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Short stories on International Women's Day

The dress – a collaborative story by Lesley and Liz

It was only after her father was imprisoned that Amber felt confident enough to wear The Dress. At best he would have told her to take it off, at worst he would have ripped it off her, shreds of red silk flying everywhere as her mother’s beautiful gown was reduced to tatters.

But the dress had avoided that fate, staying locked up in mother’s suitcase until her father was locked up following mother’s court case.

Amber opened the suitcase on the first day of her father’s prison sentence. The dress’s crimson folds were wrapped in layers of white tissue, reminding Amber of seeing her mother’s bloodstained body lying in a grotesquely distorted pose on the bed. She took a deep breath and plunged her hands into the fine fabric, feeling the soft silk fold and slide over her skin. The sensation took her breath away for a moment, and she found herself shuddering. When had her mother last worn the dress? Had she been happy then or had her father already started the campaign of destruction that ended so cruelly.

She took the dress into the front bedroom which was flooded with light from the bright afternoon sunshine pouring through the large bay windows. Shaking and rustling the dress gently so the folds of silk fell in natural cascades she held it up to her face, breathing in the faint memory of her mother’s perfume. She felt tears sting the corner of her eyes and drew in a quick breath to hold them there. She knew if she allowed the tears to flow they would not stop and, no matter how many tears she shed, the well of sadness within her remained as full as the day she found her mother’s broken and lifeless body.

The dress hung in her hands and she shook herself back into the present, then gently laid the dress on the bed while she tugged off her jeans and tee shirt. She picked the dress up and let it fall gently to the floor to form a puddle of red silk. She stepped carefully into the centre of it and slid the dress up over her body, tugging the bodice into place. A smile curved gently around her mouth as she realised that the dress fitted her perfectly. She had the same feminine curves and height as her beautiful mother and the dress was testament to that.

She reached around and carefully guided the zip up her back, feeling the rich and expensive silk fold in around her, then took a few steps over to the window to stand in front of the full length mirror positioned there to catch the best light. She gasped in surprise at her own reflection. She looked beautiful, ladylike, elegant, serene.  All the things a 20-year-old cider-swigging student like her could never be – and yet she was. She blushed with pride, realising her own beauty for the first time. Empowered by her transformation she moved towards her mother’s dressing table, undid her long auburn hair and used her mother’s brush to sweep her hair into soft waves. She opened the drawers of the dressing table and found all her mother’s makeup still there as though, any minute, she would walk in from her bath to sit and gaze at her reflection before enhancing it with her art.  Amber reached for the gold-capped lipstick then the eyeliner, checking her reflection while she worked, Finally she reached into her mother’s black, leather-bound jewellery box and put on a pair of her favourite diamond stud earrings.

She stood up, walked back to the full length mirror and started to sway and move in front of it while the rich silk skirt of the dress rustled and whispered around her.

Amber was lost in memories, entranced by her own reflection, empowered by her transformation. She now understood why the dress had driven her father mad with jealousy. It was perfect, and would now be both her revenge and her escape.

 

 

Short stories on International Women's Day

Stars in my eyes – a collaborative story by Liz, Lesley and Debbie

Saturday mornings always followed the same route when I was a kid. Jam on toast for breakfast, then Mum would shout downstairs for you to come up for your bath, which involved Niagra-like quantities of water being poured over your head from a cracked plastic jug and copious amounts of shampoo suds stinging your eyes. The bath rota was always a hotly debated depending on who needed to be where and by what time on a Saturday. Apart from the dog, who got slung into the bath when the last child hopped out.

Once your hair was rinsed you could escape. A cursory dry with a rough towel then on with the jeans, sweat shirt, quick comb of the hair, then stage 2 Saturday morning – present yourself, washed and dressed, to Dad who gave you 20p pocket money. That was the start of the fun.

I would race down the hill to the corner shop, buy a quarter of lemon sherbets, then back home, telly on and settle in for kids’ Saturday morning TV. There were no cable channels then. There weren’t even kids’ channels. So Saturday morning was a real treat to have back-to-back TV shows just for kids. The Banana Splits, the Double Decker’s, Swap Shop and then it always finished with a vintage Laurel and Hardy show. We loved it and the best bit was it was the only time Dad would sit and watch TV with us. We all learnt the words of ‘On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine’ off by heart and sang at the top of our voices.

