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.





I Am Not Worthy

Apparently, March is World Creative Writing Month, so it’s perhaps ironic that this month’s VRWG blog is being written by someone who hasn’t done any creative writing for ages. Someone who turns up for Writers’ Group Committee meetings and cites ‘Creative Writing’ as one of his skills on LinkedIn (although no one’s endorsed me for it yet) but doesn’t actually do any creative writing. In short – a fraud.

Perhaps that’s why my other skills include ‘confusing people’ and ‘not taking LinkedIn seriously’.

I don’t know who decided it was World Creative Writing Month. Was there a global committee? Did Cameron and Putin and Kim Jong Un come together and forget their differences to decide that March 2015 would be World Creative Writing Month? What happens if you don’t join in? Is there some kind of punishment? A taser? Hanging? Dance lessons from Anne Widdecombe? What about people who haven’t heard of World Creative Writing Month? I read about it in the Times Educational Supplement but not everyone reads it. What about the starving kids in Africa? Do they know it’s World Creative Writing Month at all?

I think we need to re-release the Band Aid single.

Anyway, I don’t know who decided on such an event but I’m glad they did. I know I shouldn’t need a stimulus like that but it appears that, at the moment, I do.

I don’t think I particularly suffer from the ‘blank page syndrome’ type of writer’s block. Normally, if I decide to write, I can just write. Nonsense, but words. But I do suffer from long periods of inactivity. And normally ‘work’ is the best excuse for not doing stuff I like but that’s just rubbish really. I can still find time to watch The Great British Sewing Bee or go on Facebook or bitch about how work is taking up too much of my time.

Last night’s meeting was inspiring. We were graced with the presence of author Jan Needle – author of over 40 novels, writer for Brookside and (importantly) Count Duckula. It’s the second time he’s visited and spoken to the group and he just makes you feel like writing is fun and easy and life is fun and easy. And even though neither of those things are necessarily true, he seems to approach them with such joy and enthusiasm and it’s infectious. I could have listened to him for hours. Then I would have had another excuse for not doing any writing.

So I am determined – and you should be too, for fear of a good tasering – this month I am going to pick up my pencil and note pad or my laptop or my iPad and I’m going to write. And I’m going to enjoy it. And I’m going to do it because it will make me feel better about myself, it will make my life more fulfilling and it will help my soul grow.


Mark Acton

vale royal writers group 2/2/15, meeting blog – nick monks

Vale Royal Writers Group took place on Monday 2/2/15. Was as usual well attended. And expertly chaired by Bob. Why not come along. A friendly supportive group for total beginners and jaded old timers like me

I don’t know people’s names yet as I’ve only been going for two years. Deborah was probably the highlight in readings , a short story about a utopian/dystopian society which as Lee said maintained a constant tension starting with a bus journey and ending with pressing a button to terminate the life of a deviant in the new paradise. Les read a short story about “Erick” a journal of his day complete with disharmonious urban living?

Nick did this week’s exercise but was unfortunately and regrettably knackered due to lack of sleep. The exercise encompassed writing a poem from a theme. Then radical editing, changing every word except for conjunctives. If this is not for you. As Andrew Morley says, there are as many as 200 approaches to writing poetry, mine is just one. It depends on the psychology of the person and what they wish to achieve. Some people write one excellent poem every two months which are better than my 500 attempts

Group business was dealt with and it was agreed Marion did an excellent and valuable job. If she was happy to continue. I think a workshop was discussed. Then individuals gave their “news” about writing and other things

Fiona read out a colloquial poem as ever accomplished. Joyce read an academic piece on women in 1950’s (?) Warrington which caused much discussion and input. Bill read out two poems, a seasonal poem for spring which somehow managed to encompass his mother in law? If I’ve remembered correctly

I’ve probably got all this wrong as I was busy sipping my drink. Gellis read out a prose piece which encompassed the Cuban missile crisis and Fountain Abbey.  Apologies for other readings I can’t remember. And for “comments” on ones i do. I wasn’t really paying attention

Then there was a break for Amphetamines and Whisky.  We discussed Albert Camus and wondered if he’d got over his troubles.  I found myself at home  after driving at 90 mph along the M6. The task prompt alarm went on my mobile and I set off to the writers group.  If I keep going for another two years I might learn some names, the names are just made up. The evening was enjoyable as ever and the quality of the work good


Next meeting- 2nd March 2015

Forthcoming Events- Gladstones Library Workshop- May 16th

Picture a Poet exhibition- current- Harris Library Preston

Workshops- Geraldine Green, varying dates towards end of each month, near Kirby Londsdale http://geraldinegreensaltroad.blogspot.co.uk/