Monday 23 December 2013

Greenacre Writers Round up of 2013

Wishing all our followers a very Happy Christmas
 and a peaceful and joyous 2014

Greenacre Writers has had another busy year, with the year kicking off with a 6-session ‘Start That Novel’ course, led by Rosie Canning, with one session tutored by Dr Josie Pearse and another by Alex Wheatle. The course covered planning a novel, developing plot, characterisation, dialogue, point of view, first chapter, as well as giving participants feedback on their writing.

April saw the publication of Greenacre Writers Anthology Vol 2, with its launch at Cafe Buzz in North Finchley. One of our winning authors, Amy Flinders, was able to attend the launch to receive her prize. Several GW members who contributed stories read extracts aloud to those who came along to help us celebrate. We enjoyed the hospitality from Café Buzz owner, Helen Michaels, who plied us with coffee and cake!
For more info click here.

Hot on the heels of the launch was the second Greenacre Writers Literary Festival. From a single event the previous year, it had grown to four; two workshops led by Miriam Halahmy and Josie Pearse, a Spoken Word event at Friern Barnet Community Library and the main event at Trinity Church Centre. Our four guest speakers were Sarah Harrison, Leigh Russell, CJ Flood and Gina Blaxill who gave us entertaining talks and readings. Members of GW also read extracts from their work. The day was rounded off with a lively panel discussion on Truth and Fiction with guest speakers and Alex Wheatle. Moderator was Allen Ashley who kept the passionate writers in line.
For more info see here.

The festival launched our third short story competition and we were delighted that Alex Wheatle agreed to be our judge. Our first entry came within days of the launch with the last coming in at a minute before the deadline! The winners were announced in November and the third anthology is now underway.

Our members have been busy with their writing and we are always pleased when they achieve success.

Katie Alford was awarded a prize for her short story competition entry written in the style of a traditional Japanese folklore tale. It will be included in our forthcoming anthology.  

Lindsay Bamfield won a flash fiction competition in Writing Magazine and was shortlisted in the Chudleigh Phoenix short story competition and Flash 500. One of her flash fiction pieces was published in The Best of Café Lit 2012 and she had a 100-worder entitled ‘Gone’ published on the Café Lit website.

Helen Barbour has had great feedback on her very successful blog 'The Reluctant Perfectionist' about living with OCD to tie in with her novel whose main character has this condition. See link to Helen's blog to the right.

Rosie Canning had a 100 word flash fiction ‘Uncoupled’ published on the Café Lit website. She led a writing retreat at St Katharine's, Parmoor where writers were thoroughly spoilt while they got on with their writing. See here for the 2014 Spring Retreat. 
Once again, she was a reader for Radio Two’s 500 Words competition for children under 13. A preview of her forthcoming publication Occupied and Opened - the story of Friern Barnet Library was held in the library on the 5th September - the book will be published early in 2014. Rosie will also have a chapter in Steering the Mothership: The Complexities of Mothering by Lisa Cherry due to be published on Mother's Day, 30th March 2014. 

Linda Dell published her novel Earthscape, a Long Way from Home, a sci-fi, romance, adventure. One of her short stories was selected for A Wish for Christmas, a book of Christmas stories published by Alfie Dog. She has been approached by a New York publisher, Skyhorse, regarding a book on the A-Z of Aphrodisiacs which will be out next year.

Anna Meryt published a book of poems, Heartbroke. She facilitated and performed in a recent poetry event at The Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green.

Wendy Shillam has regularly published chapters of her online novella The Author’s Song. The link to Wendy's online novella is on the right.

Plans are well underway for next year’s literary festival which has been renamed The Finchley Literary Festival and will be held from 24th to 31st May 2014. Watch this space.

Our three regular groups continue to meet regularly and all our members are busy with their works in progress. We look forward to more achievements next year.

Wednesday 27 November 2013

First Prize Winning Story in Greenacre Writers Short Story competition 2013

Flapjack by Sal Page

 17th July

7.46pm - 3 eggs.

I’m waiting. They usually come in sixes. Or twelves. Jade’s upstairs. Hopefully got her earphones in. So hot. I hate summer. The kids stay out longer, which means we’re both stuck in here. I hate having to keep windows shut, draw curtains and sit in with the television on. I’ve turned the volume right up, a sitcom with canned laughter.

8.02pm – 3 more eggs.
I heard them splat against the window. The yolks and whites will be running down the glass. Not a very interesting book I’m writing. Eggs, eggs, flour, tinned tomatoes and spaghetti. Eggs, beans, eggs and more eggs. Just write down what they say and do. Keep a record of dates and times. That’s what I was told. I’m glad these notebooks were ‘buy one get one free’ so I can write more in this second one. 
   Jade was going through the bathroom cabinet before. I asked her what she was looking for. She said ‘nothing’ and started tidying it away. She said she was sorting the cupboard out. Very suspicious. She doesn’t even tidy her own room without prompting. I’ll make her favourite omelette tonight. Cheese and mushroom. 

8.56pm ‘We’re gonna get you, ya fucking fat bitches’ More eggs and something heavy hit the window. Don’t know what it is.

That was loud. Don’t think the window broke this time. At least the car they set fire to has gone this week.
   I asked Jade did she want something putting on the shopping list but she just shrugged. I heard the pring of her phone. I’m glad she’s in touch with her mates in the holidays though she doesn’t go out much. I asked if she was going to look at her message. She just said ‘later’ and went back upstairs. She spends a lot more time in her room here but she’ll be fourteen next year. Won’t want to hang out with me at all soon.

9.02pm - Tinned spaghetti thrown at the front door and living room window. I looked out, tried to not let them see me. They shouted ‘Fat Cow’ when they saw me at the window. Then ‘Fucking Fat Bitches’, over and over.

Nothing’s been the same since we had to move. This wouldn’t have happened in Greenacres. There were more places for kids to go round there. That bastard, Dave. I can understand him leaving me but what about her? She’s his daughter and he can’t even phone or send something for her birthday.

9.20pm - They’re in the garden of the empty house. Four of them, two Hegleys, two others. The one with the red jacket.

9.32pm - More pasta and eggs, thrown at the kitchen window. I shut the blind. Shouting but I couldn’t hear what. Loud music on TV.

I’m sure they make the adverts louder. I didn’t want to hear what they were shouting but I’m supposed to write it down.

