‘Dancing with Words – A poetry and prose extravaganza’

‘Dancing with Words – A poetry and prose extravaganza’ – A free Creative Writing workshop led by Myfanwy Cook will be held at Tavistock Library from 10 to 12pm Saturday 30th of April.

Contact Tavistock Library to book a place please email: helen.cooper@devon.gov.uk


History in Action – Historical Fiction Workshops

The Tamar Valley Klondike –  A two day Historical Fiction Writing Workshop – October the 22nd and 23rd, 2015

Contact: http://www.orchardlearningstudios.co.uk

The Tamar Valley Klondike

The Tamar Valley Klondike

Sunday the 1st of November 2015:

The Vicarage, Abbey House and The Bedford Hotel – Homes and Hostelry, History and Characters

A Historical Fiction Creative Workshop led by Myfanwy Cook –www.historicalnovelsociety.org

This is a free workshop, but booking is required as a limited number of places are available. Venue: Tavistock Parish Rooms 10.30-12.30.

For details see:  – http://www.tavistockheritagefestival.org.uk/

Scheele’s Green – notes on a colour

Agatha Christie might have been green in her youth. She was naïve in love, but the green eyed monster of envy only reared itself over a place rather than people. Her apple acid green words thrilled her readers and made them swoon. While the steady flow of crisp sage coloured notes from her writing fed her obsession. However, her passion was not for emeralds , but rather she bestowed her love on a house called ‘Greenway’.

A Letter to My Grandson – An Australian WW1 story by Anna Wilde from Tasmania

A Letter to My Grandson

My Dear Edmund,

You have often asked, when you were a little nipper, what it was like when I was young. I have decided to write about those events for you to read.  My young life was suspended when I waved good bye to Mother and Father on the train pulling away from the Kalgoorlie Station. That day the station platform was packed with wives, Mothers and Fathers wishing tearful good-byes to their young men…we were all excited to be seeking adventure. The band was playing, flags were waving and the station master had arranged for red, white and blue bunting to be hung around the walls. We were bronzed Greek gods when we marched down Forrest Street towards the station…four years later it was a different scene on a foreign platform as I prepared to return home

I rolled my tongue around the inside of my mouth. I was trying to get rid of the bitter taste of the acorn coffee I had just drunk at the station café.  The currant bun I had eaten had done nothing to take the taste away.  A biting wind blew gusts of chilling rain on to the platform. I pulled my heavy trench coat around me and waited patiently for the train to arrive. The platform was bleak…only a few stragglers were waiting. The train pulled into the station and stopped in an explosion of steam.  A few of the compartment doors opened as passengers got out and collected their baggage. I felt alone…invisible on that alien platform. I walked towards the second class compartments, my head bowed against the wind and my kit bag slung over my shoulder.  A tapping on the window of the station café distracted me. I turned and saw the pretty waitress, who had served me, waving and smiling. Next moment she was at my side standing on her tiptoes giving me a peck on the cheek. The wind loosened her hair and it tumbled down over her shoulders. I bent down and kissed the top of her head. Her hair smelt of smoke and clover.

The little waitress took my hand and kissed it through my woollen gloves…issued to us by Red Cross. She introduced herself,

“My Name’s Nancy! What’s your name?” She said as her face crinkled up with a beaming smile.

“Nice t‘ve met you Nancy, my name’s Albert, everyone calls me Bertie!”

Before I could say anything more the guard blew his whistle.

“Goodbye Nancy and thank-you I’ll remember you, especially on my way back home!”

Nancy stood waving and blew a kiss to me as the train pulled away from the station.

I put my slouch hat and kit bag on the luggage rack and settled down on the seat near the window. As the train chugged away from the station I looked out and saw that the rain had turned into sleet and had reduced to a blur, Exeter City. In spite of everything, I was sad to be leaving. I thought of the care and attention that had been given to me at the Military Hospital and especially the love and encouragement given to us by Nurse, Eva Holtby. She had asked me to write in her pretty velvet autograph book, already bursting with thanks and admiration from grateful patients. In the military hospital I had met so many wounded men from the Empire. It was great to exchange stories and hear about Canada and New Zealand. In turn I told them about my life on the goldfields. They were, all very keen on the story about the two prospectors who found a huge nugget of alluvial gold just sitting on the ground waiting to be discovered. (By the way, the nugget is still displayed in the W.A. Treasury)

We discussed what we would do when returned home. Hamish, my Canadian buddy, thought he might go to University and become a doctor. He had been a stretcher bearer collecting up the dead and injured.

“You know Bert felt so helpless! We were order to concentrate on those who were going to recover! It fair turned my sick to see all my young friends dying around me and I could do nothing!” he confided to me in a moment of reflection. Hamish kept in touch with me. He became a doctor and attended the injured in W.W. II

He started me thinking. I entertained the idea of going to Claremont Teacher’s College and becoming a History Teacher. Of course, Edmund you know the rest!

The rhythmic clickety clack of the train lulled me into a doze. I was happy to be warm and comfortable, although my insides started making hungry noises. For a brief moment I dreamt I was once more in the fancy teashop in Exeter wolfing down a wonderful afternoon tea. When I returned from France I couldn’t eat much. Sickness dogged me; all I could smell and taste was rotting death.

‘Sonny Jim wake up!” Through bleary eyes I saw the ticket conductor looking down at me. I produced my ticket to Paddington Station.

“Going home are you? I see you are an Australian. I suppose you will glad to get back to a warmer weather!”

Before I could answer the ticket collector moved on swaying as the train ploughed on through the wild weather calling,

“Tickets please!”

I shifted in my seat and felt the package crackle in my top pocket. A grief overwhelmed me as I remembered the task I had been asked to perform, if I was the ‘lucky one’, to dodge shrapnel, mustard gas and the bullet…I remembered Jack, my cobber, as he lay gasping amongst rotting death, the rain, mud and slime. His lungs consumed by mustard gas and his ruptured stomach bleeding profusely. I closed his eyes when he died.

Jack had asked me to take the package to his sweetheart. He written her address on the package and also asked me to take his wallet and love to his parents in the East End. In his wallet was money he had saved. There was also a tattered photo of Eliza Grant, his sweetheart.  Most poignant was his return ticket from Fremantle to Perth. “You can use that ticket Bertie!” Jack wheezed as his young life seeped away.

