and serene, listened to and witnessed me. She assured me that I had done the right thing; that the heartsick girl had been understood.

I could not comprehend such kindness. I felt coated with black tar. My mentor stood in front of me as I was about to bolt from her cabin, opened her arms, drew me in, and simply held me for several astonishing moments in silence. I'd never been held before. I'd never melted into the existential safety of being held; being gently rocked on my feet in a strong, soft set of arms, next to a heart. Never had the nape of my neck cradled.

I skipped from her cabin to mine, electrified by joy.

What did I learn?--that touch could melt a rigid, petrified soul. That joy was a through-and-through truth. That to embrace another can save a life. My vocational path was woven with that wisdom...I know in my marrow what a hand can do with loving intent.

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Catherine, this second piece from you is stunning. A perfectly-told short true tale - with that heart-aching short sentence in the middle of the third paragraph which opens up so much depth, as well as raising the stakes. We, the reader, feel for you - the child who was not held, the adult who has survived to tell the tale and live differently - but it also makes us reflect on what riches we had, those of us who did receive safe, loving touch: even while we were oftentimes perhaps more aware of things we wanted and did not have.

So many lines I would love to read aloud to you so you could hear back what you've given us here. 'A strong, soft set of arms, next to a heart.' 'I know in my marrow what a hand can do with loving intent.'

Thank you for writing it. Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/september-issue-mentors/#catherinedavies

Tanya xx

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Apr 26, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

'He’s an ass,' someone wrote on the professor rating website. 'All ego,' wrote another. 'Yes, a dick, but a creative writing genius,' a third.

During our first class reading, I rattled off an embarrassing cliché, more bothered by my fear of public speaking than the mess of words I’d clattered out the night before.

I don’t remember the seconds following my story; I feel them. An edgy, 20-something man sat to my left. Untidy hair, confident storytelling. And to my right, Professor American Book Award.

I finished my short story to silence. Not shuffling papers, not the creak of old classroom chairs. Just the thud of blood in my ears. A sad agreement settled over the story circle.

'Well,' the professor sighed and put down his pen.

My cheeks burned, my scalp itched, pores opening. The rest of the period is a blank. I turned inward, nauseous. My insecurity feasted on my innards.

Another day, another story. With more honesty, as he taught me. I told the story of a young girl who sold her books to help her mother pay the bills. At the shop window, a phantasma of authors clambered to bid farewell. Shakespeare turned his hand with his words, 'parting is such sweet sorrow.'

It all rang true for me – a struggling family, books as living things.

'Well, hello,' the professor smiled. As if to say, welcome to the class.

'What happened?' he later asked.

The worst had, I thought. And it didn’t kill me.

He encouraged me to apply to the university’s master’s program. He pestered his colleague into opening up a study abroad program a month early. And in my signed copy of his novel, he inscribed, 'To a student worth the studenting.'

He taught me that in writerly matters, I could and should.

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Lauren! Welcome to the project - what a powerful first piece. I'm in awe of the courage and resilience it takes to share creative writing in a student setting - nothing I've ever done, and although sometimes now I am a visiting lecturer and workshop leader, I still don't think I'd have what it takes to be physically present when offering work in progress to peers. I think it ends more emerging writers than it makes... so I'm glad that mentor was there for you, so that your words didn't go underground and stay there. And it makes you joining this project feel like privilege - I hope this space might also be a good one for you. I love how you use dialogue in this, and I'm hoping other themes will interest you to write for. Here is your link and I'm adding you to the A to Z of contributors on the book site but also in the By Readers tab on my Substack.

https://thecureforsleep.com/september-issue-mentors/#laurenmcgregor

Tanya xx

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Apr 29, 2023·edited Apr 29, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you so much, Tanya! I am thrilled to join. It feels reality-shifting to do so. Though I say that this mentor encouraged me to join the master's program, to study abroad, etc., I let my fear, insecurity, and financial situation stop any of those things from happening. I moved home, got married, and now guide two gorgeous little souls through life. But the ache you so perfectly illustrate in The Cure for Sleep has consumed me. The need to create outside of my editing job is overwhelming and terrifying. This feels like a step in the right direction, a timid staking of my place as a writer. Thanks for having me!

