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

Wednesday 29 June 2011

Two Farmers

Bain't no rain for many a twain
An' I can't afford no tanker
So I carries me water
In me old tum tum
An' I'm off to sprinkle me taters

© William Botley
All rights reserved

The Bubble

The gas bubble in my eye was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before.  At first, it filled the whole of my vision.  It was clearer and purer than crystal and much brighter than a mountain stream - Swarovski could only dream about such clarity of lens.  Around its perfect orb was a circle of deep, soft black and beyond that fiery red, orange and yellow.  This rainbow-fringed black rim pulsed with my every heartbeat and tipped and swayed, just like a spirit level.  It could make me feel quite giddy, but I couldn’t get off this particular roller-coaster, as the movement was inside my head.

It was impossible to see through this strange bubble: I could only see into it.  It was a crystal ball which held visions: swirling pink, violet, turquoise, sea-green and golden mists formed and reformed more quickly than the swiftest clouds.  Those floating colours were extraordinarily vivid yet softer and truer than any shown by a back-lit computer screen, for all its myriad of hues.  Was this similar to a mescaline enhanced perception?  I don’t know – but the colours were stunning - at once vibrant, deep and incredibly beautiful.

Among this ever-changing mass of gorgeous colour, odd images swam in and out.  I saw a tower with many windows with a brightly but differently adorned clown leaning out of each of them.  An old lady in a flowery and be-ribboned bonnet melted into General Kitchener who, in turn, morphed into a handsome fighter pilot, complete with flowing white scarf and jet black goggles.  Fishes with gaping tunnels for mouths also came and went.  One stuck out its tongue at me, black and forked like a snake’s.  I actually jumped.  Then it too was swallowed by a multitude of intensely coloured, interwoven fractals.

Although the effect was three dimensional, these melting, melding creatures and shapes, kaleidoscopic and ever changing, were seemingly liquid.  My bubble was amazing, so much better than the witch’s crystal I was once tempted to buy in an antique shop.

As time went on, the bubble acted as a magnifying glass and once showed me six fingers on my hand.  Weirdly, the little fingers appeared to be the second and fourth of the six.  It was a ghostly illusion for when I went to touch them, they weren’t there.

Gradually however, the bubble shrunk, until, after about ten days, it disappeared altogether.  Then the world’s actual colours seemed disappointing.  In comparison, reality was flat, dull, harsh and lacking in any subtlety.

© Gill Dunstan
All rights reserved

Thursday 23 June 2011

Writing Without Reading

No, no, no. Writers who don’t read are not allowed! Not until they can demonstrate that they’ve little left to learn.

On the contrary. An aspiring writer should read books that appeal not just once, but twice. The first as a reader, just for pleasure, noting what you like and don’t like. The second time as a writer, more slowly and thoroughly, looking out for how this writer managed to achieve the effect that the book had on you.

Read with critical attention, the second time, with every faculty alert.

  • Who is the person who wrote this book? 
  • How does structure and form help to communicate intention? 
  • How would you describe the language? 
  • How does it support the theme? 
  • How long are the chapters? The sentences? The paragraphs? 
  • Notice the rhythm of the book. Is acceleration or deceleration used for emphasis? 
  • Any mannerisms or favourite words? 
  • How does the author convey the passing of time? Get the characters from one scene to another? 
  • What is the point of view? 
  • Is there a chapter list? An index? A bibliography? 
  • What did the author not tell us?

After the first few books – which you must read twice if you are to learn how to read as a writer – you will find you can read for criticism and enjoyment simultaneously, choosing to reread only those passages where the book shines or fails.

Extract from Creative Clinic 1. Can You Get Me Started?

Friday 17 June 2011

Old Man

Wintry sun silvers the mudflats. Too proud to turn his collar to the breeze, Supported by his faithful walking stick,
(High polished shoes and trousers neatly pressed)
He pulls the brim of his old bowler down
And gasps for breath.

His rattling chest’s a product of the mines
And mustard gas. He prays
The kiddies standing near will never know of war.
(Young Georgie Angel blown apart at Ypres,
And kindly Smithy, - shot for a coward when his mind ran mad).

As she passed, he held his Millie’s hand.
Who’ll hold his frail fingers now the tide ebbs fast?

© Gill Dunstan
All rights reserved

Monday 13 June 2011


“Delicious things await you if you open me”.”

“No I can’t, I shouldn't. I mustn't.”

