VRWG September 2017     Unnatural Forces                   (by Bill Webster)

Spooky pic of hand...

Photo by tertia van rensburg on Unsplash

Fellow traveller, heed me well.  My hair was not always this shocking white.  The drool from the corners of my broken mouth and the palsy in my limbs are of recent vintage too, and all bear witness to the warning I will now give to you.

There are some who think writing is a craft, an art which enriches our civilisation.  There are others who think it might be a good way to make a fast buck or two.  There are those whose working days are behind them and now have the time and opportunity to write that story or poem or novel that was always shouting to be let out.  There are perhaps as many reasons for writing as there are writers, and lo, they are legion.

But I wager that few if any aspiring writers aspire to having their wits curdled and their senses scrambled by their pursuit.

There is a tendency for writers and would-be writers to form groups.  The general idea is that they can learn from each other, although a cynic might say that what they mainly learn is better excuses for not having done any writing.

One such group is Vale Royal Writers’ Group, of which your humble scribe has the misfortune to be the Treasurer, meaning that I am honour-bound to attend most of the meetings.

Otherwise I might have missed that fateful night in September in the year of our Lord 2017, and would still be in possession of what limited faculties I had prior to then.

The principal blame attaches to a woman we will call Joan, for that is her name.  Joan had been to a fancy writing course somewhere (or so she said), and she brought us back an exercise that was supposed to help inspire us.  She called it the “What-if?” exercise.

So we what-iffed our way round the table.

My contribution was “What if all glass suddenly disappeared?” which I offer only as an example, but not a very good one.  Some comedian came up with “What if Donald Trump became President of the United States?” which I thought was taking things a bit far, personally.  So you get the idea.  So far, so good.

It may have been the Joan woman who started it, but to be fair to her I don’t suppose she could reasonably have foreseen the full horror of what she had set in motion.

Nor could Debbie have understood the implications of asking “What if two zombies fell in love?”

Because neither she nor Joan, nor indeed anyone else in the room – with perhaps one exception – could know what was about to happen next.

Matthew smiled, and paused.  Everyone was wondering what was coming next.  He drew out the suspense, and then just when we thought he maybe wasn’t going to say anything at all, out it came…

“What if the characters we created came off the page?”

He smiled again, in a vaguely evil kind of way.

A chill passed through the room but we pressed on, everyone suddenly wanting to get to the end of this exercise even if it meant moving rapidly on to the “News” section where everyone except the swottier types has to come up with a creative way of confessing that they have yet again done no writing whatsoever since the last meeting.

But the damnable exercise had a second part.  We now had to write a sort of flash fiction story or map out an idea for something longer based on the “what-if” we had come up with.

I am sure it was not just me, although for the sanity of my colleagues I hope it was thus.

Debbie’s zombies loved each other (in a physical sort of sense) and decomposed in the process as they literally knocked lumps off each other.  A grotesque idea at the best of times, and one that personally I think any nice girl should be ashamed of.  But then that’s writers for you.

But I digress.

Matthew smiled as he saw the reactions round the table as each person wondered whether he or she was the only one who could now see disembodied zombie body parts lazily floating around our meeting room in a subtle red blood mist and hear the weird background murmur of the characters bemoaning their lot.  And then finally what was left of them sat on either side of Debbie and used the one eye they had left between them to follow our proceedings.

Well, by the end of the exercise we had three times as many ‘people’ in the room as we had started with, but the newcomers were an unsavoury lot, dragged up from the depths of the depraved minds that had created them.

But the worst was yet to come.

David announced that he was going to read out a piece he had written in the style of some fellow called HP Lovecraft.  I assumed with a name like that it was going to be slightly saucy and would reduce the weirdness and tension pervading the room.

But no.

It turns out that HP Lovecraft is not a soft-pornographer but a purveyor of scary horror… and David’s story out-Lovecrafted the man himself as he conjured up a nightmare in words.  But of course Matthew’s magic transformed David’s fiction into reality within the room.  Even our supernatural visitors seemed to be discomfited by the elemental forces which roiled around the room and pressed on our already hard-pressed temples.

I could hardly breathe by the end, and when the meeting was closed there was not the usual dallying.  The room cleared quickly, and with audible sighs of relief as each person cleared the portal.

But as Treasurer I had to stay to do the collecting and counting… just me, and the apparitions, and Matthew.

He dropped his shiny £1 coin into my collecting saucer.  “That was a good meeting,” he said.  He looked around the room, and smiled happily.

“Please Matthew,” I begged.  “Make them go away.”

He nodded.  “Yes,” he said.  “We can’t leave them here, can we?”  He clapped his hands and his body seemed to expand to fill the room.  “Begone!” he said.  “Go back from whence you came!”

For a moment the room and my legs and my stomach and my brain seemed to be made of squishy-squashy rubber.  There was a feeling of abject weakness and nausea but then as soon as I had felt it, it had gone… and there was only me and the meeting room and my saucer of shiny £1 coins and Matthew.

He looked at me anxiously.  “Are you feeling alright?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Good,” he said.  “I’ll see you next time.”

