Monday, 28 September 2009

Courting the Bull

Rob Innis, Deputy Chairman TWC, was presented with his contributors copies of the Expat Anthology:
Courting the Bull
last Saturday in Madrid by the editor, Sarah E. Rogers of Innoword Media.

Rob was delighted to have his short story 'Mediterranean Lady Seeks A Friend' published in the book which contains a variety of fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

Book details:
ISBN 978-0-9840928-0-2

Published by: Innoword Media
September 2009

Friday, 25 September 2009

Comment from Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I'm reading 'Strange Pilgrims' by my favourite author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and wanted to share this with you:
" The effort involved in writing a short story is as intense as beginning a novel, where everything must be defined in the first paragraph: structure, tone, style, rhythm, length, and sometimes even the personality of the character. All the rest is the pleasure of writing, the most intimate, solitary pleasure one can imagine, and if the rest of one's life is not spent correcting the novel, it is because the same iron rigour needed to begin the book is required to end it. But a story has no beginning, no end: either it works or it doesn't. And if it doesn't, my own experience, and the experience of others, shows that most of the time it is better for one's health to start again in another direction, or toss the storyin the wastebasket. Someone, I don't remember who, made the point with this comforting phrase: 'Good writers are appreciated more for what they tear up than for what they publish'"

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Mini memoir competition

Leaf Books invites you to send us an extract from your own life in 1,000 words or fewer. Your mini-memoir can be on any subject – childhood, war, travel writing, family, school, work, community projects, political activism, the story of your allotment or anything else you can think of that's happened to you in your life. It can be as dramatic or as low-key as you like: just make sure that it grabs our interest and that it stands alone as a narrative.

Enter online or by post. If sending entries by post, please note that we are unable to return submissions. If entering online, please pay via PayPal (see the competitions page on the website) and send your work as an attachment to as a .doc or .rtf file.

£4 per submission, 3 submissions for £10

Prize: Winner will receive £200 and a free copy of the anthology. Runner-up will receive a free copy of the anthology and a full set of Leaf mini-books. All selected pieces will be published in the anthology.

Closing date – January 15th 2010


This week's number of attendees was 15 which is about average. The content of the readings was however far from average, both in subject matter and quality.

This week's themes were - "Life would never be the same again" or "The Allotments".

Nik started the meeting by distributing details of competitions to those who have no access to the Internet; he had previously emailed all members with the same.

Douglas was the first to read but before doing so asked for permission to make a couple of announcements, the first being a charity concert to be held at "The Venue" in aid of the Poppy Appeal. The second and obviously the more important for Douglas was the announcement of his engagement to Rita.The group wished the couple well and offered heartfelt congratulations.

Douglas has been working on a series of anecdotal tales for the benefit of future generations of his family and his offering today was entitled "Egypt 1947- 1950". The story painted a picture of his army life in that country most graphically, not only the conditions but of the characters involved,
primarily Sgt Major Wiffen.

Gerry provided us with a further section of his story about the Lottery Winner and a fateful telephone call. The group offered several suggestions as to how the story could be tightened to make it more plausible. Gerry recognised and welcomed the comments that further editing could work wonders for the story.

Heather used this week's theme "Life would...etc" as the start of a possible novel about a group of workers in a hairdressing salon. The concept was good as to the central event drawing the characters together. It was felt however that she required more description of the location of the action and the protagonists involved. It was agreed that some of the phraseology involved was excellent and the circle encouraged her to continue with the effort.

Chris's offering was a poem based on "Life" entitled "Slow Down"

"When I was younger, I couldn't say
Oh! That happened 20 years ago today!
But now, I've been able, for quite a long while,
To go back further- but it's no cause to smile.

For as I can do that, it just goes to show
I've got much less time left and soon I must go.
But I'm not really ready- I've lots left to do
And I don't want to leave, it's too soon in my view.

So let's put the brakes on, there's nothing to gain
At this stage in life to be in the fast lane."

Everyone thought that this was so true to life and so prophetic.

Mary also used this week's theme of "Life" to write an inspirational poem of a world without men. Comments were made, mainly from the females as to whether the world would be a better place without men. The male members of the group declined to comment!!!

Ian stated that he had nothing to read and was met with gasps of horror or surprise. I can never differentiate.

