Monday, 11 November 2013

The last meeting, in the Inn on the Green (who double booked their function room! grrr) was hosted by ian Millstead who asked us to write 750ish words on the subject of "The House"

Peter Sutton's story:

The House

When the council estate expanded Northwards it butted up against pre-existent Victorian housing. That part of the estate was seldom visited by us. It was because of the house right at the edge, the one with the forest behind it. Us kids knew a witch lived there. There were dolls in the window. We all knew they were voodoo dolls but we couldn’t tell our parents that or the witch would get us.

There were six of us, on the day it happened. I don’t remember who suggested we play dares but it was me who dared Paul to go to the witch’s house, knock on the door and run away. Paul showed no fear. He strolled, seemingly nonchalantly, up the path to The House and knocked on the door. He turned around to run but the door opened straight away; it was dark in the hallway and light outside and we couldn’t see who opened the door. Perhaps it opened itself. Paul stopped, turned around, we could see him talking and then he went inside. The door closed behind him.

He would never have gone inside unless the witch cast a spell on him. Never. The rest of us wondered what we’d say to his parents when he didn’t turn up for dinner. Steven’s lower lip trembled and it looked like he might cry. I was shitting myself. I did this. It was my fault. Barnesy said we’d have to go and rescue him. None of the rest of us had thought that. None of us were that brave. Once he’d said it though we couldn’t chicken out. We came up with a plan to sneak around the back.

When we snuck behind into the forest we could see that the fence hadn’t been maintained. It was pretty easy to move a few planks aside. We discussed what to do if the garden was full of poisonous plants or dangerous animals. I can’t remember what our plan was, it involved sticks and using our jumpers to wrap around our hands but in the end we didn’t need it. It looked like a fairly usual garden. Must be keeping up appearances we said to one another.

One by one we all went through the fence on our bellies. I half expected there to be a dog. I had climbed into a big house’s garden the summer before and been chased by an Alsation. I had badly sprained an ankle jumping over the wall to escape. I wasn’t keen to repeat that experience. There wasn’t a dog though.

We all grabbed sticks and ran at a crouch across the garden to the back door which Steven opened. Probably the bravest thing I’ve ever seen him do. We crept into the kitchen and we could see the witch standing with her back to us. A low murmur came from her. She was probably still casting her beguiling spell on Paul we thought. We hadn’t planned this far ahead, we had no defence against her magic, we were only armed with sticks.

“Get her” Barnsey cried and we charged, all yelling our heads off. Steven ran to grab Paul who was also shouting. The witch started shouting too. It was bedlam. I remember landing a corker of a shot on her face and seeing a spurt of blood spray across the wall. I felt pretty good right at that moment. Powerful. She fell to the floor and we continued to pummel her. Paul tried to get us to stop but he was compromised, under her spell. My arms ached when I eventually stopped, the palms of my hands were sore. “Run” I shouted and we all did, Paul hesitated but Barnsey grabbed him and pulled him after us.

When the police came to the door my Mum was pretty upset. I denied everything but it did no good. We’d been spotted of course and Paul had blabbed. He said she’d only been a little old lady who wanted a chat and had offered him cake. We all knew you don’t accept sweets from a stranger. Paul said that the old lady knew his mum, that she’d actually been to his house. We knew though that this was part of her disguise, a cunning spell she’d cast on him.

He hasn’t come to visit me once. I don’t know about the others. They split us up. It’s pretty lonely in the big house. The other boys are mean. I’ve been beaten up a couple of times. Apparently it’s not what gentlemen do. Beat up old ladies that is. She’s still alive though. I saw her in court. The journalists said we hung our heads in shame. I don’t know about the others but I just wanted to avoid her eyes. I didn’t want her to cast a spell at me.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Margaret Carruther's Shady Character story:



          Norman is not what you would call the brains of Britain but you don’t need brains in his kind of work, breaking into cars, stealing radios and DVD players, some people are so dense they ask to be robbed the articles he finds in some cars.  He has a partner Albie, a kid he shares his loot with.  They tried to burgle a house once but they found it hard, they couldn’t get in, they busted the door lock, then the dog attacked them; no it’s better to stick to what you know and doing cars is what he knows.  It’s quick to jemmy the door, have a quick look inside ripping out the radio and sat navs; he can get at least a fiver for them if they’re in good nick.  50 year old Norman isn’t all that good looking well he isn’t ugly but he isn’t George Clooney either.  He’s balding, a little chubby and he’s always wrapped up in that dirty old grey mac.  What you would call the man next door type, ordinary, dirty long brown hair, brown eyes, long nose with a bump on it wear he broke it a few years back.  He’s in his usual get-up dark grey trousers, dirty t-shirt of an undetermined colour, boots that he gets from the army surplus stores; as a matter of fact he gets all his clothes from charity shops, Salvation Army or army surplus stores.  His flat is as bad as he is no one ever gets too close to Norman except Lucy his sister and Albie.  Albie always does the sales work down the local then they share the profits fifty-fifty Albie isn’t old enough to go into a pub but as long as the bobbies aren’t there there’s no problem but then his parents don’t care where the fourteen year old is, as long as he brings home the cash and there’s a lot of cash out there just for the taking.  Norman looks at his watch a present from Lucy she bought it for him for his last birthday; he told her that she didn’t need to, as anything he wants he can usually steal.  He stole a watch just the other day from a jag that was sitting pretty on the side of the kerb just wanting someone to break into it, there was a laptop, a handbag, sat nav and a radio, top of the market too not the usual rubbish.  3pm must move as Albie will be waiting for him round the corner.  They are doing Craymore Road next, there’s regularly a good haul from there and it’s swanky as a rule.  Jags, Mercs and 4x4’s.  Hurrying up the road he spies Albie by the corner and waves.  Albie is your usual teenager always in a rush to get things done he’s slender build with fair-hair, always wears t-shirts, jeans and trainers.  His parents live on the council estate in a two bed flat.  He and his baby brother share a bedroom.

          As he arrives Albie asks.  “Where have you been Norman it’s 3:10 you said you would be here at 3 sharp?”

          “Don’t worry the cars aren’t going anywhere are they and the owner’s won’t be here to collect them for another 3 hours.”  Norman gave Albie a toothy grin he was vary proud of his false teeth cost him all of £300 he thought money well spent.  As they approach the first car a red Lexus he fits his tool into the side of the door and waits, hearing a familiar click he opens the door.  “Right get the bag and let’s have a look.”  Inside they find a pair of glasses in the glove box and £15 in change in the well of the car.  Then opening the boot Albie takes the bag round and is out of site for maybe 5 minutes but when he reappears he has a grin on his face.  Norman closes the boot, quietly shuts the door then strolling round to the back of the car, he asks.  “What have we got?”

          Albie opens the bag saying.  “Two laptops, a sat nav, a leather wallet, a Rolex watch, an expensive looking parker pen and the cash hurrah for Christmas.  A good haul and just from this car.  What do these people have for brains?”

          “Right, onto the next, which one should we do?”

          They look down the road, there is a merc and a 4x4 on this side, Norman doesn’t know why they leave their cars on this road and not in the local car parks, maybe because they are worried that they will be robbed; at this thought he starts to laugh.  “We could take on the merc next,” Norman suggests.  They start to walk along the road to the black car.     

Friday, 25 October 2013

Pete Sutton's Shady Characters story
Shady Characters

Whenever one of them is murdered I'm sent to investigate by the man upstairs, and I don't mean God. My name's Roman. Not man from Rome, I'm no Flavious or Biggus or whatever, my actual name is pronounced Row Man.

The library was in a historically significant building and all Edwardian or Georgian or some such king. It looked OK I guess but I wasn’t here for the view. There were 2 men, a woman and the corpse when I arrived at the storeroom.


Candara, Head Librarian”

“Garamond, Researcher”

Arial, Librarian”

“And the corpse?”

That will be Mr Lucida our custodian” said Candara, a young chap, mid 30’s, not my view of what a head librarian would look like.

“Can any of you think of a reason why anyone would want to murder him?”

They all looked clueless which I hoped I wouldn’t be after I examined the body. I ushered them out telling them to stay in the library. The CSI geeks were yet to arrive. I took a quick look around the room seeing nothing particularly out of place. Apart from the late Mr Lucida; he looked out of place of course. No blood, I creaked into a crouch to take a closer look, thinking once again that I should exercise more.

CSI will give me a time and cause of death but it looked as if the poor sap had been strangled, didn’t look like the body was moved. As I sucked my pencil I had a sudden urge for a cigarette. Not had one in years, still have occasional urges though, mostly when I’m tired, drunk, or stressed. I glanced back to the notebook. Garamond had said nothing at all apart from who he was, was that significant? Time to talk to the witnesses and suspects.

