We were all looking forward to Neil Holland’s workshop on 4th August, and it exceeded all expectations. “Working a murder scene Part II - Murder Scenes and other crimes. First-hand information and tips on writing for authentic stories. Pitfalls to avoid.” was much more than just a “talk” – it was an inter-active crime scene re-enactment, props supplied by Neil. My photographs were not very good as the cast would keep moving around! The exception was Heath, who was “dead”! We had loads of laughs, and at the same time found this way of doing things very informative. The group also enjoyed being split into teams to identify and match finger-prints. Not as easy as you might think but actually we all did very well. It made everything around writing about UK crime much clearer – lots of writers, me included, are probably too influenced by American crime series on TV. It is a whole different procedure. There is also a short story competition for City Voices members to enter, based around a crime scene, details of which are in the newsletter. Thank you Neil for so much hard work, and sharing your own experiences at crime scenes which were only too real.
A surprised and delighted Neil Holland was the winner of City Voices Creative Writers Group first ever annual Poetry Competition. Neil eceived a cash prize of £50 and a laminated certificate of his poem “A Flower named Disability”. The competition was judged by friend of City Voices, Jayne Birch who said “What a poignant piece of writing…..excellent analogy. Thought provoking; feeling emotional after reading this…read over and over again and each time I feel its full impact. Absolutely amazing.”
There was no "theme" to the competition; entrants could choose their own subject within a limit of 40 lines. Neil was inspired by young people he has worked with in the past who simply needed some nurturing to bring out the very best of themselves. The camellia flower was chosen for the certificate for its many meanings. In China it symbolizes young sons and daughters, in Japan the coming of spring and new life. It also has a "coming of age and understanding" reference in that most famous of contemporary literary American novels "To Kill a Mockingbird". In other words, a blooming.
Neil's prize-winning poem
A Flower Named Disability
Sometimes fine blooms lie waiting there
sometimes fine blooms lie latent there
but there they are and there they bloom.
Some flowers take longer in our care
but love and nurture grow them where
they reach for life that they may bloom.
How rare these flowers that take a while
who ask so little, just love and care,
who bear such pain behind their smile,
young lives who simply want to share
a chance to grow and bloom.
With rainbow smiles of every hue
who just love life like me and you,
embrace them now in all you do
that they may bloom.
Respect is all they ask of you
support and some civility,
that they may flower and show to all,
their bloom in disability.
If you want to find out more, we will be announcing the winner at our meeting on 9th June! We kicked off the 2018 competition with a request for poetry, on any theme, the winner to receive a cash prize and certificate. Only City Voices members may enter our competitions but anyone aged 16 or over can drop into our meeting at the Central City Library Bethesda St, Stoke-on-Trent ST1 3RS at 11.40am to hear a read-around of all the entries and join in a poetry workshop too. See the rest of the web-site for what we are all about.
I was very proud to see City Voices members Pattie Tunnicliffe and Jason Nicholas Smith (seen here flanking the winner) in the final of the Audlem Poetry Slam last Thursday. The slam has been running many years and the competition is tough. Pattie performed her poems about the impact of war on individual civilians, living with a loved one who suffers from depression “the hidden disease”, and taking charge of your own life. Jason spoke eloquently and passionately about what it means to be English in our multi-cultural society, about love, and the impact of political hate rhetoric. Well done to Pattie and Jason who performed without any prompts in front of a lovely and lively audience.
The worthy winner of the slam was prize-winning poet John Mills who used strong images and humour to describe a chance meeting with an abused woman, and how he is living with Parkinson’s disease. John is a friend of City Voices and will be running a poetry workshop for us on 27th October.
I entered the slam but the least said the better! It was a brilliant night and superbly MC’d by poets Emma Purshouse and Dave Pitt.
The start of a fabulous trilogy of writing workshops to inspire you to write that winning short story. Many thanks to City Voices Chair Debbi for her hard work in creating this. The first fab workshop "Let’s start a story – Workshop to inspire setting, characters and plots. Brainstorm for titles etc. This is with the view to entering into a competition this year" was on Saturday and will be followed by
7th July - 2. "Let’s work on our story – Time to write for longer and ask for advice and feedback if you need it. Hash out any plot points or problems. Read through (optional)
1st September 3."Let’s finish that story! – Final re-writes and read-throughs. Advice/feedback if wanted. Followed by a look at some of the competitions available."