10.22pm – Tomatoes and cakes. Two of them came through the gate and squashed cakes into the letterbox. ‘Fucking fat bitches’ a few times through the letterbox. 

They could see me standing in the hall. Cake is a new one. I watched it land on the mat. I wanted to do something but didn’t know what. I’ve been told not to speak to them again. Just supposed to stay indoors and write it down.
   It’s three weeks since I went out and told them to leave us alone. They just laughed. I wish I hadn’t said anything. Got worse since. They started throwing the tins. That’s when I called the police. Two days peace we had till they came back.
   I’m sure Dave’s Mum knows his new number. She doesn’t care about her grand daughter. Makes me think of me and Gran and all the times I stayed with her. I wish Jade could’ve had that. It’s been horrible for her recently, starting senior school and having to move to a new one after one term. 
   I’m in bed now. Jade was still on her laptop when I looked in. I told her to switch off and get some sleep.

18th July

8.14pm – They’re out there again, arrived later tonight. Messing about in next door’s garden, pretending to fight with the planks from the fence. Three Hegleys this time, the older brother too. And the one with the red jacket and the little blond one. They were shouting and laughing but I don’t think it was directed at us.

Jade went out early. She was gone all morning. When she came back she said she’d been shopping. I could see from the bags she’d been to Superdrug and Wilkies. I told her I could’ve got whatever she needed from Asda. Your shampoo was on offer, she said. I asked if she wanted the money. She just shrugged and went upstairs. 
   She only came down when I called her for tea. Spaghetti Bolognese. I make it from scratch with carrots and mushrooms, a glug of red wine and lots of garlic. Most people these days buy a jar and just add to the meat but that’s not the same. Jade likes it with lots of cheese melted on top. It seemed to cheer her up. Me too. Even scooping spaghetti and tomatoes up from the doorstep and scraping it off the windows doesn’t put me off.

8.36pm – Eggs – 6 all at once.

I notice they’ve left the box in our hedge.
   We stay in more now. When going out involves getting past at least three boys calling names after you down the street and everyone staring, you tend to do that. Did the supermarket shop at one in the morning last week. I waited till they left, then went out and got a taxi. Bought anything that was on offer and lots of basics and tinned stuff. Not much left of this month’s money but we’re well stocked up.

8.55pm - 9.04pm – Flour, more eggs and beans.

Got to draw the curtains now. I have to crawl on the floor, slowly reach up and hope they don’t notice. Just went and made coffee. Jade’s taken the Jaffa Cakes upstairs again. She was rooting through the junk drawer in the kitchen after tea. What’s she looking for? She received a lot of texts tonight. She never looks happy to get them though. Don’t think she even bothers replying. 
   She was on her laptop most of the evening. I wish she’d stay down here with me. She used to sit downstairs more at the old place. Showed me all the stuff she looked up online for that North Pole project she did before Christmas. She showed me the forum where she was talking about Hollyoaks with someone in Dundee and the photo she put on Facebook. It’s the one Dave took of her in the New Forest last summer. A boiling hot, two-ice-cream day. Her face is all red from sunburn but she looks really happy. She’s wearing that orange tie-dye top. She’s outgrown that now.
   Jade thinks it’s her they’re shouting at. I keep telling her it’s me but we know it’s both of us. I once asked if anyone ever said anything at school and she said no straight away. Maybe it’s different these days. Well, bullying’s talked about more now. That’s the impression I get from television. 
   I went into Jade’s room just now. She slammed the laptop shut. I asked if she was all right. She said ‘fine’ and hugged me goodnight. I thought she’d stopped doing that. I suggested we go out tomorrow. Get the train into town. Go shopping. Put it on the credit card. Treat ourselves for the holidays. Go to the Italian for pizza and a sundae. Even though it isn’t Sunday I said, like we always say. She just shrugged and gave a little half-smile. I said ‘we’ll see in the morning’.

10.03pm - 12 Eggs. Laughing. Usual names - Fat bitches, fat cow, fat pigs, sometimes with ‘fucking’ in front, sometimes without. Went on until …

10.12pm – The older brother turned up in a car, they all piled in and left.

You’d think they could find something better to do. And why is it always animals? Is it such an insult? I like animals. People say ‘chicken’, ‘what a bunch of sheep’ and ‘rat’ as well.
   They’ve probably gone up to Asda to nick some more supplies. Mr. Mistry told me he won’t let them in his shop anymore. I hate having to go out early to clean up. I scoop the food up with the dustpan. The smell of raw eggs and spaghetti mixed together makes me feel sick. I knock it into doubled-up carrier bags and tie them tightly. Bits of shell get stuck in the bristles and I have to wash the brush and pan. Then I fill a bucket with hot water, mop the step, wipe the windows down and polish them. That’s my morning routine these days. Before Jade gets up and before the people next door the other side see.
   I’ve had this idea. Give them a taste of their own medicine. I would get a load of syrup and warm it gently. Not so hot it’ll burn, just enough to make it runny. There’d be buckets of it on the windowsill in my bedroom. I’d take one bucket of the syrup outside earlier, pour a layer on the path and flowerbed. I’d get boxes and boxes of porridge oats and cheap rice krispies and a few pots of those horrible sticky clown’s-nose cherries. Jade loves those. I’d have them ready on the bed behind me. Then I’d wait till they arrive. I’d have to get them to come near the house. I’d pull back the curtains and put the light on. That would make them come over. 
   I’d be ready, waiting for the right moment before opening the window. Their laughter, swearing and jeering stirring up my stomach, spurring me on. As fast as I could, I’d pour the syrup over them. They’d probably start to run away, feet getting stuck on the path. Then I’d get the catapult I’d constructed earlier. I’m not sure how I’d do that. Perhaps I borrowed Jade’s laptop and googled catapults. I’d fill the big plastic bowl with the oats and krispies and fire them out of the window to land on their heads. They’d stick to the syrup in their hair. Then, I’m sure they’d be out of the gate by now, hopefully there’d be enough time to send the clown’s noses after the rest.
   Then it would be me laughing at them. At the window, just laughing at them with helmets of that sticky, oaty, crispy mess setting on their heads. I’d still be laughing later, thinking of all the other kids laughing and then their families laughing when they get home. Imagine having to wash that out! They’d be picking off cherries and pulling clumps of hair-flapjack off their heads. They’d be trying to shower it off with the hot water melting the syrup and soggy cherry porridge collecting in the plughole. They’d have to scoop it out or it would clog up the drains. Hope their dads give them a slap instead of giving me dirty looks whenever I try to suggest they speak to their sons about how rude they are to my daughter.

