Jenny’s Workshop

Jenny’s workshop was straightforward, although, as you will see, through no fault of hers, the meeting was somewhat chaotic. But, to begin at the beginning, as Dylan Thomas so memorably put it, Jenny had noticed how often that doyen of detective fiction Agatha Christie used nursery rhymes, not only as her titles, but to inform the structure of her novels. Jenny presented us with a series of first lines from our childhood poetry and asked us to see where they led us.

And predictably, they led to some rather unpredictable places! An early one started with the Crooked House, a hideaway for a gang of crooks and continued down this hilarious and delightfully perverse path. Another, more conventionally, reminded those of us of a certain age of the joys of the 50’s toy shop, evoking nostalgia for a (possibly) more simple age. There was a gloriously cynical skit on the twelve days of Christmas, and then a local radio announcer updating us on the crime wave perpetuated by Wee Willie Winkie.

An amazing amount of the stories involved crime and murder, what a bloodthirsty lot we Shorelinkers are! We had a couple of true stories, one from a member who, when living in Los Angeles chose to reside next door to Forest Lawns  as  he liked quiet neighbours  (get it?) and a fascinating one about a childhood holiday in Yugoslavia  to meet some distant family. This involved a disturbingly graphic account of wolves on the loose and the slaying of one especially fierce one.

We were just finishing our pieces when an alarm went off somewhere. As we are situated close to the car park, we assumed it was a car alarm and continued placidly with our meeting. When it persisted we finally realised that the whole building was in shutdown, and no-one had remembered we were there! Fortunately, the alarm was a hoax, but the event was immediately clocked by the staff and we discussed with them how to prevent it happening again. But, as someone remarked, you lot certainly don’t panic, do you?!

Just to prove the point, one of our members then fell in the car park, and had to be hauled to his feet. A phone call this morning has reassured us that he is fine, but all in all, it was an evening to remember, even if we would rather not. Thank you, Jenny, for your workshop, which was excellent although I am afraid it got rather overshadowed by events.

Reading week next week, at Tesco, optional theme, does this village have a swingers group?   See you there – and here’s  hoping for a less fraught evening!  Sally

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The 500 word night.

I don’t usually blog about reading weeks, but this Monday we decided to try something different. It was one of our Westfield weeks, so we arranged with Patrick, our splendid host at the New Inn, to serve a two course meal around a 500 word night. After some initial confusion, and perhaps a degree of scepticism, most of the group became enthusiastic.

It was a totally delightful evening. We had worked out in advance how long to leave between courses so that everyone had time to read their work, and what work it was! Stories, poems, autobiographical pieces, funny skits and intensely moving pieces. The 500 words had been a maximum, but almost everyone aimed and achieved it.

As someone said, the evening went like clockwork and much too fast.  And, as a bonus, I think the overwhelming lesson learned was that the discipline of brevity can be hugely effective. 500 words doesn’t give you space to ramble if you have something you want to say. It was a valuable exercise. But also, as I have said, an enormously enjoyable one. I have already had at least a dozen requests for a repeat performance, and we certainly will be doing it again.

My thanks, as always , to our treasurer, administrator and secretary,  not only for their hard work, but for always being willing to try something new.

No meeting next Monday, as it is a Bank Holiday, but back at Tesco the following week for Jenny’s workshop. In the meantime, Happy Easter to you all and – keep writing!      

Sally

Brian’s Workshop

Brian’s workshop was multi choice. He brought along several different workshop ideas and asked us to choose one as inspiration. There were words from India which we have absorbed into our language, ie bungalow and shampoo, a series of quotes about the meaning of life, and the first verse of Coleridge’s Kubla Khan as inspiration for thoughts on what might be grown in a tyrant’s garden.  Then there was a poem illustrating the German concept of weltanschauung,   exhorting us to write about our own world view using this notion. And I believe there were some first lines by famous authors, but among the flurry of papers being handed around these never reached me

Brian began the evening by reading one of his own poems, and this was followed by a moving story about a rather extreme reaction to loss of control. This was a much darker workshop than we are used to and the group rose to the challenge.  The subjects were aimed at inner reflection, and the writers complied and were unusually sober. Hospitals and schools were recalled by more than one writer by their particular smell, an interesting concept.

Several people chose the garden theme, and cemeteries figured largely. This was definitely an evening where doom was high on the agenda. But notwithstanding there was some fascinating stuff. The prisoner awaiting execution, the interview which turned out to be for a position already filled, and the gory story of an escape from the gulag were memorable, and I loved the camping story (I remember a similar experience on my one foray into camping – lots of rain!). Then there was a glorious poetic foray into Indian words – who could forget the Burka of sheets?

