Go on – you know you want to buy it!
Click here to order your copy of Shakespeare Street.
Go on – you know you want to buy it!
Click here to order your copy of Shakespeare Street.
“Just Write launch their third book of short stories at a star-studded reception in a glamorous local venue” – the newspaper headline of our dreams!
In reality, we will launch Shakespeare Street in Amersham’s lovely Cafe Africa with as many guests as the venue will hold. The book is available from our dedicated website, shakespearestreet.org.uk as well as at many Christmas events in the Chilterns. As with our last two books, we are delighted that Waterstones in Amersham will have copies on their shelves.
I can, honest – I didn’t mean to push him – I just heard a noise outside the door and I was scared, see? I stood there for a bit, you know, thinking – I don’t do that much. I was thinking about you. I thought What Would Santa Do? Then I thought he’d just say HO HO HO loudly in his great big voice and whoever it was would run away. So I tried that – ho ho ho, I said – only my voice wasn’t so much a boom as a bit of a squeak, so I sounded like an elf with laryngitis.
I heard the noise again, so I thought What Would Santa do Next? He wouldn’t hang about, I thought. He has all those presents to deliver. He’d just wade straight in. So I did. I sort of flung open the door – well, I say sort of: my hand was shaking so much the handle rattled, and I could hear a scuffle and a sniff and I knew it was dark out there. So I screwed up all my courage and I shouted out “SANTA!” as loud as I could and rushed out – and I heard him tumble backwards – and he sort of gasped and there was a loud tumbling noise – so I put the light on – and Dad was all of a heap at the bottom of the stairs. He’d had a Santa hat on and it had fallen off – and there was a whole heap of parcels lying in the hall where he dropped them. He was holding a pillow case – and he said – he said . . . he said he was keeping the presents now and he wouldn’t let me have them. What did he mean, Santa? What did he mean?
I’m looking out the window for you…
I can explain why I failed to deliver all the presents on my round under my new Santa sub-contract.
First (and I’m not complaining) the elf uniform provided under sub-clause 3 was just a tad too small and I couldn’t get the trousers on, which occasioned some delay. (Well, I suppose most elves are on the svelte side.)
Second (and maybe I was a bit naïve) I’d expected a sleigh with six reindeer, turbo chargers and an aerial sat-nav rather than a clapped out Bedford Dormobile.
Thirdly (and I’ll stop numbering soon to avoid any whiff of pedantry), nobody had bothered to explain how you enter a house with no chimney.
One small problem was that none of the presents were addressed: what’s the point in children writing to Santa if his presents are totally random?
Another problem (and sorry if this sounds like one long whine), no instructions were given on which houses to ignore, even though I know for a fact that some children on my patch are total rascals.
Notwithstanding all these problems, I tried my absolute hardest to live up to the high standards you set and fulfil the contractual requirements; I REALLY DID.
Which was why it was so disappointing to find some children not tucked up safely in bed but downstairs, in front of the telly, getting plastered with their parents.
Which brings me to the real explanation – 140 glasses of sherry later.
I’m afraid I got rather tired and emotional even before I was breathalized. . .
I can explain why the chimney was blocked on Christmas Eve.
It all began in January when the farmer cut down the elm trees where the rooks always nested, so when they returned in the spring they had no rookery to go to. Unfortunately for us, our Elizabethan manor house with ten tall chimneys provided a very good alternative. We tried everything we could think of to get rid of them.
We couldn’t afford to put up scaffolding to get at the nests so we asked the sweep to push his rods up, but the nests were so well built that didn’t work.
We lit fires, hoping the smoke would dislodge them; that didn’t work either.
Finally Rupert, an ex-fighter pilot, and his friend, Nigel, an ex-bomber pilot, decided they would shoot the rooks. I only hope their aim when defending our shores from the enemy was better than their aim when firing at rooks as they didn’t kill a single one. So the chimneys have remained blocked all year.
I did leave the front door open but for some reason you didn’t think of coming in that way.
I can explain . . . why I ran away and left all the family.
The first thing was the thought of my boring in-laws coming to stay for ten days. HORRENDOUS!
Then the thought of making lunch for sixteen various inebriated relatives, some with allergies that need special food, and the expectation of the sixteen various inebriated relatives each complaining either that the turkey was too dry this year, or the sprouts too hard.
