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

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Valerie 01884 84 04 22

Sunday 17 July 2011

Adventures in Capitalism: The 7 Steps of Storytelling for Entrepreneurs

As a proud graduate of Stanford I’m privileged to be part of the alumni mailing list, which includes a lot of the world's smartest, most creative people.

We've had a number of interesting discussions recently, ranging from 3D printing to the best source of "tiny balls" (don't ask). One of the most interesting has been the discussion about storytelling. One of my fellow alums reminded us of the following formula for an instant story:

·                  Once upon a time....
·                  And every day ....
·                  Until one day ....
·                  And because of that ....
·                  And because of that ....
·                  Until Finally ....
·                  Ever since that day ....
·                  And the moral is....

It struck me that this story template is extremely useful for entrepreneurs [writers]!

Source Chris Yeh

Death in the Shower Room

The battlefield wall is divided into 6''x6''
White ceramic tiles
Each square a mildew grouted war zone
Smeared with the remains of the dead enemy
Arced like red commas on the glazed graveyard
Killed in action by a deft thumb, disembowelled.
Like little tubes of red paint
Alizarin, cadmium and vivid vermilion
Squeezed, swirled onto their cold white canvas
Each a miniature Jackson Pollack

© Harry Mills July 2011
All rights reserved

Friday 15 July 2011

The primary urge that motivates and engenders writing

"... is the writer's desire to invent and tell a story, and to know himself. But the more I write, the more I feel the force of the other urge, which collaborates with and completes the first one: the desire to know the Other from within him. To feel what it means to be another person. To be able to touch, if only for a moment, the blaze that burns within another human being." 

 David Grossman

Wednesday 13 July 2011


No more pulse or snatching gasps, clutching the air of life
No last words from a cotton-wool coma, or coming home
No more Stretford End, Best glory goals or half-time Bovril
Or Likely Lads, no snooker or secret hooker
Three score years and ten, on the button, no extra time
No more

(on his anniversary : 11th July)

© Harry Mills
All rights reserved

Friday 8 July 2011

Good Housekeeping Recipe for Life

I am a true blue Baby Boomer, born to a patriotic family, as depicted in the wartime black and white films. With such a background, I know that Good Housekeeping is the bible of British Life.
Basic Ingredients:         Siblings, preferably of even numbers, so one is not left out.
                                      Elderly Relative, to give good advice and suggest jolly pranks.
                                      Freedom, to roam miles, and befriend local  Worthies.
                                      Mystery to Solve, including outwitting Bad Eggs.

Dressing:                      A Decent loving and attractive partner, as in Georgette Heyer.
                                      A Darling little house, cottage or flat,  in which to nest.

Decoration:                   An even number of bright eyed and talented children.
  An artistic and eccentric mother-in-law, whose best friend is     
  your mother.


 Follow the above instructions, to the letter, until you are fifty years old.

Please note that Good Housekeeping can not be held responsible for the success of recipes as their execution is dependant solely on the quality of the ingredients used.

© Penny Smale July 2011
All rights reserved

The Cage

This was written in 1998, I believe, just after my divorce was finalised.  I was probably sitting on my terrace, in the dusk, and halfway through my second bottle of wine!  I was fifty….

Thinking about it, I have been living in a cage for the last 23 years, albeit of my own making, and with my husband’s assistance.

From being a self-confident person, with a good career, blessed with a large amount of optimism, I gradually turned myself into something I wasn’t, and something neither I, nor as it turned out, my husband, liked any more!

You know, you meet someone and you fall in love, and then, if you are not careful, the two of you go about changing, if not each other, then the more besotted.  It of course takes two to do this, but then you must not be surprised if, having changed your personality to suit your lover, you are then no longer suited.

I see now that I caged myself.  I wanted to please, and I went along with everything.
I completely forgot that I had been my own person, so I carefully helped to build my cage, stepped inside and threw away the key.

Who can ever be happy in a cage, once they realise it is there?  Luckily for me, my husband found the key, and using it, pushed (and I do mean ‘pushed’) me out of the cage we had built and told me to go away.

I wanted to stay with what I knew and whom I loved, and I was scared to fly, but he kept pushing me away until finally I realised that he was serious.  Eventually I stopped begging to be allowed back into my cage and instead started to explore my new surroundings.

You know, it’s not at all bad out here, and I am rediscovering my confidence and myself.

