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.

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!      


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