Then I thought of the disappointment of the exciting-looking parcels under the tree. How do you feign delight over a pair of oven gloves, especially when you still have the last fourteen-years’ worth stuffed in a drawer somewhere?
Then I thought about the shopping. How I must battle round the shops being elbowed this way and that – and, of course, doing my own elbowing as well – only to find that the last pack of mince pies has just been snatched by a rather large lady who got there seconds before me. The look of triumph on her face was nauseating.
I also wondered if I could make an excuse this year and not go into my randy neighbour’s house for drinks, something he insists on doing every Christmas Eve. He gets totally sozzled and tells me how he wouldn’t mind basting my goose, which usually results in a punch up between him and my beloved.
Then there was the thought of writing hundred of Christmas cards to people I haven’t seen in years and met on holiday about forty years ago, but who insist on sending a card every year so I feel obligated to return the favour.
I won’t even mention shopping for presents, something I have not even attempted to do yet. What will my children’s faces be like when they wake up on Christmas morning and see Mum hasn’t got them anything? It will be the same for my husband, in-laws and sixteen various inebriated relatives. HELP!
There is also the pressure to be Nigella-like, remaining beautiful and calm whilst the turkey is happily burning in the oven, the sprouts gone to mush, the potatoes hard as bricks and the Christmas pudding like a bullet.
I could go on forever but at the moment my bottle of sherry is running out so I need to pop out, just for a top up you understand.
So you see Santa, these are just a few of the reasons I have run away… Dear Santa, I hope you understand and can forgive me.
As a warm-up in ‘class’ this week, we each wrote a short letter to Santa. The letters of apology were so good that I decided we should publish them here! First is Linda’s – the others will follow one at a time.
Also to come for your Christmas delight, one at a time, are some short ghost stories which we wrote in about thirty minutes during ‘class’ – wonderfully atmospheric spooky tales…
Watch this space!
Nicki Kelland, one of the two members who joined JW this time last year (the other was Carol Hall), has had a story published. It’s in the Dark Gathering anthology of tales of horror and mystery published on 5th October by Swansea and District Writers’ Circle. She was a runner-up in their last contest and the prize was publication of a suitable story in this book.
Well done, Nicki!
This is the text that appeared alongside our posts while The Painting was being published. It was deliberately written like a press release!
When it comes to collaborative writing the Amersham-based group Just Write loves a challenge.
With two publications under their collective belts, the first Spilling the Beans winning the Writing Magazine’s Writers’ Circle Anthology Award in 2014 and the second Delayed Reaction declared a runner-up in the same competition for 2015, the group’s thoughts turned to what next?
Themes came to their creative minds thick and fast; one idea was to base the collaborative stories around a particular object, another idea was to write a series of stories going backwards in time; then came the idea to combine both of these themes and so The Painting was conceived.
Each writer was shown an image of the painting, then the first author set the scene with her contribution of approximately 500 words. The next author then had just 48 hours to write their contribution with the proviso that the story took the plot and action back in time; then on to the next writer and so on … a sort of ‘consequences in reverse’. There was no agreement in advance about characters or settings, just the blank canvas and the prompt of reading the earlier stories.
The stories have been given minimum editing – this is fast fiction in its raw state.
Tension is mounting in Just Write HQ (which is not a glamorous writing shed, sadly…)
The twelve authors’ contributions are currently being lightly edited and sprinkled with suitable ‘illustrations’ before being put in to a hot computer for publishing. The first installment is the most recent, and each subsequent episode takes the story back in time. If that sounds complicated to read, think how hard it was to write! And yes – it’s a rod we made for our own backs but we enjoyed the challenge!
We will Tweet about each episode as it is published – Just_Write_Ink – and we will also mention it on our Facebook page. Please follow us (or visit this website regularly) to hear about the latest episodes as soon as they are published. And feel free to comment on any or all of the episodes, either by emailing the author through their ‘About’ page or by writing a comment. We’d love to know what you think of our challenging idea.
The Painting – 48 hours to turn back time
Twelve authors, twelve stories, and 48 hours to write a story backwards in time. Intrigued?
