paragraph planet – part 3

Spurred on by restarting my creative writing class last week, I decided to have another go at submitting an ‘exactly 75 word story’ to the brilliant Paragraph Planet again (see my other published efforts here).

I am absolutely ecstatic that it has been published today – probably happier than I should be 😉

You can see it featured on their front page today, but here it is anyway.

back to creative writing school – bridget whelan

Back To Creative Writing School – Bridget Whelan


As I have mentioned before, I did a couple of terms-worth of creative writing courses at City Lit end of last year, beginning of this.

I was excruciatingly nervous about this, having not written anything ‘creative’ for years – and definitely not being a college kind of girl.  However, all of my fears were soon put to rest by our wonderful tutor, Bridget Whelan.

She was unfortunately unable to take our class for the second term, and I think the all of the students that had continued missed her a great deal.

For me, one of the best parts of Bridget’s classes were the exercises that she used to set within the lesson, to get our creative juices flowing – and I was especially pleased to recognise some of these in the creative writing book that she has just published.

The book is set into three terms, each consisting of ten lessons and gives not only tools and exercises to help writers work on their creativity, but also warns of some of the pitfalls.

I am in the lucky position of being able to ‘hear’ Bridget throughout the book – but I think her warmth, wit and genuine love of writing and writers comes across in every page.  Bridget has taught many creative writing students, and I think you can really tell from her style that she’s enjoyed this, as above all it’s fun!  And fun definitely helps!

This is a fantastic book for writers at any stage – whether you’re trying for the first time to get something onto a pristeen page, looking for a little inspiration or (like me) need to kick your arse into gear to actually write something when you thought your creativity well may have run dry.

As she says, this book will NOT enable you to write a bestseller in a weekend, win competitions or become a rich and famous novelist, but it will certainly help set you on the path, and steer you away from some of the more dangerous obstacles.

Just £1.70 for Kindle on Amazon, it is actually going to be free to download for 24 hours Monday 2nd December (tomorrow) from 8am. You can’t ask for better value than that!

paragraph planet

As you probably know, in September I started going to a Creative Writing course at City Lit, which I enjoyed so much that I have signed up for a second term that started last week.

The tutor from last term happened to mention a flash fiction website called Paragraph Planet.  It is unpaid, features one story each day and will take submissions about anything – the only guidelines are that it has to be exactly 75 words long.

I decided to take the plunge last week and make a submission – during my first term I realised that flash fiction is kind of my ‘thing’.  Perhaps usually more than 75 words though!  However, I was very pleasantly surprised when my first submission was accepted, and it is actually today’s story!

I have already written a couple more that I may submit – I have found that my judgement of 75 words is uncanny.  Twice I have written exactly 75 words in my first draft!

I may never be published again, but today I can feel proud of myself 😉

flash fiction

Tiger and Moon

At my intro to creative writing course last night, we tackled flash fiction.  It was quite good timing really considering I’ve only recently finished all The Bananas I’ve Never Eaten.

During the class, we had to write our own flash fiction.  We were given a great little exercise to help us start, which I loved!

First we had to pick an animal, and write five characteristics of that animal.  then we were given the choice of place  a jungle, prison, the moon or a palace.  we had to pick one and again, write five characteristics of that place.  Then we had to choose an emotion.

Mine were – TIGER:  regal, feline, sly, fierce, hunter.  As I had chosen a tiger I thought jungle would be a bit boring, and as one of my words was regal, I thought a palace was a bit obvious, so I went for MOON:  dark, lonely, cold, desolate, rocky.  My emotion was lust.

The main character had to be human but embody the characteristics we had written down, the setting had to be somewhere that was NOT the place we had chosen, but again, embodied the characteristics and the story had to end on the emotion we had chosen, whereas it couldn’t have started with it!

Then, we were scarily given TEN MINUTES to write an entire story. Ten minutes!!!

I know I went for a real cliché, but looking at my words, there was only one thing that jumped out at me.  The following is my entire story word for word as I wrote it in class. No editing at all! For a 10 minute effort I was quite proud, so thought I would share 🙂

The Predator

The night was dark and crisp – the stars glittered in the sky like diamonds pulled from an expensive choker.

He padded down the steps of the turret, each step as silent as the last.

He saw her making her way across the rocky path – slow but determined.  His lips curled into a snarl as he watched her. Why was she here? How DARE she invade his property.

An owl hooted and he saw her jump, her long blonde hair jerking suddenly.  Good. Be afraid my dear, he thought.

He stalked around the corner, keeping to the shadows.

She came even closer. She was now almost at the main gate.  He could see how wide her blue eyes were, reflecting the heavy, silver moon.

A sudden noise reached them from further down the hill and she looked towards it.

Always one for an entrance, Jared stepped into a shaft of moonlight while her head was turned.  When she looked back, she gasped in surprise.

Oh pretty little child, he thought, you may well gasp. You have no idea what you are dealing with.

As if reading his thoughts she looked into his eyes and he noticed a sudden confidence possess her.

“I know what you are”, she whispered, almost in awe. “I want to live forever.”  And she closed her eyes and leant her head back, baring her sweet, white neck to him.

Jared’s blood boiled and he closed the distance between them in a split second.

As his teeth pressed into her flesh he suddenly wondered when he had become the prey.

all the bananas i’ve never eaten – tony williams

All The Bananas I’ve Never Eaten

I was contacted by Tony Williams to ask whether I would be interested in reviewing his book, which is a collection of flash fiction stories.

Up until more recent years, I haven’t really been a fan of short stories, but this seems to have changed as I’ve got older.  I don’t know whether it’s because life has got more busy, that I only ever seem to read on my Tube commute these days or whether I get more easily distracted.