Jack had arrived from the mother country in the early 1900’s. He had come up to goldfields to seek his fortune, to make enough money to return home and marry his sweetheart, Eliza. He had walked into my father’s forge.

“Excuse me, Mr Eggelston my name his John Hawthorn I was wondering if you had any work for me? I used to do this line of work back home!” Dad was delighted because our workload had been heavy as everybody was out prospecting with the one track mind, to get rich quick.

Since the hot day in November, we had become the best of mates and it was not long before, he was given the stamp of approval by the young blades of Kalgoorlie and renamed Jack. We had enlisted together and left on the first contingent ships assembled in breathtaking King George Sound, off the coast of Albany. We were bound for Egypt for further training; then sent on to the Dardanelles. Jack and I, when we arrived, had been ordered to dig trenches with rest of our mates from W.A.

“Crikey! Bert I think all they’ve got us over here is to dig trenches, not to fight the Turk! No wonder they call us the diggers!” Jack complained, stopping to wipe the sweat from forehead.

“Well Jack it’s because they think we’re all been miners and use to the pick and shovel!”

We did get a shot at the Turk. The glamour of being a soldier soon dis-integrated as in the heat we battled lice, fleas and sickness. In the cold there was frost bite. One guard on duty froze to death some of the soldiers lost toes and fingers. Some even lost their feet. The death toll was unimaginable. The Australian nurses who accompanied us worked miracles in the midst of shattered bodies and chaos…both of us survived the horrors.

The one success of the campaign was the orderly withdrawal without the enemy realising what the army was doing. We both were reassigned to France…there was worst to endure…but I’ve got distracted Edmund!

Eliza’s photo had been coloured. Most of the colour had gone except the red of Eliza’s hair and the blue of her eyes. Her eyes looked straight at you and seemed to follow you…I just wanted to meet her. She had made arrangements to meet me on my arrival in London.

The train pulled in at Paddington Station. During my convalescence in the military hospital I had entertained a hankering to meet Eliza. I had wished get to know her and perhaps even offer my hand in marriage in honour of my mate Jack.

I stepped on the platform amid a swarm of people shouting orders. I found the noise difficult to endure after the exploding shells of the Somme…a mate of mine, Cedric Banting, from Bunbury couldn’t live with the noise put a bullet through his temple. The shock traumatised both his Mother and wife when they discovered him lying face down in the outhouse amongst the dirty laundry. They had the gruesome work of cleaning away his brains and blood spattered all over the walls and ceiling. In those days it was against the law to commit suicide and of course it brought shame on the family… there was no hero’s grave for him…I’m sorry Edmund I got lost in my sad thoughts again!

I looked at the station clock and realised I had been waiting for nearly half an hour, enduring the noise with some degree of fortitude when I heard a voice, it sounded like a song bird among raucous crows fighting over carrion …

“Albert, Albert!” Eliza of the photo came sidling towards me.

In real life she was more beautiful than I had imagined. Our eyes met.

‘Yes, she’s the one for me!”

We shook hands.

“Albert I guess you are very hungry after your journey?”

“Very!” I mumbled unable to take my eyes of the enchanting beauty that stood before me in her elegant attire and jaunty hat.

“I’ve left work early so we can enjoy a high tea at The Lyon’s tearooms! Sorry I was late but everywhere is just so busy. ”

“How am I going to pay bill?” As if she was reading my thoughts and saw my furrowed brow.

“Don’t worry it’s my treat. I owe it to you being such a good friend to my John.”

The high tea was sensational and I must admit I ate more than I should. Nobody seemed to mind and the waitress kept filling up the teapot and providing us with more milk for the tea. It was wonderful to feel full!

I sat back in my chair and admired Eliza, “By the way Eliza how did you recognise me?”

“Ah that was easy you towered above everyone at Paddington and you were wearing an Australian uniform! Anyhow John had often written about you and described you to me in his letters home! I felt as if I already knew you before we met!”

“Eliza what are you going to do now John is no longer there for you?”

“At first the news almost destroyed me but I’ve learnt to deal with heartbreak. I’ll never get over it but needs must and circumstances change. Recently, I’ve been given a chance to follow dream to be a dress designer in the haute couture industry. I’ve gained an apprenticeship in one of the leading fashion houses!”

“That’s wonderful!” I said and handed her the package Jack had entrusted to me. She took it and put it in her handbag. She didn’t seem bothered about opening it. In fact she did not seem really upset about Jack’s death…I felt saddened, maybe she was trying to hide her sorrow!

“Albert, where are you going to sleep tonight? I can make you up a bed on the couch in my flat. The flat’s a bit small but we can cope for a night!”

She doesn’t seem like the Eliza Jack often talked about. I’m sure even Jack would have been disappointed with her. I thought of him life seeping away as he talked about his beloved Eliza!

“Oh don’t worry I have a bed at John’s parents place as I promised to see them before I leave.”

The tables were emptying so we stood up. I felt a bit sheepish about Eliza paying, I offered to pay, but, Eliza insisted. We parted at the entrance, each promising to keep in touch, but somehow I knew we wouldn’t.

“Cabby!” I called and a hansom cab pulled up. I gave the driver Jack’s Parent’s address. His parents were waiting and greeted me lovingly as if was their son. They made me so welcome. Jack’s father, a typical barrow boy from Covent Gardens, had managed to secure a roast of beef. We had a wonderful roast supper with Yorkshire pudding washed down a never decreasing supply of larger from the local establishment around the corner.

Mr and Mrs Hawthorn tried to hide their grief.

I told them I had met John’s sweetheart.

“Ah Bert I never could take to Eliza when John introduced her to us. John had met her one Sunday in Hyde Park.  She seemed very uppity and put on such airs and graces, but he was smitten by her. Nothing was good enough for Eliza. I hear she has someone else and is going to be a dress designer!

The other day Mrs Crompton, next door said, she had seen Eliza with the Suffragettes!

Bert, we’re lucky John’s brother was too young to be called up. We have only two children we could’ve lost both!”

