How sad to see the slow decline of myTelegraph. The pages over which I roamed, meeting friends whom I will hold dear for the rest of my life, are crawled over by the bots who sell ‘Drugs Offshore’, ‘WU dumps’, ‘CVV’ and all the other inhuman detritus of the Dark Web.
I hope that rescuing a few survivors from the wreck will form the nucleus of a new group that will go forth into the Universe and populate the world with TCWG Short Stories...
The December theme for the Telegraph Creative Writing Group was ‘Spirits’, either of the ethereal or of the distilled variety. My entry ‘Silver Ghost’ was, however, inspired by thread. Not story thread, not discussion thread, just thread.
I was on holiday in the Ardennes, where it rained every day and our campsite turned to soft mud that the driving rain spattered a foot high up every surface. Thinking every day that the end of the month deadline for the story was drawing near, and here I was in this muddy place not doing any writing. On the way back to Calais, a town now bound in everyone’s minds with the refugee crisis and the grievous human costs of war, we had arranged an overnight stop near St-Omer. We passed Armentières; the name stuck in my mind. We passed Hazebrouck, where one can glimpse the graves from the bypass. On the Michelin map one can trace the Western Front in a scatter of crosses that mark the WW1 cemeteries. The story came into my mind in a jumble of fragments and dialogue, typed into my iPad at odd moments. I had an idea that the jingoism of that period would fit with the ‘Hype’ theme.
When I got home to my desk I googled ‘Armentières’ and the song ‘Hinky-Dinky, Parlay-Voo’, one form of which begins ‘Mademoiselle from Armentières’, struck me as one of the most irritating tunes ever written. And there we have it.
The theme for our January competition was ‘Something Old’, preferably a short story written some time ago and never used.
‘Arrivals’ is a 600 word shortish piece written a couple of years ago, while I was doing Open University A215. We were asked to do a freewrite and base the story on that. I took my notebook to Heathrow T5, where I was meeting someone, and did the freewrite while I was waiting in the coffee bar. Afterwards I wove a brief story around it. I edited it again just prior to posting.
The Telegraph Creative Writing Group October Competition sets a theme of ‘Life Change’. I’ve had a story about Voltaire knocking around in my computer for a while, although it’s mostly concerned with the writing of his first drama ‘Oedipe’, interwoven with that of the relationship between the Duc d’Orleans and his daughter, the Duchesse de Berri.
I’ve just visited a good friend in the Hague, and as we were walking around the older parts of the city I started to think about Voltaire meeting his first love there, about 300 years ago. His late teens and early twenties make a great coming-of-age story. I hope I’ve done justice to it in ‘The Best of All Possible Worlds’.
I’m using the newly launched website, Write-Track, to set and track writing goals. I haven’t encountered anything quite like it before and I’m uncertain how it’s going to work (but hopeful). Having recently finished my Open University Creative Writing modules, I felt the need for an online mechanism to set deadlines and share progress. I’m going to track the development of a short story I’m writing for the October Telegraph Writing Group Competition. The month’s topic is ‘Life Change’.
The early life of Voltaire is a long standing interest of mine (i.e. novel idea that was shelved), and his imprisonment in the Bastille at the age of 22 years was, for him, a life-changing event. He went in as Arouet, a frivolous, immature dilettante, and came out as Voltaire, a philosophe, a literary poet, and a playwright.
I’m going to start with his arrest and imprisonment, integrate flashbacks to his earlier life and end as he commits to his career in the belles-lettres.
Today I’ve translated, roughly, from the French the account in ‘Archives de la Bastille’ of his arrest and initial interrogation, as well as a love letter he had in his pocket when he was arrested, and which wound up in the Bastille’s records. I’ve made a blob diagram of some of the elements of the story on my whiteboard (a present from my husband). I’ve also drafted the first scene, Arouet’s initial arrest.
This month’s Telegraph Creative Writing Group competition is for short fiction of 250 – 500 words on any subject. The Shopping List was originally inspired by an Open University writing exercise – using a shopping list as a writing prompt.