Thursday, 28 July 2011

Mechanical Convulsions

This is my last blog for a while as I´m off on my holidays till mid-September. Yipeeeee!!!!!

The picture is a pointer to my excuse for not writing much and any inaccuracies in what I write. What with the fans, the air con, the darned fridge and workmen constantly popping in and out, I was lucky to hear anything at all.

That´s  my excuse and I´m sticking to it. It´s also my excuse for including another of my offerings of the day as a filler.
Also, as I´ve said before, I´m writing the blog today so there!

We started off with TJ, who had brought along his latest book of poems, photos and reproductions of his paintings. It was entitled " The Quiet Man Collection" inspired by the classic film of the same name starring John Wayne and Maureen O´Hara. He read one of the poems and the book was passed around the group. Very attractively produced and interesting.

Alan gave us a new episode in the life of Spike the dog. Growing up, he has started to calm down and become more responsible, learning to read and even organising his mates into a Neighbourhood Bark group to protect their Humans´ property.

Maureen, who hasn´t written much travel stuff for a while, treated us to a light-hearted piece starting on the beach being eyed-up by a bit of the local talent.

Jane was very moved by the previous weekend´s bombing in Oslo and had written a poem on the subject.

John McG, nervously checking that we were all broadminded, read a piece about the firm´s Sales people on an annual trip, this time to Amsterdam, and an encounter with an angry live-sex show performer possessing equipment of mind-boggling proportions. Hilarious!  Since he isn´t going to be around for a few weeks he also read a sqeaky-clean chapter of his "Ex-files"

Brenda had brought along a revised story about a future where the world is devastated by a power-mad politician and about the scientist who hopes that time travel might be a solution to the situation. It was thought that this could be an outline for a novel.

Everybody else wrote on this week´s theme "The Street".

Cathy tried out a poem in terza rima - a 3-line poem with the first and the third lines rhyming.

 Ian read both a poem (which went past me totally as the fridge was having a fit at the time) and a short story, which I think was based on the different characters in the street ( fridge convulsions again).

Avril and Mary K both read a pieces about a street in their  childhoods as ( I think) John McGilvray did but which, again, was lost for me in mechanical rumblings.

Jenny, sitting relatively close to me, and therefore heard a bit better, gave a description of a street in Toronto,where she lived as a child in the 50s.

I (Chris) read a couple of depressing poems, one of which was on the same subject and which I have included as a filler to cover the meagre pickings of the rest of the blog.

May the fridge suffer a breakdown of gigantic proportions!

Appearances Are Deceptive.

The street´s quite short.
It´s nothing special,
Terraced houses side by side.
In summer people sit in doorways,
Kids kick a ball, dogs run and bark.
It seems so normal.
And so it is because life is like that,
Smooth on the surface, ordinary.
But inside, underneath, things are different.
When the door is shut, when no-one sees.
Blows and curses, tears and woe,
Pain and anguish, black despair,
 Dreams all shattered, hopes awry.
Till, once more, thresholds are crossed,
Masks are in place
And life goes on in the street.

See you all mid-September!
Chris J

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Breaking The Rules.

We were a goodly number today, although I forgot to tot up the exact number. Ian returned as Chair after a few week´s absence. Thank you JohnMcG for doing the honours as acting Chair while Ian was away.                                     

Perhaps because of the heat (?) not that many people had written stuff - I know I was having problems concentrating enough to make blog notes. However, those who had managed to write something did us proud.

 The topic for the day was "Breaking the Rules" and several people came up with something on the subject:

Nicola had ventured into poetry, basing her piece on her time as a social worker with kids suffering from abuse and drug addiction.
Jenny came up with a short poem on the subject about flaunting the rules for a communal pool.
Anne G´s piece also told of a self-appointed dictator in her Communidad who delights in swooping on the merest hint of rule infringement.

The remaining members came up with different, very varied pieces:

Douglas told of working for SHAPE and trying to organise a military exercise, which turned out to be a bit of a nightmare.
Rita described a day out in and around Xativa, an area full of history.
Alan is writing a reminiscence for his daughter,who doesn´t know much about his earlier working years. The piece detailed a period of redundancy in the 50s. 
Brenda´s novel was back in the present day with Belle having trouble with her brother Kenny, who wants to punish Dave, the man who raped her. A real cliffhanger!
John McG wrote an entertaining piece called "ECG" about a man who convinced himself he was going to die.
Jane´s poem"Circle Line", written in France, described the green country lanes where she lived a few years ago.
Mary K wrote a series of limericks.
Cathy gave us a 'Biblical' story - Adam and Eve quarrelling and sniping at each other in Eden. Some members felt it sounded like a story written for children.
Finally, John Edwards read out some exerpts from Writing Magazine articles on different types of poetry. It was decided to subscribe once more to the magazine. Ian will sort it.

