Jelly Writers (May)

Jelly Writers
2nd Tuesday of month, 6.30pm to 7.30pm
Jelly Studios, Broad St Mall
A group for adults who want to improve their creative writing. Join us for discussions of writing techniques, writing exercises and critiquing each other’s work. Please bring something to write with and something to write on.
Register here:

A change in this session where we concentrated on character development.

So, imagine your character and then answer some questions about them. I found Q2, Q9 challenging – definitely areas to focus on.

Character Questions

Q1 What do they look like?
A dark trench coat. Sullen. Dark hair, flat but not greasy. Blue eyes but not bright blue. Black trousers, maybe jeans. A pointed nose but not too long; not a button nose of fat. No smile; not yet; a firm line. A dark shirt, no tie; not buttoned right to the top; just one left unbuttoned.

Q2 How do they smell?
Smell of nothing. No odour of BO. No smoker, this. Clean cloths. Their breath also nothing. No bad breath but also no toothpaste, or smell of food. No presence in the smellscape. Up close maybe a hint of humanity but you’re not usually up hat close.

Q3 What do hey have for breakfast?
Croissants, torn simply. No butter or jam. A coffee with milk, no sugar. No full English or extras. Simple food, light and not too filling. No colour – no orange or apple juice.

Q4 What do they think of Harry and Megan’s wedding?
A royal wedding brings disinterest. Not part of his life, as he was not part of theirs. They existed only on the TV, as far as he cared. Would spend the day like any other. He didn’t wish them ill. Just didn’t consider them.

Q5 What is their earliest memory?
Walking to school, holding his mother’s hand. A little fast to keep up with her pace. But not dragged along. Just moving quickly. Somewhere to be and mustn’t be late. First day at school. Looking forward to it. Sunny August day.

Q6 What is a memory they would rather forget?
The death of his friend. Illness took him too young. Sitting by the hospital bed, head inn hands, quietly sobbing. His friend, staring at the ceiling, unmoving. Getting up to call the nurse.

Q7 What are they doing at 3 o’clock today?
Standing outside the back door to the club. Faint music from inside, a low bass coming through. Occasionally a laugh/giggle from staff near the door on their way past. Waiting for someone patiently. Someone inside.

Q8 What is their daily routine?
Get up whenever; depends on the night before. Breakfast at the café. Maybe brunch or lunch, as above. Go and talk to Matt. Grab a paper at the library and check what the world thinks is going in. Skim-reading.

Q9 Who or what do they love?
Nobody. There is an absence. He doesn’t avoid love but here vis none at present. Keeping the wrong circles, the wrong activities. Focussing on the wrong things for love. He doesn’t love what he does, even though it needs doing.

Q10 What is their name and do they like it?
It’s their given name. They have frown into it but changes it a bit over time from James to Jamie to … Jim. Usefully short. Doesn’t get mistaken for another name.

Q11 What is their holiday destination?
Need a break? Where to go. The same – a city. Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle. Not too different but where you know no-one and no-one knows you. A long weekend with a shoulder bag of clothes and supplies. By train.

Q12 What would they do with scratch card winnings?
Not a gambler so would be a scratch card they were given or found. They would pass it on. Maybe a note for the homeless. Or a generous tip at the café where he had breakfast. But not his usual café. May create expectations. Money not important, a distraction.

And now 14 minutes to write about the character

He pushed the door and stepped into the café. The breakfast regulars had gone on their ways and the place was nearly empty.
Sally at the till called out “croissants, Jim?”
“Yeah,” he replied, “and a strong coffee.”
He sat down and squinted out of the window at the human traffic going past. Shoppers mainly, and the occasional wanderer, looking for somewhere to go. His order came soon and he absent-mindedly shredded the bread. The chair across the small table scraped across the floor and his eyebrow raised in surprise. He hadn’t seen Bill come in.
“Have a seat,” he offered after Bill sat down.
“Tonight’s the night,” Bill muttered. Sally started to walk over but Jim gently waved her away.
Looking at Bill, Ji took a mouthful of coffee and shuffled in his seat. The coffee wasn’t really worth savouring so he swallowed and sighed.
“What if I can’t make it? Have other plans?”
“That would be unwise.”
The chair scraped again as Bill rose and left, the door banging closed after him.
“Another coffee, please, Sal.”
“On its way,” although he didn’t hear, deep in thought.

