Setting up a blog for creative writing

Decided for a New Year’s Resolution that I would write a 50-word story each day during 2018. Seemed achievable and not too much work.

Even set up a WordPress site to host the content: 50WordStories.

For inspiration, I would use the Random Plot Generator website as that seemed to work with the last story I wrote I wrote for Sue’s advent calendar.

So today I clicked the element buttons and was given:

A woman in her fifties, who is very easy-going.
A woman in her early thirties, who is very courageous.
The story begins in a marina.
A pregnancy is announced.
It’s a story about the effects of war.
Your character sets out on a rescue mission

Day 1 looks to be a significant challenge. I … can’t wait for the rest of the year…

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Jelly Writers Club (December)

Really productive hour at the Jelly Writer’s Club tonight.

Writing with different constraints – flash fiction. We were given the inspiration of the six word novel, often attributed to Ernest Hemingway:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

((Reminds me of Jimmy Carr’s “Dwarf shortage” and “Venison’s dear” short jokes.))

Pretty high bar to aim for.

First assignment was to write a 50 word story with an “Adventure” theme (10 minutes). Quite hard to quickly come up with something that felt like a story in just a few sentences.

Crunching pebbles, the pirates disembarked and pulled the boat ashore below the daunting cliffs. Grapnels were produced and, hand over hand, they ascended. Unsuspecting villages nestled in the distance, they jogged on, cutlasses at the ready. Plundering time. And maybe some other hobbies.

Then the limit was halved to 25 words with “love story” theme. Surprisingly, this made it easier and I had time for a second. One sad story and one more up-beat.

“Do you love me?” Silence.
“You used to.” More silence.
“Have I changed that much?”
She reached out, touching the mirror.
“Please love me.”


Heart pumping, he fled then room.
She mustn’t see him leaving the printed card on the table.
“A party for two. Please come.”

Next a different challenge – writing a story where each sentence starts with the next letter in the alphabet – an Abecedarius on the theme of “Going to an art gallery”:

Art galleries had always appealed to him. Beautiful marble sculpture, arranged in cavernous rooms. Carefully hung oil paintings like windows onto another world. Daring installations of iron and silk challenging preconceptions. Everything was exciting and stimulating for him. From the David of antiquity to the Banksy of the modern age, he couldn’t get enough. Given the chance, he would spend all day with these cathedrals of creativity.  How the brush strokes, the chiselling, the light and dark, drew into a different world. Inside the halls, he would stroll for what seemed miles, his mind unaware of the time, or the other people around him. Just once, he hoped they would miss him and lock the doors for the night leaving all the exhibits there to be experienced anew in the gloom. Knocking on the door, he impatiently demanded entrance. “Let me in,” he mentally called out. Mercifully, 10 o’clock finally struck in the tower across the square and the gallery was his for the next eight hours. New exhibits in the south wing were the priority before soaking up his favourites. Old masters.  {{out of time}}

All good fun.



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Jelly Writers club (November)

After a good experience at the Words and Stitches workshop, I joined the Jelly Writers club and managed my first meeting (November 14th). Structure of the session was the same – opening with a five minute burst of continuous writing before starting on some properly challenging exercises.

Lipogram – theme of ‘Birthday party’ excluding the letter A

A lipogram is a kind of constrained writing or word game consisting in writing paragraphs or longer works in which a particular letter or group of letters is avoided—usually a common vowel, and frequently E, the most common letter in the English language. Larousse defines a lipogram as a “literary work in which one compels oneself strictly to exclude one or several letters of the alphabet.”

[[Lipogram – Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia]]

This was tricky and I almost succeeded – just one ‘a’ made it past me I’m sure you’ll spot it).  Losing the letter A and the pressure of the clock really restricted what words I could use and the language doesn’t read quite right. Obviously, with more time, better words would be found to make the read less jarring.

