Mandy and Dan’s Workshop

When I was a kid, before discussing the previous evening’s telly became de rigueur, confined to the class rooms on rainy days, we often used to play Consequences. I doubt anybody much plays it nowadays, so it was a special joy to have a workshop based on the idea. Now, for the uninitiated, this is how it goes.

You are given a blank piece of paper, and you write a name on the top of it. Any name, fact or fiction, whatever takes your fancy. Then you fold over the paper to hide it and pass it to the next person, who writes met and then adds another name. Getting there? Pay attention, please! This is then hidden and passed on. The next person adds a place, folds and passes on, followed by what happened then and lastly, a final line.  Two names, a place, an event and then the consequence.

So you now have five unrelated pieces of writing and again this is passed on, to the next person who unfolds the paper and tries to make sense of the contents. Or, for the purposes of this workshop, uses it to inspire a poem, a piece of prose – or possibly a nervous breakdown. Happily, the latter did not happen.

In fact the work that emerged was often hilarious, always interesting, and certainly stretched us. Creative writing indeed.  I have picked out some of my favourites to mention here. I loved idea of the Queen having a day off, incognito, and deciding on her travels to trade Phillip in for a younger model.  Boris Johnson  (aka Morris Morrison in one piece!) appeared with startling regularity, make of that what you will. And who could forget Ferret Gump?! There was a play on Rimbaud, the French poet, and Rambo of more recent fame, Ada Lovelace and some ghosts flitted through, along with Genghis Khan, Garfield, Bambi, and Frank Sinatra. Oh, and among the countless others was Jacob Rees Mogg and a vegan beefeater. And an inspired poem that was so good I wish I could remember it and reproduce it here.

I can’t really do justice to the variety of the ideas and the delightful exuberance of the evening. Our thanks to Mandy and Dan, you did good!!

Tesco again next week, a reading week and the optional theme is A monologue – see you there.    Sally


500 Word Evening

We had our first 500 word evening in March, and it was so successful we decided to repeat it.  Once  again, we were able to have it at the New Inn in Westfield and treat ourselves to a delicious 2 course supper at the same time – necessary for keeping  our collective strength up!

I asked for some emails saying how members felt about the event, and below are some of their (slightly edited!) comments:

What a convivial evening – as always full of fun but with the added pleasure of a good meal!  It’s surprising what can be packed into 500 words – sometimes it seems that less is more.

We were saying on the way home that we thought it was the best evening yet at the New Inn. Really enjoyed the stories and the staff surpassed themselves with both food and service. An interesting and wide selection of stories and styles. Thank you to everyone involved in arranging such a splendid evening.

 Well, what can I say that hasn’t already  been said!  How about  ‘marvellous food, excellent friendly service, scintillating stories and lovely people!’


I really enjoyed the 500 word evening. I liked the story about the slugs (an interesting perspective), the one about the lost socks (a fun idea with a twist of surreal) and the piece about smells and tastes. Also your story about your childhood, in which your reminiscences about your grandmother reminded me of my own amazing ‘Grandpa’ too.

500 words is enough to ‘get your teeth into’ without it being too long-winded.

I agree with every word! And would like to add my own special thanks to our hard working administrator and our acting treasurer, and to Patrick and his lovely staff at the New Inn’

Back at Tesco next week for a reading week, and the optional theme is Who’s eaten all the prunes? Best of luck with that! See you there. Sally





Sian’s Workshop

This was an inspirational work shop. I have copied the instructions Sian gave us below in italics, as, for once, I remembered to keep them for just this purpose..

Ralph was very tall and thin. He had blue eyes, brown hair that showed the first signs of turning grey and really long legs. He had a sad smile though, which always made Emily want to hug him. He was nice too—at least, Emily thought so. When she passed his desk carrying the post every morning, he always said ‘hello’, unlike everyone else in his office. Emily didn’t mind being ignored by the others. She knew how ordinary she was (how she looked, how she dressed and her boring little job) and didn’t really expect to be noticed. Whenever she was having a bad day, she’d walk past Ralph’s desk and his greeting would make her feel happy. Emily had had a lot of bad days recently.

Your task is to do any one of these things (or more than one, if you’d like to):

 1) Re-write the above, but expand on it and make it more interesting to read.

  2) Tell me about why Emily has had such a lot of bad days lately.

 3) Tell me Ralph’s side of the story, including what he thinks of Emily.