Debbi is a published writer, of short stories and Flash Fiction. Her Flash publications are too numerous to mention but she is very proud to have a story in the collection "Flash Fiction for Flash Memory" "A special anthology and the first one created to deliver that special magic to adults struggling with memory loss, their families, friends and caregivers. Step into 60 original flash fiction stories that are short enough, between 500 and 750 words, to recall. Get carried along a path of unexpected plots that warm the heart, give chills, stir laughter and surprise." Available on Amazon.
Debbi was published in The Bath Short Story Award Anthology 2015. In the 90s she edited and wrote articles for a popular U2 fanzine and her most exciting achievement from those heady days was a 40 minute telephone interview with her hero Bono! She enjoyed the journalistic side of the magazine but her heart lies in fiction.
Following the postponement of the original event on 3rd March due to bad weather, City Central Library, in conjunction with Poetry on Loan, have been able to re-schedule for Saturday 14th April 2018. Once again they have come up with a fantastic FREE morning of poetry for the public, followed by a workshop with Jonny Fluffypunk which will be exclusively for members of City Voices Creative Writers Group. Don't miss it!
Image courtesy of Sentinel News and Media - Alan with local schoolchildren at Middleport Pottery
On behalf of City Voices I am very sad to announce the resignation from the group of our Chair, Alan Barnett. Alan has had health problems for some time now, as has his wife, but his devotion to the group and its achievements (not to mention some moral blackmail from me) kept him going. In the end of course, health and family matter more than anything. Alan formally announced his resignation at the AGM on 20th January. He is very sad to leave us and there will always be an Alan-shaped hole at the committee table. Alan was, as group founder Paul Williamson said, in truth a co-founder of City Voices, which emerged in 2007 from a drop-in group which started out life as Hanley Writers. Alan has worked tirelessly for City Voices, often assisted by his wife Maria. On paper, the office of Chair may look like a figurehead position, but it has been much, much more than that and Alan has always been the heart and soul of the group. Happily, Alan has accepted the offer of honorary membership of City Voices, which makes me feel like he will never be too far away. Also announced at the AGM was the resignation from the committee of Secretary Anita Oxford. I joined CV some time in 2012 and Anita shortly before me. In November of that year we both became part of the committee (if my memory is wrong please forgive me). Anita’s skills and knowledge of the group will be sorely missed by the committee but she told us she will be staying on as a (sic) rank and file member. So how is 2018 looking now? After the annual stepping down of the committee so that elections can take place, the office of Chair was filled by Debbi Voisey (formerly Vice Chair) and the Secretary’s role was taken up by new member Joanna Wright – or “Jo” as she prefers! Adam Boustead bravely put himself forward for Vice Chair and I was happy to stand again as Treasurer and Social Media Manager. After all the “new” committee had been voted in unanimously we took a deep breath and headed for the tea and biccies! Despite the sadness at Alan’s departure the meeting was very positive and some great ideas were mooted for this year – we were all really quite excited (including Alan, I might add…) and upbeat by the end.
It is without a doubt the end of an era. Alan was the bedrock of the group, a friend to everyone in the room, and I hope it is farewell but not goodbye. City Voices wish Alan all the best of luck in completing and publishing the book he has been working on for far too long, and we hope he will drop in sometime in the not too distant future. He will always be welcome.
Those City Voices members who DON’T know Mel Woodend, may find themselves experiencing brand new ways to create poetry, at this workshop. Those of us who do know her, will vouch for her kindness and love of nature, which shines through in her work. Mel is a published writer and poet, passionate environmentalist and excellent poetry “slammer”. Mel will be talking about artistic and poetic devices which attempt to express a linkage between the senses, and about the author Austin Kleon who by accident cured his writer's block AND created a whole new type of poetry when he decided to blackout words in a newspaper. There will be a chance to hear some of Mel’s poetry and create your own. As ever, City Voices Creative Writers Group welcome guests and visitors to join our workshops and get a flavour of the group.
Once again City Central Library, in conjunction with Poetry on Loan, has come up with a fantastic FREE morning of poetry for the public, followed by a workshop with one of the poets which will be exclusively for members of City Voices Creative Writers Group. You would be mad to miss it!
Beyond Words is a debut collection of poems by Jason N Smith from before, during and after time within the justice system. The book contains both spoken word and page poetry about life inside prison, life experiences and life overstandings. Amazon.co.uk
Click on the book for a link to Amazon Books