Of course I wouldn’t do this. The police community support officer would have something to say. Just keep a record, she says. Dates and times. Yes, it’d be me in trouble and I’m sure no one would even notice me saying ‘They started it.’ A childish thing to say, I know. But they did.
   They’ve not been back yet. It’s gone 11 now. I’ve just called Jade to see if she wants a drink. No answer.
   She’s probably listening to her music. I’ll read her my flapjack idea tomorrow.
   I’m quite proud of it. Bet it’ll make her laugh.

Sal has a Creative Writing MA from Lancaster University, won the Calderdale Short Story Prize in 2011 and has stories published in various places, both online and in print, such as Jawbreakers, Greenacre Writers Anthology Volume 1, Stories for Homes and The Pygmy Giant. She’s been placed in several competitions and short listed in many more. She is writing her second novel, Curls, while looking for an agent for her first novel Queen of the World.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Second prize winner in Greenacre Writers Short Story competition 2013

Colours Fade to Black and White by Jo Derrick

My life seems to be made up of spinning yo-yos. There they go in a kaleidoscope of colours like the stained glass in next door’s window. Pinks, purples, yellow, reds and greens. This is my world.    
         We have steamed vegetables for tea. They arrived earlier today in a bio-degradable easily-to-fold-down box. All organic, of course and so fresh they hardly take any cooking. Mum doesn’t buy supermarket vegetables. She says it’s like eating plastic and goodness only knows how long they’ve been in transit.
            We don’t eat meat in this house. As far as Mum is concerned, I’ve never eaten meat, but I couldn’t resist trying a bacon roll at Casey’s house once and another time a tuna mayo sandwich. It was what everyone else was having and I didn’t want to make a fuss or to be different from the others.
            As I sit eating my corn-on-the-cob, melted butter dripping down my chin, I think about Delith Jones. She hadn’t long joined our school before she was abducted. I liked her dark curly hair and goofy teeth. She was kind to me.
            Now I can’t step outside the front door without Mum or Dad asking where I’m going and who with. They have a five step policy in place; things I have to do if I’m suspicious of anyone. The one I won’t be able to do is to kick him in the wotsits. I mean, he’d just grab my leg, wouldn’t he and then he’d see my knickers and he’d have won.

They still haven’t found Delith, nor her body. At school we imagine what could have become of her. Anita says she thinks she’s been strangled and dumped in the river. Casey says she’s still alive and being kept in a locked-up shed at the bottom of someone’s garden, and Paul Mallander says she’s been battered to death with a brick.
            I think a man and a lady who can’t have babies and IVF hasn’t worked for them have taken her to be their special little girl. Delith’s probably wearing Mini Boden clothes and attending tap and ballet lessons in Primrose Hill like my cousin. A better life than this boring old town.
            Mum says never to talk to strangers, but if I listened to her, then I’d never have made friends with Mr Timms at Number 53, nor his Polish lodgers who have very red faces and deep voices.

I’m sitting on the front garden wall waiting for Dad to come home and I’m playing with next door’s tabby cat. Shilough, he’s called. He spends more time at our house than next door. Mum says it’s because they’re rubbish pet owners and leave him locked outside most of the day. I pick long stalks of grass and flick them around to tease him. He seems to like that and plays for ages. When Mum’s not looking I pour some full fat organic milk into an old bowl and give it to Shilough. She’s told me hundreds of times not to encourage him, but he’s so sweet, I can’t resist and I’m sure next door don’t feed him properly. Not Mr Timms at Number 53. The other side. The Whites.
            Mr White is always in the corner shop buying firelighters. I had to ask Mum what they were. She said they were white blocks you put on an open fire to keep it from going out. I like the black box they come in. It has pretty orange flames on it. Mr White has whitish-grey hair and bright twinkly blue eyes. He never says hello and he shuffles. I’ve never seen him wearing shoes, only slippers; tartan ones with cream edging.
            Mum says the Whites have a hoarding problem. I’m not really sure what that is, but their windows are dirty and they always have the curtains closed so you can’t see inside. Mum says all sorts could be going on in there and no one would ever know.
            For a moment I wonder whether Delith Jones is in there.
            Mum says the Whites’ property would be worth a fortune, if they did it up. They have a four-bedroom Victorian house like ours on the outskirts of town with all its original features. She says if it was renovated like ours, then it would be worth at least £600,000. I can’t imagine that much money. Lots of weekly shops, and super deluxe veg boxes from Wild and Free Organics, anyway.
            “Don’t go wandering off!” Mum shouts from the front door. “Bath time in ten minutes!”
            That means at least twenty. She’ll either be texting Auntie Carole or having a sneaky glass of wine before Dad gets home. Or both.
            Shilough lies down so that I can tickle his belly. I do it with a stalk of grass, because my hands go all blotchy and red if I touch his fur. I get that from Dad. It’s why we can’t have a cat of our own, he says.
            I hear the Whites’ front door slam and look up.
            Mrs White levers herself down the front steps. Mum says she’s a martyr to her arthritis. She has a brown and red checked shopping bag over her arm. She never speaks and always looks at the floor. Her hair is dyed a weird orangey colour, as if she’s left the dye on too long or something. She ignores Shilough, and he doesn’t seem bothered.
            When she turns the corner, I dare myself to run to their front door and lift the letterbox. It’s something I’ve been trying to do for ages. I just want to peer into their hallway to see the newspapers and old milk cartons; to see if what Mum says is true. It’s so dark in there, though, I can’t see a thing. I fiddle around in my pocket till I find what I need.
            My heart is thrumming like the old traction engines Dad took me to see at the steam fair last week. I look left and right, then just as I’m lifting the letterbox, I see a shadow pass by the window and I shiver. Someone is watching me. My mouth goes dry and it tastes like I’ve been munching on metal. For a moment I’m frozen; as if my feet are cemented into the floor. I feel as if I’m going to wet myself, then I hear Shilough’s miaow, which makes everything seem normal and safe. I turn from the door and run back to our garden. I should go inside now, but I want to see what happens.
            Dad will be home from work any minute now. I start looking for his bike. He always cycles to work. The only time we use the car is for holidays and weekend trips to visit family. Anita’s mum calls us ‘eco-warriors’ whatever they are. Dad says we’re Green.
            It’s then I hear a tap-tapping on the window. I turn around expecting to see Mum calling me in. Tap tap-tap. I can’t see Mum’s face at the window. Then I look next door.
            The Whites’ curtain is twitching and I see a fist at the window. Tap tap-tap.
            I stay on our side of the path and walk a little closer to the window. I can see a smudgy shape through the thin curtain. It’s probably creepy Mr White. I remember Mum and Dad’s five step policy regarding strangers. The first step is to run into our house as fast I can, if I’m near home, that is.
             My legs won’t move.
            The fist isn’t big enough for Mr White’s. It’s a child’s fist knocking the window, I’m sure.
            “Molly! Inside now!” Mum shouts.
            I should do as I’m told, but I need to know if it really is Delith Jones knocking at the window. Perhaps the Whites have half-buried her beneath piles of old newspapers and plastic milk cartons?
            I creep closer; as close as I dare. I can see an orangey glow through the curtains, then smoke. Someone is coughing; choking even.
            Mr White and his firelighters. A box every day. Why does he need so many? What if he’s bought them to help set his house on fire and burn the evidence?
            I hear a bicycle bell behind me and Dad’s waving and grinning like a loony. Suddenly everything seems less scary.
            “What are you doing spying on the Whites, Molly, love?”
            I put my fingers to my lips and call him over. I can smell the smoke now and the orange glow is brighter. I feel excited and wonder whether I’ll see that kaleidoscope of colours I see when Dad has a bonfire in the back garden. I’m just about to ask him, but he’s busy talking into his Iphone.

