Category Archives: reading

Pancakes and Possession

Our latest story prompt was a bit of a mixture, with a few stories based on the theme of pancakes and others focusing on the theme of possession. We even had a poem to add to the mix this time. Regardless of theme, all of the stories were a great success with the rest of the group and we hope that you enjoy reading them!

Yours, by Michael Bailey

Gwen walked along the woodland path here and somewhere else. It was cool in the leafy shade, a relief from the searing sun outside on the lake. The path wound up the hillside between birch trees. A strong breeze shook the branches and made the leaves shiver. The birdsong died away as the temperature seemed to drop and Gwen felt the skin on her arms rise in goose-bumps. She looked behind her, there was nothing to be seen and yet a shadow moved at the corner of her vision. She stopped and looked again, the shadow didn’t move but hung like a dark area out of focus close to the path. “Get away from me. You have no place here, go back to where you belong,”, Gwen commanded. The shadow dissolved but Gwen didn’t feel reassured. She hurried on, turning down the hill and back into the sunlight at the lakeside.

She was still agitated when she met up with her partner, Rob. She told him what had happened and he asked if she was sure. She nodded. They went back up the path she had taken but all was peaceful and untroubled. They returned to the lake and sat on a bench looking left across the lake to the cleared track through the woods underneath the descent of a winter ski lift.

Rob lifted his binoculars and studied the vertical trackway. The supports of the lift cast black shadows that lay parallel at intervals like railway sleepers. He had thought he might spot a deer but instead he saw nothing. He couldn’t be sure, he couldn’t see anything to focus on but he got the impression of something outside his field of view moving from shadow to shadow towards them. Finally it disappeared behind the brick building that housed the end of the ski lift fifty yards away from where they sat. Now it was Rob who felt the hairs on his neck rise. He could sense something there, hidden behind the wall he was staring at. Gwen suggested they go into the hotel.

They talked about what might or might not be out there and drank a beer each, encouraging one another to put the incidents aside as the products of overactive imagination in this slightly spooky out-of-season ski resort. The shadows softened and the colours intensified into the golden hour of evening as they stayed at their table by the window and ate supper.

Upstairs in their room Rob was relaxing when Gwen burst sobbing from the shower. She said she was frightened, her eyes were wide and the suntan on her face had blanched where her skin was drawn and pale. Rob tried to put his arms around her but she pushed him away clutching her towel tighter around her shoulders. No, she said, I’m frightened of you. “Who are you?” she asked, staring hard at him. “I’m Rob and you are Gwen and we are the same as ever”, he told her. He suggested they go back into the bathroom and look in the mirror.

As she stood in front of the mirror over the sink with Rob standing behind her Gwen couldn’t bring herself to look. Rob gently raised her chin with his hand.

Look, he said, there is nothing to be frightened of. He put his hands on her shoulders and massaged them and her neck which was stiff with tension. As she relaxed she let her towel slip to the floor and he looked over her shoulder to admire her nakedness. Come on into bed he said, it’s all over, nothing to be frightened any more. He took her hand and led her into the bedroom.

Gwen kissed Rob tentatively at first and then with a desperation that went beyond their usual passion. She clung to him as he kissed her. She moaned and wrapped her legs around him pushing herself against him, pulling his buttocks with her hands, digging her fingernails into his skin.

Rob’s face was above Gwen’s as he entered her. In that familiar moment when intense feelings of love and oneness usually overcame him he suddenly saw Gwen’s face transformed into the mask of a wild beast, lips drawn back in a snarl that bunched under the merciless eyes staring at him. The long sharp white teeth were daggers bared in a grimace of savagery that would surely rip his throat open in an instant. Rob’s eyes popped as he thrust harder and heard his own voice “I love you, I don’t care, do what you want, I’ll never stop loving you.”

He blinked and Gwen’s face had the look of sublime and far away calm it always had when they made love. The terrifying mask had gone. Rob had no doubt that he had seen it and that he had somehow passed a test by reacting as he had. Accepting his fate without bargaining, without relinquishing his love for Gwen whoever or whatever she was.

In the morning Gwen was her old self, chatting about the history of the resort and of the region they had travelled through to get there. She said nothing of the strange apparition they might have imagined in the afternoon or of the terror they felt in the night. Rob didn’t want to upset her so he kept quiet as well.