 4) Start where my story left off and tell me what happens to Emily next…

As regular readers of this blog will know, Shorelinkers need no second bidding to rise to a challenge such as this. And what a variety of work was triggered. How could you not love the Emily who was weirdly phobic , not only unable to make friends with anyone whose name possessed more than five letters, and planned all excursions around routes with fives in the road numbers? She was eventually liberated by the chaos of barking no-name dogs, but somewhere there I lost the (quite delightful) plot!

And what about the secret relationship between Emily and Ralph, orchestrated by the positioning of coffee mugs on their desks? You sort of knew it would end badly – and it did. There was a funny and highly inventive skit inspired, I guess, by recent events in Salisbury , starring two incompetent Russian spies with very dodgy accents. Lovely stuff! Oh, and the one where Ralph turned out to be Jack the Ripper (bit of a time slip there!). Two similar stories had Ralph as his mother’s carer and another placed Emily in a comparable position. And there was a very clever poem triggered by the number of words that rhyme with daze – or was that days?

There were eighteen tales in all, cats, coincidentally, figured often, to the extent that they were finally greeted with cat-calls (sorry) of Not another poor moggie?  The stories  encompassed the usual serendipitous  and eccentric thought process of the group, Comedy, tragedy, romance, we covered it all, featuring everything from a dead goldfish to sexy knickers . Oh, and some aardvarks.  You had to be there.

Great evening, Sian. Thank you so much, you did good.

Next week we are at Westfield for another 500 word evening, as the first one was so popular. The optional theme is The Stranger.

See you there. Sally




Jim’s Workshop

It was bound to be fun, wasn’t it? I mean, here is a man whose booming laugh and twinkling sense of humour is positively contagious. So I assumed that fun was inevitable, and, happily, I was proved right.

The instructions were simple and to the point: Get together in groups, please, and write a three minute segment for a soap opera.  In fairness, this was backed up by a considerable amount of helpful notes, with ideas and directions. And, whatever else we did, we were to finish it on a cliff hanger.

The first group set their script in a school, with an ongoing investigation into a suspect relationship.  A dodgy headmistress, an absent girl, two policemen, a maternal intervention and a suspicion of rampant and illegal lesbianism hovering over the whole thing. Culminating in, wait for it, a missing passport – so where is the absent girl, we ask?

The second group set their script round a newspaper. With the headline story of the town’s mayor being threatened by a bomber and their chief reporter off sick with what they all suspected was a hangover. To compound their problem the paper’s editor and owner was suspected of laundering dirty money. And then there was a sub-plot to do with illegal immigrants. Finally, a cry went up in the newsroom: What are we going to do?! What indeed?

The third group chose the Up and Away Travel Agency for their soap segment. It was staffed by an incompetent, struggling manager who found it hard to treat his customers with respect, Peggy, the cleaner, an elderly and (hopefully) recovering alcoholic, and Miriam an assistant. 17 year old Dezz (spelt with a double z, to show how cool he was) was pressuring Miriam to hand him the keys of the agency to help his ill sister. The sister was a lie, of course, we knew he was a villain, cool or not. The agency also laundered money, Japanese yen in particular, so there was a lot of dosh on the premises. The dramatic conclusion – with Dezz going about his wicked ways, Peggy the cleaner, alone in the office one dark night, glimpses figures approaching and screams loudly… but did anyone hear her?

And, finally, the fourth group, which was undoubtedly the most unruly of the evening. Announcing that the only soap they were familiar with was The Archers, they proceeded to improvise a skit.  This took place in the village shop, where Susan and Clarrie were discussing breaking news that a factory was to be built in Ambridge. The two women were anxious to discover what the factory would be for, when Joe Grundy appeared and announced the land it was to be on would ruin his mangelwurzels. Following some conversation about these, on entering the shop, an intercession by Brian caused some further discord when it was discovered that he had money in the project.  And it was going to manufacture, not as Clarrie hoped, designer dresses, but… and here the audience had to guess what.  And they did. Very successfully. Fade out to theme tune.

So – well done and thank you, Jim, a great idea and it certainly triggered some imaginative scenarios.

Reading week next week optional theme, You win again. Looking forward to it already.

See you at Tesco    Sally


Ro’s Workshop

Ro’s workshops are always popular and last night was no exception. It was an unusually straightforward one for our resident joker. He gave us a list of collective nouns, some he had made up and some that were real, and it was very hard to tell which was which. But our task was to write a piece that included some or all of them and also to make up a few of our own.  Some of our examples were: a drone of vicars, an odium of politicians ,a twitter of nuns, and a body of pathologists. I am sure you get the idea. Warning, it becomes a bit compulsive. I had to have a blood test today and found myself wondering as I waited if the suitable collective was a haemorrhage of phlebotomists – so beware!