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'A timid staking of my place' - it's important to tell you that while you might have been full of fear and trembling submitting your piece and waiting for my response... your story-telling itself is strong and assured. It can take the weight of what you hope to do with it... xx

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Oct 14, 2022·edited Oct 14, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I’ve stood (secretly) open since memory first came to me, open souled, open handed, open eyes, waiting, wishing, hoping. Rocks unearthed, trees felled, relationships excavated, letters written, windows watched from. I’ve looked, searched, scoured, begged, whispered, pleaded, first feet, then hands, then knees, until I’ve found myself laid upon the floor in recent life with little search left in me. An only, of a single mother, unrooted to place, running into stories, books, movies, a screaming scared child asking, waiting, watching, a mother now, and wife, hoping, and looking and yes, still asking in cities, fields, oceans if there was one, just one who would stop and look and take my hand, and lead and help and guide. So I stumble, when feet are once again found, and I make my own way while (secretly) waiting, and yes, still I wait. And yes, I hope. That just maybe.

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Sabrina, how very good it is to receive this beautifully written piece from you so full of honest searching and hope. There is pain in it but also a courage to be and stay open to that discomfort so that you might indeed find what you need. I hope that in a small way this space - as well as the one in other online community where we first met this week - will be part of meeting that need. You will certainly be read by other good people here, as you can see from the way fellow contributors are receiving one another's words (some of whom are new to the project, as you are). Here is your link directly to your piece in The Cure For Sleep story archive:

https://thecureforsleep.com/september-issue-mentors/#sabrina

Tanya xx

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From a time many years ago...

I knew my mentor was close by. In the field where the black knapweed grew, at dusk, where the fox cubs fell over themselves to tear at the sole of an old shoe, and a roe deer looked me in the eye, she was beside me. Her hand on my shoulder told me not to move. Her whisper in my ear slowing my breath, and I clung to her signs, desperately wanting to understand the nature she was showing me. If I devoured every morsel, I was sure I’d find an inner peace, could cope better in a world turned upside-down. But peace was fleeting. Soon, inevitably, I’d need to leave. But for a few precious minutes each evening, my mentor would sit with me, and life seemed a little easier to bear.

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Extraordinary how - in so few words - you have made a breath-held space here with this piece. I was absolutely there, wanting with each careful word then sentence to know where you were taking me. I think I had once a really deep and daily practice of those precious minutes, and this by you reminds me I need to return to them. Apprentice myself once more. Thank you.

Here is your link to your piece in the book's story archive. I hope some of the other always-open themes from previous months might also interest to try...

Tx

https://thecureforsleep.com/september-issue-mentors/#janeadams

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Thank you, Tanya, as always, for your encouraging words. I think I was prompted to write this as I need (or needed) to do the same. It creeps up on you, doesn't it! However, this weekend I've spent hours in a wood listening to the screams of deer, and hours walking on a deserted beach with only the sound of the waves as company, so I'm feeling decidedly smug.

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Oct 14, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

This is so beautiful, Jane.

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Thank you, Sabrina. It's funny, when you write things down you never think anyone is going to read them, and it's so lovely when people do.

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Oct 10, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Beautiful, Jane, hope you remind me of the value of each moment, of the power of listening to your innards, to allow feelings to displace cognitive or thinking. And I love your use of language. Xs

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Thank you, Sheila. That's so kind of you! x

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The Spell

She saw her first kingfisher (a-blink-and-she'd-have-missed-it scud of electric blue accompanied by a peep-peep) one winter morning when she had drifted away from me and her brother to do some sketching. The excitement with which she came to find us, her cheeks ruddy from the cold, her words falling over themselves to describe what she had seen, told me she had briefly entered the liminal space that is kingfisher, and like as not, would never be quite the same again. In her blue coat she might well have been a tuning fork for like kind. She had wanted to see a kingfisher and she had summoned one, at least that is how it seemed to her as she babbled along like the beck in the sunlight. I still like to think it was the kingfisher who did the summoning, so that there was nowhere else she could have been in that moment other than sat on a moss-covered stone near the footbridge, sketchbook on her knee. She had already learned about structural colouration and the fact that the blue of the kingfisher is a result of perception rather than pigment. With such sorcery (albeit accidental) at its disposal it's difficult to imagine how even a peripheral skid of this bird coming into its blue could fail to make it some kind of shaman and its witness a believer in magic. But I know people who would simply shrug, dismiss it as little more than nothing because it didn't stop to perch, as if such beings exist for our pleasure alone. I almost feel the kingfisher, thus far in my experience never more than a glimmer of winter sun on pond ice, enchants because it so often barely skims, glances, or brushes even a watcher's world.

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What a surprising and beautifully-written piece, this especially thrilled me ‘In her blue coat she might well have been a tuning fork for like kind’ - what concentration of meaning in that phrase.