Weeks later Gwen started crying one evening. Words tumbled from her as she told Rob she was afraid of what she was inside. Rob let her talk until she ran dry then gradually tried to comfort and reassure her that he loved her.

She was not convinced. “How can you love me when you don’t know who or what I am inside?” she asked. Rob smiled sadly and shook his head. “Gwen my love, I have already seen what you are and I know one day you may bite my head off, quite literally. But loving you makes me what I am and I am yours.

 

The Embassy Ball, by Alex Chase

Our eyes met

Across a crowded room

Kindred spirits shared a spark

A single thought

Your eyes shone

Brighter than the diamonds round your neck

And then we’re off

Our twin circles

Never quite align

Mutually exclusive gatherings

At the Embassy Shrove Tuesday Ball

As lackeys and toadies

Each more demanding than the last

Beg for favours

“Not me, it’s for a friend”.

I found out who you were

Married

Children

A duchess, in another life

The endless social swirl

Spins us ever further.

Apart we drift.

I saw you later on that night

But you were occupied

In quartering a crepe

Lemon and sugar

Simple tastes for one so glamorous

The music plays

I hesitate

“Ask her to dance”

A voice behind me says

I turn but no one’s there

Perhaps an angel

I turn again

Too late

You and your partner

Spin

Twin dervishes

Never pausing for breath

Much less a chance for other men

To tear you from his grip.

And then the evening’s done

The serving staff

Return to tidy up

The debris of the night’s soiree

And back to work

Though sore of head and heart.

What’s this?

Another function to attend

Perhaps this time

We can communicate

In words

And not just looks.

But then I read

Divorce

Society was not for you

And so the country girl went home

To her cows

And sheep.

And stable lads.

The life less gilded.

And I was left

Once more alone

Amid the spires and steeples

Of the urban wilderness

And so I go

Through endless parties

Conferences

And balls

Until I reach the end of term

And finally

Recalled to home

I look

At that great sea of toil and strife

And shines out just this

One moment full of happiness and bliss.

 

I’m So Lucky to be Alive, by Cuca Vega

‘I’m not a pancake!’ I kept repeating again and again to Jimmy, Joey and Tommy.

They wouldn’t believe me.

‘Seriously, I’m just a kind of flat donut, that’s all.’

Jimmy has been a rye bread all his life and the wisdom that comes from such a nutritious way of being prompt him to reflect. ‘Rather a flat donut, then?’

I jumped at the opportunity. ‘Yes! yes! A very flat donut without any jam inside.’

Joey wasn’t convinced and nodded his disbelieve to Tommy.

‘Look.’ I said. ‘Have a try. Just take a little piece of me and tell me I’m not a donut but a pancake.’

Tommy liked the idea and being a mini chocolate roll it was easy to move my way and have a taste.

‘What do you say Tommy?’ the square, sliced white bread Joey shouted from his shelf.

‘Uhmmm… I think Fenny is right; he does taste more “donuty” than pancake-like.’

Jimmy was satisfied and with that he decided: ‘Right then, you can be spared during breakfast time but you are gone in the afternoon tea.’

There!

That was all I wanted – a few more hours of glorious, vibrant life.

I was so happy I could have jiggled if I was not so flat. I did manage to ‘slop-slop’ my edges to show my delight.

It was already 5.30 in the morning. We were all freshly baked and ready for the day ahead. Jimmy and Joye would be eaten up first at breakfast time. Tommy and I, it was certain now, would be gobbled up during the afternoon tea.

Life is great!

I can sit here and savour another 12 hours or so of perfect joy.

I am so lucky to be alive.

 

Nothing Keeps, by Stephen Pellow

Every evening it’s the same. Home from work and it’s been a long day, I know, but there’s never a plan. No organisation. No structure. One by one each and every cupboard is opened and I peer inside to see if there is something – anything – that takes my fancy. Something different. We can’t keep having the same stuff week in, week out. Times are hard and the budget is tight, yes, but a bit of variety wouldn’t hurt.

Right, let’s start again from the beginning. I was looking but not seeing before perhaps. There has to be something more here. Could this be something promising? Store in a cool, dry place. That hasn’t really been an option. Cool is a phrase rarely attributed to this place. The expiry date has long passed. Nothing lasts forever no matter how many preservatives you inject into it. Never say forever. Nothing keeps.