Everyone fell to with a will. Because of our numbers, there was a mere 15 minutes to write in, and as always the standard was amazingly high.. We kicked off with a poem that managed to be funny and rhythmical and really rather lovely, so good in fact the rest of us were slightly intimidated. But not for long. The offerings came thick and fast and were a great demonstration of the power of imagination.

There was a poem based on the abstraction of artists, a splendid one featuring a TV evangelist (sorry, can’t remember the collective noun), but evangelist was one of the ones we were asked to invent a collective for and the suggestions were many and various. I also loved a Beatitude of Beatniks, and there was a delightful story around an Expectation of Princes starring a pair of dogs called Prince.

And what about the surrealistic autobiography of an ice cream?! Enough to make sure you never bit into a cornet again! As always, so many memorable pieces, a children’s story complete with giants, an essay on Hastings as a sin free city (!), a fairy tale of sorts ending in  a pay off, a cheeky story of PYO contraception, and even one involving a German u-boat in 1945.  And quite a few that were both simply and complicatedly, a play on words.

So, yes, it was fun, and it did stretch us. Thank you, Ro. Next week is a reading week, and optional theme is Where do we go from here? Should be interesting to find out. We are Tesco again, see you there. Sally


Stephen’s Quiz

As old hands will know, we always start the new Shorelink year with a quiz. This is partly because it is a fun way to kick off, and partly as a tribute to Bill, who died suddenly and much too young, and was responsible for the idea originally. Every year we remember with a mixture of hilarity, horror and affection his inaugural quiz, which was on the Periodic Table. Having survived that, we figured we could survive anything.

But when I read through Stephen’s quiz, delivered to me a few days before, panic set in again. Do not misunderstand – it was a splendid set of questions which he had obviously laboured over with considerable diligence and imagination. It was just that it was, well, hard. Indeed, very hard.

Stephen had taken the precaution of going on holiday so I was unable to discuss diluting it with him. I posed a couple of the questions to a fellow Shorelinker, and after a stunned silence, she said: Have you thought of making it multiple choice? I hadn’t, but I fell on the suggestion like manna from heaven. Every spare moment in the next couple of days was spent turning each answer into three possible answers. Ro piled in with gusto, and some rather unprintable suggestions.

The result, judging by last night’s response and this morning’s emails, seems to have been a hugely successful evening. There was considerable laughter and some stretching of the little grey cells, and at the final count, out of approximately one hundred questions, between the  highest and the lowest of the three tables competing, there was a mere four points!

So well done everyone, especially Stephen. Thank you, you did good!

Next week is Ro’s workshop, and we are at Tesco.  See you there. Sally

August Update

August, as always, has whizzed by.  We had our first garden party on the 12th and ironically, the day before, found ourselves worrying about the weather. After seemingly endless weeks of tropical heat, rain was finally forecast. Although our parched gardens certainly needed it, we crossed our fingers that it would hold off for one more day, and our luck held. We had a delightful afternoon with a garden full of both human and (extremely well-behaved!) canine guests.

Sadly, along with the darkening skies, the next day brought us some bad news. One of our life-time members, now living in Wales but never long out of touch, is very ill indeed.  And while we were still absorbing this news, our second garden party had to be cancelled at the last minute due to the sudden illness of Tony B, our host, happily now improving. He, and the hospital, are now cheerfully fending off an avalanche of Shorelink visitors.

So it has been a strange summer for Shorelinkers. Sorrow and celebration, worry and relief. But we are looking forward to our new term starting again in two weeks time, when we shall, as always, kick off with a quiz. And hopefully the start of a productive and creative new year for us all.       Sally



Sunset supper!

We ended our summer term in the traditional way, with our annual ‘sunset’ supper. Once again, we enjoyed the hospitality of the New Inn at Westfield, who always give us not only a splendid menu but efficient and charming service. Our thanks to all the staff. It was a lovely, convivial evening.

I shall stick my neck out here and claim that Shorelink is more than the title writers group suggests. It is an assembly of diverse friends bonded together by their creativity, their humour and their desire to support each other. Long may that continue and our writing prosper proportionately!

See you all in August for the first of our two garden parties.

Shorelink AGM 2018

For logistical reasons, we had our AGM a week earlier than the date given on the programme and I was delighted that nearly all the members were able to make it. As always, it was a more informal affair than the title suggests and all the better for that, I think. We began, as always, with the Treasurer’s Report, and once again find we have a healthy balance.