Birthday Party

Presently people will turn up to be involved in the joy I feel every twelve months.
It’s the repetition of an event which is close to my mother when she remembers the birth of her lovely son.
Twelve months in the cycle to bring me further through life. No going in reverse.
“Come in! There is still time to receive food with drinks. Not gone yet. Sit where you like.”
“For me? You’re too kind. How did you know I needed one of these?”
“How did your event go? Sorry I could not get there. I hope the present didn’t get lost in the post. It did? Oh, I’m so sorry to know. I will get it from the shops tomorrow to deliver in person next week.”


Rhopalism – theme of buying coffee where each line increases by one word

The art or skill of writing verse in which each successive word in a line is longer by one syllable than the preceding word or in which each line of verse is longer by a syllable or a metrical foot than the preceding line.

[[Rhopalism – the Free Dictionary]]

This wasn’t too bad. One other writer felt that she was hampered by not having a plan. I found that amusing as I didn’t realise my story was set at the beach until after line 10.

Buying a Coffee

“Of course!”
Today is hot.
We need some refreshments.
“How about an iced coffee?”
“That certainly sounds a great idea.”
“Hello. Two iced coffees to drink in.”
“Would you please grab a couple of chairs?”
My feet are killing me. Why did we walk?
Next time we’ll take the bus as it’s too far.
“I didn’t realise how many miles it was to the pier.”
“You just admit, though, that it was lovely walking along the beach.”
“Yes, but it now feels like my shoes are full of small pebbles.
Wait a moment whilst I take them outside the shop for a good shake.”
There is now a small desert of sand outside the door after all that walking.


Tautogram – theme of visiting a restaurant in M

A tautogram is a text in which all words start with the same letter. Historically, tautograms were mostly poetical forms. The difference between a tautogram and alliteration is that tautograms are a written, visual phenomenon, whereas alliterations are a phonetic one.

[[Tautogram – Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia]]

Hard work indeed to write something which makes sense, especially if you want to avoid using repetition too soon.

Many meals make man mightily massive.
Much munching must mean meatballs make my mealtime most memorable.
Must menus mention most meat?


Roll on next week 🙂

And I promise to bring money for the coffee.

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Words and stitches

Jelly has been supporting art in Reading since 1993, hopping around the town as new locations become available. Currently they’re in a shop space in Broad Street Mall.

Jelly_strap9cm-600x398Words and Stitches

They’re holding a short exhibition called ‘words and stitches’ – “a weekend of hand knitted delights & to explore the act of knitting” displaying such things as this cushion:


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Not being particularly interested in knitting, I’d instead turned up for the ‘Words and stitches: creative writing workshop’ – “a free 90 minute creative writing workshop using knitting and fibre for our inspiration”. The ‘free’ bit sounded good and I was sure that if I couldn’t be inspired to write anything then that would be a good sign that I should try something else. 

First exercise (after free coffee and cake) was 5 minutes of continuous writing. Not something I’d ever tried before – just putting open to paper without stopping, without too much thought on what you are trying to write, as a way of loosening up. The workshop leader started us off with “I tugged at the loose thread and…” Soon I had an A4 page of untidy sci-fi drivel and an aching hand that hadn’t written so much in a loooong time.

Next was writing using a restricted vocabulary – each of us has a photocopy from a novel and could only use the words on the pages to describe a woollen item chosen from a pile of such objects. Appropriately, I had “Alice in Wonderland” and some weird thing to work with. I didn’t manage too much output as it took a while to scan the text for usable fragments but the end result wasn’t too bad.

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“What can all that green stuff be?” I thought. There is nothing graceful and I am more and more puzzled. I shook it a good deal rapidly but could not see its meaning. Leaves must be an idea, or hedges.

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Third exercise was to write something from a particular perspective. Another woollen item and a randomly selected view – in this case a ‘knitwear model’ (could have been ‘sheep’ which may have been more of a challenge).