Rosemary gave an excellent review of the Julie Walters autobiography which made you feel you wanted to go and buy the book. Her review also stimulated a discussion on what should be included or not, as the case may be, in a review.

Rob took the alternative theme of "Allotments" to provide a story entitled "Digging for Victory".
Again the story was warmly received with the plot well conceived and put together. Several suggestions were made about polishing the piece up before sending it off somewhere either for publication or competition.

Cynthia's piece called "Driving Lessons" gave us an insight into the trials and tribulations of a learner driver ( Cynthia ) being taught how to drive by her husband. The consensus of opinion was that it was true to life by all of those who have tried to teach a family member how to drive or been taught by one.

This week's meeting had a diversity of subjects and the quality, as usual, was high. Looking forward to hearing more next week.


Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Fullish House.

We must have been getting on for twenty today. People are gradually turning up after the summer break and more and more chairs are needed. Of course this is great as it means the group is popular, alive and kicking but it means that it´s getting more and more difficult to hear everyone´s piece. Today was no exception and several people had to wait till next week to read out their stuff.

The subject was a choice of Driving Lessons/The Coach Trip/In The Fast Lane.
Only two people who did read had chosen one of these subjects and they both went for Driving Lessons. Ann B wrote about lessons she was obliged to take in order to get a job. It was an interesting look back on what it was like to take lessons and a test in the sixties. It was thought that the euphoria of actually passing the test was lacking but otherwise there were some funny moments.

Chris J
wrote about her experience with a panic-stricken Cypriot instructor aptly named Panicos. It was deemed worth working on to submit to a magazine but various suggestions about word choice were made.

The other members´pieces were not on the theme of the day.

Rob had a story set in the 50s called The Library Book. ( He should actually have read it last week but there was no time.) The girl in the story got into a flap thinking she had discovered a letter planning a murder. It was amusing and well-placed in the setting by references to phone boxes, buses and the dialogue, which was very polite and more formal than it is nowadays.

Glyn´s revised chapter of his novel was true to form. Vigorous language (Is that the correct PC euphemism?) and very funny. It´s a while since I heard the original version so it´s hard to say in what way this is an improvement but anyway, it was well received .

Brenda wrote a FWW piece about a young conscript who was about to go over the top. His bitter thoughts about the unfairness of being about to become cannon fodder were very telling. However it was thought that they were too mature for a boy of his education and age and she would do well to make him a few years older.

Ian´s piece was something he started a few years ago and is perhaps intended to be part of a longer piece.It had considerable promise and people were interested in hearing more but Nik judged it to have too much telling and not enough showing. The events could also benefit by a change in the order to capture the reader´s interest sooner. Back to the drawing board Ian!!

Rosemary is hoping to transform what she deemed to be a boring diary account of her struggles in learning Spanish into an informative piece for EFL teachers on how it is to be on the receiving end of a lesson, thus helping them to teach more effectively. I must say, I could have done with one of those when I started out as a teacher!

Pat screwed up her courage and read a description of her own experiences during WW2 as a child evacuated to Wales from London. Her reaction to gas masks was interesting to say the least. She loved the smell of the rubber and still likes the smell today - even loves sniffing wellies, if I understood correctly. Various ribald comments were bandied about the table concerning rubber fetishists but Pat, elegant lady as she is, rose above it. Very interesting piece indeed and we hope she´ll write more. Could well be a demand for this type of account as it is the 70th anniversary this year of the beginning of the war. Get on with it Pat!!!

Finally Heather squeezed in her second-ever poem. It was about that summer delight, mozzies!
So desperate is she at times that she turns to the drink:

You´re desperate for peace from the night´s itching din

You pour over the tonic and knock back the gin.

I must say, it´s a novel way to get shot of the little so-and-sos, to drown them!

Good meeting. See you all next week.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Courting the Bull

I was delighted to have my short story: 'Mediterranean Lady Seeks a Friend' (which I have read out at TWC) accepted by the publishers, Innoword, for their Expat anthology which has now been published under the title of:

Courting the Bull

To quote from the publishers press release:

Savor the Secret Sights, Sounds and Sensualities of Spain in Innoword Media’s Inaugural Book Courting the Bull: An Anthology of Expatriate Literature in Spain

Literary Descendants of Hemingway Expose Intimate, Romantic, Thrilling Details of Wild and Wonderful Spanish Culture

Madrid, Spain, September 10, 2009 – Innoword Media announces the release this month of its exciting, new inaugural book, Courting the Bull: An Anthology of Expatriate Literature in Spain. The collection of short stories, essays and verse highlights the tantalizing, romantic and irresistible aspects of a Spanish culture that captured the hearts and imaginations of a collection of rising modern artists.