I loved the words of those songs, and that was what made me I start writing poetry. I’d been given a note book for my birthday and I’d drawn a few pictures in it, the feint lines of the pages becoming entangled with the image I was creating – a park bench, railway lines, telephone wires. Words were easier, sitting neatly on the lines rather than fighting with them for space on the page. Space – that’s what I wrote about. I love the sci-fi programmes on TV then – Dr Who was always my favourite and Star Trek. I dreamt of boldly going where no girl had ever gone before, and I wrote my dreams as poems. We’d read some poetry in school so I had an idea that it needed to rhyme but space was a tough word at the end of a line – pace, face, disgrace…err… so I decided to put it nearer the start of the lines.

Then I decided it didn’t need to be mentioned if I ‘alluded’ to space and use simile and metaphor instead. I was so pleased with myself for knowing those words! And then I discovered that poetry didn’t need to rhyme after all, so the s-word made its way back in to my verses. Here are some examples – remember I was only eight!

I look at stars up in the sky
And the only question I ask is ‘why?’
Why are we here? And what is life?
Is it happiness – or is it strife?

I was quite pleased with that one and thought I should add another verse so that I could enter my poem in to the school poetry competition. I took my note book and some chocolate in to the garden, lay down on the grass, which gave a pleasing tickle to my back, and contemplated the vast expanse of dark sky above me. One hour and three chocolate bars later:

Stars are the fireworks made by God
The sun is the match He uses
The moon is the magnet of mankind
And the galaxy makes the fuses.

To this day I can’t understand why I didn’t win any prizes.

Short stories on International Women's Day

Future imperfect – a collaborative story by Emma, Angela and Lesley

I woke up and stretched. There was that half a second when everything seemed alright with the world, until I remembered our specialist’s voice saying, ‘Many couples have very happy lives without children. It can make couples become closer.’

Dan and I had agreed to give IVF one more try. We did, and it did not work so that was that. We also agreed that we were not going to be one of those couples whose whole happiness depended on something they could not have.

I smelt the coffee Dan was making. He always pampered me on Sunday mornings. Was this how it was going to be? Would we grow closer? I didn’t think we could get any closer. We always knew what the other was thinking, we did not always need words. Sometimes Dan would hand me the thing I needed without saying anything. Was it a tiny bit of relief?

I’d visited my sister on Sunday. The house was strewn with toys – so many you barely noticed she hadn’t vacuumed for three weeks. The baby refused to sleep and both Sarah and Gareth looked permanently exhausted. I couldn’t remember the last time they had a night out, and I’d noticed the terse replies, the pursed lips, the irritating cracks widening into valleys. The two older boys scrapped all the time and the domestic atmosphere was riven with cries of, ‘Muuum . . . He hit me.’ ‘He started it!’ and the snappish response, ‘I don’t care who started it. You can both go to separate rooms . . .’ If this was the future denied us, then I reckoned we could definitely make coupledom work.

Dan appeared at the bedroom door, looking a little anxious. ‘I just looked in my diary and we booked that photographer’s appointment at 10. It’s 9:15 now.’

I’d completely forgotten! We’d booked a wedding anniversary portrait session at the old studio in the village. The morning went in to overdrive.

Hastily applying lipstick as we pulled up outside studio with a couple of minutes to spare, I noticed a child hanging about outside the door. He was of mixed race, about nine years old, and he grinned broadly as he approached us.

‘Spare a pound for the guy?’ he asked, cheekily.

‘But it’s only September,’ Dan challenged him. ‘Aren’t you a bit early?’ The boy scuffed at the ground with one shoe, twisting his hips as he tried to come up with a response. ‘And where’s your guy?’ Dan added.

‘That’s what the pound’s for,’ the boy said, finding the answer to his dilemma in Dan’s words.

His skin was beautiful, golden and smooth, and his dark eyes shone with the confidence of youth. Dan grinned back at him. ‘Maybe later,’ he said as he pushed the studio door open.

‘I see you’ve met my grandson.’ The photographer was smiling as he held out his hand in greeting. ‘Did he try his “penny for the guy” con on you?’

Fearing that Dan was going to mention the inflation in the boy’s demand, I spoke. ‘He’s a cheeky boy, that’s for sure. Is he staying with you?’