And then he left me alone in the suddenly normal room, but the damage that you have seen on my features and about the person of my person had already been done and could not be undone.

So heed my warning if you don’t want to end up like me.  If you aspire to be a writer, by all means join a writers’ group.  But whatever you do, for the sake of your sanity stay well away from Vale Royal Writers’ Group.

I only hope this message reaches you in time.

 

 

 

 

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Great Oaks ……. Joan Dowling 11 April 2016

It was great to see so many faces – old and new – at our April 2016 meeting. One face that was particularly welcome was that of our own Bossy Cow! Her given name is Karen Wheatley – and she was the inspiration behind the formation of the Vale Royal Writers Group.

Way back in 2002, Karen nurtured our first baby steps when some of us joined her Creative Writing class at Sir John Deane’s in Northwich. She so inspired us that, at the end of her course, a handful of us joined together to form the VRWG. Initially, it was merely a means of mutual support because we didn’t feel ready to join the writing fraternity alone, but still wanted to continue to learn and develop our craft. However ….

Over the last fourteen years, the group has matured and expanded to the point where we are now all grown-up with a committee and an AGM (it’s tonight for those who want to be there!) and we have over thirty members. We also have  a website and this Blog – which invites and welcomes comments from anyone who feels they have something to say. In addition to our monthly meetings (the first Monday of the month at the Blue Cap, Sandiway) the group has built up a calendar of regular and occasional events. VRWG has also evolved into a friendly and passionate writing community, which supports and celebrates all of the members in their joint and individual efforts and achievements.

As a group, we have been – and still are – very pro-active. In 2007, we produced our first anthology of prose and poetry – followed by a second in 2014. Each year, Tonia organises two highly successful and enjoyable Wordfests at the Blue Cap, while Joyce and Tom run equally popular workshops at the Gladstone Library – again, twice a year. Courtesy of Steph, we are currently involved in holding a series of funded workshops for aspiring writers and we hope to hold more of these in the future.

We also have our lighter side. On a sunny day in August we let our hair down and socialise in Bob and Carol’s lovely garden – ‘though Bob keeps us ‘on-message’ by organising fun writing games! An outdoor theatre trip and occasional visits to other writing-related events are also becoming regular features. Recently, a visit to Paphos Writers in Cyprus was enjoyed by everyone who went and a planned writing break in France next month will add to our European ventures!

We even have our own ‘preferred’ Charity, G.O.E.S.  The Gambian Occasional Emergency Support benefits from the proceeds of some of our sales and raffles – and we are constantly surprised and humbled that so much can be done with so little.

Despite the surrounding activity, writing is still at the centre of all that we do.  We now have a healthy complement of published writers (novels, poetry and short stories) as well as others who just enjoy sharing the sheer pleasure of writing. Some of the group are prolific writers, some just write when the muse awakens; all are welcomed with the same enthusiasm and treated with the same respect.

Today, we have come a long, long way from Karen’s introduction to this demanding, frustrating, rewarding and exhilarating obsession. On a personal note, I am delighted to belong to such a diverse and convivial group of fellow writers (I use the term loosely in my own case!), who often make me laugh and sometimes make me cry. I’ve made new friends, widened my horizons and learned so many things I didn’t know – including a few that made my hair stand on end.

See what you started, Karen? Thank you!

rvwg meeting February

  • We’ll see how this goes; i believe in the indeterminancy approach to writing-
  • Apologies i don’t know the ladies name- read out a 100 about, flash fiction about two lovers in a garden and ending with the male lover burying her/a flower as she had rejected him
  • Group business was short and Bill and Tonia have full placement for there funded workshops with one person on wating list- well done
  • Bob who again expertly chaired and said he’d already sold 85 copies of his kindle book, which is a very healthy number
  • Then there was a hush and the first cords of  Rolling Stones- Midnight Rambler- we sat in etiquette pose. Then alternate people stood up then sat down.”And you won’t go out until the light of morning”-G then Eminor. Then the other people stood up and sat down. Then a phone rang, three people got up to answer it then it stopped. Alternate people sat with hands on legs the others with hands on table. The last strains of the song ended
  • A gentleman informed us “he was getting there” which is better than anyone else
  • There where two new people (sorry i’m terrible with names)one writer who even as an English teacher professes writing is not that easy. And someone who works in law and already has an accomplished writing CV. Hope they come back
  • A lady read out an excellent prose piece about a girls premonitions in which the threads came together in a horrible car crash
  • Another lady read out a prose piece on a visit to Amsterdam and interest in the residents. And an excellent poem on her daughter contrasting it with a reading from Yeats- A prayer for my daughter
  • Les read out an interesting and original short prose piece about drinking coffee? at work from a statistical point of view. Which was very good. And he says is one of many
  • Marion read out a bleak Dickensian piece in response to the exercise on a childhood bedroom  set by Jan
  • Subs where handed over to Bill and i looked furtive and tried to make my escape without paying
  • The standard of work was high in the convivial settings of the Blue cap Sandiway. And the high numbers of attendees must testify to something. Apologies to items, readings, news i’ve missed out

posted by Nick Monks on 3/2/16