I never did get to have a bath that night. Mum said it was far too late by the time the fire brigade had gone.
            Delith’s parents bought me a big cuddly cat and a box of chocolates. I can’t understand why, because I didn’t do anything.
            Mr and Mrs White don’t live next door anymore.
            Mum says they’re in custody, whatever that means. Perhaps they live in a world that’s yellow and thick.
            The RSPCA man was nice, but he said I couldn’t keep Shilough. Maybe Dad told him about my rash.
            I accidentally told Casey’s mum and dad about the matches when they were feeding me more bacon sandwiches one Saturday morning. I only fed two through the letter box so that I could see inside a bit better.
            They promised not to tell.
            There isn’t a kaleidoscope of colours next door now. The door is charred black against the white walls and now the Whites have gone, so have my spinning yo-yos and my world is a dull shade of grey.

Jo Derrick has numerous short stories and articles published in a wide range of publications, including Mslexia, Writers’ Forum, Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special, Take A Break’s Fiction Feast, Upstart!, Peninsular, Buzzwords, The Whittaker Prize Anthology. She is currently planning an e-book of her prize-winning short stories. Jo is the editor/publisher of The Yellow Room Magazine, a print journal for women writers and former publisher of QWF Magazine. She is working on a psychological crime novel.

Thursday 14 November 2013

Third prize winner in Greenacre Writers Short Story competition 2013.

Tingalay-o by Celilia Crowson

Silvery grey drizzle fell into the murky November dawn. The heavy, slow-moving cloud cover was unwilling to relinquish its obscurity to a new day. Light hoarfrost had settled quietly in the night but now the slight rise in temperature and the wet air was beginning to obliterate the beauty of the glittering chill. Wraithlike trees were returning to their dank wintry sleepiness as they dripped dark bitter tears on to the brittle floor beneath. The fairy dell setting was washed away to reveal pedestrian wet grass compacted with the past season’s discarded pine needles.
    Apart from the systematic drip from the forestry and the occasional hiss of tyres on the wet road from sporadic early morning traffic, the air was still silent. The over-wintering birds had decided it was not yet time to kick start the small plantation into life and the small nocturnal mammals had shuffled off into safer depths well before the first signs of morning. The girl stood motionless behind the concealing trunk of a tall pine. She had positioned herself as far into the wood as she could whilst still keeping the timber toilet block on the edge of the car park in her line of sight. For a seventeen year old who had just given birth it had been a long vigil but she could not leave yet.
    She was grateful that the night had been dry when she arrived, already in labour. The trek across three fields had been arduous. She still felt dangerously too close to home but it was the best her weary body could manage and she had to return before she was missed. She had gleaned her knowledge of the birth process from the internet, even watching a video on YouTube, and had planned her confinement with impressive precision. In theory she knew how to cut the cord and deal with the afterbirth. She was not after all a high flying scholar for nothing. When she considered the unthinkable alternative, she had, despite her terror, convinced herself she could manage the ordeal. She had even decided that death would be preferable to exposure and so to die in the course of delivering would be merciful.
    However as the girl soon discovered, technology for all its extensive and encyclopaedic expertise was not so great at depicting pain, nor was childbirth however excruciating and unattended a predictable gateway to oblivion. For hours she alternated from tossing on a groundsheet to stumbling round the protective circle of trees, clinging to the coarse bark until her fingers bled, screaming away her lonely anguish to the night sky. As the temperature fell and the first frost formed she was warmed by the sweat of her physical exertions and in her agony she begged aloud for help. So well had she chosen her location that the only response to her painful cries was from an owl who howled away unseen, in disturbed unison.
    When she felt the urge to push and the effort relieve her tearing torture she calmed and braced herself, knowing that she was approaching the dramatic finale. She felt for the head as it crowned and gently eased the daughter she would never know into the world. She rested, warming the yelling baby momentarily with her own body’s heat before wrapping her securely in layers of warm blankets. The child soon settled against her breasts and slept as the very young and innocent manage to do so easily. She wiped the child’s tawny skin and wrinkled old lady’s face and gazed upon the exquisite beauty only a new mother sees.