And this? This has been here longer than I have and would probably kill me given half the opportunity. Can’t bin it really though, can I? It’s not part of the diet anymore… shouldn’t really need any physical reminder. In the bin it goes.

Something from somewhere I can’t even pronounce. There wasn’t any harm in experimenting, I suppose, but nothing good came of it either.

Well this is may be worth further investigation. A tin with no labels. Keeps things interesting. But after this long you need labels. Even if you ultimately aren’t going to enjoy what’s inside the can and especially if what’s inside has expired after leaving it so long. Without putting a label on it. Don’t even. Just sweep it off the shelf and straight into the bin. If it’s not good enough for me, I don’t want anyone else having it either.

Maybe check the fridge.

Ah, fruit. Strawberries no less. Their seeds are on the outside. They’re exposed to everything. I’d rather be the seeds of its neighbour in here, the tomato. Cushy and protected inside, shielded from the elements. From feeling.

I fear I may end up popcorn. It’s like I’ve been this little hard kernel. Small and insignificant, in a bag with hundreds of others just like me. Then I have my moment. I finally reach temperature. Maybe I even get there first and I pop and suddenly I’m twice or three times my size, and oh, so sweet. But then so is everyone else. They have their moments too and we are all the same again. The playing field levelled. Most likely I’m the one piece of popcorn that’s stuck to the bottom of the bag, going stale, or ends up on the floor and gets eaten by the dog. Worse still, I remain a kernel. I never had my moment. I never popped.

Or an egg yolk. It would be better to be one of those. A yolk rests within the membrane of the egg, that itself surrounded by a shell. But not a hard shell. It is fragile. It can be cracked all too easily, spilling the gold and the white out and mixing with milk and flour to make a perfect batter.

These cupboards depress me. Pancakes for tea again and then I really must go shopping. Never any bloody food in this house.

 

The Greatest Possession, by Becky Bye

He sat and stared fixedly at the woman talking in front of him, watching the red curves of her lips warp into different positions. He heard sounds, but the words wafted over him like a dream.

Sit still. DON’T panic.

He shifted his position slightly, feigning interest as best he could, crossing his left leg over his right knee, then swapping them over.

He felt his foot begin tapping uncontrollably and he focussed all of his energy onto it, willing it to stop. He linked his hands on his lap and squeezed until his knuckles bleached white. He bit his lip until he could taste metal.

Sit. Still.

The woman behind the desk was handing out a sheet of paper to him. He smiled, reaching out a trembling hand to take it from her and peered down at the paper. It fluttered in his grasp and he squinted, trying to stop the words from bleeding into one on the page.

Focus. You’re absolutely fine.

He realised that the woman had stopped talking and he looked up at her quickly, nodding his head and making noises in the affirmative, hoping that it was the right response. She stretched out her hands in front of her, the painted nails shiny on the pockmarked desk top.

He swallowed hard and placed the paper onto the desk as the woman resumed talking. He scratched his chin, though it didn’t itch.

Deep breaths.

He uncrossed his legs and shifted slightly on the chair, rubbing his palms down his thighs to remove some of the moisture that he could feel seeping through his pores.

Nothing is going to happen, just pay attention.

After a moment, the woman stood up, straightening out her pencil skirt over her thighs and extending her hand.

“Well, that will be all, thank you, we’ll be in touch.”

As their palms met, he felt the woman’s hand tense within his clammy fingers and she hastily withdrew her arm.  His lips trembled at the corners as he contorted them into something of a smile.

As he left the room his ears buzzed, his legs and feet clumsy as he tripped out of the woman’s office and into the hallway. The clinical smell of office equipment made him feel sick and he bustled outside.

The coolness of the air outside calmed him and he inhaled deeply. He sighed, knowing that they wouldn’t be in touch.

Messed that up didn’t you.

Panic attack 1, interview 0.

 

 

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Progress Report: The Resolution Revolution

I haven’t followed up on one of my previous blog posts before, but I felt that one month on a little bit of a progress report seemed like a good idea. Shortly before writing that last post I was in a place where, for various reasons, things with me needed to change and action needed to be taken.

But I have never been one for too much change, so I started with two areas I could affect immediately – writing and fitness. I had already started with this when I discovered #writeandrun21 was going on (a big thank you to Christine Frazier @BetterNovelProj and her brother Matt @NoMeatAthlete) so tying the two activities together made a lot of sense.

