Sunday, 28 June 2009

Writing Competitions

I have added another site that advertises Writing Competitions for all genres, many of which are FREE to enter!

After our all day workshop why not try out some of those new found skills - go on have a go, you never know.

Unfortunately some have deadline dates of June 30th but there are still plenty to select from - see here:

First Writer Competitions
(also see our TWC follow these sites for others)

Good Luck.


Friday, 26 June 2009

Fiction Writing Workshop 24 June 2009

This was a departure from the normal Writers’ Circle meeting. It was an all day event – 10am to 5pm. There were 19 attendees. The material I had prepared applied to short or novel-length fiction.

I began with character, offering a few ideas on creating the character, the description and backstory. Interestingly, while devising the various character backstories, several relationships will crop up to strengthen the storyline and possibly create sub-plots. This was followed by a writing exercise where everyone had to write about or describe a character. They were a varied bunch and many came alive so much that we wanted to know more about their stories! Then it was time to discuss plot and theme. Some stories are plot-driven and others are character-driven but we all agreed that without conflict, the plot and story would be flat.

A number of attendees read out their previously prepared stories. A few needed to pay more attention to showing rather than telling the story, but without exception all involved the listeners and several definitely need to polish and submit.

The lunch break stretched, doubtless due to the availability of wine… We then discussed scene setting and how to use a scene to increase the dramatic elements. Then it was time for dialogue. A dialogue writing exercise followed and everyone seemed to handle this very well – which was very heartening as often new writers find that dialogue is the hardest aspect of fiction to master.

I emphasised that narrative flow is very important and will help the reader and suggested ways to achieve this. (For example, start every new paragraph with a different word, as above…) I covered Point of View and closed with Beginnings – since the beginning of a short story or novel may alter once the piece is finished. Beginnings are important, obviously, as they are designed to hook the reader.

Perhaps more time could have been devoted to writing exercises, but reading the resulting prose would have eaten into the day’s schedule too. On the face of it, this should have been a long day – but I felt that it tended to fly by and everyone appeared to enjoy the experience.


Thursday, 18 June 2009

What are we doing here?

(I was planning to read this at our last meeting but I couldn't make it - so here it is! Comments welcome, M)

For many years I was what I called a ‘communications trainer’, specialising in tutoring presentations, interview techniques, negotiations, selling, and so on. It came as a complete shock to discover recently that I was actually teaching people to be extremely poor communicators! For whilst I had been concentrating on showing people how to listen effectively, I wasn’t really listening myself – at least not to other people. What I was listening to, very effectively indeed, was a constant, highly compelling internal dialogue which was far more important to me than anything anyone else had to say.

We humans find real communication very difficult because we all have this internal dialogue which we cannot ignore. It runs our lives, in fact, blocking what we don’t want to hear, what doesn’t ‘fit’ with our preconceived ideas.

Do you have a conversation with anyone in your life during which one or both parties repeats the same sentences again and again? In fact the dialogue could probably run by itself if we took the people out!

Here at our Writers’ Group we have an opportunity to create a whole new version of ourselves every time we put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. In our everyday home and working lives there are people who think they know us. We even, foolishly, think we know ourselves. And what do we do when we think we know something? We cease to listen (‘heard it all before’ syndrome). We may think we are listening, but we’re not responding to each other, rather to the internal dialogue going on in our heads (‘why is he saying that?’ ‘did I leave the iron on?’ I wonder if my bum looks big in these trousers?’)
We can’t switch this conversation off, no matter how hard we try.

Fortunately this doesn’t happen quite so much when we are being given new information. Our antennae automatically adjust to novelty, paying attention to the new data – it’s a basic survival technique. And we do stop listening to our internal voice (at least for a while) when we are creating, or generating new language. Here at Writers’, every time we create a new story, poem or article, we are reinventing ourselves, too. We are no longer the personality we display to our circle of family, friends, colleagues, or even to ourselves. We are the source of new paradigms, the gods of new worlds, the artists of new canvasses.

When I write about canoeing down an African river you don’t listen for me as the Maureen who keeps getting lost on the N332, but as an intrepid explorer. When my neighbour in Guernsey wrote beautiful poetry about sunsets over the cliffs, no one listened for the brow-beaten wife of an alcoholic bully, but for a sensitive, highly articulate and powerful woman.

And so we create multiple identities for ourselves. We know very little about each others’ so-called ‘real’ lives when we come together to share our work around the table - we respond to the new identities we adopt. And the delight we experience in responding to these identities is nothing less than the thrill of acknowledging the process of creation. We may go home to our routine chores, but for two hours every week we are all-powerful, bringing forth new possibilities into a thrilling universe.

Maureen Moss

Quality not Quantity.

