Committed writers dedicated to working together to produce excellent poems, short stories, drama, life writing, and creative non-fiction

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Sheila 01823 67 28 46

Valerie 01884 84 04 22

Saturday 30 April 2011

You Mean It’s Not Your Gun?

He died and slumped against the wall as I stood watching from the hall behind you.

You try to say it's not your gun!  Of course it's yours, you picked it up!

And anyway, I saw it fall and skim across the floor.

Before others come, please take back your gloves, and let me say (strictly between ourselves) a heartfelt “Thank you.”

You have cleared the path to my inheritance

@ Penny Smale
All rights reserved

Monday 25 April 2011

A riddle poem


I'm a riddle in nine syllables.
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf’s big with its yeasty rising.
Money’s new-minted in this fat purse.
I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I’ve eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there’s no getting off.

Sylvia Plath

The answer to the “riddle” is pregnancy – nine metaphors all describing the condition of being pregnant: a melon strolling along on tendril-feet! Seems quite lush.

Thanks to Mission Improvisational

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Writing to Order is a Perilous Business Because:

by Jopre
  • the muse is a jealous [demotic use of the word properly used to indicate the female of the species Canis lupus familiaris], and there are nine of them.
  • You don’t have a dog, and “the chickens ate my homework” is unlikely to work as an excuse with anyone with enough intelligence to successfully wear pants.
  • You know these things – and I don’t just mean reputations – matter, and there ain’t no prune-equivalent for creative constipation.
  • The pen is only mightier than the sword if the pen is very large and the sword very small, and ‘hoist on your own petard’ may be less of a euphemism than you think.
  • The only thing shared by desperation and inspiration is strictly rationed, and most people aren’t going to get this comment.
  • It’s amazing what the universe has up its sleeve to distract you, not limited to flood, fire, pestilence, sport, housework and all manner of other poems-in-waiting that will come crowding around, aw come on, pick me pickme pickmepickme.
  • You’ll oscillate so wildly between “never satisfied” and “satisfied too easily” that they could fit you with a dynamo and generate enough power to cook a three course meal for six, with soup andamuse-bouche.
  • Sigh …

Monday 18 April 2011

On writing: authors reveal the secrets of their craft

What is it that makes a writer?

Hilary Mantel: In the ideal world, all writers would have a Catholic childhood, or belong to some other religion which does the equivalent for you. Because Catholicism tells you at a very early age the world is not what you see; that beyond everything you see, and the appearance – or the accidents as they're known – there is another reality, and it is a far more important reality. So it's like running in the imagination. I think that this was the whole point for me – that from my earliest years I believed the world to have an overt face and a hidden face, and behind every cause another cause, and behind every explanation another explanation, which is perhaps of quite a different order. And if you cease to believe in Catholic doctrine it doesn't mean that you lose that; you still regard the world as ineffable and mysterious and as something which perhaps in the end can't quite be added up. It could be summed up as saying "all is not as it seems", and of course that's the first thing Catholicism tells you. And then it just runs through everything you write and everything you touch, really. Plus, it's good to have something to rebel against.

After the writing's finished, how do you judge the quality of your work?

Peter Porter: I'm not at all confident about the quality of what I do, and I suffer like all people do, I think, who are writers, an intense disappointment – not at the reception of what I've written, but at my own inability to bring off what I want to bring off. Auden in his introduction to his Collected Poems(well, the first one of his collected poems), said in a writer's work there are usually four categories – he loved categorising things. First, sheer rubbish which he greatly regrets ever having done. Second, poems he's got nothing against except they're not very important; they're not very good but, you know, he doesn't hate them. Third, the saddest of all, the fair notion, fatally injured. And then the last one, the handful of poems he's truly grateful for, which if he were to publish would make his work seem dangerously slim, and vitiated.

So why write? 

Hilary Mantel: It's always worried me, is writing a way of life or is it a way of not living, is it essentially a second-hand pursuit? I think it probably worries all writers, but then they say the onlooker sees most of the game, so that's the virtue of it.