And I’m touched twice-over, Claire: it’s the first piece that’s been submitted since I made the quiet decision to bring the project to a gentle close at end of this year - I wondered if anyone would stay with me now there’s not going to be any substack ticks or badges or paid offerings, nor even regular posts. So thank you for still being in creative exchange with me here still.

Also it’s a piece I would have immediately in any previous year called my Mum to read it aloud. One of the few truly joyous things in her very hard and unhappy second life that lasted from 39 to 79 was a moment when she was in tears at the end of a garden and a kingfisher landed on the post she was leaning on and stayed with her a moment. She would have understood at a deep level everything you are saying here.

Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/september-issue-mentors/#claireeverett

Txxx

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Tanya, I'm so delighted to have found you and your wonderful writing. I am grateful for the time I've had (and continue to have) here. I, too, am touched twice over, firstly by your response, and secondly by knowing you would have wanted to share this with your mum. This whole project, and my connection with it, feels like a beautiful, ephemeral thing, poised briefly between worlds: my everyday 9-5 life, and my creative life. I feel blessed to shimmer a little in your world, too. ❤️

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You really do! X

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Feb 28Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Dear mentor, thankyou so much.

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Oh! Touched, ever so much by this. xx

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Feb 27Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Mentors

A warm garret in an old cathedral town, aged armchairs that curl round you close to a latticed window. We would meet to talk books and writers. I leave with a bundle of borrowed texts, scribbled notes and a head swimming with ideas.

“See you next week?”

Grateful acquiescence. Waving, I cross the quadrangle.

My fairy-tale mentor always posted my efforts back under the door sparing me the embarrassment of face-to-face feedback.

“Take a seat.” I edged onto the piano stool, trying to stop shaking. Nervous didn’t quite cut it. Terrified. Why was I here, and at my age? Passing my pristine notebook to him, I tried to breathe. “Let’s start with a few scales, to warm up. C major?” Somehow my hands found the keys and clattered up the grand piano, a million miles from a concert performance.

At my most vulnerable face-to-face, I attempt dexterous feats with aging fingers, protesting as always that it went ‘much better at home’. Finally, a beautiful sonata. My smile is returned with “let’s have another look at bar 24, well that whole page really…”, and the heart vacillates between elation and despair.

In he came, boyish bravado of a six year old, keen to show expertise yet to come. The lesson began; warm-up movements, how to sit, finger position, note patterns. Flash cards out, we jumped up, pacing the room, andante, allegro. We shouted in forte, whispered in pianissimo. Taller than me now, he props his grade 7 book on the piano stand. ‘Be moved also, by the possibility of becoming that person to others,’ (David Nash)

Mentoring and being mentored is a unique experience: the one-to-one relationship is both intimate and challenging. It encourages and holds to account. I’m writing online, but I still hanker after that warm garret.

Jean Wilson

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Jean, this is a truly beautiful piece. You’ve managed that fusing of place and feeling that comes with times/people who have been important to us. I’m not musically trained as you are - although sound and rhythm is at the heart of how I write - so I’m not able to draw on the same language as you might have when I say there is a musical quality to this piece from you that suits the subject so well - that movement between your words, his.

And then that gorgeous passage where you invoke all those words from your shared skill and passion:

The lesson began; warm-up movements, how to sit, finger position, note patterns. Flash cards out, we jumped up, pacing the room, andante, allegro. We shouted in forte, whispered in pianissimo.

Gorgeous!

I’ve had to make a small change to how the David Nash line is invoked: not to puff up my work, but only because it was a teaching given to me by him specifically for my book. Have a look and let me know if that’s okay.

Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/september-issue-mentors/#jeanwilson

Txx

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Feb 28Liked by Tanya Shadrick

It's okay. Thankyou

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Aug 26, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Ironically, she was a nun. I have since turned my back on that institution that caused me much pain as I navigated childhood and belonging. She was a standout for me. As a timid and reluctant teen, with a mayhem of 6 older siblings whom I perceived to always be finding me an annoyance. I had little idea that I was ‘good’ at anything. Yet somehow, I knew I was smart. She took me under her tutorage and fostered, rather, fanned the fire, of my love of language. She spoke six languages herself and instilled in me a respect for the magic and wonder of language and communication. I was studying French and Italian at high school – the only student to want to study both – and her faith in my ability led her to manipulate the whole timetable so I could follow my passion. She made me feel worthy of my intellect, important. She shared her life stories with me. She was gentle and kind, ever smiling, reverent, yet quirky and bold. A character. Others feared her, but she was my friend. I don’t recall her words as such, just an overall knowing that she thought I mattered. That was new for me. Life took me in another direction until the year I turned 47 and began to fly. At the age of 50 I graduated with a BA(Languages) with a Deep Major in Italian, a Minor in French and Linguistics. My degree took me to the University of Bologna and Firenze, where I studied and became immersed in the culture on which the language is dependent. Sister St.B was instrumental in that, there is no doubt. She saw me and showed me my worth. I wish so very much I could thank her. An ordinary human with an extraordinary impact – a mentor.