There had already been 3 deaths, Lucida would make it 4. I wonder how much of the heritage had gone with this one. I would assume not much because of his lowly position but you never know with the men upstairs, what they choose or have chosen for them.

I went for a walk round the stacks wondering what would happen to the Book Heritage if one of the old families were rubbed out. Can’t have been very many books written in Lucida I thought. At least when the Comic Sans had been killed there wasn’t much book fallout. He was the first, also strangled. Since him there had been Gentium, Miller and now Lucida.

Before the population explosion in the computer age deaths were rare and had a bigger impact on the Heritage, now who knew? There have been lots of new families since. The guy upstairs though, he wanted me to sort this out.

The lab boys confirmed that Lucida was strangled, had been dead for approximately 4 hours before the library opened and that everything else would have to wait for a full autopsy.

As I finished taking the statements of the people who worked at the library I spotted a vaguely familiar looking man watching me. When he spotted that I’d seen him he looked panicked and fled through a door. Only guilty people run from the police. On the stairs leading up I remembered who this was, but it was impossible, the Comic Sans! but without his trademark beard and silly hat. The stairs ended at a door to the roof.

The rooftop had no other exits and a drop would be fatal. As I approached the corner of roof entrance a shot rang out. He was on the opposite side of the roof behind some air conditioning units.

“Why did you do it” I shouted

“No one took me seriously”

“Give yourself up, we have the building surrounded”

I risked a glimpse, I couldn’t see him then there he was he was running across the roof. Was he going to try to jump to the next building? It was a 6 foot gap at least. That would be madness.

“Stop!” I shouted but he never even slowed down. Afterwards I wondered if he knew he wasn’t going to make it. Turned out Garamond and he were old friends and Garamond had been hiding him at the library but Lucida had rumbled him. Garamond had also helped him to fake his own death. Tonight a comedian died and I thought to myself that the old saying was wrong. Sticks and stones may break my bones and words can sometimes kill.





Wednesday, 23 October 2013

At the last meeting we asked for people to bring along a 750 word story titled "Shady Characters"

They'll be posted here as they are provided to us

The first is Clare Dornan's story:

A shady character


She anxiously chewed her nails, chipping away the Lilac Dream varnish that had been flawless only hours before.

Her eyes flicked once more to the suitcase sitting ominously in the hall.


She slid the screwdriver through the tiny lock and twisted it round until the metal contorted and finally gave up the fight.

She unzipped the case and raised the lid.



Lucy was proud of her transition to a language school teacher. She was not just a Teacher of English, but provided the foreign visitor with the full experience: a place to stay, excursions through the city and home cooking of a standard that she knew was some what above the usual fare. Now five years into her new calling and the bookings were steadily increasing.


She rarely stewed over her days at the BBC any longer. The 15 years of service, arranging filming shoots for increasingly younger, increasingly impatient producers. No matter what tight schedule they would harp on about, no document ever left her desk until she was sure grammar and punctuation was perfect.

When the rounds of redundancies were announced, she sensed the shift in her boss from a frosty reception to a patronising smile. And when she was told that she would be leaving, she realised there was no one left who cared to hear her complaints. Even John in the Canteen, was in no mood to listen that day, having just discovered he was soon to be replaced by a Nestle vending machine.


But now she was her own boss, teacher and educator. She even had a website with links to her Menu for the Week, Testimonials and photos of students smiling while tackling the pluperfect.


Juan had come on the recommendation of his sister Maria - one of her earlier students He’d surprised her by turning up on her doorstep just as she was about to leave to collect him at the airport. He’d arrived early and hitched a lift – he didn’t want to put her out he said.

There was a glint in those dark eyes that instantly made her a little sheepish and she was aware of her own flushed chitter chatter, as she showed him round her compact Victorian terrace.

It had been the start of an unusual week’s teaching as unlike his linguistically challenged sister Maria, Juan’s English was surprisingly impressive. Her lesson plans had been torn up and replaced with in-depth discussions about her business, life and interests. She had been flattered when he said how Maria had praised her cooking – particularly her tiramusu – and she’d broken her menu plan and made it twice in one week. He’d been so complimentary about the many handmade crafts in her home…. Even admiring the embarrassingly overstuffed embroidered cushion – the outcome from her brief foray into re-upholstery night classes.


The small twinges of uncertainty about her student had never risen above the quickened heartbeat and extra layer of lipstick in the morning. They had only started to rise, like bubbles oozing up through a thick and reluctant syrup when he hadn’t returned this afternoon.