Peter Porter: Literature is a sort of keeping going while the various destinies all around about you are being enacted. It's a way, I think, of coping with time. We don't seem to live very long, and yet on the other hand 24 hours can be a tremendously big burden. 

The Guardian, Saturday 26 March 2011

The Value of Childhood Reminiscences

As all members of the National Trust will know from the recent issue of the members' magazine, there is a poetry competition running until the 31st March. Called 'Landlines', the competition has two categories: 'under 16' and 'over 16'. The judge is the well known poet Ian McMillan (who, amongst other things, is the Humberside Police's Beat Poet.) Introducing the competition, McMillan reflects on how the great outdoors, landscape, weather, buildings and places can all be strong images we carry in our memory for years to come. 

I know this for a fact, as I carry fond and vivid recollections of my teenage years in Kent spent in the buildings and grounds of great houses such as Knole (the setting for Virginia Woolf's novel,Orlando), Sissinghurst Castle (home to the writer Vita Sackville West), Winston Churchill's home at Chartwell, Down House (where Charles Darwin lived and wrote his On the Origin of Species), and Quebec House (childhood home of General James Wolfe). That these historic houses and grounds, along with their eminent owners, left a lasting mark on my formative years is beyond question, as even today I recognise parts of my actions, thoughts, words or possessions as relating to those early experiences.

Early memories play an increasingly important role as we get older. They are the first memories we have, and those of a greater age than I will often relate more to those early years than to recent events. I am sure that we all have the experience of aged relatives relating stories of their younger years for the thousandth time as though they were telling them afresh.

The same memories can be a source of great value when it comes to dealing with someone with early dementia. For such people, the present can often be bewildering, strange and even frightening. The usual platitudes of reassurance are of little value and quickly forgotten, and the person is left fearful, distressed and mentally alone in a perplexing modern world. Such people will often still respond in a positive and knowledgeable manner to stimuli which provoke images from their childhood and early adult years, and it is to these memories that family members and other carers should be looking in an effort to satisfactorily communicate with their loved ones. The present means very little to them. However, pictures of familiar places, houses, countryside and people will often trigger deep-seated memories which will bring some meaningful actions or conversations.

As an example, I can remember the case of a gentleman who lived in a residential home. He had dementia, was relatively immobile and was quite isolated within the home. One day a care assistant started playing records of dance music from the 1920s. To everyone's surprise, the man got out of his chair and accompanied the care assistant in a faultless waltz around the day room. Unbeknown to his carers, he had won medals for ballroom dancing in his twenties and the playing of the records had unleashed those memories.

So, if you find yourself looking after, or trying to relate to, someone with dementia, forget about the present and look to the past. The trick is to discover the background of the person you are dealing with; you may be in for some pleasant surprises.

First published in the Scunthorpe Telegraph, Friday 11th March 2011

Friday 15 April 2011

You Mean It’s Not Your Gun?

What is that poking from your trousers?
You mean it’s not your gun?

© Caroline Nicholson
All rights reserved

You Mean It’s Not Your Gun?

He said, “I’ll want the children for Christmas.”
Then he saw it lying by a pile of books.
She shook her head slowly, smiling – enjoying his fear.
He said, “You mean it’s not your gun?”
“No,” she said, “It’s only my words which are loaded.”

© Valerie Taylor
All rights reserved

You Mean It’s Not Your Gun?

So by this point we'd all had a bit to
drink. With Sukie's father away we had
the whole house to ourselves. We ran
about exploring like children, the earlier
rows forgotten. In the library Rafe found
an old camera and we hammed it up,
striking poses, pulling faces. Then Topsy
opened an unlocked drawer and crowed
with laughter. "Go on, do James Bond!"
she said as she handed it to me. And
that's why my fingerprints were on the
gun, Your Honour.

© R. Rushforth
All rights reserved

You Mean It’s Not Your Gun?

It is raining on my old black Ford
Cloudy skies; a prayer to the Lord
A damp morning: the rear brakes are stuck
Was the rural lane covered in muck
A borrowed grease tool; my old car will now run
I hear the words: "... you mean it's not your gun."