Mrs Hawthorn wiped her eyes on her apron and got up to bring in the spotted dick and custard and set about serving pudding! A few of her tears dropped in custard. Mr Hawthorn blew his nose rather loudly! Supper finished on rather a sad note. Mrs Hawthorn’s younger son got up and gave his mother a kiss, “Never worry Mum I’m here!”

We all got up to leave the table. I thanked Mrs Hawthorn and offered to clear up.

“It’s good of you Bert, but I want no man in my kitchen…men only get under my feet.”

And she trotted off to the scullery with a stack of plates.

“You must be fagged out Bertie the missus has made you a comfortable bed in the downstairs parlour! I’ll see you in the morning!

All was still in the house; a quiet snore drifted down the stairs. I lay down on the sofa, fully clothed. I drifted off to the edge sleep I fell asleep but I became haunted by visions I knew I would never forget… I thought of all the dead soldiers lying in unmarked graves…but the memory of Nancy’s lovely hair came drifting upon my inward eye and I thought of the warm smell of clover…like the clover I had stretched out upon in warm summer sun. Close by, the buddleia bushes had been in full blossom and full of magnificent butterflies seeking nectar. My Irish grandmother told me once, butterflies were the souls of the dead searching to enter the unborn to be reborn…

The sun pushing through the curtains awoke me early. I knew what I had to do! Nobody had stirred. I attended to my early morning toilet and wrote a quick note to Mr and Mrs Hawthorn telling them I would be back in the evening to spend my last night with them. I shut the front door quietly and found my way to Paddington station. I don’t know how I managed it but a man with a mission overcomes all obstacles. I caught the train back to Exeter and Nancy, who consented to be my wife.

Albert Eggelston 25th April 1979

Dawn Service 25th April

 (A widow’s Lament)

Yesterday you sang our young theme

At dawn bugles call; I read your carved name

You offered me a lifetime of dreams

I touch the red and hear you scream

Pain across the miles; the letter came

Yesterday you sang our young theme

Love under summer plays in velvet streams

I drown the memories knowing my shame

You offered me a lifetime of dreams

You crossed my threshold I caught sunbeams

Bringing my lips to yours igniting the flame

Yesterday you sang our young theme

The bugle moans my loss the tears unseen

As fingers trace, my beloved, your name

You offered me a lifetime of dreams

I turn from the scarlet call as it beams

The red over our son’s carved name

Yesterday I heard you sing our young theme

As you threw to me a bouquet of dreams

(Mt Clarence overlooking King George Sound)

Tavistock Heritage Festival Creative Events and other workshops


Tavistock Heritage Festival

October 25th, 26th and 27th 2014


Twitter: Tavistock Heritage@TavistockH2014

Free Historical Fiction Writing Workshops

Workshop 1

“Tavistock and the Tamar Valley’s 19th century mining heritage”

       “Tavistock and the Tamar Valley’s 19th century mining heritage” is an historical fiction writing workshop run by Myfanwy Cook features editor of the Historical Novels Review (www.historicalnovelsociety.org) and author of ‘Historical Fiction Writing a practical guide and tool-kit’. She has carried out extensive research on the Tamar Valley on behalf of the Tamar Valley Mining Heritage Project and the workshop will include original research and recordings

      This workshop is aimed at providing aspiring writers with the opportunity to experiment with the skills needed to write engaging historical fiction based on local historical facts. (Saturday 25th October. Tavistock Library, Plymouth Rd, at 2pm. A free event for over 18s including a work pack. Booking is essential as there are only limited places, contact 01822 612218 or email tavistock.library@devon.gov.uk.

Workshop 2

“Medieval mayhem and murder at

Tavistock’s Benedictine Abbey”

       This workshop is aimed at introducing aspiring writers of historical crime fiction to the delights of combining local heritage and history with murder most foul! (Sunday 26th October. Bedford Hotel at 10.00am. A free event for over 18s including a work pack. Booking is essential as there are only a limited number of places contact 01822 612218 or email tavistock.library@devon.gov.uk

Historical fiction workshops that aren’t part of the Tavistock Festival

Workshop 3 – The Museum of Dartmoor Life

Fund raiser for the http://www.museumofdartmoorlife.org.uk/


Okehampton’s forgotten voices – A tribute to those who took part in WW1 – A Practical Historical Fiction Workshop’. 

Workshop 4 – Christmas present


E: orchardstudio@yahoo.co.uk

The Tamar Valley’s Klondike – A practical Historical Fiction Writing 2 day Course

An intensive weekend (2 day course) for aspiring historical writers – January 31st/Feb 1st, 2015. If you have a friend or family member who is interested in Historical Fiction Writing buying a voucher as a Christmas present might make an ideal and unusual gift.




Spotlight on Exeter’s unknown WW1 Australian soldier – Short Historical Fiction

‘The War to End All Wars’ – Darryl Harrison (darryl.harrison@devon.gov.uk) of Tavistock Library in Devon spearheaded the concept of a historical short story competition, which has been transformed into an e-anthology to raise funds for the Tavistock Music and Arts Festival and is available to both Kindle and Smash word readers. Amazon Kindle Store: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-War-End-All-Wars-ebook/dp/B00M9RNZAE and Smashwords.com: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/463795

The prizes were presented by Lynne Hatwell of Dove Grey Readers http://dovegreyreader.typepad.com/ on the 4th of August at Tavistock Library. The winners were selected from a short list by the Hotel Endsleigh Readers’ Group http://www.hotelendsleigh.com. Below is a photograph of the winners ( First place was Olga McBride for “The Scribbler” and the Runners-up were Roger Spettigue for “The Un-Known Warrior” and Jill Stewart-Rattray for “The Darkness of the Dying” )Lynne Hatwell who presented the prizes, Darryl Harrison, Gill Saunders (local author) and others including me wearing the red shoes).