There were many others, of course, the walk in the forest, the schoolgirl reminiscences (we all remembered those baggy green knickers,) the unexpected tepee, complete with North American Indian, found in the Sussex countryside. But one piece stood out . A heart rending, but ultimately uplifting, story of life with a disabled daughter. Beautifully written,, it took us from agony to ecstasy.  As so often in our group, I felt privileged for being allowed to share it.

Thank you, Brian, it was an interesting departure from our usual more light hearted subjects.

Next week we are at Westfield, and another new departure for Shorelink. We are not only having a 500 word evening (that is the maximum writers are allowed, not the minimum!) but we are indulging in a delicious 2 course meal to fortify us. For anyone needing inspiration, the optional theme is Don’t try this at home.

Looking forward to seeing you there,  Sally

 

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Helen’s Workshop

Now here was a novel, but highly effective idea. Helen, a radio addict (as am I!) had switched on in time to catch this snippet:

Everyone ready?

Yes.

 OK, here she goes, lift, ready…

Well done

Intrigued by the possibilities presented here, she asked the group to write a story/poem including and exploring the snatch of dialogue. And they set to ‘lifting’ all manner of items with their usual gusto, beginning with a poorly horse. The next casualty was a drunk in a supermarket, whose broken jar of pasta sauce was mistakenly thought to be blood. This was followed by a surprise anniversary celebration which turned out to be more a shock when the wife discovered that instead of a romantic flight to Paris she was being toasted in a hot air balloon. Another hot air balloon, also going to Paris, appeared a bit later. ( NB for spouses of  Shorelinkers, this does not seem to be a popular present!)

Imaginations were obviously inspired by the idea of lifting – a Bank of England robbery, Big Jerry (don’t ask) to Valhalla, a huge cake, the capture of a giant– ie huge – terrorist, a gymnastics competition  and some rather graphic demon fodder were all in the mix. Then there was the skit on how to acquire the Irish soft border post-Brexit, the rather heartfelt one on broken water pipes from the Shorelinker who has been without water for two days, and a hilarious skit on the old Tic Tac advert about lifting a car with mints!

Finally, Helen filled us in on the actual event which was being referred to, which was Lifeboat men launching their boat off the Devon coast. So huge thanks to Helen for a great workshop, and also, I think, to Lifeboat crews everywhere for not only inadvertently inspiring us, but for everything they do.

Reading week at Tesco next Monday, the optional subject Those were the days, my friend

See you there. Sally .

Stephen’s Workshop

This workshop was definitely an inspirational nod to Agatha Christie, and had us all writing like mad. These were our instructions:

Your task tonight is to compose a piece to include the follwing elements:

An exotic location: A flamboyant middleaged Middle Easter gentleman:

Two personal ‘hostesses’ (or ‘hosts’ if you prefer):  An Essex girl.

Two young  honeymooners. Memebers of a religioud cult. A female Detective Inspector

And, of course,

A CRIME!

Quite irresistible, really. Time limited because of the number attempting this full scale thriller who would then have to share the fruits of their labour on the read-back.  However, once again, Shorelink members showed themselves to be almost capable of penning a three volume novel in under half an hour.

We began with a murderous plunge into a swimming pool gradually staining red as horrified onlookers were brought to heel by an undercover DI. Sadly unfinished, the culprit never brought to justice. This was followed by a wonderfully satirical take, the exotic location being Bulverhythe Beach, and many allusions to gender and religious confusions. The plot centred on the Great Candy Floss robbery – need I say more?!

Many of the stories ended with a twist in the tail, as did the next one, set in Cairo, and the following one set in sunny Southend on Sea, in which lap dancing figured prominently.  There was an ambitious and funny poem set in Zanzibar, and a story of multiple murders centred round an exotic dancer.

There was so much imaginative stuff here, it would take me a week to do it justice, so I’ll try to summarise as best I can. Following the exploits of Inspector Caraway Seed, there was the ‘den of the devil’ in Algeria,  the ‘dognapper’, the tale set in Alaska where the crime turned out to be misplaced loo rolls (loved it!) , and a rather nifty skit on missing chickens and KFC in Shanghai.

