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Flashes of inspiration

Blakenhall Writers’ Group in Wolverhampton asked me to lead a Saturday morning workshop about short stories… it’s flash fiction, and they’re preparing an anthology, as a look at their website will tell you, on the subject of ‘identity.’  Entries from non-members are welcome, so it’s a great chance to see your work in print.

I found myself asking ‘what exactly is flash fiction, anyway?’  I’ve seen  requirements for pieces as short as six words – that seems more like a shopping list – or as long as 1200.  Sometimes the boundaries between prose and poetry almost seem to disappear.  The Blakenhall group have chosen 500 words as their upper limit, which is a pretty good place to settle, I think.  It’s about a page and a half.  You can do a lot in that space.

In my panic-stricken researches I’ve seen instructions that insist that flash fiction must have a beginning, a middle and an end – just like a full-length story or a novel.  I’m not sure it works like that.  There isn’t room in a very short piece to set out a situation, make full-scale character development and resolve a plot.  As well as some stunning very short stories, I’ve seen pieces of flash fiction that really don’t work because they are summaries of something that ought to be much longer.  Who wants to read a summary?  We want an experience, even in a page.

Flash fiction needs to be intriguing and to have a sense of possibility – that it might lead somewhere.  It needs to be complete.  It shouldn’t just be a description or a short story trying to escape.  All that in 500 words.  Tall order.  Maybe it comes down to something Tess Gallagher said: Tell me… something I can’t forget.

I’m delighted to hear that the workshop on Saturday 12th September 2015 is already full.  That suggests people hope to find the answers to some of those questions.  I trust, between us, we’ll have a go at that, perhaps be a little inspired and maybe start some writing for that anthology.

…and if, after all that, you still have flash fiction looking for a home, Shrewsbury flash fiction are also on the lookout for fresh content for their website.   



Coming soon

This Autumn looks busy already.  It’s a great season for being productive and doing things.  I’ve been putting my two novels, Painter Man and Box of Tricks into a format for production as e-books, the first time they’ve ever been available electronically.

They should be ready and available by the end of this month – September 2015.  Watch this space…

Wenlock Poetry Festival

Wenlock Poetry Festival runs from Friday 24th to Sunday 26th April this year in the lovely surroundings of Much Wenlock in Shropshire.  There’s always an amazing atmosphere with stuff going on at The Edge arts centre, Wenlock Pottery, the parish church, the Priory Hall and the Methodist Chapel as well as in the pubs and cafes and outdoors.

I’ll be introducing a whole day’s poetry at Wenlock Pottery on Saturday 25th, from 11am to 4pm, plus getting in a few of my own poems.

On Sunday I’ll be part of The Busk at the Methodist Chapel.  Introduced by Liz Lefroy it runs on both days, but I’ll be reading some time between three and four.  It’s a great chance to hear a huge variety of poets – some of whom are appearing at the festival in their own right – in an informal atmosphere.  You can buy a ticket, get a stamp and come and go all day!

But don’t take my word for it.  Download a programme to see who’s on (there are some cracking guests) and what’s happening or link to the website that’s been building since before Christmas.  Hope to see you there!

Wellington Literary Festival 2014

I’m delighted to have been asked to lead the annual writing workshops for Wrekin Writers as part of the Wellington (Shropshire) Literary Festival. now in its eighteenth year.  Wellington must be one of the few literary festivals where most of the events are free to enter thanks to the generous support of the local council.

The two workshops I’m leading are Telling our Stories on the morning of Saturday 18th October (aimed at those interested in writing fiction) and Ways of Seeing on the afternoon of the same day (for those interested in poetry).  Details, including how to book, are on the Wrekin Writers website.  Do come along, and bring your notebooks.  It should be fun!


Communal Poem

Meanwhile back in beautiful Shropshire the Much Wenlock and District U3A Creative Writing Group came together on 28th March to create a communal poem.  I was delighted to help them create several, all written communally and all capturing a sense of what the town means for the group.  You can see the results on their website and as part of Wenlock Poetry Festival’s Poetry Trail on display in the shops of the town during the festival. (more…)

Wenlock Poetry Festival

I’m appearing at the Wenlock Poetry Festival along with Simon Fletcher of Offa’s Press on Sunday 27th April 2014 at  11am.  We’ll be at Wenlock Pottery (off Sheinton Street) reading from the recently reprinted The Poetry of Shropshire.   £6 / £5 entry.

The Blog Tour

In The Blog Tour the writer responds on their blog to three questions about their writing – then links to three other writers who do the same the following week.  I was introduced to this idea by Jean Atkin.  She’s an amazing poet and children’s writer who lives in the heart of Ludlow in Shropshire.  Jean’s answers to these questions is on her blog and are full of practical wisdom and great poetry.  Her take on a sense of place and on bike rides is worth a blog on its own!    

Here are mine:

What are you working on?  I’m about a third of the way through writing a novel about a community that’s set up in a country house.  In the novel the house belongs to the son of a rich businessman who’s spoilt and gullible.  He’s pulled in different directions and has almost given up trying to make the place work until Flora arrives.  It takes (more…)

Japanese form

Haiku is not a kind of tag wrestling, as all creative writers know.  It isn’t Sumo.

P1010011It’s a poetic form which originated in Japan.  I won’t say any more than that for fear of being set upon by Haiku experts, but it’s short – which is nice in all sorts of ways – and there are some stunning examples.  Some of the ones on this postcard are pretty good – Seamus Heaney’s of course, and John Cooper Clarke’s observation on the belief some have that Haikus have to be 17 syllables in total.  You see, for some people it almost is a religion.  It has ‘beliefs’. (more…)


Postcards from Nepal
Postcards from Nepal


Always liked postcards… well, I know nobody sends them these days, but they’re still good to get.

In the 1980s we used to receive these from a friend who was working as an architect in Nepal.  I stuck them in my album and here they are.  The women on these cards always had cigarettes in their hands and from what I remember the sight of them dropping through our letterbox used to traumatise our kids.  I think they believed the women themselves had sent them and would soon be knocking on the door asking for a light or wanting to buy a cigarette off us.

The Poetry of Shropshire

Coming next week (November 2013) is a new anthology of The Poetry of Shropshire.  It will be available from bookshops and other outlets at £7.99 or direct from Offa’s Press .  I’ve had the pleasure of co-editing it with Simon Fletcher, manager at Offa’s Press. (more…)