‘No. He’s my . . . well, my ward, I suppose. His parents died when he was very little and my wife and I took him in. But she died earlier this year and he’s a bit too much of a handful for me, as you can tell.’

I looked at Dan: his face bore the same expression as mine but neither of us dared to speak, yet . . .

Short stories on International Women's Day

Doors – a collaborative story by Carol, Debbie and Angela

I’ll never forget those doors. They are imprinted on my soul. They are the doors that I walked through, heavily pregnant and scared to death, and the doors that I walked out of, my belly flat and my arms empty.

It was the priest who told my distraught mother about the place. “Let me take her there,” he had said, putting a pastoral arm around her and offering her a creased handkerchief from the pocket of his cassock. “No-one will know that she’s sinned and the nuns will take good care of her.”

They didn’t, of course. The so-called ‘taking care’ amounted to feeding me and my fellow sinners and providing a bed. The rest of their time was taken up with telling us how many ways God would show us that we were sinners and how we had ruined our lives and would never find a man willing to marry us. I hated it there.

Things improved a little after my son was born. I loved him with a passion I could not have imagined. He was part of me and I would hurry through my ‘household duties’ with exemplary obedience so I could spend every spare minute in the nursery – until he’d learned to smile. That morning, he beamed at me before I left him and I couldn’t wait to see that smile again at the end of the day. But on my return, the crib was empty and the nuns met my hysteria and pleading with a silence which branded my soul.

I met Bill at work about five years later. We shared a bit of banter over an illicit cigarette and he asked me to go with him to the pictures. By that time, I had wrapped the void in my heart and sealed it. He never knew for certain, though I think he suspected I was hiding something. I had developed an unconquerable fear of religious statues, and my first pregnancy with Bill’s child was tortured by an irrational terror and a ferocious protectiveness for the baby inside me.

“Let’s get married in our local Church,” he’d said, only a couple of months into our relationship. “I don’t think I could handle telling my mother it’s going to be a registry office.”

But I told him it was me he was marrying, not his mother, and there was no way I was going to stand in a church reciting vows like a hypocrite. Of course, he gave in – because he loved me. I couldn’t help his disappointment – or his mother’s. Somewhere in my heart was a chamber of lead which even he couldn’t melt.

I tried to forget – I truly did. Bill and I had the girls, and I immersed myself in their upbringing. But the guilt was always there, lurking in dark corners, waiting to spring out and choke me. Where had they sent my little son? I didn’t even know if my tiny boy had survived. I used to celebrate his birthday every year, though Bill never cottoned on. On 18th May, I would book a trip to the theatre or the cinema for the whole family, and I would indulge my fantasy that I had reserved five seats instead of four.

I lost Bill last year. The emptiness I had hidden for thirty years became a vacuum in my heart, and a compulsion to find my child rose through the void. That’s how I find myself here once again, outside the convent, hand poised over the doorbell, frozen in a time warp. The answer is in the ledger somewhere inside.

Short stories on International Women's Day

Coming home – a collaborative story by Debbie, Carol and Emma

He could hear her voice as he ran. ‘Breathe,’ she said. ‘Breathe.’ She was the only one he would listen to. Her voice echoed through his head as he ran from the room, his throat tightening. He loosened his tie, but still he could feel the invisible noose clutching at his throat. He stumbled as he ran up the stairs.

‘Curse this house for being so big,’ he thought. Panic was beginning to invade his body. If he didn’t reach that room soon it would be too late. They would have won, and even she wouldn’t be able to help him. It was an effort now to put one foot in front of the other. ‘Concentrate,’ he thought. ‘Breathe.’ At last he found the door and, with the sigh of a condemned man pardoned at the eleventh hour, fell into the room.

It was calm, serene. He could feel his pulse, which had been bursting in his head, start to slow down. He was safe at last. He fell to the floor and rested his back against the book shelves. He remembered her advice and, as he took some slow deep breaths, he felt the invisible grip on his throat start to loosen.

She would follow him, of course. She would wait a few moments and then she would come to check that he was ok, that he was coping. She always did. He had to start coping. He couldn’t carry on like this or he would find himself back in hospital. He couldn’t face that again.

Then suddenly he saw her, but this time she was a younger, more beautiful version of herself. She had a wide smile and her hair was curled and fell over one shoulder. ‘What am I so afraid of?’ he thought. ‘She does not mean me any harm.’

