Workshop Blog 6/11/23

Hello, hello, hello, my super-lovely friends. Both of you. And hi to everyone else too.

This week on ZOOM we had twelve present and nine people managed to read.

Steve kicked the proceedings off with another section from his current novella The Temptations of Jonathan Yorke. As with everything Steve writes, the story progresses and the characters develop in some pretty unexpected ways. We know about the three main characters and the interactions between them all, and we have a pretty good idea of where everything is going. But wait a minute. Things have changed. We weren’t expecting this, or that. Steve throws these things in just to upset our expectations and tease our interest. And we are only about 10% of the way in. Gosh!

Sharif followed Steve with the continuation of his current work in progress set in 1952, and featuring a couple of different heritages. The couple run a bookshop, and when the woman ison her own she experiences casual and subconscious racism, which Sharif shows and deals with deftly. I particularly liked how one person confused Palestinian and Pakistani, neither understanding the difference nor caring. I particularly liked the pace and rhythm of the book, and loved snippets such as ‘…the most convenient fiction…’. Great stuff.

Stephanie – calling in from Georgia USA – was up next, giving us two poems; Have You Met Miss Margaret Brown and We Are On The Line 157357. The unsinkable Mrs (or Molly) Brown, a title she bestowed upon herself, was a survivor of the Titanic disaster (yes she held onto the door) and also a leading suffragette, her life story was turned into a musical. (Mrs Brown that is, not yet Stephanie.) Like everything Stephanie writes these were both beautiful and I loved ‘Do not judge a cowgirl by her dusty boots…’, ‘trade a lump of winter coal to be an endless summer bird…’, and ‘The fiercest storms often wear gentle spurs…’. She really needs to put a collection together.

We then heard from Sarah, who read us the beginning of a story she has been struggling with for three years, about the beginning of World War One and how it affected the people of County Durham. This was extremely well rehearsed, as you would expect from Sarah, but it also told an extremely human story and kept the listener truly engaged. Sarah described how the time she writes about was a ‘Hinge’ moment in history, after which nothing would ever be the same again. Only minor suggestions were suggested, but as Sarah wanted to know how she could sharpen the piece up, to make it more of a grab-you-by-the-throat story. A few small suggestions were made but generally everyone was quite happy with the pace and impact of the work.

Ian then jumped in with In A Flap, which was his entry for our 75-Word challenge last year. He has expanded it to put into our flash fiction competition. A glorious tale of the interpersonal relationship between a dog in trouble and the onlyone who can help him – the cat he has terrified for ages. I won’t tell you how the story ends but think ‘what goes around comes around’ and you won’t be far wrong.

Ruth was next with a poem she wrote after a ‘Lucid Dreaming for Writing’ workshop, and also a section of her story about Louhi, an enchantress and/or witch or even queen from Finish mythology, which she read originally many moons ago. The poem may be finished or may continue far longer, and contained phrases such a s ‘…enter through the forest floor… I have roamed far from death, I have roamed far from life…’ wonderful. The story was also truly beautiful and I particularly remember ‘…the voices of silenced women…’ so strong yet delicate as a fairy’s gossamer wing. More please of both.

Jeff bravely stepped up to read next, but no need to worry. Like Ian Jeff read his entry for the flash fiction competition, Time’s End. This was about builders working on Coventry Cathedral and the Large Hadron Collider. Great tying in and it was very clever with a great twist at the end. Good luck young man.

Matt then provided us with the opening of a short(ish) story he’s writing but has not yet given a title. This was intriguing and I loved the way he combined the mundanity of a chip shop and the possible end of all days; with the casual approach of some people and the near-constant-panic of others. As Tony the Tiger says ‘Grrrrrreeeaaaaaat!’ (Other catch-words and phrases for mass-produced pulp breakfast cereals are available.)

Last to read was Ceri with part of a short story but it may turn into a longer piece, and this was also as yet untitled. This had many different aspects and was overall quite well handled and written, but the main suggestion was that as this is the beginning of the tale – however long it be – it would probably help throw in a ‘hook’. That is, something to grab the reader by the throat and make them want to find out what’s going on. But it was very entertaining. Please come back and give us more Ceri.

Our flash fiction entry date has passed now, and Emily Garside has all the entries and is tearing them to pieces as I type. This year we only had twelve entries from eight authors. Though that is better than one year when we had eight entries from twelve authors. Phew. Quite a bun-fight that turned into. Adjudication is on Monday 6th Dec at the YMCA, and these evenings are not to be missed. You not only hear suggestions for improving writing, but also about many other aspects of the writing industry. There will be a Q&A session at the end.

13th Dec is also at the YMCA, and please bring along food and something to drink for the party. (YMCA not overly keen on alcohol.) That is also the date for our 500 word humorous and hopefully Christmas-oriented very short story (perhaps long flash?). Any subject/genre/style and all entries to be read out by the authors on the evening, following which votes are taken by secret ballot for a winner and runners-up. There is also a trophy, upon which the winner’s name is inscribed. Oooooooohhh!!!

In Tesco today I saw a man with a knife cutting into boxes of corn flakes. He was a cereal killer. But worse; I went on a once in a lifetime holiday last year. Never again. My daughter the teacher said there was a kidnapping at her school today! But it’s okay. He woke up. Oh yes, whoever stole my MicroSoft Office, I will find you. You have my Word. And I have just heard that if elected, Donald Trump intends to make shredded cheese illegal. He vows to make America grate again.

Bye for now. P.

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