In her post-natal exhaustion the girl was reluctant to move but with her primordial hormones raging, her maternal instinct was to protect the new life she had produced. She padded her sore and bleeding body and pulled on her warm coat cocooning the infant inside to radiate extra warmth. She felt consoled by the closeness and her tired mind stored away the brief precious connection. As she walked out of the trees towards the toilet block she rocked the oblivious bundle in her arms singing softly as her mother had once sung to her ‘Tingalay-o Come me little donkey, come.’ She went through the entrance to the female toilets where she placed the child gently in the sink and settled her tenderly. She placed an envelope behind the cold tap.
    Now she was watching and waiting. If someone didn’t come soon she would not be able to resist the urge to go back and check on the baby. If that happened she was not convinced she would have the strength of mind to leave her again. Suddenly headlights illuminated the area as a vehicle drove in to the car park. The girl shrank back to merge further into the tree shadows, but it was only a lone man who went into the gents and left quickly. Ten minutes later a pale coloured Honda turned in. The girl held her breath as a woman and a man got out. The man opened the boot and released two lively spaniels barking in anticipation of their early morning walk. After a few moments of coat shrugging and glove pulling they walked off briskly towards the woodland track. Then the woman changed her mind and jogged back to the toilets. She was out again in seconds with the blanketed bundle in her arms shouting urgently for the man who had wandered on with the dogs. Alerted to the emergency he reappeared quickly and the girl watched as he jabbed hurriedly at his mobile phone. The woman got into the car nursing the baby close, protecting the tiny head with the practised care of an experienced mother As the spectacle unfolded in front of her the girl’s tears began to fall. They streamed down her face noiselessly in an unstoppable torrent. She felt the warm blood heavy between her legs escape the sodden padding and start to trickle down her thighs as her whole body became consumed with the throbbing and sobbing of her loss.
    A police vehicle and ambulance appeared in flashing convoy and within minutes they were screaming down the road followed by the Honda. ‘Bye bye my Tingalay-o’ whispered the inconsolable girl softly as she turned away.

Life resumed. The girl’s body recovered quickly. She held her avid breath as the news of an abandoned baby broke, spread and passed. The trauma left a gaping abyss in her body which filled with misgiving, guilt, self-loathing and longing. She looked in the mirror and was surprised to see herself outwardly unchanged when inside she knew nothing would ever be the same again. Over and over she replayed her actions. The logic of her plan, so understandable in the terror of her situation now seemed incomprehensible. How could she have believed that she would put it behind her without such enormous emotional consequences? She had miscalculated the attachment she would feel for her child, the overwhelming passion she was unable to control. The pregnancy had been a finite event. Now the aftermath was infinite.
    More than once the girl wondered if it would be better to come clean but the motivations for her original actions remained the reasons for never telling. She thought about her parents, the sacrifices they made every day and how proud they were of her academic success. In their difficult lives she was their shining example of achievement against the odds and a role model for her younger siblings. A place at a prestigious university for their daughter was beyond the wildest imaginings of immigrants who had arrived from Jamaica with nothing. Success for their children was their only aspiration, a return for their own relentless hard work and endurance. She could not let one fumbled, ill-judged and alcohol-fuelled episode wreck that reward. Of the father she thought not at all. Their mutual morning-after embarrassment and careful avoidance since said it all. He knew nothing about her too belatedly acknowledged pregnancy. The solitary secret was hers alone. Now the time for admission was passed. Her duplicity would only be a calamity heaped upon a disaster.
    The pressure built as examinations approached. The girl submerged herself in study, determined that her wretched actions should not be for nothing. She worked herself into a frenzy of revision trying to frustrate the only thing her mind wanted to focus on, where it journeyed to instinctively at every unguarded minute of every day. Her final examination was an English paper. She wrote feverishly and, as the papers were collected she sat in silence, diminished by the intensity of her effort. Through the large hall windows she watched a single grey raincloud drift out of nowhere. As vestiges of light seeping from the obscured sun frilled its edges and an unseasonal silvery drizzle started to fall she laid her head on the desk and wept.

Cecilia says: 'I find writing incredibly time consuming so little wonder that I have only been able to indulge this long held secret ambition since I decided to retire from work about a year ago. For the first time in my life I found myself with an abundance of me time. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be of the baby boomer generation. Joining the Grace Dieu Writing Group in North West Leicestershire gave me the confidence to enter this competition.'

Sunday 10 November 2013

And the winners are.....

We are very pleased to announce the winners of the third Greenacre Writers short story competition

Congratulations to you all.

1st prize: Flapjack by Sal Page

2nd prize: Colours Fade to Black and White by Jo Derrick

3rd prize: Tingalay-O by Cecilia Crowson

Runners up (in no particular order)

Authors in Residence by Andrew Byrne

The Tightrope Walker by Veronica Bright

Expression by Shirley Golden

We were very honoured to have Alex Wheatle as our judge. He said:

"I had to read the short list three times because it's so difficult picking a winner! 

I chose 'Flapjack' as the winner.  It was an original piece of writing and I loved the author's brave approach to a very difficult subject matter. 

'Colours Fade to Black and White' came in second place. I loved the young narrator's voice and the author created some wonderful characters in this short piece.

In third place was 'Tingalay-o' - the prose in this short story's opening is stunning and throughout the piece.  I loved the style of writing and was moved by the end."


Sunday 27 October 2013

And here is the short list..

Congratulations to the authors of the twelve stories that our judge, Alex Wheatle, will be reading.

After the winners are announced, we will add the authors names to all the short and long listed stories.

An Heirloom - Pete Court

Authors in Residence - Andrew Byrne

Colours Fade to Black and White - Jo Derrick

Expression - Shirley Golden

Family Flowers - Diane Simmons

Flapjack - Sal Page

For King and Country - Tracy Fells

Melancholia - Sue Harrop

The Dead Animals Register - Seth Insua

The Tightrope Walker - Veronica Bright

There's Always That - Erik Lofroth

Tingalay-o - Cecilia Crowson

Sunday 20 October 2013

The long list is out....

Many congratulations to the twenty authors in the long-list of the Greenacre Writers third short story competition.

The stories are placed in alphabetical order:

Aisle Five - Nettie Graham

An Heirloom - Pete Court

Authors in Residence  - Andrew Byrne

Colours Fade to Black and White - Jo Derrick

Dream Image - Sal Page

Episode - Erik Lofroth

Expression - Shirley Golden

Family Flowers - Diane Simmons

Fault - Andrew Broadfoot

Flapjack - Sal Page

For King and Country - Tracy Fells

If the Shoe Fits - Denise Spencer

Melancholia -Sue Harrop

Snapshots of an Awkward - Sharon Boyle

The Dead Animals Register - Seth Insua

The Tightrope Walker - Veronica Bright

There's Always That - Erik Lofroth

This Isn't About Roberta Lynch - Andrew Bradford

Ticket no 268 - David Matthews

Tingalay-o - Cecilia Crowson

Saturday 7 September 2013

Our short story competition has closed.