“Open me.”


“I know you want me, and I will satisfy you.”

“But the feeling never lasts.”

“I am always here. You can come back for more.”

“You’re devouring me.”

“And you are devouring me. We are devouring each other.”

© Caroline Nicholson
All rights reserved

Man in Minehead

Ghosts wander his thoughts,
tears loosen in his eyes.
Inside he was in his twenties,
flirting with the waitress in
the café, which smelt of gravy.

A short, struggling walk. 
Back to the bedsit.

Soon his trousers will return to Oxfam,
A hymn will sing him through the curtains.

© Valerie Taylor
All rights reserved

Old Man in Minehead (a longer response)

You know inside he is in his twenties. 

He flirts in the café fantasising

his upright posture and bright eyes, laughing. 

The material’s heavy against his thinning skin. 

He’s determined to walk but tears are near, it is such a struggle. 

Edna’s gone.  Her letters stopped.   

One day he won’t wake up.  Or will it be the hospital bed? 

Loved ones are only in his memory now,

peopling his life like ghosts, waiting to take him.

It was those slices of thin beef in thick gravy and

mashed potatoes, easy on the teeth and pie and custard,

followed by a cup of dark tea. 

Sometimes confusion reigns and objects disappear. 

Time of day is elusive – even the boundaries of day and night. 

One of them and he’ll just slide away and

his trousers will be back to Oxfam and

a hymn will sing him through the curtains.

© Valerie Taylor
All rights reserved

I’m a gannet

I love everything that’s bad for me.
Especially my choice of wives.

The latest one’s a bit stern, really.
With learning me to eat healthy.

I can’t help it.

If you like your grub,
you like your grub.

I left her this morning.

Siphoning ale and docking lambs.
Women’s work.

© Sophia Roberts
All rights reserved

Interpretive dance

We applauded the eldritch beings politely, but after that midsummer's night we were always careful to keep the fridge pushed well back against the wall.

© R. Rushworth 
All rights reserved

'Melody' the Dream

Oh Melody, Oh Melody you know not what you do

Strangers on the fore deck; they number only two

Oh Melody, Oh Melody a new moon light the coast

Is it but a dream; are you just a ghost

Oh Melody, Oh Melody 'tis the Mediterranean you sail

On and on I see you glide; perhaps to no avail

Oh Melody, Oh Melody; your beauty you should boast

Or maybe it's your music that inspires the most

Oh Melody, Oh Melody do you see a dove

You may see strangers; perhaps they're in love

Oh Melody, Oh Melody 'tis the ancient world

An environment where romance has regularly unfurled

Oh Melody, Oh Melody let this dream come true

And make two people thankful they have met through you.

© Kenneth Campbell 2008
Al rights reserved

Miner dressed as a bobby in the 1980s

A Miner wearing a Policeman’s helmet in the early 1980s: Perhaps an unintended symbol for social change in Britain, before the ‘bowler hat’ and ‘cloth cap’ were discarded. Fifteen years later a former militant trade union leader – when appointed Britain’s deputy Prime Minister – stated: ‘…all British people are now middleclass’. 

© Kenneth Campbell 2011
All rights reserved

Oh my God

Oh my God.  I can’t believe I did it.  I threw your letters away in the tide.  I found them last night stuffed behind the books that I had promised the Cancer Charity people who come round asking for stuff to resell.  I just thought I’d give them some books, but then your letters fell out of that old dictionary that you and I used to read for fun.

Do you remember testing each other on words, trying to find old meanings? What about ‘dinner’?  Do you remember?  ‘Dinner without grace – antenuptial sexual intercourse’. Who would have thought it?

My Dear, I re-read your letters and wish I hadn’t.  I came down here last night, and tossed them one by one into the waves, crying as I did it for all that we lost.

Now, as I stand here looking at the sands, I realise that, foolishly, I have lost you yet again.  My dear, I am just so very sorry.

© Penny Smale 2011
All rights reserved

The New Dog

Last Christmas, my family played host to three dogs, and, a cat. Our fourteen year old border collie, (Police Woman Cass), belonged to my daughter and kept very much to her perceived duty of looking after the family, checking on the young (children, animals, etc) with a very strong idea of right and wrong which she was more than capable of indicating.

The ‘middle’ dog’ family name was Beaker.  She was bought as a Rhodesian Ridgeback. However, as she matured it became obvious that she was part Labrador.  Very shy and retiring, she was kept in her place by ‘WPC’ Cass.

