Season XIII

Season XIII

Challenge 10 Quotation

It’s nearly end of term, let’s have some fun!

The quotation in question is taken from the poem Flannan Isle by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson. You don’t need to read the poem or know anything about it or its subject. You need only use your imagination to write something inspired by the situation in this extract:

Aye, though we hunted high and low,
And hunted everywhere,
Of the three men’s fate we found no trace
Of any kind in any place,
But a door ajar, and an untouch’d meal,
And an overtoppled chair.

There is no correct way to interpret the brief. We want to be surprised… pleasantly.  It can be in any genre or style, a story, a poem, whatever you like. I hope this gives scope for wide imaginings, the possibilities are boundless. Supernatural, conspiracy, menace, criminality, mishap, stupidity, sadness, magic and horror come to mind, and there are no doubt lots of others I haven’t even dreamt of!  So give free rein to your imagination, no restraints. You have 300 words in which to do it.

1st Olaf 9 points, 2nd Chris 8 points, 3rd Stephen 7 points.

Final Leaderboard for Season XIII:

Chris              28 points
Christine         20
Morgen           18**
Rosemary       17
Olaf                 16*
Sally                14
Suzanne          13***
Zena                12***


Challenge 9 Scenery

This challenge is to exercise your descriptive skills. No characters, not even people in the distance (but sheep, cows, birds of prey etc are permitted) no dialogue, no action…

I’d like just 300 words maximum of evocative prose (no poetry please) describing Scenery.

You might choose a bucolic setting, a seascape, a mountain range, a city skyline, or even the view from your own bedroom. The choice is yours but the important thing is to make the reader be there.

You may wish to enter something you see as a setting for a short story or novel, or it can be a stand-alone piece.

1st – Morgen – 12 points, 2nd Chris – 10 points, 3rd Sarah, Jackie and Zena 7 points each.

The Leaderboard after Challenge 9:

Chris:               25*
Christine:         19*
Morgen:           17*
Rosemary:       16
Sally:               14
Suzanne:         12**
Olaf:                12*



Challenge 8 Poetry

Take a deep breath (this is the poetry challenge after all)…

…we have a poetry challenge with a wee twist.

Challenge 8 consists of two parts. One part poetry and one part prose.

The core requirement for this challenge is to write an OBLIQUE poem and then a prose passage that adds value to the poem.

The definition of Obliquity in poetry is as follows: the quality by which a poem produces an effect far different from that which would result from a plain statement of meaning of the poem.

Now that might sound a bit obscure but it’s really all about thinking about the reader. The aim is to locate the reader in more than one place by providing a means by which the reader gains knowledge that is greater than that directly expressed in the poem. A hidden meaning of sorts. Invite the reader to move beyond a simple comprehension, give them more than just the appearance of things and force them to revise not just their expectation but also their explanation of things.

The challenge is to incorporate this notion of obliqueness in an EIGHT LINE POEM. The subject chosen by you. Then, with the remaining words, to write a piece of prose that complements your poem by either deepening the hidden meaning or adding to it in any way that feels appropriate to you.

The entire challenge is to be no more than 300 words (not counting title/s).

1st place Morgen 14 points, 2nd place Christine 10 points, 3rd place Sarah & Suzanne 7 points each.

Leaderboard after Challenge 8:

Chris:              22* points
Christine:        18*
Rosemary:      15
Sally:              14
Morgen:          13*
Suzanne:         11**
Olaf:                11*


Challenge 7 – A Scene from a Play

Write a short scene from a play (a new challenge for us all). In 100 words maximum, set the scene (time and place) and brief thumbnail sketches of your main characters (maximum 3). For example: English suburban middle-class children’s playroom, 1952. JANET is a bubbly 8-year-old girl wearing a red pinafore dress and white socks. She is kneeling on the floor playing with toys. Her brother JOHN is a serious 10-year-old boy wearing a blue sweater and khaki shorts. He is looking down affectionately at his sister. (Only 57 words, if you’re interested…)

Then write the scene in a maximum of 250 words, including who’s speaking, and any stage directions. For example:

JANET: See the dress! The dress is red! Who has a red dress?
JOHN: [walking to window and looking out] See the dog. The dog is Fluff. Fluff has a blue ball.
JANET: Fluff the dog! I like Fluff. He is our dog. (etc etc)

One further twist : the scene should be about, or at least include as a substantial theme, WRITERS’ BLOCK. The title of your piece – optional – should be the name of the whole play.

1st place Christine 15 points, 2nd place Morgen 11 points, 3rd place Chris and Rosemary 7 points each.

Leaderboard after Challenge 7:

Chris               21* points
Christine         15*
Rosemary       14
Sally               14
Olaf                10*
Suzanne          9**
Morgen            9*


Challenge 6 – News Report

You are a crack reporter for a top broadsheet newspaper. You have the chance to interview one of the news-makers: someone who is in the headlines for some reason. It can be anyone, from Syrian refugee to the US President or anyone in between: they just need to be in the news right now.

Only…. Your interviewee is a bit busy at the moment, and can’t fit you in till this time next year. So your interview will be about how that person is getting on a year from now: what has happened in the ensuing year, how has the current news story panned out, and how does that person feel about it all.

