Writing Exercises

Some people seem reluctant to take their turn to write an entry in this most auspicious Vale Royal Writers’ Group blog thing.

But not I.

Last month I seized the nettle of fame with both grasping hands, unable to contain my enthusiasm, and then eager for the meeting to end so that I could get home and start penning my masterpiece!

And then I got distracted.

I now have about 30 minutes to come up with something, and I have made a mental note never to volunteer again.

Yes, I have become one of the reluctant ones.

Anyhow, here we are… and rather than just moan about how I have no inspiration and no capability and no time, I am going to use this blog entry to help anyone who reads it to become a better writer.

There are no end of writing exercises on the internet.  I have tried many of them and even if I did them all together simultaneously and backwards whilst standing on my head and singing my least favourite Abba song I can assure you that I would hardly break a sweat.

So this month I will share a few techniques of my own devising which you are welcome to use, but please note (a) that you should consult your medical practitioner before undertaking them, and (b) that I can accept no liability for any injuries (or worse) that might arise.

Writer’s Block

There is no such thing as writer’s block.  It is just laziness.  Use the following technique to unleash your stream of brilliance.

  1. Sit down with pen and pad or with computer.
  2. Set a timer for 15 minutes.
  3. Write continuously until the timer sounds.
  4. If you stop or if you score anything out before the timer sounds, then go to the nearest wall and bang your head against it 5 times… hard.
  5. When you recover consciousness and have cleaned the blood off the carpet, return to Step 1.

Writing/Typing Speed

There is nothing so frustrating as coming up with the best words you have ever thought of but then being unable to get them down on paper while you can still remember them.  This problem will eventually be resolved by neural transplants and reliable speech recognition, but in the meantime the only way to counter this problem is to train yourself to write fast.

At least 3 times a week you should choose a suitable word or phrase and then write or type it as many times as you can during a timed 5 minute session.  Graph your results and you will see improvement week on week until you reach the physical limits and your fingers go into spasm.  (See next exercise.)

A potential bonus of this exercise is that it will transport you back to punishment exercises during your schooldays…. supposedly the happiest time of your life.

Writing/Typing Stamina

In order to delay the onset of finger/hand cramps or spasms (see above) it is important that we regularly exercise the muscles involved.  The best way of doing this is to get a couple of old tennis balls and to squeeze and release in a rhythmic pattern.  It is recommended that this is practiced for 10 minutes three times per week.  Squeezing your balls can be done anywhere and at any time, so it is a good idea to carry them with you to allow you to make good use of what might otherwise be wasted time.

Summary

Writing exercises aren’t all about brainpower and inspiration.  To be a truly successful writer you must find the right blend of physical and intellectual exercises.

Bill Webster May 2017

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Not a Blog Entry (by Mark Acton)

Aaahhhh! Blog!

I promised I’d do the blog this month. No, I volunteered to do the blog this month. It didn’t even seem like a good idea at the time but I did it anyway. The irony is that the only person stupid enough to volunteer to do the blog is in no way intelligent enough to do the blog.

I’ve got too much to do.

And I haven’t written in ages.

If you want to get good at something, you’ve got to do it a lot. It’s called practice. I haven’t practised. I have too much to do. Too much on my mind. There’s no way I’ll be able to sit here and write something creative. I just don’t have the time to sit at my laptop and type random creative stuff. There’s work to do, shopping to do, pots to wash. There are always pots to wash. How can I write a blog entry when I have pots to wash.

Must buy eggs.

But I promised that I would write this blog post and so I will. I will make an effort to write something cohesive and entertaining and logically structured and thought-provoking and I must remember to pick my daughter up from work.

So, the best way to write the blog about the writers’ group meeting is to write it straight after the meeting. That way everything’s fresh. Lemony fresh. Like Fairy Liquid. Must get some more Fairy Liquid if I’m going to wash the pots.

Obviously, I’ve not written it straight after the meeting. I’ve left it until the night before the next meeting to even start writing my blog entry. Not good.

It’s also a good idea to write notes at the meeting. Hmm, what denominations do I want the notes in when I get the Euros out for my daughter’s trip to France? It’s best then to decide early on in the meeting that you are going to volunteer. Then you can start writing the notes early.