She was sure he knew when they should leave for the airport and her panic had briefly subsided when she found the suitcase already packed in his room. He was just running late, she consoled herself – perhaps a last minute shopping trip to get a gift for Maria.


What was it about Maria that caused a small mental bubble of doubt to form?


Then she realised. She couldn’t remember Maria ever mentioning a brother. And Maria’s testimonial on her website made her even more unsettled… “Everyone should come and study with Lucy! I recommend to all my friends. And her cooking! – the best Tiramisu ever.”


It was when she tried to phone that she noticed the flashing message light. The call must have come in that morning when she’d been frying up his English breakfast. It was impossible to hear the phone from the kitchen, yet from the dining room it was impossible to miss. Juan must have heard the message being recorded – yet he had not said anything about the Bank wanting her to call them urgently.


She laughed at her paranoia. He would be back for his case soon. He wouldn’t just leave all his things and disappear!


So she had sat there, twitching. It was only after the intended flight had long since taken to the air when she had placed the screwdriver into the lock.


She lifted the lid and her heart froze as she stared into the case. It was totally empty except for one sickeningly familiar, overstuffed embroidered cushion.















Thursday, 19 September 2013


TIME 18:00 - 11:00

LOCATION King George VI, Filton...

BRING: A piece of writing you are currently working on

CHAIR: Jemma


The Next session will be 'a million monkeys' drop in session, to which you may come along and work on whatever you are writing in the company of some fellow writers. The King George VI offers us the perfect private room for this, as well as a large bar area downstairs. Come along any time within the session hours and either seclude yourself at a table with a glass of wine, your pen and plenty of smiles, or rally the lads and lasses for a rowdy ale and talk of pirates.

In honor of national 'Talk Like a Pirate Day' we will have a short pirate themed activity to mix things up a bit at some point in the evening.

We have had a fantastic amount of new members get in touch over the last few weeks so If you missed our re-launch session last week then this would be a very good laid-back no-pressure meeting to come along to.

See you all soon

Friday, 6 September 2013

The meeting on 05/09/13 had a small but select group who outnumbered the people in the main bar. The King George has recently re-opened and does Abbots so not at all bad. We spoke about lots of things including our biographies - with two pre-written pieces per person. The first a description which we had to guess who it matched and the second a biography that included a lie that we had to guess. The time seemed to fly past and we seemed to have created a good solid base to work from.

Next meeting 19/10/13 with Jemma Milburn as host - keep an eye on our Facebook page for details.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Next meeting: Thurs 5'th Sept. 7pm-9pm King George VI Filton

Attendees are asked to bring a 100 word description of themselves in 3rd person (using the words "this person" instead of he or she). These will then be put into a hat on the night and each writer will pick one and read it out. Everyone will try to guess who's description it is.

Each writer is then asked to introduce themselves with a 100 word bio in the style of an author bio in a book. This can be in any style. Each is asked to add 1 lie into the bio. Everyone will try to guess the lie.

We will create a collaborative Pyramid Poem in teams.

We will decide on the structure of the group by discussing the group mission & minutes of the last meeting (attended by Jemma Milburn & Pete Sutton) as well as deciding on future meeting's agendas - although this will be an informal discussion!:


Group Mission


We will develop a group mission to maintain the focus of the group and why we are here. This will be written up and published on our social media outlets. Please help in shaping and criticising the statement. In brief it will state that we:

* Are an open group, always encouraging new members and welcoming guests

* provide a fun atmosphere for writing

* Provide an environment in which to discover our writing potential through shared ideas and stimulus

* Work together to share and develop our writing techniques

* Support/develop/encourage new writers

* Offer constructive criticism

* Get involved in writing events as a team

Regular meetings

To be held every other Thursday in the first instance, commencing Thurs 5’th Sept 2013

Various locations around north Bristol, suggested by ‘host’

Timetabled one month at a time as a trial

Thurs 5’th Sept Host: Pete Sutton Focus on: Introductions, team building & creating our "mission statement"

Thurs 19’th Sept Host: Jemma Milburn Focus on: TBC

Meeting styles

In a vague order of what I expect will be the most common:

· ‘Hosted’ as before, hosted by one person (as booked on time table) with activities and sharing short exercises.