That was the vow – to get healthier and write more. So far, so good.

The continuing support of the #1k1hr writing sprint circle I have found myself a part of at the tail end of last year only gave me the extra encouragement to keep at it. Even when I’m writing and they aren’t around (due to all being online at different hours, spread across multiple time zones) the idea of that group is still behind me, spurring me on.

Back in my “Writing to White Noise” post I said I found it nigh on impossible to write under the circumstances of being in a public place and surrounded by fellow writers working on their stories, but without those guys and gals actually being physically present and being sat in comfort in my own home, the pressure I felt of the writing circle was gone. I find myself able to write more freely and naturally than I ever could have if we were all sat around a table across from one another.

It has now been a little over three years since I came back to writing, after almost a decade of being away from it. I found that while my creativity was still there, albeit a little different to how I remembered, I wasn’t producing anywhere near the amount of writing that I used to be able to in my late teenage years and early twenties.

While I understand that everyone else in that excellent little writing sprint circle is working on full manuscripts to their novels, for me I have been using those hours to not only work on chapters of my own novel but also on short stories as well as writing up notes and journals. At this stage it doesn’t matter what the particular project is, only that I am getting the words out. Several hundred of them a day, flowing out of me for at least one hour. Not all of it is going to be gold, but it’s all worthwhile. I’m hoping that through the word sprints it will eventually become habit for me to write like this on a daily basis unaided. Second nature. The intention is for me to ultimately be writing more, and so far that has been the case.

By the way, the walking/fitness thing is also going very well and also ongoing.

Thanks for reading, and happy writing!

New Year – Write More! The alternative resolutions list.

Historically I’ve used the calendar milestone of my birthday to note and keep track of my accomplishments, and failures, from year to year. Me getting older (progressing in both age and wisdom?) seemed a more obvious reference point to me, rather than the last digits of the year changing on paperwork I have to fill out.

But still it can be a time for some to evaluate what has been done over the last twelve months, and take steps of how to improve upon that for the forthcoming year. This last year I feel I’ve written possibly the same amount as the year before, but I’ve definitely shared a lot more of my writing than ever before and has expressed myself to more people than I have previously.

WRITE MORE

I’ve written a couple of posts for this blog that have been fairly well received and through them have got in contact with some remarkable people, all of whom showed interest and asking questions of my writing and sharing with me their own creativity.

I will still procrastinate as much as I ever have. There will always be that one e-mail I am going to want to respond to before I start writing when the laptop goes on.

WRITE MORE

Housekeeping – and I don’t mean dusting the shelves or vacuuming the carpets! “I’ll write better if I had a tidier, sparser, desk or writing area”. What I have said before about my writing space was that I probably should have one but don’t.

From part of a blog post in 2012 :

I don’t have a writing space. No nooks, crannies or cubby holes. No ready room. No secret garden. No stark whites, or muted earth tones and certainly nothing airy and spacious overlooking sweeping vistas. I write in my head, and with all the useless trivia I have retained over the years there’s certainly no room for a desk in there.  Sometimes that’s all I need, but it mostly comes down to having pen and paper and me, and that’s it. If I were to sit in a room, at a desk and try and surround myself with inspiration – when I’m put against a clock, pressured even slightly to produce something nothing happens.

IMG_7844 (Small)

I still don’t have a desk. I have a little table that is barely wide enough for my laptop that slides up rather nicely to my comfiest armchair.

WRITE MORE

Fitness – another area that’s generally pondered at this time of year, when we realise how much food has been consumed in tandem with being fairly sedentary over a few days. Maybe becoming fitter, healthier and more energised will also focus the mind and inspiration and creativity will pour over you. While I have bought some new gym clothes already, I’m taking part in #writeandrun31 which is being organised by Christine Frazier @BetterNovelProj and her brother Matt @NoMeatAthlete. Walking is more my speed though so I won’t be running – it’s a lovely idea and everyone who takes part I will hold in high regard.  http://writeandrun31.strikingly.com/

WRITE MORE

 The setting of  specific targets and goals, with regards to my writing, will never seem to work out for me (NaNoWriMo? No thank you, not yet!) and I find the added self-imposed pressure to counter my creativity. So no X number of words per day or X number of hours per day. I simply vow to WRITE MORE – wherever and however I can, whenever I feel I can.

