Alan S’s Workshop

Alan’s was a classic workshop and all the better for that. He laid out about fifty song titles, invited us to choose the one we fancied and go forth and write. And we did just that, though due to our ever increasing number we had a mere twenty minutes, so no three volume novels but a wealth of pithy and economical pieces.

The read-back began with a delightful story concerning the purchase of a magic albatross (no prizes for guessing this song title!), then continued with an extremely colourful portrait of earth in the hand of a supreme ruler with multiple physical extremities. It was the two noses and five lips that stayed in the mind. We had several that conjured up witches and wizards and aliens, some benevolent, others less so. The most surrealistic one of the evening was a chain reaction of something and nothing, with reference to Einstein’s theory of relativity. Let no-one say Shorelinkers are not inventive.

Among such a plethora of creativity it gets more and more hard to pick out a few representative examples. Lots of funny ones – we loved the poem that affectionately sent up one of our members who was absent as currently occupied Beating the street in Hastings, and also the failed banjo player. The ominous tone of the piece on distant drums contrasted wonderfully with one on the summer solstice featuring drunken wizards and another which was a tongue in cheek ode to Facebook.

And as always, there were the more serious and moving pieces. The lady convinced that the new nursing home visitor was the boy who fathered her baby sixty years previously, the remembrances of a father’s war time stories, the runaway from the remand centre.  Many more, some fact, some fiction. Some prose, some poetry. We even had a film review in the mix.

Another delightful evening. Thank you, Alan. You did good! Reading week next week, optional theme When I met her, she was a pole dancer in Prague. Can’t wait.

See you there, Sally

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The two Chris’s Workshop

We seem to have had such a tumultuous time recently I was braced for, if not disaster, a degree of chaos at last night’s meeting but to my relief, all went well. No fire alarms, no-one got locked in the loo, we did not have a last minute diversion to another venue, and most of all, the two Chris’s, whose workshop it was, arrived smiling, having prepared a splendid workshop for us. They asked each of us to pick what was essentially a paper ‘card’ with a picture on it. But the picture was a distraction; the real task was printed inside, where we found an unfinished sentence. The purpose of this was to see where it led us. And what a variety of journey’s we were taken on.

Where but at Shorelink might you have found stories about a Flintstones based wedding, complete with costumes, or a gossipy monologue about a ‘trollop of a neighbour’ also described as ‘the local bike’, or yet another where couple of TV gardeners were caught canoodling in a summer house? We do like a bit of (preferably fictional) scandal! Not to mention, except I can’t resist it, the two men in G strings, and the pregnant lady fruitlessly trying to blackmail the chap who had undergone a vasectomy.

But it wasn’t all sex, honestly! There was a quite beautiful poem about the memories evoked by different flowers, and another about the mounting frustration when inspiration refuses to get a writer off the starting block. An intriguing story about reincarnation was followed by a witty musing on the variable uses of the word ‘mint’. There were disappearing seagulls – I think that was wishful thinking – and wonderful pastiche on the scandal of the murder of Cock Robin.

This is just a taster of what was another delightful evening which stretched both our imaginations and our creative writing skills. Many thanks to you both, Chris and Chris, you pulled off another great workshop.

At Tesco again for a reading week next Monday, optional theme The day before the big event. See you there. Sally

 

Emergency workshop!

Well, it wasn’t a flashing blue lights sort of emergency to be honest. I actually knew the day before that the host of this week’s workshop wasn’t going to be able to make it. Now, I like to be prepared, so for something like three (or possible four?) years I have carried in my folder an envelope marked ‘Emergency workshop’.  In truth, I had carried it around for so long I had completely forgotten what the workshop was, so when revealed it was as much of a surprise to me as everyone else.

It proved to be a classic here are five sentences, use them as you will to inspire you workshop, but, even if I say so myself, it produced some of the group’s usual excellent work. We started early so there were nearly 30 minutes of writing time before we began the read back. We began with a portrait of a man trying to be a bigger personality than he really was, and then travelled (excuse the pun) on to a hilarious reminiscence of a disastrous driving test.  This was followed by a skit on pretentious foodies, and then, to change the mood, a reflection seeing ourselves as others see us.

Then there was delightful story which played on the double meaning of Cobbler, both as a food and a profession. Then a trip to Vegas followed by one to Reno (work it out-we did!) followed by a childhood picnic with sinister overtones, a reflection on dyslexia, an ode to parental love, a teenage proposal, an inadvertent  time traveller who met himself (with some horror) 50 years on. And there were two amazingly similar stories – both completely off the wall!– about a suicidal jumper.

As so often happens, one theme came up several times and it proved to be exploration of facial dyslexia. This condition, an inability to retain facial features and ergo, to recognise people one knows well out of context, obviously plagues several of members to different degrees. It made for some amusing stories while underlining the frustration felt by sufferers.

As always, far too many (19 in all) to mention in detail, but that’s a taste of what was another entertaining and productive evening. My thanks to you all for your concentration and inventiveness!

Reading week next week, the optional theme I never expected to find one of those. And we are at Tesco. See you there,  Sally.

John’s Workshop

John’s workshop had an elegant simplicity. Five sentences to choose from, all, in their own way, provoking dreams and desires. He allotted us twenty minutes to scrawl our masterpieces, and the short time span always concentrates the mind well.

I think the sentence most used was: What shall I do with these three wishes…, and the answers often riotously funny. I especially loved the elderly man who granted his wife’s wish to be a teenager again, only to see her run off with someone her own age. Bittersweet indeed!

With so many clever tales to choose from, (twenty in all at Monday’s meeting) it is, as always, almost impossible to pick out just a few, so all I can do is try to reflect the overall inventiveness. How about the chap who arranged his own funeral as part of an insurance scam, but got more than he bargained for?  Or the one about the Golden Shoe fairy?

There was the usual variety of creativity, the Devon fishermen carrying their Lifeboat round the headland, the gymnastic competition, the earth exam, the demon lobsters, and at least a couple of Genie’s granting wishes which did not turn out well If there was one lesson to be learned from our collective efforts, it was be careful what you wish for!

We touched on house moving, European travel and the embarrassment of turning up to a conference in (very much) the wrong clothes –wonderfully kitsch, this one. And more, much more. But there was one piece we shall all especially remember, I think.

Shorelink occasionally makes someone who has been special to the group a Life Member if for any reason they leave us. It is a purely honorary title; you are given a certificate and our enormous thanks and respect. It is rarely bestowed so all the more cherished, I believe. On Monday, one of our Life Members, on a brief holiday from her home in Wales, came to visit us. She wrote a moving piece about her few days back in Hastings, before returning the next day to resume her life with her beloved, but now badly incapacitated husband, who is another Life Member. Her presence and her thoughts illuminated our evening. We send them both our love.

So thank you, John, your workshop inspired a range of writing and was most enjoyable. A reading week next week, optional theme: To think I shaved my legs for this! No-one can accuse us of not having variety. And we are at Tesco.

See you there. Sally

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

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