Monday, 19 October 2009

Recruitment drive

East Surrey Creative Writing Workshop are looking for new members. We welcome people from all over the community, providing you're over 18 and love writing.

We meet every two weeks, at a local pub in Reigate. We already have a good range of ages and, although we have more women than men, men are very much welcome!

We're a friendly lot who have a really good laugh and enjoy reading others' work, giving constructive feedback and hearing others' thoughts on their own work.

Read on to find out what we get up to on a typical meeting...

We set exercises every two weeks: we have a week to write our version of the exercise and then send each other our writing. Everyone then has one week to consider everyone else's submissions, giving us time to take in the writing.

Then, when we meet, we have a drink, settle down and then someone brave nominates him or herself to go first. We submit our crits and then move on to the next person.

Exercises are wide ranging: we've done fiction, non-fiction, articles and poetry. We've experimented with writing for adults and children, with themes ranging from nature to ghost stories.

We've also had author Rosemary Furber come to visit us to give us a talk about her experiences as a freelance journalist and author of children's book WYSIWYG and the much more adult, 'The Most Intimate Place'.

So, if you've got this far and you would like to join, give Tannice a call on 07981969693 or email

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Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Sophie: A Ghost Story

My name is Samuel Hunter. This is my true and factual account of the events that happened to me on the night of the 31st October. I am of sound mind and rational thinking, and my medical doctor and closest friends will attest to this truth. Many of the events related herein should lie in the realms of fantasy, and I myself would never have believed them if I had not lived through them. The Almighty knows I wish I had been spared the ordeal.


It all started when I received a phone call from the law firm J. Simpkins and Sons, informing me of the death of my great Uncle Vladimir and of the vast estate he had left solely to me, just outside a small town called Hexham.

I am by trade a business man, and I made my fortune through a series of opportune investments. My life looked great from the outside, but I felt alone and rotten. I had no motivation to live: no job, no purpose, very few real friends and no one to care for me. My family was long dead and I never managed any meaningful attachments with women.

I was reaching the point of despair, drowning my sorrows in the highest quality whisky, often wondering whether the world would be any different if I killed myself, but always lacking the courage.

When I heard the news, I decided to take a trip North to pay my respects to the man I had never met, who had probably been my last surviving blood relative. At the same time, I took advantage of taking a look at the estate.

Mr Simpkins himself drove me to the estate, and on the way he amused himself by telling me stories about area. As he showed me around the house, and then around the lands, he started telling me ghost stories, presumably inspired by the gothic architecture.

I barely heard him. As we walked around, I started feeling. For so long I had been numb, and now I noticed the beauty around me and was inspired. I started having all sorts of plans about what to do with them. I immediately arranged for my transfer to the house.

The day I moved in was a glorious day. It was October, and there was a thin frost sparkling on the grass and a delightful crispness in the air. The lake glinted like a mirror. As I walked around, I saw intricate spider's webs glistening in the dawn light. The trees had created deep carpets of red and orange, and their long bare branches stretched in praise to the heavens. I spent several hours wandering the grounds, one moment planning and dreaming, the next lost in the beauty and calmness.

Later on, I met with Mr Simpkins to sign all his papers. “Make sure you beware of the ghosts!” he laughed as he got into his car and drove off.

I devoted the rest of the day sorting things out in the house, feeling useful for the first time in years. That evening, I fell into a deep sleep as soon as I hit the pillow.

I woke up suddenly in the middle of the night. I had a feeling I had been startled by a loud noise. I couldn't get back to sleep again, so I lay awake listening to the sounds of the house. Suddenly I heard a creak on the stairs and then footsteps, as if someone outside my room. 'You're just imagining things', I told myself. ‘The house is too decrepit for thieves’. Nevertheless, my pulse started racing, and I felt a chill down my spine. 'It's just the house cooling down'.

Then the lawyer's remark this morning crossed my mind. “Beware of the ghosts!”, he had said, cheerfully. 'There's no such thing', I reassured myself.

I snuggled down into my duvet and tried to go back to sleep. Suddenly there was a howling and rattling of the whole house. The window in my room flew open and the curtains blew about. I got up and tried to turn on the lights, but the power had gone off. 'It's an old house', I told myself. 'It's just a storm'. But as I looked out the window, the full moon was shining brightly in the sky and the trees were as still as corpses. I shuddered at the imagery and pulled my dressing gown tight around myself as the howling and rattling got louder.