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Colin was in a hurry. The photographer was waiting but had nothing to shoot and I had nothing to be shot in. The ball of rust was getting smaller and smaller as Gavin rushed to replace the cardigan, the machine whizzing from side to side. Soon it would have disappeared and I could get to work and, more importantly, get paid. I felt myself becoming annoyed with the wool even though it should be Colin that I’m glaring at. “Come on, faster,” I thought, “but don’t get knotted again.” Red/brown lines flew above the knitting machine and I gave up trying to follow them. Such a boring colour. It’s spring outside and I wanted to wear something bright and light but it’s the autumn catalogue we’re shooting for. If we ever start. I need something to take my mind off the clock. “Coffee?” The photographer agreed and followed me out to the little kitchen attached to the slightly larger studio. “Done,” called out Colin and we strolled back to the machine, steaming cups in hand. The ball was barely the size of an egg now. Almost gone.

Finally we had a chance to rework what we had already written or try again so I opted for the lucky dip. Quite a dark result. Luckily the other person reading out their effort described an amazingly vibrant and active ‘yarn shop’ which ended the day on a much more positive note.

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That’s not going to work. The colours clash terribly. I desire to create beauty. How can I breathe life into the wool with red and orange? Give me creams and greys, ochres and a pompom of charcoal. I don’t want boisterous shades – I demand calm solemnity. I am here to lend peace to the world through my being. I dread that my work will be used by the tribes on the terraces, shouting fiercely at others in woollen headwear just as bizarrely coloured. Why so much red or bright blue? Or red and blue! It pains me to be so misused. If only I could find a way to unravel my design, to remove myself. If I cannot make the world a better place, maybe I should not be in it.

For a first creative writing workshop, I thought it went really well and most of us seemed to enjoy the experience. Thanks to Jelly for putting the event on.

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“Paragon of Order” by the Doctor

Back in July I picked up a copy of “Paragon of Order” at Dr Fern’s impromptu book release at the Alehouse. Even got it signed.

PoO“Relations between the Paladins of Order and the Lords of Chaos have always been hostile with both sides turning a blind eye to cross-border raids, or actively sponsoring them. Despite this, a fragile balance of power has existed for a century or more which has kept their borders fairly unchanged. This balance is threatened when Sir Thomas D’Brentieu, Paladin of the Greater Prefecture of Brentieu, seeking to emulate the deeds of the ancient heroes of Order, begins planning a crusade against the heathen tribes of Pandemonium and their dark Lord, Legion. Sir Thomas’ neighbour, the newly appointed Paladin of the Greater Prefecture of Valan, find themselves with an unenviable choice: side with the orthodox, some might say fanatical, Sir Thomas and become embroiled in a war with the Lord of Shadow Keep, or remain neutral and risk attracting the ire of both sides?”

The contrast in the characters of the Paladins reminded me of the eternal discussions in the D&D world around codes of conduct and being Good. There are definitely a couple of scenes in the book (which still make me wince thinking of them) where the punishments meted out highlight that how you enforce law and order is highly subjective. There are three main groups of bad guys in this book although they are also good guys, depending on who’s opinion you are reading. The motivations behind the actions of the various groups is nicely explored so you feel that the flow of events makes sense from a cause-and-effect perspective.

I have a few quibbles – the map is too small to read at my age; keeping track of time was quite hard in that I couldn’t always appreciate how long it took for and groups of troops to move between places and whether that time taken made sense.

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A pox on your party

On my Facebook feed I recently saw someone posting that their child had chickenpox. Lots of mums posting support; the usual stuff.

Was shocked, though, at suggestions to have a “pox party”. One commented that they hoped that the child had chick pox bad enough that they didn’t get it again!

I’ve checked the calendar – it appears to be 2017. What is going on?