That´s your lot for this week, folks!

Chris J

Sunday, 17 July 2011

A Tiny Attempt at a Hot Pen.

This week was HOT PEN and the word chosen was "tiny", hence the picture of the popstar of yore, Tiny Tim.
We were 18 attending and everyone managed to come up with something. Unfortunately for the blog, I didn´t make a note of all these erudite efforts but take my word, they were entertaining.

I did manage to note down the "leftovers" from last week, however.

John McG, in the chair and wielding the bell to great effect from time to time, read out a piece called "Drunk in Dunstable" to the delight of all and John McGilvray read a poem called "Roundabout Rose".

Brenda continued with her novel ,telling, from the diary, of Minnie meeting Lenny again and of sparks about to fly once more.

Mary K read a review of Janet Oke´s " Love Comes Softly", which she recommends highly and Anne G´s review was enthusiastic about M C Beaton´s " Murder By Quiche".

Jane read a poem called "Haystacks" written some time ago on one of her wedding anniversaries.

I have just finished reading the book pictured on the left and would recommend it as a good and very uplifting read. If you ever win a huge amount of money on the lottery, a donation to the founding of schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan would not come amiss.Greg Mortenson, who is the bloke the book is about has been put up as a candidate for the Nobel Peace prize and I certainly hope the Norwegians have the sense to choose him one of these days.

If you are too idle to read anything at all, Sheridan Simove´s book " What Every Man Thinks about Apart From Sex" is a 200-blank-page Amazon bestseller brought to our attention by Cathy.

Till next week! Chris J

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Calling all ex-Service personnel

Penny Legg has been commissioned by The History Press to produce a book of service personnel's reminiscences, to be published next year in time for the Queen's jubilee. She is interested in getting in touch with ex-forces men and women who would be interested in contributing. She’s looking for any kind of true story or anecdote about life in the army/navy/air force that span the period 1952 – 2012. It could be happy or sad, thought provoking or mundane. She is also looking for photos to illustrate your words.

Deadline to Penny is September. Please contact her direct to find out more@

Nik Morton

Thursday, 7 July 2011

6 July 2011

There were 17 present with apologies from Annes F, G and B, Chris J and Mary K.  John MacGregor, having been press ganged into the role of Chairman, did a splendid job.
Kathy passed round a Top 100 Book list.  I’m not sure where it came from but these lists are always interesting to disagree with!
Heather mentioned the Mslexia First Novel Competition, closing date 31 August, in case anyone was interested.  Sorry guys, it’s a disgracefully sexist competition, women only.
Brenda told us that she had sent a synopsis and first 2 chapters of her novel off to an agent and had a reply!  Although the agent did not want to take this any further, the comments were useful and, as Brenda said, the main lesson learned was to do the research to make sure an agent has an interest in your genre before making an approach.
Kathy started us off with a leftover from last week on the topic, ‘When all else fails try honesty’.  Doreen, who had perfected the art of putting people down starting with the phrase “quite honestly”, had turned the writer off the notion of ‘honesty is the best policy’ but a twist in the tale led her to change her mind.  There was play on words and use of cliché throughout the piece.  The meeting appreciated the twist but felt that it would be more effective if that was right at the end of the story and would have liked more description to help visualise the characters.
Maureen gave us a poem on the “Firsts” of a marriage from its start to its end with the first divorce.  It was very well done and conveyed a great deal in a few words. The meeting was split over the phrase “icing on the mud pie”. Those who ate Mississippi Mud Pie were disconcerted, while those who used to make mud pies as children thought it was very effective!
Unfortunately Chris R had to decline as she had brought the wrong bag with her.  (Been there, done that.)
Jane gave us a story inspired by Shirley Valentine of two friends on a Greek island holiday taking time out from work and motherhood .  One enjoys all the innocent pleasures available, while the other is seduced by a handsome Greek.  We wanted to know what happened next (did she really stay on the island??) and while the descriptions as ever were really good, Nik wanted more detail of the young Greek.  (The females present could manage to picture him without any help!)
Cheryl gave us more from her novel about Chloe, describing her first visit to the Catholic boarding school.  Having taken note of comments from last week, Cheryl felt that first rather than third person narrative would be more effective and the meeting thought she had made the change successfully.  We all agreed the descriptions of the approach and the building were very good.  John McG thought that more about the personalities in the journey towards the school would be a good counterbalance.  Nik said that while it was an adult remembering the first visit, it was a 9 year old child experiencing it and this could be reflected in her emotional reaction to what she saw.
Heather stuck to the topic of the week with a review of the book “Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress” by Dai Sijie, thinking that its celebration of the power of storytelling was well suited to a Writers Circle.
Brenda gave us a reading from her novel, this time from Minerva’s diary describing events in the 1930s and ‘40s leading up to Belle’s birth.  This gave a new insight into Minerva’s special bond with her son Kenny, while presenting a colourful picture of one family’s experience of London in war time. Not surprisingly, the absence of Minerva’s husband did not mean the absence of sex…
Nik gave us the beginning of a 7000 word short story entitled Silence.  A shopkeeper called Joe in a town in the West grows more and more suspicious that a visitor is not a real customer, but a threat, and a shooting results.  The sheriff comments that it is a shame Joe has had to shoot 4 robbers over the years.  We go back to Joe/Giuseppe arriving in USA and growing up in New York, but there Nik stopped so we’ll have to wait for the full story.  Comments were good as always, but perhaps a more definite sense of where the shop was at the beginning would be beneficial.
Douglas was inspired by the TV drama series New Tricks to describe a death in Egypt in 1949 when he was in the RASC (Edit: Apologies to Douglas, I originally wrote RAF!).  The Military Police, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, concluded this was suicide, but the doubts and gossip of the time have haunted Douglas since.  What really happened?  As no-one will ever know, it was suggested that Douglas should write a short story offering a suitable explanation.
Gerry read his story “Helmand Heat”, a monthly winner from the Wordplay collection, about one experience of a bomb disposal expert in the Afghan desert. The heat, the danger and the futility of war were very well conveyed.
John read his poem “Candyfloss Dreams” contrasting the dreams of an innocent young girl with the harsh experience of her abusive marriage.
Kathy ended with a review of “The Right”, a film starring Anthony Hopkins about demonic possession and the struggle for faith in the modern world.  Her description was very detailed – but don’t tell us the whole story, Kathy, in case we want to see the film!