“There is a moment – and every expatriate remembers theirs – when a foreign city begins to unfold before their very eyes. Capturing that moment is the essence behind the literature,” said Innoword Media Editor Sarah E. Rogers. “It is with great pleasure that we unveil these mysterious moments in our new collection, Courting the Bull: An Anthology of Expatriate Literature in Spain.”

Whether one has already booked a trip to the alluring country of Spain, whether travel plans are still in the works or whether one simply feels an insatiable curiosity, Courting the Bull is a literary work that entertains, engages and captures the imagination.

One of the reasons Hemingway held onto his long-standing love affair with Spain may be summed up in his book, The Sun Also Rises: “Nobody ever lives their life all the way up except bull-fighters.”

Courting the Bull: An Anthology of Expatriate Literature in Spain is priced at $15.99 in the US, €11.99 in Europe and £9.99 in the UK. For more information, or to purchase a copy, please visit

About Innoword Media
Innoword Media is an independent press that publishes books about art, food, literature and travel.

My story involves an unwitting Expat Brit. who becomes involved in a fraud after having met a Spanish lady in Barcelona. However maybe she has under estimated her victim as events unfold and things do not go exactly as she had planned...

I have been offered the chance to meet the publishers in Madrid to be presented with my complimentary contributors copies. More to follow.

Rob Innis

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Welcome back to TWC'ers who have been absent for a while

Nik reported that the Coast Rider would hopefully be including weekly short stories and the editor was trying to investigate a sponsor so that writers could get some recompense for their work. Rob said that the Round Town News is holding a writing competition, the deadline now being next month.

Nik introduced Jan Warburton, who attends when she is in Spain. Jan said she had struggled with writing for years and only when she was made redundant did she give it a go. She started with the writers’ bureau initially and sold some stories through them, and then ghost wrote an autobiography by Tommy Hunt, Only Human. Tommy had written it on an Amstrad in capital letters with no breaks for paragraphs. The book was about black musicians being exploited by white agents and the difficulty of getting black musicians’ music heard on the radio. Nik said Jan had captured the voice of the musician.

Brenda read out chapters 1 and 2 of her edited novel about Belle. It started at the funeral of her mother and brought into life the characters in the novel. TWC'ers enjoyed the edited version, particularly liking the allusion to the tulip which hung its head in the cemetery. The piece was thought to be evocative. Nik said you don’t need to attribute speech unless necessary, as readers would know who was speaking. It was thought it would be a good idea to use dates in the chapter headings, like Ken Follett does, so that readers don’t get confused as to what year they are in, as the story goes back and forth.

Norma read out a short story about Maria. Where does Maria live? Maria has 5 dogs which all do their business on the path and her big black dog attacks other dogs. She is a psychiatric case but Norma thinks she is very clever because she outwits denuncias made by neighbours and the police can never find her. She keeps Jose, his son and the lodger well serviced in a sexual way and also with drugs, but where does she live. There is a knife attack at Jose’s house; the urbanisation wants to be rid of her. Lisa thought the knife attack could be the beginning of the story. Joy thought the story should be called “How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Jenny wrote about a library book. The librarian, Miss Briggs, was working in the library when a youth lobbed a firework in the window. Miss Briggs had a head cold so couldn’t smell the smoke; she was reading a book under the counter so never noticed the fire. The next thing she knows is being taking out the building, which was destroyed along with all the books, apart from one, the one she had been reading beneath the counter, The Towering Inferno, a nice twist.

Gerry had also written on the theme “As I sat waiting for a phone call ...” The phone call he was waiting for was from Tony his mate. 2 weeks ago they realised they had won 3.4 million pounds on the Lotto. However, Tony couldn’t find the ticket. The writer wondered if one of Tony's two lady friends could have taken the ticket. The search for the ticket went on. The phone rang, what was the answer going to be ........? Rob thought that the writer himself might be lying, not Tony or the 2 women. Nik said readers can feel cheated if the story doesn’t have an ending and is left up in the air, like the film The Italian Job where the car is left teetering on the edge of a cliff.