I didn’t do that.

I started writing notes towards the end of the meeting. I hope they make sense. I’ll go and check them now. Well, in a bit. I’ll just check whether I’ve done all my marking first.

Member of CBA club; diversions; Sound of Silence playing in the background; wake up from hibernation; feelers out there; still hibernating; not much by way of news; didn’t finish anything; failed slightly this time; more in hope than expectation; one day they’ll be kicking themselves; nothing specific; my only companion; it is coming along; an assassination plot; you woke up too soon; a vacant space; can we wake up soon enough; out of sync; tip it out; someone came along with a tick list; next year; Luddites; I’m not a violent man; write the word dilemma; it was a shambles; the prowess of incompetence into an art form; an afternoon nap; vengeance is mine.

Good notes. Don’t make sense. Must trim the hedges. Mow the lawn while the sun’s out.

When you’re out of practice writing, you lose your sharpness. You can’t solve the writing problems so easily. And much of writing is problem solving.

You’re on your own in a box; a solid room with four walls and a flat ceiling. No doors, no windows. How do you get out?

Solve the problem.

Think outside the box.

Write your way out.

Or don’t. Sit there and wait until someone cleverer than you on the outside works out how to get in.

Deus ex machina.

Make people want to come in to your world.

Don’t come into my world. It’s full of spreadsheets and lacking in imagination. Invent your own world. Make it better than this one.

Better get tea on.

Does My Poetry Look Big in This

With the Vale Royal Writing Group Winter Wordfest behind us, and without a willing volunteer to write the February blog, I thought I’d squeeze some thoughts together to make a hasty piece on a relevant topic which has really been inspired by listening to you all read over the years.

I’m sure you’ve noticed how much difference there is between reading a piece off the paper in the quiet little reading room of your mind, and reading it aloud. There are those among us that can be quite content to commit something to the page and expect it to spend the rest of its life there, and there are those that consider the paper to be nothing more than a convenient resting place.

You will have been entertained by those among us that have a real talent for adding something in the performance to an already great piece of work, but I don’t think we all have that skill. Sure, we can all read (unless there are some among us that can write but haven’t learned to read yet?) but we can’t all perform and that’s what it needs if it’s going to be shared out loud for entertainment purposes.

For me, the voice coming out of my mouth should always match the voice in my head so accent plays a big part in this (for me at least). As long as I write in my own voice then I can perform what I write, but I should never stray outside of my language or it sounds wrong to me. In my very first creative writing class I had the good fortune of listening to somebody read their poem in what would conveniently be described as Estuary English. The most interesting observation of this was that his accent allowed him to rhyme some words that I wouldn’t have been able to pull off with my quick, Scouse, machine gun patter. I don’t remember what those words were but I was reminded of the occasion when listening to the radio somewhere on the M6 when a record by Sophie Ellis-Bextor came on, and in one of the lines she rhymes the word “First” with “Last” and there’s no way I could do that without changing my accent (they came out as “farst” and “larst” for those of you wondering). The same thought popped into my head again when David read his short story in this week’s meeting– I could easily have read it off the page and enjoyed it, but reading out loud David’s words in my voice would have given you all less than you deserve.

And there’s a difference in why we read out loud. Reading in the VRWG meeting is not expected to gain style points, it’s just a convenient way of getting the content to the group in order to get feedback. The members understand this and focus on the work. Winter Wordfest however is a different kettle of fish.

The thing you need for this is confidence. Sometimes all it takes is to stand up and start reading, but for some it’s a massive undertaking to even read in our close-knit group of writers in a private room on the first Monday of the month, never mind to stand before a group of strangers – which include professional performers – and all under the spotlight of expectation. I can well understand why people choose not to read but it’s a shame we don’t get to hear their work performed.

In 2015 when we performed at the Wirral Festival of Firsts I got my first real indicator of how good our readers are when I heard them in comparison to others reading at the event. I think our honest, creative feedback can sometimes help, but when the microphone is switched on it’s all down to them.

You might be lucky and have the beautiful reading voice of Richard Burton and the performance skills of Roger McGough or Fucking-John-Fucking-Cooper-Fucking-Clarke (sorry, but I always think of him as that – it’s done with affection honestly!), but if you don’t have the confidence in your piece then that’s the best reason for not reading it out.