I have always been a rational man, so I tried to calm down and think of a logical explanation, but I couldn’t. I summoned all my courage and went into the hallway, but there was nothing there. The whole house seemed to be shuddering along with me.

As I stood there, all the noise stopped, and after a few moments of dead silence, a deep groaning began, which chilled me to the bone. The floorboards creaked and I swear I heard a unearthly voice say “Sam”.

I ran out of the house. The moonlight shone eerily on the house, seeming to highlight the more gruesome gargoyles and cavities in the gothic facade. The trees looked as if they were reaching down with their branches to trap and entangle me, and I could feel thousands of arachnid eyes upon me. The lake looked like a bottomless pit where I could fall for eternity, and even the grass felt hard, icy and unforgiving under my slippered feet.

Suddenly I saw a human figure walking out from the house. It had been someone playing a trick on me, all along! I ran over. Any human contact would be better than this madness. “Who are you?” I called out. I received no answer, but the figure turned towards me. “What are you doing here?” I shouted angrily. “What are you playing at? I own this house! You are trespassing!”

I received no answer.

I slowed to a walk and gestured emphatically. “Who are you? Get out of here!”

When I reached the place where the figure was standing, I stopped. An old man stood there, grimacing. His aspect filled me with terror, and I stood frozen as he gave me one good look, nodded, and then disappeared completely.

I ran through the trees, scratching my arms and legs and tearing at my hair. I still feel the sickening waves of fear in the pit of my stomach when I think of that moment. I do not know what madness seized me, but I know I lost many memories of that night, because I woke up I bed, and there was no sign of the events, other than my injuries. And the window was open, with the curtains blowing ominously.

You may pass this story off as fiction – the delusions of an attention seeker or the fantasies of a madman. I assure you I am neither attention seeker or madman. The events of this report never occurred again, and although there is no clear reason for this, I have my own theories.

The 31st October is All Hallows Eve, the date which traditionally all the souls of those who have deceased during the year roam free. Mostly they go unnoticed and do not affect people. But my Uncle Vlad would never have gone without a show. And it was he. When later I saw a portrait, it was a perfect likeness to the ghost that I saw.

However, I do owe something to this incident. I regained my passion for living. And therefore, I suppose I should be grateful.

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Friday, 18 September 2009

16th September: The Magic Dungbeetle

It was a while since I'd updated my business blog, Cam Poetic License, and I decided that it would be best to have a separate blog specifically for the group.

With that in mind, I'll write an update:

We now have quite a few members! Members are... Tannice, Stefan, Cheryl, Sean, Penny, Kate, Sophie, Nick and Lucy.

Absent this week, with apologies: Sean and Cheryl.

Nick and Lucy joined us for the first time (welcome!), and Stefan was new to the group last time we met.

This week we discussed our submissions for 'A Ghost Story' - a story of 1,000 words (+/- 150 words).

The story had to include the words 'The window was open'.

The calibre of the submissions was extremely high, as I have come to expect from my members. Excellent work, everyone!

Penny's work, 'The Visit', was, as described by one member, 'the beauty of the interrupted routine' - her main character, a widow, found herself startled by her open window. Who was it? That was up to the reader to decide.

Stefan's story, 'The Ethereal Smile', told of a stranded mechanic's encounter with a beautiful girl, desperate for attention after 30 years of solitude. Just who was she, and why did she haunt an abandoned hut?

Kate chose to set her story in the driving rain of some school grounds, just across from the library her character was studying. Kat, a student of history, finds herself immersed in history herself when she encounters Mr. Toddick, who seems to be stuck in a time warp. But did she imagine it? The lingering aroma of coal seems to say otherwise.

Sophie's protagonist finds himself reawakened by a house he inherited from estranged Uncle Vladimir. A rich investor, Samuel finds himself thoroughly creeped out when he sees the ghostly figure of his dead Uncle.

Tannice's story was written from the ghost's perspective. A love story, rather than horror, my unnamed character finds himself conscious and well, other than the fact that he's dead. Still very much in love with the woman in his life, he becomes an unlikely, loving poltergeist.

NEXT WEEK: ESCWW is doing Children's Stories! With a word limit of 500 words, and a ban on magic and dragons (magic or not - this was the source of some dispute).
However, there is one exception: Sophie is allowed to use magic: ONLY if she writes her story about a magic dungbeetle (which is, apparently, a form of dragon). More on that next time.

STOP PRESS: I've forgotten to mention that next week, we have an author joining us to tell us all about being an author, where her inspiration comes from, how she deals with writer's block and anything else we can think of to ask her!