Our short story competition has now closed.

Thank you to all entrants. We look forward to a feast of reading and will post the long and shortlists as soon as they are decided. 

Comments from readers of our previous anthologies: 

Vol 2
'My favourites were 'Chocolate in Summer' by Lindsay Bamfield (I know Margot so well!) and 'Trophies' by June Armstrong-Wright which had a very clever twist-in-the-tail.'  (R.F)

'Fallen Women' by Rosie Canning was very moving. The writer's brilliant flashes of detail brought the setting to life. (L.B.)

I can only praise this anthology - a great mix of stories and the layout and price were both excellent. (R.F)

I would have chosen Simon Farnham's story 'God the Homeless' [as the winner]. It was novel, original and not dominated by stereotypes and the mundane. (R.N)

The Greenacre Writers Anthology 2 is beautifully produced, and with an eclectic mix of stories, there is something for everyone. I liked the section of biographies, because it is interesting to find out a little bit about the people behind the stories. My personal favourites in the anthology were Chocolate in Summer, Fallen Women, The Veteran and Trophies. I liked God the Homeless too. I found it challenged me to think and it was “different” in an interesting way. Quite often in competitions a winner will be one with a very good plot, something few other people have thought of. (V.B)

Vol 1
'This small anthology was packed with such a variety of stories. I dip in and out of it quite often and just today re-read Andrew Blackman's 'Moving Forward,' having recently read one of his novels, A Virtual Love.' (K.L)

I was given this anthology for Christmas. Having read several anthologies, I'll be honest I wasn't expecting too much, but what a wonderful surprise! I loved it. Natasha Mirzoian's 'Coffee With a Friend' was very special for me. (J.S)

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Round-up on Greenacre Writers

Greenacre Writers has lots going on in September. Exactly a year since the occupation and liberation of Friern Barnet Library, there is to be a celebration and preview of a new book on the 5th September 2013 in the library at 7pm. Occupied and Opened - the story of Friern Barnet Library. The book edited by Rosie Canning, features the community voices and spirit that went into saving the library and will be published later in the year.

There is also a fabulous writing retreat in Oxfordshire from Friday September 6th to Sunday 8th. Take a break from the busy world and enjoy some countryside peace to get the words flowing. See here for details. Writers' Retreat

Refreshed from Oxfordshire,  Rosie Canning will be leading her second 6-part Start That Novel course from Monday 9th September. Details and online deposit payment here. Start That Novel

The Greenacre Writers 3rd Short Story Competition is underway with the closing date on 30th September - don't miss out. The top three winning stories receive cash prizes and publication in the third Greenacre Writers Anthology and the three runners up are also published. For rules and online entries see Short Story Competition

Copies of Greenacre Writers Anthology Vol 2 available here Anthology

We are also planning for next year's Literary Festival, and an exciting new course for novelists - details to be announced.

Our two Finish That Novel groups and the Short Story critiquing groups continue to be busy with plans for  re-structuring the Memoir and Autobiography group.

To follow the blogs of some of our members and guests at our two festivals: see links on the right.

Follow us on Twitter: @GreenacreWriter

Monday 3 June 2013

Writing Retreat

Greenacre Writers have organised a non-profit writing retreat for Friday 6th-8th September at St Katharine's, Parmoor near Henley on Thames. Full board £145 from Friday teatime - Sunday teatime. There will be no workshops or directed writing, this is a place for you to get on with your writing. Writers may choose to meet in the evening and discuss their writing but this will be decided by individuals at the retreat.

St Katharine's.
This historic house stands in 12 acres of grounds in an area of great scenic beauty and abundant wildlife. The rural tranquility of the Chilterns, combined with a peaceful and relaxed atmosphere, make St. Katharine's an ideal destination for a writing retreat. 

The house is run by the Sue Ryder Prayer Fellowship, an independent registered charity whose aim is to provide a facility that is ecumenical and non-denominational. The house is open to people of all faiths or of none.

When the house was given to Lady Ryder of Warsaw by the nuns of the Anglican order of St. Katharine of Alexandria, she determined to make it a ‘powerhouse of prayer', a place where people from all walks of life could come to find peace and renewed energy to face the challenges of life.

Delicious food, catering for all dietary and ethnic requirements, is prepared by our professional catering staff. The panelled dining room seats up to 60 people, but larger numbers can be accommodated in the former banqueting hall. 


An elegant, sunny room with bay window looking onto the historic cedar tree. Can seat up to 20 in comfortable sofas and easy chairs.
Another comfortable room overlooking the garden, seating up to 15 in easy chairs and sofas.
A panelled and book lined room seating up to 8 at a large table. 
A similar sized, book lined room, with views of the garden and seating at a central table plus sofa and easy chairs.

Visitors are free to stroll around the grounds, or find a quiet corner to write and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. There are a number of interesting features, including a walled garden, a pond, a formal garden which is in process of being renovated and a former sunken garden, which awaits restoration. You can also visit the chickens, who provide the delicious free-range eggs which are used in the House kitchen, and are also on sale to visitors.

Make your stay even more relaxing by booking a treatment. Debbie Lawrence, a Holistic Therapist who has a clinic in Marlow, can be booked for therapy sessions at St. Katharine’s.  These include Aromatherapy, Indian Head Massage, Full Body Massage, Hopi Ear Candling and Reiki Healing.  For more information click here

If you would like to book your place, contact Rosie Canning:

Monday 20 May 2013

Greenacre Writers Literary Festival: Two Wonderful Days.

Finchley in North London was the setting of the second Greenacre Writers Literary Festival with its theme of truth and fiction. Four events provided a literary feast for writers and readers.

Miriam Halahmy's workshop.
We kicked off with Miriam Halahmy's workshop 'So You Want to Write for Kids.' Held at the now world famous Friern Barnet Community Library, this event was open to all. Writers, some published some novices, came along to learn about writing for children and the kids' publishing world.