I’ve seen how much effort other people put into their work – even committing the words to memory in some cases. I’ve found saying it out loud at home is a great editing tool for getting things to work in your own voice, but committing it to memory is too much for me – a step I currently don’t plan to make. For those that take the trouble though, the rewards are most obvious as these are often the most satisfying performances as they’ve learned the ebb and flow of the piece. They have the rhythm. They clip words in the right place and they inflect, suggest and tease with the changing cadence of their voice and the length of a line. This is also why poetry comes across better than prose in readings as poetry is closer to music in its structure and often lends itself better to performance.

On the other hand, my reading in the meeting of “The Rain in Wales” was off the cuff and I can’t even remember the tempo of it now, just that it needed to be read quickly with as few breaths at possible, without pausing during a stanza. I have no idea if it’ll sound the same the next time I do it. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. But between now and the next time, perhaps you could try reading you work out loud to see if you can get something else out of it, and maybe one day you’ll decide you want us to hear it too.

New You?

Not everyone is a fan of New Year’s resolutions. As many have pointed out, you don’t have to wait for the 1st of January to reinvent yourself as a better person. Plus, rather depressingly, statistics show that the vast majority of New Year’s resolutions are broken within the first month.

Regardless, as a friend on social media recently ranted (and I paraphrase), ‘people who complain about new-year-new-me-ers… Yeah forget* self-improvement, let’s all just carry on being awful. Let’s never reflect on our actions and carry on like the selfish pooh**-tanks we are.’ I believe she has a valid argument. Personally, I relish the opportunity to take a good hard look in the mirror and set some goals for how I might be a better person in the coming year.

The likelihood of achieving long term change doesn’t look good admittedly, but I definitely like the idea of a periodic life audit and the identification of areas for improvement. It’s a bit like a more brutal version of the work performance review (assuming that you’re more invested in yourself as a human being than you are in what your boss thinks about your ability to use a spreadsheet, for example).

The week of lazy nothingness that is sandwiched between Christmas and New Year is to me the perfect time, since it’s possibly the only opportunity that we actually get to think about things beyond the usual ‘what do we have in for tea’ and ‘have I paid the council tax’. This festive week of purgatory usually involves continued gorging on cheese and wine and bad telly, accompanied by a creeping sense of lethargy and self-loathing. Or is that just me?

So, as it usually goes, from this dark hedonism emerges a kernel of hope. It doesn’t have to be this way! I can work on these flaws and emerge in Spring happier, healthier, more productive, and generally a better human being than the sad sack I’ve become over the Christmas period.

It probably comes as no surprise that the top three New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight, get fitter, and eat more healthily. And by the 1st of January, healthy eating feels like a welcome hug after the fat, sugar, alcohol and excess of Christmas. Vegetables are my friend.

However, this year my quest for self-improvement is more about my mind and soul than my body, and I have decided that 2017 is the year to focus more on my writing. I have set the (rather manageable, I think) goal of completing two short stories, and perhaps entering a competition or two. This seems realistic since most of my time is spent either at work, keeping on top of the house and looking after my young daughter. However, I have grown fed up of having the desire to write more, but never really managing to. Often, the distractions of day-to-day life get in the way.

So, my initial task of the year was to attend the first Vale Royal Writers’ Group meeting of 2017. It felt good to tackle a new writing exercise, where we changed the vowels in names that we had chosen to create new characters. As I created a seedy bar scene for Jock and Bull, I wondered how many of the people I was sat with had also set themselves some writing-related goals for the New Year.

In order to maximise success, I have researched a little into what can be done to increase the likelihood of sticking to a new year’s resolution. The key message is that your goals have to be realistic. Strict diet regimes are difficult to sustain over long periods of time, and it makes sense that this also applies to other areas of your life. With lots of other commitments, it would be daft to expect myself to have a novel written by April. However it can’t be forgotten that virtually all writers say that in order to be successful (and to quote Stephen King), you need to ‘read a lot and write a lot’.

