Why did I call this category Alchemy Ink?

I thought it was about time I answered this question.

I was reminded that I hadn’t addressed the issue yet when I read Martina Boone’s guest post on DIYMFA yesterday.  Martina writes:

Writing fiction is alchemy. We can have all the ingredients for a great story and still miss that wow factor that makes it all come together, makes our work transform from words on a page to a living, breathing entity with the possibility to burrow into someone else’s consciousness.

I’ve always thought of writing as a kind of alchemy, a kind of magic.  This might be

My only souvenir of Siobhan’s art is this book cover.

because I write epic fantasy.  Or it might be because when I started reading for pleasure, I started with C.S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, and Madeline L’Engle.  It could even be my inspiration for writing: the wonderful artwork of Siobhan Riddell.  When I was in grade three, she and her grade five classmates wrote and illustrated their own storybooks.  Siobhan’s was of a knight fighting a dragon.  Classic fairy tale.

And I was hooked.

I wanted to write something, even then, that made people feel the way Siobhan’s storybook made me feel.  That was the kind of magic I wanted.

Much later, I tried out a few of writers’ groups.  One was composed of friends from university: Kim Fahner, Steven Lendt, and Dan McCormick.  I actually proposed the name “Alchemy Ink” to them.  No one seemed particularly keen.

The next was a group of women brought together around the fabulous Si Tranksen.  That group published Battle Chant in 1999 and included Paulette Dahl, Violet Brenner, Louise Lane, Carole Trepanier, and, though she departed before the book project came together, Sonny B.

After that, another group of women writers, including the fae folkstress Dolores Dagenais, Gypsy, and fellow Sudbury Writers’ Guild members, Irene Golas, Margaret Lavoie, and Sue Scherzinger met irregularly to engage in creative stuff.  We didn’t only share our writing, but did cool things like playing with clay.

When the chemistry is right, a writers’ group can be magical.  I’m going to use some of my dreadful learning lingo here, but synergies can develop between the writers, and the creative energy so generated tends to fuel the creative self in wild ways.  Some of my best writing/most productive periods were inspired while I was in writing groups.

This is why I’ve called this category Alchemy Ink.  It’s a kind of substitute for the old writing groups.  Magical things can happen when you share …

But getting back to the writing of fiction, transforming what is in my head and heart onto writing on the page is pure alchemy.  I struggle to create gold, but what I might have is a means to immortality, the other goal of alchemy.  My words, if they’re good enough, will have a life outside of mine.  With luck and diligence, they may outlast me 🙂

Martina goes on to write that she is not a pantser (like me).  For her, the magic happens between the characters, in the backstory, in the execution.  She uses plotting and structure to “make room” for the more magical aspects of her art.

The last word belongs to Martina:

Chances are, that’s the part of storytelling we fell in love with in the first place.

Why did you fall in love with the alchemy of storytelling?  Where does the magic happen for you?

4 thoughts on “Why did I call this category Alchemy Ink?

  1. Hey Melanie! As Siobhan’s sister…i would say she would’ve been thrilled as anything that she left a lasting impression! I remember that particular picture she drew of the dragon and ship….my family has a lot of her art on our walls. You may know she died in’92…cancer….but she left a lasting impression on a lot of folks. 🙂


    • Tobi! It’s been a long time! I was aware of Siobhan’s passing and saddened by it. Always Sail West was published from my creative writing class with your dad and I think he chose the cover artwork to honour her memory. Rhonda Sandberg was our editor. I thought it was very serrendipitous that Siobhan’s art would grace the cover of my first short story publication 🙂
      Thanks for your comment, and send my best to your family!


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