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Disappointing result in Southlake

Looking back at the 2014 local elections, there appeared to be a large number of people that would vote for the local LibDem councillor based on her activity, rather than politics, but were at heart UKIP supporters. All other parties lost votes to UKIP back then but only a few percent, even the Conservatives.

South Lake
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Democrat Beth Rowland 535 33.8 -10.5
Conservative Laura Blumenthal 462 29.2 -3.2
UKIP Timothy Robinson 275 17.4 +17.4
Labour Ian Hills 222 14.0 -2.9
Green Pamela Prior 85 5.3 -1.1
Majority 73 4.6 -7.3
Turnout 1579 38.7

Come 2018, the UKIP and Green votes seem to have been equally shared between the two pro-Brexit parties (+11% to both Labour and Conservatives). Beth merely retained the share of the voters she had four years ago.

South Lake
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Jenny Cheng 801 40.3 +11.1%
Liberal Democrat Beth Rowland 682 34.3 +0.5%
Labour Tony Skuse 497 25.0 +11%
Majority 119 6.0
Turnout 1987 45

Only plus point is the impressive 45% turnout.

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Jelly Writers (April)

Jelly Writers
2nd Tuesday of month, 6.30pm to 7.30pm
Jelly Studios, Broad St Mall
A group for adults who want to improve their creative writing. Join us for discussions of writing techniques, writing exercises and critiquing each other’s work. Please bring something to write with and something to write on.
Register here:

First exercise

Spend two minutes writing a list of the things you’ve been doing in the last 24 hours. When you’re done, pick the most mundane task and spend fifteen minutes writing about someone that has to perform that task all day.

The Woman That Addresses Envelopes

The envelope stock is getting low, she noted to herself. Sheila’s been getting a little lax recently.

The cheque run was swishing away into a box nearby. Every now and then, she bent down and lifted up a handful before turning round to her desk and the box of windowed white envelopes. One by one, each envelope was filled and sealed down. Eventually a pile formed large enough to warrant dumping into the mail sack on her left. And then back to the box for more cheques. A good hour seemed to drag past before the print run was on its way to the post room and she could have a cup of tea and a biscuit (or two).

Invoices came along to quickly, this time to go in C5 brown envelopes. Thankfully the folding machine was still struggling on and neatly creased half-sized sheets came out ready for sealing away. Time crawled by again, and then all was done.

Another tea break and another batch to shuffle from printer to mail trolley in a different set of windowed envelopes. She glanced up at the clock and saw lunch was still way off so decided to go to the loo. And talk to Sheila about stock. And maybe see how Geraldine was getting on in Accounts. It should be lunchtime by then. Sandwiches, an apple, and some grapes before an afternoon folding and stapling the event booklets for the waiting pile of C4 envelopes, all to be addressed with a vast roll of printed labels.

She looked out of the window for a few seconds before getting up.

Second exercise

Spend two minutes writing down what you bought when last at the supermarket. When the time’s up, ask the person on your left to randomly choose an item off the list. Spend fifteen minutes writing about someone buying a thousand of those items.

The day someone bought two thousand sausage rolls

“You’ve come to click-and-collect what, madam?”

“2,000 sausage rolls.”

A moment’s pause before “Of course, madam. And do you have the order number handy?”

The woman replied in the affirmative and proffered her phone with a bar code prominently on the screen.