Fast on the heels of the workshop was our Open Mic. Facilitated by Allen Ashley, we were treated to a mix of literary styles with poems, flash fiction, extracts from fiction and memoir. The readings from Rosie Canning and Keith Martin related the story of the re-opening of Friern Barnet Library by the people as a protest to its closure by the council six months earlier. Poet Sarah Doyle took our star slot with a variety of poetic styles and we were also treated to 'star' readings from Miriam Halahmy, CJ Flood and Emily Toder from the USA.

Several members of Greenacre Writers read their work and we were joined by members from other writing groups including Clockhouse London Writers, Ways into Writing, Ally Pally Group and Exiled Writers as well as local poets. We had some amazing speakers, including short story writers, novel writers, poets, and activists - one of whom was 76, and provided us with a mix of literary styles and themes.

Saturday began with a morning workshop 'Life Writing and the Writing Life' led by Josie Pearse, followed by the main festival in the afternoon.

CJ Flood
We played host to four authors who were all wonderfully entertaining speakers, talking about about the truth in their fiction. CJ Flood's talk set the tone for the afternoon, discussing the truth and fiction of how she created her characters in her novel Infinite Sky with readings to illustrate her points.

Leigh Russell signing books
Crime writer Leigh Russell followed, thrilled us with a walk in the park that led to the inspiration for her first book Cut Short and introducing us to her psychological thrillers featuring detective Geraldine Steele.  

We then had short readings from four of our Greenacre Writers. Lindsay Bamfield began with the opening of her comedy novel, a work in progress, 'Do Not Exced Fifty' and Linda Louisa Dell read an abridged version of the first chapter of her recent novel, Earthscape: A Long Way from Home. Then came Rosie Canning's reading of The Flying Star episode from her novel, another work in progress, 'Ways of Remembering'. Mark Kitchenham closed the first session reading from one of his short stories.

Gina Blaxill
After a refreshment break and book signing session, we opened the second half with Gina Blaxill. Gina, who grew up in Finchley, talked about her two YA novels Pretty Twisted and Forget Me Never. Discussing how she created a world that her young readers could believe in, she explained how she compared the books she had read as a teenager, with what young readers want today.

Sarah Harrison
 Sarah Harrison, author of over 25 novels talked about the inspiration behind her novel Flowers of the Field which was published in 1980 but has just been re-issued with its sequel A Flower That's Free due to be re-issued shortly followed by the third in the trilogy The Wildflower Path later this year.

Three more readings from Greenacre Writers followed. Liz Goes read from the third of her fictionalized memoirs The Not Quite English Teacher, Mumpuni Murniati read her short story rooted in her native Indonesia and Wendy Shillam completed the section with a reading from her most recent novel, just completed the day before, The Vining Plant.

Truth and fiction panel discussion.
To close our day, Allen Ashley facilitated a panel comprising Sarah Harrison, Leigh Russell, Dr Josie Pearse and Alex Wheatle one of last year's festival speakers discussing truth and fiction. They questioned how much truth should there be in fiction? What things must we stay true to as writers? What does fiction teach us about truth? Our panelists gave us fascinating insights into their versions of truth and fiction and all agreed the importance of emotional truth. They discussed the writing process and what writers need to achieve for their readers. They inspired our members to keep on with our writing and we're happy to say that we've had enquiries from audience members about joining GW.

Alex Wheatle wasn't the only speaker from last year to be with us as we were very pleased to have Emily Benet and Andrew Bradford in our audience. They all made last year's event worthy of a sequel so thanks to them for this year's success.

We are also very pleased to announce that Alex Wheatle will be our judge for this year's short story competition.
Greenacre Writers 2013 Short Story Competition

All in all, we had a wonderful two days and extend our sincerest thanks to our guest speakers, our workshop leaders, our writers and all those who helped achieve a great event. Special thanks also go to Robert and Elizabeth Newton and Mr Greenacres. Thank you to Christine Freeman and Waitrose in Finchley for providing refreshments.

See you next year. But first, some of us have to Finish That Novel, which was where the Greenacre Writers story began.

Monday 6 May 2013

Greenacre Writers second Literary Festival

Latest news:    We are delighted to announce an impressive line up of speakers for our  Open Mic event at Friern Barnet Community Library, Friday 17th May at 7.00 pm. Come along to hear them. Entry is free but we will be collecting donations to help support our community library.

Take the opportunity to make a Blind Date With a Book.  A mere 50p will give you a quality  book to take home with you. You just won't know what the book is until you unwrap it.

Allen Ashley, the event facilitator will be reading from his work as well as introducing:
Rosie Canning (Greenacre Writers)
Hansden Chikowore (Exiled Writers)
Miriam Halahmy - Guest Author
Mike Gee (Greenacre Project)
Keith Martin (Greenacre Writers)
Sandra Unerman (Clockhouse Writers)
Fathieh Saudi (Exiled Writers)
Lindsay Bamfield (Greenacre Writers)
Dennis Evans (Poet)
Sarah Doyle - Guest Poet
CJ Flood - Guest Author
Gordon Peters (Ways into Writing)
June Armstrong-Wright (Greenacre Writers)
Linda Louisa Dell (Greenacre Writers)
David Nixon (Greenacre Writers)
Emily Toder - Guest Poet from USA
Peter Philips (Poet)
Eliza Jane Goes (Greenacre Writers)
Wendy Shillam (Greenacre Writers)
Ben Jacobs (Writer)
Allen Ashley

Greenacre Writers are delighted to confirm the authors who will be appearing at the Greenacre Writers Literary Festival:
Fri 17th May 4.30-6.30pm Friern Barnet Community Library, Friern Barnet Road, N11 3DS.
Miriam Halahmy will be running a creative writing workshop:

'So you want to write for Kids!' Creative writing workshop with author and experienced facilitator Miriam Halahmy. Miriam will offer vital insights into the world of writing and publishing fiction for nine years to teens as well as offering some writing starters to get the creative juices flowing. All levels welcome, just bring pen, paper and the energy to write! Miriam's website  Tickets £10.50

Miriam Halahmy has published short and long fiction for children, adults and teens, as well as poetry, book reviews and articles. Her debut Y.A. novel, Hidden, Meadowside Books, was nominated for the 2012 CILIP Carnegie Medal. She has published a second Y.A. novel, Illegal, Meadowside Books, 2012 and a third one is on the way. Miriam has run creative writing workshops for many years and is a mentor with Apprenticeships in Fiction, appraising manuscripts and guiding developing writers. Click here to Book Workshop 

Fri 17th May 7-10pm Friern Barnet Community Library 

Free event: Allen Ashley will be facilitating an Open Lit Mic:
Guest poet Sarah Doyle, CJ Flood and Miriam Halahmy will be appearing but this is your chance to shine too. We are opening slots to members of the writing community to showcase their work:

Our venue for these two events is the fantastic Friern Barnet Community Library, the People's Library, which was closed by the council but has been reclaimed by the community. Come and see why. 