Mary read out a piece about “The library book”, called Emma’s dilemma. Emma had borrowed a book from the library by Ken Follett. As she came to part 4 a note fell out of the book, “If you are reading this note you must attend the local library. Please phone the number below. I need you.” She didn’t know if he was a weirdo or a lonely person. She stared at the note and picked up the phone .... Nik liked the idea of putting book titles like “Great Expectations” in a story to titillate the reader.

Chris had written a review about a novel by a Swedish writer, Hakan Nesser. It was a story about crime detection concerning the case of family members vanishing without trace. The chief inspector, Van Dieter, was Swedish of Italian descent and a gloomy character. Chris said it was a gripping read and recommended it. The author has had 4 books translated into English.

Rita read out a story entitled The Conman. Her husband, a barman in London, came home and said he had met a man from Gloucestershire who had offered him a job as a hotel manager and they were going with him the next morning to see the place. They got up at 4 a.m., asked the neighbours to watch the children, waited and he never came. Rita asked, “Did you give him any money?” He said yes and a free lunch, in total worth about £20, a lot of money then. Rita rang up the hotel and was told that the man had left the hotel owing money having stolen business cards, that other people had been cheated by him and he was wanted by the police. 14 months later Rita was in another pub when a shabby man tried to talk to her who said he was from Gloucester. She arranged to meet him with her husband and police nearby. The CID apprehended him after he started to run and he got 5 years in prison for fraud. It turned out that 4 months into his sentence the man died in prison. She had lost sleep when the man had got her up at 4 a.m. but she slept peacefully when she heard of his demise.

Heather also wrote on the subject “As I sat waiting for a return phone call ....” She was trying to ring the support line about a modem and in the end she wasn’t writing about the complaint but about how difficult it was to complain. Everybody knows the way it goes, you ring this number, are given options none of which fit and then you end up being cut off. After many calls, with flask and Kendall mint cake at hand she tried again. A girl from the Black Country said she should send an email to complain but she couldn’t because she hadn’t got a modem. In the end the caller called the police to say there was a bomb in the building and as she heard the sirens wondered if any of the policemen would know about modems.

Ian wrote a review about a book called The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. He tells his story as a one sided conversation in a tea house in Lahore. The writer reminisces about his successful life in America until 9/11 when he is forced to reassess his position because everyone views him in a different light. The writer extracts sympathy from the reader. Ian said the book was tense right to the last sentence and thought-provoking.


Wednesday, 2 September 2009


Nik informed writing circlers about various story competitions. He and Rob have approached the Coastrider about sending in stories and poems, but still wait to see if they're willing to pay any money for work that people have worked hard on. In the latest September edition of The New Coastal Press there are 3 articles by TWC’ers, Nourish a blind life by Nik, The Parting by Ian (I didn’t see the end coming) and an obituary by Nik about pianist Larissa Yvonne Snarli who had died in August.

I read out a poem which had to be written on a post card, the sum total of such postcards being displayed at the opening of THE QUAD, a new Arts Centre built in Derby. It had to be only 50 words long and about a tradition, urban myth or rumour concerning Derby. I chose to write about the Derby Ram.

The Derby Ram was an awesome sight, wandering the streets at night
Seeking willing ewes to mount, to ensure his progeny beyond a doubt

Its ghostly presence is still around, where the youth of Derby can be found
Behind THE QUAD at the break of dawn, unwittingly creating the yet unborn

Jane’s story was on one of the suggested themes, “As I sat waiting for a return phone call, I reflected on ...” Jane reflected on a holiday in Cyprus which had been a disaster in the hotel Paradiso, a bit of a misnomer. On the morning of 22 December her husband, Archie, was feeling very tired, she called the doctor who immediately sent him to hospital. They hadn’t been able to purchase travel insurance so there was a worry about the cost of it all. On 20 Jan he was discharged and they flew back home. On 10 June he dropped dead in the kitchen. It was very well written, despite the sadness of the story, and particularly apposite was Jane’s thoughts that while waiting to see Archie in hospital she sat doing her cross stitching like a woman in a previous age would have done the same while waiting for her husband away fighting in a war, but in her case her husband was fighting for his life.