As for my husband, it seems that he wanted to be what I had become, and so his new partner is obliging by rapidly building him his own cage!
© Penny Smale July 2011
All rights reserved

White Beach: 6am

Early, very early
Dreams still elusive, uploading awareness
The beach, yet to unfold its white sheet to the heat of the Cyclops sun
Watching, silent small men raking hairy husks that stain the sand

Piling high the beach-bleached coconuts
Fashioned in a Pol Pot pyramid of eyeless skulls
Smouldering, a tropical fragrance of spiralling sweet blue smoke
Enticing sand flies that crackle in the crematorium's triangle of death

© Harry Mills
All rights reserved

Thursday 7 July 2011

A New York Dinner Party

Leila chose people for her party as carefully as the ingredients for the dinner she would serve them. Charlie’s beefy banter would stand up well against Tina’s starchy opinions, and Francine’s laughter was light and refreshing. Eddie who dressed impeccably and had a sharp sense of humour always added colour to an evening. Alexandra usually had something intelligent to say and could be counted upon to keep the conversation flowing. A party wouldn't be a party without Gerta. Darling Gerta, not very clever, but so sweet and pretty. After a few glasses of wine Hugo tended to light up an argument that filled the evening well after dinner was over. As a hostess, Leila was a master chef, and this night’s menu was guaranteed a success.

© Caroline Nicholson
All rights reserved




*          An invisible person or object.
*          Unexplained phenomena.
*          A story of redemption and transcendence.
*          A moral code with a punishment and reward system -
*          adherence to which generates comfort and self belief.
*          An elaborate uniform for the hierarchy.
*          Condemnation of those who query or disagree.
*          Songs, poems and candles.
© Valerie Taylor
All rights reserved


Silent,deadly dengue, like a night of black fear
Closing in, homing in, getting near

On her flight path, past exhaled breath of our union
Of my body & blood, her communion

Resting on the unconscious sweated flesh
Sucking brandy-blood, to fly intoxicated with fresh

Supply to nourish her off-springs
Licking my blood, pruning her sticky wings

© Harry Mills
All rights reserved


A Singular Recipe for a Just Desert (in fifty words)

Cast salt over one shoulder.

Truss the bastard bird. Boil him
with a worn thumb, a fat worm
and the loose tooth of a horse

Wring in the juice of one lemon.
Simper till it come to a high past
that will not cleave. ‘Till it be enough.

Serve cold.

© Sophia Roberts
All rights reserved

A Singular Recipe for a Just Desert (the Earl of Arundel’s way)

Let your gut have lain in vinegar and brown paper half a day before you use it

Cast salt over one shoulder.
Well fricate and oil a calves’ cauldron.
Strike two tears to make fire.
Warm the horn of one devil ‘till hot.

Truss the bastard bird
and boil him by himself in fair water.
Put to him a worn thumb, a fat worm
the loose tooth of a horse and a peck of pepper.
Wring in the juice of half a Lemon.
Simper for three hours
till it come to a high past
that will not cleave.
‘Till it be enough.

Have a leer made for it.

When it is cold
pour away the black liquor that comes from it.
Take out the heart and dispose in seething water.

Mince or chop the flesh into little bits
- as small as grated bread - with half a pound of marrow.
(Be sure none of your lemon kernels be among your pie-meat).

With your hands stiff
work altogether like a pudding.

Divide the flesh up into forty pieces
as big as walnuts.

Toss them one or twice.
Put them into the gut.

Stand in a deep coffin
with fried garlic stuck upright lying on the walls.

Let it stay there a day and a night.

Take it out and open it.
Sauce with bitter moonshine

Serve your pie without a cover

Revenge is a dish
best served cold

© Sophia Roberts
All rights reserved

Recipe for Success

Just two years’ ago Grant was redundant, depressed and divorced; now he leered from the silky sheets of a supplement.

Inspiration had struck: women sleep with men who cook for them. Food for Foreplay, uncomplicated and blokey, hit the shelves and then flew off them. 

Now he could afford Bankok.

© Tim Scott
All rights reserved

Wednesday 6 July 2011

Boracay Sunset

13 tips for actually getting some writing accomplished.

One of the challenges of writing is...writing. Here are some tips that I’ve found most useful for myself, for actually getting words onto the page:

1. Write something every work-day, and preferably, every day; don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Staying inside a project keeps you engaged, keeps your mind working, and keeps ideas flowing. Also, perhaps surprisingly, it’s often easier to do something almost every day than to do it three times a week. (This may be related to the abstainer/moderator split.)

2. Remember that if you have even just fifteen minutes, you can get something done. Don’t mislead yourself, as I did for several years, with thoughts like, “If I don’t have three or four hours clear, there’s no point in starting.”

3. Don’t binge on writing. Staying up all night, not leaving your house for days, abandoning all other priorities in your life -- these habits lead to burn-out.

4. If you have trouble re-entering a project, stop working in mid-thought — even mid-sentence — so it’s easy to dive back in later.

5. Don’t get distracted by how much you are or aren’t getting done. I put myself in jail.

6. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that creativity descends on you at random. Creative thinking comes most easily when you’re writing regularly and frequently, when you’re constantly thinking about your project.

7. Remember that lots of good ideas and great writing come during the revision stage. I've found, for myself, that I need to get a beginning, middle, and an end in place, and then the more creative and complex ideas begin to form. So I try not to be discouraged by first drafts.