Then there were the adventures of the Liberace of the Lebanon, (hilarious but too complicated to relate here), one in Thailand involving a drug cartel, as well as Hari Krishna, a wok and  several ‘lady boys’.  And how about the body on the rug which turned out to be not a body – in fact, nothing and nobody was as they seemed in this one. Then a trip to the casino in Monte Carlo  and the shooting of a sheik brought this colourful evening to a close.

There were some interesting coincidences, especially the number of us who decided that the Essex girl was the DI working undercover. It seems in spite of TOWIE we connect Essex with hard work rather than high jinks. (Actually, I have just realised I have never seen TOWIE so perhaps…?)

Anyway, it was a great evening, lots of fun and good writing. Thank you, Stephen!

Next week we are at Westfield, the optional theme is Circumstantial Evidence.

See you there. Sally

Tony M’s Workshop

Well, not unsurprisingly Tony’s workshop was somewhat off the wall. As a result I took the unprecedented step of asking for input from those present to help with this blog, and as always, many of the group rose to the occasion.

But to begin at the beginning: Tony confessed he had an adolescent addiction to a TV game show called Play your Cards Right, and was disconcerted to find that, although one or two of us had heard of it, none of us had ever seen it, or had any idea what it was about. Apparently, Tony had been given a kit which enabled him to play the game, but he needed to enlist two teams before he could re-enact the part of Bruce Forsyth, the original compere. Last night he seized his opportunity, and we became his helpless victims. Helpless, I must admit, with laughter a lot of the time, as a cloak of bemusement spread over the group. Many of us, (certainly me) had absolutely no idea what was going on.

It was about here I screamed for help with the blog, and begged everyone for one sentence to sum up the Tony M experience. And here we go:

 

  • The mindless nature of the game was an excellent antidote to writer’s block. I managed to continue writing a poem that had got stuck.

 

  • Tony took a gamble on a different kind of evening (ouch!I do love a pun! S)

 

  • The joker in the pack, Bruce Forsyth, aka Tony May, ably led two six-pack teams of Shorelinkers back through time to the beguiling world of ‘Play Your Cards Right’, where  technology was unknown, likewise the rules, and I was reminded of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ as confident cries of ‘Higher’ and ‘Lower’ rang out as we stoically accepted success or disaster as card by card, the pack toyed with our fortunes.

  • Most writers tend to lead a fairly lonely existence whilst producing their work so working together as a team and acting out a TV game show was unlikely to work. Yet after gaining a basic understanding of the rules it somehow seemed to work. Of course, the collaboration and joy of working together as a team and showing respect for all players was soon abandoned as it became clear that my team ‘was robbed of points’.

 

  • Half way through the ‘Great Mystery Quiz,’ so called because the Quiz-master didn’t know what he was on about; Helen leaned over and quietly asked me if I knew where the strange noise was coming from. I explained that it was probably the sound of Brucie, turning in his grave.  

 

  • Tony was accused of not playing with a full deck.

 

  • Play your cards right? No, we didn’t!

 

  • A refreshingly different session.

 

  • I’ve never seen cards like that!

 

  • Enjoyable session: it got us all talking, solving problems and working together as groups. Writing can be lonesome! Thank you Tony

 

Thanks to everyone who contributed those gems, and yes, thank you, Tony! We certainly enjoyed ourselves, and who knows what literary masterpiece you might have inspired. Back to sanity (comparatively)  next week,  a reading week, at Tesco again. Optional theme: Making a grand entrance.  See you there. Sally

Debbie’s Workshop

Once again, here was a workshop that demonstrated that a simple idea inspires the most effective writing in a workshop. Debbie instructed us to list:

  • a colour
  • a name
  • an animal
  • a household object
  • a profession

And having written our list, to then write a story or poem which mentioned everything on it.  There was a moment of stunned silence as a few people possibly wished they had listed slightly less bizarre objects, then it was heads down and nothing was heard but the scratching of pens or the tap of keyboards.  Twenty five minutes later, after the essential quick break for refreshments, we began to read back our efforts.

The first offering concerned a scarlet platypus that somehow morphed into a Sherlock Holmes story. It was hilarious and set the tone for the evening.  As always, my difficulty with this blog is trying to capture the creative madness of the group with a few examples. But to name a few central themes, there was an Australian wombat on the rampage, a meteor giving out extraordinary signals, an elephant who was very disconcerted that all the road crossings were for zebras, a very elegant dandy preparing to go to his work, which turned out to be bricklaying, and a gloriously bizarre tale involving a chimpanzee in a penguin suit .