As your editor, I’m a stickler for deadlines [you can quit that hysterical laughter now please] and word count, too. I’d like you to write up your interview in 300 words or less, and file it by midnight on Tuesday 31st January. This year please. Good job you’ve all got good imaginations 😀

1st place Sally 13 points, 2nd Chris 10 points, 3rd Suzanne 9 points

Leaderboard after Challenge 6:

Chris               19* points
Sally                13
Rosemary        12
Christine          11*
Olaf                 9*
Suzanne          8**


Challenge 5 – Acceptance speech

We have written like the Brontës. We have written the opening page of our three-part novel to send to our agent. We have written the synopsis of our great novel and sent it to the publisher. Now is the time for us to reap the just reward for our labours. Write your acceptance speech to be delivered at the gala on the night when the prestigious Troobell Prize is awarded to an artist for outstanding merit and a significant contribution to culture. I’ve just read Bob Dylan’s long awaited acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature. I actually found it very moving… and I love the way he compares himself to Shakespeare! Before that I listened to Helen Marten’s acceptance speech of the Turner Prize… quite different. The thought that all short-listed candidates sit there at the gala – sweaty hands nervously crumpling the sheet of paper with their prepared speech – is simply fascinating. Of course we are writers. However, if for this purpose you’d like to wrap yourself in the fictional persona of a different type of artist – feel free. What I’m interested in is how you react to receiving the award. Will you gloat or grovel? Will you be humble or arrogant? Will you present yourself as torch-bearer for some grandiose cause – or as a mere labourer with a job to do? Will you thank everyone profusely: family, nursery teacher, life coach et al? Or do you have a different angle? You’ve probably got a lot to say on this very special occasion. Please, limit your speech to a mere 300 words and send it to me by Tuesday the 10th of January 2017 before midnight BST at the very latest. And: dream on!

1st place Chris & Morgen 11 points, 2nd place Christine 8 points, 3rd place Olaf 7 points.

Leaderboard after Challenge 5:
Chris               16* points
Rosemary        11
Christine         10*
Sally                 9
Olaf                  8
Zena                 7*


Challenge 4 – Synopsis

Write a synopsis of a book for submission to a publisher. The book can be either fiction or non-fiction and should run to no more than 300 words.

Please send your well-crafted entries to me by Tuesday 13th December.

1st place Rosemary 12 points, 2nd place Zena & Olaf 9 points, 3rd place Christine & Suzanne 7 points

Leaderboard after Challenge 4:
Chris: 12* points
Rosemary: 10
Zena: 7*
Christine: 7*
Sally: 7
Olaf: 6


Challenge 3 – Diary

I make no apologies for the lengthy intro for this challenge. I wanted to let Alphas build up to the challenge – perhaps be a little entertained by the brief itself – I am in charge, after all! Your agent is gently nudging for the last novel in your epic family saga trilogy. ‘At least give me the opening paragraph,’ she said. ‘Hook me. Dazzle me,’ she said. ‘Give me a hell of a cliff hanger,’ she said. But you’re blank. Perhaps the story really is too thin to be teased out into three novels. So…you do what you always do when your Muse packs up and leaves for the coast. You decorate – and boy, is there some decorating to do in this old pile recently inherited from a great- aunt. You start with the attic bedroom and it feels good to swing the lump hammer against the plasterboard that you hope has sealed up a feature fireplace. As alcoves are revealed and the dust settles on rustic shelving, you spot a single book. You pick up the slim black volume, the soft leather feels cold. It falls open in your hand. A diary. You read the entry on the page for 27th March, 1947. And there it is – 300 words (give or take). The opening paragraph for the final novel. And it’s all there. Your agent will be hooked. She will be dazzled. And it finishes with a hell of a cliff hanger. So……share it with us. Here comes the small print.

1st place Sally – 15 points, 2nd place Chris 10 points, 3rd place Zena 9 points

Leaderboard after Challenge 3:
Chris            11 points
Sally               6
Rosemary       5
Christine         5
Stephen          4
Zena               4



Challenge 2 – Literary

We like anniversaries. We started 2015 with a challenge where members chose their favourite anniversary to write about. The range of chosen events was huge and the entries made fascinating reading.

This time there’s a literary anniversary that’s well worth celebrating: the birth of Charlotte Brontë in 1816. To widen the perspective a little, we’ll invite her sisters Anne and Emily to the birthday party.

We all know the Brontë sisters’ stories but can you transplant one of the characters, or even part of one of the novels (entirely your choice which you want to use) into the modern age? Any how you wish – you have complete free rein on this as it is your retake on character/setting/part of the story.

Do mention which character/novel you are using but this is just for information and will not be included in the word count of 300 words. The title, if used, won’t be included either.

1st – Chris 15 points, 2nd – Samantha 12 points, 3rd – Stephen 9 points.

Leaderboard after Challenge 2:

Chris: 8 points
Rosemary: 4
Christine: 4
Samantha: 3
Stephen: 3
Suzanne: 2*


Challenge 1- Rain

On Page 91 of the Alpha Decade book, in my article I mentioned a painting by Norman Garstin which was so atmospheric that the Penzance Town Council hid it away rather than show it, because it might deter trippers from taking excursion trains. I’m attaching a copy of the painting so you can see how good it is – what is it they say – a picture is worth a thousand words?

But I am sure that you can all write up to 300 words on the theme of ‘Rain’: it may be torrents, a shortage or simply as A A Milne chose to write “These are my two drops of rain”

Let me have your creative responses by Tuesday, October 11th, please. If you give your passage a title, it will be outside the word count. Excuses that you don’t understand the theme will not be accepted.


Results – 1st Chris – 14 marks, 2nd joint Rosemary & Christine – 12 marks, 3rd Lesley – 9 marks.

The Leaderboard after Ch. 1 Season XIII:

Chris: 4 points
Rosemary: 3 points
Christine: 3 points
Lesley: 2 points
Morgen: 1 point + a *