‘An exquisite mesh of a fable’

Here’s a recent review of my novella-in-flash ‘The Girl Who Survived’ (and the other titles in the anthology) from writer Judy Darley. I have struggled to articulate what this collection of stories is ‘about’, but Judy captures its essence beautifully in her review. I especially appreciate her drawing-out of the thread in which ‘the act of creating art [is] both cathartic and perilous’.

Read the review on Judy’s site SkyLightRain

Judy’s site also offers resources for writers, and an insight into her own creative process. I loved what she had to say in this piece about her story collection ‘The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain‘ – about imagination as respite, and her relationship to colours (which rang a few bells with me, especially having just read Aldous Huxley’s ideas in ‘Heaven and Hell‘ about the use of colour in art).

Dawn Siofra North is part of a home-educating family, an occasional mindfulness teacher and a writer of tiny stories. Her work has been shared in Legerdemain (National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2021) and on the Free Flash Fiction website. Her novelette The Girl Who Survived won third prize in the Retreat West 2021 Novelette-In-Flash Prize. She is inspired by story-based learning and imaginative meditation. She can be found online at https://dawnsiofranorth.wordpress.com and at her mindfulness site.

Reading (and writing) for wellbeing

When I’m not immersed in homeschooling or writing stories, I do a bit of mindfulness teaching, and I’m really interested in the potential of reading (and writing) fiction to support wellbeing.

Having recently stumbled across the concept of ‘poetry and story therapy’, I realise that the way I was trained to teach mindfulness incorporated a similar approach. I’ve witnessed many times how a resonant line of poetry – or a relatable story – can initiate a powerful paradigm shift or emotional release.

I’ve started a series of posts to explore the healing effects of fiction, most of them are over on my mindfulness site sheilabayliss.com (Dawn Siofra North is my pen name for writing fiction) – here are links to the posts so far…

Distraction, or enchantment?

Slow down and be in the story

Reading for wellbeing

The stories that transform

Mindful journaling for more awareness

6 Reasons To Write

I’m hoping to add some posts about expressive writing, as I explore more deeply myself. I’ll update this collection with the links over time.


Dawn Siofra North is part of a home-educating family, an occasional mindfulness teacher and a writer of tiny stories. Her work has been shared in Legerdemain (National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2021) and on the Free Flash Fiction website. Her novelette The Girl Who Survived won third prize in the Retreat West 2021 Novelette-In-Flash Prize. She is inspired by story-based learning and imaginative meditation. She can be found online at https://dawnsiofranorth.wordpress.com

Unsettled

by Dawn Siofra North

The warm cloudless air brings musical messages, to guide me towards her. Tweeping sparrow-chatter, rising above the steady growl of traffic. The crik of warming wood-planks: a scattered pulse through my weightless bones. These sounds, my only anchor as I am thrust into the arid gulf of sky.

The stillness is stifling. I feel I could cruise for hours above the sterile patchwork of lawns and not find another living being. Only she can tell me what I’m supposed to do, in this unruly airborne body.

Chaos is cruel: I wasn’t prepared for this.

My beak is awkward and my wings, too flappy. I try to land on the splintered fence of her sun-bleached garden, but my claws go all scrambly. The feeders she used to fill – now empty of seeds – hang doleful and neglected, honouring a deeper absence.

The sweet hush of death is unmistakable.

‘Did you fall for the stasis of settled forms?’ a thrumming voice upends my clumsy assumption. I cannot see who has spoken. Did the words come from the sour marigolds, smug and idle in their swinging baskets?

A magnificent bee, sheltered by the shade beneath the doorframe, rests on the cool throne of the step: a tiny old lady in fur coat and fairy-wings.

‘You don’t recognise me? says the bee.

I barely recognise myself.

For a second, I’m hijacked by a memory that belongs in another life, and I half expect her to wave around a smouldering wand of cigarette-in-a-holder. Inside me the truth unlocks into place, and I want to throw myself at her feet, to lose myself in the lustre of her direction. But her six fine-haired legs are so very delicate, and I can’t get my stupid wings to fold the right way to bow to this goddess.

It is high-sun time and the curtains of shade have shrunk away to nothing. In the glaring wide open, I am naked as a hungry chick.

‘How do I find it..?’ I ask (though I feel I should already know), ‘…the right path to follow?’

In answer, as if hit by a bolt of invisible lightning, the body of the bee drops to the ground. Lifeless and complete.

Dawn Siofra North is part of a home-educating family, an occasional mindfulness teacher and a writer of tiny stories. Her novelette The Girl Who Survived won third prize in the Retreat West 2021 Novelette-In-Flash Prize. She is inspired by story-based learning and imaginative meditation. You can find her online at https://dawnsiofranorth.wordpress.com

Snippets from ‘The Girl Who Survived’

I’ve just finished reading the first and second-prize winners in this anthology. Monsieur by David Rhymes is a thoroughly engrossing story set in a vivid historical landscape – a rare treat for me, as I love stories that transport me to a distant era, but I haven’t come across many in the novella-in-flash form.

Ceiling by Hannah Sutherland gifted me with those intimate glances into people’s lives that leave you richer for having spent time with them, and the ending pulled off the sort of beauty and honesty that is rarely combined.

My novelette The Girl Who Survived won third place, and it’s really special to see it in print, thanks to all the hard work by Retreat West’s editor Gaynor Jones (who also writes flash – I’d highly recommend her novella-in-flash Among These Animals).

The images in this post are a couple of snippets from different stories in The Girl Who Survived – if it’s your kind of thing, you can buy the book from Retreat West.

New Novelette Anthology from Retreat West

I’ve recently received my author copy of Monsieur – an anthology of three novelettes published by Retreat West following their 2021 competition.

I can’t wait to read Monsieur and Ceiling, as novella-in-flash is my favourite form to read (aswell as to write), and there just isn’t enough of it around!

You can find out how to buy a copy of the Monsieur anthology, which also includes my novelette The Girl Who Survived, on the Retreat West website.

Little Splashes of Yellow

I’m so happy that the editors at Free Flash Fiction have given a home to my story Little Splashes of Yellow.

This emerged as a free-write while I was trying to get to know a character better. I forgot all about it, and then stumbled across is while tidying up my notebooks. When I came back to it, I felt like it wanted me to finish it off.

You can read it on the fantastic Free Flash Fiction website.

National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2021

I was delighted to be included in the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2021, entitled Legerdemain. The theme of this anthology is ‘magic’, and my story Frozen Child explores our everyday attempts at conjuring the life we want.

This collection introduced me to micro fiction, which I had little exposure to previously, and reading these really inspired me to try writing some of my own flashes to a much shorter length.

There are some brilliant micros in here. They showed me that sometimes a very short piece can get to the essence of an experience – or memory – in a very impactful way. I especially loved Tea Time by Susan James.

You can buy a copy directly from the NFFD shop.