What is fascinating about this collection is that several of the authors have combined real local events that took place in Devon during WW1 and involving Belgium refuges and soldiers from New Zealand and Australia. One of these is published below with the permission of the author and is based around a true story, which is showcased and part of the collection at Exeter’s award winning museum -http://www.rammuseum.org.uk/news/ramm-remembers-the-first-world-war

The Secret Soldier* By Thomas Clapham
John sipped his free, but bitter tasting acorn coffee from the thick china cup. He’d also filled his canteen with milk for his journey. Icy gusts of wind blew the fine rain onto the Exeter St. David’s railway station platform, but he didn’t mind because the pretty girl with her fair hair pinned up and who’d smelt of rose water, had smiled at him as she’d served him.
He’d left Exeter’s Military Hospital Number 5 that morning, to embark on his journey back to Southern Cross in Western Australia, but before that he had a mission to accomplish. He was off to London, because of his so-called bravery in the Battle of Polygon Wood, but just for a week. He hoped the weather would improve, because it was May the 19th already and it still hadn’t warmed up. John had seen enough grey skies and incessant rain to last forever. Images of mud coated men both dead and alive flashed through his mind. John knew he mustn’t look back. He mustn’t think. He mustn’t let the torrent agony, pain and the futile deaths of his mates invade his weakened body. John put his hand inside his pocket and touched the opal and gold brooch in its velvet pouch. Then he took out the dog-eared photograph of a girl in her Sunday best clothes and thoughtful expression. On the back Don, his mate, had written “to my childhood sweetheart Florence (Flo) Northcott,”with the details of her address. Don had been born in Blighty, and only a few years before he’d enlisted he’d migrated to Australia, with the intention of making enough money to marry Flo. He’d asked John to deliver the sea-green brooch and his love, as he’d gasped for breath with what remained of his chest and lungs, as they’d lain near each other in the Field Hospital. John hadn’t been able to save Don, but he’d managed to drag four of his fellow Diggers*out of the shell crater.
That morning he’d gathered his few possessions together and gone to thank Nurse May Elliot, he’d written a few lines of thanks in her brown leather Album bursting with autographs. It had made him realise how blessed he was. The mottos, poems and lines of endearment were all heartfelt tokens of thanks not just to May, but to all the people of Exeter who’d welcomed injured Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders like himself, with warmth and comfort, entertained them and tried to heal their physical, but also their mental wounds. He remembered the first time that he’d been allowed off his ward at Exeter’s Military Hospital Number 5, and how strange it had been to hear the Banjo Patterson’s Waltzing Matilda being hummed and whistled in a city so unlike Perth, which was the only big town he’d ever visited before. Even more frightening was having tea at Deller’s. Nurse Elliot had told him about it, because it was only one minute from the trams, but in fact he’d managed to get there under his own steam. He was really glad that he’d trimmed his moustache and brushed his uniform to have his photograph taken to send back to his parents and gaggle of younger sisters and brothers, because the ‘grand’ entrance to the Café on Bedford Street was exactly that. It was palatial, not that he’d ever been in a palace, but it had balconies, an orchestra and was very ornate with lots of curls, twirls and gold-coloured paint.
Deller’s was so unlike everything that he’d seen and experienced since he’d arrived, that he’d wanted to laugh, but had restrained himself. He’d arrived in France in the build-up to the battle of the Somme. He had enlisted because he’d wanted to see something of the World rather than to fight for any noble reasons. His first experience of war was in the Battle of Fromelles in July, 1916. All the Anzacs had been joking the evening before about the fact that despite their waterproof capes and wide brimmed hats, the worst enemy in Europe had to be the rain, especially for those who came from the parched and arid places like his home, where in summer your clothes would be bone dry minutes after you’d hung them out. Optimism had hung in the air like the smell of tobacco, but twenty four hours and over five thousand ANZAC casualties later, optimism had fled, the only scent that had lingered in the air was that of blood, and John had learnt that they weren’t fighting a battle, but that they’d been sent like sheep to a slaughterhouse.
By September 1917 he was expecting every shell he heard and every burst of gunfire to be aimed directly at him. They weren’t just fighting the Germans, but also the weather. He put his survival of the battle of Menin Road, fought around Glencourse Wood down to his skill as a blacksmith and mechanic. His trade had saved him, because of the dire weather conditions their few serviceable few lorries kept breaking down and he’d been seconded to help with repairs. He couldn’t imagine how many of the eager young men he’d sailed with were now buried forever under a sea of mud and slime. The secrets and the identities of these soldiers would remain forever unknown and locked for eternity within the soil of a foreign field. Nearly everyone he’d met in the trenches had suffered scabies, trench fever, some form of dysentery or knew of fellow diggers who’d succumbed to pains in their sides, followed by pleurisy or worse still infections like blu-pus, that could infect even the most superficial wound.
Sitting on the train as it rattled its way to London Paddington, he was unable to stop himself thinking back to September the 26th, when he was part of the second of three limited objective battles overseen by General Plumer. He’d been part of the infantry who’d advanced behind a barge of heavy artillery fire. The objective had been gained, but he’d nearly lost his leg, but worse still among nearly 6,000 dead or injured he’d lost his best mate.

The train’s window wouldn’t close and so soot drifted like black snow into their carriage throughout the journey. He watched the countryside pass by. It looked so untouched, green, lush and above all peaceful. He realised that the war had caused civilian casualties even in London, as well as airships like the Zeppelin Staaken, which in February of that year had dropped a one tonne bomb on the Chelsea Hospital.
London he discovered was almost as noisy as the trenches, with the clatter of horses, rumble of trams, and horns being hooted by omnibus drivers. Flo’s family had kindly offered him a place to stay until it was time for him to go to Folkestone to take the troopship back to Australia. He’d arranged by letter to meet Flo after she finished her work as a stenographer, and agreed to meet at the Strand Lyon’s Corner House Café just off Trafalgar Square. The Café was impossible to miss because of its size, and the moment he saw it he was worried he wouldn’t recognise Flo and he’d miss her, but she was waiting just inside the door. Her first welcoming smile was full of the warmth that he’d been longing for, since he’d left Fort George in Albany and set sail for Europe. Flo was everything Don had described and her eyes were the exact turquoise of the opal brooch.
“Shall we have tea and toast?” Flo asked and took his arm and guided him to a table near the window. She was a good foot shorter than he was, and everything about her was perfection, from her dainty feet in black leather buttoned boots to the lock of hair that had escaped from beneath her simple black felt hat. The tea arrived and she poured. They both avoided mentioning Don, but after they’d nibbled their way through their hot buttered toast and the waitress had topped up their tea pot with fresh hot water, John began to explain how Don had lost his life, about the gift he’d brought her and the love that accompanied it.
Outside John knew the War was still going on. He could hear the newspaper sellers outside shouting about the previous night’s aeroplane raid, when thirty-eight Gothas and three Giants had taken off to attack London, but suffered heavy losses with at least Six Gothas being shot down by interceptors and anti-aircraft fire. John wondered if it could be that the tide of war was about to turn, and if not was it just possible that the story of his own life might have a happy ending, or was he hoping for too much from a pair of opalescent eyes.
*Diggers = soldiers from Australia