Psychologists say that the long term success of New Year’s resolutions relies on making new habits or changing existing ones. You need to pick a small action (for example, taking the stairs to your desk at work rather than the lift), and attach it to a previous habit (such as walking through the front door into the office). This new habit must be easy to do for the first week (achieved by leaving a note to yourself in the morning reminding yourself to take the stairs), and then the new habit will ‘stick’ after you’ve repeated this around seven times.

With this in mind, I’ve set myself the following new habits for 2017:

  1. Read in bed every night, rather than reaching straight for my iPad.
  2. Listen to an audiobook in the car on the way to work rather than Radio 2.
  3. Spend 15-30 minutes every lunchtime writing. Something. Anything.

So here goes. Post-it notes have been stuck all over the house, and calendar reminders have been created to make sure I remember to establish and keep up my new good habits. I am hopeful that these new habits are achievable, yet enough to ensure that this year is my most productive yet. I’m also hopeful that my partner doesn’t get too cross about all the post-it notes that will be inevitably floating and fluttering all over the house this month. But then again, he’s doing Dry January so he’ll probably be too busy staring at the bottles of wine in Sainsbury’s and wondering whether all this self-improvement business is really worth it.

*She didn’t really say forget.

**She didn’t really say wotnot either.

 

Helena Abblett, 25th January 2017

The Northwich Nativity

The names have been changed to protect the innocent … and to protect me from a lawsuit. Happy holidays LG

 

Chapter 1: Shepherd Spy

Moo and Buzzkill were relaxing on the couch watching the Shaun the Sheep on Sky+ when Moo suddenly jumped up and almost ran to the window. She hauled up the blinds so she could look better at the darkening sky.

Moo beckoned Buzz closer with a fluttering of fingers and pointed out a star that appeared to be really low. Not just low but very bright too – bright like that moment when you’re half-asleep in darkness and somebody puts the big light on. He had to squint to look at it.

As they both stared it suddenly lifted and appeared to move so they went out into the garden to get a better view.

“Maybe its aliens” suggested Moo. “You’d better lube up for the anal probe then” Buzz said, taking a swat on the arm from Moo as a come-back.

“It’s still moving” said Moo, “Let’s follow it and see where it goes.”

They jumped in the car and tried to keep up with it the best they could along the strangely deserted roads. “It looks like it’s near my house” Moo suggested, so Buzz put his foot down and jumped the red lights to try and get there quicker.

In a few moments they could see that it was closer to Castle so Buzz throttled up the hill and screeched the car sideways around the corner.

The star was now standing still in the sky and radiating a beam of light downwards onto number 168. He pulled into a side street and they abandoned the car.

“What if it really is aliens?” Moo asked. “Well I’ll go first on the anal probe if you like” said Buzz, trying to be helpful. They decided to go into the house but would need to be careful, what with the risk of alien probes an’ all that.

Chapter 2: We Free Kings

They kept close to the fences and hedges as they made their way along the street towards number 168. Moo was in the lead but she suddenly stopped and dropped into a crouch. She raised a hand for Buzz to do likewise as if she was taking point on a jungle patrol. He remained standing and looked over her head.

Buzz caught a snatch of conversation from a male voice “…so what happened next?”

A second male voice replied “Nothing really. I asked her to come up to my room to see my Darth Vader helmet and she ran off screaming.” “Well Cauli” the first voice said, “It’s a good job you didn’t offer to show her your shuttlecock or the police would have been round in a flash.”

“Was that a Scottish brogue?” asked Moo. “I don’t know” Buzz replied, “It’s too dark to see his shoes.”

They squeezed into a garden and waited for the voices to get louder as they passed but they stayed steady “So where’s Mrs. Tin?” asked voice two. “Mrs. Tin has given me the night off – tonight I’m a free man. As free as royalty.”

“Well that makes two of us. Erm…any ideas what we free kings can do then?” continued voice two. Then his voice changed as he continued “By the power of Grayskull! What the Hell Boy is that?” he ejaculated.

They must have just noticed the star too so Buzz and Moo sidled out of the garden like a pair of crabs and made their way towards them. “There’s safety in numbers.” Moo was saying, but Buzz was thinking “If it IS aliens then we won’t need to be able to run fast if we get chased – we only need to be able to run faster than these two.”