WRITE MORE

and Happy New Year to you all!

Has your writing ever upset someone important to you?

Have you ever produced something that has had a negative effect on someone you know, or your relationship with them?

You can’t please everyone in writing; it is an impossibility. Any subject that we as writers choose of our own volition to explore in our work has the potential to upset somebody somewhere. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea and this is something that we can’t really dwell on too much.

But I am not talking about generalities where making a comment and taking a stance (accidental or otherwise) in terms of sexism, racism, politics or another subject where whole groups can be offended – instead I am asking if you have ever written a story that you personally have been happy with and have shared with others, and have had good feedback on, only to find that one person close to you was upset with it to the point that it altered your relationship with them?

Last year, taking a prompt from the Storyslingers writing group, I wrote a flash fiction piece that I was extremely satisfied with. I felt it was some of the strongest writing at that time I had produced and was keen to send it to trusted groups of people for their comments. This included a friend who while not a writer herself had been supportive of my writing and always wanted to read my work.

So I sent it to her without taking the content of the story into account. I hadn’t thought of her while I had been writing the story and it never occurred to me that there was anything in it that anyone could find overly upsetting. I didn’t think when I sent it about things that she had experienced in the past. Things that my story would be taking her back to and that she would sooner forget.

We are still in touch from time to time, wishing each other well with polite platitudes, but our relationship has been damaged and there is now a distance between us. I should have known better and not sent her the story but I just didn’t think at the time. As a result I went through many months of doubt regarding the things I wrote about. What if one of my stories was to upset someone else I am close to, even a family member? I came to the point where I realised I can all self-censor within reason but if I spent too much time worrying about causing offence I would end up not writing anything at all.

To an extent this sort of internal discussion is always off to the back of your head, relying on your own moral compass telling you “that might upset some people” and making the decision to make alterations on the fly.

Has your writing ever upset you?

I don’t mean through frustration; through it not meeting the standards you want it to – but the actual content. Have you ever written something that has made you question what on earth you had inside you that could result in something that you find intolerable? Last week, during a quick writing session before heading out to work, I turned out something that I found to be the most demoralising and pessimistic 300 or so words I have ever produced and I vowed it would never ever see the light of day. It left me with such an uncomfortable feeling for most of that morning but ultimately I’m grateful that I’ve purged that from my system and hopeful that it’s going to open the way to some more constructive and redeeming writing. Something more along the lines of what I want to be producing.

No feelings were hurt in the writing of this blog post – hopefully none will be made from reading it.

 

Observations: Eyes vs. Ears

Muriel Higgins sent this along, so I thought it would be good to put it up here on the blog. Many thanks to Muriel for sharing her thoughts and observations on reading vs listening!
EYES VERSUS EARS
What you read on a page with your eyes is different from what you listen to and hear with your ears.  Each medium has something the other lacks, e.g. print on the page can be seen all at once or jumping around, at the reader’s pleasure; while sounds in time are sequential and are not controlled by the listener.
These are some of the characteristics of what you read:
  • you can look ahead and see how long it is, how far to the end
  • you can see how dense it is: lots of speech? slabs of prose?
  • you can choose how fast to read and to look forward or back
  • use of indentation, eg for lists, like this one
  • hierarchy of headings (probably applies more to non-fiction)
  • different typefaces and point sizes, can help understanding
  • use of spaces: between sections, chapters, paragraphs, sentences, even words or letters
  • italics, caps, small caps, bold to show stress/emphasis as intended by author
  • asterisks or superscript numbers for footnotes
  • interpolated signs like (!) or (?) or bracketed letters Hol(e)y ghost
  • variant spelling to suggest character (teenager says alright); place/accent (color, traveled); names spelt differently as time passes He spells it Shaun now; Christina vs Krysztyna in a story about Polish girl now living in UK and adopting a new persona; or informality How ya doin?
  • idiosyncratic speech: Just William’s Violet Elizabeth: I’ll thkweam and thkweam until I’m thick
  • emoticons, OK, not (yet) usual in prose on paper … but hang about …

And some characteristics of what you listen to or hear:
  • the reader-aloud, or narrator, controls speed/tempo and volume, not the listener (you can’t listen faster)
  • the narrator adds interpretation of the text in different ways:
            . different voices for different speakers
           . regional or foreign accents
           . stress and intonation: He wasn’t really very sorry can be said with at least 5 meanings
           . pausing to show contrasts of sections etc

Some of these interpretations are suggested  by the writer:
  • in words: ‘Six o’clock.’  ‘ No, six thirty,’ she corrected gently.
  • word or sentence division: Mum went ba-llistic,  I. Don’t. Want. To. Know.
  • punctuation: … (fade out);  dash (interrupted speech); quotation marks “Lady” Jane, she calls herself.
  • italics, caps etc :  Not Quite the Thing.

