One of our activities was based on a book I'd read on my holiday - The Keeper of Lost Things, a stunning debut by Ruth Hogan. I'm not going to say much about the book - other than 'READ IT!' - because it is a beautiful story, and as an author I was struck by how cleverly it was constructed. Dotted throughout the book are the stories behind the lost things, and it was this idea - of writing the story behind the lost object - that I thought we could use as inspiration.
So, as is often the way before a NIBS session, I ran round the house collecting things that people might have lost.
She jerked her hand and the last book out of her bag and stared at the bead of red on her finger. Then she almost threw the book onto the pile and sucked her stabbed digit, tasting metal and salt.
Perhaps she ought to wear the badges on her lapels instead, like most other people did? Except that this was her book bag, and she always used it to bring her books back to the library. It wouldn't be the same without the many book-related badges rattling gently on the fabric.
She checked her finger. Still there. Not bleeding any more. So which of the badges was it this time? She reached for the bag and-
"Hullo, Jean. What you been reading this week, then?"
Her cheeks glowed. Frank Abbott was talking to her. "Um..."
"I had a rather tasty little gothic horror to keep me up at night, but I see you're a bit more of a fantasy buff?"
They both glanced down at the pile of G.R.R.R. Martin.
Frank took her elbow in one hand and grabbed the straps of her bag with the other, dragging it across the counter. It snagged, momentarily, and there was a metallic 'ping' but neither of them heard it.
Our second exercise used paint charts. No, not the individual colours like I've used before (to create flash like this one called Planet Fever). Whole paint charts, which double up as inspiration if you can't think of colour combos for your own rooms.
Because there are so many pictures of rooms, decorated all sorts of ways, I challenged the NIBSers to find a picture of a room and write about it. There were some smashing pieces as a result - in one, an author described a particular shade of red as 'Bad Day at the Abbattoir' - which gave me a whole new idea for rewriting the paint names as something more realistic. Like a shade of green - 'The Morning After'. Or blue - 'Frostbitten Toes'.
Anyway, in the paint books were quite a few studies.
|Study? Or writing corner?|
Now 'study' to me, is a bit different to a mere writing space, and in my head, drums up a totally different image to the photo - like the one above - that I was looking at. Most showed writing spaces rather than studies, but it set me thinking about exactly how small a space would you need to claim it as a study...?
"And here's the study." Andy flung the door open. Or he would've done, except he remembered - too late - that the door opened outwards, onto the landing.
There was an embarrassing wait while he asked his clients to back up a bit... a bit more... I think one of you needs to step into the bathroom, please, thank you... and finally he could pull open the door.
Mr and Mrs-to-be surged forward and there was a three-way shuffle while Andy manoeuvered himself into the bathroom to allow them to stand, shoulder-to-shoulder, in the narrow doorway.
"It's a bit small," Mr said.
"Well, you don't need lots of space to be sat down really, do you?" Andy pulled his mouth into what he thought was an encouraging smile. "Notice the high level shelving for all your books and papers and pencil pots." He watched the backs of their heads as they lifted their eyes to the ceiling.
"In any other house that'd be called a picture rail," Mr muttered, taking one step into the study.
To be fair, one step is all that could be managed. And when he pulled the desk chair out and sat on it, the back legs ended up on the landing, forcing Mrs-to-be to take one step back. "The desk is tiny."
"It's a space-saving design, created by the previous occupant in a midnight moment of genius," Andy chipped in, hoping he'd remembered that right.
Mr swivelled in the chair and fixed him with sharp eyes. "It's just a wider than normal windowsill."
"Yes, it doubles up as one of those too." He was getting flustered now. He really needed this sale.
Mrs-to-be flung her arms around Mr's neck and hugged him. "Darling, it's perfect. How much is it again?"
Had he done it? Andy choked the words out. "Three hundred and fifty thousand."
"We'll take it," Mrs-to-be said, before Mr could open his mouth...