Chapter 3: Wise Guys

Buzz called ahead to get their attention “You’ve seen it too then eh?” Sometimes the best thing to do is to state the obvious. They both acknowledged with a grunt, their necks craning to try and take it all in – like standing directly below Blackpool tower and trying to see everything at once.

Moo spoke up “We followed it from Lostock”. The shorter of the two men looked around at the sound of a female voice. “What is it?” he asked. “A small suburb of Northwich about two miles away” Moo replied. “Not Lostock, I know what Lostock is. What is this?” He pointed straight up at the star but kept his gaze on Moo “We think it’s a star” she said. “Or maybe aliens” Buzz added. “I wish you’d stop going on about anal probes Buzz” said Moo in despair. The two guys shared a worried glance and started to shuffle backwards up the path to number 168.

Moo became the voice of reason “We’re going in to see what’s happening. If it is aliens then we need to let them know that we come in peace – well most of us come in peace”. Buzz looked up to see the three of them frowning at him while he broke a stave off the garden fence to use as a weapon.

They filed out of the path and crossed the road to the Spar shop to see if they could get some gifts for the aliens. And how ridiculous does that last sentence sound? But it’s important to the plot, honest!

Chapter 4: A Stable Relationship

Some years earlier Gammy and Fat Bob had met, fell in love and got married. Now they were on a Christmas holiday that Gammy had won in a competition in the Northwich Chronicle. The prize was a no-expenses paid trip to the hot spots of Northwich, Barnton and the surrounding areas, but they were having trouble finding a place to stay as the Christmas festivities meant that the Flotel was fully booked.

Fat Bob started at one end of the road and Gammy the other, and they checked out the guest houses from opposite ends of the street – finally meeting up at number 168.

Gammy was tired and needed to rest so Fat Bob rapped on the door in four-four time.

Nothing happened and nobody came so he tried again – this time in three-four time.

Still nothing.

He tried again with a lively, upbeat Ska rhythm, followed by a paradiddle but nothing happened again.

Fat Bob noticed that Gammy Girl had fallen asleep on the doorstep. After 20 minutes the door was opened by the inn keeper.

“Hello sweetie, can I help you?” she asked.

“We need a place to stay” said Fat Bob. He went on to explain that everywhere was full and that Gammy Girl was pregnant with a little Wrinker and that Blue Coo hadn’t eaten all day.

The kind inn keeper invited them inside and introduced herself. “Call me Bossy” she said, “Care for some tea and cake sweetie?” she asked. They both did of course.

While the inn keeper made the tea Gammy Girl lay on the couch with her eyes closed and Fat Bob serenaded her in an odd falsetto that sounded like a dolphin on helium.

She had just closed her eyes when she heard a lovely shimmering sound, like an angel playing jazz on a glockenspiel. Gammy opened her eyes again and saw a tall glowing, blonde figure standing before her.

The vision spoke while unpacking an iPod from a small backpack. “I am the angel Lollypop and I’ve been sent down to Earth to tell you that the Wrinker you carry is the future. The future of rock and roll. You must accept this gift from God and James Brown, and ensure that she is brought up in the ways of the blues, the soul and the rock and roll. Amen”

“Amen.” Gammy and Fat Bob responded in unison. Blue Coo nodded enthusiastically.

The angel continued “You are free to name this child whatever you please, but she will be known to all as Baby Boom Beam.” The angel applied a nicotine patch to her upper arm and disappeared in a healthy puff of smoke – leaving behind a faint smell of patchouli oil and an almost inaudible whisper of rock guitar that was leaking from her headphones.

Gammy Girl hugged Blue Coo with joy and Fat Bob wrote a song to celebrate the occasion.

When the inn keeper returned 10 minutes later she couldn’t help but notice that Gammy Girl was no longer alone on the couch – she was cuddling a cute, pink little baby and it was singing “…Why, why, why…Delilah? Duh-duh-duh-dah-diddih-duh” embellished with a reggae style kazoo solo.

Chapter 5: Do You Believe in Cheeses?

A knock resounded loudly through the house and Bossy Cow shuffled to the front door. Upon opening it she found a group of miscreants gathered on her step.

“Be off with you, you tykes. I’ll have no carol singing here. Especially if you don’t know the song the whole way though.”