Top I0 compeition tips notes for those who couldn’t make the workshop on Saturday the 1st of MArch

10 Useful Tips – Writing for Short Story Competitions

 The Tips:

  • Read the rules and follow them.  This means that if they say they want your submission in 12 point Times New Roman then you must adhere to their choice of font, stick to the word count and don’t forget to add page numbers if requested. It also means that if the competition is based on a particular theme then you must write a story that revolves around that theme. 
  • Make certain that you understand the type of story that the competition is asking you to write.  If it includes words like ‘literature’ or’ literary’  fiction in its guidelines then that is what it is asking you to write.  A ‘literary’ short story may expect the following qualities to be evident in the writing a clever and subtle (almost poetic) use of language, a subtext or depth in the writing which may be expressed through brooding and dark settings and captivating characters.  Characters and settings are often more important than the plot.
  • If it just refers to a ‘writing’ competition’ this usually means high quality ‘popular’ fiction. The plot is the key feature and will often follow your main character that will be placed in a situation that involves ‘conflict’ and engaging ‘problems’ that need to be solved.  The story ends when your character has achieved a satisfactory resolution of the conflict.  You need an interesting opening line and above all an absorbing plot.
  • Your title can help you to win the competition e.g. Blue Pus. Try to include an element of uncertainty or intrigue in your opening sentence/paragraph.
  • Short stories usually work best from a single point of view.  Beware of using the present tense. It may work for some stories, but it is very easy to get your tenses muddled up if you use this viewpoint.
  • Grammar and spelling etc.   Common errors are using the wrong modal verbs (e.g. ‘might’ instead of ‘must’) or changing tenses in the middle of sentences.  Be careful to check for any words that you think might be hyphenated e.g. well-known,

ill-fitting etc.

  • Style – don’t try to be too clever and use vocabulary that you don’t understand or that your audience won’t understand and avoid ‘offensive’ words.  If you use an unusual word make certain that you give your reader enough clues to work out what it means, or use footnotes if the competition rules say that you can.  Avoid words like ‘suddenly’, clichés, the over use of adverbs and exclamation marks.
  • Check out the judges.
  • Edit and proofread your work e.g. check for typing slips one common one is ‘their’ and ‘there’ and another is ‘your’ and ‘you’re’.  Get rid of any superfluous or irrelevant words.
  • Make your story compelling.


What is the real prize when you enter any short story competition?




First World War Novelists and short story writers:

Alfred Noyes 

John Buchan 

Erich Maria Remarque

Henri Barbusse 1916 novel, Under Fire.

British novelist Mary Augusta Ward wrote generally pro-war novels, some at the request of United States President Roosevelt, which raised questions about the war and include England’s Effort (1916), The War and Elizabeth (1917) and Fields of Victory (1919).


Short story writers who are considered as some of the best:

Honore de Balzac
Willa Cather
Anton Pavlovich Checkhov
Roald Dahl
Charles Dickens
Graham Greene
Bret Harte
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Washington Irving
W. W. Jacobs,
Rudyard Kipling,
D. H. Lawrence
Jack London
Katherine Mansfield
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Guy de Maupassant
Herman Melville
Liam O’Flaherty,
George Orwell
Dorothy Parker
Parker, Dorothy,
Edgar Allan Poe
Saki (Hector Hugo Munro) b.1870 in Burma and d.1916
Robert Louis Stevenson
Stevenson, Robert Louis
Dylan Thomas
Thomas, Dylan,
Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
H. G. Wells
Edith Wharton
Virginia Woolf



An Everyday Fairy Tale in just over 500 words for those who believe in love and romance.

An Everyday Fairy Tale in just over 500 words for those who believe in love and romance.

Charlie couldn’t believe that she’d won the raffle at work.  She’d never won a prize, and hadn’t even managed to find a partner in life’s love lottery.  She couldn’t wait to tell her best friend.

   “Susie, I’m so excited. I’ve won a cruise. Do you think I should accept it?  I mean it’s for ten days, and I’d have to find someone to look after Boots.”

   “That’s not a problem. I’ll go in everyday and feed her. You must go! ” Susie meant it with all her heart, because not only did Charlie work very unsociable hours, but until the recent death of her mother she’d been acting as a full-time carer as well. She’d never even had a steady boyfriend as far as Susie could remember and they’d known each other since schooldays.  Now Charlie lavished all her attention on Boots her cat.  Charlie was only in her mid -thirties and although she’d never stood out looks-wise, she had a pleasant face and even more important she had potential. Susie was determined to act the fairy godmother and transform Charlie from ordinary into super-attractive.

   “There’s another problem.  I haven’t got any suitable clothes.  I mean I can’t wear my uniform, can I?”

  “No, definitely not!  You’ve got a birthday coming up haven’t you? I hadn’t got a clue what to buy you, but now I do. I’m taking you shopping.”


Susie did what she’d always longed to do, which was transform Charlie from an unkempt Cinderella into someone who looked more like a princess. By the end of the day Charlie had had her nails manicured and polished, a new haircut, and a suitcase stuffed with new clothes suitable for a cruise including a slinky formal dress.


To make absolutely certain that Charlie went, Susie insisted that her husband looked after the children, and drove her to Southampton.

   “You know, perhaps this isn’t such a good idea,” said Charlie as she looked up at the huge

cruise ship.

  “You are going and I am going to make certain you do. So don’t think you can back out now.”

  “I mean, look at all of the people they are all so well turned out.”

  “So are you. Charlie, have you actually looked at yourself today other than to blow dry your hair?”

  “No, I suppose you are right. I’ve got to do this haven’t I?