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And this second piece from you, Maurni, has delivered another great blast of surprising energy from a life experience so different to my own. What a beautiful tribute you have paid to this wonderful teacher - I love especially your line about how she manipulated the whole timetable so you could follow your passion.

And then the joy of reading your last lines and seeing how far you travelled in later years on that early updraft of confidence she gave to you. Just beautiful. Thank you for sharing this with our project here. Txx

https://thecureforsleep.com/september-issue-mentors/#maurniobeirne

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Aug 31, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you Tanya - this platform is creating space in my mind to recall forgotten wonders from my past. Brilliant!

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Ah, just what I hoped it might be for you and others! xx

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Every day she would cut through the park that ran between the back of our house and the main road through the village. Her beautiful, polished prancing Red Setter was the size of a pony next to her because she really wasn’t very tall. Trailing behind was an old, battered cloth shopping trolley full to the brim with produce and colourful flowers from her allotment on the other side of the path that edged the playing fields. A bright coloured headscarf adorned her grey curls, a gay beacon next to her very old and worn looking drab raincoat. She must have been close to the age of my grandmother although her spritely steps, smiling face and twinkling blue eyes gave her an air of youth that would have had most people guessing she was much younger. She had a way of making you feel as though she really saw you and that you were as important as a grown-up when you waved and said hello, and she never forgot to wave back.

Apart from my lovely grandmother, who they said was an old witch and who moved away when I was still quite young the grown-ups in my life didn’t smile and certainly were not magical. Their faces were heavy and dark with eyes that only saw what was wrong with everything. The dogs in my house didn’t smile like the sparkly shiny Red Setter who shone like burnished wood in the sunshine, and they definitely never pranced.

The little old lady was magical in my young mind and one day I knew I would be like her. I would have a big shiny red dog that smiled, and I would be always smiling too. I would grow lots of vegetables and bright coloured flowers and I would be happy.

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Oh Tracey. This is such a poignant piece of writing: sad and hopeful all at once. You've conjured the woman from your village as clearly to me as the characters I love in the Alfie books by Shirley Hughes I read to my children.

And I love too the way it works in combination with one of your other pieces for the project - your gorgeous and surprising Choosing one. I love that the woman who gave a home to Boof was formed in that child deciding the kind of adult she wanted to be.

Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/september-issue-mentors/#traceymayor

Txxx

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Oh Tanya thank you so very much! I hadn't made that connection with Boof! Maybe because I've been blessed to have adopted other rescue dogs plus have bought a few pups too over the years but yes I definitely feel what you are saying about the woman I have become! She was formed in those very early years and I even have the grey curls now and smiley face!! Thank you for joining the dots!! I appreciate you and this space so very much.

Tracey xx

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It's one of the (many) joys of this project - seeing aspects of a person and their life across several of their pieces. xxx

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You are a gift Tanya xx

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Of course, Shirley Hughes is the author of Dogger amongst many others! 🙄 🙏

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Also I must check out Shirley Huges now.

T xx

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Seeing the Big Man

Serial killer eyes someone said the other day.

I disagreed.

I always thought those worries of yours were too heavy, even for that big brain of yours.

Had to come out somewhere.

Larger than life, with that tatty blue duffle coat, the one I bought you that lint brush for.

“What’s this, care in the fucking community?” you shouted “Thought this was a cafe, not a bleeding care home.”

I remember the flush of embarrassment when those customers looked around.

I shouldn’t have shushed you, I should’ve whacked you over the head with the bloody thing.

The truth was that I was your carer, and you mine.

Anyway, I could tell you never used the brush. I saw that same string of cotton stuck on the shoulder every time you wore it, reminding me of a wonky treble clef.

Talking of which, I had to get rid of that Spongebob Squarepants guitar you left at mine.

The bloody strings were upside down. Took me a while to figure that one out.

I could hear you when I realised, “Yer fingering the wrong frets, Yer daft bleeding cow.”