Buzzkill ceased playing his jazz version of White Christmas and quickly ad-libbed a response “Penny for the guy missus?” he asked, pushing Cauli forward.

Moo got things back on track “We saw the star and we brought gifts.” She held up a Spar carrier bag and rattled it to produce a sound not unlike the sound made by a box of chocolates being rattled in a plastic bag.

Bossy took the gift from Moo and guided her up the hall with a hand in the small of her back. Cauli stepped up next. “I brought this”. He held up a similar bag and rattled it but it didn’t make a sound – other than the sound made by a rattling carrier bag.

Biscuit Tin got as close he could to a grin and held up a Spar bag that looked uncannily like a soft toy which he also rattled. “What the hell is that?” asked Bossy. “It’s a gift for the aliens or…the…whatever.” he mumbled.

Bossy looked at Buzzkill who was standing alone on the step clutching a splintered piece of wood. He held it up and pressed it into Bossy’s hands “Your fence is broken love” he said and marched in behind the others.

In the lounge Buzz joined the others who were kneeling in a semi-circle around Gammy and the new born Baby Boom Beam. They were joined by the animals; Blue Coo, Merlin and Willow.

While the travellers helped themselves to tea and cake, Bossy unwrapped the gifts and handed them to Fat Bob for all to see; a box of Terry’s All Gold, a Frankenstein DVD and a stuffed toy Meerkat. Very traditional gifts at this time of year I believe.

Gammy and Fat Bob thanked everybody for their gifts and in return he picked up his guitar and began to sing a song. He was only a few bars into the intro when he heard a second guitar. He looked around to see Buzzkill jamming along.

While Bossy was handing out the lyrics that Fat Bob had been writing there was a puff of smoke and the angel Lollypop arrived carrying her lucky Christmas bass.

Biscuit picked up a couple of wooden spoons and started to beat out a rhythm on a tin of Cadburys Heroes while Cauli played a melodic accompaniment on a tiny Xylophone that had come out of a Christmas cracker. Bossy and Moo sang their hearts out and everybody agreed that it was the best Christmas ever.

The End

Echo Chamber

One thing I’ve noticed recently is that … we all now live in our own echo chambers

It’s an accusation that keeps cropping up these days – the sad fact that we all now live in our own echo chambers. I’ve given this matter some thought. And my feeling is that this is fair comment. Social media has exacerbated the problem. It feeds on itself.

A good example is political discussion on FB – and the issue of Brexit in particular. You can see here how people draw the like-minded unto themselves and woe betide anyone who disagrees. If you raise your head above the parapet and make counter-arguments, you’ll either get shot down (often viciously and with foul language) or, worse, completely ignored. The reason most people post about politics is to get warm, fuzzy agreement. This makes us all feel better, of course. But it doesn’t help with reasoned debate. Or democracy. To be fair, I have occasionally seen reasoned, democratic debate on social media, but it is rare and in decline. Rather, it is mainly a place for people to reinforce stereotypes, get exactly the feedback they want to hear, and cosy up to others of the same ilk. If you get enough of your friends agreeing with you – then you must be right. Mustn’t you?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m probably just as guilty of this as the next person. It’s human nature. But it’s a bit of a trap this echo chamber. Far from widening our horizons, I think it’s making us batten down the hatches. It polarises views. Perhaps social media has the effect of magnifying, or even distorting, the human condition. We’ve all seen people say things over the ether that they wouldn’t dream of saying face to face.

So one of my New Year’s resolutions will be to avoid the echo chamber. To try even harder to see the other person’s viewpoint – and to think it through properly rather than rejecting it out of hand. I may still reject it, of course, but hopefully only after reasoned debate – in my own head or with others.

And I’m going to try to apply this thinking to my reading and writing too. I’m going to try to escape from my own echo chamber of genres and authors. And I’d add movies into that mix as well.

So I’m going to ditch the echo chamber in 2017 and instead use the sounding board – the biggest sounding board I can muster. One that can reflect, or receive, worldwide … from Greenbank to The Gambia. Anything that is the antithesis of an echo chamber.

Liz Sandbach 8/12/16

VRWG November blog by Joan Carter

Right, let’s get this writ!

