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

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

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.