© Kenneth Campbell
All rights reserved


You mean it’s not yours?
This smoking gun I found
In the wardrobe, behind the albums.
I have the evidence:
40 per cent proof is good enough for me.

I only meant to see the photographs,
Me, joyful in white lace,
You, looking so young,
Before this addiction cloaked you.

© Gill Dunstan
All rights reserved

You Mean It’s Not Your Gun?

You mean it's not your gun?
That's right.
Mine is the one with the flowers
in the barrel.
Your's is the one with the smoke
coming out.
Mine is the neck that can still
Your's is the one that won't

© William Botley
All rights reserved


I slide open the drawer

I am ten years old, again, whispering
“You mean it’s not your gun, grandpa?
The one you used to shoot the Hun?”

“Behave yourself.  Show some respect.”
Grandpa had never met any Germans.
The Luger was found on his best friend’s

body.  After the war.
© Sophia Roberts
All rights reserved

You Mean It’s Not Your Gun?

“...and you don’t shoot, do you?”  insinuated the tweedy auctioneer.  Charlie Paget looked glumly at his inheritance.  
Despite damage to the Turkish walnut stock, the Purdey over-and-under had a deep patina of well bred guardianship.  “I can’t sell it,” he said.  
“You mean ...”

© Tim Scott
All rights reserved

Friday 1 April 2011

How to (Politely) Kidnap Your Friends

No matter how many times I hear writers state that they don’t know where their ideas come from (“they just kind of come to me…”) I don’t buy it.  Maybe they don’t want to give their secrets away, or maybe they are trying to convince their audience that their minds are so enigmatic that they defy logical explanation, or maybe they’re just incredibly unaware of themselves; I don’t know, but any way I look at it, I think the answer to that question is simple.  Ideas come from people.  And more more specifically, (fictional) people come from (real-life) people.  At least, that’s the way it’s always been in my case.  To a point.
While I have never created a character that was based entirely on anyone I knew, I have relentlessly and unapologetically stolen little pieces of my friends, my family, my neighbors, my childhood friends, the lady at Wal-Mart with the thigh highs and hair rollers, and the most obvious of all, myself.   I have taken their eyes, their wit, their courage, their pride, and in some cases, I have even taken their heinousness.  Often times I have done this unconsciously, and only after having brought the character to full form, read him or her back to myself and said, “Wow.  This guy is just like cousin Bobby!”   Other times, I see some trait or personality quirk in a person and am writing it down right away, already knowing exactly which character to assign that quality to.  No matter which way it’s done, I like to think of this as (politely) kidnapping my friends. 
To (politely) kidnap your friends, you must first of all be subtle about it.  Remember, you’re a thief in the night, not the paparazzi.  To follow people around, notebook and pen at the ready, will not do.  Nor will photographing complete strangers (unless you’re really smooth about it), feigning a heart attack to test their level of emergency response, showing an overt sexual interest in their spouse to assess their level of temper, or confiding to anyone, friend or not, ”I’ve killed a man… but don’t tell anyone,” to gauge their degree of trustworthiness. 
To (politely) kidnap your friends, you must be respectful.  Sometimes, your rapport with someone is such that you can point at the interesting trait or physical attribute, wave the pointed finger Karen Walker-style and say, “I like that.  I’m going to take it,” and it’s all good.  Other times, depending on the singularity or uniqueness of the trait, you may feel you need to ask permission.  However, more often than not, I think the key to successfully (politely) kidnapping your friends lies in the imagination it takes to tweak the desired quality enough that by the end, it is, if not entirely unrecognizable, at least doctored up enough that it feels unique to the character you’ve assigned it to.
That being said, I’ve broken all of these rules myself.  The good news is, no one has legal claim to eye color, sense of humor, height, sincerity levels, etc… even names are pretty much up for grabs.  Still, I do think it’s important that, when fashioning a character after someone you know, you do so in a way that when people ask you, “where do you get your ideas?!”, you can smile knowingly, and confidently answer, “I don’t know… they just kind of come to me…” 
I don’t know why it’s important, but it must be…
Guest Post by Jared S. Anderson