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

Kate’s Workshop

Have you ever wondered why Friday 13th is considered to be unlucky? Well, Kate’s workshop confronted this head on, giving us a history of the myths and superstitions surrounding the date throughout history. It was fascinating stuff, finally concluding that the date is so prominently linked with bad luck in our minds, that whenever anything bad happens on that day, it automatically confirms our prejudices. As she says, a classic example of confirmation bias!

Our task was simple. Write something, anything, about Friday 13th. Fact or fiction, prose or poetry.  The only parameter was that we had a mere 15 minutes to write, and were ordered to keep it short in order to have enough time to hear everyone on the read back. So it was heads down and pens to the ready – 30 seconds of thinking time and –GO!

Needless to say, there were some hilarious catalogues of bad luck. If you know the group at all, no prizes for guessing who ended up in an ambulance still being squashed by half a frozen pig, or who started their day in the arms of Marilyn Monroe before a literally rude awakening.  I loved the stream of conscious piece with a sting in the tale, and the story of the morning wake up call to bird song which degenerated quickly (with the help of the cat) into a blood bath on the new beige carpet.

And there was the writer who lost his clothes and his dignity and ended up bruised and battered, also with the help of one of our feline friends. These cats obviously have much to answer for – and just to illustrate the point, one creepy tale described a cat with 13 legs. Yuk!

Dreams and omens figured largely and there were at least a couple of poems in there as well.  One free thinker in our midst turned it all on its head by declaring that Wednesday 11th was the day to dread! All in all, it stretched our imaginations as well as our speed writing skills– so thank you, Kate.

Next week we are at Westfield, and the optional theme for the reading week is I never touched it! 

See you there.  Sally

Tony B’s Workshop

Murder, he cried! And so he did – Tony B laid out before us an elaborate scenario, casting himself in the role of Chief Inspector Maurice Joseph of the Serious Crimes Directorate from Scotland Yard. He then proceeded to use his deductive powers to try to solve the very bloody murder of Sir Basil Windermere, who had been discovered two hours earlier in the library with his head bashed in..

We were all given a short biography to work with, each of us with both motive and opportunity to commit the ghastly deed. Then we had just fifteen minutes to write, no, not an alibi, but a confession, and to state any possible mitigating circumstances. Sadly, I didn’t make a note of some of the more outlandish names of the characters we were given, but Dolores and Ptolemy were among the aristocrats and the lower ranks were given names that suited their rank, such as Mildred and Emily, this presumably to ensure that we all knew our places.

I had no suspicion we were such a ghoulish lot, but as confession after confession poured forth, our murderous ingenuity was alarming. Sir Basil was exposed as a serial sex offender (porn, rape – regrettably, nothing new under the sun), a cheat, an adulterer, a gambler, a horrific and bullying employer and a braggart. To say nothing of being a murderer himself, having killed off one brother while imprisoning another in an asylum. In fact, he appeared to have no virtues whatsoever.

So no-one much needed extenuating circumstances; the good old American ‘justifiable homicide’ seemed to fit most cases. But this is not to highlight the most entertaining facet of the evening – many of our villainous characters were required to be portrayed with an accent! It is always noticeable how many regional accents unintentionally tend towards the Welsh, but praise must go to the brave souls who tackled the American rise and fall, especially when we discovered the victim’s name was pronounced Bay-zil in some parts of the USA.  And then there was a wonderful Bulgarian assassin in our midst!

But I can’t leave you without mentioning the weapons used, the inventiveness was breathtaking, if a bit scary. There was some preference for bronze or stone busts, being a familiar object in a library, so Churchill, Victoria and a couple of other heavyweights (excuse the pun) came in handy. But I must mention the table lamp, an ink well, a poker, a rolling pin, a horse shoe, a stuffed, wall hanging, bears’ head, guns various, and, the very best of all, a dumbbell!

Tony B, ex Scotland Yard in a previous life, aka Chief Inspector Joseph, declared us all guilty and arrested us all on the spot, a fitting end to another great evening. Thanks, Tony, we loved it!

Reading week next week, optional theme The Python’s Escaped!  And the following week will be Kate’s workshop . And yes, both are at Tesco.

See you there. Sally



Hazel’s workshop

Hazel’s first workshop for us was a delight and conjured up a huge variety of work. She gave us five minutes to choose ‘six tracks of our lives’, ie six connected things which illustrated our personal journey, and she asked for them to be positive.  As you can imagine, many of the group chose music.

