Harvest in April?

I belong to two writers’ groups, and today I’d like to tell you about one of them.

The Plymouth Christian Writers has a dozen members, and we meet once a month in the Methodist Central Hall, in Plymouth’s city centre.


Writing can be a lonely business, and it’s good to meet people who not only love writing, they love talking about writing, too. The Plymouth Christian Writers share a faith, too, but that doesn’t mean we necessarily agree with each other’s points of view. At its heart, the Christian faith is inclusive and tolerant, and I love it that these people are supportive of each other even though they know certain viewpoints would have meant the ducking stool in years gone by.

What do we do?

The group suggests topics for writing in advance. There’s no law that says a) You must write about this or else…, and b) You will be excommunicated if you don’t bring anything to read out. Sometimes it’s useful to be given a topic to write about, and certainly working towards the deadline of the next meeting is helpful to those of us whose minds have a tendency to wander, whether it be to the next meal, the lawn they ought to be cutting, or the next chapter of the book they’re not quite ready to write.

For March we’d decided upon ‘Customs’. I am always amazed at the number of different approaches that can be taken to each subject, and this was no exception. There is often humour with underlying  compassion from one member, and a new approach to a character from the Bible from another. Among us we have poets, playwrights, a travel writer,  short story creators, writers for children, a novelist, and non-fiction writers. Some of us balance several writers’ hats!


After each reading, there is the opportunity for feedback. Of course, a good writers’ group strives to encourage its members, and the members of the Plymouth Christian Writers group are good at constructive criticism. For example, praise is given where due, and then, if there are words or phrases that need attention, they are addressed in a positive way.

As the leader of this group I have taken to heart the following advice from William Ryan, historical and crime novelist, in a feature he wrote for the Writers & Artists website.

‘Perhaps most importantly, each member of the writing group should take the other members’ writing as it is, and try to encourage the other members to achieve their vision of what they’d like their writing to be, rather than impose their own style on someone else.’

If you’d like to read the whole article, go to


We have occasional visiting speakers and workshops…

… including an open poetry workshop led by Plymouth poet laureate, Mike Sullivan,







and several workshops  with prolific novelist Veronica Heley


What else do we do?

Over the years we have produced booklets to mark varying times in the year—Christmas, Easter, and Summer  are past topics, and last year we wrote for ‘Passiontide 2018’, with contributions from ten members.

Our latest venture is ‘Harvest’ and this month we’re working on pieces for our proposed new booklet, hopefully ‘done and dusted’ (excuse cliché) by September.


When everyone has read out their work, we may have time to spare for a writing game or exercise. In February we had five minutes to write about gnomes. Brains whirred and silence fell. At the end of the time slot we read out what we’d written, and I would be surprised if the people in the Discovery Café didn’t hear us laughing.


I love gnomes, so can’t resist sharing what I wrote:

The Garden Gnome

Jack’s house was by the school bus stop, so he was never surprised when one or more of the youngsters slipped into his garden and moved his gnome. It disappeared once, and he felt sure he saw it looking down from the top of the number seven . It appeared to be eating a Mars bar. Jack thought about getting a new gnome—it had been chipped over the years after all. Three days later he saw someone creeping into his garden. Tough luck, it’s gone, he thought. He made his way to the front door. He looked out, and there he was, Freddy, with a new coat of paint and a Mars bar wrapper in his hand.

So, that’s the Plymouth Christian Writers.

If anyone in or near Plymouth would like to join us, please leave me a comment and I’ll get in touch.

Frog: (Uncertainly) Bit suspicious of gnomes, me.


5 tips for flash fiction

1 Write about something that matters to you.

In other words, make the reader care.

If you have a passion for travel, set your story somewhere you’ve visited, or somewhere on your bucket list.

If you are a stickler for the truth, how do you feel about people who get away with telling lies?

Do you worry about your children’s safety?

Are you afraid of growing old?

Make a list of things that matter to you. It will be useful now and in the future.

2 Spend time creating your title

It can add to your story or help invite a reader in.

3 Start as far into the story as possible

In other words, grab the reader’s interest straight away.

Study examples of flash and see how little the reader needs to know. If the story’s good, he won’t mind working to fill in some of the details himself.