Friday, 1 July 2011

Wednesday, 29th June 2011

There were 23 attending the meeting today including a new member, John Bartlet. I hope I got your name right John, and that you enjoy our get togethers.
Ian opened the meeting by saying he has emailed Nik to clarify the proposed sessions he was to run but so far has not had a reply.
John McGregor then read a guidance piece to illustrate "telling and showing" when writing an account.
Nicola began the reading session on the theme, "when all else fails". It began with an accountt of two girls on a night out and ended wiith the arrival of the police to advise of a suicide by one's husband. The group were of the opinion that the piece should have started with the arrival of the police and then the rest told in retrospect.
Stan then read a very moving poem about his journey to the pit and a subsequent  roof fall , causing loss of life.,
Douglas read a piece entitled "The Gardeners Tale" about a conversation overheard in a bar.T he gardener
is visited at his work by  the bored, lonely wife of his employer and there followed an amusing anology concerning his dibbler and planting seed.
Heather had written a piece about a wife who had obviously had a troubled childhood and did not want contact with her past life but her husband had contacted them without her knowledge. It made you want to know how it all turned out.
Brenda broke away from tradition by stageing a little playlet about a man at his wifes hospital bedside. The cast were John and Heather, John being so solicitous of his wife that he was told to stop whispering and speak up.Oh and perhaps Brenda didn't go so far off track, the woman dies.
Glynn wrote a sanitised version of the 15year old boy leaving home to enlist in the army in 1961. He still ogled the girl who got on the train though.
John M then reminisced about Aunty Glad, who wasn't his real aunt at all but a friend of his mothers. She really seemed to have been a lovely character.
Ann Flynn diidn't disappoint with her Funny Side of Suicide, about an imaginary pamphlet offering different ways of calling it a day, including tours to Beachy Head, Afghanistan or Mogadisha, all in the best possible
Next to read was Mary with a short poem about the writers circle.
Cheryl read another piece from ber proposed novel about Chloe. This was set in the dormitory of the convent boarding school, having midnight feasts and fearing expulsion which would mean a return to her parents.
Anne G then read her prose piece about a wonderful wedding where the brides mother's snobbery came back to haunt her.
The biggest laughs of the day were created by Avril with her tale of the search for a bathing suit, made for a real woman and not a stick insect.  Been there, done that Avril, but not as humerously.
There was not enough time for all to read, and so they will be first up next week, when the theme wiill be
writing a book or film review. See you then,Anne Grierson.                    
PS Chris I love last weeks picture.