From Chickenpox Parties, an article on Seattle Children’s Hospital’s website (so obviously relates to US):

Chickenpox can cause serious infection complications and, rarely, it can be lethal.
Before the vaccine was approved and put into use in 1995, hundreds of children and adults died in this country every year from chickenpox and thousands were hospitalized.
Although most young children get chickenpox and recover (only left with pox or scars) some children develop life-threatening secondary infections.
Some children develop severe pneumonia (1 in 1000 children), some develop brain infections, and some children develop flesh-eating bacterial infections in their scabs that can even be fatal.

Pox parties are basically playing Russian roulette with the health of your children and everyone they then come in contact with, such as pregnant women and those with weak immune systems.

From Chickenpox vaccine, an article on the NHS website:

Who is at risk from chickenpox?

Chickenpox is a common childhood infection. Usually, it’s mild and complications are rare.
Almost all children develop immunity to chickenpox after infection, so most only catch it once.
The disease can be more severe in adults.

Certain groups of people, however, are at greater risk of serious complications from chickenpox. These include:

  • people who have weakened immune systems through illnesses such as HIV or treatments like chemotherapy
  • pregnant women – chickenpox can be very serious for an unborn baby when a pregnant woman catches the infection.
    It can cause a range of serious birth defects, as well as severe disease in the baby when it is born.

I wasn’t too impressed to catch chickenpox off my daughter when I was 30. I wouldn’t be surprised if she caught it off another child at school whose parents decided it would be great for everyone else to be involuntarily immunised too.

If your child has chickenpox, just keep them at home while they are getting better. The virus is highly contagious so why make other peoples’ lives miserable, now and in the future (when shingles can kick in if the virus becomes active again)?

If having chickenpox was such a non-event, there wouldn’t be a vaccine for it!

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Michael Palin at the Battle Library

Joan Bakewell chatted with Michael Palin about his life’s work to mark the donation of his personal archive – over 20 years of diaries and notebooks – to the British Library.

Samantha and I decided to watch but more remotely than the BL in London – on a projector screen at another BL, the Battle Library in Reading instead. This BL is a lot smaller – the events room probably sits around 50 and the screen isn’t going to challenge the cinema any time soon – but regularly puts on a talks for a small admission fee.

Tonight’s attendance was pretty disappointing – less than 20 people turned up despite the fact that all the tickets had been taken. My suspicion is that a lot of people booked the free tickets thinking it was a live talk and then were too embarrassed to cancel the booking when they realised later. There was a waiting list so this meant people were prevented from coming along. Lesson for the organisers, I suppose.

The live streaming was a service offered to an associated network of libraries – the introduction called out other locations like Sheffield that were watching too and could send in questions for the Q&A. No mention of Reading so it felt like they didn’t know we were there. The network link was adequate with only a few buffering pauses so we didn’t miss much.

Was surprised to find that Baroness Bakewell is 84, a full decade on Michael Palin, so over 150 years between them. It’s quite hard to shrug off the cultural bias that people that old are either past it or passed on but events like this help show that it’s possible to keep on going. Sir David Attenborough is 91! We need more exceptions in the public eye.

Michael, unsurprisingly, had a number of anecdotes and comprehensive answers to questions – I imagine that, with the number of interviews he’s done over the years, responses are by now well honed. There can’t be many questions left that he hasn’t been asked yet. I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a decent one should I ever have the opportunity to pose it. Anything I would actually want to know is probably in an article somewhere on the Internet or in a book and if I was that interested then I would have tracked the information down already. Next best thing would be to ask him a question he would want to be asked to give the opportunity to talk about something that he’s actually interested in discussing. Would that be different to what Joan was doing? I’m not sure – given no agenda, what would Michael want to talk about these days?

I had forgotten that Michael has written and/or appeared in a number of films – must dig out the “Time Bandits” and give that a watch. That reminds me – he’s in this year’s “The Death of Stalin” which we’re seeing in December. And maybe, afterwards, we’ll be inspired to watch the many hours of unwatched travel documentaries gathering dust on the shelf at home.

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