Following the first writer’s lead, each author had 48 hours and 500 words to take the story behind The Painting back in time. We will publish them as they were written, every 48 hours, so keep visiting this website for new episodes!
To make sure you don’t miss one, follow us on Facebook Just Write Amersham or fly along to Twitter Just_Write_Ink
The first episode is coming soon, then you’ll have to wait 48 hours between episodes… Watch this space!
In a fantastic development, Waterstones now have both Spilling the Beans and Delayed Reaction on their main shelf of short stories as well as by the till. Don’t they look wonderful? The shelf-edge flag says ‘Spilling the Beans An award-winning collection of short stories by an Amersham writing group’ We must get some stickers made for Delayed Reaction so they can make a sign for that book too!
Following the success of Spilling the Beans in the Writing Magazine Anthology Award for books published in 2014 (did we mention that it won?), we decided to enter Delayed Reaction in the contest for 2015. The result was announced in the July edition and we were delighted to learn that DR was chosen as one of the three runners up!
The citation says “Another professional-level selection from last year’s Anthology Award winners Just Write, Delayed Reaction is testament to the value of producing anthology pieces to order. Each of the ten group members wrote one story for the collection, all set on the same delayed train. They agreed on background and setting details and shared information about each other’s characters to allow them to crossover between stories. The book itself is of the highest standard, well-designed, with individual title pages for each story, a reader-friendly layout and attractive cover, all coming together to create an appealing package that is already into its second print run.”
There is no monetary prize for being a runner-up so we’ll have to hope that increased sales will boost our donation to the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. What’s that you’re saying? You haven’t bought a copy yet? Get thee to the dedicated website and support our good cause!
Seriously, last year’s £250 prize went straight into our charity pot and helped to boost our 2015 donation to £1,000. We’d love to match that in 2016, and every purchase helps…
On 10th March Just Write (JW) gave their first talk as a group to members of the Wendover-based group Chiltern Writers (CW). Two members of JW are also members of CW, so this was no co-incidence!
Lesley and Angela did most of the talking with Stuart explaining his role, the production and printing of the group’s two books Spilling the Beans and Delayed Reaction. Linda read the same extract from her Spilling the Beans story Freddolatte that Nick Coffer had enjoyed so much on BBC Three Counties Radio just over a week earlier, and Phil read from his Delayed Reaction story Connection. Angela read from her Delayed Reaction story Run Rabbit Run and Lesley followed up with the same scene from Debbie’s perspective, as told in I’ll be there. (Debbie was absent at a family wedding…)
Angela had created an exercise to give CW members an idea of the decisions JW had to make when writing the books. The CW members came up with some really great scenarios and characters. JW took part in their own exercise but their idea wasn’t as good as some the others came up with: does it count as plagiarism if you just pinch the germ of the idea? Only joking!
Nicki also attended, flitting between audience and the JW table for the exercise and taking notes during the Q&A session afterwards. JW thoroughly enjoyed the evening and, judging by comments received at the time and the Tweets posted afterwards, CW members also enjoyed it. Thank you very much for inviting us to speak.
The photo, taken by the camera-shy Phil, shows Stuart being diverted from concentrating on what he will say later, Angela discovering the joys of Programme Organiser Debbie Clarke’s delicious vegan, gluten-free cake, Lesley nervously grinning like a Cheshire cat (as always) and Linda being her usual sensible smiling self.
Linda and Lesley were invited to BBC Three Counties Radio in Dunstable to talk to Nick Coffer about the success of Just Write. Linda read an extract from her story Freddolatte and was almost signed up on the spot by the presenter! The two women thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and Nick was a very good interviewer. Lesley knew in advance that there would be 60,000 listeners but didn’t tell Linda until afterwards – what did the audience make of it? Your comments are very welcome…
Listen to the interview
Since we started writing collaboratively in 2013, Just Write has published three books of short stories.
Our first, Spilling the Beans, won Writing Magazine‘s Anthology competition for books published in 2014.
Our second, Delayed Reaction, was a runner-up in the same competition for books published in 2015!
Our third book, Shakespeare Street, will be published in mid-November 2017.
To buy any of these books, go to their websites using the links above. If you want to buy more than one copy, please email email@example.com for a combined shipping price (and a big thank you!)