  “Yes, Charlie I mean the things you do for a living are really scary. I mean those courses you go on are truly horrendous.”  Suddenly, Charlie’s’ face broke into a broad grin, which in Susie’s’ eyes made her look pretty if not beautiful.

  “Of course, I’m an idiot.  I’ve climbed much higher mountains.”


Three days later Susie received a crackly call from Charlie.

   “Guess what?”

  “You’ve meet a rich, handsome man who has proposed to you?”  Susie suggested.

  “No, not exactly, but I’ve meet a very nice policeman. Rob won his ticket in a sweepstake at work.  He didn’t want to come either, but his friends made him, because he works too hard. It’s weird, because we talk the same language. He’s been on all the training courses that I’ve been on. We’ve just arrived at Gibraltar first port of call and so we are off to explore.”

   Susie could hear the warmth and excitement in her friend’s voice, and decided that Charlie might have met her own personally Prince Charming at last, and that a happy ending with a fellow police officer might just be on the horizon.



A wet weather story – Plants Will Grow to Please

Plants Will Grow to Please

Lizzie tried to stifle a yawn as Kevin finished outlining his environmental office enhancement scheme.

“Yes, Lizzie?” said Kevin expectantly, interpreting her yawn as a budding contribution to the discussion.

“Will moving the filing cabinets let more light into the room? She asked trying to keep her voice light, bright and positive in an attempt to mirror Kevin’s sickly presentation style.  “After all it’s the concrete wall outside which blocks out all the daylight, isn’t it?”

Kevin looked crestfallen and her fellow workers frowned. Expressions of agreement for his suggestions spouted from everyone’s lips. Her co-workers’ hostility towards her manifested itself by her being the only person who wasn’t asked if she wanted to join in the informal chat over coffee in the coffee shop downstairs.


Phase One of Kevin’s scheme was underway the next day. The filing cabinets were moved, but as Lizzie had predicted no extra light filtered in. The workforce tidied their drawers, pruning them of paper to be recycled, paper clips and rubber bands for redistribution. Lizzie couldn’t stop yawning. The task of sorting out her desk was too mind-numbing for her to tackle without another dose of caffeine. Her life was as colourless and drab as the office. Lizzie was bored, boring and imprisoned by an invisible barrier of unpopularity.  She’d been waiting for a Prince Charming to cut down the brambles and reveal the bright loveable person she knew was buried inside her ever since she’d left school.

“What have we here?” demanded Kevin as Lizzie returned with another coffee.  He was pulling plastic bags out of her desk like a magician pulling silk scarves from a hat.

“I’m saving them,” Lizzie replied defensively.

“Yes, I can see that, but what for?  Do you realise how environmentally destructive this hord is?”  For one moment, she thought he was going to try to push the whole burden of global warming onto her shoulders.

“I do re-use them.”

“I should hope so,” said Kevin and tutted loudly as he continued to search through her desk. He couldn’t find anything else to complain about, but she felt as if her workspace had been designated an environmental disaster area. The tears welled up in her eyes. Lizzie decided that it was time to ask for her overdue holiday. She was sure that Kevin would be thrilled to see the back of her for a few weeks while he ‘enhanced’ the office, which involved getting her fired or transferred. However hard he tried though there was one insurmountable obstacle that he couldn’t overcome. Lizze was absolutely brilliant with figures and computers and no one else could do the job and so he was stuck with her and so was everyone else.

She loathed the idea of a conventional holiday, and longed for one that would change her life, but not just a superficial change like when you bought a new dress or the most desirable shoes you’d ever seen  with heels that made you look six-feet tall even if you didn’t feel it. What Lizzie wanted was a total life make-over. While waiting for her train home, she stood flicking through an expensive alternative-lifestyle magazine that she had no intention of buying, when she stumbled across an advertisement for her ideal adventure. It involved no physical danger, but promised a life-changing spiritual holiday and was cheap compared to all the other options she’d checked out.


Two weeks later, a taxi dropped Lizzie at the foot of an unkempt track. In the far distance she caught a glimpse of a stark Macbeth-style Scottish highland castle, which stood alone and unprotected by even a single tree. Lizzie half dragged her suitcase, bulging with thick sweaters up the rough track to the entrance and pulled the bell. The heavy door was opened and a jolly red-face woman whose wrinkle free face was framed with long silver hair.


“I’m Heather. You must be Lizzie. Follow me.” Heather picked up the heavy case and charged up the uneven spiral staircase like a racing driver intent on breaking the world speed record. Lizzie plodded after her, becoming more breathless with every step.

“The toilets and bathrooms are on this floor,” explained Heather, pausing to allow Lizzie to catch up. The castle has central heating, which is on all the time otherwise the plants wouldn’t like it.”


Lizzie assumed that Heather had meant ‘people’ not ‘plants’, but as soon as the solid bed chamber door swung open she realised she was mistaken. She was confronted with a room that resembled a mini rain forest rather than a bedroom. The advert for Heather’s castle home, shared by guests who wanted to ‘tune in to peaceful positive energy’ hadn’t mentioned plants. It wasn’t that she disliked them, but her success rate with them was nil. The more care she lavished on them, the quicker they faded away and died, just like her human relationships.


Heather beamed at Lizzie.

“You needn’t be afraid of the plants. They won’t bite, but they are going to be curious about you, but don’t you concern yourself with that now. I’m sure my other guests will have finished their crystal healing class and all be in need of a cup of herbal tea. I’ll take you down and introduce you.”


The room bore no resemblance to anything that Lizzie had imagined the main hall of a castle to look like. It had been decorated to resemble the inside of a Bedouin tent. Sitting on over-stuffed red and gold silk cushions were an assortment of smiling, eager-faced people whose attention was focused on a gaunt woman, who was sobbing and wailing.


“They’ve obviously had a good session,” commented Heather. “And you must be in need of physical sustenance. A mug of camomile tea and a slice of suet free clootie dumpling or home-baked whisky shortbread will revitalise you after your journey. Now let me introduce you to Tamsin, Clarissa, Lynette, Iona, Dominic, Kasper and Ivor. Everyone this is Lizzie.”

They beamed momentarily in Lizzie’s direction. Heather squashed Lizzie between Ivor and Tamsin who both gave her a welcoming hug.