Our third dog, Rufus was a 6½ year old pure bred Ridgeback who was nervous and clingy; not a good advert for the breed!

Anyway, on Boxing Day, Cass, responsible to the end, died of old age.

As the family tears dried, it became apparent a couple of weeks into January that Rufus was not at all well.  He was losing weight, and after three months of weekly visits to the vets, and numerous tests, my poor loving and foolish Rufus made his last visit to the surgery, where he was sympathetically put down.

Poor Beaker, who had, with Cass’s demise, thought that she would be top dog, suddenly found herself alone.  For the first few days it was great, but then she became depressed and un-responsive.

SO, a new dog! Breaking family tradition, a 7-month old dachshund, needing a new home from a loving family reluctant to give him up, was collected from his first home in Wales. I have never owned a ‘small dog’ and later I was to find out why!!

Renamed ‘Badger’ he quickly seemed to fit in.  Charming, playful, loving, and cheering up Beaker.  The two of them made an amusing pair. At night he willingly slept in his ‘crate’ (a modern version of a kennel), and returned to it without argument, as needed.

Everyone who met him, (the vet, and his many staff members) fell on Badger as a lovely little dog, sweet, amusing handsome etc, and almost all mentioned how they had either owned a dachshund in the past or, in two cases, had bred them. “I will have him, if you can’t cope” was a regular comment, always, as I now recall, with a big grin.

I did not twig.  I did not pick up on the regular phrase “if you can’t cope”

Badger, (bless his cotton socks) is now 10 months old.  He is still the cheerful, loving, bouncy, happy dog he has always been. He is a joy.

BUT, now, at 10months, the HOUND genes have kicked in.  When they do, not even I think that he is my dog.  He’s off, down in the heavily overgrown ditch that marks a boundary to my neighbours’ property, barking at their Larsen trap. Even if I see him and call, he’s off again, up to the fields on the hill, barking at rabbits that have gone to earth.  Twice he has returned with small pieces of stick wedged across the roof of his mouth, and twice he has returned with dead birds, (he doesn’t pluck them, just treats them as toys to be taken ‘to bed’). And of course there was the dead rabbit.  All fine, he’s a young dog after all. (She says through slightly gritted teeth).

This week he excelled himself.  He and the cat, (who is a voracious hunter) investigated the bonfire pile that now sticks out like a beacon of fun since the hay has been cut.  They put up two rabbits, and I left them to it.  Two hours later, the cat had returned for supper, but the Badge had not.

I am a worrier, often with out due cause, but can never stop worrying once I start, in case ‘this is the time…’  On investigating the pile of cut holly branches, broken pallets etc, I realised that Super Hound was trapped deep in the middle.  I am not up to this: hauling heavy bits of wood and being attacked by spikes as the rain threatens.

However, 45 minutes later, after much huffing and puffing, stings and scratches and a sore back, that the next morning complained loudly’, my ungrateful little hound was free, just to rush off again to the next interesting hedge!

I am now assured, (with the same grins) that he will grow out of this natural behaviour and become more home-loving, but in the meantime, I have just substituted worry for my children by worry for a dog!
© Penny Smale 2011
All rights reserved  

Scarborough. August Bank Holiday, 2006 - warm enough almost to be described as glorious.

Almost: a goose-bumpy wind from the north east had allowed only a grim eating of ice creams. 
Narked, the atrocious woman in a bikini, breasts like crab apples, dragged her insistently grizzling son towards their B&B.  Ibiza next year, no messing.
And leaning against a parapet an old man wept.

© Tim Scott
All rights reserved

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Creative Writing Tip from Eric Maisel

If you need to give your creativity a quick boost – and let’s face it who doesn’t from time to time – then there is a wonderful exercise I often use which comes from the wonderfully explicit and ‘does what it says on the cover’ book by Eric Maisel. Title is The Creativity Book and I highly recommend it to all my creative coaching clients – and anyone else who wants to expand their thinking into shapes other than the ubiquitous box.

It couldn’t be simpler: you ask yourself an interesting question and then you try to answer it. No restrictions or ‘shoulds’ allowed, just let your mind run free and have fun with it. I spent a happy 15 minutes asking myself the question “if you never completely empty a kettle and just top it up daily how long before the original drops of water in there are completely gone?” And I imagine, and hope, you will come up with something a lot more interesting than that.

Try it and see.

from Creative Catalyst