Do we write differently for the eye or the ear?
I can’t decide about this, myself and would like to hear others’ thoughts.  
  • When you write you cede a bit of control, either to the reader or the narrator: does this matter?
  • Reading your own stuff is different, you know what you meant when you wrote it.
  • If someone else is going to read it, they need help and guidance …
  • … or are you happy to say Go little book and let it take its chance? 

A few things to ponder:
Reading but not-reading: when you reach the end of a page with your eyes when your brain is elsewhere.  Not-listening also happens.  Does this matter to writers/providers?  Can they make it less likely?  Or is it only to do with the reader/listener/consumer?
Do you read print with an accent?  Review of Schwarzenegger’s autobiography: I read this with a flat Terminator accent.  
Can people talk with spelling mistakes? (asterisk means wrong form) *pronounciation, *antiboetics (which my father always said), *enmity (my favourite) or are these just wrong words?
A journalist resident in Scotland has been said to write with an English accent (not a compliment)
TV review represents heart sign by: There will be a tsunami of ‘I *heart* programmes like this’; written report of a tweet finishes *innocent face*.  So asterisks are quotation marks for emoticons? 
Review of audio books: Many modern novels are distinctly puzzling when heard rather than seen on the page. 
Bill Bryson writes: The cannons didn’t go BOOM! …  they went puff.  Good for eyes and ears both.
I ended a story: Love you lots, Hazza xxx.  Can’t read this aloud, needs gestures, can’t do on radio.
Do kids read out texts to each other, or pass the phone over?

Muriel Higgins, October-November 2012

Shaftesbury Arts Festival Literary events

Shaftesbury Arts Festival Sept 5th-9th.
It’s a busy week for Storyslingers. Check out the following exciting things that are happening:
I.
MAP MAKING COMPETITION DEADLINE EXTENSION NOTICE:
If you go back a few posts you will see an interesting competition for writers (and vagabonds, comedians, artists and the general public). Here’s the link: http://storyslingers.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/storyslingers-launches-its-first-open.html
PLEASE NOTE, THE EMAIL ADDRESS WAS WRONG IN SOME ADVERTS OF THIS COMPETITION. If you sent your map and didn’t get an acknowledgement of receipt, please email it to the correct address, which can be found on this blog, here.  Resend by forwarding the original map and message you sent. You have until Thursday 6th at noon to resend. Apologies for this!

Winner(s) will be announced on Saturday, noon at the Arts Centre (see item III.)

Check out the facebook page for inspiration/ procrastination opportunity: http://www.facebook.com/events/341655955921155/

(this is a random map I found from the internet. Thanks internet!) 
II.
PROSE, POETRY, MUSIC EVENING AT BEGGAR’S BANQUET: 
Storyslingers have teamed up with Beggar’s Banquet Music Cafe in Shaftesbury and will host an evening of good stories, funky tunes and slick poetry. There will be snacks of fine quality, there will delicious drinks, you can bring some wine of whatever quality you prefer (corkage fees apply!) 
Beggar’s Banquet is an amazing place; provider of wholesome veggie foods, player of excellent music (check out all the vinyl for sale in there), host to exciting arts events. http://www.beggarsbanquetmusiccafe.co.uk/
Thursday 6th September, 7:30pm, Beggar’s Banquet, Muston’s Lane, Shaftesbury, Dorset. Free entry. 
(writers take note of this amazing opportunity: we have one or two reading slots still available. If you’re a prose writer or poet, please email Jennifer Bell or Jennifer Oliver to declare your interest. Time guideline of 5 mins/ 800 words.)
III.
STORYSLINGERS CURIOUS STALL OF HANDMADE LITERATURE
Come to Shaftesbury Arts Centre at about 10am-4pm on Saturday the 8th of Sept, we will have a stall of handmade books, zines, comics, bookmarks, cards, origami, chapbooks and also published works and postcards. We’re not sure which room we’ll be in yet, but the mystery will only add to your experience as you wend your way around the labyrinth of SAC in search of wondrous treasure (ie: us). 
(a recycled image from last years’ arts festival.)
Map making competition winner(s) will be announced on Saturday, at the stall/ display table in the Arts Centre, at noon. All the maps will be on display, along with a display of members’ achievements, previous and forthcoming events, information and pictures. 