“Thankyou,” said the person at the customer serviced desk. A moment later, she returned the phone and walked towards a nearby door marked ‘staff only’. The customer quietly sang a little song to herself as she waited. A few minutes later and a young storeman wheeled a shopping  trolley through the door. Just one item was visible, a large cardboard box about a foot tall by two foot wide and four long with an order label on the side.

“Here you are, madam,” said the man. “2,000 sausage rolls. They’ve been in the cool room waiting for you. Will you need a hand getting them into your car?”

“No, thankyou,” she replied. “I don’t have a car.”

“Ah, okay…” he said, his voice trailing away in confusion. He glanced sideways at his colleague who had returned to the service desk. She shrugged back at him and smiled warmly at the customer who had made no effort yet to take either the box or trolley.

“I’ve also come to click-and-collect another order.”

“Certainly, madam. And that would be…?”

“2,000 Scotch eggs.”

“Would there be many more orders?”

“Oh, yes.”

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Jelly Writers (March)

Jelly Writers
2nd Tuesday of month, 6.30pm to 7.30pm
Jelly Studios, Broad St Mall
A group for adults who want to improve their creative writing. Join us for discussions of writing techniques, writing exercises and critiquing each other’s work. Please bring something to write with and something to write on.
Register here:

First exercise

Imagine coming home and finding everything has been replaced with identical copies.

That’s strange. The dust has been moved. Here and here and … here? The TV screen is clear. Has somebody been spring cleaning and not told me? Pretty unlikely as I would be the first to have a task to complete. There’s no scratch on the table mat. There was a scratch, wasn’t there? This is my house, isn’t it? Hello, is anyone here? I’m not sure what’s going on but it had better be a joke.

I look for something unique. Maybe one of the signed books. Terry’s dead so there’s no way they could get him to re-sign them. But do I remember what the signature looks like? Anyone could write a dedication in the front and I’d be none the wiser if it was the same as the original or not. “All the best, John” isn’t particularly distinctive.

The fridge. Is this all the same food? Are these the same apples? Why am I questioning this? I’m being stupid. How could all these things not be the ones I saw this morning before I left the house. There’s a good explanation for what I’m seeing, or not seeing. I must have moved the candles and the coasters on the mantlepiece. It’s not as if anyone’s been in. But how would I know?

I can’t sit down. I need to check the house for clues. I’ll not be able to sleep tonight if this doesn’t start making sense. I won’t be able to sleep anywhere. If this house isn’t safe and stable, then how an anywhere? I wouldn’t be able to trust anyone.

The clock matches my watch. It’s always been two minutes behind. Who would bother to set it right? Or has someone changed my watch? Is my house the same but I’m different?


Second exercise

Take an everyday setting and list all the things you would expect to see there. Write a story about the setting with one of the list items removed.

[[I chose Earley railway station and removed ‘passengers’]]

The train rumbles by without stopping, coach after empty coach. The wind of its passing blows the dry leaves on the platform but nobody notices apart from me, Only I am standing, waiting for the 8:36 to Reading this morning, which is late as usual. In fact, I seem to be the only person travelling to Reading at all.

The last coach goes past and I catch sight of the guard, a bored expression on his face. Not surprise or curiosity as to the absence of passengers but just plain boredom. I walked to the ticket office and asked Malcolm what was up today. he just shrugged and resumed his waiting.

The car park over the fence is empty, instead of full. I look up at the display and my train is another two minutes late. I can’t understand why if there is no one travelling today. What could be causing the delay?

I push the big blue button to talk to the help line. After a moment, a woman answers, a little impatiently. I ask where everybody is. Has there been an announcement that I’ve missed? She assures me that the Waterloo line is running normally and any problems would be announced over the tannoy.

“But where is everybody?” I insist.

“Maybe they are all on holiday,” she offers. A little sarcastically, if I’m not mistaken. Not what I would expect from a help line. Maybe she doesn’t know that there’s nobody here or on the train.

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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 (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 (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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