“Now Lizze just relax, commune with your fellow seekers and I’ll be back to plan your guided exercises after I’ve fed the plants.”

Lizzie nibbled on the bullet-like dumpling and tried to remind herself why she was there. She wanted to be transformed, to attract love and happiness into her life. It wasn’t that much to ask for, was it? Tears started to trickle down Lizzie’s face and she started to wonder if the dumpling had ingredients in it that weren’t in the original recipe, because she was feeling very lightheaded. Clarrisa, the thin-faced woman stopped crying and began to smile broadly. The group automatically transferred their comforting words in Lizzie’s direction.


Later that night, when she’d drawn the curtains of her canopied bed and snuggled beneath the thick quilt, Lizzie felt cosy, calm and surprisingly optimistic. She only woke briefly during the night when something brushed against her face.


The next morning, fortified with porridge laced with a dash of whisky, cream and cinnamon, Lizzie went to her first session. She followed the scent of essential oils to the aromatherapist’s room. Two very bright and intelligent eyes stared directly at her as she went in. Lizzie started to back out. Discovering her Prince Charming shut away in a castle was one thing, but the prospect of letting him massage her body with aromatic oils was quite another. Lizzie had never given her saviour a physical form, but here he was – tall, lithe, muscular, with a charming grin and skin like black satin. Black was an inadequate word, because it resembled highly polished ebony.

“Take you clothes off,” said a deep, rich voice, “and then climb onto the couch.”

Lizzie gulped. How could she possibly unpeel the layers of protective clothing and expose her body to the scrutiny of the man she’d been looking for all her life.

“If you are cold I’ll turn the heating up,” he suggested with a velvety chuckle.

Off came Lizzie’s over large tomato coloured sweater, which clashed with her ginger cat coloured hair, followed by her other baggy assortment of T-shirt, trousers and underwear.

“I don’t know why you hide your body under shapeless clothes. You’ve got a figure that Marilyn Monroe would have been proud of. You’re a woman and you might as well enjoy it,” he said appreciatively.

Lizzie had never been able to enjoy being a woman. Her shape embarrassed her, with its voluptuousness and preferred to transform her body into an unappetizing, unidentifiable blob. However, she couldn’t help feeling thrilled by her champion’s admiration, but would have been more delighted if he’d said she had a beautiful soul.


“I’m Solomon,” he said, introducing himself with a mock bow. This immediately created a problem for Lizzie as she’d pictured her knight as being called Lancelot, or Merlin, but she had to admit that the name Solomon did suit him. Lizzie could easily imagine him writing love poems and songs to the woman of his choice.


She flopped into bed early that night and fell into a dream and poetry-filled sleep.

“My lover is handsome and strong,

He is one in ten thousand,

His face is bronzed and smooth,

His hair is wavy,

Black as a raven…No, that’s wrong,” Lizzie could hear herself correcting Solomon’s Song of Songs. “His face is black and smooth.” Her hand reached up to brush something off her nose. She could smell scents of the East: jasmine and myrrh. The fragrant perfumes lingered around her as her dream evaporated.


Lizzie had to remind herself that dreams didn’t smell, and drew back the curtain to find out where the scent was coming from. Close by her bed was a jasmine plant. For a brief moment its leaves rustled. In fact if Lizzie hadn’t known better she’d have thought it was shaking with laughter. She decided that she must be half asleep and snuggled back in bed to resume her dream. Just as she was about to be presented to Solomon as an addition to his harem, something stroked her cheek. Her eyes flashed open. There was nothing to see, except that the jasmine plant was bent double as if suffering from a fit of giggles, and the dracaena was holding its large leaves stiffly as if it was trying not to laugh.

For the third time she dived under the duvet. Once again something rustled against her face. Lizzie made a grab for it. She heard a loud squeak.

“It’s not fair,” shouted the jasmine plant. “I was only playing. You’ve crushed one of my leaves and it hurts.”

“No, it wasn’t nice of you,” said the dracaena, “we only wanted to be friendly.”

“I must be dreaming or hallucinating,” Lizzie said aloud.

“Don’t be silly,” chirped the plants in unison.

“If you were dreaming, my leaf wouldn’t be sore, would it?” said the jasmine plant in a high pitched tetchy voice.”

“We decided you weren’t happy and thought we’d cheer you up,” snarled the dracaena.

“That was very kind of you,” said Lizzie, deciding to humour them just in case she wasn’t dreaming and had been spirited away to some alien planet during the night.

“Why aren’t you happy?” asked the dracaena.

“No one seems to like me, or think I’m attractive.”

“You aren’t as pretty as a Busy Lizzie, but you aren’t unattractive for a human hybrid. We’ve seen a lot worse, haven’t we Drac?”

“Oh, my, yes Jasie,” said Drac, and laughed.

The first rays of morning light were breaking through the windows when Jasie and Drac fell asleep and assumed the appearance of ordinary houseplants. Lizzie crawled back into her comfortable bed. She was tired, but more light-hearted than she’d been since childhood.


Lizzie’s programme included a morning session with Solomon. Rosemary was rubbed over her body to increase the clarity of her thoughts, which she definitely needed to cope with Drac and Jasie. The two plants had turned out to be chatterboxes, and when they couldn’t articulate what they wanted to verbally, they were able to transmit their opinions into her thoughts. What was worse was that they appeared to be able read her mind.


During the workshop on discovering past lives through crystals they made it particularly difficult. Lizzie wasn’t able to recapture any of her past lives and so Jasie and Drac chipped in.

“Perhaps you were a beetroot, which explains why you go so red every time you see Solomon,” suggested Jasie, giggling.

“I think she must have been a carrot. Just look at the colour of her hair,” said Drac and added, “although with the thoughts she’s sending us, perhaps she was poison ivy?”


The session was not a success, and while Clarissa, Kasper and the others discovered they’d lived exciting past lives, she began to wonder if she’d been someone’s headache. It was even worse when she was with Solomon.  Every time she lay on the massage couch, the plants became uncontrollable.

“I don’t know what you see in Solomon? I suppose he’s quite a nice colour, but he hasn’t got much foliage,” remarked Jasie.


