WINTERLUDE // WINTERLONG – An Online Event from thi wurd, December 8th 2021
thi wurd’s final online event of 2021 will take place on Wednesday 8th December, 7-9pm (UK time). We’re looking for writers to compose two very short stories, each to be read aloud in under a minute. In the first part of the evening (Winterlude), we’re asking for something about the magic and joy of the winter season. In the second part (Winterlong), the task is for a piece about winter as a much darker experience. Perhaps this second story could be about winter as a time of sadness, of endurance, of depression, of waiting for spring to come.
Our event is called WINTERLUDE // WINTERLONG.
On the night we’ll have around 30 writers, reading their own fiction. To be in with a chance of winning a free place, please like or retweet our tweet about the event on thi wurd’s twitter account @thiwurd. And even if you don’t intend coming along, it would still be good to get likes and retweets in order for the information to get out to as many writers as possible. It’ll be an event with a wonderful array of voices.
Of course, the concept of winter isn’t the same all over the world. We’ll have writers taking part from different places, writing about their own particular concepts of winter. I’d love to hear stories from warm winter places. I’m fully aware that my own concepts of ‘winter’ are narrow, much too influenced by living in the western world, and by western literature and art.
I’m writing these words in Glasgow on December 4th, 2021 where it is cold, but nowhere near as freezing as my first winter in Iowa City in 1993/94. And maybe if I was trying this task myself, I’d write about that place and time. For one thing, it was where I got frostbite in my left ear. It happened after I’d lost my hat, scarf and gloves in the library during a power cut (actually I think someone stole them when the lights were out). But I thought it’d be ok to walk the couple of miles back to my dorm, through the soft snow underfoot, and through the light snow still falling. As I stepped out of the library, Iowa City looked like a Christmas card. By the time I’d made it downtown, I was seriously shivering, and feeling as if each lungful of cold air was becoming increasingly painful to endure. On the digital TIME/TEMP sign outside the bank, I noticed that the temperature had dropped to -19°F . I considered ducking into The Deadwood, just to warm up. The bars were still open, even though it was 1am – a drink and a heat would be nice – but alas my desire to reach my room and fall into bed was too strong. I trudged on. And soon the snow turned heavy. I stopped in a doorway, exhausted, shivering, watching the snow getting thicker and heavier, piling up. How heavy could the snow get here? It began to seem ridiculous. Was I the only person out and about in this? There was also the fact that in my flimsy clothes, I wasn’t dressed for the weather. I’d ignored all the advice about the correct winter clothing in the ‘Foreign Student Orientation Pack’– mainly because I’d been handed the pack in mid-August when temperatures were soaring over 100 degrees. Now the snow was pouring down on me. Pouring and swirling. I could hardly see the sky. Another ten minutes of feeling the coldest I’d ever felt and I realised I had to start moving again. The snow was right up to my knees. The wind had changed direction, blowing more snow continually into my face. My eyes were closed, it became difficult to keep balance. I reached a wooden house with lights shining on the porch and a massive American flag, fluttering. Should I knock on the door to ask for shelter? I walked on blindly, not sure which direction to take, till I found myself down by the frozen river. At that moment, I slipped down a snow mound and was plugged in up to my waist. I panicked. Could I fall another 20 feet into the soft snow and suffocate? … What an end that would be …
Obviously I didn’t die. I got spotted by the driver in a truck, going slowly along the road near where I was stuck. He helped me up and gave me a lift back to my dorm. The next day I was fine, except for the frostbite in my left ear (which still tingles to this day when it’s cold). Years after the experience, I read Bernard MacLaverty’s excellent short story ‘Winter Storm’ and was amazed at how MacLaverty had drawn upon his own time in Iowa to compose a story that featured such brilliant depictions of a snow storm. In fact, in recounting my tale above, I was as much inspired by the fictional story ‘Winter Storm’ as I was by my own experiences. That’s a very beautiful thing great fiction does: it allows you to blend literary art with your own life. And it gives you the room to bring your own life and thoughts to the art.
Spellbinding depictions of winter have long been a passion of mine: for example, I love the descriptions of snow in Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome, and of coldness in Tarjei Vessas’s The Ice Palace. My favourite winter story is also my favourite ever story: The Dead by James Joyce. For me, The Dead is unsurpassed in its magnificence. And yes, I’m sure my childhood reading of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe continues to play a role in my enduring love of winter fiction. What other winter fiction comes to mind? Well, recently I enjoyed the much warmer setting in Emma Cline’s winter short story ‘What Can We Do With a General’. And you can read it here: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/02/04/what-can-you-do-with-a-general
But enough chat, because this little rambling blog is simply to inspire you to write two very short stories about the concept of winter. Give it a go if you have the time. And maybe see you at our event.
WINTERLUDE // WINTERLONG is open to writers anywhere in the world and will take place on Zoom. We’ll pick three writers to join us from Twitter. And if you aren’t on Twitter, just write your two stories and send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org as attachments and we’ll choose at least one participant from there.