This is my last blog before going to Sweden for the summer.
Nik will be writing next week´s after the workshop then he hands over to Cynthia. So you bloggers are in capable hands.
I´m sure more of you can have a try so don´t be shy! Step forward and have a go!

The subjects this week were The Longest Day or Panic Attack.

Three members produced poems.

Cynthia´s panic was when her computer goes berserk and refuses to obey - it has:

" a mind of its own
And wants to live in a people-free zone"

Don´t we all recognise that?

Chris´ panic poem told about someone who didn´t think before spilling the beans and then, as a result, landed in deep trouble.

"On I blathered, speaking freely
(Wish I´d said it in Swahili)
Now I know I should´ve shut it
Could say sorry but it won´t cut it."

Again, I suspect many of us have done that.

Jenny´s poem "The Longest Day" was a quietly serious and really lovely piece which everyone liked tremendously.
I decided it must go on the blog.

Time dragged on
Days into weeks
Weeks into months
Still no word.

Rain into frost
Frost into snow
Still no word.

Branches into buds
Aches into pains
Then came news.

Grey skies into blue
Buds into blossom
Frowns into smiles
Then he returned.

Clouds into sun
Blossom into fruit
Smiles into laughter.

Terrific, don´t you think? Ian thought Cinammon press might be interested.

Ian read a story "The Longest Day", which he´d reworked.
It was a love story which began in Australia and ended in the slaughter on Omaha Beach in Normandy in WW2. Very sad but beautifully written and much tighter for the rework.

Brenda read some more from her novel. The extract was from the Victorian-era diary and was well-researched and written.

Gerry, our newest member, gathered his courage and read a childhood memory about rabbit catching in the country. Well observed and well received. A bit of tightening here and there and it could be sent of as a nostalgia piece.

Douglas read a piece from the anecdotes he is compiling for his family. What a good idea! His kids and grandkids will appreciate this in years to come. It described dropping supplies from a plane over the desert in WW2.

Brian had written a piece for the Hotel Montiboli´s Annual Competition. He said he´d tried to emulate Mills and Boone but some members criticised the lack of heaving bosoms and dark, smoulderingly dashing heroes. However, it was a quietly romantic story with a Spanish link. Good Luck, Brian!

Mary K had produced a bit of a satirical poem with three world leaders ( suspiciously like Bush, Blair and Putin) planning another World War out of sheer boredom.

We had a good 20 minutes over at the end.
Rob had started off the meeting by forwarding a complaint made by a nameless member that the announcements at the beginning were taking up too much time. So he had chivvied us along to make sure that all members had their allotted time to read. Since this week there were quite a few who hadn´t written, we had time over. In the discussion which then took place, it was made clear that most people were unwilling to start earlier or finish later to accomodate all members reading time. It was also made clear that the group must be able to cover the members´ wish for a social side to the group. However, everyone agreed that it is, first and foremost, a Writing Circle and the Chair has discretion to whip us all into abject submission should we overstep our chatty bounds.

We still had 10 minutes left after that so Rob read out a continuation of his fictional story on a scam. He said it had been accepted for publication and we paled at the size of the fee he had been paid. Cries of "Drinks all round!" were ignored and the meeting was swiftly brought to an end.

Remember that next Wednesday is the WORKSHOP from 10 am till 5 pm.

We are lunching at the Olympia Restaurant.

Cost: * Usual 3 euro member fee

* Workshop 5 euros

* Lunch - Can´t remember cost but must be between 11 and 15 euros I would think.

See you there.

Chris J

Friday, 12 June 2009

Mary's poem

This is Mary Morris's poem that I promised to put on the blog.


It was at the weekly dance
Where you can find romance
That we waltzed around the floor
To the music I adore

As he held me near
I felt a little queer
Something hard was between us
But I didn’t want to make a fuss

Frank then sensed my fear
And quickly made it clear
As my face grew paler
It was only his inhaler

Thursday, 11 June 2009

I opened the door to find.... the cat was away.

In the case of the Writers´Circle, our particular cat, Nik Morton, is away for two weeks doing what comes to us all sooner or later - entertaining visitors.

So, Rob once more glided (relatively) seamlessly into the role of Chairman. He does a pretty good job and keeps Nik´s mice under reasonable control. We do play a bit though but he keeps order through a judicious balance of coaxing with cheese and threatening occasionally with the mouse trap.
On the whole everyone kept to the point (ish) and another good meeting was under way.

Maureen opened with some info.
She reminded us that the Lions Club is holding a Race Night in Quesada next Wednesday.
There was also a general invitation to a party at her place on July 31. As I won´t be in Spain then, my concentration wandered a bit so if you are interested, contact Maureen for the details.

