Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Fairy Tales, Families, Frustrations ...

There were 16 at today’s meeting with 8 reading. The smaller number than usual gave us the opportunity for more discussion.

Ian asked for ideas for themes for future meetings.  He suggested that we need a challenge and could try telling a story through conversation only, or concentrating on description only as an exercise.

Ian congratulated John McGregor on his new book, Fairy Tales of an SAC, and its write-up in the Coastrider, which said these stories “will appeal not just to ex-service people but to anyone who enjoys a well-told humorous tale”.

John Edwards gave us information on the forthcoming Writers Week Literary Festival 1-5 June at Listowel, Co. Kerry, Ireland.  It sounds so good we all want to go. See

John also reminded us about the monthly WordPlay open mic sessions at Chadwicks, Villamartin.  The subjects are 10 May – Summer’s Here, 5 July - Going Home, 13 Sep - War and Peace. 

Pamela was the first to read with a new chapter in the story of her childhood.   Pamela aged 4 and Brian aged 6 were taken to an enjoyable Mothering Sunday celebration but returned home to a tragic event. This led to very interesting discussion on viewpoint, first and third person narrative and factual v. fictionalised descriptions in a memoir.

Anne G had a poem on today’e theme, A New Tomorrow.  This was a humorous piece on putting off good intentions (in this case stopping smoking) which we could all relate to.

Jenny also wrote on the theme with 2 succinct, very funny pieces on moving to Spain and living in Spain.  Everyone agreed however that her serious poem on a railway journey, looking back towards a disappearing countryside and a receding past, was very moving and hoped she would do more like this.

Brenda read out a poem a friend had sent to her, a prayer asking for help to be more tolerant and less righteous when getting older.  Brenda’s own piece was a harrowing description of conditions in the WW1 trenches, when the only thing to look forward to was to sleep and dream of home.

John McGregor continued his family history with his father and his mother finally meeting face to face in 1942 after a series of letters.  All agreed his writing is excellent.    His piece provoked a long discussion on how information might have been censored from his father’s letters – or even bored his future wife! – and, for example, whether bananas would have been available.  (We agreed they would.)

Mary K also had a poem on today’s theme called Time Will Tell about a young girl on a night out with her boyfriend not making it home until tomorrow.  She told us it was a WordPlay competition winner and we were very excited, then she told us that it was the only entry! It was still very good.

Avril read a poem about packing a bag for her husband’s visit to the gym and putting in something of her own by mistake. 

Inspired by Nan and Sara in previous weeks, Heather had tried to do a synopsis following guidelines of describing the main characters and the whole plot of a novel in 500 words.  As nobody could follow the plot and all thought there were too many characters, it’s back to the drawing board!  Brenda also read out her synopsis.  This was longer and contained more description.  The descriptive sections were the ones people liked, but it was felt it could nonetheless be shorter.  More synopsis research (groan) might be helpful – perhaps to find a real life example of a good one!


Thursday, 14 April 2011

 Numerous apologies but even so, 19 present.

Ian kicked off with an interesting biog of Yuri Gagarin since it was the 50th anniversary of the first manned space flight just the day before.

Avril read a piece about a violent attack on her some years ago.

Mary K´s poem "A Line a Day" was a cry of woe over the incursions of age or sun on the skin.

Mary Sykes wrote on the theme about her first wages for a Saturday job at Woolworth´s. ( 13/9d - in today´s money, 40p)

Chris J´s was on the other theme "I passed" about the, to her, unexpected repurcussions of passing the 11+.

 Anne Flynn continued her "Dementia Diary", which had our heroine trying to post some cards in a Radar Speed Trap!

John McGregor continued his Life Writing OU piece with the letter the girl sends in reply to the New Zealand soldier´s introduction of himself as a possible pen friend.

Glyn´s PTSS soldier, having murdered a prostitute, goes home to visit his mum and meets a "nice girl".

Brenda´s Belle visited a doctor after her rape and found it hard to explain why exactly she was there.

Rita had an unusual piece about the Gam people from a tiny kingdom north of Ghana.

Nan had another go at the synopsis for her novel but it was thought still to need paring down and so she´s going for another rewrite!

Pamela didn´t get to read hers so she´ll be first up next week.

Good meeting with a fair amount of discussion as well as the readings.

Chris J


Monday, 11 April 2011

Tripping the Light Fantastic

Apologies for the lateness of the blog. (Monday 20.00) Had a rather fraught week. Still, better late.......  as they say, 

A lovely day, good attendance - 24 present.
The day´s theme was : " Fandango, The Last Dance or I Was Waltzing."

Four people took up the theme.

Ann Grierson´s amusing piece was entitled: " What is a Fandango?"

Heather wrote a poem on waltzing, when she was " losing her marbles as well as her dinner"!

Phil wrote a clever, hilarious poem describing a formal dinner where the men drink a great deal -
it is " a dangerous time, mixing testosterone and wine".

Geoff´s piece, "First Dance" was about a novice writer with viewpoint problems at a "grab a granny" night for the over 25s. Brilliant!

Anne B`s poem " May I Have This Dance?" described someone hoping for more from the dance than a mere turn around the floor.

The other members came up with different themes. Both Stan and Jane had poems on the theme of spring. Congrats to Stan on his first attempt at a poem! Jane´s was , as usual, up to her high standard.

Nan and Brenda continued with their novels. Brenda´s a very good description of a squalid abortionist and her room where the heroine decides not to go ahead with the abortion. Nan had written a synopsis, which led to a great deal of discussion and the conclusion that writing synopses was as hard as producing the actual novel.