Ten minutes set on my egg-shaped egg-timer and away I go monkey writing…

I think I’ll write a Satsuma… sastuma.. whatever it’s called, I’ll look up the name later…. it’s that poetry form in which segments get repeated in different orders. Hmm, auto-wrote “indifferent orders”, we’ll see about that!

Agenda.. agenda.. get the agenda..

Right!

For the first time in ages I didn’t make notes.. typical to go and volunteer to write this at the end of the meeting, when it’s too late to start notetaking!

Welcome – yes, Bob definitely welcomed us all. And a jolly large crowd there was, to meet and hear Special Guest, Zara Stoneley, who has written erotic and Rom Com thingummie books too (or is it Rom Com Tiddle I Po?) I looked her up on Google the other day… and her books must be pretty steamy cos my home laptop wouldn’t let me see them!! And not even on a library computer as I say, at home! I forgot to get myself a long cold drink for the meeting to cool me down if necessary, so as Zara started to read I nervously eyed my agenda to see if I could improvise a ladylike fan….

But luckily Zara read from her less-steamy books – The Holiday Swap & Country Rivals – or at least from less-steamy parts of them – so my glasses didn’t even mist up. Zara first gave us an introduction to how she’d started writing – first novel at 13 – won an erotic writing competition in 2012 (preparing by reading loads of erotic books and also writing it in only weeks!?), the prize was a book deal – another contract from that – and so on and so on – and her latest book has sold 10,000 copies in a month!! We were all suitably impressed.

[OOPS, 10 minutes is up.. set the timer for the next 10… ]

Zara also took part in a very generous and informative Q&A session, covering: editing, plotting work, research (mostly write what you know, especially about emotions), using a nom de plume… and more..

Now, before Zara started her talk, Bob asked the group to quickly update us all on any news – and there was plenty – I won’t remember it all, sorry! – Debbie Bennett had done an author session at which she walked in to see a cardboard cutout of herself, a surprise from which it seems she didn’t quite recover, although she was neither mobbed nor totally ignored by the teenage audience, hurrah! – Natalie quietly mentioned she had a story in a new anthology she’d brought in – someone else (sorry someone, I don’t know your name, please add it in the comments – if there are comments? – if you’ve taken the time to read this far) had sent a letter of complaint to The Times and had it published – Joan C (me) had been published – not words but one of her etchings is included in the 2017 Northwich Calendar (available from the Northwich Art Shop and Library) – as Marian said, I am Miss September 😉

In the coffee break between Act 1 and Act 2 from Zara, I asked Natalie if I could take a peep at her gorgeously bound book, Murder Mayhem Short Stories. As I stroked the title page with its lush engraved design I commented that it made me think of a book by Edgar Allen Poe or someone. Natalie diffidently said that was what the publishers wanted as it was an anthology of old and new writers. I casually read the contents page and discovered something so astonishing that I did several double takes. With Natalie’s permission I took the book to show Bob. He was equally amazed and delighted, took the book and read out from it (before re-introducing Zara), to let everyone else know what Natalie had modestly held back from telling us – that listed among other classic authors with whose work her story appears are… GK Chesterton… Wilkie Collins… Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.. and… Charles Dickens !! Wow.. So, another well-deserved round of applause for Natalie…

[10 more minutes up a while ago and I didn’t even notice! Good old monkey-writing]

As if all the above excitement wasn’t enough, papers were being circulated for ticking about Drinks, Being Present and the Xmas Meal (Dec 4th, hurrah!) – and the Winter Wordfest was mentioned (Dec 13th Hurrah, Hurrah) – and at the end piles of cash were growing re: Drinks, Being Present and the Xmas Meal…

Then a volunteer to write this was requested and I rashly said Yes.

And then most of us pushed off home while the Management Committee had another meeting.

So that’s it! And not a Satsuma – or even Sastuma – in sight! Or is it Retsina?

All I have to say now, as I sit on the school table in my gymslip with my legs swinging*, is:

And this is wot is a blog. It is. It’s true!

(*Ref: Morwenna Banks’ “Little Girl” in Absolutely)

PS: Can these 849 words count towards my NaNoWriMo quota please? I’m 6 days behind!