Then there was the meerkat who forsook loo cleaning for music, forming his own Elastic Band (OK, I hear your groans). There were cows and cats and tigers, a dentist poet, tap dancing puppies, a delightful story of a lego building infant making a castle for her goldfish, (though it didn’t end well), and a wonderful one of a horse sitting in bed reading the racing times.

There were more, of course.  But that’s a flavour of the evening. Thank you, Debbie, it was great.

Next week we are Westfield, and the optional theme is The Hypnotist.

See you there.   Sally

Alvin’s workshop

We began the meeting with a chorus of Happy New Year greetings, but were quickly put down to work by Alvin. He laid out a number of photos, mostly cut from magazines, many of which were bizarre in the extreme, and some of which were spine-tingly awful.  We should not have been surprised.  It was Alvin’s workshop, and we know he enjoys a bit of horror. I should probably make it clear that I mean the Stephen King kind rather than in real life.

He charged us with using the cornucopia of our imaginations and ordered us to be mellifluously salubrious about human kindness , while then going on to remind us that humanity is happy to inflict pain and suffering given the right motivation. He also offered us some prompts such as My life is a hot cauldron of foaming …

So, given this level of articulacy, I guess it was always going to be an interesting evening. Obedient, if slightly stunned, we each chose a picture from the pile and were given twenty minutes to write our masterpieces. And, of course, everyone did. Perhaps not with quite the same degree of mellifluence as our mentor, but we did our best.

Hard to know which to mention out of this foaming cauldron of twenty highly imaginative and immensely varied pieces, but I loved the poem which bravely charted one persons way through life with its hopes and disappointments, the one in which a warring couple smashed a lifetimes collection of memorabilia, the one where an unexpected windfall was used to cure a variety of pets who need expensive treatment, and the would-be traveller who was frightened of flying, as well as being seasick and claustrophobic. Then there was a lovely one with a flock of sheep commenting, rather grumpily, on the way their fleeces were used.

The essay concerning the nun with the angle-grinder was both suitably horrendous and very funny, but that reflected the tone of the evening.  It was a seriously weird meeting which managed to inspire a great deal of excellent work. Well done and many thanks, Alvin. A great kick-off to 2018.

Reading week next week, at Tesco, optional theme It wasn’t an unreasonable request, was it?

Look forward to seeing you there. Sally

God bless us, every one!

We celebrated the last Monday before Christmas with our annual Christmas dinner. It was a lovely, convivial and often hilarious evening, as always.  Our thanks to Patrick and all the staff at the New Inn in Westfield, who look after us so well. Great food, delightful service and, of course, brilliant company.

Special thanks are due to Tony B, our treasurer, for managing the finances of the evening so seamlessly, and also to Jenny, our administrator, who provided us with some rather posh place cards bearing our (long since forgotten!) meal choices.  We are lucky to have you both.

So, Merry Christmas, Shorelinkers! Look forward to seeing you on January 8th at Tesco, when, in a slight change to the programme, we will be kicking off with Alvin’s workshop. That should give us a flying start to 2018!

See you there. Sally

 

 

A Festive Workshop!

The Shorelinkers who battled through the cold and slushy weather to the last workshop of term last night were well rewarded. The theme was simple, write briefly about a memorable Christmas in your life, past, present or even future (Mr Dickens has nothing on us!) and then – now, here’s the crunch – write a Christmas song. No, no-one was required to actually sing it, though in the event, most did.

The Christmas stories that followed were collectively delightful, many harking back to childhood, of course, and giving us glimpses of some very different worlds. And some very different Yule tide celebrations.  Expectations were obviously considerably scaled down even a relatively few years ago compared with today’s commercial pressures. But perhaps that’s what they will say about 2017 in 2040!

The songs were a huge and joyful surprise. As so often, I was blown away by the unexpected talent of the group. Half expecting some to cop out, (and who could blame them?) , in fact, from the very first rendering , they were without exception  beautiful, funny, and very clever. Most could even hold a tune! And some even had a chorus for us all to join in. Which we did – with gusto!

Our wonderful treasurer had supplied us with delicious festive refreshments (I could live off those nibbles!), a big thank you from us all, Tony B.

And Sian hosted our first ever Secret Santa, which proved to be very successful. We all donated, and received in exchange, a wrapped paperback. Another thank you, this time to Sian, (or should that be Sian-ta?) – I think that might become one of our Christmas traditions.

Next week is our Christmas meal at Westfield, where we will have the added joy of seeing the extraordinary Westfield Christmas lights. Worth getting there early for a wander round on foot, they will light up your Christmas.  See you there. Sally