A new member, Gerry, turned up. Ex-teacher, permanent resident, very keen to pick up tips and get down to some writing.

Today´s subject was: I opened the door to find....

Quite a few members were inspired by this.

Mary S described her first day as a special needs teacher in a prison.
Aided by a Fletcher-from- Porridge clone, she survived the experience and went on to enjoy the teaching there. Well-written and very interesting! More please!

Mary K also described a first day at a new job when a woman goes to the right floor but the wrong block and walks in on a scene of heaving breasts and a bare bottom. Quickly retreating and eventually finding the right place she discovers to her horror that her new boss, who arrives late and rather dishevelled, is the bare bottom encountered earlier. Very amusing!
Lisa suggested that it could be scripted and sent to Channel 4 for the series "3-minute Wonders".

Jenny continued the theme with a short poem beginning "I opened the door to find a man with a bare behind" and followed it up with one of her limericks which ended with the words"What a bummer!"

Chris wrote a short poem called "Dumped" about a woman left at the altar and her subsequent revenge.

Brian´s story was a sequel to the Walter de la Mare poem"The Listeners". It was interesting but he assured us that reading the poem first would make his piece clearer.

Joy doesn´t often read stuff to us as she is a bit nervous of doing so. (It´s the Olympia Bar, Joy NOT the Coliseum!!) She is a harsh critic of her own work and doesn´t do herself justice!
Come on Joy!!You write very well indeed and we want to hear more from you!!
This poem, called"Falling Apart", was hilarious and listed all the things that start going wrong at a certain age - pert bits taking a dive, firm bits going floppy, noisy, clicking knees, gout.......
Lots of places were suggested as possible sites for publication.

The remaining members wrote a variety of things.

Maureen continued her novel about a mother travelling with two children. Quite a lot of discussion took place as to whether or not her device of using a diary to bring in the daughter left at home actually worked very well. She agreed to go off and have a think about it.

Norma read another of her Spanish experience pieces. It touched a chord with everyone who has tried to get a workman to arive on time/at all and do the job properly. Very well observed and written.

Our new member, Gerry, read a poem about a school trip to Holland which he thought was wonderful in almost every way but "The only crap thing was the 41 kids". Hmm. I think he´s quite glad he´s retired from teaching.

Our valiant Deputy Chairman, Rob, had fished up a poem he wrote a while back about the Writers´ trip to Benidorm, which ended in "The cabaret from Hell".
Wish I´d been there. Or do I?

Ian´s poem, "The Conman" was about someone who falls for the hard sell and buys a "a flat that may never be built". A shiver went around the group. There but for the grace of........

Brenda had said that she´d wait till the end to read hers but when the end came, it was the end! So she has to start next week.

And that is the end!

Chris J

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Siesta Time???

Despite the image of a group member seeming about to drop off and have an early siesta, the meeting on Wednesday was, in fact, quite lively and the member in question was probably concentrating on rattling off an insightsful, relevant and critically unimpeachable comment.

On the other hand, I suppose she could actually have been having a snooze....

To the point!

Today´s subject was The Meeting Place or The Invitation.

It clearly had something because quite a few members were inspired by this to produce some work.

Norma kicked off with a nicely observed piece about a Spanish neighbour.

Glyn followed with a rather sad story of an opportunity missed. This was his first attempt at writing from a woman´s point of view. Well done!

Mary K wrote a poem about an invitation to a yacht but didn´t say what happened there.Tease!

Ian´s poem was also a bit of a cliffhanger. A bloke waiting at a station for a girl to turn up. We never found out whether she did or not.

Chris wrote a piece about the dreaded Community of Owners meetings in Spain. It touched a nerve with most people!

Jane´s piece was set in her French village soon after she and her husband arrived there.It described a dance which she´ll never forget!

The other members wrote on a variety of subjects.

Brenda continued reading from her novel, this time back in the present where Belle ends by thinking how good her life is compared to Elisabeth from the diary.

Pat doesn´t often write but when she does she produces a cracker. This story was about a girl preparing to commit suicide. Come on, Pat! Sharpen your pencil! We want more!

Douglas´piece was unusual - a letter by a small boy to Jesus.

Mary M gave us a poem called The Body Shop, which was an ad on how to improve your looks. How about haemorrhoid cream for bags under the eyes? ( Don´t knock it till you´ve tried it!)

Jenny hadn´t written anything specially for the meeting but entertained us with some limericks she´d done earlier(shades of Blue Peter).

Nik gave us the news that his latest western The 300-Dollar Man is now out. Yippee I Ay!!!

I have an unpleasant feeling that I may have missed somebody out. If that´s the case, I can only grovel and metaphorically lick feet. Maybe that member who was dozing was me....

Here´s to the next time.

Chris J