30th September, the Bull's Head, Reigate High St (or the Church next door, if possible!)
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Meeting 3: It Changed Me

(Originally posted 11th August, 2009)

'It changed me': non-fiction article

Write an article of around 500 words about an experience in your life that changed your perspective in some way.

  • It could be you learnt something new that changed your attitude, or maybe your view of someone... maybe someone surprised or even disappointed you? That's not an exhaustive list: anything that changed your mind or perspective or broadened your horizons fits into this exercise.

  • Keep it factual (though you may change names if you wish).

Writing facts doesn't mean you have to change your style: it can retain some features of narrative story-telling if that's what you want. However, if you want to write the article in the style of a newspaper story, in the third person, then please do. It's entirely up to you!

  • Remember to write what happened, what you thought about it, why it sticks in your mind and how it changed you, your perspective or views, and even how that's affected you in the long-term (what you've learned from it - about yourself, life, people, or even what the moral of the story is...)

When critiquing

It changed me: subject matter criticism

It's hard to critique without some framework.. so think carefully about the aim of this piece.

The aim is to inform the reader about an experience that changed them, their life or a small part of their mindset in some way.

Do you get that from the piece? How did it change the writer? What effect did the change have? Is there a moral to the story?

Style analysis

  • How does the writer convey the change and how it affected them? Does the style fit the topic? If not, what do you think might work better? How about the language? What phrases and sentences do you like? Why? Which ones don't work? How do you think they could be improved?


  • Have they stuck to the word count? If not, what should they remove? Any punctuation or spelling nits? If so, don't be afraid to point them out too.
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Meeting 2

(Originally posted 10th July, 2009)

I am pleased to announce that we have a new member of East Surrey Creative Writing Workshop; Brian, who's a salesman from Epsom. Brian contacted me last week and came along to see how he found the meeting.

Present: Tannice, Brian, Alex.

Susi and Liz were unable to attend, but we discussed their practice work.

Meeting 2's Task

Alex and I kicked off by going through Liz and Susi's practice material. The task this week was to write a synopis with 2/3 characters, a setting and an ending. Members had a theme choice of a) Romance, (b) Thriller or (c) Sci-fi. (500 words).

We set this task as both Alex and I were finding it difficult to end our great stories.

Meeting 3's Task

The practice task for our next meeting (22nd July) is a poem.

The poem must be around 100 words (+/- 10%). The theme is your choice, but there must be at least one rhyming couplet.

Recommended metre: iambic pentameter (optional).

If you'd like to join East Surrey Creative Writing Workshop, please contact me on with the subject 'Creative Writing'.
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ESCWW: First Meeting

(Originally posted on the 24th of June, 2009)

Today was the first meeting of the East Surrey Creative Writing Workshop.

Attending: Alex and Tannice. Absent: Vicky and Susi.

We met in the Bull's Head pub, in Reigate High Street, at 7.30 PM.

Alex and I went through introductions and we discussed books and genres that we enjoyed. Alex noted that she was most interested in discussing and practicing fiction.

I also enjoy writing fiction but would also like to do some non-fiction writing, such as essays, articles and features. I may even bring copywriting to the group to get feedback. More details on non-practice discussion is below.

Alex hadn't had time to do the nature practice exercise but did read mine (which you can read here) and we discussed the potential of developing it into a longer short story instead of a flash.

We discussed the structure of the workshop and decided on the following:

Practice exercises, submissions and criticisms

Exercises will be sent out on the Wednesday we meet. Members then have one week to submit their writing to the list (until the following Wednesday). Members will then have one week to write crit notes, which will be presented at the next meeting.

Email-only members can submit their criticisms via email to all members.

I would encourage members to ensure that their criticisms are a good balance of positive and constructive. Crits may include notes about style, grammar, what you'd like to read more about, what you liked and what you think could be improved.


We will start by presenting crits of the submissions.

The next section of the meeting will be for members to present a piece of writing as a discussion point.

The writing may be from a book, article, short story or any other piece of writing that you like. Members should start with a small introduction on why they've brought the piece to the meeting and a brief synopsis of the story if it's an extract from a book or a longer piece of writing.

We want to know:
- what you like, and why
- what you think works, and why
- what you think should be changes or could be improved upon
- anything else you want to say about it.

The third and final stage of the meeting is for the discussion of anything non-practice we've written, discussions of style and any grammar queries you have.

You will receive the details of the exercise via email.

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