Then she spoke in her quiet voice. ‘Come into the light, come to me, come home, come and rest. Take my hand.’

All the strength went out of him as he took her hand and went into the light.

Short stories on International Women's Day

New collaborative stories for International Women’s Day

Unusually, we were all women at our latest writing class and our teacher for the night, Nicki, presented us with sheets of paper on which she had printed pictures of a person, an object and a location. Each of us took a set of images and wrote the start of a story based on one or more of those pictures. We then passed that beginning to another member of the group who wrote the second part, again integrating one or more of the pictures. The story was passed on again to another member of the group to write the conclusion. We hope you enjoy the resulting stories, but please bear in mind that this spontaneous collaborative writing was all achieved in under an hour!

We don’t intend to identify where the different women took over and we challenge you to spot the joins…

Writing news

Shakespeare Street launch party!

Shakespeare Street was officially launched on Tuesday at a party in Amersham’s Cafe Africa. In the photo (taken by Angela’s husband Keith) we are all saying ‘sausages’ I think, and it includes all but one of the members of Just Write: Richard Hopgood was excused on the grounds of having moved to Gloucestershire… Back row, left to right: Cathy Salmon, Bob Gasking, Graham Blundell, Phil Tysoe, Chris Payne, Angela Haward (whose husband Keith took the photo), Vicky Trelinska. Middle row, left to right: Emma Darke, Chas Burton, Stuart Tennant, Carol Hall, Debbie Hunter, Liz Losty. Front row: Nikki Kelland, Lesley Close, Linda Cohen. But the star of each row is our gorgeous new book!

Lots of guests bought copies of the book, getting our fundraising for the Hospice of St Francis in Berkhamsted off to a flying start. Bob Gasking, an ambassador for the Hospice, spoke about the need to raise funds and the need to raise awareness of just how little of the Hospice’s funding comes form the NHS (19% and falling).

Bob’s ‘boss’, Cathy Salmon, the Hospice’s Head of Communications, said a few spontaneous words after Bob, and we were delighted that she was able to join us.

We were also delighted to see Mimi Harker, ex-Chair of Chiltern District Council, and to hear her say such kind things about Just Write. Her comments echoed and amplified her words which introduce the stories. She isn’t in the photo as she was busy taking her own photos – and organising us to look this good!

We were very glad that Chas Burton, illustrator, and Graham Blundell, typesetter, were also able to join the fun. Working with Stuart, they have produced a book which is so much more than the sum of its parts.

It was lovely to see Victoria Rodden at the party: she gave us such a lot of food for thought at a recent Monday-night meeting. She isn’t in the photo either…

Finally, two people whose contributions made a huge difference to the book could not join us: Janet Mears is a proofreader extraordinaire, and Melissa Scott-Miller allowed us to use two of her paintings of north London Georgian houses. You were both much-missed.

Writing news

New book from Just Write!

“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.

Christmas 2016

Dear Santa, Angela can explain…

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…

Christmas 2016

Dear Santa, Richard can explain…

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. . .

Christmas 2016

Dear Santa, Vicky can explain…

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.

Victoria

Christmas 2016

Dear Santa, Debbie can explain (in verse!)

Dear Santa,
I can explain…
Why there is no sherry
To make your Christmas merry
And why treats for Rudolph and Co
Are not on the mantel – oh no!
It’s not because I’m lazy
Or my brain’s become quite hazy –
It’s because of a reason more serious
(And I’m really not being delirious)
It’s due to my carb-free diet.
I honestly think you should try it –
You should give up the mince pies and booze
And, Santa, instead you should choose
All the healthy things, like greens and kale.
And next year you simply won’t fail
To slide down the chimney with cheer
And not to get stuck – like last year!
Christmas 2016

Dear Santa, Linda can explain…

Dear Santa,

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.

Linda

Christmas 2016

Dear Santa, I can explain…

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!

Writing news

Nicki’s success!

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!

The Painting - 48 hours to turn back time

The Painting – an overview

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.

The Painting - 48 hours to turn back time

The Painting – 48 hours to turn back time…

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.

Writing news

Coming soon to a reading device near you!

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!

Writing news

Both books on Waterstones shelf!

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!

Writing competitions

Writing Magazine Anthology Award result

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…

Writing news

Just Write session with Chiltern Writers

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.