· Focus on one members work – e.g. read through a short story and give constructive feedback – just ask if you would like to book a session focusing on your work. Work can either be read "cold" or mailed to attendees in advance. You can either ask for a "thoughts & feelings" style feedback or a formal critique (see bottom of page).

· ‘A million monkeys’ – get together to just write freely with each other

· Guest appearances from local authors

Group involvement in outside events

There are loads of creative writing style events going on around the city. Pete is quite clued up on them. The aim of NBCW will not only be to meet for our regular sessions, but also to get involved in external workshops and events together. Here are some you will hopefully be up for:

Online competitions

Even if you do not submit your piece, online competitions can provide us a with a writing purpose for some of our meetings. They present us with a challenge we perhaps wouldn’t have come up with alone and will give us a good reason to offer constructive critique of each other’s work in preparation for ‘submission’.

Attendees are encouraged to suggest writing competitions

City Wide Story – Mon 21’st Oct

Starting off in Henleaze libraryon the 21st a team of writers (us) will come together to begin a story. This opening will be passed on to another library for the middle and another for the end. This ties in nicely with the ‘consequences’ and team writing theme that I started us off on.

Bristol Festival of Literature October 2013 – events ~£5.00

We have the huge advantage of one of our NBCW members working here! – Talk to Pete Sutton for the low down! They also have events going on throughout the year.

Recommended festival events:

Sat 19’th Oct – Creative writing competition in a day

A brief is given at 10.45 am and professional authors are there to coach you toward the midnight deadline! The prize: your piece will be published!

Thurs 18’th Oct – Writers conference

This is where you get to watch a critique on a number of pre-entered pieces. It is a good opportunity to learn a lot from examples.

Social events

We decided it would be team building and enjoyable to go on social trips, such as to the brewery or theatre. No pressure to write, no pressure to even have fun if you don’t want to . . . Feel free to put suggestions forward and please respond to planned events with a strong yes or no to make ticket buying and organisation possible.

AOB and ‘To Do’ List

Make events calendar

Make and distribute posters/fliers

Look into library affiliation across Bristol and Fliton; they might be able to offer support and publicity.

Formal Critique

Whilst it is always nerve wracking to get others to read your work and offer critique it is also always a useful process. There is an awful lot of competition out there and being able to present your work in as professional a way as possible is required if you would like to be published. Even if you are just writing for fun (and we all do that first and foremost right?) it is useful to get feedback on your work. A "Formal" Critique is daunting but the aim is to offer constructive criticism. In order to do this in a helpful and structured way the formal critique will have the following format.

Each piece should be no more than 7000 words long

The piece will be emailed to the NBCWG group 1 week before the meeting (if less than 1 week then it will be held over to the next meeting)

Each person will provide a physical copy with their feedback clearly marked

The author will read out the piece (this is very daunting but also very useful - a hint here is to read it out loud to yourself first, then read it to your significant other or flatmate or a friend before bringing it to the group, which will make you more confident to read in front of people. Reading your piece out loud will also give you an idea of whether you have the rhythm correct and whether your dialogue sounds natural or not.

Each person offering critique will have 5 minutes to summarise what they think of the piece. The author should not speak during this part (otherwise we'd get into a discussion)

The author then has 5 minutes to respond to the critique at the end.

It is important to remember that we're all friends and that your turn will come to be the person receiving critique. Critique should be robust but not derogatory.

Critiques should include thoughts on the following:

1.      Grammar - It is enough to note whether or not there are grammatical errors without going into detail in the verbal feedback. All errors should be noted on the hard copy that you will receive from each person offering critique

2.      Plot/Composition/Narrative/Drama - The "meat" of the idea - is the plot believable (if it's fiction), does the poem evoke some feelings? etc. This is a very subjective subject and it won't be immediately apparent whose feedback is the most useful. Once we all get to know our likes and dislikes and individual styles then this will be more useful.

3.      Character - Are the characters believable, too passive, gender biased, enough or too few to carry the plot?

4.      Dialogue - written well or not, attributions

5.      Description - too much, too little, effective etc.

6.      Style/Voice - subjective feedback - like/dislike - it could be that the person has written a romance story and you have no interest in romance, if this is the case then state so!

7.      Summing up - what works, what doesn't work, how the piece could be improved (if at all - it's perfectly OK to say "I loved this piece, write more like it")

Monday, 22 July 2013

Welcome to the new blog

This is the blog for the North Bristol Writing Group

Next meeting: Thurs 5th Sept and every other Thurs thereafter.

Notes on our plans to follow soon.