Miles’ 2024 Writing Rodeo: Rodeo Roundup January

Miles’ 2024 Writing Rodeo: Rodeo Roundup January

My first challenge is complete, so welcome to my Rodeo Roundup!


If you don’t know already, in 2024 I am challenging myself to finish 12 stories in 12 months. Each month I want to try and embrace something new, work on elements that I struggle with, or practice skills that I’d like to improve on.

Inspired by my love of unfiction, and stories told without prose, I wanted my first challenge to be telling a story in an unconventional way. By way of example, one of my top 10 books of last year was a zine called Unfurl by Kym Deyn, Nathaniel Spain and Finlay Worrallo. In Unfurl, the reader is given reports on items, dictionaries, and religious texts from an alien world. As the book goes on, you are able to piece together the world’s history, and the fact that its inhabitants may not be what you expect. This fact is ingrained in everything, from their language and mythology, to even how they cook their food. I’ve heard Unfurl described as piecing together world’s history based on items in a museum, and because of this, it’s a book that I can go back to time and time again, figuring out a little more of a complete picture each time.

In the beginning of the month my husband Chris printed out teeny book covers for his journal, and I found myself wondering if I could make an actual, readable book that small. But, I thought to myself. What reason would the book have to be so tiny?

In the end I settled on this; a family cookbook for fairies, in which a parent records the recipes they make over the course of a year. Some recipes are contributed by other family members, such as the baby of the family, En’na, who helps out sometimes with pictures.

En’na & Baba’s Family Cookbook is only 2000 words, but there is far more to it than words alone. You see, I started with research, research, research. This part also involved researching Britain’s seasonal flora and herbs because, as the seasons change, the ingredients the fairies use do too. After typing up each recipe, I printed it as a reference to start work on the actual book.

The second stage was illustration. I drew each meal by hand, in felt tip; that way the colours would be bold and the pictures would remain legible even on a tiny scale!

The hardest part, though, and the one that took longest, was transcribing. This step involved writing every recipe by hand, again in felt-tip pen, somehow fitting those 2000 words onto 16 individual sheets of A4 paper. Each character within the book has different handwriting, so I had to adjust mine accordingly.

After this, the recipes, illustrations, and inserts were scanned in, edited together, shrunk down, and bound into the teeny tiny cookbook you see below.

In some ways, working on Baba & En’na’s family cookbook was a return to the simplicity of writing stories when I was young, scrawling them onto paper by hand without heed or concern whether the drawings looked good or the writing was neat. In the finished product, sentences are sometimes slightly wonky and there is the odd mistake here and there that I thought added to the mood. Writing the recipes themselves felt a bit like making mud pies; when you’re young, any random leaf could become a garnish for a make-believe delicacy on the playground, made from woodlice or cut grass or bottle caps. En’nas pictures, similarly, were a refreshing return to uncoordinated, youthful scribbles which leave the reader to come up with their own theories on what the characters and dishes look like.

Writing this way forced me to let go of my perfectionism for a while, because, well, if I tried to correct every mistake, I’d be wasting valuable space and might need to restart it completely.  It also forced me to focus on conveying information concisely, cutting unnecessary sentences and even ingredients from each recipe. Don’t get me wrong; there were plenty of failed attempts, lots of restarts and an unhinged amount of paper for our recycling tray this week. But with each try, there were slightly less.

Unfortunately, after all this effort, readers will not be able to try any of Baba’s recipes. Some are poisonous to humans, all use micro measurements of hazelnut shells or snailshells, and almost all of them require you to cook an entire meal with a single bug. According to Baba, a rat haunch can feed a family of 4 for a week.

Just what else might be hidden between these absolutely miniscule lines?

You can have a look for finished copies in BookWyrm, although it will be very limited due to the complexity of making them! Thanks so much for reading, come back next month for the next post, work on it has already begun!!

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