4 Things to avoid:

Too many adjectives and adverbs


A weak ending



5 Whatever problem or question is set up at the beginning of your flash, be sure to solve or answer it at the end.

National Flash Fiction Day. Saturday 15th June.

Details online at https://www.writers-online.co.uk/news/creative-writing-submissions-national-flash-fiction-day-2019




Did  you know the next National Flash Fiction Day will take place on Saturday, 15 June 2019?

National Flash Fiction Day was founded in 2011 by Calum Kerr, a writer, lecturer, editor, typesetter, book designer, and generally ‘someone who spends a lot of time with words’. He’s written over 1000 flash fictions, and is the author of The World in a Flash, a ‘how to book’ in which he shares his knowledge and experience of writing compulsively readable flash stories.

The NFFD is currently run by three flash fiction enthusiasts,  Santino Prinzi, Ingrid Jendrzejewski and Diane Simmons. Their aim is to celebrate all that is exciting, bold and above all, brief, in the world of flash-fiction.

All this sound pretty exciting, so let’s get down to details.

National Flash Fiction Day aims to:

  • Promote flash fiction and flash fiction writers in the UK and beyond
  • Inspire new short-form writing
  • Encourage new writers and writers of other forms to explore flash fiction
  • Provide a positive, encouraging, inclusive community for flash fiction writers and readers around the globe

Submissions are now open for the 2019 NFFD Anthology and Micro Fiction Competition!

This is what the organisers say:

  • The 2019 Anthology:  We’re looking for flashes up to 500 words on the theme of ‘Doors’.  Deadline: 15 March 2019.  For full details, please read our full anthology submission guidelines.
  • The 2019 Micro Fiction Competition:  Flashes up to 100 words are eligible.  There is no theme for the Micro Fiction Competition.  Deadline: 15 March 2019.  For full details, please read our competition submission guidelines.

Right. Sheet of paper or new document. Brainstorm ‘DOORS’. The more original the idea, the better. As the resident frog will vouch…

Unusual ideas can come from exploring unusual situations.



Frog: (Not very cheerfully)

I’m seriously thinking of looking for another job!

You have three wishes…

What if… you could have three wishes for 2019?

Three wishes to change your life. Let the game begin…

Oooh! How a thousand things do spring to mind!


World peace.

A ginormous lottery win.

My bus is never late.

My pernickety boss is offered is dream job… in darkest Peru.

That superior woman – you know, the one who knows everything and is never wrong – is sent to the Antarctic, with a team of huskies, and an impossible mission.

Yours truly wins the tennis club annual tournament.


It’s my game, and I can see I need more rules. You have three wishes. For the magic to work. they must be personal and specific, and there must be the possibility, even though slight and vague, that they are achievable.

So browse your brains for more ideas.

OK. I’m feeling penniless after Christmas? How about a designer outfit going for three pounds fifty, AND it fits me perfectly?

Personal and specific, yes, but three pounds fifty? Not possible.

I wish for a new suitcase, a new swimsuit, and a ticket for a fortnight’s holiday in the Maldives.

On your pay? Please! Besides, that’s three wishes in one.

It’s time to take this seriously.


Yes. Think about things that would make your whole future better in some way.

What would you wish for, then?

After a lot of thought, and a great deal of pondering, here are my three wishes:

I wish that by the end of 2019 I will understand people better.

You mean, you want to work out why some people seem unfriendly, or unreasonable? 

Like my boss.

Like that superior woman I sent to the Antarctic!

I wish that I shall learn to complain kindly but firmly, when necessary, whether it’s about a poor meal in a restaurant, for example, or about homelessness and injustice in the world.

You sure do need that one.

Actually, I need it too.

I wish for an imagination that will carry me through every task I set myself.

For those stories you want to write? Be confident!

For that book you’ve been too busy to get on with? Just do it, pal. Just do it.

I can see that my three wishes have something to do with courage, confidence and perseverance. These are exactly what I wish for all my writing friends.

Here’s to a successful 2019 for us all.

Frog: (m


Hellebores for Christmas…

… and the first primrose of 2019.

There’s always something new to discover.



A happy new year to frog supporters everywhere.