Nice to finally meet Simon though. Saw him at the bus stop loads when you were here, no excuse to talk to him then though.

Well, I saw him again afterwards and I introduced myself as a close friend.

I hope that was true.

We sat on the bus together and I pretended he was you.

Had that same look-life weathered genius, too cynical for this world anymore.

Yeah, It was you sat next to me, all the way from Hebden to Callis.

Just sat silent, looking out the window, feeling your arms pushing against mine.

I turned around at Callis though and saw the denim jeans.

That’s when I felt it.

No midnight purple, crushed velvet pants, too short to hide those size clown feet.

No mass of wily grey curls, reminding me that foist was one of my favourite words.

He was nice though. Met up again and give him Spongebob. His eyes welled up a bit.

Mine haven’t yet.

You’re in my mind, sitting on table four, legs bunched up like a clumsy giraffe, under that ‘ornamental bloody table.’

They tried changing it-said it was past its best, but I convinced them to keep it-it was always the best one we had; the wonky one, full of character, sitting in the corner.

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Lauren, this is a brilliant piece of story-telling. So vivid and it feels like part of a longer story I would enjoy reading. Because of it's length however, I can't add it to the story archive - there's a hard limit of 300 words that I need to hold to (as per the submission guidelines): one I have in place partly so I can be sure to give editorial time to the huge amount of contributions I receive and also for readability on screen in the archive. If you'd like to edit it down to under 300 then I'd be happy to include it of course! But do still leave it here in its current form as many subscribers read the stories here in comments rather than in the archive... Tan xx

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Hi Tanya.

Think i'm a bit eager to showcase stuff ;)

Thanks so much for your time and kind commenting. It's given me a real boost this platform, and i'm loving reading others pieces.

Here is an edited version; I think it still works...

Serial killer eyes someone said.

I disagreed.

I always thought those worries of yours were too heavy-had to come out somewhere.

I can see you now with that tatty blue duffle coat on, the one I bought you that lint brush for.

“What’s this, care in the fucking community?”

“Thought this was a cafe, not a bleeding care home.”

I remember the flush of embarrassment.

I should’ve whacked you over the head with the bloody thing.

Truth was, I was your carer, and you mine.

I could tell you never used the brush. Same string of cotton stuck on the shoulder every time you wore it-like a wonky treble clef.

I had to get rid of that Spongebob guitar you left behind.

The bloody strings were upside down.

I could hear you when I realised. “Yer fingering the wrong frets, Yer daft bleeding cow.”

Nice to finally meet Simon.

I introduced myself as a close friend-hope that was true.

We sat on the bus together-me pretending he was you.

Had that same life weathered genius look about him.

You next to me, all the way from Hebden to Callis; sat silent, looking out the window, feeling your warmth.

I turned around at Callis and saw the denim.

No midnight purple, crushed velvet trousers, too short to hide those size clown feet.

No mass of wily grey curls, reminding me that foist was one of my favourite words.

His eyes welled up when we hugged.

Mine haven’t yet.

You’re in my mind, sitting on table four, legs bunched up like a clumsy giraffe, under that ‘ornamental bloody table.’

They tried changing it-said it was past its best, but I convinced them to keep it-was always the best one we had; the wonky one, full of character, sitting in the corner.

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Wonderful - so glad you were able to edit it (and hope you're okay with how I've curated it: I had to reduce the amount of line breaks: again, it's a restriction on the formatting, which is why I can't take poetry!). And I sensed you might respond to a number of prompts, which is why I needed to remind about the word length limit. Hope you enjoyed the gentle challenge of editing down to fit: I always do when I'm commissioned for The Simple Things and other journals. I always start by thinking it's not possible to tell the story I want to tell in the words they give me - but then that process of rewriting becomes fascinating...

Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/september-issue-mentors/#laurenlongshaw

Txx

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Absolutely!

Going back and noticing that things can be shown better than told, and there was lots in there that wasn’t crucial to setting the scene.

I had an editing night (which is something I often struggle with) and it’s loosened my writing up-permission to play about and experiment!

It’s just lovely to get validation of my abilities, especially capturing deeply personal times.

I listened to your conversation with Catherine May on the wintering sessions (Wintering being something I’ve had to contend with regularly throughout my own life) and have taken The Cure For Sleep out of the library I work in, to read on a (hopefully) sunny Greek beach next week.

Your story is one that resonates so much with me, albeit under very different circumstances, and I thoroughly look forward to the read!

Xx

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Ah! I hope the book speaks to you and I'm so glad that this project is a place where you talent for writing can be showcased. xx

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