Douglas read out the start of a story on the theme of Neighbours, and he didn’t know where it would lead. It began, “Oh Stan this is what I have always wanted.” A newly married couple had bought their first house and were struggling to pay for everything they wanted. The wife, Val, was never satisfied and wanted new furniture, a new TV but didn’t want to work to help pay for it. Stan would try to be firm with her but she would sulk. The next door neighbour, Ursula, said to Stan “Tell Val well done.” When he asked Val about this, it turned out she was pregnant, more money worries anticipated. The next day Stan met Ursula and walked with her to the station. She linked her arm into his ..... TWC’ers thought the story could go several ways, the most original being that Ursula and Val would end up together with the baby, another that Stan was going to kill Val and run off with Ursula. Nik thought Douglas should focus on the characters and edit out all clich├ęs.

Maureen’s story was also on the theme “As I sat waiting for a return phone call, I reflected on ...”
Maureen reflected on a time 50 years previously at a dance in a tin hut for members of the air force. Glen Miller was on the record player and the young man said “Are you dancing?” the young lady replying “Are you asking?” (That brought back memories!) Six weeks later they were married and she prayed that her husband would be spared and come back to her after the war. He did come back and they were so grateful that God had treated them so well. They only had one boy and he told them he was being ordained as a priest. She gave up her only son to the church and would have no grandchildren but was happy to do so as she felt she had to pay God back for saving her husband.

Nik read out his heart-warming story which had been published on the beattoapulp website. He said that the editor had personally rung him up to make suggestions, which had been very helpful. It was called “I celebrate myself” and concerned a female NY cop searching a trash compactor because one of the operators, Travis, had thought he could hear a baby cry. She had to search through the stench, trying to steer clear of discarded needles, cockroaches etc. She found a doll’s leg and gave a sigh of relief, but then her torch alighted on two legs which turned out to belong to a baby born about two hours previously. She wondered whether to let the baby die, as being born in such circumstances in a NY ghetto was unlikely to lead to a good life, but the desire to save lives kicked in and she gave mouth to mouth, the baby coughed and she said “Thank God he had a chance.” Travis had been right and little Travis, as the baby was to be known, lived to fight another day. When I read the story on the site, I couldn’t wait to find out whether the baby lived; I so much wanted him to. There was much tension and imagery in the story. Another story by NIK on the same site is “Spend now pay later” about selling your limbs.

Glyn wrote from the perspective of a woman so it was written by Glynis Dale. I couldn’t help picturing Glyn in full makeup and stockings, but quickly banished the thought. It was Eileen’s 18th birthday and on the radio was the song that went “In the morning mist two lovers kissed...” Her boyfriend, Roy, proposed to her and as her parents were away they quickly consummated the relationship. They kissed goodbye at the station as Roy had to return to his army unit. Later she found out she was pregnant but then received a letter saying that Roy had died in an accident with a troop carrier. The baby, Roy junior, was born but cruelly snatched away from her and given for adoption to a GP and his wife. Eileen pushed an empty pram about in order to sneak glances of her carrot headed baby. Johnny, as the GP called his adopted son, grew to be a teenager, got married and had a son himself, also a carrot top. Eileen underwent chemo and the doctor told her she was now in remission. She rushed to the cafeteria and celebrated with her new love, a cup of tea. There was much discussion about the ending which TWC’ers thought he should change but which Glyn adamantly stuck with.

Ian read out a poem on the theme of “Reflection.” It was about a soldier in Helmand province. The soldier reflected “I will never be lost without trace” because of his loved ones at home. By this time everyone was in tears!

Joy also had a sad poem about an abused wife with an alcoholic husband. “He doesn’t love me, I am to blame, I must keep quiet and hide my shame.” The last line was “Perhaps I will give him one last chance.” The poem reflected the way that abused wives take the blame for their abuse themselves. Nik thought the last two poems should be sent off to a magazine.

Brenda had a poem called “Why?” It asked why life is not what it should be and ended with the stark reality that “We don’t know why.”

Next week TWC’ers can write a book review of 250 words or a poem or story on the theme The Library Book. Let’s hope there is a bit more lightheartedness next week, but just in case there isn’t bring a spare hanky or a box of tissues. Please don’t write a review of the book "The Titanic” or we will all be feeling suicidal!