8. Develop a method of keeping track of thoughts, ideas, articles, or anything that catches your attention. That keeps you from forgetting ideas that might turn out to be important, and also, combing through these materials helps stimulate your creativity. My catch-all document, where I store everything related to happiness that I don’t have another place for, is more than five hundred pages long. Some people use inspiration boards; others keep scrapbooks. Whatever works for you.

9. Pay attention to your physical comfort. Do you have a decent desk and chair? Are you cramped? Is the light too dim or too bright? Make a salute—if you feel relief when your hand is shading your eyes, your desk is too brightly lit. Check your body, too: lower your shoulders, make sure your tongue isn’t pressed against the top of your mouth, don’t sit in a contorted way. Being physically uncomfortable tires you out and makes work seem harder.

10. Try to eliminate interruptions — by other people, email, your phone, or poking around the Internet — but don’t tell yourself that you can only work with complete peace and quiet.

11. Over his writing desk, Franz Kafka had one word: “Wait.” My brilliantly creative friend Tad Low, however, keeps a different word on his desk: “Now.” Both pieces of advice are good.

12. If you’re stuck, try going for a walk and reading a really good book. Virginia Woolf noted to herself: “The way to rock oneself back into writing is this. First gentle exercise in the air. Second the reading of good literature. It is a mistake to think that literature can be produced from the raw.”

13. At least in my experience, the most important tip for getting writing done? Have something to say! This sounds obvious, but it’s a lot easier to write when you’re trying to tell a story, explain an idea, convey an impression, give a review, or whatever. If you're having trouble writing, forget about the writing and focus on what you want to communicate. For example, I remember flailing desperately as I tried to write my college and law-school application essays. It was horrible – until in both cases I realized I had something I really wanted to say. Then the writing came easily, and those two essays are among my favorites of things I’ve ever written.

Saturday 2 July 2011

Reading & Writing (Learning From the Greats)

A few years back, I attended a writing workshop where I met some of the most unusual and memorable people I ever have. It was there that I first heard one of the most preposterous and, I soon found out, common, writing faux pas’ that exists. When the workshop facilitator asked us what we liked to read, the gentleman next to me spoke up and stated he did not read anything. The room turned its head in unison to blink at this guy. “Why… don’t you read?” asked the facilitator. The man next to me proudly explained that first, he did not have time to read, and second, he avoided reading anything because he was afraid of unconsciously plagiarizing whatever authors he was reading. There was a long stretch of silence before the facilitator ushered the topic into new territory.

Reading is the first reason I ever had to write at all. I have never met a credible author who wasn’t also an avid reader. I was surprised by a writer who didn’t read, and apparently I was not alone. It made me wonder what kind of writer I would be if I didn’t first have a profound love for reading.

One of the first books I ever remember loving was Howliday Inn by James Howe. I was intrigued by the humanization of Chester the cat and Harold the dog. Chester and Harold has this very Holmes/Watson kind of relationship which showed me very early on the importance of character contrast. I submerged myself in the Bunnicula series for the next couple of years and from there, I remember reading And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. This style of writing kindled my intrigue with murder, mystery, suspicion and suspense. It showed me how characters are used to move the story forward. Also, Agatha Christie wasted no words, so from her I learned the importance of getting to the point. By the time I was in fifth grade, I was reading mostly adult fiction. Granted, I was only ten and there were many things I didn’t understand about the things I was reading, but I believe beyond doubt that these books are what shaped me into the kind of writer I am today… warts and all.

In Stephen King’s book, On Writing, he talks about reading actively. What this means is that first, you must read, and second, you must be conscious of what you’re looking at. Pay attention to what the author is doing and what emotional response his words are invoking within you, the reader. I began practicing active reading immediately and have since trained myself to read this way almost solely. It has its pros and cons. On one hand, it will absolutely hone your own writing. On the other hand, it makes reading less enjoyable because you are often too focused on the technique to experience the story. Over all, it’s worth it though. In reading actively, I have learned many things that can not be taught otherwise.

I suppose it’s possible to be a great writer who doesn’t read anyone else’s work, but personally, I can’t imagine it. I think it’s important to learn from the greats. Not just the classic, historically cemented, old-time writers, but the contemporary writers who are experiencing the success you are striving for. Yes, writing is absolutely an art… but it’s also a business, and that business doesn’t have much compassion for writing that relies too heavily on an authors need for self-expression. And there’s a lot of self-expression out there.

To be great, I believe, you must first learn what great is. From there, you must determine specifically what makes them great and how that greatness was translated onto the page. Then, you must try to find your own greatness. You must know your strengths and weaknesses and find creative ways to capitalize on both. You must be willing to sacrifice snippets of your own brilliance for the overall quality of your story. You must be willing and able to take criticism, insult, and ignorance. You must be willing to place your ego on the chopping block and allow complete strangers to take turns bashing it to bits. But above all… you must continue learning and getting better, and I can think of no other way to do this than by learning everything you can from those who’ve traveled the path before you.