The eclectic range  chosen across the half a dozen Shorelinkers who plumped for this subject provided a superb example of the multiple personalities and backgrounds that somehow meld together so inspirationally in our group.  Ranging from rappers to grand opera and taking in just about every genre along the way, it was a heady mix.  The only really consistent reference I noticed was to the great Elvis– and why not, indeed?!

These musical memories highlighted many highs and lows, but with particular accent on the highs. For instance, there was a passing reference to a fairy tale cathedral wedding being made even more special because both bride and groom were previously widowed. Another very moving piece talked about the slow and continuing journey back to life after loss.

Many of the pieces cited childhood toys as a major part of their reminiscences, and one tale reduced us all to helpless giggles. Will we ever forget the story of the putty ball given to a child by home decorators Mr Coccket and Mr Spray (she swears that was their real names!) which she rolled into a million or so different shapes and became her favourite toy. OK – so perhaps you had to be there!

And that might sum up the entire evening – you had to be there. We walked into each other’s lives, following, among others, the lifetime book worm who became a mature student and achieved her degree, the feisty traveller who has visited almost every country in the world, the film buffs, the theatre goers, the animals lovers and much more.

It was a truly enchanting evening, and left us all with a warm glow. Thank you, Hazel, I an already looking forward to the next one!

Reading week at Tesco next Monday, optional theme Underneath the floorboards  – could be quite a scary evening!         See you there.     Sally

Sian’s Workshop

We say it over and over again – the more simple the approach, the more successful the workshop. And Sian demonstrated that perfectly. OK, I confess that is a bit of a pun. Because she began by telling us that her aim was indeed to think of the perfect formula, and that led her to ponder the word perfect – and bingo, there was her answer. Write a piece in which the first sentence includes the word perfect and which must be central to the rest of the work.

As usual, there were too many of us to allow more than twenty minutes writing time, but we do like to rise to a challenge. The first read back was about the power of laughter, not any old laughter but that overwhelming, convulsing, uncontrollable and infectious heaving that leaves you with tears on your cheeks. A perfect storm of laughter, in fact. The piece was illustrated with a reference to this year’s  Strictly Come Dancing and the delightful reimagining of Morecombe and Wise’s Bring me Sunshine as performed by Susan and Kevin. It then went on to guide us through a gallery of famously hilarious sitcoms , evoking considerable nostalgia and mirth.

We moved on to some more dancing, featuring Elvis, but also mourning the loss of the perfect partner. Then there was an essay about resisting the marketing push for us all to be perfect men and women, and what a fallacious and sterile pursuit that is. The stories came thick and fast, to mention only a few, the lady who found some perfect boots on top of a litter bin, the acquisition of the perfect (nearly) rodent-catching cat, a fantasy of perfect weightlessness, and  a longed for short break that turned out to be considerably less than perfect.

It is always difficult to believe the level of creativeness that is delivered in twenty minutes and, sometimes, even more,  the writers ability to decipher their rapid scribbles! There were loads more tales, a slightly salacious one concerning a robotic Claudia Winkleman (Strictly is obviously a Shorelink favourite), another starring a Rolls Royce with built in AI, yet another featuring an imperfect Porsche . I loved the head girl burning down her school by smoking in a burka, and the accidental paradox which hilariously illustrated how occasionally something wrong can turn out to be extraordinarily right.

It was, as always, an excellent evening. Thank you, Sian, that was great. Perfect, in fact.

Next week is a reading week, of course, and we shall be at Westfield. The optional theme is The Leopard who wanted to change his spots. See you there.                  Sally

Jim’s workshop

JIm’s first workshop for the group and he set us an intriguing task of reflecting on a favourite colour or certain scenes from nature such as a sunset, a newly ploughed field, a field of flax or oil seed rape in flower or a colourful sky and let it evoke emotions or memories.  As usual, Shorelinkers came up with a variety of amazing poems and tales.
Among others, there was a friendly alien with a blue theme, a memory of accompanying a father to ploughing matches, a thoughtful piece on the significance of white and a mysterious one of children – or were they? – in a black room.  A sad memory was of a much loved luminous green shirt that met its demise due to the use of a hot iron. Then we heard about an ominous pink sky, fields raped by rape seed oil, memories of an evacuee – I could go on.
JIm had also researched some useful material to aid our writing, including books and computer programs and an article on how to write a best seller – move over, J.K. Rowling!’

My grateful thanks to Jenny for stepping into the breach and writing this blog for me. Reading week next week with the optional theme You know what they say about vicar’s daughters  – now that might turn out to be more typical than anticipated…    Sally