Although we still charge no subscription and only ask for £2  per meeting attended, we have been lucky enough to be able to subsidise two splendid ‘end of term’ suppers, one at Christmas and one last July. We also had another supper around an inaugural 500 word evening. This was so successful we are planning to repeat it in October. All these events take place at the New Inn in Westfield, as do occasional meetings, and we are grateful to Patrick and his staff there for looking after us so well. We also visited St Mary in the Castle for the Renaisscence Theatre Groups production of Anything Goes which raised £1300 for St Michaels Hospice. A heartfelt vote of thanks was taken for all Tony’s work

In the resume of the year, as Chair, I endeavoured to do a rapid précis of Shorelink’s history, as I have become aware that many of our members were unaware that Shorelink has  been functioning for over 25 years. Obviously, a quarter of a century has seen many changes, and Alvin, my Vice-chair for all the nine years I have held office (!),  and a member nearly from the start, filled in some of the earlier exploits of Shorelink.

I was also able to congratulate Tony and Sian for publishing books this year , his 4th and her 5th, and Jenny and Ro for publishing novellas. Brian helped to organise the Austin International Poetry Festival in Texas, and Alvin is in line for yet another major poetry award. We are very proud of them all. But perhaps most of all the incredible quality of the work presented week after week.

This was the second anniversary of Shorelink’s move to the Tesco Community Room, which has been such a good one for us. It is largely because of this accommodation that we have funds to spare and members unanimously approved a donation to Tesco’s charity partners, the British Heart Foundation and Diabetes UK as a token of our appreciation.

I admit to some inability to stick to my own agenda, but I was kept in order by our secretary, Ro, and we got down to the business of electing our committee. In fact, once more we re-elected our excellent committee and officers. Daniel stood down from the committee for technical reasons, but became our Provisions Officer. I was pleased to be able to thank all the committee, for their input, especially the officers, Alvin, Tony, Ro and Jenny, our hard working administrator.

The meeting over, we finished the evening in our usual way, with some very special food and drinks – and, more thanks to Tony for that! Next week is our last meeting here this term, a reading week, followed by our end of term supper at Westfield the following Monday. And then, as always, we shall have our two garden parties in August, before resuming in September with our traditional start of the year quiz.

I would like to add a small postscript to this as a couple of people have mentioned to me some comments on Facebook about Shorelink being political. This is total nonsense, as members know.  Whilst we will never censor anyone’s work, I can say with my hand on my heart that of all our members I only know where two of them stand politically and they are both close friends of ours. I should hate such a rumour to gain credence and damage the reputation of Shorelink, the most supportive and un-judgemental group of people I have ever known.      Sally


Alan C’s Workshop

Alan C’s workshop seemed designed to wrong foot us and I am still trying to make up my mind whether the strategy was deliberate or accidental. But either way, it produced some first-rate work, so I guess it hardly matters. He began by quoting Somerset Maugham’s famous axiom:  There are three rules for writing a novel, unfortunately no-one knows what they are. Then, having lulled us into a false sense of security, he told us that any creative writing group knew that the three rules were that a novel must consist of description, action and dialogue, which he described as the tripod on which a good novel rests.

He then asked us to identify three lines from famous works. Unfortunately the lines were somewhat bland and virtually unidentifiable out of context, so with egg dripping down our faces, we humbly admitted that we had not read Julius Caesars volumes on the Gallic Wars, and were not intimately acquainted with the Book of Daniel in the Bible, and even a line from Othello had eluded us. There are occasions when being a Shorelinker feels quite tough.

But as always, we not only rose, but positively leapt to the challenge. There were seventeen stories in all, veering from arm-wrestling in a pub, to a Beachy Head suicide (this from a member obviously still depressed at being unable to recognise those quotes), to a delightful parable on how to be cured of envying youth gangs and petty stealing while still very young indeed.

Another writer conjured up kids surviving Sunday School on a hot afternoon, while there was an updated take on the Bambi story and a wonderfully funny one about a man, bitten by an Indonesian Dragon, wasting his last ten minutes of life. Cats, birds, gorillas, a terrific skit on the Brighton sky pod, the stories were varied and excellent. And without exception they contained description, action and dialogue.

Not sure what Mr Maugham would have made of it, but I reckon you should be proud, Alan C. A fascinating workshop!

Next week is our AGM, the date brought forward from the one on the programme. The one meeting of the year when I urge you all to come. So, hopefully, see you at Tesco next Monday.     Sally