Douglas came up with a funny piece on quips, sayings and chat-up lines.

Alan Winter, having decided that short story writing is not his metier, has launched into Spanish History, beginning with the Peninsular War. General opinion was that it was very interesting and there could well be an ex-pat market for "dip into" history.

John McGregor regaled us with another of his Open University pieces, this time a Life Writing extract which is his final OU work to be marked. Very good, it was deemed. Good Luck, John!

Avril read a sensuous poem about a love affair between a woman and the sea.

Chris J had a description of things Swedish at the early spring/Easter period.

Heinke had a description of a blue-tiled house in La Mata.

We actually got round everyone who had written! Yippeee! Well shepherded, Ian!!


My First Pay Packet or I Passed

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Hooray for Hot Pen Turnout!

Hot Pen this week and a surprising number turned out! Not everyone’s favourite activity by any means but after some discussion meeting decided to ‘bite the bullet’ so to speak and get on with it! Word chosen was ‘former’ and, as usual, everyone subsequently amazed at the different takes on it.
Ian kicked off with a piece about a heroine at a reunion who was the centre of attention; sounded like the beginning of something interesting.
Heinke thought the word was ‘formal’ and delivered a conversational piece around that.
John followed with a view point piece then Alan bemoaned his former lack of discipline as he embraces the Spanish way of life!
I wrote a bit of a rant about control – if I can get some for myself – may try and develop it!
Jane delivered an interesting piece about the wisdom or otherwise of generational house sharing; Ann G reminisced about her ‘enfant terrible’ school days – to be continued.
Margaret P wrote about running and a confrontation with a former 100 meters champ!
Sarah wrote amusingly about names and how they can change in the vagaries of life. Pat followed this with a description of an incredibly beautiful woman at an audition for ‘Guys & Dolls’ – but much consternation at the discovery that Peter had once been Petra…

Mary K wrote an imaginary piece in which she was the mother of the Tiller Girls – (which is how we knew it was imaginary!) This from Wikipedia: In certain shows a Tiller line-up could be as many as 32 girls who were selected for uniform height and weight. In 1923 the stage play Nifties of 1923 featured twelve Tiller Girls!

Mary S gave us a comedic poem about milestones in her life and here it is.
The word is former – haven’t a clue
Five minutes for me would certainly do!
I’ve had a huge block in brain
So everything is such a strain.
Former husband springs into mind
Was glad to leave him well behind.
Former job – I thought a great loss
Strangely now I don’t give a toss
My former life seems of another age
My present – a totally different page
All in all I would like to say
Former was brill but I live for today!

Ann B wrote about a boss who gave her driving lessons so she could chauffeur him around.
Chris J gave us a funny piece about John Knox and his hidden sexual proclivities.
Ann F gave us a history lesson – with the beginnings of a story about a slave in the household of a Roman Consul.
Phil gave us a great description of the life and death of a cinema in Toxteth which has been reincarnated as apartments.
Geoff entertained us with a look at woods and walks therein with appearances by former farmers wives and Edward Woodward.
Brenda gave us the beginnings of a crime story – to be continued?
Dougles mused that he may have been a vegetable in a former life – and wondered what he might come back as next time.
Alan dissected the word itself and looked at political and marital uses of it.
Gerry wrote about a football match where the losing coach got shot for his pains!
Avril remembered incidents from her swimming association days and wondered if they had lasting effects on her pupils in later life.
Nan said she thought that in future she might cheat at hot pen and do some work beforehand! However, this week off the cuff piece about love, life, marriage and moving to Spain.
Stan remembered erstwhile sixties singer, the Epstein managed Tommy Quickly, and their shared factory experiences.
Pamela wrote about a previous life as a Knight of the Round Table and his (her?) latent desires.
Maureen regaled us with a football report and amused with her take on the players names that appear to change from week to week according to how well they play! Her current favourite appears to be a player named Gerofim!
Jenny finished the morning in her inimitable fashion with a limerick herewith.
There once was a former Brit
Lived in Spain and liked to keep fit
But to his demise
He overdid the exercise
And dropped dead
The silly old git
And so ended the hot pen! Ian said that he will be producing a new list of words as weekly inspiration and asked that everyone make suggestions. Chris suggested we also used photos as inspiration for hot pen from time to time.
The ‘leftovers’ kicked off the second half. Stan contributed a very emotional piece about his father, who despite working in a reserved occupation, volunteered for service at the start of the Second World War. Capture, internment and presumed death presaged his return, only to leave again to re-enlist. Stan’s memories of pit life and the eventual death of his brother were very moving and reduced everyone to tears.
Gerry read his well researched and written poem ‘Infamy’ about the tragedy at Guernica.
Nan read her edited beginning of her novel, following last week’s critique. All felt it much more atmospheric with good drama and tension but more dialogue and description of the cage were suggested.
Sarah has been working on the synopsis of her book and managed an heroic word reduction from 3.5K down to 600! However, everyone thought it still too long. The tenses need to be looked at remembering that a synopsis should be written in the present. It was suggested that she talk aloud, describing what the book is about and then write it down. Ian suggested doing bullet points as a start, expanding as necessary.
Pamela continued with her personal memoirs, reflections on the mind and memory. It was felt that the writing sounded academic and, whilst interesting, lacked feeling. She was encouraged to continue.
Jane gave us another chapter of her life in France, this time ‘Cross Words at the Cross Roads’ during the tour de France. Amusing as ever and we all look forward to the book!
An enjoyable meeting, as ever.