Allen Ashley has published nine books as author or editor. In 2006 he won the British Fantasy Society Award for Best Anthology as editor of The Elastic Book Of Numbers (Elastic Press, 2005). Well known in the science fiction and fantasy arena, he is also a successful poet and wrote under a pseudonym for Time Out London for many years. Allen's website

Sarah Doyle’s poetry has been published in various anthologies, and in magazines such as Orbis, The Dawntreader and the Poetry Society’s Poetry News.  She has been placed in several national poetry competitions. She is Poet-in-Residence to the Pre-Raphaelite Society, for whom she writes commissioned poetry and acts as a judge in their Poetry Prize; and she co-organises, co-hosts and performs in regular jazz-poetry event The Sunday Edition at Enfield’s Dugdale Theatre. Sarah's website

Sat 18th May 11-12.30pm, Trinity Church Centre, Finchley, N12 7NN 

Josie O Pearse will be running a creative writing workshop.
'Life Writing and the Writing Life'. This workshop will look at practical techniques for writing from life. From planning what to write and how to begin, through to the deeper questions that help keep your writing on track. What is this about? Who is it for? Where does it end? And how do you fit your writing into a busy schedule? Bring questions, ideas, imagination, pen and paper.

Josie O Pearse has just completed a PhD at Cardiff University in creative and critical writing. She writes sexy romances under a pseudonym, Angel Strand, who has three novels published with Random House. Josie is also an artist and experiments in graphic stories. Tickets £ 8.50 Click to book Life-writing workshop

Sat 18th May 1.30-5.30pm, Trinity Church Centre, Finchley, N12 7NN
Entrance to festival is by ticket only  £5.50Click here to get your ticket/s for Greenacre Writers Festival


Sarah Harrison is the author of twenty five books and counting. She made her name with the bestselling The Flowers of the Field and its sequel A Flower That’s Free. Both have been reissued by Orion this year, with the third in the trilogy, The Wildflower Path, coming out in September. Sarah is also an entertainer, regularly performing in an all-woman revue, and winner of Silver Stand-Up’s Best Newcomer 2013. Sarah's website
Hailed as a brilliant talent by Jeffrey Deaver and 'a deeply human voice' by Peter James, Leigh Russell writes a bestselling series of psychological crime thrillers set in the UK. Cut Short (2009 was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger Award. Road Closed (2010) was voted a Top Read on Eurocrime. Dead End (2011) was voted a Best Crime Novel on Crime Time and was a Best Fiction Book of the Year in the Miami Examiner. Death Bed (2012) joined the earlier novels on the Kindle Bestseller list, reaching No 1 for female sleuths, and appearing in the Top 50 titles on WH Smith's Travel's Bestseller Chart. 2013 sees the publication of Stop Dead, the fifth tile in the Geraldine Steel series.  Leigh's website

Gina Blaxill's first novel for young adults, Pretty Twisted, was published by Macmillan, and is an e-book best seller. Since then she has also released a second novel, Forget Me Never, with a third, Saving Silence, coming out later this year. Gina grew up in Finchley, in North London and studied English at Cambridge University, where she specialised in schoolgirl fiction and took part in a lot of musicals. These days she works in schools liaison, helping teenagers figure out the mysteries of higher education. Apart from writing she enjoys drawing comic art and exploring London and has big soft spots for dogs, stately homes and fruit. Gina on Twitter

C.J. Flood graduated from an MA in Creative Writing at UEA in 2010. Her dissertation, a section of Infinite Sky, won the Curtis Brown Award for best student as judged by a panel of agents. She was a mentee on the Jerwood/Arvon Mentoring Scheme, under Bernardine Evaristo, and a recipient of an Arts Council grant. Infinite Sky, her first novel, came out in February. The Telegraph called it "a powerful and impressive debut," The Guardian said it was "brilliantly visual and full of feeling" and The Times selected it as their children's book of the week. C. J. is currently working on her next novel, which will come out in February 2014.  
C. J.'s website

Sat 18th May 4.30pm, Trinity Church, Finchley, N12 7NN

There will also be a panel with mediator, Allen Ashley, as well as guests, Alex Wheatle MBE, Dr Josie Pearse, Sarah Harrison, and Leigh Russell. They will be discussing Truth and Fiction.

Award-winning author Alex Wheatle MBE will be appearing on the festival panel, and will be the judge for this year's Greenacre Writers Short Story Competition.  

Alex Wheatle is the author of several novels, some of them set in Brixton, where he grew up.

Born in London of Jamaican parents, his first book, Brixton Rock (1999), tells the story of a 16-year old boy of mixed race, in 1980s Brixton. Brixton Rock was adapted for the stage and performed at the Young Vic in 2010. Its sequel, Brenton Brown, was published in 2011. His second novel, East of Acre Lane (2001), has a similar setting, and won a London Arts Board New Writers Award. A prequel, Island Songs, set in Jamaica, was published in 2005, and a sequel, Dirty South, in 2008. Other novels include The Seven Sisters (2002), in which the scene moves to Surrey in 1976, where four boys escape from an abusive life in a children's home; and Checkers (2003), written with Mark Parham, was published in 2003. In 2010, he wrote the one-man autobiographical performance, Uprising.Alex Wheatle was awarded an MBE for services to literature in 2008. More about Alex.

Greenacre Writers will be donating a portion of ticket sales to Trinity in May sponsored charity.

Linked event:
Dickens in Victorian Barnet. 
Sun 12th May at 11.00am. 

Guided walk with Paul Baker. Learn about Charles Dickens' connections with Finchley and the Borough of Barnet as well as local history and a touch of Victorian scandal.

Meet at High Barnet tube station outside booking office.  Walks £8.00 payable directly to Paul Baker. Please e-mail  if you wish to join the walk. For more information see Paul's website