However, I absolutely loved Dan Rhode’s Anthropology which I think was the last full book of flash fiction that I read, so what was there to lose?

There doesn’t seem to be a theme to the stories (apart from that they are all based in the UK), and they are varying lengths, but each no more than 2-3 pages long.

Tony wrote all of the stories over a few months, and having been doing a creative writing course over the past few weeks, this is a real inspiration for me.  The stories are written so differently, with so many voices coming through and yet they all have his sharp, concise style that conveys a real feeling of good editing – an ability I wish more full-length novel authors had.

Most of the stories are a bit off-the-wall, which really appeals to me, many have a surprising twist within a very ordinary setting, but all of them are just about people – relationships, emotions and just getting through life itself.

There is the man who can’t forgive his friends for the squash injuries imposed on him, the strangers that meet on a train in the style of an easily-recognised advert, the teacher who uses fruit to mark papers, the guy who ends up with more babies than ANYONE would want and the man who does something unspeakable with his finger!

I loved it. Not every story was a hit, but way more of them had me smiling or giggling to myself than didn’t.

I mean, come on, who isn’t going to like a 2-page story that starts, “Any situation is improved by the presence of a banjo player.” or, “I can’t stop thinking about Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.”

Genius 🙂

waiting for the queen

As you may remember me blogging about before, I have been doing an introduction to creative-writing course.

I have been toying with posting some of what I’ve written on here, and decided hell, I might as well!

Nothing is ‘polished’. This is just from homework assignments, which I have to admit, I haven’t been spending that much time on – I have been using the exercises as I way to get my creative juices flowing.  Because I have been doing that, I haven’t exactly always stuck to the assignment!

This was from my first week.  The idea was that we were supposed to go to somewhere with a crowd and observe (I went to the bar at Hackney Picturehouse).  Check out what people were wearing, how they sat, their mannerisms, snatches of dialogue.

Unfortunately, this was when I realised I was very good at writing what was asked for, as I went off at a tangent.  I found that I couldn’t observe people closely without imagining a back-story of some kind for them.  So, here is my first attempt at anything vaguely creative in about 15 years.  Cut me a break 😉

Waiting for the Queen

I watch a group of three friends. One of them is quieter than the other two. She is wearing bright green ballet pumps, but the toes are really scuffed, like those of a little girl.  I have a sudden vision of her on a swing in a deserted playground late at night.  I wonder if her knees are grazed under her jeans.

A woman is wearing a t-shirt that says “RAP MUSIC MAKES ME FEEL INVINCIBLE”.  She is in her mid-40s and looks like a librarian – a bit like Mary ends up if George Bailey never existed.  Her hair is neat, but her fingernails are a mess, and she chews on one as she reads the local paper.  I wonder if she has borrowed the t-shirt from a son or a lover, or if maybe she mistakenly thought it said ‘invisible’.

An ageing DJ sits in the corner at decks with ‘Flights of Fancy’ emblazoned across them.  He looks like he might once have been somebody.  He plays reggae with undisguised joy.  He puts on a reggae version of The Carpenter’s ‘Yesterday Once More’ and looks disappointed when nobody reacts.  He pushes the volume up and I imagine that his dark glasses are showing him an alternative reality, where he’s in a thumping club and he controls the mood of the dancers – like a reflected memory of his heyday.  One of the staff girls asks him to turn it down.

“I think I’ve left it too long”, one girls says to her friend.  Her friend squeezes her hand supportively.  For a fleeting moment, I wonder whether she is talking about her hair, which is slightly lighter at the ends – the difference between coffee and chocolate.

One woman gives another a small doll in a clear ziplock sandwich bag.  She takes it without a word and immediately puts it into her handbag.  I wonder if the first woman stole it from her when they were children.

One of the bar staff looks like Jesus.  I think Jesus would work in a bar.  It’s the perfect place to see people from all walks of life – and especially those who may be a little lost.  And the bar could save a fortune on wine!

There is a woman drinking red wine.  As the level of her wine goes down, her face becomes more red, as if she is absorbing the colour directly into her face via her lips.

A door opens in the wall behind us, and without a word we stand and make our way into a darkened room.

“Aelita: Queen of Mars” it says on the screen.  We sit down, and the film begins.

back to school

Often in my head…

About fifteen years ago, I did a creative writing course at a local adult education centre.

I met some fantastic people, and the tutor was a complete headcase – an ageing poet who was rather too eccentric and exuberant to take seriously.

However, my circumstances changed somewhat after the course – I moved from accounts to marketing and communications at work (yes, I know, not the most obvious move in the world), and I kind of used this new angle as an outlet for any ‘creativity’. (Of course, all my press releases were based in truth…)

I then got married, had a baby, went straight back to work when she was 2.5 months old, became rather ill, etc etc etc and as my whole working day became JUST writing (moving into a completely communications based role), my desire to write in my free time became non-existent.

Since leaving that job, my role has been far more varied, and the writing aspect of my day has declined.  This year, I felt I was now at a stage where I was actually starting to think of situations and characters.  So I have signed up for another  ‘Introduction to Creative Writing’ course.

I am crap at being a student, and I have no idea how I am going to feel about going back to school, so I thought that this 12 week short course could be a good non-committing idea.  Once this comes to an end, if I feel prepared to do more then I would have that opportunity.

I am dead scared though.  I start tonight and I am terrible at meeting new people, and I know I am goign to be way odler than everyone else, and I think I might have to down a bottle of vodka before I get there just to steady my nerves!!

Wish me luck guys! xx

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