They teased Lizzie mercilessly and she was tempted to miss her last aromatherapy session, but her desire to see Solomon forced her to go. For once, the plants didn’t seem to be bothering her. Lizzie realised they must be sound asleep, which wasn’t surprising after the late night discussion they’d had about ecological issues.

“You look a bit more relaxed this morning,” said Solomon. “You know you can always tell Jasie and Drac to be quiet.”

“How do you know about them?” asked Lizzie.

“They can’t resist talking about their new friend. They’ve told me how nice you are. If you are free this afternoon I’ll show you how to sneak a break from them.”


Solomon took Lizzie for a walk over the purple scented heather. “You see, there is just the buzz of insects and not the raucous laughter of two highly developed plants. They haven’t discovered how to read minds or transmit messages outside the walls of their castle home yet!”

“I’ll miss them when I go home. They’ve been real friends.”

“Well, how about having a human substitute? I’ll be city bound in a few weeks. I’ve got to get back to my ‘real’ job. I hate to admit it, but I’m really a financial wizard. No, actually I’m quite a successful stock broker. So, we could resume your massage sessions on a purely personal level,” he said, and gave a seductive laugh.

“How could I resist such a tempting offer?”

During her stay Lizzie had made friends with Heather and everyone else at the castle, but it had been Jasie and Drac who’d become her true friends. She’d grown through their love and laughter. Lizzie’s tears fell onto their leaves as she left, but they appeared to be quite cheerful.

“Don’t worry, we’ll stay in touch,” they said, chuckling with the knowledge of a shared secret.


Lizzie arrived back at her office to find that phase two of Kevin’s environmental enhancement scheme was underway. Every desk had a plant on it. Their bright colours and abundant foliage made the office even more bleak. The hostility she’d felt towards her was unchanged. Her desk was the only one without any greenery. Kevin approached her in the middle of the morning and put a very spiky cactus down in front of her.

“Remember to look after it! Plants will grow and flourish if you take care of them. Lizzie wanted to spit out in anger and ask him why he couldn’t extend the same treatment to his staff.

“I’m thirsty,” said a tiny voice, breaking the silence that surrounded her when Kevin left. Lizzie poured a cup of water over the cactus without stopping to think that she’d never heard plants talk before she’s met Jasie and Drac.

“That’s better, I hate air conditioning. It makes my spikes dry out. I’ve got a message for you from your friends. They’ve persuaded Solomon to bring them with him. So they’ll all be meeting you on Friday after work. He says he hasn’t got a white charger, but he hopes that a sleek Porsche will do equally as well. By the way, I don’t like your boss he’s a bully. Who does he think he is? I think you should get another job and take me with you.”


Liz smiled for the first time that morning. It amused her to think that Kevin was in for a shock. He hadn’t taken into account that plants would only grow to please themselves, or that she intended to turn over a new leaf and find a new job, and that hopefully if she nurtured her relationship with Solomon it might blossom into the rarest plant of all true love. What was more she hoped with all her heart that the office plants might unite to lead Kevin a merry dance.

Heritage Wheel Word Collection Picture, Tavistock, Devon

Heritage Wheel Word Collection Picture

This collection of words was donated by 72 of the visitors to the Guildhall (Tavistock) known locally as “the Magistrates’ Court” on Saturday the 14th of September. The phrases and words have been ordered to give the appearance of a prose poem. The aim was to find out what ‘heritage’ meant to the visitors of all ages who came too look and learn about this local landmark, which is part of The World Heritage Site.

History, Evolution, Rarity, Interesting items, Tavistock, Amazing, Going back, Endlessly – These are all our HERITAGE,

It isn’t just a host of memories encased in stone,

Although if walls could talk what tales they would reveal,

Memories – memories,

Echoes of the past,

And a taste of things long gone,

Reminders of our ancestors,

Stories of recent and past lives,

Places, agriculture, seafaring, making and doing, and even the judiciary system,

And things that were valuable once upon a time,

It tells us about ‘old stuff’,

Some love all of it,

Some like upstairs,

Some like downstairs and some like the fighting and the gore of battles untold,

Some love SPIRES.  It’s our history,


Sometimes a bit scary, shocking, surprising, intimidating, but often nice,

Providing us with a sense of belonging,

Knowledge about where we come from,

Teaching us about how buildings were built,

Enabling us to walk in our ancestors’ footsteps,

Giving us an identity and showing us how to interpret, preserve and care,

By bringing the past alive and showing us our true history and folklore

Heritage isn’t just mine or yours, but it is for those who’ll walk here in 100 years,

And something to keep safe for our children,

It should be about our world, but redolent with echoes of the past,

Taking the best from the past, and saving it for future generations,

And transforming hidden treasures into living history – history in the making,

It’s our local as well as our national past which needs preserving,

Heritage is what the “Old Folks’ Rest Room” SHOULD BE!

It is keeping things for posterity and not letting them go to RACK AND RUIN!

The Guildhall is an amazing piece of history,

Let’s hope it can be preserved for future generations to see and use!

Heritage is not knocking down the Pixon Lane Toll House, but it is keeping it in good fettle!

Keeping the Guildhall and police station in good “NICK”,

It isn’t simply a blast from the past, but about preservation,

Heritage is history and tells us how people lived and how everything has changed because of it,

The way your own family, and their personal history and your local area have been shaped by past deeds,

Heritage goes around – some say,

Without a doubt heritage is making sure future generations have one!

Preserve your heritage,

Wonderful history, which must be kept as it is and maintained,

Accessibility to the past for:

Families from the future,

Families from the past,

To view their surroundings,

For memories that will last,

Join your local history society,

It is our identity and our potential for future generations,

Visit your local museum,

And discover evidence of past lives,

Ghostly voices calling from the past to tell us their stories,

Creating history with vision,

Heritage is for all of us, because it’s our heritage,

The windows of Tavistock Abbey,

Are smashed and swept away,

But their colours seem to twinkle,

In our canal today,

I hear the church bells,

As I wait in the cell,

What is my fate?

Or is it too late?

Sic transit Gloria mundi.*

Our youngest contributors were:

Sean, Sienna, Ellie, Verona May, Thomas, Alex, William, Elizabeth

*’Sic transit Gloria mundi’ is a Latin phrase that means “Thus passes the glory of the world.”