Storyslingers First Story Slam

After a rainy month of preparations and organisation, the sun finally shone on Shaftesbury for Storyslingers’ first ever Story Slam. Writers from all over Dorset came to Shaftesbury Arts Centre, some to compete, others to listen and network. The Rutter room was packed out, over spilling and babbling with excitement. We’d jazzed the room up with drapes of colourful fabric, projected Dan Morison’s mecha cowboys on a wall and set up our handmade bookstall, spread with the finest of local book art and writing.
We had Daniel Frisby as compere who slickly guided is through the evening. Our first reader was James Broomfield who read a quirky story set in rural Devon following a man seeking a brotherhood. He thinks he’s found it when he discovers a society of beard-trimming smokers. Yes, you read that right; beard smokers. James’ story was wonderfully crafted, sharply observed, original, funny and thought-provoking. The evening was most certainly off to a good start. The following readers didn’t let the quality drop. Each story was different, but all at an impressive professional standard.

I’m glad I didn’t have to judge these stories, they were all so unique and brilliant. Fortunately we had two exceptional judges, award-winning novelist Allie Spencer (four novels published with Arrow. http://www.alliespencer.com/) and flash fiction expert and columnist at What the Dickens Magazine, Gail Aldwin. (http://gailaldwin.wordpress.com) We enjoyed some amazing live music from the Wrongo Bongo Band while the judges got busy conferring. This four-piece band play an extraordinary variety of instruments, from a berimbau to a didgeridoo; “The Wrongo Bongo Band has to be the most entertaining group of whacky musicians we’ve ever heard” –Andy Hamilton. Mike’s didgeridoo solo comprised of him holding up signs with Australian animals inscribed upon them, and then ingeniously imitating their sounds through the didgeridoo. 

(this is a photo of the band taken from their facebook page, click here. 
While the band built an exotic vibe, we continued to sell our handmade books, met new writing friends and discussed all the amazing stories we’d heard so far. Then the judges returned and Gail Aldwin got up on stage to read her story Dusting Off the Memories (published in Dorset Voices anthology, Roving Press) , beautifully written and read. Next up was Jennifer K Oliver’s richly described Steampunk story, then my own reading of a story I’d read the week before at London’s Southbank Centre. Dan Frisby told a beautiful allegorical Hare and Tortoise style tale set in the foothills of a Japanese mountain. Mountains seemed to be the unofficial theme, with my story entitled Mount Analogue, and a quote from Rene Daumal’s novel of the same title featured in the programme. Finally, Hamish Sinclair was drawn from the Lucky Dip and read a beautifully lyrical story making wonderful use of language.
With the evening drawing in and all the stories told, the judges came up on stage and gave their feedback to the six competitors.  Both judges were impressed by the quality of writing and the diversity of subject matter. “Allie was a great person to deliberate with in finding the winner and runner-up, particularly as the standard of all the stories was very high. We finally agreed that James Broomfield’s story should win due to its extraordinary content (about a man trying to find his brotherhood in North Devon by experimenting with smoking beard trimmings).  Technically the writing was superb with a strong and unique voice.  Runner up came Andy Hamilton’s ‘Stage Fright’ a classic ugly duckling scenario told in a fresh way.” –  Gail Aldwin.
James won a beautiful set of correspondence cards printed by Bath-based fine stationers, Meticulous Ink. “Each card has been lovingly letterpress printed on an 1870 Model No.4 press using only the finest oil based inks. We use cotton papers from local paper mills here in Somerset and our hand lined deckle edge envelopes give these cards that extra special touch.” – Meticulous Ink. This prize was kindly donated by Meticulous Ink. You can buy their correspondence cards via etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/MeticulousInk
Everyone was awarded with some amazing bookmarklets, made by our very own Jennifer K Oliver. The evening wrapped up with more music from the Wrongo Bongo Band, some networking and book buying.
Watch this space for the second slam, probably sometime in early 2013.